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
Monday, April 30, 2012
Volume 36, Number 1
ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
Entering the workforce
One project, one process
The ABCs of extracurricular activities
Private Members' Motions
Motion 42 — Carbon offset costs for public sector organizations
MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2012
The House met at 10:02 a.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
ENTERING THE WORKFORCE
C. Trevena: I think we all remember our first jobs — the paper rounds, the babysitting, the shelf-stacking — the jobs we did to earn money for school, for cars, for clothes, for records or for that special trip. The first wage packet made you feel such an adult, participating in the workforce and earning a paycheque.
[D. Black in the chair.]
Unfortunately, for many young people in today's B.C. the picture is not so rosy. They're entering the workforce out of real financial necessity, and they're doing it at increasingly young ages. Our laws permit it, and the systemic problems within our society encourage it. For the last decade B.C. has had some of the worst child labour laws in the world. That is not an exaggeration.
In B.C. a child as young as 12 can go to work. She just needs the permission of one parent in order to be allowed to work in almost any job in any workplace. The only exclusions are mines, bars and taverns. Building sites or the bush is just fine. She can work for up to four hours a day on a school day, 20 hours a week in a school week — at 12. That is a half-time job, a 0.5 FTE, on top of a school day in a school week, when surely our society's priority should be that she is getting a good education.
You might argue that it's worse in many countries, and true, there are millions of child labourers who work in very harsh conditions for almost no pay. But those countries say they are trying to combat the practice.
They're signatories to an international treaty, which puts the age of a child able to start work at 15. In B.C. it's 12. The International Labour Organization's minimum-age convention sets out the minimum work-start age in article 2 of that convention. It says: "The minimum age specified in pursuance of paragraph 1 of this article shall not be less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling and, in any case, shall not be less than 15 years."
The subsequent article 3 specifies: "The minimum age for admission to any type of employment or work which by its nature or the circumstance in which it is carried out is likely to jeopardize the health, safety or morals of young persons shall not be less than 18 years." So yes, child labour is a scourge in these countries, but as they are developing, they know that also includes the development of their youth. They're better off educated and healthy than working in a sweatshop.
Now, 153 countries have ratified this convention. The government of Canada is one of 30 countries that hasn't, saying it doesn't have jurisdiction over the province's labour laws. We are, however, signatories to the UN convention on the rights of the child. This states: "States parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development."
Working 20 hours a week in a school week inevitably is going to interfere with education and health. Tiredness alone impacts health, and workplaces are not necessarily safe.
We all know that kids often want to work. They want to earn some money, but we have to differentiate. Earning pocket money isn't child labour. I'd suggest that it becomes child labour when going to work is a necessity. That is a systemic problem for us in B.C. because of the high levels of poverty.
In B.C. today only one parent has to approve of a child going to work. Up until ten years ago there were many more sign-offs before children get a paid job, but that changed in 2003. It's now said that the parents should be aware of where their child is working and that the working environments are safe. Yes, a parent should be aware of those things, but often they're not. Often they have absolutely no choice about their child going to work.
A child goes to work after school oftentimes because her parents are not working. They are trapped in the legislated poverty that is income assistance or disability assistance, or they're struggling on minimum wage themselves, and the family needs that extra cash to help pay the rent. Or they're children of new immigrants whose parents have not been able to find work, or refugees who, under Canada's — I would say — cruel legislation, have to repay the cost of their travel to this country from whichever place they were fleeing.
In most cases parents are not experts in the workplace. We're supposed to have regulations to ensure that professionals have oversight and professionals do that oversight. Employers can hire children 12, 13 or 14 — they are still children — as cheap labour. The level of workplace inspection has diminished over the last decade, and so there is little oversight of working conditions. The kids may not be working in the mines in B.C. It may not be 12 hours a day in a factory. But do we really know what's going on in our backyards?
I posit that we don't. In fact, Statistics Canada does not track the number of young people in the workforce. The only way to follow what is happening is by following the
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numbers of workplace injuries. The fact that we should even be raising the possibility of workplace injuries among children creates a frightening backdrop for what is becoming a reality in B.C. These have gone up tenfold in the last decade, which implies that the number of children working in B.C. has also gone up by that amount.
First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition has launched a child labour standards improvement project, and it has, as part of it, a youth work experience survey. It's an on-line survey, open to the public, aimed at youth, at parents, at educators. It's looking specifically at health and safety, at labour standards and the impact on education for young workers between the ages of 12 and 18 in B.C. It's trying to close some of the gaps and answer some of the unknowns.
We as a society have a duty to protect our children. We have a duty to nurture them. We are able to do that by investing in them and by ensuring that the laws of our province work in their favour. For the last decade we have done neither.
M. Stilwell: I rise to respond to the member opposite's statement regarding young people working, certainly an important topic. First, let me just establish a basis of facts about protecting youth workers and this government's record before I go on to talk about what I think is important about parents making that decision and children having the opportunity to work at young ages.
First of all, 12- to 14-year-olds working in B.C. are safer today than ever through regulations that, in fact, limit hours of work and, importantly — I'll come back to it — require parental approval and provide penalties of up to $10,000 for non-compliance, as well as through safety programs administered by WorkSafe B.C. Our regulations also set conditions for youth, such as prohibiting work during school hours and requiring adult supervision at all times.
Under the previous system, the government issued on average about 400 permits per year. But the reality is that a greater number of children were being employed in British Columbia. That meant that for children without permits, there were no restrictions in place under the former regime. It also meant that if a 14-year-old in Prince George wanted to have a paper route after school, he would have to get a permit from Victoria, which is clearly silly. That's why the government updated the Employment Standards Act in 2003 to protect all youth workers.
The first point that I think is really very important is: who should decide their child's activities — control of their education and control of their extracurricular activities? I think a parent is clearly the best person able to do so. While the member opposite likes to create a kind of vision of children slaving underground using their hands in mines for 24 hours a day, the fact is that most children who work with their parents' acquiescence and knowledge are doing things that are appropriate to that age.
Secondly, most of the people working at minimum wage, which would likely be the group of youths working…. There aren't too many 12-year-olds with PhDs working in an astronomy lab. The fact is that two-thirds of teenagers who are earning minimum wage are living with their parents under their roofs. Those parents view work in early life as a good way of starting an understanding that self-reliance depends on making money and managing money. They're doing jobs that give them skills and help them into the workforce.
If you look at what employers today are saying about young adults entering the workforce, what is their greatest complaint? It's that they don't have essential life skills and critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. They don't know how to communicate. They don't know how to make change. They don't have simple skills that are required by the workforce. So I actually think that for children, working under supervision in appropriately levelled skilled jobs during their educational life is very crucial to their future entering into the job market.
When you survey employers who take on students with high school diplomas, they say they are critically lacking in these basic skills. To graduate from high school without these essential life and working skills actually hurts high school graduates. The net result is that employers, when surveyed, are saying that they are hiring fewer high school graduates. We are making it tougher for even high school graduates to get into entry-level jobs, and the net result of that is that employers are saying that they are now starting to only hire young workers with two-year college and four-year degrees. What that means is that what you're actually creating is downward pressure on the value of a post-secondary education by trying to exclude teenagers from the job market under a lot of excuses that I think are outdated.
I think the general idea of children working during their school years is an important one. Obviously, the number of hours worked is important. There is research that shows more than 20 hours a week will negatively impact on education. However, the fact is that many students, including high school students, have decided that this is how they want to go through their educational life — working and studying.
I put it to you that what we need is better opportunities to combine co-op work, supervised work, work with employers in the community — to make sure that students in high school and even junior high school can see what the value of their education will be.
In closing, I would like to say that I think the youth having opportunities to work is important — safety is paramount — and will be an important part of their future.
C. Trevena: I thank the member for Vancouver-
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Langara for her contribution to the debate. There are many points on which I agree with the member — that in the best-case scenario it's very helpful for young people, as they mature, to have work experience and have that opportunity through co-op programs and through well-supervised work. But really, that's the best-case scenario, and what I'm talking about is the reality of B.C. It isn't looking at it through rose-tinted glasses.
Yes, it's best if their parents are very involved and the child has the opportunity to discuss with parents and discuss with school counsellors about what they should or shouldn't be doing. But oftentimes they don't really have that opportunity. They really don't have that choice.
It is a matter of necessity. The family needs the money, and because the family needs the money, there is an acceptance that they will do whatever there is.
I also agree with the member opposite that these workplaces have to be supervised. I think what we are seeing is that there is not the supervision of these workplaces. There are just not the supervisors available to enforce regulations that are there — regulations which I believe are too lax anyway. But there are not the supervisors there.
We had a case in B.C. where children as young as 14 were working on a construction site where there was asbestos removal — children as young as 14 involved in asbestos removal. This did come to court, and the employer received a 60-day sentence. But we all know the dangers of asbestos, and the very possibility that children as young as 14 could be put at risk on a worksite in B.C. is terrifying.
