2011 Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 39th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
official report of
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Volume 36, Number 5
ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)
Introductions by Members
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows school district
Nanaimo cycling organizations
Hike for Hospice and Crossroads Hospice Society
Royal City Musical Theatre
Werner Heine and promotion of soccer in 100 Mile House
Riverview Horticultural Centre Society
Government position on Enbridge oil pipeline proposal
Hon. C. Clark
Hon. T. Lake
Medical supplements for disability benefits recipients
Hon. S. Cadieux
Costs for court cases on election advertising legislation
Hon. S. Bond
Payment of legal fees in B.C. Rail court case
J. van Dongen
Hon. S. Bond
Privatization of liquor distribution
Hon. R. Coleman
Orders of the Day
Government Motions on Notice
Motion 40 — Amendments to Nisga'a final agreement
Hon. M. Polak
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 37 — Animal Health Act (continued)
Hon. D. McRae
Bill 38 — Pension Benefits Standards Act
Hon. K. Falcon
Bill 39 — Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act
Hon. M. MacDiarmid
S. Chandra Herbert
Proceedings in the Douglas Fir Room
Committee of Supply
Estimates: Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (continued)
Hon. S. Thomson
S. Chandra Herbert
Estimates: Other Appropriations
WEDNESDAY, MAY 2, 2012
The House met at 1:34 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
Hon. P. Bell: Today is the last day for a gentleman who has worked in this House for many, many years, under different portfolios. Matt MacInnis has been my ministerial assistant for the last year and a bit. He has done a wonderful job, I think, helping members on both sides of this House steer their way through some of the more interesting and challenging issues facing all of us. I know that he will be sadly missed by all. I'd ask that the House please send a big thank-you to Matt MacInnis for his wonderful time in government.
S. Simpson: I'm really pleased to have the opportunity to introduce my wife, Cate Jones, who's here today visiting with us in the House. Cate doesn't get over here very often, but she does come from Victoria. She's here today for a very special reason.
Her father, George Jones, who's been practising law for 53 years here in Victoria and has been very, very active and involved in the community, is being honoured at a dinner at the Empress tonight. We're very excited about that. Among all the things, of course, that George is very involved in, in the community, rugby is one of his passions. He was one of the founding members of the Canadian Rugby Foundation. All the money that's raised from the dinner tonight will go into a bursary for women players who are going on to post-secondary. Please welcome my wife and say thanks to George for everything he's done.
M. Coell: I have two guests in the gallery for question period today: Tina Brandenburg Usher and her young granddaughter Kimanda Jarzebiak. Would the House please make them welcome.
K. Corrigan: I would also like to welcome Cate Jones, because as well as being the member for Vancouver-Hastings's wife, she is my wonderful constituency assistant. She is experienced, she is brilliant, and she's really funny. We have a great time at the office, and I am most lucky to have her working with me. Again, if you'd make her welcome please.
R. Howard: It is my pleasure to welcome seven guests to the gallery today. I had the pleasure of having lunch with these seven marvellous individuals. They are representatives from the Richmond Chinese Community Society, otherwise known as RCCS. We have two directors here, Clara Chow, who's a past president, and Alex Wong, who's a current director.
Very importantly, they have with them five members of the RCCS youth group, who do marvellous work in the community. We see them out at the RCCS events, which are many in the community. The youth always stand out with their bright orange T-shirts with white lettering. More importantly, they recently engaged in some of their own initiatives, including a gaming conference where they bring people together to experience and enjoy video gaming but also use that opportunity to try and reach out and find common interests in other subjects as well.
With us, we have the president of the RCCS youth group, Nickolas Lee, and one of its founders, Billy Leung. We have Andy Leung, Gordon Fan and Sherlock Lau. Would the House please make them welcome.
D. Horne: It was with great pleasure this morning that I welcomed 59 grade 7 students from Scott Creek Middle School, who will be joining us shortly in this chamber. They're here with a group of other students from Quebec, who are on exchange. I found it rather interesting, when taking questions, that many of the students from Quebec…. Their questions all concerned the monarchy, which was an interesting thing.
I have to thank their teachers for bringing them here today too. The dedication of the teachers to bring the students here today is a really great thing. I think they're going to have a fantastic day in Victoria, so I hope we'll make them all welcome.
J. Slater: In the gallery today is my brother, Kim Slater, who is a retired teacher from Nanaimo. He's here to have meetings with other senior advocates to take care of our seniors in the province. May the House make him very welcome.
K. Conroy: I, too, would like to join the member for Boundary-Similkameen in welcoming his brother, Kim Slater, to the Legislature. Kim is a chair of the Vancouver Island Association of Family Councils. It's the only regional family council association in B.C. He's an outspoken advocate for seniors and family councils, and I think both sides of the House could learn from his experience. Please join me in welcoming him, again, to the Legislature.
M. Dalton: In the House today, as he is almost every day, is Tim Schindel. Tim is the legislative chaplain, a volunteer chaplain, and he's here to service both sides of the House. I know he's organizing a prayer breakfast to-
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morrow morning. He is here with his mother and father. Art is his father, and "Mrs." is his mother. Will the House please make them feel welcome.
(Standing Order 25B)
MAPLE RIDGE–PITT MEADOWS
M. Dalton: Mr. Speaker, 15,000 students, 940 dedicated teachers and hundreds more support staff constitute school district 42, Pitt Meadows–Maple Ridge. The district's vision is for every individual to feel valued and for all learners to reach their full potential.
The district is committed to educational choice and demonstrates this in the many innovative options it offers to students. For example, this was the inaugural year of the environmental school project, a collaboration between school district 42 and Simon Fraser University where the classroom is in the outdoors, rain or shine.
Then there is Kanaka Creek Elementary which piloted year-round schooling in British Columbia and has been a huge success.
Alouette Elementary is a cyberschool. Over a thousand students are in French immersion. Parents waiting in line overnight to enrol their child is a testimony to the excellence and appeal of the program. Also, there is the Connex program, offered to students suffering from health issues like anxiety or depression.
The high schools attract students with their different programs, whether it's the trade and technical development at Samuel Robertson, self-paced learning at Thomas Haney, a hockey academy at Pitt Meadows Secondary, the International Baccalaureate program in Garibaldi or the digital arts program at MRSS.
Having taught in the district for 14 years prior to the last election, I witnessed firsthand the passion and vision of the teachers for students, demonstrated in their lesson plans and their involvement with students inside and outside the classroom.
Also to be commended is superintendent Jan Unwin, school board chair Mike Murray and all the school board trustees, PAC members and all parent volunteers who play such a vital role.
School district 42 is an amazing district where youth can flourish and learn.
NANAIMO CYCLING ORGANIZATIONS
D. Routley: I rise today to speak about Nanaimo, the Hub City, but it's a bicycle hub to me. We have several organizations. The Mid Island Velo Association is headed up by Peter McCaffery. He organized his first cycling event in 1956. He's organized five cycling clubs in England, Ontario, Alberta and B.C. He was a technical director with Canadian Cycling Association, a Union Cycliste Internationale official who officiated at Olympic and Pan Am Games. So our cycling community is in good hands with the Mid Island Velo Association.
They offer Monday night and Saturday morning club rides, Tuesday criterium races, Thursday time-trial races. They also host the Cobblestone Classic, a downtown race in Nanaimo, as well as the Island cyclocross championships this year in November.
Mountain bikers find the Arrowsmith Mountain Bike Club, which offers club rides Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings at Englishman River Provincial Park, and our Bike to Work Week is healthy, encouraging cycling and supporting commuting and giving public education on road-sharing, bike maintenance and cycling safety.
I will have the honour later this month in Bike to Work Week of being part of the celebrity team with Tony Hoar, a former Tour de France rider, as we race against car commuters to test our bicycling strength.
The Nanaimo cycling community also is blessed by the Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition, our Hub City cycling advocates, which promote bike safety and offer local maps and brochures such as parking information for bicyclists. We also have an inventive, innovative Hub City cycling co-op which offers its members — and I'm one of the members — the free use of tools and discounts on parts.
Nanaimo is indeed the Hub City, and I invite all cyclists to come to Nanaimo. We're a cycling-friendly community, and we welcome all racers, commuters and pedestrian cyclists.
HIKE FOR HOSPICE AND
CROSSROADS HOSPICE SOCIETY
D. Horne: This coming Sunday, May 6, people from across Canada will join together for the Hike for Hospice. This is an incredible event with national profile and great support, including Peter Mansbridge, who is one of the big supporters of this event.
However, 100 percent of the funds remain in the community where they are raised. In the Tri-Cities all of the proceeds will go to help our local Crossroads Hospice Society continue to provide compassionate care to those facing the end-of-life experience.
Crossroads Hospice Society was established in 1988 to serve the communities of Anmore, Belcarra, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody. The aim is to provide those in need with the support that is necessary in their last moments. Crossroads operates primarily through volunteers — 132 actively trained volunteers who work with patients and families. As well, Crossroads has 98 additional volunteers who operate the hospice thrift store to provide financial support for
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A 14-member voluntary board of directors governs the society, led by Bob Tanaka, the president; Jill Cook, the vice-president; Lara Gerrits, the board secretary; and Jason Jakubec, the treasurer; as well as an incredible staff of 18, led by Barb Henham, the executive director.
Crossroads believes that the end of life should not be a frightening, painful or lonely experience. Crossroads volunteers and staff work to provide life-affirming care for patients and their families, helping them with the emotional, physical and spiritual concerns that often arise as the end of life approaches.
The hospice provides various programs, including bereavement-support packages, a number of support groups as well as one-on-one support. One of their great programs is creating memory albums. Volunteers work with the families to produce a scrapbook of memories to help tell the story of their loved one.
This Sunday, May 6, join the tenth annual Hike for Hospice in your community. The Tri-Cities will have two locations — Port Moody city hall, or join me at Hyde Creek rec centre at 9 a.m. — to support this great cause.
ROYAL CITY MUSICAL THEATRE
D. Black: I'm pleased to speak today about a wonderful artistic resource in New Westminster, the Royal City Musical Theatre. It was founded around Evelyn Benson's kitchen table in 1990 and grew out of a love of music, theatre and dance.
Since then, RCMT has become one of the most popular musical theatre producers in Canada. They provide high quality entertainment and create opportunities for performers, musicians and technicians to present their talents and to develop their skills. They produce large-scale musicals, with as many as 60 performers on stage. With a full-sized orchestra, professional leading actors and large vocal and dance choruses, the scale and spirit of their productions is truly impressive.
Each year, in April, they mount a lavish production of a renowned musical. Past performances have included South Pacific, West Side Story, A Chorus Line and Hello, Dolly!, which just ended a very successful run. I attended on opening night, and it was truly a fabulous performance.
Royal City Musical Theatre provides an opportunity for aspiring artists to work with professional directors, designers and actors throughout a lengthy rehearsal process. In addition, specialists are brought in to provide training in specific areas required by the production.
Royal City Musical Theatre is community-based and community-supported. It's largely funded through donations and ticket sales. The quality of their productions attracts thousands of visitors to New Westminster each spring for a unique and entertaining experience.
It's been very well documented that the arts enrich our society in many, many ways. New Westminster is indeed fortunate to be the home of an abundance of artistic talent, and one of our leading groups in the Royal City is the Royal City Musical Theatre group.
WERNER HEINE AND PROMOTION
OF SOCCER IN 100 MILE HOUSE
D. Barnett: Tens of thousands of youth and adults across B.C. brave rainy, muddy, exhausting soccer practice because players are dedicated and determined. Teams play, rain or shine, all over the province.
Possibly one of the most dedicated advocates of soccer is Werner Heine from 100 Mile House. Just last week Mr. Heine received the prestigious British Columbia Community Achievement Award for his tireless efforts and outstanding leadership in the soccer community.
He is a man of many talents. Coaching, refereeing, organizing, fundraising and promoting are just some of the ways he was able to improve the town's capacity to host tournaments and provide its own teams with world-class soccer fields. It is because of Werner's vision and purpose that we were able to secure the funding for the fields from federal, provincial and local governments, as well as from the Northern Development Trust.
He was able to bring the 2011 U15 B Cup Provincial Championships for boys and girls to 100 Mile House, and now we are getting ready to host the championships again, in 2013.
Over 600 young soccer players and the entire community have Mr. Heine to thank for making 100 Mile House a soccer destination. Werner Heine is a local hero, and a good friend to so many people in 100 Mile House. It's safe to say that he is a champion both on and off the field.
D. Thorne: I rise today to speak about the Riverview Horticultural Centre Society, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It was Mental Health Week in the spring of 1992 when a Riverview Hospital community relations committee decided a walk through the scenic grounds would be a good idea. They invited David Tarrant from the UBC Botanical Garden and Bill Browne, a retired Vancouver parks' horticulturalist, to lead two walks.
They had no idea how many, if any, people would be interested — 500 people showed up, and the small group of volunteers realized they needed to get organized. The Riverview Horticultural Centre Society was the result, with a mandate to preserve and protect the land and trees of the Riverview Hospital site as a community-oriented, financially viable centre for horticulture, education and therapeutic activities. Now, 20 years and many walks later,
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the vision remains the same: protect the treasure that is the Riverview site.
This is particularly important at this time because the province is in the process of closing Riverview. Some buildings have already closed, and my constituents, along with people from all over the province, are wondering what will be in store for this unique property. But the trees are still beautiful and the grounds serene as the society holds what could be its last summer of tree walks. Members will continue to raise public and political awareness about the ecological heritage and health care value of the 244-acre property.
The Riverview Horticultural Centre Society is proof, as the land its members have loved and protected for 20 years continues to be an oasis of beauty. Anthropologist Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
I ask the House to join me in congratulating this fine organization.
D. Hayer: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Introductions by Members
D. Hayer: It gives me great pleasure to introduce 57 grade 5 students visiting from Pacific Academy, one of the best schools in Canada, from my riding of Surrey-Tynehead. They are here to learn about how the provincial government works. They're joined here by their teachers, Mr. Rick Bath and Ms. Nancy Bakken, as well as over 33 volunteers. Would the House please make them very welcome.
GOVERNMENT POSITION ON
ENBRIDGE OIL PIPELINE PROPOSAL
R. Fleming: Yesterday the Premier stood in this House and claimed she has no position on the Enbridge project. What a difference a year makes. Last year the newly installed Premier said: "The northern gateway has to be at the very top of my priority list. Developing the northern gateway — it's got to be absolutely job one."
Developing the northern gateway has got to be job one. No prejudging the process there. So to the Premier: can she come clean with British Columbians and admit that she really is all for the northern gateway project and that it's been her job one since day one?
Hon. C. Clark: I mean, talk about coming clean. We have an opposition over there that's prepared a budget for British Columbia. They know how much they're going to be taxing people. They know how much they're going to drive up the deficit. They know where they're going to be spending money, and yet they still hide it from the province.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Premier, just take your seat for a second.
Hon. C. Clark: The opposition needs to come clean with British Columbians about where they stand. They need to come clean where they stand on issues of the budget. They need to show British Columbians the budget that they produced but continue to hide. They need to come clean on their positions with respect to bargaining with public sector workers. They've refused to do that as well.
With respect to northern gateway, let me say this. Our government is pro-pipeline. We are pro–LNG pipeline. In fact, in our jobs plan we have laid out very specific goals for three pipelines that would go from the northeast to the northwest to add value to natural gas, one of the most abundant and valuable resources in British Columbia. Those pipelines will mean a tremendous growth in GDP in British Columbia and a tremendous growth in revenues to government.
We are very much in favour of those pipelines, so when it comes to coming clean, I would ask the opposition to tell us exactly where they stand on LNG. They don't support the methods that would be required in order to power LNG, but they won't come clean and tell the public that.
Maybe when the member gets up and asks his supplemental, he can come clean on some of the issues where they've been hiding from British Columbians.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
R. Fleming: The opposition has been extremely clear about its position on natural gas, and that member — who was in the House in the 1990s, when she voted against Fair Share agreements and opening up the gas fields in the northeast of the province — knows better than most in this place.
But if I may, let's get back to Enbridge and the environmental risks of oil spills in supertankers, because that's what we're asking the Premier about today. The Premier's views have changed in other ways over the last year. She has found, apparently, a new-found respect and faith in the federal environmental review process. She said: "The process matters a lot."
Yet last year this respect for process was nowhere to be seen. When the federal Environmental Assessment
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Agency rejected the Prosperity mine because of the unsupportive environmental destruction it would cause, she attacked it as "a dumb decision."
It's becoming increasingly clear that the only consistent element in the Premier's approach to the Enbridge pipeline is the presence in her office of political staff from the Prime Minister's Office and Enbridge itself.
To the Premier: when will she stop hiding? When will she begin standing up for the interests of British Columbians instead of the interests and agenda of Conservatives in Ottawa?
Hon. C. Clark: Well, there is a vast gulf between these two sides of the House. On this side of the House we believe in economic development. On this side of the House we believe in the creation and protection of jobs for British Columbians.
On this side of the House we believe in regulation that works to attract investment and protects British Columbians' social and environmental interests. We want to be sure that that happens in this process, and we want to make sure that that happens in other processes.
Just once I would like to see members on that side of the House stand up and say that they support all the job creation opportunities that are out there — just once, just one project. Would that member stand up and say that yes, he supports LNG…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. C. Clark: …yes, he supports the methods that would be required in order to power it up, which means…?
You can't say you support LNG on one hand and you don't support Site C and independent power projects on the other. The member knows that.
He knows that when he says that, he isn't coming clean with British Columbians. He needs to stand up, just for once, and say that he is in favour of economic development in this province. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we are in favour of jobs. We are in favour of economic development. We're in favour of building and opening up this province, because this next decade could be great for British Columbia.
G. Coons: B.C. communities directly affected by the Enbridge pipeline have long recognized that the risks of the project far outweigh the benefits. As a result, they are overwhelmingly taking a stand against the pipeline. In 2010 the Union of B.C. Municipalities resoundingly voted to oppose northern gateway and the crude oil tanker traffic it would bring to our coast.
Since then Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers have joined with the villages of Queen Charlotte, Masset and Port Clements in formally declaring their opposition. Locally elected officials in communities directly put at risk by oil spills along the pipeline route and from supertankers on the coast are speaking up for the communities they represent.
Why is the Premier refusing to represent the interests of northwest B.C. communities and B.C. as a whole before the joint review panel?
Hon. T. Lake: As we pointed out yesterday, the process, to this side of the House, is important. We make decisions for all British Columbians. We look after the interests of all British Columbians, based on information. We are still getting that information. The process is not finished. We haven't prejudged the outcome.
We are protecting the interests of all British Columbians as an intervener, as suggested by the member for Stikine last year. It gives us the ability to have a flexible and more comprehensive participation in the process. We are going to base our position on information, not speculation.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
G. Coons: All the risk and no benefit. The Central Coast regional district as well as the Skeena–Queen Charlotte regional district both oppose Enbridge. The Premier needs to quit hiding behind the process and represent British Columbians.
Let me quote from a few local officials. The mayor of Smithers, Taylor Bachrach, says: "We support resource industries, but we are not willing to bear the risk of pipelines. Oil pipelines do not fit with our economic vision for our community."
Queen Charlotte mayor Carol Kulesha says: "It is simply too much to risk, the consequences too high." The mayor of Terrace stated that he would be arm in arm with the citizens of Terrace to oppose Enbridge.
These locally elected officials are taking a stand on behalf of the people they represent. We as the official opposition are taking a stand. When is this Liberal government going to take a stand on behalf of British Columbia as a whole and say no to Enbridge pipeline?
Hon. T. Lake: I'll tell the member when we will take a stand — when it is responsible to take a stand. That's when the process has got to the point where there's enough information upon which to make a decision.
The opposition is nothing if not consistent. They were opposed to the Olympics. They were opposed to the Sea to Sky Highway. They were opposed to the Canada Line. If the opposition's vision, or lack of vision, existed in this province, we wouldn't have a Bennett dam. We would not have a Coquilhalla Highway. We would have no development in this province.
We respect the environmental assessment process. We
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will take part in that process. We will protect the interests of British Columbians, because that's the right thing to do.
MEDICAL SUPPLEMENTS FOR
DISABILITY BENEFITS RECIPIENTS
M. Karagianis: On Monday I raised serious concerns here in the House about a constituent of mine who is very ill. She needs to have nutritional supplements at the direction of her doctor so that she is strong enough to have a double mastectomy. Jolayne is on a disability benefit and applied for these supplements to be covered because she can't afford them on her own.
After we raised questions in this House, the minister responsible said: "The situations that were brought up…were resolved before I became minister." Well, in light of the repeated and well-documented failures of the previous minister, the member for Burnaby-Lougheed, I'd like to ask the minister if she does not think that it's time for this case to have a fresh look.
Hon. S. Cadieux: The issue that the member opposite is raising is, of course, an issue to deal with an individual. I won't speak about an individual in this House, in respect of that individual's privacy and, in fact, in respect to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which I must abide by.
That said, when concerns arise and when individuals present to the ministry to request benefits, a decision is then rendered by the ministry as to whether or not that individual is entitled to that benefit. If the individual does not agree with that decision, they are in fact able to make a request for reconsideration.
In general, I'd like to say that there are in fact more people than ever before receiving these types of supplements in the province of British Columbia. The health assistance branch deals with thousands of requests each year and carefully reviews those and makes decisions based on eligibility requirements. They do that with every effort to take that responsibility in reviewing those things very seriously and do so with the greatest of care.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
M. Karagianis: Well, my constituent is very ill, and she has already been through the process six times. Six times she's been refused by this government.
I think it's very disturbing that this government would stick to such a cruel and callous position on this in order to save a few hundred dollars. I think the B.C. Liberal government has failed Jolayne and failed other British Columbians in similar situations.
Well, fortunately, the community has stepped up. This morning the Esquimalt Legion and district poppy fund, after hearing about Jolayne's situation, held an emergency meeting and have agreed to do the government's job for them. They are going to pay for all the supplements that she needs to get healthy for her surgery.
So I'd like the minister to explain why community organizations have to hold emergency meetings to help desperately ill British Columbians because this government has failed to do its job.
Hon. S. Cadieux: When this issue was raised on Monday, I asked the member opposite to please bring it forward to my office if she would like me to look into it. The member did that yesterday. I have provided her with a response — that we are indeed looking into the matter.
I have asked staff to ensure that every benefit that clients are entitled to is being made available to them in a way that is consistent with our responsibilities. In fact, staff make every effort to review things thoroughly and do so with information that is provided by clients and their physicians.
COSTS FOR COURT CASES ON
ELECTION ADVERTISING LEGISLATION
L. Krog: Yesterday the Liberal government introduced legislation in a last-ditch effort to save their gag law. I'm not going to speak to the legislation itself, but I do have a question. I do have a question about previous court proceedings.
My question is to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. How much money has the government spent trying to restrict political free speech in the Supreme Court of B.C. and B.C.'s Court of Appeal?
Hon. S. Bond: The member opposite knows full well that we will have an ample amount of time to have this discussion, and we'll have it where it's appropriate. With legislation that's before the House, we'll have that in committee stage.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
L. Krog: Well, I appreciate that the Attorney General, with the glare of the camera lights on her today, might not feel like answering the question, but it's a legitimate question on behalf of British Columbians. Again, the very simple question to the Justice Minister, the Attorney General, is: how much money has her ministry spent defending B.C.'s gag law in the B.C. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal?
Hon. S. Bond: As I said in my previous answer — and I'm going to repeat again — I have the pleasure of debating regularly with the opposition critic. I enjoy it thoroughly, and I look forward to a full discussion about
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this in committee stage of the bill.
PAYMENT OF LEGAL FEES
IN B.C. RAIL COURT CASE
J. van Dongen: My question is with regard to the government's forgiveness of the $6 million in legal fees pertaining to the Basi-Virk matter. In a public statement issued on October 20, 2010, the Deputy Attorney General stated: "The Deputy Minister of Finance has authority under the Financial Administration Act respecting this matter."
The act sets out very specific limits for the forgiveness and extinguishment of debts owing to the provincial government. These specific limits are put in place under section 18 of the act. No explanation has previously been given by the government as to this specific statutory authority that was exercised by the deputy minister.
I would like to ask the Attorney General which section of the Financial Administration Act or regulations legally authorized the Deputy Minister of Finance to forgive and extinguish Basi and Virk's $6 million liability.
Hon. S. Bond: As I've said numerous times in this House, in a statement provided by the Deputy Attorney General on the Basi-Virk matter dated October 20, 2010…. I quote from that statement: "Legal services branch" — again, this is attributed to the Deputy Attorney General — "referred this matter to me and to the Deputy Minister of Finance. The Deputy Minister of Finance has authority under the Financial Administration Act respecting this matter. He and I considered this issue…. No one outside of the legal services branch, myself and the Deputy Minister of Finance had any knowledge of this or involvement."
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
J. van Dongen: The question I have is the specific statutory authority. The October 2010 statement by the Deputy Attorney General makes it clear — in fact, states three separate times — that Basi and Virk had a liability to repay their legal fees. In the same statement he says: "The indemnities provided that they would have to do so unless acquitted on all counts."
This Legislature and the people of British Columbia deserve to know on what legal authority this transaction was completed. I'm asking the Attorney General, in her unique role and responsibility as the Attorney General, to examine the transaction, including the settlement agreement, and ask herself if that transaction is consistent with the substance and intent of this Legislature in section 18 of the Financial Administration Act.
Finally, my question to the Attorney General: was the authority of the act properly exercised to forgive and extinguish Basi and Virk's $6 million liability?
Hon. S. Bond: I made the answer very clear in my last response to the member.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. S. Bond: As the Deputy Attorney General made clear, the Deputy Minister of Finance "has authority under the Financial Administration Act respecting this matter. He and I" — and that refers to the Deputy Attorney General and the Deputy Minister of Finance — "made the decision, considered the issue."
As the member opposite well knows, there is a review underway by the Auditor General. That work is underway as we speak. We are cooperating completely with the Auditor General, and we await the outcomes of that review.
S. Simpson: Don Drummond, chair of the commission on reform of public services for the Ontario government, in his economic and fiscal performance report spoke to the issue of government business enterprises, including their Liquor Control Board.
He recommended: "Do not partially or fully divest any or all of the province's government business enterprises…unless the net long-term benefit to Ontario is considerable and can be clearly demonstrated through comprehensive analysis."
Yet here in B.C. we are selling off liquor warehousing with no business case or analysis. Further, it's being done in a restrictive and rushed manner that excludes bidders and has created concern that the fix is in for Patrick Kinsella's client, Exel Logistics.
We know that decisions based on ideological considerations rather than thoughtful, well-analyzed deliberation almost always go badly, and that is exactly what's happening here.
My question to the minister: does a business case for this liquor privatization scheme exist — yes or no? And if so, will the minister table it today?
Hon. R. Coleman: First of all, I'd like to remind the member opposite that this is not Ontario. We don't have a huge structural deficit and a huge fiscal problem. As a matter of fact, he wishes to compare us to a jurisdiction that recently had a credit downgrade instead of a credit approval — a triple-A credit rating, like British Columbia has.
We are out for an RFP. There was a ton of research done before the RFP was put together. Our people went
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out and did the work. The RFP is on the street. The RFP will be done in a proper manner with the fairness commissioner. They will make their bids. We will select the right one.
We will get out of the distribution and warehousing in the province of British Columbia because it's not something we have to be in, in order to meet the public policy and revenues for the province of British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.
S. Simpson: One thing we certainly know about the government is that the idea of thoughtful, comprehensive analysis is foreign to all of them.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Member, just take your seat for a second.
S. Simpson: We've seen this type of reckless sell-off of government's assets before with B.C. Rail, and we know how well that went. That was a classic case of ideology and recklessness over thoughtful decision-making based on evidence and research.
We do not need to repeat the incompetent mismanagement wrapped in scandal that we saw at B.C. Rail with the Liquor Distribution Branch. We are going to see higher consumer prices for beverages or lower government revenues. It will be one or the other, if not both. And we will have given up a real asset in the process.
The minister wants us to believe he can do magic, but nobody is buying it. If the minister truly has a business case to support this irresponsible decision, then table the business case now and let British Columbians see that there has been some thoughtfulness about this.
Hon. R. Coleman: It's quite humorous, actually. The member opposite gets up and says: "You've got to have an exhaustive analysis and a business case." And then they completely go out, write a five- or ten-page letter on the northern gateway pipeline and ignore the exhaustive process in place with regards to environmental protection in Canada, because they actually think they don't need to do any of that process. They actually only want process when they think it's their process.
The fact of the matter is that this is a good move for British Columbia. We don't have to build a new warehouse and invest tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money. We'll still be able to distribute alcohol in an efficient way across British Columbia. We'll probably find efficiencies in actually doing it the way the RFPs would come back.
I know you are afraid of the innovation of the private sector, Members opposite, but sometimes they can do things better than government can. As they go through that process, the one thing….
Hon. R. Coleman: The member opposite over here is chittering and chattering away.
I read a memo recently. Quoted in the memo, in the NDP era in about 2000-2001…. The memo says, "Let's sell off some major assets," including B.C. Housing and the Liquor Distribution Branch and other assets. With no process, no analysis, they were looking for money because they wanted to get out of the glue. That's where they had put the province of British Columbia — down the road, into the glue, into a disaster — and we had to pull them out of it.
J. Horgan: Now, I know it's all laughs and chuckles on that side of the House, but we'll see who gets the last laugh when the Premier has the temerity to call an election.
My question goes to the minister responsible for hyperbole, the Minister of Energy, the minister responsible for the beer truck. If you're so confident in your assertions, if the tons of work that you allege has happened, why not share it with the world? Shine a light on your brilliance, Minister. Table the document.
Hon. R. Coleman: The member opposite is pretty confident about 2013. But don't get too overconfident, hon. Member, because when they figure out what you guys would really do to the province of British Columbia, they're not going to let you be government after the next election.
They'll learn. Over the next number of months the people of British Columbia will find out about the $400 million in loan guarantee write-offs — as a result of that government, when they were government in the 1990s — having to be written off by the people of British Columbia with no benefit to the people of B.C.
They will find out about the fact that they were prepared to sell B.C. Hydro. They'll find out about the fact that they'll put taxes on natural gas at a level that will push investment out of British Columbia, to kill the LNG opportunities for the people of B.C. They will find out that the competency over there doesn't exist for them to be able to be government, and it will still be us standing here in 2013.
[End of question period.]
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Orders of the Day
Hon. R. Coleman: In the little House this afternoon we will go into Committee A right away to do the estimates of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Following that, if there is time, we will start the Ministry of Education.
In this House we will be doing a motion on notice of the Nisga'a final agreement, amendment agreement No. 2, followed by second reading of Bill 37, intituled the Animal Health Act.
Should there be time, we would follow the order as I laid out yesterday, which would be Bill 38, Pension Benefits Standards Act, and later on this afternoon we are back at some of these. There may be one bill we would reverse, depending on an important meeting that is taking place on the premises.
Government Motions on Notice
MOTION 40 — AMENDMENTS
TO NISGA'A FINAL AGREEMENT
Hon. M. Polak: I rise to move Motion 40 standing in my name on the order paper.
[Be it resolved that, pursuant to section 38 of Chapter 2 of the Nisga'a Final Agreement Act, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia consents to the amendments to the Nisga'a Final Agreement set out in the attached Nisga'a Final Agreement Amending Agreement (No. 2).
THIS AMENDING AGREEMENT is dated for reference March 27, 2012
HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN IN RIGHT OF CANADA, as represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN IN RIGHT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, as represented by the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
THE NISGA'A NATION, as represented by the Nisga'a Lisims Government Executive
A. On May 11, 2000 the Nisga'a Final Agreement came into effect.
B. The Nisga'a Final Agreement provides for its amendment and specifies requirements for amendment of various of its provisions.
C. The Parties have previously agreed to make certain amendments to the Nisga'a Final Agreement so as to alter the boundaries of Anhluut'ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga'asanskwhl Nisga'a, also known as the Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Park (the "Park"), by removing certain lands from the Park, and to specify the requirements for making alterations to the boundaries of the Park in paragraph 104 of Chapter 3 — Lands.
D. The Parties now agree to propose the further amendments to the Nisga'a Final Agreement set out in Part II of this Amending Agreement, including amendments to make corrections and to address the occurrence of certain events that are contemplated by the provisions of the Nisga'a Final Agreement.
E. The Parties have determined that the processes set out in paragraphs 37, 38 and 40 of Chapter 2 — General Provisions apply to the proposed amendments set out in Part II of this Amending Agreement, except as noted in paragraphs 20 and 38 of this Amending Agreement.
F. The Parties have agreed to set out in Part III of this Amending Agreement other amendments to the Nisga'a Final Agreement which have already taken effect as a result of the happening of events that caused those amendments to occur automatically under various provisions of the Nisga'a Final Agreement in order to have a consolidated record of those amendments.
G. The Parties have determined that the processes set out in paragraphs 37, 38 and 40 of Chapter 2 — General Provisions do not apply to the amendments set out in Part III of this Amending Agreement.
NOW THEREFORE the Parties agree that the proposed amendments to the Nisga'a Final Agreement set out in Part II of this Amending Agreement be recommended
a) by the Nisga'a Lisims Government Executive to Wilp Si'ayuukhl Nisga'a,
b) by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to the Governor in Council, and
c) by the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation to the Legislature of British Columbia.
PART I — DEFINITIONS
1. In this Amending Agreement:
a) "Nisga'a Final Agreement" means the Nisga'a Final Agreement among the Nisga'a Nation, Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada and Her Majesty the Queen in right of British Columbia, as it took effect on May 11, 2000, as amended;
b) "Table of Contents" means the table of contents in the part of the Nisga'a Final Agreement containing the Preamble and Chapters 1-22;
c) "Appendices" means the part of the Nisga'a Final Agreement containing the Introduction and Appendices A-M, and includes the table of contents to that part;
d) a reference to a Chapter by number or name is a reference to the chapter of that number or name in the part of the Nisga'a Final Agreement containing the Preamble and Chapters 1-22; and
e) a reference to an Appendix by letter or number is a reference to the Appendix of that letter or number in the Appendices.
2. Words and expressions appearing in this Amending Agreement that are not defined in this Amending Agreement but are defined in the Nisga'a Final Agreement have the meanings ascribed to them in the Nisga'a Final Agreement.
PART II — AMENDMENTS REQUIRING CONSENT
3. The seventeenth entry in the Table of Contents under Chapter 8 — Fisheries, which currently reads "Schedule F — Provisional Schedule of Lisims Fisheries Conservation Trust Settlement Amounts", is amended by deleting "Provisional Schedule of".
4. The eighteenth entry in the Table of Contents under Chapter 8 — Fisheries, which currently reads "Schedule G — Provisional Schedule of Funding under Paragraph 111 of the Fisheries Chapter", is amended by deleting "Provisional Schedule of".
5. The second entry in the Table of Contents under Chapter 12 — Administration of Justice, which currently reads "Community Corrections Services", is amended by deleting "Corrections" and substituting "Correction".
6. The third entry in the Table of Contents under Chapter 14 — Capital Transfer and Negotiation Loan Repayment, which currently reads "Schedule A — Provisional Schedule of Capital Transfer Amounts", is amended by deleting "Provisional Schedule of".
7. The ninth entry in the Table of Contents under Chapter 20 — Eligibility and Enrolment, which currently reads "Dissolution
[ Page 11402 ]
of Enrolment Committee and Enrolment Appeal Committee", is amended by deleting the second occurrence of "Committee" and substituting "Board".
8. In Chapter 1 — Definitions, the definition of "Nisga'a Lands" is amended by deleting "9 or 11" and substituting "9, 11 or 14.1".
9. Paragraph 38 of Chapter 2 — General Provisions is amended by deleting "Legislature" and substituting "Legislative Assembly".
10. Paragraph 69 of Chapter 2 — General Provisions is amended by deleting the second occurrence of "Ottawa" and substituting "Ontario".
11. Chapter 3 — Lands is amended by adding the following paragraphs:
14.1 The lands formerly subject to Woodlot Licence 141 as shown in Sketch 1 of Appendix B-3 are:
a. granted by British Columbia to the Nisga'a Nation in fee simple, subject to:
i. any charge, encumbrance, licence or permit existing on those lands at the time of grant,
ii. any condition, proviso, restriction, exception or reservation subsisting on those lands at the time of grant, contained in
A. any grant or disposition from the Crown, or
B. the Land Act,
in favour of any person other than the Crown, and
iii. any limitation under federal or provincial law comparable to those set out in clause 14.1(a)(ii) subsisting on those lands at the time of grant in favour of any person other than the Crown; and
b. added to Nisga'a Lands.
