2011 Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 39th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
official report of
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Volume 30, Number 6
ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)
Introductions by Members
Hon. C. Clark
Introductions by Members
Introduction and First Reading of Bills
Bill 22 — Education Improvement Act
Hon. G. Abbott
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
Bob Baziuk and Steveston Harbour
Columbia Basin fish and wildlife compensation program
Prevention of homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools
S. Chandra Herbert
Business plan for sale of government assets
Hon. C. Clark
Role of lobbyists in sale of government assets
Hon. C. Clark
Business plan for sale of government assets
Hon. C. Clark
Costs to B.C. of federal anti-crime legislation
Hon. S. Bond
Prevention of homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools
S. Chandra Herbert
Hon. C. Clark
Government response to ferry system review
Hon. B. Lekstrom
Electricity rates and B.C. Hydro revenues to government
Hon. R. Coleman
Orders of the Day
Budget Debate (continued)
Hon. S. Thomson
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2012
The House met at 1:36 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
C. James: I have a number of guests who are here in the gallery with us — an extraordinary Victorian and British Columbian who is here with family and friends. I'll speak a little more about him later. I'd like the House to please welcome Naz Rayani, Yasmine Rayani, Laurel Rayani, Aniqa Rayani, Rasool Rayani, Bill Davis, Nizar Hirji, Ibrahim Inayatali and Julie Holder. Would the House please make these guests very welcome.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I'd like the House to welcome today Val McKnight. She's the administrative assistant in the Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government. She is wonderful to work with, and I'd like you all to make her very welcome.
J. Horgan: Joining us is in the gallery today are an old friend and a new friend. The old friend is Monica Ghosh, who worked here with the NDP caucus in the 1990s.
I'm sorry to out you like that, Monica, but there you go.
Joining her is a new friend who travelled with myself, the member for Vancouver-Kingsway, the member for Port Moody–Coquitlam — pardon me; I'm getting Port Moody on our side a bit early — the member for Port Coquitlam and the member for Powell River–Sunshine Coast. That would be the irrepressible Dana Larson.
Would the House please make them very, very welcome.
J. McIntyre: I'd also like to ask the House to make my guest feel welcome today. Her name is Lisa Cottrell from Campbell River, who was my guest for lunch today, and we were busy catching up.
We met in a fairly unusual fashion. She was graduating from UVic, honours political science, in the spring of 2009. She bravely stepped forward to be my candidate aide in the 2009 election, so we spent a very hectic four weeks together sort of joined at the hip.
I was delighted to hear from her recently. She's moving down from Campbell River to Victoria and has just recently accepted a job in marketing and promotion with Island Savings Credit Union. I'd like the House to make her feel welcome today and wish her every success as she enters a new chapter of her life.
R. Chouhan: Today in the gallery we have Susan Epp, who is the business manager of the Compensation Employees Union, and Sandra Wright, president of the Compensation Employees Union, watching the House proceedings. Please join me to welcome them.
B. Bennett: I'd like the House to help me make welcome the mother of Garreth, the mother of Halie, the wife of Dean, my friend and constituency assistant Jennifer Osmar, who's in the House here today.
A. Dix: I know I speak for all members of the House. The Premier made a very, very nice statement this morning in recognizing the passing of Jim Green, who was a dear, dear friend of many of us and a mentor to many of us — myself, the member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant and many other people.
Just two days ago friends of Jim, all of us, got together to celebrate his life. He spoke at that event with the kind of power and grace and humour…. There were a lot of us in the room, and I think, as he usually was, Jim was the coolest person in the room.
He contributed in so many ways. The specific achievements at Woodward's and in Crab Park, his work on Insite and so many other things say what he was, which was a great person in Vancouver, someone who loved Vancouver, loved British Columbia. He came to our country, as many other people have, and contributed so much.
I know that members of the House will join me in saying that you couldn't put Jim in a box. He had extraordinary ideas. He was fearless, and I think everybody in British Columbia, people in Vancouver of all political stripes, admired him greatly.
I just wanted to, on behalf of members of the opposition side — I know all members of the House — join with the Premier in her generous comments earlier in saying that we already miss Jim. We already miss his contribution, and we hope we can be worthy of it and advance it further as we continue on.
Hon. C. Clark: Thanks to the member for his comments about Jim Green. He did indeed make a very real difference in our province. I have said this before in this chamber. Very few people get to leave this life with the certain knowledge that they have made an outsized difference in the world. Jim Green was certainly one of those people. He was tenacious, he was fearless, and he did not care about criticism. He stood tall for the things that he believed in, and he believed in them very deeply.
Jim was someone who I think we can all identify with, despite our political views, on this front. He stood up for the underdog. He stood up for people who often didn't have anybody to speak for them at all. So today, the day
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before Anti-Bullying Day in British Columbia, a day when we urge people to stand up for underdogs wherever they may be, is a perfect opportunity to reflect on the example that Jim Green set for us all.
He made an outsized contribution to this province, and in particular, he made an outsized contribution to the city of Vancouver in changing the urban landscape, but in also changing the emotional landscape for people and helping us all better understand the circumstances and the conditions in which so many people very sadly live in Vancouver, and helping us find a place in our hearts where we could find common cause with them.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our side of the House, I'd like to join with the Leader of the Opposition and the members opposite, and say: "Goodbye, Jim. Thank you and God bless."
Introductions by Members
Hon. D. McRae: During the remembrance to Jim Green, I have noticed that 30 grade 10 students from Mark R. Isfeld high school have come into the chamber today. They're led by their teacher Stephanie Finlay, and I'd like the House to please make them welcome.
First Reading of Bills
BILL 22 — EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT ACT
Hon. G. Abbott presented a message from His Honour the Administrator: a bill intituled Education Improvement Act.
Hon. G. Abbott: Mr. Speaker, I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. G. Abbott: I'm pleased to introduce the Education Improvement Act. This act suspends the B.C. Teachers Federation strike action and sets a cooling-off period so that students can receive the support they need to succeed and parents can once again know how their children are progressing at school.
This act also appoints a mediator to facilitate bargaining with the goal of reaching a mediated settlement within the net zero mandate.
Further, the act includes a number of significant initiatives that will benefit teachers and students. First, it implements a $165 million learning improvement fund to provide more support and resources in the classroom. Second, it returns class size and related matters to the scope of bargaining. Third, it provides for more effective consultations between teachers and administrators on class organization matters. Fourth, it provides for additional compensation for teachers when a class size exceeds 30 students.
Together, these initiatives serve as government's response to last year's B.C. Supreme Court decision on Bills 27 and 28. The Education Improvement Act sets the stage for a responsible conclusion to the current dispute, provides certainty to students and their parents, and incorporates several initiatives that will benefit teachers.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 22, Education Improvement Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
(Standing Order 25B)
J. Kwan: Two decades ago I was a timid young university graduate, and I met a fellow named Jim Green for the first time. Over the years I've learned that the man once dubbed as the mayor of the Downtown Eastside was a strong trade unionist, an anthropologist, a relentless advocate, a lover of the arts and culture, and a champion of social, environmental and economic justice. He dared to dream the impossible and worked relentlessly to bring life to those dreams.
The brilliance of Jim Green is exhibited in not only the physical structures of the many award-winning social housing projects in our community or world-renowned program such as the BladeRunners. It is experienced every day by the thousands of people whose lives he touched. He developed housing for the homeless. He gave voice to the voiceless. He engaged the disenfranchised. He brought educational opportunities to the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. He drank and played pool with old-timers. He opened countless doors for young people. He inspired and challenged us to step up and dare to make a difference.
He offered advice and provided guidance and encouragement. He did all of that and so much more in the typical Jim Green fashion — rough and tough, but always with heart and love. In so doing, he nurtured and directly influenced countless people's lives, mine included.
This past weekend at the Cultch in East Vancouver, Jim Green was honoured with Vancouver's Freedom of the City award. He was given the honour roll of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Jim once said: "Vancouver can be the caring capital of Canada." He showed it by bringing the beauty of opera to Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
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The sun has set for this brilliant star in our midst. When you visit Vancouver, please take a look around the city and beyond. When you see a touch of Jim Green's heart and soul, say a small thank-you to this visionary and his family, and renew your commitment to realize the dream of making Vancouver the caring capital of Canada.
BOB BAZIUK AND STEVESTON HARBOUR
J. Yap: It is with great pride today that I recognize Bob Baziuk, general manager of the Steveston Harbour Authority. Bob Baziuk, who I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with for the past seven years, recently won the 2011 Small Craft Harbours Prix d'Excellence award in the individual commitment category earlier this month.
This national award recognizes his tremendous commitment and dedication to the ongoing success of Steveston harbour and his contribution to the community. As general manager Bob has the not so small responsibility of managing Canada's largest small craft harbour. For those unfamiliar with Steveston harbour, it has a combined footprint of over 17.5 hectares over two sites — the Paramount and the Gulf of Georgia sites.
The harbour is a bustling hub with a mixture of industrial and commercial activity. Steveston Harbour Authority is also an important member of the Steveston community. Through Bob's involvement with various community fundraisers and charities, the harbour makes a positive impact in the local community.
If you are planning to visit Steveston, I encourage you to consider supporting local fishermen. Visit the sales float section of Steveston harbour's website for an up-to-date list of fresh seafood being sold from boats on the dock. While you visit, drop in and perhaps come and see us. We can perhaps take a tour with award-winning Bob Baziuk of the Steveston Harbour Authority.
Mr. Speaker, Members of the House, please join me in congratulating Steveston's award winner, Bob Baziuk.
C. James: I rise today, as I said in my introductions, to speak about an extraordinary Victorian, British Columbian and Canadian. Naz Rayani is a champion of community advocacy and cross-cultural understanding. He is a distinguished community leader and a man who knows all about giving back. Anyone who meets Naz instantly feels his warmth of spirit and generous nature. In recognition of his inspiring record of service, last week he was presented with the Leadership Victoria Lifetime Achievement Award.
His story really is an inspiration. Mr. Rayani earned his pharmacy degree in Scotland and opened his first pharmacy in his homeland of Kenya in 1972. He then immigrated to Canada two years later to live and work in a more politically stable environment. Today he operates Peoples Pharmacy locations all across Victoria. Even two life-threatening strokes haven't dampened his enthusiasm or his desire to make a difference, and I know it certainly hasn't slowed him down.
His passion to improve living conditions in developing countries runs deep. Sixteen years ago he brought the World Partnership Walk to Victoria. The walk raises awareness about global poverty and raises funds to support international development initiatives run by Aga Khan Foundation, Canada. In 2010 Mr. Rayani was personally responsible for raising $60,000 of the walk's total of $250,000 that year. Naz is a devout Ismaili Muslim and has worked tirelessly to break down barriers among people of different faiths. In 2006 he was named a member of the Order of Canada.
Naz's exceptional contribution to our community shows how one person can truly make a difference. He offers the next generation of community leaders a little advice when he says: "Never be afraid to say yes, even though it looks like it might be a mammoth task or an incredible task, because there always is a silver lining."
I ask the members of the House to please join me in congratulating Naz for his lifetime achievement awards and thank him for all he has given to all of us.
Thank you, Naz.
COLUMBIA BASIN FISH AND WILDLIFE
B. Bennett: In October a friend of mine, Dave White from the Canal Flats Wilderness Club and a former president of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, sent me an e-mail saying that B.C. Hydro had laid off all of their staff in their Columbia Basin fish and wildlife compensation program. B.C. Hydro's announcement sent shockwaves through the Kootenay conservation community, where fish and wildlife is a predominant shared cultural value. Nobody should ever mess with our fish and wildlife in the Kootenays.
Since 1988 B.C. Hydro has invested more than $100 million in fish and wildlife and associated habitats in three regional fish and wildlife compensation programs that they have in the province. The three programs are delivered through a joint partnership between B.C. Hydro, the province, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The announcement in the fall was that a new model for delivery of this program in the Columbia would be adopted by B.C. Hydro. There would be one staff member, and proponent-driven projects would be awarded dollars through an administrator. The theory was that delivering the program through contractors would allow more money to flow to projects versus administrative tasks. The problem with the theory was that the corpora-
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tion had neglected to talk to anybody in the region and ask them what they thought. The people of the region just don't take that kindly to those kinds of surprises.
So here we are five months later, and I am happy to report that due to the commitment made to this file by the Ministers of Energy, of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and of Environment, a comprehensive series of community engagement meetings have been set up — they have already started — by B.C. Hydro across the whole region. Empty seats for the public and First Nations on the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Compensation Steering Committee will soon be filled. The steering committee will be provided an opportunity to work directly with the provincial policy committee, which is something they previously didn't have.
The two remaining gaps are, one, to create some kind of independent oversight for the next year as this new delivery model is being created from the ashes of the old one, and secondly, to ensure that the corporate memory and the expertise of the six dismissed employees are not lost to the program. If these two elements are adopted, it is my view that we'll end up with a strengthened fish and wildlife compensation program in the Columbia, and that would be a very good thing.
PREVENTION OF HOMOPHOBIC AND
TRANSPHOBIC BULLYING IN SCHOOLS
S. Chandra Herbert: Today I joined with the Vancouver District Students Council, an organization that represents 58,000 students in Vancouver and was supported by student councils and gay-straight alliances in the Kootenays, Coquitlam, Burnaby, Sooke, Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Prince George, Surrey and Ladysmith. The list goes on.
I joined with them because they wanted me to bring youth voice — their voice — to this House, a voice that calls very strongly for explicit policy in our schools to ensure that gay, lesbian, bi and trans students are protected. They're calling for this because two-thirds of those students feel unsafe in our schools. They're calling for this because 25 percent of those students face physical violence in their schools for being who they are. They're calling for this because those students, 70 percent of them, are more likely to commit suicide than the general public in the schools. They're calling for action because 75 percent of our school districts do not have explicit policy to ensure those students are protected in their schools.
These are the voices of youth, voices that are not often heard in this House, voices that need to be listened to because they're in our schools today.
Bullying hurts us all. Bullying puts us into submission. Bullying makes us observers. Bullying makes us bullies. Bullying hurts every student, and this kind of bullying goes beyond just hurting lesbian, gay, bi and trans youth to affect the entire school community.
They're calling for policy because for too long they've been ignored. For too long they've not been listened to as they've cried out for help. For too long their problems have been minimized, and they've been told it's just a local issue.
Well, this is a provincial issue. We all need to pay attention to this, just as we did for racism. We all need to take explicit action to ensure that they are protected. They want this House to listen, and I hope this House will.
J. Slater: If you want the best-tasting municipal tap water in the world, then you will want to go to Greenwood. It's located on Highway 3 in the Boundary region of the southern Interior. Greenwood just recently won the top municipal water prize on February 25 at the 22nd annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting in West Virginia.
Greenwood has the title of being Canada's smallest city, a thriving community until the downturn of the copper market which forced closure of the B.C. Copper Co. smelter in 1918. People left in droves, boarded up their businesses, and by 1940 there were only 200 people remaining. It looked like Greenwood would become a ghost town and, in fact, the area as well.
During World War II a new group of citizens changed Greenwood's fate. The Japanese Canadians were required to abandon their coastal lifestyles, and Greenwood became the first internment camp for 1,200 people of Japanese descent. With the same undaunted spirit of the miners before them, Greenwood's newest citizens transformed the town into a once again bustling community where culture, education and sports became an important part of everyday life.
Today, with a population of 676, Greenwood is once again going through a period of change. Drawing on the strength of past years, the city is evolving into a historic tourism destination. Greenwood boasts some the best-preserved heritage buildings in British Columbia. So I encourage you today to take a step back in time and spend an hour or a day in Greenwood's colourful downtown and nearby historic residences. And don't forget to drink the water.
BUSINESS PLAN FOR
SALE OF GOVERNMENT ASSETS
A. Dix: Page 51 of Budget 2012 says that the government has a plan to sell over 100 properties and assets as "surplus" for a net gain of $700 million over the fiscal plan. Will the Premier provide a complete list of the assets the government plans to sell and the business case for sell-
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ing them at this time?
Hon. C. Clark: I think the Minister of Finance was abundantly clear on that point, which is that in the process of disposing of assets we don't want to compromise our best interests, the best interests of taxpayers, by making sure we get the best deal possible.
I want to say this. I am very disappointed in the Leader of the Opposition today. Today we have teachers around British Columbia threatening to withdraw services to children. We have job action that's dragged on for months and parents that don't know how well their children are doing because they've been denied the opportunity to see their report cards. This is a pressing issue in British Columbia.
I wasn't here yesterday, but I understand the opposition avoided asking questions about it, and now I suspect that the Leader of the Opposition intends to avoid asking questions about it again. This is the place for that debate to happen, and with this withdrawal upon us, I'd urge the Leader of the Opposition to step up. The government is being entirely reasonable in this debate. It is time for the opposition to stand up and be responsible and place the issues on the floor of this Legislature, where they belong.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has a supplemental.
A. Dix: I suspect if the Premier, as she says, was being entirely reasonable, her actions and that of her government wouldn't have been found to be illegal by the B.C. Supreme Court.
But you know, the issue of the tabling of the budget and the fact that the government can only claim a surplus in the year they're claiming a surplus because they are going on a fire sale of assets is, I think, a significant question in this House. The Minister of Finance said that the value of these assets would be $708 million — not $707 million, not $709 million, but $708 million.
I think people would like to know what the assets were. In fact, I can say that one of the people who I think would be very interested to know what the assets were would be the Minister of Aboriginal Relations, who, in spite of the specific estimate by the Minister of Finance, said yesterday that it would be quite illogical to suggest that we could consult on specific lands when we don't know what they might be yet.
So what is it? Why shouldn't the people of British Columbia know what lands the Premier is trying to sell out to get through one more election? Why shouldn't the people of British Columbia know this, and why doesn't the Minister of Aboriginal Relations know what's going on in the cabinet?
Hon. C. Clark: All assets that are disposed of will be disposed of in a way that respects our obligations to First Nations — absolutely. But here's the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislature on a day where teachers are threatening to withdraw services to children across British Columbia. Here we sit, the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, and he is asking questions about a bill that was presented a week ago in the Legislature.
Now, we are going to have ample time to discuss the budget. We are going to have a budget debate. We have had a number of question periods between today and then on the budget. Today, on a day when teachers — the teachers union — are threatening to withdraw services to children in British Columbia, he refuses to get up and engage on the issue. He refuses to get up and talk about his position on this issue. These issues matter to families, and this debate needs to happen in this Legislature.
The Leader of the Opposition needs to stop hiding. He needs to come clean. He needs to stands up in this Legislature and say that he is going to be responsible, just like the government has been, with respect to this dispute.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has a further supplemental.
A. Dix: You know, hon. Speaker, I think the record will show that the provincial budget…. The Premier appears surprised that she might be asked about the provincial budget, but there you go. She appears surprised. In fact, of course, this is my first opportunity to ask her questions about the provincial budget. We can all draw our own conclusions from that, but that is the reality of that.
Would the Premier tell this House…? I think people in British Columbia, whose future is being sold out for the Liberals' present, would like to know what the list of assets is. Is it true, as the Minister of Finance says, that we have a specific number on the assets? We know it's going to be $475 million in a year — a sellout of assets in a year where they're promising a $154 million surplus. Is that the case?
Or is what the Minister of Aboriginal Relations says true, which is that they really don't know what assets they're going to sell at all, but they are going to sell them until they get to that point so they can make a political point in an election campaign? This is a significant question on the budget. Why don't we know it? Why not tell the people of British Columbia, the families of British Columbia, the truth?
Tell them what you're going to sell right now in the Legislature. Table that information so we can have a real debate about the budget.
Hon. C. Clark: The member talks about the future. There is no more important future that we should be discussing today than the future of students in British Columbia, because there is no greater gift that a parent can give their child than a great education. There is
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nothing more important that any government can do than ensure that we have the best possible public education system available for every single child in British Columbia.
When the member gets up and talks about the future, it's a little rich. It's a little rich to hear him talk about the future of the budget when he won't even stand up on a day when teachers are threatening to withdraw service all across British Columbia and dare to have the debate about that.
He won't even stand up here on this day of all days, when this dispute is coming to a head, when that withdrawal is about to happen, when children could find themselves out on the streets or home or in daycare but certainly not in school. On a day when this threat hangs over our public education system, this member doesn't have the backbone to stand up and talk about it in this Legislature. This is where this debate needs to happen, and he should have the temerity today to stand up and put these issues on the table when he has the chance.
ROLE OF LOBBYISTS IN
SALE OF GOVERNMENT ASSETS
B. Ralston: Budget 2012 refers to what the B.C. Liberal government calls a targeted review of its major asset base. Will the Premier identify here today those lobbyists who have targeted public lands and assets for their private gain?
Hon. C. Clark: I have already spoken to the question of which assets will be sold. The Minister of Finance spoke to that very clearly in the budget presentation that he did, including in the budget lockup, and I spoke to that in the answer to the Leader of the Opposition's first question.
I do think it's important for the opposition today to address the issues that matter the most to British Columbians, and that's the education of their children. We have an obligation here in this House to be making sure that our public education system is continuing to work and is continuing to serve children.
If the opposition refuses to debate that, refuses to put it on the floor of this chamber, refuses to ask questions about it, I'd ask this. What does it say about the priority they put on public education in this province if they refuse to even discuss it?
