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, May 28, 2012
Volume 39, Number 3
ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
Proposed South Okanagan park
The importance of lifelong learning
Protecting the Skeena
Private Members' Motions
Motion 48 — Resource extraction in western Canada
MONDAY, MAY 28, 2012
The House met at 10:02 a.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
PROPOSED SOUTH OKANAGAN PARK
J. Slater: After almost ten years of extensive consultations and assessments there are too many unanswered questions to move forward with the South Okanagan national park at this time.
[D. Black in the chair.]
With 40 percent of the local population undecided about a park, it would be extremely irresponsible to dramatically change land use, with the potential effect of dividing communities. We also heard from many locals that the proposed park came at the cost of mining, timber harvesting, farming and ranching, and other residents made it very clear that they did not support a ban on hunting, fishing and the use of all-terrain vehicles in the area where these activities have been a source of enjoyment and employment for generations.
We recognize the importance of conservation values in the South Okanagan area, which is home to some of the most ecologically valuable grasslands in British Columbia. We want to retain this unique ecosystem by helping to create and maintain an environment that is locally determined and that meets the needs and interests of all concerned, including ranchers, farmers, environmentalists, businesses, recreation users, forestry, mining and those, of course, of First Nations.
There was a step sorely missed from the land use planning back in the '90s, where politics rather than potential socioeconomic impacts determined how the land would be used and conserved. A national park is just one of many land use planning tools that we have protecting B.C.'s unique ecosystems.
Already approximately 20 percent of the South Okanagan is included in a variety of conservation designations. Today 15.1 percent of B.C. is protected, more than any other province in Canada.
That is why we undertook an extensive feasibility assessment to examine the potential of a national park reserve in the South Okanagan–Lower Similkameen region of the province. The feasibility assessment came on the heels of a number of requests in 2002. Members of the local community and some First Nations approached Parks Canada with a proposal to establish a national park reserve in the South Okanagan and in B.C. The South Okanagan was one of those potential areas.
In 2003 the federal government and B.C. signed an MOU to study the feasibility of establishing a national park in the region. The feasibility study began in 2004, and here it is, 2012. The proposed boundary encompassed approximately 285 square kilometres near the towns of Oliver, Osoyoos and Keremeos, including the existing provincial South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area and existing federal protected area at Vaseux Lake.
The feasibility study included two rounds of public consultations in 2004-2006, community forums in 2007 and extensive meetings and consultations with affected stakeholders and First Nations. Through this process, it became clear that there was some support for a proposal, but a significant amount of people were opposed to it.
For example, in early 2005, prior to developing the draft park concept, the Grasslands Park Review Coalition collected 6,000 signatures from citizens that were opposed to a national park reserve but favoured the implementation and support of the Okanagan-Shuswap land and resource management plan and other ongoing management initiatives. Local consultations were not even considered in the '90s, cited by the MLA from Merritt.
As with other national protected areas including Crown lands, our government considers local and regional government, First Nations, stakeholder and public support as critical towards supporting the transfer of lands and eventual designation for federal protected area purposes. We heard from many involved that the proposed park came at the cost of mining, timber harvesting, farming and ranching. These activities have been a way of life and have employed many, many people and local residents for generations.
The proposed park would also remove a sizeable portion of the land from the ALR, having an adverse impact on 42 percent of ranchers in the proposed region. These ranches can't service without range tenure up in the mountains. Some 3,339 hectares of ALR were proposed in the proposed park. Of these acres, 946 are in the provincial South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area that was proposed to be transferred to Parks Canada, 240 acres in other Crown land designations and 2,213 acres in private land.
It's not just ranches. It's orchards, vineyards, ground crops and greenhouses that would be affected by this. If the national park reserve proceeded at this time, 1,186 hectares would be removed from the ALR, as the ALR designation would be removed from the lands.
This doesn't include First Nations lands that are in the area that are used for the same purposes — for vineyards, for growing hay, for ranchers and all the rest of it. That's not even included in that area. If the national park
[ Page 12248 ]
reserve proceeded at this time, 1,186 hectares would be removed from the ALR.
Other residents made it clear that the national park would change their rural lifestyle by banning hunting, fishing and the use of all-terrain vehicles in the area, where many of these activities have been enjoyed for generations.
Hunters are not a small subset of the local population; 350 hunting licences are issued each year in the area. For many of these hunters, the game they catch is not only for sport; it's a way of providing additional food for their families.
With these interests in mind, we are not prepared to make a decision that could divide communities. The members across the way may want to put its special interest groups ahead of local residents, their concerns and their jobs, but we stand by our consensus-based approach that looks at all socioeconomic factors and puts the interests of local residents and their opinions first. A national park would have jeopardized the way of life for many residents.
R. Fleming: I appreciate the member for Boundary-Similkameen making this statement this morning and allowing a chance to contribute to his thoughts and offer some of my own.
From the outset I think it's important to give credit where credit is due on this issue. The origin and genesis of even the discussion about a national park was only possible because of former Premier Gordon Campbell, who signed a memorandum of understanding with Parks Canada, with the federal government.
It was his government that showed interest in studying the benefits of having a national park in the South Okanagan. It was that government that also recognized there are significant ecosystems under threat there and that it is in fact Canada's only desert ecosystem. When one looks at the species-at-risk challenge in British Columbia, a majority of those species of plants and animals are in the area that was under study intensively. So that is how it began.
The member for Boundary-Similkameen should recognize and be proud that it was a Liberal government that undertook this process. In 2004 the process began between all of the regional stakeholders — British Columbia Parks, Parks Canada. First Nations came to the table. They were initially, I think, not given an adequate role in the discussion, but that has significantly changed.
I think one of the pieces of information that maybe makes today's statement a little bit premature is that there is an economic benefit study being conducted by the Okanagan First Nations, which has yet to be published. They are doing their due diligence.
I think the most important thing to be discussing this morning is the fact that thanks to freedom-of-information requests by the official opposition and by the media, we have actually been able to review and look at the feasibility study of the national park for the South Okanagan–Similkameen.
That report was buried for the better part of the year by the government. The government did not want the public and people in the region to look at what was the sum total of eight years of work, dialogue and discussion in the region. That was their preferred method of how to move forward — secrecy — and that is no way forward.
I think there is a tremendous opportunity for people in the South Okanagan region now to review the report, to continue dialogue and to advance consideration of all the issues, some of which the member has put on the table. There has been considerable discussion, for example, with the ranching sector, which is potentially included inside the proposed park boundaries or adjacent to it. There is some support within that sector as well, I think it's important to say.
There are people, community leaders, that are trying to find a way forward and to make good on eight years worth of work that has been done in the interests of conservation — a real conservation agenda not only for that region but for British Columbia and for Canada.
Stu Wells is one of them, the mayor of Osoyoos. He recognizes there are some divisions, although the supporters — it must be said — in poll after poll that has been conducted in the region typically outweigh the opponents of the park. It has grown more pronounced as time has gone by and as more people have bought into the process and the concept.
Stu Wells, the mayor of Osoyoos, is saying: "Let's resolve this by having a regional referendum." I'm not sure that's the best way to resolve it, but it's an idea that at least seeks to advance, using the knowledge that has been gained in this process.
There is support for moving forward from a lot of business organizations in the area. It's important to state that the Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association, which represents 3,200 local businesses, has written the Premier, asking her to move forward and recognize some of the benefits of a potential national park.
There is also the scientific community in British Columbia. Some 233 scientists have also written the government, asking them to not walk away from the table but to get back to the table and discuss with the regional stakeholders and Parks Canada, bringing this to some kind of conclusion that might be in the interests of science and conservation, and taking action on species at risk of extinction.
Let's not forget that there were 20,000 names on a petition received in this House by then Minister of Environment Barry Penner, which indicated a strong and pronounced level of support and interest in the national park idea. That was very recently, and it has been
[ Page 12249 ]
sent, of course, to the Member of Parliament for the area.
There are people in the area that recognize the richness and biodiversity that is unique to the South Okanagan–Similkameen. They want to move forward on this, and I thank the member for advancing the discussion this morning so that we can identify ways to do exactly that.
J. Slater: You know, polls are polls. The big question on a lot of those polls was: do you want to protect part of our ecosystem? It wasn't establishing a national park. It was whether we wanted to protect our ecosystems.
Already 20 percent of the South Okanagan has been included in a variety of conservation designations, including provincial parks, ecological reserves, protected areas and wildlife management areas.
The Land Act reserves the private lands and donations acquired by the province; 93 square kilometres, or one-third of the proposed park, is already classified as provincially protected.
Nearby, the White Lake Grasslands Area protects a very hot and dry grassland, open pine forest and alkali ponds and rock outcroppings in the South Okanagan basin. Likewise, the Vaseux Lake Provincial Park preserves it as well.
Another 83 square kilometres of the proposed park is currently owned by the Crown, and 3,399 hectares are within the ALR. These protect the area from development, ensuring the land is available for agriculture use. These protections in part already address the concerns raised by the local citizens.
According to George Bush, the director of area B, many of those who supported the concept of a national park did so only because they didn't want to see the land chopped up for residential lots. They were misguided in a lot of instances. The pros and the negative parts of the application put forward their story. The people that wanted to protect that area knew it was already protected but told everybody it wasn't going to be protected unless it's a national park.