54.1 If, at any time, the Nisga'a Nation owns the estate in fee simple to any parcel of land within District Lot 931 Cassiar District Plan 1515 that is not listed in Appendix D-2 and D-3 as among the Category A Lands at Gits'oohl (the "Gits'oohl Category A Lands"), the Nisga'a Nation may, with the agreement of Canada and British Columbia, add that parcel of land to the Gits'oohl Category A Lands and, notwithstanding paragraphs 37 to 41 of Chapter 2 — General Provisions, that parcel of land will become Category A Lands upon receipt by Canada and British Columbia of written notice in accordance with that agreement.
54.2 Notwithstanding paragraphs 37 to 41 of Chapter 2 — General Provisions, if the Nisga'a Nation adds a parcel of land to the Gits'oohl Category A Lands in accordance with paragraph 54.1, Appendix D-2 and D-3 will be deemed to be amended to reflect the change to the Gits'oohl Category A Lands.
12. The schedule to Chapter 8 — Fisheries entitled "Schedule F — Provisional Schedule of Lisims Fisheries Conservation Trust Settlement Amounts" is amended by deleting "Note 1 to this Schedule will be deleted, and will no longer form part of this Agreement, when this Schedule is completed in accordance with that note and the effective date occurs.".
13. The schedule to Chapter 8 — Fisheries entitled "Schedule G — Provisional Schedule of Funding under Paragraph 111 of the Fisheries Chapter" is amended by deleting "Note 1 to this Schedule will be deleted, and will no longer form part of this Agreement, when this Schedule is completed in accordance with that note and the effective date occurs.".
14. The schedule to Chapter 14 — Capital Transfer and Negotiation Loan Repayment entitled "Schedule A — Provisional Schedule of Capital Transfer Amounts" is amended by deleting "Note 1 and Note 2 to this Schedule will be deleted, and will no longer form part of this Agreement, when this Schedule is completed in accordance with those Notes and the effective date occurs.".
15. The schedule to Chapter 14 — Capital Transfer and Negotiation Loan Repayment entitled "Schedule B — Loan Repayment Amounts" is amended by deleting "Note 1 to this Schedule will be deleted, and will no longer form part of this Agreement, when this Schedule is completed in accordance with that note and the effective date occurs.".
16. The spelling of the Nisga'a Village of Laxgalts'ap is corrected as follows:
a) in the definition of "Nisga'a Highway" in Chapter 1 — Definitions, by deleting "Laxgalt'sap" in subparagraph (a) and subparagraph (b), and substituting "Laxgalts'ap" in both subparagraphs;
b) in the definition of "Nisga'a Village" in Chapter 1 — Definitions, by deleting "Laxgalt'sap" and substituting "Laxgalts'ap";
c) in subparagraph 11(c) of Chapter 13 — Indian Act Transition, by deleting "Laxgalt'sap" and substituting "Laxgalts'ap";
d) in subparagraph 12(c) of Chapter 13 — Indian Act Transition, by deleting "Laxgalt'sap" and substituting "Laxgalts'ap"; and
e) in Appendix F-3 — Place Names to be changed by British Columbia, by deleting "Laxgalt'sap" and substituting "Laxgalts'ap".
17. The spelling of the Nisga'a Village of Gingolx is corrected as follows:
a) in the definition of "Nisga'a Highway" in Chapter 1 — Definitions, by deleting "Gingolx" in subparagraph (b) and substituting "Gingolx";
b) in the definition of "Nisga'a Village" in Chapter 1 — Definitions, by deleting "Gingolx" and substituting "Gingolx";
c) in subparagraph 11(d) of Chapter 13 — Indian Act Transition, by deleting "of Gingolx" and substituting "of Gingolx"; and
d) in subparagraph 12(d) of Chapter 13 — Indian Act Transition, by deleting "of Gingolx" and substituting "of Gingolx".
18. The table of contents of the Appendices is deleted and the document entitled "Table of Contents" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.1
19. The table of contents of Appendix A is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix A" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
20. Appendix A-1 is deleted, and the document entitled "Appendix A-1" and the map following that document attached to this Amending Agreement are substituted.2
21. Appendix A-2 is deleted, and the document entitled "Appendix A-2" and the 32 maps following that document attached to this Amending Agreement are substituted.
22. Appendix A-3 is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix A-3" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
23. The table of contents of Appendix B is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix B" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
24. Appendix B-2 is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix B-2" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
25. Appendix B-3 is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix B-3" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
26. The table of contents of Appendix C is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix C" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
27. Appendix C-5 is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix C-5" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
28. Appendix C-6 is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix C-6" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
29. Appendix C-7 is amended by adding "616T 014" under the heading "TRAPLINES".
30. The table of contents of Appendix D is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix D" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
31. Appendices D-2 and D-3 are deleted and the document entitled "Appendix D-2 and D-3" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
[ Page 11403 ]
32. Appendix D-4 is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix D-4" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
33. Appendix D-5 is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix D-5" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
34. Appendices D-6 and D-7 are deleted and the document entitled "Appendix D-6 and D-7" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
35. Appendix F-2 is amended as follows:
a) under the column titled "Nisga'a Name" the entry in the fifth row which reads "Ksi Gingsox" is deleted and "Ksi Ginsgox" is substituted;
b) under the column titled "Nisga'a Name" the entry in the sixth row which reads "T'aam Gingsox" is deleted and "T'aam Ginsgox is substituted; and
c) under the column titled "Nisga'a Name" the entry in the forty-seventh row which reads "Sganisim Gingsox" is deleted and "Sganisim Ginsgox" is substituted.
36. Appendix F-3 is amended under the column titled "Nisga'a Name" by deleting the entry in the twenty-fourth row which reads "X''uji" and substituting "X'uji".
37. The table of contents of Appendix G is deleted and the document entitled "Appendix G" attached to this Amending Agreement is substituted.
38. Appendix G-1 is deleted, and the document entitled "Appendix G-1" and the map following that document attached to this Amending Agreement are substituted.3
39. Appendix G-2 is deleted, and the document entitled "Appendix G-2" and the map following that document attached to this Amending Agreement are substituted.
40. Appendix L-2 is amended as follows:
a) under the column titled "Catalogue No." and the column titled "Object" the references to item "V11—C-149" and to "Rattle (Shaman)", respectively, are deleted;
b) under the column titled "Catalogue No." and the column titled "Object" the references to item "Vll—C-151" and to "Rattle (Shaman)", respectively, are deleted; and
c) under the column titled "Catalogue No." and the column titled "Object" the references to item "Vll—C-152" and to "Rattle", respectively, are deleted.
PART III — AMENDMENTS NOT REQUIRING CONSENT
41. In accordance with paragraph 38 of Chapter 3 — Lands, Appendix C-1 was amended by:
a) in Part 1,
(i) deleting "BC TEL" and substituting "TELUS Communications (B.C.) Inc.", and
(ii) deleting "TOK Communications" and substituting "Tower Radio Ltd.";
b) in Part 2, deleting "BC TEL" and substituting "TELUS Communications (B.C.) Inc."; and
c) in Part 3,
(i) deleting "Nass Cattle Company Ltd. Inc. #346159" and substituting "Nass Cattle Company Ltd. Inc. #320786", and
(ii) deleting "E. Fleenor/ C.E. Fleenor/ D. Dimaggio" and substituting "Charles Edward Fleenor and Dana Fleenor".
42. In accordance with the notes in the schedule to Chapter 8 — Fisheries entitled "Schedule F — Provisional Schedule of Lisims Fisheries Conservation Trust Settlement Amounts", that schedule was amended by:
a) changing the title of the Schedule to "SCHEDULE F — LISIMS FISHERIES CONSERVATION TRUST SETTLEMENT AMOUNTS";
b) deleting paragraph 1 of the Schedule and substituting:
"1. The amounts to be settled on the trustees of the Lisims Fisheries Conservation Trust are:
a. $10,353,728 by Canada; and
b. $3,106,119 by Nisga'a Nation"; and
c) deleting Note 1.
43. In accordance with the notes in the schedule to Chapter 8 — Fisheries entitled "Schedule G — Provisional Schedule of Funding Under Paragraph 111 of the Fisheries Chapter", that schedule was amended by:
a) changing the title of the Schedule to "SCHEDULE G — FUNDING UNDER PARAGRAPH 111 OF THE FISHERIES CHAPTER";
b) deleting paragraph 1 of the Schedule and replacing it with:
"1. Funding under paragraph 111 of the Fisheries Chapter will be as follows:
a. $5,953,393.88 will be paid by Canada; and
b. $5,953,393.88 will be paid by British Columbia."; and
c) deleting Note 1.
44. In accordance with the notes in the schedule to Chapter 14 — Capital Transfer and Negotiation Loan Repayment entitled "Schedule A — Provisional Schedule of Capital Transfer Amounts", that schedule was amended by:
a) deleting "Provisional" from the title of the Schedule;
b) completing the table in the schedule as follows:
CANADA WILL PAY
BRITISH COLUMBIA WILL PAY
On the effective date
On the first anniversary
On the second anniversary
On the third anniversary
On the fourth anniversary
On the fifth anniversary
On the sixth anniversary
On the seventh anniversary
On the eighth anniversary
On the ninth anniversary
On the 10th anniversary
On the 11th anniversary
On the 12th anniversary
On the 13th anniversary
On the 14th anniversary
c) deleting Note 1 and Note 2 to Schedule A.
45. In accordance with the notes in the schedule to Chapter 14 — Capital Transfer and Negotiation Loan Repayment entitled "Schedule B — Loan Repayment Amounts", that schedule was amended by:
a) completing the table in the schedule as follows:
THE NISGA'A NATION WILL PAY
On the effective date
On the first anniversary
On the second anniversary
On the third anniversary
On the fourth anniversary
On the fifth anniversary
On the sixth anniversary
On the seventh anniversary
On the eighth anniversary
On the ninth anniversary
On the 10th anniversary
On the 11th anniversary
On the 12th anniversary
On the 13th anniversary
On the 14th anniversary
b) deleting Note 1 to Schedule B.
PART IV — PROCEDURES
46. The proposed amendments set out in Part II of this Amending Agreement will take effect in accordance with paragraph 41 of Chapter 2 — General Provisions, on the date that the last Party required to consent to the amendments gives its consent.
47. This Amending Agreement may be signed in one or more counterparts. A signed counterpart may be delivered by one Party to another Party by facsimile transmission and a facsimile so transmitted will constitute an original document. Signed counterparts held by a Party, taken together, will constitute one and the same instrument.
FOR HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN IN RIGHT OF CANADA, as represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, signed this _________ day of _________, 2012.
The Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Witnessed by _________.
FOR HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN IN RIGHT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, as represented by the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, signed this 24th day of April, 2012.
The Honourable Mary Polak, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.
Witnessed by _________.
FOR THE NISGA'A NATION, as represented by the Nisga'a Lisims Government Executive, signed this 27th day of March, 2012.
H. Mitchell Stevens, President.
Witnessed by _________.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
APPENDIX A NISGA'A LANDS
Appendix A-1 Index of map sheets of Nisga'a Lands
Appendix A-2 32 map sheets of Nisga'a Lands
Appendix A-3 Description of Nisga'a Lands
Appendix A-4 List of former Nisga'a Indian reserves on Nisga'a Lands
APPENDIX B EXCEPTIONS TO NISGA'A LANDS
Appendix B-1 Land in the vicinity of Red Bluff that has been set apart as Indian Reserve No. 88
Appendix B-2 Fee simple parcels within the boundaries of Nisga'a Lands
Schedule 1 Fee simple parcels with a right to access within the boundaries of Nisga'a Lands as set out in paragraphs 25 and 27 of the Access Chapter
Appendix B-3 Woodlot Licence and Agriculture Leases within the boundaries of Nisga'a Lands
Sketch 1 Area of former Woodlot Licence 141
Sketch 2 Area of former Agriculture Lease 631313
Sketch 3 Area of former Agriculture Lease 633080
Appendix B-4 Roads associated with the fee simple parcels referred to in Appendix B-2
APPENDIX C INTERESTS ON NISGA'A LANDS
Appendix C-1 Interests on Nisga'a Lands
Part 1 Existing interests
Part 2 Public utility transmission and distribution facilities
Part 3 Roads
Appendix C-2 Applicable forms of document for existing interests listed in Part 1 of Appendix C-1
Document 1 Licence of Occupation for Communication Site
Document 2 Licence of Occupation for Provincial Communication Site
Document 3 Licence of Occupation for Communication Site with Utility Access
Document 4 Licence of Occupation for Communication Site with Road Access
Document 5 Licence of Occupation for Communication Site with Road Access and Utility Access
Document 6 Licence of Occupation for Hydro Communication Site
Document 7 Licence of Occupation for Forestry Experimental Plots
Document 8 Licence of Occupation for a Hydrometric Station
Document 9 Licence of Occupation for a Navigational Light
Document 10 Licence of Occupation for a Telephone Exchange
Document 11 Permit of Occupation for Waterworks
Document 12 Special Use Permit for Forestry Operations
Document 13 Lease (not published)
Appendix C-3 Applicable forms of document for Public Utility Transmission and Distribution Facilities listed in Part 2 of Appendix C-1
Document 1 Grant of Right of Way and Licence for Public Utility Works to British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority
Document 2 Grant of Right of Way and Licence for Telecommunications to BC TEL
Appendix C-4 Applicable forms of document for Roads listed in Part 3 of Appendix C-1
Document 1 Grant of Right of Way for Secondary Provincial Roads
Document 2 Grant of Private Road Easement
Document 3 Grant of Right of Way for Access Roads to British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority
Appendix C-5 Recipients of certificates of possession issued by Nisga'a Nation for parcels of Nisga'a Lands
Appendix C-6 Recipients of certificates of possession issued by Nisga'a Nation for parcels of Nisga'a Lands
Appendix C-7 Angling guide licences, traplines and guide outfitter licence wholly or partially on Nisga'a Lands
APPENDIX D NISGA'A FEE SIMPLE LANDS OUTSIDE NISGA'A LANDS
Appendix D-1 Map of Category A and B Lands
and D-3 Category A Lands
Appendix D-4 List of estates, interests, charges, mineral claims, encumbrances, licences and permits affecting Category A Lands
Appendix D-5 Sketches showing the location of active mineral claims on Category A Lands
Sketch 1 Mineral Claims in the vicinity of former Indian Reserve Nos. 26 and 26A "Tackuan"
Sketch 2 Mineral Claims in the vicinity of former Indian Reserve Nos. 27 and 27A "Kshwan"
and D-7 Category B Lands
Appendix D-8 List of estates, interests, charges, mineral claims, encumbrances, licences and permits affecting Category B Lands
APPENDIX E MAP OF NISGA'A COMMERCIAL RECREATION TENURE
APPENDIX F HERITAGE SITES AND KEY GEOGRAPHIC FEATURES
Appendix F-1 Sites of cultural and historic significance to the Nisga'a Nation to be designated as provincial heritage sites
Appendix F-2 Names to be recorded in the British Columbia Geographic Names Information System
Appendix F-3 Place names to be changed by British Columbia
[ Page 11405 ]
APPENDIX G PARKS AND ECOLOGICAL RESERVE
Appendix G-1 Map and description of Anhluut'ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga'asanskwhl Nisga'a, the Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Park
Appendix G-2 Map and description of Gingietl Creek Ecological Reserve No. 115
Appendix G-3 Map and description of Bear Glacier Park
APPENDIX H TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS FOR FOREST RESOURCES
Schedule 1 Map of Forestry Transition period planning criteria for forest development plans
APPENDIX I MAPS OF NASS AREA AND AREAS FOR BIVALVE HARVESTING
Appendix I-1 Map of Nass Area with general location of intertidal Zones for Bivalve Harvesting
Appendix I-2 Map of Observatory Inlet Bivalve Harvesting Area
Appendix I-3 Map of Nasoga'a Gulf Bivalve Harvesting Area
Appendix I-4 Map of Winter Inlet Bivalve Harvesting Area
APPENDIX J NASS WILDLIFE AREA
Map and metes and bounds description of the Nass Wildlife Area
APPENDIX K MAP OF GUIDE OUTFITTER AREA
APPENDIX L CULTURAL ARTIFACTS AND HERITAGE
Appendix L-1 Nisga'a Artifacts to be transferred from the Canadian Museum of Civilization to the Nisga'a Nation
Appendix L-2 Nisga'a Artifacts to be shared by the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Nisga'a Nation
Appendix L-3 Nisga'a Artifacts to be transferred from the Royal British Columbia Museum to the Nisga'a Nation
Appendix L-4 Nisga'a Artifacts to be held by the Royal British Columbia Museum
APPENDIX M DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Appendix M-1 Collaborative Negotiations
Appendix M-2 Mediation
Appendix M-3 Technical Advisory Panel
Appendix M-4 Neutral Evaluation
Appendix M-5 Elders Advisory Council
Appendix M-6 Arbitration
1 The Parties acknowledge that upon the consolidation of the amendments set out in this Amending Agreement the Appendices will be repaginated and appropriate page numbers will be inserted into the table of contents of the Appendices.
2 The Parties acknowledge that some parts of the amendments to Appendices A-1, A-2, A-3, B-3, C-5 and C-6 set out in Part II of this Amending Agreement have already taken effect as a result of the happening of events that caused those parts of those amendments to occur automatically under various provisions of the Nisga'a Final Agreement.
3 The Parties acknowledge that under paragraph 104 of Chapter 3 — Lands (as amended) the Nisga'a Nation and British Columbia may by agreement amend Appendix G-I and that Canada's consent to the amendment set out in paragraph 38 of this Amending Agreement is therefore not required.]
It is my great honour to rise in the House today to move the amending agreement No. 2 to the Nisga'a final agreement, British Columbia's first modern-day treaty. This is the second resolution presented to this House to update the Nisga'a final agreement. The resolution approving the first amending agreement updating the boundaries of the Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Park was passed by this House on November 23, 2011.
I am pleased to say that these amendments have the approval and support of the Nisga'a Lisims Government.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members, it's hard to hear the minister.
Hon. M. Polak: The amending agreement No. 2 contains two additions to the original treaty meant to promote the reconciliation between British Columbia and the Nisga'a Nation.
Under the terms of the amending agreement, woodlot 141 would be granted to the Nisga'a Nation and added as Nisga'a lands. According to the Nisga'a final agreement, if lands subject to woodlot 141 cease to be a forestry tenure, it was to be transferred to the Nisga'a and become Nisga'a lands. These amendments facilitate this transfer in 2010.
Nisga'a requested that an amendment be made to the final agreement to allow fee simple lands owned by the Nisga'a Nation in the former Gitzault Indian Reserve to be added to Nisga'a category A lands. These lands were removed during the McKenna-McBride royal commission almost a century ago. This amending agreement responds to that request by adding in a process to add lands from the former Gitzault Indian Reserve purchased by the Nisga'a as category A lands and make part of their land base whole again.
In addition to these amendments, there are a number of technical amendments to the Nisga'a final agreement to correct typographical areas and update terminology.
There are also amendments to three appendices to the final agreement that contain metes and bounds descriptions. These descriptions, developed in cooperation with the surveyor general of British Columbia, more accurately describe the boundaries of Nisga'a lands by incorporating the significant amount of survey work of Nisga'a lands that has occurred.
In addition, the 35 map sheets and the appendices have also been updated to reflect these more accurate descriptions and have been vetted by the Nisga'a and the surveyor general of British Columbia.
Finally, this amending agreement incorporates several deemed amendments, which reflect events that have occurred under the terms of the final agreement to ensure transparency is maintained.
I would like to thank the Nisga'a Nation and all my colleagues in this House for making these amendments happen. They underline the partnership between British Columbia and the Nisga'a Nation and ensure that the Nisga'a final agreement is a living document that supports prosperity and certainty in the northwest.
S. Fraser: I'll be rising to speak to the motion as the critic for Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. I must say, when this first came across my desk and the minister sent me a note around that, apprising me that this would be coming forward, I was somewhat confused. We had an amendment last year, and it was almost a déjà vu experience for me.
Of course, that was dealing with some boundary
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changes — absolutely necessary and, really, totally supportable by all and important, of course, for the Nisga'a people to have accuracy and have the treaty reflect changing realities and reflect the accuracy that's necessary as we move forward.
This particular motion deals with, really, two main issues. Besides that, there are a number of typos. I note even that instead of Ottawa, Ontario, in one part of the treaty it says "Ottawa, Ottawa." There are some housekeeping issues that are being dealt with, too, which are also important because they reflect the accuracy of that document. And of course, it's very important that these corrections be made.
I understand from the briefing with the minister's staff, and I thank her for that, that this has been in the works for five years. Of course, it's a tripartite issue with treaties, so the federal government will be, subsequent to this House, dealing with these amendments, probably in June. Get that on the record. Hopefully, the federal government will be able to move this thing through quickly as a non-controversial motion and an amendment or amendments. That would be done through an order-in-council, I'm led to believe. Again that's appropriate in this situation.
I would also like to note for the record that we did get the information today that I requested from the minister's staff and the deputy minister regarding the woodlot 141. It's 399.5 hectares — actually a fairly small portion of the entire Nisga'a treaty land settlement but a significant one, I would suggest. That wasn't clear at the time of the briefing, so I thank the minister's staff for providing me with that. Then, the Indian Reserve No. 24 — I believe that's the number — is 7.9 hectares, and that may be added to the Nisga'a lands if it's acquired as fee simple.
Those amendments and the housekeeping issues are certainly appropriate, and on this side, speaking for the official opposition, we will be supporting the motion and thank all those that have put this work into place. I also want to recognize the Nisga'a Nation for their patience in getting this through and, again, congratulate them on a treaty that is being treated, appropriately, as a dynamic, living document.
R. Austin: I would just like to say a couple of words with regards to this motion. As the MLA for Skeena and someone who works closely with the Nisga'a and the Nisga'a Lisims Government, I am very proud to stand here and be in support of this.
I think it's very important as we move forward with something that is historic, such as the Nisga'a treaty, that we are able to come together as both sides of this House and also alongside the government of Canada to make improvements and additions to the Nisga'a treaty so that we and the people of the Nisga'a Lisims Government can better serve all of their constituents and all of their people. I'm very proud that we are working together so well to continue this.
Mr. Speaker: Seeing no further speakers, the Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister closes debate.
Hon. M. Polak: I want to thank the opposition members for their cooperation, and I move the motion.
Hon. T. Lake: I now call continued debate on second reading of Bill 37, intituled Animal Health Act.
Second Reading of Bills
BILL 37 — ANIMAL HEALTH ACT
L. Popham: I'll continue my debate from yesterday. I did have about seven minutes to point out that this legislation, second reading, was brought in, in a very rushed way. I think it's the Liberal government's version of democracy on a diet.
When I read through the government's own summary of the consultation that was done with the members of the agriculture sector and the public of British Columbia, one of the things that was very important for the population of B.C. is…. The note says that "the people of British Columbia noted the importance of fostering and sustaining trust and collaboration and the need for clarity regarding the system and the expectations involved." That's right in the summary of responses to the discussion paper for this bill.
That lays out pretty clearly, to me, that openness, sharing of information and allowing for proper time for due process is critically important to the people of B.C. It's very important for me, to be able to do my job properly as the critic for the Ministry of Agriculture.
I do believe that we are coming to the end of a session. I think there's legislation that has to be rushed through. I don't appreciate it. I don't appreciate it as somebody who is trying to do a comprehensive job. I also think it's disrespectful to the people of British Columbia. They don't like to see things rushed through. It doesn't allow for due process. I think it's….
L. Popham: The members on the other side are making, I believe, disrespectful comments, which shows to me that the arrogance around rushing legislation through is alive and well with the B.C. Liberals.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
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That's an interesting point to read, which is right in the government's own discussion papers.
This bill is actually focused on providing provincial authorities the power to respond to animal disease outbreak and animal health emergency, and I think that's commendable. I think that it's something to keep in mind. We have seen many disasters happen in the agriculture industry that were devastating for, obviously, the livestock involved but economically, as well, for the agriculture sector.
I think that addressing these things is important. We all agree that our food systems must be secure. There's no debate there. We understand that. Allowing authorities to act quickly and effectively in the case of disease outbreak and emergency is something that we understand, and we agree with that.
Now, in the amount of time that I've had to peruse this large piece of legislation, I've noticed a couple things that I'm going to bring up today.
One of the things is that I think this bill has failed to maybe include some of the necessary checks and balances that it may need. There's great authority given to the chief veterinarian and his or her inspectors. In fact, it's an extraordinary amount of power. It's an unlimited amount of power.
I find that when looking at the intent of the bill, in order to address something in a very fast way…. I think that's what's gotten us to this place. I don't think it necessarily takes into consideration the work of farmers. That's one of the things that…. Obviously, when we're dealing with legislation with agriculture, we want to consider the livelihoods and the people that are doing the jobs.
I did my very best to try and consult with people who may have added input — I think it was 351 submissions — to this legislation. There was a consultation period that took place. I've been trying my best to reach some of the people that were consulted, although under the time constraints it's very difficult to do that. I did send out a note to the Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia listserv asking people who are members if they remembered adding any input into this process.
In actual fact, I got a few responses back. Some of the responses I got back were that they had given input but hadn't heard back. I think part of a consultation process and part of reaching out to that many people is also keeping them informed with what's going on and how the legislation is moving ahead. I don't think there was any follow-up. So when legislation is just dumped into the chamber, it's sort of a rude awakening to the people that thought they were part of the process.
One of the people that did give a lot of input — and I think had some very, very interesting input — was someone who is very well respected within the agriculture community and has always given thoughtful advice. He sits on the B.C. Agriculture Council, although his response was not on behalf of the B.C. Agriculture Council, as far as giving some input on this listserv. He was representing community interests.
It's still something that I think we should take into consideration, and as we move into committee stage, this is some input that the government may consider when thinking of amendments. Perhaps we'll propose amendments.
This, I think, is quite a big one. The act gives the chief veterinarian an extraordinary amount of what appears to be arbitrary power. It appears able to be exercised without recourse, should an action turn out to be imposed in error.
One of the things in the bill that is questionable, maybe, is that the chief vet is not accountable to the Minister of Agriculture. Decisions can be made by the vet, and there are no checks and balances to make sure that that decision was made in a proper way.
Now, there is an example of how this has worked in the past in British Columbia, and that's with the powers that were allotted to the provincial apiarist, which is the person in charge of bees and beekeeping in B.C. The same powers were allotted to the provincial apiarist. What we saw two years ago, I believe, was an example of how these powers could lead to bad decision-making, if there aren't any checks and balances in place.
On Vancouver Island we have an area that was restricted from imports of bees. Some people would have considered it, for up to 29 years, as a quarantine. The minister disagrees with me on that point, but the beekeepers on Vancouver Island fully agree with me. They considered it a quarantine. They considered it something that protected them, on the Island, from certain disease profiles.
Now, the provincial apiarist was confronted with the situation, it's my understanding, by one very aggressive advocate for lifting this quarantine. He basically, I believe, threatened to sue the Ministry of Agriculture if that quarantine or those restrictions weren't lifted. The government, unfortunately, didn't feel like they had any legs to stand on. The provincial apiarist lifted that quarantine. The beekeepers on Vancouver Island found out about that change in their lives, which affected their livelihood, in the newspaper the next day.
This is of huge concern to people on Vancouver Island, who felt that they were mistreated. It was not fair. There was a decision that was made that didn't go through a process. It was made by somebody who had the authority to make a decision without any checks and balances in place.
I believe that if there's a provincial authority that has that power and if we're giving that power…. There's certainly no disrespect to the provincial vet. If that power is being given and we are putting all our trust in one person, then there really should be no reason not to have checks and balances. There should be no reason why the decision being made should not have to be proven.
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I believe in Ontario there is a working group that has formed, because Ontario has the same legislation. The powers that were given to the chief vet there are similar. There's also a group that works with that vet to make sure that the process is being followed. I think that's something we could probably have in British Columbia to make sure that when a decision comes down, such as the change in regulations around the Vancouver Island bee quarantine, it has a way of being vetted by the community that's going to be affected.
That's one of the concerns I have with this bill. I'm not sure that we're moving in the right direction as far as protecting farmers, because they're a huge part of this equation. We want to make sure that we don't have disease outbreaks that we can't control. We do want to have a process that acts quickly, but we don't want to leave half the equation out. I think that's something we need to consider.
In Ontario the opposition to the government there did put forward an amendment to be considered. Unfortunately, it was turned down, but it was asking for some checks and balances. I think that if we want to look at that amendment, we can see that there were similar concerns in Ontario around the amount of power. This was turned down, but I think it's still something that we should probably look at as we are guided through committee stage. I hope the minister would be aware of that.
The idea of controlling disease is very interesting to me. This actually applies not only to domestic animals but to disease spread into the wild populations and vice versa.
It is quite timely that this is coming in now, because there's a situation that has been kind of growing in British Columbia around wild sheep and domestic sheep. There are a few herds of wild sheep that are around B.C. There are four separate herds that we know of. I've had a great conversation with the Wild Sheep Society. In the United States there's a disease that's spread from domestic sheep to wild sheep, and that's because of contact. Apparently, it's passed in saliva.
I don't recall the name of this disease, but once that disease spreads from domestic sheep to wild sheep, they get a disease that's similar to pneumonia. They end up dying, sometimes within 45 days, and this spreads throughout the herd. There are documents that show the kill rate on these wild herds can be up to 90 percent. I believe some of these sheep are blue-listed for us here, and we should be taking precautions. I'm hoping that this legislation will help us do that.
One of the things I believe this legislation would call for is that when we see an instance where there may be a disease threat, we're to mitigate the disease spreading. Some of that could be, in the case of the wild sheep, perhaps doing some type of fencing. It also could designate areas where domestic sheep aren't able to live because they're too close to the wild sheep herds, and vice versa.
I think that's something that maybe this legislation will help us deal with. I think it's quite serious. In fact, the Minister of Environment comes from an area where there are these wild sheep that live in the mountains. Some of the disease pressures that we would find with this transfer of disease from domestic to wild are there. I look forward to having that discussion with him, because I believe that the wildlife vet for the provincial government is also very aware of the situation. I believe that she would like it to be dealt with in a timely manner before we end up with a disease outbreak that annihilates the wild sheep population.
The wild sheep population is interesting, because there is quite a good economic argument around why we would want to keep these sheep as well as an environmental argument. The sheep association — some of them are hunters — would use this for their livelihood. We want to protect these things that enhance our economy in smaller communities, and this is one of them. So I think we have a big interest in protecting that.
If this legislation is able to make sure we do that in a better way, then I'm very supportive of that. I think that reporting out as we go along and involving the Wild Sheep Society in part of the committee stage review is also very important. It's a conversation that I'm going to keep having with them to make sure that as we go through the legislation, it pertains to a situation like this.
One thing that I really love about doing this job is to be able to outreach to the communities that are affected by legislation, making sure it's working for everyone and making sure it's fair.
That's probably where I'll stop. I still want to make sure that the government is very clear that I don't think there was enough time before bringing in second reading. It makes it more difficult to do our jobs. It makes it unfair to the public of British Columbia and the stakeholders involved. I would appreciate in the future that consideration would be taken when bringing in second reading so close on a large piece of legislation.
M. Mungall: I want to give full compliments to my colleague the opposition critic for Agriculture, the member for Saanich South, who has shown an incredible amount of knowledge on this bill, despite having about 48 hours from the time it was introduced in first reading to now to give it full analysis.
I think it really goes to show the extent to which she knows her file and knows the agricultural issues that exist around the province, her incredible capacity in bringing that knowledge to this floor and speaking on behalf of British Columbians and the tremendous work that she's been doing not only on behalf of an area that I know she's very passionate about but on behalf of all British Columbians. She's a real asset to the opposition team here.
I will talk a little bit about what this bill is about. I can only speak a little bit about what this bill is about because it's actually a very long bill. Like the member before me said and like I've already said just now, we've only had 48 hours to actually digest this bill.
This bill is 65 pages long. It has 119 sections. It is impacting not just one previous act but a full four acts: the Animal Disease Control Act, the Fur Farm Act, the Game Farm Act, and it fully replaces the Bee Act. This is a lot of information. This is a lot of change here to these pieces of legislation in British Columbia, yet 48 hours to digest it and be able to get up on this floor and try to speak to all 119 sections.
In trying to figure out what this bill is about in the last 48 hours, I went to a government website, and this is what the Ministry of Agriculture is saying this bill is about. It's going to:
"Bring B.C.'s legislation into harmony with other provinces and trading partners, and provide increased assurances about the safety and traceability of B.C.'s animals and animal products.
"Improve the early detection of animal diseases by working with animal producers to implement expanded monitoring programs.
"Clearly state the process producers must follow in the event they identify a disease that has been designated as having significant consequences for animal or human health.
"Take…action to investigate animal disease outbreaks and, if necessary, act on an emergency basis with expedited procedures."
I'm not even halfway through the list yet.
"Introduce surveillance zones and actions that must be taken within them to monitor areas around a quarantine zone.
"Require producers to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of introducing and spreading disease, ensure employees are trained to prevent and respond to disease, maintain records of animal origin and movement, abide by inspector's orders and report any incidents of disease or unusual illness.
"Increase disease control measures such as restricting the movement or sale of animals, food products and animal by-products such as wool or hides derived from them.
"Define the role and powers of inspectors regarding the enforcement of the act, regulations, conditions of licences and permits, and orders.
"Increase the maximum penalty under the act from $2,000 to $75,000 and create an administrative penalty system for less serious contraventions."
That is the backgrounder that the ministry has put forward.
As you can see from the list I just read, it's quite extensive. There's a lot going on here, but all I've had, and all any member on the opposition benches has had, is 48 hours to look at this, to digest it and identify issues that we may have with it or may not have with it.
I think another important note….
Deputy Speaker: Member, can I ask you to align your comments with the contents of Bill 37.
M. Mungall: I would be happy to, Madam Speaker, and I'm getting to that.
It is difficult, nonetheless. One of the things this bill does…. All these acts it is changing, most of them have not been substantially changed since 1948. Again, we have a lot of changes that are being proposed here, yet no time to truly look at them in an in-depth kind of way.
I'll give an example about the Bee Act. The Bee Act is very important for my constituents. I represent the Creston Valley. The Creston Valley is a beautiful valley that produces an incredible amount of agriculture. I ought to know. I benefit from that agriculture greatly. Not only do I get all of my meat that I consume in my household from farmers in the Creston Valley, I get a lot of vegetables there as well.
Creston Valley is most known for its cherries. It produces a tremendous amount of cherries every year. You can't help but drive through the community or drive through Erickson and see all the cherry farms.
Why do bees have an importance with cherries in Creston? Well, I think most people in this House and most British Columbians will know that the cherry trees need to be pollinated, and the only little critters that do that are the honeybees. We have many beekeepers throughout the Creston Valley, and they take their bees to a cherry farm, and those bees will then pollinate the trees, and we will be left with some beautiful cherries come mid-July.
In the last 48 hours I have not been able to get hold of a good friend of mine, Alvin Gabruch, who historically was the bee man for the Creston Valley. He was a guy who had over 1,000 bees…. Now, that can't sound right. There's got to be more than 1,000 bees there, Madam Speaker. He must have had 1,000 colonies of bees.
He was the bee man, and he would take his bee colonies to the cherry farms. The bees would fly out, and they would do their thing, and they would pollinate the trees. They'd go to the next farm and the next farm and the next farm. Alvin is the bee man of the Creston Valley.
I didn't get to call him on this and ask him what he thought. I know what he would have said to me, nonetheless, because we have that rapport. If I would have had the chance to talk to him, he would have said: "What's going on? I did not have the chance, Michelle, to read these 119 sections on 65 pages of this bill. I don't have any feedback to give you right now."
Then it makes my job difficult to get up in this House and make sure that my constituent's voice is represented on an issue that is incredibly meaningful and incredibly important to the local economy of the Creston Valley.
On other issues around the Animal Disease Control Act, I have many people in my area who are dairy farmers, who are cattle ranchers, who raise chickens, who raise sheep, who raise goats, who are dairy farmers. We have a wonderful value-added business, the Kootenay Alpine Cheese Co. If you ever do make it to the Creston Valley, Madam Speaker, I fully recommend you stopping by and getting a sample of what is the finest alpine cheese that you can possibly find in this province.