Asbestos kills. What's going to happen to those children? That is the worst-case scenario, and those are the sorts of things that can happen under our child labour laws. There is no age-specific inspection for building sites. There are inspections for building sites, but there's no age-specific…. Nobody is out there checking how old the kids are on the site. There's no one checking these things.
I think that we have a very positive view, but we also have other examples. We have a community where there is polygamy. Winston Blackmore has many, many sons, and he has said that he's signed off for dozens of his sons to work at the age of 12 up to the age of 19. Okay, 19 is a youth. But they were working for a stipend. We've got to make sure that we're protecting our young children.
ONE PROJECT, ONE PROCESS
D. Barnett: British Columbians are pleased by the federal government's recent announcement to move forward with legislation regarding one project, one review. I believe this echoes many of the proposals B.C. has made to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
We must ensure that all environmental, economic, health and cultural impacts are considered and addressed when undergoing environmental reviews. One process will make this effective and efficient and provide certainty in timelines, something that is very important to British Columbians and resource developers alike.
Approximately two-thirds of reviewable projects currently undergoing a provincial environmental assessment require federal assessment. Both levels of government have been working towards reducing overlap and duplication for more than a decade. This approach has led to increased coordination and collaboration on joint federal-provincial reviews and is reflected in federal-provincial agreements on environmental assessments, although under existing legislation each government makes its decision separately as the laws require.
Coordination with the federal environmental assessment process is challenging, because the federal government does not often adhere to provincially legislated timelines in making its environmental assessment decisions. Oftentimes this results in significant project delays.
We are trying to encourage new investment in our resource sectors. We know that B.C.'s natural resources are the future of our province. In the Cariboo-Chilcotin mining and mineral exploration are sectors which will support families and economic growth for generations to come. It is important that we have a fair and comprehensive review process to allow growth where it is permitted. B.C. is committed to ensuring all major projects go through and meet the requirements of our comprehensive environmental assessment process and all appropriate environmental standards.
B.C. at present has approximately $25 billion of potential investment in the provincial environmental assessment system. Of these, 65 percent will require federal assessment review. Delays in receiving federal environmental assessments cost jobs and economic activity.
In rural B.C., where our resources lie, it costs more than jobs and economic activity. It takes from people their hope for the future. It causes unnecessary conflicts. By eliminating duplication, overlap and uncertainty, major projects can get going as quickly as possible and create jobs in a time of global economic challenges. Time is money in rural B.C.
Communities want stability. Stability means jobs; investment means jobs. Investment means revenue to be able to provide programs for health care, education, shelter, child care and many more, and to be able to continue improving our highways, ferries and other transportation systems. One process will set legally binding timelines for key regulatory permitting processes, including the Fisheries Act, Species at Risk Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act and Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
B.C.'s environmental assessment office operates independently to examine potentially adverse economic, social, health and cultural effects during the full life
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cycle of major project proposals. The environmental assessment office works with First Nations, government agencies and the public to ensure that major projects are developed in a sustainable manner.
The province has developed a fairness and service code to give project proponents, First Nations and other members of the public an understanding of what they can expect during an assessment. Enhanced consultations with aboriginal groups are also included in the proposed legislation.
British Columbia has a rigorous environmental assessment process, and we believe that duplication and lengthy delays do not provide effective and efficient environmental oversight. We have a very robust environmental assessment process. These changes will not affect our requirement to meet existing federal and provincial environmental standards.
I am encouraged by the federal government's announcement to amend its legislation. It will improve the timelines of the federal process through legislative timelines. It will create a unified approach to First Nations and public consultation. We will see better coordination of federal and provincial project approval decisions.
Who is going to pay for the future of B.C. without economic activity using our natural resources? We need hope and prosperity for our province, for our people. Those who live in rural B.C. deserve a lifestyle they have come to know. Our private sector investors who believe in this province need to have timelines so that they may get answers and move forward, so our families can move forward, so our future can move forward.
R. Fleming: I want to thank the member from Cariboo South for having this debate this morning about one process, one review. I want to say at the outset of my comments, in response to what she has said here this morning, that I don't think anyone in this House — certainly not this side of the House, like all reasonable British Columbians — is opposed in any way to governments working together and complementing each other's efforts rather than duplicating them.
That's why I think, in principle, the idea to have the federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and environmental protection agencies federally working alongside, more closely, the provincial environmental assessment office and the Ministry of Environment and our various resource ministries is a good thing. It is a good thing.
I think even the discussion that many are having in British Columbia and other provinces in Canada about how environmental reviews can be completed on a timely basis is also a very valid discussion to be having.
But what we're not hearing from Canadians is that they wish to have environmental reviews reduced in their scope and thoroughness. In other words, Canadians do not support lowering the environmental protections that we have enjoyed for generations and built up over generations. To make sure that large projects which have a large footprint, in some cases, on the environment — have an impact on the land base, have an impact on fish and aquatic species and all those sorts of things…. They have to be done right.
Canadians have asked their governments over successive years to develop standards, to develop checklists, to develop processes that ensure that that is the case. I think this is the most important thing about what we're talking about this morning. Now we have a context for this discussion to happen, which is the federal government moving at lightning speed to roll back many of the basic pieces of legislation, processes and certainly the budgets of the environmental agencies that deliver the science and services for environmental reviews — to roll them back 40 years.
You can't have this debate in isolation from what is occurring in Ottawa in the House of Commons today with the Harper government. Unfortunately, the B.C. Liberal government has been almost silent on the changes that have been announced and are in process today, over the last couple of months.
We have a government, federally, that has announced its intention to change the Fisheries Act — specifically, habitat protection sections of that act, which were brought in in 1975. This is a piece of legislation that dates back to 1878. But 1975 was a critical year for when fish habitat became protected in Canada, and that changed how environmental reviews were done nationally.
There were other key changes in British Columbia that I'll talk about in a moment or so, but 1994 was of course the year that we created an environmental assessment process and an agency in British Columbia. That was when we started to work in tandem and in complement with the efforts of the federal government in earnest in B.C.
What a difference a decade or so makes. We now have a federal government that wishes to turn the clock back decades on environmental protections in Canada. I think Canadians are beginning to speak out. I have to appreciate that two former Progressive Conservative Fisheries Ministers, who happen to live in British Columbia, are at the forefront of speaking out against changes in Canada that could be a tremendous mistake for the environment of Canada and of British Columbia.
Why this is important to British Columbia perhaps more than any other province is because of the fisheries wealth that our rivers and streams, our freshwater systems, our coastal environments play in sustaining a salmon population and freshwater species.
We trigger, in something like six or seven out of ten environmental assessments done in this province, responses and environmental screenings by the federal government and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans
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in many cases. Other provinces do not do that — prairie provinces, for example, or even Ontario. In Ontario approximately one in ten environmental assessments works with the federal government.
It has been our tradition. It has been statutory law to work with the federal government. That is about to be changed, and people do not understand the implications of that now.
I'll tell you this. Is British Columbia ready for this? They've asked for it, but we have to understand that in B.C. today we have 30 percent fewer professional biologists working for the Ministry of Environment. We have no funds in this budget to accomplish that.
Thank you for the time this morning, Madam Speaker, to respond.
Deputy Speaker: I recognize the member for Cariboo-Chilcotin.
D. Barnett: I thank my colleague from Victoria–Swan Lake for his comments. If I may, I come from Cariboo-Chilcotin, not Cariboo South, just to clarify the record.
I find it interesting that my colleague from Victoria–Swan Lake is opposed to one process for federal and provincial governments during an environmental review process. It is one of the most important processes we have in this country and in this province. You know, we have some of the best staff in British Columbia and federally, who are working together and will have a coordinated process that we believe — and I have every faith — will be the best in the world.
Money is important, yes, and the environment is more important. But if we don't have a process where citizens, who are looking for hope for the future, and investors know what process is in place — that there is a timeline — there are many other countries in the world that they can go.
Not to take it lightly — we don't. We take it very, very seriously. When I hear my colleague across the way for Victoria–Swan Lake saying that the federal government will take the process and it will become a watered-down process…. I do not believe that, nor do my colleagues. I believe it will strengthen the process. It will make it streamlined. It will make it investor-friendly.
Citizens who live in communities that are looking for hope will not have to put up with years and years of not knowing what their future is and what their children are going to do. We on this side of the House know that investment is important to pay for health care and education and child care, football fields and baseball fields and all the great, wonderful things that we have in this country and in this province.
We talk about rolling back 40 years in time in environmental assessment process, from my colleague across the way. The future…. We move ahead. We have new scientific technology that gives us better information. We do not go backwards on this side of the House. We are moving forward. The quicker that we can work together and understand the accomplishments that will happen in the future because of good, strong government legislation, the brighter our future will be.
R. Austin: I'd like to take this opportunity to speak for a few minutes with regards to road safety — specifically around motorcycle safety. I'm particularly interested, in this regard, in looking at some changes to legislation that, I believe, both sides of the House have discussed and have agreed on in the past, around young people when they first get their motorcycles.