With that, I'll take my seat.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LIFELONG LEARNING
M. Elmore: I'm very pleased to rise and speak on the motion with regards to the importance of lifelong learning.
We have heard that in British Columbia we have a knowledge economy. With many, many job openings that we'll be seeing within the next decade, 77 percent — nearly 80 percent — will require some aspect of post-secondary education.
The concept of lifelong learning is a concept that's central to our knowledge-based economy. Lifelong learning is the lifelong, voluntary and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either professional or personal reasons.
Lifelong learning contributes not only to increasing skills to allow individuals to upgrade their careers and to upgrade their skills and attain better-paying jobs. It also contributes to increased social inclusion, active citizenship, personal development as well as increased competitiveness and employability. Lifelong learning has a positive economic impact. It produces educated citizens and allows individuals to find higher-paying occupations.
Our current Liberal government recognized the value of education and adopted the education guarantee out of the Campus 2020 report.
The quote of the value of education…. There's a quote from Geoff Plant I'd just like to read from the report. "The public interest in eliminating barriers to participation in post-secondary education requires that no tuition be charged to any adult learner seeking to upgrade their education by completing high school courses, whether or not they already have a Dogwood certificate."
The education guarantee adopted in 2007 encouraged adults to continue to upgrade their education. It came into effect to provide funding for free courses with respect to computer courses, education and career planning, English, First Nations studies, math, sciences and social studies.
The current decision to cut graduated adult courses, courses that are important for students to complete in order to enter post-secondary education, will have a negative impact on students and will directly interfere with chances to improve their lives and the lives of their family.
One of the concerns that I have, recognizing the value of lifelong learning but also the additional barriers and difficulties, particularly of marginalized and disadvantaged students and adults in British Columbia, is that these changes will place an additional barrier and a very substantial financial hardship on students who are in a very low income bracket. Many of these students who access these programs and courses live in poverty. They can't afford tuition fees, and charging for these courses will further exclude students who are already marginalized.
In particular, students who will be negatively impacted…. I have met with and heard from them. I have also talked to students who have immigrated to Canada from countries where English is not their first language. Often they immigrate to Canada, and their professional credentials are also not recognized. But they have the drive to upgrade their skills and to pursue and advance a successful career, and also support themselves and their families.
Many students have graduated high school in their home country and immigrated to British Columbia to make better lives for themselves, but they face difficulties with language skills. Many work in low-paying jobs to be able to support their family. The completion rates of adults in many of these courses…. Often they are required to repeat courses more than once to successfully complete.
[ Page 12250 ]
Not only new immigrants but also refugees are impacted, as well as students who have completed their high school certificate but need to upgrade their academic standing to also be able to access post-secondary education. These are opportunities that are disappearing for these students.
While these funding cuts disproportionately impact new immigrants who don't have English as a first language, students will also be impacted — and adults who are currently in low-paying jobs but want to upgrade their skills and who really have a desire to advance themselves, undertake post-secondary education and pursue further opportunities.
In view of our current evolving economy in British Columbia — the need for skilled workers, of which we have a very high need — these cuts are shortsighted. In terms of providing opportunities for all adults, particularly adults who are marginalized and who face systemic barriers to be able to access and upgrade their skills, these are opportunities that are becoming more out of reach for these populations.
The cuts and the lack of access to these courses and skills will contribute to basically blocking access to students. Many can barely afford rent. They won't be able to afford the tuition fees, and they will simply be caught in a continuing cycle of low-paying jobs.
Just to conclude, the priority for the province should be to expand educational opportunities, not reduce them.
N. Letnick: It's nice to be standing in the Legislature again after a week away. I would like to thank the member for Vancouver-Kensington for bringing this issue to the floor, in particular for saying that over 70 percent of the jobs coming forward will require post-secondary education. That's probably one of the reasons why I was asked to respond.
As the member might know, there are many people in this Legislature who are continuing to access post-secondary education — I being one of them, working on my PhD in health economics. I can say that at 54 maybe the brain doesn't work as fast as it did at 24, but….
J. Les: It'll be fine.
N. Letnick: It'll be fine. The member for Chilliwack says that it'll be fine.
Madam Speaker, we just keep working on it until the day we die. I hope everyone has that opportunity in this great province — in this great country, actually — to continue with their aspirations for lifelong learning.
I attended a session on Friday by the Bahá'í Faith. They were talking about how in Iran the Bahá'ís are excluded from post-secondary. They are actually put in jail if they are students or teaching post-secondary education. It was heartrending to see how people around the world are facing these kinds of challenges, achieving what the speaker has said and what I believe all Canadians value as a fundamental right — that is, access to post-secondary education and access to lifelong learning.
When I take that back to our discussion right here, I see how fortunate we are, actually, in this province. Not only is it a right and available throughout the province, but this government, preceding my and a few members' arrival in the Legislature in 2009, invested hundreds of millions, billions of dollars in post-secondary infrastructure around the province. I know that much to the chagrin of some of my colleagues from Kamloops, Kelowna–Lake Country was blessed with an expanded UBC Okanagan campus. I say that, of course, in jest. Kamloops and Kelowna love each other.
You go and visit that campus. There are many campuses like it around the province. They are just top-notch, great places for learning. I congratulate the government for all the investments they have made to allow students to actually continue learning at home, in a free and democratic province, as we have.
I think part of it has to do with the silo mentality. I'm guilty of that as well as many other people, where, especially after a long session, you start thinking about a particular issue, but you don't understand how it affects others.
The Ministry of Education has come up and said: "Look, why are we funding people who are taking courses that are non-core, that are periphery to the core courses and where, in a large part, people are actually not completing the courses?" We are applying money to resources, to people to teach these courses when the students don't stay in the courses, and the courses don't lead to where we want them to be, which is that 70 percent that require post-secondary education.
I congratulate the Ministry of Education for leaving the pipeline, so to speak, leaving those silos and saying: "How do we expand services with a limited budget?" They are saying: "Well, maybe some of the things we need to look at are those that aren't that effective." If students are voting with their feet, if they are actually leaving these programs, then they are already telling us that maybe we need to put our priorities elsewhere. That's what the Ministry of Education has done.
The government continues to invest in early learning, including the addition of ten new StrongStart programs this year alone. The government has 326 StrongStart programs serving 385 communities across the province. Here's where some of the money is going to.
If you move out of the silo of education, you then get into other silos that we have like health care, like social services. I constantly hear from people that we need to always review priorities in health care and how much we are putting into social services. Well, you can't do that without constantly reviewing what you are doing in every single part of the silo so that you can expand those ser-
[ Page 12251 ]
vices in other areas.
I understand that what the speaker is getting to is that we need to continue to look at our post-secondary education and make sure that our students move through high school and graduate and then have the opportunity of lifelong learning, which we do in this province, much more than the Bahá'í have in Iran.
I think it's important that we continue to nurture that spirit of learning and continue to look at if we are doing everything in each of those silos that is the most effective use of taxpayer dollars, and if not, then why aren't we re-evaluating those uses and applying those dollars elsewhere, where they can be most effective.
I would like to thank again the member for Vancouver-Kensington for introducing the topic and to say that we've done a lot and that there is a lot more to do.
M. Elmore: I'd like to thank the member for his remarks and also offer him the best in the completion of his PhD.
In terms of the topic of lifelong learning, my concern primarily is, I would say, the constituency who don't have access to basic courses and who are marginalized, who live in poverty or who are new immigrants and refugees and face multiple barriers. That is the constituency that I think is very concerning. We need to ensure that we provide accessibility to those individuals to be able to upgrade their skills and fulfil their career paths and have fulfilling jobs and opportunities.
In terms of consideration and concerns that I have with regards to the decision for cuts to adult education, I think one of the issues is the lack of consultation that happened. School boards were caught unaware. They had recently passed their budgets when the announcement was made, and now they are scrambling in terms of adjusting that.
Educators were not consulted. Also, the students who access these courses weren't consulted. Now they have to be forced to pay for the next semester, for summer and also fall semester.
We're seeing motions come forward from the Vancouver school board. I know I've talked to many other school boards who have concerns and are asking for consultation around the negative impacts to students, educators and school boards. So that is coming forward.
In terms of the completion rates, I just want to respond to the member. One of the realities is that many students who are coming through the courses…. Sometimes they have to take it more than once, and if they don't complete it the first time around, it shouldn't necessarily be taken as a negative reflection. Many students coming from First Nation communities also have a lower initial completion rate, but we don't use that as a rationale, a justification, that we should cut those courses and block that access and make it more difficult.
In terms of the courses that were cut, in terms of transition, it's very difficult. There are gaps — this also comes back to consultation — in terms of students being able to access courses. So foundation courses in English are provided, English 12 is provided, but there's a gap in English 11 and communications 11 and 12, for example. There is a gap in the middle in terms of being able to transition.
Other courses were cut — media and computer programming as well as accounting and calculus, chemistry 12, physics 12. I've been told these are courses that are important to transition into specific programs — for example, nursing programs, these types of diploma programs. They have specific requirements, academic courses that are required, that have been cut. That creates, as well, gaps in terms of being able to transition for students.
I think the funding cuts are short-sighted, unfair and blocking access for students.