I wasn't able to give them a call and ask them how this
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legislation would impact them, all 119 sections — how the Animal Disease Control Act, the changes to that act, would impact them and what they do on a day-to-day basis.
Madam Speaker, I believe there's a colleague of mine who would like to do something here and make an introduction. I just got a note from him. I'll have a seat and let him do that, but I'd like to get right back up afterwards.
D. Hayer: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Introductions by Members
D. Hayer: Thank you to my colleague for allowing me the time to introduce some very special guests here. It's my pleasure to introduce 57 grade 5 students visiting here from Pacific Academy, one of the best schools in Canada, from my riding of Surrey-Tynehead. They're here to learn about the government. They're joined here by their teachers, Ms. Nancy Bakken and Mr. Rick Bath, and as well as more than 33 volunteer parents. Would the House please make them very welcome.
M. Mungall: I thank the member for Surrey-Tynehead for giving me an opportunity to have a sip of water there.
As I was saying, the Animal Disease Control Act and the changes that are being proposed in the 65 pages and 119 sections of this act…. Somewhere in there we have significant changes to the Animal Disease Control Act.
Local farmers in my area would have appreciated more than 48 hours to have digested this and to have properly analyzed it to offer me feedback. I know that Randy Meyer, who sits on the local ag council, would have appreciated that. Tom Tarzwell would have appreciated that. Chuck Truscott certainly would have appreciated that. They all would have been extremely appreciative if they'd had the opportunity to give proper analysis to this bill, which only time allows, and 48 hours is not sufficient time. I'm sure that they would like to sleep somewhere in that 48 hours. I know that Roy Lake….
It's not just the Creston Valley. Up at the north end of my constituency, around the north end of Kootenay Lake and in Meadow Creek area, there are some other amazing, amazing agricultural producers out there doing some fantastic work. My good friend Roy Lake used to have 300 head of cattle up in that region.
Now, they've been very devastated economically up there due to the situation with Meadow Creek Cedar, but nonetheless, they have some excellent plans for agricultural redevelopment in that area. These acts may have impacted them, but are they given the sufficient time to provide full analysis to this, to offer me feedback so that I can speak on their behalf? Unfortunately, no.
Another family that I think is important to mention are the Bundschuhs out in Salmo. Now you're getting a little tour of my constituency here, Madam Speaker, of all of the fine places where there are many agricultural producers. That's because I'm a rural MLA and I have the benefit of this tremendous amount of agriculture existing in my constituency.
The Bundschuhs have a working cattle ranch. You can see all of those cows every year at the Shambhala Music Festival, which occurs the first weekend of August. They're very well known for this festival. They have a working farm, and they have several hundred head of cattle. This act would no doubt impact them. Again, they did not have enough time.
So with that, I think it's important to make…. I've made my point, which is that 48 hours is simply not enough for me to have meaningful dialogue with my constituents on the issues that are being impacted in what is, again, 119 sections over 65 pages on this bill. I'm quite disappointed that this is the way in which the Liberal government has decided to do their business.
I have had another experience along this line with another bill, where amendments were dropped on me at the last minute, and the Government House Leader did not appreciate his minister doing that. I'm surprised that this is going on again.
Deputy Speaker: Member, I have cautioned you with respect to aligning your comments to the contents of the bill.
M. Mungall: My apologies, Madam Speaker.
So with that, I would like to say, in summation, that there are several sections, there are several aspects of this bill that will no doubt impact my constituents. I will continue to work with them on these issues. But in future we hope, and the people all over British Columbia hope, that the government will be more respectful of what needs to be done in terms of due diligence when they present legislation.
M. Farnworth: It is my pleasure to rise and to speak to this particular piece of legislation, the Animal Health Act. It is an important piece of legislation, and it's a pleasure to actually speak to the bill. My colleague the Minister of Environment goes: "Are you going to speak to the bill?" I hasten to assure him that I will most certainly will be speaking to the bill.
I will not be addressing issues of timing or the length of time to look at the bill but rather a couple of specific areas of the bill that I think are worthy of some acknowledgement during second reading debate and, most definitely, I think, worthy of and need to be examined during committee stage of the debate. Some….
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M. Farnworth: As my colleague the Finance Critic says, if we ever get to it. I don't know if that is a hint for me to conclude my remarks before I've started.
Anyway, I represent Port Coquitlam, a primarily urban riding, but it is a riding that does have significant parts of it where agriculture is important, primarily around the growing of blueberries — which, for example, rely heavily on bees for pollination.
We have a number of organic-farming operations, one down the end of the street where I live, with pumpkins, again relying on bees for pollination. But cattle, beef cattle in particular, also are raised on a number of farms in my riding.
In fact, just this past weekend, Saturday evening, I heard a slight disturbance outside the house. I went outside late at night with the dogs. They like to do their pee. Lo and behold, one of the cows in the field next door was in labour. The little calves….
There are seven cows in the field. Five have already given birth to calves, and there was the cow, right on the other side of the fence, surrounded by the others, in labour. It was particularly interesting because she was near the street, where people can come by and potentially harass or disturb, but no.
It was about ten o'clock in the evening. She was in labour. Sometime around four o'clock in the morning I could hear that final sort of clear-effort push, and there was a little calf. It was fascinating to see, and it lets you know about the importance of and what goes on in agricultural communities and farms right across the province of British Columbia and why this particular piece of legislation is so important.
It has not been updated, many parts of it, since 1948. I think that's crucial, because the world has moved on since 1948. We were, at that time, a far more agricultural nation than we are now, so it's important that regulations keep up with the times.
As my colleague the Agriculture critic has stated, we are by and large supportive of this bill, but there are some important issues that need to be addressed.
The one that I want to talk about briefly is the issue of the powers that are granted to B.C.'s chief veterinarian to enter property without a warrant and issues that that raises. These are issues that particularly are concerns of the B.C. Agricultural Council.
The reason I say that is because being able to enter property without a warrant is a very wide-ranging power. It is something that is not granted lightly, and I think we need to have a thorough explanation from the government as to why that is so.
The minister has stated that part of this legislation has been developed through what has taken place in other provinces, particularly Alberta and Ontario. In Ontario the chief veterinarian for that province has to get a warrant. So I would like very much to know what the rationale is, why B.C. is….
We're looking at Ontario and saying: "Yes, we're going to do…. We think good chunks of your legislation are important, but in this particular section we're not going to follow your example." I think that's an area that needs considerable focus on it, because without a thorough explanation, I think it could be open to a potential court challenge.
There are some real privacy issues at stake that I think need to be addressed. I can let the minister know that at committee stage…. That will be something that I think the opposition is particularly concerned about.
My colleague has outlined a whole host of other areas that she thinks need to be addressed. I know that my colleague the Finance Minister is so concerned….
B. Ralston: Critic.
M. Farnworth: Or critic. I'm jumping ahead of myself. That's right.
M. Farnworth: Yes, I agree — a little early.
B. Ralston: Premature adjudication.
M. Farnworth: Premature adjudication, as my colleague the Finance critic says.
But I know he is so determined to see this bill through to committee stage and concerned that we get to it that I think he's encouraging me to be brief in my remarks. Not wanting to disappoint him, I shall be brief in my remarks. Suffice it to say that for me, that's a key issue in this bill that I look forward to seeing addressed in committee stage and having the minister explain the rationale behind it as to why it was this particular option that was chosen as opposed to other potential options.
With that, I shall take my place and listen to the interventions of other colleagues.
M. Sather: I rise to join the debate on Bill 37, Animal Health Act, which is a weighty piece of legislation. I can feel it in my hands. It definitely has heft to it. It is some 119 sections in length. However, beyond that it's a bit obscure, in my view. The explanatory notes, which one looks to in any bill to shed light on just what the intent of an act is, are all on the front page of this bill.
It starts off by saying: "This Bill repeals and replaces the Animal Disease Control Act, the Fur Farm Act and the Game Farm Act, and replaces the Bee Act." Like my colleague before me who spoke about bees and the Bee Act, I wanted to address that issue as well.
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This bill apparently replaces the Bee Act. My question is: with what? Like I say, there is a lot of verbiage here, but I don't see any reference in it to the Bee Act whatsoever. I have a copy of the Bee Act. It's 1975. I've been told by the opposition critic that the replacement of the Bee Act will come in by regulation, and that may be outlined somewhere in the bill.
I look, for example, at section 100, under "Other regulation-making powers." Section (2) says: "To the extent that regulation-making authority has not already been provided for in this Part, the Lieutenant Governor in Council" — i.e., the cabinet — "may make regulations respecting any matter for which regulations are contemplated by this Act." In any event, it leaves me wondering what is happening with the Bee Act.
Members will know, I'm sure, that bees are an extremely important aspect of agriculture for their pollination capacities. They will also know, I'm sure, that there has been a crisis. It's not overstating the fact, I don't think, to say that we have a crisis with bees here and in many other places. I would like to know just what kind of mitigating measures, what the government is planning to do for bees in bringing in a new Bee Act. I think it's important to bring in a new Bee Act, but I have no idea from this bill what the government is contemplating.
For example, there are recent studies that came out that have shown that pesticides have led to a dramatic decline of bumblebee queens and interfered with honeybees' ability to find their way back to the hive. We know about beehive colony collapse. One of the things is that oftentimes we can't find the bees, and we wonder what happened to them. Well, this may explain it. These are very important issues that I would hope we could have a fulsome discussion about, because it is very important.
When I look at the 1975 act, not surprisingly, because we didn't have this problem back in 1975, there's nothing in that act to address the issue of pesticides and bees. I don't know whether the members opposite are keen on discussing pesticides. I do sit on the committee to look at pesticides in the province, but it is an important issue. I think it's incumbent upon the government to bring in not only weighty legislation in terms of a whole bunch of sections but legislation that addresses important problems before us, like the problems we have with bees.
I also want to refer to some of the remarks by the minister, his opening remarks to the legislation, because they've been helpful, I think, in elucidating to some degree what the government is looking at with regard to bringing in this legislation. He outlined that there are three main goals of the legislation. I want to look first at the second goal wherein he said that the second goal is to ensure the continued productivity and competitiveness of farm operations in B.C. through on-farm prevention strategies, early detection and eradication of animal diseases.
Well, is there something in Bill 37 that will achieve this with respect to salmon aquaculture operations, which he refers to later in the bill? I'll mention that in a minute. But that's what many people have been calling for — the minister to respond to the need for early detection of salmon diseases.
I have to say that the pleas so far have fallen on deaf ears, and that is worrying. I mean, the government's response, quite frankly, has been to participate in league with the federal government to cover up the issue of viruses in our salmon. That's not overstating the case if you look at the objective facts.
That's not good enough. I mean, it's a good goal. I have no problem with the goal at all. Early detection and eradication of animal diseases is extremely important. But it's one thing to have a goal. It's another thing to actually act on that goal. The evidence so far with regard to aquaculture is that the government is not willing to act. The minister and this government have denied that the infectious salmon anemia virus exists in B.C., and that's troublesome.
The minister says that there's no evidence of ISA in B.C. He says that the testing results by Drs. Kibenge and Nylund were negative for ISA. These are the renowned top experts on ISA in the world.
I would like to see that the minister, through Bill 37, is keen to address this issue. Certainly, early detection is important, as he himself has pointed out. Early detection is essential to dealing with animal diseases. Yet when it comes to aquaculture, many British Columbians see no evidence of the willingness of this government to actually take the steps necessary to ensure that early detection is taking place. It's not the fact that tests were negative — unconfirmed perhaps, but certainly not negative.
The minister also said that none of what he called suspect cases of salmon viruses were associated with disease. Yet Dr. Kristi Miller, renowned scientist with DFO, testified just the opposite at the Cohen Commission. Her studies indicate that ISA is causing negative health symptoms in B.C.'s salmon. What more does the minister need to act? What more does the minister need to take this issue seriously?
I mean, it's all nice and good to bring in a nice thick bill, and I'm sure that it's going to do some good for something, but I don't see how it's going to do any good just by the wording. It's not enough. We need to see that the minister and this government is serious about dealing with salmon viruses in British Columbia. First thing you have to do — you have to admit you have a problem and not deny the problem. Unfortunately, that's a step of the recovery that this government has not taken yet.
The minister said also in his opening remarks — this is in reference, actually, to the third goal of Bill 37 — to "minimize the likelihood of interprovincial or international trade closures by effectively managing disease outbreaks."
[ Page 11413 ]
It was very clear, through the Cohen Commission and the subsequent actions of this government, that this is certainly their primary concern. As I said to the minister in estimates, it's a reasonable concern to have. He should be concerned about these issues.
But is that the only concern that he has? Is that the only concern that this government has? That's certainly the impression that I and many others received sitting through the many days of the Cohen Commission and hearing much of the testimony and listening to the legal representation for the province, which was totally hostile toward anyone who was there representing the interests of wild salmon. That's just not good enough.
Maybe the minister wants to collaborate with the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to come up with a joint strategy where we can look at diseases, certainly, in farmed salmon but we can also look at the health of the wild salmon.
The minister said also, in his comments: "Aquaculture farm-gate sales from farmed salmon, trout, clams, mussels, oysters and scallops totalled more than $418 million. Any threat of disease must be taken very seriously if we are to maintain the economic well-being of families and communities that depend upon these industries." I couldn't agree more. I couldn't agree more with the minister. However, I remain completely astonished at how this minister says one thing but does another.
I have nothing against Bill 37. We didn't, obviously, have a whole lot of time to look at it, but not withstanding that, I have nothing against Bill 37. I wish, however, that we had something more than this — that, first of all, we knew what in fact they're planning to do with all of these regulations that are coming in at some time in the future. I don't see how you can bring in a bill that is that long and leave really important stuff to regulation somewhere down the road. Yet that's what this government has done once again.
This is an important bill even though it is rather hidden in terms of what it actually will do. It's an important bill. Animal diseases are an important issue, and I agree with the government that we need to address those diseases. Insofar as Bill 37 does that, I applaud the government. But I say again: what, in fact, will this bill do to address some of the important issues that we have — issues that we have with bees, issues that we have with salmon? I don't know. I don't see it in here.
I'm hoping that in committee stage when we get a chance to question the minister about what, in fact, this bill is all about — what effect it's going to have on the ground or in the water — the minister will have some enlightening information.
His remarks were somewhat enlightening, I thought. I thank him for his opening remarks, but we will, of course, seek much more than that. It could be an interesting discussion. I hope so, and I hope that this bill will lead to us dealing with animal diseases in a much more prompt, careful and complete way than we've seen in some respects in this province.
The opposition critic mentioned the transmission of diseases between domestic and wild sheep. That's certainly a concern for me as well, as deputy Environment critic, and one that we will be able to canvass with the minister during committee stage. Hopefully there's a plan in place there to deal with that issue.
With that, I thank you for the opportunity and I'll take my place.
K. Conroy: As a member of the Legislature that actually has some experience in birthing cows, unlike my urban colleague, I thought I could stand here for 30 minutes and tell stories of such. But I won't do that to you. Although they do want me to tell a couple….
K. Conroy: Yeah. I won't do that to you.
I just have a few concerns about the bill that relate to cattle breeding. One concern was the actual consultation process. Now, many farmers nowadays and ranchers in this province are very well equipped to deal with computers and the on-line survey system, and a number are not. I've talked to some who just couldn't do it — couldn't get on line and are not computer-friendly.
One person I know of quite personally because we spend a lot of time together on our farm tried to get on it. He's not computer-literate and just gave up on it. He said it was just something that he couldn't do — talked to a few of his colleagues in the business who also had the same frustrations with that process. So I have some concerns about the consultation process — how extensive it was and how much input the ministry actually got before this bill was developed.
Then, one of the other issues is around disease control. We all know how BSE wreaked havoc in the cattle industry and how, in Canada and especially in B.C., we're slowly coming back and things are starting to turn around. We definitely are always really concerned about disease control. But one of the issues for rural B.C. that I'm not sure if the ministry or the minister has taken into consideration in the development of this bill is the fact that there just aren't that many vets out in rural B.C. now that deal with large animals, especially in the Kootenays.
We have a tough time getting large animal vets. The vets seem to like to deal with cats and dogs and small animals, but there are very few vets nowadays that deal with the large animals. I understand in the legislation that if an animal dies, you have to have a vet report out. If there's a suspicion of disease, a vet has to report out on that.
It can be difficult to find a vet, and so I would raise some concerns about that. I'm sure that the Minister of
[ Page 11414 ]
Environment might even agree with me that not all vets like dealing with those great big cattle and even horses. They tend to prefer the smaller animals, and that's especially in the Kootenays.
It's an issue of concern. I'm sure that if we can get to committee stage on this bill that it can be looked at in a little more detail. I definitely hope that the ministry will consider that when they're looking at this legislation.
Deputy Speaker: Seeing no further speakers, the minister closes debate.
Hon. D. McRae: I thank the members opposite. I think it's to be noted, as well, that there were some concerns raised. One of the common themes was a concern for the lack of time, but that's also one of the reasons why I was so pleased that we were able to offer last Monday an opportunity to brief the critic for Agriculture and the independent members on the other side.
I'd like to also thank the members opposite for their extensive 72 minutes of conversation on 120 sections of the bill. They were complaining that there was not enough time given, but I also remind the members opposite that time is always of the essence.
If we go back to, say, perhaps one of their favourite decades, the 1990s, they were always a little bit concerned with time back then. I don't want to belabour the long list I have, but I will give a small smattering of history here.
You might remember 1993. It was a good year. There was a bill. It was a bill called Bill 71. It had 66 sections, and the opposition of the day was given 48 hours to deal with it. But you know what? That's still a lot more time than 1995 — Bill 55, where it actually amended 26 acts in that period. During that time the opposition of the day was give a substantial 24 hours to actually look at that bill and make some recommendations as well.
You'd think that 24 hours would just be a one-off, but it wasn't, actually. In 2000, the millennium year, Bill 8….
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
I can't remember, to be honest, what Bill 8 was, but it did amend 28 acts, actually, provincially. But you know what? Fortunately, we had the 24-hour practice in 1995, because in 2000 we were again given 24 hours.
We'd always like a bit more time. It would always be a luxury, of course, but the reality is: please be careful of what you accuse, because it's coming back.
The other thing, which I puzzle here, is we've had a couple of issues lately here. Bill 36, the school amendment issue that was just passed the other day…. I was so glad that the Minister of Education was actually able to call division on that one, because we spent a good portion of one whole day….
I believe we actually started the day before, and the members opposite raised many concerns, and I'm glad that we have that sense of democracy. But in the end the division was called, and it was supported unanimously. I'd like to thank the members opposite for their unanimous support of that and the day and a half of debate that we had.
Hon. D. McRae: I'm only a high school teacher. I won't call it filibustering.
As well, we also brought in Bill 24 last week. I believe it was almost a week ago — the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Amendment Act. I'd like to thank the members opposite for their support and, actually, for their good insight along the way. I appreciate the support that we had with that bill as well, but the extra debate did actually take up time somewhere else.
I want to talk about some consultation issues because people opposite were actually concerned about some of the consultation. Well, this bill has not been something that the government has entered into lightly. In fact, we actually started public consultation in 2010. The general public was invited to provide feedback on this animal health.
Now, to be honest — and the member opposite from the West Kootenays did raise it — there are people who have some computer concerns. It was an on-line survey, and yes, I agree that not everybody is as computer-literate as we would like. But we also made sure that we had meetings with the B.C. cattle, dairy, chicken, turkey, sheep and bee sectors, both in 2010 and '11, as we worked through the consultation and policy development stages.
Through that consultation, these are some of the things we've heard. For example, generally speaking, most respondents supported an updated animal health policy and regulatory framework that would include all animals, not just livestock, and a wide range of animal diseases. They also favoured clarification of control actions that could be taken in response to disease, with decisions based on — now, this is something the members opposite, based on question period today, might not want to hear — scientific evidence, which is something I think is absolutely essential.
They felt the destruction of animals, while sometimes necessary and never pleasant, should be the last resort and should also be tied to some compensation.
They also felt the traceability program — something that Canada and British Columbia is very, very proud of; we have a very good traceability program in this country which allows us to export products to well nigh 140 countries in the world — should be aligned with others in Canada that already exist. The marketing boards in Canada and the federal government have been working with us on that. And they voiced strong support for enforcement provisions.
[ Page 11415 ]
All of these factors are…. They realize that you want to have a sector that has confidence to go forward, and protection. Various ministries were consulted, obviously, during the development of this bill, and I'm pleased that we are where we are today.
The member opposite, the critic for Agriculture, did raise some concerns about the bee sector. I'd like to say to the member opposite that the bee sector was consulted, although I will admit we'll never be able to consult every person.
Special provisions specific to beekeeping were made, such as limitations on the sale or reuse of used beehive equipment, the movement of bees within B.C. and the need for proper storage of beehive equipment, and will be included in the Animal Health Act and under regulation.
So I know the members opposite…. And yes, bees are absolutely essential to the well-being of British Columbia. There's no doubt about it — whether it's the cherry industry, as the member for Nelson-Creston brought up, and obviously, the Okanagan. It is a huge portion of our agricultural needs, and we're pleased that this act will further strengthen animal protection in that manner and also, indirectly, the crop protection.
Members opposite also acknowledge — and I thank them for saying it — that COABC, the organic sector, though they didn't have time to respond back perhaps as much as the member opposite would like, did actually acknowledge that they were consulted or had the opportunity to consult. I assume that would probably be through the on-line input that was asked for.
Like the member opposite, I want to acknowledge that while all sectors are absolutely important to the diversity of B.C. agriculture, I am glad that COABC was able to have an opportunity through their members to have some of their concerns raised in the construction of this bill.
There is also a concern raised by several members opposite about the general powers of the chief veterinarian officer.
The chief veterinarian, I must say, I have met many times. I think the province is lucky to have an asset like Dr. Paul Kitching, as strong and knowledgable as he is. He is diligently working hard to make sure animal health is paramount in this province. I think he is an asset that is…. If it's not acknowledged regularly, it needs to be acknowledged as I stand up and speak. I'd like to thank Dr. Paul Kitching for the great work he has done for British Columbians and the animals therein.
One of the issues they did raise, though, is under this portion. I'll talk about section 69(f), which is to issue instructions to inspectors fulfilling their duties under the emergency powers section. That's something I just wanted to address very briefly here.
I think it was the member for Port Coquitlam who was talking about entering premises for inspection facilities. Just for the members opposite, there are conditions under which an inspector could conduct inspections without providing notice. These conditions include when the thing to be inspected is on public display — for example, at a fair or perhaps at a science display or something like that — where the public is actually available to access it.
They are also able to when providing notice would not be reasonably possible or practical in the circumstances. Thirdly, in the case where an inspection is conducted to determine compliance with the regulation, notice may not be given when it would frustrate the purpose of the investigation.
However, that being said, if the place is a private dwelling, the inspector should — when at all possible, of course — first obtain the consent of the owner or occupier or obtain a warrant. However, with the opportunities for diseases that may come in and protecting the public good…. There are some circumstances when that may be avoided.
Again, I want to remind the members opposite that we have not actually visited this act for a very long time; 1948 was the year. If I use my own sort of comparisons to it, I was exactly minus 22 in 1948.
The Animal Disease Control Act does not, as it existed, provide the government with the tools to effectively investigate or manage animal diseases. It contained outdated terminology and contains authority for only a few diseases. It's not consistent with modern disease reporting and management approaches used by other provincial, national and international governments.
As members opposite are very well aware, the world is not 1948 anymore. Global trade and travel has increased dramatically. While that is very beneficial to many, it also does raise the risk of exposure to diseases to a greater extent than ever before. The direct and indirect links between animal and human health have become more apparent over the last decade with a greater appreciation of emerging and re-emerging diseases. Some examples could be the H1N1 influenza virus of 2009.
I know we've talked earlier about SARS and H1N1. But the reality is, according to one estimate, the majority of emerging diseases in humans — approximately 75 percent — originated in the animal kingdom. It's important that the federal government has the tools and also the province has the tools to respond accordingly. Obviously, farming is most important for trade, but it's also important to make sure our quality of life is maintained.
We desperately want to make sure we supply as much food not only to people living in British Columbia. With the world population at approximately seven billion people now, British Columbia and Canada's role in supplying food to the world is going to be more important than ever as we go forward in the coming decades.
In most cases — and I know the members opposite know this — animal diseases that can affect trade are handled by the federal government. Diseases that do not have trade impacts but can affect B.C.'s economy will be
[ Page 11416 ]
the responsibility of the provincial government.
The benefits provided by animal industries and animal health are many and varied, including animal production and related activities such as animal food manufacturing, animal processing and associated activities in transportation and finance sectors connected with animal production.
It's important to notice, too, that one of the strengths in this bill is voluntary participation. It is going to be necessary in disease monitoring programs conducted under this act. It will result in earlier detection of diseases, and mandatory reporting of obvious signs of disease and unusual mortality will improve response time to control measures.
A prime example is an issue that did not take place in Canada even, but just recently there was a story in the news about — I believe it was — BSE in California. Very quickly, you see places like South Korea were talking about: should they close their market? Should they stop actually bringing in meat for their population?
The reality is it's so important as a nation or as a province to make sure that we have the traceability, that we have the ability to quarantine and contain disease to provide confidence with our world trade partners. It's like I said earlier — the 140 nations that we export to — B.C. agriculture, Canadian agriculture does not just survive based on the domestic market. We need the combination of domestic and international.
I also want to remind the members opposite that under the old act the powers assigned to inspectors were vague. The new act will include explicit comprehensive inspection authorities that are consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Tools available to manage and control diseases include quarantine, surveillance, control-zone orders, as well as general orders that require preventive measures to be taken. There are protective measures included for protection of disease-related information, so it may be communicated carefully by government with explicit messaging.
The lesson learned from previous disease outbreaks is that officials need to have full authority to act — BSE, H1N1, SARS. This legislation needs to be clear. Disease prevention is as important as managing disease outbreak.
The new administrative penalty system will enable government to penalize offenders with protection through the court system. It is an opportunity to fine people up to $75,000 for severe violations. It is important that people do not take this section lightly. The compensation scheme is enabled in the act to provide some compensation to farmers.
Lastly, the new act consolidates and harmonizes licensing practices across several older acts and also incorporates registration and disease control measures under the new Animal Health Act.
Members opposite and members of government, I am pleased that today we are bringing in a piece of legacy legislation that will protect animals, protect farmers, protect populations in Canada and beyond. This is a great day in B.C. agriculture. I am pleased with all the consultation that was given by the agricultural industry.
With that being said, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill 37.
Hon. D. McRae: I move that Bill 37 be referred to a Committee of the Whole for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 37, Animal Health Act, 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. T. Lake: I now call second reading of Bill 38, intituled the Pension Benefits Standards Act.
BILL 38 — PENSION BENEFITS
Hon. K. Falcon: I move that Bill 38, the Pension Benefits Standards Act, be read a second time.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister.
Hon. K. Falcon: This government has been working over the last several years towards changes to the pension system that could improve benefits security and lead to increased pension coverage. This legislation is an important step in that direction.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
With this bill, British Columbia joins Ontario and Nova Scotia in modernizing provincial pension standards on the basis of a comprehensive review undertaken by a panel of pension experts, whose recommendations garnered broad public support.
This bill implements recommendations from the 2008 report of the Alberta–British Columbia Joint Expert Panel on Pension Standards. The bill was drafted jointly with Alberta Finance, with the expert input of a joint B.C.-Alberta advisory group.
Pensions are a cornerstone of families' retirement savings. A strong pension system lets families plan for retirement with confidence. With over $90 billion in assets, British Columbia's registered pension plans are a significant component of the Canadian economy.
From a broader financial perspective, many economists believe…. As the former governor of the Bank of Canada, David Dodge, has said: "A well-functioning
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pension system is an important source of long-term risk capital that is essential to finance growth." And financial growth is essential to support jobs for workers, whether they are pension plan members or not.
The existing pension standards legislation in British Columbia contains overly prescriptive rules and has not kept pace with changes in pension plan design and administration. The new Pension Benefits Standards Act takes a principles-based approach.
This allows for pension innovation by employers while ensuring that members continue to be protected and that the regulator has the flexibility to address concerns about benefits security.
Several significant amendments will enhance the rights of pension plan members. With immediate vesting, members will be entitled to their entire benefit upon terminating membership at any time. Currently, benefits do not vest until a person has been a plan member for two years. This legislation also enables regulations that will allow greater access to locked-in RRSPs and life income funds for former pension plan members who demonstrate financial hardship.
New provisions in the bill will also allow a pension plan to permit its members to suspend their membership and contributions until the member chooses to resume contributions. These changes will give people more choices in managing their finances in time of need.
To address disclosure concerns raised by pensioners, requirements will be tailored and enhanced so that all plan members, including retired members, are provided with the information they need about their pension plan.
The Alberta–British Columbia Joint Expert Panel identified harmonized legislation that is flexible enough to accommodate different types of pension arrangements as essential in improving the security of benefits and supporting employers in offering pension plans.
This legislation enables new types of pension plan. The new category of target benefit plan implements a significant recommendation of the Alberta–British Columbia Joint Expert Panel. This reform has already been introduced successfully in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
Target benefit plans can be thought of as a hybrid between the two traditional types of plans. Defined benefit plans make a commitment about the amount of the pension. Defined contribution plans set the amount of the contributions by the employer and the employee. Target benefit plans will establish by agreement a target amount for the amount of the pension with contributions set to support that target. If funding is insufficient, benefits may be reduced.
In substance, target benefit plans already exist but are called something different. They are often referred to in the form of multi-employer negotiated cost plans. But these plans are often categorized as defined benefit rather than target benefit. They are subject to the same funding requirements as defined benefit plans, including the requirement to fund for solvency.
In today's economic climate of very low interest rates, most of these plans are experiencing a solvency shortfall, sometimes considerable. With employer contributions limited to what is specified in the collective agreement under the plan, members are vulnerable to having benefits reduced to fund the shortfall.
A reduction in benefits usually comes as a complete surprise to the plan's members. New funding requirements designed specifically for target benefit plans will apply to these multi-employer negotiated cost plans, making funding shortfalls and accompanying benefit reductions less likely to occur.
New disclosure requirements will ensure that the nature of the benefit is clearly communicated from the outset as a target, not as a defined benefit. In addition, target benefit plans, along with defined benefit plans, will be required to establish written governance and funding policies. The bill is designed to enable other types of pension plan, such as jointly sponsored cost-sharing pension plans and non–collectively bargained multi-employer plans.
This bill also responds to the concerns employers have expressed about trapped capital when a pension plan is in a surplus position. The legislation will allow defined benefit plans to establish a solvency reserve account in the pension fund. When the plan returns to solvency surplus position, the money in the solvency reserve account may be refunded directly to the employer.
Another important aspect of pension plan administration that is addressed by this bill is the regulation of pension plans that have members working in more than one province.
Provisions will support the new agreement respecting multi-jurisdictional pension plans, which sets out the rules that apply to the regulation of these plans. This agreement has already been signed by the governments of Ontario and Quebec. Other provinces and the federal government are expected to sign this year.
Employers have said they need streamlined regulations so that they can focus on their business and not on red tape. Modernization and harmonization of pension legislation and the implementation of the multilateral agreement will simplify administration for pension plan administrators, which should reduce costs for employers who sponsor pension plans.
Finally, this bill grants new powers to the superintendent of pensions to assist her in the regulation of pension plans. These powers include the ability to levy administrative penalties and, if required, to appoint a new plan administrator or actuary.
B. Ralston: I rise to address the bill. I might say parenthetically that the people I was able to consult with yes-
[ Page 11418 ]
terday about the bill were a bit surprised, because I think the word had been that it wasn't coming just yet.
Unlike what we have seen here in recent days where, for example, engineers or lawyers or firefighters were notified in advance that legislation would be tabled and were able to be present in the Legislature, pension fund administrators didn't seem to get the same kind of notice. But here we are, and I want to discuss the bill.
I suppose there's a context in which we discuss pensions. This is a major rewrite of the legislation which affects not only private sector pension plans. In section 2, unless it is specifically decided otherwise, these rules apply to public sector pension plans as well, although, there are admittedly different rules for the public sector. There is also in Bill 41, which is to come, a section which deals with some revisions to the relevant legislation for public sector pension plans.
The context of pensions and the debate about pensions is one that has been a truly national debate. Here in Canada we have a blend of provisions which are universal. The OAS and GIS, the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, are federal and universal. They don't depend upon a person having worked or contributed to a plan.
The CPP, the Canada Pension Plan, is federal and employment-based. Then much of what this act will regulate are the private employer–based pensions or personal pension plans such as the RRSP.
There is a new piece of legislation before the federal parliament. It was introduced in November and has gone to committee in March — the pooled registered savings plans. I'll have a few comments about that as well.
There was a debate about pensions. Certainly, this was accentuated by the financial crisis, when many became concerned about the future of their pension plans; the value of the assets held by the pension plans; their access to their retirement benefits and whether, because the assets of the pension plan had declined in value, there would be a necessity that their individual pension payments from that plan upon retirement would be reduced.
Coverage for people in the private workforce by private pension plans is diminishing. The coverage of these plans has dropped from 45 percent of employees in 1992 to just 39 percent in 2009, is the latest figure I have. And 11 million Canadian workers don't have a workplace pension plan. The view of many is that the old age security and the Canada Pension Plan, which everyone has, don't always provide enough for people to live comfortably in retirement.
Some people point to the registered retirement savings plan regime. It has, in large part, for most people been ineffective. The typical person aged 55 to 64 — that is, the person, probably, closest to retirement — has saved about $55,000. That's enough to provide a monthly income of about $250.
When they file their income tax, people will notice that there's a provision in the personal form for an RRSP contribution, and you are entitled to calculate and bring forward, according to the rules, unused contribution room, it's called. In fact, one estimate is there is more than $600 billion in unused RRSP contribution room being carried forward. So for most people, the RRSP has not been an effective plan for savings for retirement.
One economist, Bob Baldwin, who is a pension expert, estimated that one-third of Canadians now in the group of 45 to 64 are likely to end up with incomes that fall short of adequate minimum incomes that will allow them to maintain their standards of living when they retire. The options are few. They can continue working. That obviously poses difficulty. Or they may have to fall back on the first-tier programs — the OAS and the guaranteed income supplement.
It's clear that employers and…. It's interesting that the minister mentions the target benefit plans, because defined benefit plans are considered more desirable, from the perspective of the person receiving the pension, because the contributions that the employee makes are not subject to the vagaries of the investment market, and the plan guarantees a pension of a defined amount upon retirement.
Defined contribution really sets out what is required to be contributed, but the value of that in the pension depends on what happens to that investment over the years prior to retirement.
The debate that has taken place in Canada recently, given concerns about pension plans, is one which the previous Finance Minister participated in, in a number of conferences. Indeed, the federal Finance Ministers met here in this city, in Victoria, last December, and there was a thought that a national agreement was very close to expand Canada Pension Plan coverage.
There are a number of arguments advanced for that. The cost of administration is very low, relative to RRSP funds. The coverage is universal. Quebec has its own plan, but it's portable between that and the Canada Pension Plan. There's limited investment risk. Indeed, in the 1990s the decision was made to increase employee contributions to therefore increase the ultimate pension.
The argument that has been made is in order to improve the pension that's paid by Canada Pension Plan, that over a long time horizon employees and employers ought to increase their contribution modestly but incrementally, and that would result in a much better pension for most Canadians who participate in the Canada Pension Plan.
The benchmark Canada Pension Plan is considered to provide replacement of about 25 percent of a person's income. The goal would be for Canada Pension Plan to replace about 50 percent of a person's income.
That debate took place. I know the previous Finance Minister indicated in estimates debate here in the Legislature
[ Page 11419 ]
in response to some of the discussions that he and I had that he was looking on that possibility favourably.
Other Finance Ministers across the country were looking on it favourably — perhaps most notably, Alberta. Ted Morton, the Finance Minister in Alberta, was, I believe, strongly opposed to that, although he won't be around to add this voice to that debate anymore. He was defeated in the recent election by a Wildrose candidate, which is, I suppose, a bit of an irony, given some of his views.
[D. Black in the chair.]
But that debate isn't over. The effort, particularly by the Canadian Labour Congress on behalf of all employed Canadians, to push for the expansion of the Canada Pension Plan is a real debate, and it continues.
If I could just provide a bit more detail on that. I mentioned the incremental increase in the worker contribution. It was estimated to rise from 4.9 percent of covered earnings in 2010 to 7.95 percent by 2016. Combined employer-employee contributions would then be about 15.9 percent of earnings, up to the year's maximum pensionable earnings.
The advantage of this system is that it's portable from job to job. Sometimes economists speak about…. When they're speaking of productivity, inhibitions to labour mobility are regarded as being bad for the labour market and bad for the economy because people, if they don't feel they can transfer their pension benefits, are less likely to move to employment in other parts of the province or other parts of the country.
Indeed, this is a huge problem in the United States, where people are very reluctant to change employment, because their health care benefits are private and are usually tied to their employment. If they decide to move jobs, it becomes a real issue as to whether the health care coverage will be available in the next job. Therefore, it limits labour mobility. That's considered to be bad for the economy — when people can't go to where the work is, where the emerging parts of the economy are.
The Canada Pension Plan doesn't have that problem. Indeed, on the other side, the pool of capital that the Canada Pension Plan creates is a huge one and is invested largely but not totally in projects and holdings across the country, whether they be infrastructure projects, shopping centres or in the financial markets of the country and, indeed, abroad. It has all of those elements to recommend it, but that's not the proposal that came forward in December in Victoria.
What this act does…. It's not clear in the detail, but it begins to set a legislative framework for what are called pooled registered pension plans. I mentioned that earlier in my remarks, but the idea would be that these would be a possibility of a national program, typically provided by banks and insurance companies. Their analysis would suggest that their provision of pension services is relatively more expensive.
The Canada Pension Plan administrative costs are about 20 basis points. That's 1/5 of 1 percent. Insurance company direct contribution plans are 60 basis points, RRSPs at 92 basis points and mutual funds at 160 basis points. The Canada Pension Plan, relative to any other form of pension plan, is very efficient and cost-effective on the administrative side.
The for-profit pooled registered pension plan would consist of — and this act would enable…. These are, I think, envisaged as multi-jurisdictional — for example, the National Life Co. One can well imagine some of the big ones like Sun Life or Manulife would offer these plans if the legislation passes.
They would work in the following way. They would be defined contribution plans. Really, essentially they're another voluntary savings vehicle. They're a little bit different from an RRSP, but one can gather from what I've said about the unused contribution room in RRSPs that voluntary savings plans have the problem that people can choose or not to participate in them, and when they don't, their ability to draw on those savings for retirement obviously doesn't exist.
Employers would be able to sign their employees up in the plan, for the scheme. Self-employed workers would be able to register, as well, but would not be required to contribute to the plan. Employers will select the plan for their employees, but they will apparently be able to stop offering the plan if they choose to. According to the bill that's before the federal House, employee contributions to these plans would be locked in, and the administrator of the plan, the financial institution, would decide the contribution rates.
The tax rules would apply to both federally and provincially regulated pooled registered pension plans. The contributions would be invested by the insurance company. They would be regulated by pension authorities such as the scheme that we're talking about here that's before the House in this bill. But they may not be consistent from province to province. I appreciate that there's been an effort to make these rules consistent with Alberta because there was a joint review, but that may be as far as it goes.
A number of issues arise about the effectiveness of it, but I think the summary point on that is that it would be more costly than the Canada Pension Plan, and it would be, really, another voluntary savings plan which is unlikely to succeed. Really, it can only succeed if it's mandatory, and that's not the intention.
The employer will be entitled to do something that is called auto-enrol employees and allow employees to set their contribution equal to zero. That would increase the number of participants, but setting the contributions at zero really is only nominal participation in the plan. That
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will be facilitated by this legislation, but the framework for jointly sponsored plans and multi-jurisdictional plans such as this needs to be disclosed. It's not disclosed in detail in the legislation.
I know that one is optimistic that we will get to committee stage, but given that the session is winding down and there is likely to be further legislation of a major type…. I'm expecting legislation on the provincial sales tax, which I expect there will be some opportunity to debate. So the legislative agenda will become very crowded towards the end of the session, as it usually does — at least in recent years.
There are other questions that arise here in the bill. The role of the fiduciary is an important one, and there has been much debate in the world of pension administration. In section 60 this bill essentially repeats the language of the previous act referring to…. I'm looking at subsection 60(1): "Investments, including loans, and financial decisions respecting a pension plan must be made (a) in accordance with this Act and the regulations, and (b) in the best financial interests of plan members and other persons entitled to benefits under the plan."
The concern is — this is raised by pension trustees and by those in the business of administering pensions — that sometimes, and in fact frequently, those who advise pension plans interpret that language of "best financial interests" in a very narrow way.
They're advised, for example…. I'm quoting from a letter to the Pension Review by Laura O'Neill, who is director of law and policy for SHARE, the Shareholder Association for Research and Education. She says that they are advised, for example, that if they believe the consideration of an entity's strategy for dealing with environmental challenges and opportunities is crucial to the performance of an investment in it, considering these circumstances could leave them liable to charges of a breach of their duties simply because it was not a line item in the most recent financial statements of the investment vehicle.
The concern is that the pressure to adopt a very narrow interpretation of the fiduciary duties of trustees prevents them from considering environmental, social and governance considerations of the investments that they're going to make. One way this has been dealt with is in legislation in Manitoba, which has…. I'm going to suggest that this is a recommended suggestion by the same writer. Basically, it clarifies that the best financial interests don't "preclude trustees from considering environmental, social and governance criteria as part of the investment decision-making process…such that considerations are made in the overall context of fiduciary responsibility and the tests of prudence otherwise applicable to trustees."
That would give that assurance to trustees, particularly since many trustees in the pension world, particularly in the union pension world, are laypeople, and they're particularly concerned to do their duty and wary of breaching their duty. So they opt, on advice, for the most conservative interpretation of the rules, which might preclude them from investing in a way that might take those kinds of considerations into account.
There are many legitimate considerations of an environmental, social and governance consideration that should apply to investments that a pension fund might make — whether it's, in the case of some companies, with corruption, overcharging, misreporting, astronomical executive pay, environmental degradation, economic hollowing and inequality.
There's a fairly broad movement across investment classes and across many countries to incorporate that into investment decisions. Indeed, I think, if I can cite the Canada Pension Plan, those considerations actually, if they're taken, improve the investment performance of the pension plan.
The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Policy on Responsible Investing clearly reflects the board attentiveness to what are called ESG factors — that is, environmental, social and governance considerations. I'm going to read from their policy of responsible investing. "Recognizing that the importance of ESG" — environmental, social and governance — "factors varies across industries, geography and time, responsible corporate behaviour with respect to ESG factors can generally have a positive influence on long-term corporate performance."
So this mechanism is incorporated into statutes from across OECD countries — perhaps most notably in the redefinition or the clarification of the definition of the fiduciary. Then disclosure of the criteria on which these investments are made is something that's done in many countries, most notably in the United Kingdom and now adopted by seven other OECD countries in their pension requirements.
By virtue of disclosure — and this is not in this legislation, regrettably — pension funds must "disclose the extent to which, if any, environmental, social and governance considerations are taken into account in the selection, retention and management of investments." It's also an important part of the United Nations principles for responsible investing.
Both the redefinition of the fiduciary and adoption of a disclosure of the principles upon which the pension plan makes its investments have the effect of influencing, in my view, investment decisions in a way that has a long-term social, economic and governance benefit that is not included in this legislation. So an opportunity, notwithstanding the consultation that's taking place, seems to have been missed here.
I do want to comment before I conclude on a couple of the other items mentioned by the minister and drawn to my attention in the course of preparing my comments here today.
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One issue that arose, particularly during the financial crisis, was that I got requests from people who wanted access to what's called a locked-in RRSP. In other words, they'd made contributions, and the rules of the RRSP required that they were not entitled to withdraw their contributions from the RRSP, notwithstanding their personal circumstance, which sometimes had dramatically changed.
The contributions in the locked-in RRSP may well have been the only money that they had, but the rules didn't permit that. Other provinces permit that, and that, I think, was the subject of questions that I've asked to the Finance Minister in previous years.
There is a concern about striking the balance in the sense that if people withdraw moneys put aside for retirement, then, when they come to retire, obviously they're not available and then they may fall back on state benefits, which is probably not in the long-term interest of the financial health of the public pension plans. Nonetheless, I think what other provinces permit is that where there is a demonstration of financial hardship, people are entitled to withdraw a portion from a locked-in RRSP, and on balance I support that.
The other issue that is raised here is the effect of the target benefit plans. Generally, as the minister said, they already exist in fact in some ways. The solvency test, given its structure in the old act, has worked a real hardship on some plans where dramatic declines in investment values have led to a reduction in benefits, and without any real choice, trustees are obliged to do that. The target benefit plan may provide a little bit more of a balance in terms of dealing with those problems in a more volatile market.
The minister has mentioned suspending membership in a plan. It's not clear what that term means. It appears to be analogous to a mortgage holiday that some financial institutions offer. In other words, if you're in some kind of financial difficulty, you can suspend your mortgage payments and then resume them later on. That requires further definition. If we get to committee stage, that's a question that I would have.
The other question I would have is…. It's not clear what the significance is in the way that the legislation has separated multi-employer plans based on whether or not they were collectively bargained. The legal significance of that is not apparent upon a quick review of that. I would say also — I may have touched on this earlier — that given the federal government moving towards the PRPPs, that legislation coming forward, the framework for jointly sponsored plans and multi-jurisdictional pension plans needs to be disclosed in order to be better understood, in order to guide the pension administrators and those who participate in those plans.
So the legislation, at first blush, doesn't appear to raise, beyond those questions, any significant red flags. I think it's regrettable that some of the changes that could have been made in terms of advancing environmental, social and governance investment policies — that opportunity wasn't taken.
The debate about the Canada Pension Plan as an adjunct to private plans, the second pillar as it were, is not a debate that's over. Many private plans integrate an increase in Canada Pension Plan benefits, and then there's a complementary reduction in the payment paid to a member of a private plan so that that would ease, in the long run, some of the financial pressure on private plans, because the two payments are integrated to achieve a certain pension target.
Those are the comments that I had. I hope that we get to committee stage, because a bill of this complexity is better dealt with there. I fear that we won't, given the past history, but I suppose one can remain ever optimistic about these things, and I look forward to that opportunity should it arise.
With those remarks, I conclude.
S. Fraser: I'm going to take my place in the debate on Bill 38, second reading, Pension Benefits Standards Act. It's a lengthy bill. It's almost 100 pages — 177 sections. We haven't had much time, certainly, to review that in any detail. I will echo my colleague the critic's statements that we might hopefully get into committee stage on this and get some more clarification.
I'd say, for me, it seems like a very complex piece of legislation. It's sweeping changes. The pension act is essentially rewritten in this act. It gives the authority to the B.C. superintendent of pensions on a number of issues, and the superintendent, in turn, regulates the provincial pension plans, such as in this case where I'm going to be speaking to, Catalyst Paper's pension plan.
Again, I haven't had time to review the bill with any real detail to find out how or if this will have any effect on the situations happening with Catalyst Paper right now. Catalyst Paper is under creditor protection. It's an issue that has been raised in this Legislature by my colleagues and myself.
The members for Cowichan Valley, Powell River–Sunshine Coast, North Island and myself, for Alberni–Pacific Rim, certainly have been trying to get the government to take some sort of action, bring in a fact-finder to try to do something, to try to avoid the spectre of losing so many hundreds of good-paying, family-supporting jobs that Catalyst Paper provides and, of course, the economic stimulus that comes out of that.
Of course, those issues — I think we know that well. We've canvassed that well here in question period, although we never got any real answers from the Minister of Jobs, Innovation and Tourism. Is that…?
B. Ralston: Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.
S. Fraser: It's Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. Thank
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you very much to the critic.
We're still hopeful that the government will show some leadership in working with Catalyst, with the employees, with the union and also with the pensioners in this case. The ripple effect to the entire industry of losing that company — because it's all linked — would be devastating for certainly the whole coastal forestry operation, not just for those employees or former employees of Catalyst Paper but for all the communities involved. With that, I'm going to be speaking on Bill 38.
I would comment that in other parts of Canada, in other provinces, when this sort of thing is happening, other provincial governments have taken action to try to find solutions. There used to be a job commissioner at one point in time, I know, in the province of British Columbia that helped, that tried to work with employers and employees to try to avert the potential disaster that can happen if you lose such a large employer and all of the devastation that it causes in all of the communities. We don't have that here in B.C., and we don't seem to have a government that's taking any action.
I would like to comment on just what the situation is with Catalyst Paper as it affects pensioners. I'm hoping that there's something in Bill 38 that will provide some comfort to those pensioners.
Just for the record, there are approximately 1,477 defined benefit members with Catalyst Paper Corp. Those would be salaried employees. That's 79 active employees, 203 deferred pensioners and 1,195 pensioners receiving benefits.
The problem right now is that the company is under creditor protection. There's a vote later this month, around midmonth. It's been deferred. The Supreme Court has ordered this restructuring of the company, and right now it's in the hands of the bondholders, the shareholders, the investors — the creditors for Catalyst in essence.
If they vote to take the restructure plan that Catalyst has put forward, which is what we're hoping the government will help with here, to show some sign of support for that, then the pension situation should be a stable one, I think, for those who are already receiving pensions or are going to be coming up to be eligible for the pensions with Catalyst Paper.
However, if the unthinkable happens and that restructuring plan is not accepted later this month, it does bring in the potential for the dismantling of the company. Nobody wants to see that happening — certainly none of the employees, none of the pensioners, none of the communities. The provincial government shouldn't want to see that happen either.
If that happens, there is a significant problem relating to the pensions. In essence, the company, Catalyst Paper, has been allowed to defer payments into the pension plan. I would note that there are responsibilities of the superintendent of pensions, and there are changes or amendments within Bill 38. I'm hoping we can probe this further in more detail in committee stage, if we should get there. One of the responsibilities for the superintendent of pensions is promoting the security of pension plan benefits and rights provided to British Columbia pension plan members by the PBSA.
In essence, that hasn't happened. The superintendent has allowed a steady underfunding of the pension plan. The pension liability was around $40 million in 2003. But by 2010, after the financial crisis of 2008, that liability, that shortfall in the pension plan was allowed to reach $73.5 million. That's a big problem.
Now there's been a reassessment for 2011, and that shortfall in the pension plan has been allowed to grow to $118 million. So if you are a current retired employee with Catalyst Paper right now and you are receiving a pension that you've paid into for your whole career, if the unthinkable happens and Catalyst goes down, there could be up to a 35 percent cut in those pension benefits for the employees and the pensioners. A devastating hit.
We've seen such things with Pope and Talbot — big cuts to pension plans for the employees or retirees. Similarly, Nortel; everyone knows how that worked. I'm hoping that some of the problems that were created, I think, by allowing the shortfall to occur…. The superintendent's responsibility was to protect the British Columbia pension plans for the members, but that hasn't happened here.
There was an evaluation of the pension system done in 2007. Those numbers were held as a rationale, from what I can see, for the superintendent to allow a continued underpayment by Catalyst to that pension plan. In 2008 we had a whole different world with the collapse of the economic system. The underfunding of the company pension plan was allowed to continue so that the numbers based on 2007 did not apply anymore. Yet they were allowed to apply, it looked like, for three years of continuing reduction in payments, underpayment in that pension plan.
So that shortfall will hit the employees and the pensioners directly in the pocketbook. Of course, it will also hit all the communities that those people have retired to. In many cases those employees have continued to live in the Alberni Valley, in my case, or the Cowichan Valley or Campbell River or Powell River. All of those communities would be facing a big hit in their economies because of, really, a failure of government, I think, to take adequate protection of their pension benefits.
I must say this spans federally too, but the federal NDP recently reintroduced its bill to put pensioners first when businesses go bankrupt. I think that is very supportable. The pensioners should not be at the bottom of the list. They should be at the top of the creditors lists. They have paid in.
They've spent a lifetime of working for the companies
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involved, in this case Catalyst Paper, and they deserve their pension benefits. They've put in their time, and they should not be relegated to the bottom of the deck when it comes to achieving what they deserve.
Catalyst is sitting with about $800 million in debt currently under that bankruptcy protection, as I mentioned. So the future is somewhat scary.
There are, I think, some bright lights here. I know that groups like the Catalyst Salaried Employees and Pensioners group are in discussions with Catalyst, and Catalyst itself has come up with some plans here.
I'm hoping that the minister would be willing to meet with the company and also with the pensioners group, hopefully to look at these solutions that are being proposed. The minister has just arrived. He can listen to this too. I'm also hoping that the company will try to work with Catalyst Paper. Bring in a fact-finder. It's not too late.
The date has been set back a couple of weeks now — to the middle of the month, to the middle of May — to deal with…. The 15th of May, the minister is informing me by very astute hand signalling. We're hoping for a good outcome of that vote on the restructuring.
I would like the minister and the government to take a more active role publicly so that those that will have the opportunity to vote — the creditors, the bondholders — will see, certainly, the symbolic support, at the very least, of this government for keeping Catalyst rolling.
A problem has been identified by Catalyst Paper. I'm not sure if Bill 38 will…. I'm going to assume that it is not retroactive in any way. But I'll stand corrected on that, and I will be probing that further, also, if we can get to committee stage on this bill.
A problem has been identified, as I pointed out. The underfunding of this pension plan has left a big shortfall — a $118 million shortfall. If the worst were to happen and the company were to go under and there's a dark horse bid — it's called a dark horse bid — that could come into place, it might be a problem for the company. That may lead to the problems we're trying to avoid with the pension plan.
But under the plan of arrangement, Catalyst, they're hoping, would continue the plan if they were able to get this restructuring voted on. However, the funding shortfall would remain and would continue to pose a pretty heavy financial burden on the company. Many plan members would continue to doubt the long-term security of these pensions.
If the plan is wound up following a failure of this restructuring of the company or, subsequently, while a shortfall remains, retirees would face a substantial cut. If it's a $118 million shortfall, that works out to about a 35 percent cut in their pensions. That's just what happened, as I mentioned, to Nortel and the Pope and Talbot employees and retirees in recent years.
The proposed solution that…. I'm hoping that the minister would be willing to work with company representatives and the retirees — and the employees, for that matter, as they will be facing a similar fate, should the worst happen.
Catalyst wishes to offer the plan members the option to surrender their lifetime pensions in exchange for a lump sum transfer from the plan in an amount of between 90 and 100 percent of the present value of the pensions. That's calculated using the going-concern measurement.
Plan members would not be obliged to take this transfer, but it would be made an option that could be used. If the plan of arrangements now before the company's creditors is implemented, the company and the plan would continue as going concerns after the lump sums are paid out to those who elected them. Catalyst would maintain the plan and pay down its remaining shortfall over 15 years. I think 15 years might be a bit of a problem for the association, for the retirees, but I'm hoping that that will be negotiated.
If the minister is able to meet with the parties…. If the plan of arrangement is not restructuring, such as it is…. If it's not implemented and the business is sold, plan members could take their lump sum out and get an annuity immediately. Staying with the plan, which would be turned over to a board of trustees, would be another option proposed by the company. That would be trustees appointed by and responsible to those plan members who did not elect the lump sum or annuity option.
I think the annuity option is the only option they have right now. That's pretty scary, because an annuity is based on interest rates. If you take your money out of a pension plan…. Obviously, keeping it as an RRSP, you're not paying taxes on it. But if you're just moving it to an annuity, the returns would be very, very low, considering the low interest rate. That's an option that's very difficult.
If we had a board of trustees to oversee the plan, the plan could then be maintained by the board of trustees, even following the demise of the company, if that were to occur. That would allow the members to annuitize at a later date, maybe when interest rates were better or more attractive. These measures would limit the downside risk for the plan members.
Now, I'm not sure. I'm hoping the minister will be able to inform if Bill 38 will allow for these kinds of changes to occur that would allow for these options to be made available through the company, through Catalyst Paper, to its employees and its retirees. The plan members would then have an option to stay in the plan or leave it, and the future of the remaining plan would be confirmed. Catalyst would reduce pension liabilities and improve payment terms, thus strengthening the company while ensuring that the plan member's security and choice have been enhanced.
I'm hoping that what Bill 38 will help lead to is enhanced security for pensioners in this province. Based on discus-
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sions with plan members to date, there is significant interest in the proposal from Catalyst.
Government, here's what the minister needs to do. Hopefully, we can get clarification of that through Bill 38, certainly in committee stage. It would be requested that this government…. Right now there's a regulation. The regulation is a barrier. The PBSA requires the funding of pension shortfalls over a short five-year time frame. That's section 41. It does not permit pension plan amendments that reduce pensions. That's section 59. It does not permit plan members to assign, change, alienate or anticipate their pension benefits and provides that any agreement to do so is void. That's section 63.
Furthermore, the PBSA contemplates that plans that are no longer receiving contributions and for which the sponsoring employer is no longer in operation must be terminated and wound up — that's in section 48 — and does not contemplate the appointment of a board of trustees in such circumstances. That's a problem. These provisions stand in the way of the Catalyst Paper proposed solution.
With that in mind, what I'm hopeful for and trying to get on record here is that the minister has been listening to these concerns put forward, certainly, by the employees and by the salaried pensioners and that the options that are being proposed by Catalyst Paper for the government to make changes will be facilitated through Bill 38.
I'm hopeful that we'll get that clarification and hopeful that the Minister of Finance will work with Catalyst and the retirees — that is, the Catalyst Salaried Employees and Pensioners group — to come to a viable solution, to make sure that everybody is protected so that they can have happy retirement years. I'm also hoping to head this off from even happening — that the government will step up and publicly work closely with Catalyst, with the employees and with the pensioners to help secure a successful bid later this month that will allow this company to continue and allow the thousands of jobs involved to continue and allow the pensioners to live out their pensions with security.
With that, Madam Speaker, I will take my seat.
R. Cantelon: I'm here to speak in support of Bill 38. In reference to the member opposite's comments, I can say, too, that I've met with the employees of Catalyst and the members of various ministries. I do want to report, for the member opposite's benefit, that there's been great cooperation between the superintendent of insurance, superintendent of finances and the employees and that everything that can be done within the interpretations of the current act and standards has been done.
On May 15, of course, it will go to the shareholders. We hope to reach an accommodation wherein the interests of the retirees, of the pension plan holders, can be accommodated in a way that can be embraced by the people who are going to vote on the issue.
Without being broadly specific…. I know that the member opposite is very well aware of these things. They've made a presentation to me. I've actually just recently come from a meeting with the various Ministers of Finance, and I'm quite optimistic that we will be able to move forward in a positive way. But the outcome still remains in doubt. We can hope for the best.
Aside from the specific comments, I think the case in point raises some very significant issues. This is one of the reasons that this act is required to be modernized. It is and has been out of step with the needs of pensioners, particularly those pensioners in the forest industry. We've often met with many of them who've found themselves at a disadvantage as plans wrap up, with options that tie their hands.
We've often heard reference to, in the business world, the golden parachute, where people receive a great remuneration at the end of their careers and get paid off. But it seems to me that very often the pension plans have been more like golden shackles, where the employees, the executives, the talent that are raised in British Columbia, particularly in the forest industry, that are very effective in expanding the forest industry, are kept to their jobs with the promise of pension plans once they retire and rely on that security.
That security is not always been forthcoming. In fact, au contraire. Very often they find they're disappointed when they reach the pensionable years and receive a fraction of what they expected to get.
These plans will enable new options such as targeted benefit plans and improved disclosure requirements. The targeted pension plans, given the uncertainties in the interest rates, the uncertainty of the stock markets…. It can no longer be broadly assumed that the plans will reach a certain level that will be able to pay a defined benefit. This enables the employees and the employers full disclosure along the way to develop plans that are more flexible that target for certain incomes but recognize the limitations in today's different world — that you cannot necessarily achieve the types of fixed benefits or defined benefits that you hoped to do.
I think, certainly, some of the most fair aspects of this…. The key change will be the move to immediate entitlement of employer-paid benefits. I think that's an absolute critical thing. It basically eliminates…. I worked for a company where you had to be with the company ten years before the employee's contributions were vested in their own pension plan. Basically — talk about golden shackles — you were stuck. You couldn't move. If you left, then you walked away from your benefits.
Now under this act the immediate entitlement will be to the employer's paid contributions as well as your own. This means that members will be entitled to their entire accrued benefit upon terminating at any time. That, I think, is one of the most critical aspects of this bill. There
[ Page 11425 ]
are many others. I'm not a financial expert, and if I were, I could probably talk at great length. But some of the key elements like this, like the flexibility….
Also, we'll be working with other jurisdictions to make sure that our pension administration mirrors those in other jurisdictions. We've been working with Alberta for some time on preparing the White Paper which is the foundation of this legislation and which will greatly improve the benefits, rights, entitlements and disclosure to the employees. I think that's absolutely critical as people build their careers and build their retirement planning.
C. Trevena: I take my place here in the debate on Bill 38, the Pension Benefit Standards Act, which actually repeals the existing Pension Benefits Standards Act and replaces it with a new one.
It is, as my colleague from Alberni–Pacific Rim spoke about, a very dense bill. Like my colleague from across the floor the member for Parksville-Qualicum, I'm not a financial expert, but I think that we are all incumbent to talk about certain issues that definitely concern our constituents. Pensions are of great interest to many, many people. It's something we've been hearing about nationally. It's something that's very much in the public discourse.
In my own constituency, like the previous two members, I've got real concerns about what's going to happen to those people who worked many years for Catalyst and are now seeing the possibility of losing up to 35 percent of their pension. When you've been working all your life and been expecting to plan for retirement, knowing that this is what you're likely to be getting, because of the vagaries of the way that markets work, the way that pensions have been funded…. Until you get such a massive shortfall that you could lose that much of your pension…. It is a real issue.
I want to talk a little bit about that, but I also want to talk, as I mentioned, about pensions and the importance of pensions.
I remember, we would go back in our…. Part of our education had a real impact. For me, it was my history classes when, I guess — I was coming up in the British system and doing my O-levels — I was at about grade 9. We were studying the 19th century, what was happening in Britain in the 19th century and the social changes. One of the big impacts was at the turn of the 20th century in 1909, when we had the introduction of a public pension system.
It was so significant. It was actually brought in by a Liberal government, but it was a hugely significant step in starting what became, really, the welfare state in the U.K. and the recognition that people needed financial support so they wouldn't have to work all their lives.
I think that this is something which is forgotten nowadays. Here we are, a century later, over a hundred years later, and people are very dismissive about pensions, on the whole. They talk about: "Oh, people have these big pensions" and "We have this pension, and what right…?" I think that it's very worrying, this undermining of the reason why we have pensions in the first place. The reason we have pensions in the first place, whether it's somebody who has been working or somebody who has not been working, is to guarantee that there will be security in their old age.
People who have been working have largely contributed to a pension plan. They're also expecting that security.
I find it very troubling that we're starting to see a shift in the way that we're talking about pensions, going from the defined pensions — when you could count on having a payment and you knew what it was going to be; you could put the contributions in, whether it was a private pension or the public pension, and you knew what you were going to get — into this more…. The undefined.
My colleague across the floor from Parksville-Qualicum was talking about the assurance that pensioners need and talking about those from Catalyst. They are looking for some assurance. Then he starts mentioning about the targeted pension. If you're talking about a target in a pension, you are losing the assurance. You're not going to have a guaranteed amount that you can be working on.
I think there's going to be a real concern as the debate evolves and how we go forward with pensions evolves. When we lose the defined nature of them and the fact that seniors can't count on them, that when you're working towards your pension, you can't count on it, it's very troubling.
We've already seen the growth of the private pensions and using RRSPs as a way to fund your retirement. I think, if anything, the vagaries of the last four years have shown us that that is really a very dangerous way that people are trying to secure their future, trying to secure that time when they are no longer able to work or no longer want to work. People shouldn't have to work right until their last years.
Again, I go back. That's why we had the social pension system. That's why we had the public pension system. That's why I think the defined system, where people know exactly what they're going to get at the end, is so important.
I think that one of the pieces in this act that may be coming up and also in relation to the federal changes is the…. My colleague from Surrey-Whalley, the Finance critic, was talking about this earlier. That is the pooled registered pension plan idea, which really doesn't give defined benefit. I think this is, again, a real problem. You can't have defined benefit.
I guess I must have been in my teens when my parents were looking towards their retirement. My mother was suddenly very aware that she, as a woman who had earned a low salary for many years, had the opportunity in a defined plan to give extra contributions to. She
[ Page 11426 ]
thought it was worthwhile, because she knew it was going to ensure a better quality of life for her when she was retired. She knew that there was a defined plan and that there was the possibility to increase in benefits.
But when you're talking about these pooled registered plans, you don't have that opportunity. You don't have the defined segment of it. There's no required employer contribution, which is, again, very worrying because part of a good quality pension is that you as an individual earning money put money in, your employer puts money in, and you can pool that and get good returns. If you take that out, that is really very troubling.
The other area which is, again, very significant is that there is no indexing for inflation. If you can't have that, you're automatically going to be losing money. I mean, even with inflation at 1 percent, we're talking…. People are living longer. If you retire at 65, by the time you're 85, your pension has been severely eroded with even a small amount of inflation. Inflation exists. We've seen how costs have risen, whether they are good or bad, over the last few years. I mean, in B.C., whether it's the new carbon tax we've had or the increases in other taxes — you're paying more if you're going to provincial parks — costs rise. The fact that there is no inflation indexing is also troubling.
There are real problems for the pooled plan if this is the way we're going to go. I think we really should be looking at the more defined plans and having the guarantee that when you're contributing, you're not going to be losing out. I think this is a serious problem that we face in Canada, and the Catalyst scenario highlights it so fundamentally.
We did see it with Nortel before, and we have seen it with AbitibiBowater before that — also the chronology of it. Now we are seeing it with Catalyst. Pensioners are at the bottom of the list when a company goes bankrupt. If that happens to Catalyst, they are the unsecured creditors. They are right at the bottom of the list for any payouts.
I mean, that is the worst-case scenario where everybody is hoping that the old Catalyst will continue and that we can continue having that. In the meantime, what we have seen in Catalyst…. I know that the Minister of Finance has got as many letters as I have, because he's copied on them all. I'm being copied as the constituency MLA. But they are directed to the Minister of Finance, and my colleague from Surrey-Whalley, our Finance critic, is also copied on them.
What is happening at Catalyst has been an underfunding of their pension scheme, and that underfunding in the present situation could leave the retirees there, as my colleague from Alberni–Pacific Rim mentioned, with a 35 percent shortfall. Now, how did this come about?
This was because the superintendent of pensions allowed the company to underfund the pension. Now, this bill that we're talking about, Bill 38, the Pension Benefits Standards Act, is what gives the superintendent of pensions the authority to act. The superintendent of pensions regulates the provincial plans, and that includes Catalyst. Under the responsibilities of the superintendent of pensions is "promoting the security of pensioner plan benefits and rights provided to British Columbia pension plan members by the Pension Benefits Standards Act," which we are discussing now and which is going to be renewed.
Just a bit of quick chronology, Madam Speaker. In 2009-2010 Catalyst was facing massive problems. It still is facing more severe problems. As I say, it's in bankruptcy protection at the moment, facing severe problems, and in fact it was at this time that the Elk Falls mill in Campbell River closed. It had been shut down for some time, and it eventually closed in 2010.
At that time the superintendent of pensions, who has the authority to regulate and provide for the security of pension plans in B.C., gave Catalyst extensions to the time they had to make up the underfunding of the plan. Despite many extensions over this period, Catalyst didn't make up that shortfall. So now the pension plan is underfunded by $118 million. It's a significant amount of money that the company has not paid into the pension plan.
Catalyst debts are about $800 million, and they are looking at restructuring them. But as one of the former employers described it to me one time, effectively what they're seeing is a stacked deck. It's all working against the pensioners. They see that they are at the bottom of the list. As I say, they are the unsecured creditors. They are the ones who, if the pension continues to be unfunded in this way, are going to be facing that shortfall and going to be facing a reduction by 35 percent.
We're not talking about people…. The member opposite was describing the golden parachute, the — I was going to say payoff, but not the payoff — big rewards that many executives get. We're talking about somebody who maybe worked in reception, somebody who was a secretary, somebody who worked their life for a company, worked many years, and expected to have retirement pay.
Not big. These are, at times, small pensions. We're maybe talking about $20,000 a year. It's not the golden handshake, Madam Speaker. It is subsistence living for many of them, but it's going to be…. It could be cut. That's what we should be addressing in this House and through this bill.
I hope the Finance Minister will be addressing it and, along with his colleague the minister for Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, looking at ways to ensure that the pensioners are protected. Hopefully, Catalyst can continue work, because the impact, if Catalyst folds, on many communities on the coast would be significant. But the impact of these pensions disappearing would be very significant also.
There are many people…. Catalyst in Campbell River…. Elk Falls closed a couple of years ago. Many re-
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tirees, many of the pensioners, stayed in Campbell River.
It's a very comfortable, attractive, pleasant place to live. People want to stay there. They're happy to live there. They were good, family-supporting jobs they had when it was working, and when they retired, it's a place that people wanted to stay.
So the impact, not only the mill closing but the compounded impact…. I mean, the impact of the mill closing on the economy has been huge. It's been vast.
I think in many ways we're still seeing many of the ripple effects. We are still seeing that people are going, basically, to the tar sands. They're going up to the oil and gas area in the northeast of B.C. They're going over to Alberta to work. We are seeing other people sort of trying to regenerate the economy. We are trying to rebuild the community. We're looking at the changing face of the community, but there is no doubt that the impact of the closure of the mill was significant.
The secondary impact of the loss of the pension income, if that happens, will also be significant. Even though pensioners are on a fixed income, and we know that they're not the big spenders, the loss of even more money going into the community is going to have, as I say, a significant impact. It's really a double whammy for the community.
We on this side of the House have raised the question of what's going to happen for the Catalyst retirees. We've been asking questions both in question period — and colleagues have asked in the estimates process, where we have more time to ask the ministers questions — and through debate. Asking government to try and help out, to try and make sure that we can protect these pensions, to see whether it's through looking at detail in this bill, whether we can do it through this bill, or whether the government should step in.
Just a quote from one retiree from Elk Falls. Terry Stewart has been very active in the pensioners' situation with Catalyst, the Catalyst pensioners. He says: "So the question is: what is the government doing to move the process along on an expedited basis? What we need as pensioners is to know that all parties — Catalyst, pensions, and the B.C. government — are agreeing to alter the pension law in some way such that forced annuity purchase at windup is relaxed or replaced with something more rational."
They need assurances. They need action. This is something that is really going to have a huge impact across the province if action isn't taken and if the worst case scenario happens — that they end up with that 35 percent cut in their pension, at least, and we don't get the situation solved.
I know that some of these issues are federal issues, and the question of pensioners being at the bottom of the heap is a federal issue. The pensioners should not be at the bottom of the heap. I'm very pleased that our colleagues, the official opposition in Ottawa, have taken this on and have said that they're going to continue to fight this and reintroduce their bill to make sure that it happens.
As I started my remarks and as I wind up my remarks, pensions are not to be played with. They're not to be toyed around with. They're not to be dismissed. The reason that we have pension systems, whether it's the public pension system or pensions that guarantee retirees a fixed amount every week or every month, is because we have to ensure that people aren't working until their last breath.
We have got to ensure that people have that ability to retire. It is a cruel world if seniors are expected to work right until they're retired. It's a cruel world where seniors are expected to live in poverty because they didn't have the benefit to either work throughout their lives…. There are many women who, we know, find themselves in poverty. It's a cruel world to have their issues dismissed as not relevant and as unimportant.
I think that this is a very important bill. I've been looking forward to hearing the debate when we get to the committee stage and getting some more clarity on the various sections of it. I think that we should all be defending the pension systems where we can, and I would hope that this bill is used as a real stepping stone to deal with the very imminent issue of what is happening to those many pensioners who work for Catalyst, who are very worried about their future.
With that, I'll take my place and let others join the debate.
Deputy Speaker: Seeing no further speakers, the minister will close debate.
Hon. K. Falcon: I appreciate the comments that I heard in second reading. I think I could summarize by saying that we want to see a situation in British Columbia where employers are providing pension plan opportunities to their employees. One of the grave concerns I have is that, particularly with respect to defined benefits plans, this is something that is becoming a very, very rare situation because employers are so concerned about the potential for exposure and the unfunded liabilities that can build up under defined benefit plans.
So having choices available for employers that will provide these opportunities to employees, I believe, is really very, very important — maybe some of the most important public policy areas that we can work together to provide for the benefit of workers.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Bill 38 does that. It achieves a number of other initiatives in terms of disclosure — ensuring that employee members understand exactly what kind of plan they
[ Page 11428 ]
operate under, understand what rights they have — and improving provisions around hardship and some of the lock-in provisions. All members of this House, I'm sure, have received letters from various retired pensioners that have been suffering financial hardship and are unable to access dollars out of their locked-in pension assets. This provides opportunities for those kinds of situations to be dealt with.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to moving towards committee stage. On that note, I move second reading.