I'd like to take this opportunity to honour the lives of two young men who were killed in motorcycle accidents, both, tragically, at the age of 21 — Corey Lodge and Dillon Adey. What their families decided to do was to take this very personal tragedy and try and bring some public good as a result of these tragedies.
They have been working with the government over a number of years to bring in some changes that would essentially bring in a graduated licensing scheme so that young men, when they first buy a motorcycle, would do as we do with young men and women when they first get their car licence, where you can't just go out and drive a car any time. There are certain restrictions in terms of the number of people in the car, etc.
We would like to see some kind of graduated licensing scheme come in so that we don't have young men — and I say it's principally young men who buy motorcycles — suddenly being in a position where they can go out and buy, say, a 1,000-cc crotch rocket without having the expertise to ride such a powerful motorcycle and then find themselves in positions where they can't keep control of this and then, tragically, die.
A group was set up in 2005 named after Corey Lodge. That is called COREY, in his name. It refers to educating young people in terms of motorcycle safety. Here are some of the things that have been discussed in the past.
First of all, of course, a change to the laws around motorcycle helmets. For years in British Columbia I think we have been the only province to allow what people sometimes refer to as skull caps or beanie motorcycle helmets, rather than the full helmet that protects the head. Certainly, that's a change that everybody has been seeking.
In addition to that, they want to have a restriction on the cubic engine size of a motorcycle when one first starts to learn how to ride a motorcycle — not just for young people but for anybody who is starting out with a motorcycle. Also, to have mandatory motorcycle training for first-time motorcycle riders.
I think this is essential because we live in a province with a beautiful landscape. It lends itself to the wide-open spaces, of letting yourself go, with a motorcycle. I think that's part of the attraction of people who have motorcycles here in British Columbia.
At the same time, we also have a very varied landscape — one with mountains and streams and bridges and all kinds of changes in the geography, as well as huge changes in terms of our environment and in terms of the weather. I think it's important that when people first get on a motorcycle, they have those adequate lessons in learning how to do that.
Also, of course, we need to make sure that the agencies, whether it be ICBC or whether it be third-party contractors working on behalf of ICBC, make sure that when people are going to get a motorcycle licence, whether it be a valid class 6 operating permit, that they actually have in place and have fulfilled all of these jurisdictional changes that I think need to be made.
Now, I want to give a little bit of history here in terms of what has happened since COREY, the Coalition of Riders Educating Youth, was first brought into place in 2005. We have gone through seven Solicitors General since 2005, and I think that is in part the reason why we haven't seen these changes made by now.
In 2010, two years ago, as part of Bill 14, the government brought into the House and spoke about some of these motorcycle changes that I'm referring to and actually brought in enabling legislation that would enable the government to go back and work on these regulations and pass it as an order-in-council. The reason I'm bringing this up is that two years later and with four weeks left to go in this session, we still haven't seen those regulatory changes made. I would like to see that happen.
When this was first brought forward in 2005, the member for Fort Langley–Aldergrove was the Solicitor General. He said, actually, that it was an oversight when the new drivers legislation was being brought in, in terms of going from an L to an N — that they didn't actually deal with motorcycles, but they did deal with cars at that time.
Then there was a shuffle after that election, and we got the member for Chilliwack as the Solicitor General, and he decided to conduct a study of all the jurisdictions around the world. By the way, there have been lots of other jurisdictions in the world where they have made these changes, so it is about time we caught up.
Then the member for Abbotsford South took over, and he brought in and coordinated the superintendent of motor vehicles to initiate a team to look into this.
Followed by him was the member for Vancouver-Fraserview. He, to his credit, bumped up this process that COREY was asking for, in terms of making these changes.
Following him there was the member for Abbotsford West, who was the Solicitor General, and he, in fact, brought in Bill 14, which did at least bring in this enabling legislation that I have now spoken about. But since then we still haven't seen these changes made.
Following the member for Abbotsford West, we then had the member for Fort Langley–Aldergrove, who of course is now currently the House Leader here in the Legislature.
Finally, today we have the member for Prince George–Valemount.
So we've seen that we've gone through seven Solicitors General. Many of them have spoken both on the public record as well as in the media and in public, in general, around some of these changes that I have spoken to. They've spoken positively about it, and I know that we on this side of the House have also spoken positively about it.
It is absolutely essential to think that we need to make these changes to protect our youth and to protect everybody who is getting on a motorcycle for the very first time.
We know that very often people decide to buy a motorcycle in their 40s and 50s. In fact, I've actually spoken about it to my wife, who has suggested that this is the first sign of a midlife crisis.
I'm not sure whether that's the case or not. Certainly, people decide, having driven a car for many years, to suddenly pick up motorcycle driving in their 40s and 50s, as well as young people, because it's such an exciting thing to do. We have lots of young men who think: "Wow, I can't afford a car. This is way more exciting. It's way cheaper. Let's go and do it."
So let's hopefully get these changes in place as soon as possible.
K. Heed: Not often I rise in the House to say a few words, but I do when there is an issue close and near to my heart. I want to thank the member for Skeena for bringing this issue forward. I'm not going to disagree with him to any great extent on what he has brought forward to the floor this morning other than to tell you that we have taken important steps on road safety to save lives here in British Columbia.
We introduced the distracted-driving legislation to deal with people who were using their cell phones and texting, because we had an increase in distracted-driving deaths and serious injuries here in the province of British Columbia. We changed the graduated licensing program for new drivers here in the province of British Columbia because of some of the experiences with some of our young people getting killed on our streets. We introduced changes to deal with the increasing amount of impaired driving on our streets here in British Columbia that led to fatalities and serious injuries.
Later today there will be an announcement on new safety regulations that will improve motorcycle safety and reduce deaths and injuries on our roads here in British Columbia. In the last five years we've had 203 motorcyc-
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lists killed on our streets. And there was a common factor.
As a matter of fact, there's a common factor in all deaths that occur on our streets in British Columbia; that is, they are preventable.
As many of you know, I've had personal experience in dealing with these tragedies. I spent 31 years on the streets here in British Columbia. I recall very early on, in high school, where the star athlete of our football team was killed on a motorcycle. I've picked up, unfortunately, many dead bodies on the streets over those 31 years.
What really touched me in all of those tragedies was having to notify loved ones, having to go to the door at two or three in the morning and tell a parent that their son is not going to be coming home because of a senseless tragedy as a result of the motorcycle he was riding on. That has had a profound effect on me over the years.
I want to tell you, in my political experience…. And, yes, I was one of those seven Solicitor Generals here in British Columbia. I recall meeting with the families of Dillon and Corey and having the flashback of notifying parents — to understand what they are going through, have gone through and will continue to go through. We often think of the tragic circumstances that led to the death of Luc Bourdon, the Vancouver Canucks player.
I want to thank the member for Skeena once again. This is very timely that he brings this up, given that we are to enter a period where there'll be increased motorcycles on our streets here in British Columbia.
I want to finish by saying that it's not about doing the popular thing. It's about doing the right thing to save lives in B.C.
R. Austin: Thank you to the member for Vancouver-Fraserview for his comments. Of course, the member highlighted some of the advancements we've made in terms of distracted-driving legislation and the graduated licensing scheme. These, of course, are specifically for cars.
What I want to do here now is to make sure that we can bring in some safety regulations that specifically address motorcycle safety. I'm glad to hear that there's going to be an announcement later today. That is good news. Also, I'm hoping that it isn't simply an announcement with regards to the helmet. That has been in discussion for a number of years. I think it's something that everyone on both sides of the House is in agreement with.
I'm hoping that when we see this announcement later today, it also addresses the issue of bringing in a graduated licensing scheme for motorcycles. Surely, if it's important to have done it for cars, it's even more important to do it for motorcycles. Let's face it. A motorcycle is like a Ferrari in terms of its ability to drive fast. The combination of a young man with youthful experience and testosterone and a Ferrari between his legs is not a good thing.
We need to make sure that we can have a graduated licensing scheme to enable young people, when they are first going out on motorcycles, to start out on smaller bikes. It is very important that the size of the cubic engine of the motor vehicle be restricted, and it's very important that we also have restrictions in terms of how quickly they can graduate to a bigger bike. I wanted to mention that.
I also wanted to just quickly say that I respect the member for Vancouver-Fraserview and his experience of 31 years. I can't imagine what, as a member of the police force, he has seen in his life in terms of going and seeing dead bodies on the streets. But you know, that's what this is all about.
The Lodge family first found out about the death of their son Corey when they received a phone call. He had gone out and bought a motorcycle one day. They didn't even know he'd bought the motorcycle. Then they received a phone call the following day saying he had died on the Malahat, not far from here.
That is a tragedy that is absolutely preventable, and we have to make sure that we change these laws so that other families do not have to go through the heartbreak of receiving one of those phone calls. That is the purpose of this. I hope later today we see the changes that I have outlined here and that the government does not back down on those changes and simply deal with the helmet law.
THE ABCs OF
M. Dalton: There's been a lot of discussion lately about extracurricular activities in our communities in the province. I wanted to join this debate as a legislator, a parent and also a teacher, who taught, until the last election, for 15 years in the public school system at both the high school and elementary levels.