J. Rustad: I stand today to talk about workers' rights. As much as I like to go on to thinking about all of the great resource projects we have across the province and the fact that many workers would like to see these projects go forward and have an opportunity for those good-paying jobs, today, for the benefit of the opposition, who will be responding, I'm actually going to be focused on Bill C-377, which is a federal bill.
Since we seem to like to discuss federal issues, I'm bringing this forward. What it is, is an amendment to the Income Tax Act. It was brought forward by Russ Hiebert. He is the MP for South Surrey–White Rock–Cloverdale.
What this amendment basically is…. It was introduced in October 2011. It had second reading passed on April 2012, and it's currently in the Finance Committee, federally. The reason why I raise that is that some of the debate and opportunities, discussion we have, could actually potentially influence some of the discussion that will go through in that Finance Committee.
What Bill C-377 does is it requires financial disclosure by unions — in particular assets and liability, income and expenses, political activities, loans, gifts, salaries, etc. When you think about, in particular, the tax benefit that union members receive — across Canada it's more than $500 million in taxable benefits that are received through the activities that unions undertake and through the wages that are paid.
I think the reason I'm bringing this forward is that it is an important bill. When you look at the way tax dollars are spent and look at the way we need to be acting and, particularly, the accountability side, I think it's important that taxpayers, union members and non–union members alike — everybody — have the opportunity to see just what those activities are, to see it from an accountable perspective.
[ Page 12252 ]
When I think about unions and the work that unions have done over the years, it is truly remarkable. When you think back 70, 80, 90 years ago in terms of the way the workforce was and the challenges that were faced there, unions played a critical role in improving the quality of life for workers, the importance of the workers in the workforce. They really protected workers from potential abuse by employers.
But over the years much of that has now been incorporated within our labour laws, and so we have really made a lot of progress along those lines. In some points I kind of wonder now: whose job is it now to protect the workers' rights? When you think about accountability and the union process that goes through, there are many workers that…. You know, you have to be part of a union because that's the requirement of the job, but really….
They have a democratic process, but many people choose not to be involved in it. They don't necessarily like the outcome of it that goes through. I think it's important that they have an understanding of where their mandatory dues are being spent. I think that's an important process, and so I really applaud Russ Hiebert in bringing this forward throughout the process.
Some of the things that I often think about around this and some of the things that I hope they'll be able to consider at the finance stage, when they go through the bill and have an opportunity to propose amendments, are things like, for example, the tax benefit that is received by workers who contribute. The mandatory dues that come forward in the union…. Of course, it's great to have the benefit associated with the activities of the union in supporting workers, the bargaining and all of those sorts of processes.
For example, I was talking with one CUPE executive who said about 40 percent of their dues, give or take, goes towards political activities. That's fine, but the actual workers that contribute to that aren't receiving the full benefit they could if it was considered to be a donation to a political party. On the flip side of that, if those political activities are local government — for example, school boards or municipal governments and those sides of things — everybody else doesn't receive any tax benefit at all.
The question is: is that something that should potentially change? My hope is that maybe through the process in the committee stage there will be an opportunity for the committee to look at those sorts of things and consider some changes that might be able to help see a benefit to unionized workers around that, but also to make sure the system is fair so that non-union and union people are treated equally through that kind of a process.
I actually am going to be relatively short on this, which will be great because we'll save a little bit of time here for future motions.
K. Krueger: You're not short; you're brief.
J. Rustad: Brief. Sorry. Yes, okay. Thank you.
The question I have, though, around this is: is there room in the facility here to have some discussion around this, to have discussion around what the goals are that we're trying to do or that is being tried to be done around Bill C-377? Is there room for an opportunity to have some debate around this in terms of how those mandatory dues should be managed?
Is it important to be thinking about not just the majority within a union but also the minority? How do we protect those rights through the process? How do we make sure it's transparent? How do we make sure that those dollars are spent well?
We all know in today's society that it's very challenging to make ends meet. Dollars don't go as far as they would like to, and everybody is looking for a way to be able to save a few dollars to be able to help them through, whether it's family expenditures or putting money away for the future, whatever the case may be.
I think this is an important step in terms of accountability. There may be some things we could say that could improve the system, and I look forward to hearing the member opposite's response.
R. Chouhan: I'm disappointed. The member is talking about this kind of accountability when he failed to mention the lack of accountability from the corporate side. I thought these kinds of attacks were only happening in Wisconsin and Ohio, but obviously it's happening here as well. I appreciate the member's concerns about accountability. If you are talking about accountability, then we must also talk about accountability on both sides, the sides of the employer, the corporations.
Corporations are taking benefits of hundreds of millions and maybe billions of dollars from public taxes, tax money that we pay, all of us together. The member hasn't talked about that. He's only limiting his attack on the workers' rights.
What we have seen, Madam Speaker — the increasing corporate power and excessive greed not only in Canada but around the world — has resulted in massive inequality and social exclusion. If we continue along this ill-fated path, it greatly will threaten Canada's ability to build an egalitarian society, which allows everybody to participate in a very fair way.
We have a Charter of Rights. The Charter of Rights gives workers the right to be part of and join any union. And the unions, according to their own constitutions, have the highest amount of accountability than any other corporation that I have come across and have talked with. I was part of the trade union movement. Not a single penny is ever spent without a proper debate and discussion, without the proper approval of members.
[ Page 12253 ]
Now, if you go along with what the member is suggesting, then that means….
R. Chouhan: If you go along with what the member has suggested, then what about workers like mushroom workers, you know, farmworkers who have been killed at jobsites, who lost so much more? If they are only confined to this kind of accountability, their union, their Federation of Labour, will never be able to go outside and campaign against those kinds of injustices. When we are talking about minimum wage campaigns, no union will be allowed to go beyond and outside of that — their constitution and bylaws.
If you are talking about…. The member said that most of these rights are now enshrined in the law, that there's no need for the unions for the last few years so that we don't have to have them. But let's talk about those laws.
The Employment Standards Act in British Columbia does not even allow the workers to have the ability to go and negotiate and resolve their disputes with their own employers. All they get is a self-help kit. That's the kind of laws we have.
When we have those kinds of laws enshrined by the right-wing governments here in Canada and British Columbia, you must allow the unions to be stronger so they can go out and protect workers, the general public and everybody who is not able to protect themself.
So I'm really dismayed that the member for Nechako Lakes had to stand up and have those kinds of attacks on workers, you know, using this disguise of workers rights. It's nothing. It's hypocritical. When members like Nechako Lakes and Russ Hiebert…. They are just to protect the corporate greed. That's why they are doing it.
We should be just very careful and be concerned about it, and we should stand up for a more compassionate and equal and fair society rather than attacking workers' rights.
J. Rustad: I want to thank the member for Burnaby-Edmonds for his response. Although I kind of wonder if he actually listened to the argument I put forward, because I in no way said that we should be trying to restrict what unions can do. I did not say that there was no need for unions.
I'm kind of wondering where his argument was, because Bill C-377, which is about financial accountability, does not put any restrictions in place. As a matter of fact, organizations, unions, can fill their boots in doing anything they want to do, but it needs to be transparent. Workers and people need to be able to see where those dollars are actually being spent.
The member talked about corporate accountability. The corporate world has that. When they make the presentations, where their dollars are spent and how the dollars are spent process is all part of their filing in public corporations. So all we're asking for is the same level of, type of, activity as, say, a charity would have, in terms of breaking down all of those reporting and stuff.
I actually look forward to this coming forward, because I think it will open the door a little bit and have some good, open discussion around this.
The member says that I'm trying to say there's no need for unions. Hardly. I've never said that. In every speech I've ever given in this Legislature about it, I've talked about the importance of unions, what they've added to the fabric of society and how they've been able to protect workers. And those parts are important. The question I have is: in some cases, have unions gone too far? Do they go outside of their mandate?
If they do go outside of the mandate, you know, perhaps that's okay. But should it be done with mandatory dollars, as opposed to with optional? They can go ask their members for money and get involved in all kinds of activities on an optional side. But I think more importantly, though, for members…. I've talked to many union members, and I ask them: "So how are your union wages spent?" "Well, I don't have a clue." That's usually the response I get. So I ask them: "Well, can you give me the financial statement?" They'll give a financial statement, and I go through and look at this. And it doesn't have the breakdowns and the type of detail that they're asking about.
Some people have suggested that perhaps this will create too much paperwork, through the process of Bill C-37, and cause this. Well, all of these things, I would think, would already be accounted for — things like a statement of disbursements on labour relations activities and a statement of disbursements on political activities. All that should be part of the bookkeeping to begin with, so I don't see how it would be a huge extra expense, if any, to the various organizations.
In today's society I believe it's important to have that accountability. I believe it's important for people to understand where their dollars go, how they're spent, and it's important to make sure that people in this country are treated fairly and treated equally. Those are the principles on which the Charter was founded and are the principles for what we have in our country. I'm very glad to see this coming forward because I think it's a step in the right direction.
PROTECTING THE SKEENA
R. Austin: I'd like to take a few minutes just to talk about the great Skeena River and its importance to not just all of us who live in northwest B.C. but, I believe, its importance to all British Columbians, its value to us and also how it needs to be protected in terms of how we look at industrial projects that happen in northwest British
[ Page 12254 ]
Columbia. It's hard, really, to stand here in the Legislature and talk about the magnificence of a river as large as the Skeena River. Obviously, I'm just going to be giving you statistics and things, but really, one has to actually visit northwest B.C. to see how incredible the watershed of the Skeena river is.