Hon. K. Falcon: I move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting after today.
Bill 38, Pension Benefits Standards Act, 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. T. Lake: I now call for second reading debate on Bill 39, intituled Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act.
BILL 39 — EMERGENCY INTERVENTION
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: I move that Bill 39 now be read a second time.
Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister.
Hon. M. MacDiarmid: We are all enormously appreciative of the contributions our first responders make in communities all over B.C. By the very nature of their jobs, they're at higher risk of coming into contact with other people's bodily fluids, putting them into a situation where they could be exposed to a serious communicable disease like hepatitis B or C, or HIV/AIDS. That's why we've drafted Bill 39, the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act.
Before I go into the specifics of the legislation, I'd like to give you an example of what could happen at any accident scene anywhere in the province. Let's say a paramedic receives a call to attend to an unconscious person. As they're checking the patient for vital signs, the patient suddenly wakes up and in a panic stabs the paramedic with a needle they grab from the ground.
Now, let's just stop right there. At this moment there is only one thing happening in the paramedic's mind, and that is panic. Of course, the paramedic continues to tend to the patient, but in the back of his mind he wonders: "Does this person have a communicable disease?" It's a frightening scenario for anyone to consider.
[D. Black in the chair.]
The difficult truth is that currently, in some cases, these workers cannot determine with certainty whether they've been exposed to danger until many months later. Because of this doubt, workers and their families carry the mental burden of uncertainty for months.
Our government knows that we can do better for our first responders, and that's why this legislation enables emergency workers to get a court order to require individuals to give a blood sample if one is not voluntarily given.
Now, let me be perfectly clear. This legislation will almost certainly very rarely be used, and in fact, this type of legislation already exists in a number of other Canadian provinces. We know that Alberta's legislation has only been used twice since it came into effect five years ago.
What this legislation will do is encourage voluntary testing as a first step, and even if a voluntary sample is not agreed to on the spot, the source individual will have more opportunities to voluntarily provide one before being ordered to do so. However, if a court order is granted and the individual still refuses to give a sample, this legislation sets out monetary penalties — up to $10,000 for every day the order is ignored.
These fines will also apply to anyone who contravenes the legislation's confidentiality provisions. That's a very important point that I'd like to talk about for a moment.
With this bill, we wanted to ensure that we supported the health and well-being of our first responders while at the same time ensuring private information is shared in confidence only. We took a look at the legislation in other Canadian provinces, and we improved on those established safeguards to provide even better privacy protection for everyone involved.
I want to assure all members of this House that no personal information about either party, other than the results, will be provided to the applicant or source individual. Test information will be communicated through physicians only, and test results will not be made public.
In addition, there are safeguards in this legislation to ensure the court is satisfied that the information cannot be obtained in any other way. The legislation also makes it clear that taking a sample cannot endanger the life or health of the source individual.
Bill 39 is about ensuring a worker can determine in a timely fashion whether or not he or she has been exposed to a communicable disease. In the unfortunate case that a worker does fall ill as a result of his or her work, this legislation provides the ability to more easily qualify for workers compensation benefits.
In the last 25 years WorkSafe B.C. has accepted 47 disease exposure claims from first responders. That's why a consequential amendment to the Workers Compensation Act will be made to provide a presumption of disease exposure.
What that means is that if the worker tests positive for
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a communicable disease carried by the source individual, and the worker was working at the time of the exposure, then it will be presumed the disease was a direct result of his or her work. That worker will be eligible for workers compensation benefits without having to provide additional medical or other evidence that the disease is work-related.
Finally, I want to point out a few technical details in this legislation. Bill 39 will apply to first responders such as police, firefighters and paramedics, as well as health care workers in situations where they are providing emergency care. It will also apply to good Samaritans, people who voluntarily assist people in distress. Regulation will be developed that will allow these provisions to apply to certain victims of violent crimes as well.
The regulation will also state which costs the applicant will pay for, as well as what government will pay for. As well, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C will be laid out in regulation as the diseases that should be tested for. By putting the list of diseases in regulation, we have the flexibility to add more in the future.
In closing, I want to thank the MLA for Kelowna–Lake Country for his work on this bill. He spent many hours hearing stories and talking with police, firefighters and paramedics across this entire province, and we appreciate the support they have given this bill.
We also appreciate the feedback we've received from other parties. I know there are some controversial aspects to this bill, and we understand the concerns. However, we will not compromise on supporting the health and well-being of our emergency workers.
Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing the contributions to the debate from the other hon. members on both sides of the House.
R. Chouhan: I rise also to support this bill. It's an important bill that we have in front of us, which we will be debating at second reading as well as later on at the committee stage.
The first responders have been asking for these protections for a long time. As the minister has said, many times they get into a situation with lots of risks of exposure to body fluids or some other….
First responders — when they attend to an emergency or a situation where their services are needed, their utmost concern is to protect that individual, to save lives. By doing so, many times they don't know what kind of situation they will be exposed to. As a result, it's important that we provide all the tools for them to protect themselves.
Although the bill that is in front of us, the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act, or any act of any kind can never be perfect, it's our responsibility, it's our duty, to make sure that certain steps are taken to ensure that people, when they need those protections, have the means to protect themselves.
The first responders are very professional people, as I indicated earlier. They have been asking both sides of the House to make sure that they have those necessary tools, if they need them.
We know from the experience of other provinces, which also have these laws, that this kind of legislation is very rarely used. I hope it will never be used in British Columbia, but if it becomes necessary that they need it, then they should have that tool. That's what I understand is the intent of this bill, Bill 39.
When these first responders attend to a situation, when they may be exposed to certain fluids that maybe contain certain pathogens…. As a result of that, one can understand the anxiety of first responders as to what could happen to their health later on.
How to protect themselves and their family members and all of that is very important for them to be concerned about. We must make sure that these first responders have the proper training and that they have the protection to protect themselves and to protect others.
Today we have seen a letter from Dr. Perry Kendall, the provincial health officer, who has sent this letter to everybody. He has raised some very important issues in his letter. We must pay attention to them. We cannot simply ignore them. I will just read a couple paragraphs from his letter. It says:
"All first responders should have received hepatitis B vaccine as a protective measure, and any blood exposure should be followed by administration of immune globulin and vaccine, if indicated, which virtually guarantees 100 percent protection from recent and future exposures."
He further says:
"Clearly, no exposed individual should be waiting to initiate appropriate post-exposure prophylaxis where that is available and indicated for HIV and HPV exposures. Waiting to know the infectious status of the blood to which one was exposed before initiating prophylaxis is contraindicated for HIV and HPV in that it would significantly increase risk."
Dr. Kendall also has said:
"I would therefore submit that the purpose of this proposed act can be better fulfilled by ensuring that exposed individuals have access to universal pre-exposure precautions; timely and appropriate post-exposure assessment and prophylaxis and counselling; and, most importantly, have access to timely PCR testing of their own blood to assess the outcome of any exposure."
We must address all of these points that Dr. Kendall has raised. I'm sure that's the intent of this bill. Maybe during the committee stage the minister will clarify as to what steps will be taken to ensure that these measures are available for the first responders — and for the public, for that matter.
At committee stage I will be seeking some clarification, because it seems like there may be some intended burdens that this bill might put on the applicant or the source person. The minister, hopefully, will clarify that that's not the case, though, and I look forward to that stage to have further debate with the minister. We will deal with them as soon as possible, because the first re-
[ Page 11430 ]
sponders have been waiting for this for a long time.
With that, I conclude my remarks. As I said, I will be supporting this bill. My colleagues also will be making some comments about this.
Deputy Speaker: I recognize the member for Kelowna–Lake Country. [Applause.]
N. Letnick: Thank you, hon. Speaker, and thank you to the members of the House on both sides for the warm welcome.
I'm not too sure how long this will take, but I understand I have 30 minutes. If I get close to the end, please let me know. I didn't time this, so I'm just going to wing it.
N. Letnick: I'm not the designated speaker, so I'll just start talking.
First of all, I would like to thank a number of people who were instrumental in bringing the bill to where it is today.
I'll start with Mike Hurley and the Professional Fire Fighters Association. I'd like to congratulate Mike on his election as president for another year — or condolences, depending how you look at it. I know that Mike has said that he's not too sure whether it's good news or bad news for him, but it is good news for all firefighters in the province of British Columbia.
Congratulations to Mike and to all the firefighters — professional, volunteer, fire chiefs — and everyone else that's involved with the firefighters of the province.
I'd also like to send out my thank-you to Larry Hollier, the president of my local firefighters association group. When I was first elected three years ago, he came with three other firefighters, if I remember correctly, to see the new MLA and said, as perhaps these firefighters have done for years on end to all MLAs: "We only have three things we want from you." One of the first things on the list was the right-to-know legislation.
So thank you to Larry and all the rest of the gang back home in Kelowna–Lake Country for introducing me to this need that they had, as a local constituent, and giving us in this Legislature the opportunity to serve them as they have so ably served us over the years.
I'd also like to thank a new friend, Bronwyn Barter, who is the president of the paramedic association of British Columbia. I've come to know Bronwyn now because of this bill. She is an outstanding person, citizen, and very well represents paramedics throughout British Columbia. With her support and encouragement, this bill has seen the floor of the Legislature.
So I'd like to thank her, as well, and all the paramedics throughout British Columbia who do a yeoman's job of making sure that if we have the need for a paramedic, they are there in an instant.
It was kind of interesting. Last night, after we had a caucus meeting, I was in my office, probably around 9:05 or 9:10. My office is against Government Street. All I heard was — bang! — a big bang, and then it sounded like a hubcap rolling down the street. I looked out, and indeed, there was an accident right at the corner of Superior here and Government. Within a matter of a minute the first people on the scene were paramedics, before anybody else showed up.
I'm thanking Bronwyn and all the paramedics throughout British Columbia for being there when we need them.
I'd also like to throw a big thank-you out to the Premier of British Columbia. This legislation was in big part the result of her, when she became Premier, asking private members to propose pieces of legislation and taking the leadership in that.
If it wasn't for that new Premier's attitude — for my part, a new government's attitude — in engaging British Columbians as she has done, through their representatives and private members, I don't know that this would be here today. So my thanks go to the Premier.
Also, of course, to the minister, who was given this bill to take forward. It's been a role that this minister has done a great job with, a great leader in her department, and she has really embraced this whole piece of legislation. Thank you to the minister for being such a great leader in this area.
And, of course, to the opposition for their support for the bill. It makes this job so much easier. Now we can continue together in seeing how the bill really works and making sure it works in the best interests of all emergency responders and others and the citizens of British Columbia out there. So thank you for that.
The staff have been amazing — everyone from Lorne Mayencourt, who helped a few of us sit down around a kitchen table over a year ago and put together all the pieces from all the different provinces and say: "What do we really want to accomplish in this bill, and how are we going to fashion a private member's bill that will see the light of day?"
Lorne has been just a great advocate for the bill and a great support, along with all the staff — too many to mention, so I won't. But they've been great, especially in the last few weeks.
The legal staff have taken two private members' bills…. As you might remember, it was introduced about a year ago. Then I had to reintroduce it because we prorogued parliament, so it had to be reintroduced, which actually was a good thing. I had a chance for five weeks during the summer to go around British Columbia in my Smart car, for the most part, puttering around and visiting fire halls and paramedic halls and talking to police….
[ Page 11431 ]
N. Letnick: Well, you know, it's a Smart car. It can go very quickly, especially downhill — 120 klicks sometimes downhill, pressing on the gas, with the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in the passenger seat. So he adds a little extra weight to it — not quite that speed, though, going uphill.
Anyway, it was a great trip around the province. It served many purposes. But most importantly, the primary purpose was to meet with people around B.C., especially firefighters, paramedics and police officers, and explain how the bill would work and get their input.
The second iteration of the bill that was introduced a little while ago had some amendments in it. The bill that's been introduced by government for the most part follows the principles that were identified in those two bills and listens very carefully to the requests of the first responders who, over the years, have asked for this piece of legislation.
Thank you to all those people that I've mentioned, and of course a big thank-you to my family who let me go away during the summer for five weeks.
Can you imagine yourself, hon. Speaker, in a situation where you're a peace officer…? In this case it was a female peace officer who relayed the story to me that she was bitten in a prison. There was a bodily fluid exchange transmission, and she had no way to compel the person that was in prison to tell her if they had a communicable disease. That was the end of the story.
She did go on to say that the relationship with her husband was stressed for obvious reasons. When you don't know if you have a disease such as a communicable disease, usually what that means — and I hope I'm allowed to be explicit — is that sexual relationships are compromised.
In the case of another woman that I met on the road, that meant for her that she could no longer breastfeed her child. These kinds of stories really hit home when you're talking to these people. You can understand why they want to see a bill such as this — first and foremost, to try to encourage the person that they've helped or been attacked by to voluntarily disclose. As you've heard already, 99 percent of the people do that. You talk to most people in the province, and they would say: "Of course I would tell someone."
Actually, the stories that you get are that most people, if they have a communicable disease, will say upfront that they have whatever it is. The first responder will recognize that through their comments.
But the first responders are also trained to make sure that they deal in a protective manner in any of those situations — how they deal with needles, when they're working with areas that have glass and when they're patting down someone's legs to see if they have a broken limb that they don't pat down a needle underneath the clothing. There's all kinds of training that they go through. That's important.
But every now and then, unfortunately, as we've seen across the country, there are instances when, no matter what the precautions, an accident happens. They put a needle in a bag, and it protected the sharpies, but for some reason an accident happens because they're working so fast. Or they step on a piece of glass that's full of blood. Or someone who has blood in their hair wakes up from being unconscious and shakes their head, and the blood flies everywhere, including in the person's eye. I can go on with all kinds of other stories, but you get the drift.
Whether it's an accident or a case of deliberate attack — as in the case of some people who would use a syringe full of their blood and threaten a first responder or in the case of someone who has been raped, where obviously there is a need to know as well — these stories really hit home.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Here's one from an IAFF Local 1253 member. Jeremy is from Cranbrook. Jeremy says:
"In my rookie year I responded to a medical call for an unconscious male who fell. On scene we found the patient hinged on the sidewalk and full of blood. I assumed c-spine and was supporting the patient's neck.
"During our treatment the patient regained consciousness and became quite aggressive. The patient ended up spitting a mouthful of blood and mucus into my mouth. The ambulance crew asked the patient if he had any communicable diseases, but the patient would not cooperate.
"This put a huge amount of stress and fear on me, my family and my co-workers. I could not begin testing until several days later. This process was not user-friendly. Without knowing for sure whether an exposure occurred or not, I was left continually wondering if I had enough tests and enough treatment. I had huge pressure develop at home because I didn't feel comfortable being close or intimate with my family.
"Being able to find a way of a patient test to find out for sure what an exposure was would have let me manage my family and expectations in a more certain manner. This makes me wonder why we are putting our lives on the line trying to save people if we can't be properly protected ourselves. I fully support the enactment of this disclosure act."
He was talking about the private member's bill, not necessarily this bill that's in front of us today.
Just on that point and to Dr. Kendall's comments, because the member of the opposition brought it up — again, the primary way that a first responder would use this current bill is not to force someone in the immediate time they got the exposure to divulge their particular testing results. The way it works is that they have to actually go in front of a judge. The current bill does not allow for a judicial justice of the peace to provide a tele-warrant, as the private member's bill did.
In this bill's case, what would happen is that if you are able to convince the source person — that's the person who has the blood that was sent over — to voluntarily disclose usually immediately, then you can make a decision based on that information, along with, of course, the advice of your doctor, as to whether or not you would
[ Page 11432 ]
want to start prophylactic treatments.
That's a decision that the applicant would make, along with their doctor. They could do so — and what Dr. Kendall is saying is that they should do so — if they believe they've been in contact with a communicable disease. Then their doctor and the applicant would have that particular knowledge and make that decision.
But if after they've started the treatments — or not started, depending on what the decision is — they still want to have the knowledge of whether they've received contact with someone with a communicable disease, they would then go in front of a judge. The judge would then balance the health and welfare of the source person to the health and welfare of the applicant. The judge would make the decision as to whether or not they would compel the source person to go and get tested — or provide the information, if they already know the information and do not need the test.
That's the way the bill works. For the most part, it helps involuntary disclosure. As the minister has already said, it's available in five provinces around the country. If you look going east — because that is the only way we go in British Columbia — it is in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. In Alberta they've used it twice. I understand in Ontario they might have used it about ten times since it has been enacted, but they have a population of around ten million people, so it's not used very much. As of May 30, 2010, only one court case has been done in five years in Saskatchewan.
Another story. Cheryl is a paramedic, and she says:
"I was an EMA for B.C. Ambulance and was cut by a piece of glass when I had previously contacted a patient's blood. We transported said patient to the emergency room, where both she and I were admitted. After washing and scrubbing with bleach and asking the doctor to request that she be tested for communicable disease, I was told that they would ask her, but if she said no, there would be nothing they could do.
"Even though she lived an at-risk lifestyle, she was not obligated to submit to blood work. The doctor in emergency took me to the quiet room, and he proceeded to tell me that I was now at risk for infection by HIV/AIDS and hepatitis and also other communicable diseases, known and as yet unknown.
"I would require frequent blood work, as would my close family members. Also, I must take precautions with my husband and use protection when we had sexual relations — for the rest of our lives. They also stated that my life could be shortened, if I didn't die by liver cancer before some time to come.
"I followed all of my doctor's suggestions, and when I asked him if he could find out the original patient's information so that he could test her for the gene virus, he found that he could not. Now, here I am years later, infected with hep C, diagnosed by Red Cross during a blood donation clinic, and am suffering from fibromyalgia.
"I am unable to work, and there's no way to prove that my virus was caused by that particular contact. Therefore, my circumstances are not part of the statistics, and I'm not entitled to compensation. I was forced to support my family on CPP disability payments of less than $10,000 a year. I am unable to acquire any insurance, and every health professional I see, even the ones to get my nails done, I am socially obligated to inform them that I have a blood-borne disease.
"My kids still require regular testing. I've had a liver biopsy and have regular blood work. Treatment is only available if my liver counts remain 200 percent higher than normal, which only occurred once for me, and then my counts lowered and became stable — as stable as it could be, infected with a replicating virus. Therefore, I am not eligible for treatment, though I am seen regularly, attending a clinic for those suffering from AIDS and other communicable diseases.
"I had taken all precautions and was accidentally infected through my work. My family has been affected in many ways, my life altered irreparably. Had I been able to show the connection between her virus and mine, my company may have been able to support me through my illness, my health care insurance would have continued, and my family and I would have had a better quality of life.
"I understand people have the right to control what happens to their own bodies. But if they are involved in a circumstance where their illness may have threatened the life of another, then they should be required to submit a sample of the virus for gene testing."
Anyway, she goes on. A very sad story.
The point that I want to mention here is that WorkSafe did not cover her. That's one of the important amendments to WorkSafe that this minister and government have provided in this legislation — the consequential amendment to the WorkSafe act, which would make the presumption that she would have gotten the hepatitis C infection on the job.
If this act was in place before she got infected, she would now have the benefit of those WorkSafe resources and, as you've heard, be able to help her family. Instead, she is in a very sad state of affairs. I have a whole bunch of other stories, hon. Speaker, but I think we get the gist of it.
The act is really one of respect for first responders — the firefighters; the paramedics; the peace officers, because it includes more than the police; the Good Samaritans who, for no reason that they've asked for, end up in a situation where they do what most of us would do, which is help someone and, on very rare occasions, would get a bodily fluid transmission and then, on rare occasions on top of that, would have someone who would not be willing to communicate whether or not they have a communicable disease.
It is with respect for them that we — and it sounds like together in this House — join five other provinces across the country. When you look at the Hansard records from those five provinces, you'll notice something very similar between our House and theirs. That is that in those five other provinces, every member of the House who got up to speak spoke in favour — both sides of the House. We're adding our voice to those voices from the rest of the country that we hear your cry, and we heed it.
I know that through the committee stage, the minister and the members of the opposition will have an opportunity to canvass some of the particular issues. I, of course, am not part of that, so if you don't mind, I'd like to address some of the specific issues in the bill. I assume that is okay at this stage of the bill.
One thing I'd like to bring up is the notice. The appli-
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cant must give at least three days' notice for the source person. This is different than what was in the previous private member's bill and, I think, an improvement. It's an improvement because it gives the source person an opportunity to reflect upon their decision as to whether or not they want to give voluntary information to the applicant and, therefore, have a serious impact on the applicant's decision.
I would imagine what will happen in most cases is that the applicant will get the information. But if they don't and they do start treatment, then the source person would have the opportunity at some point to voluntarily disclose and not have the need to go to court some weeks later in front of a judge to provide that information.
I'd also like to note that this particular legislation covers emergency health services. It covers firefighters, emergency medical assistants, peace officers and other people through circumstance while carrying out a prescribed activity. As the minister has mentioned, that will likely include other people — Good Samaritans and people who, unfortunately, are victims of crime — specified in the regulations that could use this legislation to go in front of the court.
Also in this same section, section 3(4), it says: "The court must hear an application for a testing order as soon as practicable...." That means whatever the court decides is "as soon as practicable." I'm not a lawyer or judge, but I would interpret that to mean within a matter of weeks. It would give the applicant some comfort in knowing that it will be soon, but they still have to make a decision based on advice from their doctor as to what their course of treatment should be in the meantime.
The testing order is an order that is made by a judge, by a court. If the court is satisfied of a number of provisions…. I'd like to highlight a few here. One provision is: "(c) there are reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant may have been exposed, as a result of the contact, to a pathogen that causes a prescribed communicable disease."
As I was touring the province, we talked about different cases. Some people would say: "What if I got blood on my arm?" Again, I'm not a doctor, but I said: "Based on my conversations, that wouldn't qualify. You have your training, and you have the prescribed methods that you are supposed to use to make sure that the blood on your arm, on your skin that is not cut, is taken care of. Or you should have your gloves on, and if the blood is on your glove, that is taken care of as well." That wouldn't qualify.
There are other cases that are a little higher — like, what happens if someone spits in my mouth? Again, I'm not a doctor, and I wouldn't presume to provide that kind of advice, but what I heard was that also wouldn't qualify because the saliva would make the pathogen inert.
It really is up to the court at that point to decide, based on expert advice — to determine at what point the likelihood of being infected is occurring. The most serious, of course, are the ones that you hear where someone has been injected by a needle through attack or through rape or through a needle prick, whether it's intentional or by accident. Or they have a cut through trying extricate someone, in the case of the firefighters on an accident scene, and that cut is mixed with the blood from, in this case, the source person. These are some of those instances when a court would have to decide whether or not there were reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant may have been exposed.
Another piece that the court must be satisfied is that "an analysis of the applicant's bodily fluids would not determine, in a timely manner, whether the applicant has been infected." So the court will look and say: "Well, you go get tested first. Before you ask the source person to go get tested, have you been tested, and has a test on yourself provided the information that you need?" The applicant would have to convince the court that it has not, and therefore, they need the source person's information.
Another item that the court would have to be satisfied is that "taking a sample of a bodily fluid from the source individual would not endanger the source individual's life or health." That ties in very carefully with the testing order. As well, it has to be impacting the life and health of the applicant. So it's a balance. It's the impact on the source person and the impact on the applicant that the court would have to weigh and say that there is an impact to the life or health of the source person compared to that of the applicant. This is another provision of this legislation.
Continuing on with the legislation, "Test results," section 8 says that as soon as reasonably possible after receiving the order, "the applicant's physician must notify the applicant of the test results."
In section 9 it talks about confidentiality. This was carefully canvassed throughout the province when I met with the source — the firefighters, paramedics and the police officers. That is, the intent of the legislation is if the judge says to the source person, "You must provide the information. If it's not already available, then go get tested," there is a very small loop of people involved with that — of course, the source person, their doctor, the testing facility, the doctor of the applicant and the applicant themselves.
That information is to remain confidential, and there are consequences if that information isn't confidential, if for some reason the applicant lets the information out. In a previous bill, the private member's bill, it was six months in jail or a $10,000 fine. In this one it's actually a $10,000 fine per day. That's in the case of an individual. So it's extremely important that the source person's information has remained confidential, and there is a heavy toll to be paid by the applicant if for some reason they choose to divulge that confidential information.
It's all about finding the balance. In the past there was
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no balance. It was all in favour of the source person. This bill tries to redress that and provide the applicants with their right to know if they've been in contact with a communicable disease but at the same time make sure that the information remains confidential and protect the rights of privacy of the others.
There are some issues on the regulations, which we've already discussed. That is the issue of costs. In the private member's bill the costs were to be borne by the applicant, but since government is now bringing in the bill, government has more leeway where it can absorb some of those costs.
There are some situations when government would want to absorb the costs. A particular one that I used during the summer, which I'm confident the government has taken seriously, is the case of a destitute person that has been a victim of a crime. We want to make sure that person has the same access to legal protection as someone who has resources, such as the Professional Fire Fighters Association. So I would hope that government would see fit to cover the costs of someone in those situations.
With that, Madam Speaker, I would like to just conclude in saying thank you to everyone involved in bringing the bill forward. It could not happen without many, many, many people, those I have identified at the beginning of my speech. I hope that through the time to come that we debate this bill, we satisfy all members of the House that it's the right bill, that it's for a just cause — a noble cause — and will go to help make the lives of our first responders and the victims of crime and their families that much better for the years to come.
H. Bains: It is a pleasure and actually an honour to stand here and speak on Bill 39, Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act. First of all, I want to begin by saying a lot of thanks to many people who actually worked tirelessly and spent numerous hours of their own trying to educate, especially, the people in this House, all the MLAs, the ministers and the general public. I want to thank them all. Many of them come from my constituency and from Surrey.
I want to talk about brother Larry Thomas, who was president of Surrey Fire Fighters Association; Mike McNamara, who is the current president of Surrey Fire Fighters Association; and Michael Hurley, who is the president of B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association. They were here on a constant basis trying to educate us, trying to bring the issue to our attention to make, one, sure that we are educated and aware of the situation and the risks involved in their jobs, and two, that we move ahead and bring in legislation to provide them the protection they were looking for.
I want to say this, and with a perspective. Many of the services that we receive today here in Canada, I think we take for granted. I've had the opportunity to travel to other countries. If there is a fire — a house is on fire or there is a fire in general, in their business — they are lucky if they get the fire department there on time and with full equipment and people who are fully trained. That is property damage. But if you are not lucky and you are hurt or seriously sick, for them to expect that there will be responders — the health care people coming, or the fire department, paramedics or police coming in a timely fashion — is only a hopeful thing for them. They wish for those kinds of services to be available to them.
I think we are so fortunate here in this part of the world, in this country, in this province that we have, in the event of a fire, in the event of an injury or illness to our loved ones or to ourselves…. We know that within minutes, somebody will be there to help us. We know that within minutes, we will be in the care of professionals who are fully qualified.
I think there are some obstacles. We want to make sure that those obstacles are not there for those folks who are coming to help you by way of the risks to themselves or to the people around them. These areas that they identify here are some of those issues that go through their mind when they first come and see an injured person — that if they come in contact with the bodily fluids of the person that is injured, what would happen to them. I know many of them never thought about those things. But I think it must go through their mind when they go home, when they talk to their loved ones. You know: "I was in touch with body fluids, but I don't know what that is, and I don't know what the risks are."
I think we need to help them, give them peace of mind and give them the assurance that yes, there will be some chances. Hopefully, there never is that kind of time when they come in contact with the body fluids that may have some consequences later.
Like the speakers before have said, the history tells us that there aren't that many occasions where that happened. I'm hoping that will never happen and that our firefighters and police officers and paramedics never have to worry about them taking the risk of getting in touch with the body fluids of the person they are treating.
I think this provides them that bit of a sense that in the event that they are in contact, there will be some information available to them and put them at peace that, yes, there is nothing going on here and that they are safe.
Also, if I was one of them, whether I'm a firefighter or police officer or paramedic, I think I would be careful that I would not take this as a guarantee that this is not going to happen. Never, ever let them feel that somehow they will get a false sense of security just because they have gone through the process and the body fluids of the individual are finally tested and didn't come back with any source of contamination or source of risk.
As we all know, the science is that it may not be present at the time of the test. Therefore, they need to take every
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precaution that they must take in order to make sure they continue to be very progressive and very, very active in going through their doctors and make sure they protect themselves. I think that when you are looking at other provinces that have already gone through this legislation — Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia — this is only the right thing to do.
I want to thank the minister for listening to the firefighters, listening to many of the other people who came here. They were lobbying to have this thing put into legislation. I thank all the people on this side, as well, for supporting this. I have some time constraints. I want to talk more about this, but I won't be able to today. There are other speakers who will be speaking.
In conclusion, I do want to thank the government side and the members of this side for supporting this very, very important and timely piece of legislation. I want to once again thank firefighters, who spent so much time trying to educate all of us in this House — and finally having this legislation before us, which we will be voting on, and then becoming a law very, very quickly.
Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity. Hopefully, our firefighters and those who are constantly out there — looking out for us and providing us the service that we all need many, many times — will continue to provide their service without having that fear all the time, with them going home, after the treatment that they have provided to us. Thank you once again.
D. Hayer: I also want to say thank you to the Minister of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government and all of the opposition members, the members for Surrey-Newton and Burnaby-Edmonds, and especially our member for Kelowna–Lake Country.
It's good to see some issues, at least, that both sides can get together and support fully. This is something that's been asked by many of our constituents, whether it be paramedics, firemen, police officers, nurses, peace officers or health care professionals. It is good to see that this has unanimous support. It's a good message — that this House can sometimes work together on the bills in the interest of all our constituents and our family members.
The importance of this legislation is tremendous. It is a major step in protecting all of those who risk their lives to help others.
First responders and emergency personnel are the front line in helping people, saving people. They deserve, while risking their lives and health, all the protection we can give them through Bill 39, and Bill 39 gives them the protection that they need.
I also have a very personal interest in this bill because my son Anthony and his wife, Sabrina Hayer, are paramedics, and my sister-in-law Lygie was a paramedic. And her husband, Nick Haazen, in the late '80s and '90s served as the head of the B.C. Ambulance Service here. They used to talk about some of these issues personally, saying, "How can you get all your government to work together to solve these issues?" along with many other firemen and peace officers I have talked to.
I know what the paramedics, firemen, police officers, nurses, peace officers, victims of crime — even the Good Samaritans who often step in to first help those involved in the accident — go through when they come upon tragic scenes or tragic incidents. Yet they don't hesitate to help, even though they may be risking their own lives through contamination and diseases due to exposure to body fluids or sick victims or patients.
Bill 39 will provide, along with all of the privacy concerns, a measure of protection for those heroes. It will require people who have been assisted, to provide body fluids — blood or saliva — for analysis.
While most people, I am sure, will provide this voluntarily, this bill requires that provision. If they need to, they can go to court and get that court order to get that done. However, to protect the rights of those individuals who have been involved in some tragic events requiring assistance, this bill ensures their privacy. All of the information shared and gained through provisions of body fluid samples will be kept in strict confidence.
Our first responders, our emergency personnel and those citizens who pitch in to help people in crisis deserve this protection and this peace of mind, because without it, they could be unknowingly exposed to a communicable disease and not be aware of it until perhaps weeks or months later when they begin to experience symptoms that could lead to death.
With this bill, our emergency workers will know very quickly if they have been exposed and will be able to take advantage of preventive actions and medications and significantly reduce the risk of long-term…. That will make sure their health can be protected and that they don't go through some of the issues which people have gone through in the past, especially serious health issues and even death.
Until now, if an emergency worker suspected he or she might have been exposed, they had to take perhaps unnecessary preventive drugs, which could have potentially serious side effects, putting great stress on their mental well-being and that of their families. I have known this personally, even talking to some of the health care professionals in the emergency rooms. They had talked about these similar issues.
This is not just assumption. Over the past 25 years WorkSafe has received some 227 claims for exposure to hepatitis and HIV. Of those claims, 47 were from first responders to emergencies. One of them developed AIDS, three of them developed hepatitis B, and ten developed hepatitis C.
It's not fair, because with the immediate warning of exposure to those and other communicable diseases, these workers could have been spared, due to the ability to seek
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corrective medication and care. So this bill is very important because it will allow them to focus on their health and get the information they need as soon as possible.
I don't see how anybody will actually speak against it or not support it. I know there are some issues about the privacy, but we have dealt with it. As we have seen from the opposition and the government side, we will unanimously support this.
It will protect and provide protection for those valued and that we rely on in emergency cases, while at the same time provide absolute privacy of those who will have to provide bodily fluid samples. This bill is good for those victims, and this bill is good for our emergency responders.
This bill is good for everybody, especially the families, because they go through a lot when they realize that sometimes either blood or bodily fluid has been touched or they have used a needle where the needle had accidentally poked them and they were not sure if they were infected with anything.
It will also have additional effects, because it will make sure the health care professionals in the future will have extra peace of mind. This will also bring British Columbia in line with other provinces, as has been mentioned before. The legislation is already in place in five other provinces, and this means our legislation will be in line with those provinces and protects our innocent people and victims as well as our emergency responders and first responders.
Our first responders, emergency responders and those Good Samaritan citizens who step in to help us deserve and have earned this protection and this peace of mind for themselves and their families. We owe them no less than passing this bill, and I'm sure it will be passed quickly as soon as possible.
I also want to say thanks to my colleague from Kelowna–Lake Country for helping develop this bill. He spent a lot of time meeting with many of the firefighters, paramedics and police officers. He has told some really touching stories, which he was able to hear firsthand. I know that the opposition and the government members have heard those types of stories from all the constituents, either when they come to talk to us here or when we're in the constituencies.
I can tell you we are happy to support this bill on this side of the House, and I'm happy to see that this legislation will be passed. Bill 39 will make sure all the first responders will get the protection they need. Thank you very much for taking the time, and thank you very much to the member for Kelowna–Lake Country for sharing your stories. Thank you to the minister, and thank you to all the members of the House for supporting this unanimously.
D. Routley: I rise to speak to Bill 39, the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act, in support of this act. Much has been said about the bravery and the service given to us by our first responders, firefighters, paramedics and police. I obviously would echo the respect that has been shown to people who are willing to serve in such a way that in fact puts them at risk themselves.
Part of what first responders deal with is not just the immediate risk of rushing to an emergency at high speed or the peril of entering a burning building or perhaps the uncertainty of an accident scene, but also the stress that arises out of that type of service. The stress contributes to a very high incidence of several diseases related to stress — heart disease and post-traumatic stress disorder and a variety of other conditions that are at least aggravated by a high level of stress.
Part of what we need to respect in the service of first responders is not just the immediate courage and bravery and commitment it takes to enter into dangerous situations but also the aftermath emotionally and psychologically of carrying that experience with them throughout their lives and in their homes, potentially interfering in their capacity to function.
The stress that first responders work with is often felt by their families. Anything this House can do and the people of the province can do to relieve our first responders of the burden of stress is an important step that needs to be taken. So I think that's an important aspect of why Bill 39 deserves support.
Our job as official opposition is not just to oppose but to propose. It's also not only — when we agree with the intent of the bill — to simply agree but to offer suggestions and offer concern where it's warranted.
All the members of the House have received a letter from public health officer Perry Kendall, which expresses some reasonable and relevant concerns when it comes to the measures of Bill 39. The public health officer points out that, in fact, even if a test is acquired through this act, it could provide a false sense of security because of the possibility of a false-negative test.
He goes on to recommend that other steps be taken, including ensuring that exposed individuals have access to universal pre-exposure precautions, timely and appropriate post-exposure assessment, prophylaxis and counselling and, most importantly, have access to timely PCR testing — that is the polymerase chain reaction testing which would detect the presence of a virus, not simply the antibodies — of their own blood to assess the outcome of any exposure.
The words of the public health officer obviously shouldn't be dismissed. The concerns are real, and we should be considering them. What I would hope is that the public health bodies, the government and the health authorities ensure that all of those steps and all of those precautions are still available to our first responders and that this Bill 39, the Emergency Intervention Disclosure
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Act — which provides a right to know, a right to demand a test — is simply another layer added on as protection and assurance to these workers.
The public health officer points out the very small nature of the risk — that significant HIV exposures carry a 1-in-300 risk of infection without appropriate intervention and that waiting for a test could, in fact, create a preventable HIV infection.
While that's true, it still would lead me back to the feeling I have that stress itself is a health risk to first responders and that this test, even if it's positive, will allow a first responder to come to terms with the implications of an exposure, the implications of a possible infection, and move on to dealing with that, rather than live with the anxiety and the stress of not knowing. I think that that becomes more and more important as these people face increased pressure from such a variety of sources, not just the ones that we are talking about here.
So this bill deserves our support as another layer, an upfront layer, of protection to first responders but not at the expense of the protections that they already enjoy and should take advantage of and be very cautious about using.
The other concerns that have been raised are related to privacy. The bill does provide a confidentiality clause, section 9, which instructs that information that might be derived from a test ordered under this act not be disclosed by the applicant or any other person.
While this is a very important piece of the legislation, and it comes accompanied with penalties for any person who does fail to protect the confidentiality of the source of the test, it still deserves scrutiny. We need to know that the information will be handled appropriately and carefully. We need to know that the penalties will be severe enough, in practice, that they will prevent the disclosure of information.
Also, we need to examine, I think, in third reading, clause by clause, some of the exemptions from that confidentiality — the exemptions under 9(3)(a), (b) and (c) for a person who is subpoenaed to a legal proceeding and may disclose this information according to some of the prescribed circumstances in this act. I think those things we can explore further in third reading.
But in general principle, which is what we are here to discuss, we support this bill. We support the steps that are being taken to reduce the stress and the possibility of exposure and infection of first responders. We also, on the other hand, are very cautious about protecting the rights to privacy of the individual being tested and every other individual in the process.
Some of the language would bring some concern around privacy and confidentiality. If I may refer to a section of the bill, 9(2)(f) is an exemption "in prescribed circumstances." This type of language needs to be further discussed and debated, once we get to third reading, to give everyone an assurance that the act does adequately protect the privacy of the individuals being tested and every other individual affected by any proceeding under this act.
In the words of the former acting Privacy Commissioner, we need to rely more upon education, education, education around the application of legislation and the application of rights in our society. So we need to make sure that first responders are well educated as to their rights under this act. We need to ensure that the medical profession well understand their duty to confidentiality, which is a common day-to-day requirement of their practice.
I think that, all of those things being accommodated, then this act will achieve what it sets out to achieve. That is the protection of our first responders and a provision of an extra layer of certainty when it comes to their health outcomes as a result of the practice of their service to our community.
Again, in closing my remarks, I would pay additional respect to those firefighters and paramedics who enter into circumstances that put their lives at obvious risk. They do so without hesitation, and they do so knowing these risks. It's up to us to mitigate and minimize those risks. One of those risks to their health is stress. I believe that this act will, at least in some measure, relieve them of some of that burden.
L. Krog: I'm pleased to rise in the debate this afternoon — second reading of Bill 39, the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act.
Firstly, I could do no more than quote the words of Dr. Perry Kendall, the chief provincial health officer, in a letter that he has sent around respecting this act. It says, in the third paragraph: "First, I would like to state that I have nothing but respect for the first responders in British Columbia and fully recognize both their occupational risk from exposures to blood and bodily fluids that may contain pathogens and the anxiety that can subsequently attend such exposures."
Now, Dr. Kendall raises concerns about the legislation, and I have some concerns too. It's not the job of the opposition to be cheerleaders for the government. But overall….
L. Krog: I'm always interested that the members who don't wish to stand and take part in the debate always insist on interrupting my remarks. It's like they want to wander around a little puddle somewhere, like a little duck quacking loudly so they can be heard. But I'm sure they'll be quiet for a moment so I can make my remarks to the chamber.
What this bill represents is a recognition of the reality of the work undertaken by first responders around this province. Most of us live in a fairly secure cocoon of life.
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Those of us who work in this chamber come to work. We work in no fear. We don't face tragedy and death and difficult circumstances and individuals with all sorts of problems and issues.
That's part of the daily existence. People in distress and crisis are the daily existence of first responders. That is what this bill is meant to address. It allows police, firefighters, ambulance paramedics and others to apply for court-ordered testing for communicable diseases in situations where they've have been exposed to bodily fluids.
Now, I do note that the bill talks about bodily fluids. It says under subsection 3(1):
"Subject to section 2, an individual may apply to the court for a testing order if the individual has come into contact with a bodily substance of another individual in any of the following circumstances: (a) while providing emergency health services; (b) while performing his or her duties as a firefighter, an emergency medical assistant or a peace officer; (c) while being involved in a prescribed circumstance or while carrying out a prescribed activity."
So the intent of the legislation is to provide an opportunity, in situations where there has been exposure to a bodily substance of another individual, in emergency situations, for people to apply to determine whether or not that substance may in fact result in the transmission of a communicable disease. Now, the legislation strikes me as the right thing to do. However, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that some of the language is quite general, and a lot of it is up to cabinet to determine through regulation that to which it will apply.
That, I think, is a concern that the opposition has a duty to point out. Notwithstanding support of the concept, and the hard work, particularly of the firefighters in this province who have lobbied long and hard for this legislation, there is a great deal that is left, as usual — and this is too common with this government — to the trust of the people in cabinet.
Now, I appreciate that we have limited time in this Legislature and that governments don't like to discuss everything in an open and public way. But the reality is that much of what is referred to in the act is going to be determined by cabinet. The regulation section, section 14, includes the power to make regulations "(a) prescribing diseases or conditions as communicable diseases for the purposes of this Act."
We're not going to debate in this House what this is really about. Now, I think what everyone understands and believes — and the ministry has indicated — is that we're talking about three specific issues here: HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. But that is not in fact what the legislation says. The legislation is indeed much broader.
The diseases or conditions, for the purposes of this act, which may or may not be present in the bodily substance or bodily fluids, are going to be prescribed by cabinet. In addition, it will prescribe all sorts of things relating to the retention of records, your notice, etc.
I note also, with interest… This is unusual. I'm going to want to question the minister about this, because it's quite a shift. In an application for the test, for a testing order, the act actually talks only about the Provincial Court of British Columbia — highly unusual. Generally speaking, most statutes require application to Supreme Court.
This raises for me, as critic for the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the obvious question, if we're going to be adding to the list of tasks that we are passing to the Provincial Court of British Columbia, whether the government of British Columbia is prepared to appoint the appropriate number of judges so that these applications, if made, could be made in a timely way.
I note with interest that the minister, in her remarks opening the bill, indicated that in the province of Alberta there've only been two applications in five years. So I suspect it's not going to be a great burden, but I'll be interested to know the reasoning for allowing the application, providing that the application be made in Provincial Court.
I notice also, with interest, under section 10, that subject to regulations — and that's an interesting phrase — "an applicant is responsible for paying the prescribed costs relating to a testing order." So what the legislation is essentially doing is saying: "Look, if you want it done, you're going to have to pay for it yourself." I'm not entirely sure whether that means, as well, you'd be paying for the cost of the individual who might be resisting the order being made against them for the provision of bodily fluids.
It does seem to set up a regime, in that sense, for a much broader range of testing. If cabinet is allowed to determine what constitutes "diseases or conditions as communicable disease for the purposes of this Act," that essentially gives cabinet the authority to do anything. That's rather striking. I'm a bit surprised that the act isn't somewhat more specific, because I think it's pretty clear that the general understanding, from the efforts of the firefighters and others to ensure that this legislation was brought forward, were aimed, as I said, at hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV.
Now, we know that similar legislation has been passed by other governments — Manitoba, NDP government, in 2009. It exists in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. British Columbia is, in a sense, as usual, playing a bit of catch-up with the rest of the country.
Nevertheless, I think it would have behooved the government in these circumstances to have perhaps made it a little clearer as to what this legislation is aimed at, quite specifically, as opposed to leaving it so broadly open for cabinet to make determination.
I do note, with respect to the offences section, that in section 13 a source individual — in other words, the person who perhaps carries hepatitis C — who contravenes a testing order "commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not more than $10 000." A person who
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contravenes section 9 of the act, which is a breach of confidentiality, "is liable on conviction, (a) in the case of an individual, to a fine of not more than $10 000, and (b) in the case of a corporation, to a fine of not more than $25 000."
But it does go on to say in 13(3): "If an offence under this section continues for more than one day, separate fines, each not exceeding the maximum fine for that offence, may be imposed for each day the offence continues."
Now, that's a pretty hefty fine — a potential of $10,000. If it continued for a period of five days, that's $50,000. One appreciates the seriousness of this, because — let's face it — the prospect of being exposed to hepatitis C is a pretty frightening prospect. We know from a former member of this chamber that contracting hepatitis C can lead to a life of organ transplants, stress — the kind of pressure that most of us wouldn't want to face.
An Hon. Member: Quality of life.
L. Krog: Quality of life, my friend points out as well.
The opposition supports Bill 39. We understand its importance, but one has to be cautious around any new legislation that gives more power to cabinet to determine its real intent.
I think what the firefighters and others were lobbying for, which has been supported so strongly by the Canadian Police Association, by the ambulance paramedics and the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association generally — what they were aiming for, I think, is certainly covered by this bill, but perhaps we're extending it to things that weren't exactly the intent of what even the firefighters were lobbying for.
I'm looking forward to committee stage of the bill to ask the minister appropriate questions, to see what she's got to say in response to those questions about the fairly broad nature of this legislation, because when we have all of these possibilities of the government passing regulation without it being debated in this House, it always troubles me.
K. Corrigan: I am pleased to rise and speak in second reading on Bill 39, which I will be supporting. It's interesting that sometimes you run into bills that are not long or complicated bills but bring a need to balance principles that you believe are important.
In this case, the balancing act is between the principle of supporting workers and making sure that we protect the health and safety of workers. The other side of that, another equally worthy principle, is to respect the rights of individuals — the privacy rights and the civil liberties of individuals. Both of those principles are important and fully worthy of protection.
In this case it's perhaps even more pronounced because the protection of the health and safety that we're talking about is in the case of serious risk. We're talking about very serious consequences, when emergency workers, emergency response personnel, are potentially exposed to pathogens that can cause communicable disease which can be life-altering and life-threatening.
The health and safety issue that we're talking about here is one that is very serious, where emergency response workers could, in fact, contract HIV/AIDS or hepatitis B or C or other communicable diseases.
Then again, in terms of balancing that against privacy rights…. The privacy rights in this case are very serious as well. You're talking about invading somebody's body, essentially, requiring them to provide a sample of blood. That is an invasive procedure of somebody who there are reasonable grounds to believe actually does have a communicable disease. That's a serious invasion of privacy as well.
I've had to think about this, and I'm going to consider…. I'm going to be very interested in questions that we have when we go to committee stage. But despite those serious issues that we're considering here, I believe that the danger that our emergency response workers are potentially exposed to here definitely outweighs, in my mind, the very real concerns about privacy issues.
Firefighters, ambulance paramedics and other health care workers in emergency situations every day put themselves at risk. We talk about them going into the buildings and so on, into situations where the rest of us are leaving. They do that, and in doing that, they expose themselves to serious risk. In this case they work very hard.
I think we're lucky in this province that we have good protocols that protect emergency responders through protective gear, through protocols that have been well-thought-out. But despite all that and all the good work that we have done in this province and across Canada, I think, in order to protect our emergency responders…. There is still a very real risk, in some circumstances, of emergency responders being exposed to bodily fluids which could cause them to contract a communicable disease.
With that in mind, I think that it is important that we support those people who are so willing to take on danger and emergency situations on behalf of all of us. For that reason, I think it's important to support this bill.
I certainly appreciate the work that the B.C. Fire Fighters have done in this regard — and my friend Mike Hurley, who, it has been pointed out, was recently re-elected as the president of the B.C. Fire Fighters. I congratulate him for that. He is an excellent representative and I know will do a good job again for that organization. And, of course, there's Bronwyn Barter, the president of Local 873 of CUPE, which is the Ambulance Paramedics. They have certainly represented their constituents well in asking for the support for this legislation, the Emergency
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Intervention Disclosure Act. I thank them for that.
Several years ago I attended a world health conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and how real the danger can be was brought home to me when I went to a session on health care professionals from Africa who were exposed to HIV every day. There were hundreds and hundreds of them that were becoming ill themselves with HIV as a result of exposure because they didn't have the kind of protocols that we have in British Columbia and in Canada and some other countries. The risks were very, very high to them. So I think we need to do these things in order to minimize the risk to our workers.
I'm also comforted by the fact that the testing order that can be applied for is very stringent, I believe. Under section 5, an order to have somebody tested must include a physician's report, and the Provincial Court has to be satisfied that first of all, the applicant has come into contact with a bodily substance. Secondly, and I think this is important, the court must be satisfied that "there are reasonable grounds to believe that the applicant may have been exposed, as a result of the contact, to a pathogen that causes a prescribed communicable disease."
I think that's an important provision because one cannot make an application simply on prospect, on saying: "Well, I had this contact, and I want to have this person tested." First of all, there must not be another way to have the bodily fluid tested, but there must also be reasonable grounds to believe that there was a pathogen involved and that there was a communicable disease involved. Now, that's going to be a tough one. I'm not sure how courts are going to decide that, but I think it's a healthy protection to the rights of the person who is going to be tested.
Also: "an analysis of the applicant's bodily fluids would not determine, in a timely manner, whether the applicant has been infected." In other words, the circumstances have to be clear that the applicant could not find out another way — in other words, by being tested themselves — because the incubation period, I would assume, is lengthy.
Also, the other protection for the source individual — in other words, the person from whom the sample is going to be taken…. If that person's life or health is going to be endangered, then — unfortunately, I suppose for the applicant, but I think a good measure of protection for the source individual — you don't take that sample from the person. That makes sense, but it's another balancing factor in this act.
Of course, it doesn't happen if the information under the testing order could have reasonably been obtained in another manner — another protection for the individuals involved.
Overall, it is a balanced act. There is certainly the balancing of the rights of the person who is going to be tested and the applicant, the person who has been exposed to a bodily fluid. It's a tough balance, but I think it's a fair one because we want to protect our emergency responders, who have certainly been asking for this kind of protection over a long period of time. We need to look out for the rights of those workers.
I am looking forward to the next stage of the bill, the committee stage, where we can ask some of the questions, some of them raised by my colleague from Nanaimo. But overall I think it is a good piece of legislation.
With that, I will take my seat.
S. Chandra Herbert: I rise to speak about the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act, to share my support for the spirit of the bill but also to share some ideas, some concerns, that I think we all need to take into consideration and that I believe the government needs to listen to.
Hopefully, the minister herself will ensure that her ministry is following through on these aspects but also that our friends — the good folks, the firefighters, the paramedics, the nurses, anybody impacted by this bill — will ensure to do good education for their members.
I think this bill tries to provide peace of mind. I've heard a number of members say that this bill will provide peace of mind. I believe the minister's quote was: "This legislation will give workers and their families the peace of mind they deserve." If only it were so easy.
As the minister would know, the best medical tests out there cannot prove definitively, 100 percent, that somebody has a communicable disease or somebody does not. In a case where this act should have to be used, which I know the minister has stated will likely be very rarely, even if the person is tested…. If they say no, they do not want to be tested or, in some cases, if they're unable to say anything at all — maybe they are in a coma or something like that — they may get tested.
They may have the results come back. The results may say that they're negative for HIV. Maybe they don't have hepatitis B or C, and that will give somebody a sense of peace of mind.
However, we know that quite often people do not know that they've contracted a communicable illness in the early days. They can go to get tested, but the medical technology, the diagnoses, etc., are not sophisticated enough to catch it immediately. So while you may be told that no, this person….
You go for the court order. Maybe it takes two weeks. You get the court order. You go to do the test. It may come back and say the person does not have a communicable disease. I worry that the person who was exposed to the bodily fluid may take that and say, "Okay. I don't need to continue with the prophylactics. I don't need to continue to use safe practices with my partner," because they believe that they are safe.
However, as we know, it may take more weeks before an illness, a communicable disease, shows up in the
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blood work. That person may think they have peace of mind, as the government has suggested this bill will provide, when the reality is that they may have some sense of a peace of mind, but really, if they want to follow the science, they will need to get tested again later. They will need to ensure that they follow best practices, safe practices with their loved ones and their family for weeks after, for months after — potentially up to six months.
I did a review of the Internet, the place of misinformation and information and everything in between. I saw people posting that with this act, they would no longer have to take the prophylaxis. They would no longer have to do this anymore.
But we know that unless you take it right away, if you've been exposed to blood…. If you take it two weeks and you wait because you find out the person in fact did have HIV, that may be too late. You may have contracted the illness, contracted the disease, because you thought you had peace of mind, because this bill would provide it, and the testing would give you that peace of mind.
We need a strong, strong education program. This came from a nurse. This came from somebody saying: "Oh, we don't need to worry about that." If somebody who's in the health system or says they're in the health system — it is the Internet, after all — thinks that, what is the general public, who is not as involved in the system, to believe?
So I really, really hope that the minister, in rolling out this act, will say not that this provides peace of mind without a proviso but will say: "This may provide peace of mind, but you have to continue to get tested, and you have to follow through on the prophylactic."
A test may be worth something. It'll give you a good sense, perhaps, that the person may not have a communicable illness, but it's not 100 percent. If we approach this as if this gives 100 percent peace of mind, I worry that we will be giving people a false sense of security.
Now, I've worked a lot with the firefighters in my community — Local 18 — and talked with the paramedics, worked with the police, and I understand why they want this. I understand that they want peace of mind.
I've spoken with people who don't know. They may have been exposed to an illness, either through their work, or maybe, in some cases, they didn't make the right choice.
That period of time when you're waiting for tests to come back is full of anguish. It's full of stress. It can lead to relationships breaking down. It can lead to people losing their work. It's very, very difficult. We have to approach this with that understanding, and I appreciate that this bill is meant to help relieve that anguish, is meant to help relieve that stress.
But in the end, that stress will remain. It may not be as heightened, but if we're to look at the science; if we're to look at how our chief medical officer, Perry Kendall, has spoken around this legislation; if we look to how others have approached this…. We need to understand that just because you've managed to get somebody to give you a test or just because somebody says to you, "Oh, no, no, I don't have any communicable illnesses" — that they know of — that may be not enough to reduce the stress.
I'm glad that this legislation was not entitled right-to-know legislation. Sure, we'd all like the right to know, but sometimes science doesn't give us that ability — not immediately, anyway. I know it's titled the Emergency Intervention Disclosure Act. The idea is that people will disclose, and most people do.
The vast majority of people will go for that blood test. They will do that work to ensure that somebody who's trying to protect their lives, who's trying to save their lives, gets that peace of mind or an approaching peace of mind. I say "approaching peace of mind" because you have to do the tests over time.
We can't approach this immediately as: if you get the test, then the issue is solved. Unfortunately, the science isn't there, and we've got limited means in terms of the knowledge that we have. Things are improving. Certainly, the tests are improving, and we're going to be able to see faster results. But again, even if in the period of a court order you get somebody to have a test, there's no guarantee that that test coming back is going to tell the full truth about that person.
The only way that your family and yourself can really have peace of mind is after a period of months, even up to a year, of following safety procedures in your own relationships and with your family and in your workplace and doing the tests and doing all of that kind of thing. That's the only way we can get to a sense of peace of mind.
I understand the desire to give that peace of mind instantly. I understand the desire to get this act in instantly so we could provide that to our health care workers, to our paramedics, to our firefighters, to our police, to the first responders. But we need to approach this with the understanding that the science isn't there yet to do that instantly, that it's going to take time. It's going to take some anguished time for those people.
Now, I know that when the test comes back and people are told, "No, this person does not have the communicable disease," they will get a great sense of relief. But I hope that the government will provide the education, that the unions will provide the education to their members, that the workplaces will provide that education, that our school system will provide that education, because again it takes time. It will not instantly be told by one test.
I looked at this legislation, and it concerns some of my constituents. They're worried that this could lead to greater phobia around AIDS. They're worried about restigmatization. Again, this is where education has to come in. It wasn't so long ago — I believe it was in 2008 — that there was a guard up at an airport who would not let people with HIV/AIDS get onto a plane. He said that could infect other people.
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Now, how do we get to this place in Canada where we still have people have that sort of belief? Well, it's education. Clearly, that person did not get the education they needed in their workplace, did not get the education they needed in their schools to be told how things work.
I hope we get into committee stage of this debate so we can get through some of these sections, because there are some civil liberties issues which need to be pulled apart and looked at and discussed. There are also education issues that need to be discussed.
I would also hope that in that process the minister is able to clarify her remarks about peace of mind, to clarify if she believes that this legislation will give 100 percent peace of mind or if, in fact, we need a regime within the workplaces to ensure that you do the testing that you need, that you take the PEP, that you take the prophylaxis. Otherwise, we are giving people a false sense of security. Otherwise, I worry that this could lead to more damage than is necessary, if we don't do that work.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Now, I see we have the Speaker in the chair. I know there are going to be more people speaking on this issue. I will have a few more remarks in the morning. I thank the minister for raising this issue. I thank the member for Kelowna–Lake Country as well.
It's a tough issue. It's a controversial issue. Some people love it; some people don't like it. I hope to be able to share in this Legislature with all MLAs tomorrow some more issues that Dr. Perry Kendall has raised so that we can, hopefully, get some good answers from government on how they're going to respond to those concerns.
S. Chandra Herbert moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. D. McRae: I seek leave to make an introduction.
Mr. Speaker: Proceed.
Introductions by Members
Hon. D. McRae: Today in the House, in the galleries, we have two guests of mine from the Comox Valley. The first one is Kevin Reid. He is a real estate agent, a volunteer in the Comox Valley and an avid fly fisherman. He is someone I have known for, I think, at least 25 years. He is here with his stepdaughter Megan Newhouse, who is a former student of mine and lives in Victoria. I'd ask the House to please make them welcome.
Committee of Supply (Section A), having reported resolutions, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. T. Lake moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.
The House adjourned at 6:52 p.m.
PROCEEDINGS IN THE
DOUGLAS FIR ROOM
Committee of Supply
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
FORESTS, LANDS AND
NATURAL RESOURCE OPERATIONS
The House in Committee of Supply (Section A); D. Horne in the chair.
The committee met at 2:32 p.m.
On Vote 27: ministry operations, $380,079,000 (continued).
The Chair: We're currently resuming consideration of the estimates of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
G. Coons: Thank you, Minister, for letting me just ask one question here. It's about the Bella Coola watershed and the Forest Service roads that they have there. They've written to the minister — a few people — asking for urgent assistance regarding the damaged Forest Service roads in the Bella Coola Valley region.
As the minister knows, there was disastrous flooding in September 2010 and then again in September 2011, and the whole watershed suffered significant infrastructure damage. It has impacted and will impact their tourist industry as well as their emergency response capacities. They talk about…. The primary roads were repaired, but the majority of the Forest Service roads remain inaccessible.
They specifically talk about the Tote Road. That's accessing the third-highest waterfall in Canada and the site of the famous pioneer homestead of Ralph Edwards. They talk about the West Nusatsum Forest Road, the Saloompt Forest Service Road, the Clayton Forest Service Road, the McCall Flats east and west Forest Service roads and the Talchako Forest Service Road.
There've been extreme events. There were the forest fires there and the two flooding incidents. Tourism advocates in the Bella Coola Valley as well as the emergency
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program coordinator in the Central Coast regional district are all concerned about this.
I was just wondering if there's been any movement on the ministry's part re this important infrastructure. Is the minister going to take some action to help rehabilitate these roads?
Hon. S. Thomson: I appreciate the question and the concerns brought forward by the member opposite. I think, as the member knows, we have a limited budget in terms of being able to address all of the priority issues in the Forest Service road maintenance. Again, this is one that, as we assess all of those priorities, I'd have to be fair to say is going to be a challenge in terms of being able to see if the resources are there to be able to address those concerns.
What I can say is I'll certainly ask staff to meet directly with the member opposite to assess this and provide a response. Again, I think I have to be fair to say that it will be a significant challenge to find the resources in the shorter term.
In the longer term, as the member opposite knows, one of the things that we're working through the natural resource road processes to try to find, in the future: potential and options that may allow us to address these kinds of situations more proactively.
In the short term I think it'd be fair to say it will be a real challenge. But certainly, we'll ask staff to meet with the member opposite and look at the particular situation.
B. Routley: I want to put a little context to the issue of raw log exports. We're going to be going through a number of questions on this matter. For the minister and certainly for those that are listening to this, the issue of raw log exports is a very real and troubling matter for forest communities and forest workers all over British Columbia.
Why is that so? Well, we're going to hear a lot about the details of what has happened, to the point where we're almost double the number of log exports under this government. There've been some dramatic changes and losses.
So in putting that in context, British Columbia has lost more than 70 mills — permanently closed — since 2000, and 35,000 B.C. forest workers permanently lost their jobs. In fact, when you talk to mill owners…. One of the mill owners that I talked to said that he has a list of more than 300 mills — depending on the size of the mill that you're talking about and, of course, the date that you go back to — that have closed in the province of British Columbia.
Just in my own community, in the Cowichan Valley…. Since I have lived there most of my life, I remember a lot of the mill closures. I just want to go through some of that for you so you understand, again, how it is that we're at the place that we are at today in terms of the rising level of log exports and the concerns in the community and these questions that we have that will be directed through this estimates process.
In the Cowichan Valley we've seen the Honeymoon Bay mill gone a long time ago now. It's a trailer home spot. The Mesachie Lake Hillcrest mill is gone. Island Shake and Shingle — gone. Again, all of these operations had all kinds of employees and large workforces working and living in areas like Lake Cowichan and Mesachie Lake.
In Youbou, where I started out in the forest industry back in 1970, we had two mills, an A mill and B mill. The A mill took 35-inch logs and over, and the B mill 35-inch-and-under logs, primarily.
We also had a veneer plant. Again, I remember it well, because I used to work on the boom, moving those kinds of big logs around and dealing with all of the hundreds of workers that used to work in those three mills. At one point there were over 600 employees working at that mill. It got down to, by the time it closed, about 220 employees, but these were large operations — large, family-supporting kinds of operations — that created a lot of jobs and supported those communities well in their time.
Unfortunately, what we've seen now is that a lot of those communities are experiencing truckload after truckload of logs headed for the export market, going right through their towns, whether it's in Lake Cowichan or in Youbou. Now the largest complaint that I'm hearing from Youbou is not about the activity at the mill, because the mill no longer exists. Now what we're hearing about is the dust and mud which is all the community has to show for the economic activity that had often been contracted out.
We've got large landowners, private land owners, who have virtually no employees of their own. They have contracted out all of the employment to others, and often they're either hit-and-run kinds of operations or not…. There are some that are in the community, no doubt, but not the kind of family-supporting jobs that we once had in our community, by any stretch of the imagination.
When you think of the context back when this government took charge, they talked about a new era back in 2001. That new era was going to bring along, in 2003, forest revitalization. One of the promises that we heard given by this government and certainly by the industry at the time was investment. We were going to get investment to create jobs. One of the reasons that logs are exported and not manufactured, I would submit, is that we have seen an actual drop in investment. I'll have some questions about that for the minister to address in a few moments.
We've had a dramatic drop, loss of investment, in value-added employment in the province of British Columbia. Many of those towns devastated have turned into virtual ghost towns in terms of major economic
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and business opportunity for people in those communities. As a result, families become dislocated because the children move away. There's nowhere to work in those communities. We've seen this dramatic increase in log exports.
By the way, I have to follow up on my friend's work on the forest health issue. I have to add that it's kind of humorous when you think about it, but it's not so humorous that in 2009 this government talked about a plan for forests for today and tomorrow. Now they're scrambling to try to come up with a plan for Forests for Tomorrow. That's the reality.
This government has abandoned British Columbians. They've failed by every measure, whether it's the Auditor General or you've got the Forest Practices Board. The list goes on and on of people that shine a spotlight and realize that it's an absolute disaster in the province of British Columbia to the point where now we see the government struggling to come up with answers to some of the basic needs, and that's forest health.
The fact is that our forests, at the current planting rate, would take more than 100 years to get anywhere near the kind of shape they should be. It's an absolute travesty — building infrastructure, abandoning the forests and the communities of the future. And this is a government that had plans and talked the nonsense about language. They talked the right talk, but the actions speak louder than words. At the end of the day, here we are yet again, spinning our wheels trying to come up with a plan at the edge of a real crisis in British Columbia.
Now, that leads me into my questions. You know, with all of these mills closed and the impact that it's had on forest communities all over British Columbia …. So 35,000 jobs gone — okay? And all of these plans, these wonderful plans. Oh, we were going to have investment. It was going to be wonderful. And — no investment.
There has been a real lack of investment in the forest industry. Sure there's been some. But in terms of employment-generating investment, it's nowhere near what we've needed to actually deal and turn the tide. In fact, it has been going the other way.
So with all this job loss, would the minister not agree…? My question is: would he agree that the more mills that close, the more logs we're going to have as surplus to our needs here in British Columbia?
Hon. S. Thomson: First of all, just to say that, fundamentally, I disagree with the member's assertions. The inference or the assertion that log exports have caused the mill closings or the closure of mills in the province is not correct. I think we only need to look back to 2001 and Peter Pearse's report, where he talked about declining earnings, the market returns and the uncompetitive nature of the industry over a decade previously of adding regulations and cost to the industry. That was a process where the rationalization in order for the industry to be competitive needed to occur. He identified the fact that there was too much capacity at the time.
So log exports are not the reason for it. Log exports may currently be a symptom of the current economics in the industry. As we have said previously, we need to make sure, from a log export policy, that we have the balance. But at this point log exports allow for increased activity and increased harvest levels, allow for the uneconomic stands to be harvested and, in fact, are keeping people employed, keeping mills open.
We have had significant investment in the industry, with more in 2011. More B.C. mills opened than closed indefinitely. We've had increased investment in the industry.
So as we come out of this most significant downturn that the industry has been through with the collapse of the U.S. housing market, we're seeing the reinvestment in the industry, and we're starting to see the recovery in the industry.
B. Routley: Thank you for your answer. In setting up this next question, I do want to correct…. The minister seems to have the misconception that I somehow believe that all of the problems of the world in the forest industry come from one issue. That would be totally incorrect.
Log exports are one of the many failures of the Liberal government. There is a long list. I went through some of the policy matters. I have heard mayors of communities talk about: "Who is the one in charge that delinked communities and any rights of communities from our forest land base?" I have pointed out that that must be the current government that did that.
I thought I made that point that a lot of those things were done — okay? — to create reinvestment. What we heard from the government was that we were going to make all of these deregulation changes. We were going to have revitalization. We were going to do everything the industry wanted and asked and ever dreamed about. What we were going to get in return was a revitalized economy and communities, and we were going to have investment. Instead, the record is clear for all of us. What we have got is the doubling of exports, effectively, of raw logs from British Columbia, the loss of value-added jobs.
I want to go back. In setting, again, the context for this question, let's just take a look at what the law is in British Columbia. What is the legal framework that's been around for more than 100 years?
I know that the minister is aware, but to make sure that everyone understands, we're talking about legislation that dates back to 1901 — that the legislation was first introduced in Canada. There may have been other acts or legislation even before that.
More than 100 years ago, they were already talking about…. On March 12, 1906, the approach of restricting
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unmanufactured timber from Crown lands was actually extended to timber from all private lands that were Crown-granted subsequent to that date.
This government amended the legislation, the section 127, back on November 1, 2003. At that time, prior to the change…. I went back to see what this government actually changed. What did they take out of the legislation? What used to be there prior to this government's amendments…. It is worth reading the language that's still there. It's there in the old bill, and it's there in the new bill.
The old bill and the new bill still say these words:
"Unless exempted under this Part, timber that is harvested from Crown land, from land granted by the government after March 12, 1906 or from land granted by the government" — on or — "before March 12, 1906 in a tree farm licence area, and wood residue produced from the timber, must be" — and this is the law — "(a) used in British Columbia, or (b) manufactured in British Columbia into…."
The change started there.
They took out…. It said at one time "into," and it had a list: lumber; sawn wood products other than lumber, manufactured to the extent required by the minister; shingles or fully manufactured shakes; veneer, plywood or other wood-based panel products; pulp, newsprint or paper; peeled poles and pilings having top diameters of not less than 28 centimetres; and fence posts. It even listed Christmas trees; sticks and timbers having diameters less than 15 centimetres; ties and mining timbers.
The new legislation basically took that out and changed it to…. The last section is (a) and (b), and now it just says it has to be "(a) used in British Columbia, or (b) manufactured in British Columbia into wood products to the extent of manufacture specified by regulation." So they essentially took out the list, but you could excuse that. Maybe they were looking at the list and saying: "Well, this is an old, outdated list that doesn't include bioenergy, biofuels or some of the many new technologically advanced ideas for the use of wood products."
But in any case, the point that I'm trying to make is…. The legislation, the law, is intended for what purpose? We could just do without a law. We could just not have a law. Why do we have a law? Why would we focus like a laser beam onto an issue and have a law if it wasn't intended to be used and focused on? Why would we have that? I ask that question.
I don't think it was intended by our forefathers just to make up something on a rainy day with nothing else to do. They had a clear focus, a clear agenda and a notion. Notionally, the idea was that the timber that was cut down in the province of British Columbia was going to be used in British Columbia, or it was going to be manufactured in British Columbia into wood products to the extent of manufacture specified by regulation. So there it is. We have legislation in the province of British Columbia.
Now, I know it grants rights to the minister. If you go on down the bill, in section 128 it goes on to say: "An exemption must not be given under this section unless the Lieutenant Governor…." Oh by the way, did the good folks at home know? Well, it says "the Lieutenant Governor in Council or the minister." Here it is. There's the power. Oh, we've got it now: "…or the minister, as the case may be, is satisfied that (a) the timber or wood residue will be surplus to requirements of timber processing facilities in British Columbia."
There it is. It's got to be surplus. How could you read this without having your attention really focused on the matter? It goes on: "(b) the timber or wood residue cannot be processed economically in the vicinity of the land from which it is cut or produced, and cannot be transported economically to a processing facility located elsewhere in British Columbia, or (c) the exemption would prevent the waste of or improve the utilization of timber cut from Crown land." In section 128(3)(b) it says that the exemption can be given if timber cannot be transported economically to a processing facility.
So could the minister, in the context of what has happened lately, explain to us: what does that mean to him — the issue of transportation economically? Is that one of the things on his mind when he decided to overturn the position of TEAC?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to confirm. I guess, as the member opposite pointed out, that in the intent of the legislative change, things haven't changed. I think, as he pointed out, the provisions, with respect, were moved from legislation to regulation, but it was so that it could be adaptive in terms of new products and other things, rather than a prescriptive list.
Just to be clear, what the provisions do…. They've always been there in terms of the provisions, to be able to have exports. The test continues to be, as per the legislation, a surplus test that is administrated on the basis of a permit application process: surplus and fair market value. As part of the consideration, the fair-market-value offers for those, which include transportation considerations, are the basis on which the permit applications are assessed. It's an important consideration, and it's one that has always been there in the consideration process by TEAC and by the ministry.
B. Routley: Can the minister tell us why this government thinks log exports have skyrocketed in this province?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, in the legislation the provisions provide for the administration of a surplus test on exports, through that process.
We have seen an increase in exports as a result of world markets, changing markets, and as a result of the current domestic market price for the lumber. What it has
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done is it provided for increased additional harvest, it has kept people working, it has kept a provision of timber to mills, and it has kept employment going here in British Columbia. We have seen an increase.
Again, all of that goes through and has the surplus test applied to it. The provisions are there, if it is needed, for the domestic market. If it is and if the fair market offers are made on those logs, they're made available to the domestic mills.
B. Routley: As the minister knows, the government has a timber export advisory committee that reviews the applications for the export of raw logs and makes recommendations.
Could the minister tell us, both by percentage and volume — so by cubic metres — the amount of logs that have been kept in British Columbia or not exempted from export — for example, for 2010-2011 and the first quarter of 2012?
This is of particular interest because of recent events. We think it's important the public has full disclosure on the actual amount of logs that go through the process. We've heard the government talk a lot about having this test, that there's an actual test and even a committee whose job it is to make recommendations. They have come forward with recommendations, but we now understand that the government doesn't always listen to those recommendations.
My understanding is it's a very, very small volume that actually is prevented from being exported. I want to get to the bottom of that matter, and I want to hear from the minister clearly and concisely. What's the actual volume of all of the…? You've got 5.5 million cubic metres of wood exported. There were applications for a fraction of that amount. How much was actually permitted — the percentage of the total volume in British Columbia, the 5.5 million — and prevented from being exported? We'd like that reported. The public would be very interested in hearing.
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to note, speaking about the coast, which is where the majority is, 79 percent of the harvest on the coast stays and is processed on the coast — 79 percent.
In terms of the numbers of applications, there are approximately 1,000 applications per month on average. They range in volume from small volumes of a couple hundred metres to a few thousand cubic metres of volume in those applications. Of the 1,000 applications that are made, the average number of offers made on those is about 24 — so a small number of offers on those applications. We don't have the specific information on the volumes with respect to those offers that are made.
Again, with the overall number of applications, a small percentage of offers are made on those applications that are in. We can provide that information for the member opposite, in terms of the specific volumes that he's requesting, and we'll undertake to do that.
B. Routley: I think that illustrates the conundrum. There are 1,000 applications to export logs and only 24 offers.
Could the minister tell us, of those 24 offers on average, how many of them actually end up being recommended that the logs not be exported and that some B.C. company actually has the opportunity to buy those logs?
Hon. S. Thomson: I just wanted to confirm again, of the numbers that we're talking about here, it's important to note that about 50 percent of those are under the federal process from the private lands and about 50 percent of them are in the jurisdiction of the province.
Of those 24 roughly, about three or four of those offers would be dealt with in the fact that they would then not be allowed to export. So it's three or four out of the 24 where the offers would have been viewed as not meeting the surplus requirements and that there was a fair market offer provided on those. Therefore, the export permit would not have been provided. That was the basis of the advice. That's the process that was administered and the advice provided by TEAC in those cases.
B. Routley: Surely the minister isn't suggesting that he doesn't know the volume of wood over the course of a year. Through this process, that is directly under his purview and his responsibility, surely the minister isn't suggesting that he doesn't know how many cubic metres of logs actually got to stay in British Columbia and be processed in B.C. mills. That's the question. What was the volume of logs that actually got sent to B.C. mills through this process? That's obviously an important matter.
If you're a millworker or a manufacturing plant employee, you want to know that this test that the government talks about, that's all important…. Logs can't be exported from B.C. unless they're deemed as surplus. So how many logs were not deemed surplus to our needs and actually got to stay here in British Columbia and were blocked from being exported? What's the volume? You must know.
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, 68 million cubic metres — 62 million cubic metres of those harvested here in domestic mills. That's what the millworkers want to see in terms of the fact that by having the export provisions, it's allowing for additional harvest levels. Harvest levels are up in the province, up on Vancouver Island.
In terms of the specific volume, again, as I mentioned before, staff do not have that information specifically at hand, but it is a figure that I have committed and agreed that we would provide to the member opposite.
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B. Routley: Well, I have to say I'm shocked and surprised, but maybe we can move on.
The government has kind of come clean on the fact that they intervened with the timber export advisory committee regarding the Teal-Jones request for wood. Could the minister tell us: why exactly did the minister feel it necessary to intervene?
Hon. S. Thomson: We need to point out here, go back into a little bit of history here: the process under which TEAC administered both the surplus test and the fair market considerations around the offers has been in place for 30 years. They had administered it through that process, I'm advised, for over 30 years.
What happened here was that TEAC decided at that point…. To note, they're an advisory committee. They changed the process around how they considered the application of a fair market test. With those considerations and that process, I think it was entirely appropriate that the ministry at that point needed to continue to assess the applications on the basis of longstanding history in the way that the test had been applied.
The TEAC advisory process changed. We took the time to…. Because it had been a change, we needed to do the work and to work with TEAC in terms of analyzing the changes they made. In that process that we've undertaken, we've sought the advice of an independent — expert advice on this from a professor of economics from UBC, who has provided that advice to us.
We are working through that. We've met with TEAC once in that consideration. We provided the opportunity for them to review the draft information that the professor had provided, and they provided input into that. There's going to be a final report from that process, and we've agreed that we would engage TEAC in that process when we have that final information.
Again, just to be clear on the TEAC process, the TEAC advisory committee changed a longstanding process in how they had interpreted the offer process. It was entirely appropriate for us to review that. We made the decision to continue to deal with the offers in the longstanding way they had previously been done, but we also agreed to work with TEAC to review how that's done. That process is underway and will be completed shortly.
B. Routley: Well, I'm told by folks involved that that's not how they see it at all. There was no change in the process, and they're following their traditional policy. But obviously, the government sees it differently.
Could you explain how the…? You know, you're categorizing it as a changed process. What was the change that fundamentally required that the minister be taken away from his busy job to focus in on the small amount of logs that are being prevented from being exported from British Columbia? What exactly was this huge change, that suddenly government had to intervene?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to again point out that after a long history, over 30 years, of a basis on which the surplus test and the consideration around the offers in terms of fair market value were changed in terms of the advice that they were providing…. As I said, it's entirely appropriate that at that point the ministry continued to administer on the basis of the longstanding policy.
In doing that, we agreed that we needed to work with TEAC to look at how that part of the test is applied. That's why we've undertaken the work to do that. We've had the initial discussions with TEAC on it, and we'll be going back to those discussions.
I might just read into the record some of the considerations that are underway in that discussion, because this kind of sets out the basis on which the changes in the market have been applied — but also to say that this is draft and work that's continuing in the discussions with TEAC in order to get the understanding around how the fair market value, the market, the cost….
This all relates to the application of whether the offers include the transportation freight cost in terms of getting the logs from where they were harvested to the Vancouver log market. I'll just read this for the record.
"British Columbia has a longstanding history of regulating log exports. Under the Forest Act the minister can allow exports if certain criteria are satisfied, two of which hinge on whether or not the timber is surplus.
"Under the current export system, for wood to be considered surplus, domestic buyers have an opportunity to buy those logs before they can be exported if they can do so at fair market price based on the Vancouver log market prices and the logs are not considered surplus and cannot be exported. Based on how these criteria are interpreted, differences would arise as to whether or not timber is surplus and whether or not the offer price is fair.
"An examination of these criteria shows that changes in the economics of timber harvesting and manufacturing on the B.C. coast have led to changes in how the Vancouver log market works. Differences in location and transportation costs, along with changes in market structure, mean that the Vancouver log market prices might not be directly comparable to the timber being offered. In some cases, these prices might be less than what would be otherwise required to cover the cost of production and would therefore not be representative of those generated under market conditions and therefore not considered a fair market price.
"A more appropriate way to administer the surplus test is to use economic criteria to assess whether or not the timber could be harvested, transported and then manufactured economically domestically. Where export prices can improve the profitability of timber harvesting operations such that timber stands that would not otherwise have been harvested or are not economic, the portion of that timber required to make those stands economic should be considered surplus. This test will be consistent with the objective generating the greatest economic benefit to the province."
B. Routley: So now we're studying the matter. The horses are already out of the barn, so to speak. The government made a decision and intervened. I'm most curious about the fact that we're now studying and coming
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up with…. It almost sounds like we're going to come up with a rationale for what we've already done. We've done something, and now we need somebody to back us up and come up with a series of potential excuses. So we've got this UBC economics professor looking into the matter.
My understanding is that it was a unanimous decision of the TEAC committee, a broad-based committee made up by folks from all sides of the industry, even labour. There's a whole bunch of…. Even the stakeholders that are involved in exporting logs are involved.
We'll try this — another angle. Could the minister explain how the people of British Columbia and how this government benefit from this decision to involve yourself and deny the unanimous decision of the TEAC committee? How does the government benefit? Or maybe: who benefits?
[J. Thornthwaite in the chair.]
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, I want to point out and what's important to recognize here is 30 years of advice from the committee who interpreted a policy and a criteria and a process in one way then changed that — after 30 years of process.
I think it's entirely appropriate that the ministry and the government at that time…. Because it is advisory and because it was a change in policy after 30 years, we continue to administer the policy on the basis under which we'd received the advice.
We've also agreed that we would undertake to review it — review it with TEAC — which we did. That process is underway. That process continues. That's the work that we've had done.
What's important is for both the advisory process and the ministry to come to a good understanding of how that market works and how to interpret and apply the fair market portion of the surplus test, which is part of the responsibilities. That's what we've committed to do. That work is underway.
We've engaged once with TEAC on it. They've provided further comment and thoughts on it. That's being put into the consideration, and then we will be engaging with them again, based on the analysis and the work that's being undertaken.
B. Routley: Well, I have to say that I'm very, very concerned about what's going on. We can't get a direct answer on the amount of logs that are actually being kept in British Columbia. The minister doesn't want…. At least, he doesn't want to publicly announce today how much wood is actually being prevented from being exported.
We've got this B.C. log export process that's on the minister's website that talks about an offer being received, and then it talks about the surplus test under the heading that the TEAC committee is going to review it. Then there's either an offer that's determined by the TEAC committee to be not fair market price and then a recommendation, approval to export, if there's no offer that was based on fair market price.
It's my understanding, in talking to the committee, that they often will make a decision one way or the other on that matter. Yet we've got a situation where we've got the clear indication from the committee that they were together on wanting to see….
I tell you. We don't have a smoking gun yet, but we certainly have an indication from the committee that there's something wrong when, at the end of the day, the government decides to, against the backdrop of the legislation of the province of British Columbia…. There's legislation in the province of British Columbia designed specifically to try to assert some control.
Essentially, the minister has the authority, but the whole premise is based on: how do we get logs? There used to be a list for all these manufacturing needs. How do we get logs for lumber manufacturing, for veneer plants?
I've gone to the trouble of explaining all of these operations that have gone. Of course there's more log surplus. Anybody could come up with a test that says, with all these mills that have gone down, that there are more logs surplus to our needs.
The government's job is to act in the interests of the people of British Columbia. We've got a perfectly good committee here that recommends, and then the government, for some unknown reason, interjects itself into the process and denies the answer.
Maybe I'll get some straight answers with the next question.
Have the TEAC committee's recommendations in the past five years always been acted upon? Is it just since December that we've had this problem of the report of 87? Or there might be 40 more, plus or minus. Is this a recent event — that we've had the government intervening with the actions of this committee? Or has this been an ongoing practice of this government?
Hon. S. Thomson: I'm advised that in the long history of this there have been only a couple of instances where the advice was not accepted in the process. I think what's important, again, to point out here is that this was a fundamental change in the way they interpreted that, starting in December. Previous to this, the same members of that committee, the same ones who changed the position…. These are not new members of the committee or anything. This is the same group that for the previous….
Some new members were added last May, but for a number of months through that process, those members — the same members of the committee that changed the way they interpreted this criteria in December — pro-
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vided advice based on the longstanding process around consideration of fair market value over 30 years. That process changed. Their advice changed.
Again, as I've said, I think it was appropriate that we continued to administer on the longstanding basis on which the fair market value had been determined, on the basis on which the current advisory committee had done for a significant number of months leading up to the change.
As I said, we've agreed that that process on how they determine that needs to be considered, needs to be analyzed, needs to be worked through with the advisory committee. That process is underway, and the work is being done. We've engaged with them, and we're going to continue to engage with the committee in that process.
B. Routley: Well, again, I have to respectfully disagree. The information that we've been given is that the committee followed its longstanding practice. The practice — again, I may have it off a little bit — is that they generally go with the closest real or perceived log market. There's got to be some kind of a log market that exists. As I understand the issue, the committee was unanimous in determining where they thought the log market was, and for whatever reason….
Maybe the minister could tell us: did you have a complaint from somebody that was exporting logs and they felt somehow unjustly treated by the TEAC committee? How did the minister come about deciding to inject himself in this matter?
Hon. S. Thomson: No. This change in the process was brought to me by staff who reviewed it with me, based on the history and the approach. That's when we made the decision to continue to administer the policy based on the longstanding approach.
Again, I've also made the decision that the basis needs to be reviewed so that we fully understand it and we ensure that we're applying the surplus test and the fair-market test on the basis of the legislation and the policy and on the way that it has being done for 30 years, up till this point.
If it was to change, we need to be ensured that we change it on the basis of a full understanding, and that would be with both TEAC and ourselves. That work is underway to ensure that we apply the consideration of that fair-market test in administering the program in a thoughtful way.
I think it is entirely appropriate that we made the decision that we did, and it's entirely appropriate that we're reviewing it and getting that common understanding of how to fairly apply the fair-market test.
B. Routley: Well, Minister, I have to tell you that it has come to our attention through independent mill owners in British Columbia that they believe the change that the government is contemplating could cost jobs and be the end of their manufacturing futures. That's how serious it is to some of the folks that are involved in this process. But here we are, so I'll move on.
I have to ask the question: since the minister knows of all of the mill closures, etc., and the fact that we have got mills that have been on reduced shifts — companies right here on Vancouver Island that have not been running at their full capacity, and yet they have been exporting logs — does the minister see any kind of connection at all between the growing volume of the raw log exports and the closure or reduction of shifts in sawmills in British Columbia and other wood processing facilities? Is there any connection at all? It's all just coincidental, maybe.
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, I think the important point to make here is…. As the minister responsible, I want to see as much activity and logs manufactured here domestically as possible. The process is about finding the approaches and the balance of policy that achieves that. I think that everybody will recognize that log exports are part of the equation in finding the basis to do that. I think even the most vigorous critics recognize that some level of log export will need to be part of that process.
That's why we've engaged in the review, had multilevel consultations with stakeholders throughout the process, looking to try to find the policy levers that will provide for that, finding that appropriate balance. That work continues. It's a very, very complex policy, because there are lots of implications around many of the policy approaches that can be taken. We've got a broad range of consideration in having to address some of those potential recommendations and suggestions that are coming forward through that process.
But again, I think we need to recognize, also, that the ability for log exports is allowing currently uneconomic stands to be harvested. It's providing for additional harvest activity in the province. It's providing for additional opportunities in communities. It's providing additional lumber to mills. This is what's keeping many mills operating, providing that additional employment.
The approach, though, is to continue to work towards finding the appropriate balance. That's what we want to do. As a general statement, having as much of the lumber manufactured or utilized domestically is the ultimate goal.
B. Routley: Now that you've talked about that, the fact remains that we've had this government study this thing to death. We had first, I believe it was, Dumont-Wright, and then we had Dobell, and now we've got this recent study. We've had study after study after study, and now we're still studying.
I remember that the minister at one point talked about
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this balance and that we had this committee work, I think it was, last summer and fall — maybe even winter. Now, you know, here we are in May and still no report-out from all of this government's action. Maybe the minister could tell us: what exactly is this balance that you're looking for that you keep talking about, and when is the government going to report out on some of the work that the government has been doing?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, the overall approach here…. As the member opposite knows, we've been working through it. We've had some opportunity to discuss very, very complex….
It hinges not just on the policy itself. It hinges on the market. It hinges on ensuring we have a competitive industry, being able to reduce costs within the industry. It hinges on being able to continue to develop markets for the industry, the market opportunities, which we've been very, very successful at, in building the market diversification, creating markets — the greatest percentage in terms of finding the markets and new values for lumber.
There are a lot of implications around each of the potential approaches, as the members opposite know — implications with respect to trade policy. Many, many areas relate to this. It is important that we make sure we do all of the work on it.
In addition, the recent work in terms of working with TEAC in determining the basic administration of surplus and the application of the fair-market test is an important part of that, because that is the core. The foundation of the current policy is that surplus test and application of fair market value under the legislation.
Again, that's another very important piece that we need to make sure we get that understanding, because there's recognition that there will continue to need to be and will be a level of exports. We've got many areas of the province where, if we didn't have the opportunity for export and export policy, we would not have any jobs or activity going on. You take many areas of the Interior where that would be the case.
There are regional differences. There's the coastal industry. There's the Interior industry. It's a very, very complex policy. We've consulted through the process. We're taking the time to make sure that we understand all of those implications and the possible pros and cons of different options — what may be achieved through harvest response, if you take certain levers, how it effects our international trade obligations. All of that has to be factored into it.
So again, a process underway, but it's one where we need to make sure that we fully understand what the policy adjustments may do and that we need to understand in the broader context of the world market and where market conditions will be going as well.
B. Routley: Obviously, I didn't hear a date there — when we were going to see some action. There's obviously a lot going on. I do have to ask, though…. There's the possibility of some kind of interim measures with all of the talk that's been going on.
One of the things that has been brought to my attention is that during those meetings held to review log export policy, a number of stakeholders explained to government the serious concerns that they have with the process that allows for major companies to use what's referred to as blockmail. Some people use the term blackmail. I think I prefer the term blockmail. I think it's more….
In any case, what they're referring to is the fact that smaller companies are deterred from bidding on logs that the company has put up for export, because they might get some percentage or volume for their business, and by blocking the export, that certainly is affecting the business of the large corporation that may be involved in exporting raw logs as a primary function of their business. They're totally focused on exporting logs, and here is this small company trying to get some logs. Even if they are successful in getting some level of wood to their operation, there is this blockmail.
In the past I've heard potential solutions, like: why don't we just put the bids in an envelope? If it's fair market price, the bidder wins, just like any other tendering process. Why is there this cloak-and-dagger stuff that goes on, with the potential seller getting to intimidate or affect the business of the potential buyer in this way?
So the question is: what is the government doing to stop the practice of intimidation and to allow smaller companies to bid on logs without fear of reprisal — of losing other logs that they have an agreement to purchase?
Hon. S. Thomson: I certainly acknowledge that, in the process, we've heard those concerns. It's part of the consideration. I think it's important to recognize that in dealing with that, there are administrative implications in how you do that — cost implications in terms of the administration. We also hear the opposite as part of the process too — that many arrangements are made before it gets to that, provides the business-to-business relationships so it doesn't get into that potential situation.
Again, it is one of the things that we've definitely heard through the process, and it's part of the overall consideration in terms of how we administer the policy. We're looking at it as part of a number of other administrative suggestions that have come forward from the consultation process. We certainly acknowledge that that is a concern that has been raised.
B. Routley: Moving onto another issue. The government removed the appurtenancy that once connected
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forest licences to communities and to help forest workers.
Of course, the intention was…. In fact, the documents produced by the government at the time talked about, well, this flexibility was going to create investment, and it was going to be a wonderful thing, indeed. I'm sure the minister must be tracking this carefully, so I can hardly wait for the answer here.
Does the government know at all, or do you have any information at all to share with us today about what the total investment has been made by each company that's holding public tenure in the province of British Columbia? If you've got the total package, that would be wonderful. I'm sure you're tracking the ones that are now exporting logs, so that we could have some indication for the good people of B.C. of exactly how much investment is being made in some kind of manufacturing operation over these last ten years.
Hon. S. Thomson: Just again to recognize this. We've had a very, very significant level of investment in the industry. We can provide a long list of those specific investments that have been made.
Just for example, as I noted previously, net mill reopenings: four in 2011 and 15 in 2010. Added shifts: seven major mills have put on additional shifts or lines in 2011 compared to four in 2010. Major investments in upgrading product quality and mill efficiency to reduce costs by many mills and companies: Western Forest Products recently, $40 million on Vancouver Island; Canfor, $38½ million into reopening the Radium mill and $1½ million into Canal Flats.
Significant investments across the industry, as they've all worked to improve quality and increase mill efficiency. We do track it, and we can provide a specific list of all of the investments for the member.
B. Routley: Well, that will be very interesting indeed, so I'll look forward to that.
The next question I have for you. Interfor in November of 2011 had in their annual report:
"Log sales improved by 64 percent or $14 million and by 44 percent or $26.3 million for the third quarter and first nine months of 2011 respectively, in comparison to the same periods in 2010. Canadian log sales volume increased by 49 percent in the third quarter in 2011 and by 33 percent, year-to-date, relative to the same periods, 2010, reflecting increased domestic demand for fibre but driven primarily by increased demand for logs from the export markets.
"On the B.C. coast exported-log sales volume more than doubled in the third quarter of 2011 and for the first nine months of 2011 as compared to 2010."
This is from the quarterly report of this one company, Interfor.
Would the minister agree that, in other words, there is a downward spiral at work here? The bigger the gap between domestic and export prices, the more domestic mills shut down, the less domestic demand there is and the softer prices become, so that the gap between export and domestic prices actually grows even more. Does the minister agree that that's the dynamic that is currently at work here in the province of British Columbia?
Hon. S. Thomson: No, I think the important point to recognize is that there are many, many variables — exchange rates, international markets, trade policy — a great number of variables that relate to that gap.
It's quite interesting to note that in 2000 the gap was $39; the current gap, $33. So the gap is currently less now than it was in 2000. That just points to the fact…. And it ranges over all the years. So there are a great number of variables that influence the market and the difference between domestic and export price.
B. Routley: The minister and others have talked about the fact that shipping lumber to China is beneficial to the province of British Columbia, and of course, that's very true. That's what we're in the business of doing: selling our products into whatever market is out there. We've seen dramatically increasing markets in not only China but in other nations as well.
But it's also true that China's biggest challenge right now, I'm told, is log costs, as reported by the Wood Markets Group. They say the flip side of the offshore market for dimension lumber — in fact, this was noted in Madison's Lumber Reporter, Kéta Kosman, in 2010 — is that China and other countries are also eager…. They are "eager customers for logs," she wrote. "Their eventual goal is to process the logs into lumber themselves."
Does the minister agree that when we ship logs to foreign countries, it helps them to offset their competitive disadvantage in log costs and that it, therefore, also undermines the competitive advantage of B.C. manufacturers or sawmills in selling their lumber into their markets?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, I want to reaffirm that the approach that we want to take is to ensure that we have the appropriate balance. Our focus and our marketing efforts continue to focus on developing markets for lumber.
We have had great success in that, both working in the Asia-Pacific, through FII, through the China wood group, through our team in Japan and now in Korea and focusing on India, to continue to develop the markets for lumber exports. That is why we have invested in marketing initiatives. That is why we have worked with those jurisdictions in terms of building code changes and demonstration projects, focusing on building the market for lumber.
That is where we have seen great success. That is where we have seen over a billion dollars in lumber sales to China. That is where we'll continue to focus our market
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development initiatives. We're continuing to work to find that appropriate balance.
B. Routley: Since 2001, 18,600 jobs have been lost in wood manufacturing alone, and another 5,600 in pulp and paper in B.C., according to B.C. statistics. Does the minister still not see any connection between increasing raw log exports and the loss occurring in wood manufacturing operations in British Columbia?
Hon. S. Thomson: No. What the evidence shows in the current situation is that the ability to export logs…. Again, I want to point out that the overall approach needs to find the appropriate balance.
Obviously, we'd like to have as much manufactured domestically as possible. But the current ability to export logs — recognizing that the surplus test is in place for those that are needed for the domestic market — is a process that is currently ensuring that we have additional harvest activity, ensuring that we have additional jobs here in British Columbia and ensuring that we have additional lumber for the domestic industry.
Do we need to continue to work to find that balance? Do we continue to work to ensure that we have a competitive industry and to find the ability to increase that capacity? That's our objective.
The member opposite talked about the capital investment in the industry. Just to point out — and we talked about that very significant capital investment — capital expenditures in 2010 are $419 million, which is up 37 percent from '09 and expected to increase by another 33 percent in 2011. So the investments are being made in the industry.
We need to continue to work to make sure that we have a competitive industry so that we can have those investments made here in British Columbia, and we need to work to find the balance between the export provisions and the domestic market. Our focus will continue to be on developing the markets for lumber from British Columbia into those markets.
B. Routley: Well, the minister is also aware that there are B.C. independent mill owners as well as veneer operations.
Local communities…. For example, in the Cowichan Valley Mayor Ross Forrest and the community forest board in the little community of Lake Cowichan came forward and talked to the minister and his staff as well as the official opposition about their concern that driving right through town were all of these raw logs, and they couldn't get sufficient logs for the little mill — we're not talking about some big manufacturing operation; a very small mill — that needs, I think they said, a couple of loads a day of logs. That would be more than sufficient to meet their needs.
Yet these manufacturing operations can't get the logs they need. You know, the mills on the Fraser River — you've heard concerns from those mills. Other manufacturing operators in British Columbia are also ringing alarm bells about the fact that we have a ramping up of log exports, a doubling of raw log exports. Yet this government is in absolute denial that there's any problem at all. That's what we've just heard. "No, there's no connection. It's not…."
We'll keep trying again. Maybe this will clarify the matter.
Since 2001 lumber exports have fallen 40 percent; shake and shingle exports by 55.5 percent; plywood and other panels, 46.5 percent; and value-added wood products by 65.7 percent. All told, forest product exports have fallen by 40 percent, for a total loss of over $3.6 million in export earnings. At the same time, the value of raw log exports rose, the only category of wood products to actually increase over that period.
Does the minister think there is any connection now between the declines in the export of manufactured wood products and the rise of raw log exports?
Hon. S. Thomson: We know the industry has come through one of the worst and most challenging market cycles that they've had in many, many years with the collapse of the U.S. housing market, world markets. Our focus has been to continue to work with the industry to develop new markets to provide those new opportunities for lumber manufacturing. We've heard from communities around the province, where we know the ability to have some portion of the export market is what's keeping the people employed, keeping wood coming to mills in those areas, building capacity in First Nations communities around the province, with that ability.
Again, this is about ensuring that we have the balance. That's why we're continuing to work with the industry, continuing to work on the overall policy. But I think, on a broader scale, we need to continue to work with the industry to find the approaches that allow to us have a competitive industry, to develop new markets and new value-added opportunities for the industry.
That's why we are investing in research in FII innovations in terms of developing new opportunities and new markets, to get greater utilization of the total fibre base. We're going to continue those efforts. We've seen very significant success in building those markets.
That ability has allowed the industry to come through a very, very challenging time with a foundation that allows us to build on and continue to move forward as markets recover and improve. As we do that, we'll ensure that we find that appropriate balance with our export policy, recognizing that the core foundation of it is ensuring that we have a strong administration of the surplus test and the fair-market test through that core permit pro-
[ Page 11453 ]
cess for export.
B. Routley: Some people even say that we should export more logs. Those folks are primarily involved in the logging that is directly connected to the log export market. They say it creates jobs.
Since 2001, in addition to all the job losses in manufacturing, there were also 10,800 fewer jobs in forestry and logging in British Columbia, according to B.C. statistics. That doesn't look much like a job creation strategy for logging to me.
Can the minister tell us exactly how log exports create jobs when there are so many fewer jobs in forestry, logging and even value-added today than there were in 2001? How is that working out?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, this is a process that's about the market. We recognize that we've come through one of the most significant challenges, one of the downturns in the industry, with the collapse of the U.S. housing market, housing starts. We have worked with the industry to ensure a diversified market approach.
[J. McIntyre in the chair.]
The member opposite quoted the Wood Markets Group. I'd just like to look at a quote that they had in last summer, where it said: "China's appetite for logs and sawn lumber is having a profound effect on the revitalization of the British Columbia forest sector."
Building those markets, building those opportunities, is what has protected jobs in British Columbia, has kept jobs in British Columbia. Again, we need to continue to work with the industry to ensure that we have a competitive industry going forward. We need to position the industry as markets recover, and we need to ensure that we have the appropriate balance.
We've developed opportunities in communities through community forests. We've provided First Nations capacity in the industry. Through that, by providing those local opportunities, we're going to continue to work on that, but we want to make sure that we continue to position the industry as a competitive industry going forward. That's what will build jobs.
By being able to increase the market, we have actually got the equivalent of over 18 mills in production in lumber into China. That's over 9,000 jobs that have been developed and protected through those market diversification efforts. That's what we'll continue to do — continue to work with the industry in building a competitive industry here in British Columbia.
B. Routley: According to Statistics Canada, on an end-of-year gross stock basis, real investments in machinery and equipment in B.C.'s forestry and logging sector was reduced from 2001 to 2011 by 28 percent. That's an average fall of 2.8 percent per year. That's basically active disinvestment in the B.C. forest industry.
If raw log exports are stimulating employment investment, could the minister please tell us why we're seeing such sharply declining investment in the forestry and logging sector in British Columbia?
Hon. S. Thomson: We know the industry has, as I say, come through a very, very significant challenge — as many in the industry would say, almost a depression through the industry. Again to point out, in 2010, $419 million of capital investment in the industry, up 37 percent from the previous year. This is expected to increase by 33 percent for 2011.
We're seeing the capital investment come back into the industry. We're seeing those investments we've made. I've listed previously a number of examples of where that investment has been made. We've agreed to provide that list of capital investment in the industry. We're seeing all of that, the investment being made within the industry, as the market conditions improve in the industry. That's where we're going to continue to work to ensure that we have a competitive industry and that we continue to build those diversified markets and that added value for the industry.
The Chair: Member, and just a gentle reminder that we are discussing the estimates on Vote 27.
B. Routley: Thank you.
Could the minister tell us how he views the relationship between job creation in the timber-harvesting sector and jobs in the manufacturing sector? How are the two connected?
Hon. S. Thomson: They're both acknowledged. They're both very important. The jobs in the harvesting and timber side are important jobs. Those are jobs that provide for families in British Columbia. The jobs in the manufacturing sector are equally important. That's why we're continuing to work to find that balanced approach.
With all of the discussion we've had here, I've said that we want to make sure we work towards having as much of our resource manufactured here domestically. That's the objective. It's about finding the balance, and it is about recognizing that under current market conditions the ability to export and to have that capacity is providing for additional jobs and keeping jobs here in British Columbia at the current time under current market conditions.
We need to continue to work to find that balance. We need to continue to work with the industry so that we get the investment in the industry and build that cap-
[ Page 11454 ]
acity. That will come over time, as the markets develop and improve. That's going to be our continued focus — developing those markets.
B. Routley: Does the minister or this government believe that it's at all possible to stimulate job creation in B.C.'s manufacturing and value-added sector?
Hon. S. Thomson: In response to the member opposite, yes, we do. We believe that if we work with the industry by continuing to develop the markets to be able to provide those opportunities, accessing and developing new markets by continuing to focus on a policy of Wood First in terms of building a greater utilization of wood construction in all markets; by working on all of those kinds of initiatives and finding the new value-added opportunities, moving towards greater utilization of all of the fibre availability, which adds to the return from the resource — that all of those efforts in combination will help continue to build those markets and make sure that we have a competitive industry here in British Columbia.
We believe, in combination and as the world market and domestic market improves, that we will be able to stimulate that investment in the industry.
We're starting to see that investment already, as was pointed out, as people are investing in greater efficiency and in mills in British Columbia. We're seeing mills reopen. We're seeing the additional shifts. We've listed a number of examples where that has taken place. So the short answer is yes.
B. Routley: According to Hans De Visser of Coastland veneer plant in Nanaimo, the demand for raw logs from overseas is pushing up the cost of fibre, and that's a concern for mills like the Coastland mill. "We can get logs, but they are not of the same quality that we are shipping overseas, and because of the demand in Asia, they are costing us more."
Does the minister agree with Mr. De Visser that log exports are making it harder for B.C. mills to buy logs?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to reiterate. First of all, to note that under current export policy, we don't allow the export of the high-grade logs, those high-value logs. The surplus test is in place for the domestic mills. I'm aware, and it was noted even in comments by…. We're aware of this business by Mr. De Visser — that he has used the surplus application process to get access to supply.
Again, I need to go back to the basic point. The overall work we need to do is all about finding the appropriate balance, making sure that we…. That's why we're reviewing the policy. That's why we're working with the industry to find that appropriate balance, and continuing to work in developing markets for the industry so that we're in a position, as the industry and the market improve and recover, to have the strong domestic market in British Columbia that provides lumber for both the domestic market and the international market through our market diversification initiatives.
The Chair: Just another reminder to all members that we are considering the estimates for Vote 27 for the ministry. I hope you'll make every effort to show relevance to the vote at hand.
B. Routley: We're talking about log exports. Obviously, they have financial ramifications to the province of British Columbia and certainly to the estimates process.
Mr. De Visser goes on to say that log exports put B.C. at a competitive disadvantage, because while local mills must buy all of their wood here, offshore buyers buy a small amount of wood at premium prices, driving up the domestic price. As Mr. De Visser says, domestic mills have little choice but to buy all of their logs domestically.
Does the minister agree that domestic mills are therefore at a cost disadvantage compared to offshore buyers, who can pay a premium for relatively small quantities of specialized wood?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, I want to point to the work that we're doing with the industry, with the stakeholder groups, in reviewing the overall policy. Mr. De Visser is part of that process and has had input into it. Again, it's about working to find the appropriate balance. That's where we will continue. This is a complex international market, but our approach is to continue to build the market for lumber. On a provincial basis, over 90 percent of the harvest is available for the domestic industry. Less than 10 percent of the harvest is in the form of export logs.
We will continue to work to find that balance and continue to work to ensure that we have a competitive industry. We're continuing, as I said, to review the policy — complex policy with lots of implications. That's why we need to make sure that we understand all those implications as we look through the policy levers on the export side of things.
B. Routley: In the past decade we've seen the value-added wood manufacturing sector absolutely devastated in this province. The value-added exports fell by 65.7 percent from 2002 to 2011, and the value-added share of all exports fell from 3.4 percent to just 1 percent over the same period. Other wood product shipments — Statistics Canada's designation for value-added; that's where this was found — have fallen from $1.4 billion in 2005 to just $1 billion in 2010.
Does the minister believe there is any connection between escalating raw log exports and the decline of value-added wood manufacturing here in British Columbia?
[ Page 11455 ]
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, I need to point out that we've come through one of the most challenging times in the sector, and 2009 was the bottom of the market. We're starting to see the recovery. We're seeing the investment come back into the industry. We're seeing the results of the focused work on market development.
We will continue to focus efforts, as the market conditions improve, on building the value-added component of it. That is also why we are investing in FII innovations and the group there looking at new products and new value-added opportunities. We will continue to work to do that.
In disagreeing with the member opposite in terms of linking this directly to log exports…. This is a function of the macroeconomics. We need to continue to work and build the capacity back into the industry as the market opportunities develop and recover through those improved opportunities. That is the work that we do collectively with many of the stakeholders in the industry.
B. Routley: I understand the government is also responsible for the federal log exports, in terms of the committee, the surplus test, etc. Currently, as I understand it, the federal government collects almost nothing — only $14. So $14 for an application to export logs. That's not per cubic metre; just $14 is the processing fee for exports from federally regulated private lands. There are no other moneys collected by the province of B.C. or the federal government. There's $14. Is that correct, Minister?
Hon. S. Thomson: We administer the surplus test for the federal government. They make the decisions, and the application fee is $14 as the member referenced.
B. Routley: That's quite stunning. It's really stunning to think that that's all they pay for major volumes of logs exported from the province of British Columbia — 14 bucks.
Can the minister…? Well, I just want to pause here and reflect on the fact that right now in British Columbia we've got the largest volume of log exports — 5.5 million cubic metres last year alone.
We've got the export issue. We've got coastal employers talking about the shortage of logs for their mills, shutting down shifts, even going on the media to explain that they're losing shifts as a result of not enough logs for their mill, and then the government talking about — recently released documents — a midterm timber supply crisis. We're going to have mills close in British Columbia for the lack of logs.
For the last hour or two, I've been talking about the raw log export problem, how we're exporting logs from the province, and then how we're not going to have enough logs in the province of British Columbia — in the next breath.
Could the minister, as part of this discussion, tell us: does the government have any idea how many mills are going to have to close in British Columbia, in the next five or ten years alone, due to the lack of logs?
Hon. S. Thomson: It really is completely misleading for the member opposite to link the export policy in actual volumes to the midterm timber supply issues through the Interior. We've canvassed this extensively, previously in the estimates.
The members opposite know that there is a process underway to look at options for mitigation in the midterm timber supply in the region impacted by the mountain pine beetle. We've indicated that that will involve a public engagement process to look at those options. The report is there that talks about the possible impact on mills through that region. That's known; we've talked about that previously in the estimates. But to link that issue to the log export policy and the volume of log exports is completely misleading.
N. Macdonald: Just one quick question.
The Chair: Excuse me. I'd like to recognize the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke.
N. Macdonald: Thank you. Sorry, I didn't mean to take away your job there.
The Chair: Through the Chair. It's an important job.
N. Macdonald: It's an important function. I know it. You get most of the TV time, I've noticed, if you ever watch this. These are important jobs.
A really quick question. The timber export advisory committee would have met in mid-April, and number of bids would have come. Just a question: did the minister overturn any of those TEAC decisions, and did the minister withhold any bids from TEAC coming out of that last meeting?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to confirm, no, we do not withhold any applications to TEAC, but I do want to state that as we work through the policy consideration with them as a result of the work that's underway, we've continued to administer the policy on the basis of the longstanding policy that was in place previously.
N. Macdonald: Did you overturn it?
Hon. S. Thomson: We continue to administer the policy on the basis of the longstanding policy that was in place until they made the change.
[ Page 11456 ]
J. Horgan: I just appreciate the opportunity to stand and participate in the estimates process with the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
Just for his staff's benefit, I'm going to be talking about run-of-river, water issues and water stewardship. So if people wanted to gather their belongings and make their way to the back row, I'll skate a little bit.
Minister, I wanted to speak to you specifically about water use plans in my constituency of Juan de Fuca — the Sooke River drainage. What's brought this to the fore publicly…. I know the minister or staff will have had briefing materials prepared on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' determination that the De Mamiel Creek dam is no longer vital to fish in the De Mamiel Creek. Its tributary runs into the Sooke River.
I'm wondering, based on that decision…. There's going to be an impact on steelhead. There's going to be an impact on sea-run cutthroat as well as coho and other salmon species that migrate through that river to Young Lake. Can the minister, through his staff, advise my constituents if the province has any expectation to review the water use plan in the Sooke River drainage and include any potential mitigation to protect fish stocks that would be a provincial responsibility?
Hon. S. Thomson: I've just been getting a bit of an education on this one. As the member opposite knows, this is a DFO dam that they've decided they're going to decommission or take out. My understanding, in the brief discussion with staff here, is that it potentially has some impacts.
I think what I can indicate is that our staff at the regional level would be quite prepared to sit down with the member opposite and look at that situation and determine what those impacts may be. My understanding is that the impacts would be minimal, relatively low. But I'm sure that's something that's up for debate or consideration. What we'll undertake to do is to ensure that there are direct discussions between our regional staff and the member opposite.
J. Horgan: I thank the minister. I do appreciate that this is an issue that was created by the federal government that has now become a problem for the people in my community, those that are working in the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society who have done 20 years of volunteer work to build up these runs. And then to have the federal government, which insisted year upon year upon year on making a larger edifice to hold water, now saying that it's too big to manage. I can't describe the stupidity of that determination by the federal government. I fully respect that this is not a provincial problem, but there will be reverberations throughout the system.
I certainly will take the minister up on his offer. I'd be delighted to talk to his capable staff about how we can potentially come up with some solutions for my community and, more importantly, the water and the whole Sooke drainage. But if I could get, just at this point, an update on the status of any reviews of the Sooke water use plans or any of that data that you would have that's available today. If not — if the answer is, "It's not at hand" — I'm quite happy to wait and meet with staff and deal with it then.
Hon. S. Thomson: It's not at hand, so I appreciate the offer of the member opposite to wait and engage directly on it.
J. Horgan: That's great, Minister. I appreciate that, and I am very much looking forward to it. Your staff can expect a call. In fact, after we wrap up these series of questions and they return back to the gallery seats, I'll perhaps throw some cards around, and we can go from there.
The next series of questions, however, I think will be a little bit more difficult and challenging for regional staff. Or at least I find it an interesting scenario. This is with respect to the Tzoonie River and water use at Tyson Creek in their independent power project owned currently, I believe, by Renewable Power Corporation.
Back in 2010 the project was shut down because of turbidity in Tyson Creek. I'm wondering if the minister and his staff could provide an update on what measures government took to remediate any damage and what the consequences were for the proponent.
Hon. S. Thomson: In terms of the specifics that are in the member opposite's question, we don't have the staff here that have that specific answer. We're undertaking to get the answer for the member opposite, and we'll provide it as soon as it's received. If we can get the information directly, now, we'll provide it here on the record. If not, we'll ensure that we can provide it directly to the member.
J. Horgan: I thank the minister. I appreciate that this is a bit of a roulette game for staff and for the minister, with the various issues that you have to canvass in your ministry. It's hard to know when we pop up with things on our minds just what those may be and how they're relevant to whoever may be assembled to help and assist you in answering those questions.
Then perhaps maybe a generic question about the role and function of the ministry with respect to enforcement of stream flows, impact on fish, evidence of turbidity at this site, at Tzoonie, and another site that the minister is responsible for. Could the minister give me a global number of the number of independent power projects that the ministry is responsible for monitoring and enforcing regulations and so on?
[ Page 11457 ]
Hon. S. Thomson: In terms of the overall number, there are 50 operations that are in operation. There are monitoring systems in place on all of those operations, and they're monitored on a 24-7 basis. So a total number of 50.
J. Horgan: I'm wondering how the minister…. On the 24-7 statement at the end of his comments — 50 facilities all across the province, reduced number of staff over the past number of years. How are we monitoring? Are there regular visits? Are they random visits? How do we manage and monitor flows and potential impacts on fish?
Hon. S. Thomson: There is a requirement in the licensing for monitoring. The operators are required to report whenever there is any non-compliance with the conditions, so that monitoring takes place. We do have a process of inspection and an audit of the facilities. They are also required to provide data to us, and that data is reviewed for any indications of non-compliance.
J. Horgan: In this self-regulation model that the minister has just outlined, how many staff within the ministry are available to inspect and produce the audits that the minister referred to? And how regular is this activity? How regularly do the 50 facilities that the minister identified each report to the ministry with respect to their activities and the use of their water licence?
Hon. S. Thomson: In doing this, we use a combination of approaches. As I said, it requires an independent environmental monitor and independent engineer on site during the construction, and the reports are submitted to the province. We have a compliance and enforcement staff, conservation officer staff who inspect the sites. And also technical staff — engineers and biologists also inspect.
Recently, as member opposite knows, we have brought through by regulation the Natural Resource Compliance Act, which is now putting that integrated approach to compliance and enforcement across all our natural resource officers, giving them the power to do the compliance and enforcement on a broader range of legislation. That's going to help in a number of areas, including increased compliance and enforcement on the water power projects.
J. Horgan: I just have a couple more questions, Minister. I want to talk a little bit about something called ramping. Perhaps staff are familiar…. We're getting a bit of a nod on that. So just for those that are watching and for the Chair's benefit, ramping is a process whereby IPPs, run-of-river projects will increase the water behind the weir rapidly and then release it rapidly at peak times to generate more electricity. The process quite often leads to stranding fry when the water recedes.
I'm wondering if the ministry is looking at this practice with a critical eye. Or is it just something that's the cost of doing business? If it is looking at it with a critical eye, what are the consequences for projects that practise ramping and potentially strand fry when water recedes?
Hon. S. Thomson: Thank you for the question from the member.
This is an issue that certainly raised concerns. It is one of the concerns being raised not only by the provincial government, our ministry, but also by the DFO — and, I think it's important to recognize, by the industry themselves.
There is ongoing work between all the parties looking to strengthen the practices with respect to that. This has been a process where the practices and the guidelines have been developed over time and are being strengthened. But again, it's an area — I can confirm to the member opposite — that is one that has active discussion between all parties.
J. Horgan: In the interest of time, I think I'll just put a whole bunch of questions to you in rapid succession with the expectation that you'll get back to me with paper on it, rather than provide answers, if that's okay.
It goes back in one part to the Tzoonie River and the Tyson Creek file and the closures that resulted from the evidence of turbidity back in 2010. I'm wondering if the minister could provide the official opposition with an inventory of any consequences as a result of that, any potential violations of the water licence, what actions government took and what the consequences were to the proponents or to the company.
The broader question. You made reference to 50 facilities across the province. If the minister could provide, basically, a checklist of the past fiscal year — if you could go back two, I would be delighted; if you could go back five, even better — of violations and consequences with respect to meeting the requirements of all of the permits and licences that the minister is now responsible for. That's a big question.
I know the data exists. Certainly, we could access freedom of information. But I know in the interest of cooperation at this time, when all staff work very, very hard — having done this myself in the past, preparing for this rite of passage in the spring, when all public servants come together with their binders to give the minister the information to answer the probing questions that opposition members come up with — the information exists to save us all the trouble.
If you could endeavour to provide that information or at least put me on to someone who can, I'd greatly appreciate it.
[ Page 11458 ]
Hon. S. Thomson: We'll undertake to do that. I just wanted to make a quick comment on the…. We did get a little bit of information with respect to the first question, around the Tyson one. There was a further analysis of risks. Operating procedures have been modified. There were modifications to head pond management. Again, we'll capture all of that in the response to the question the member asked.
S. Fraser: I, too, have some probing questions. Hello to the minister and your staff. I've very limited time, so I'll just try to keep this as concise as possible. I'm going to be asking about…. I've narrowed it down to one issue. I have many, but I'm just going to stick with one — district lot 33.
We've discussed this. We've probed this before. I met with the minister and staff — some of them here — regarding the attempt to try to stop the cutting of what is probably the best example of the coastal Douglas fir, the most endangered ecosystem in Canada. I was unsuccessful, even though it's ranked globally critically imperilled and provincially critically imperilled. But the logging has happened.
So I guess I just need some updates on that. What's the status of the internal discussions on DL 33? Is there anything? With that, is the licence holder informed that the logging is finished now? All the community members are certainly interested in that. When will the waste and residue assessment be complete, and when it's complete, may I see that?
Hon. S. Thomson: Personally, in response to the second part of the member's question, around the waste assessment — that's public information. We'll certainly provide that to the member as soon as it has been completed.
In terms of the specifics on the harvesting side of it…. I stand to be corrected, because I don't have the most current information, but my understanding is that that has been completed. Have all the obligations with respect to that been completed? I'm not sure, but we can undertake to provide the member with that specific information.
S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister for those answers.
I have a question on road wood. Who decides what is road wood? How is it that there are 2.6 hectares of road permit, which is 13.7 percent of the 18.9 hectare total area? How is it that it produced 29 percent of the wood scaled?
Now, just for those that are watching, the road wood, I believe, only comes under a 25-cent stumpage. So if the theory behind road wood stumpage is to encourage proper road building for future plantations, why is there so much in DL 33, where the roads are to be pulled out after harvest? Why is that?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, some fairly specific technical questions with respect to this. In terms of the percentage of wood scale that was from the road wood, I think we would need to look at the overall cutting permit. I think one of the things to recognize here is in terms of the very selective approach that was taken. This may have required more road portion to it to do the very selective nature of the approach that was taken here.
In terms of the stumpage rate on it, road wood is not automatically…. So 25-cent stumpage is based on the average of the cutting permit. Again, we need to check the specific detail and get back to the member on it, just to make sure. I can't specifically say whether the assertion is correct or not. We can look into a more detailed response as to the percentage on the road wood, just to see if there is anything further, other than what I have stated, that would point to that figure that the member indicated.
S. Fraser: Thank you to the minister. I'll look forward to that information. I realize it's quite specific, and I'm looking forward to being informed further.
This is quite specific, again, so this may have to come later too. There were 708 cubic metres of alder in the cruise. Where did it go, since only 56 cubic metres was scaled, and it doesn't appear to be on the ground? So where did the 708 cubic metres go? Does anybody assess that here?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, a very specific question. We'll have to undertake to provide the answer later. We were just talking over that it may be worthwhile to do an on-site with it, although I expect maybe the member has been on site and seen it. I'm guessing that was probably the case. Anyway, we'll provide a follow-up to that request.
S. Fraser: Thanks to the minister. I'm looking forward to that too. I'll be closing off here now, because my time is up. I only had ten minutes. I guess I'll just leave with a couple of questions.
When the waste assessment is finished — and I appreciate that the minister will make that available — will that mean that the harvesting in DL 33 is then complete, it's over? And could I be advised of that — if not now, at some point?
Then, just lastly, DL 33 is under application for a wildlife habitat area. That's under the identified wildlife order of the Forest and Range Practices Act. Will there be approval for that? It's what I'll leave you with, if I may.
The Chair: Just a reminder to all members, as we proceed through the estimates debates: if you could endeavour to link some of these questions specifically to the budget where feasible.
[ Page 11459 ]
Hon. S. Thomson: I'm just advised that there is…. I think I may have indicated previously that it was my understanding that the logging was completed. My understanding is that that's not quite the case. There's a little bit of cleanup logging to be done.
Just so I'm not accused afterwards of indicating something incorrect, I also want to say again here that that's sort of what I'm advised. So I think it's something where we need, in terms of responding to all of the questions that the member posed here, to get those specific responses, and that'll be part of it.
The waste utilization side of it — there are other obligations that are needed to be completed.
In terms of the application for the wildlife area, we'll undertake to get a response as to the status of that application as well. We were just saying that at the end of all of this, what may be useful — and we're certainly prepared; the staff has offered to do this — is to do a joint on-site walk-through or inspection of it, just be able to answer all those questions. It may provide some of the information — around the discrepancies between cruise and what's harvested — to everybody's understanding.
M. Sather: I have some questions for the minister on mountain caribou and snowmobiling, as I'd indicated, particularly in the Clearwater–Blue River area. While staff are reassembling, I thought I would ask the minister one short question that he may be able to answer in this transition period.
Government documents state that to assist recovery of mountain caribou populations, the recommendation is to reduce the density of wolves by 80 percent. The question to the minister is: is that the target that the government is operating under?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to confirm that wolf populations, healthy wolf populations, are important to us. I think we also need to point out when we're dealing with specific route recovery plans and mountain caribou recovery plans, it's certainly an issue.
In terms of the plan, that's the target that is recommended in terms of achieving success. We continue to monitor the impact of predation in these areas. We've taken some steps to reduce populations through trapping and through some liberalized hunting regulations on those. We haven't taken any other specific aggressive action. We continue to monitor to see the impacts and what impacts it may have on the recovery plans.
We have had the recent, as you know, transplant project in the Kootenays. We've had some predation impacts there that have impacted that to a degree. We still believe that the levels are at a level of a successful project. It's interesting to note that in those cases the predation has primarily been by cougars and other predators, not by wolves.
That's the target that's identified in the plan. We continue to monitor and assess it, and we continue to take steps to generally reduce the populations, but we've not implemented any aggressive measures as we monitor the predation impacts.
M. Sather: Wolf-hunting regulations in B.C. have extended the hunting season from August, September to the middle of June the following year in large parts of British Columbia. This allows — I want the minister to confirm for me or correct me — hunters to kill wolves of any age. Is that correct?
Hon. S. Thomson: In terms of the exact reg, we'll provide that information to the member opposite.
The focus in liberalizing the season and things is to focus on reducing predation impacts. Obviously, in terms of the trapping and hunting community, that's where they focus their efforts. The basis for the changes to the regulations in areas of the province was to help reduce those predation impacts.
M. Sather: I'll take it, then, that the minister's answer really was yes to my last question. So this means that it's legal to kill wolf pups during the period when they are in the den. Does the minister think this is ethical hunting?
Hon. S. Thomson: First, to correct you. You've misinterpreted my…. We said we will get you the information.
I think what's important to recognize here is that we're working towards ensuring protection of endangered species, working towards ensuring that we can achieve successes with the recovery plans. Dealing with the impact of predation on those recovery plans and those species is important. That's the focus of the work. That's the focus — ensuring that we continue to assess and monitor the impact of predation on those species.
M. Sather: Relevant to the minister's estimates, another government document on wolf control measures in B.C. says that under the criterion for approving aerial wolf control, recreational hunting of caribou is disallowed. In those areas where aerial control is occurring, has recreational hunting of caribou been disallowed?
Hon. S. Thomson: To confirm, there is no aerial control of wolves.
M. Sather: Well, I'm sure there has been.
Another government document says that "the mountain caribou science team identified snowmobiling as a significant threat to mountain caribou recovery because of the potential of the activity to displace animals from otherwise suitable habitat."
Another report, Snowmobiling and Mountain Caribou, says: "In the Cariboo-Chilcotin caribou appear to have abandoned at least three major peaks during late winter period as a result of heavy snowmobile use." Radio collaring has also shown that intense snowmobile use is causing caribou to be displaced. North Blue River, west of the town of Blue River, was originally identified by the science team as critical habitat for mountain caribou. I have the map here that indicates that. The whole area is green, which is core caribou habitat.
Why was most of the North Blue River subsequently not delineated as a snowmobile closure area?
Hon. S. Thomson: Based on telemetry data, surveys and habitat modelling, staff do not believe that the area is a key wintering area for caribou, although it will get some caribou use at times during the winter. The information that we have does not compel staff to change the opinion.
The area is closed to snowmobiling from April 15 to November 15, which is the period that caribou use the area. Given the limited use of the area by caribou, we see the present management of that area as appropriate.
M. Sather: Well, actually, the minister should know that his herd specialist has had reports, viable reports, of caribou occupying the upper Blue River during mid-winter.
Wasn't it decided, in fact, that this area would be developed as a major snowmobile-use area? Why are the interests of snowmobilers taking precedence over the needs of endangered mountain caribou?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to reaffirm, the area is closed for snowmobiling from April 15 to November 15. That's the period the caribou use the area. Staff continue to monitor it — the ministry caribou experts engaged in that process and on this file in this area. There is a stewardship management agreement in place. We have compliance and enforcement personnel monitor the area regularly. Ticketing is provided if there are violations of the management approach in the area.
Again, just to reaffirm, at this point, based on the data, surveys and habitat modelling, we don't believe it's a key wintering area. It does get some use at some times during the winter. Again, it's one where the staff in the program continue to monitor it.
M. Sather: To the minister, under his estimates under that part of his budget, according to the report Snowmobiling and Mountain Caribou: "Funding resources to conduct the monitoring" — of snowmobile activity — "are inconsistent, lacking and/or not well defined." Isn't that exactly what we're seeing in the North Blue River — a lack of monitoring?
I wanted to ask the minister: how many fines have been given out in the last year for snowmobiling in areas closed to snowmobiling in the Blue River to Clearwater area? Secondarily, how many fines in the last five years?
[J. Thornthwaite in the chair.]
Hon. S. Thomson: We don't have the specific numbers of tickets and fines that were applied. We will provide what we can to the member opposite. But just again to reaffirm, we had compliance and enforcement staff actively in the region. Tickets were assessed where people were not complying. We will provide the specific information to the member.
M. Sather: The Foam Creek–Monashee Chalet area further south of Blue River was also designated as critical habitat for mountain caribou by the science team, and it's now open to snowmobiling. Why?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, to reaffirm, the primary objective is the recovery of the mountain caribou. We work to have an adaptive management regime to do that. The staff are actively engaged in that. We continue to monitor it through that adaptive process. And in terms of the specific area or operation that the member referenced, we'll provide that information to him.
M. Sather: Groundhog Mountain is a bit further south of Monashee Chalet. A report to the MCRIP said, "This area is very high-value winter range habitat and increased use by snowmobiles presents a very high risk" to caribou. This area was also identified by the science team as core habitat for mountain caribou. Nine caribou were surveyed in this area in 2010, down from 23 in 2006.
In another MOE report two years earlier the author noted: "Most of the caribou in this subpopulation were counted in an area not normally included in the survey boundaries…It is possible that this unusual movement is due to snowmobiling activity on Groundhog Mountain." Yet snowmobiling is being permitted on Groundhog Mountain. Why?
Hon. S. Thomson: Just to indicate, again, we take an adaptive management process to the recovery plan. There's a scientific team. There is a progress board or progress team in place. We continue to work closely with that. Our staff in the program continue to monitor all the populations in the areas. We continue to work to ensure that we have that adaptive approach in place to achieve the overall objective of the recovery of the mountain caribou through that adaptive management approach.
M. Sather: The government's estimated capacity for snowmobiling in the Groundhog area is 100 user days per week, yet on a typical winter day there are 200 riders
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at the trailhead. That's in the neighbourhood of 1,400 a week. When I visited the trailhead this winter, the local snowmobile club told us that 98 percent of the snowmobiles are from Alberta.
Why are endangered mountain caribou being put at risk for snowmobilers from Alberta?
Hon. S. Thomson: Again, I just want to point out that the approach we take with all of this is an adaptive management approach. We continue to monitor those areas where we find those density issues. If they are putting the populations at risk, those are the discussions we will have.
There are active education programs through the snowmobile clubs and associations. In doing that, where we do find there is non-compliance in these areas, as I said, the compliance and enforcement staff are out there. Again, this is a process of an adaptive program designed to meet the goals of recovery, guided by a science team and a progress board.
M. Sather: On the remaining questions I have for the minister, I'm going to ask him to respond primarily to me later on, because we don't have a lot of time for further responses. He's been very good, I must say, at doing that in the past, which I greatly appreciate. These are my questions.
Regarding the transplant of the caribou to the Purcells, how many caribou died since the recent transplant to the Purcell Mountains? The caribou were not all released at the same location. Have they reunited? My third question there is: why wasn't there a backup plan to hold the caribou until they could be released in the same area?
Then my last question is on a different subject. Individuals tell me that they have been unable to obtain caribou census data for 2011 in planning unit 4, Wells Gray–North Thompson. Will the minister provide that information to me, and if so, when?
Hon. S. Thomson: We'll provide that information. I think we can do it in pretty short order.
L. Popham: I have a string of questions on different topics. I'm going to ask them all at once, and if the minister would rather respond in writing, that's fine by me.
First off, requiring pesticide use in forestry. I would like to know how much is being used and where that's kept track of. I'd like to know about the trend in the amounts used, if that's increasing or decreasing. I would also like to know if the usage of certain types of pesticides is going to be reviewed anytime soon and, within that review, if other stakeholders are going to be considered, such as ranchers and trappers and tourism operations. That's my first set of questions.
My next set of questions is regarding Big Creek ranch and a rancher that you're very familiar with, Randy Saugstad. My question is: in this budget, is there any room for mitigation around Randy's circumstance at Big Creek, and is there any money in the budget for a proper hydrological study, which Randy and I believe should take place before any further logging is done in that area?
The third set of questions is regarding wild sheep in B.C. The wild sheep association has brought to my attention the threat of disease that is threatening wild sheep because of domestic herds. The wild sheep association has been taking matters into their own hands, with mitigation such as fencelines and education around the idea that the two should not mix. The importance of this issue, I think, is known by the provincial wildlife vet, and she's very concerned about the issue.
The problem is that when wild sheep and domestic sheep mix, the disease from domestic sheep transfers to the wild herd. At that point they can die within 45 days of contact. It's shown that in the States this disease is taking hold on a lot of the wild sheep herds, and the die-off within the herds can be up to 90 percent. It's a very, very difficult situation, but it doesn't seem to me that it's that difficult to mitigate — education being one of them.
In one area there's a sheep farm in Chasm. There's a domestic sheep herd in the middle of a wild sheep herd. The threat of disease transferring at this point is quite critical, and a timely reaction to this is needed. If the minister could respond regarding this particular situation as soon as possible, that would really help me out.
That's the end of my questions.
Hon. S. Thomson: We'll undertake to respond to that. We're certainly aware of all of the issues that the member opposite raised.
On the first one, the issue on pesticides, that partly falls within our ministry but partly within the Ministry of Environment. We'll work with them to get you the response there, so we'll undertake to do that.
Madam Chair, I'm wondering if I can have a two-minute recess. It has been a long process, and I just need a quick break, if I can — just very, very short. I know we're rushing through to completion to try to get all the questions on the record.
The Chair: We'll recess for two minutes.
The committee recessed from 6:16 p.m. to 6:18 p.m.
[J. Thornthwaite in the chair.]
S. Chandra Herbert: Thank you to the minister in advance. I'm sure it will be an answer that will help allay lots of concerns. No, I won't put that pressure on him. It may be too difficult of a question.
In South Vancouver there have been some issues raised around the Musqueam midden down off of Marine Drive.
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The city of Vancouver has been involved. I understand the heritage branch has been involved. The city — to my understanding, and I haven't got the most recent update — has kind of come to a bit of a standstill.
The developer would like to develop the land. The Musqueam are saying that it's a very important site to them — to their heritage, to our common heritage as British Columbians — and they're very concerned that that site may be damaged irreparably.
They have called on the province, as has the city, to get involved — potential for land swapping, potential for various options. I wonder if the minister can share what actions his ministry has taken on this file and any next steps planned.
Hon. S. Thomson: We're certainly aware of this issue. We have been involved in the discussions with all parties. We're in the process of organizing to have a facilitator in the role, with all the parties actively engaged in it. It's a complex, complex situation and issue but one that we're certainly aware of. Not just our ministry but other ministries are involved in these discussions.
S. Chandra Herbert: Thank you for that. I certainly am going to follow that up, as well, with some of the participants, but if the minister is able to share any actions as this process goes forward, I certainly would be interested — if there are steps or decisions made. I would appreciate that.
I will do a two-parter question, because we're getting really close to the end of these estimates.
The first question. Victoria Civic Heritage Trust, Heritage B.C., Heritage Vancouver, I think, and many other heritage organizations, as well, have raised concerns about the status of Heritage B.C. and the challenges it faces, given the cuts it's had from the provincial government. I understand there was a small grant given to them to try and help them see forward to the future.
I wondered if the minister might be able to share where the province is on the heritage strategy, which has been talked about for a number of years now — where it is in terms of supporting Heritage B.C. and ensuring that it survives. We need that agency in B.C. to protect our heritage and also to improve our understanding of it.
Then the final question is just if the minister could share how many actions his ministry has taken, using the heritage act, around fines or penalties to people who have broken provisions in the act in this last year. I believe last year there may have been one or two, but in this last year is my question.
Hon. S. Thomson: On the last question, we'll get you that information. We don't have it currently.
In terms of the overall Heritage B.C. heritage strategy. Again, in terms of some of my interests and background, this is one of the file areas that I really do enjoy within the ministry. I have met with Heritage B.C. As the member pointed out correctly, we did provide them some funding to work towards a strategic longer-term sustainable plan and sustainability model for the organization.
I've met recently with them. We've agreed to continue to assess the plan they've provided to us. I've also asked staff to look back through the heritage strategy, to make sure that it's current, and certainly current in context of some of the strategic work that's come out of the work that Heritage B.C. has done.
Again, it's one where there are ongoing discussions at work. It's one that we're engaged in. I'm also very pleased that in our budget this year we were able to provide the additional resources for the provincial heritage properties — the three-year plan — to be able to have that stable base of funding for Barkerville and Fort Steele and those important heritage properties in British Columbia, one of the things I wanted to make sure happened.
M. Mungall: I'm going to have a question about Meadow Creek Cedar, and then I'll also have some questions about the Creston Valley wildlife management area. I know that may cause a staff shift, so I'll go on with my question as people move around.
The minister is well aware of what's been happening up in the community of Meadow Creek and throughout the Lardeau Valley with Meadow Creek Cedar and the consequences on the community for dealing with this company that has had poor forest practices since 2004.
I'd like to thank the minister for all the work that he has done and the ministry has done in working with me on this issue. I know that my constituents greatly appreciate the non-partisan approach we've been able to take in addressing the needs of this community.
Now, the minister will know that recently Meadow Creek Cedar's timber licence has been suspended in relation to their lack of compliance with silviculture regulations. The mill has also been closed for lack of compliance with work safety. Now the owner and operator is appealing the suspension. This has thrown the community into quite the loop. They're worried about how long this is going to take and so on.
I know that the minister doesn't have any direct control over that — that that process takes the time it's going to take. But I'm wondering if there are any programs in the ministry that are available for the displaced workers, similar to the jobs commissioner that existed in the 1990s and was discontinued early on after the Liberals took government.
Is there anything similar that can support the workers in terms of identifying retraining opportunities, new job opportunities — or if not something like that, if the ministry has some economic development type of programs around forestry that this community would be able to access?
[ Page 11463 ]
Hon. S. Thomson: Thank you for those comments. It is one that I appreciate having been able to be directly engaged on, and certainly not a very good situation here in terms of the situation. As the member opposite mentioned, it is under appeal, so that gives us limited options in terms of what we can do with respect to this specific licence at this point.
With respect to the jobs, or the employees and the impact there, I'd certainly be concerned about that. I've just talked to staff here. We will look to see whether there may be any potential. We do have ecosystem projects under Forests for Tomorrow and things like that. There may be some opportunities there in some of the projects that are taken there.
I could also indicate that I'm quite happy to talk to the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation — the jobs programs that are under his ministry — to see if there may be any options there. We can certainly do that and follow-up with the member.
M. Mungall: I'd like to thank the minister very much for that. I look forward to continue working with him on these issues. I know they're of great importance, and they impact the day-to-day lives of people at the north end of my constituency.
I'd like to move on to some questions around the Creston Valley wildlife management area. In 2008 the ministry responsible at that time for the wildlife management area began a mandate review process for the management of the Creston Valley wildlife management area.
In September of 2011, I was copied on a letter that the CVWMA staff sent to the ministry, asking where this review is at and that it be prioritized. Of course, I'm sure the minister is well aware why this issue needs to be prioritized. It's in terms of the governance of the Creston Valley wildlife management area.
Right now there are three people who sit on the authority: one from federal government, a representative from provincial government, and then there is a representative from the public. Currently the public representative space is vacant. It's been vacant for a while. Neither of the government representatives actually live in the area.
In terms of governance, there's nobody local who is involved. This has been a problem for quite some time. I don't think the minister has disputed that. We've had casual conversations about this.
I'm just wondering. In reading the minutes from February from the town of Creston…. The Creston Valley wildlife management area presented to the town of Creston with the anticipation that this mandate review would be forwarded on to the environment and land use committee at their March 8 meeting. I've since met with Richard Dalon, who's the executive director. He said that did not happen.
Of course, my question is: just where is this mandate review? Is it with the minister? Is it with the committee? Where is it in the process?
Hon. S. Thomson: As the member opposite said, we have had conversations on this very important subject. Just to advise, as she knows, there was a mandate governance review. That has, from a staff perspective, wrapped up. The report or the options have been provided to me. So it rests with me in terms of taking the next steps forward on it. What I'd like to do is to be able to undertake to come back and have the direct discussions with the member opposite on the approach within the next few weeks.
It is under active consideration. We do know that we need to make some decisions with respect to this, because it is an important area. As she points out, the current situation is not the best for good governance of this very, very important area — one that I've had the chance to visit on a number of occasions with my grandchildren, who live in Creston. Some great stories out of there, with my granddaughter at her birthday party getting charged by a moose while they were in a canoe — things like that.
Again, just an area that we're very interested in, and that's why we've had the mandate and governance review. It does sit with me now to take it forward, and we're going to be doing that. Then I would be — given the member opposite's interest in this — more than happy to sit down with her and review that.
M. Mungall: I'd like to thank the minister for opening up the door for such an opportunity to discuss this further with him. I think this is another issue, like Meadow Creek Cedar, where there is a lot of opportunity for a non-partisan approach. I mean, the Creston Valley wildlife management area has been there a long time. It's going to be there for a long time, irrespective of who's in government, so it needs to be an issue that is taken care of or well addressed by whoever the representative of the community is of the day, as well as whoever is in government on any given day.
I do want to ask the minister, however, if, as he moves forward or if he has already done this…. I've pointed out that the people who are currently on the authority, all two of them, don't live in the area. Of course, this area is just so valued by people throughout the Kootenay region.
I'm just wondering if there have been any discussions or any type of stakeholder engagement with people in the local area about the governance, about this mandate review. If there hasn't been, will there be, and what would it look like?
Hon. S. Thomson: There's significant history on this file, as the member opposite mentioned. It's been in place for a significant period of time. I think that people are aware of the importance of it, of the options. We have received input. I think the next steps are to consider what
[ Page 11464 ]
the options may be and then to have that engagement with the member opposite on that.
Our goal in all of this is to ensure that we recognize the importance of the site and that we provide for the long-term enhancement of it and the long-term effective governance of the area. I think that's what the mandate review is focused on.
I would like to be able to deal with the options and then have the engagement with the member opposite on it. I know that we both have the common interest in the outcome of this.
B. Routley: I just have a couple of questions that I would like to finish off with, but actually I don't expect an answer today. Being as how we're near the end of the day, for brevity, I would just like to lay down the questions, and maybe you can give us an answer at some later date. You will be relieved to know…. Well, maybe not. I'm sure you'll miss out on all of these thoughtful questions that…. I have dozens left.
The questions I have that I would like some answers to. Could the minister, for the record, give us the total number of mills left operating in B.C., specifically that have at least a crew working for at least six months of the year for 2011 as compared to 2001, if you have it, for the Interior, the north, the south, the coast of British Columbia — the four main regions?
The other question was the number of workers or jobs in each of the B.C. mills and the number of shifts on average that they had working and the total operating capacity of those mills. I'm obviously concerned about the actual operating capacity.
I do want for the record to lay down that I sometimes come across a little aggressively. I mean no harm. I graduated from the Jack Munro school of charm, so sometimes I'm a little abrupt. I assure you that I have a soft heart and can be a kind fellow from time to time, although I may sound a little bit aggressive. I'm just rough around the edges, so to speak.
Anyway, I do want to thank the minister and his staff for their time and for all of the answers to the questions or non-answers that were thoughtful and reasoned.
I did want to mention that we had more questions about things like fire, more log export questions and other questions about forest health, but given the time.
Again, thank you very much for your work today.
Hon. S. Thomson: I'll just respond quickly. We'll attempt to provide the information that the member asked for.
I think the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke has some final comments he might like to make, but I just wanted to indicate that we did have, in the estimates discussion yesterday, some additional information that we were asked to provide. I was going to attempt at some process here today to read it into the record, but I think that would more than use up our time. So we'll make sure, based on the commitments we've made through the day, yesterday and before, to provide that specific information to the members opposite.
N. Macdonald: To wrap up — as we're going to wrap up and vote on these estimates for the ministry responsible — I'd like just to thank staff, those that are in attendance. I know the many other staff members that work towards this process are very much appreciated.
I have met with the Minister of Labour on the Khaira issue. I was going to raise some questions here, but I think what would be best, if the minister doesn't mind, is if I meet with staff or with the minister just to go through some follow-up on the work that was done by Roger Harris and others on that issue, to see where we stand and how we can make sure that something like that doesn't happen again.
I just want to take a few minutes to talk about wildfire. While we were very fortunate last year in terms of avoiding the types of seasons that we've had in the past, we were reminded in Alberta of what happened.
Of course, the minister, being from Kelowna, will remember 2003. I think there were almost 265,000 hectares burned and $371 million spent to suppress that. Coming out of it was the Filmon report — 40 recommendations that the government embraced. A lot of good work came out of that.
What has often been part of the discussion in estimates was trying to figure out how to do recommendations around the interface — fire in the interface areas and, in particular, the fuel management in those areas. I'm just looking at the UBCM approach, the strategic wildfire prevention program. According to the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals, there was a February 15, 2012, document called the Status of Community Wildfire Protection Plans, Prescriptions and Fuel Treatments. It talked about having treated 44,000 hectares out of a total of 1.7 million identified.
We had the money spent — Filmon money of $50 million, community adjustment fund, job opportunity fund, Natural Resources Canada mountain pine beetle funds, plus municipal and industry contributions. The figure I come up to is around $100 million spent, which is about $2,200 per hectare. It means that if we were to continue with this strategy and we actually were trying to treat all of the areas, you're up into, I think, $1.6 billion. And at the rate we're going, it's going to take 640 years.
Pretty clearly, that's not what we're going to do, and I don't think any government, whether it is this government or the next government, can approach it that way. We need to figure out another strategy, because I think we all agree that that interface work has to be done. I guess that's the discussion that we will have as we go forward. I know the ministry has turned its mind to it and will continue to try to figure out how to do that work.
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Just to wrap up, I'd thank the minister, as always. It would be stretching it to say that it has been a pleasure. That's not the correct word, but it was certainly as pleasurable as it could be. The minister's attitude is consistently respectful and constructive, and the staff, for your work, is very much appreciated.
With that, I think we're pretty well ready to move to vote. I'll just let the minister finish with any comments he has, and thank you very much.
Hon. S. Thomson: I'd like to also extend my thanks to all the staff who've supported and done all the work and helped prepare here and provided all the information.
I thank the members opposite for the dialogue and the debate. I think we, as was pointed out, have done it in as respectful a way as possible.
I know we don't agree on everything, and we can agree to disagree on some of this. But I know what we do share is a common objective: to want to ensure that we provide the policy framework that helps move this very, very important industry forward and helps build the industry, as the opportunities that we know are in front of us come forward, to help us be successful in the overall approach within our broader ministry, in terms of the integrated approach to decision-making in these very, very important areas, ensuring that we have effective economic development while ensuring that we maintain those strong environmental standards in doing that and that we provide good client service to all our stakeholders in the industry.
Again, I know this is not the end of all of the discussions. We attempt to make sure that we maintain open communication and dialogue, and we'll continue to do that. And we will undertake to make sure that we respond on all the specific information that was requested during the debate.
Vote 27: ministry operations, $380,079,000 — approved.
Vote 28: direct fire, $62,901,000 — approved.
Vote 52: Forest Practices Board, $3,815,000 — approved.
Hon. S. Thomson: I move that the committee rise and report completion of the resolutions and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 6:48 p.m.
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