I think we all agree that extracurricular activities are an absolutely integral component of our educational system. It's central to students' success and to having a well-rounded education. By participating in music, sports, performing arts, community service, leadership, science, and other activities and clubs, students have the chance to learn teamwork, gain an increased sense of responsibility and often uncover a passion or talent they would not have found otherwise.
I've always personally made it a point to be involved in extracurricular activities as a teacher. I have seen it to be a central part of me helping students, as do thousands of other teachers across this province. There's quite a variety of things I did do. One thing — well, for sure — was in sports, helping out with floor hockey or badminton or helping out with track and field, whether it be at recess or lunch or after school. I was also involved in setting up a youth bank in the last school I taught at, Pitt Meadows Elementary, and just helping to develop life skills for kids.
We're living in a society where we're spending a little
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more than we earn — quite a bit more. We're continuously hearing from the Bank of Canada governor about tightening things up. So that's one aspect. It was neat to see how students were taking leadership and involved with this and learning some important skills.
I was also involved in sponsoring a book club. In our school district we had a book fair for about the past 30 years and would meet with dozens of students. They would read numerous books, and they'd get hooked on reading, which is important for their success and future. I can think of one aboriginal student who was quite weak but who joined the club. It was just neat to see the transformation he had as he started with the club and developed his skills and started getting into increasingly more difficult books. I know that was transformational in his life.
Another thing I did was take students on educational trips, for sure, here to Victoria to see this wonderful place. Also in my capacity as a French teacher, whether on spring break or other times, we took students to Quebec to make their language learning experience really living for them not just in terms of speaking the language but also the cultural experience. They gained a tremendous amount from that.
I also took kids overseas. This was, as those of us who have travelled…. I'm sure it's probably all of us. It's when we get to other cultures and other nations that we just learn so much and develop other interests.
I found extracurricular work to be very rewarding as a teacher, especially as I saw the impact that this involvement has upon kids.
Students and studies agree that extracurricular activities enrich the student experience. They are behind improved marks, a better outlook on life and expanded skill sets. Students who are involved with sports teams…. There are studies that show that just being involved with one of these teams helps them academically.
I was on a panel last week, along with other members here, with the Teachers Institute on Parliamentary Democracy. We had a discussion, and one of the questions presented was: how do we get students more interested in politics or in government, in democracy? We can talk directly about it. But the answer….
One of the things that was mentioned, as I said, was that that is, in many respects, part of our role as teachers in not only talking directly about it but also engaging students and helping to encourage them to take leadership, whether it be in clubs or in sports or whatever it may be. That type of engagement transfers to being an active participant in society, and that includes in government. It's important in so many ways.
Teenage years are such vulnerable years. How many children have we seen, teens we've seen, that struggle? Maybe ourselves. I did too. I thought I had too big a nose when I grew up. I probably still do, but I'm okay with it. It's all right.
We're very self-conscious growing up not only about our looks but about our awkwardness — whatever it may be. Giving students opportunities to move forward, to be successful in extracurricular activities, is life-giving. It gives confidence. It really does help. It transfers into making them winners.
That's what it's about. It's about making kids winners. It's about engaging them, in whatever way it may be. Students learn in different ways. How do we engage with them? How can we encourage them? Whether it be music, whether it be drama, whether it be sports — whatever it may be — in one aspect it does transfer, as they grow in their sense of confidence.
There's a KidSport motto that says, "Sports skills are life skills," and suggests that student athletes in B.C. are learning the importance of setting goals, teamwork, cooperation, competition and commitment, both during and after the game.
Also, there is a transference to health. When kids participate in sports at an early age, they are all the more likely to remain active as they get older and go on into adulthood. We all know that it's being active that is life-saving, and we enjoy life so much more.
Also, with student musicians. They have an opportunity to develop their skills, with positive and long-lasting effects. Studying music makes learning a new language, solving math equations, complex problems…. According to one study, the performing arts strengthen student self-expression, self-development, self-understanding, analytical skills, human understanding and competition.
R. Austin: Thank you to the member for Maple Ridge–Mission for bringing this up. It is a very timely topic, to be discussing extracurricular activities. I would echo many of his comments in terms of the value of extracurricular activities.
I think when you look at kids in school and recognize that every child is an individual, you see certain kids who just succeed at almost everything they do. But there are a large number of kids in the school system who, for whatever reason, find some of the academic subjects a little more challenging and are seeking to find ways to find some success in their school career.
I think that is the most important role that extracurricular activities play. It really, really helps those kids who don't traditionally excel naturally at academic things to find something else at school that sparks an interest and that enables them to show, amongst their peer group, that — you know what? — they're very good at this. They're very good at music. They're very good at drama or whatever it is.
I think that for those kids, extracurricular activities play an even more important role than they do for those kids who naturally sort of just go through school, find-
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ing success in lots of places. At the end of the day, what we want our kids to come out of the school system with is a sense of confidence, a sense of belief in themselves.
It is very hard if they are struggling with various academic subjects, to not have that sense of confidence. This can be the something that gives them that spark that then enables them to go in and enjoy school much more and to pay attention and to strive harder.
Take, for example, music. Now, I think that when people learn a musical instrument, quite aside from the joy they get from being able to play that musical instrument, it's the fact that they become part of a group that plays together. There is also a lot of evidence to suggest, in terms of music, that those who succeed at music…. Because of the connections made in the brain that are required to read music and to be able to play it, it automatically improves their ability at math. So here we have an extracurricular activity which has a direct link on academic ability, in terms of math.
But there are so many other things that kids have an opportunity to do and should be encouraged to do. I was walking this weekend through Terrace to the memorial for workers who have died while at work, and I was walking with a teacher through the rain. He is somebody who, for many years, has taught a woodworking program at an alternate school.
Now, you might not think that having a woodworking shop at an alternate school would be the ideal mix. But you know what? These kids have absolutely blossomed as a result of being able to do something outside of the normal pace of their studies. Obviously, they're in an alternate school because they did not find any kind of success in the traditional school.
So these are kids with all kinds of challenges, being able and encouraged to go and do something completely different that they wouldn't have access to in their home life, being taught very specialized skills with very expensive, specialized equipment and being taught by the same person who teaches them the stuff they don't really like — like math and biology.
That ability for this teacher to make those connections in a different way helps him to go, then, into the classroom to help those kids do some of the stuff that perhaps isn't quite so much fun but is an essential part of their knowledge base. I think that these things are very, very critical. I hope that parents see this as valuable and understand the kind of time and energy that teachers have always put in.
It's interesting that the member for Maple Ridge–Mission…. When speaking about his own volunteer activities as a teacher, you can sense his sense of pride and passion as to what he did outside of the classroom. I think that that is a sense of pride that most teachers, if not all teachers, who volunteer their time to do these extracurricular activities feel. I certainly get that sense from e-mails and when I meet with teachers — that they love that part of their job.
Certainly, parents really like that part of their job, because the teenage years are not only the most vulnerable years, but they're those years when, if you don't keep kids busy with all kinds of activities, then they might stray and think of all kinds of other nefarious activities that don't have a positive influence in their lives.
So it is critical, particularly during those teenage years and surrounding their whole school activity, to encourage people — teachers and kids — to get involved in extracurricular activities. I would certainly echo many of the comments from the member for Maple Ridge–Mission, and I think it's a good thing when people get involved in this.
M. Dalton: I appreciate the comments from the member for Skeena.
I suppose from the comments from both sides, just in discussing the importance of extracurricular activities, that that would explain the concern we have, that I have, with the current situation that is happening within the union. My concern is that this has become a new norm of negotiations — withdrawing of services of extracurricular activities. We understand that it's volunteer. But we all know, too, that it is actually an integral component of education. It's where kids learn.
I really believe that children are suffering from this. I have trouble, because from my perspective, I see this as really…. Well, it's not about the kids — and they'll say that too — but it really is about political activism from the BCTF. It's directed towards this government.
I just have a challenge because there have been over 150 different agreements among the public sector unions that have agreed to the net zero, and yet the BCTF, the union leadership, is just not coming to terms. There's no negotiation. It's difficult with the net zero.
For me, I see this as….
Deputy Speaker: Member. Member, can I just remind you of the nature of private members' statements.
M. Dalton: Yes.
Deputy Speaker: Thank you.
M. Dalton: All right. Okay.
We're talking about the importance of kids' futures. Even, for example, with sports scholarships, these things are put in jeopardy. There are many things being put at jeopardy right now in political activism. I really would hope that the union will take a step back and will consider how this is impacting kids. I understand that it's voluntary, but it's important.
I meet many people that are often surprised at the number of educators, of people who are in education on
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the government side. Whether it be at K-to-12 or at college level, there are a good number of us. We care — and, I know, both sides do care — about kids, about education. That's the reason why I'm just asking that we take a step back and look into extracurricular activities — not removing that.
