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
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Volume 34, Number 6
ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)
Orders of the Day
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 25 — Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2012 (continued)
Hon. T. Lake
Report and Third Reading of Bills
Bill 25 — Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2012
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 26 — Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, 2012 (continued)
Hon. S. Thomson
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 28 — Criminal Asset Management Act
Hon. S. Bond
Proceedings in the Douglas Fir Room
Committee of Supply
Estimates: Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation (continued)
Hon. P. Bell
S. Chandra Herbert
THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2012
The House met at 10:02 a.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Orders of the Day
Hon. I. Chong: In this House I call continued committee stage debate on Bill 25, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2012, and in Section A, the Douglas Fir Committee Room, continued budget estimates debate for the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.
Committee of the Whole House
BILL 25 — MISCELLANEOUS STATUTES
AMENDMENT ACT, 2012
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 25; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 10:04 a.m.
Section 16 approved.
On section 17.
M. Sather: We continue with amendments to the Park Act. This one is section 29. "Section 29 is amended (a) by repealing subsection (3) (f) and substituting the following: (f) respecting application and administration fees that are payable to the government in respect of park use permits or resource use permits, including, without limitation, prescribing the amount of a fee or the method of calculating the fee…."
The explanatory note says: "restricts to setting application and administration fees the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council's authority to set fees in respect of park use permits and resource use permits."
Again, to my untrained eye, it seems like we have a number of similarities in the wording and, I suppose, the intent of some of these sections, so if the minister would be so kind as to explain the intent of this section.
Hon. T. Lake: Currently the prescribed fees for a permit comprise application fees, administration fees and annual fees only. The changes here reflect that annual fees are moving to policy to be consistent with land tenures used in the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Ministry. Annual fees will be set in policy, but they will be approved by Treasury Board and will follow restrictions in the Financial Administration Act.
M. Sather: A fee set in policy, then, would obviously have some different characteristics than a fee set in regulation. Is the intent, by moving the fees to policy, to give the government more flexibility in some respect? If so, could the minister explain what that flexibility would be or how it would be used?
Hon. T. Lake: It does provide a little more flexibility in that it doesn't have to go through LGIC or regulatory change. But it does have to have Treasury Board approval. These are annual fees that include things like fees for a guiding business that takes clients into a park or a temporary-use permit for filming activities, for instance. Those would be set in policy with approval of Treasury Board and following the restrictions of the Financial Administration Act.
M. Sather: Well, the minister will know that recreation tenures can be contentious, including a couple that I'm aware of in his constituency. I believe they're in his constituency.
With respect to the intent here, I guess I'm kind of wondering if there's going to be the same amount of public transparency about the way things are being done now, with moving to policy. Will there be any changes in the amounts of the fees? Is the government anticipating that? Is the government anticipating, with regard to flexibility…? Just to go back for a minute to the conflicts that I know the minister is aware of in the Wells Gray area, for example.
Where you get a tenure, although it's…. Some are in the park, and some are outside the park — Wells Gray Park — but you get all these competing interests. You know, you have heli-skiers; you have snowmobilers; you have more passive recreational skiers, etc. It is becoming contentious, and I expect in some other areas of the province as well. Are these changes going to help the government in any way to facilitate smoother transitions around park use permits?
Hon. T. Lake: I think what we're trying to do is be consistent with tenures that are issued under the Land Act. The member cites situations where you might have an operator that has a river-rafting operation that's in a park versus one that's outside of a park. What we're trying to do is provide some consistency, so that whether you're in the park or using a land tenure issued through Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, you have a consistency there, that the fees, essentially, look similar for similar uses.
M. Sather: That sounds like a good idea. I know that heli-skiing tenures, for example, in that area are def-
[ Page 10878 ]
initely inside and outside the park, and to be able to standardize them, I suppose, would be helpful to government and perhaps helpful to the industry as well. It would be more of the same kind of process, which could be helpful.
The other thing I wanted to ask the minister about…. This is a similar question that I asked earlier on, when we were under the Environmental Management Act. I'll beg the minister's forgiveness if he's already answered this question for my colleague from Burnaby–Deer Lake. Again, with reference to resource use permits now under the Park Act, can these involve resource extraction permits?
Hon. T. Lake: No, there's no resource extraction allowed in parks, unless it was allowed under section 30 of the Park Act, which essentially allows pre-existing uses to continue to occur. Again, that's very limited and is expressly laid out using section 30 of the Park Act.
M. Sather: Thanks to the minister for that explanation. Would these permits, then, involve…? I'm just trying to understand. It's a resource…. That's not a recreation permit, then, I'm assuming, or maybe it is. Maybe the minister, again, can explain to me what type of permit this is that we're looking at here.
Hon. T. Lake: We do not have any resource use permits in any of the parks or protected areas.
M. Sather: Well, that's interesting. Why, then, do they come under the Park Act?
Hon. T. Lake: It's a very good question. Thank you, Member. The resource use permits are found under the Park Act. They refer to what are known as recreation areas.
These are not parks or protected areas, but they do fall under the Park Act. These are areas that often will become parks and protected areas later, but in sort of past history they did have ten-year exploration permits allowed in those areas. But we've been moving those recreation areas into parks and then, obviously, would not have resource extraction included in that.
M. Sather: I'm thinking about the South Chilcotin Park. The boundaries were amended, I believe, when the government came to power. I'm trying to remember if there was a recreation area there. If not there, then if the minister could just give me an example of a recreation area where there's been a resource use permit issued and for what purpose.
Hon. T. Lake: Well, a resource use permit is the mechanism used to allow any activity in those recreation areas. It's not necessarily resource-oriented. For instance, in Cascade Recreation Area next to Manning Park, there are some commercial recreation activities that are authorized through resource use permit as well as cattle-grazing activities that are enabled through that type of permit as well.
M. Sather: That's a good example. I know that adjacent to Manning or near Manning — and the name of the park escapes me right now — there are grazing leases there. With regard to the Cascade Recreation Area, though, it's not the area, then, where there was logging. Is there logging in any of these recreation areas?
Hon. T. Lake: There are no commercial logging operations in these areas. There would be forestry activities relating to wildfire management or hazardous trees or that type of activity but no commercial logging operations.
M. Sather: Any mining activities currently or proposed in recreation areas?
Hon. T. Lake: None that occur now and none that are proposed.
M. Sather: Moving on with section 29 being amended, "(b) by repealing subsection (5) and substituting the following," and there is (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) under that. Under (5) it says: "A regulation under subsection (3) (f) may (a) prescribe different fees for different classes of persons, park use permits or resource use permits."
It's just a curious phrase, "different classes of persons." I'm just wondering what that means.
Hon. T. Lake: It's kind of legalese, I suppose. It doesn't refer to different types of people in a physical way or any way like that. It's just talking about the different types of activities that may occur — you know, a hiking operation versus a whitewater rafting operation. It really refers more to the type of activity rather than the people that are doing it.
Sections 17 and 18 approved.
On section 19.
M. Sather: Again, in the Park Act section. An explanatory note says that: "[Park Act, section 29.3] authorizes the minister to make regulations requiring holders of park use permits to provide reports and forecasts to a director respecting the holders' operations under their permits."
I'm wondering, then, how this is different than what occurs now.
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Hon. T. Lake: The new reporting requirements will come into effect with renewal of contracts, starting in 2013. Currently, reporting requirements are set out in individual park use permits, so you can have different reporting requirements for different park facility operators, for instance.
The goal here is to try to standardize our reporting requirements across the whole park system so that we have consistent information and everyone is sort of operating from the same set of data.
Sections 19 to 21 inclusive approved.
On section 22.
M. Sather: This is simply the commencement portion of the bill — provisions of this act. It's a table setting out when things are going to happen. Sections 10 to 12, which I believe is the Environmental Management Act…. That's by regulation. Can the minister advise at all when that might occur — the time frame?
Hon. T. Lake: These are the Environmental Management Act changes, where we are moving from specific permits over to codes of practice. Those will occur at different times, based on the approach with different sectors. One industry may occur over the next couple of years, and another industry may be later.
When we do this, we put out an intentions paper, get information back from the stakeholders and then make a decision as to when we would move over from permits to the codes of practice.
M. Sather: That was very helpful. Thanks to the minister.
Similarly, then, sections 3 and 4 are Park Act regulations. Just the same question. When does the minister anticipate them coming into effect, and is it in a similar manner or for a similar reason as the Environmental Management Act regulations?
Hon. T. Lake: Sections 16 and 17 are around the permitting, and again, that would occur with consultation with stakeholders. There's not a set timeline to do that, whereas section 19 is the reporting requirements and, as I mentioned, the intention there is to move those over with new contracts, and that will start in 2013.
Section 22 approved.
Hon. S. Bond: I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 10:24 a.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
BILL 25 — MISCELLANEOUS STATUTES
AMENDMENT ACT, 2012
Bill 25, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2012, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. I. Chong: Before I call the next item, I seek leave to make an introduction.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Introductions by Members
Hon. I. Chong: Joining us in the gallery today is a class from a high school that I represent, Oak Bay high school. They're a class of grade 11 students, 28 of them, and two adults, accompanied by Mr. Todd Evanchiew, their teacher. I ask the House to please make them welcome.
I now call second reading of Bill 26, the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, 2012. Should we conclude that, we will be moving on to committee stage of Bill 28, the Criminal Asset Management Act.
Second Reading of Bills
BILL 26 — FORESTS, LANDS AND
NATURAL RESOURCE OPERATIONS
STATUTES AMENDMENT ACT, 2012
H. Bains: I was speaking on this bill last time it was before the House, I believe it was Tuesday, and I will continue on to finalize my debate on this bill.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
What I was talking about before the clock shut me down on Tuesday was…. As the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke said in his debate said very, very eloquently — and I think so truthfully — this Bill 26 deals with a tiny little fix on a flawed piece of legislation and a flawed approach to our public lands. How true that statement is. I think we are talking about a tiny, little tinkering to a bigger problem that we see in the last 11 years under this Liberal government, to one of the key industries in this province.
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I mentioned a few of those benefits in my last speech. This is the industry that built this province. This is the industry that gave so much to so many people in this province. People, their children and their children continue to hope that this industry once again will be seen to be the engine that will drive our economy, but it will take a new approach to the industry that gave this province so much.
I was talking about the legislation that the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke talked about — the flawed piece of legislation that was brought in in 2002-2003 called the Forestry Revitalization Act.
I talked about how the social contract was gutted through that piece of legislation — the social contract that worked for this province and the people of this province for so long. The industry benefited from it. The workers benefited from it. The communities that are dependent on forestry all across the province thrived during that time. We don't see that now.
In my own lifespan, in the industry…. If you start from South Vancouver, the very west on the Fraser River, and start to drive along Kent Avenue, Marine Drive, towards New Westminster, you don't see the sawmills anymore — the sawmills that actually added so much to our economy in the Lower Mainland and the rest of the province.
Eburne sawmills — gone. Both Doman mills — gone. We had Wellwood plywood — gone. The Weyerhaeuser plant that once employed about 2,000 IW members on Boundary and Marine Drive — gone. Weyerhaeuser in New Westminster — gone. When you look at the Fraser Mills, one of the largest mills in the Lower Mainland — gone. You see all of those mills that provided so much to the industry and to the people of this province, all are gone now, thanks to this government.
You ask this question. How is it that the government will show such neglect to that industry that gave so much to this province and added so much to build this country and this province? It's mind-boggling.
This piece of legislation is a recognition of their failure in a tiny little way though — a tiny little way. Eleven years have gone by, and they are saying: "We may not be collecting all the revenue that we should be collecting as a government on behalf of the people of the province." Finally, they woke up one day and said: "Well, maybe we weren't doing our job that the people gave us to do on their behalf."
You try to ask yourself how it is that an industry that has been the backbone of our economy all those years is on its knees right now. Well, you know, you don't need to go too far. If you take a look at the Ministry of Forests right now, we are losing money in forestry in this province.
This is one of the largest industries that we've had all those years, but now we are losing money. We bring in less revenue than it costs to run that industry. Would you believe that, Madam Speaker? The forest industry that built this province — we're losing money on that? That has to be the complete, colossal failure and mismanagement of the worst kind by any government. This bill just tinkers with it a little bit but doesn't do a thing to deal with the larger issue.
We used to have cut controls under that social program. Those are also gone. Under the cut controls, the local economy was kept going even during bad times. During good times, they could rev up and add a little extra than what they were required under their AAC. It all evens out in a five-year requirement they were to do.
All those good things are gone, and you know what? Who benefited from all of those changes? There was a promise made by the industry to invest $2 billion to make our mills modern and efficient so that we could compete with the rest of the world. Well, they got everything that they wanted, plus some. It seems to me that it was the industry who wrote that Forestry Revitalization Act. The government wasn't even at the table, it seems to me.
