Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 39th Parliament
This is a DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY of debate in one sitting of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. This transcript is subject to corrections, and will be replaced by the final, official Hansard report. Use of this transcript, other than in the legislative precinct, is not protected by parliamentary privilege, and public attribution of any of the debate as transcribed here could entail legal liability.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2012
The House met at 1:33 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
J. Les: In the visitors' gallery today we're honoured to have Mr. Komgrit Varakamin, the newly appointed consul general of the Kingdom of Thailand in Vancouver. The consul general comes to our province from his recent posting at the Thai embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam.
He is joining us here in Victoria today to conduct his official courtesy meetings with provincial officials, and I look forward to the opportunity to meet with him later this afternoon and discuss how our two jurisdictions can further enhance the positive relationship that already exists between Thailand and British Columbia.
Would the House please join me in making the consul general feel very welcome.
C. Trevena: I'm begging indulgence of the House to welcome two people who are in the virtual gallery. They assiduously watch this place, thanks to the Hansard webcasts, and they watch it from England. They are, no doubt, my most loyal and long-term supporters. They're the people who gave me the values that still guide me and also the belief that I could do whatever I wanted in my life.
I would hope that the House would give a very warm welcome to my parents, who regularly watch this place, Billy and Mary Trevena.
R. Sultan: In the gallery today is Midshipman Darlene Thornhill of the Navy League of Canada, a passionate advocate for the Royal Canadian Navy and authoress of Bell Bottom Blues: Arctic Sovereignty, describing Canada's geopolitical neglect of our Arctic lands and oceans. Accompanying her is Lt. Ken Kwan, also of the Navy League, who commands a detachment of 70 naval cadets at HMCS Discovery on Deadman Island at the entrance to Stanley Park. Would you please make them welcome.
D. Routley: Can the House help me welcome an extraordinary young man from Nanaimo. Tali Campbell is a student at John Barsby high school in my constituency. He was the publisher of the school paper when I met him. Since then he's gone on to other pursuits. Currently he's organizing an effort called Youth Sticking Together. It's an effort to break the Guinness world record for a street hockey game. He'll have 40 participants going for 105 hours to support local charities.
He also hosts a current affairs program on university radio, CHLY radio, in Nanaimo. He is also working in the community relations office of Nanaimo Timbermen lacrosse club. I think we should all be inspired by a young person like Tali who becomes so involved in his community and gives such great service to all of us. Thank you, Tali, and welcome to the House.
Hon. J. Yap: In the gallery today, visiting for the second time in a year, is a good friend, constituent and supporter. Would the House please join me in welcoming Peter Boddy back to the Legislature.
V. Huntington: I'm very pleased to say that both my constituency assistants and my research officers are in the gallery today. As all members know, we couldn't do the work either in our ridings or in this House without the competency and good cheer of these men and women. Would the House please join me in welcoming Bernadette Kudzin, Brad Densmore, Yvonne Parenteau and Shawn Courtney to this place.
D. Hayer: Joining us today in the House are two very special guests of mine. They are outstanding volunteers and perform excellent work at my constituency office. They look after my constituents' concerns and issues. Please welcome my constituency assistant Manuel Santos, who continues to be an exemplary and dedicated worker in my constituency office since 2007. Manuel also commits countless volunteer hours to benefit our community. I've also had the distinct pleasure of having him as my campaign manager for the 2009 election.
My other special guest is Paul Keenleyside. Paul is my part-time constituency assistant. He not only fills in for Manuel when Manuel is at a meeting; he also looks after our communications and research. Paul has been helping our office since 2000. He also has the distinction of volunteering in 62 municipal, provincial and federal elections. He also voluntarily provides emergency and public safety amateur radio communications at many events, including the Celebration of Light, the Hyack Parade, the Vancouver Marathon, Vancouver Sun Run and many other places. Would the House please make them both welcome here.
M. Sather: Joining us in the gallery today is Alexandra Morton. Alexandra is a salmon researcher and an indefatigable supporter and defender of wild salmon. She is here with some friends, watching the progress of legislation in the House. Will members please join me in welcoming her.
J. Slater: Joining us in the gallery today is Wayne Roznowsky, who's the manager of public affairs Canada for Weyerhaeuser. Would the House please make him very welcome.
R. Fleming: Joining us today is Andrew Stinson, who's a young man who is active in the Oak Bay–Gordon Head Constituency Association as the Young New Democrat representative. He's here to watch question period. This is his very first time in the Legislative Assembly, so I would ask the House to please make Andrew feel very welcome.
Hon. T. Lake: In the precinct today we have a constituent of mine, Lyn Arikado and her husband, Brian. I know that the Minister of Justice will introduce all the recipients of the public safety lifeline volunteers award a little bit later, but I wanted to pay special respects to Lyn, who is the co-director of the Kamloops emergency support services and was the recipient of that award here today.
I understand that Lyn has a beautiful cat named Tess, whom she entered in the Iams most lovable pet contest, so I would hope that the House will make Lyn and Brian — but, unfortunately, not Tess here today — very welcome.
Hon. I. Chong: It is with some sadness that I rise to introduce a former constituent. Jim Unger was the offbeat mind behind the cartoon Herman, and was a resident of Saanich for the past decade. Herman, with its wry observations of the world and distinctive drawing style, ran in 600 newspapers in 25 countries and continues in syndication in some U.S. newspapers. Its witty captions commented on the way we live now.
He was born in London, England, and immigrated in 1968 to Canada where his cartooning career began at the Mississauga Times. Herman became the first newspaper cartoon syndicated in communist East Germany in 1990. Mr. Unger won, twice, the best syndicated panel award from the U.S. National Cartoonists Society.
After 20 years of cartooning and more than 6,000 original comics to his credit, Mr. Unger retired to the Bahamas in 1992. But after five years in retirement, the Herman comics returned in syndication in 1997, and Mr. Jim Unger moved to Saanich more than ten years ago in order to be close to his brother and sister, Robert and Deborah.
Sadly, though, on Monday Mr. Unger passed away in his sleep at the age of 75 in his Saanich home. I just want to ask, Mr. Speaker, that all members here acknowledge this great citizen and have our thoughts go out to his friends and family at this difficult time.
Introductions by Members
M. Dalton: In the House today for the first time is a very lovely lady. It's my niece, Aubryn Howe. She's attending Camosun College, taking a Bachelor of Arts degree. She's originally from Edmonton, Alberta, and I'm glad she's moved down here to experience the Island life and to study. With her are two other lovely ladies, here for the first time in two weeks: my wife, Marlene, and my daughter Hannah. Would the House please make them feel welcome.
M. Coell: It's with a great deal of pleasure that I introduce the secretary of the Victoria chapter of the ALS Society to this House, Joan Axford. Would the House please make her welcome.
Hon. P. Bell: I rise on a very happy note today. I have joined the exclusive league that Mr. Speaker, of course, is a member of. The member for Chilliwack has been able to get up on this type of occasion, I think, 16 or 18 times now, if I'm not mistaken. And my good friend the House Leader on many occasions….
Hon. R. Coleman: Three.
Hon. P. Bell: On three occasions. We call them Coleman country occasions. My friend the member from Prince George–Valemount and many others….
On the 19th of May my daughter Donna and her husband, Matt, had a grandchild, presented a grandchild to my wife, Brenda, and me. The baby was 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and baby, mom and dad are doing extremely well. So the member for Victoria–Beacon Hill has a new constituent, and we hope that that constituent will be voting Liberal. The baby's name, of course, is Joey Matthew Hobbs.
R. Fleming: I wanted to bring to the attention of the House the sudden passing of Tom Galimberti, who was a former civil servant and an entrepreneur. He owned a local arts club at 1410 Broad Street in downtown Victoria. It was a sudden passing. It left his family and friends and former colleagues shocked that he's no longer with us.
Members of this House will know Tom by his long and distinguished career, working for the governments of both Saskatchewan and British Columbia. It was in the 1990s, when he was at the Ministry of Environment, that Tom took on some extremely difficult assignments.
One of them was to clean up Howe Sound and the pulp and paper industry and the effluent that was in the environment. It was something that Tom took on and accomplished. He was also one of the individuals who brought B.C. to the product stewardship system, which made British Columbia a North American leader on recyclables and waste diversion. Those were difficult assignments that Tom performed in an exemplary fashion. There are many more, other accomplishments that Tom had on behalf of citizens of British Columbia.
It's a sad occasion, and there was a wonderful ceremony in downtown Victoria just over a week ago. He's survived by his three sons and his grandchildren, and I would just ask the House to thank Tom and his friends and the survivors in his family for what he has done for the province.
First Reading of Bills
Bill M215 — Cosmetic Use of
Pesticides Control Act, 2012
A. Dix presented a bill intituled Cosmetic Use of Pesticides Control Act, 2012.
A. Dix: I move that the Cosmetic Use of Pesticides Control Act, 2012, be introduced and read for a first time now.
A. Dix: This bill will protect public health, safety and the environment in British Columbia by regulating, restricting and prohibiting the use and sale of pesticides for residential and cosmetic use, and by regulating the use of pesticides around children.
This is the fourth occasion that New Democrats have introduced a bill into the Legislature to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides. It's supported by numerous organizations, including the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and Toxic Free Canada, among many others. It also follows the advice of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization.
As we saw from the submissions to the special committee, this legislation is favoured by the overwhelming majority of British Columbians. The vast majority of submissions supported a ban. We've waited long enough; the time for action is surely now.
I ask that the bill be put on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill M215, Cosmetic Use of Pesticides Control Act, 2012, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
(Standing Order 25B)
AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS
M. Coell: Today I rise to speak on an important issue that affects the lives of thousands of people across the province. June is ALS Awareness Month in British Columbia, a time for us to work together to help find a cure for ALS.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, is a rapidly progressive neuromuscular disease. It impacts a person's ability to walk, to talk, to swallow and, ultimately, to breathe. ALS is a fatal disease, with no effective treatment and no cure. Unfortunately, 80 percent of the people who have ALS die within two to five years of diagnosis — some people within months.
The ALS Society of B.C. works tirelessly to raise funds and support those living with the disease. This upcoming Saturday, June 2, is the society's annual ALS Flower Day. Throughout June people can buy a cornflower, and all moneys raised will go towards finding a cause and a cure for ALS. I hope that all members of the House will join me in celebrating the hard work the ALS Society does to fight the disease in British Columbia.
I want to say a special thank you to the ALS Society for all the work they do. This June I encourage all members of the House to participate in ALS Awareness Month and help find a cure for this devastating disease.
I would like to end by quoting Lou Gehrig. On July 4, 1959, at Yankee Stadium, at a ceremony in his honour, he said: "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for."
DELTA KITE-FLYING EVENT
FOR CLEAN AIR AWARENESS
G. Gentner: Members, think back to when as a child you ran along a grassy knoll against the wind, let go and gazed with amazement at the kite that left your hands, guiding and pulling the line and staring into the sky, wondering if it might actually hit the clouds.
We live in such a beautiful part of the world, but I think we sometimes take our air for granted. Pollution, more traffic and potential incineration threatens the Lower Mainland's airshed, our environment and our health. Incidents of asthma, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and pulmonary diseases are on the rise.
But what better way to symbolize our appreciation for good, clean air than by flying a kite? On June 3, 2012, North Delta will be celebrating Canada's Environment Week by inviting families to come fly a kite to commemorate Clean Air Day, which falls on June 6 this year, at Delview Park in North Delta from 12 o'clock noon to 2:30 p.m. My office is sponsoring a kite-building workshop, where children can learn to design, build and then fly their own kites.
Along with a kite-building workshop, there will be face-painting; bird demonstrations by Orphaned Wildlife; and interactive displays with groups that include the Burns Bog Conservation Society, B.C. Lung Association, the Delta Naturalists, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Recycling Council of B.C. and the FarmFolk/CityFolk.
This is a fun way for children and their families to learn about clean air and our environment because, as we know, our children will inherit the stewardship of the Lower Mainland's airshed. Let's capture the nation's imagination. Stand up for clean air, and come fly a kite. On June 3 kites — big kites, small kites, box kites — of all shapes and sizes will soar and dot the skies in North Delta.
As Winston Churchill once said: "Kites rise highest against the wind." In North Delta the wind will be strong in the airshed that will remain clean, resilient and pristine.
J. Rustad: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Introductions by Members
J. Rustad: It's a great pleasure today to have a group from the W.L. Mcleod Elementary School in Vanderhoof that have come down to the Legislature to visit. This is a group of students that I got an opportunity to meet with. We have 24 students from grade 7, with a number of adults that have been accompanying.
Of course, it's a long way to come down here to be able to visit, and I'm just so pleased to have had the chance to meet them. As well, I'd like to thank the organizer, Mrs. Maggie Fraser, for her efforts in bringing them down here. Would the House please make them welcome.
(Standing Order 25B)
SURREY BOARD OF TRADE
TOP 25 UNDER 25 AWARD RECIPIENTS
D. Hayer: On Tuesday 25 young people who have excelled and may soon be our future leaders, were honoured by the Surrey Board of Trade during their second annual Surrey Top 25 Under 25 awards. The winners, all 25 years of age or less, were chosen based on very subjective analysis of their business or community achievement, their leadership abilities, community involvement and uniqueness of their business or community project.
These talented and skilled young people of Surrey — five of them still teenagers, ranging in age from just 16 years old to a maximum of 25 years — embody the entrepreneurial spirit that makes British Columbia great today and ensures the province's success lasts long into the future. Because of their exceptional skills and contributions to the community and to the economy, I would like this House to recognize all 25 of them.
Mr. Speaker, there's Afraj Gill, Alisa Zukanovich, Andrea Danyluk, Brendan Graham, Brock Courneya, Daryl Dela Cruz, Gurkiran Mann, Ivneet Bains, Jaspreet S. Lehal, Joyce Loksum Mak, Julian DeSchutter, Kasandra Linklater, Kelsey Filion, Kunal Sharma, Megan Carey, Michael Cheng, Michelle Chen, Quinn Spicker, Ravi Muti, Saif Eshaq, Stevie Vu, Sukhi Sangha, Tyler Spence and William Luong.
I ask the House to join me in congratulating Surrey's top 25 outstanding young entrepreneurs, innovators and community-spirited individuals who one day will be our top leaders — either MLAs or Premiers or MPs or Prime Minister or councillors or mayors.
FARMERS MARKETS IN
D. Thorne: "Make, bake or grow" is the motto for the Coquitlam Farmers Market, which is one of my favourite places on Sunday mornings. The Poirier Street market, which is only blocks from my house, opened Mother's Day and runs through October 28. I was there on opening day, buying my fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, organic fish and chicken, spring plants and, of course, kettle corn and cookies.
One of the joys of the farmers market is the fun of running into people that you've known for years. I see friends of my sons who are now pushing baby carriages, women from my book club, people from my riding who, of course, always take the opportunity to tell me their concerns.
I'm pleased to report that the Coquitlam Farmers Market has expanded to two other sites, the Spirit Square and SFU. The Spirit Square market, which is across from city hall, will be on Fridays beginning June 15 and running through September 14 from 3 till 7 p.m. The SFU Pocket Farmers Market is up and running on Wednesdays, now until October 31 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Cornerstone Square on University High Street.
As well as the vendors, volunteers are the heart of the market. They set up and tear down the market every week, they help both the vendors and visitors, they distribute the monthly newsletter, and they help with crafts and with special events.
I love the festive atmosphere at the market with local buskers performing. Of course, they are also volunteers, with their only pay coming from their donations. I've seen some wonderful young people getting their very first taste of fame at the market.
Farmers markets date back to a time before the industrial age — before grocery stores, even. It is a wonderful tradition that I am very happy to support. And, Mr. Speaker, the cinnamon buns aren't too bad either.
PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY PROGRAM
M. Stilwell: Earlier this month I had the pleasure of meeting with students from St. Anthony of Padua School in Vancouver. Their teacher, Mr. Mayer, recently took part in the British Columbia Teachers Institute on Parliamentary Democracy. The program is offered by the Legislative Assembly as a professional development course for teachers looking to enhance their knowledge and understanding of B.C.'s political system.
The program brings teachers to the Legislature where they attend question period, meet Legislative Assembly staff and learn about the parliamentary process. The hope is that teachers who take part in the program will develop classroom activities based on their experience at the Legislature and inspire a discussion on parliamentary democracy among their students.
After the program Mr. Mayer developed lessons for his class. One assignment saw the class write bills that they would like to table in the Legislature. Among the legislation they drafted was a bill to establish a 100 percent tax on all chocolate sales, which I'm not so sure about; a bill to make it mandatory for all cars to contain electric motors by 2020; and a bill to require all children in B.C. to eat at least one serving of vegetables per meal.
This type of activity engages students and promotes an understanding and awareness of the legislative process and how the work we do in this House affects people's daily lives. The ultimate goal is to champion effective citizenship among youth. By introducing them to politics at an early age, we can encourage lifelong political participation.
ROLE OF MLAs AND PROTECTION OF
AGRICULTURAL LAND IN FRASER VALLEY
V. Huntington: Houston, Delta has a problem. In fact, agricultural land throughout the Fraser Valley has a problem.
As members of this assembly, we are chosen by the people to represent them to government. No election to this place is a public choice for a single point of view or a single set of values. The society we represent is a consortium of values, and the wisest here know that their obligation is to find balance. It is not to represent a monolithic point of view. It is not to advocate for a single value. It is not to represent only the ministerial interests one leads.
Our obligation is to understand what makes our society whole, to understand what gives our cultures their essence and to carefully weave our way through values that define who we are and what we hold dear. When those whom we represent say, "Stop, you've gone too far," our obligation is to listen. When they say, "Stop, let's find another way," our obligation is to talk. When they say, "Look, you are ignoring values that are part of our lives and our social order," our obligation is to step back and ponder the wisdom of our decisions.
How dare we decide a community can be sacrificed to business, that pavement is more important than farming the best soil in the land? How dare we decide that industry is more important than an internationally designated important bird area of hemispheric proportions? Have we the wisdom to search for that balance, to know that we cannot ignore one value to promote another, to know that we cannot balance society's values by refusing to properly weigh its values?
Mr. Speaker, I implore the members of this assembly to insist that we preserve the life-giving values of the agricultural land on the mighty Fraser River's delta.
TRAINING TAX CREDITS FOR
SEASPAN MARINE CORP.
A. Dix: Recently some doubt has been cast on the government's commitment to training tax credits to Seaspan under the federal shipbuilding contract. As we all know, $35 million in credits was trumpeted by the Premier and others as an important component of Seaspan's ability to win and, most importantly, deliver on the $8 billion contract.
My question to the Premier is fairly simple: does she stand by her commitment to the $35 million in training tax credits?
Hon. C. Clark: Yes, indeed, we do.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has a further supplemental.
A. Dix: I'm delighted to get that answer from the Premier. Just to be clear, that means the government will be providing $35 million in training tax credits?
Hon. C. Clark: We are negotiating with them right now, and we are working through those negotiations. I'm not going to negotiate it in the public, but we are working hard with the company, just as we have from the very beginning.
Remember that the government component and the work that the government put into making sure we landed this contract for British Columbia was crucial to ensuring that those thousands of jobs, the biggest federal non-wartime procurement in history for British Columbia, actually came to our province and created jobs right here at home.
Mr. Speaker, 59,000 net new jobs in the last year — almost 29,000 in the month of April alone. We have a plan. It's called Canada Starts Here. We are delivering on that plan and making sure that British Columbians go to work.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition has a further supplemental.
A. Dix: Hon. Speaker, $35 million at the photo op, $35 million on the answer to the first question. Then the answer to the second question: they're negotiating. So I just wanted to be clear, because the Premier didn't answer the question the second time around. Will the value of the training tax credits be $35 million?
Hon. C. Clark: We intend to honour our agreement with Seaspan — full stop. We are negotiating with them about some of the details of what that's going to look like.
Remember this: there were two contracts that Seaspan was pursuing — one for very large ships and one for smaller ships. In fact, many people say that the contract for the smaller ships was the better one for British Columbia because upwards of 80 or 90 percent of the product will actually be produced right here in British Columbia.
We are very proud of the work that our government did in making sure that this contract was awarded to British Columbians, to put British Columbian workers to work at high-paying, high-skilled jobs. We remain very proud of that.
We remain committed to the commitments that we made to Seaspan. We are continuing to negotiate on some of the details of that, but we are standing by that commitment 100 percent.
INTEGRATED CASE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
C. Trevena: The government has been phasing in a $182 million integrated case management system in the Ministries of Social Development and Children and Families. It's supposed to improve services, but feedback from social workers using it shows the opposite.
Social workers are talking about some very serious concerns. They say it's cumbersome and can result in dangerous mistakes being made. In the Ministry of Children and Families they can't get the information they need about children at risk quickly, and that often results in a crisis.
What is the Minister of Children and Family Development doing to make sure this computer system is not going to hamper the work of child protection officers?
Hon. M. McNeil: The integrated case management system that is in its phase 2 has, as with every new technology, some challenges when it first begins. But I have to tell you that this integrated case management system for our ministry alone is replacing 64 individual technologies.
I think what it's going to be able to do is to allow our social workers and our front-line workers, once they get fully trained and fully up to speed on the actual system, to be able to communicate with each other so that communication between the various entities will ensure that children and youth in this province are well served.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
C. Trevena: I think that the minister's answer is very troubling. The minister is talking about when social workers are fully trained and up to speed, but this system is operating right now, and social workers are working on it. They've documented some very, very serious concerns. We're talking about child welfare. For one, they say that the after-hours notification system is "in complete disarray."
Just one example to show that we are not exaggerating the seriousness of this, and I hope that the minister isn't underplaying it. A newborn baby was not to be sent home with its parents because of safety concerns. The notification about that was not found, and the child went home.
When things go wrong in the child protection system, the results can be tragic. Social workers and staff have to have confidence in the system, and that is disappearing.
I'd like to know from this minister what she is doing to ensure that kids are kept safe.
Hon. M. McNeil: As I said early, this integrated case management system is a long-overdue technical upgrade. Some of the systems we've been using are up to 30 years old, and it is time that we modernize the information system.
This integrated case management system did not come about because we just simply thought it would be a good thing to do. This is the result of many different reports, some written by the Representative for Children and Youth, who feel that we needed to ensure that our technology system keeps up with all of the thousands of people that are out there.
Each and every year Ministry of Children and Family alone deals with 127,000 children and youth. We have to make sure that our technology systems keep up so that the services we can give to these children and youth are as effective as they can be.
C. James: I heard the minister say that there are many reports and that this came after a great deal of study. Well, I would have hoped that the government and the minister would have ensured the technology was working first before it was implemented. That would have been important.
These are not simply a few comments. These are many comments from social workers trying to manage the system and expressing their frustration.
One says: "I'm a very experienced computer user. I've done data entry for a very long period of time. But with this new ICM system, we're not getting appropriate training. It's a nightmare. Our case managers spend far more time entering stuff into ICM than they do providing client service. It's extremely hard on them to be forced into a situation where good service is not possible."
A lack of service means chaos — more chaos for vulnerable children, their families and the workers who support them. My question is to the minister. How will she specifically address these concerns so that the work is spent on vulnerable children and not on a computer system with flaws?
Hon. M. McNeil: I want to assure the member opposite that staff are working incredibly hard to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible. But this is a replacement system of over 64 different databases. There are workers that have used some of these systems for an awfully long time, and transitions like this are going to be challenging. They are working as hard as they can, and we appreciate all of the efforts from the staff.
You know, I have to say that shortly after the launch of the second phase, I had the opportunity to go out in Car 86 with one of the members of the Vancouver police department and one of our workers from after-hours.
They were talking about the transition and the challenge it was. The police officer was very correct in saying, "You know what? We had the same issues when we moved to PRIME," which is the system integrating all of the police forces. That was a challenge as well. But he said: "I couldn't do my job without it."
After we get things moving along, it's going to be the same story that we're going to hear from our own workers.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
C. James: I'd say to the minister that the concern is: what will happen in the meantime? What will happen in the meantime to a system that is already stressed, a system that already has social workers managing much too large caseloads, trying to cope, and now trying to cope with a new system that has flaws?
Under the old system, intake for children and youth with special needs used to take 30 minutes. Under the new supposedly improved system, it's taking two hours plus, which often means multiple appointments for families. No one knows what's happening with autism funding. Social workers are duplicating their data entry with e-mails.
I hope that this $182 million system doesn't end up like the BCeSiS system that was used in education. That was a $90 million system that was spent for a colossal failure. We heard things were just fine with the BCeSIS system as well.
Again, my question is to the minister. Will she commit to sitting down with the social workers, the people on the front line using the system, and fix this mess before it, too, gets out of hand?