It is the second-longest river in British Columbia, 570 kilometres long or 350 miles, second only to the mighty Fraser River. In olden times, it was an important transportation artery, especially for the Tsimshian and the Gitxsan, whose names originally mean "inside the Skeena River" and "people of the Skeena River." The drainage area of the Skeena watershed is 54,400 square kilometres, so it is truly vast.
It originates at the end of the Spatsizi Plateau, close to the origins of two other great rivers, the Nass River, which flows through Nisga'a territory, and, of course, the Stikine. The place where it starts is sometimes referred to as the Sacred Headwaters, because it is a place where three great rivers start, and is often protected very closely by the Tahltan Nation, who regard that as a place of special spirituality and also as people who have long been guardians of something as important as the beginning of a river.
It has huge tributaries right throughout its watershed, so many that there are too many to mention, but I do want to mention a few simply for people to understand that it isn't just one river that I'm talking about but an entire watershed.
At the upper levels of the Skeena some of the tributaries include Bear River, Shilahou Creek and Slamgeesh. In the middle portion of the Skeena River there are large rivers in themselves, such as the Bulkley, Cullon Creek, Date Creek, Deep Canoe, McCully Creek and Pinkut Creek. At the closer end, the lower end of the Skeena River where it comes closer towards Prince Rupert, there are large rivers, such as the Copper River, Deep Creek, Goat Creek, Johnston Creek, Lakelse Lake, Kleanza Creek.
The reason I mention all of these is so people have an understanding that it is an entire region that is fed by this river system.
Now, there is a lot of economic activity that takes place along the Skeena River. In large part, of course, it has been the home of the fisheries, both commercial and sport-fishing. All the types of Pacific salmon reside in the river and in the watershed and have created thousands and thousands of jobs and a way of life for people who have lived up there, not only since Europeans arrived but long, long before.
In fact, it's not simply the economic value of fishing that has created such an important part of northwest B.C. But of course, it's also been an important food fishery for the First Nations, and beyond that, it's also been a very important part of their cultural life and their cultural well-being.
So it's for this reason that when any project comes up in northwest B.C., people who live there look at that project through a slightly different lens and don't just simply look at it in terms of its economic value. We all want to have jobs, but I'm going to just explain one major difference. For example, when people were looking at bringing in LNG projects into Kitimat, a lot of these pipelines and these projects would, of course, go right beside the Skeena River.
The difference between that and, say, Enbridge pipeline, which is also a big project that's being looked at right now and is going through joint review panel hearings, is that the people up there look at this river system, look at the way of life and recognize that one project could actually decimate a whole bunch of jobs to create a few and another has the chance to create jobs without decimating a whole bunch of jobs and without hurting the environment. It's in this light that these kinds of projects are looked at for those who value the importance of the Skeena River and its watershed.
There are people who travel from all over the world to come and take advantage of what the Skeena River offers. I'm going to speak about one specific fish variety — the steelhead. It's one of the few rivers in all of the world where we still have steelhead running wild, and that's partly because this river is one that has never been dammed. It is a river that has never had a pulp mill on it. So in that sense, it is truly a river running wild. Very few rivers anywhere in the world can truly be said these days to be wild and to not have industrial activity that has imposed all kinds of environmental costs upon that river. It's for that reason that people want to see it protected and to ensure that any project that takes place doesn't harm what it is we have, but enhances and gives us jobs.
Very often, in politics, we are accused as politicians of making decisions that take place within the electoral cycle of our job. Obviously, as politicians we want to get elected, and we want to get re-elected. But when you look at projects that affect a river, we have to think long term — long after everyone in this Legislature will be dead and buried. We have to give something to our children and our grandchildren, just as those who were here before us ensured that a river like the Skeena stayed as a non-industrial river. It was allowed to remain wild and to create the kind of lifestyle and economy and ecology that are so important.
I think what we need to do as we look at all of these various projects, whether they be mining…. There's a good way of doing mining that can still protect watersheds and a lazy way of doing mining. I would argue, Madam Speaker, that some of the things we did in the '60s and '70s, before we brought in a whole bunch of environmental protections, did not protect our rivers and our water systems.
But nowadays we have got regulations, and it's because people have looked at systems like this and at watersheds
[ Page 12255 ]
and realized that yes, we want to have jobs. But let's do it in such a way that it protects our environment, protects our rivers and protects that valuable asset that we want to pass on to our grandchildren.
That's what I hope we can have a discussion about here, and I'm looking forward to the response from the member from the other side in terms of looking at these projects and how we can do it right to make sure that the lifestyle and the things we love, not just in northwest B.C. but as British Columbians, stay here for future generations.
K. Krueger: Madam Speaker, I'm honoured to respond to the member for Skeena. I'm actually a great admirer of the member for Skeena. I lived in Smithers for a number of years, and the member comes from Terrace. He's a great representative of the Skeena riding, and he and I have a very cordial relationship.
K. Krueger: The House Leader of the NDP is heckling me vociferously…
Deputy Speaker: Members. Members.
K. Krueger: …which is his way.
But I actually feel a very personal friendship with the member for Skeena, whose mother resides in my constituency in Chase, B.C. We get along great. I applauded him in his response to the budget this spring, and he came over and sat beside me afterward and asked why that was. I said: "Well, you haven't noticed, but I always applaud your members when I agree with them, and I like the things that you say." And I do.
He's a sincere man. He is what I think of personally — this is no insult — as a silver-spoon socialist, because he is, astonishingly to me, a member of the NDP caucus, and yet he is a person who understands how wealth is created, how economies are generated, and yet he's a member of that caucus.
It's tremendously important that we create wealth in order to be able to afford the sorts of social programs that we fund in British Columbia. The government of Canada repeatedly through its organizations says that British Columbia delivers the best health care results in Canada, and Canada leads the world. That's because we understand — we have a balance here in B.C., at least for the last 11 years — how to generate an economy that will pay for those sorts of social programs.
The member who preceded me in this debate, the member for Skeena, has lived all over the world. He's from a wealthy family. He's done very, very well, and he represents his constituents ably, but he values our social programs here in B.C. because we're able to provide them.
We have the longest life expectancy in the world, if British Columbia was a country. Both men and women live longer in British Columbia than in any other country in the world, and that's because we have what the Conference Board of Canada says are the best results in this country, and they are the best results in the world. There's no arguing with that.
The member and I have had interesting debates over the years we've been in this Legislature together, and he represents an area of the province that I know very well and I love very well. I lived in Smithers. I serviced the people of British Columbia from Prince Rupert down to Prince George — a very big area. I'd never been up Highway 37 until I was Minister of State for Mining. I made a tour of that area with Lindsay Coburn, my executive assistant, who was born and raised in this area, the south Island area. She'd been all around the world, but she'd never been up there, and neither had I. I'd never been anywhere except British Columbia pretty much all my life.
We toured up there, and we went through all these exploration projects where the mining industry has these incredible discoveries. British Columbia is bountifully blessed with mineral resources. We have huge wealth, and as we develop that wealth, we'll be able to continue to pay for health care and education and justice and all the social programs that British Columbians depend on because of that wealth. Otherwise, we flat couldn't. We could go broke like Greece and Ireland and all these countries of the world that used to be prosperous but aren't anymore.
We have the resources. We know how to develop them in an environmentally responsible way. We should be — and on this side of the House we are — very grateful for that and willing to do it in an environmentally responsible way.
We're the government that's had the courage to step forward and say: "We will fund the development of electrification up Highway 37." We will be able to build all these mining projects, because we have the courage to step forward and say, yes — exclusive of whatever parameters the B.C. Utilities Commission might have. We recognize there aren't ratepayers up there yet, but there will be when we develop this wealth. So we're willing to fund that project. We're willing to put a power line all the way up to Stewart, B.C. and beyond, because we don't think in the short term.
R. Austin: I'd like to thank the member for Kamloops–South Thompson for his remarks, some of which were so effusive and so kind, I'm wondering now whether I'll be blackballed in my caucus later today. That notwithstanding, Madam Speaker, I'm glad to hear that the member has travelled to northwest B.C. and understands the importance of not just the Skeena watershed but all of the rivers in that part of the province.
[ Page 12256 ]
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
It really is a challenge for those of us who live up there to recognize that obviously an industrial project, particularly a large scale one, brings huge benefits not just to those of us in the region who get jobs directly. Of course, we're very well aware, having been a part of the province — when forestry was booming in that area in the '60s, '70s and '80s — that sent revenue down from our forestry industry into the coffers of Victoria, which was then able to be spent right across the province to provide important things like health care and education…. We do understand it's important for us to participate in wealth creation. But at the same time, we also need to be aware of what we are not leaving to our children. I'm going to just mention a couple of things.
For example, people may not be aware of the importance of the oolichan fishery to First Nations people. This is a small fish that grows in huge, multiple quantities. Many years ago when the pulp mill was put into Prince Rupert, it affected the oolichan runs for the Haisla and in fact, arguably, wiped them out. We had the pulp mill working for many years, providing taxes, but a population lost an important food fishery, and we don't want to see that happening again.