Well, the results are clear. That's why the industry is on its knees. That promise of $2 billion that this government took to the bank — guess what happened. Did they invest that money here? Not a penny. They did invest that money, because this government allowed them to. Some went to Oregon, to Washington; some went to the eastern United States.
Interfor purchased five sawmills in Washington and Oregon right after they received this gift by this government. Canfor purchased operations back east in the United States. They created jobs in the United States. Now, with our forest industry, jobs are created in China. Sawmills are being built right now based on our raw logs. That is another big flaw in that legislation, and this bill doesn't do anything to deal with that.
There is a timber export advisory committee put together by the minister. These are all experts. Their role is to make sure that only the logs that are considered to be surplus in this province are allowed to be exported. That, on paper, is a pretty noble approach. They have to meet a test.
People who want to export need to make an application, and this group of experts will take a look if there is any other operator in the province that is bidding to keep those logs here so that they could process them in their mills to keep their workers working. The application came before the timber export advisory committee 86 times, and 86 times they decided that they did not meet the test of that export or surplus test.
Madam Speaker, guess what they did. They knew they have friends in government. They said: "Well, you guys can do your job, and we don't care what you are telling us. Although you are experts, and you are placed in that place exactly to do your job, we don't care. We have friends in government. We'll go to the minister."
They did. They came to the minister 86 times in two
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months, and 86 times the minister overruled his own advisory committee and allowed those logs to be exported.
In the meantime, in my backyard, my constituency's backyard in Surrey, there was an operator, Teal-Jones, who was saying: "We need those logs to keep our workers working." But no, because the minister wanted to help his friends, he allowed those logs to be exported, and yes, those workers lost their jobs at Teal-Jones.
How inept do you have to be? How uncaring do you have to be towards our own province, towards the resources that you are supposed to be taking care of?
Deputy Speaker: Member, I'll draw you back to consideration of the bill.
H. Bains: Madam Speaker, I'm talking about this bill that is supposed to deal with the larger piece of legislation. It doesn't do anything. It talks about mistakes that they may have made and they are trying to fix.
I will say this. This bill will somehow force the industry to report the correct information — now they're saying — because they may not be reporting the correct information. Well, what took them so long? Eleven years. Are we saying that we weren't getting the correct amount that we were supposed to get? That's what section 1 says — that we are requiring the industry to provide correct information.
I'm using some of those examples that this bill needs to look at. The bill doesn't go far enough, in my view. We have a situation in Kitwanga where workers lost their mill. They're hoping that this bill, Bill 26, will somehow deal with that situation. I don't believe…. If they're listening, I'm trying to find something in Bill 26. The message is that it's not going to help them either. It's not going to help them.
The mill was shut down — so as background, people know what I'm talking about — and the Premier, the minister and everyone went there, because some of the locals wanted to restart the mill to put those workers back to work. The mill got started. The owners got some timber supply, which came along with it. Guess what. Three months later the mill is shut down. The Premier and the minister are nowhere to be found to help those workers, but the operators kept the timber supply.
In the bill here, I'm looking to see if there's some resolution to all of those problems that exist in the larger piece of legislation — the Forestry Revitalization Act, which will be amended by this bill. It doesn't do it.
I guess I need to figure out why we are losing money and what we are doing through this bill to fix that. As the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke talked about in his debate, 53 percent of the harvested timber in B.C. is charged 25 cents stumpage fee — 25 cents. We're losing money as a result of that.
What are we doing on the coast side of the forest industry? The coast is almost dead when it comes to the forest industry. Workers are waiting, and they're asking me if Bill 26…. When they see it talks about Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, 2012, they ask me: "Is there some hope in this? Are there changes that will benefit those who have lost their job?" They are hoping to go back to work. But there's no hope in this bill — nothing.
It simply is an admission of the mismanagement of the forest industry by this government and by this minister.
I need to look at what else is in here that we could talk about. Revenue collection under the Forest Act is one area that this bill would fix, hopefully. But then there is another amendment — to the Forestry Service Providers Protection Act. You know, it is supposed to fix the problem by repealing the Forestry Service Providers Protection Act, which was to repeal the Woodworker Lien Act. Somebody was asleep at the switch when that act was brought in.
If it wasn't for the member for Cowichan Valley, my good friend, my good colleague from the IWA…. He brought it to the attention of this House and to the minister, saying: "Look, what you are doing is removing that woodworkers lien, the protection that is provided to the workers in there." To his credit, the previous Minister of Forests listened, and the minister agreed to repeal that section of the act.
It is something that I think we need to seriously consider when we are debating these bills in this House. Just because people are speaking from this side of the House doesn't mean that you need to stand up there and continue to defend your position because the suggestion comes from this side.
Here's a prime example. The member from our side pointed out to the minister, brought it to his attention: "Hey, there is a huge mistake being made here." And like I said, to his credit, the minister agreed and said: "Yes. We will not proceed with that particular part of the section."
I think the problem of not collecting our revenue is there for a long time. It's not only that the information may not come to the minister correctly but also how the stumpage is set, the process that is used to set the stumpage. You go in there; you allow the company to harvest a certain area. Government scalers used to go in, and they used to take a look: "What kind of timber is this? What quality is this?" Then they would set the rate. But now it's self-regulated.
Madam Speaker, you probably will remember. You were around. There was a contractor who had to take a big forest company to court to say: "Look, I'm not getting paid for hauling the timber that I'm hauling for that particular company." Then when the audit was conducted, that particular company was found not to be reporting correctly.
The issue was here before us for a long time. What took them 11 years to act on it? What took them 11 years? It
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seems to me that they wanted them to continue to take whatever they can, as fast as they can, and no one cared for the public or the province. The government, which was supposed to be looking after the interests of the public and the province, was sleeping at the switch.
Those are real examples, and the government continued to ignore them. Finally, there's a recognition and admission of their fault and their mismanagement, and it is being corrected. I credit the minister for that.
I think my light tells me that my time is up. Madam Speaker, before you tell me, I say thank you very much for the opportunity.
N. Simons: Thank you to Madam Speaker and to my colleagues and to those across the floor for the opportunity to speak to Bill 26, entitled Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act. As we often point out in this House, some bills are more straightforward than others, and this one happens to touch on a number of different bills.
I am going to do my best to enumerate some of the issues around those amendments and to speak, to the best of my abilities, on what I think perhaps government could be focusing on and maybe has neglected to focus on as well.
Before I launch into my diatribe, I will point out that this is not necessarily my area of expertise. Like many people in this province, though, we understand the importance of the forest industry not just on the revenues for the province but also the jobs that it creates — primary jobs, secondary jobs as well.
With that in mind, I also recognize the importance to my constituency of the forest industry and the role it has played in building our communities physically, as well as providing for the services that make our communities the healthy ones that they are.
I would point out that being in this position, we also rely on external agencies to comment on the necessary changes that should be taking place within the Forest Act. I might compare and contrast some of the recommendations that these external agencies make to the actual decisions that government has made.
I did not have an opportunity to have a briefing from the minister, but I do recognize that he has generously offered and provided such briefings to my colleagues. I do recognize that as an important part of this democratic process.
The primary concern, or one of the most basic first elements, of Bill 26 is that it calls for applicants to provide accurate and timely information on their applications. I think that it's an interesting thing that — I'll quote from the bill, if I may, Madam Speaker.
N. Simons: Thank you, hon. friend.
"An applicant who is required under this Act to submit information to the government must ensure that, at the time the information is submitted, the information is complete and accurate." Now, to me the first section of the bill — it seems sort of almost humorous that the legislation requires information provided to government to be accurate.
I think that the reason that this particular clause had to be introduced in legislation was that the enforcement and oversight of the industry was essentially abandoned, or degraded considerably, over the last number of years, resulting in the lack of enforcement and oversight that had previously existed.
I can't think of any other reason than that to explain why we have to tell the applicants that when they submit applications to the government, the information they submit is accurate. It's almost like…. It defies plausible explanation for any other reason, for this clause to be introduced in this legislation.
You know, I think when self-regulation was the new form of oversight for the forest industry, we lost so much in terms of the oversight provided by government, and the confidence of the public in the ministry failed or has been failing. We've seen the erosion of the Forests Ministry to such a degree that legislation now has to be introduced to say: "Since we're not looking at it, we're hoping, we're requiring by legislation, that you as applicants can provide us information that's accurate."
It speaks to the fact that 20 Forest Service offices in this province have been either significantly reduced in terms of staff or eliminated altogether, like in Prince Rupert.
When we think about the role that forests and the forest industry have played in this province, it's a sad commentary, in fact, that we've come to the point where the Forests Ministry has lost money and B.C. Timber Sales has lost money. The result of that is a massive expansion of cutblocks occurring in places where they're more sensitive or in urban interfaces that cause considerable concern among local communities.
I think that, in essence, we need to also wonder why Bill 26 has been characterized, by those who know the industry better than I, as sort of fiddling with a paint job when, in fact, what we need to do is restore the foundation. A miscellaneous statutes amendment act with a few references to accurate information being provided by applicants, when in fact what's needed is a strong look at the entire forest industry and a reconsideration of what has been taking place….
The Auditor General was very clear — was very clear, Madam Speaker — in his recent report of November 2011, I believe it was, calling on the government to actually make substantive changes to its oversight and management of the forest industry. Yet what we see is perhaps simply a minor tinkering with an act that actually need-
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ed a rebuild, as was referred to in previous comments by my colleagues.
There are a number of other acts referred to in Bill 26, including how the public is informed of resource road closures and, I might say, in a positive light, how resource roads can be kept open for the enjoyment of the public.
I think that in my constituency, where there's a considerable amount of back-country recreation, there's always been a concern about road closures and the removal of bridges and deactivation of roads that actually provide access to some of the most beautiful wilderness back country in the province. I'm referring to the back country on the Sunshine Coast, outside of Powell River, and on the lower Sunshine Coast as well.
I think that when you consider it in totality, there's a lot to support in this legislation. There's a lot to raise questions from this legislation, but overall, I do believe that some changes are being made. But I would say it's inadequate in terms of the forest industry and the resource needs in this province.
So 22 million hectares of our province is forestable land, and when you consider that the government has not really kept track of what is available…. The inventory of the forest is inaccurate. That's been said by the Forest Practices Board. It's been repeated by the Auditor General. Yet in this legislation there doesn't seem to be any effort to compensate for that number of years of failure in inventory and management.
The Auditor General says specifically that the ministry has not clearly defined its timber objectives, and Bill 26 doesn't come close to defining the government's timber objectives. I think that's a serious problem. When you see the external agencies that provide an unbiased, neutral perspective on an industry being ignored by government, I think that causes concern and consternation, even among those who do not have a full understanding of the impact of the forest industry on our province.
A number of other concerns raised by external agencies point to a need for substantive changes, and the changes have to start with ensuring that our Forests Ministry is adequately resourced. We've seen hundreds of job cuts in the last ten years, which have resulted in the situation that we find ourselves in now, a situation which has prompted government to put into legislation the need for accurate reporting by people who are applying for tenure.
I think that, you know, the whole issue around self-regulation has been the problem now. One of my colleagues the other day said that self-regulation in the forest industry was doomed for failure, even despite the promises made by the minister of the time that there would be strict enforcement, that there would be jail times and high fines for people.
When you put that into place and then you take away the enforcement, it's sort of…. The law needs to be applied, and if it's not applied, it's ineffective law. He pointed out that most people don't give themselves a ticket for speeding.
Although, I do have to say that at one point I did pull over, thinking that an officer had waved me over to the side. In fact, when I pulled over, he said to me: "Why did you pull over?" I said: "I thought you told me to." And he said: "No, but I can give you a ticket for those sunglasses." Anyway, that's another story. He didn't give me a ticket, and I was pleased for that. But in a small town, he should have. They were actually quite ugly sunglasses, so I wouldn't have had a problem had he sanctioned me on that.
Self-reporting in the forest industry would be, in most cases, similar to self-reporting in traffic violations. It's unlikely in most cases, if I'm not involved, to take place.
I would also just sort of point out that there is an opportunity to go clause by clause on this legislation, which I think will allow for the public to know exactly what's taking place in Bill 26. It's fairly broad in terms of its scope, in terms of the different acts that it's addressing.
My left hand isn't working, and my eyes are failing me — a result of too many days in this place.
I think that when we look at the challenges that the forest industry faces in this province and, in particular, in the forest-dependent communities, we need more than tinkering with the act in order to provide for long-term jobs and prosperity in the forest industry. It's a renewable resource, and it hasn't been managed in a way that would indicate that.
I think that when we see not just the reporting being addressed in this legislation…. We see a number of other factors that need to be addressed. Failing to address them in this legislation, I think, is more telling than what is actually in the legislation.
The crisis in the forest industry. Besides the massive expansion of raw log exports, we've lost dozens and dozens of mills from Vancouver Island coastal communities. We've seen them disappearing off British Columbia's coast and, in some cases, chopped up and sent over to China, which has seen a massive growth in the number of mills.
I think, you know, we've seen the forest policies of this province enacted to the detriment of British Columbians and to the benefit of other countries. There have been options available to this government that it has chosen not to take up, which I think is fundamentally a problem. Recent legislative policy changes — proper stewardship of our publicly owned forests has been abandoned.
One other thing that I think could have been addressed in Bill 26, which wasn't, was the importance of local involvement and control over the management of its resources. The appurtenancy clause that once existed, which tied the resources in proximity to a community to the benefit of that community, has been eliminated. I think that there's been a social contract that once existed
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that has been broken.
When we look at the challenges in our rural communities and in our resource-based communities, we see a problem that hasn't been addressed in this legislation. I think that's disappointing. Perhaps we can look forward to other legislation in the next year that might restore some hope to our forest-dependent communities. I think that this, unfortunately, falls short of that hope at this point.
Between 2009 and 2010, cuts to basic ministry operation were in the range of $43 million — 11 percent cuts to forest health and stewardship, replanting, research, planning, conservation, protection, enforcement and combatting forest theft.
The 2011 budget, I might add, contains more cuts. What the cuts mean is fewer eyes and ears in the forest, fewer staff, smaller budgets and office closures. It means that the public servants can't spend enough time out on the land base, providing the eyes and ears in a self-regulating industry. It's like increasing fines for traffic violations and reducing the number of people available to enforce them. I think what we do see, as a result, is a negative impact on the public.
[D. Black in the chair.]
What we had in promises back in 2004 of forest revitalization…. It's quite sad to see that the revitalization meant a loss of revenue, it meant a loss of jobs, and it meant a loss of community strength. I don't think that there's much debate really around that. When we see legislation enacted to tinker with some of the fringe, we lose an opportunity to actually make substantive changes.
The Forest and Range Practices Act was implemented in 2004, and it was results-based. In other words, evaluation of its success or failure was in the measurement of the results as opposed to the process — ensuring that the process was fair and appropriately followed.
When I speak of the local communities benefiting from the forest industry, I also speak of First Nations communities. I think there have been some steps taken to ensure that the resource is benefiting all communities. But when we look in totality at the industry, we see, overall, an unfortunate trend towards reducing our expectations of the forest industry at the same time as losing revenue from the forest industry. To me, that combination is unfortunate and preventable. This is not legislation that will have any impact on that.
The opportunity for public input into the development and monitoring of forest management plans has been reduced. The forest companies are only required to submit general forest stewardship plans for approval by the government.
Well, it's nice that the new legislation, Bill 26, says that those plans have to be accurate. They didn't have to be, apparently, before — or maybe. One court case recently established that they had to be accurate, and if they weren't, then opportunities for changing stumpage fees could be considered.
Just to go through a few more sections of the legislation that we'll have an opportunity to go into detail about at a future date…. I'm sure it will be scintillating information for most of the public. I noticed that the Tugboat Worker Lien Act is also amended, and I've never had an opportunity to speak about the Tugboat Worker Lien Act before.
An Hon. Member: Take it now.
N. Simons: I'm taking it now.
An Hon. Member: You may never get another chance.
N. Simons: I may never get another chance, as I'm reminded by my hon. friend.
The Tugboat Worker Lien Act adds a reference to the Forestry Service Providers Protection Act. There are a number of other sections in this act, and I'm being a little bit lighthearted about that, but I'm simply pointing out that a miscellaneous statutes amendment act does in fact cover a number of statutes, the most important of which — I believe, in this context — is section 1. It says that applicants have to provide accurate information to government.
The need for this legislation was precipitated by a reduction in the staff at the Ministry of Forests, a reduction in the number of offices and a reliance on self-reporting, which has proven, according to the Forest Practices Board and the Auditor General, to be failing not only the forest industry and those dependent on the forest industry but the communities that are dependent on those jobs.
As someone who represents a community that has, at various stages of its history to a large degree on the forest industry…. I think that they were hoping, they are hoping and they'll continue to hope for legislation that will in fact revitalize, and not just in words, the forest industry.
With that, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on Bill 26, and I will cede the floor to my colleague.
L. Krog: I'm always pleased to rise in this chamber and to speak to a bill involving forestry.
Like many British Columbians, forestry quite literally put the food on my family's table when I was growing up. It fed my mother, my father and my three siblings, just as it fed my grandfather and his family when he was, with my grandmother, raising my father and all of my father's siblings.
For me, having spent time working in the industry myself, as many in the chamber did — in my case at the
[ Page 10885 ]
pulp mill in Alberni and the Somass, the sawmill, which is gone now, frankly…. Certainly, I can tell you that in my day the B chain in the Somass was the biggest green chain in the country. It was an experience. It developed muscles in a young man that he didn't know that he'd ever develop and also developed a very healthy respect for those who worked in the forest industry and the strain it placed on their bodies and their lives and their families.
Like many mills in those days, it had a permanent graveyard shift and an afternoon shift and a day shift that alternated. I can tell you that when I used to watch those fellas come in at night to do the graveyard shift — and saw how ashen they looked and knew what it meant for their families in terms of them being available to participate in school events or to spend some time with their children during the day when they were at school and they didn't have that opportunity — I came to appreciate what that was.
My own father was in partnership at the time of his death with his two uncles, running a logging company, so I have a healthy respect for it. One of my few aunts who is still left alive, her brother ascended to the presidency of the B.C. Truck Loggers Association — Viv Williams. He was famous for his diminutive size and his incredible spirit and his love of the forest industry.
So it is with some sadness — and more sadness and sorrow, I say, than anger — that I rise to speak today to Bill 26, because Bill 26, I think, is emblematic. It's symbolic. It represents, in very clear language, the failure of this government in forest policy.
When section 105.1 was passed, and I'm going to read the existing section, it was supposed to be part of an answer to the ongoing issues in the forest industry. It said in 105.1: "A holder of an agreement under this Act who (a) is required under this Act, or (b) obliged under the agreement to submit information to the government for use in determining, redetermining or varying a stumpage rate, or for any other purpose under this Act, must ensure that the information is accurate."
Well, guess what? I know that many members of this chamber remember the days of Social Credit when we used to talk about what was called, in the Ministry of Forests, sympathetic administration. I believe that was the phrase. What it referred was that the government was sometimes seen to turn a blind eye or look the other way when it came to accurate and appropriate management of the forest industry in general.
This section is going to be replaced by what is now set out as section 1. It's interesting what a difference a few words make. In the proposed section 105.1, it now talks about — as opposed to simply an applicant submitting information — "…at the time the information is submitted, the information is complete and accurate" — complete and accurate.
Now, there is no question that when a bill is placed before this House, it is placed before this House for a purpose. There has been a court decision. There has been an observation by ministry staff. There has been a public outcry. There has been a lobby. There has been something that has brought it to the attention of government in such a way that they feel compelled to present legislative change. Whether it's change or whether it's an entirely new bill, or a new regime, whatever the case may be, there is a reason for it.
Now, I'm not going to suggest for a moment that it's a widespread problem. I don't have access to that information, and I can't make that accusation.
But when the government brings in a bill that changes the language from "ensure that the information is accurate" to "the information is complete and accurate" and, in sub 105.1(3), "that, at the time the information is submitted, the information is complete and accurate," it tells me there is a problem.
We're not here doing this just for fun or to fill up time on a Thursday morning. We're doing it because the government is admitting it's made another boo-boo.
Now, if a three-year-old makes a mistake, doesn't do something right, we're somewhat more forgiving. They're three years old. You do the same thing at five, you're a little less sympathetic. You do the same thing at seven or eight or nine or ten, you're starting to lose patience.
It strikes me that when you get to be 11 plus, which is the age of this government, it may be time to be taken to the woodshed. Now, I'm not an advocate of corporal punishment, but we may be at that juncture. We may be at that juncture when maybe it's time to go to the woodshed. With all the positive reinforcement, all the little criticisms, all the timely lessons that have been given by the public, maybe it's time to be taken to the woodshed.
On this day, of all days, the day when the government faces two by-elections — and we're here in this House debating Bill 26, an admission of ongoing failure — maybe the voters in Chilliwack and Port Moody might be tempted to take the government to the woodshed. Maybe it's time to do so.
Clearly, when you say now that it has to be complete and accurate and that it must be complete and accurate at the time it's submitted, you're hearing from the government an admission that what has been happening since this section was brought in is that, frankly, it wasn't being provided. How often, and to what extent the problem exists, how many companies it involves, and how many individuals may have fudged numbers or failed to provide accurate information, we don't know.
I'm sure that during the course of committee stage of this bill, the minister will have that information at his fingertips to reassure British Columbians that their deep distrust of this government's management of the forests may not be quite as bad as the opposition tends to believe — or as many British Columbians have tended to believe.
In my community, we have Coastland mills and we
[ Page 10886 ]
have Harmac, two surviving operations from a great family of forest companies, from a great family of mills and forest manufacturers that existed up and down the coast of British Columbia in my youth — that provided employment, that fed families and enabled the children of people who worked in that industry to go to university, to succeed in life. We have precious few left.
When you look to a bill like this, you have to ask yourself: in the context of overall government forest policy, will this advance the industry? Will this create more jobs? Will this in fact revitalize — subject to discussions we may have about the fishery, which is so diminished in its importance, sadly — what is the last truly great, sustainable industry in the province of British Columbia: forestry?
When the government, through this bill, is admitting that it isn't getting accurate information, and when the minister can't, in this chamber, provide accurate information about the state of B.C. forests after over 11 years in power — well, nearly 11 years, I should say, to be fair — there's a problem. It's a big problem. I don't see that problem being addressed by this legislation. What I see here today is an admission that something's wrong.
One would be tempted to suggest that, when this original section was passed, it already had a loophole in it. Now, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, whenever she's giving me a whacking in question period, which she does from time to time, always likes to point out that I'm a lawyer — "a member of the bar," she says. She's right. I am a member of the bar. But you don't have to be a lawyer to recognize a loophole.
Now, it's pretty clear. The government's admission is that there's a loophole in the legislation. And it's not just any old loophole. We use the expression "a hole big enough to drive a truck through." This is a loophole big enough to drive a truck through. But it's not just a Ford F-250. It's not a Ram truck. It's not your average pickup. It's not even a cube van you might use to move your furniture on the day you're transferring from apartment to apartment. It is a loophole big enough to drive a logging truck through — not just any truck, but a logging truck. That's the kind of loophole that was created by this government.
Today we are here, like the image of the little Dutch boy, trying to put another finger in the dike. Meanwhile, the dam itself may be ready to go. It's the industry that sustained this province for so many years, the ministry which forms one of the four pictures in the rotunda of this very Legislature, the four great industries of this province — mining, fishery, agriculture and forestry. The very ministry, the very foundation of this province's wealth, is at risk.
In 11 years of administration this government's management of that industry, its response to it, has been, I would suggest to the members of this House, an abject failure.
There was a time in the youth of many in this chamber…. There are not a lot of people here under 40, in my observation. Indeed, there are quite a few people in this chamber over 45 and 50 who can remember the day in this province when you wouldn't find many British Columbians who couldn't recite the names of the heads of the major forest companies, who didn't know who they were, or at least knew the names of the forest companies.
There was certainly a time — with great deference to my friends in the United Steelworkers — in this province when you'd be hard-pressed to find a British Columbian who didn't know who the then head of the Steelworkers, formerly the IWA, was. You'd be hard-pressed. Everybody in this province in my youth knew who Jack Munro was. Everybody knew who Jack Munro was. And they knew that when there was a threat of a strike in the forest industry everybody sat up and took notice. Around the boardrooms on Howe Street, people sat up and took notice, because if there was a strike in the forest industry, our economy was in trouble.
Now I defy many of the members of this chamber, with great deference to the present head of the United Steelworkers in the province of British Columbia, to name who that person is. I defy anyone to name a major forest company. They'll struggle for a while, and they'll finally come to, maybe, Western Forest Products. That's still a pretty important group.
These aren't the days when, if you went into Vancouver, you looked at the tall tower that symbolized the power of forestry in British Columbia, the MacMillan building. Harvey Reginald MacMillan. Everyone knew who H.R. was. It was just like W.A.C. — Wacky. Everybody knew who you meant when you talked about H.R. You were talking about H.R. MacMillan. You were talking about an integrated forest company that sustained thousands and thousands of jobs.
Even in those days, long before Bill 26 and long before section 105.1, even with the sympathetic administration of the Socreds, jobs were available. Revenue flowed into the coffers of the province of British Columbia, and services were delivered — good services.
You know — and I say this with a certain amount of shame — if you, for instance, hon. Speaker, were forced onto social assistance 30 or 40 years ago in this province, you were far better off than you are today, and this is our legacy. Here today in this chamber, debating Bill 26 — a modest change to enable the government to maybe get some more accurate information — we are in essence admitting that things are not only not what they used to be; we can't even tell exactly what they are. We don't have the evidentiary basis on which to make appropriate policy decisions about forestry.