Hon. M. McNeil: You know, it's always concerning to me when members opposite try and spread some things around that aren't necessarily fully truthful. I'm concerned about that, because there is a transition to a new system. There are always challenges….
Mr. Speaker: Member. Member, just take your seat for a second.
I just want to advise members. I'm paying attention to what's going on. I would advise the member to just be very careful in the choice of words that she uses.
Hon. M. McNeil: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am concerned when there are things that…. We have to make sure that we are absolutely giving the full story here. Mr. Speaker, I want to read to you an e-mail that we got from one of our social workers.
She said: "I thought you'd like to hear a happy ICM story that we've had. ICM saved the day yesterday. After-hours had removed a young boy from his mother after the boy was abandoned with a stranger at a SkyTrain station. We had only the first names of the mom and child — no other identifying information except that the boy was around three."
She continues to say: "In ICM, I was able to do a search with query assistant and find the child the same age as this boy connected to a mom with the same name that was given in the report. I couldn't have done this with MIS, which is the old system. Someone had called a number of agencies in the community to put the word out, needing to identify these two people." But you know, Mr. Speaker, ICM was faster.
GRANTING OF INDEMNITIES
IN B.C. RAIL COURT CASE
J. van Dongen: On May 2 I asked the Attorney General which section of the Financial Administration Act legally authorized the Deputy Minister of Finance to forgive and extinguish Basi and Virk's $6 million legal fees liability, given the specific limitations imposed by section 18. The Attorney General did not answer my question.
Two days later an unattributed e-mail was sent by the Ministry of Justice to the media "on background only." Contrary to the October 2010 public statement by Deputy Attorney General Loukidelis, the Justice Ministry e-mail claimed there was no legal liability prior to the guilty pleas. The e-mail goes on to state: "Section 72 provided the legal authority to modify the Basi and Virk indemnities by removing the repayment conditions."
My question to the Attorney General: can the Attorney General confirm to this House that section 72 of the Financial Administration Act did in fact provide the legal authority to remove the repayment obligations that were originally agreed to in the Basi-Virk indemnity agreements?
Hon. S. Bond: Yes.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
J. van Dongen: The Justice Ministry e-mail states that section 72 of the act provides the government with the legal authority to grant indemnities. That authority includes the setting of terms and conditions. But then the e-mail advances the notion that the authority of section 72 to grant indemnities on terms and conditions also includes the authority to change or remove conditions. There is no specific authority written into section 72 to change or remove obligations from indemnity agreements.
There is a simple way for the Attorney General to earn the public trust on the issue of statutory authority. Rather than sending an anonymous e-mail, will the Attorney General release today the written legal opinion that persuaded her that section 72 legally provided the authority to remove the obligations that Basi and Virk repay their $6 million of legal fees?
Hon. S. Bond: To the member opposite, the government does have legal authority to grant indemnities under section 72 of the Financial Administration Act. The authority includes the setting of terms and conditions that could, as in the case of Basi-Virk, include a condition that you would be able to modify. So in fact, the authority to grant indemnities on terms and conditions includes the authority to change or remove those conditions.
GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO CHANGES
TO IMMIGRANT SETTLEMENT SERVICES
M. Elmore: B.C. is a major international entry point for immigrants to the nation. In April, I asked this government about the B.C. Liberals' failure to stand up to the federal government's decision to centralize B.C.'s immigration settlement services in Calgary. The response from the Jobs Minister was that they are working with the federal government and that this issue might end up being a good-news story.
Unfortunately, that isn't the case, as we learn more bad news for immigrants coming to B.C. The Victoria office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, only a few blocks from the Legislature, is closing its doors in two days.
To the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation: can he explain how this is good news?
Hon. P. Bell: We continue to work with the federal government on the immigration and settlement services. In fact, the agreement that we have with the federal government provides for a 24-month notice period of any changes. That continues to be a point of discussion between this government and the federal government.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
M. Elmore: Offices in Victoria, Nanaimo, Prince George and Kelowna will close their doors to people applying for temporary and permanent residency, landed immigrant status and permanent residency cards. There were five offices; now there will be one — none on Vancouver Island and none in rural B.C.
Again to minister: how exactly does he see this as a good-news story?
Hon. P. Bell: The federal government is making changes not just to settlement services, which is what I responded to, to the member opposite's question, when I originally said that there was, I think, an opportunity for B.C. to find itself in a better position, as we make changes and as the federal government makes changes to its settlement services.
The member opposite should know, actually, that B.C. is overrepresented in terms of its total settlement. The federal government has indicated they intend to fund settlement services on the basis of a proportion of settlement services provided across the country. That, therefore, provides us with an opportunity, I think, to negotiate a good agreement.
The member opposite is actually referring to something completely different that was announced recently by the federal government. I'd suggest that the member opposite actually refer to her federal members to ask that question in that House.
But I'd also be interested, while the member opposite is standing, to ask if they support federal NDP leader Mulcair in his endeavour to start splitting and creating wedges in this country and not allowing western Canada to fully achieve its economic objectives. We haven't yet heard from the Leader of the Opposition what his position is on Mulcair's comments, and I'd be very interested in knowing that.
PROCESS FOR TRANSPORT OF
DISEASED SALMON TO PORT ALBERNI
S. Fraser: Let's see if we can bring question period back down to earth, hon. Speaker. Atlantic salmon in open-net fish farms in B.C. waters have been testing positive for the IHN virus; 600,000 diseased fish from the Dixon Bay farm in Clayoquot Sound were brought to Port Alberni docks without any warning, without any consultation with the Tseshaht First Nation, with the Hupacasath First Nation nor with the city of Port Alberni — no advising them of the quarantine procedures that would be followed to ensure that infected materials would not be contaminating the waters.
Can the Agriculture Minister please tell us why the Liberal government didn't work with all parties to ensure that there was acceptable biosecurity procedures in place before bringing infected salmon to the Port Alberni dock?
Hon. D. McRae: The member is talking about IHN, otherwise known as infectious hematopoeitic necrosis, a word I've practised a couple of times because I was waiting for this question. The member opposite is correct. It is a federally reportable disease. So when it is a federally reportable disease, it falls under the authority of CFIA, otherwise known as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Now, some things I'd like to clarify, if I may, for the general public who watches on TV. First of all, IHN is not a risk to human health. Also, IHN has existed in nature, as far as we know, for hundreds of years. Pacific salmon, herring and trout, both freshwater and salt, actually carry the disease. Because of that, they've built up a natural immunity over generations of salmon.
These salmon — if they transfer the disease to wild salmon, there is a problem. Atlantic salmon do not have the actual natural immunities. We have seen IHN break out on the coast before. We saw IHN break out in 1992, 1995 and 2001. Now, there are some differences between what happened then as compared to this outbreak.
Mr. Speaker: Thank you, Minister.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
The member has a supplemental.
S. Fraser: We're seeing a government that just abdicates its responsibility to protect the public interest. That's for sure.
Andy Olsen, a biologist and fisheries manager for the Tseshaht First Nation, was at the dock when the diseased fish were being unloaded, as were Tseshaht First Nations councillor Les Sam and chief councillor for the Hupacasath, Steven Tatoosh, and the mayor of Port Alberni, John Douglas. Fortunately, independent observers were there to alert them.
All were very concerned about what appears to be lax standards for the disposal of the fish at the Port Alberni dock. There were no booms in place. Infected blood was seen dripping at the site. There was no oversight from government.
Can the minister explain why the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations, who have relied on the Alberni Inlet for millennia, and the city of Port Alberni were not consulted before diseased fish were brought to the Port Alberni dock?
Hon. D. McRae: Mr. Speaker, if I may continue, as well, which helps to answer this question. Like I stated earlier in my first answer, this is a federally reportable disease. CFIA takes the lead on this particular instance.
However, the answer to my question, which I posed before I was asked to sit down earlier, was: what's the difference between 1992, '95 and 2001 outbreaks and today? Well, the difference today is there is a viral management plan that exists between the companies and government to make sure we can actually deal with the issue very quickly and coherently.
I'm very pleased to say that in a short-term manner…. When the company found out about the disease, what did they do? They informed CFIA. Then they made sure the test was a positive. Then what did they do? They quarantined the animals. They culled the animals. They disposed of the animals through composting.
This has allowed the opportunity to make sure that we have the best possible opportunities to ensure that the disease did not spread. As we are speaking, over 50 salmon farms are currently testing for this disease, and I'm proud to say right now the latest numbers I've heard…. This was only yesterday, I'm sorry…. Thirty farms have come back with no IHN in them at all.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
MUSQUEAM FIRST NATION
AND MARPOLE MIDDEN SITE
S. Chandra Herbert: Nearly three weeks ago elders, chiefs and members of the Musqueam First Nation travelled to Victoria to press this government to protect the Marpole midden site known as c̍ǝsnaʔǝm. The site is recognized as a national historic site yet is threatened because this Liberal government approved permits which have led to a proposed condo development on the site.
Three weeks ago the Minister of Forests and Lands promised British Columbians that he would seek "a long-term, workable solution" to protect this site. Now we're told that the government has said to the Musqueam that they're on their own. Can the minister explain how having the government walk away from the process could possibly lead to a long-term, workable solution?
Hon. M. Polak: First of all, let me say that it would be difficult to overstate the importance of this particular site to the Musqueam, and we certainly recognize this.
We are still engaged with the parties. We have had a facilitator at the table. A number of different proposals have come forward that would bring us to a resolution for the three parties.
I should make it clear to the House that we are talking about currently private land, which complicates the matter further. It's not Crown land under the responsibility of the province of British Columbia.
However, since the discovery of new remains on the site, I am advised that the statutory decision–maker is reviewing one of the permits. In addition to that, we will continue to be in discussion with all three parties, in the hopes of finding a resolution that works to protect the site and also to advance the interests of the city and the developer such that no one is left in a difficult position.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
S. Chandra Herbert: If walking away from the table and saying to the Musqueam that they were on their own is working with the Musqueam, I would hate to see what not working with the Musqueam looked like.
Despite the fact that this is a national historic site, it took the developer unearthing two intact infant skeletons to get this government's attention. The Musqueam have proposed a solution to protect this site, and the government has not responded.
The minister said on May 10 that a solution would require cooperation of all parties. Can the minister explain how having the facilitators say there's nothing more that they could do is working together with all parties?
Hon. M. Polak: First of all, the member is wrong. The province of British Columbia — working with respect to our Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and also with Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations — has not said that the Musqueam are on their own. We recognize the significance of the site.
The member seems to be promoting the notion that the province is responsible in areas where we are dealing with private land, a private developer and land that is within the bounds of the city of Vancouver. This is not Crown land. It is, nevertheless, a role that we proudly play to help facilitate between the three parties, and I'm quite confident that at the end of the day, we will find that resolution for all three that protects the site.
COASTAL RESPONSE PLAN
FOR JAPANESE TSUNAMI DEBRIS
R. Fleming: B.C. communities want clarity and communication about the province's plan to deal with tsunami debris that is already washing up on our shores. The state and federal agencies in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California have already directly communicated with coastal residents and communities with specific safe guidelines for handling tsunami debris, while B.C. has yet to complete its protocol.
B.C. is clearly behind the U.S. in response planning. I would ask the minister: can he tell this House when the government is going to activate a plan that will protect our coastline and the public while addressing the sensitive issues arising from the tragedy in Japan?
Hon. T. Lake: This problem that we face is one that we have acknowledged in this House on past occasions. We are co-chairs of a joint tsunami debris coordinating committee with the federal government. We also work collaboratively with our partners in Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska.
We had a joint cabinet meeting with our counterparts in Washington in which the Premier and the governor discussed this problem. We are working in coordination with the Department of Ecology in Washington State and working with our counterparts at the federal government too.
We are coordinating the efforts to make sure that the debris is handled in a way that is sensitive to the people of Japan, who have lost very valuable items, I'm sure. We also want to make sure that any of the material that may be considered dangerous in any way is handled in a way that keeps the residents of British Columbia safe. We will continue that work in a coordinated and collaborative fashion.
[End of question period.]
Hon. S. Bond: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
PUBLIC SAFETY LIFELINE VOLUNTEER
Hon. S. Bond: Mr. Speaker, it is our privilege as members in the House today to introduce some very special British Columbians who are exemplary at supporting our communities in their darkest hours. They are volunteers with decades of dedication as part of the 13,000-strong lifeline volunteers across our province.
Those who are with us today are this year's recipients of emergency management B.C. public safety lifeline volunteer awards. I know my colleagues would like to welcome Jim Forsyth of Prince George. He is the emergency management B.C. emergency radio communications volunteer of the year. Dan and Louise Shynuk of Cranbrook are the provincial emergency program air volunteers of the year, as a couple. Walter Bucher of Smithers is the search and rescue volunteer of the year. Lyn Arikado of Kamloops, announced earlier by my colleague, is emergency social services volunteer of the year. Reg Gustafson of Nakusp is road rescue volunteer of the year.
I'd like to acknowledge one colleague of theirs who unfortunately passed away before he received this award, and that is Joe Mandur of Terrace. He's represented today by his wife, Theresa, and his son Joe. He has been awarded the emergency management B.C. lifetime achievement award. He sadly passed away very recently from cancer.
I know that every member will join me in congratulating these exceptional public safety volunteers who are joining us in the gallery today.
B. Routley: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Introductions by Members
B. Routley: Today we have a group of grade 11 students from the Shawnigan Lake School and their teacher Paul Klassen here in the precinct. I ask the members to please join me in making them all feel very welcome.
Hon. M. Polak: I rise to present a petition.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Hon. M. Polak: I present a petition on the topic of medicinal marijuana.
J. Brar: I rise to table a petition handed over to me by the B.C. Bottle Depot Association. This petition is signed by 9,070 people requesting that all milk containers should be immediately included in the British Columbia used beverage container deposit system.
V. Huntington: I stand to present a petition. I have the rare privilege of presenting over 2,000 signatures in the first wave of a petition requesting that the government condemn the industrialization of farmland and commit to preserving the agricultural land reserve.
Standing Order 81.1
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS SCHEDULE
Hon. R. Coleman: I move:
[Pursuant to standing order 81.1 (2), effective immediately, all remaining stages of the following Bills shall be completed and disposed of in the order prescribed and for the duration indicated:
Second reading of Bill (No. 47) intituled Coastal Ferry Amendment Act, 2012 (30 minutes);
Second reading of Bill (No. 49) intituled Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2012 (30 minutes);
Second reading of Bill (No. 56) intituled New Housing Transition Tax and Rebate Act (30 minutes);
Second reading of Bill (No. 50) intituled Athletic Commissioner Act (30 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading on Bill (No. 14) intituled Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011 (30 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 53) intituled Family Day Act (30 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 44) intituled Civil Resolution Tribunal Act (30 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 46) intituled Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 2012 (60 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 52) intituled Motor Vehicle Amendment Act (No. 2), 2012 (30 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 30) intituled Energy and Mines Statutes Amendment Act, 2012 (30 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 38) intituled Pension Benefits Standards Act (30 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 51) intituled South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Amendment Act, 2012 (60 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 47) intituled Coastal Ferry Amendment Act, 2012 (45 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 49) intituled Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2012 (30 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 50) intituled Athletic Commissioner Act (30 minutes);
Committee and Third Reading of Bill (No. 56) intituled New Housing Transition Tax and Rebate Act (45 minutes).
And further, Committee on Bill (No. 54) intituled Provincial Sales Tax Act shall be completed and disposed of by 4:00 pm on Thursday, May 31, 2012.
At the conclusion of these times indicated, but no later than 4:00 pm on Thursday, May 31, 2012, the Speaker and any Presiding Officer will forthwith put all necessary questions for the disposal of any remaining stages of the said Bills without amendment, apart from Government amendment, or debate. Divisions called on sections of the said Bills shall be taken in accordance with Practice Recommendation No. 1. Any divisions called on second or third reading of said Bills may be taken in accordance with Standing Order 16 and all other divisions will be covered by Practice Recommendation No. 1.
Proceedings under this motion shall not be subject to the provisions of Standing Order 81, or the Standing or Sessional Orders relating to the times and days of the sitting of the House.]
Motion approved on the following division:
YEAS — 45
NAYS — 38
Orders of the Day
Hon. R. Coleman: In this chamber this afternoon we will start with second reading of Bill 47, intituled the Coastal Ferry Amendment Act, followed by second reading of Bill 49, intituled Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, and second reading of Bill 56, intituled New Housing Transition Tax and Rebate Act, and second reading of Bill 50, intituled the Athletic Commissioner Act. By agreement with the Opposition House Leader…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. R. Coleman: …we will be reversing the order for second reading of Bill 50 and 56; 50 will come first and be followed by Bill 56. We will then move into the committee stages of Bills 14, 53 and 44. Until close we would follow the order.
In Section A, in the Douglas Fir Committee Room, we will continue with committee stage of Bill 54, intituled the Provincial Sales Tax Act in that House. In Section C, the Birch Committee Room, we will continue with the estimates of the Minister of Energy and Mines and Minister Responsible for Housing. Following that we would begin the estimates of the Office of the Premier.
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 47 — Coastal Ferry
Amendment Act, 2012
D. Routley: I rise to speak to second reading of Bill 47.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
D. Routley: Before I start, I should say that I've prepared for 30 minutes of speaking. Having spent a long time preparing for that 30 minutes, I now see that, given the time allocation and the number of speakers left, I'll have ten minutes or less.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
That's just the beginning of an absolute failure to defend the democratic process in this House, and it's par for the course of the B.C. Liberal government that we should have bills rammed through with this type of brutal procedure. I think it's a sad day in the province of British Columbia — another sad day in the reign of the B.C. Liberals.
We will make do with what we're granted here by the all-powerful B.C. Liberal government, which must have its way. In fact, that's what got us into the trouble we're in, in this province, be it the HST, be it Bill 29, be it the Coastal Ferry Act. It's all the same. B.C. Liberals ram through legislation that's poorly thought-out, and then have to go back and try to fix it.
That's what we're doing here, really, with Bill 47. Bill 47 is an act which will amend the Coastal Ferry Act, which will try to deal with some of the failures of the original vision that was brought to this province for a re-engineering of its ferry service.
I think it's important for us to consider what British Columbians expect from their ferry service. We expect a transportation system that puts the public interest first. We expect a transportation system that keeps costs as low as possible and, in the original vision of W.A.C. Bennett, who formed B.C. Ferries, that becomes a tool in developing the economy of this province, rather than an obstacle to that development — and that's what it has become.
The original vision was that what was a Crown corporation would operate in the public interest and take best advantage of the many splendours of this province to provide a thriving economy.
Well, the first ferry act had six principles. The first one was financial sustainability. The second was to adopt a commercial approach. The third was to seek alternative service providers to privatize some routes. The fourth to minimize expenses. The fifth to end cross-subsidization, which allowed the more profitable routes to support those that were less profitable and, therefore, guarantee service to some of our smaller communities. The sixth was to create a greater reliance on user-pay.
Well, it's been an abject failure. Ridership is down many millions of passengers per year. The financial sustainability is an absolute mess. That first principle has been a complete failure. The move to adopt a more commercial approach might be actually something that's been achieved if you consider a commercial enterprise in bankruptcy.
Seek alternative service providers to privatize some routes. Well, that wasn't doable because no one could make a profit on small routes that only were supported through the cross-subsidization and support of the major routes, which were profitable. So that was a failure.
Minimizing expenses. Well, we've seen salaries and bonuses for B.C. Ferries executives skyrocket, and we've seen costs to this corporation increase beyond the inflation rate. So that has been an absolute failure.
The end of cross-subsidization meant, essentially, that the profit-and-loss centres were split out into a flotilla of loss. The main routes remain profitable, but all the minor routes are in a loss position and are facing service decline or cancellation.
A greater reliance on user-pay. Well, that was a success. Fares have gone through the roof — 40 to 45 percent on the major routes; 80 percent on the minor routes. If you look at the multifare packages that most travellers on the minor routes use, up to 115 percent increases. In my constituency, the Nanaimo-Gabriola run, for multiple-fare purchasers, they've seen over a 100 percent increase.
This has been an abject failure, an abject failure to defend the public interest, an abject failure to take advantage of the B.C. Ferries fleet and what it offers to British Columbians as a potential tool of economic development.
What we've seen is the ramming of legislation without consultation. We've seen ideological priorities defended at the expense of public interest, and the collateral damage to that is the communities up and down the coast and the small businesses that depend on an affordable ferry service.
Although this bill fails to address those problems in general, it does take very small steps in some of the right directions. But it's far from the vision that's needed to take Ferries where it needs to go. It does nothing to address the issue of affordability. The $79.5 million that this bill will inject into the system is dwarfed simply by the interest payments that B.C. Ferries must pay, and those are increased because of its loss of Crown corporation status so that now the interest rates alone per year will be $50 million.
So over the term of this $79.5 million injection, four years, $200 million will be paid out in interest payments. That will more than eat up the injected cash and, therefore, do nothing to address the affordability of fares.
Ridership. This government was warned, and warned repeatedly, by people who use the ferries, by our excellent ferries critic and even by the Commissioner of Ferries that increased fares would lead to price elasticity. In other words, the increasing of fares would result in a lower uptake of service, lower ridership. It was estimated that a 10 percent increase in fares would result in a 7 percent decline in ridership and, indeed, those estimations have proved correct. They have been on the low side. We've seen a loss of ridership, and that loss of ridership means a loss of business in our small communities up and down the coast.
In the constituency that I represent, with seven ferry terminals, only one of them a major route, the people I represent are quite deeply impacted, and it goes well beyond an economic impact. It is actually an impact on their right to participate in community. The people of Penelakut Island, who I represent, a First Nations community — those folks commonly have to collect bottles in order to travel back and forth.
When I brought stories — one particular story of an elder, a woman who had to collect bottles, couldn't come up with enough cash and handed the change she did collect to the ferry deckhand, who told her that he couldn't take the cash — the other side laughed. She cried as she told me this story of finally making it to her home on Penelakut by the gifts of people in the ferry lineup paying her fare. She made it home, but she left a good portion of her dignity in Chemainus, on the other side.
Those are the collateral outcomes of the B.C. Ferries model that the British Columbia Liberal Party has brought to this province. It's a tragedy. It's a tragedy because the people of B.C. expect that this province, and especially this House, will work for them, not against them.
What we have seen repeatedly, and proven again with the approach to B.C. Ferries, is that, in fact, this government is prepared to allow the province and this House to work against the people of B.C. That is a tragedy. In this case, and in repeated examples in my experience in this House, it's done through these mechanisms of closure.
We expected it. Four months and almost no legislation, and then at the end of the session, bill upon bill delivered in the space of two days — ten bills. Now with only days left to debate and 23 bills left in various stages of completion, this is what we end up with. It's a disaster. It's a shame on the province.
We expect it when we see this happening. We know these bills are coming, and we know there's no time to debate them. But when you actually sit here and see the government willing to take these steps to get their way, to ram through legislation to get their ideological agenda, it's actually sickening. It's a physically jarring experience.
With that and not enough time to debate this bill and others, I'll take my seat in the debate. Thank you to the government.
J. Brar: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
J. Brar: I'm pleased to welcome 23 students from my constituency of Surrey-Fleetwood. They come from Cornerstone Montessori, and they are accompanied by Tessa Hansen and seven other volunteers. I would ask the House to please make them feel welcome.
B. Routley: I rise to debate Bill 47. I, too, prepared a full 30 minutes for this, and I'm disappointed that we're not going to have the opportunity to more thoroughly discuss an important bill that affects constituents in the Cowichan Valley. Many constituents in the Cowichan Valley have come into my office and talked about how, as a result of escalating costs, it's limited their ability to see family and friends and even do tourism events and that kind of thing, as a result of this government's incompetence.
Really, Bill 47 is kind of an escape hatch for this government to try to get out of the way of their incompetence and hand it over to a commissioner. The commissioner will deal with this political hot potato in many areas.
There's no question that when you look back at this government's original vision for the province of British Columbia…. This act talks about taking time to go around and have a vision and there was originally a vision. I'm going to talk about the original vision back in 2003 when this was introduced by the minister. But I want to give you a short version of the Liberal vision on what they were going to do with the ferry system, and you couldn't imagine a worse plan for the people of British Columbia.
Old W.A.C. Bennett had it right when he talked about the ferry system as part of our highway system. It is an outrage that this government has so mismanaged the ferry system and cost the people of B.C., our constituents. Families all over British Columbia and, for that matter, throughout the world who travel to this beautiful province have a limited experience as a result of this government's incompetence.
Their Liberal vision could essentially be boiled down to it was going to be the "less service for more money" plan. That's the plan — less service for more. So less for more cost. Less service, more cost — that is the Liberal plan. There's no question about it. That's what their decisions have led to.