I'd also like to mention another example. For example, we took great care when we were writing our report on fish farms to recognize some of the challenges that happened with fish farms in the southern part of British Columbia. Actually, we wrote a report that said we didn't want to have open-net fish farms at the mouth of the Skeena River. In fact, members on the Liberal side participated in that report, and to the Liberals' credit, they actually enacted that major ruling that said we would not have fish farms anywhere in northern B.C.
It's important for us to realize that while we want to create jobs, we want to do so in such a way that is sustainable long term for those of us who live in the northwest. We also want to recognize that we can come together and not simply put just jobs first as the only lens which we look through.
It's often said by all of us who have health that the only thing that's important in our life is our health, and none of us really think about that. It's just a trite statement we say until such time that something happens to us or one of our loved ones, and then we realize the importance of it. The reason why I'm speaking here about the Skeena watershed is because we need to take that same long-term view in terms of protecting our watershed. The ultimate thing is about clean water and clean air.
Hon. T. Lake: I call Motion 48.
Mr. Speaker: Hon Members, unanimous consent of the House is required to proceed with Motion 48 without disturbing the priorities of motions preceding it on the order paper.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
J. Horgan: Point of order.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Point of Order
J. Horgan: I rise on a point of order with respect to Motion 48 in the name of the member for Kootenay East, because it refers to an individual by name and makes reference to comments that that individual did not make. I appreciate that motions such as these, and even in fact the language, could be subject to points of debate. But I do believe it's the obligation of us as legislators to protect individuals and ensure that if we are going to raise individuals in debate, we do so in a sensitive and delicate way that would not necessarily malign their character.
It's my view that this motion did not have to come forward in the form that it's in. If the members on the other side of the House wish to discuss resource extraction and how best to proceed, that's absolutely fair comment, and we should have a vigorous debate about that. But when we draw an individual, regardless of their position in society, into the debate and do not accurately reflect what that individual said, I believe it is consistent with smearing individuals.
It's something that we on this side of the House do not want to support, and I am confident that the vast majority on the other side don't either. So I seek your guidance, hon. Speaker, in the future as we proceed through this debate, to give a ruling on whether it's appropriate during private members' business to cite individuals in debate without them having an opportunity to rebut.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, Member. It doesn't contravene the standing orders in any way, and I understand…. Your point is well taken. I think that possibly in the future for private members' statements, because it is the role of the private members to have the private members' time, it would be more incumbent upon the two House Leaders to look at this and maybe come to some kind of an agreement on how some of these things might be handled.
With that, the motion in itself is in order and, as we've had unanimous consent, will proceed. But again, I want to remind members that it is private members' time, and in the future the two House Leaders might take the advantage of looking at these kinds of things and maybe reconciling them before they come before the House.
[ Page 12257 ]
Private Members' Motions
MOTION 48 — RESOURCE EXTRACTION
IN WESTERN CANADA
B. Bennett: Hon. Speaker, I will be at my most sensitive with the time that I have this morning. Motion 48 reads:
[Be it resolved that this House unanimously reject the position stated by Thomas Mulcair that resource extraction in western provinces is bad for Canada.]
[L. Reid in the chair.]
On May 5, 2012, on the CBC radio program The House, federal NDP Thomas Mulcair referred, in an exchange between him and a caller, to western resource extraction as a disease. He certainly left the distinct impression that if the NDP governed Canada, they would find ways to curtail resource development. Mr. Mulcair's stated reason for the NDP position was that the booming western resource extraction economy is driving up the value of the Canadian dollar and hurting manufacturing in Quebec and Ontario.
Just in case members on the other side dispute whether the hon. Mr. Mulcair actually said such a thing, he then appeared on CTV's Question Period on May 20, which I viewed, and said essentially that provincial Premiers have no right to their opinion because this is, after all, a federal issue. He did admit that he's never seen the oil sands. He said that we are, in the west, destabilizing the national economy through resource extraction.
Now, I'm not sure why the leader of the federal NDP would try to start a debate about sustainable development by taking a shot at the west, but that's in fact what he did. It may have something to do with the fact that the federal NDP have very few seats across the Prairies, as they once did. I believe they have none in Saskatchewan, one in Alberta and a few in Manitoba. He may have forgotten that they have 12 seats in British Columbia and that we also extract natural resources here in British Columbia.
This clearly was a blunder by the leader of the federal NDP. It's my reason for bringing this forward this morning. I suggest that the leader of the provincial NDP, the B.C. NDP, and all members of opposition need to stand in this House and acknowledge what the federal leader said. They need to disavow themselves from that position on natural resource extraction.
British Columbia's economy is reliant on the extraction of natural resources. British Columbia pays for its hospital services, pays for its education, pays for its social services, pays for the benefits that go to disabled British Columbians and pays for the subsidies that go to child care with the revenues that come from resource extraction.
Now, while it's the case on this side of the House that our political party is not formally affiliated with any federal party, the same cannot be said for the other side. The other side is formally affiliated with the federal party. If you're a member of the B.C. NDP, you are also a member of the provincial. It goes both ways. The hon. Mr. Mulcair is in fact the federal leader for those members of the opposition sitting in this House today. They are obligated, it seems to me…. This is their opportunity.
I'm actually doing them a favour. I'm giving them an opportunity to stand here today and say: "We believe in resource extraction. We support resource extraction because of all the great jobs that it provides here in British Columbia." This is their opportunity, hon. Speaker. I'm trying to be as sensitive as I possibly can. I'm trying to be fair to the members of the opposition.
It just so happens that last month British Columbia created almost 20,000 net new jobs. Now, why is that? That would be because this government on this side of the House…. We're pro-development. We're not ashamed to say that. We're pro-trade. We're not ashamed to say that.
The main reason that we had 20,000 net new jobs created last month is because we're not the NDP. That's the main reason. Again, this is a glorious opportunity for the opposition to stand, and maybe they can explain what their policies are around resource extraction and disavow themselves from the statements made by their federal ruler.
J. Horgan: I'm hopeful that the member for Kamloops–South Thompson, in light of the fact that there are children in the precinct, will confine his remarks for at least the next five minutes or so.
It's a privilege to rise and participate in this debate today. I want to just correct a couple of the points that were made by the non-partisan member from "No particular party, except not the NDP" — the new name, I think. I think the new name for the collection of folks on that side of the House would be "Anybody but the people that are at 50 percent in the polls."
While we're talking about polls….
J. Horgan: You just can't help yourself, can you? You just can't help yourself.
It's the intrusions and the belligerence on that side of the House that trouble me most of all about this motion. When we have McCarthyism in a Legislature, where you're not allowed to express a point of view, that's when our democracy is diminished to the state where individuals like that can somehow prosper.
Imagine if you will, hon. Speaker. If we had decided that the member for Peace River South, a Boston Bruins
[ Page 12258 ]
fan…. Imagine. That is outrageous. It's absolutely outrageous.
J. Horgan: Are you going to just let him go? Is that the plan, hon. Speaker? If that's the plan, I'll endeavour to speak to the poor children who have assembled here today.
Deputy Speaker: Members, I'm having difficulty hearing the member who has the floor.
J. Horgan: I'm dumbfounded that…. There are reasonable people in this Legislature that would prefer to have a discussion, but not the member for Kamloops–South Thompson. It's his view that if you don't….
J. Horgan: I don't know at what point someone takes charge in this place, hon. Speaker. Is it going to happen today?
Deputy Speaker: Member, please take your seat.
All the members will come to order.
J. Horgan: Too much wine for breakfast. Perhaps too much wine for breakfast.
Thomas Mulcair, the Leader of the Official Opposition, said in the radio interview that was cited by the member for Kootenay East: "The point that I'm making is not that we should be against the development of the oil sands, but it has to be sustainable development. We have to follow the basic rules…."
Deputy Speaker: Excuse me. The member for Kamloops–South Thompson will refrain. Thank you.
J. Horgan: Thank you very much.
J. Horgan: Not one that works very well, I'd have to say.
The Leader of the Official Opposition said: "We have to follow the basic rules of sustainable development: internalization of environmental costs, make them pay now for what they're doing. We have to have basic rules for polluter pay. That means we have to add value here, stop shipping raw materials, raw logs, stop shipping raw bitumen."
The members on the other side disagree with that point of view — not, apparently, the people of Canada who, in a recent public opinion poll after Mr. Mulcair made his comments, see the New Democratic Party at 36 percent and the Conservative party at 32 percent.
I don't know what the problem is here. No one on this side of the House rejects the notion of extracting and exploiting the bounty of natural resources here in British Columbia. Where we divide is that we want to add more value to that. We want to speak freely about ideas. Not so, members on that side of the House. Thomas Mulcair stood up and expressed a point of view, and in true Republican fashion, the B.C. Liberals saw an opportunity for what they call a wedge issue, an opportunity to divide citizens, divide Canadians.
Having a point of view is what democracy is all about. We should be allowed as citizens, most particularly in this location, to stand and offer that point of view free of interference, free of intimidation, free of hectoring from people who don't want to hear what we have to say. People died in two world wars. They died in Korea so that we could stand here and express a point of view legitimately, honestly and heartfelt as true Canadians, not anti-Canadians — true Canadians.
It is absolutely outrageous that the rump right-wingers on that side of the House choose to just stifle debate. The Natural Resources Minister in Ottawa declared anyone opposed to his point of view to be an enemy of Canada. That is outrageous. In a democracy, we should be entitled to our point of view, and most people agree with that.