I just know that one of the bills we brought forward a number of years ago when the Premier was actually Minister of Education…. That was the School (Protection of Parent Volunteers) Amendment Act.
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
Hon. T. Lake: We now have private members' Motion 42.
Deputy Speaker: Hon. Members, unanimous consent of the House is required to proceed with Motion 42 without disturbing the priorities of the motions preceding it on the order paper. Is it agreed?
Private Members' Motions
MOTION 42 — CARBON OFFSET COSTS
FOR PUBLIC SECTOR ORGANIZATIONS
[Be it resolved that this House urge the Government to allow universities, colleges, hospitals and other organizations to keep carbon offset payments in the public sector in order to fund energy efficiency projects that achieve real carbon emission reductions in the public sector, instead of the current system of mandatory offsets that subsidizes projects by some of British Columbia's largest industrial polluters.]
I appreciate the opportunity to debate this motion this morning because it's something that is happening in the province of British Columbia right now. There is an ongoing review by government. There is lively discussion in our communities and public sector organizations about how the Pacific Carbon Trust and carbon-neutral government requirements are performing.
The system is less than a year old. For some public sector entities, this will be their first reporting year — for example, for local government — and already we are seeing significant renovations, if I can put them that way, to the policies and the rules that govern the system of mandatory carbon offsets that all public sector organizations must pay into the Pacific Carbon Trust, which under the existing rules are then transferred over to private sector entities. It's a one-way street, Madam Speaker. We do not have a system where large emitters — B.C.'s major 75 polluters — can, for example, offset their activities by greening our schools, hospitals, universities or colleges.
The system that we have today is controversial. It's under review by government, as I mentioned, and that's what I want to talk about this morning, because I believe that the public sector should be identified for its potential to play an extremely important green building leadership role in the province, but when you look at B.C.'s emissions profile, it can only really ever play a very modest part in fulfilling B.C.'s legal statute to reduce overall carbon emissions by 33 percent in 2020. That is because, taken in sum total, B.C.'s public sector is only responsible for 1 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions in the province of British Columbia.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
The idea of taking this small sector, in terms of emissions quantity, and of taking money out of cash-starved funding envelopes for public service providers like colleges, like universities — which, by the way, had a $30 million cut to the Ministry of Advanced Education budget in this year alone….
Taking money out of the health care system and transferring it to large emitters…. For example, the 75 largest industrial emitters in the province are responsible for 40 percent of the carbon that gets into the atmosphere. The idea that the public sector's transfer of funds through offsets is going to significantly change emissions activity in the province of British Columbia is beyond the tail wagging the dog. We should have no illusions that the current system is going to do very much by 2020 or by 2050. Indeed, it is doing very little in its initial years, and that alone is a reason.
The ineffectiveness of the current structure to achieve real and lasting emissions reductions is probably the most important reason to review. But the second is that in failing to be effective, it's taking valuable public resources out of public service delivery organizations that badly need that money to be able to fulfil their mandate and core responsibilities to government and the public. That is being seriously strained by taking $25 million per annum and transferring it from the public sector.
But what's even, I think, more offensive and politically controversial for the government is where this money winds up. You've got education leaders, health care leaders, Crown corporation executives saying, "We would like to green our operations. We would like to retain funds that are part of the mandatory offset program" — which government has imposed on them to invest in energy savings in their own operations. And under the rules, as I said at the outset, they're not allowed to do that. What they have to see, the spectacle that they're forced to watch when they sign the cheque and give the money away to the Pacific Carbon Trust, is all kinds of projects getting their money to do exactly that: to invest in energy efficiency projects.
Now, I have no problem with the Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler greening its operations. Absolutely, they should do that. I have no problem with Sun Peaks Lodge
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doing the same, with the Marriott hotel in Whistler, with the Four Seasons in downtown Vancouver or the Coast Sundance Lodge at Sun Peaks. Great.
They should reduce their emissions. They should invest in energy efficiency. But they should not do that with tax dollars that are allocated to deliver learning and instruction in schools or for universities and colleges that are charged with training and graduating our students — on a one-way street, as I characterized it, to the private sector. That has to change. It's under review now, and the government should be consistent in reviewing it this year.
R. Howard: It is a pleasure to rise this morning. I think that on this file it's important for us to stand back, look at the big picture and play from your strengths, as I always say.
Right now B.C. Hydro acquires power under competitive processes without subsidies, and our power generation is already over 93 percent clean and renewable. So we have great talking points on the green file, and I think British Columbians have good reason to be proud of the work our government has done to position B.C. as a leader in climate action.
Our record clearly shows that we've taken more steps than any other government in B.C.'s history to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to develop a thriving green economy. I think that's important, because as our green initiatives create jobs…. If you create enough jobs, you end up with different little pods of green activity in the province. And if you end up with enough pods, you end up with an industry, a world-leading industry. I think that is the tack we're on and as we see professed, again, by the Canada Starts Here: The B.C. Jobs Plan.
As a government at the forefront of carbon neutrality, we face issues that nobody else has encountered. There is no playbook. I think as a result of that leadership, you know you're going to run into issues along the way. And it's extremely important to note, to recognize that after listening and consulting with public sector organizations we announced a $5 million capital program available to all school districts undertaking energy efficient projects.
We led. We reviewed our progress. We self-corrected. And I know the members opposite don't quite recognize that approach. They're very firm in their beliefs. They believe that so acute are their decision-making powers that they will no longer do things that they've done in the past. They will no longer be in a position where they have to self-correct.
We look at files such as Windy Craggy, files such as Carrier Lumber, where $130 million plus-plus gets flushed down the toilet. We look at Raiwind power, where millions of dollars have gone — and I mean offshore, gone — and, of course, the mother of all unrepentant resolve that they knew best is the fast ferries. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars disappeared from our provincial economy. When they do get caught, they actually make attempts to backdate the memos and pretend it never happened in the first place. So….
Deputy Speaker: Hon. Member, if you could contain your remarks to the intent of the motion.
R. Howard: Of course.
I would like to talk just briefly about the Finance Committee. I chaired the Finance Committee. We toured the province with members of the opposition. We made resolutions. It is worthy of note that the opposition did not support the resolutions with respect to the carbon tax that we made on that committee.
I see I'm running out of time, so I'll close on the point that the position of the opposition is so contorted that it must be painful. Their verbal gymnastics have reached Olympian proportions. They're for it; they're against it. They vote in favour of it; they vote against it. It is a constant problem.
Leadership doesn't wait for the wind to blow before making decisions. Leadership takes action. Leadership produces a triple-A credit rating. Leadership produces jobs for B.C. families. Leadership produces Canada Starts Here: The B.C. Jobs Plan. On this side of the House we recognize leadership. We've taken leadership on this file. We're proud of the leadership we've taken, and we look forward to the opposition members finally, once and for all, clarifying their position.
N. Macdonald: Thanks for the opportunity to speak to the motion, which will be a contrast from the previous speaker. Nevertheless, let's talk about the Pacific Carbon Trust and the motion that's in front of us here today.
The initial design of this initiative, which took money from public institutions and put it into the Pacific Carbon Trust, was flawed from the beginning. It was either incompetently designed or, more likely, intentionally set up by former Premier Campbell to take public money and put it into private hands. What I would say is that that's the pattern we saw with the IPP initiative. The exact same thing happened. Just like the IPP initiative — which is in full retreat now, and the government had to come forward with legislation to step back from the folly that it had entered into — the same thing is happening here.
Let's be clear. With school districts that were already underfunded, they needed to take money and pay a penalty for their carbon footprint. That money, in my school district….
Deputy Speaker: Members. Members, I'm finding it difficult to hear the speaker who does have the floor.
N. Macdonald: Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you
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for your protection from all of these who would try to interrupt what I have to say.
That money, in my school district, was $42,000. That's Rocky Mountain school district No. 6. Last year, across the province, $5 million was taken out of public education. It was then put into the Pacific Carbon Trust, from which school districts could not get access to funds. They did not have the ability to access the funds that they were putting money into. You had one year where the ministry did not even give grants for the physical upgrades, so there was no way for districts to actually modify their carbon footprint. Of all the plans that you would put in place, that seems a ridiculous way to manage things.
Those projects that were needed for school districts, then, really didn't have funding. Instead, they were penalized, and public funds that should have gone into operations, which in our school district could have paid for the teaching assistants that are needed, instead went into programs that public institutions could not access.
Those projects that were approved for private companies have raised a lot of questions, but that's a separate discussion. So let's just stick with what we have here, because now the B.C. Liberals are backing away for school districts. But even that back-away, even that admission of mistake, is messed up.
We could spend a lot of time talking about the retreat that the B.C. Liberals have done on the public school initiative, because that's messed up too, Minister. Minister, that is messed up as well. So that's the retreat that has taken place.
What this motion says is that same retreat of B.C. Liberal folly needs to happen with universities, with colleges, with hospitals and other government-funded institutions that are currently paying into the Pacific Carbon Trust. So the government already admits that the initiative was flawed. They already admit that it is flawed for public education. It still is flawed. At the very least, let's include universities, colleges, hospitals in the retreat that we saw with public education, and then, further on, let's get the policy right.