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
BUSINESS PLAN FOR
SALE OF GOVERNMENT ASSETS
B. Ralston: Well, the rules of the House will ensure that there will be ample debate of the bill that the Education Minister just tabled. But let me return to the budget. After all, it has only been one week since the budget was tabled here, and this is the first opportunity to ask the Premier some questions about it.
The asset recovery that's spoken of — $475 million in the second year of the fiscal plan and $231 million in the following year. Will the Premier confirm that those numbers are simply made up to plug a hole in the fiscal plan?
Hon. C. Clark: Well, the member says the legislation on the teachers' withdrawal of service is going to be debated in this House and therefore there's no need to discuss it today. Well, the budget estimates are going to be up line by line on Thursday in this chamber. The member will have ample opportunity to ask those questions.
I mean, here's the thing. These members get up and ask question after question, and they avoid the central issues to British Columbia families. They avoided them yesterday, and they're avoiding them today. You cannot continue to dodge these questions. They are important questions, not just the questions that will be in the legislation. Where does the member stand on net zero? Where does the member stand on many of the other big issues that have been out there with respect to…?
Mr. Speaker: Premier, you can refer to the bill itself, but you cannot refer to the contents of the bill. Continue.
Hon. C. Clark: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The issue of net zero has been something the government has been talking about for months.
Mr. Speaker: Premier, you can refer to the bill itself, but you can't refer to the contents. The contents of the bill have "zero" in it.
Hon. C. Clark: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will not.
I do hope, though, that the members opposite will take an opportunity to discuss and debate the issues of today, the issues that are crucial to parents in British Columbia. Our public education system is under threat of closing down as a result of job action by the union. I think it's important we debate this today in the Legislature. Apparently the members opposite don't attach an equivalent importance to that.
I'll tell you this. The member can get up and ask questions that he can happily get up and ask on Thursday, but parents in British Columbia are watching this Legislature, and they want to know where every single member in this stands on the issue of a work stoppage in our schools.
COSTS TO B.C. OF
FEDERAL ANTI-CRIME LEGISLATION
K. Corrigan: Usually, when you ask questions in ques-
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tion period, you do get them screened ahead of time, but normally you don't have to get them screened by the Premier of the province before you ask the questions.
So asking about $700 million worth of assets is not appropriate. Is justice an appropriate question to ask about today?
K. Corrigan: I'll try. The minister….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
K. Corrigan: It's disappointing. You're right.
The minister responsible for justice has known for years that the Harper government plans to bring in legislation that will have a serious impact on provincial finances. As far back as September the minister said: "I can tell you it's a pretty massive bill, and we have staff in both of my ministries going through the bill as we speak to look for implications."
Months later, and nothing from the minister. A report released today by the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer of Canada said the part of Bill C-10 that restricts conditional sentencing alone is going to cost the provinces and territories roughly $140 million a year.
To the Minister of Justice: how much will federal crime legislation cost the province, what is your plan to prepare for the impact, and what are you going to do to ensure that the federal government compensates B.C. for the costs?
Hon. S. Bond: What the members on this side of the House have said very clearly is that in fact, as a government, we actually believe that safe communities for families are pretty critical. In fact, members of this side of the House actually went to Ottawa and lobbied for tougher laws to get tough on people who take advantage of young people in British Columbia. You bet we support that. It would be interesting to see how the member opposite feels.
We also support taking a really strong stand against human trafficking in British Columbia. Perhaps the member of the opposition could step up and tell us how she feels about that part of the bill.
We've been very clear about this, and unlike the members opposite, we're not prepared to just float numbers around, to talk about a secret budget where they're unprepared to back up the details. We're actually going to take the time to make sure that when we put a number forward, we can justify it, quantify it. But I can assure you that we've made it clear. We support the content of Bill C-10 for safer communities in British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
The member has a supplemental.
K. Corrigan: Well, the member said that…. You've been in Ottawa lobbying for this bill, but you've done absolutely nothing about costing the bill or protecting the people of British Columbia. You've been studying it for months, and yet there's absolutely nothing in this year's budget that shows there has been any preparation for the financial impact to our already overburdened justice system. Clearly, this government doesn't have the jam to tell the Harper government to pay for their own legislation.
Again to the minister responsible for education: will you stand today in the House and tell British Columbians exactly how much the federal crime legislation will cost the province and what your plan is to deal with the impact?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, I think it's fairly ironic that the member opposite is standing up and talking about jam. When the question came to her community about whether we should add additional corrections capacity, the only answer we got from the member opposite was: "Not in my backyard."
Obviously, the member opposite missed the opportunity that we took in the Okanagan recently to announce a brand-new corrections facility that will help us deal with the capacity issues. Not only was that well received; in fact, it actually will create hundreds of jobs. That's what this government is going to do to deal with some of those issues.
PREVENTION OF HOMOPHOBIC AND
TRANSPHOBIC BULLYING IN SCHOOLS
S. Chandra Herbert: Today the Vancouver District Students Council and gay-straight alliances from all across B.C. joined forces to call on the Premier to finally put action behind her words on the eve of Pink Shirt Day, Anti-Bullying Day. As members in this House know, two-thirds of lesbian, gay, bi and trans youth feel unsafe in our schools. They know that 25 percent are physically assaulted in the schools for being who they are.
My question is to the Premier. She says that the vulnerable need to be looked out for. Will she finally bring in policy to protect lesbian, gay, bi and trans youth explicitly in our school systems?
Hon. C. Clark: When I as a broadcaster led a team that brought Pink Shirt Day here to British Columbia from
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Nova Scotia, I did it because I was, like the member opposite, profoundly concerned that so many children in our school system and adults in workplaces feel the long-term deep impacts of bullying for a lifetime. In the course of doing my radio show I spoke to many people who felt it, who lived with it, who could never recover from it.
It is a terrible thing for anyone to experience bullying. I am deeply committed to making sure we address this issue. It was part of our throne speech that the Lieutenant-Governor delivered in this House in the fall. I reiterated my commitment to that recently. We will be taking action on this issue. There are very few issues about which I am more passionate than this one.
I promise the member this. We will work with him to make sure that we bring in the best legislation, the best policy, the best methods we possibly can for addressing this issue in workplaces, in schools and in homes for all people across British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
S. Chandra Herbert: I appreciate the Premier's concern, but it's a concern that she has been expressing since she was Minister of Education, when she brought in a policy that contained zero recommendations to help gay, lesbian, bi and trans students, despite the fact that in the report it said that was one of the top issues. Students have graduated — they've gone through elementary school; they've gone through high school — in the time that this government has sat on its hands.
Today I heard from David, a grade 9 student from Richmond, speaking about attempting suicide because he has been constantly bullied for being gay.
Now, 75 percent of our school districts have zero policy to explicitly protect lesbian, gay, bi and trans youth. In January last year, the Premier claimed that homophobic bullying and addressing it would be a top priority. She would get her Education Minister to get right on it. Well, when I did a freedom-of-information request for all the work that was done last year, what did I get? Four blank pages. That's it. That's the sum total of this government's work on this issue.
So my question is to the Premier. When will she stop just expressing concern, and when will she — now that she's Premier and has been Premier for over a year — actually do something about it? Our kids are counting on us.
Hon. C. Clark: Mr. Speaker, we will be taking action on this, as I promised, in this our second session of the Legislature since I've been Premier. We will be doing that this session.
I take it that the member, despite his cynicism about my intentions, would like to be a part of that. I'd be happy if he would be. Bullying is an issue that unites us all. He can tell stories about people who have been bullied. So can I.
I can tell you stories about grieving mothers whose children have jumped off bridges because they were called gay and were bullied and persecuted at school relentlessly.
I can tell you stories of little girls who went to school from the time they were in kindergarten till the time they were in grade 10, who had words written on their gym strip, who had their clothes thrown in the garbage, who had no one to eat lunch with every single day.
I can tell you a lot of stories about that, and I'm sure everybody in this chamber could tell a similar story. I have literally met hundreds of people who have existed and who have been through some of the worst experiences you can imagine.
There are very few issues, as I said, about which I am more passionate. We are working very hard on addressing this issue, and I tell the member this, as I did in the throne speech and as I did earlier last month. We are going to deal with it, and we are going to deal with it in this session of the Legislature.
GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO
FERRY SYSTEM REVIEW
G. Coons: According to the latest quarterly report released last Friday, B.C. Ferries has seen another multi-million-dollar loss — $23 million — and a record-breaking drop in ridership in the last three months.
About three months ago the Transportation Minister was still using a review by the commissioner as an excuse not to fix the problems at B.C. Ferries, problems that have been obvious for years. Since the review was finished and placed on his desk, the minister has taken no action.
The minister claims to be a get-on-with-it kind of guy once reviews are completed. Why won't the Transportation Minister get on with it and act on the findings of the ferries report?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: I think the member would concur that the report that the commissioner has put together — after discussing with close to 2,000 British Columbians the issues facing B.C. Ferries — is probably one of the best, if not the best, reports we've seen on B.C. Ferries in our province.
These are obviously challenging times not only for B.C. Ferries but for ferry corporations around the world. With the concerns that we heard loud and clear from the public of British Columbia, the users of our ferry system, we brought in a bill during the last session of the Legislature to actually cap future rates at 4.15 percent.
We took the next further step after the commissioner wrote to me, requesting the opportunity to go out and do an in-depth study of what was working in Ferries, what needed some refinement and what we could do to ensure
[ Page 9527 ]
a long-term, sustainable, affordable system for British Columbians and visitors alike. We agreed with that. I wholeheartedly supported him.
We're going through the study right now. We're about one month into it. I hope to have some recommendations coming from that very soon, but on such a serious issue I'm not going to rush to judgment. I'm going to take the report, I'm going to do the work that's necessary, and certainly in due order we will come forward with recommendations. They're going to ensure the affordability and sustainability of the world-class ferry system we have today in British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
G. Coons: It's a different story with a proposed review at B.C. Transit. He says: "I'm not one to drag it on and on. Let's get on with it. I'll take it to my cabinet colleagues, and we'll move forward." It seems the minister is a real action figure when it comes to a review of B.C. Transit but the invisible man when it comes to B.C. Ferries.
Three months, another massive drop in ridership, a $23 million loss, no strategic plan, wasteful advertising spending, threats of significant cuts in service, skyrocketing fares, outrageous executive compensation, ballooning debt. The minister said he was looking at the review. Now he says he's looking at it again. Perhaps the minister is just using the review as a booster seat to see over the letters of complaint on his desk from frustrated British Columbians.
Will the minister quit stalling? Will he get on with it and tell us what he plans to do to fix the mess that this Liberal government created with our ferries?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: I'd like to say that, obviously, the member has missed his calling.
You should be a comedian, Member, when you choose to grow up.
But the issue here is one that is in all of our best interests to make sure that as we go through this report, we don't jump to a hasty conclusion, to say we're going to do X or Y. We want to make sure that we do the proper things.
He talks about fare increases, and I want to make sure the public are well aware of this. Obviously, we share the concern with the public. The fares have increased substantially not over the last five years, not over the last ten years, but over the last 20 years.
You had ten years in government when these fares went up. They ranged anywhere on increases from 70.8 percent, 27.3 percent, 100 percent. So we share the concern on an affordable, sustainable system. We're going to ensure that we find the proper solution to this. But what I can tell you, Member, is that the answer is not just more money. This is about engaging the public, making sure that we look at service levels.
We have utilization rates on some of our routes that are 21 percent. We have times when ferries sail with more crew than passengers. I ask you: is that a sustainable system, Member? In my mind it's not.
We're going to find the proper approach, we're going to find the solution, and we're going to make sure that we take the world-class ferry system we have in British Columbia today and ensure its long-term sustainability and affordability for all British Columbians.
ELECTRICITY RATES AND
B.C. HYDRO REVENUES TO GOVERNMENT
J. Horgan: Hon. Speaker, it's little wonder the Premier doesn't want to talk about the budget, but I'm going to have to bring her back to that point, if that's all right with you and certainly if it's acceptable to her.
My question is about B.C. Hydro. We've heard about the disaster at B.C. Ferries. B.C. Hydro has been creating deferral accounts to get profitability where none really exists. Last year's budget drew $596 million from an unprofitable company. This year we're booking $591 million for that purpose. My question is to the Premier. How high must rates go to pay for this boondoggle, or how many deferral accounts will she create?
Hon. R. Coleman: The only people who'd advocate for more costs for families with regards to B.C. Hydro in this bloody chamber are the people across there, because they actually want to go with the union rate of 9.2 percent, to raise it on top of the people of British Columbia. They actually don't want to go look at the business plan and recognize that we're reorganizing Hydro. It's going to be more efficient.
The deferral accounts are there so that we can do long-term capital planning to fix the things that you never built in the 1990s, hon. Member, and improve a system, modernize it so that it's there for the next number of generations of British Columbians.
[End of question period.]
Orders of the Day
Hon. R. Coleman: I call continuation of the budget debate.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Vancouver-Quilchena, do you just want to wait a few seconds?
C. Hansen: In continuing my remarks from this mor-
[ Page 9528 ]
ning, I know I only have a very few minutes left. I want to spend that time to talk about an issue that I think there's been a lot of misunderstanding, misinformation, floated around by some of our esteemed members of the journalism community but also from members of the opposition. I think it's created some confusion with the general public.
[D. Horne in the chair.]
That is the issue around the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, how it is structured, how the relationship exists between the province of British Columbia and the Insurance Corporation, and how the Insurance Corporation actually structures two very distinct parts of the insurance product that it offers to the public.
About ten years ago, when we as a government went through the process of core review, we did seriously look at the question of whether or not there should be continued public ownership of auto insurance providers in British Columbia and, if the government continues to own the Insurance Corporation, should there in fact be a monopoly only to government as the provider.
What came out of that process was really a division of the two insurance offerings for automobile insurance: one is the basic insurance, which covers everything, including the injury to persons and the liability claims, and the other is what we often refer to as the additional insurance or the collision insurance — for example, the optional coverage that a motorist can get over and above the basic insurance that every motorist in British Columbia is required to have.
They are actually structured in two very distinct ways. Under the basic insurance that every motorist in British Columbia has to have today, there is continuing a government monopoly in providing that service through the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.
In order to change rates, whether up or down, the Insurance Corporation actually has to go to the B.C. Utilities Commission and make their case, based on the cost of providing that service, what the claims trends are, what the issues around the disability insurance are, to make sure that claims can be paid out in the years — and, in fact, in the decades — to come in the future.
ICBC is required to have a reserve amount that they have to hold in order to make sure that they can meet those future claims. This is something called the minimum capital test, which is a term that's used in the insurance industry — I think globally, but certainly throughout North America — which actually prescribes how much of that reserve the insurance company has to have.
ICBC meets all of those minimum capital test requirements. If there is a surplus or a profit that comes from the provision of basic insurance coverage, that stays in ICBC. It is there for the benefit of ratepayers, who buy their basic insurance coverage. That has actually been able to dampen what otherwise would have been increases in some years. In fact, we haven't seen an increase in the basic insurance rates for many years now until this year, so we've actually been successful at keeping those down.
On the optional coverage side, it's actually quite a different structure. On the optional insurance, every motorist in British Columbia has the option of buying that coverage from the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, or they can go out to a private provider. They can go to a private insurance company that provides exactly the same coverage, and they can customize that however they want. So they can get their basic from ICBC and their optional from another company, if they want.
Now, the rules under which ICBC has to operate is that they have to run that optional insurance program on a level playing field with the private providers. So they can set the rates according to their projected costs. They still have to have the minimum capital test requirements being met, and they do meet those. In fact, they exceed those. But if there is a profit generated from that in the private sector companies, then that actually would result in dividends. For example, it would go back to shareholders. They might be pension funds; they might be private investors that own shares in those private insurance companies.
In the case of ICBC, if they wind up with a profit from their optional insurance coverage, it too should go to the shareholders. Now, who are the shareholders for ICBC? It's the entire 4.5 million British Columbians.
In fact, in ICBC over the last number of years…. The rates on optional coverage have come down significantly over the last five years, and that's to the benefit of motorists. Even then, if there's a motorist who thinks the ICBC rates are too high for that optional coverage, they can go out to the private provider and look at what rates can be offered there.
When there is a profit that comes from that optional line of coverage, it should actually flow back to the benefit of the shareholders, who are the taxpayers of British Columbia. So I am just saying that when you hear from some of the pundits in discussion, including from members of the opposition, when they say that money from optional coverage should somehow be channelled into basic coverage, I don't think that actually stands the test of looking at what is fair and what is appropriate and how the individual citizens of British Columbia should benefit.
Yes, we do from time to time see the profits from ICBC's optional coverage flow into general revenue of the province. Those dollars are then available to pay for the education programs, the health care programs and all of the other services that all 4.5 million British Columbians depend on being provided from this government and through this budget that is before us today.
This is a budget that I think is right for the times. This
[ Page 9529 ]
is a budget that reflects a solid foundation in the economy that has been built over the last ten years. It reflects the fact that we have a triple-A credit rating. It reflects the fact that we have an economy that is leading the Canadian average. It is a budget that is very conservative and prudent in how allocations are made, and it is also very conservative and prudent in the revenue projections that are set out in the budget. But I think that is absolutely right for the times.
We are living in volatile times internationally. I don't think anybody has a crystal ball to anticipate exactly what the future might hold in terms of the economy, but I think one of the things that is certain is that in British Columbia we have a solid base to our economy.
We will fare better than the rest of the world because of the strong basics that we built for the economy. I think this budget reflects exactly what is needed at this time, and it has my wholehearted support and my congratulations to the Finance Minister.
B. Routley: It is indeed great to once again have this opportunity to speak up on behalf of the wonderful people of the Cowichan Valley. This budget will not be dealing with some of the most important concerns of our citizens in our communities in the Cowichan Valley, and that's not really a surprise. The government has made choices over the years, some dating back to the beginning of their term.
Here are just a few of the concerns that will not be addressed in this budget. Seniors want options to their senior care. They want them clearly spelled out and publicly available to seniors and their families. You know, this was one of the many issues that the Ombudsman's office laid out very well — by the way: three volumes, 143 findings and 176 recommendations.
I want to add that I believe the Ombudsman did outstanding and helpful work for the seniors of British Columbia, and I also want to thank the Ombudsman's office for the special report and recommendations on the Cowichan Lodge. Those Cowichan Lodge issues come about…. For those people who don't live in the Cowichan Valley, Cowichan Lodge was a senior care facility much loved in the community. Many volunteer hours went into building the facility, tending the gardens, volunteering to help seniors to have an enjoyable end-of-year experience in the senior care facility and to provide them with quality care in that home — make it a home-like experience with gardens, etc.
This senior care facility, while it was promised not to be closed…. Shortly after the new contracted-out facility had been built, VIHA — I would suggest through the help of this government — moved to close down the Cowichan Lodge. It was really traumatic for families in the Cowichan Valley. I would say that it was detrimental to the health of many seniors. In fact, the studies after the closure of the lodge show that a higher number of seniors actually passed away in that period subsequent to the announcement of the closure of Cowichan Lodge than would normally would be expected if you took the same time frame over a number of previous years.
So the Cowichan Lodge Ombudsman's report shows that this government's fiscal plans have included what I would call pain and heartbreak for far too many seniors and their families. Our seniors, the care workers and the communities were very hurt by the actions of this government and this government's creation, VIHA. This report outlines exactly what happened, and I would call it seniors abuse. But this report will bring some level of accountability. It does bring some level of justice and, hopefully, prevention.
I would add that the Cowichan Valley is absolutely behind the fact that we do not ever want to see another Cowichan Lodge mismanagement ever allowed in any community in British Columbia ever again. Again, I want to close off this part by thanking the entire Ombudsman's office for their diligence and hard work on behalf of the citizens in the communities in the Cowichan Valley.
Sadly, far too many heartbreaking stories of B.C. seniors having trouble getting adequate care are laid out in the Ombudsman's report. One of the points made in the report was that seniors need to have continuity and consistency of care. Part of that is clearly a budgeting issue and a policy issue that the government has responsibility for. But unfortunately, as a result of this government's actions in the past in contracting out, this government was responsible for laying off and terminating more than 8,000 quality senior care workers in British Columbia. As a result of their contracting-out efforts, that's still happening, and it's happening once again in the Cowichan Valley.
In January of this year I received a news release that the Acacia lodge in Shawnigan Lake…. All of the workers and the seniors in that senior care facility have been served notice that the lodge intends to contract out all of the jobs of the Shawnigan Lake seniors residential facility, putting more than 30 directly employed care aides, recreation aides, even licensed practical nurses — if you can imagine anybody laying off licensed practical nurses or suggesting that they can contract out their jobs — the dietary and kitchen and laundry staff…. They're all being threatened with being put out of work as early as the end of March. The workers representatives say that this move to contract out comes as a complete surprise. It's devastating news not only to the staff but to the facility's 35 residents, many with complex care needs.
Some of these have the highest level of needs in terms of senior care. Again, back to the Ombudsman's report, it was very clear that continuity of care does affect the seniors in their care facilities. It is tragic, once again, to see this government's actions resulting in seniors being
[ Page 9530 ]
hurt in our community.
The other seniors issue that's alive in the Cowichan Valley is DriveABLE. This budget has nothing in it to help seniors in the Cowichan Valley who are upset about the lack of access to this DriveABLE program. There's nothing in it that will allow seniors to take a real driving test in their own community, which is clearly what I've heard from many seniors. That's what they want. They prefer to have a driving test in their own community.
At least, at a minimum, seniors would want the opportunity to do some testing out of the computer. I heard a lot of stress from seniors about their concerns with the DriveABLE program and the fact that it's a computer test that has nothing to do with driving; it's a comprehension test. It does come down to a budgetary choice as to whether or not this government will do something to allow seniors access in their communities to these kinds of helps that would reduce stress amongst seniors.
I really am frustrated to sit in my office, and day after day, all too often, it's another senior coming through the door with health care issues or DriveABLE issues or even access to the hospital kinds of issues — people in long waiting lists trying to get the help that they need.
At the end of the day, this cognitive test, as I understand the science…. I've done some reading on cognitive tests because of all of the people through the door. Apparently, a cognitive test is not something that you should be able to…. For example, if you go and play with the computer and then test the next day, in theory you should have forgotten the cognitive testing. If you've got cognitive problems, you're not going to be able to practise and somehow get more skilful, particularly if it's a different kind of cognitive test. You're not going to be able to trick the test, so to speak. I do think that we need to do something right away to help seniors in British Columbia, and it's just not happening.
Another issue in the Cowichan Valley that I want to talk about…. It's a small business owner. I had Dixie Simpson come into my office. I'm still perplexed that this government that often says things about small business or big business, that they somehow care about business…. Yet they would take an action against Dixie Simpson, a small business there in the Cowichan Valley, that is really quite startling and really quite alarming.
What Dixie did was she applied due diligence principles. She went out and got a business licence. I'd like to just take a moment to read from her own letter, the letter that she sent to the Minister of Finance. She said that she "researched the possibility of putting one of these fish spas…." They're a fish spa, where these Garra rufa, or doctor fish, nibble away at dead skin. They are actually found to be helpful in places like the United Kingdom. They have them in Ireland. They have them in Scotland. They have them in London. They have them in Japan. They have them in facilities all over the world.
She goes on to say that in February of 2010 she was told by Health Canada — so she approached the federal authorities at that time — that no prohibiting regulations existed in either federal or provincial regulations. Now, that's what she was told when she was asking about starting this business. These fish were allowed in the country. They were sold by aquariums in Canada.
She said she also read the regulations for both sectors to see if there was anything documented, and there was nothing indicating that using these live-fish spa treatments was in any way regulated in British Columbia or federally. Imagine her shock and horror to be in business for over a year, to start to have a huge clientele, people flying in from the United States, from other provinces…. People coming from all over the world were thrilled to find out that this facility existed, particularly if you've got psoriasis or other skin diseases that are often really helped. There's all kinds of scientific evidence that shows that it really helps to have this.
Without any due process, because she was involved…. If you can imagine, Mr. Speaker, here she was being nominated by the chamber of commerce in the Cowichan Valley for the Black Tie Award. She's nominated, so some local media talked to her, and she did a piece on CHEK 6 TV.
Apparently, that was what drew the ire and the heat, if you like. Suddenly, there was a call from VIHA. Somebody higher up in VIHA had been watching, and they phoned and said: "You must shut down right away." This is a phone call. Imagine getting this. "I'm from VIHA, and I'm here to tell you that you have to shut down right away this business that you've invested tens of thousands of dollars in. You must shut down immediately" — without any site visit or whatever — "and you could even possibly face jail time if you don't."
She was told later…. Finally, they said: "Oh well, maybe we should come down and have a look." She said: "Well, you haven't even come down and looked at the facility." So they came down and had a look at the facility. Then they said that these little tiny fish…. They're actually quite amazing; they're spectacular. Apparently their mouths, according to VIHA, were some kind of dangerous tool. That was the interpretation. No science, no research — just a phone call. Somebody higher up in VIHA had nothing better to do that afternoon than close a business in the Cowichan Valley. No consultation, no coming down to have a talk to the business.
It was really terrifying for this small business owner and upsetting, to say the least, that this could happen when she had done her due diligence, had the business licence on the wall from the Duncan city hall, had paid her taxes to the provincial government and to the federal government. And without any kind of due diligence whatsoever she was just put out of work.
Now these facilities…. When I heard this story…. Of course, you have to be concerned. VIHA is saying that
[ Page 9531 ]
there are real health issues involved here. You want to believe that they're going to do some kind of due diligence and look into this.
You can go and look these fish up on the Internet. Just type it in, and what do you come up with? Well, you find out that the health protection agency in the United Kingdom…. I found an article where a spokesman for the agency said that it did not expect to be enforcing any kind of ban in the U.K. and believed the risk of catching an infection from the fish foot spa to be very small. It was looking at publishing public guidelines.
A lot of it got started…. They were only looking at guidelines years after having these facilities in place because people were ringing the alarm bells, like VIHA, saying: "There's this terrible thing, and they've got this dangerous mouth." No science whatsoever, again, behind this. They've been in place for hundreds of years in Turkey and I don't know how many decades in Japan and in other countries.
We've done everything that we can to appeal for common sense in this particular case, and it is sad that here we're talking about a budget in the province of British Columbia. And this government seems to swoop in.
I've heard these ministers and the Liberals talk about regulation. What a terrible thing regulation is. Well, boy, there's a regulation nightmare if you ever heard one.
If you were the person involved and you spent all that money and did the research, did your due diligence, and then people are making things up as they go along…. No accountability — nobody is paying her back for the tens of thousands that she put out starting that business, and it's really unacceptable. I think Dixie Simpson is owed an apology and some real due diligence. Somebody needs to look into this and show….
Why is it okay in Quebec? As I understand, these fish spas are allowed in another province in Canada. I'm told that they're now available in Manitoba as well.
Anyway, moving on. This budget specifically announced that the end of the HST wouldn't be happening until April 1. You know, there's an April Fool's joke for you — April 1, 2013. It's just so complicated. It's been around since 1948, but this is just so complicated. They just can't figure it out any quicker than that. It just happens to be long enough to wring some more money out of the good people of British Columbia, to make British Columbians pay for that government's mistakes, at the end of the day, and bringing in the HST without proper consultation.
At the end of the day, it was clearly a very undemocratic process. Finally, people did have the right to vote on it, and when that happened, we know the results. It was tossed out. But does this government care? The people of British Columbia file into the polling booth, and they expect a little action.
I've done literally hundreds of votes over my career representing forest workers. We voted on all kinds of stuff. Boy, if I ever told them, "You know what? A year and a half from now in April maybe we'll get around to it…." I would have been run out of town on a rail if I tried something like that. Anyway, it's really sad that this government intends to….
Man, they just can't resist a temptation to stick it to B.C. families and to transfer a couple of billion dollars to their rich friends and insiders. Once again they plan to pick the pockets of British Columbians and make them pay for this government's lack of transparency to the B.C. public in the 2009 election when they said nothing about bringing in the HST.
Now the best they can do is to say they'll get around to it on April 1, 2013. Yet we hear these statements about how very much they care about families. You know, they care so much about families, and yet they want to keep the money from families and give a gift of $2 billion to their big business and corporate friends.
And they have talked about how: "Oh well, maybe we should do something about the big corporations. Maybe we should have a plan to take a little bit back, maybe a little bit back, but you know, we don't want to rush into these things." It's okay to rush into hanging on to the money of ordinary British Columbians — but no plan to deal with the fact that….
They brag about being the lowest in the G7 countries. You know, you could be in the middle of the pack and still be okay, I would think. But no, no, they brag about being the lowest, and where has it got them at the end of the day?
I want to stop and camp on that a little bit. Let's talk about what has actually happened. They say that it's all going to trickle down if you invest in these big corporations, but here's the fiscal reality. "The fiscal plan also includes a temporary one-point increase in the general corporate tax rate for large businesses to 11 percent, effective April 2014."
The Finance Minister went on to say: "I believe we can balance the budget without the increase, and it will only be triggered if the fiscal situation worsens." So they got their corporate backup plan. If selling off properties…. Surely, if they sell off enough of British Columbia….
I don't know how hard that is, to develop a plan to take the rich resources of British Columbia and…. "Let's sell them off" — a wonderful idea. What kind of plan…? How can anybody in government honestly believe that they're balancing the budget — both on the backs of British Columbians who are hanging on with the HST and by selling off the assets of British Columbians? It is really quite scandalous. But they go on.
I want to look at how this flood of investment was going to come back. That was the promise. It was the promise way back in 2001. The government was saying that it's all going to trickle down. Just wait; there's going to be so
[ Page 9532 ]
much investment. It's just going to be wonderful.
For example, here are some facts on the forest industry and investment in B.C. The volume of capital invested in B.C. in British Columbia's forest industry has fallen dramatically under the watch of the current Liberal government. According to Statistics Canada, the CANSIM data recently made available publicly free of charge, on an end-of-year gross stock basis, real investment in machinery and equipment in B.C.'s forest and logging sector was reduced from over $4.6 billion in 2001 to under $3 billion in 2011. That's a 28 percent reduction or fall of over 2.8 percent per year.
[D. Black in the chair.]
In wood manufacturing the decline was even worse. The minister of log exports should be hearing this, because this is really serious — that in wood manufacturing the decline is even worse. From $4.6 billion in 2001, the gross stock of machinery and equipment fell to less than $3.1 billion, a 33.6 percent decline, or almost 3.4 percent per year. In pulp and paper it was even more dramatic, from $10.7 billion in 2001 to just $2.9 billion, a drop of 72.8 percent. There are the facts, hon. Speaker, about what's happening at the end of the day when you look at how this B.C. government has performed.
Let's take a quick look at the final B.C. progress report. This is really fascinating reading. It was trumpeted by the B.C. Liberals. They were going to benchmark, so they were going to keep an eye on things. They were going to show what a wonderful job they were doing taking care of British Columbia. Oh yeah, they were just going to be so good at it. It was going to be wonderful. They would be able to report on it annually, and they'd have statistics to prove how they could back up all of the things that they stand up and say in this House.
The B.C. economy that former Premier Gordon Campbell inherited from the NDP in 2001 compared much better to the other provinces than the one he turned over to the current Liberal Premier. The final report of the B.C. Progress Board, a group of business leaders handpicked by Gordon Campbell just over a decade ago to measure and report on the benefits of the Liberal big business–friendly policy, has found that the economy has slipped backwards during the Liberals.
Wow, it slipped backwards. Over the Liberal years the strength of B.C.'s economy slipped from fourth amongst the provinces to fifth. Personal income fell from third to fourth, and the job market dropped from fifth to seventh. That is what's been happening. The Liberal budget continues to hurt working families and the middle class. Real change would have included recognition that working families and the middle class are struggling right now through difficult times. There are all kinds of reports about the need for consumers to get out of the consumer debt hole that they're in. Consumer debt is a real problem not only in British Columbia but in North America. In order for manufacturing and worldwide trade to actually be productive and to benefit, there have to be consumers with disposable income to buy those products.
It's interesting. All of the work that's been done by multinational corporations and big business to crush the life out of the manufacturing sector in North America, actually throughout the United States and Canada, all of the manufacturing jobs rushing off to other nations…. At the end of the day, the result has been that we've got fewer and fewer middle class with a disposable income to actually pay for the products that will create growth.
As a result, we've seen a somewhat stalled economy. Certainly, in the United States it's been an absolute disaster, with all of the fiscal manoeuvrings that went on down there. We still have the problem here in Canada, and a lot of it is the fact that we have so many consumers that have a large debt burden.
Now we've got this government promoting its jobs plan. It's almost laughable when you think that they laid off 35,000…. They watched while 35,000 forest industry workers lost their jobs. In fact, they paved the way. They made it easier to eliminate jobs. Then in 2002 this Liberal government laid off 11,700 workers. Black Thursday, the workers called it. That was back when they were against jobs, particularly public sector jobs.
It's really ironic that here at the beginning of their term they did their best to axe and eliminate jobs, and now, presto chango, they've got a jobs program, and they're spending $15 million putting ads on TV. "There are going to be jobs for all; it's going to be wonderful" — after they stood back and watched 35,000 forest workers' jobs lost, the 11,700 workers….
We had 8,000 health care workers, some very caring people that were absolutely devastated by the actions of this government. Now, as the health care and the needs of seniors becomes even more of a crisis, the province of British Columbia is going to have more and more difficulty in attracting the kinds of workers that we need to do those jobs, because those workers have been so disrespected and abused in the province of British Columbia.
We're asked to just forget about all of that. That was quite messy, but really, we want to move on and do something else. I do want to lighten up a little bit and maybe close out with one small happy thing that has apparently come out of the HST fiasco.
I hear that the HST salesman, the number one salesman, the Stickman…. I heard from a somewhat reliable source that the HST Stickman has apparently been sent off to a clothes peg factory. Some of them protested the change. There were some muffled noises about how they really liked the money and the Starbucks coffee cards on their last gig. However, it has all ended well with the Stickman. Yes, they'll soon be hanging out with someone else's dirty laundry.
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G. Hogg: I'm always intrigued and amazed and sometimes perplexed at how we all have different vantage points by which we see budgets and theories — perceptions from different vantage points — and come to different conclusions with the same bit of data.
I'm also recognizing today, when we have all remembered Jim Green…. I can remember some of the things that he and I talked about. I remember him telling me that if we still believed everything that we saw or if things were the way they appeared, we'd still believe that the world was flat, and we'd still believe that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and that the sun goes around the earth.
"These appearances would not have been challenged," Jim used to often say. They have, and we now know that things are not always as they appear. We learn from science. We learn from empiricism. We challenge our assumptions, we challenge what we see, and we find new proofs that disprove our old truths. Jim was so good at doing that and reminding us of that.
We've also learned that if we were rational beings, if rationality was as it is commonly understood, we would come to thoughtful, rational agreement on matters. Jim pushed us to explore issues from different vantage points than those which are commonly held, the commonly held vantage points.
Budgets and economics are about people's behaviour, about vantage points and about assumptions. Economics traditionally conceptualizes a world populated by calculating, unemotional maximizers that have been dubbed homo economicus. The standard economic framework ignores or rules out virtually all the behaviour studied by cognitive and social psychologists.
The standard economic model of human behaviour includes at least three unrealistic traits: unbounded rationality, which we know does not exist for us; unbounded willpower, and certainly many of us are examples that willpower is not unbounded; and unbounded selfishness — all of which behavioural economics tends to modify. I am sure that we would all agree that we tend to be far more altruistic as a human race than economics would suggest.
Departures from rationality emerge both in our judgments and our choices. The ways which we judge diverge from rationality in many extensive ways, including overconfidence, optimism and extrapolation.
Behavioural economics has come to the forefront over the past number of years. In 2002 Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics by saying that actually people are not all of those things that we've assumed and that we actually have other motivations than just self-serving and maximizing. Sometimes things are done for vengeance. Sometimes things are done out of a lack of caring. Certainly, that was accepted in the academic community.
Then in 2008 Greenspan went before a Congress committee and said that all of the theories that he had of economics and that he'd utilized for the past close to 40 years didn't work, that things were different than he'd assumed. And we started to realize that the assumptions we make around economics and our theories about maximizing and about self-interest are, in fact, not what drives us.
So the context has started to change, and certainly, the context by which we see things dictates what, in fact, we see. There's a famous study funded by The Washington Post where in Washington, D.C., in the subway they had Joshua Bell, perhaps the world's greatest violinist, playing his violin there early in the morning, a million-dollar violin, playing as people were rushing to the subway.
I think over the course of an hour he gathered about $32, which I think included $20 from a woman who had seen him perform at one of the symphony centres a few years before that and felt so badly for him that she gave him $20. But it was the context, and it was the context by which he was seen which dictated that things were different. I sometimes wonder about the context that we see ourselves in and what kind of credibility we give to each other based on those contexts.
The context that we have today and that our budget is presented in is one…. If we look, certainly, at the international impact of it, we recognize that there are crises that have been well publicized — crises in Italy, in Greece, in the United States and more recently in Ontario. Certainly, the Drummond report has been very active in its statements of that.
In fact, as I was looking at the Drummond report, I think they made two references to some of the things that have been done in British Columbia in terms of both health promotion and looking at issues in social innovation. I think we as a province should be proud of the fact that they are looking to British Columbia for some of the actions they think they should take.
It's been said a number of times that we should never let a good crisis go to waste. So what, in fact, are the things that we could and should be doing and looking at?
Certainly, the budget that has come before us has been well talked about by many people in terms of what the important things are that we need to learn, how we can get economic stability, how we ensure that the foundations are set.
The crisis that we're in the context of…. I think there are two or three other things that are approaching us.
Firstly, we have new technologies that we never had before — certainly, information technologies that tell us about the past and what things have happened in the past. We've got new ways of sharing and of understanding each other — crowdsourcing and many of the systems that we look at, whether they be Facebook or Twitter, and ways of connecting that we've never had before.
And innocentive.com is a process used by many of
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the big corporations — Procter and Gamble, Hewlett-Packard — where they actually, in looking at issues and trying to solve them and they're unable to solve them, post all of their information on those. A Harvard study said about 30 percent of these intractable, unsolvable problems were actually solved — probably by somebody sitting at home in their pyjamas, drinking a beer, looking at it and seeing it from a different perspective. Often people who are experts in the field get narrower and narrower in focus and don't see things from the other vantage points.
I believe it was SARS. There were two leading research facilities looking at how we break the SARS conundrum. They finally decided: "We'll put this out. We'll put all of the information we have out on the web. We'll go public with all of it." I think it was within about three days that it was solved, as people looked at it and came at it from different vantage points and different ways of looking at it.
Procter and Gamble, I think, has probably more PhDs than Harvard, Stanford and Princeton combined, yet they couldn't find a solution to these things. So I think sometimes we get too focused on looking at that as well. Certainly, SARS and some of the models like Ashoka and Changemakers give us new technologies, new ways to look at the challenges that we have. And really, budgets are about challenges.
The other significant one that we have in the western world is that of aging and, therefore, the demands that are being placed on social services, on health and the challenges that come through that. Historically, if we look at the provision of social programs, certainly since the late 1700s, and the notion of the puritanical approaches that were brought to us, social programs have been provided by faith-based organizations, by philanthropists and by governments.
The ability of governments and, to a large degree, faith-based organizations, is now very much diminished. While we've always developed our social capital through that method, our physical capital has been developed through the marketplace and through businesses.
We know that about 85 percent of the support provided for elderly seniors is provided by friends, neighbours and relatives, the volunteers that exist and care for each other. If the primary premise of our society is how we look after each other and how we care for each other, then certainly we have many people who provide that framework.
The World Health Organization not long ago told us that the elderly seniors who are isolated and alone can have a life expectancy of seven years less than those who have a lot of social contacts. That's equivalent to smoking. So in terms of the challenges we've looked at with smoking, certainly we have to be able to look at that as an important way for addressing….
The economic crisis, technology, aging — all of those things have pushed us and our budgets and budgets around the western democracies in new ways. It's been said that necessity becomes the mother of invention. Certainly, innovation is the challenge that faces us as we look at these significant challenges.
Some of our most difficult and intractable problems I think seem that way not because they are, but because we look at them from different vantage points. We often look at them from inside. Certainly, the experiences of Procter and Gamble and others have proven that. What do vantage points tell us? How do we look at them?
There's a famous story that's been told by a number of different sales organizations about two people that are sent out to a country in Africa as shoe salesmen. One sends a letter back to head office saying: "There's no market here; nobody wears shoes." The other one sends back: "It's the biggest market I've ever seen; nobody has shoes."
What are the vantage points that we take? How are we able to interpret the things that we look at? What are our explanatory styles in terms of the optimism that we have in terms of that?
One of my favourite stories that I used to use when I was doing a lot of counselling was about Loren Eiseley, who has written a short story called "The Star Thrower." He has an old gentleman walking along a beach in Mexico. Somebody who's watching him from a distance, in the sunset and the darkness, sees this elderly man bend over and appear to be throwing things.
This gentleman gets up closer to this older gentleman, and he sees that with each wave coming in there are thousands of starfish that are thrown up on the beach. The gentleman picks up and throws another one out, and the man says: "What are you doing? It's not making any difference at all." The old gentleman picks up and throws another one out beyond the cresting of the wave, where it wouldn't be washed in, and said: "It made a difference to that one." Certainly, as we look at the challenges that we have and the ways that we look at them, we want to make sure that we do make a difference.
Albert Einstein and Werner Heisenberg, two of the greatest physicists of our and probably of all time, were sitting and chatting away. I think it was in about 1931. As I see it — it's probably not exactly how it happened — I imagine that they were in puffy chairs, each sipping a brandy, and Werner Heisenberg said to Albert Einstein: "Well, you know, whether it's protons or people, you just have to watch the patterns. After the patterns come, then the theories will evolve. The theories are there. It's out of watching that we find the theories."
And Einstein said: "Oh, Werner, you silly banana. That's not at all how it works. You've got to know that the theory you have dictates what you see." I think that's, again, the vantage point. The theories that we hold dictate, in fact, what we see and how we can start to do things differently.
There are a number of things which other jurisdictions are looking at doing differently and a number of things
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which we have had the opportunity to look at differently, because we have so many creative and positive people in this province. I had the privilege of spending some time with Charlie Leadbeater, an innovator who's been around the world. In fact, I believe he was just meeting with the superintendents in British Columbia about a week ago. He has been a consultant in over 150 countries. I had the chance to spend a couple of days with him, and he talked about these vantage points.
He said that in England they were looking at end-of-life care. Where do people want to die? They went out and did a statistically valid survey of where people wanted to die, and he said 85 percent of the people wanted to die at home. So the pollsters were making a presentation to his board, all sitting around, explaining it to them.
There was a young person there who said: "Yeah, but how many of those people were dying?" The pollster in his nice, rational, empirical approach said: "Well, whatever percentage of the population are dying would have been represented in this, because it's a statistically valid survey." He looked at him and said: "Yeah, but I want to know how many were dying." Actually, he convinced the board to have them go back and poll people that were dying.
When they did that, they came back and said that 90 percent of people wanted to die in the hospital — second iteration. He said, "That doesn't make a lot of sense," so they went and interviewed them, and they found that they wanted to die in the hospital because they did not want to be a burden to their families. Often as we make public policy from different vantage points, I think that unless we ask the first and second and third questions around that, we're probably making decisions which are inconsistent with the expectations that we have and the outcomes that we want.
He also told a story about a single mother and four children and her mother living together. Over the period of about 15 years — this is in England — this family was in crisis a lot of the time. The state had spent £750,000 with that family over the period of some 15 years, and after 15 years they were exactly where they were at the beginning of it.
I think the social workers were getting up from their vantage point and saying: "We've got to keep this family together. We've got to protect them. We've got to make sure that it doesn't become out of crisis." And the family was getting up every day, saying: "How the heck can we get out of these circumstances? How can we find a job? How can we get out of these intolerable circumstances that we're in?"
As governments, I think, we tend to develop policy for people, not with them. So how do we start looking at that? What they started to do was they spent £25,000 in the first year, and they took a co-creation model of policy development — to develop policy with them. They went to the family and said, "What are the things that you want? How can we support you? How can we help you?" rather than having the state's model around that. They spent £25,000 in the first year and haven't heard of the family since.
There are lots of examples of those types of things happening. Christian Bason, out of Denmark, has talked about the ways that they've looked at taking the amount of money that they have and providing better services.
I think the opportunities that we have with this budget are to look at how we can have better services — services that are not in the traditional industrial model and not in the hierarchical model but services that are more community-based, more sensitive and more sensitized and that have a positive service experience so it's not just what the outcomes are but what the service experience is of the public engaged in that.
He gave the example of an employment agency in Copenhagen, a state-run employment agency. They use video cameras. He said: "We set up our video cameras across the street from the employment agency. The agency opened at 8:30. They set their cameras up at 7:30 in the morning." He said it was raining for the three days that they did that.
You can see in the videos the people lining up at about eight o'clock, starting to line up, hoping to get employment. You see the employees coming to work, opening up, turning on the lights, having coffee, nice and warm, and all of the people lined up outside. He said: "When we showed that to the public servants, they were aghast. Their vantage point didn't see that." They said, "There's no reason why we can't open the doors and let them in," and they started doing that.
How can we have a better experience for the people of our province? He told another story about home care. In the home care model it came to light to him, he said: "When I was visiting with an elderly woman, living by her house, in her home, on the support services the state was providing, she said to me, 'You know, I don't feel this is really my home till nine o'clock at night when the care aide goes home.'"
So they started looking at it. They did an analysis, and they found that 50 percent of the people that were being provided services didn't really need the services, 35 percent of the people needed to have assistance in terms of being able to cook and to clean and to do those physical tasks, and about 15 percent needed the accelerated kinds of service they had.
They actually readjusted the services that they were providing. They developed a program called Live Your Life in Your Life, and through that process they were able to develop a whole new model of service delivery at less cost and provide greater services. I think the crisis we have provides us with more opportunities to look at those.
He also gave the example of the developmentally disabled. They had a recycling facility, which we've heard
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lots about in our province, for the developmentally disabled. They were thinking of closing it down because people didn't seem to want to go to it. So they gave little video cameras to all of the developmentally disabled who were there and asked them to film those things which were important to them, those things they cared about.
I remember him telling the story of one woman. All of her videos were of lunchtime and were in the garden. So they said: "Why don't we readjust what we're doing? Why don't we allow this woman to work in the garden?" And they did. They did that in terms of developing an individualized model for each one of the people in terms of things they wanted, the things they liked, and they provided that for each one of them. They now have a waiting list of about 300 to get into it. It's about being able to shift the service delivery model so it's more focused on, sensitized to and involved with the people that they care for.
Peter Shergold, out of Australia, has talked about different models for addressing how we can look at services to families. They developed a program called Family by Family. In that program, they take families with similar demographics, an at-risk family and a family that's flourishing — similar demographics, everything as similar as they can. They match them so that they're not providing a hierarchical model, but they're providing a mentorship. Working with that model, they're finding that they can provide services to a hundred families whose children might be taken into care for the cost of taking one child into care — a whole different address, a whole different model, of how we look at and address things.
They recently had PricewaterhouseCoopers look at the costs of the services being provided. They were particularly interested in looking at the non-profits and the service providers and comparing the quality of their services to the quality that the state provides. They found, with rare exceptions, that the services being provided by the non-profits were equal to and, in many cases, better than those services provided by the state.
They looked at and compared the costs, and they found that the non-profits, those provided outside of the state, would be able to provide services at 30 percent less than what the state was providing — equal to if not better services than that.
One, I guess, could argue that they were subsidizing the state at up to 30 percent of the cost. But what they've done is look at that and seen that as an opportunity to actually relook at how their funding model works. They're looking at trying to fund that gap of 30 percent with a recognition that the services they provide through that process will be more effective and more responsive to the kinds of needs that the people of Australia have.
So the vantage point that we take, the context it is provided in, the questions we ask all seem to dictate what the outcomes will be. I think of the number of times I've made assumptions about things and programs and people. I'm worried about the way that I sometimes perceive the world and look at it.
Science has opened up successive vantage points for us from which we can see ourselves. The questions that we ask often determine the answers we receive. How we do what we do becomes ever so important. Experts seem not to be the answer to all of the things we want to look at.
In British Columbia we are now looking at more effective models of social innovation, and I think this budget reinforces the need for us to look at things from different perspectives. We are involved with Ashoka Changemakers. Ashoka is an international organization that has, for about two decades, been looking at how we challenge, how we look at and how we solve some of our most intractable problems.
They're currently being used by the…. In Canada the only one going on now is, I think, funded by the McConnell Foundation and the Paul Martin foundation, where they're looking at how they can improve educational performance for First Nations on reserve. They're having what they call a collabetition. This is open sourcing. It was done in 2010 at the G20 summit in Seoul through a collabetition. Through an Ashoka Changemakers model, they leveraged about $1.5 billion into developing countries for impoverished children in developing countries.
We are in the process of setting that up in British Columbia to look at how we can tie our communities together. How can we look at the resources? How can we look at what's working in Fort St. John versus what's working in Fernie? How can we tie together on a platform the models that are there?
The Ashoka Changemakers have run something like 250 of these Changemakers models across the world. They did one in Minnesota a few years ago, where they had 30,000 people participate in looking at recreation and recreational opportunities. I am hopeful that we will be able to have those types of numbers in British Columbia and that we'll be able to provide a different set of options.
Basically, the way the model is designed to work is that Ashoka and their experts and their Changemakers will go into communities and will engage communities and perhaps the non-profits or social service providers in communities. They'll help them convene meetings. They'll have them pick a champion who may be representative, and then they will start to look at and communicate with each other. Then the Ashoka experts will come in. As people start to post what they're doing, the experts from around the world will wade in. They have about 8,000 people that look at and participate and assist and support communities.
Again, looking at what we have in terms of budgetary challenges, it provides a number of opportunities which a number of people are looking at as a real opportunity to look at the way we provide service delivery. Research is pretty clear that the more we're able to provide service delivery at a community-based level with community-
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based input and decision-making, the outcomes we have for the people we're dealing with are much, much better.
The Ashoka Changemakers give us that opportunity to look at and to see things differently. The way we do things in the process becomes equally as important. There is interesting work being done in terms of how we develop policy.
If policy is developed in models that allow for respectful engagement with the people that are going to be impacted by the policy and if the co-production of that policy is in place, people feel more empowered. People feel more engaged with the process. They feel better about the world they live in.
The outcomes of these processes and the things we look for…. I think, firstly, they must be efficient. We want to ensure that we are not being wasteful in the delivery of that, and that is certainly a lens we have to put on as we move forward in these challenging times. We want them to be effective. We want to ensure that the programs that come out of them do have the outcomes we want.
Certainly, one of the challenges we've always had in the delivery of social programs, and to some degree in health programs and environmental programs, is not being able to measure outcomes, not being able to quantify them. Often we look at appendix A of our contracts that we have…. We buy time. We buy so many hours of service rather than looking at and shifting to outcomes.
Looking at the notion of the service experience, what is the experience that somebody has? If we are able to push out drivers' licences at a hundred a day and say that our outcome is good…. Unless we've got those people having a good experience, then I think we have a challenge with that as well.
The fourth value I would place on that is that of democracy, of transparency, of ensuring that there is a sense of engagement that is reflected in that.
The notion of a social impact bond is one that I think particularly offers opportunity to our government, to any governments. I know the federal government is looking at that at this point in time. At one point I was hoping British Columbia might be the first to do that, but it has now been done in England. The model of a social impact bond is: how do we look at outcomes and what costs the state will incur? How do we enter into a contract? Governments are traditionally bad at anticipating risk. The marketplace is really good at anticipating risk.
What they did in England to respond to this is…. They found that with young offenders of a particular profile, about 65 percent of them were reoffending within the first year of being released from jail, and 80 percent were reoffending after two years of being released. So they have entered into an agreement whereby if you can keep the young offender from offending in the first year, you'll get a 7 percent return on your money. If you can keep them from reoffending for two years, you get a 14 percent return on your money.
The modeling in England suggests that will still save the taxpayers of England about 8 percent on money. The way they do that is they have a contract issued. They issue the contact and say: "If you can keep these out for a good two years, you get 14 percent on your money." But the government doesn't issue any money. They take that contract and go to the money markets. They say: "Do you want to invest in this?" If they choose to invest in it, they raise enough money to do that. That money is to run the program, and then the state pays for it at the end of it.
A simpler model is probably looking at type 2 diabetes. We know that type 2 diabetics, on average, go back to the hospital three times a year. We have got the metrics in terms of what has happened in the past. If we take a large enough sample, we know we can be pretty accurate. You take a hundred type 2 diabetics, and we ask for a contract. If they cost us $5 million for the past five years, we ask government to provide us with a contract to provide it for the next five years for 2 percent. We take that contract and go to the money markets.
We've been talking to Vancity Savings. They said: "We can raise you $100 million in that process." You use that to deliver the service. Government pays at the end of the five years. So the risk is taking the move to the marketplace.
If I want to invest in type 2 diabetics or autism, I can go and do that. We have got a proposal to change some of the models so that we can have not just the non-profit model and the corporate model but a model in-between.
I think we should also be changing the venture capital act so that if I want to invest in a social program, I should get a 30 percent flow-through tax credit just as if I wanted to invest in a mine. I think it is time we leveraged the opportunities that exist there so that it can provide us with social programs which can make a difference in the province.
D. Routley: I rise to speak in opposition to the budget — no surprise to the members opposite. But I'd like to share with the House the reasons for which I am standing opposed to this budget, and share particularly with my constituents those reasons.
Before I do that, I'd like to start, as many members do, by thanking my family. My lovely partner, Leanne, is always a support for me. She has her own very busy life working full-time with two children.
She's a competitive Highland dancer and a Highland dance teacher. She teaches my stepdaughter Brookelyn, who is eight and is also becoming an accomplished little dancer. Leanne works for her family's business, a realty business, and she's incredibly busy and burdened by her own demands and yet still finds the time to provide unbelievable support to me. I thank her dearly for that and love her very much.
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Every once in a while I get to return the favour and support the Highland dancing events. I'll emcee and introduce the dances and pretend that I know a little bit about them. I'm always really proud.
I know that everyone here, when you see someone you love doing something that they love…. It brings a particular joy to your heart to see that in a person's eyes, how much they love what they do. Leanne very much loves dancing, and it's very nice to see her pursue that.
The kids. Brookelyn, as I said, is a dancer, a little eight-year-old dancer. She doesn't like practising, so every once in a while I can convince her to practise if she teaches me. So my sword dance is a little bit better than it was when I started. I love seeing her rewarded when she performs and people really appreciate it. She doesn't like the competition as much as she does the performances — the theme dances that they do, which is more up on stage and less…. I think there is less practice involved and more reward from a clapping audience. I think that's what Brookelyn likes about it.
Matthew is a little ten-year-old hockey star who leads his team with over 50 goals in less than 40 games. He's an amazing little guy who takes all of that very seriously. So our biggest task is to temper down the seriousness of the whole thing and remind him that it's really for fun and to teach him the lessons of teamwork, sportsmanship and good citizenship.
My daughter Madeline loves photography, and she's pursuing that hobby. I was a stay-at-home dad with Madeline. Just seeing her become a young woman is the most unbelievably proud experience I can think of ever being privileged with.
So I thank them all for their love and support, and I support them right back. They just bring absolute joy to my life.
The constituents of Nanaimo–North Cowichan. Nanaimo–North Cowichan is a unique constituency. It's semi-urban. That means I've got the south end of Nanaimo, which is very dense and has a number of income issues, poverty issues. It also is the home of Vancouver Island University. The campus is actually just on the other side of the street from my constituency. Many of the people who work there and attend there are my constituents.
The constituency has six First Nations, 13 separate communities, two school districts, six local governments and seven ferry terminals. It's very diverse. The constituency as a whole has double the average number of seniors than the average constituency in the province, and uniquely, certain communities have double the number of children in the household, according to the average. Like many other constituencies, I'm sure the demands on people's lives are as varied as the people themselves.
Those are the people that I think of when I come to this place. When I come to serve them in the Legislature, debating legislation, commenting as I am here on a budget, making statements in the House about their lives and our communities, they are the ones that I think of. They get put first — the constituents of Nanaimo–North Cowichan.
I think that spirit should guide us all when we come here. Our constituents, specifically, that we represent and generally those in the province are owed our loyalty and devotion. They are owed that, and unfortunately, there have been repeated and numerous examples of this House failing that trust.
We can go back through the time of the B.C. Liberals and find so many examples of that trust being failed, and this budget, I will argue, is another example of an inadequate response to that huge responsibility to put people and the public interest first.
The budget is the foundation stone, the foundation document, for the government. It is the ultimate statement of principles and priorities, of the beliefs that the government holds in terms of how the communities and lives in this province ought to be helped through legislation and through actions that the government can take. So if you consider that it is in fact a value statement, then unfortunately, this one is weak.
This budget is in fact a faux conservative budget. It masquerades as being conservative but fails. If it truly were a conservative budget, it wouldn't be raising taxes. It wouldn't be raising MSP premiums, the most regressive taxes of all because a family making $30,000 pays the same MSP premium as a family making $300,000 per year. Certainly, it wouldn't be doing that. It wouldn't be raising the debt as this budget does. I'll talk about all those issues in more detail as I progress through this budget address.
Having failed to meet the test of being a truly conservative budget, you would ask yourself, Madam Speaker: "Is this budget a progressive budget?" Well, there again it fails. It fails to meet the test of being progressive in its values from that perspective.
It fails to address seniors care, even though we just heard from the Ombudsperson with an absolutely outstanding, more-than-600-page series of reports on seniors care in this province and the failings of the government to adequately meet the standards that we all would expect for seniors. It fails to address that. A progressive budget would certainly address that human issue.
This budget cuts higher education. Certainly, a prudent and progressive budget would invest in higher education. A prudent budget would realize that addressing the economic challenges of the future would require an increased investment in higher education, particularly when we understand that 80 percent of the jobs created in the next five years will require higher education. Particularly when our labour force needs to increase its competitiveness, we see, instead, a cut.
A progressive budget would also invest in higher education to expand the opportunities, the liberties and the
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abilities of citizens of British Columbia. After all, they are the ones that we have come to address.
A progressive budget would also not abandon the environment. This budget will make a $1 million cut over the next three years to the Environment Ministry.
That qualifies this budget as not progressive. So it's not conservative, and it's not progressive. We have a growing debt. We have increased taxes. We have a failure to meet the human and community needs of the province. I mean, how bad could it be? I'm not quite sure.
Really, it's a stand-pat budget, because those principles and values define the B.C. Liberal approach to governance of the past 11 years under the previous Premier, Gordon Campbell, and now continued under the current Premier, a Premier who promised change. This budget fails to deliver that change. This is a stand-pat budget.
This is a can't-do budget. This budget says to the province: "We can't do it." It says: "We haven't got a vision for the future." It says that all of the problems that the government, the B.C. Liberals, has had 11 years to address…. Be it the crisis in our judicial system, be it the growing poverty — having now been eight years, the basement dwellers, having the highest poverty levels in the country…. It fails to address those.
It fails to address the continued circumstance where we see the decline of our forest industry. This year the revenue from forestry will dip below the cost of running the ministry. So the core industry that built this province, the foundation stone of our economy, now is a money-loser for the B.C. government. That is a shameful, shameful state of affairs that should never have been allowed to occur.
I would argue that it was allowed to occur by the same lack of priority that this budget represents and that previous Liberal budgets have represented, the failure to align themselves and their policies with the priorities and principles and values of British Columbians. The people of the province do not endorse policies that see 40 percent of the logs from the coast of B.C. and Vancouver Island being exported overseas.
It's not just any 40 percent. These are the best logs. What we're left with, our manufacturers in this province, is substandard fibre and a lack of fibre. This budget does nothing to address that. In fact, it doesn't even mention it. This is an absolute failure. This would be judged by people from across the spectrum politically as a failure. This is something that is hard to believe when we….
I recently participated in a forestry tour where I and several colleagues from the opposition, including the critic, visited several mills. One of them was a Coastland mill in Nanaimo. The Coastland mill is a mill that peels logs to create veneer that is used to make the layers of plywood.
You know, I worked in a sawmill from 1978 to 1980 in the veneer plant. They peeled logs, but the logs were, like, a metre across the base. The veneer peeled off in long ribbons that were chopped. We would, by hand, pick up the corners and flip them up so that a cushion of air would be captured under the veneer sheet and then slide it onto a pile — all by hand.
Now, with the advancements of technology, Coastland is the fastest log-peeling mill in North America. You might find one as fast if you travel to the state of Georgia in the United States. But they are industry leaders. They hold patents on their equipment. No longer are there grunts, like myself, flipping up veneers and piling them by hand. This line runs at almost 50 kilometres per hour, with suction being used to pick up the veneers and place them exactly in the piles and shipping lots required.
It's an unbelievably efficient operation. They have invested in jobs in my community, and I thank them for it. They spent $600,000 recently to shave half a second off the time it takes to peel a log. Why? Not just in the interest of increasing profit but to deal with the fact that all the best logs are being exported. So many of the logs they are left with are crooked, sort of like the forest policies of this province. They spent that money in order to maximize the veneer that they could take off crooked logs.
One of the stones they've turned over to make themselves profitable enough just to stay in business is that they lease part of their yard as a log sort for TimberWest for exporting the straight logs to their competitors in China. Now, not to demonize these workers in China. Fine, it's a worthy practice for B.C. to supply those mills, as we can.
But when mills in British Columbia are closing, when we see 35,000 forestry jobs lost under the watch of this government, when we see a budget that does nothing to address that, when we see a company like Coastland that is a world leader in technology and efficiency barely able to survive, there's a problem — a real problem.
The manager of the mill, Hans De Visser, told the forestry tour I was with that doing nothing will have inevitable outcomes. They will be run out of business. There are just no two ways about it. On the other hand, if they are granted log policies from the government of British Columbia that allow them consistent access to quality fibre, they are prepared to invest in another line currently operating too, increasing their capacity by over 50 percent.
So what will it be? We're at a moment of choice that, frankly, is betrayed by this budget, a choice moment where Coastland decides whether they make that investment and ramp up their efficiency and their production and continue to be leaders. Or do they simply just run it out because they don't have the policies they need to support those jobs?
That's an important issue for me when I look at my constituency and the people I represent — dozens and dozens of direct jobs and dozens and dozens more that
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are supported by that operation indirectly. They're all at stake, and if they're lost, they'll be lost for good. No one will come and rebuild it. No one will come and build another Coastland.
It seems to me that when we view the budget as an expression of values, principles and priorities, this budget fails my constituents. This budget fails to address important issues that they grapple with every day. Fiscal prudence shouldn't be just another phrase, not just a concept to be pandered to in order to buy votes, not something to in fact be used as an instrument to impose an agenda of harm on certain groups and benefits to others.
This fiscal prudence that we all seek should be something that is real, that is observed. Fiscal prudence isn't represented here when we see this failure to invest in the future, this failure to address present-day problems, and at the same time, the history of a government that has spent tax dollars, public funds, so unwisely — $600 million for a convertible roof over a stadium.
I'm a huge sports fan. I love football. It is nice to have soccer played in that stadium. I love sports. But you know what? I would be betraying those constituents that I am entrusted to represent, in terms of their priorities, if I were to say, "You know what? That $600 million for that roof is just fine," when we cannot guarantee that South Wellington Elementary in my constituency can remain open; we cannot ensure that the seniors in Lodge on 4th assisted living facility, a private facility in my constituency, are properly cared for; and we cannot ensure that the forest industry in the communities I represent is reformed and supported.
The priorities of the government are wrong. When we talk about this budget being a failure, we hear a chirping from the other side: "Oh yeah, let's spend money, spend money." In fact, that's coming from the crew who went half a billion dollars over budget on a convention centre. This is coming from the crew who told us that the previous budget would have a deficit of $495 million, not a penny more — maximum. Dozens of times they said it in the House. Dozens of times they said it in the communities and in the media.
These projections represented in this budget ask us to trust. They ask us to believe that in fact the government is capable of making these projections and sticking to them. I would suggest that those constituents of mine in Nanaimo–North Cowichan would find that a difficult leap of faith given the history of B.C. Liberal promises and projections.
They've got a little bonus piece in there. They've got a little wild card they can throw on the table as we go forward towards the election and the next budget. They are going to have a closing-out sale. It's the B.C. Liberal closing-out sale.
Sell properties, and they say it will gain $708 million. I mean, that is a very specific number, and yet they can't produce a specific list of properties. It would lead my constituents to believe that perhaps that number is the number they must gain, and any amount of assets of this province sold as required…. They will do it in order to get that number so that they can balance a budget for an election — again, a failure.
If you view that from a conservative point of view, they are going to sell into a depressed real estate market to save their political skins. If you view it from a progressive point of view, they are failing to guard the common wealth of the province and to have any kind of vision as to what those properties might mean in the future.
Yes, properties are bought and sold by governments — federal, provincial, local — all the time, but it is the taxpayers who actually own those properties and expect that those sales and transactions will be carried out with a strategy and a business plan. They have an expectation that the government will maximize the benefit to the taxpayer.
Simply saying, "You know what? We have an election in 2013, so we've got to balance the budget. We've made a commitment, so we're going to sell the property. We're going to sell your stuff until we get the amount of money we need to meet the promises we've made," is hardly prudent, hardly strategic, hardly acting in the public interest, but that's what they're going to do.
We have a budget that fails to support the much-trumpeted jobs plan, a jobs plan with no jobs. The Premier went to great lengths to promote and announce and reannounce a jobs plan that has no specific targets.
Jobs? Again, we look to the history of the B.C. Liberals. The HEU contract. They promised not to tear it up, got into government, tore it up — the largest mass firing of women in Canadian history. It was ruled to be unconstitutional. Backtrack. More incompetence, more failure to live up to the priorities and principles that my constituents hold dear to themselves and would project onto the governments of their province. Thirty-five thousand jobs lost in the forest industry. That's their history when it comes to job creation and sustaining jobs.
"But we have a jobs plan." They ran to get in front of the cameras when the federal shipbuilding contract came, yet we know, and British Columbians know, that they played such a very minor role in securing that contract. In fact, it was the shipbuilders unions and the opposition members local to those shipbuilding facilities that worked for years to secure those contracts.
This crew on the other side, who say, "Oh, the private sector creates jobs; government doesn't create jobs," ran out in front to say: "Look at the jobs we've created." They're created with tax dollars, aren't they? They're public funds creating employment in British Columbia with which they had so little to do yet are so eager to take credit for now.
There is no investment in this budget in the training that will be required to meet the demands of those con-
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tracts. What will that mean? What will that mean for the labour force of this province? I'll tell you, Madam Speaker. It will mean that in order to meet the demands and the opportunities that those shipbuilding contracts represent, we will have to import skilled labour while people in the province are unemployed, while people live in poverty, while our First Nations youth have no opportunity. This was an amazing opportunity for the government to reverse its course and even characterize itself as visionary, if they had had the vision to make that kind of investment right now.
Even in Ontario, where Don Drummond has recommended such severe cuts to public spending in that province…. Not to higher education. He's recommended increased investment in order to increase the competitiveness and the capacity of the economy. This government isn't doing that, because this is a faux conservative budget.
Timing is everything, in comedy and in politics. What's coming up? A couple of by-elections. One of them, in particular, is hotly contested by the B.C. Liberals, the B.C. Conservatives and the B.C. NDP. Now, in order to stem the bleeding from their coalition, they attempt to frame themselves as conservative. You don't have to scrape very far through the surface of this budget to realize that there's very little conservatism or prudence about it.
When it comes to the debt, we've seen an increase. We've seen that last year the debt increased by $5.8 billion. By the end of 2012-13 the debt will have increased a further $6.6 billion. By the end of '13-14 the debt will have increased a further $5.1 billion. By the end of 2014-15 the taxpayer-supported debt and self-supported debt in this province will reach $58 billion.
D. Routley: The member thinks that I'm complaining about spending money. This is a discussion…. Just for the information of the member from Prince George, this is about priorities, as every budget is all about priorities.
This is about the choices that are made, and the choices on the part of the Liberals have been to give away the assets of the province, undermine the revenue potential of the province, overspend on pet projects and, at the same time, cut from the core foundational institutions of the province — health care, education, seniors care. At either end of the spectrum of life, children and seniors pay for the priorities of the B.C. Liberals. How unfortunate.
In any case, the off–balance sheet debt of $80 billion that the Auditor General has identified should be included, at least partially, in the debt calculation of the province. It isn't even there. I wonder how their credit rating would look if they suddenly had to honour the observations of the Auditor General and include half, or whatever percentage, of that $80 billion that ought to be reported as debt. I wonder what that would do to this province.
We've seen a failure here. We've seen a failure in forestry, a failure to invest in silviculture, despite the Auditor General's report that tells us the health of the forests is at stake. We've seen a failure to fund the obligations of the omnibus crime bill that this government supports, and we've seen a failure to invest in education. They cut from First Nations treaty negotiations money in the last budget and failed to address that this time around.
Now they're going to sell assets to reach their goals. Now they're going to have a close-out sale to reach their goal before the next election. That close-out sale, as other close-out sales, leads to something else, a bankruptcy. It's a bankruptcy, a priority. It's a huge deficit and debt in our classrooms and our hospitals. They're responsible for it.
The closing-out sale will lead to something else, a change — a change to something fresh and something renewed, a vision for British Columbia that says the people, in Nanaimo–North Cowichan and elsewhere, come first — and we will deliver it.
D. Hayer: Thank you for allowing me to respond to the Budget 2012. Before I start, I want to say thank you to my family — my wife, my children — to my friends, my staff, my volunteers, voters, constituents and everybody else who helps me and supported me doing my job as MLA for the last 11 years. Without their help and support I could not do that. Without their help and support I could not have won the last three elections.
In my speech I'll respond to some of the questions raised by the opposition. I know we are the government side and they're in opposition, so they figure their role is to oppose. Some of the questions they have raised will be answered in my speech. I will try to clarify some of the record.
My response to this budget is based on my discussions with my constituents and my discussions with many of the British Columbians on my tours of the many different regions of the province with the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services and what I have seen and heard from my travels throughout Canada and other parts of the world.
I think what's happening around the world…. Every single MLA here has seen on the TV or in the newspapers, on the radio stations, what is happening, so I'm sure they are well aware, since 2008.
I want to start off by commending the Minister of Finance for his tremendous work on Budget 2012. British Columbians are tightening their belts in these tough, difficult economic times, and the government has to do the same.
This prudent and responsible budget makes sure that we and then our children and our grandchildren are not
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spending taxpayer dollars on paying interest but on services British Columbians have come to expect, as they define the high quality of life we have in British Columbia and Canada.
We have heard this so many times before, but it cannot be stressed enough. The smart fiscal planning this government has delivered for the past decade has made British Columbia's economy come out on top compared to the rest of the world. It has been reported many times in all the different newspapers and all the media and credit agency reports and by the investors.
In Greece there is violence and unrest. Italy, France and England are following and finding themselves in situations where their way of life cannot be sustained anymore. Even Japan, which was the second-largest economy for decades, is seeing catastrophic turmoil in its economic health because of all of the years of deficit spending.
I have talked to many of my friends who have families in Greece, Italy, France, England, Germany and the United States, and we have all heard the stories of how difficult times are there, including the United States, where some of the houses are being sold for 25 percent of the price. Where the people have paid $100,000 for the condo, they are being sold for $25,000, $20,000 right now. It is really difficult for them, and that's because of the financial issues and how they've managed the economy.
On this side of the House we believe in delivering services to keep our B.C. families healthy and able to thrive. We believe in ensuring opportunities for parents to work and children to learn. We believe in doing all that without raising the tax burden. We believe in doing all this within our means. We believe in protecting jobs in B.C. We believe in helping create more and new jobs in British Columbia, creating the economy and environment so that people are willing to invest and create jobs here.
If there is a public measure of government action and activities, it is the editorial stance of our major newspapers. Good or bad, they are never reluctant to take government and politicians to task on what they believe is in the best interests of British Columbians.
The Vancouver Sun had this to say about the budget: "On balance, while some of it will be hard to swallow…budget is the right prescription for the times." The Province headlined its editorial in last Wednesday's edition with: "Kevin Falcon Delivers a Responsible Budget." From the Province newspaper….
Deputy Speaker: Member, we don't mention the minister's name. You refer to him by his title, please.
D. Hayer: Let me restate that, Madam Speaker. The headline in this editorial in last Wednesday's edition stated his name, but I won't say his name, as you said I wouldn't: "The Minister of Finance Delivers a Responsible Budget." It went on to say: "Economically we’re all going through a rough patch…. There are those who argue for higher taxes so that even more money can be spent by government, but that’s no way to treat taxpayers, attract investment or build the economy."
The second quote: "As a group, British Columbians only have so much money. The Finance Minister has a hard job, but overall, he's doing it right."
That was from the Province newspaper. Well, it's hard for anyone to dispute those words. Those are independent people. Sometimes they're writing that the government is right. At other times they're criticizing what the government is doing wrong. You've seen it, and they have done that for all different parties, all different governments at all three levels.
It simply reinforces my belief, and that of most British Columbians, that our government is on the right fiscal track with this budget. We have recognized and reacted to the world economic situation — which is, at best, bleak, as I saw firsthand on my travels to different parts of the world — yet while other provinces and other nations are faltering under the constraints of recession, British Columbia continues to grow with a prudent approach to taxation, spending and fiscal responsibility.
Not only that, but unlike so many other jurisdictions, British Columbia has retained a triple-A credit rating. This gold standard means that British Columbia can secure loans at lower interest rates, resulting in lower interest payments so that we have more money to support health care, education and social programs. This means government revenues can be directed to more important services like health care and education instead of paying off high-debt interest rates.
A triple-A credit rating is only available when government is doing everything right. This budget keeps on track to keeping our triple-A credit rating and is held in a high standard by financial institutions of the world.
While there are certainly some difficult decisions contained in this budget, there are so many other positive aspects, particularly for those considered among our most financially vulnerable, our seniors. It helps out the seniors. Those seniors who still maintain a home are now eligible for a home renovation tax credit of up to $1,000 so that they can continue to maintain their home and property.
Additionally, this budget allows for adjusting of homeowner grants, creates a new supplement for low-income veterans under the age of 65 and extends the eligibility of homeowners who have moved into a residential facility but haven't yet sold their home.
For young individuals and families this budget provides a first-time new-home buyers bonus of up to $10,000, available until the HST is revoked in 2013. This assistance will help young people get into the new housing market, will spur new home construction and will create jobs while providing the ability for a young family
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to set up their first new home.
This budget also continues on the families-first agenda by providing a children's fitness credit and a children's arts credit of up to $500 per child.
For Surrey families and children there is the funding for new schools and expansion of schools, which addresses both growth and demand for education in our city. The ability of families to purchase homes and to prosper in our communities and throughout the province is based on jobs. Surrey residents see job prospects in the budget, particularly when it relates to such things as the decreasing of fuel taxation on the international flights in and out of Vancouver International Airport. This move will increase the number of international flights to our province, and that means more jobs throughout the industry and in tourism and international trade.
Madam Speaker, I have had many meetings with the Vancouver International Airport and the Vancouver Board of Trade and other locations, at which they have said that the fuel tax decrease would create more jobs. Each flight creates hundreds more jobs in British Columbia, especially in the Lower Mainland and for the residents of Surrey who work there. The jobs are what keep our economy moving and keep our economy stronger than virtually any other jurisdiction in the country or the world.
Another spur to the growth of jobs and opportunity is the provision within this budget of an additional $3 million for the small business venture capital program, an extension of the training tax credit program and the introduction of new training tax credits for shipbuilding and the ship repair industry. This budget also makes permanent the existing temporary municipal tax rate cap for B.C.'s major port….
With this budget, Madam Speaker, we will still have the lowest income tax rate for any British Columbian earning less than $119,000 a year. That's considered after the MSP premiums and all other added fees they might have to pay in British Columbia. If anybody is making more than $119,000 per year, they will pay the second-lowest income tax every year in British Columbia. That's provincial income tax.
Anybody earning less than approximately $18,000 per year will be paying no provincial income tax at all. That's much different than when I was first elected in 2001.
The Finance Minister also detailed the fact that we will be doubling the number of trade representatives of British Columbia in other countries. This is good news for Surrey residents, because more trade representatives mean more markets for our B.C. products and more foreign investment in our city and throughout B.C.
All these provisions mean more jobs for Surrey residents and British Columbians. Being the second-largest city, soon the largest city, in the province, Surrey supplies much of the workforce in the Lower Mainland and other parts of British Columbia, and some parts of Canada too.
Opportunities will also open up when planned changes to the provincial liquor distribution occur. This action will benefit microbreweries such as Surrey's world-class Central City Brewing.
At this point I'd like to get into some of the specifics of this budget to put them on the record. With this budget we are creating a firm foundation for the future by taking a tough path to elimination of the deficit, protecting public services and building a more competitive economy that attracts new jobs and new investment.
This budget shows that the deficit forecast for 2011-12 is improved by $594 million over the second quarterly report projections, to $2.5 billion. The total forecast of revenue for 2012-13 is $43.1 billion; for 2013-14, $44.6 billion; and $45.7 billion for 2014-15. The total forecast for expenses for 2012-13 is $43.9 billion; for 2013-14, $44.2 billion; and $45.1 billion for 2014-15.
After taking into account the forecast allowances, the budget forecasts a deficit of $968 million in 2012-13, a surplus of $154 million in 2013-14 and a surplus of $250 million in 2014-15. In other words, we are back on track to our commitment to balanced budgets, and we will achieve those by next year.
To accomplish those forecasts we have committed, over the next three years, to contain spending growth to an annual average of 2 percent while continuing to protect health and education funding. The Ministry of Health budget will increase by $1.5 billion over the three-year fiscal plan to nearly $17.3 billion in 2014-15. Since 2001 our government has increased Ministry of Health spending by $7.9 billion — an increase of over 95 percent, or almost double.
For every dollar government spends, 43 cents goes towards health care in British Columbia. If we don't control health care spending, its share of government spending will increase at the expense of other programs such as education, social programs and public safety.
While continuing to achieve key health outcomes that lead our country, we will work to reduce the rate of growth in health spending through an ongoing focus on identifying additional best practices for delivering health care and finding administrative savings. This is a wise and prudent approach.
Additionally, funding to school districts will increase, despite the trend of declining student enrolment in most parts of British Columbia. In addition to the $4.7 billion a year that districts will receive for the next three years, our government is investing an additional $165 million to establish a fund to deal directly with the issue of class composition. The annual facilities grant for maintenance of schools again totals $110 million for 2012-2013.
This budget also details our commitment to funding critical social services and is reallocating contingency funds to the Ministries of Justice and Social Development, where the caseloads continue to rise.
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Budget 2012 also supports the B.C. jobs plan with tax measures for business that eliminate the provincial jet fuel tax for international flights.
However, given the uncertain fiscal environment, the small business corporate tax rate will be maintained at 2.5 percent. That is much lower than it was before 2001, and it is one of the lowest in Canada. That will be revisited after the fiscal situation has improved, to see if we can decrease it.
Madam Speaker, our fiscal plan also includes a temporary 1 percent increase in the general corporate income tax rate to 11 percent, effective April 1, 2014. The requirement to implement this tax measure will be re-evaluated in next year's budget.
Additionally, to help spur economic activity throughout the province and generate needed revenues our government will release non-strategic surplus assets for sale. These government-owned surplus assets are anticipated to raise some $700 million in revenue, which will help us meet financial targets and invest in the needs of British Columbians. Some of those assets can produce much more economic activity, create more jobs and provide more taxes for the province, just like the NDP did in the 1990s with land in Burnaby.
They sold it for hundreds of millions of dollars, and that generated a large tax base for Burnaby and created more jobs there, which was a good thing to do. Rather than having some dead land, it actually created a lot more jobs and economic activity. They did the same thing in the 1990s, which was a good thing to do at that time. I think it's still a good thing to do at this time.
Another item in this budget that is of particular interest to my constituents and to all Surrey residents is the commitment to undertake a comprehensive review of the revenue-neutral carbon tax. We heard about it many times at the Select Standing Committee on Finance tour, which is representative of both sides of the House. There was a big issue about looking at the revenue-neutral carbon tax.
This review will cover all aspects of the carbon tax, both positive and negative, including revenue neutrality. It will consider the impact on the competitiveness of B.C. businesses, in particular the B.C. food producers, including greenhouses; the cement industry; and other businesses. It is also significant to the trucking industry within Surrey, to our very important food production industry and for commuters.
This is indeed welcome news, because the carbon tax impacts almost every aspect of business and community throughout the province. It's good to take a look at the pros and cons and the positives and negatives on the carbon tax to see what we want to do on that.
The Finance Committee made those recommendations to the Finance Minister. I think many British Columbians are really happy to see that the Finance Minister listened to the Finance Committee on those and some other recommendations too, including the funding for Surrey schools.
This budget also details the future by forecasting British Columbia's taxpayer-supported debt. The B.C. debt-to-GDP ratio will be 17.6 percent in 2012-13 and 18.2 percent in 2013-14. It peaks at 18.3 percent in 2014-15 before trending downward once again.
At this time I also want to point out that when the NDP was in power in 1991, they had a debt-to-GDP ratio of 21.8 percent when they took over power. When they left in 2001, the debt-to-GDP ratio had increased to 26 percent. Most of my constituents tell me that even at 18.3 percent it's much lower than what the NDP started with in 1991 or when they left in 2001, when they had increased that 21.8 percent to 26 percent.
[D. Horne in the chair.]
A debt-to-GDP ratio of 18 percent under our government is very good compared to the debt-to-GDP ratio of Ontario, which is 39 percent; Canada, 35 percent; U.S., 73 percent; and France, 80 percent.
Taxpayer-supported capital spending on schools, hospitals and other infrastructure across the province over the next three years is expected to grow to $10.7 billion. Just before, the member from the opposition made good remarks. He was saying we should be putting more money in schools and hospitals and other infrastructure, so the government is actually listening. They will be investing an additional $10.7 billion of capital, still keeping our debt-to-GDP ratio much lower than when they were in government, which is at about 18 percent.
Another prudent forecast for this budget is that British Columbia's economy will grow by 1.8 percent in 2012, 2.2 percent in 2013 and 2.5 percent in 2014. To be on the safe side, this is below what independent financial forecasters predicted. Government always uses more conservative figures than what the independent financial forecasters are stating to make sure that we have some room there in case other parts of the economy don't do that well, or we have another problem in other parts of the world. Despite the fiscal prudence of this budget, it continues our government's important work to provide the vital services and infrastructure that British Columbians have come to rely on.
In Surrey we have seen tremendous growth as one of the fastest-growing communities in all of Canada. I am proud to report our government's prudent fiscal management has met the challenge of Surrey's skyrocketing population growth. I am proud to say that we have invested billions and billions of dollars in Surrey under our government. Many other things needed to be done over the last 25 years, 20 years, but they were never done. Our government has invested billions of dollars in Surrey be-
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cause they were behind and because they needed the help.
One of the most significant and visible, of course, is the new ten-lane Port Mann bridge and the widening of the highway to four lanes each way from Vancouver to Langley. The completion of the new bridge and the expanded highway will reduce congestion, cut travel times and improve air quality across the region.
Mr. Speaker, you remember that the opposition did not support that. At that time the Leader of the Opposition was saying that it was the wrong bridge in the wrong location at the wrong time, or something. I know there were some mayors in Vancouver and Burnaby who also did not support that.
On the other hand, in Surrey and south of the Fraser almost everybody unanimously supports improvements to Highway 1 and the Port Mann bridge. Even though they'd like to see our toll policy be more fair for them, which I agree with, overall it's good for us. It's going to reduce the time you're stuck in traffic.
Many times from my office to the Port Mann Bridge, the old bridge, it was taking up to one hour in the morning, and getting back took another extra hour. That means there has to be some value for the time you're stuck in the traffic for one hour. Also, you burn a lot of gas. There has to be some money you're spending while stuck in traffic for one hour and burning gas. There will be some savings for my constituents.
On the other hand, I'm working with our Premier and our minister to find some more fair solutions for my constituents in our area from that. I think everybody is trying to do that for their own area.
I think we probably need more funding, more things to pay from the people in the Burnaby area. They seem to have so many SkyTrain stations. I think maybe we need to bring more of that money to Surrey and other parts that don't have SkyTrain, to Langley. I've been working to make sure that our government expands the SkyTrain to the Guildford area, to the Fleetwood area, to Langley and also to King George, as our past Premier had also promised.
I hope that the opposition will support it. I think that for too long the government put too much money in Burnaby. They have so many SkyTrains, and I think it's not fair. My constituents consistently tell me and they say: "You've got to remind them." My two colleagues in Burnaby, they're not happy at me saying that, but on the other hand, I'm here to present my constituents' views.
Improvements to the transportation infrastructure in Surrey extend to much more than Highway 1. Under construction is the 40-kilometre South Fraser perimeter road running along the south side of the Fraser River from Deltaport in Tsawwassen to the Golden Ears Bridge, which will help alleviate the congestion along the Surrey roads. It is well-supported and needed. It's been in the plan since, I think, the late '70s, but no government has really done that, has not provided the funding. Our government has done that.
In addition to that, over the past decade our government has widened the Pacific Highway, 176th Street, to four lanes; the Fraser Highway to four lanes; Highway 10 to four lanes — which was promised to widen, again, for 25 years and wasn't done; and built the 192nd Street overpass and the 156th Street underpass at Highway 1. The 156th Street makes easy access to the Fraser Highway from the Guildford area of my riding in my area. These projects connect communities, create well-paying, family-supporting jobs and improve the quality of life for all Surrey residents and British Columbians.
Our government recognizes the important role Surrey plays in British Columbia. These investments in transportation will ensure that Surrey has the infrastructure it requires to move people and goods as it grows to become the largest city in the province.
As I travel around Surrey, I take great pride in pointing out our government's investment in Surrey's future. Also, in my travels I meet often with the constituents and business people who work very hard to keep our economy going and our economy growing. One of those businesses, particularly in my riding, is Teal-Jones, a significant employer and major logging and milling enterprise that is located in the Port Kells area. They have hundreds of employees living in my constituency. As a matter of fact, the owners also live in my constituency and are good friends.
The Jones family has operated and expanded this company for many decades and continues to provide hundreds of well-paying jobs, both in Surrey and across the province, in their logging operations and in their mills. I know they're having some issues with the timber supply and timber licences to keep their operations going and their people employed. I know they have sent e-mails to all the MLAs, including the opposition. I think some of the opposition members also met with them, and some of the MLAs from our side have also met with them.
I have spoken to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to find solutions for them, and I have talked to the other forest ministers to make sure they try to help them. We need the ministry's help to find solutions for my constituents, to help them out. They are looking for fair treatment; they don't want special treatment. All they want is fairness, and I hope we can all work together to find fair treatment for my constituents, the Teal-Jones Group.
Success in the forest industry is good for everyone. As a matter of fact, success in the forest industry, in mining, in oil and gas, in tourism, in agriculture, in fishing, in high-tech, in small business, in the film industry, in health and science and in other industries is also good for British Columbia. It provides us more tax base to cover health care, education and social programs. It creates lots of high-paying union jobs too. That means we're all doing well on that. That means we can have lots of high-
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paying union jobs in government too, because we have the funding available.
I had a lot more to say, but I see I only have a few more minutes left before my time runs out. I also wanted to say that in Surrey we have provided lots of other investment.
We provided in Surrey the Surrey Memorial Hospital, which is already expanding with a brand-new eight-storey tower. It is actually receiving the largest investment in health care funding from the province of British Columbia — $512 million. This project is adding 151 much-needed acute care beds for Surrey residents, 48 neonatal intensive care beds, and specialized mental health and geriatric units. Other areas of medical care are expanding with this new building too.
Emergency treatment will be significantly improved with the upgrades. It will be almost five times larger than the current emergency department. A separate children's emergency room will be built. A new health care professional training area will be built. A rooftop helipad for Surrey Memorial will provide extra help that Surrey residents need in case of emergency.
Also, there's a notable expansion of a $237 million investment in the Jim Pattison outpatient care and surgical hospital, which officially opened last May on time and on budget. It's a one-of-a-kind medical centre. It provides X-rays, CT scans, biopsies and a number of other medical procedures, including the needed surgeries in one single stop. It can serve up to 450,000 persons per year. It's designed to expand to 650,000 per year.
I mean, we are also getting over $102 million in schools. I know that we are expanding the Fraser Heights Secondary School, and we are also expanding other schools.
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
D. Hayer: I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker. I ran out of time. I support this budget. I had a lot more things to say, because I have another 20 pages to go.
K. Corrigan: I rise to speak on the budget as well, a disappointing budget. It has no vision in it. It doesn't offer solutions to most British Columbians. It certainly doesn't hold out hope to most British Columbians and has been called mean-spirited. In fact, it's been called by the Representative for Children and Youth abysmal and callous.
While it does not invest in programs that prevent homelessness and poverty or to keep seniors in their homes as long as possible, it is also marked by financial mismanagement and even misrepresentation. When I say misrepresentation, I mean things like the tweets from the Premier. The Premier tweeted, I believe, even before the budget was brought in, that there would be no increase in taxes. Well, that's exactly what happened.
Government continues to plunder ICBC at the same time as your car insurance premiums are going up.
B.C. Hydro. Government's going to take about $1 billion out of B.C. Hydro, even as your rates are skyrocketing. As the Auditor General pointed out in a recent report, B.C. Hydro is deferring payment of $2.2 billion so far in expenses that sooner or later Hydro customers, the taxpayers of British Columbia, are going to have to pay.
Those unpaid expenses are going to hit $5 billion by 2017, and there appears to be no plan to halt that increase. It makes an unprofitable operation look profitable and provides the excuse for the province to strip money from it. That money is going to have to be paid back.
As I said earlier, it is misrepresentative for the Premier to suggest that we're not going to have any increase in taxes, when in fact there are so many different areas of the budget that are going to be more costly to the average British Columbian and certainly have been over the years. We've had MSP premiums go up.
Our Premier has had the audacity to look the people in the eye or, I guess, look at the screen and tweet, to say that she is looking after our money, when most British Columbians know pretty well to the dollar how much more they are paying every month for B.C. Hydro, for ICBC, for increased medical premiums and so on and so on.
If you look at the bigger picture over time, the government has created an $80 billion time bomb of contractual debts. Now, I know that the technical word is not supposed to be "debt." It's contractual obligations. But to the average British Columbian, they probably don't have any idea what that means — to say that there are contractual obligations.
Essentially, what it is, is that the people of British Columbia are signed on to $80 billion worth of contracts that are going to run into the next 25 or 30 or 35 or 40 years, or even longer, which they're going to have to pay off. So this government has been writing postdated cheques that our children and our grandchildren will have to cover.
I find it, frankly, quite unbelievable that so many members across the way have talked about prudence and how the debt has been kept down. They have even talked about their children and grandchildren when they have been saddling, for the last ten years, their children and grandchildren with $80 billion worth of obligations that they are going to have to pay off. I don't know. It's such a load of rubbish. I don't know how they say it with a straight face.
In addition, this budget contains a reckless sell-off of our assets — assets that were bought with taxpayer money provided by my parents, other parents around this province a generation or more ago. So this government has racked up $80 billion worth of future contracts, written $80 billion worth of postdated cheques which our kids and our kids' kids are going to have to pay for — con-
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tracts that are 30 or 40 years long that will take away our ability to make public policy choices long into the future because we're locked into those contracts.
If we are going to be paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually — for example, for P3 hospitals; hospitals, by the way, that would have cost far less if they had been publicly procured….
K. Corrigan: Absolutely. We will show you the evidence shortly.
If they're going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually for P3 hospitals that would have cost far less if publicly procured, this is going to take away money that could have been used for patient care, for education, for a whole range of important investments for this province.
If we don't need that hospital that we've got a 25-, 30-, 40-year contract for in 20 years, too bad. You have to keep making that $50-million-a-year payout anyways because you signed a contract — like the Abbotsford hospital, $50 million a year for the next 25 years or more.
So they're selling off our assets again. That's not the first time. That's been a continuing story of this government — to write postdated cheques on our treasury and to sell off our assets. Government said they're going to sell $700 million worth of the people's property over the next year, calling these properties surplus or calling them non-strategic.
This isn't the first time this government has sold off our assets. I recall that in 2002, shortly after the Liberals first got in, they decided to sell off a bunch of government properties. I remember — I think maybe it was back in 2002 — going to a UBCM, Union of B.C. Municipalities, meeting, where the B.C. Buildings Corporation, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of the B.C. government, I believe, reported on its activities in the previous year, and it was all a sell-off of B.C. buildings.
They were in place to buy and sell assets strategically for the people of B.C. and to have an inventory of assets, and all they had done for the last year was to sell off assets. I asked the question at that meeting: "And what did you buy?" The answer was: "Nothing. All we did was sell off land that belongs to the people of the province."
Now, with the sell-off of those lands — talking about mismanagement — then government was forced to lease many of them back and to pay more to lease the buildings than what it would have cost them if they'd kept the properties.
I'm going to tell you a really particular story of what happened back in 2002 and 2003. There was a piece of property that was determined to be surplus and non-strategic. What happened with that, I think, is instructive and perhaps a bit of a tale of warning of what it is that could happen this time around.
In 2002 the provincial government announced its intent to sell the New Haven–Glenlyon lands in Burnaby through the B.C. Buildings Corporation. That was part of that massive sell-off in the early years of the Liberal government.
I note that in 2002 our present Premier was in cabinet. I think she was Deputy Premier. She probably had a lot of clout. Maybe that was where the idea for the present closing-out sale came from. Who knows?
Anyways, in May of 2002 B.C. Buildings Corporation wrote to the city to advise that the property had been formally declared "surplus to provincial needs." That sounds familiar, doesn't it? The asking price was $21 million.
Now, the city of Burnaby was interested in that property. I believe it was interested. It was looking at the possibility of doing a mix of residential properties and some social housing, thought it would be a very good strategic property. I think it was 57 acres or something that would have worked very well for the development in the city of Burnaby. They had some really good ideas about what to do with it.
It had its own assessment done, which came up with a value of somewhere around $16 million. Burnaby tried to negotiate a price, saying that they were willing to pay around $16 million. Maybe they would have been persuaded to pay $17 million. You never know.
In the meantime, the city engaged in public consultations in order to prepare a land use plan. In the midst of all this what did the province do, with absolutely no warning or discussion with the city of Burnaby? They sold the land to a private company for $13.5 million.
They could have had $16 million or $17 million. They were in negotiations. And they decided to sell it to — who knows? — maybe a friend, and they threw away $2.5 million of taxpayer money in the city of Burnaby. I don't know why. You speculate. There's been a long history of giving things to friends and insiders by this government, but I don't know what the case was here.
Deputy Speaker: Member.
K. Corrigan: I think this absolutely tells the story of the legacy and behaviour of the B.C. Liberals, and it tells me that when the government is selling off assets because they are supposedly surplus, you better not trust them, and secondly, you better watch your taxpayer pocket. I don't trust them.
I think city councils and regional districts across this province and aboriginal communities better keep asking for that list, because you never know what this desperate government will want to sell out from under you.
What about school board properties? I know that in several districts across this province school boards have
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been trying to sell school board properties. In the case of Burnaby, it was because of a very effective partnership that they had with the city of Burnaby, wherein we have a very, very old board office.
The plan was to sell the piece of property where the board office was in order that they could build a new building and a very positive building on city property. That was an effective partnership that would have saved taxpayers' money. Unfortunately, that effective partnership, a public-public partnership that would have been good for taxpayers in Burnaby and in British Columbia, has been blocked. The sale has been blocked, and I've heard that that has happened in many districts across the province.
I'm wondering why these sales are being blocked, these ones that make sense, that are prudent sales, that say: "We can do this in a way that makes sense." Just like when Burnaby South was being built, there was a land swap with the city that meant that that wonderful high school, the biggest high school in the province, could be built because of an effective partnership and a deal that made sense to everybody involved. But now we have school boards across the province that are having sales blocked by the provincial government, and I think school districts better be watching out.
Why would they do that? Is that because the Liberal government has been lining up and saying: "We're going to grab school board properties as well"? Are those properties that have belonged to school boards for dozens of years — and sometimes 50 or a hundred — going to be scooped up in a desperate, last-gasp attempt to balance the budget? It doesn't make any sense. It is shortsighted, and it is not prudent. I don't know if that's the plan, but I don't put anything past this government. I know that the school districts, some of them, are very concerned.
I also have a question for government. If there are surplus non-strategic properties to sell off, does that mean that this government is going to stop demanding that local governments provide land for projects like non-profit housing and shelters and other housing? That's what this government has been doing. It has been saying that it can't possibly provide the land and that municipalities need to provide the land.
In an area that is a provincial responsibility and a federal responsibility, this government has been demanding that local governments put up land — local governments that only get eight cents of every tax dollar. They have been putting it up, saying that they don't have the land. Well, suddenly there's $700 million worth of land which is available to be sold. It seems hypocritical to me.
I'm going to talk for just a couple of minutes about my critic area. My critic area is public safety and Solicitor General. It's public safety now. We had an audit recently, an audit that was done of both the Solicitor General and Attorney General Ministries, which are now merged. That audit said that our justice system is in a mess. It was quite an astounding audit, because it was very, very critical. It said that after 11 years of control, this government has just found out that there is a mess in our justice system. Well, fancy that.
Who created it? Who created that mess through lack of oversight, lack of initiative, lack of management and lack of planning? Well, nobody else but they who have had the keys to the car for the last 11 years — the Liberal government.
I'm going to just take a couple of quotes from what the audit said. The audit said: "It is clear that an overall justice system perspective is lacking. Instead, it is largely a fragmented approach with each branch of the two ministries planning, forecasting and operating independently."
Another quote: "The corporate financial framework is weakened by the decentralized corporate services model in place within both ministries. This impacts on data quality and measurability, and operational information is not viewed through a systemwide lens."
Another quote: "Performance management is inconsistent and is not integrated across the justice system."
Another quote: "There is a lack of coordination between branches, and accountability for financial results is dispersed across the branches."
Another quote: "Overall, there is no clear accountability for justice systemwide results in one place as each branch has their own accountability framework. This has resulted in fragmentation, weakened data quality and limited performance measurability."
Quote after quote. Finally, another quote: "Overall, the components of the justice system are not well integrated, and there is a lack of integration between the individual branches, which tend to operate as silos."
It's a very damning report that was just released a couple of weeks ago.
What has been the result of the problems and the mismanagement within the justice system? Well, one of the results is that over a hundred cases were stayed last year. In other words, they were dropped. Criminals got off scot-free due to delays in the justice system. There were several of them just in the last couple of weeks. In fact, I think there were four of them in one week.
I'll give you an example. On January 25, 2011, a month ago, Provincial Court Justice Steinberg stayed charges against David Alan Blattler, who was accused of child luring over the Internet. Justice Steinberg said that in view of the fact that it took 14 months to get information and the fact that at the time the computer was in the possession of the police, that delay can only be laid at the foot of the Crown in the form of the police.
Here's another quote from that judgment. "In terms of other sources for delay, I find that there was none other than institutional delay. There is, in my opinion, only one word to describe the current state of the Provincial Court of British Columbia's ability to handle its case-
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load — abysmal."
Then he said: "There is no amount of press releases or talk show appearances that is going to fix the overstretched limits of our institutional resources. There is only one course of action that will fix the current situation, and that is action, not words."
So we have an audit that says that the justice system is poorly managed, that it's poorly coordinated, that it's, in short, in a mess. Then we have all these cases where people are being let off.
We had another one where a man found guilty, actually found guilty, of impaired driving was then, in a subsequent hearing, let off because there had been four years of delays. Of that, 33 months was due to what were called institutional delays — in other words, the justice system. Four years of delays, and it was entirely laid at the feet of delays in the justice system.
So we have these cases, four of them within a week or so, where people were released, in some cases already found guilty, sometimes Internet luring — all sorts of different cases. We have people on the streets that are there solely because of the mismanagement of our justice system.
Then we have this audit. This audit was released a couple of weeks ago, but we can see by looking at the audit that the date of the audit was September 2011. So this government sat on top of an audit that was a very damaging audit, saying what a mess the system was — sat on it for five months, did absolutely nothing to fix the justice system, continues to do nothing and instead says: "Now we're going to have a review. We're going to have a Green Paper, and depending on what happens in the Green Paper, then we might have a White Paper." It all adds up to delay after delay and nothing being done to fix the justice system.
When you add to that…. You have people unable to access legal aid, creating huge inequities in the system. You have people going to family court unrepresented, which creates further delays, by the way, because if you have people going to family court or going to criminal court unrepresented, that adds a huge burden onto the court because the court needs to deal with those people in a fair way. They cannot rush it. Those people are not experienced, and so that adds huge delays onto the justice system.
You have an audit that was sat on. You have delay after delay, and now you have cases, many cases, and hundreds more, sitting there waiting in the dockets that may be thrown out because of the inaction of the Liberal government.
In addition, we have the federal omnibus crime bill. This is a crime bill that the Conservative government has been talking about for years. It promised…. The pieces of the omnibus crime bill that are going to cost this province hundreds of millions of dollars…. The pieces, the various pieces of that crime bill, have been federal bills that have been sitting there for years.
During the last several months and even years, we've had our representatives from the Justice Department going to meetings with their federal counterparts, where they talked about those bills. But where was the talk about how much these bills are going to cost British Columbia? Nowhere.
We have another ticking time bomb, which is the increased number of prisoners that are going to be coming into the system as a result of the omnibus crime bill, which puts together several pieces of federal legislation that, as I said, were sitting there drafted as bills as far back as 2009, 2008, 2010. And when we were coming to the last federal election, the Conservative Party of Canada said: "If we are elected, those bills are all coming back, and we're going to pass them within 90 days."
So this government knew what was coming. They knew exactly what was coming, and yet they've done nothing to prepare for these omnibus crime bills that are going to add hundreds of prisoners into our system — no preparation for that — and which are going to add hundreds of millions of dollars into the cost of the system in British Columbia.
No costing has been done. We have been repeatedly asking the provincial government, No. 1, to tell the taxpayers of British Columbia what the costs of the federal omnibus crime bill are going to be because of the increased number of inmates that there are going to be in British Columbia. We've asked them that, and we have also asked the provincial government to stand up to the federal government and demand that the federal government share the load for the crime bills that they have brought in, but unfortunately, that hasn't happened either.
So the justice system is truly in a mess. We have a huge number of people that are going to be coming into the system over the next years. Many of the pieces or at least some of the pieces of the legislation are not — as opposed to being proven to be effective in lowering crime, in fact, will increase the amount of crime.
Some of the pieces are related to youth, for example. Having more youth in jail seems completely counterproductive to me, but it doesn't really matter what the researchers say. It doesn't matter what the academics say. It doesn't matter what the people who work on the ground say about these pieces of legislation. They are going to go ahead whether or not they make any sense, and I think that's very unfortunate.
I'm going to move away from talking about my critic area for a minute. I want to talk just a minute about the provincial education system.
Public education is the reason I got into politics. I believe, and I think that many of us do, that the single most important thing we do as a society is to educate our children and to have access to education for everybody, no
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matter whether they come from challenged backgrounds, whether they come from poor families, whether they come from disadvantaged families or from middle-class families or from wealthy families. It is the most important thing we do. It is the great leveler.
I had four children that went through the public education system in British Columbia and in Burnaby, and through it all, I felt so confident in our public education system because my children were educated by wonderful teachers, dedicated teachers — teachers who dedicated their lives to educating my children and other children and who, in many years, were probably the most important influence in my children's lives. There were certainly some years in the teen years where they might have had more influence than I did.
Now, I was on the school board for nine years in Burnaby, and I used to love the presentations we would get from various people in the education system, but often from the teachers. They did such a great job. They were so creative, they were so dedicated, and they were so professional. And they did that despite years of clawbacks and years when we had to make cuts to the services at the Burnaby school board. We had to make cuts to the classroom because of the actions and the cutbacks that this government brought in.
Well, today government has brought down a bill that will impose the contracts on teachers if it's passed, and we're going to have plenty of time to debate that bill. I'm not going to do that now, but I just want to make the following observation.
A contract between two people or two parties is not just the words in the contract. It's not just the terms of the contract. What makes a contract work, what makes a relationship between the parties in contracts — in fact, what makes all relationships work, I think — is respect. The fundamental problem, from my perspective, is that this government, for 11 years, has not respected the teachers of this province.
We know that for 11 years this government has not been able to come to agreement with the teachers of this province, and that is in itself a huge problem. But the bigger problem, I believe, the more fundamental problem is that this province has broken the trust of the teachers of this province.
Finally, just a couple of very quick things about my community of Burnaby. Half of the children in my riding of Burnaby–Deer Lake start school with at least one vulnerability. I have a very diverse riding in many different ways — ethnically, economically. Neighbourhoods are very diverse. About half of the children in my riding go to school vulnerable. I see nothing in this budget for those children, and I worry about them.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I wanted to say that I did a quick little Google search. You can never say for sure that those things are giving you the right information, but I also leafed through the main budget and fiscal plan document. I did a search of the words "woman" and "women," and there was not one reference to women in the budget document.
This government, it seems to me, over the last several years has not only ignored women but has actively tried to remove any kind of looking at programs and policies through a gender lens to see what kind of impact cuts and what kind of impact programs have on women, and we know that cuts to services disproportionately affect women.
Hon. S. Thomson: It's a real honour for me to be able to rise in the House today to support Budget 2012 and to recognize what the foundation and the base of this budget is as we talk about it today — a budget that supports families and enables job creation. It maintains our sound fiscal management, maintains low tax rates, a triple-A credit rating, and it provides a fiscal plan that will balance the budget in 2013. It's a budget that in very challenging economic times continues that fiscal prudence that's so important to my constituents and to the people of the province.
Before commenting on the budget, I'd like to take the opportunity, as many other members have done in their comments today, to thank my family for their continued support, allowing me to continue to represent the constituents of Kelowna-Mission. My wife, Brenda, and my son Spencer make a lot of sacrifices, as other people have commented, to allow us to do this job, and I just want to thank them very much for their continued support and their continued love in allowing me to do this.
I know we also need to give great thanks and appreciation to our constituency assistants. My two assistants in our office in Kelowna, Nan Pellatt and Rebecca Narinesingh, do a great job in continuing to provide service to all of our constituents.
What I always really appreciate with the work they do is the real help they provide, helping many constituents through challenges and problems. It's really, really gratifying when you can see the success they have in being able to work through those with the people — and the many letters of thanks we get from them for the service that our office in Kelowna provides. They do a great job, and I want to thank them very much for that.
One of the key benefits of the continued sound approach to this budget and previous budgets of our government has been the many benefits that this has provided for our riding and for our region in the Okanagan and in Kelowna-Mission. I just wanted to talk about a few of those tremendous investments that have been made in our region, that have been able to be made because of the sound fiscal management of this government and the prudent approach that we've taken to the budgets that has allowed us to make these investments in our communities.
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In our area and region there are currently over $864 million in public projects that are under construction or underway — $448 million for the Interior heart and surgical centre in our riding, $28 million for Okanagan College and their centre for green building technologies, and $24 million in Highway 33 expansion under the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. That's widening and improvements on Highway 33.
Kelowna and the Okanagan have seen these massive investments in health care. I mentioned the $448 million in the Interior heart and surgical centre, but there's considerably more than that as well. The coronary revascularization program at Kelowna General Hospital, to be operational by the end of 2012, has been a multiphase development plan that began with a $26.4 million transition plan, seeing cardiac procedures since 2009 and plans for heart surgery in Kelowna in 2012.
I've had the opportunity to talk to many patients who've been serviced with that new capacity at our hospital. The fact that they can have that right there without having to travel has saved lives, has saved time and stress for families by being able to have that service right in our community.
We've had $432 million for new patient towers at Kelowna and at Vernon Jubilee Hospital. Now we've started the countdown of 100 days to the opening of the new patient tower in Kelowna. Again, tremendous investments that have been made in our health care facilities in the Okanagan, both in Kelowna and in Vernon.
There's $200,000 to support the Kelowna branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association to address the needs of youth transitioning to adulthood in the central Okanagan.
Investments in supportive housing. We've had combined federal-provincial funding of over $3.9 million for 36 seniors rental housing apartments in the Apple Valley complex. There are 128 new supportive housing units for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, including $10.7 million for 40 transitional units, operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association; $10.7 million for 39 family units for women with children, operated by the New Opportunities for Women Canada; and $7.5 million for 49 long-term transitional units, operated by the John Howard Society of the Central and South Okanagan.
These are all tremendous partnerships with federal and provincial government support and partnerships with our local government, which provided the land for these centres. The one in my riding is the New Opportunities for Women, with NOW Canada — the 39 units there. I've had the opportunity to visit that on many, many occasions.
I've talked to the clients and the people staying in that facility, and they're just so appreciative of the support and the opportunity to have that kind of a facility right in the middle of a great area of our riding on South Pandosy, a great new village centre where they're centred. They're close to schools, close to services, and the support that they get there is something that is so valued and appreciated. That has been made possible by the investments of the provincial and federal governments and by the fact that we have a fiscal plan that allows those investments to be made.
We've had tremendous investments in education in the Okanagan: $180 million at UBC Okanagan to expand programs for students in teaching, health sciences, engineering, management, and arts and sciences; $2 million for the addition of 24 local first-year nursing student spaces at Okanagan College in partnership with UBC Okanagan, meaning that starting in 2015 up to 134 new nursing students will graduate from the Kelowna campus of UBC; $28 million for the Okanagan College Centre for Learning; and $2.75 million for eight new energy-efficient classes for elementary and full-day kindergarten students, a new elementary school and an addition to a secondary school in West Kelowna.
All of these investments in education, in health services and in transportation in our community are benefiting all of the citizens of Kelowna and providing jobs and economic activity in our region.
One of the other very important sectors in my riding is the agriculture industry and the tree fruit industry. I was very pleased when the Minister of Agriculture attended the annual meeting of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association this year and provided $2.7 million in support, in partnership with the federal government, for modernization of packing facilities. That's going to allow the packing industry to be more efficient and more effective, reducing costs to growers, increasing the quality in the marketplace and returning greater returns to producers.
We've also had a very important partnership with the federal government in risk management programming for the agriculture industry and the tree fruit industry — $130 million in a risk management, innovation and infrastructure program for fruit growers. We continue to work in a strong partnership with the federal government, and we're committed to continue to work with them and the Minister of Agriculture on the recommendations of the Tree Fruit Industry Working Group. They've had a process in place that has provided a number of recommendations.
The industry, as many know, continues to face challenges, but we're committed to continuing to work with them through that tree fruit working group and the minister to ensure that the tree fruit industry has a long-term, viable future in the Okanagan, just as they've had for many, many years.
Mr. Speaker, I mentioned the $24 million in highway expansion for Highway 33 in Kelowna on the transportation side of it. Just to note, we have had many other sig-
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nificant investments in transportation and infrastructure in the Okanagan: $78 million for Highway 97 upgrades; $20 million for construction improvements to Highway 97A in the Okanagan; another $5 million for construction improvements to sections on Highway 33 to increase safety; $54 million for construction and widening of sections of Highway 97 in Kelowna; $41 million for a new Westside Road interchange.
All of these investments are increasing goods and the ability for movement of goods and services in the Okanagan. That's enhancing economic activity and building and creating jobs and supporting our communities.
Budget 2012 provides many important components for our community and for our region. One that I wanted to comment on specifically was the elimination of the provincial jet fuel tax for international flights.
Removing this tax will save airlines thousands of dollars a day on long-haul Asia flights. Each daily international flight service added to our airports creates 150 to 200 jobs at the airport, not to mention the spinoff jobs and the economic benefits. But the spinoff jobs and the economic benefits will not just come to Vancouver and to YVR. This will provide significant spinoff benefits to our region and to the tourism industry in the Okanagan.
Our airport, one of the fastest-growing airports in Canada, saw 1.4 million passengers at the airport last year. They have a goal to increase that to 1.6 million passengers through the airport this year. They are currently making an $11.2 million investment in the airport to enhance services for those passengers. This is all a result of the spinoff benefits, a result of the focus on tourism in our region, the importance of the region and the growing hub that our airport is to the community.
The budget also provides a first-time new-home buyers bonus of up to $10,000 and a seniors home-renovation tax credit. Both of these are important and have been applauded and recognized by the home-building and the construction industry — a very, very important component of the economy in our region, so very, very important parts of this Budget 2012.
The HST transition rules have been applauded by the home construction industry. The extension to the vacation homes, which is such an important part of our economy in the Okanagan and in the South Okanagan — again, applauded by the Urban Development Institute, applauded by the home builders association. So I want to recognize the very, very important steps that have been taken in that area as part of Budget 2012.
Also, in talking to the family recently…. I have a number of grandchildren. The fitness tax credit and children's arts credit are two things that will benefit them. I've got two young granddaughters who are very involved and interested in the arts and music, and this will benefit them. I've got a young grandson who's incredibly active, and I know that the fitness credit will be something that will benefit my son's family.
Again, those credits are important to ensure that they have that ability to enrol kids in those programs and to provide those experiences for our children and our grandchildren.
One of the key underpinnings of Budget 2012 is our B.C. jobs plan. I'm very, very proud of the B.C. jobs plan because it builds on our advantages — our proximity to the biggest markets in the world, our diverse population, our sound fiscal management — advantages that are clear when you look at the natural resource sector in British Columbia which are key components of the provincial job plan.
The forestry industry has led the way in opening up new markets in Asia for the first time, as we've talked about. Lumber exports to China have exceeded $1 billion — 7.3 million cubic metres of lumber. China now commands 33 percent of B.C.'s lumber exports, and companies in my riding and in our region — companies like Gorman Bros. Lumber and Tolko lumber — are taking advantage of those market opportunities.
In fact, companies like Tolko have been working with the province — the Thorlakson family — to help build those markets. They were part of the original steps to build those relationships and continue to support our efforts to build those markets in the Asia-Pacific.
We have a very, very important market in Japan that we continue to focus on to build those markets. It's a very, very stable, mature market for our industry, a high-value market that is so important to us.
We've got new emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific and in India which we will continue to take focused market development efforts on to support diversification in our industry.
Our efforts in helping Build B.C. companies get their goods to market continue to pay off. Targeted investments in transportation are helping companies efficiently get their goods to international markets.
B.C. has the most diverse export-based market base in Canada. It's the only province that does not export a majority of its products to the U.S. We have 43 percent of our exports now going to the Pacific Rim. That's the highest in Canada. With Asia expected to account for 50 percent of the global economic activity by 2050, this will continue to be a very, very important part of our market development work, focusing through the jobs plan on the Asia-Pacific and the Asia-Pacific strategy.
It's been successful, and now we've reopened and added shifts to about two dozen mills because of increased trade with China and Asia. That focused work will continue through the B.C. jobs plan — not just in the forestry sector but in many other sectors and parts of our resource sector. With the investments that are outlined in the budget, we're going to continue to pursue strong and growing natural resource sectors.
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One of the commitments that we made in the jobs plan was to accelerate permits and approvals while retaining strong environmental, safety and public health standards. Over the past year we've had a very focused effort on reducing the backlog of authorizations and things that are in place. With the increasing demand for investment in the natural resource sector, which is a recognition of the province as a safe harbour for investment, we've been challenged to keep pace with those applications. But we've got a very, very focused plan to reduce the backlog of those applications through the jobs plan.
The province provided us with $24 million to reduce the time it takes for businesses wanting to invest in natural resource development to get the decisions and the approvals and permits in place. As you know, mining applications require a notice of work to be completed before a project can proceed. In September 2011 there were 229 notice-of-work applications that had been in the system for more than 60 days. Our goal was to reduce this backlog by 80 percent by August of 2012.
In fact, we've exceeded those targets. As of January 31, we've reduced that number of applications from 299 down to 75. That's a 67 percent reduction in only four months. We're still getting notice-of-work applications coming in, so we've been dealing with the ones that are coming in. But a very, very great success in reducing the backlogs and meeting those targets that are set to reduce those backlogs and improve the timelines of addressing those notice-of-work applications.
We've got a goal to reduce the turnaround time for those applications from 110 days down to 60 days through the targeted consultation process — one project, one process. Since September we've managed to reduce the turnaround time from 110 days down to 90 days, an over 10 percent reduction. We're going to continue to work towards ensuring that we meet that target of a 60-day turnaround on those notice-of-work applications.
That points to the great investment that we've had in the industry and in the mining and exploration industry. Exploration expenditures this year are at $463 million in 2011, up 35 percent from $341 million in 2010. So we're seeing the results of the focused work on ensuring that we address those backlogs and the notice-of-work applications and support exploration in this very, very important resource industry.
We've also worked very hard on reducing the number of Land Act and Water Act authorizations. We're making very good progress in those areas, and we'll continue to work to meet the targets that are set out in the jobs plan to be able to do that.
I want to stress that all of this work has been done without compromising the environmental values, or the requirements to consult with First Nations. Our goal in this whole process is to review applications faster, more efficiently, so that we can make the right decisions, and to coordinate all of the processes that are required to get to those decisions through that coordinated one project, one process.
A key approach has been to coordinate the review of major projects that we have in the system: mines, wind and power projects. Through the major projects office, we have established a provincial major projects solutions office, with eight regional teams.
These offices provide a single service window for major project clients in the natural resource sector. It builds on the success of our FrontCounter B.C. program, which we now have in 19 communities. Our major projects team uses project management principles to coordinate application reviews, proponent requirements and public and First Nations consultation. This eliminates the duplication for all parties and reduces the review time frames. This is so vital to the responsible development of our natural resource sector.
We currently have over 250 major projects in the provincial application process in B.C. It's interesting to note that when you take north of Williams Lake, currently there are $43 billion worth of permitted projects — projects that are going to provide jobs and economic opportunity in the communities in the north and the northwest and all the way through the province. That's what the B.C. jobs plan does. The coordinated approach to that is working to create jobs and enhance economic opportunity in our province.
Thanks to this one-process approach, the province has approved more than a dozen major projects this year, including, as examples, the recent expansion of the Quinsam mine in Campbell River, ensuring the continuation of 500 direct jobs; and the Baldy Ridge coal mine, which was approved to expand production in November, supporting 200 permanent jobs over a 16-year extended life, expanded life, of that coal mine.
Using the one-process, one-project approach on that application alone allowed for a 66 percent reduction in referral letters and a reduction of the consultation time frame from 320 days to 60 days. So we've received very, very positive feedback from proponents, from our regional government and from First Nations on our approach. The coordinated process is working, and we're going to continue to build on this approach to enable job creation here in British Columbia.
Through the jobs plan, we're taking action on the natural resource major projects, focusing on the forest sector as being one of those, one of the eight sectors that will be part of the jobs plan. The approach covers those three key principles of enabling job creation, expanding markets and attracting investment, and preparing for opportunities for tomorrow. So we will continue to seek new market opportunities for lumber products and pulp, the emerging opportunities, as I talked about, in India. We're going to continue to focus on rebuilding in Japan,
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developing new bioenergy and wood pellet markets in Asia and Europe.
This fall I had the great opportunity to be able to see firsthand the success in Asia, when I was able to lead a forestry delegation of over 40 representatives from the forest industry on the Premier's jobs and trade mission both into China and into Japan and had the real great opportunity to see the tremendous opportunities that are there — opportunities in Japan, for example, in wood-frame construction in elder care facilities. With their aging demographics, there is a tremendous opportunity for the industry to increase sales into Japan to support their efforts in building elder care facilities.
Japan has implemented a wood-first policy that is built on the provincial wood-first legislation, a very strong focus on building with wood, recognizing the environmental benefits of it, the benefits that it has in terms of sustainability, the benefits it has in terms of earthquake safety — again, tremendous opportunities that we will continue to have in building the markets in the Asia-Pacific.
This is going to continue to provide opportunities to keep our forest sector growing, to create jobs and to support families and communities.
As a result of this growth and some of the success that we have been able to have in building the sector and providing opportunities in communities, we've worked very hard to provide those local opportunities. A community forest is something that provides local opportunities, contributes to local economies and provides for local involvement in the forest sector. So 56 communities now have community forests or are in the process of applying for them and being awarded a community forest. That's up from one in 2001.
We've had 41 new woodlots since 2008. We've had increasing and tremendous growth in opportunities for First Nations participation in the forest sector — 15 percent of the annual allowable cut; now, in ten years, for First Nations, 62 million cubic metres. That is providing jobs and capacity and economic opportunities for First Nations communities throughout the province by participation in the forest sector.
Our ministry was created just under a year ago with a very, very clear vision to balance economic prosperity with environmental sustainability. We cover the whole range of activities on the land base — wildfire management, Crown contaminated sites, fish and wildlife management, angling and hunting licences. So we combine the resource management with the natural resource policy to lead the sector in a coordinated approach to decision-making. We're committed to continue to build on that integrated approach that's going to enhance our ability to provide more effective and efficient client service.
We have opened 14 new FrontCounter offices in communities throughout British Columbia. That makes it easier for clients to get the service they need on natural resource applications right in their own community. It helps us make better decisions and supports job growth in those local communities by having those decisions made locally.
One other very important part that I'm proud of in Budget 2012 is that we've also been able to provide stable funding — $7 million per year over three years for provincial heritage sites in the province, so that heritage site managers can preserve their sites and ensure the ongoing maintenance. Those sites contribute to our popular local tourist attractions and support local economies by providing jobs and bringing tourism dollars into those communities.
So this secure funding for those heritage sites is something that has been welcomed by the management groups that look after those sites. We're very, very proud and pleased to be able to have provided that support to those sectors.
This budget provides the foundation, competitive policy, competitive regulatory policy, stimulates investment in our natural sector, and I'm pleased to stand today to have provided my support and endorsement for Budget 2012.
K. Conroy: I, too, rise to take my place to speak about the budget that was tabled last week. I really hardly know where to start. There was some expectation that this would be a budget that would reflect the realities of children, families and seniors in this province, but we just didn't hear that.
We keep hearing from this government's members sound bites like "families first" and "children are our most valuable resource" and seniors…. Well, "We've got an action plan for seniors, a plan to improve care," but then very little to back it up in the budget.
We still have the highest child poverty rate in this country. One in four children continue to live below the poverty line. Was there a poverty reduction plan in the budget, one that ensures that children won't be living in situations that they just shouldn't be while living in one of the most resource-rich provinces in this country? No, not in this budget.
There are no real solutions for the struggles of working families and the middle class. They know they will have another year of paying the HST, while corporations get to continue their tax holiday in this province. In fact, the Finance Minister seemed to apologize to corporations with a heads-up that they just might have to raise the corporate tax by 1 percent, depending on how things go in the coming year.
Maybe if the fire sale of British Columbia's assets won't raise quite the millions of dollars they have budgeted for, they will just have to raise those corporate taxes. Somewhat suspect — all this just in time for an election next year, where they claim they will have a balanced budget. Well, there is just no credibility to this statement
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from this government, as we just have to remember back to 2009 when we were told: "No HST, and a deficit of only $495 million, not a penny more." Then it became a $3 billion deficit after the election — somewhat suspect.
One wonders why. Why would we sell off the government's assets? It's like selling off our own children's and grandchildren's heritage to pay for the mistakes and mismanagement of the past 11 years. None of us would do that. None of us could look in the mirror and tell our children and grandchildren: "Sorry, we've blown the budget for the last 11 years, so we're selling everything and leaving you nothing." None of us would ever do that.
Instead, this government is offering a tax cut to major airlines, but it's sticking it to B.C. families with yet another increase in MSP premiums, the fifth increase from this government, totalling over 85 percent, or $732 per year for families with children. Some folks have said to me, "Well, that's not too much," but when you start to add up all the additional costs to families, it really does add up. We've got the MSP, the HST, rising hydro rates, post-secondary costs going up, and the list goes on.
In my constituency of Kootenay West there is a real, growing concern about the ever-increasing need of food banks. Not only are the numbers of food banks increasing, but there are long waits and heavy lineups. The city of Trail is so concerned they have sent a letter to the Premier in hopes of attracting some attention to the issues and how the economic downturn seems to be hurting more people than ever.
I want to quote Councillor Gord DeRosa as he says: "Ever-increasing numbers at food banks and thrift stores points to a troubling trend with more people needing help to get by." He says: "Given the richness of the province, it's confusing and troubling that more people need to use food banks." The coordinator of the Salvation Army food bank in Trail said that this winter is the busiest she has ever seen in 16 years on the job. These are very troubling comments, and ones I hear repeated in other parts of province.
Why is it that there is just no help in this budget, yet we see the budget in the Premier's office untouched? But cuts to just about every other ministry….
The Ministry of Forests. A ministry responsible for the health of our forests. Our forests, which provide employment and family-supporting jobs for many people in Kootenay West, saw funding cuts for forest health by $20 million — after this province has seen over 70 mills closed, 35,000 family-supporting jobs lost in this industry alone. An Auditor General's report highlights the forest health crisis, showing that the Liberal government has failed forestry's future as badly as they've failed forestry's present.
Yet again, spending for the Premier's office is untouched, while universities and colleges are expected to make cuts, and no help for students struggling with some of the highest post-secondary debt in the country. This government said there'd be no cuts to front-line services in the post-secondary sector. But today we're learning that's just not true.
Selkirk College will be cutting its second-year sciences program — definitely front-line education that will no longer be available to rural students in the West Kootenays. Teachers will be losing their jobs, students losing services — services that are needed so that students can stay in our area and attend post-secondary education.
But let's not forget the family-friendly incentive for kids involved in sports and cultural activities. The Finance Minister announced with fanfare the $500 tax credit. But when one reads the fine print, it's not so rosy. Parents have to spend $500 to get a $25 tax credit, $1,000 dollars for a $50 tax credit, and so on, to a maximum of $500. Now, that's a lot of hockey, dancing, music lessons or skating to get the $500 credit.
It seems to be a bit of a misrepresentation in that budget announcement last week. I've talked to a lot of families who say they just won't be applying for that tax credit because it's just not in their budget to be spending that kind of money on something that they'd really love to see their kids go to, but rent, food, clothing take priority, which is really unfortunate.
Now, I want to talk a bit about the health budget and seniors and what we saw in this budget for seniors. But first of all, the minimal increase to the health budget is a real concern, as it barely covers the cost of inflation. The minister's comments about finding efficiencies — that always rings warning bells for me because efficiencies to this minister and government always tend to be cuts.
Where will the cuts come from? They tend not to ask the very people who work in the sector — the actual nurses, doctors, the people who have intimate knowledge of the health care sector and the things that they work with and know how to work with efficiently. Let's hope I'm pleasantly surprised this time, and we actually see discussions with health care workers on where there can be efficiencies and dollars saved without services lost.
An example of where we could find efficiencies just came up a few weeks ago in Castlegar. It was a Saturday, and people went to the ER, as they do. The ER is open from eight in the morning till eight at night in Castlegar, and they arrived at the ER to find a note on the door that said: "ER closed. Need service? Drive to Trail or Nelson."
Now, for somebody that's going to emergency and expecting emergency services, this is a bit of a concern. You've got someone with you that needs emergency services now. It's another half-hour or 45-minute drive to the nearest community, with an emergency. And if the roads are bad, which they've been lately, it can be a longer drive.
Now, we've found out since then that the reality is that there was a lack of a trained nurse, an RN, available
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to work. Someone got sick. They couldn't find another nurse. And one of the issues in our area? Nurses aren't hired full-time. There are very few full-time nurses, and the new nurses that are coming on are hired part-time. Nurses get out of school; they're hired part-time. They're offered part-time temporary work. Nothing is full-time.
What happens to them? Do they stick around? Can they afford to stick around? They've got loans to pay. They've just been to school for four years. They leave. So we lose those students. We lose those nurses, and we end up with situations where we don't have enough staff to sufficiently staff our ER.
So here's an efficiency suggestion for the Minister of Health. Hire permanent nurses. Hire permanent RNs. Make sure that people have jobs so that they'll stick around, so we don't have to close our emergency services, so that people, when they show up at the ER in Castlegar, aren't faced with a sign on the door saying: "Go elsewhere. There's no service available for you today."
We're hoping that that never happens again. But there's an example of an efficiency.
Now, we all know that just two weeks ago the Ombudsperson's long-anticipated report was released on seniors care — a detailed, very thorough report on the state of seniors care in this province.
The report was indeed troubling, with 143 findings, 176 recommendations, which largely confirmed what the opposition members have been hearing directly from seniors, their families and care providers for the last 11 years — troubling details that need to be addressed sooner and not later.
What was the government's response? Well, first we had Improving Care for B.C. Seniors: An Action Plan — a plan that announced three more studies, more consultations, more studies after a four-year intense review by the Ombudsperson's office. So no real action, and then more consultation on the future role of a seniors advocate.
Now, the opposition has been calling for a seniors advocate in this province since 2007. Many advocates for seniors have been calling for a seniors advocate. I know I have been getting hundreds of e-mails in my office, and I know the minister has been getting them too because they have all been cc'd to him — people across the province who agree that we need a seniors advocate in this province.
There are two bills that have been introduced, and one of them still sits on the order paper. What was the government's response? Nothing in this budget and more consultation. If the government really wanted to bring in an advocate, an independent voice for fragile seniors in this province, they could call the bill for second reading now. They could show their commitment to seniors and get on with it — have the position in four to six months, as opposed to more consultation.
Who knows how long it will take to get the position instated once the consultation is finished, because then you will need more legislation. Who knows if we'll have a fall sitting, so then we're looking at the spring, and who knows what's going to happen then? I can tell you that by spring of next year, hopefully there will be a seniors advocate, and it will be there whether the Liberals want it or not.
What else did the seniors get? Well, they got a tax credit for renovations to help them stay in their homes longer. But again, here is another case of having to read the fine print. Seniors have to spend a full $10,000 on renovations before they get the $1,000. It means no energy-efficient furnace or fridge, no grab bars by the toilet or shower — renovations that could actually help a senior stay in their home longer. Not too many seniors have an extra $10,000 lying around to spend on renovations. Most seniors I know are looking at downsizing — smaller renovations, not large, expanding renovations.
The manager of the Prince George Council of Seniors says the new tax credit for seniors home renovations will not benefit low-income seniors. Lola-Dawn Fennell says she doesn't see this tax credit benefiting all seniors. "If they are seniors with a fair income perhaps, but a senior who is living on fixed income is not going to benefit from this."
The province is excluding standard appliances from general eligibility as well as general home maintenance, including roof and window repairs. Get new windows so that you can stay in your home longer. Flooring — get rid of carpet so you don't trip over it. Painting — things that are just common sense. Services like home care and housekeeping are also excluded. None of that is in this tax credit that the government is announcing.
Fennell goes on to say that she would have preferred to see home care funding to allow seniors to stay in their homes longer — another disappointment from this government.
I think Art Kube, the president of the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations, who represents over 80,000 seniors across the province, summed it up well: "Today's budget represents a major disappointment for B.C. seniors, especially in light of the Ombudsperson's recommendations to strengthen home support and increase hours in long-term care facilities." That is just not there in this budget, so I understand Art's disappointment.
There was $15 million for non-medical home support, but the issue with this is it is a program that doesn't provide the necessary supports to keep seniors in their homes. It's a program with funding for a coordinator and then volunteers, to provide services such as yard work, light housekeeping, driving seniors to appointments or shopping — all things seniors who receive these programs value. They are happy to get the service, but is it really an answer to much-needed home support in this province?
It does not address the criteria laid down by the
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Ombudsperson's report, which calls for standards, guidelines or criteria for home support. It's just not there, and it begs a question: was $15 million on a volunteer program really the best use of funding for seniors in this province?
Studies show that home support and home care not only ensure that seniors stay in their homes longer. They are much more cost-effective than residential care or acute care. One has to wonder at the sense of how funding is allocated to seniors care. We put the least amount of funds into keeping seniors healthy and supporting them to stay at home, and spend the most on acute care beds, where seniors really don't want to be.
How is that for sound fiscal management? Let's see: $1,200 a day for a senior in an acute care bed; $200 a day in residential care; or $100 for good quality home support. Anyone can do the math and determine what is much more cost-effective.
It's what seniors want. They want to stay at home as long as possible. They want to stay together, if they are a couple, in the same facility, even though they might have different levels of care. Why can't there be guidelines to ensure that they can do that? They want to be treated fairly when it comes to paying the cost of care. They want to ensure that they pay what is the going rate but, at the same time, have that little extra bit of money so that they can live out the last days of their lives in some comfort.
One only has to look at the 176 recommendations in the seniors report to hear what seniors are asking for in this province. I want to look at some of those recommendations and see: are they really things that are going to cost a lot? Could they be enacted? Could they have been in this budget, and should they have been in this budget?
The Ombudsperson calls for ensuring that seniors are informed of availability of services. Many seniors don't know what services are available to them out there. Is that really a big cost factor? That can be done on the Internet nowadays. That can be done through different services and doctors' offices. It could be there, and it should be there, but it's not there.
[D. Black in the chair.]
Include information about how to apply for fee reduction with fee notifications. We know that many seniors, when they get into different levels of care, find out that there is indeed a fee associated with the cost of their care. We've learned that some seniors find out after the fact, as I mentioned this week in the House. They get a bill after they've got the care, not knowing that they were going to be charged for their care.
There has to be something in writing. There have to be standards across the province so that every health authority ensures that every senior that comes into any kind of care knows exactly how much they're going to pay, how much it's going to cost them — and, at the end of the day, if they can't afford it, if they need a fee reduction, if there are issues with them as far as how much income they do have, that they have the ability to apply for a reduction in their costs.
Ensure that patient care quality offices inform people in writing of outcomes. So many people we talked to…. They apply, they go to the patient care quality offices, and they talk about the issues. They talk about some of the concerns they have, and then they never hear what happened to those concerns. It's such a simple thing that could be done and would help people so much in learning what has happened to their concerns, and are their concerns actually taken seriously. Are they, when they take concerns about their mother in a care facility, taken seriously? Has it really been dealt with? A very simple thing to do.
Standardized training and registration for community health workers. This has come up again and again in all forms of care for seniors, that there just isn't standardized training. Not only are caregivers asking for it; so are care providers. The B.C. Care Providers Association is asking for it.
People want standards of care. People want everybody to be on the same level, that all people that are providing services have to have the same level of care for the people that are providing the care. Why wouldn't it be? Why should some home support agencies not have trained caregivers, whereas others have to have trained caregivers? It just doesn't make sense.
Another issue: require staff to report suspected abuse or neglect. I think it shocks people to learn that when there is suspected abuse or neglect in a facility or home support, not all people are required to report that. Not all people are covered under the same regulations who work in seniors care, and it would be such a simple amendment to regulations, to legislation, to ensure that all staff do have to report issues of neglect and abuse — things that are happening to seniors in this province, things that just shouldn't happen and should be reported.
Now, some of the recommendations…. The Ombudsperson agrees that they are longer-term recommendations, and some of them wouldn't be a lot of money to implement — in fact, very little. In fact, it would just be a matter of a commitment from the government to ensure that annual home and community care reports are publicly available annually, that we know how many people are receiving home care in this province and how many people are getting community care. Establish a program to provide support to navigate the system.
We talked — I know I talked — to many seniors, many families who are just so confused with the different levels of care. It's all over the map in this province. They're not sure where to go, who to go to, what kind of care they're looking for, whether they're going to get the right kind of care and how long they're going to have to wait for it. It's really a fairly simple goal to have, to let all health
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authorities ensure that those systems are there in place.
Provide legislative protection from financial abuse to seniors receiving home support and assisted living. I think that's also another recommendation that people would be surprised doesn't exist today, but there is need for a legislative protection, especially for seniors in home support, where it's a one-on-one relationship with the caregiver and the senior in home support. It's an issue for seniors and their families across the province, and it could be implemented very easily.
Whistle-blower protection for people, including staff, who go to whoever they can go to, to complain. In this case it was the Ombudsperson they were coming to, to complain. Some end up going to the media to complain. They go to different health authority people to complain.
But it's not so much an issue of complaining. It's an issue of sharing real concerns for care that's being provided in the facilities that they work in and issues within those facilities, and those people should have some kind of protection. We know of the woman from Nanaimo, the staff person there, who was fired for speaking out because of her concerns for the care in the facility she worked in, and that's just wrong. That shouldn't be happening in this province. We should have whistle-blower protection. Other provinces in the country have it, so why can't we?
It doesn't cost anything. The minister keeps saying we have to be cost-effective. That would not cost anything. It could potentially provide some of the efficiencies he's calling for. Potentially, people could say: "Yes. This shouldn't happen in a facility. We should implement this."
Now, there are also issues around time allotment, ensuring that there's a consistent process for that, as far as seniors getting care, and time frames for seniors to make sure they get care in a timely manner. The longer seniors wait for home care or to get the service that they need, the more care they're going to need, the more expensive care they're going to need.
We hear stories about seniors who are getting minimal home support, and then, when the time comes, they need more support. They end up in acute care. We've seen that again and again, where they don't get the appropriate care and they end up in acute care, which does cost more, as I've said. They're in an acute care bed at $1,200 a night as opposed to being home with home support, and it just doesn't make sense.
She goes on to talk about: are programs actually meeting goals? Are they actually meeting the needs of seniors? And that would be something that would not cost anything. It's just a matter of people within the health authorities working together to ensure that there are criteria in place to ensure seniors are getting the care that they should get, the standards of care that they should get.
I think one of the issues across all levels of care for seniors is the lack of consistency with regulations, the fact that facilities that are under the Hospital Act don't have to report issues of abuse. They don't have the same regulations that facilities under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act have. Why would that be? In fact, the ministry said that they were going to phase out facilities that were under the Hospital Act and they would all be under the Community Care Act. Yet we find that that's just not happening, and why would that be?
Why wouldn't the ministry, why wouldn't government, want every senior to be protected under regulations to ensure that operators are providing the support that seniors should be getting?
I could talk for hours on the different services and needs that this report brought about. It's interesting that again and again, every time I read through it, I keep hearing seniors talking to me about the issues that mean so much to them — issues like the first-available-bed policy, seniors who have suffered from that.
Families have said: "We can afford to pay privately for Mom for a few months as long as she can get into the bed that she really wants to be in, in a community where she has lived all her life, not in a community one or two hours' drive away where she doesn't know anybody. We will pay for a private bed in the community where she wants to be. We can afford that."
You know, the siblings can get together. They can afford that for a few months. But what inevitably happens is that Mom gets taken off the list. She keeps getting put down on the list and doesn't get in to that bed. Suddenly siblings are faced with the fact that they're continuing to pay for Mom's care and really can't afford it. They're not told up front: "Yes, you can pay for your mom's care, and she's going to get the bed she wants, but you'll probably be paying for that for quite a while."
There were instances where families were paying for a year or two years for care that they really couldn't afford. But once Mom is in the facility where she wants to be and she's getting the care she wants, how can you go to her and say: "I'm sorry. We can't afford it"?
I know of siblings who have taken out loans to ensure that their moms or dads get the care they need. That's wrong in this province. There have to be guidelines so that families aren't penalized for trying to care for their moms and dads in the homes that they want them in. That's something that the Ombudsperson's report referred to.
The other issue is picking your preferred facility. This does not cost the ministry anything, and there are no guidelines. When seniors are trying to get into the preferred facility, some health authorities will say: "You can have one choice." Some will say: "You can have three choices."
Why isn't there a guideline that says — and all authorities have to implement it — that they get three choices? It's not there. How does this affect seniors care in this province? I can go on, but I'm conscious of the time.
One of the issues I do want to refer to is the issue
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around fees — additional fees in facilities. There is no consistency in what fees are charged for different levels of care across the province, and there really needs to be. Seniors need to know, when they're going into a facility, whether they're getting home support, whether they're going into an assisted-living facility or a residential care facility. They need to know how much they're going to be paying. They need to know how much additional income they're going to have at the end of the day. That's just not there. There are no standards across the province.
I think there needs to be an appropriate mix of staffing in facilities. There needs to be equity across the province of regulations that ensure that you not only have the proper mix of staffing when it comes to RNs, LPNs and care aides but that you also provide services that seniors should have in facilities to ensure that there's a mix of care and that there's care for issues like bathing.
I've raised this a number of times in this House, and other people have as well. I don't know anybody in this House that could stand to bathe once a week and still come into the office or come into the Legislature. I think that when it comes to this budget, there really should have been a way to look at how it can be in this province that we can't even afford to give seniors a bath twice a week, let alone once a week.
I know issues like toileting, where there are caregivers telling me they're so incredibly upset that they don't have enough time in the day to help seniors who want their independence but need a little bit of assistance with toileting, and instead, they are dependent on Depends for their toileting. To me that's just wrong.
I think that there should be standards in this province so that seniors don't have to suffer that indignity, so that they can maintain their independence — that those services are there to help them and ensure that they get that minimum standard of care. We should have the minimum standard of care.
There's just so much with seniors care that it was incredibly frustrating to listen to the minister's budget and the minuscule things that he said would help seniors in this province. There's so much that could be done, and I'm hoping that not only will we see regulations that will ensure seniors get better care in this province but that the minister will ensure that seniors will not be left behind and abandoned and that seniors will get the due care they so justly deserve.
D. Barnett: Today I am honoured to rise and support this government's budget in our efforts to keep British Columbia strong. Before I speak to this year's budget, I would like to give thanks to the many people who have helped support me in my role as MLA to the people of the Cariboo-Chilcotin and to my family and my friends.
I would like to thank the member opposite, who just recognized the issue of seniors in this province. I am a senior, and I am proud to be a senior. I am proud to have many of my friends who are senior citizens, who built this province and who still work day to day.
Yes, seniors need a seniors advocate for many things, but many of our seniors are still very, very independent, working. I think our seniors need to be recognized for more than just looking for help from government.
Many of my friends who are seniors have put money away to go into homes. Many of these seniors help other seniors. I am so proud that our Minister of Health has said, "Yes, we need a seniors advocate," but we must never forget those people that built this country and those seniors that are still independent. We must respect their rights and their needs also.
In Williams Lake I have a great team. I have a constituency assistant by the name of Bonnie Gavin, and in 100 Mile House I have a constituency assistant named Dorothy Hartshorne. These two ladies are the heart and soul of my riding for me. They sometimes know more about what's happening in the Cariboo-Chilcotin than I do.
With their help, we have a very vibrant, great constituency and work very hard, and government supports the needs of my constituents. Without these two dedicated individuals, I would not be able to spend the time I do here in Victoria and in other places representing this government in the province.
I also would like to thank my legislative assistant, Sarah O'Connor, for the great job that she does keeping my legislative calendar together. I would like to thank my research officer, Tom Hancock, and my communications officer, Lyndsey Easton.
The people that work for us in this great House: sometimes we forget to thank them for all the dedicated, hard work and support they give each and every one of us in this facility.
I am proud to be part of a government that makes fiscal responsibility one of its top priorities, and I am incredibly proud to represent my constituents, my province and my government in announcing this budget.
The people of British Columbia look to the government for security in times of economic turbulence. They look to us for social support and steady economic leadership. Sometimes this requires tough decisions. Sometimes it requires unpopular decisions. Sometimes it requires new directions and priorities to adapt to new demands, but it always, always requires us to maintain the best interests of all British Columbians as our primary concern.
We have seen what happens when governments are irresponsible with expending and borrowing. We have seen what has happened overseas in Greece and Italy. We have seen next door in the United States, and now we see it in our own backyard, right in Ontario.
It is imperative that we maintain our reputation as a safe investment harbour so that we can attract the businesses we need to provide stable conditions for future
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families. Our budget sets the foundation for renewed economic growth, protects our vital social services and contributes to British Columbia's economic competitiveness.
Of course, there's always the wish that there was more money to go around. There are projects, sectors and services we wish there was also more money for. But these are very tough times, and we have done the very best that we can. We will continue to deliver the vital programs and services that matter to B.C. families.
This year's budget remains committed to funding critical social services and is reallocating contingency funds to the Ministries of Justice and Social Development. So $237 million will be invested in the Ministry of Justice over the next three years, which includes $66 million a year to pay for 168 police officers hired as part of the government's guns and gangs strategy. Income assistance will receive $294 million over three years to address a growing demand for disability benefits.
These are critical areas of government that have a direct effect on the safety and health of British Columbians, and we know that these funding boosts will be very welcome indeed.
The B.C. government is taking the same approach with Community Living B.C. This year's budget includes the $40 million previously announced to strengthen supports for individuals with developmental disabilities, while also moving forward with the changes recommended by an internal audit and a rigorous review.
Our government is focused on enhancing support for B.C. families and creating jobs that will sustain and grow a healthy economy. In the past decade this government has faced unprecedented economic times. Yes, we have overcome these challenges and built a solid foundation for our economy, one that creates jobs, encourages innovation and generates future opportunities.
After multiple credit downgrades in the '90s we have successfully upgraded B.C.'s credit rating to triple-A, the highest you can get. Since 2001 we've dropped personal income tax rates by 40 percent, and by May we will have raised the minimum wage by 25 percent.
Total capital spending for the next three years will be $19.2 billion. The taxpayer-supported portion will be $10.7 billion, of which $2.7 billion is newly provided through Budget 2012. Global financial conditions and the decision to return to the PST mean that we must maintain our careful focus on balancing the budget. This will mean making tough decisions, tough choices, but we must have prudent fiscal management.
We have attracted business investments in projects that spur economic growth and job creation. We all know that in October of 2011 Seaspan Marine Corp., with operations in Vancouver and Victoria, was awarded an $8 billion contract by the federal government to build non-combat ships through the national shipbuilding procurement strategy. This contract provides a huge boost to B.C.'s shipbuilding industry and will lead to thousands of stable, great-paying jobs.
Small businesses are the backbone and the heart of British Columbia. We all know that. As announced with the B.C. jobs plan, we are also providing new support for small businesses, which includes an additional $3 million for the small business venture capital program. The increase will allow for up to $10 million annually in additional equity financing for qualifying new businesses.
Business owners understand the importance of government balancing its budget, and our corporate income taxes are now among the lowest in the country.
We have excellent infrastructure, a highly skilled workforce and a geographic location that makes our province the natural gateway to the Asia-Pacific. All of those factors make us competitive.
Combined with the federal income tax reductions and the corporate income tax rate in B.C., we are among the lowest of the G7 nations.
Effective April 1 we will eliminate the provincial jet fuel tax for international flights. This will not only create jobs at many airports, but it will also give the opportunity for competitiveness to increase tourism opportunities in this great province.
We are investing $2.5 million for ten new skills-training programs in northern B.C. These programs are part of the employment skills access initiative.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
The B.C. government is investing over $13 million in new employment skills training in regions throughout British Columbia. We are also investing $10 million in skills-training funding in B.C.'s sector and industry groups over three years to allow them to play a leading role in developing new training programs to meet labour market needs.
Noting the hour, I will ask for adjournment of debate and reserve my right to continue.
D. Barnett moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. T. Lake moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 6:22 p.m.
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