I am absolutely delighted to listen to what you have to say. In fact, I listened carefully and attentively to the member for Kootenay East, who has not always been so responsive to points of view on this side of the House.
The objective in democracy is to put those ideas in the marketplace and let the people decide. I'm here to tell you, as I wrap up my remarks — as truncated and interrupted as they may have been — that the people of British Columbia currently have a very decided view on who they want on that side of the House. It's the New Democratic Party. Call an election. Call an election.
Deputy Speaker: The member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan seeks leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
D. Routley: It gives me a great amount of pleasure and pride to be able to introduce a class of students from Cobble Hill. They are students of Bench Elementary School, and one of those students is my stepson, Matthew Baird, who I've spoken about many times in this House. It's a great privilege to be able to introduce him, his classmates and his teacher. I would like the House to help me
[ Page 12259 ]
make welcome this fine group of students from a great school in Cobble Hill, along with Matthew Baird.
D. Barnett: I am pleased to stand here today to support my colleague from the Kootenays. I'm very concerned when I hear what I've heard here in the last ten to 15 minutes. I come from the resource communities that actually provide the wealth for the province of British Columbia for all the great programs — through education, health care, social services, highways — that are provided.
I'm not surprised that my colleagues across the room would support their colleagues at another level of government in trying to curtail resource extraction in the province of British Columbia.
We have to deal with facts, with scientific evidence when we are in the resource extraction business. We have to have that take its course. But where I come from, we have emotion before facts and scientific evidence.
I find it very interesting when I look at the record of my colleagues across the way. Everything in the resource extraction industry is a no. I'm amazed at why we hire experts, why we send people to school to be geologists and scientists, when all we have to do is come here, and my colleagues across the room will say it's not a good idea. I mean, I find it very, very difficult that we take the word of experts and park it on a shelf to listen to other people.
I also would like to go back to the 1990s because we seem to be always going back in history. The record of my colleagues on resource development is not very good. In 1993 the opposition government unilaterally established the Tatshenshini park after a mining company had already invested $50 million in the Windy Craggy mining project. This resulted in legal action that cost…. It says it cost the NDP, but it cost the taxpayers more than $100 million.
When the opposition was in government, it created new protected areas that reduced MacMillan Bloedel's timber rights by 5.7 million cubic metres. They claimed that they owed the company nothing. The company then launched a court action against the opposition, seeking compensation topping $200 million for lost timber rights.
Then in 1999, I go back to the Cariboo-Chilcotin, the Cariboo lumber issue. It basically cost the Cariboo-Chilcotin a mill, hundreds of jobs and many communities out in the Chilcotin desecrated…. Once again, we must not listen to people that say resource extraction should never happen. Resource extraction managed, done with scientific evidence and done properly, is what governs and takes this province to where it is today and will continue to.
When my colleagues across the way are in support of a national party that feels exactly the same way, I am so concerned about the future of this country. That is why I'm standing here today speaking in favour of what my colleague from the Kootenays has said. We must move forward, we must look at scientific evidence, and we must quit saying no to anything in this province that creates jobs and economic growth.
J. Kwan: I am delighted to rise to speak to this motion that the member for Kootenay East has put on the floor. But I want to state very clearly, first of all, that the motion itself is actually an inaccurate expression of what the leader of the federal NDP had said. The motion says: "Be it resolved that this House unanimously reject the position stated by Thomas Mulcair that resource extraction in western provinces is bad for Canada."
The fact of the matter is that Thomas Mulcair said no such thing, and the member for Kootenay East actually knows it. He's making it up as he goes along because he thinks somehow he can score political points.
Let me just put on the record here what Thomas Mulcair has said, in addition to what the critic from our side just said earlier: "The government is using polarizing language. I'm talking about sustainable development. I'm talking about our generation assuming its obligations now and leaving a balanced economy like the one we received from our parents." That's what we're talking about.
The former minister, the want-to-be minister, of course makes it up as he goes along and uses the myopic view in the interpretation of what Thomas Mulcair said. It's a misinterpretation. It's based on myth and not based on fact.
Now, why does the member say that? It's because they're refusing to look at the real issue itself, because of their sorry record on value-added on the resources that are extracted from British Columbia.
The real issue here is not about resource extraction. We have an abundance of resources. It's how we utilize that resource to the best of B.C.'s economy for our future. We have a responsibility to do that. In order to do that, we should not just extract for extraction's sake and sell it off without adding value to that resource. We need to ensure that we get the best and maximum value out of our resource. That's our obligation and our responsibility — to do it in a sustainable fashion.
Let's just look at the Liberal record on manufacturing. Overall manufacturing employment is an important sector of our economy. Employment in natural resources has been flat over the last ten years at about 90,000 while manufacturing employment has actually declined. That would be under the Liberal government's tenure right now. Manufacturing employment declined by 39,000 or 19 percent between the year 2000 and 2011. That is actually a fact.
Now, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters report on B.C. manufacturing for the Outlook 2020 conference…. At this conference they actually advanced
[ Page 12260 ]
three recommendations. First, to take the B.C. advantage, where government commits to develop a strong industrial policy based on the Finnish knowledge-based model, invest in research and development and commercialization of technologies, enhance investment tax credits and improve infrastructure, and more. Did the government take on that recommendation? No, they didn't.
Second, what they term as Work Smart, including regulatory reform, border thinning and skills upgrading. Did the government take on that for the manufacturing sector? No. The answer is no.
Let's just look here in the Lower Mainland with a successful company, Avcorp. They have a very successful company in the aerospace industry. The opposition toured the company and talked to them. One of the things that they needed and wanted the government to invest in was actually training and ensuring that we have the proper skill set ready to take on the jobs.
Did the government take that on? No. In this year's budget they actually reduced the apprenticeship training line item. That's how the government is not assisting B.C.'s economy and failing B.C.'s economy — by not focusing in on the manufacturing aspect of it.
Last but not least, the third recommendation that they came up with was about what they term as carbon-smart — to help manufacturers implement carbon-reducing measures. We all want to reduce our footprint. Did the government do anything to actually assist the manufacturing sector in doing that? No. The answer is no, Madam Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.
J. Kwan: So I ask the members to look inward about their measures of what they can do for B.C.'s economy and to add value to our natural resources.
J. Les: I'm very pleased to be able to get up this morning and have a few comments about the motion proposed by the member for Kootenay East.
I certainly appreciated the exuberance from the member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant. But then, of course, I had to remind myself that in the recent NDP federal leadership, she was one of Thomas Mulcair's supporters, as were the member for Victoria–Swan Lake, the member for Nanaimo and the member for Powell River–Sunshine Coast.
So it is clear, then….
Deputy Speaker: Members. Members.
J. Les: It is clear, Madam Speaker, that Thomas Mulcair actually speaks for the members opposite. When we heard his comments last week, many of us were certainly taken aback when Mr. Mulcair made the comments that he did. Just at a time in the history of our country when Canada's economy is increasingly becoming a western economy, much to the benefit of the western provinces, we have the national leader of the official opposition from the New Democratic Party seemingly speaking out against this western development. He referred to it in rather pejorative terms. He referred to it as a disease.
I think that is most unfortunate. But on the other hand, as I reflected on those comments over the last number of days, I thought that it was rather business as usual for the NDP. Whenever significant new major economic developments come along, the instinctive reaction of members opposite is usually to say no. We have a long, long list of projects and economic activities in British Columbia where the New Democratic Party's stance from the get-go has been: "No, we shouldn't do it."
I'm concerned that those kinds of comments are apparently supported by members opposite. I think that we stand at the cusp of a great era of new development in British Columbia. As we know, the Pacific Rim is really coming into its own with countries like India, China, Vietnam, the Philippines and many others going through a rapid development pace. We certainly are able to take advantage of that and have taken advantage of that.
It allows us to develop this notion that Canada Starts Here. Increasingly, Canadians are recognizing that British Columbia now has an extremely critical and vital role to play in Canada's economy. Of that, there can be no doubt. Hence, our disappointment that we have a major national political leader who would tend to throw cold water on that idea. But I guess, again, it goes to their inherent negativity and pessimism.
On this side of the House, Madam Speaker, we're very interested in the possibilities that lie before us. The natural gas industry is going to be one of the beneficiaries of exporting into Asia. We're probably going to be able to get six or seven times the price for natural gas by shipping it offshore than if we're locked into the domestic market. That's just one example.
We have minerals in the ground in British Columbia in probably an almost inexhaustible supply, and we're only too happy to service our customers that are emerging on the Pacific Rim.
We want to be constructive and optimistic on this side of the House, not pessimistic as is often the case of the NDP. Rhetoric aside, in the 1990s it was pretty clear that the mining industry in British Columbia took a nosedive that it took years to recover from. By the time the year 2001 rolled around after a decade of NDP government, there was only $10 million spent on exploration in British Columbia. In more recent years that has gone right back up to $200 million, $300 million and $400 million a year, with several new mines opening very recently.
[ Page 12261 ]
Clearly, it's important for us to debate these issues. It's important for British Columbians to know which political parties actually support the development of British Columbia, support the notion that western Canada is going to lead our country economically into the decades ahead and just generally what our position is on these things. Is Thomas Mulcair speaking for British Columbians or not?