The B.C. Liberal retreat is a flawed, half-thought-through retreat, but nevertheless, it's better than what we have in place. So let's apply it to all of the public institutions that have funds taken from them and put into the Pacific Carbon Trust.
I have to say, in wrapping up, that the B.C. Liberal approach to these policies…. They often seem to be telling themselves that they're good managers. I think just the advice I would give is that it's a really bad mistake to believe your own propaganda — to approach these things with the hubris that they do. We see example after example. The Pacific Carbon Trust is one where it is a half-thought-through, botched process that we return to in this House to try to fix, and this is just one more example.
So thanks for the opportunity to speak on this, and I hope that the minister responsible will move on this motion and try to fix some of the problems that were handed to him with these initiatives.
B. Bennett: Thanks to the member for Victoria–Swan Lake for the motion.
We refer to this time period on Monday mornings as private members' time. I think that means that private members are able to stand in the House and express their personal view on important topics, which is what I intend to do this morning, speaking for myself and no one else on either side of the House, and certainly not government.
It's my view that the motion is much too narrow in scope. I know that the opposition loves to talk about how to redistribute other people's money, and I'm sure that's what they'll do this morning. I would rather talk about how we can use the tax dollars that are sent to us more productively. I'd also like to talk a little bit about how we might be able to reduce the taxes that are collected from our citizens.
It's my opinion that government should get rid of the carbon tax as soon as it can afford to do so. When the carbon tax was brought in there were, of course, corresponding tax concessions that were made that will make it difficult for government to terminate the carbon tax. But as quickly as we can afford to do so, I believe, in my personal opinion, that we should do that.
In fact, I would go a little further and say that the whole policy regime that's based on the notion that the B.C. government can do something about the amount of human-caused carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere should be rethought — again, my opinion.
Let's say that the climate change theory is true. Many, many people believe that it is, including many scientists — that theory being that human-created carbon dioxide is causing catastrophic climate change to the extent that government should use scarce, precious, public resources to try to decrease the human-caused carbon dioxide.
Canada is apparently responsible for about 2 percent of the world's human-caused carbon dioxide — that's right, 2 percent. B.C. is therefore responsible for perhaps as much as 0.2 percent of the world's human-caused carbon dioxide. So essentially, B.C. cannot make anything close to a meaningful difference in reducing carbon dioxide emissions globally.
It seems logical to me that if B.C. has no chance of influencing the reduction of human-caused carbon dioxide on a global level, B.C. should focus on what it can control.
Now, I base this radical notion on the principle that elected officials have a duty to spend people's tax money in ways that create the maximum benefit to the public. If spending people's tax dollars is not having any appreciable impact on the emissions of CO2 into the global atmosphere, and if those same tax dollars could be directed by
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elected officials to initiatives that would bring more benefit to the public, why would government continue to use those scarce, precious tax dollars on an initiative that has virtually no relative benefit?
There are important matters that B.C. can actually control by applying its resources strategically and thoughtfully. What B.C. can control are two things. First of all, B.C. could take action to mitigate the impact of predicted climate change. If sea levels are rising, there must be things that we can do to prepare for higher sea levels. If we will be able to grow crops where we cannot now grow crops or perhaps not grow crops where we currently can, shouldn't we be taking action to prepare for what we are told are inevitable eventualities?
Secondly, B.C. can focus the resources expended currently today to reduce human-caused carbon dioxide on the reduction of air and water pollution. We can also use those resources to provide stronger environmental management for our beautiful land base, including better management of our abundant fish and wildlife gifts.
I just spent the weekend in Courtenay with the B.C. Wildlife Federation at their annual conference. There are many, many initiatives that would benefit fish and wildlife that don't cost hundreds of millions of dollars that elected officials could invest in. Unlike our efforts to make a difference on a global scale with the human-caused carbon dioxide, these efforts would produce tangible, measurable benefits to our natural environment and to our people.
I know that this opinion is probably borderline blasphemy to some members on both sides of the House, so let me make something clear. I believe in reducing waste in our society, and I try to do my part personally. I believe in conserving resources, particularly energy.
Cars that use less gas are a good thing. Generating electricity…. Extracting natural resources while emitting fewer SOx, NOx and particulates is a very good thing. Government should focus on that. Reducing substances harmful to our streams, lakes and rivers is also a very good thing. Government ought to focus on that. Managing our fish and wildlife in ways that grow populations would be a wonderful thing. Government should focus on that.
All of these initiatives would have a profoundly beneficial impact on the natural environment and would be consistent with the values and aspirations of most British Columbians.
M. Sather: We're debating the motion with regard to the issue that began with the requirement for public institutions such as schools, hospitals and universities to be carbon-neutral. In order to do that, the mechanism that's been set up is that these institutions pay into the Pacific Carbon Trust. Obviously, they don't have enough money and resources right now to become carbon-neutral, so they pay into the Pacific Carbon Trust to offset their inability to reach carbon neutrality.
This money, then, that they pay in is forwarded to various companies as a credit, allowing them to afford, apparently, to introduce low-carbon technologies. A question that comes up, though, at least for me, is: why is the public sector required to be carbon-neutral but the private sector is not?
Really, what amounts very clearly to…. What's happening here is that the public sector is subsidizing the private sector. That is consistent with other measures that the government has taken, such as in the field of taxation.
In the case of schools, the government has decided that they will reimburse, essentially, schools for their payments to the Pacific Carbon Trust, and then the schools can use that money to reduce their carbon footprint. But it seems simpler for me in that case for government to provide schools, then, with more money to reduce their carbon footprint rather than going through the Pacific Carbon Trust, which is a rather roundabout way.
If the money is going to end up back more or less where it started, then why not…? The Pacific Carbon Trust itself is subsidized, so there's another cost there. It might be a simpler way of doing it, but I think that points to the fact that it really is intended to head towards the private sector. It leads me to conclude that the project is not really about carbon neutrality for the public sector but about subsidies to business.
The problem, and it has to be mentioned, I think…. The projects that are being used — there's been a lot of discussion about them. There's been criticism, certainly, of some of them. I know, for example…. I have some experience with one organization called Ecosystem Restoration Associates, which is one of the companies that signed a recent letter to the Vancouver Sun defending the offsets funnelled through the Pacific Carbon Trust.
ERA, as they're called for short, come to municipalities such as Maple Ridge, and they say: "We will essentially cut down a forest that now exists and plant with new trees." The municipality gets to claim, "Wow, we planted 300,000 trees" or whatever, but it's kind of a mug's game because they're cutting down larger trees to plant small trees, and it's going to take…. You know, they're cutting down the maple and the alder to plant fir and spruce and saying that they're restoring nature as it should be, which, of course, completely ignores natural succession in forestry and all the values that that has.
But in the end, what they were doing — and I don't know if they're still doing it — was that they were selling…. Their sole purchaser for their product, if you will, was Air Canada. Air Canada would then sell these credits to travellers who wanted to offset their carbon footprint. But I don't see in that whole thing where any greenhouse gases were really reduced.
It's projects like that that really reduce the public's
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confidence that we're actually doing something for the environment. We may be, in other cases. You know, if a company is going out to buy large tracts of the rainforest in the Amazon, which is going to be cut down, deforested…. We're talking about the lungs of the planet there. That would seem to me to be a positive thing to do if they sell those offsets, then so be it. But in order for us to gain confidence with the public, to give confidence that we're doing something with carbon offsets that's of value, we have to be sure that it's being done right…
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
M. Sather: …and the public sector should be able to spend some of that money themselves.
D. Hayer: It's a pleasure to speak on this motion, Motion 42, on the Pacific carbon tax. This time, private members' time, is to discuss what our constituents think and to speak about the motion.
I think this motion is just a very small segment of what this member of the opposition thinks is important to his constituents from his point of view or his party's point of view. We're here to discuss much broader issues about the carbon tax than just about the Pacific carbon tax motion itself.
When I talk to my constituents, we explain to them that back in 2008 when Premier Campbell brought in the carbon tax, the carbon tax was brought in as revenue-neutral. Basically, whatever money they took in from you, the same amount was put into income tax cuts. But most British Columbians when I talk to them don't believe that. They think the government takes the carbon tax money and uses it in general revenue, and it never makes any positive impact as far as they're concerned.
They are also saying that we have to be very careful about the environment. We need to make sure that we have a clean environment. We need to have clean air and clean water because for us to live, regardless of what your background is or what income level you're from or what business you run, we need to breathe clean air to survive. We need to have clean water to live on. I think both sides of the House would support that.
If you take a look over the last number of years since the carbon tax was brought in, the economy and the world have changed. When the carbon tax was implemented, many of my constituents were against it. There were some supporting it, but many of the businesses I talked to were against it.
With the carbon tax, we did develop some new industries that created new green jobs. British Columbia is looked at as a leader not just in Canada but around the world with the carbon tax. They said the benefits were great. Sadly, because of our recession in 2008 and the meltdown of the banking system around the world, economies started failing all around the world. Revenues were decreased by billions and billions of dollars in our province and all of the countries.
People now look at the carbon tax or these types of initiatives from different perspectives than they did before. It is our job to make sure that we listen to all of our constituents — the people who support carbon tax and the ones who would not support the carbon tax — and also look at the businesses that are supporting the carbon tax and the ones that are not supporting carbon tax and what effect a motion like this, Motion 42, has. Our government listens to the schools and universities and tries to help them out — school boards and the municipalities, and how the carbon tax is affecting them.
This takes me to something else. In my job as MLA for the last 11 years, I have taken many trips around the province to listen to different constituents, as have many other members, including eight or nine years that I served on the Select Standing Committee on Finance.
This year the Select Standing Committee on Finance reported its Budget 2012 consultation issues in November 2011. The members in there included the members for Richmond Centre, Kootenay East, Surrey-Tynehead, Peace River North, Vancouver-Langara and North Vancouver–Seymour, and from the NDP side, the members for Stikine, Surrey-Whalley, Vancouver-Kensington and Cowichan Valley.
Many of the things we supported are what the committee recommended. There were some parts that we didn't support. Some of the things that were not supported — I'm going to read from that — by the opposition, from what I remember, is recommendation No. 59, which is to cap the carbon tax rate as of July 2, 2012, which was recommended by lots of people who presented.
Also: "Address the inequity of the B.C. cement producers rising from the imported cement not being subject to carbon tax." That affects the competition, they feel, in business, because the cement will come from the U.S. or other parts of the world.
"Review the impact of carbon tax on all business sectors and develop a strategy to keep B.C. business competitive with other jurisdictions." Again, this was not supported by the NDP members, but all of the B.C. Liberal members supported it.
"Consider immediate carbon tax exclusions for agriculture, including the greenhouse sector and public institutions." Again, this was supported by the B.C. Liberal members on the Finance Committee but not by the NDP members. "Stop further expansion on the development of cap-and-trade until the province has sufficient trading partners to trade with."
The carbon tax idea was a good idea, but I think that, like the member for Kootenay East has said, we have to look at how it's being affected now and how we can move forward positively.
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B. Simpson: It's quite fascinating that we've had a number of members from the government side speak to this, claiming it's private members' time and that private members can speak to things in their constituency. Yet they go on about the carbon tax, which is completely, fundamentally different than what the motion is on the floor.
For the edification of those members, here's how it works. If you're a health authority, you pay carbon tax on your fuel. You pay at $25 a tonne; it's going to go up to $30 a tonne. Then under the Pacific Carbon Trust and under carbon-neutral government, you pay a tax on the emissions from that fuel by cutting a cheque for offsets to the Pacific Carbon Trust. In no other jurisdiction in the world is any entity double-taxed like that. That's the fundamental flaw in this system.
For health authorities last year, they had to give over $5 million out of all the health authorities into the Pacific Carbon Trust for emissions offsets, and at the same time they were paying about $5 million in carbon tax on their fuels that created that emission. That's just crazy. That's bad public policy. It needs to be fixed. Well-intentioned or not, whether it was a deliberate attempt on the part of the government to transfer money from public to private or not, it's just bad public policy that needs to be fixed.
It's all predicated on the claim of carbon-neutral government. The fact is that carbon-neutral government is just simply a bogus claim. In order to get to carbon-neutral government, which requires us to take $14 million from operating budgets in the public sector — from classrooms, from surgeries, from seniors care facilities' operating budgets — to put into the Pacific Carbon Trust, you have to discount.
School bus emissions are not calculated in carbon-neutral government. Ferry emissions are not calculated in carbon-neutral government. The activities associated with this Legislature are not included in the calculations for carbon-neutral government. There is no carbon-neutral government. Therefore, the way you get access to these offset moneys and you fix it is to stop the nonsense around declaring ourselves carbon-neutral government.
Quite frankly, my concern about that claim, that bogus claim, is it gives people comfort that because less than 1 percent of all of the emissions in British Columbia can be declared neutral by this distortion of capping the public sector and double-taxing the public sector, somehow we're okay — that we're going to meet our 2020 and 2050 targets. We are not, because the government's industrial policy will prevent that.
The fallacy in the government's thinking, the weakness in the government's thinking, is shown in spades by their so-called fix of a few months ago, where they're going to give school districts capital money equivalent to the operational money they have to take to buy offsets. Well, my school districts — this is a constituency matter — will not be able to take advantage of that new capital money, which is only for this year so far. They won't be able to take advantage of that because they don't have money to do capital projects, and it's a contribution to a capital project to reduce GHGs.
In order to truly get at this, what needs to happen is that government must swallow hard and say: "Carbon-neutral government — good idea, but it's not working. It's a distortion of tax policy. It's bad public policy. We're going to fix it." Get rid of carbon-neutral government. Put a cap and a tax on oil and gas fugitive emissions and processing emissions. That's the single largest growing source of emissions, and they are not taxed at all under the current carbon tax system. That's where people get their backs up.
You have money from the public sector going to a company like EnCana, which in one processing plant that it owned produced three times as much emissions in one year as the entire public sector combined. Yet it gets money from the Pacific Carbon Trust that is taken from the public sector, which is capped and is one-third of that one processing plant in total emissions in any given year. It's just bad public policy.
I think it's time that the caucus members who agree with that revolt set their Environment Minister straight, swallow hard and end this bad public policy.
C. Trevena: I stand in this debate on the future of the Pacific Carbon Trust with some real concerns. The member for Surrey-Tynehead, in his remarks, talked about how the world has changed since the carbon tax was brought in, since the green agenda came. I absolutely agree with him. The world has changed.
Climate change is evolving more rapidly. We have to deal with things much more quickly. Unfortunately, we had a government that played around with the green agenda for a little while and seems to have forgotten about it completely. They seem to have some sort of strange balancing on the Pacific Carbon Trust where it will reward one sector and not the other.
What we need to be doing, what we should be encouraging, are two things. One is that fundamentally, what we should be encouraging is reducing emissions. That is the way that we deal with climate change. If we don't reduce emissions, we are blowing in the wind. There is no point just talking and saying that we're going to literally do what we are doing at the moment, which is to get one sector to fund another sector. What we all need to be doing is reducing emissions.
In the public sector, in service areas such as hospitals, such as universities, such as schools …. These are large institutions. Yes, they create emissions. Of course they create emissions, but they are not what would be deemed the big polluters. So how can we help them?
What we could be doing is ensuring that any moneys
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they are collecting go back into retrofitting, into making their operations energy-efficient, into making sure that you have the sealed windows, that you are using the best quality — whether it's air conditioning or cleaning products, all you can do to make sure you're having minimal impact on the environment.
That is good public policy. It's very interesting, looking at it from the outside. The government that came in with its green agenda — it brought in the Pacific Carbon Trust and told the public institutions that they had to fund in the way that they do — has now turned around and said that, well, actually school districts don't. Good move, Madam Speaker. Good move.
In fact, Mike McEvoy, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, says: "School trustees sent a clear message last spring that they support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but moneys charged to boards of education should be reinvested in board-of-education projects. I'm pleased the government has responded positively to our advocacy. This funding will allow us to invest in energy efficiencies for our schools that will now save energy, save money and improve the environment for our students now and into the future."
This is what other public institutions need. This is what other public institutions want. Prior to another mistake of this government, prior to the HST, there was a formula that could be used to ensure that money was offset and went into this for the public sector. Public sector institutions allowed them to invest in sectors that are going to be good for the environment. They can reinvest in energy efficiency. They can reinvest in retrofitting.
For the private sector, there used to be a clean energy fund. This was brought in under the Liberal government, and it was, I think, maybe a better use of ensuring that industry started transitioning to a low-carbon economy. This, however, got lost in the HST. It disappeared, so the encouragement that was being offered to the private sector has disappeared.
We really need to be making sure this is something that is working for the public sector, because we are responsible for the public sector. We as legislators do have that responsibility. I've got to say that I understood that even the Environment Minister had some understanding of this. He says: "I've asked the Pacific Carbon Trust and our climate action secretariat to go and talk to stakeholders and give some thought as to how we can achieve our carbon-neutrality status and yet be able to help out the public sector with their reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. I think that the public would like to see it, and so we're trying to look at ways in which we can make that happen."
That was just last October. We really need to be ensuring that the public sector gets the support, ensures that they can invest in retrofitting, ensures that they can invest in their carbon neutrality without having to pay the private sector, without having to put it into the Pacific Carbon Trust. The fundamental is that we all have to do everything we can to reduce emissions. Industry has to, public sector has to, and individuals have to.
J. Thornthwaite: We are proud of the work our government has done to position B.C. as a leader in climate action. Our record clearly shows that we have taken more steps than any other government in B.C.'s history to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a thriving green economy. We're responsible for a number of environmental firsts spanning all sectors of government, including introducing the continent's first revenue-neutral carbon tax and setting greenhouse gas reduction targets.