Now with this bill we're going to have a lot less service with a lot more pain for communities throughout British Columbia. Island communities are going to suffer. If you were living on a small island, whether it be Saltspring, Quadra Island, Cortes — you name them — all up and down Vancouver Island in various regions, those island communities are going to be trembling with the thought that some commissioner can be ordered to shut down service and limit service and just do it.
Sure, there'll be some kind of public process. This bill talks about a public process, but at the end of the day, that commissioner can ignore the public just as this Liberal government has done over and over again.
When I look back at the history — and I think it is worthwhile, because it led us to this day — how did we get there? The Transportation Minister at the time, Judith Reid, in second reading on March 24, 2003, said: "Firstly, this legislation sets out the terms of the corporate restructuring." This was all about selling off. You know, if this was a wagon train they'd be selling off the wheels of the wagon.
That's how these guys think. They are thinking about selling everything off. They sold off B.C. Rail. They're now talking about selling off the liquor distribution. You name it. Anything that's not nailed down — they're going to think of a way to try to get rid of it. It's sad for the people of British Columbia that the commons, the issues that ought to be protected by the government of British Columbia for the people of British Columbia are so sadly managed in this way.
But carrying on here, it says: "This act recognizes the new company intends a conversion" — get this — "of the British Columbia Ferry Corporation from a Crown corporation to a new, regulated, independent" — independent, hon. Speaker — "commercial operating company, under an act, that will be renamed the B.C. Ferry Services. The act underpins…." Here it is, the vision. It underpins the vision, and this was from a government release, March 24, 2003: "The act underpins the vision for the new company as an integrator of services charged with planning and coordinating the delivery of services and activities of the coastal ferry system."
The plan was to head towards privatization — no doubt about it. That was the plan at the end of the day. You look in 2003, with a 77-to-2 majority. They rammed through…. Just like today, we are getting the government ramming it through — no democracy, ten minutes left to speak about something that's important to our communities, democracy undermined. They've rammed through this legislation.
On June 10…. Actually, I want to talk about September. In 2003 the Crown corporation was quasi-privatized, and in 2009 there was a report out, and get this. Gordon Campbell, Premier at the time, announced that they were going to cut the rates by 33 percent in an attempt to stimulate traffic. Do you know what? Let the record show that that actually worked. That actually worked. At the end of the day, the conclusion of the group that looked at what had happened after Gordon Campbell reduced rates substantially is that there was no doubt that as a result of this, more people travelled. Well, I guess so.
You think about it. If there was suddenly a $50 charge to get across the bridge outside Kelowna…. You know? The folks from Kelowna, if they were told, "Well, it's going to be a whole yearly pass, but you're going to pay 50 bucks to get across that bridge, because you know what? You're using it every day. A lot of folks from Vancouver Island, they're not using that bridge, so maybe it should be a user pay…."
That's how these guys think. If you live on Vancouver Island, oh, well, you should have to pay through the nose time and time again to use that ferry system. Well, they wouldn't think about doing that. They wouldn't think about a $50 surcharge for the good folks in Kelowna, and nor should they. It's a part of the highway system, and the ferries are every bit part of that.
Sure, there should be some charge. I'm not suggesting it should be free. But the outrageous highway robbery that we're suffering today that has kept families apart, kept tourism opportunities away, have impacted…. Even the chamber of commerce folks have said to me: "You know, we've got to keep these ferry systems — the Mill Bay ferry, for example." The chamber of commerce, the CVRD, all the municipal directors are unanimous in saying that we have to keep control of that ferry system and have it.
Now with this commissioner, who knows? We could have at the end of the day…. Now we've got this "less service for more cost" plan again being polished up and shined up as a new bill.
What have we seen? We've seen the Million-Dollar Man — you know? — so they had to bring in legislation. "Oh, what do we do?" We've got the Million-Dollar Man running around spending the taxpayers' money indirectly, and so it was an embarrassment for government.
They had skyrocketing fares, declining ridership. It really equals a Liberal ferry failure fiasco, and this government had to act at the end of the day. They have now moved in a direction to try to actually consult the people of British Columbia.
Well, they should have done that in the first place — go around talking to the people of British Columbia. Now it seems a little too late, after they've already made such a mess of the situation and created a situation where you're a resort community and you've had all kinds of tourism opportunities lost, in a place like Saltspring Island. This Bill 47 will potentially cut off the dependent communities from their marine highway.
Section 43.1 suggests that the commissioner will have the right to simply shut down ferries for those kinds of island communities. They're held hostage to a government, and now they're putting it off to the commissioner. The commissioner can make those unilateral decisions. I guess he's supposed to just have thick skin and be able to take it on the chin for the government.
There's no long-term vision in this plan, and the commissioner pointed that out. This government has no long-term vision for ferries for the people of British Columbia.
You know, the service is so important. It is critical. The people of British Columbia expect the government to run the services. If every single thing that government did was supposed to be on a profit-making basis, how is that going to work? How are you going to make profit when you have wildfire? How are you going to make profit with so many things? The health care services….
We know that the people of B.C. expect those kinds of services. We pay our general taxes, and people believe that they ought to have the right to a fair transportation system to get on and off the Island. It's only the right thing to do — to allow, particularly, families and seniors to be able to connect.
Certainly, tourists…. I believe the people of British Columbia are missing out on tourism opportunities here in British Columbia as a result of the spiralling costs. Whether you're an American visitor…. I actually ran into an American visitor who said to me that she would come here a lot more often if there was the opportunity to do it in a cost-effective way.
I guess with the time constraints, I'm going to take my place, but I do want to say that we definitely feel that this has been a disaster. Democracy is being undermined with the shortness of the time you've given us here today.
L. Krog: William Andrew Cecil Bennett, Dave Barrett, William Richards Bennett, Bill Vander Zalm, Rita Johnston, Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark, Dan Miller, Ujjal Dosanjh. Nine Premiers, the better part of four decades, builders of a ferry fleet each and every one of them, until we get to the Gordon Campbell B.C. Liberal era, which has seen the destruction of one of the prime economic tools that this government had at its disposal. The same with B.C. Rail — sold down the river.
What are we doing here today? We're dealing with second reading, in a limited way, of the Coastal Ferry Amendment Act.
Now, you may recall when this Legislature passed something that was called the Apology Act. That's where you get to apologize without it having any legal liability. We might as well entitle the Coastal Ferry Amendment Act, 2012, the B.C. apology act.
"We're sorry. We're very, very sorry for messing up the B.C. Ferry corporation. We're very sorry to the 800,000 people who live on Vancouver Island and the tens of thousands of people who live on the Gulf Islands and rely on the B.C. Ferry service in order to move their goods, to attend social events, to visit family, to visit doctors and specialists in Vancouver — to do everything that is appropriate when you live in an isolated area or you live on Vancouver Island."
The reason we're here today debating this bill is very simple. This government, in an act of incredible ignorance, driven by its ideological bent, decided to pretend that you could create the B.C. Ferry corporation with a single shareholder, put it out at arm's length and say: "Boys and girls, you're sailing the boats on your own now. You're an independent corporation. You have nothing to do with government, and we're not responsible for you anymore."
It's not like the baby Moses being shoved into the Nile, you know, to sail down the river into some future that was somewhat more promising. They shoved this ferry fleet out there and said: "Do the best you can, and here are the strictures on your performance and how you operate."
And what do we have after 11 years of B.C. Liberal government? The Coastal Ferry Amendment Act, basically acknowledging, almost as directly as this government can ever do when it comes to informing taxpayers — directly acknowledging — what a failure it has been.
After decades of building up B.C. Ferries, of recognizing its significant contribution to the economy of British Columbia, particularly here on the coast, this government has arrived at a situation where they have to acknowledge that their experiment with taxpayers' money, with British Columbians' lives has been in large measure a failure — a failure.
It's no better summarized as a failure than by what the Ferry Commissioner himself said in his report, in his recommendation 6. "The province should work collaboratively with B.C. Ferries to develop a long-term vision of coastal ferry services…. A draft discussion paper should go out for public consultation."
No vision. The Million-Dollar Man and his highly paid executive team, paid way more than the previous managers of the B.C. ferry system. What did they have after 11 years? They couldn't even turn to the Ferry Commissioner and say, "We have a long-term vision," because this government had no long-term vision for B.C. Ferries, other than tossing it out.
So now we're going to give some more power to the Ferry Commissioner. Hopefully, he'll be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat, metaphorically speaking. He'll be able to save B.C. Ferries. Oh, we're going to give him the opportunity and the power under section 43.1, as proposed.
"Without limiting the commissioner's powers under section 42 or 43 to authorize or direct a ferry operator to reduce service on a designated ferry route, the commissioner may at any time direct a ferry operator to permanently reduce service on a designated ferry route in a manner and to a level that are consistent with the applicable Coastal Ferry Services Contract."
We're going to let the Ferry Commissioner shut down routes in the province of British Columbia. Well, I'm sure that possibility and that legislative power is really, really going to encourage investment. So let's just say I'm a tourist operator on Vancouver Island, and I'm contemplating a multi-million-dollar hotel or resort. The Ferry Commissioner is there with the power to permanently reduce a route? Am I going to do it on the Gulf Islands? Am I going to take that risk? Am I going to create jobs in the province of British Columbia? Not a hope.
The fact is what this bill says to investors and to the users of the ferry system is: "You can't rely on us anymore." You will not enjoy the confidence you did in previous governments of any political stripe — both under previous Social Credit governments and previous NDP governments. You will not be able to enjoy the confidence that the B.C. Ferries will be a jewel in the crown of the province of British Columbia.
What you'll be able to rely on is this. There will be no long-term vision. There will not be a commitment to ensure that service continues for all British Columbians or for tourists or for businesses.
Those of us who live on Vancouver Island are fairly conscious of one thing. All the experts tell us we have approximately three days' supply of food on Vancouver Island. Much of that food is delivered to Vancouver Island through B.C. Ferries. We rely on it in so many ways.
We have a ferry act amendment, the Coastal Ferry Amendment Act, that will do nothing to encourage the confidence that British Columbians need in that ferry system. We are in fact seeing, for the first time in the history of B.C. Ferries, a drop in ridership. The population of the province is increasing, and the ridership on B.C. Ferries is dropping? What does that tell you, hon. Speaker? What does that tell you?
It tells you, like everything else that the Liberals have turned their hand to, they have mismanaged this. They have mismanaged it.
They came into government promising good management, and for 11 years they have delivered anything but. We saw it earlier today — the questions around the computer system that doesn't work. We see them spilling $180 million of taxpayers' money over the dams for B.C. Hydro because they messed up the private power projects. Now we see it with B.C. Ferries — dropping ridership, dropping revenue, further losses, a lack of confidence in the system, public distrust, outrage from tourist operators, a lack of investment, a lack of security.
Hon. Speaker, this government should stand up and offer to amend the act as I suggested. We'll call it the coastal ferry apology amendment act.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
We're going to apologize to the people of British Columbia, particularly those on the coast and Vancouver Island for the mess we've made of this. You know, I just hope that the ferry corporation lasts long enough so that a decent government in this province can restore it to its former prestige, restore its former position in the economic development of this province.
I've got to tell you that as a native-born Islander…. Perhaps some of those folks on the other side who don't have to rely on B.C. Ferries don't understand its importance or the role it plays in the life of coastal British Columbians. There is nothing more important to us than a ferry service that is reliable, that is available, that is accessible and that is affordable. Affordable.
Second reading of Bill 47 approved on division.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: At this time I would move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House to be considered in accordance with the time allocation motion passed this day.
Bill 47, Coastal Ferry Amendment Act, 2012, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Hon. M. Polak: I call second reading debate of Bill 49, intituled Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2012.
Bill 49 — Protected Areas of
British Columbia Amendment Act, 2012
Hon. T. Lake: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be read a second time.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
R. Fleming: I rise to respond to this bill. But I think I must begin by pointing out the absurdity of the bill with elements that are certainly good news, including the 550,000 hectares of additions to lands that are protected and conserved in British Columbia, with the backdrop of a 30-minute debate allocation on Bill 49.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
There are a number of sections in this bill, there are a number of additions, deletions and removals from class A park status in British Columbia in every region of the province that deserve proper scrutiny — both at second reading and, of course, at committee stage of the bill. But the situation we're in is that debate is being limited and cut off. So I will only be able to very briefly raise a few points in debate this afternoon, given the actions of the government to constrain debate on this bill.
I will confine most of my comments to a couple of sections of the bill that amend the protected areas legislation of British Columbia. I think that the most controversial aspect of this bill — and it will be dealt with by two of my colleagues who are also on strict time limits during this debate — is around the Klinaklini River deletion from the Great Bear rain forest conservation area.
This potentially enables, through that removal of land, a significant addition of an independent power production hydroelectric facility in an area and on a river system that is unique and one deserving of protection. It's one of British Columbia's wildest rivers. It spans almost 1.5 million hectares, and it passes through some of the best remaining wilderness in southern British Columbia. Its clean waters nurture a wide range of species, including bull trout and salmon, grizzly bear and moose.
The river itself wends its way through 14 biogeoclimatic zones. There is incredible abundance and biological diversity and ecological value to the Klinaklini River.
This is exactly why government, when it was tested previously on this issue…. The previous Minister of Environment, Barry Penner, was forced to make a recommendation or reject an application that was potentially going to be included in a B.C. Hydro Clean Power Call. He took action on behalf of the government to decline the application to remove the land that is now contemplated in Bill 49 to be removed today. That was two years ago.
Government said no. Government said the nature values of this river, the importance to the fisheries and the wildlife that are sustained by an undisturbed Klinaklini River, were more important and were deserving of protection, as was originally enabled in the Great Bear rain forest conservation agreement. Government actually upheld an agreement that it had previously signed — and did the right thing, quite frankly. This bill this afternoon undoes that.
Now, undoubtedly the government is going to say they are responding to remedies that were recommended by the Supreme Court, because this has been the subject of litigation. Having read the reasons for judgment, that is not the case. Government did have options in what the justice had written about how the dispute might be resolved. Rather than pursue those opportunities, we're back at square one and the government is contemplating something that it rejected only two years ago.
That is the most controversial aspect of what we will be debating this afternoon, and it is why Bill 49 deserves proper and fulsome debate in this Legislature. The government intended to do it in the first instance, and it was persuaded not to shortly thereafter. That is an opportunity that is being denied to the members of the Legislature and members of the public, through their representatives and through other means of having this debate over Bill 49. There is no opportunity to have debate that could persuade government to do the right thing.
That was critically important two years ago, to bring certainty to the Great Bear rain forest conservation agreement and the intact borders of that conservancy, which is being undone, potentially, today with the swift passage and use of closure on Bill 49. I can't think of a better example of why British Columbians are being failed by these last two days of this legislative sitting than that aspect of Bill 49.
The debate deserves to be informed by other things that are happening simultaneously in the House of Commons today. What government will argue it is doing is simply allowing the claims by the power corporation to go forward to an environmental assessment, an environmental review process. Well, that review process is more than likely going to happen after the federal government passes its omnibus Bill C-38.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will be completely different. The Fisheries Act of Canada will be rolled back 40 years and will completely lower the bar on what fish and fish habitat standards and protections are in law in Canada today.
That means that the environmental review that potentially this power corporation will participate in, if the government has its way and has the removal from the conservancy after passage of this bill, will be different. It will be to a standard that is completely unsatisfactory to the public, and it will not respect the natural values of the Klinaklini River, which I spoke to at the outset of this debate. That's the biggest concern in this bill. There are other concerns as well.
I think that while there are certainly merits to the removals and the additions around the Stawamus Chief project on the Sea to Sky corridor — and, again, debate will not adequately cover this — I think it's fair to say that there's some worry about proponents who wish to introduce commercial activities into provincial parks in British Columbia — and I think this is due to government cutbacks and the fact that the B.C. Parks budget is at its historic low. The proponent is now responsible for being the convener of community consultation to find out whether it's a good idea.
So the person or the company in charge of potentially introducing profit-making activity into parks is now responsible for community engagement around those kinds of activities, instead of B.C. Parks, instead of the province looking at its management plans for its own park areas.
I don't specifically have a great deal of concern around what this proponent seeks to introduce. I do have concern about the methods which B.C. Parks — the absolute hands-off approach they have taken to enabling discussions like this to happen in communities…. It sets a bad precedent. There's no question about it, and that's something that should be examined more fully in debate and won't be allowed to be.
The situation in B.C. parks is well known. That's an important backdrop to discussion around Bill 49. One can famously remember the now Premier, when she was an opposition critic, criticizing the NDP government in the '90s, when British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in North America to honour the UN commitment to set aside 12 percent of its lands. She criticized that because the budget for B.C. Parks was not being increased when the number of millions of hectares was being increased.
Well, fair point. But let's remind this government that in 2001, when they became the government, the B.C. Parks budget was $45 million. Today it is less than $30 million. Here we are this afternoon in Bill 49 adding 550,000 more hectares to protected areas. If you go through this bill, many of these are good gestures, and they are the results of community processes that have been ongoing. But the point remains the same — the one that the Premier, who was then an opposition critic, made.
You can't increase the responsibilities and the protected area status in the regions of British Columbia when you have half the park rangers, half the conservation officers and $15 million less of a budget today than you did a decade ago. Something has to give.
The problems in B.C. parks are well known. That's an important point to be making in this debate. The government needs to receive the message loud and clear that it's one thing to protect lands in various statuses of different types of park categories we have in British Columbia. It's another thing to actually do the work and make sure that the B.C. park system is vibrant, robust, enjoyable and serving British Columbians well. That is not the situation today in British Columbia as we debate Bill 49.
M. Sather: I rise to join second reading debate on Bill 49, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2012. There are some good parts of this bill which, unfortunately, due to the severe time limitation that we have, I won't be able to address. My colleague has addressed some of those.
I want to go on to the most egregious part of this bill, which is simply the altering of the boundaries of a conservancy to allow a major power project, a development which is the worst independent power project in the province in terms of environmental damage. This is on the Klinaklini River.
The Klinaklini was a significant part of the Great Bear rain forest agreement in 2006 involving First Nations, including the Da'naxda'xw-Awetlala First Nation; resource companies; and conservation groups such as Greenpeace, ForestEthics, the Sierra Club and B.C. Spaces for Nature.
The Great Bear rain forest agreement was to be based on ecosystem-based management that encourages conservation and sustainable land use practices. In 2006 Kleana Power Corp. launched its bid to develop a massive hydroelectric project on the Klinaklini River.
[D. Horne in the chair.]
The concept of conservancies as protected areas was brought into being in 2006. The test for issuing park use permits in conservancies explicitly restricts commercial logging, mining or commercial hydroelectricity. In fact, it prohibits those activities.
The Dzawadi–Upper Klinaklini River was officially established as a conservancy under the Park Act in 2008. On April 27, 2010, then Environment Minister Barry Penner said that the conservancy boundary would not be altered to allow the Kleana Power project to proceed. That was under a lot of encouragement from the opposition. I remember the debate at the time.
In June 2010 the project was dropped from B.C. Hydro's clean power call. Kleana Power, with their First Nation partner, Da'naxda'xw–Awetlala, took the government to court over Minister Penner's decision to not allow the boundary of the Dzawadi–Upper Klinaklini conservancy to be changed. That court case was heard from December 2010 to January 2011, with a decision on May 10, 2011, last year. There was some very interesting reading in that court case, which I will unfortunately not be able to cover in my brief time.
But I want to go to the remedies that the justice proclaimed under this. He said that the First Nation "seeks an order quashing the minister's decision of April 27, 2010, and declaratory relief directing the minister to recommend to cabinet that the boundaries of the Upper Klinaklini conservancy be amended." That's the important phrase in what was being asked for in this court case. "Alternatively, they seek an order directing the minister to consult in the government-to-government process."
The justice went on to say: "It's rare, however, for the court to become involved in directing a particular form of accommodation" — in this case, directing that the boundary be changed. The justice went on to say: "I do not consider this an appropriate case to direct the minister to make the recommendations sought. However, I have concluded that the First Nation are entitled to the following relief. (1) An order quashing the minister's decision of April 27, 2010." So the decision the minister made is null and void as a result of this court case.
"A declaration that the minister has a legal duty to consult the First Nation about their request for an amendment to the boundary of the Upper Klinaklini conservancy with a view to considering a reasonable accommodation." So the thing is that the government was told that they had to change the order, and they had to consult with the First Nation.
They've gone one step further. They have changed the boundary. I don't see any order in here. In fact, the justice specifically did not order that the government change the boundary, and yet they've gone ahead and done that on this most egregious of projects.
So we're going to have, again, I understand, a meagre 30 minutes to question the minister in committee stage about what took place and why it took place. I hope we get some answers, but it is a most disappointing move that this government has made.
If one looks at the map of the Klinaklini, what they've done is taken out the conservancy along a narrow band on either side of the river and called that part that they're taking out of the conservancy to allow the hydroelectric power project that is not allowed under the Great Bear rain forest agreement…. They're calling that a protected area. I'd like to know just what it is that that area protects after they're done with this project, should it proceed. I hope fervently that it does not.
I want to say a few words about the Klinaklini, because we need to understand just what we're looking at here. The Klinaklini drainage encompasses some of the least fragmented habitat on the Canadian west coast. So we're looking at the heart of wilderness on the B.C. coast. We're looking at a pristine environment that is put at risk by this legislation, put at great risk by this legislation.
The Klinaklini River, where this project is proposed, is home to all five species of Pacific salmon — coho, chum, chinook, sockeye and pink — plus, steelhead, cutthroat, Dolly Varden and oolichan.
It just boggles the mind that this project was ever allowed to get any consideration, but that speaks to the complete lack of fair process that this government has not had in place around independent power projects, and why an idea that has merit could have been good if it was done right by this government. But it's been done so wrong, and this is the most outstanding case of how wrong it's been done.
The Kleana Power project is a huge project which would produce up to 700 megawatts of power. We're not talking about a small project. This is a megaproject.
Pristine Power, who's one of the partners in the agreement — was or is, they keep switching hands — quoted annual generating capacity of 2,400 gigawatt hours. That's 50 percent of the expected power from Site C. As we know, that's a very large proposal, were it to be developed.
The river would be diverted over 16½ kilometres — put in a pipe over 16½ kilometres. Only the upper two kilometres are above an impassable barrier for fish. So 14½ kilometres, all five species of Pacific salmon, are going to be impacted if this thing ever goes ahead.
I cannot imagine how the government ever, ever let this get to first base. They have not only let it get to first base, but they've gotten themselves in a position where — and I applaud Barry Penner; I applaud him considerably for what he did in 2010 — unfortunately, they're up against the wall.
It has to be said, though, in reading the court case, that the justice noticed that the minister then, Barry Penner, never did make any petition about the negative environmental impacts of this project.
Having said that, my time is running short. I just want to add a couple more words about the project. If this ever happens, we're going to get the ramping problems. That's the up and down lowering of the river that we've seen at the Ashlu and the Mamquan that's killed fish. I just hope that the government will not proceed, because they don't have to. It has to pass an environmental assessment. Hopefully, that's not going to happen, if this ever comes to pass.
Sadly, there is much, much more to be said about this project, but I'll pass it over to my colleague for her comments.
C. Trevena: I was quite astounded not only when we had the time allocation giving us just 30 minutes to debate this bill, but that the Environment Minister, who is putting forward this bill…. Obviously, it's quite a complicated bill. There are a number of sections to it. There are a number of changes, some which are quite controversial, and that's what we're limiting ourselves to speak about.
The Environment Minister didn't justify any of this — did not describe the good parts; did not try to justify the controversial parts. When we have a debate, even though the time is short, the Environment Minister just stood up, moved second reading and sat down.
I think it shows the Environment Minister simply cannot justify anything that is in this bill, nor can he justify what his own government is doing in reducing our time to debate these very important issues. Because that's what we're here to do.
This isn't just an opportunity to rubber-stamp what is there for the government. It's an opportunity to have an honest debate, have an honest discussion and analyze what is good and bad for the people of B.C.
We on this side of the House think that some of the decisions in this bill are going to be very bad for B.C. My colleagues have been referring to the decision to remove part of the conservancy for the Upper Klinaklini. The Upper Klinaklini is an important part of….
Deputy Speaker: Member.
R. Fleming: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Deputy Speaker: Proceed.
Introductions by Members
R. Fleming: We have several guests with us here today. Kim Speers, who is a professor at the Royal Military College, is here with Canadian Forces members who are part of the professional officers program. They've been watching debate in the gallery. They're joined by two policy and analysis students from the University of Victoria. I wish the House to make them welcome.
C. Trevena: The policy analysts, I think, would learn a lot from how this government allows policy to be analyzed, because it really doesn't happen.
We have no opportunity to discuss or analyze anything that is here, nor get the justification for why we should be withdrawing this from a conservancy and allowing the potential — I know it's not there yet — for a massive power project to be built on the Klinaklini, a power project that is second only in size to Site C.
When the Environment Minister had the opportunity to introduce the second reading of this bill, he could have been thoughtful. He could have explained why he was going to make these decisions.
I raise this because it was during questioning in the estimates debate in May 2010 that I, as the member for North Island, was asking his predecessor, the then Environment Minister, Barry Penner, about the Upper Klinaklini and the plans for the conservancy. I was asking very specifically about whether the land conservancies would be respected in the development of independent power projects.
At that time there was a lot of thought that went into what should and shouldn't happen. His predecessor and very short erstwhile colleague said, after going through the benefits and potential impacts of the proposal, which enhances…. The script was just one paragraph. He went in and enumerated in — one, two, three, four, five — about seven paragraphs why there were many potential negative impacts in the project.
I'd like to read them into the record. The Environment Minister at the time, former B.C. Liberal Environment Minister Mr. Penner said…. He concluded that he would not remove this from the conservancy because of the increase in the water elevation of the river in the Upper Klinaklini, because of the number of fish-bearing tributaries that will be backwatered by the proposed construction of the intake structure. Fifty-seven hectares of riparian habitat "could be affected, 65 percent of which, we've been told, would be old-growth forests that would submerged or inundated…."
When we talk about "we've been told," one assumes it's the government and not just that one minister. So this present minister knows the potential damage that could happen with the potential of this power project going ahead.
This is not being done in a little back room. This was information given to the Environment Minister that he had the opportunity to justify in second reading but just decided not to bother, just to go along with his House Leader and say, "That's fine. We're going to give 30 minutes — just basically say goodbye to democracy and rubber-stamp whatever we want."
The other significant issues that the Environment Minister…. Who'd have thought. Here I am, defending the former Environment Minister, Minister Penner, here.
He said that there are a number of conservation data centre red- and blue-listed species with old-growth plant communities. A grizzly bear corridor "exists in the area, which serves an important function of connecting the coast to the Interior." There's evidence of moose in the corridor, concerns about "whether or not impacts to fish habitat could be mitigated, and there's concern that perhaps it could not be."
He concluded, having thoughtfully considered the evidence presented to him…. He thoughtfully considered that "after carefully considering all of the factors that I've enumerated, and probably some that I haven't…." The minister actually listened to advice, took in information and decided to think about the impacts that this could have, the reasons why a conservancy had been placed on this section of land.
It wasn't done lightly. It's not something where you get out a map and "where are we going to put a conservancy today?" You think about where you're going to put the conservancy.
So the then Environment Minister said: "after carefully considering all of the factors that I've enumerated, and probably some that I haven't, I have decided that I will not be recommending that the boundaries of the Upper Klinaklini conservancy be amended in order to facilitate this project."
The proponents of the project took this to court, as we heard, but the ruling of the court did not give the government carte blanche to withdraw it from the conservancy. It wasn't just: "Okay, you have no right to have this conservancy there. There is the opportunity here for the independent power project. We're going to ensure that you withdraw this from the conservancy."
What was suggested that the government do was to change the order and consult. Change the order and consult. That is extremely significant, because what this government has done is it has opened up the potential — and I know it isn't a given yet— for a massive and potentially extremely damaging power project in an area that has a huge amount of environmental sensitivity.
We don't talk about these things lightly. I mean, we have grizzlies in other parts of B.C. In B.C. we allow people to hunt grizzlies. We have moose in other areas of B.C., and we have an active moose hunt. We have things that are well utilized in our province. We have resources that are well utilized, and those include animal resources.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
What we are seeing here is the opportunity for that to continue to be protected, for the government to consult — like the government could debate in this House. The government could explain its thinking when we get to committee stage.
These are issues that should not be done hurriedly. There was a lot of thought that went in. The government obviously has a lot of information about this particular area. It's part of an area that is very well known for its sensitive ecosystem.
The previous Environment Minister was very clear in his decision. He was very clear that he had that information, unlike the present Environment Minister, who sits idly by, waits and hopes that he'll get it rubber-stamped and everything will be fine and he'll never be challenged. I think that's the worst form of government and the worst form of acting as a minister.
The previous minister said: "the proponent had concluded that the project could not go ahead without an amendment to the conservancy boundary. Otherwise, the proponent's trajectory would have been through an environmental assessment process dealing with the federal government and so forth — the routine process."
What's different about this one is that the project requires, allegedly, change to make it happen — to be clear about that. That's what this government is doing. They're trying to make a legislative change to allow this to happen, something which was not allowed before, something which is really going to hurt the province and which has been done without due consideration.
I thank you very much for this and would hope that the Minister of Environment has some answers to conclude his remarks.
Mr. Speaker: Pursuant to the time allocation motion I now move second reading.
Second reading of Bill 49 approved on division.
Hon. T. Lake: I move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House, to be considered in accordance with the time allocation motion passed earlier this day.
Bill 49, Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2012, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House to be considered in accordance with the time allocation motion passed earlier this day.
Hon. M. Polak: I call second reading debate on Bill 50, intituled the Athletic Commissioner Act.
Bill 50 — Athletic Commissioner Act
Hon. I. Chong: I move that Bill 50, intituled the Athletic Commissioner Act, be read for a second time now.
G. Gentner: I had an opportunity, I believe, to speak at great length to this bill. Unfortunately, we don't have the time. Believe or it not, Bill 50 is regarding the Athletic Commissioner Act, to bring forward an athletic commissioner. It has 24 pages, and it's a new frontier, where somehow I would have hoped we would have had more discussion on this.
[D. Horne in the chair.]
You know, the time allocation part of this…. I want to give the analogy that basically, if we look at boxing — and we're going to be talking about regulating boxing and MMA, for example — could you imagine in the middle of the Ali-Foreman fight, the Thrilla in Manila or the rope-a-dope, when you had a fighter who has had 15 rounds to figure out his strategy, and in the tenth round it's decided that that's the end of the game, that you couldn't complete the strategy?
I find it a little ironic. Here we are talking about regulations for boxing and mixed martial arts, regulations to make it fair, and here we are in this House defying the true notion of democracy, and that's debate, throwing time allocation onto something whereby we are not allowed to discuss. I find it's quite disgusting, but nevertheless, that's how this government works.
I somewhat applaud the government for going here with this bill, simply because in many ways it's necessary. I'll give an example. Last year I went into a pub with a dear MLA friend of mine. We went there to watch the playoffs. The Vancouver Canucks were in the playoffs. We went into the bar, and it was filled with people, quite an enormous amount of people enjoying the hockey game.
To our befuddlement, if you will, there they were, almost everybody in the bar, looking at the TV screens. They weren't watching the playoff hockey game between the Canucks and the Boston Bruins. They were watching ultimate fighting.
This is a phenomenon that's been taking hold in our area of endeavour in sports for quite some time. In fact, it's now moved in the popularity of sports. It has surpassed professional hockey as a leisure sport to watch as a pastime. It's also passed, of all things, NASCAR.
It's something here that of course, without question, should be regulated. I think that perhaps we on this side of the House will be supporting it. But we won't have the opportunity, necessarily, to break it down to see exactly where some of the difficulties and problems are.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
First of all, let's get it straight. Under section 83 of Canada's Criminal Code it deems prize fighting as illegal. It's illegal in this country. Many provinces have made exceptions to include mixed martial arts under the legal umbrella. Of course, there is the matter of a need to exclude professional amateur boxing cards and some forms of kickboxing. It's an important part of it that we do regulate this, because in the dark, dark days, there were many people getting into trouble.
In fact, I have to tell you that at the age of 15, Tommy Douglas had an amateur career in boxing. He actually fought at the One Big Union hall, in a gym in Winnipeg, and he won the lightweight championship of Manitoba. He was quite an incredible fighter. I think he also was a flyfighter. Of course, he became known as the Greatest Canadian.
You know, in a way, because way back then there weren't any laws dealing with boxing, maybe it can be said that under section 83 Tommy Douglas was breaking the law. We won't put Tommy in that light.
But that is the need — to sort of legitimize the sport. It is pugilism. Particularly in the mixed martial arts it's more to do with not striking but with grappling, which is something which can be quite vicious — a need to, again, regulate.
Now, it's being endorsed primarily by most municipal governments. Municipal governments understand the difficulty of it and the need to deal with section 83, which prohibits pugilist sports.
Therefore, you can look at many provinces. In Alberta they have a competitive sports commissioner within Calgary, but it's not provincial. We could look at Edmonton, of course, within Alberta. They have their own athletics commission, a boxing and wrestling commission. In British Columbia we have one in Nanaimo. We have one in the city of Vancouver.
It's time, of course, that we bring in another provincial bylaw. I can go on to the other provinces that are in the same situation. Ontario and Quebec have taken the initiative to create a provincial commissioner, Ontario's athletics commission.
In some ways, that is what's driving this one. I think one of the reasons it's being driven isn't because of necessarily the safety and support of the sport itself, but it may actually be because of the competitiveness by promoters to facilitate sport and the economies in cities. I know that in the province of Ontario the NDP there grudgingly supported it because they understood the capacity and the economy it brought to Toronto, for example.
We know that municipal governments are supportive. A city councillor of Vancouver has welcomed it. We don't seem to get too much push-back, nevertheless. There are some cultural issues relative to this sport that's being foisted upon us, and there are some good comments and bad comments. I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about it.
Sen. John McCain said that mixed martial arts…. He equated it to human cockfighting. I don't know if it necessarily cost his defeat in the presidency of the United States, but it stuck with him nevertheless.
I've heard many people describe it. One minute they're boxing. Then, all of a sudden, someone kicks the guy in the neck. Then you'll be rolling around on the ground. There could be different holds called the triangle hold, the guillotine, the rear naked choke. It goes on. Then, of course, there's tapping out, the ability to tap out and admit defeat.
What this bill hopefully will do is regulate those types of rules so that some of those rules are not nefarious or dangerous or harmful to those who participate.
It's not going to go away. When you look at the ratings and look at the popularity of the sport, I suppose it's far better that we do it legally as opposed to having it being performed in a back barnyard somewhere like in the good old days — in the '30s, for example — when boxing really wasn't much regulated. We had nothing but safety and health concerns.
Basically, I want to talk about the statistics. I wish I had more time to bring into exactly what we're looking at today. But I'll give you an example, hon. Speaker. On November 12, 2011, during one fight between Velasquez and dos Santos, there were 8.8 million viewers watching ultimate fighting. It was probably one of the largest participatory viewerships in any sport, particularly with pay-per-view. Perhaps the government is of the position where it may actually find that there are those fights…. They'll come to Vancouver, for example, and watch this sport.
There are about 18.1 million Americans — we don't have the statistics for Canadians — who participate in the mixed martial arts. Of that, 9.4 million are adults. Surprising and concerning is that 5.5 million are teens and 3.2 million are kids. I realize there are different rules in how you fight when you have children, relative to kickboxing. These, hopefully, are going to be addressed.
Again, I want to give the demographics. The household income that seems to enjoy this sport more than any other…. Believe it or not, it's those with an income of over $75,000. It's an interesting demographic. It's a question of whether or not this is just a fad or a fashion that's here and is going to go away. I don't think it is. On this side of the House we believe it's better to regulate some things rather than not.
The question that comes up: is this really an act of violence? You know, it's interesting. We allow sports people — in particular, hockey players — to get into fights and actually hurt each other. Yet they're not necessarily charged, even though in many areas in our society a similar type of kerfuffle would result in a criminal charge. This is a somewhat violent sport, but it's not necessarily as violent as, shall we say, boxing. If I have a chance, I can talk about that as well.
The question comes up, of course: are we actually sanctioning violence? This is a question that we've got to ask. Many people would say that we are. Probably the majority of younger people who watch the sport and participate say we aren't.
The interesting thing about ultimate fighting is that 43 percent of those are made by decisions. TKOs, technical knockouts, are 31 percent, and 14 percent are actually true-blue knockouts. When you start talking about concussions…. We're talking about concussions. It's a question of whether or not, through the regulation, we will be able to deal with this again.
I'm going to stop there.
I've got five more minutes, according to my ringmaster over there, who's making sure that I stay within the confines of the new rules of the House that, again, seem to have been changing quite a bit here.
Now, I know that the B.C. Medical Association has come out against this. Some people call it…. We don't want to find in the end that MMA fighters, 30 times later, will become what they're calling dribbling neuro-vegetables. But we have to ask ourselves about what combative sports are doing.
We know that there's lots of information and evidence with injury in professional mixed martial arts competitions. We've seen some deaths. There was an unregulated mixed martial arts in Kiev, Russia, years ago where a man…. His name will come to me in a minute, but he died, basically, in the ring, and that was unregulated. That was a situation where there were no rules.
It's a good case in point where, again, when it comes down to grappling sports…. And I'll give the sport this, that grappling has a lower injury rate than that of boxing. There are lots of statistics that show that it's not as violent, if you will, or as….
G. Gentner: Two more minutes. Okay. And with that, the time clock…. Yeah, the gatekeeper is watching what we're doing here.
I'll end it with this position. I want to talk about it more when we get to committee stage, and this is this. The government, in particular the member from Vancouver-Langara, came out with a private member's bill relative to the need for dealing with concussions — concussions in hockey.
What I want to understand: are we going to be able, through this regulation, to ensure not only the safety of those who are participating, the professionals and the adults, but the kids who are somehow inspired by this? The numbers are showing how popular it is. Are we going to be able to ensure not only the promotion of this sport, but above all, to ensure that the concussions and the safety of our children, not only in this sport but in all sports, are regulated and looked after? I think that's the weakness of this bill. It doesn't go far enough.
With that, I will waive my time. Maybe, hopefully, from my understanding…. I don't know how the rules are working. They seem to be changing. But I'm going to put all my time I have left onto the committee stage so that I have the opportunity to ask the hon. minister some more questions. With that, I'll sit down.
Mr. Speaker: Seeing no further speakers, I’ll call the question on second reading of Bill 50, Athletic Commissioner Act.
Hon. I. Chong: I move that Bill 50 be referred to a Committee of the Whole House to be considered in accordance with the time allocation motion passed this day.
Bill 50, Athletic Commissioner Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House to be considered in accordance with the time allocation motion passed earlier this day.
Hon. M. Polak: I call second reading of Bill 56, intituled the New Housing Transition Tax and Rebate Act.
Bill 56 — New Housing Transition
Tax and Rebate Act
Hon. S. Bond: I move that Bill 56, the New Housing Transition Tax and Rebate Act, be read a second time now.
J. Horgan: I know that people watching at home and those in the gallery are probably wondering: what in the world is the opposition house leader doing standing up talking about a finance bill?
[D. Horne in the chair.]
Well, the reason that is, hon. Speaker and those in the gallery and those watching at home, is that the Finance Minister and the Finance critic are in another chamber debating another finance bill.
For those who haven't been following the machinations, my colleague from Delta North gave us a bit of a primer. We have some extraordinary rules in place today, certainly, and for the remainder of our time in this spring session. What we're doing with Bill 56 is we've been given 30 minutes — 30 minutes by motion, 81, to speak to the principles of the bill at second reading. My plan during the time I have available to address Bill 56 is to raise a host of issues about the implications of a 47-page bill, nine parts, 94 sections, multiple clauses.
We saw this bill for the first time on Monday. For those who don't have a calendar handy, today is Wednesday. That means that we have had about 48 hours to consider the substance of a 47-page bill on tax policy, nine parts, 94 sections. I have about 28 more minutes at my disposal to elucidate, to educate and to bring up the important public policy matters being considered here today.
Had we been in the normal course of events, I rather doubt I would have spoken to this bill. In fact, I am fairly confident that I wouldn't have spoken to this bill. It would have fallen to the Finance critic to do so. He is in the Douglas Fir Room debating Bill 54, another tax bill tabled a couple of weeks ago — 160 pages of detailed and complex tax policy.
Now, I don't know how you run a business when you take your best assets and you disburse them around and make them ineffective, but that's in fact what we're doing. The people of British Columbia expect us to come here, to review legislation, to understand the complexities that are put forward. We bring forward critics who are steeped in the subject matter, who work diligently to keep on top of those issues.
I have to confess, and I am very reluctant to do so, that of the 47 pages, nine parts, 94 sections, I've not read them all. I apologize to my constituents for that. I just haven't had the time.
Why do you think that is? Well, I was doing estimates up in the attic on the third floor with my opposite member, the Minister of Energy, for the past two days. So I didn't have time, when this bill was tabled on Monday, to review it, discharge my obligations as critic for Energy as well as House Leader and inform myself and my constituents about the impact of this piece of legislation.
Today with the motion, 81, now passed by this House, we have about 20 more minutes for me to convince you that this is a bad idea — to allow the Opposition House Leader to stand for 30 minutes and complain about a lack of time to do due diligence. I am absolutely confident that if the members on that side of the House were sitting over here, they would be outraged. They would be absolutely outraged, because our job, our role and function as legislators is to come here, inform ourselves on behalf of our electors of what the heck is going on.
"What is the government doing to me today?" That's what I quite often hear when I go back to my constituency. I go for a cup of coffee down the street from my office. I sit around with a bunch of men and women in the neighbourhood, and they say: "What's up, Mr. Member? What are you doing down there at the Legislature?"
I have to tell them this week, when I go home, that I got up on their behalf and spoke to a 47-page bill, 94 sections on tax policy, because the guy that was supposed to do it is somewhere else doing the very same thing on another piece of legislation. He, thank goodness, with respect to the HST bill or the reincarnation of the PST, is very well steeped in this information. The Minister of Finance is there with him. I think I might be on delicate ground here saying that people are elsewhere doing other business, but they are most assuredly doing other business.
Today we have three chambers operating, for those upstairs. You're only in one of them. There's a sideshow going on down there and another sideshow going on, on the third floor. If you get tired of what you're seeing down here, take a walk around. Get some popcorn. Sit down and see what you can find in other places, because that's the kind of gong show we've got going today.
This is substantive information before this place for two days. Two days. I would love to see how many of the 85 of us that are sent here from all across B.C. have digested the impact and the importance of Bill 56, which we are speaking to at second reading, the principle stage of the bill.
As I understand it, thanks to the capable researchers in the opposition caucus, Bill 56 creates a new 2 percent tax that will apply to the sale of new houses when construction starts before March 31, 2013, but ownership and possession transfer afterwards.
Now, what does that mean? Well, that means that as we are transitioning away from the horrible sales tax that was brought forward by the government some years ago, defeated in referendum and now rescinded come April 1, if you purchase a home during that transition period, products that were purchased for the construction of that home would have been subject to HST; products purchased after that, subject to the PST.
The challenge is that this 2 percent transition piece, I am advised, is a good piece of public policy. Now, if it was a good piece of public policy, and it is a companion piece of legislation to Bill 54 being debated down the hallway by the Minister of Finance and the Finance critic, I would have thought that you might have wanted to bring them both forward concurrently and had a plan so that you could have a systematic and comprehensive debate of the details and substance of the legislation.
Not so, because the government caucus, the B.C. Liberal Party, has completely and utterly botched this legislative session. Fifteen bills tabled with eight sitting days remaining.
Deputy Speaker: I remind the member we're debating second reading of Bill 56.
J. Horgan: I understand that, hon. Speaker. I'm speaking to how we got here today to be speaking about that bill. I appreciate the reminder. I'm sure if I depart from decorum, you'll advise me quickly, and the Clerk is here to advise you on that as well.
I'm also here with a responsibility to my constituents to explain to them why it is that the Opposition House Leader and Energy critic is talking about a piece of tax policy. I think it's fairly important that they understand the circumstances with which I find myself standing here and why it is that I am doing an incomplete job on their behalf.
I'm doing an incomplete job on their behalf because I wasn't given the time. Why is that, hon. Speaker, you ask yourself rhetorically? I'll give you the answer to the question. I'm not able to do it in a comprehensive manner because it just got here less than 48 hours ago. Here we are. We've got another 18 minutes — 18 minutes for all of us, not just me. I have the floor. I'm standing. I can keep talking for the remainder of that time, but the whole House has 30 minutes to discuss 47 pages, nine parts, 94 sections.
That strikes me as bad management at a minimum. I wouldn't want to ascribe any other motivations, but at a minimum, it's bad management.
If this was the private sector, I'm fairly confident that the CEO would call in the manager or the director or whoever was responsible for putting the company in that position. I would expect, if this was the private sector — and the free enterprise champions on the other side constantly talk about their absolute admiration and respect for the free market…. If that were the case, I would expect that the individual responsible for putting the corporation or the government in a position to have to defend the indefensible would at a minimum be reprimanded for that behaviour — at a minimum.
We have a lot to do and very little time to do it. If I could get a time check from the Clerk — 21:30 left.
What we've been doing, and my colleague from Delta South led the way on this, is we've been given our half an hour, and we're deciding how to use those minutes to the best effect. If we can't use it at second reading, we're going to be able to move some of those minutes.
It's was like playing a game show on television. "What would you like to do with your remaining time, Member?" "I'd like to put it to committee stage on Thursday, if that's all right, hon. game show host. If that's okay, I'd like to do that."
Deputy Speaker: Member, right now we're debating second reading of Bill 56.
J. Horgan: Thank you very much, hon. Speaker, for bringing me back.
As I said to you, in terms of the volume I'm able to speak with some authority. As I've said in the past — I'll repeat it again — 47 pages, nine parts, 94 sections. As I've also admitted and confessed to my constituents, I'm not able to get into any more detail on that, because quite frankly, I haven't read it all.
M. Farnworth: Could you read some of those sections?
J. Horgan: I'd be delighted, hon. Member.
My colleague from Coquitlam suggested to me that at second reading…. A former House Leader himself, he knows the rules of this place, and he'd be quite happy if I would just follow along.
And what good fortune. I turn to page 17, and it says: "'applicable percentage', in respect of (a) an affixed residential complex that is the subject of a taxable sale, or an affixed residential complex, a qualifying interest in which is the subject of" — this is random, by the way; this is the beauty of it — "a taxable sale, or…"
J. Horgan: Member, please. You'll love this.
"…(b) an affixed residential complex or addition that is the subject of a taxable self-supply, means the percentage determined by the following formula."
There's a formula. How exciting could that be?
"(100% – tax point completion %) + April 1, 2013 completion % –" — minus, we can't forget that — "July 1, 2010 completion %."
I believe that we're all a little bit better off now.
An Hon. Member: You had to read that?
J. Horgan: I did. Of course, I haven't even completed the formula. That's the tragedy of it all. For those who are waiting for the end of the formula, I'll conclude by saying: "where tax point completion % = the completion percentage in respect of the complex or addition, as the case may be, at the tax point for the taxable sale or taxable self-supply, as the case may be."
Goodness me, I'm not even making this up. That is exactly what the bill says, right here on page 17 — which is, of course, only one of 47 pages. This is a subsection of 94 sections.
An Hon. Member: Was that calculus or algebra?
J. Horgan: I wouldn't want to hazard a guess, Member. I wouldn't want to hazard a guess, but heaven forbid, I've turned to page 18, and there's another formula.
J. Horgan: "You go, boyfriend," says the Health Minister. I'll do that.
"April 1, 2013… = the completion percentage in respect of the complex or addition, as the case may be, immediately before April 1, 2013."
I could go on, Member.
Deputy Speaker: You have 18 more minutes.
J. Horgan: I have 18 more minutes, and that's a delight to those who have decided to stay and watch this show instead of the other two that are going on concurrently.
J. Horgan: "Do you need speaking help?" I don't want to open that up to a division, that's for sure. I know how some members would vote on that question.
Hon. Chair, I would love to carry on. I would love to highlight the absolute craziness of what we are now subjecting ourselves to as individuals — 85 members elected and sent here by constituents, 4.4 million of them right across this great province. We are now standing here defending the indefensible, which is debating a substantive bill…. I think I have demonstrated categorically that this is a substantive bill just from the modest portion that I read aloud to the people assembled here today.
This is a big deal. It's a big deal, and we should spend more than 30 minutes on it.
An Hon. Member: Formula-driven.
J. Horgan: Formula-driven. Well, I am very staff-driven these days, and I am advised by the staff, because I have no one else but them to depend on, that this is actually not a bad piece of policy to transition from the HST to the PST.
I know I'm getting uniform support from the members of executive council, because they may be some of the very few, the cherished few that actually understand what's in here, because I'm almost convinced that there are very few other members of this place that have had the opportunity to read it and digest it and understand just what it is we're going to be doing minutes from now when we say yea or nay to 47 pages, nine parts, 94 sections.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
With that, hon. Speaker — delighted to have you back — I'll take my seat, and I'll apportion the remaining time in my 30 minutes to some other positive pursuit over the next 48 hours.
Mr. Speaker: Seeing no further speakers, I move second reading of Bill 56, New Housing Transition Tax and Rebate Act.
Hon. S. Bond: I move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration in accordance with the time allocation motion passed this day.
Bill 56, New Housing Transition Tax and Rebate Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House to be considered in accordance with the time allocation motion passed earlier this day.
Hon. M. Polak: I call committee stage debate on Bill 14, intituled Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011.
Committee of the Whole House
BIll 14 — workers compensation
amendment act, 2011
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 14; D. Horne in the chair.
The committee met at 4:19 p.m.
On section 1.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I move the amendment which is in my name on the order paper.
[SECTION 1, by deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
1 Section 5.1 (1) (a) of the Workers Compensation Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 492, is repealed and the following substituted: (a) is a reaction to (i) one or more traumatic events arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment, or (ii) a significant work-related stressor, or a cumulative series of significant work-related stressors, arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment, .
1 Section 5.1 of the Workers Compensation Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 492, is repealed and the following substituted:
5.1 (1) Subject to subsection (2), a worker is entitled to compensation for a mental disorder that does not result from an injury for which the worker is otherwise entitled to compensation, only if the mental disorder
(i) is a reaction to one or more traumatic events arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment, or
(ii) is predominantly caused by a significant work-related stressor, including bullying or harassment, or a cumulative series of significant work-related stressors, arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment,
(b) is diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist as a mental or physical condition that is described in the most recent American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders at the time of the diagnosis, and
(c) is not caused by a decision of the worker’s employer relating to the worker’s employment, including a decision to change the work to be performed or the working conditions, to discipline the worker or to terminate the worker’s employment.
(2) The Board may require that a psychiatrist or psychologist appointed by the Board review a diagnosis made for the purposes of subsection (1) (b) and may consider that review in determining whether a worker is entitled to compensation for a mental disorder.
(3) Section 56 (1) applies to a psychiatrist or psychologist who makes a diagnosis referred to in this section.
(4) In this section:
“psychiatrist” means a physician who is recognized by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, or another accredited body recognized by the Board, as being a specialist in psychiatry;
“psychologist” means a person who is registered as a member of the College of Psychologists of British Columbia established under section 15 (1) of the Health Professions Act or a person who is entitled to practise as a psychologist under the laws of another province.]
On the amendment.
R. Chouhan: Now, in the amendment the minister has moved…. In the original bill which was tabled last year, Bill 14, it was in section 5.1. It says "mental stress." Now it says "mental disorder." Could the minister explain why the change occurred?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The change in the terminology in the Workers Compensation Act from "mental stress" to "mental disorder" was made to make it clear that compensation is provided for a diagnosed mental disorder arising from traumatic events and other significant stressors in the workplace and not simply for experiencing stress in the workplace.
R. Chouhan: Then, what's the difference between the original language that we have had in the original bill in how it would be applied? When somebody is experiencing mental stress at a workplace…. I'm not talking about the issues raised by the minister. I'm talking about actual mental stress. How would that be covered by changing the terminology — changing from "mental stress" to "mental disorder"?
Do the workers need to know if they experience mental stress? How would they then…? What kind of criteria would they have to meet to be eligible for compensation under mental stress that they experience at a workplace?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: What we've done with the amendment is attempt to make things clearer as to what the impact of the legislation would be. The previous legislation, which only covered acute mental difficulties, talked about mental stress, but in fact, what compensation was for was for a mental disorder — something like a post-traumatic stress disorder. It was in the policy. What we've done is brought the wording into the legislation.
Mental disorder, when you go further in the legislation — it will be a mental or physical condition that's described in the most recent American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, also known as the DSM. That's what we're talking about in the legislation.
R. Chouhan: In this section (a)(ii), it reads: "is predominantly caused by a significant work-related stressor…." The word "predominantly" was not there before. Could the minister explain what the need was for adding that word "predominantly" into the legislation?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Claims that involve significant work-related stressors and resulting mental disorders will present challenges that don't exist for many physical injuries and occupational diseases. These include the pervasive nature of stressors in everyone's work and non-work lives, uncertainties surrounding the causal factors which led to a worker's mental disorder and the subjective nature of a mental disorder claim.
The predominant clause requirement recognizes the unique characteristics and supports the objectives and financial integrity of the workers compensation system by ensuring that a mental disorder was predominantly caused by a significant work-related stressor arising out of employment.
R. Chouhan: Is there a definition outlining work-related stressors? Is there anything in the legislation which will indicate what those stressors are?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This is not included in the legislation, but WorkSafe will be developing policy, and they have a consultative process when they do that. They'll be developing policy that will give these definitions.
R. Chouhan: In 5.1(b) it now says: "is diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist…." Before there was family physician. Why is family physician replaced with psychiatrist or psychologist now?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This change will better ensure that the required diagnosis of a recognized mental disorder, as I mentioned before, through the DSM criteria would be made with a practitioner with the necessary training to make a psychological diagnosis.
R. Chouhan: If somebody is generally suffering mental stress at the workplace, now they have to be diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist. We all know how long it will take to get that appointment. Instead of helping them, we will be increasing that mental stress for them by not having the opportunity to go see a doctor right away.
Before just seeing the family physician at least would have allowed them to seek compensation. They would have been diagnosed and later on could go to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Now, for not having that ability to do it immediately because they have to wait….
Why are we making a worker go through unnecessary stress, increased stress? Before the wording that we had could have helped them. Could the minister explain why we are not helping the workers and instead making it difficult for them to seek that help which they would need?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I hope that I can reassure him with his concern about the worker. Non-traumatic claims, we believe at least in some cases, will be more complex, and psychiatrists and psychologists have the necessary training to make a diagnosis of a recognized mental disorder. Having the psychiatrist or psychologist as the first point of contact will mean a quicker diagnosis and quicker access to assistance, which will assist the process and not hinder it.
We know that non-traumatic claims are more complex, and they will take longer to process than traumatic claims, so WorkSafe is going to create an expedited fee schedule to ensure that people with these kinds of claims are seen faster and reports are generated more quickly.
R. Chouhan: Moving along in subsection 2….
The Chair: Member, we're on the amendment. Do you have anything further on the amendment?
R. Chouhan: I'm going through the amendment — what I have in front of me.
The Chair: Okay. All right.
R. Chouhan: So 5.1(2) reads: "The Board may require that a psychiatrist or psychologist appointed by the Board review a diagnosis made for the purposes of subsection (1) (b)…."
Could the minister explain? Does this mean that when somebody is suffering mental stress or mental disorder, they can apply for compensation and then their claim will be accepted, but in the meantime the board may also appoint a psychologist? Is this what it's saying? To me it's not clear.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This is actually very similar to the way the legislation reads now, where something can be appealed. The only difference is that rather than it being appealed to a physician, it must be appealed to a psychiatrist or a psychologist.
R. Chouhan: Now, the next section, subsection (3), says: "Section 56 (1) applies to a psychiatrist or psychologist who makes a diagnosis referred to in this section." I don't have section 56 in front of me. Could the minister explain what the relevance of that is and how it will work?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Section 56(1) really just talks about the duty of every physician or qualified practitioner who's attending or consulted on a case. It talks about the timeliness with which reports have to be provided. So that's what that section is about.
Section 1 as amended approved.
On section 2.
R. Chouhan: Could the minister explain the changes when you're deleting section 2 — the impact of that? The ability of the persons claiming compensation…. What impact would that have, from the previous situation, under the new changes?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The reason for deleting this section is that it's no longer necessary. It would have reduced the required cohabitation period from three years to two years for a common-law spouse to qualify for survivor benefits in the case where a couple has no children. The change has already been made as a consequential amendment to the new Family Law Act, and it's already in effect as of March 1, 2012.
Section 2 negatived.
On section 3.
R. Chouhan: Could the minister explain the changes in the rate? Again, is it in line with other jurisdictions? Do other provinces also have this kind of compensation, or is it just unique to British Columbia?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Yes, this is similar to what exists in other jurisdictions, where it's recognized that apprentices and learners are in a different stage of their career in work than a worker who has already proceeded through the apprenticeship and learner period.
Section 3 approved.
On section 4.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I move the amendment to section 4 standing in my name in the orders of the day.
[SECTION 4, by deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
4 The provisions listed in Column I of the following table are amended by striking out the dollar amount set out opposite them in Column 2 and substituting the dollar amount set out opposite them in Column 3:
3 (5) (c)
17 (3) (a) (ii)
17 (3) (c)
17 (3) (d)
17 (3) (f) (iii) (B)
17 (3) (g)
17 (3) (h) (i)
17 (3) (h) (ii)
17 (3) (i)
217 (a) (i)
217 (b) (i)
1 237 461.35
Section 4 as amended approved.
On section 5.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I move the amendment to section 5 standing in my name in the orders of the day.
[SECTION 5, by deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
Transition — mental
5 Section 5.1 of the Workers Compensation Act, as
amended enacted by section 1 of this Act, applies to every decision made by the Board or the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal on or after January July 1, 2012, the date section 1 of this Act comes into force, in respect of a claim made but not finally adjudicated before January July 1, 2012.]
Section 5 as amended approved.
Section 6 negatived.
On section 7.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I move the amendment to section 7 standing in my name in the orders of the day.
[SECTION 7, by deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
Transition — apprentice or learner
7 Section 33.2 of the Workers Compensation Act, as amended by section 3 of this Act, applies to an injury that occurs on or after
January July 1, 2012, the date section 3 of this Act comes into force.]
On the amendment.
R. Chouhan: Could the minister explain this amendment, how it would affect the employees who were able to seek compensation before under that section and now, with this amendment, how it would be easy or difficult for them to do that?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: This is consistent with the usual approach that changes to workers compensation benefits apply to new cases that arise after the effective date. It's the approach used for changes to compensation for apprentices and learners in 2002, when the last changes were made.
If an apprentice or learner is injured before July 1, 2012, the claim will be adjudicated under the previous statutory provision — that is, compensation will be based on the starting rate of a qualified person in the trade when a temporary disability lasts beyond ten weeks. If the injury occurs on or after July 1, 2012, then the new compensation provision will apply.
R. Chouhan: As we all know, the shortage of skilled workers in British Columbia is so acute that people now in all sections of industry — business, employers, the unions, everybody — are saying how difficult it is to attract people to come to the construction industry. In the previous legislation we had, at least apprentices had the ability, when they were injured…. They were able to receive benefits on the current wage for the first ten weeks of their temporary disability, and after ten weeks that rate jumps to a starting rate of a qualified person in their trade.
At least they were able to say that when they came into this industry, they were able to help themselves, to go through that period of time when they were injured. Now with this one I don't think that we are really sending the right message to the young workers out there who are willing to be part of this industry by saying that if you're injured, you are not going to get the same compensation as you used to before.
My question to the minister is: why are we making it difficult for the young people to enter this industry when everybody is talking about the shortage that we are experiencing? There will be a shortage of 160,000 skilled workers in the next few years. I would urge the minister to reconsider that and not to move with it.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The section we're on now is really about the date that the changes would come into force. The member is on a section that we had already passed.
I'm happy to go back to that, to say that the rationale for the amendment is really to support two of the key principles of the Workers Compensation Act. The first is to compensate injured workers for the loss of earnings resulting from their impairment. While the starting rate of a qualified person in the trade is an appropriate basis for permanent disability benefits, it doesn't reflect the loss of earnings for temporary disabilities for apprentice and learners. The second principle is to promote the return to work for injured workers when they are ready.
That's the rationale behind this change, and we have already passed that section.
Section 7 as amended approved.
On section 8.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I move the amendment to section 8 standing in my name in the orders of the day.
[SECTION 8, by deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the text shown as underlined:
8 The provisions of this Act referred to in column 1 of the following table come into force as set out in column 2 of the table:
Anything not elsewhere covered by this table
The date of Royal Assent
Section 8 as amended approved.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I move the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendments.
The committee rose at 4:42 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Reporting of Bills
Bill 14 — Workers Compensation
Amendment Act, 2011
Bill 14, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011, reported complete with amendment.
Mr. Speaker: When shall the bill be considered as read, Minister?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Pursuant to the time allocation motion passed this day, now.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 14 — Workers Compensation
Amendment Act, 2011
Bill 14, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2011, read a third time and passed.
Hon. T. Lake: I now call committee stage of Bill 53, intituled the Family Day Act.
Committee of the Whole House
BIll 53 — Family Day Act
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 53; D. Horne in the chair.
The committee met at 4:45 p.m.
On section 1.
R. Chouhan: As I said during the second reading, I support this bill. We are happy that people in British Columbia would have a day off in the month of February.
In the press release the minister issued, it said that they consulted widely with the public, and many people did that on line. I just want to ask a question about the process of that. When somebody is saying yes or no in a poll on line, the same person could do it repeatedly. How did the minister and the ministry ensure that the polling was done in an actual way reflecting people's wishes to have that day off in February?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The on-line consultation was set up so that each unique IP address, each computer…. A vote could only happen from each unique address once.
R. Chouhan: Could the minister also explain: was the voting open only to B.C. residents, or could anybody anywhere in the world have voted on that?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: We did not have a way to be certain that people were from British Columbia. It was British Columbians who were aware through media and the government website and that sort of thing, but we don't know 100 percent that people were from B.C. They were identifying themselves often as from certain parts of the province, but we could not be absolutely certain that they were.
R. Chouhan: Just one last question on that. I'm concerned about the validity of that system, the process. Again, were there any steps in the system in place to ensure that people were not voting more than once and also not voting from outside the province? How do we know that that many people actually were able to check into that on line and on the system and express their wishes that they wanted to have it? I would like the public to have some assurance from the minister that all steps were taken to make sure it was a valid consultation process.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Certainly, we were delighted with the response to this consultation process. We had over 31,000 people who visited the website. We had over 3,000 people who commented, sometimes at length. There were about 3,500 people who said either the second or third Monday in February would be suitable. Then the voting was about 18,000 people who wanted the second Monday and about 9,400, I think, who wanted the third Monday.
As I mentioned previously, each individual IP address, each unique IP address…. You weren't allowed to vote more than one time. If you logged on again, it would refer you to the comments to participate in the comments if you wished to, but people couldn't vote more than one time.
This certainly was never put forward as something like a poll, where you reach out and scientifically ask people. This was a consultation period or a process that people voluntarily participated in. As I said previously, it is possible that people from anywhere in the world could have participated, and we don't currently have the technology to eliminate people who weren't British Columbians.
There was another part to the consultation. The Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation carried out a number of round table discussions with industry and businesses in numerous regions around the province. The identity of those people was known, and they were all British Columbians — as well as with universities and school systems.
In our ministry we received a number of letters and e-mails where people identified themselves and appeared to be British Columbians, but we didn't double-check that. They certainly had addresses that indicated they were in British Columbia.
As I said, we were very pleased with how many people…. We've not had an engagement process in government previously where as many people engaged with us.
R. Chouhan: Was there was a minimum age required to vote?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: No, there was not.
B. Simpson: I just have a series of questions here. The consultation the minister is talking about, as I understand it — the on-line one that the questions have been asked about — is about the day, specifically. "What day should Family Day be on?" What was the nature of the consultation with British Columbians about whether we should have a statutory holiday or not in February?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The consultation that we led was specifically to ask people which of the days they preferred, so it was specifically…. The throne speech had already stated very clearly that there was going to be a Family Day starting in 2013, so this consultation was to get guidance from British Columbians about which day was preferred.
The Chair: Member for Burnaby North…. Sorry, Cariboo North.
B. Simpson: Just one alphabet over, Chair — a letter of the alphabet over.
The Chair: I apologize to the member.
B. Simpson: Just so I'm clear, the minister has indicated that because the government announced it, there wasn't any consultation on whether we should have a statutory holiday or not. The reason for raising that question, of course, is that there's a question. I mean, if you say to people, "Do you want a statutory holiday?" I think the gut reaction is: "Yes, of course."
But when we're going to go down that path, there are costs. I've got some questions around that. So what is the cost to government of another statutory holiday in February?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I'm not sure that the member opposite is looking for an answer to the first part of his question, but I will say again: there had been a throne speech commitment that there would be Family Day starting in February of 2013. This consultation was specifically about British Columbians' preference as to whether it would be the second or third Monday in February.
In terms of the cost to government, we've estimated an additional $28 million in wage and benefit costs for employers in the broader public sector.
B. Simpson: My point, for the minister's clarification, was that an executive decision was made that we were going to have a Family Day, announced in the throne speech. I guess that part of the presumption of that is that if you go out and you consult with people about a statutory holiday, there's a presumption that the automatic answer would be "of course." There wasn't that consultation.
But the minister has indicated — and CFIB and others have said — that this is a direct cost to government of $28 million per year. Just to clarify that it is $28 million per year now of incurred cost to the public sector and to the taxpayers.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Yes, the member opposite is correct.
B. Simpson: I guess that's my contention, as I said in second reading — that maybe if the public was told that it's going to cost them $28 million, there might be other priorities for them than a statutory holiday, putting us in the lead of statutory holidays across Canada.
Does the minister know or can the minister apprise the House of what the cost to small and medium-sized businesses are of an extra statutory holiday in February?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I don't have a specific answer that the member opposite is looking for. We did, though, have some discussions. It's difficult to know with certainty. It is known that when there is a statutory holiday, there are some businesses that move some of the work from the statutory holiday to another date.
The estimation is that there would be a very small effect on gross domestic product, which would be between 0.01 percent and 0.06 percent of GDP. That's from having a new statutory holiday.
B. Simpson: Just on that point on the GDP, then. I've got some numbers. Just to clarify for the public record, that's a net negative impact on GDP. The minister just gave a number, but not whether it was plus or minus relative to GDP.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Yes, that would be net negative. As I previously mentioned, my understanding is that it is difficult to quantify this with certainty, but it was predicted that there would be a very small net negative effect on overall GDP for the province.
B. Simpson: I guess the minister should have a conversation with her staff, because CFIB has made it available to everybody here what their numbers are. They didn't have any trouble putting some numbers together.
They indicate that for small and medium-sized enterprises, it's $42 million additional costs, just like it's $28 million additional costs to the public sector, averaging out at about $1,100 in additional costs per business and $62 million total to the business sector. So CFIB came up with those numbers by polling their businesses and doing some calculations.
Did the minister meet with CFIB and have their presentation put in front of her?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I meet regularly with stakeholders, and the CFIB is an important stakeholder. I certainly have met with them, and I will meet with them again in the future.
Just to clarify for my own understanding. We are currently having committee stage, and we're on section 1, which says that Family Day is established as a public holiday, that the "day in February prescribed under this Act is a public holiday to be observed as 'Family Day'"?
B. Simpson: Exactly. Family Day has costs. So I think it's important to put on the public record for all British Columbians to understand that they can't have their cake and eat it too. There are costs.
There are costs to the taxpayer, which the minister has indicated is $28 million, and in a time of fiscal restraint, I believe the public should have been apprised of the fact that it was $28 million. There should have been consultation, not an executive decision that we're going to get an additional statutory holiday, putting us ahead of the rest of the provinces. I think it's absolutely fair to ask a line of questioning about the implications of Family Day, because that's what's being instituted by this act.
When the minister met with CFIB, did she meet specifically with CFIB about Family Day, and was she briefed by CFIB on the costs of Family Day directly from them?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The cost of Family Day in terms of the cost for government, the $28 million, is something that's been in the materials provided by government as well as the estimated impact on GDP. I'm not sure how many months that goes back, but quite a considerable time. It would be on the public record. It would have been available for British Columbians to be aware of.
Certainly, we have always acknowledged that there is a cost. There's a cost to government, and there's a cost to businesses as well. In terms of the conversations I've had not only with CFIB but with other members of the business community, the fact that there are costs for businesses is a topic that we have always discussed, certainly in the context of what government has done in the past and what government could do in the future that is supportive of small, medium and large businesses and corporations. Those are conversations that I've had, as well, as the Minister of Tourism, Trade and Investment.
The Chair: Member for Cariboo North on section 1, and I have been providing some latitude on this section.
B. Simpson: Thank you.
The CFIB, specifically with relation to implementation of Family Day, which is what this bill is, the implementation of Family Day…. CFIB has done a concerted lobby with every member of this House, putting in front of them numbers. When they knew it was a fait accompli, they repolled their members to find out what they should do as a result of this becoming an act, because that was a done deal.
They've indicated that they've then approached government with a desire for mitigation strategies because of the costs. The costs that they've indicated are in the context of additional costs as a result of PST and HST switching back and forth, within the context of three lifts to minimum wage and within the context of the economic uncertainty they're facing — that you're now adding an additional burden, particularly on them, for supposedly everybody getting quality time together as families in February, which is a contestable social engineering exercise on the part of government.
My question to the minister is this. Who has the lead for government in continuing a dialogue with CFIB about mitigation around this additional cost burden to them? They are looking to see if they can negotiate with government some form of mitigation for the sum total of the costs, but in particular this. They've indicated to us that they've talked to government about the possibility of the small business tax, taking that and putting that back on the table again so that it gets reduced. They've also talked about the possibility of increasing the training tax credit.
There were a number of options they put in front of government, so I wonder if the minister could indicate on the public record who is going to continue that dialogue with CFIB about the costs of Family Day to their businesses.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Certainly, CFIB is an important stakeholder for the Minister of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government on a number of files. We will continue to meet regularly with them, as we have in the past. There are, though, a number of other ministers who I am quite confident would regularly meet with CFIB and discuss this issue as well as others. They also have the option of making a presentation to the Select Standing Committee on Finance.
I would say that while it wouldn't be every minister in government, there would be a number of ministers in government that would continue to have this ongoing dialogue with CFIB and with other stakeholders that are equally important with respect to the business community.
J. van Dongen: Just a few questions for the minister. The Premier had stated that the implementation of this bill, Family Day, was delayed due to the economy. My question to the minister is, really: what has changed?
When I talk to businesses in my community and throughout British Columbia, there certainly has not been an improvement in most of their fortunes, whether it's, you know, a high-end clothing store in Abbotsford or whether it's a building materials business in Abbotsford or whether it's a construction company that I talked to. Even in Sidney last night I talked to someone who is in the window supply business. Their businesses have not improved in the last 12 months.
What is the justification for going ahead now, given that the Premier had said that the delay was due to the economy?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: The new statutory holiday was originally announced in the throne speech in the fall of 2011, but at the time it was stated that the implementation would be delayed until 2013 to allow businesses time to adjust to the new statutory holiday. That was the intention. The original plan had been to begin in 2012, but acknowledging that times have been difficult for businesses, the delay was put there to allow some time for businesses to adjust to the new statutory holiday.
J. van Dongen: I don't know how time gives businesses an opportunity to adjust when general economic conditions haven't improved.
I want to just highlight one of those — the whole impact of cross-border shopping, which admittedly is triggered by a stronger Canadian dollar, generally speaking. A lot of businesses have been affected by that in cross-border shopping on both a commercial basis and also people shopping personally. I have businesses in my community that are affected by that. Now an additional long weekend in British Columbia will create increased opportunity for cross-border shopping.
There are federal provisions that facilitate the opportunity to bring a greater quantity of goods, a greater value of goods, across the international border if you're away from home more than 48 hours. A long weekend like Family Day would facilitate that. Has there been any consideration of the impact of an additional stat holiday on cross-border shopping?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: One of the groups involved in the consultation with industry that the Minister of Tourism, Trade and Investment led was the tourism industry. They were very interested in having our holiday in February be on a different day than the United States and neighbouring province of Alberta.
It is their intention, and they've been extremely solid on this, to widely advertise this holiday, that it's a B.C. family holiday and really try to attract British Columbians to stay in British Columbia. But they will be reaching out to our neighbouring jurisdictions as well.
We will find out in time what the net result of this is, but they certainly anticipated that they would be providing attractive holiday packages for British Columbians that would actually drive tourism and pull people to stay in British Columbia for this holiday weekend.
We certainly know from the consultation and from the feedback that many MLAs have received that — while the member opposite is not supportive of this holiday, and I understand that really clearly — many British Columbians are very supportive. They really welcome the idea of a statutory holiday. They're already making plans, and they're very enthusiastic about it.
The Chair: The member for Abbotsford South on section 1. I will remind the member that I've provided considerable latitude and that we are discussing a date in February.
J. van Dongen: Thank you, hon. Chair.
I appreciate the minister's answer. I think that she's probably referring to some net benefit from tourism-based operations, such as ski hills, that may be increasing their business somewhat from Alberta.
But I suggest that there are many, many large numbers of small businesses in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley that are directly impacted by cross-border shopping across the international border. I don't believe there's any net benefit in the Lower Mainland–Fraser Valley in terms of the tourism industry or virtually any other types of retail businesses that are concerned about the cross-border impacts and the greater ability for people to bring product across.
My final questions relate to…. The minister has talked about consultation. I understand that there was some consultation very late in the game. I want to refer to the Tourism Abbotsford society concern about the impact on their conference business and Tradex and very specifically the Pacific Agri Show. I understand that there was some consultation established by telephone on May 16. Could the minister describe what that consultation involved?
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I can't speak specifically to any of the dates of the teleconferences that the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation had. I know he had several conference calls. They were regionally based. Some of them were specifically with tourism, but more often they were generally with industry and businesses in various parts of the province. But I can't speak specifically to any of the unique calls that he made.
J. van Dongen: My final question to the minister, following up on the previous one, is: really, what is the point of a consultation as late as May 16 when the decision had been very clearly made sometime before that?
When — as the minister responded in answers to my colleague — the Canadian Federation of Independent Business requests for some form of mitigation aren't being considered, I really question what the motivation of the government was to even set up consultation meetings when nothing was going to change and no mitigation was in the cards. It bothers me that we have this guise or semblance of consultation when there really was no purpose to be served by it.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: Fortunately, the people who participated in the round-table discussions and the calls from around the province did see a point to the consultation. There were many participants, and it was made very clear to them what the point of the consultation was. It was to consult with as wide a group as possible to ask them: of the two dates that were being considered, the second Monday in February and the third Monday in February, which would be their preference?
In some cases some of the stakeholders that were contacted did not have a preference. Either date was acceptable to them. In other cases they had preferences that were sometimes very strong and sometimes not. Certainly, there were some businesses and some members of different kinds of industries that were very supportive of the date that was ultimately chosen.
The member opposite may have misunderstood or misheard what I said previously with respect to the CFIB. They are an important stakeholder —and the discussions we've always had with CFIB and will continue to have with them as to how we can work with them and work with their stakeholders. Ultimately, of course we want to strengthen things for small businesses in the province. We're very supportive. We have been in the past, and we will continue to in the future.
Sections 1 to 5 inclusive approved.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 5:15 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 53 — family day act
Bill 53, Family Day Act, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. T. Lake: I now call committee stage of Bill 44, intituled the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act.
Committee of the Whole House
BIll 44 — civil resolution
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 44; D. Horne in the chair.
The committee met at 5:18 p.m.
On section 1.
L. Krog: I believe there's some line to the effect that you first pass through life as tragedy and it comes back as a farce, or something like that. I'm inclined to think that, really, what I am engaged in here today is a bit of a farce as far as my role in this chamber is concerned.
With the greatest respect to the government, the Attorney General announced this as a fairly major change, this bill, an opportunity for reform. On first blush that arguably may be the case, particularly given the government's commitment to reform of our justice system.
The minister herself had this to say when she released her Green Paper and justice reform review on February 8: "Government is one element of a system of interconnected and largely independent players. I know that by working together, we can ensure the justice system is more transparent, more accessible and more responsive for British Columbians."
Now, much to my chagrin, I made some assumptions about this bill in terms of consultation, particularly with those who have historically played a fairly significant role in our justice system in the province, including the B.C. branch of the Canadian Bar Association, the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia, even the Law Society. Much to my surprise, my assumption that they would have been consulted with respect to this legislation turned out to be incorrect. Indeed, both organizations —the Canadian Bar Association, B.C. branch, and the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia — have issued some fairly scathing comments with respect to this bill.
I appreciate that in responding initially in second reading I was aware and was very pleased to see that in fact the strata community, by and large, was very pleased with the announcement of the tribunal that would allow the resolution of strata disputes in a timely and effective way, which was not the case before, when basically we were stuck with the Supreme Court as the only venue in order to pursue resolution of any difficulties or problems that might arise.
With respect to the addition — and I will call it an addition — to the existing small claims system, it appears there wasn't the kind of public consultation. So I looked forward to committee stage of this bill, and that's the farce I'm participating in today. Thirty minutes to review a major piece of legislation that runs to some 50 pages and sets up various tribunals.
It's not the most apt comparison, but in the Bible ,with respect to the "Dance of the Seven Veils," Salome promised to dance in order to reveal herself. That's essentially what we do in committee stage of a bill. The veils drop one by one and, hopefully, at the end of the day, the truth is there, it's fairly clear what the bill is all about, the government understands it, the people understand it, and the legislators in this chamber can, in fact, pass judgment on it by voting yea or nay.
What we have before us today, clearly, is not going to allow the kind of scrutiny that the opposition expects to take with major change. Nevertheless, I'm going to ask the questions I can in the limited time that's allowed me. But I want to make it fairly clear to the government that this bill, which might otherwise have seen some support, is not going to get the support it might readily deserve or expect with this, because there hasn't been consultation, there hasn't been time, and there won't be time, clearly, as a result of the passage of the motion earlier today, for the opposition to do its job.
I didn't get elected to this place to come in here and participate in a farce, but I'm going to be forced to do so, so I'm going to do it.
My first question to the Attorney General is this. In the definitions section, which we're dealing with now, it talks about a tribunal. I'm curious to know: what is the Attorney General contemplating in terms of the quality of individuals, the level of experience and expertise and training that would be involved with an appointment to the tribunal?
Hon. S. Bond: The specific skill set would be expertise in the areas of consumer protection, debt, goods and services, strata. Those would be examples of the types of expertise.
L. Krog: I appreciate the Attorney General's response, and I'm curious to know: what sort of training are we contemplating with respect to this? Are we expecting that these people would have a law degree? Would they have some certificate from a college? What sort of training are we contemplating?
If the Attorney General could give me some examples of individuals, because I'm sure that in the drafting of this bill, surely the ministry would have considered the kinds of individuals that would be proposed and looked at the salary consequences. I understand from previous remarks — I'm not sure whether it was made inside or outside this House — the government contemplated saving some $8 million to $11 million a year.
If this is to save money out of our existing justice system, I'd be very curious to know what sort of salary is going to be commensurate with these positions and what sort of cost is contemplated. If it's going to save $8 million or $11 million a year, I presume there must be some contemplation of what these people are going to be paid, and that will reflect, obviously, their level of education.
Hon. S. Bond: The members may well be lawyers — not necessarily required but may well be lawyers. The process will be a merit-based appointment process, and the process will be very similar to existing administrative tribunals. We have some exceptional examples of those in British Columbia, including the Human Rights Tribunal and the Environmental Appeal Board. There are a number of ways that administrative processes are used, and this would be a similar process.
L. Krog: If the Attorney General could advise, given that I understand that there is some suggestion this is going to save $8 million to $11 million, how does she see that savings achieved with the appointment of another body which will require, obviously, facilities, support staff, all of those kinds of things?
Hon. S. Bond: One of the ways that we intend to look at savings is moving away from the concept of everything requiring bricks and mortar. In fact, a fundamental component of the thinking and principles here is related to the use of technology. Ultimately, this is a scalable project, a scalable approach.
In fact, this is about moving issues out of the courts, into an administrative process. The savings are meant to be garnered by making a significant change to the current process. I'm cognizant of the member's comments. I recognize the shortness of time for a lot of important questions. The fact of the matter here is that these are changes where we have made contact with the Canadian Bar Association, trial lawyers, legal services.
It has not been extensive. We had that conversation with them following the discussion that the member opposite had. We have committed to working with them to implement the changes. It will take an 18-month period of time, and it won't be done without input and their consultation and their participation.
Having said that, we're making a change to a system where people are uncomfortable with the change. We're simply saying that we can't continue to do things the same way. This is one of the issues that will help us look at reforming the justice system, and savings ultimately will be garnered as we move these issues out of courtrooms to a more convenient, accessible process for individuals. And currently, other than the strata component, this is a voluntary process.
L. Krog: I do appreciate the Attorney General's comments. Ms. Matthews, however, the president of the B.C. branch, put out a press release that said: "The government's announcement of Bill 44 without discussion with key stakeholders is obviously damaging to the broader justice reform process."
After all, we do have Mr. Cowper out there working on justice reform and reporting back to the Attorney General — I believe it's the end of June or July — with a view to issuing a White Paper in the fall. Clearly, the cart seems to be somewhat ahead of the horse in this particular matter.
Having said that — and back to the concept of the tribunal itself — can the Attorney General advise what is contemplated, in terms of the creation of the tribunal, by way of numbers?
Are we talking about one member plus two? How many tribunal members are we talking about? Are we talking about something the concept and size of the existing Labour Relations Board? What is the concept? Again, does the Attorney General have any idea of what's going to be paid to these people?
Hon. S. Bond: I am aware of Sharon Matthews' comments, and the chronology the member opposite provided is correct. We made efforts to make contact before it was introduced. That did not happen, so we followed up with that. We made a commitment to work with the Law Society and with others to ensure that as we move forward, we will look at how this is implemented.
In relation to the size of the tribunal, one of the important features of the plan is that it is scalable. We have not determined the size of the tribunal. One of the reasons for that is that because it's voluntary and not mandatory, we don't have a good sense of the caseload. We believe that the numbers will be smaller at the beginning, as people explore this opportunity.
While the member opposite correctly and accurately pointed out some of the negative feedback, there has also been extremely positive feedback about this concept from people who have been looking for a way to deal with strata issues, for example, that is more appropriate to the issue that is being discussed.
So we haven't determined the final size. It will obviously be similar, as I said, in nature to the Human Rights Tribunal and others that exist but, again, scalable. We believe that because of the voluntary nature, it will potentially be smaller and grow as people understand the utility of the process.
L. Krog: With respect to the Attorney General's comments, if this thing isn't contemplated to be up and running for 18 months, and I think I understood the Attorney General correctly when she said that, then it does rather beg the question.
If it's not contemplated that it's going to be up and running for 18 months and we either have a fall session or, if not, at least a spring session coming, and given the lack of consultation and the general reaction from those most intimately involved in the justice system today, I guess the question is: why didn't we simply consult and put a White Paper out, if you will, that included this as part of that concept? I mean, what's the rush here?
With great respect to the government, we're going into a general election in the springtime. Initiating a process that involves the setting up of a tribunal that won't be set up until six months, roughly, after the next general election strikes me as not exactly the best example of public policy, particularly when it is being forced through this Legislature with a half-hour for committee stage.
Hon. S. Bond: Geoff Cowper isn't going to look at all of the issues that are ever related to reform in the province. In fact, the primary focus of his work will certainly be focused more on the criminal courts. This is a different process. We know that it would take at least 18 months as we work our way through it.
It's not something that was determined that would begin yesterday. We had an expert advisory group in place since July of 2010 on the strata piece, for example. On that advisory group we had lawyers who were specializing in strata property issues, representatives of strata organizations, property managers.
That group was formed in 2010 and has been providing advice on this component in particular since 2010. In 2011 we consulted extensively on an alternative strata dispute resolution model. There was a discussion paper. The public consultation results demonstrated that 95 percent of respondents to the on-line survey indicated they favoured the model.
We actually believe we need to move forward with a reform agenda that looks at a number of issues. This is one of them.
As I said to the member opposite, we have now talked, at least in an initial conversation, with the CBA, trial lawyers and the Law Society. We have certainly demonstrated our interest in wanting to continue that discussion as we move this concept forward to implementation.
L. Krog: The definition section includes the reference to "tribunal officer" appointed under section 76. Section 76 simply says: "Employees necessary to carry out the powers and duties of the tribunal may be appointed under the Public Service Act." Clearly, I presume, they will be OIC appointments.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Again, what is contemplated in terms of their duties, and what duties will they perform on behalf of the tribunal?
Hon. S. Bond: The tribunal's day-to-day operations — we referenced this in section 76 — will be carried out by public service employees. The section provides us with the authority to appoint those employees. They may well be case managers, but the provision also allows for tribunal members to focus on decision-making duties rather than the administration of the tribunal.
L. Krog: Just so I'm clear. These in fact will all be OIC appointments. Is that correct?
Hon. S. Bond: The tribunal members, like other tribunals — for example, like the Human Rights Tribunal — would be appointed by OIC, but the day-to-day operations would be carried out by public service employees under the Public Service Act.
L. Krog: Just so I'm perfectly clear on that, does that mean, then, they will be — as are the members of the tribunal itself, the chair and vice-chair — appointed after a merit-based process?
Hon. S. Bond: A chair and vice-chair would be a merit-based process and by OIC. The member is correct.
L. Krog: Sorry, perhaps I wasn't clear. I'm asking whether the tribunal officers will be appointed as a result of a merit-based process.
Hon. S. Bond: The process would be the same process that's in place to hire public servants across government.
L. Krog: I'm curious to know why, given the nature of this process, and given that we are emphasizing that the chair and the vice-chairs of the tribunal are hired through a merit-based process…. Does not the merit-based process apply with respect to the hiring of public servants who would fill the position of tribunal officers?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, we don't have the guidelines for hiring through the Public Service Act in front of us, but in essence, the members of the tribunal who will be making decisions will be selected and appointed through a merit-based process through OIC. The rest of the members, the tribunal officers, would be case managers or dealing with administration and hired through a process that is the same process as the Administrative Tribunals Act, so we're not creating anything new. The same process would be applied.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
L. Krog: Section 2, which establishes the tribunal, talks in sub (2) about how: "The mandate of the tribunal is to provide dispute resolution services in relation to matters that are within its authority, in a manner that (a) is accessible, speedy, economical, informal and flexible." I'm just wondering: what is the government contemplating would be accessible, speedy, economical, informal and flexible?
Hon. S. Bond: Subsection (2) sets out the founding mandate of our tribunal. The mandate is to provide a more accessible justice system. The other thing that's been common in all of the work that we're doing, in looking at how we move things out of the court system, is moving away from a combative, adversarial litigation process from the very beginning.
So what we're looking at here is: how can we actively engage the parties through communication, working toward maintaining those civil relationships? Let's face it. We're talking about strata and other sorts of close relationships while recognizing that disputes arise and need to be addressed. The tribunal will apply the principle of law and fairness in its process and decisions, but it's not out of line with the other kinds of reforms that we're looking at.
We want to move family law out of courts. We want to be able to take issues like this and move them to a less adversarial situation and certainly move away from litigating. Remember — again to the member opposite — other than the strata portion, this is a voluntary process.
L. Krog: What I'm really looking for in asking these questions of the Attorney General is this. Look, most British Columbians…. Well, I shouldn't say most. A number of British Columbians have familiarity with the court system and how it works — if you're going to small claims, how you resolve your disputes there.
What I want to understand is: if the mandate is "to provide dispute resolution services in relation to matters that are within its authority, in a manner that is (a) accessible, speedy, economical, informal and flexible," what does that look like? Am I going to access it all on line? Am I going to be talking to a person? Am I going to be going to an office? Are the forms going to be really, really, really simple? Are there going to be standard forms for all kinds of claims?
In other words, what is this thing going to look like on the ground? With great respect, if there's been this much consultation behind the scenes and panels looking at it, I assume the government has some concept of what this looks like in a practical way.
Right now, if I want to go to small claims, I go into the court registry. I get my form and fill it out. I slam it down. I file it. I serve it. There's a response; there's a process, etc. What does this actually look like that's going to make it accessible, speedy, economical, informal and flexible? In terms of economical, does economical mean there won't be any filing fees, for instance?
Hon. S. Bond: Yes, of course we've thought that through. Part of the access issue and maybe because of the member's background…. A lot of British Columbians have no idea how the court system works. In fact, this is about bringing those options closer to home.
Yes, it does involve on line potentially. It means that you could engage in this process from your home, using technology. It is a mix of in person and on line. Again, people who are not comfortable with looking at this model still have the option to use the court process if that is more appropriate for their particular perspective.
The Chair: Hon. Members, pursuant to the time allocation motion passed earlier today, I'm now required to put the question.
Sections 2 to 112 inclusive approved.
Title approved on division.
Hon. S. Bond: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 5:49 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 44 — CIVIL RESOLUTION
Mr. Speaker: When shall the bill be read a third time?
Hon. S. Bond: Pursuant to the time allocation motion passed this day, now, Mr. Speaker.
Bill 44, Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. T. Lake: I now call committee stage of Bill 46, intituled the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 2012.
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 46 — Motor Vehicle
Amendment Act, 2012
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 46; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 5:51 p.m.
On section 1.
K. Corrigan: Just wanted to confirm that section 1 is essentially just consequential amendments and that they in and of themselves do not represent any change. They're just consequential amendments?
Hon. S. Bond: Yes.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
K. Corrigan: Now that we're settled, I just want to briefly make a comment. This Bill 46 is seeking to address the findings of a Supreme Court of B.C. decision that some of the automatic roadside prohibitions for drinking driving infringed the rights of individuals to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
I do find it a bit ironic that the government has just brought in a motion limiting debate, meaning that we only have one hour to ask questions about Bill 46. I think it's ironic because we had concerns about the hastiness of the original legislation.
Bringing in the drinking-driving scheme was hasty, and we did have concerns about whether the provisions would have been constitutional. So I do think it's a bit ironic that here we are, back with this bill, and it's being forced through in an hour. But I guess I should be happy because we're getting an hour for this one, as opposed to half an hour on others, like Bill 52, which is coming up and is a very significant piece of legislation.
On section 2. This is the section that is a significant change. It requires a peace officer to inform a person of his or her right to a second approved screening device analysis and stipulates that the lower of the two analysis results prevails.
My question to the minister: is this an essential part of what is seen to be the fix, essentially, for the legal decision that found parts of these sections of the Motor Vehicle Act unconstitutional?
Hon. S. Bond: That's correct.
K. Corrigan: This is one possibility. I just want to turn to the legal decision for a second and just read from it, because to me this is sort of the pith of the decision. I'd like to find out about the relationship between this section and the legal decision.
Justice Sigurdson, in the Supreme Court decision, said — my copy is page 66:
"There is no way under the impugned law for the driver to challenge the validity of the results. As evidenced by the review process already in place under the ADP regime, it is possible to allow for a more meaningful review to be put in place without in any material way affecting the government's objective of removing impaired drivers promptly and effectively from the road.
"In my view, it is not reasonable to preclude a driver a more meaningful review of the grounds for a lengthy suspension, penalty and costs in the 'fail' — i.e., over .08 — part of the ARP regime."
So is this section seen as giving the person, first of all, the right to be told that they can have a second chance to blow and then secondly, that the lower of the two samples will be used? Is that seen as part of the right to have more of a review?
Hon. S. Bond: It is part of the package of changes that, we believe, meets and exceeds the test that Judge Sigurdson laid out in his decision.
K. Corrigan: Well, I'm wondering if the minister…. Really, what's happening with this — the changes that are being made — is that it seems more to be widening the grounds and providing for the person a little bit more flexibility, I guess, in having the lower of the two samples taken. I'm wondering if the minister had considered instead some other options that, to me, would fall very much within what Justice Sigurdson said, saying that we need "a more meaningful review."
Did the minister consider, instead of this and the other provisions that'll come later, doing things like reducing the penalties or changing the review process, for example, to provide for cross-examination, in-person examination and things like that?
Hon. S. Bond: We did not consider reducing the penalties. We believe that having the most aggressive regime in the country is actually responsible for saving lives, so we didn't consider that. We looked at how we could put together a response to Judge Sigurdson's concerns that allows for the ability to directly challenge the device. We believe that test has been met.
The administrative process that has been in place was actually upheld in the B.C. Court of Appeal in 1997. In essence, what we are trying to do with this — and we believe we have met the test — is allow for the ability to directly challenge the device.
K. Corrigan: With regard to the mechanics of this section, why was it that originally, instead of having the lower of the two samples, it was the second sample? Was there a reason for that?
Hon. S. Bond: I'm told that originally the model followed that which was in place in Ontario. What this does now, by making this shift, is to actually provide the benefit to the driver.
K. Corrigan: Just for clarity, the other major change in this section is that the police officer is now required to inform somebody that they have the right to have a second test done with a different breathalyzer or hand-held breathalyzer.
Hon. S. Bond: Previously it would have been assumed that it was a best practice. Now we've enshrined it in law so that, again, if that doesn't occur, then the individual has another opportunity to challenge.
K. Corrigan: I want to just go back, actually — skip back, sorry — to a question that I was asking previously. It occurred to me that I just had a little follow-up. It's on the same section.
The minister said, I believe, that the administrative processes had been found supportable or legal, lawful, by a previous decision. But because this decision said that there had to be more avenues for review — that's essentially what it says, I do believe — did the minister consider changing that administrative process and widening it, for example? As I said earlier, perhaps having the ability to cross-examine or other processes — did the minister consider that as an option to satisfy this ruling?
Hon. S. Bond: No, we didn't, because as I mentioned earlier, the administrative process itself had been upheld, and the concern was the ability to directly challenge the device. So in essence we broadened the scope of that appeal.
K. Corrigan: Well, maybe I'll just ask another question, a bit of a hypothetical. The minister has said that it's defensible. There was an earlier decision. But does the minister agree that that could have been another way to satisfy the ruling?
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, I didn't, and we didn't. Because Justice Sigurdson confirmed the process, the concern that we had a robust process, the issue was the broadening of the ability to directly challenge the device. So that is where we focused the amendments, because in fact that, we believe, meets the test that Judge Sigurdson laid out in his decision.
Section 2 approved.
On section 3.
K. Corrigan: I just want to confirm that this is essentially another section where what it is doing is making changes consequential to other changes that have been made in this act and if that's correct.
Hon. S. Bond: That's correct.
Section 3 approved.
On section 4.
K. Corrigan: And also to confirm that section 4 is another consequential change — is that correct?
Hon. S. Bond: That is correct.
Section 4 approved.
On section 5.
K. Corrigan: Section 5 essentially "requires the report sent by a peace officer to the superintendent to be sworn and requires a peace officer to send to the superintendent specified information regarding an approved screening device." This is the section that requires "information relating to the calibration of the approved screening device on the basis of which the notice of driving prohibition was served." What is the purpose of this section? I would assume it is in connection with the decision of the Supreme Court as well.
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, the issue of a sworn report was highlighted specifically in the Sivia decision by Judge Sigurdson, so we responded directly to the identification of that as an issue. Requiring sworn reports increases the reliability of the evidence that's prepared by the police and ensures that the superintendent of motor vehicles has reliable evidence from the police. This responds very directly to an issue outlined in the Sivia decision.
Secondly, the ability to challenge the approved screening device results and documentation about the calibration and reliability of that piece of equipment, again, helps the driver. It will give the superintendent the ability to look at whether or not there are issues with the device. Again, what this does is responds to the concern about broadening and ensuring that there is an ability to directly challenge the device. Obviously, providing information about calibration and how often it's been done — those kinds of things — again, brings a new opportunity for the driver.
K. Corrigan: Previously, I believe the minister was referring to both sections 5 and 6, and I will ask questions about….We were talking about sworn statements, which I think is section 6. But with regard to section 5, previously what…. This is part of the package of information that must be sent by the peace officer to the superintendent, I believe. That was a whole bunch of things — the report and the person's…. It used to be the person's licence or permit, a copy of the notice of driving prohibition. All of these things would have been sent to the superintendent — a certificate of service and a report.
Now what we're adding is this calibration information. So could the minister just explain to me what that is? It's just a little report saying that the screening device has been checked, and that information wasn't previously sent?
Hon. S. Bond: Both the issue of a sworn statement and calibration are in section 5. They're in (d) and (e). Those are new, and in fact, what it will require now….
It is a requirement, and there was some discussion about this and about the ability for police agencies to actually provide this information. But they will be provided with a form that talks…. The title of it will be "Certificate of Qualified ASD Calibrator," and it will go through and outline exactly the date that it was calibrated. It will note the serial number. It will go through the manufacturer's number.
So a form will now be required to be sent, and we believe that that's an important…. Again, it looks at the ability to directly challenge the device. If there is something on this form that demonstrates that the information is not reliable, it gives the office of the superintendent of motor vehicles another reason to look at the decision.
K. Corrigan: Previously, under the previous scheme…. That is not mentioned, particularly, under the present 215.47. Would this information that is being added, the calibration information…? Could that have been sent? Or was it sometimes sent? Or could the superintendent request it? I'm just wondering whether this is a change in a requirement, or was this done sometimes previously?
Hon. S. Bond: It will be a much more thorough collection of information about the approved screening device. There has been a minor amount of information provided before. But again, this will require certification and will be a requirement to be sent in all of these cases. So a more fulsome report, and also signed and delivered with each case.
K. Corrigan: Is this information being included now — in the requirements of the documents that need to go to the superintendent — as part of the response to the Supreme Court decision? Or is it a response to overall complaints? I think there were quite a few complaints about the issue of calibration and the documentation of that calibration. Is it a response to the complaints, the court decision, or is it a combination of both?
Hon. S. Bond: It is a response to the judge's decision. Again, our goal is to provide as much information as possible to allow for the challenge of that particular device. I think it's important that the entire goal we have is to meet the test of the judge's decision in the Sivia case and to provide more robust opportunities and a broader range of ways for the device to be challenged.
K. Corrigan: I don't have another question about that section.
Section 5 approved.
On section 6.
K. Corrigan: The present section 215.49 is amended in this case, and 215.49 covers what the considerations are on a review by the superintendent. That is a review, when somebody has requested a review, after they've received a driving prohibition. Then it says that the superintendent must consider any relevant written statements or evidence submitted by the applicant, the report of the peace officer, a copy of the notice of driving prohibition — things, basically, that were sent to the superintendent.
It previously said "any other relevant documents and information forwarded to the superintendent by the peace officer who served the notice of driving prohibition or any other peace officer." That's gone, and I guess essentially what's been added is "including peace officers' reports that have not been sworn or solemnly affirmed." I'm wondering what the purpose of this change is and if the minister could explain it to me.
Hon. S. Bond: This describes what happens or what the possibility is if a document arrives that is not sworn. It means that the superintendent of motor vehicles doesn't necessarily reject the case because of the fact that it isn't sworn, but the superintendent would now be in the position of weighing that evidence, weighing that particular factor that this is not a sworn statement in any consideration that he or she were to make about that decision.
It is an administrative error when it is not sworn. The principle is that it ensures that driving prohibitions are not automatically revoked because of an administrative error, and this is consistent with existing provisions in the review process for administrative driving prohibitions.
K. Corrigan: The present iteration of this section says that "the superintendent must consider…in the case of an oral hearing, any relevant evidence given or representations made at the hearing." In the oral hearing, anyways, everything previously would have had to be sworn. You would be sworn, I guess, if you were at an oral hearing. What this simply adds is that documents that come to the superintendent, then, can include non-sworn materials, and previously if there were non-sworn materials and the superintendent considered those materials, the process would have been found invalid.
Hon. S. Bond: The issue of having a sworn document relates only to the police officer's report. Previously that was not the case. Judge Sigurdson went to some length to point out and had concern about the fact that the police officer's report was not sworn.
What we have done is respond to that, so the police officer's report must now be sworn. This section, section 6, is being amended so that if an unsworn police officer's report appears, the superintendent will still look at that report but will need to weigh it in light of the fact that there has been an administrative error.
Again, it isn't inconsistent with the existing provisions in the administrative driving prohibition process. The key change is regarding police officers' reports and the need now for them to be sworn.
Section 6 approved.
On section 7.
K. Corrigan: This is the section — an important part of this bill — that adds new grounds for review of the immediate roadside prohibitions. I'm wondering if the minister could just go through those various changes and what is different.
Hon. S. Bond: Again, the major concern that was expressed in Judge Sigurdson's decision was that the current provisions didn't give the driver the ability to meaningfully challenge the results of the roadside breath test. So these amendments maintain the existing grounds for review, but they add a number of other provisions for both the fail and the warn readings.
If a police officer does not advise the driver of the right to a second ASD test or comply with the driver's request, that's an additional ground for appeal. The second approved screening device test was not conducted on a separate ASD. The IRP was not issued on the basis of the lowest ASD reading. Blood alcohol content or BAC was less than 0.08 for a 90-day IRP or less than 0.05 for a three-, seven- or 30-day IRP, and/or the approved screening device reading was not reliable.
We believe that this provides a more meaningful review and specifically an opportunity to challenge the ASD result.
K. Corrigan: It is my understanding from the case, the Sigurdson decision, that the challenge to the constitutionality of these provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act applied only to those cases where there was a fail. But government made the decision that they were going to apply these extra review opportunities to both warning and fail, and I'm wondering if the minister can explain why that was done.
Hon. S. Bond: Well, the member is correct. The court did not raise concerns. In fact, one of the reasons that we were…. While some see this as a setback — and certainly we're here in the House making the corrections — the case was also a victory for the process itself because the court did uphold the warn range provisions and, in fact, said that government has the ability to actually use this process and that it was within our jurisdiction to do that.
We believe it's a fairness issue. We didn't want to have a separate set of appeal processes. In essence, we believe this is the key factor that means that we have not only met the test of the court but in fact exceeded it by including the warn range.
K. Corrigan: The previous section 215.5, compared with the 215.5 now…. There has been some reorganization in the way that it was put together. It's a little bit difficult to follow exactly where the changes are, but I think they make sense.
Now, is there a difference between the changes that were in the grounds for review or the things that must be reviewed, I guess? Is there a difference between the warn sections and the fail sections, or are they identical if you go through them all?
Hon. S. Bond: The only differences are the blood-alcohol content and the penalties. In the warn range, of course, there are escalating penalties, but in essence, the processes would match, other than blood alcohol and penalty.
K. Corrigan: I'm wondering if the minister can, then, just give me an overview of what — I'm not familiar with these hearings — the process would be and what that hearing would look like. If it's an oral hearing, for example, the superintendent would get all these materials and would set up an oral hearing. Is there any cross-examination? Who's present at that hearing, first of all, and is there a cross-examination? I'm trying to get a sense of what it looks like and how it's different now.
Hon. S. Bond: What happens is a phone process. The person who's involved in the incident is on the line, obviously, and an adjudicator. That person has the right to have an advocate or lawyer present for that process.
There is no right of cross-examination, but prior to the hearing taking place there will have been full disclosure. Both parties — obviously the adjudicator, but also the person who's involved — will have had full disclosure of the entire case, all of the documents that the adjudicator has received.
That process takes place within seven days. You need to indicate your intent to appeal, and the adjudicator will render a decision within 21 days. All police documents are shared as well. At the end of that process, the 21-day period…. Within that period the decision is made. Further to that, obviously, the person still has the ability to have a judicial review.
K. Corrigan: During that process the person is entitled to have a lawyer present. Is the lawyer asking questions? Who speaks at these hearings?
Hon. S. Bond: The lawyer can certainly present their client's case and ask questions and refute. The person themselves can present the case. It's a matter of choice. Again, there may be a lawyer, there may be an advocate, but the person has the ability to have someone with them. If it is a lawyer, certainly they are permitted to present the case on behalf of their client.
K. Corrigan: Well, you're saying this representative or the person themselves — an advocate or a lawyer or the individual themselves — can ask questions, but who are they asking questions of?
Hon. S. Bond: Perhaps I left the wrong impression. There isn't a cross-examination. In essence, there is a presentation of information. There can be a direct examination, in that the lawyer can lead the person who's involved, their client, through that process. Certainly, there is the ability to "question" material that's included in it. The police report is also shared. There is the opportunity to present a case and to ask questions for clarity, but there is not a cross-examination that takes place.
The Chair: This committee stands recessed until 7 p.m. this evening.
The committee recessed from 6:27 p.m. to 7:02 p.m.
[D. Black in the chair.]
K. Corrigan: When we broke for dinner, we were talking a bit about, under section 7, the review that results from somebody having a roadside prohibition and then the review before the superintendent. In making these changes, which are intended to satisfy the finding by the Supreme Court justice that these provisions, or some of the provisions, of the drunk-driving laws were unconstitutional, did the minister consider whether or not there should be changes in terms of who it is that is conducting the hearing?
Hon. S. Bond: No, we didn't, because, again, in the actual decision itself Justice Sigurdson said that the superintendent of motor vehicles already has a good process. What you need to concentrate on — he didn't use that language, but I paraphrase — is making sure that there is the ability to challenge, that we have a broader scope of ways, routes for the ability to directly challenge.
Also, just to articulate more about the hearing itself, I should point out that many people choose to do this in writing instead of over the phone, so they don't do an oral hearing. They can do it in writing.
They also have the opportunity to provide witness evidence, for example, that is contrary. This is where they get to make their argument that says: "I wasn't really drinking. I wasn't doing this. I wasn't doing that." So there is an opportunity for that driver to be able to say: "That's not what happened. Here's what's happened. I wasn't driving. Someone else was driving." Whatever their arguments are, they make them during the course of that hearing, but it can be done in writing as well as orally.
K. Corrigan: I was talking about process, so I may have missed a little bit of what the minister said. I was getting some direction from the front here.
I'd like to go back, then, to the case that the minister mentioned earlier. I think it was in the 1990s. I'm trying to understand the basis of the decision: the framework of having, for example, somebody who was in the superintendent's office hold the hearing, the fact that cross-examination is not a necessary component or not a desirable component — those kinds of things. Maybe the minister could go back and explain. The constitutional framework for that decision seems to be significant.
Hon. S. Bond: There have been administrative driving prohibitions and a process since 1997. That process was upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal. In fact, we believe the case was the Buhlers case. It was impaired driving, administrative driving prohibitions.
If we look at the actual decision, the Sivia decision recently with Judge Sigurdson, if you look at section 319 in the decision, Judge Sigurdson references the current process that's in place: "As evidenced by the review process already in place under the" — it's the acronym ADP, but administrative driving prohibitions — "regime, it is possible to allow for a more meaningful review to be put in place without in any material way affecting the government's objective of removing impaired drivers promptly and effectively from the road."
So in fact, Judge Sigurdson refers to the process that's been in place since 1997 and that has been upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
K. Corrigan: Quoting from that section again, yes, absolutely, "it is possible to allow for a more meaningful review to be put in place." But my question is: how is it that the government, the minister, made the decision that this qualifies as a more meaningful review and some of those other changes that I was talking about do not or are not preferable?
Hon. S. Bond: What Judge Sigurdson says is that it is possible, as evidenced by the ADP prohibition, to actually build a more meaningful review. As our counsel said and described it to us, Judge Sigurdson was prescriptive. He actually laid out the road map for us.
In fact, he was clearly concerned about the lack of a sworn statement by the police. There were a number of areas, and in fact, the decision was prescriptive. We believe that this meets and exceeds his expectations.
K. Corrigan: I am wondering, assuming this bill becomes law, what is going to be the process? What's going to happen next? Is this new regime going to be taken back to the court to be tested by the court?
Hon. S. Bond: The judge laid out the prescription for the amendments. The amendments, when passed and brought into law, will be put into effect on June 15.
K. Corrigan: Would the minister have the right or the ability, instead of putting the new provisions into law, to make the decision to take them back to the judge or take them back to the court and request a review and a confirmation and have a reference that would determine whether or not these provisions met the prescriptions in the decision?
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, the process that is underway is that Judge Sigurdson, who made the ruling, gave us the direction to fix it and in fact gave us a time frame in which to fix it. We have done that. We have followed his decision, analyzed it carefully. There was no expectation on his part that we would go back. He in fact gave us a period of time in which to fix this. When this passes, we will consider it fixed.
Every day that we wait, we put British Columbians' lives at risk. That's how seriously I take this piece of legislation. We believe, and my legal advice has been, that this meets and exceeds the test. We need to ensure that British Columbians are thinking very seriously about their behaviour. If they choose to drink and drive in British Columbia, we're proud of the fact that we have the most aggressive regime in the country and that we've saved lives.
It's my intent to see the bill passed and put back into practice on June 15.
K. Corrigan: The minister has been very proud of the fact, and rightly so, that the number of people who have died because of drinking-driving accidents has declined dramatically from the time that this act came into place. I assume that keeping track of those numbers continues? I'm wondering if the numbers have gone up since this decision in November, the numbers of people who have died on the roads?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, in fact, we're very pleased to be able to say that we believe that the current statistics would be that our reduction in fatalities remains at about 40 percent. So there's a lingering impact from the work that's been done. I think people recognize when there are serious consequences.
We believe that even without the ability to use this particular tool…. Obviously, we went back to the previous regime, which includes criminal charges. It's a much lengthier process. We think that the fear of losing your vehicle and of all of the consequences that go with it is changing behaviour.
That was the original intent of this legislation. We believe that that has worked. So from my perspective, we need to pay attention to what Judge Sigurdson has said, do what he asked us to do in his decision and then reinstate the program as soon as possible.
K. Corrigan: I guess the reason I'm asking is that the numbers continue to be down in terms of drinking and driving. I think people's behaviour has changed. Just as people's smoking behaviour changed, I think people's view of what is correct or not in terms of drinking and driving has changed, partially as a result, certainly, of this legislation.
I asked that question about the numbers because it seems to me that if there is a possibility that this law is again going to be challenged, whoever decides that they want to challenge it constitutionally…. I'm not a constitutional law expert, but I have read the decision. I interpret it as not as black and white as is being presented here this evening.
If there is a possibility that this law is going to be challenged again in the new iteration, somebody is going to have to pay for the legal costs, as they would on any constitutional challenge. They're going to have to go through a long process. If the government would be found to be incorrect again, then there would be a number of people who would have had their driver's licences taken away, their vehicles impounded, paid thousands of dollars. That would have to be addressed. It just seems to me that taking the law back and having a reference, having it checked, would have made sense.
I asked a question earlier and the minister came back and answered, but the very specific part that I didn't hear an answer to…. Maybe I'll just hone in on that piece. Could the minister or the government, if that was what was wanted, take this changed legislation, go back to the judge and say, "Does this fix it?" rather than waiting to see if it's challenged again?
Hon. S. Bond: I'm advised that's not an option. Further to that, I know that we characterize this as government doing this. I'm not a constitutional lawyer either, but I know this: we've put the best legal minds in government….
We don't sit and write the legislation. I didn't. I obviously reviewed it numerous times, but we've asked the best people we have who work in the ministry to assure me that the decision has been analyzed and carefully considered. The expressed view of the legal team is that we have met the expectations and in fact, by including the warn portion, have exceeded the expectations in terms of ensuring that we bring this into line constitutionally.
It is not part of the process that we have the ability to use. We intend to see this brought into law. On the advice that I have received from the legal team, once it is law, we will put it back into practice on June 15.
K. Corrigan: I'm wondering if the minister can explain, because I haven't practised law for many, many years…. The minister has said that it's not an option. I know that there have been cases where the government has recently referenced cases to the courts. I'm just wondering if I could just get a little bit of explanation as to why that would not have been an option?
Hon. S. Bond: I guess I'm always very careful to be correct on the record. So we want to be clear that there may well be a route that one could take to refer this from a more broader constitutional perspective. That's not what Judge Sigurdson indicated to us. In fact, he gave us six months to fix it. As our council advised us, he was very prescriptive about where he felt the weaknesses were and, in fact, the infringement existed. We have, we believe, met and exceeded that test.
As I said, our view is that it is critical to ensure that the tools are once again provided to police agencies in this province to deal with impaired driving in this way, and so the route we have chosen is to bring it to the Legislature to address the concerns that the judge provided. We believe we've done that.
K. Corrigan: I just want to read two sentences from Judge Sigurdson's decision in the Sivia case.
He says in paragraph 319, which actually the minister has quoted from, as well: "In my view it is not reasonable to preclude a driver a more meaningful review of the grounds for a lengthy suspension, penalty and costs in the fail, over 0.08, part of the ARP regime."
Then later, in paragraph 321, he says, "Relying on a search power derived from the criminal law that allows for a breath demand on suspicion but does not meaningfully allow the driver to challenge the suspension after the fact is not, in the entire context, reasonable. I therefore find that there is an infringement of section 8" — which is unreasonable search and seizure.
Those sections, to me, indicate that what the judge is talking about is the review process later. Those to me, in these amendments, do not seem to change, other than widening the grounds of review and making them more specific. The process itself does not change.
I'm wondering, and I know I'm asking something quite specific, if the minister could tell me a paragraph in this decision or a place where it says what the justice was looking for was a change to the grounds of appeal as opposed to the process of the appeal to make it, for example, include cross-examination or some of the other processes that are in the criminal procedure.
Hon. S. Bond: In section 8, paragraph 378, which is a reference by the judge back to the section that talks about the infringement: "I concluded earlier that the above provisions of the ARP regime infringe section 8 of the Charter because they authorize a search by a screening device on the basis of reasonable suspicion and impose lengthy prohibitions and significant costs and penalties on motorists without providing motorists with any meaningful basis to challenge the validity of the search results."
That, in a nutshell, describes the need for us to provide a motorist with a meaningful ability to challenge the search results. Each of the components that we've added, and I listed them previously — a second test on a second device; there is a list of them — we believe, meets the paragraph 378.
The Chair: Minister.
Hon. S. Bond: Yes?
The Chair: According to a motion that was passed earlier today, time allocation for Bill 46 has passed.
Sections 7 through 9 approved.
Hon. S. Bond: Hon. Chair, I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 7:27 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 46 — Motor Vehicle
Amendment Act, 2012
Mr. Speaker: When shall the bill be read a third time?
Hon. S. Bond: Pursuant to the time allocation motion passed this day, now, Mr. Speaker.
Bill 46, Motor Vehicle Amendment Act, 2012, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed on division.
Hon. M. Polak: I call committee debate on Bill 52, intituled the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act (No. 2), 2012.
Committee of the Whole House
BIll 52 — Motor Vehicle
Amendment Act (NO. 2), 2012
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 52; D. Black in the chair.
The committee met at 7:29 p.m.
On section 1.
K. Corrigan: This is the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act (No. 2) — Bill 52. This is a very wide-ranging act, and what it does is it essentially moves prescribed violations, under the Motor Vehicle Act.… I say "prescribed" because we don't know what provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act it's going to apply to yet because it's going to be decided by way of regulation. So we don't even know what sections of the Motor Vehicle Act this is going to apply to.
What it does is it takes the traffic tickets — essentially, traffic tickets like speeding — out of the Motor Vehicle Act, takes it away from the jurisdiction of the courts and creates an administrative regime to deal with disputes.
Given that we only have half an hour to examine a very significant act, which I believe that 99.9 percent of British Columbians have absolutely no idea is coming down the pike, I hope that the minister will give me just a second. We're not going to get through much of this act at all in half an hour. I will hope the minister will give me a little bit of leeway to just make a couple of comments that I think will cover off some of my concerns about it, because I don't think we're going to get to those. I'm just going to plough in with my concerns, and then we can maybe deal with the sections.
What would happen now is that instead of going to court to fight traffic tickets, the disputant would be required to participate in a "resolution conference" with the superintendent of motor vehicles, either by writing or by telephone. The superintendent would then consider that information provided by the disputant and the driving enforcement officer or another driving enforcement officer.
The superintendent then either cancels the "driving notice," which is the new name for a ticket, accepts the disputant's admission that they're guilty or advises the disputant of the procedure for an application for a hearing before the driving notice review board, which is also a new tribunal, administrative board, in British Columbia.
If someone admits their guilt at this point, at this resolution conference, the superintendent has the power to reduce the monetary penalty or offer extra time to pay. If the matter goes forward to a hearing before the board, there is first a pre-hearing conference conducted by telephone to determine whether the hearing should be in person, in writing, by telephone or by video conference and to go over witness lists and so on.
If someone goes to hearing after the resolution conference and the pre-hearing, which is very cumbersome, I believe the hearing is conducted by one board member, who determines on the basis of all the information whether the disputant contravened the prescribed regulation.
We are not going to be supporting this bill, for a number of reasons. Overall, I think this has been ill-thought-out and hastily put together, and I think the typos in the bill reflect that haste.
There was very little, if any, consultation with the legal community. It undercuts the Cowper review. Why bring in very significant legislation so quickly, right in the middle of the review? I don't understand that. And probably, partially because of the haste in which this bill was put together, there are even more than the usual number of provisions that will be decided by cabinet.
It's supposed to save money, but with this multistage, cumbersome process — creating a new, parallel bureaucracy — I have concerns about whether or not that's true. I believe that there's another possibility here, in yet another piece of legislation, that the scheme would not survive a Charter challenge, as so many personal rights and freedoms are being removed under the legislation.
The driving notice review board has "exclusive jurisdiction," and there's no appeal from their decision. The only way to challenge it is by judicial review in Supreme Court, which would only apply if there's a serious abuse of process.
There's no opportunity for the person who's disputing a ticket to ask questions of the police officer who issued it. I think it's a fundamental right to face one's accuser.
The Chair: Member, can I remind you we're on section 1 of the bill.
K. Corrigan: Yes. Thank you, Madam Chair. I think I've probably covered most of my concerns.
No ability to cross-examine. The burden of proof, I believe, will change from beyond a reasonable doubt to a balance of probabilities. So I have major concerns about this piece of legislation, which I wanted to bring up at the beginning.
I have a question on section 1. I'm wondering if the minister could explain section 1 and the purpose of it.
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, this is a power that ICBC already has. We are making the new process consistent with the existing authority that ICBC has.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
K. Corrigan: This is an amendment of section 26. Section 26 provides that the Insurance Corporation of B.C. "may, without a hearing, refuse to issue a driver's licence to a person who…." There's a whole list of things. What it has done….
My understanding is that the first subsection of section 2 amends section 26 to add that someone, basically, will not get their driver's licence or that ICBC can refuse to issue it if someone "is indebted to the government because of his or her failure to pay a monetary penalty as defined in section 270." Is that correct — what the first subsection is about?
Hon. S. Bond: I'm advised that this is, again, an existing power that ICBC has already had. In fact, they've had it since the 1980s.
K. Corrigan: Why is this section here if we're adding it from the old to the new, if it has been there since the 1980s? Maybe I missed what the minister said.
Hon. S. Bond: It's to make this consistent for this administrative process.
K. Corrigan: Sorry, I don't understand. We are adding a section that says that the ICBC may, without a hearing, refuse to issue a driver's licence to a person who is indebted to the government. That wasn't in the previous act, so I'm wondering how it could have been there for the last 20 years or so.
Hon. S. Bond: As I said, ICBC has always had this power. What we're doing is…. As we create a new process, we have to ensure that if you were going to be indebted under the old process, you're going to be indebted under the new process. It will be called a driver's notice. We just need to ensure that ICBC has the ability to use that existing power in a new regime.
K. Corrigan: I have no more on that section.
Section 2 approved.
On section 3.
K. Corrigan: I actually was standing on section 2. This one adds…. I think this is the section I was talking about, and I apologize. I thought we were onto this section. That's what I was asking the question about.
In this section, section 26 is amended to allow the Insurance Corporation of B.C., without a hearing, to refuse to issue a driver's licence to a person who is indebted to the government because of his or her failure to pay a monetary penalty. That's a new section, is it not?
The Chair: The minister on section 3.
Hon. S. Bond: I think we passed section 2, but we're back in section 2. I understand the compressed time. I'll answer the question, wherever it's found.
There is no new power. One of the things I want to be very clear about…. We're trying to attribute all kinds of actions to this particular regime. There is no new power being added to ICBC. The power to deal with monetary penalties is being transferred to a new regime. The power exists, and we're simply taking what exists today and applying it to a new process.
Sections 3 to 6 inclusive approved.
On section 7.
K. Corrigan: Section 7 provides that section 116 of the act is amended by adding the following subsection: "(1.01) In addition to the matters referred to in subsection (1), the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia must include in the record it provides particulars of any contravention by the person of a driving enactment." I wonder if the minister could explain this section.
Hon. S. Bond: A driver has the ability to ask for their driving record. What this means is that all of the new driving notices will need to be added to that driving record.
K. Corrigan: This is if an individual wants to see their driving record, those notices will be available. I'm just confirming that I got that right.
Hon. S. Bond: That is current practice, so we continue that practice. What this does is it allows for the new contravention notices, those kinds of things, to be added to their record.
Sections 7 and 8 approved.
On section 9.
K. Corrigan: I'll have a number of questions about section 9, because section 9 includes all the information about driving notices. It's an important…. Well, it's actually most of the guts of the rest of the act.
I'm wondering if the minister could explain what the first part is about, about driving notices. Could we go over the reasons why the minister decided that this would be a positive change in legislation?
Hon. S. Bond: This section actually defines the key terms that are going to be used in the new Motor Vehicle Act that establish driving notices. A driving notice will be pretty much what it sounds like. It will be a notice that's sent to a driver and the superintendent of their alleged contraventions under our new administrative regime.
If you actually look through the section, it creates the framework for the new administrative process and clearly outlines the terms that will define this process moving forward.
K. Corrigan: I'm wondering why the new term "driving notice" was used. In the past I believe it's been "ticket." Why do we have a new term called driving notice?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, this is a fundamentally different process. I do want to just take one moment before the Chair reminds me that I shouldn't be taking a moment. There has been a lot of work here.
This is part of a broader road safety initiative that is looking to tie driver behaviour and how we improve that to an administrative process. In fact, there is a very clear delineation that looks at contraventions, driving notices, and then attaching that to improved driver behaviour. It is a fundamentally different system, and most importantly, it is about ensuring that we move these kinds of processes out of courts and find an appropriate way to deal with this.
There has been commentary that this doesn't allow you to challenge your driving notice. That's not true. There is a process. It's administrative. There are a number of other ways. There are a number of other processes similar to this. This is part of a fundamental shift in how we will deal with driver behaviour.
K. Corrigan: This is all part of section 9, so I'm going to try to go through it chronologically, pretty well, although I guess I could skip around, it all being one section.
Looking at what is going to be the new section 271, this is about delineating what is going to be covered by this new administrative process for driving infractions. It says: "Without limiting any provision of this Act, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations designating, as a driving enactment for the purposes of this Part, Part 11 and Part 12, a provision of this Act or the regulations under this Act that creates an offence."
I'm wondering if the minister could tell me why it is that those things that are going to be covered by this act or by this new scheme…. We don't have any idea of what those provisions are going to be. I'm wondering if the minister could provide the range of provisions that are in the Motor Vehicle Act that could potentially be covered by this administrative process.
Hon. S. Bond: Obviously, it would be the same range of issues that are currently covered under the process. They would be moving violations. If you run through a red light, all of the things that we do today in terms of speeding…. All of those things will become a contravention and then subject to a driving notice.
K. Corrigan: I don't actually have the present act, or much of it, in front of me. What would the minister consider perhaps the most serious in terms of consequences? Perhaps in the view of drivers and in the view of the minister, what would be the most serious types of offences that could be covered by this new administrative scheme?
Hon. S. Bond: Certainly from my perspective, driving without due care and attention, and of particular concern to me is excessive speeding. It is a major issue in British Columbia and will remain a significant contravention.
K. Corrigan: Driving without due care and attention. That is a fairly serious provision. What are the present penalties for that?
Hon. S. Bond: Respecting the time limitations, we'll get the information. We're not quite certain, and I don't want to give incorrect information.
K. Corrigan: That's fine. I can find that out.
I think my point is that when we're moving to an administrative process like this and we don't know in advance what types of offences can be included in that, it is of concern to me. Does the minister anticipate that driving without due care and attention would be one of the provisions that would be covered by this new administrative process?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, depending upon the circumstance, the police will continue to have discretion to proceed criminally. If not, it would be considered through the administrative process.
K. Corrigan: We don't know right now what the penalty is for driving without due care and attention, but the consequences for somebody could probably be as serious as, maybe for some people, losing their jobs, if they were professional drivers. I mean, I think there are serious consequences for some people, if they contravene the provisions of particularly the more serious sections of the Motor Vehicle Act.
I'm wondering if the minister considered that when framing this new scheme and, as well, what might be contemplated as those infractions that would be included in the administrative process.
Hon. S. Bond: We did consider that. In fact, you will still have the ability to dispute your ticket. I want that clearly on the record. Obviously, we'll do a better job of communicating that publicly.
Yes, you will be able to dispute your ticket, your contravention. In fact, what it means is that it will be done in a more speedy process, and it will relieve backlogs and the use of police time and judges to deal with traffic violations.
K. Corrigan: Well, the minister has just said that it's going to reduce the use of courts — it certainly is going to do that — and police officers. Maybe, since the minister has mentioned it, I'll just respond to that.
One of the concerns that has been brought to my attention is a real concern that what this is going to encourage is police officers…. They know that they are not going to be required to appear in person and face the person they have basically accused, the person that has been given this ticket, and therefore their level of care and their standard of care in terms of the process may go down. I have certainly heard that from several defence lawyers I've talked to who have concerns about the drinking-driving legislation that we just talked about.
Has the minister considered that at all in setting this scheme up?
Hon. S. Bond: In fact, we believe that there will be a more stringent process. They won't be relying on their memory after they are sitting outside traffic court for hours only to have that case not heard.
There will be full disclosure of their documents. There will be a rigorous process. They will need to provide written information from the time of the incident. In fact, police disclosure is not required now, and it will be.
We believe it will be rigorous, we believe police will act professionally, and we also believe that it will eliminate the incredible cost to taxpayers of having police officers sit outside courtrooms wasting their time, waiting, only to be cancelled when they could be on the roads doing other important work. So there are some important principles in this piece of reform.
K. Corrigan: There are so many sections of this act that I would like to go through and discuss with the minister. I find it very unfortunate that we are limited to half an hour. This is going to fundamentally change the way traffic violations are dealt with in this province, and I don't believe that people are going to be happy.
I don't agree with the minister's characterization of this being better or an improvement. I think it's entirely the opposite. However, I will go on to ask questions about section 9.
Section 9 includes the new section 272, which talks about driving notices. It includes, essentially, electronic ticketing. I'm wondering if the minister could just quickly explain what the change is going to be. I've read it through, but I think people might be interested in hearing this.
Hon. S. Bond: What this does is permit the…. This is part of a greater road safety initiative. One of the key pieces is e-ticketing, which would allow officers at the roadside to be able to enter data using a piece of technology so that the data can be entered accurately and quickly at the roadside. That's an important component of this four-part road safety initiative.
K. Corrigan: I'm assuming that this will not in any way change the requirements, the procedural. It'll just simply move everything over to electronic ticketing. Is that correct?
Hon. S. Bond: Current practice is extremely manual. In fact, five to seven people currently enter data, and with this process, it will take only one using an e-ticketing device.
K. Corrigan: Because it's all in here, maybe I'll ask a few…. We've only got a couple of minutes left. One minute left. Okay.
I'm wondering if the minister has any concern about the fact, apart from the other things I've already mentioned, that there are three different processes that somebody is required to go to in order to have a hearing of their driving notice. Does that not concern the minister — that we're going to be setting up a very cumbersome parallel bureaucracy?
Hon. S. Bond: Well, in fact, we actually believe that this will allow citizens to have a more accessible process, including the ability to pay their fines in a different way, to participate in this process in a more efficient way. This is certainly a fairly dramatic shift, but it will allow for access to citizens. It will give them every opportunity to dispute their concerns.
K. Corrigan: One of the concerns that I had…. I'll just jump to the resolution conference. The resolution conference is conducted by the superintendent, or I would assume somebody….
The Chair: Member, would you take your seat, please. According to the time allocation motion that was passed earlier today, the time for Bill 52 has expired.
Sections 9 to 18 inclusive approved.
Hon. S. Bond: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 7:59 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 52 — Motor Vehicle
Amendment Act (No. 2), 2012
Mr. Speaker: When shall the bill be read a third time?
Hon. S. Bond: Pursuant to the time allocation motion passed this day, now.
An Hon. Member: Division.
Mr. Speaker: Division has been called. Pursuant to an agreement made by the two House Leaders, the division will take place at 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon.
Hon. M. Polak: I call committee stage debate on Bill 51, intituled the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Amendment Act, 2012.
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 51 — South Coast
British Columbia Transportation
Authority Amendment Act, 2012
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 51; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 8:03 p.m.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: I was just going to open with a couple of quick introductions of the staff I have with me today, if that's okay. Mr. Doug Caul, on my left, is my assistant deputy minister of partnerships. Also joining me, on my right, is Kevin Volk, the senior manager of transit projects, and behind me, with the legal services branch, is Maria D'Archangelo.
On section 1.
H. Bains: I just want to say that this Bill 51 touched on about five different elements, the way I have seen it. One, it touched on the governance structure of TransLink. Then it talked about fare collection and enforcement. Also, in the bill it covers the timeline that the board needs to submit their base plan to the Mayors Council, moving from August to November.
It also covers the adding of one additional board member from area A, and we will talk about that as well.
I think, then, those are some of the areas that I believe are covered by this bill. We will go through it quickly, and hopefully…. The time allocation that we have is not even close to what we need in order to go through the entire bill section by section.
My question to the minister in the beginning is under definitions. It lists here: "'Electoral Area A Director' means the Director representing Electoral Area A on the Regional Board of the Greater Vancouver Regional District." Can the minister explain: what is "Electoral Area A" in this particular bill?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Electoral area A is the director that represents…. It includes the University of British Columbia; the University Endowment Lands; Bowyer, Passage and Barnston islands; the west side of Pitt Lake; the northern part of Indian Arm; and the unincorporated areas north of the municipalities of North and West Vancouver. That's the area. It's an electoral area director, is what it is, very similar to all regional districts throughout the province. But versus being a mayor or a councillor, they elect an electoral area director, as regional districts do.
H. Bains: As the other directors are appointed — we will talk about that later on — those who are mayors of those municipalities are considered to be on the Mayors Council. How is the director appointed? Is this an appointed position, or will this be…? How is this person actually chosen to be on the Mayors Council?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: The area that electoral area A represents, what I have just outlined for you — they receive service from TransLink. The people of that area elect the director for electoral area A, so they are duly elected representatives. They receive service. Therefore, at the request of the Mayors Council to add electoral area A director, we've adhered to their request in this bill and put it forward.
H. Bains: Who asked for this?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Both the Mayors Council and the electoral area A director herself.
H. Bains: I want to move on to, still under the definitions: "'fare collection bylaw' means the bylaw referred to in section 245 (1)." Then it goes on to: "'infraction' means a breach of section 244." Can the minister tell the House that 244 is a new section altogether and it wasn't part of the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act before?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: It is a new section.
H. Bains: We will be dealing with 244 later as we move to section 244.
Then there is a definition for "ticketed amount." It talks about: "means, in relation to an infraction for which a ticket is issued under section 248, the aggregate of the following amounts." Then there are five different amounts: "the amount of the fine established in relation to the infraction by the fare collection bylaw."
How is that fine, the amount of the fine, decided? How will they decide what the fine should be? Perhaps while we're there: are there any guidelines that they will be following? Are there some provincial guidelines that they will be looking at? What would be a guiding principle that they will be looking at before they establish a fine amount here?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: The first bylaw will be done by ourselves as government. It will be in consultation with TransLink and the Mayors Council, at which time they can implement that. We're hoping this summer sometime. Following that, any changes to that bylaw will be done by TransLink and the Mayors Council, approved by the Mayors Council. So they would be, as a duly elected body, responsible — very similar to what municipal councils do with their municipal ticketing.
H. Bains: That's interesting because I believe there is a section in the bill here that actually requires the authority to enact a bylaw. Perhaps the minister could explain why that section exists, then, because it doesn't say that the minister will create bylaws for the authority. I don't see that anywhere.
Perhaps the minister could explain: where does that say that the minister will enact the initial bylaws and then the authority may change it, based on the principles set in the bill elsewhere?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: I know you're anxious to get through the bill, Member, but that is dealt with in section 17 of the bill. It lays it out. The first is a transitional bylaw that allows this to begin, at which time then they would take full authority of them.
H. Bains: I am going through the bill. Section 17, as the minister suggests…. I have gone up to section 16, and then all the new sections are added on to the existing South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act. But the bill does not have a section 17. Perhaps the minister could draw my attention to section 17 of this bill.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Member, I'm not sure if you're looking at the proper paper. Under Bill 51, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Amendment Act, section 17 is the "Transitional — fare collection bylaw" portion.
H. Bains: I also have a copy of Bill 51, South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Amendment Act, 2012.
Page 5 has section 16, and then it goes to part 12, "Fare recovery"; division 1, "Fare collection bylaw"; "Definitions"; and the 243 section starts there. Is that what we call section 17, then? It doesn't show section 17 here.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: No. I think what you're referring to, Member, when you look under section 16…. You've gone to 243. I think it's what you are referring to. If you carry on in the bill, section 16 is a relative lengthy part of that. You will get to the following section 17.
The Chair: Member, section 17 starts on page 14 of the bill.
H. Bains: Thank you, hon. Chair. All right.
Can the minister advise the House how the minister will decide what the ticketed amount would be? What criteria arae being used? Is there a set of principles that he will be guided by when the minister drafts up these bylaws?
The Chair: Member, for my clarification, are you now debating section 16?
H. Bains: Section 1.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: The amount will be the same as what it is today. That's the transitional part. We will get it in. Then they will be able to review and make any changes that they so wish in the future. But you do need a transitional bylaw in order for them to implement this as soon as we are able to pass this bill and get on with what has to be done.
H. Bains: When the minister says the amount will be what exists today, is that $173? Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Yes, it will be, Member — $173.
H. Bains: It says: "(a) the amount of the fine established in relation to the infraction by the fare collection bylaw." Then it goes on to: "(b) any charges payable in conjunction with the fine amount." Can the minister explain? What are those "charges payable in conjunction with the fine amount"?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Member, it would be such things as late charges, for example, very similar to most ticketed offences that you see whether you're here in British Columbia or elsewhere. If you receive a ticket, there will be something…. If you pay it by this time, the amount is this. If you fail to pay it, there would be an increased charge. Those are the charges that are being referred to there.
H. Bains: There are charges payable. Then it goes on to say: "(c) any surcharges payable…." Perhaps the minister can explain: what are the surcharges? Also, while we're at it, if the minister can confirm the charges and surcharges. Once the minister gives us that explanation, will they be the existing amounts? Perhaps the minister could go on record and suggest what those charges and surcharges will be.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: You asked on both (a) and (b), charges and surcharges, Member. I'll do my best to explain it this way.
For example, we had talked about the $173. We'll use $173. That will be the charge, for example. I may have been somewhat not correct in my last answer, although it could be if you didn't have a surcharge. For example, the fine is $173. That is the charge, if you pay it then.
But this is an enabling piece. As they develop their bylaw, as well, and go in and put what they want in, it may be that if you don't pay it within a certain amount of time, a surcharge would be added, based on the length of time past the due date of payment of that.
Hopefully that helps clear that up, Member.
H. Bains: The way I read (b), it reads this way: "any charges payable in conjunction with the fine amount." So the minister is saying the charge is the fine, if I listen to the minister correctly.
Then what are we saying in this here: "…charges payable in conjunction with the fine amount"?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Member, I'll try this again.
"Any charges payable in conjunction with the fine amount." For example, the fine amount is set by bylaw. An individual has a number of opportunities to pay that through different avenues. One may be through the Internet, for example, that they would pay. There may be no charge payable in conjunction with paying it that way.
But as this is an enabling piece, they may set something up where, say, the fine is X dollars but you come in and engage with staff. It takes some time. They may include an additional charge on that to recoup their costs as well.
Then moving on to (c), which says: "any surcharges payable…." That may be the late charge, Member. So you have ten days. Your fine amount is this. If you fail to pay it within that time frame, the fine then goes up to X dollars. That would be the surcharge on top of that.
Hopefully, I'm doing that. It's quite standard language — what's used in documents. But that's the explanation I have for you, Member.
H. Bains: I understand that when you get a ticket, there is a set amount. That's the ticketed amount. I get that. Then there are charges, and then there are surcharges. So the charges…. That is related to what? Is that related to that because they failed to pay by a certain date? And surcharges are that they pay, you know, after a further certain date? Are there two different dates?
I think that's where the confusion is. The way I see it, if there is a ticket issued, you know what the amount is. Sometimes there is a discount if you pay prior to a certain date. If you don't pay by that date, there is that ticket amount. Then if you don't pay by a certain date, there are the charges on top of that.
But then the minister is suggesting that there are surcharges on top of that. Is that going to be their cost, adding onto collection? That's what I'm not getting. What is the difference between charges and surcharges?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Both of these…. I will do this again. The surcharge would be a late charge, Member. I think we can get to that point. The "fine amount" is the fine amount. And the "any charges payable in conjunction with" would be, for example, a service fee, a fee to collect, based on what I said — if you pay via the Internet.
I'm using this only as an example. Because that's not what this says. It's an enabling piece.
There may be a collection fee if you walk in and do it in person because it may cost the operation more dollars to actually collect it that way. It's about transparency so that people will know that if the fine amount is X and you pay it this way, that's how much it is. If the fine amount is X and you choose to walk in and deal with it in this fashion, there may be a service fee associated with that. That would be the "charge in conjunction with."
H. Bains: Since the minister will be drafting up the initial bylaws, perhaps the minister can guide us and advise this House: what is the minister contemplating — if you pay on line that you pay the ticketed amount?
Is that what the minister is suggesting here? That if you go in person, there will be extra charges, or if you pay it by cheque, there are different charges? That's what I'm trying to get the clarification on. What could be a situation…? What is the minister actually contemplating where the charges will be added?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Member, we will not be using this in the first bylaw. This is an enabling piece. It would allow for the Mayors Council and TransLink, as they develop their bylaws, to utilize this, as I've explained in the past.
We are going to utilize what's existing today. They will then utilize that amount, but should in the future, as I said, be an enabling piece…. If they would need to use examples such as I've explained earlier, that would be there for them in the piece of legislation as it exists here before us.
H. Bains: I'll move on to the next one. The interest payable — will the minister be determining that in the initial bylaws? Are there any guidelines? What could the interest rate be? How will they determine what the interest rate is going to be?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Obviously, this is being worked on right now. The bylaw is being developed as part of the work that we're doing on the transition. Prime plus 3 is what some governments use, for example. That would be the interest rate.
That's being worked on right now. There are legalities. You cannot set an exorbitant interest rate, if that's what the member…. Certainly, I would concur if there's a worry that a fine amount would be set and then an exorbitant interest rate set just to collect extra revenue. That's not the intent of this. This is actually going to be set in a reasonable manner.
I know that the member and I have had many discussions over the years that we've worked together. It will be set. We are working on it right now, but again, there are certain requirements that you have to meet. Municipalities do their work as well. I know that the member is aware of that.
Sections 1 to 3 inclusive approved.
On section 4.
H. Bains: Perhaps the minister can tell us what does section 4 mean in the scheme of things as far as the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act is concerned?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: This "makes it an offence to obstruct or interfere with a performance auditor appointed under section 227."
H. Bains: The way it reads is: "Section 45.1 (1) (c) is amended by striking out 'the commissioner or any inspector' and substituting 'the commissioner, an inspector, or a performance auditor within the meaning of section 227.1.'"
Is the minister suggesting that this is an additional body that is being considered in addition to the commissioner or the inspector? Now there could be a performance auditor, as per the section further down.
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Yes, we are adding performance auditor to that.
Section 4 approved.
On section 5.
H. Bains: Section 5 is the amendment to section 170 of the existing act. It adds "appointed director," but previously in 170 it has "eligible individuals." Can the minister explain what the difference is? What was the need for changing the name or calling it "appointed director" versus "eligible individual"?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Appointed directors are the existing nine directors on the board now, as appointed by the Mayors Council. A statutory director is the chair and the vice-chair of the Mayors Council.
H. Bains: No, my question was that if you compare the existing 170…. The definition in there says, "'eligible individual' means an individual who" — and then it goes on — "is not an employee" and goes on to describe what the eligible individual is.
It's being amended to add "appointed director." That's what I'm looking at — section 170 here — which only talks about the "eligible individual," but now we are saying "appointed director" and "statutory director." So what's the difference between "appointed director" versus what we already have in there, called "eligible individual"?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Going through this again, "appointed director" was added along with "statutory director" to differentiate. I go back to the explanation. The nine directors today, for example, would be appointed directors. Then the statutory directors. As a result of this bill, we are putting two Mayors Council members onto the board, being statutory positions of the chair and the vice-chair of the Mayors Council. That is the difference in those two, and that is why the explanations are there in the definitions.
Section 5 approved.
On section 6.
H. Bains: This section, section 171, is being amended under section 6. It goes through a number of exercises here. Can the minister explain what the intent is behind, say, for example, section 6(a)?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: What this deals with, Member, is…. When you look at it, there was the old structure. Then there was the transition to the structure that operates today, as you read the bill. What this deals with is that now we are moving it to a new structure again, which will add both the chair and the vice-chair of the Mayors Council. That's why those words are in there the way they are.
It deals with from the old to the existing today, under the act when it was changed originally, and now we're moving it again to add the chair and the vice-chair. That's why you will have those wording changes the way they are.
H. Bains: Under that scenario, you have a chair of the Mayors Council elected. And as I notice further down, the vice-chair wasn't, in the previous act, to be an elected position. Now I see in the act that it also is required to be elected.
Since this is new, and it's a change to the existing governance structure, will the mayors decide whether they want to continue on with the existing chair and vice-chair, or can they actually make that decision before the chair and vice-chair are allowed to sit as directors?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Member, you're correct. Although it wasn't in the act before, as I think the member is aware, the Mayors Council does both elect the chair and elect the vice-chair. Because of the addition that we're adding to the board, being the chair and the vice-chair, we are now saying in the legislation that you have to elect that. It's just confirming their practice that they do today.
You've asked: "Will that mean that the chair today and the vice-chair today would sit on the board?" Yes, they would. They will actually, each and every year — I think it's December of this year — be electing a chair and a vice-chair again, at which time the members of the Mayors Council will make their determinations on who they would like to be their chair and vice-chair.
H. Bains: As the bill actually contemplated, there will be remuneration for these two positions, chair and vice-chair, which didn't exist before. So the chair and vice-chair were elected under those premises. Is the minister saying that the Mayors Council does not have the right to re-elect a chair or vice-chair for this purpose and hold a new election?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: That would be up to the Mayors Council. They would have that full discretion to do so if they wished, or they may choose to wait until the next election, which I believe is December. They would follow the protocol that they've got in place.
J. Trasolini: I'd like to get some clarification on Bill 51, South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Amendment Act. Following the question that was posed, when the Mayors Council elects a chair and a vice-chair, up to now there have been certain expectations of those individuals. What I'm hearing, if I'm hearing correctly, is that it would be up to the Mayors Council to affirm or re-elect a new chair and vice-chair. Am I correct with that?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: No, Member, they wouldn't have to reaffirm the chair or the vice-chair's position. That will be up to the Mayors Council. They can do as they choose.
What the Mayors Council has done is they have elected a chair and a vice-chair. I know the member knows this very well. He sat there for many years. With the passage of this bill, it would now mean that the chair and the vice-chair will have a seat at the board of TransLink. As we go forward, they have, really, their option, and it will be up to them.
They elect their chair and vice-chair in December. They will do that. Or the Mayors Council — again, I can't speak for the Mayors Council, Member — may choose a different route, but that would be totally up to the Mayors Council themselves.
J. Trasolini: I would also like to know…. As we know, as the minister knows, the Mayors Council selects appointees for the TransLink board from a list provided to them. They don't just go out and have their own guinea pigs. They have, in fact, a list to choose from.
In preparation for this bill, were the specific councils of cities canvassed? Were their opinions sought? Were the opinions of individual Mayors Council representatives canvassed? How was this arrived at, insofar as what choices were put in front of the minister?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: Member, over the last year I've had the opportunity to sit with the Mayors Council and have a number of discussions on a number of issues. What we have done is…. Through those discussions, the issue of governance was discussed numerous times. I made it very clear that I was not there to blow up the governance model of TransLink, although some mayors — and I will certainly speak to this — wanted that done. I made it very clear that I would work to refine the governance structure.
In working at that, they felt that they didn't have a voice, or a large enough voice. They didn't have input at the board of directors, for example. As a result of those discussions, I made the determination, with the legislative window that we have before us, to move forward.
I think this is a positive step for the Mayors Council, to put both the chair and vice-chair on the board of directors. I think it will help in many ways. Both the board of directors it will help, as well as the relationship and the dialogue between the board of directors and the Mayors Council themselves.
J. Trasolini: Then I take it that the answer to my question…. Were city councils consulted in any way? And did the Mayors Council take a vote on their submissions? Or was this basically a summation by the minister based on meetings?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: This would be — Member, I'll use your words — a summation by the minister as a result of a number of hours of meeting with the Mayors Council on what I thought would help move to a better governance model and help the Mayors Council achieve what they were after.
H. Bains: Further down here 6(d) reads "by adding the following subsections: (3) An individual who is the chair or vice chair of the mayors' council on regional transportation is a director of the authority if the individual (a) consents to act as a director of the authority, and (b) has never (i) been removed…" and then it goes on to "(ii) resigned…."
Can the minister explain what is the intent behind here? If the chair or vice-chair do not consent to act as a director, then what choices does the Mayors Council have? Can they appoint one? What's contemplated here?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: The act is very specific. It will be the chair and the vice-chair of the Mayors Council that will have seats at the board table. Should either one of those choose that they didn't want to do it or consent to do it, then that seat would remain empty.
The Chair: Hon. Members, by agreement, I understand there is a deferred division on this section.
On section 7.
H. Bains: What does "wherever it appears and substituting 'the number of appointed directors'" mean under section 7? It says "the number of appointed directors...." It is basically taking out the words "the number of directors" to "the number of appointed directors." That's what it is being replaced by. So how does that change?
Hon. B. Lekstrom: The difference is because we have moved to both appointed directors and statutory directors. We have added that. So at the minimum, in order for the board to operate, you would need three appointed directors in order for that board to be legally able to operate.
Hon. Chair, noting the hour, I would move that we rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 8:55 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Committee of the Whole (Section B), having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Committee of the Whole (Section A), having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Committee of Supply (Section C), having reported resolutions and progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. M. Polak moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.
The House adjourned at 8:57 p.m.
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