D. Donaldson: Well, I'm happy to stand and address this private member's motion by the member for Kootenay East, who I believe has recently been appointed co-chair by his leader, the Premier, of the upcoming election campaign for that side of the House. From the comments I've read about why, the Premier said it was because the member for Kootenay East had a fertile mind. Where I live, when we talk about fertile minds, it's usually in relation to shovelling something onto the soil to increase productivity.
I won't go into what the member for Kootenay East might be shovelling with this motion. But a fertile mind it certainly is, because it's not based in fact at all — this motion.
The fact is that the motion actually relates to something that the leader of the federal NDP said on The House. What he actually said is that he's not against oil sands development. It just should be done sustainably. In fact, what he said is: "The point I'm making is not that we should be against development of the oil sands, but it has to be sustainable development." That was the actual quote from the show on CBC The House.
In fact, the federal NDP leader is not alone in this view. The previous Premier used to organize joint cabinet meetings with the Premier of Alberta. Some members on the other side might have actually attended those meetings. The former Premier of Alberta, who government members seem to put a lot of faith in, Peter Lougheed…. His comments were similar to the federal NDP leader in that he said: "We should have more orderly development in relation to the tar sands. That means do one plant and finish it, build another plant and finish it, and do another plant, instead of having four of them go on at the same time."
So Mr. Mulcair is in good company with the former Premier of Alberta, Mr. Lougheed, who this government put their faith in years ago with the former Premier.
The point Mr. Lougheed was trying to make concerns the pace of development of the tar sands, the revenues generated and the jobs. This relates directly to the issue at hand in B.C. around the oil sands, and that's the Enbridge pipeline.
The message from the Premier on a following week on the show The House was entirely garbled about this government's message on the Enbridge pipeline, which is at the basis of this motion. The tar sands are at the basis of this private member's motion. The Premier could not articulate this government's position on the tar sands or on the Enbridge pipeline in any manner whatsoever.
We know that First Nations in northern B.C. are unanimously opposed to this project. We know that local governments are opposed to this project, and we know that the Premiers of Alberta and Ontario have made their views be known on this project. Yet this government, the Premier, has not made her views be known on this project. She has not come out and said what she thinks of the project, whether it should go ahead or whether it should not go ahead, and that's just a lack of leadership.
In fact, she likened the oil tanker traffic that the proposed Enbridge pipeline will result in as to the Douglas Channel being similar to the St. Lawrence Seaway, if you can believe that. She also said that B.C.'s coast does not belong to us, the people of B.C. Those are very concerning comments for the people in the north.
Again, getting back to the private member's motion. At the basis of it are the tar sands. I would really say that this motion, therefore, seems to be in favour of the tar sands project, the exporting of jobs that that creates, the lack of focus by this government on productivity and value-added at home. Raw logs exports have increased exponentially. That is this government's approach to jobs in B.C. — to export raw logs at an extraordinary rate to offshore and export the jobs with them.
What I would encourage the member for Kootenay East…. He stood up. I say to his leader that she should stand up, too, and make her views be known on the Enbridge pipeline.
Deputy Speaker: Recognizing the newly coiffed member for Peace River North.
P. Pimm: Thank you very much, hon. Speaker. A great fundraiser it was — $125,000 for our region. But I won't go into that. I don't want to waste my time here.
It gives me great honour to stand here today and take my position and talk about this motion by the member for Kootenay East. Mr. Mulcair said that by definition it's Dutch disease. Dutch disease right here — British Columbia, Alberta. I think that is horrendous. "Great if you're going to Disneyland," he said, but it absolutely puts his manufacturing industry in Ontario in the tank.
Well, quite honestly, the member for Juan de Fuca didn't want any part of this today. He didn't agree. He didn't agree that he even actually said such a thing. My goodness, it's all over the press everywhere that he said exactly that. The member for Stikine: "He didn't really say it. He didn't mean it, for sure." You know, the member for Stikine has never, ever been in support of one project in this chamber. He's not in support of any resource development anyhow. He does agree with Mr. Mulcair, and so that only makes sense that he'd say something like that.
This type of shortsighted economic analysis is simply
[ Page 12262 ]
and truly unacceptable for British Columbia. It truly is unacceptable for British Columbians. We have resource development that has led the livelihoods and led development in our area and certainly is going to over the next years to come. Benefits of resource development have brought billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs to British Columbia.
The comments from Mr. Mulcair are simply divisive, extreme and don't reflect the kind of federal partnership that B.C.'s people and residents and this province deserve. We must be equal to other provinces. We certainly can't be second or third fiddle to Quebec and Ontario. That just isn't right for British Columbians.
When all three Premiers from Canada's western provinces criticized Mulcair's depiction of the resource industries, he refused to discuss the issue with the provincial leaders. Instead, he dismissed them as Harper's messengers. Even though none of them are tied to the federal party, they're still depicted as Harper's messengers. That begs the question of me: if the western Premiers who have no ties to Mr. Harper are depicted in that fashion, how can we depict the leader of our official opposition?
What does he actually stand for, and what is he going to be labelled with after this? Is he going to be Mulcair's puppet? Is that the next thing that's going to come out of here? I'm sure that's what is going to be taken up from my area of the province, without question. If he doesn't come out and say that Mulcair's comments were absolutely out of line and that they cannot be accepted in this chamber, then shame on him and shame on that side for not coming out and saying that.
We've got an opportunity for a decade of the north, and we've said that we've got an opportunity for a decade in the north. We've got oil and gas, we've got mining, we've got LNG plants, and the list goes on. But that side and Mr. Mulcair would like us to say: "No, let's say no to that. We don't want any development. It's going to hurt the manufacturing in Ontario and Quebec." Unbelievable. It's absolutely deplorable, in my opinion. It should not have ever been said. He should be withdrawing his comments, and that side should be withdrawing their comments.
P. Pimm: Absolutely not. The federal leader, Mulcair, and former interim, Nycole Turmel, of the NDP have shown a desire to practise divisive politics and put the interests of Quebec and Ontario ahead of B.C. forever, and it continues on, and this is exactly what he's trying to put forward right now.
This divisive pattern extends back to the 1990s and the NDP government, which would squash resource development and chase thousands of resource sector jobs out of the province. I can tell you that they left in droves from northern B.C. Everybody went across to Alberta. They went across to Grande Prairie or went to Hythe, set up an office and went to work in Alberta. The only way that the oil and gas industry even survived at all was moving itself over to Alberta.
The one part that really gets me is that they've actually done some polling on this statement after it all was said and done. You know what? Even the people in Ontario, in a recent poll, said Mulcair's statement was completely out of line. We don't think that kind of thinking is responsive at all.
I want to tell you a quote from Brad Wall, the Premier of Saskatchewan. He says it right here. He criticized Mulcair's comments on the past Monday. "It's very, very divisive for someone…"
Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member. Thank you.
P. Pimm: "…who aspires to be the Prime Minister" of Canada, and he should be very ashamed of his thoughts.
Deputy Speaker: The member will take his seat.
P. Pimm: I believe that that's absolutely true, Madam Speaker.
Deputy Speaker: The member will take his seat.
C. James: Madam Speaker, I have to say, particularly after the last comments by the member, that what is divisive is this entire debate. Instead of talking about what's good for British Columbia and of resources that are good for British Columbia to be done sustainably, the members on the other side are trying to use politics and play politics in this place, instead of talking about how we can support jobs in British Columbia.
I heard the member say — and this is a motion coming forward from Kootenay East — that this was a shortsighted economic view.
Deputy Speaker: Member. Member.
C. James: Well, a shortsighted economic view is using our resources in an unsustainable way instead of protecting them for this generation and future generations to come.
Deputy Speaker: Member, excuse me.
Thank you. Please proceed.
C. James: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.
I've heard a few members on the other side talk about the importance of resources in British Columbia.
[ Page 12263 ]
Resources in British Columbia have helped build this province. They've built the province in the past, they're supporting us in the present, and they will help us in the future.
I think the piece that seems to be missing from the members on the other side is that these resources belong to all British Columbians. They belong to all British Columbians now and into the future, and the people, the citizens of British Columbia, want to see those resources used sustainably. They want to make sure that those resources and the jobs that they provide are here in this province not simply now for short-term gain but, in fact, for long-term economic development in British Columbia. That is our past, and that should be our future.
I think to hear the members on the other side talk about using resources and not talk about it being done in a sustainable way shows what little regard they have for that economic development, because if you use up those resources and don't do it sustainably, we will not have those jobs for the future. We will not have that economic development for the future. We will not see our health care and our education and our provincial budget benefiting from those resources, because they will be used up, and we will not see the jobs.
I think the example that really shows that the clearest is the issue of raw log exports and the issue of our forestry. What have we seen? What's the reality in British Columbia?
We've seen a huge increase in raw log exports and a huge decrease in mills and jobs and manufacturing here in British Columbia, because the resources aren't being used wisely. That's what this motion is about. That's what the comments by Thomas Mulcair are about: using our resources wisely for this generation and future generations.
Madam Speaker, I have to tell you that from the discussions I've had with the younger generation in our province, they understand it. They recognize sustainability has to be critical when it comes to resource extraction.