On April 5 we announced the carbon-neutral government's next step. This was in response to the fact that, being the first province in North America to become carbon-neutral, there was no road map. When you are leading on policy, like we are on carbon-neutral government and the carbon tax, you're going to run up to things that no one else has encountered.
This situation provided us an opportunity to ask what's working and what's not and to find ways of improving it, which is what we've done. We consulted with public sector organizations, including school boards, the school board trustees association and school superintendents.
April 5 is when this announcement was instigated to reaffirm our commitment to being the first carbon-neutral government through a new $5 million capital program that's available to school districts for energy-efficient projects that will lower their carbon emissions. Starting in 2012-13, the new K-to-12 energy-efficient capital program will be available to boards of education through the Ministry of Education. The amount of available funding has been set to be equal to or greater than the total amount from school boards each year for purchases of carbon offsets from the Pacific Carbon Trust.
I've got a couple quotes from school trustees. Michael McEvoy, who's the head of the B.C. School Trustees Association, said: "B.C. boards of education strongly support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The funds will allow us to invest in energy efficiencies for our schools that will help save money, save energy and improve the environment of our students now and into the future."
Patti Bacchus, who's the chair of the Vancouver school board, said: "In Vancouver we spend about $500,000 a year on carbon offset fees. The good news is that we'll be getting some of this back, so we can actually improve our schools and hopefully find energy savings. We're also pleased that the SmartTool fee, which we've been required to pay now for several years and which adds up to about $50,000 a year, will no longer be a requirement."
In addition to eliminating measurement costs and streamlining the current system, we've also set up the Pacific Carbon Trust advisory panel to ensure that the
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Pacific Carbon Trust offset portfolio meets the needs of stakeholders. The panel will play an ongoing role in reviewing the structure and diversity of the carbon offset portfolio program and provide suggestions regarding future offset opportunities.
Who's going to be on this? Public schools, the School Trustees Association, post-secondary institutions, colleges and institutes, and public health institutions, in addition to the climate action secretariat and others. So we're taking steps forward.
I just want to talk briefly about Lonsdale Energy Corp., because this is right in my backyard. Since 2004 this award-winning district energy system has been providing customers with dependable, clean, competitively priced energy. By heating the community naturally, the city of North Vancouver significantly reduces the demand for electricity and supports global and local climate action efforts.
Our brand-new school board office, as well as the Artists for Kids Gallery, will be hooked up to the Lonsdale Energy Corp. Right now it's digging geo-exchange wells beneath both the North Vancouver school district's new administration buildings and the adjacent Rey Sargent Park during their development.
The temperature that's far below ground remains constant throughout the year, so fluid pumped from a cold building in the winter is warmed and pumped back up for heating. In the summertime the process reverses. Warm fluid from the surface is pumped underground and cooled. The heat energy will be used throughout the LEC system. These geo-exchange wells will reduce the total greenhouse gas emissions at the Lonsdale school development by 171 tonnes.
In summary, B.C. is the North American leader in climate action. We were the first Canadian co-chair of the Western Climate Initiative, which promoted climate change policies in 11 states and provinces. As well, we were the first jurisdiction in the world to legislate a broad-based, revenue-neutral tax on carbon emissions that will take almost 800,000 vehicles off the road — or have the effect of. By law, every cent raised by the carbon tax is returned to individuals and businesses through tax cuts.
M. Farnworth: It's a pleasure to rise and speak to this motion, which is Motion 42: "Be it resolved that this House urge the Government to allow universities, colleges, hospitals and other organizations to keep carbon offset payments in the public sector in order to fund energy efficiency projects that achieve real carbon emission reductions in the public sector, instead of the current system of mandatory offsets that subsidizes projects by some of British Columbia's largest industrial polluters."
It's pretty straightforward, and it's a resolution that makes a lot of sense. In fact, it makes so much sense that the government seemed to recognize part of that when they said that schools would now be able to do exactly what this motion is asking for.
The question that we have to ask ourselves is: if it's good enough for schools, why isn't it good enough for other public sector institutions? Why can't they take the carbon offsets and invest in energy efficiency in making their schools more green-friendly, reducing the carbon emissions that their public facilities produce?
If it's good enough for schools, why isn't it good enough for universities? Why isn't it good enough for hospitals? Why isn't it good enough for other public institutions?
That's what we're debating today, even though some members have said that they want to use the time to talk about their own view of climate change and their own view of carbon offsets. The fact is that that's what this motion is about. I can understand their reluctance.
I see the member for Surrey-Tynehead smiling, and I can understand their reluctance to address this, but this is an important issue. Other jurisdictions are starting to do this, as varied as New South Wales. Alberta, for example, is allowing public institutions to borrow against future offsets to make investments today — energy savings — in making their institutions more green-friendly, more energy-efficient, and reduce greenhouse gases.
What's also surprising is that there are still people in this chamber who think that we really don't need to do anything because British Columbia's population makes up or contributes only 0.2 percent of the emissions that this country does. Well, we share one atmosphere. There's lots that we can do. Just because we only make up 0.2 percent doesn't mean that we should do nothing or that the issue is not important.
I'd like to highlight that attitude by pointing to two examples. There's an alliance of small nation states concerned about global warming and climate change. One of them is Kiribati. It's in the South Pacific. It's got a population of a couple hundred thousand. If British Columbia is wealthy and as rich as we are with just making 0.2 percent of Canada's emissions, this tiny nation probably makes 0.0001 percent.
They could take the attitude that the member for Kootenay East said: "Well, anything we do doesn't matter." But they recognize this is such a serious problem that they are already making arrangements with other Pacific nations to rehouse their entire nation's population. Such is the threat of rising ocean levels to them.
If that doesn't grab your interest, how about something closer to home? We have up north the polar bear, an iconic Canadian animal. Last summer Canadian scientists tagged two bears, a mother and her cub. As they go out to the ice and hunt for seals, normally it takes two or three days. Well, they start swimming. Three days out they have still not reached the ice. On the fourth day the cub disappears. It has drowned. The mother is still swim-
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ming. Who knows what she felt, having can't-turn-back maternal instinct, but she keeps swimming and swimming for another six days.
Ten days later she reached land or she reached ice — 24 hours a day, no food, no water, where the journey used to take two days. She rested for three days and then got back into the water and swam for another six days. When they recovered her, she had lost a third of her body weight. This is happening because the Northwest Passage is becoming more and more ice-free.
Yeah, maybe British Columbia does contribute 0.2 percent of Canada's emissions, but the bottom line is this. We are one of the wealthiest provinces in this country — abundant resources — and we can do a lot to impact climate change in our province and in this country. Our country can play a leadership role internationally. That's what this resolution says we should do.
R. Hawes: I'm looking at this motion, and what I see in the motion is blatant hypocrisy, frankly. The Finance Committee, when it met earlier this year, brought forward a number of motions that basically contained what is in this motion, and the NDP members on the Finance Committee all voted against that.
Now we have an opportunity for political opportunism, and it is jumped on by the NDP. I call it blatant hypocrisy. The word "subsidy" — "subsidizes" business — is used in this motion. If you think about the history of those on the opposite side, Skeena Cellulose has to come to mind as one of the most blatant, idiotic subsidies in the history of British Columbia, an absolute loser of a mill that was so antiquated it went broke.
Billions are put into it by an NDP government trying to prop it up, and what happens, of course? It fails again. But when it fails, while it's being subsidized, it takes down similar modernized, newer pulp mills because you can't subsidize one part of an industry the way that was done by the NDP without harming other parts of the industry.
So here's the problem. When we have a government that is trying to move things forward and build an economy, and we have an opposition who is, with a huge amount of hypocrisy, rewriting history…. If you look at what is being said on the other side on a constant basis about what happened in the '90s when, according to those opposite, jobs were plentiful, the province was doing well and everything was going well…. [Applause.]
Isn't that interesting, Madam Speaker — that those members opposite would applaud? Isn't it interesting, when the only people in British Columbia who understand what happened in the '90s were those people who suffered through the '90s — the families that were destroyed by the policies of that government in the '90s? Yet they sit and clap at the unemployment rates that they created, at the businesses that left this province all through the 1990s, the new head offices established not in Vancouver where they used to be. They're in Calgary now, and why are they there? Because of that group opposite.
The other interesting thing is that I go around the province and talk to…. Recently it was the development industry in British Columbia, the people who take money out of their own pockets to build things like new subdivisions or spec homes. They're saying: "We're keeping our money in our pocket right now because we're not sure what might happen in May of 2013." If that group ever comes back, they're ready to invest their money in Alberta or the Northwest Territories or the Yukon — anywhere but where there is an NDP socialist government.
I can only say that when you talk about hypocrisy, it is the NDP, and they should be ashamed of themselves. They should choke on their hypocrisy, and I hope that the public understands what a bunch of doublespeaking people sit on the opposite side of the House.
R. Hawes moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. G. Abbott moved adjournment of the House.
Deputy Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.
The House adjourned at 11:58 a.m.
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