Now, there will come a time in our future where our forest industry will hopefully revive — if nothing else,
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through the natural progression of time. That's assuming we have reforested, because if we're not reforested, we're not going to survive.
We know that one of the sections in this bill, the Wildfire Act amendments, are designed to help the governments allocate fire hazard abatement responsibilities under new forms of tenure that would give the bioenergy sector secondary access to logging sites. That's a good thing. But we also know, through reports that have been given to the government, that there has been an incredible failure with respect to the forest industry.
We know that those reports have indicated and confirmed that, in fact, the government has not been looking after the forests of British Columbia. These changes, as proposed, recognize that. The Auditor General report looked at the management of B.C. forests by the Ministry of Forests. What it's basically said is that in 2002 they effectively abandoned their responsibility to manage forests that were damaged by pests or wildfire.
What do we know?
L. Krog: "Pestilence," the member for Juan de Fuca says — pestilence. Well, I don't know if it's the great plagues of Pharaoh descending upon us. I wouldn't go that far, even talking about the Liberal government of British Columbia. I would not go so far as to talk about the great plagues of Pharaoh.
L. Krog: I wouldn't talk about locusts either. Everyone's in the biblical sense this morning. I'm very flattered. I'm glad they're doing their scriptural homework.
What we do know is that millions and millions of hectares of British Columbia land, forest land, have been affected by fire. In the past two years alone wildfire has affected more than three times as many hectares as the area harvested annually.
I'm looking for something in this bill that tells me the government understands this problem and is sincere about doing something for the land base, for the forest base of this province. I don't see it.
What I see here is really some tinkering. To me, it's akin to house maintenance. You know the real problem, Hon. Speaker, is that your roof is shot. Instead of dealing with that big problem, because you're not sure how to tackle it or maybe you don't think you've got the resources to handle it, you go and vacuum the kitchen. Now, the kitchen may need vacuuming. It may be an important daily task, but it isn't the problem. It isn't the problem.
The problem here is the forest industry is in tough shape. A successful mill in my community, Coastland, can't get a supply of fibre, and it's junk wood, basically, that they're asking for. They're not asking for the big trees. They want the smaller stuff in order to continue to operate. Indeed, they're in a position and prepared. They're a decent B.C.-owned company. They are prepared to invest in expansion, adding another line, but they can't do that unless this government is prepared to do something about raw log exports. Again, I've looked through this bill, and I don't see anything here either.
What I can tell you is that you can look out the window of my constituency office in Nanaimo, and you can see them — big ships. It makes the Port of Nanaimo happy. They're thrilled to see some ships in the harbour. It make some of the truck loggers happy. It makes the fallers happy.
But the vast majority of the people in my community see it like a funeral hearse every day leaving the harbour. Instead of on wheels, it's on a boat, and it's going somewhere. They see their jobs disappearing. They see the forest industry, as they knew it and as it supported their families, being buried, day by day by day, shipload after shipload of raw logs and jobs and economic security and wealth and revenue for the province headed someplace else. It is not sustaining us. It is not helping our economy.
The administration of this government on the forest side, certainly — and that's what we're talking about today; we're talking about Bill 26 — has been, in most respects, an abject failure.
The member for Surrey-Newton spoke so eloquently earlier this morning about the numbers of mills that have been closed. He also spoke about the decisions taken by the minister to allow and overrule his own committee, and to allow logs to be exported time after time after time — dozens and dozens of times.
What British Columbians who work in the forest industry have always understood is that the jobs there were real. By real I mean that they were family-supporting jobs. They were jobs that, as I said earlier, enabled people to support their families, to get their kids to university or post-secondary education, if they wanted; enabled them to have a little holiday once in a while; and frankly, from a government's perspective, enabled them to pay a decent level of taxation, too, and to buy things.
We know that CUPE, under the leadership of Barry O'Neill, has been going around this province talking about the 10 percent solution. This is essentially the suggestion that you try to shift 10 percent of your spending to local business — away from the Wal-Marts, away from the big box stores, away from on-line shopping. Buy from a locally owned company. Buy from a locally owned business.
Locally owned businesses on the coast of British Columbia would do so much better if this government paid attention to their responsibilities as the stewards of the great forests of British Columbia. If they took the time to ensure that there were people working in this industry who used that paycheque to support their lo-
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cal businesses, it would pay their taxes and support the prosperity that this province is so desperately looking for.
The Premier talks on and on about her families-first agenda, about her jobs agenda. Well, many British Columbians actually believe that we still have enormous opportunities in our forest industry for job creation. Again I look through this bill, and I don't see those opportunities. I don't see that confidence. I see, in some respects, an inkling of an acknowledgment of the problem, but I see no demonstration of hope.
Forestry is intimately tied up with the history of this province. One of the most famous members of this province, Ray Perrault, ended up a senator. His brother, E.G. Perrault, wrote a wonderful novel, probably out of print now, in the exciting days of the forest industry in this province. It was called The Kingdom Carver. It was based loosely on the life of Gordon Gibson. Now, there's a name that stands out in this chamber — the man who brought down the Minister of Forests. The man who brought down the Minister of Forests, Gordon Gibson Sr.
It is part of our history, and those of us on this side of the House believe in our hearts, and more importantly, based on the evidence available, believe that it is an important part of British Columbia's future. What is apparent from Bill 26 is that this government doesn't believe it.
To come back to my analogy, it is like the homeowner. The roof needs the big repair. There's a big problem out there, and instead we're vacuuming. We're tinkering. We're playing around the edges. We are not facing the reality.
The government, in its desire to maintain the support of people like the truck loggers…. I'm sympathetic to those people, because they work hard and they work in dangerous conditions and they do a job. But in order to help maintain the support of people like the truck loggers, this government continues to support the major companies when it comes to squeezing out the little guys, the smaller companies, the innovative companies.
What we need is a forest policy that ensures that there is supply for those young and growing companies and that gives a future to our forest industry. Unless this government is prepared to do it, they have to take responsibility for all of those ships that leave the harbour of Nanaimo week after week and all of the jobs that go with those logs.
If there was an opportunity for this government to do something, it is now. If the Premier wants to be the hero she loves to consider herself to be, around the issue of job creation in this province, then let this government seize the opportunity. But in Bill 26 we don't see it. We just don't see it.
We see an administration that is far worse than the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" sympathetic administration of Social Credit to the forest industry. We see a government that has turned its back on the forest industry, that seems to have no plan, no idea of the road ahead and no great interest in sustaining our one truly sustainable industry.
I say to the government: "You've still got another year. You're going to have a judgment day today. People will get to speak." Chilliwack and Port Moody — they'll have their say.
I just hope that maybe it'll unplug the ears of the government, that maybe their hardened heart, their heart that is hardened against the people who work in the forest industry, will be softened and they will realize that they have an opportunity. Nothing would make me happier than to hear the buzz of a saw in a mill in my community, to know that people are getting a paycheque and they're paying their taxes, supporting their fellow British Columbians. That opportunity is still there, but Bill 26 is not going to do it.
Bill 26 simply says: "Gosh, gee. Sorry, British Columbia. We trusted the forest companies. We trusted them to give accurate information. We trusted them." What really happened is that the government figured out that you had to be a little clearer, perhaps, that it wasn't accurate, that it actually had to be complete. At the time it was submitted, it had to be complete and accurate. So congratulations to the government for admitting another failure in British Columbia.
Deputy Speaker: Seeing no further speakers, the minister will close debate.
Hon. S. Thomson: I appreciate the opportunity for some comments in closing debate on Bill 26, the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act. I appreciate the comments from the members opposite and to say that I do look forward to the detailed discussion in committee stage of the debate on this bill.
I've made note of many of the specific questions that have been referenced in the comments around the bill and the intent of the amendments to this legislation, and we'll make sure that we will be able to respond to those specific questions as we go through committee stage.
I just wanted to say, first of all, I appreciate the positive comments with respect to the changes that we're making to the Occupiers Liability Act. This is a very important first step, as was referenced by the member from Columbia River–Revelstoke, in terms of ensuring that we can have a framework that will keep more resource roads open and available.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
You also know that we're in a process now of consultation around a broader framework for resource roads, and we've had a very comprehensive engagement process in terms of consultations, submissions — direct submis-
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sions from over 90 groups, 4,000 individual submissions — to the framework. We look forward to continued work on this, but this is an important first step in working towards that framework.
The amendments to the Forestry Service Providers Protection Act — again, this was referenced by the members opposite — are important steps to ensure that we have the framework to ensure that the protection act and the fund will work under that legislation. We recognize that these are necessary steps in relation to previous decisions around this. But just to say that this is an important step in order to make sure that we have that step completed and that we can ensure efficient operation of the fund.
To advise the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke, because he asked the question, we did establish the fund. The initial fund has been established, and we're now working with the TLA, the Truck Loggers Association, and licensees in terms of the continued operation and funding of that fund and the framework of how that will work. But the legal framework and the initial funding into the fund has been established, and we can deal with that more directly in committee stage on the bill.
There were many references and, obviously, the members opposite took the liberty of expanding well beyond the scope of the legislation, as they do in second reading in addressing many issues that are not a part of this legislation.
I just wanted to say in closing that the forest industry has been through one of the deepest, most difficult recessions that they've been through. But in my travels around the province, meeting with the industry and the companies, they are positive and optimistic about the future. They're very positive about the work that we've done with the industry in building markets, creating market diversification for the industry, finding new opportunities for the market — 7.3 million cubic metres in lumber, in export growth. That's the equivalent of 18 mills and 9,000 jobs as a direct result of that market diversification.
Opportunities for community forests, opportunities for First Nations that the member for Powell River–Sunshine Coast mentioned, 172 agreements with First Nations now, a new woodlands area-based tenure for First Nations, with the First Nations now participating in up to 15 percent of the annual allowable cut of the industry. That's building capacity and jobs in First Nations.
We've had many successes. There're still many challenges to work through with the industry — but again, an industry that is so important and critical to the future of the province and one that has a positive, optimistic outlook for the future.
With that, I'll close debate on the bill and say again that I look forward to the committee stage, where we'll deal with the detailed elements of the amendments. I'll be prepared to answer the specific questions that the members have raised throughout the debate.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I'll close debate on the statutes amendment act, Bill 26.
I move second reading.
Hon. S. Thomson: I move the act be referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 26, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Statutes Amendment Act, 2012, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Hon. I. Chong: I now call committee debate of Bill 28, the Criminal Asset Management Act.
Committee of the Whole House
BILL 28 — CRIMINAL ASSET
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 28; D. Black in the chair.
The committee met at 11:41 a.m.
Hon. S. Bond: I'll just take the opportunity to introduce my staff that are here with me today. I appreciate them. They work very hard every day. Anita Nadziejko is our senior policy analyst in justice services. Mark Canofari is Crown counsel with CJB, and Bruce Macallum is legal counsel — all with legal services branch. I'm sure they'll be here to provide the excellent advice that we need to get to the bottom of the details of this bill.
On section 1.
K. Corrigan: I'd, first of all, like to express my appreciation to the minister for offering a briefing on this bill. The same people that are here today were at that briefing, and I really appreciated their professionalism, their expertise and their helpfulness in going through the sections. Some of what I ask about today will be a bit of a repeat because I want to get things on the record, but it was very helpful to have that session. I'd like to thank the minister very much for that opportunity.
On section 1: "'eligible victim' means a person who (a) suffered pecuniary loss as a direct result of a criminal or quasi-criminal activity that resulted in forfeiture, to which this Act applies, of property." I'm wondering if the minister could explain why it is limited to those who suffered pecuniary loss.
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Hon. S. Bond: It's because this is about the return of property that is a result of a criminal act. In fact, we have other regimes that deal with victims' compensation, for example. So this is focused most primarily on property or assets.
K. Corrigan: I've noticed there has been success over the last year, particularly with the civil forfeiture regime being available. It seems like it could be a fairly significant amount of money between the two acts — the Criminal Asset Management Act and the Civil Forfeiture Act. I'm wondering if the minister did consider using some of the funds or allowing a loss which was not pecuniary — mental stress or other types of loss — at all, for this act.
Hon. S. Bond: No. The focus here is on property or assets. In fact, we have victims' assistance programs, which actually deal with supporting victims in a different way. We've been extremely successful on the civil forfeiture side. The amount of money currently related to criminal forfeiture is very small. We would expect that as this process is institutionalized, we would see that increase. But the focus here is on property and on assets.
K. Corrigan: In the same definition of eligible victim it says that it would be a "loss as a direct result of a criminal or quasi-criminal activity." I'm wondering if the minister can explain what kinds of things would be included in quasi-criminal activity.
Hon. S. Bond: We had a fantastic discussion over there about a number of items. To get to the member's point, not directly attached, obviously, to the Criminal Code, but a good example of it, which we got to in round 3, was that we prosecute under the Securities Commission, for example. That would be a quasi-criminal procedure. So not directly attached to the Criminal Code but may be involved in the process of criminal prosecution.
K. Corrigan: One of the others, I believe, that might have been mentioned when we were being briefed is that there were prosecutions under the Food and Drugs Act. And I'm not sure: are those criminal or quasi-criminal?
Hon. S. Bond: We're quicker on this one. That would be quasi.
K. Corrigan: I'm going to go on to another definition, or part of that definition. Under "eligible victim" it says a person who suffered a loss and then under (b), "did not engage, directly or indirectly, in the commission of the criminal or quasi-criminal activity." Could the minister please explain what would be indirect engagement in the activity?
Hon. S. Bond: I think a good example would be, for example, the spouse of a grow-op owner.
K. Corrigan: We had a similar discussion when we were talking about the Civil Forfeiture Amendment Act several months ago. I do have some concerns when you're talking about the wife of somebody who had a grow operation. What assurances do we have that somebody who is in that position is in fact guilty and should, therefore, not be eligible if they've suffered a pecuniary loss?
Hon. S. Bond: I think the principle is pretty straightforward. Basically, even if the person — the spouse of the grow-op owner or someone who lives in that home — is not charged, if they are aware of or potentially involved, even if they don't end up with a charge, in that, they should not benefit from that process. That's the principle here.
K. Corrigan: Who will make that determination?
Hon. S. Bond: The director would make that determination. Then, as we create the regulations that will be built following this, the criteria and the process will be outlined in regulation. But the director will make the decision.
K. Corrigan: Well, I do have some concerns. I have concerns that the regulations that may define whether or not somebody is indirectly involved…. It's going to be done by way of regulation, so we're not going to get a chance to see what the criteria is going to be. It's going to be decided by the director.
You know, it's a tough area. The example given is a good one, I think, where the spouse may be somebody who should be eligible to be able to claim under this act. They may have suffered a pecuniary loss, and this is not going to be out in the public to know exactly why the decision was made.
Similar to under the Civil Forfeiture Act, that person may themselves be a victim in many ways, and they may not feel that they can fight the decision. I'm not sure what the processes are going to be in terms of appeal, but I would be interested in if there is going to be any kind of appeal process for somebody, if they want to make a claim under this section.
The Chair: Noting the hour, Minister.
Hon. S. Bond: Yes, I was going to note the hour, for sure.
We will get to the potential appeal later. This is section 1, which deals with definitions.
Noting the hour, I move the committee rise, report
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progress and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 11:55 a.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Committee of the Whole (Section B), having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Committee of Supply (Section A), having reported resolution, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. I. Chong moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.
The House adjourned at 11:56 a.m.
PROCEEDINGS IN THE
DOUGLAS FIR ROOM
Committee of Supply
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
JOBS, TOURISM AND INNOVATION
The House in Committee of Supply (Section A); D. Hayer in the chair.
The committee met at 10:08 a.m.
On Vote 30: ministry operations, $234,108,000 (continued).
Hon. P. Bell: It's a day of celebration — a day that we celebrate the 8,759th certificate issued this year by the Industry Training Authority, which is an increase of about 20 percent over last year and well over double what was issued in any given year during the 1990s. So it is a day of celebration today.
S. Chandra Herbert: I'm sure it will be a day of celebration for the government after the poll results come in at 8 p.m. as well. You never know.
Anyways, I wonder if the minister might introduce his staff behind him, since we didn't get to do that yesterday.
Hon. P. Bell: Of course, I'm joined by my deputy, Dana Hayden, and by folks from Tourism B.C., including Margaret McCormick, Richard Porges, Grant Mackay and George Farkas, who is our CFO.
S. Chandra Herbert: It's good to see the staff, and thank you for your assistance in helping make this estimates process go well and, of course, for keeping the minister on the right path — although I'm sure he keeps you on the right path too, on occasion, I hope.
Obviously, there have been challenges in the tourism industry in the last while. I know in 2010 the Liberal Tourism Minister predicted that tourism would double by 2015. The numbers — they're in the revenue, which would be quite a large gain. That was two years after the start of the economic recession.
My question to the minister…. Given the challenges, certainly looking at the numbers, we're kind of treading water, it looks like. I know that some months look good, and some months look particularly bad. Can the minister tell us why he believes that the tourism industry in B.C. is not doing as well as his government predicted two years ago?
Hon. P. Bell: The member opposite points to a variety of numbers that I think are accurately reflecting, kind of, that some months are better than others, some challenging months, and asks why we think that things are more challenging now versus what we had hoped for a number of years ago.
I think, pretty clearly, it stems back to the economic circumstances in the United States and the challenges that they're facing down there. That is the area where we're seeing the bigger declines, even in the month of January. If memory serves me correct, I think we had a decline of about 3 percent of U.S.-based visitors. But even with that, we were, I think, at 2.26 percent growth in the month of January.
We're seeing, actually, some good recovery out of Europe, although really two countries. The U.K. and Germany — I think both of them about 8 percent growth in the month of January; China, 50-some percent; Japan was about 15 percent in the month of January. So Asia, clearly, stronger. The United States, soft. Europe, I think, a little bit of strength.
The strategy I am trying to employ in the ministry is not dissimilar from the strategy that we employed with lumber during the economic challenges of the United States that they continue to face — two million homes down to half a million homes under construction each year and the very aggressive shift into new markets.
While those new markets may be different, it's not necessarily all about China. Certainly, with lumber, that was our first major move, but now moving on to India as well. The initial analysis that we did was that China offered the biggest single opportunity for us.
While we believe that China will be a major tourism
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market for us, we continue to acknowledge the importance, I think, of Germany, of the U.K. We have good programming in those areas. We want to sustain our programming in the U.S. and try and maintain at least some degree of momentum.
We have identified Ontario as a key market opportunity for us, and we've really ramped up our expenditures in Ontario over the last year or so, both in the ski programs and in the programs that are going into the summer months. You're going to see a ramp-up in the Ontario marketplace as well.
San Francisco, as well, is another key area that we think there are some opportunities in, and then China. We're getting our foothold and starting to grow that market opportunity.
Australia is one that we are currently attempting to talk to Air Canada about, because there are some issues with regards to flights and the cost of flights out of Australia. We're attempting to make some contact there and try and work with Air Canada on that front.
I think the overall economic circumstances require a strategic shift. We are doing that right now. We're following the same principles that we followed in the softwood lumber file over the years. Unfortunately, that takes time.
If one goes back and looks at the softwood lumber file, although we saw incremental growth in China, that incremental growth was building on very small numbers and didn't have a substantive impact in the overall picture until the last two or three years. But certainly now, we saw growth. Last year 33 percent of our total shipments were China.
If we could achieve that sort of number from a tourism perspective in five or six years, that would be an incredible story to tell, but it is one that will take time, and I don't want to try and overpredict what the opportunities are.
So tough time. Lots of challenges. I think the marketplace is very difficult. The number of countries that see tourism as a major economic driver has grown. Almost every country has identified tourism as being a key industry they want to build on. It's seen as a clean, green industry that is sustainable, that creates lots of economic benefits. It is an industry in high demand.
In British Columbia we see some specific areas of strength that we have. We identified six of them that were articulated in the plan. Winter — clearly, ski represents a big part of it. Year-round — convention business, largely as a result of the investments made at Canada Place and, to a degree, at B.C. Place. Then touring — a big opportunity.
Maybe I'll just close off with this for now. I always tell people that in the exit interviews that we do…. Richard Porges from the ministry just has a wealth of statistical information on why people come to British Columbia and what they do while they're here. Interestingly, that sometimes is two different things. Why they come here and what they actually do sometimes are two different things.
It really, I think, largely comes down to one thing for the bulk of our tourists. That is that they can go from centres that have the finest accommodation, the best cuisine, the finest wines, cultural entertainment — just a spectacular urban tourism opportunity — to the absolute wilderness in 20 minutes or half an hour. They can do that virtually anywhere in British Columbia, from any major centre.
That's really what makes British Columbia unique. The fact that we have that opportunity is, I think, the Beautiful British Columbia and what we have marketed over the many, many decades. I think we need to build on that. I think that's our strategic advantage. That certainly, as long as I remain minister of this portfolio, will be our focus.
S. Chandra Herbert: I guess it was about a year ago perhaps. It was a VancouverAM Tourism Breakfast the minister was speaking at, and I was attending. At that breakfast the minister suggested that one of the key focuses which we needed to do within the next year or so was to identify an iconic B.C. event similar to the running of the bulls in Spain. We would find our running of the bulls event in B.C. in the next little while was what the minister suggested at the time — that that would be one of the big things we marketed to the world.
Can the minister tell us: is that still part of the plan within this budget, or is that idea not happening anymore? Where does that stand?
Hon. P. Bell: I'd be happy to brief the member privately on this initiative, but it hasn't publicly been announced — the efforts as they relate to this initiative. There is one. I would be happy to brief the member privately as long as he retains that in confidence, but I'm not in a position to disclose exactly the project that we're working on except in a private format with the member.
S. Chandra Herbert: Just to jump back to the previous questions around tourism challenges. The minister spoke about China and a couple of the other areas where we're looking for growth. Just curious. Does the ministry have a plan of how much growth we need to see from each country or each region and also a budget breakdown of what we're spending in advertising dollars in those regions?
Hon. P. Bell: We have not broken down specific targets for each country. What we have done is identified the countries we believe have the maximum growth potential, and we can provide that information. I can do that verbally if the member would like me to do that now. We also have a breakdown by country for spending. I'm
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happy to provide that to the member verbally if he would like me to, and I'll just follow his direction.
S. Chandra Herbert: It's surprising that we're not, to me anyway…. Maybe I don't have a full grasp on how the industry works, although certainly I talk to people in the industry, and they assumed, when I asked them what I should ask in estimates, that the ministry would have an idea of how much growth they need from each region so that we could actually get to the targets that the ministry has set for itself in terms of revenue growth. I'm not quite sure where we get the numbers for revenue growth if we're not sure exactly where the growth is going to come from — if the minister gets my meaning.
If there is a rough ballpark for each region, that would be helpful. Maybe it's a longer conversation that I need to have with the ministry, and they can provide me with the numbers in a more detailed way than would be appropriate for here.
I would be interested in a breakdown of how much in ad dollars we're spending across the globe, by region — I don't need specific country — and also how much in ad dollars we're spending within British Columbia.
Hon. P. Bell: The reason why we're hesitant to set country-specific targets is because things change quickly in terms of blue skies agreements and those sorts of things.
The impact, as an example, of China Southern Airlines receiving an additional three flights could be significant. It could be an increase of 30 percent of traffic out of China. That's why we bundle the total package together, not knowing where that agreement may come from. The agreement may come from China, from Korea, from Japan, from Australia.
You're working on a number of them all at the same time. One of them may fall in one year, and it may fall in another year. Typically, we're looking for a 15 percent growth rate out of China. That would be an example, but we don't publish that as a specific target or growth rate, knowing that agreements can fall at different times and that will impact the growth in any given year. So over a period of time we know where we're going.
The member opposite asked about spend rates for different areas, and I can provide another…. Now, this is kind of all program spending, whether it's direct advertising, as I think of it — in TV, radio, and so on — or it may be Internet-based programming, or it may be tourism centres that we help fund. It's anything and everything to do with the program spending that we have.
British Columbia is just under $9.3 million; it's 23 percent of the investment. The long-haul part of Canada — so that would be Ontario and so on — is about 16 percent, or $6.4 million. The regional parts of Canada, the other kind of closer-in parts, are 8.3 percent, $3.3 million. Regional U.S., the close-in markets in the U.S., is about $2.4 million or 6 percent. The long-haul U.S. market is just under $10 million, about 25 percent of our total budget. Europe is about $3 million, 7½ percent. Then the Asia-Pacific region is about $6 million, or about 15 percent.
S. Chandra Herbert: Has the amount dedicated to British Columbia changed from previous years or has it always been around 9, 10 percent?
Hon. P. Bell: I think the member said 10 percent. Actually, 23 percent was the number. It was $9.26 million. We'll provide the sheet to the member so he doesn't have to scribble down the numbers.
As part of the PDMO task force, we have also been talking about who should be responsible for each division of marketing. We chatted a little bit about this yesterday at the close of day.
One of the things that I believe strongly is that there's been a lot of overlap by different groups within the tourism industry, and it hasn't perhaps achieved the best possible result that we could accomplish. We don't kind of work very well across the industry, the different levels of DMOs — the city DMOs, the regional DMOs, the provincial DMOs — and then the private sector.
We do spend substantial money every year. I met with Rick Antonson a few weeks ago. We were talking, and we were adding up the numbers — you know, $49 million-ish for the provincial PDMO. We think we've another $40 million or $50 million in what I call the 2 percent club or the city DMOs that are funded through the 2 percent hotel room tax.
The CTC is spending…. I know they've had a 20 percent budget decrease this year, but traditionally it's $70 million-ish. So whatever our share of that is, and then you add on top of that the private sector. I think that, pretty clearly, you're well over a quarter of a billion dollars per year in spending out of British Columbia to promote British Columbia from all those different elements. Maybe more. It could be somewhere north of $300 million even.
It is a substantial amount of money that we spend collectively. It is world-class, compared to other jurisdictions. Some people will point to Alberta as spending a bit more, but it's about the only jurisdiction, really, that does. Alberta's budget circumstances, of course, are quite different than the rest of the world actually, I think. I guess Qatar and Alberta probably fall in the same category, but the rest of us have to do without the oil riches.
The sense of trying to spend our money in a way that levers each other up is a real priority. I've heard that clearly from the minister's council. In the discussions that I've had with leaders at TIABC, they've also agreed with that. Rick Antonson was very much of that view as well, also
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other tourism leaders. It's one of the things that we're just trying to wrap our minds around, and I don't have any answers. I think the good news is that the dialogue is going on. It's: "How do we do a better job of that?"
Part of that would be deciding who is best suited to market internally within British Columbia in the close-haul markets, in the long-haul North American markets and internationally. I think the general sense that we're landing on is that CTC is probably the real international division. We think we're going to have to support that. We don't think CTC maybe has the horsepower that will be necessary to achieve what we're hoping to achieve, particularly in Asia. We think we need to support that work.
We think that the PDMO is best suited for the long-haul markets. The short-haul markets we probably have a role in, along with the regional DMOs. Then inside the province, we think it's probably more the regional DMOs that need to tell that story, along with the city DMOs.
The member asked the spending track on that. We actually think that the province, the PDMO, is likely to move away from the B.C. market, more into the close-haul market — Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alberta, Saskatchewan — and then the long-haul North American market, with a little bit of spending internationally. That's kind of our spending track or where we're hoping to get to.
But we're doing it in a very collaborative way, working with our partners in the regions, in the cities. We're having some good discussions there. I think that's something that will happen on the same track as the PDMO — wherever we land there. I think that's kind of the logical place for that discussion to continue.
I think that if you contemplate — these were actually Rick's words, not mine — a four-year, billion-dollar strategy for promoting British Columbia, that's pretty dramatic. That's kind of the spending that we've been doing and are continuing to do provincially. I think the real key is coordination, and that's a high priority for us as we continue to engage in this industry.
S. Chandra Herbert: Under one of the previous ministers I've had the opportunity to work with there was the "You gotta be here" campaign, a campaign which was run through the public affairs bureau of government, targeting voting-age British Columbians, according to the marketing plan, to associate the success of the Olympics with the government.
My question is: is the ministry or is the government considering such a plan again? Obviously, not for the Olympics but another campaign targeting B.C. voters — that was the language used in the plan — to try to push a provincial message in the next while? Is that, again, as the minister is suggesting, going to be left to regional destination marketing organizations?
Hon. P. Bell: What I had previously stated, I just wanted to touch on. The additional hotel room tax is actually $28.7 million, not $40 million. That's the correct number on that.
Last year's campaign was called "Don't miss a moment." That focused on a couple of things, obviously — lots of key tourism-based initiatives but also the 100-year anniversary of parks, which is a key tourism opportunity for us. This year's campaign will speak more to 100 moments, so kind of a slight shift on it but continuing the same theme. I'm pretty excited about it actually. I've seen a lot of the work. I think it's going to be good.
I had previously stated in my answer that we are making a shift away from the province marketing inside British Columbia to the regional DMOs. That shift is occurring this year as well, and into the future. There are no major what the member opposite would think of as advertising campaigns planned for British Columbia this year. There is some Internet-based activity, that type of thing. In terms of major TV campaigns or radio campaigns, at this point we don't have anything planned.
S. Chandra Herbert: Thank you for that. Certainly, the tourism industry that I've talked to is happy to know that the industry is being worked more collaboratively with government now, and government with them, around tourism marketing campaigns. Certainly, I had a number of people who were concerned about the 2010 activity but are more interested in seeing that their leadership is being more fully embraced in developing campaigns and are hoping that it continues in that direction.
A question. Is PavCo potentially being considered to run the upcoming new provincial destination marketing organization?
Hon. P. Bell: The member is asking a question that relates to the work of the task force. I know that they have talked briefly about PavCo and if there's a role for that entity in PavCo, for PavCo in that entity. It is not a kind of top of mind discussion. I know that some of the TIA task force members have spent some time thinking a little bit about that.
PavCo does spend a little bit of money internationally. They're not here today, so I can't give the member exact numbers. I think sub $1 million, if memory serves correct, under $1 million. But it's $1 million that we spend internationally, and could you lever that up somehow?
As I mentioned yesterday to the member, the intent is to take the board from what is a construction-based board today and move it to a marketing-based board. That work has started already. There'll be an appointment that I'll be announcing shortly, I think, that is an impressive one — a fellow that has a very, very strong history in marketing British Columbia and will be a very strong addition to the team.
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I expect that to continue, and I expect that to continue over the next number of months. Maybe even as early as this summer that will be complete. We want to just wind up the final details on the construction.
Just so there aren't any surprises there, and the member doesn't say that I didn't tell him that there were going to be changes in the PavCo board. It's something the chair, David Podmore, and I have been working to. I'm very, very happy with the work David has done.
I think, in a nutshell, that PavCo hasn't…. There isn't kind of active engagement over it. I know there have been some high-level discussions around it. That may be what the member is picking up. There may be some merit in it; we're not sure. We'll have to see what comes out of the task force work.
S. Chandra Herbert: I understand that a fellow named Peter Williams, I believe, was hired to do a report, post–Olympic Games. I'm curious what happened with the report. Will it be released publicly? What were its conclusions?
Hon. P. Bell: Our understanding here is that it was initially intended to be a summary of all of the activities that the different DMOs — the regional DMO, you know, the PDMO and so on — participated in during the games. But it's a little unclear to me where that all is at. I would be happy to report back. I'll look into it, get more detail and report back to the member once I've a better understanding of it.
S. Chandra Herbert: I'm just curious if the minister is able to provide information on…. In the last estimates I had asked about how many people had left the Tourism B.C. marketing entity after government brought it in-house.
There were some numbers provided. I believe the minister had suggested it was very few. Just curious if the minister can provide an update on just staff turnover, people leaving the tourism industry marketer, Tourism B.C., since the last estimates.
Hon. P. Bell: Other than the CEO, who was eliminated at the time it was brought back into government…. When Jobs, Tourism and Innovation was created, there was a decision to eliminate two ADMs, so that's three positions altogether. Those, as far as we know, are all the positions that were eliminated.
The turnover rate for fiscal 2011-12 was 3.48, 3.5 percent. The turnover rate for '10-11 was 8 percent, and the turnover rate for '09-10 was 5 percent, which is within what one would expect of any organization with the age demographic of the current workforce.
S. Chandra Herbert: Can the minister tell us any results of employee satisfaction surveys within the ministry?
Hon. P. Bell: We typically survey our employees in the spring of each year. The last survey was done just after the ministry was put together, so the survey results from that probably don't reflect the current operating regime. It would be a combination of the mix. Typically, whenever there's change like that, it's hard to collect data that is easy to determine kind of an accurate perspective.
The next survey will be limited but will be done shortly. The next full survey will be done in 2013. Once the next survey is done, I think that will give us a better kind of…. We can take the baseline from the survey last year, compare it to this year and see where we're at. Then as we move into next year and have a full survey, we'll have a better idea.
S. Chandra Herbert: It would be helpful if the minister could share what the data was to date for the two. I guess for the one, if the minister is suggesting there was only one done so far.
Hon. P. Bell: We're just checking to see. I think that data is publicly available, but we're just checking. It might make sense, while we're checking that, rather than to eat up time, for the member to ask another question. Then we can report back on that in the next few minutes.
S. Chandra Herbert: Aboriginal Tourism B.C. obviously has been working hard. I've seen their recent strategy, their report on how things have been going to date. Can the minister explain how the ministry is supporting Aboriginal Tourism B.C. — what the budget level is for their blueprint strategy and other work that they're doing?
Hon. P. Bell: The Aboriginal Tourism Association of B.C. has been, I think, one of the real success stories of tourism. Keith Atkinson and I have a very good relationship. I think there is an incredible success story around it.
The initial agreement that we had was part of their five-year plan. It was a $5 million agreement. That agreement wraps up at the end of this fiscal, so at the end of '12-13, through March 31, 2013. We've already prepaid this year's contribution, so the money is in the bank for the Aboriginal Tourism Association.
They are currently in the process of developing their second five-year plan — kind of like China but eight or nine plans behind, I suppose. I look forward to their submission. I've not seen it yet, so I'm looking forward to it.
I think the results are pretty substantial when you look at the outcomes. The jobs during that plan period have increased from 1,718 to 2,266, which is a 32 percent growth rate. The number of businesses, and this is
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market-ready businesses, has actually just over doubled, 110 businesses in 2006 to 221 businesses in 2011. The tax revenue generated by aboriginal tourism supported by the different levels of government has consistently increased as well.
On a side note, my wife and I actually really enjoy a lot of the aboriginal tourism venues around the province. I remember a few years ago we had a very rainy drive from Prince Rupert, as it often can be in Prince Rupert, to Prince George. We had a couple of days to do it, which is unusual in our lives. Usually we do that very quickly. We were kind of wondering what we should do, because we had some time on our hands. We decided we would stop at every aboriginal tourism venue that existed between Prince Rupert and Prince George, and we just had a phenomenal time.
I mean, 'Ksan clearly is the big one, but the museum in Prince Rupert — a spectacular facility there, a lot of the really small little niche carvers and totem displays, and so on — really exciting.
One of the interesting things for me, when I was reviewing the data that Richard Porges had provided us, was a statistic that I think is relevant. It popped out at me, and it was this. I had mentioned to the member earlier in my opening remarks that oftentimes what people come to British Columbia for and what they do while they're here are two different things.
One of the ones that really jumped out at me was in the analysis of the people that came here for aboriginal tourism — a relatively small percentage, very small in fact. But I think it was about 30 percent or 32 percent of the exit interviews demonstrated that people participated in some aboriginal tourism activity while they were in British Columbia. But interestingly, a lot of them also said that they will come back, and they will come back for the aboriginal tourism opportunity.
I think it is a very rapidly growing sector. I think it's a great opportunity, something that we need to lever up. I think it is a testament to the Olympics, actually, and particularly the opening ceremonies and the way that First Nations embraced the opening ceremony and participated in it. You know, we all think of John Furlong, of course, orchestrating those sorts of activities.
I just remember the opening ceremony and watching the dancing that was going on. And I actually know lots of the dancers that were there, so it was interesting for me to see some people that I know quite well. I think, again, it really celebrated British Columbia's history. And it wasn't just the dancers. It was the entire opening ceremony and the way that the Four Host First Nations were embraced as part of that.
I think it's a great story to tell — $5 million over the first plan — and I'm looking forward to receiving the second plan.
S. Chandra Herbert: I just want to agree with the minister. I think the work of Keith Henry, the board of Aboriginal Tourism B.C. and certainly the staff as well as all their partners all across the province has been remarkable. I was up in 'Ksan, actually, in the cold snap earlier this year, and while I couldn't get to see all of the site because it wasn't fully open, it was quite remarkable in the snowy time period there. And certainly all of that region between Prince Rupert and Prince George is pretty fascinating. But really all across the province — it's a huge opportunity. I think the work of the organization is certainly paying off.
Certainly, cultural tourism is another area. Not just aboriginal cultural tourism but indeed cultural tourism in all of its aspects is one that I think we need to pay more attention to. And certainly, the minister has heard my views on this on more than a few occasions.
Just to go to an incident. I think it was a weekend, I believe, or during a week that the minister was expecting a new baby into his family, his life. Of course it was the incident…. He was in China. We heard about…. No gay tourism, no gambling tourism was the suggestion. Of course, there were many changes that came after that because that was not, in fact, the case of what was allowed in China.
I'm just curious. At the time there was a suggestion that Tourism B.C. needed to have more government people in there to help train people on what was expected, on how to do their jobs so that these kinds of things didn't come up again. My curiosity is: how much of that training…? What were costs? How many government people were brought in to Tourism B.C. to bring a more government-related focus on marketing as opposed to industry-related?
Hon. P. Bell: The member was disclosing the pregnancy of my daughter that was going through an interesting time at that particular point. She hasn't delivered yet. I had dinner with her last night. She's within six weeks or so of delivery, and we're hoping to have our first healthy and happy grandchild, and all seems to be on track for what will be, hopefully, a happy event.
I don't think we intended…. I hope I didn't express the desire to bring government people, and of course, Tourism B.C. is part of government. I think the key themes that we were contemplating at the time were the importance of some training initiatives around the kind of sensitivity of how you interact with international governments that may have different views than British Columbia.
Also, as the member knows, we did a fairly in-depth investigation, discovered where the breakdown was in the process and have, I think, resolved it at this point. We look forward to making sure that that sort of thing doesn't happen. It was, I think, an embarrassment for
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me personally, and not something that we want to repeat.
I am told that there have been three training sessions held on this issue in terms of that kind of interaction and that the bulk of the staff have gone through that. There may be a handful that haven't, but the vast majority of the staff have had that opportunity.
S. Chandra Herbert: Was that training, I guess, in-house, or were there costs attached to that?
Hon. P. Bell: The bulk of the training programs were put on by internal staff. I understand that there may have been one gentleman who used to be a deputy minister that was brought in. It would have been a very small contract, something under a couple of thousand dollars for his presence. But the majority of it was in-house expenses.
S. Chandra Herbert: Will the minister be able to provide the critic with a list of the sole-source contracts from this last year?
Hon. P. Bell: I'm presuming that the member opposite is asking for sole-source contracts delivered through the tourism division, if he could confirm that. We'd be happy to do that. We should be able to get that to the member opposite by the end of next week.
S. Chandra Herbert: I'm curious if the minister could let us know…. I know there were changes in international offices, in the work that the ministry is engaged in internationally to bring tourists here. I'm just curious if the minister can provide us a list of the international offices currently and any plans to change where they may be located, potentially, closures, new office openings and those kinds of things for this upcoming year?
Hon. P. Bell: The current Tourism B.C. offices are located in Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, London, Frankfurt and Sydney, Australia. As leases expire, I have asked the tourism division to co-locate with the JTI reps, FII reps, other reps. The goal over the coming years, without imposing any incremental costs on any divisions, is to have them co-locate and share administrative and office services in order to be able to better deliver their programming. But I am not going to — I'm sure the member opposite isn't suggesting this; I don't mean it that way — impose incremental costs in order to break leases or anything of that nature. We will do it in an orderly and logical way over time.
S. Chandra Herbert: I understand for a while there had been a plan for the London Olympics to have British Columbia House in London serve as a Canada-wide national centre where we could have a variety of provinces locate there to be able to market Canada to the masses that will be descending upon London for their Olympics. Can the minister explain why that plan was not followed?
Hon. P. Bell: I'm not aware of any plan to have B.C. House, or the old B.C. House, used to co-locate any other provinces or all other provinces. We're not aware of any discussions that would have occurred as it relates to that. I'm a little confused where that may have come from.
We did do a pretty detailed analysis of the cost benefit of going into London and doing something during the Olympics. In the end I think what we decided was that if we were going…. The member has probably heard me say this before. I think anything you are going to do, you should do well, and you should do better than anyone else is going to do.
The determination that we made was the cost of doing something really well and having a significant presence in London would be so significant that it probably would not provide the rate of return that we were looking for.
Then it really came down to a question of "Do you want to do anything?" The Premier will be attending. We will be participating in a number of different ways, but we won't be having a significant presence in London. That was a decision that was based on fairly detailed analysis.
S. Chandra Herbert: B.C. House in London — obviously, a long-time institution, I believe, over a hundred years. I understand its lease came up and that there were some issues with wording in the lease. If the minister could share with us the status of B.C. House. Are we continuing to be the person who leases out, or are we just leasing into B.C. House now? What is the status of that?
Hon. P. Bell: You know, people enter into 99-year leases, and I'm sure they assume that a 99-year lease never expires. This is kind of an interesting circumstance, because sometime about 99 years ago, someone entered into a lease for B.C. House in London. That lease actually expires on July 1, 2012.
I'm betting the member might say, "I wasn't even born when that lease…." I wasn't either, Member, contrary to some belief. Claude Richmond may have been. No, I'm not sure about that.
We have chosen not to renew that lease. We don't think that the economic value would be offset, so we are relocating to another location in London on the expiry of that lease, and that has been negotiated.
S. Chandra Herbert: British Columbia is moving out of B.C. House on Canada Day. Is that correct?
Hon. P. Bell: I think, actually, we will likely be gone by Canada Day. But the expiry of the lease is July 1, 2012.
S. Chandra Herbert: It's quite a grand structure,
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from what I've seen. I've never actually been inside the building, but certainly, Google Earth has helped me see the outside of the building, and it's got a big "British Columbia" up on the top, I believe. Can the minister share why the government of B.C. decided not renew its lease at British Columbia House?
Hon. P. Bell: I can give the member opposite about 8.616 million reasons, which is the number of loonies that it would have cost to have rebuilt that facility to a usable space. I am told that in 2008 that was £4.194 million, but we'll stick with loonies for today's purposes.
S. Chandra Herbert: Thank you to the minister for those millions of reasons. I understand that there were some issues in the lease around…. I don't know if the wording was "depredations" — something like that.
Hon. P. Bell: Dilapidations.
S. Chandra Herbert: Dilapidations that we'd have to cover if we were going to continue this.
Hon. P. Bell: An English word for "not a very good building."
S. Chandra Herbert: An English word for not a very good building. Well, I guess at 99 years, things do change — interesting conversation around 99-year leases. Even Claude Richmond changes in 99 years, and certainly, B.C. Rail will have changed in 999 years.
S. Chandra Herbert: "Even that lease will expire," the minister says about the B.C. Rail lease. Ah, yes. In a thousand years when I'm still standing here, and the minister…. Well, actually, I'll be standing over there; the minister could be standing over here. In a thousand years — ah, science. Anyways, we're getting silly here.
But I'm curious, if the minister could share with us, when the government returns to the PST, at hotels will it be looking at 8 percent or at 7 percent?
Hon. P. Bell: The general public statement by the Minister of Finance says that we will return to the PST model, or the taxation model that existed prior to July 1, 2010. But I know that the minister is looking for efficiencies in terms of how those moneys are collected and so on, so there aren't multiple taxes on bills.
I would just defer any questions of that nature to the Minister of Finance. In the odd event that I was providing an incorrect answer, I think it's better that the member ask the Minister of Finance.
S. Chandra Herbert: As had happened before, through the hotel portion of that, would all of that flow to marketing, or is marketing money looking to come from general revenue?
Hon. P. Bell: Again, the intent, I think, as articulated by the Minister of Finance, is that we would return to the model as it was. But again, I think detailed questions of that nature would be better answered by the Minister of Finance.
S. Chandra Herbert: I understand that British Columbia's tourism regions, the provincial destination marketing organizations, have put forward a five-point plan that they believe will deliver success for the government and for the regions — basically, calling for a renewed three-year commitment to the BCTR, B.C. tourism regions. Can the minister tell us: is that coming to agreement soon? Has it been agreed upon? What is the status of those negotiations?
Hon. P. Bell: I want to take the member back to some of the questions from yesterday with regards to the tourism industry association task force on PDMO. We are in discussions with the regions about their submission. The tourism industry association task force is making recommendations, advising us.
While I think the notion of a funding envelope that stretches out over a longer period of time is appropriate and allows for organizations to be managed more effectively, I want to be a little cautious about actions that we take and not tie the hands of any new model should we go forward. I think we're just being a little cautious in terms of the work that we're doing right now, specific to the interests of the task force.
S. Chandra Herbert: Certainly, I'm sure they'll understand the continuing negotiations and the development of a new marketing model. The tourism regions, I just know, are also really keen to know that their budgets in upcoming years will still be there so that they can plan long term. I understand the sensitivity around tying hands. Certainly, they'll be very happy once they know that they do have a longer-term budget, because it's difficult to plan if you're not sure where you sit year to year.
I guess I just want to get into some discussion. I know, certainly, some of my colleagues have asked questions around the forestry allocations, the ongoing review discussion, particularly in the central Interior.
The Wilderness Tourism Association, as the minister knows, has spoken out quite strongly. They're very concerned with what looks to me a view that government might focus on a short-term issue but cause damage to the long-term tourism prospects for the central Interior region — indeed, throughout that area.
Can the minister share with us what principles he's
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using to stand up for the tourism interests in that area while this discussion takes place?
Hon. P. Bell: Government is currently in an information collection process. We are, on behalf of Burns Lake — but, really, it's expanded beyond Burns Lake to the entire mountain pine beetle region — reviewing the timber supply. We're trying to better understand the decisions that were made by different land use planning tables, some of them 20 years ago, and if the values used to make those decisions still apply today or if they have changed in any way — obviously, the mountain pine beetle being a significant change.
Once that work is complete our intent is to enter into a public engagement process, which will involve tourism operators, trappers, guide-outfitters, First Nations, the public, the people that work in the forest industry across the region. Then at that point government will be guided by that advice. It will be a controversial issue, undoubtedly a challenging one for everyone. But I think it is the responsible thing to do — to collect the information, provide it publicly and then ask for advice and move forward on that basis.
S. Chandra Herbert: Certainly, when I talk to…. I guess it's the CCCTA up in Williams Lake that's responsible for that region, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association. They often will refer to the CORE process and the work they did in the '90s as great work.
They were very supportive of that process, because while it was really tough — and they certainly tell me their battle stories about how they didn't get everything they wanted — they were very supportive of that collaborative process that they could be part of. It helped them get to know each other as a community — foresters, trappers, all of the tourism operators, etc., mining industry — figuring out where they stood.
I know there is great concern that this process may not be as collaborative. I certainly hope it is collaborative so that all sides get a fair hearing and that it's not a process where the decision has already been made, but the collaboration is done after the fact in an attempt to make it seem like a consultation — as sometimes governments have been known to do.
I guess, just following along that line, one of the issues that I continue to hear about is conflict between mining and tourism, or forestry and tourism. People who've put a lot of time into developing trails for horseback riding and those kinds of things will come along and discover that, in fact, a beautiful area has now been completely logged, or a beautiful area has been developed into a minesite — or there's prospecting to see if a mine could go in there — without any notice and, indeed, impacting their business in a big way.
Can the minister share. Is tourism at the table now with the forestry sector, with the mining sector — both within ministry but, of course, also within the general public — when these decisions around site allocation for forestry or for mining are made, or is it kind of an after-the-fact thing?
Hon. P. Bell: I actually wanted to encourage the member to go and do a bit of a tour this summer if he is looking for an interesting area to view. I highly recommend it, and that's the Bowron River valley. It's not in my riding. It's in the riding of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General — her riding. But it is quite interesting and telling, I think.
Let's see, about the time the member was born — or slightly before and slightly after — there was a significant spruce beetle infestation that went through the Bowron River valley. I remember that at the time they were talking about how you could see the clearcut from space. That was kind of the dialogue that was going on around that. I visited the Bowron River. There are very interesting pictures available, of course, of the harvesting activity, and it did pretty much look like a moonscape at that time.
The interesting thing about it, though, is that now, 30-odd years later, even with relatively…. I don't want to call them primitive, but they were not advanced silviculture techniques that were used at the time. That area is amazing in its resilience, in how it has recovered.
There is abundant wildlife. There's a salmon fishery in the Bowron River that didn't exist for quite some time. It's an interesting way to look, perhaps, at what the province will look like over the member opposite's lifetime — what changes have taken place in a microcosm.
I would encourage the member, if he has time…. He probably will want to stop at Barkerville while he's there and have a look. He might even want to think about doing the Bowron Lake chain. I can recommend the Prince George Railway Museum, which of course would be important as well. I can make some other recommendations, if the member opposite would like, of other great tourism opportunities.
The question the member asked is an important one. One of the reasons why the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations was established was to co-locate all of the different decision-makers in a single office and, in fact, eventually to amalgamate the decisions under a single statutory decision-maker so that they understand the complexity of the decisions that are being made.
Historically — and this is an evolution that's occurred in many governments around the world — decision-makers were siloed in different line ministries. When they made their decisions, they often made them in isolation of the knowledge base that was available to other statutory decision-makers. With everyone operating in a single office and, eventually, with a single statutory decision-maker making those decisions, we think
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we'll get a much better level of consultation and a better understanding of cumulative impacts in the region.
So the answer is that good work is in progress. If the member is interested in getting more detail around that, I'd suggest that he canvass that issue in the estimates of the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
I think someone, at least in the world that I live in…. It has changed significantly over the last 15 or 20 years in terms of the level of activity that's going on in the landscape. As the member points out, mining activity, forest activity, tourism activity, energy activity — all of those sorts of things happening in a single landscape — do create that complexity.
We're working hard to make sure tourism interests are considered as all of that work is done. But it is a very complex world and quite a different world than it was ten, 15, 20 years ago.
S. Chandra Herbert: I know some MLAs and, indeed, some of the general public will argue that a forestry job is more important than a tourism job, and thus, we need to focus only on the forestry side right now in the central Interior area and not the tourism side as much, in terms of jobs.
Certainly, the tourism businesses in that area would disagree, and would say that no, their jobs are just as important as forestry jobs. I know, as this process continues, they're going to want some strong advocacy on their part.
I did have the opportunity to visit the Bowron Lake chain last summer, actually, and to canoe a good section of it, as well as visiting Barkerville. I would agree with the minister. It certainly is a beautiful area, and one that I would encourage everyone in the province, if they get a chance, to go see. It's truly remarkable.
However, the Bowron River valley, when it was a moonscape, wouldn't have been a very good tourism attraction, unless you like visiting the moonscapes of B.C. I think tourism folks will be concerned, if we're going to see a whole bunch more moonscapes, that that may impact their businesses drastically.
I know this process is continuing. I won't continue to try and pull out answers here, as it's an ongoing process. But there is a great deal of concern, I know, from the ecotourism businesses, in particular, up in that area. Thank you to the minister for those answers.
I don't have a huge amount more questions on this. We still have a fair bit of time on the clock, but I would ask the minister around tourism development. Certainly, I know some of that is now in another ministry. One of the questions which used to be in the Tourism Ministry's service plan was how many resorts were being developed per year with a set target, so we could test if we were continuing to develop product in B.C.
Is the minister able to share how we are doing in that regard, or is that no longer within his control?
Hon. P. Bell: The member said he did part of the Bowron Lake chain. I'm guessing he did part of it backwards, because that's the easy part.
When I was a lad and had as much hair as the member opposite, I actually did it three times. In those days they didn't have bicycle wheels that you could load your canoe on. You actually put it on your shoulders and carried it. And in those days they were wood-and-canvas canoes and weighed a hundred pounds each. It was quite a different story, but it was spectacular, and actually, I would like to get back and do it again. I think it's an amazing experience, and something that everyone in British Columbia should take advantage of at some point in time or another.
The member accurately pointed to the fact that this particular division rests with FLNRO, and the statistics are held by that division as well.
S. Chandra Herbert: Well, the minister will know that not everybody uses the little bicycle wheels, and certainly, I wasn't one of those. I learned the hard way that canoes are heavy — carrying that by myself, while my brother-in-law and my partner tried to do the other stuff. It was a good time.
It was a good time, and yes, I did the easy route, as the minister suggested, because I'd just previously hiked at Mount Robson, and that was a fun trip.
I guess the other question to the minister is: with the budget seemingly flatlined — as might be one way to describe it — for marketing over the next while in the service plan, does the minister see that changing with the introduction of a new provincial destination marketing organization? Obviously, if we're moving back to performance-based funding, that may change slightly — or are we not moving back to performance-based funding? — based on my reading of the service plan.
Hon. P. Bell: The question the member is asking is part of the discussion with the task force, so it's hard for me to kind of comment on where that may go at this point. What I can tell the member is that we've protected our budget for three years. I know the member characterizes it as flatlined. I would characterize it as protected.
I think that's important, given what we've just seen recently with CTC having a budget reduction. All government is under pressure, not due to the age of the member opposite but due to the age of the minister and all of us folks that are getting older and requiring additional health care services as we get older. It has put tremendous pressure…. I think the notion that we've been able to protect our budget going out is a positive thing at this point, and certainly, we're in discussions with the task force.
S. Chandra Herbert: I'm just curious if the minister
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can share with us what his ministry is doing to grow cultural tourism in B.C. I know many of our cultural institutions have been struggling. Certainly, we've heard about the Playhouse theatre, and that's a particular set of circumstances not just related to the recent cuts under this government.
Can the minister explain how we're going to grow what has been characterized as one of the fastest-growing sectors in tourism in the world and how we're going to be better able to support that sector?
Hon. P. Bell: First of all, I know the member often characterizes the cultural budget as having been cut. I'm not the minister responsible for culture, but I know that statistically, if you compare the last ten years to the previous ten years, there have been substantial investments and substantial increases. While it has gone up and down in any given year, over the ten-year period I think it has been a significant investment. I know in my hometown we've seen that as well.
The importance of cultural tourism is featured in our overall strategic plan. The City Stays program, in particular, is where that particular element rests, and as I mentioned earlier to the member opposite, this particular summer's campaign is 100 Moments.
I think of it as a bucket list of items, and there are a number of cultural opportunities that are listed within the 100 moments. That will be released sometime in the next few weeks, I think. It is an important element of tourism. It's a growing element of tourism, particularly for the older age cohort, and one that we recognize as part of our strategy. Largely, that is imbedded under the pillar described as City Stays.
S. Chandra Herbert: A colleague mentioned that the minister seems fixated on my age today. I'm not sure if that meant that it was a hard night and the minister is feeling a little creaky, or if I'm feeling particularly sprightly today. We'll leave that for what it is.
I'm curious if the minister would be willing to do a bit of a briefing with the critic around where negotiations currently sit with the PDMO task force. Certainly, I've spoken with Mr. Butler. I spoke to him this morning, actually, around where he saw things sitting, and he was unable to share details of where things sat.
I'm wondering if the minister would be able to share some details on where things sit currently, just so that I can feel comfortable that we're moving in the right direction. Certainly, the minister knows where I stand around having more industry leadership and formula funding for the tourism marketing.
Hon. P. Bell: I would be happy to do that. That will create challenges for the critic, because any information that I provide him would have to be held in confidence. That may be difficult for him and compromise his responsibilities in question period.
I am happy to sit down and brief the critic if he'd like to. But it would have to be done on the understanding that any information that I would provide him would be held in confidence and couldn't be used in any public way, which would include question period.
I will leave it to the member to decide whether or not he wants to take me up on that or not, and we can make a decision based on his analysis of that.
S. Chandra Herbert: Certainly, I will speak to colleagues for advice on that matter, and I will get back to the minister on that.
I know in the fall there were a number of trips to Asia. There is an upcoming trade trip set, I believe, for South Korea. I'm just curious. I took a look through various postings out of the trade trip — looking at calendars and things like that. I didn't see very much focus on tourism. There was focus on wood and, certainly, on forestry, but not much focus on tourism. I'm just curious. What were the deliverables out of that meeting, out of that trip, for tourism?
Hon. P. Bell: The bulk of the tourism-based activities on that trip would have perhaps been characterized as transportation initiatives. Certainly, the Sichuan Airlines, China Southern are both items that I think we characterized as transportation but would be more appropriately characterized, I suppose, as tourism.
We are actually contemplating a trip this fall. It is early stages, but we are thinking about it strictly as a tourism-based initiative, this one. I would characterize it as the type of trip that my colleague, who is currently the Minister of Health, who was the Minister of Forests ten years ago, initiated into China as kind of that early, exploratory program development type of trip.
We're in the early stages. We haven't made any decision on it yet, but I've had some interest from some of the major players in the tourism industry. That might be an appropriate next step for a market that at least we think may have some significant potential for growth.
I would characterize the initiatives, typically the ones that related to transportation…. Of course, I think the Barkerville initiative, as well, has been a very positive one and directly relates.
I recall signing an MOU with Tourism Vancouver and Tourism Shanghai or Guangzhou — I forget — that would have been characterized in that category.
There were a number of them that took place, but the bigger ones would have been the ones relating to the airline deals.
S. Chandra Herbert: I don't believe the minister also went to India. I believe the Health Minister was in India on a trade trip. Certainly, I could ask him what trade he
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was doing on health in India.
But a question to the minister around tourism from India. In particular, what sort of strategy are we taking on the burgeoning middle class, as they say, in India, to bring them to B.C.?
Hon. P. Bell: There are probably two or three key initiatives as it relates to India. The member opposite will know that we've been actively bidding on the IIFA, which I think is exciting and hopefully B.C. will be successful in. That has been a very aggressive initiative on our part.
Air access is another big one. There are no direct flights from India, as the member, I'm sure, is aware. That is a big issue, from our perspective, that we think would make an enormous difference to tourism from India.
Then we are in the process and have just recently announced three new trade offices in India. Again, we will be utilizing those facilities to leverage up our tourism-based activities in that market.
S. Chandra Herbert: Which ministry is taking the lead on the IIFA, and are there any ministry dollars currently dedicated to that effort?
Hon. P. Bell: The Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation is lead on the negotiations. We have an approved mandate that we're working with that's come through the Treasury Board process. But we wouldn't want to disclose the mandate publicly, given that there are other bidders that are in the mix and, I'm sure, would love to have IIFA as well. It wouldn't make sense for us to disclose that information at this point.
S. Chandra Herbert: Which year are we looking to host IIFA here in B.C.? Is it this next year? I know they plan a bit in advance, but which year are we looking to do this?
Hon. P. Bell: In 2013.
S. Chandra Herbert: My understanding is it's normally a June celebration. Is that right?
Hon. P. Bell: That's correct.
S. Chandra Herbert: What's the timeline? When will they be deciding who they are going with?
Hon. P. Bell: IIFA doesn't appear to have a regularly scheduled announcement process, like the Olympics does or other organizations do. This year, as the member opposite may know, IIFA is being held in Singapore. My understanding is the actual announcement was made in January, just a few months ago, for this June.
We are in active negotiations over it, but we've not been advised as to a decision. And the historical reference to the announcements doesn't give us any clear indication of when that announcement could be made.
S. Chandra Herbert: Which members in the British Columbia…? Who are we working with to ensure that we get the best deal out of this? I've certainly heard in the community some concerns that Toronto and Ontario did not negotiate as well as they could have because they weren't as aware of the situations, of who the players were with IIFA, who the players were in how the decisions were being made.
So who are we working with in B.C. to make sure that, if we're going to do this, we do that at a price that's best for British Columbians and that ensures that we get the most out of it?
Hon. P. Bell: There are a variety of groups that have been actively involved in the bid: the B.C.-India Business Association, the Surrey Board of Trade, the hotel associations and so on. It's a consortium or a group that has been brought in to help support the bid.
S. Chandra Herbert: Can the minister share what the reasons are, what kind of business development studies have been looked into for the IIFA? What are the arguments for why taxpayers should be putting up money to try and win the IIFA? What kind of a business analysis has been done on this?
Hon. P. Bell: Prior to going to the Treasury Board and as part of the Treasury Board presentation, we did an economic impact study to determine the potential for what sort of economic activity would be generated by IIFA. In addition, we've met with the city of Toronto and other key players in the Toronto bid to better understand their bid, what happened and the amount of economic activity that took place as a result of it.
S. Chandra Herbert: I appreciate that answer. Is that economic study available to the critic?
Hon. P. Bell: That is part of our Treasury Board submission and so at this point shouldn't be disclosed. Also, from the perspective of the bid, it would, I think, disclose information that we would not want our opponents in the bid or the other bidders to have at this point in time. So for propriety reasons we wouldn't want to disclose that at this point.
S. Chandra Herbert: Will the minister commit to making that information public, whether we're chosen or if we are not chosen, at that point?
Hon. P. Bell: I would need to seek some advice from
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cabinet operations on that, because it is part of a Treasury Board submission, so I'm unable to answer that question but can seek some advice on that and provide an answer to the critic at some point in the next week or two.
S. Chandra Herbert: Thank you. That would be great.
Just a final question. I know part of the focus of the tourism strategy was increasing air access, and I'm just curious. How is it going in terms of India, in particular, for air access?
Hon. P. Bell: The member for Richmond Centre is the parliamentary secretary responsible for this area and has been doing a tremendous amount of work to open up markets. We are seeing some improvements in some markets. India — we've not had any formal announcements, and I think it is still challenging, the direct air access from India.
We continue to work on that. It's a high priority for us. As the member knows, we've had some success out of China, in particular. But the India market continues to be challenging. The member for Richmond Centre did go and testify at the air access hearings that were held in Ottawa two or three weeks ago and continues to work on this issue.
S. Chandra Herbert: Well, I have been asked to note the hour, but maybe that's the minister's job to do that. I just wanted to wrap up to say thank you to the ministry staff. Thank you to the minister for telling me as much as he has. Certainly, I appreciate a collaborative relationship.
I know there are a number of areas where information is still forthcoming, so I will follow up with a bit of a letter. Or maybe the ministry staff has been watching the estimates. I'm sure they have. They've been taking note of some of those things the minister has agreed to get to me.
I look forward to receiving that information and, certainly, continuing to work to build both the tourism industry in British Columbia and also to ensure that B.C. Pavilion Corporation is doing as much as it can to keep costs low but to grow the convention business and also interest and activity at B.C. Place, to ensure that the public's resources are protected and indeed enhanced.
We'll see how a number of these issues unfold. It seems like some of them have been unfolding for a long time. But we know how that goes. I know in last estimates — I'm sure both the minister and myself figured that the floatplane issue would have been finished by now, but alas, that continues.
So thank you to the minister and thank you to his staff, and to everybody watching at home for their interest in growing tourism in British Columbia.
Vote 30: ministry operations, $234,108,000 — approved.
Hon. P. Bell: Noting that and noting the hour, I move that the committee rise, report completion and resolution of the estimates of the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation and seek leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 11:47 a.m.
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