I heard one of the members earlier talk about saying no to projects. Well, I can tell you that here on this side, Madam Speaker, we say yes to partnerships with First Nations. We say yes to using our resources sustainably. We say yes to making sure those resources are here for this generation and future generations, because that's what's going to build British Columbia. That's what's going to keep that economic development going, not the kind of statistics that we're looking at in the forest sector.
We've seen the share of B.C.'s GDP generated by the forest sector industries drop down to 5 percent in the last few years. That's a huge decrease. We've seen the export of forest products drop to 30 percent from 55 percent 20 years ago. Those statistics show that we are not utilizing jobs; we are not utilizing the economic activity here in British Columbia that we could.
Those resources — I come back to the start — belong to all the people in British Columbia, and I would prefer, as I believe most British Columbians would prefer, that those jobs be created here in our province, that we see those resources used here in our province. That's what those resources are there for.
Yes, they do build our economic development. They do provide resources for education and health care, but they won't if those resources are used unsustainably and sent away, and that's the kind of approach that I see from the other side. I see from the other side no interest in any kind of discussion around sustainability. I see from the other side no interest in talking about jobs here in our province.
That's the kind of direction we should be going, and I think for members on the other side to bring this forward shows the irresponsibility.
D. Horne: I rise today in support of the motion. There's been much talk this morning as to what the federal NDP leader has had to say. I just wanted to start…. The member, my colleague from Peace River, spoke earlier and talked about what the federal NDP leader had to say, but I'd just like to read it one more time.
"It's by definition the Dutch disease. The Canadian dollar is being held artificially high, which is fine if you're going to Disney World, but it's not so good if you want to sell your manufactured products, because the American client, most of the time, can no longer afford to buy it. We have hollowed out the manufacturing sector…. At the present time the way we're exploiting the developing of the oil sands is causing an imbalance in our economy, and that is demonstrable."
The difficulty with this statement — and actually, quite frankly, the good point of the statement — is the fact that no one in the global money markets actually believes that Thomas Mulcair could be the Prime Minister. Since that statement at the beginning of May, the Canadian dollar has actually risen.
We have to understand. As the opposition and as people look to be the government-in-waiting, British Columbians — Canadians — need to look at the substance and the ability for that group to govern. To make such a statement, to actually tell global money markets that the Canadian dollar is artificially high, is the most absurd and destructive thing that a person who is the leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition could possibly do. This is something that affects all Canadians.
I have to say that before I was elected, you know, I had an office in the 34th floor of Bentall IV, one of the towers of downtown Vancouver. I, as a person who worked in Bentall Centre, could tell you that jobs weren't being created and the wealth that was created and was very evident in those towers certainly weren't being created by those serving lattes in the food mart.
Basically, the wealth that exists in this province, in this country, is produced by natural resources, is being pro-
[ Page 12264 ]
duced by those that actually deliver natural resources to the markets that are needed to create….
There was some talk earlier today about manufactured goods and about building on manufactured goods. Well, I hate to inform the NDP of this, but manufactured goods require raw materials to actually make those goods. If you don't actually have natural materials…. I hate to tell the opposition, but plastics come from petroleum products. It's many of these raw materials that we need to build the goods that actually drive our economy.
To say that our dollar is artificially high, to say that we have Dutch disease…. In one of the things that I heard this weekend, I heard the Leader of the Opposition call for us to band together and to jointly go to Ottawa to do what was best for British Columbia. I think that when it's the best thing to do for British Columbia, we do need to do these things, but quite frankly, this statement by the national federal leader of the NDP goes to the heart of our productivity and the heart of our economy in British Columbia.
If the New Democratic Party doesn't believe that it's important for us to be supporting our natural resource sector, making sure that we create jobs, making sure that great companies like Teck can create thousands of jobs in northern British Columbia, then I really don't understand what they think.
I'm very much in support of this motion, and I'll take my seat.
B. Ralston: I suppose it's a pleasure to join the debate, although it has been a little bit raucous. It's clear that the government, in this particular debate, is choosing to focus on the development of the resource sector in British Columbia, and that has been a historic part of the British Columbia economy for many years.
I think what they really have neglected is the strength of the manufacturing sector in British Columbia, when we look at some of the representations that have been made, for example, by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters for British Columbia and the B.C. Business Council. And the B.C. Business Council says specifically that the policy-makers in British Columbia have neglected the manufacturing sector.
Notwithstanding that the view of the government seems to be…. If you look at the jobs plan, there's no specific mention of the manufacturing sector. Given their view, it seems to be, to them, that the economy here in British Columbia is entirely driven by the resource sector.
It's an important part of the economy, but it's certainly not the whole part of the economy. In fact, if you look at the B.C. Stats figures, the number of jobs in the resource sector has declined, largely because of the decline in the forest industry, which the member for Victoria–Beacon Hill spoke of just recently.
If we're looking to the economic future of British Columbia, then I think it's important that not only do we look to, for example, mining — and there are new mines being opened; there is a cluster in Vancouver around developing mining finance — but there are opportunities to develop on the other aspects and other support to the mining sector, whether it's mining engineering or it's manufacturing and processing of the products of the mining process. That's not really in the report that's in the jobs strategy.
In transportation they talk about the Pacific gateway strategy, but they don't talk about the prospects of any manufacturing jobs that might flow from a transportation policy. Agrifoods, the food and beverage sector, is about 19 percent of B.C. manufacturing, and there's relatively little mention of that in the B.C. jobs strategy.
The technology sector. Despite having launched the B.C. jobs strategy back in September of last year, they haven't issued a paper on that sector, but when you look at digital media, there's one of the leading clusters in North America. In life sciences there's an established cluster of companies there.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
The B.C. Liberals don't seem to understand and have a sense of the broad sweep of the economy in British Columbia and, in fact, that the potential there for growth of jobs, particularly in the non-resource sector, is huge, whether you look at Avcorp Industries — which is in Delta, a leading aerospace manufacturer, a supplier to Boeing — or Weatherhaven. Ray Castelli is the CEO of it. That name may be familiar to some of the more politically astute here. That's a leading manufacturer of portable shelters, camps and systems for remote sites around the world.
Tree Island Industries, a global supplier of premium-quality wire and wire products, is in Richmond, and it employs about 250 people.
I recently visited Singer Valve, with the president, Andrew Taylor. That's in Surrey. They are a leading manufacturer of automatic control systems for the global water industry. In a small site in Surrey — they have a related manufacturing site in China — they manufacture water controls for businesses, companies, water authorities around the world, whether it's Malaysia, Brazil, New York or California. That's an example — and completely unheralded and unnoticed.
I think what the B.C. Liberals need to do is…. Certainly, the job strategy reflects the lack of sensitivity and lack of knowledge about the manufacturing sector here in British Columbia.
B. Ralston: I sense the member for Kootenay East getting a little impatient because this is not going according
[ Page 12265 ]
to plan — is it?
They need to rethink the jobs strategy. I know it was largely based on polling, although I know the Premier has recently repudiated the company that did the polling to develop the plan. But they need to think more broadly about the manufacturing sector and the opportunities in lean manufacturing and the Swedish model of manufacturing. A small country of four million….
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, Member.
J. Rustad: I will make my comments brief, as I do note the hour. The thing that I notice about this debate here this morning is that we're talking about a national leader that's creating division between east and west, that's talking about the success of western Canada that is helping to strengthen our economy, and wanting to pull that down.
I find that totally unacceptable. I can't believe that the opposition would not take a position on this issue. I listened very carefully to all of their speakers. They absolutely refused to take a position on it. But I will tell you what they have taken a position on. It's very similar to what Mulcair said.
He said: "You know, it's okay for some resource development, but we just have to tax it. We've got to support our industry in central Canada." They view it as a cash cow to support the types of programs and manipulation they want to do.
And the opposition's example of that is the carbon tax. They would like to take the carbon tax and use it for spending on transit in the Lower Mainland. The people in northern B.C. need to drive out to the forest to work in the industry. They drive for mining, the transportation, all of those sorts of things that need to use those fuels. They want to put a tax on that so that they can support projects in the Lower Mainland. That's their vision of the way that they would like to see this province work, and it fits hand in glove with what Mulcair said.
The member for Victoria–Beacon Hill said we have to manage resources sustainably and talked passionately about the forest industry. Well, it's a shame we didn't have that same passion in the '90s from them when we had the pine beetle that devastated our forest industry and they refused to do anything but wait for a cold winter. Clearly, their view of B.C. is that a resource sector in rural B.C. should help pay for the types of programs that they want to put in place.
They have no concern whatsoever for the fact that those are the industries that we need to be nurturing, that we need to be supporting. That is where Thomas Mulcair lacks in his vision. He does not understand that we need to be able to support those industries, nourish them, so that we can have a strong Canada.
I'll close with this, because they talk about secondary manufacturing. Which one of your ridings wants an oil refinery — huh? You talk about wanting additional capacity and being able to do that. Stand up and say you'd love to have an oil refinery in your riding, so that you can support resource and secondary development of it. I'd love to see that. It'd be great for our political platform.
With that, I'm pleased to be able to support this motion. I think it's absolutely unacceptable that a federal leader would try to create that kind of divide. With that, I move adjournment of debate.
J. Rustad moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. T. Lake moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.
The House adjourned at 12 noon.
Copyright © 2012: British Columbia Hansard Services, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada