2015 Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 40th 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


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Morning Sitting

Volume 20, Number 3

ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)


Routine Business

Introductions by Members


Statements (Standing Order 25B)


Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards

R. Fleming

Forest industry activities in Cariboo area

D. Barnett

Ferry services

V. Huntington

Breast cancer awareness and mammography services

Moira Stilwell

Lunar new year celebrations

B. Ralston

Howe Sound

J. Sturdy

Oral Questions


Student debt load and Kwantlen University contract with lobbyist

J. Horgan

Hon. A. Wilkinson

Hiring of lobbyists by post-secondary institutions

K. Corrigan

Hon. A. Wilkinson

D. Eby

B.C. Ambulance Service response times

J. Darcy

Hon. T. Lake

Closing of ambulance station in downtown Vancouver

S. Chandra Herbert

Hon. T. Lake

Ambulance services in Mission

S. Robinson

Hon. T. Lake

Government consultation on Highway 16 transportation service and availability of records

M. Karagianis

Hon. T. Stone

J. Rice

Point of Privilege (Reservation of Right)


A. Dix



V. Huntington

Reports from Committees


Special Committee of Selection, first report, February 19, 2015

Hon. M. de Jong

Motions Without Notice


Appointment of select standing and special committees

Hon. M. de Jong

Orders of the Day

Budget Debate


On the amendment (continued)

C. Trevena

D. Plecas

D. Donaldson

Hon. S. Thomson

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The House met at 10:02 a.m.

[Madame Speaker in the chair.]

Routine Business


Introductions by Members

Hon. T. Lake: I’m very pleased to rise in the House today and introduce members from Shoppers Drug Mart who have come to Victoria today to join me in unveiling British Columbia’s first digital mammography unit. The new unit is the first of three new digital mammography mobile screening units for the province, and it will begin touring the province’s rural and remote communities later this year. I hope all members have an opportunity to come out at lunchtime to see the new unit.

I’m asking the House to welcome Lise Kuramoto, who is the vice-president of operations for B.C.; Gerald Scott, the district manager; Chris Smith, the director of public affairs, western Canada; Omar Alasaly, the British Columbia pharmacist-owners peers chair; Janice Lang, who is a cosmetic coordinator; and Janine Wolfe, also a cosmetic coordinator. Would the House please make them all very welcome.

V. Huntington: It is my pleasure to introduce individuals in the gallery today who are visiting the capital to share their concerns about our ferry system. Particularly, I’d like to mention Laural and John Eacott — Laural was the initial force behind a petition I shall be introducing to the House later today — and Jim and Wendy Abram. Jim is the chair of the Strathcona regional district and is already well known to many members of the House. Jim and Laural are joined by a number of other concerned Island residents. I would like my colleagues to make them welcome.

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C. Trevena: In the gallery today are two guests of mine. I hope the House will make them welcome. Don Vye, who is the president of the Unifor Local 514, and Joie Warnock from Unifor’s western division. I’ve known and had the privilege to work for Don, who is a great advocate for his community, since the closure of the Port Alice pulp mill about ten years ago. He worked very hard with the community, bringing people together for the re-opening of that mill, and has continued to work hard for the village and for his union.

He is here, along with Joie, to meet with the Minister of Forests because, once again, the Port Alice mill is closed and we are trying to find ways to make sure that it can remain open. I hope that the House would make Don and Joie very welcome.

H. Bains: Within the halls here is a news manager of OMNI TV, Bhupinder Hundal. I’m told that he comes around every now and then just to check on his crew. I told him that they do a fine job. He doesn’t have to worry about it.

I came to know Bhupinder through his father, who was an activist in the IWA, back in my previous life. He worked hard to make the lives of his fellow working people better, as he could, and for that I thank him. Please help me to welcome Bhupinder Hundal to these halls here.

R. Fleming: With us in the precinct, if not the gallery behind me, is a school group from my constituency, from Selkirk Montessori School, a group of grade 5 and 6 students with their teacher, Mrs. Danielle Anderson, and a number of parents here. I was pleased to be able to say a few words to them earlier in the rotunda when the bells went off and somebody — one of the children — said that I better get going to my work; recess was over. Now they’re here in the chamber to join us for question period this morning. Will the House make them most welcome.

Hon. T. Lake: I was a little remiss in not noting that we also have members of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation with us today for our digital mammography unit unveiling. I’d like to welcome Wendy Slavin, who is the CEO of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Also with us today is Christine Bowles, who is a breast cancer survivor. Would the House please make them very welcome as well.

L. Krog: I’m just maybe slightly early, but there is a large group of members of the Probus Club from both Ladysmith and Nanaimo — 43 members who are entering the chamber as we speak. On behalf of the member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan and myself, I ask the House to make them welcome here. They’re going to spend a day listening to question period, meeting with people and enjoying their House.

(Standing Order 25B)


R. Fleming: Last month I had the pleasure to attend the 15th annual Vancouver Island Business Excellence Awards, where many local entrepreneurs were celebrated for their accomplishments and their contributions to our communities here on Vancouver Island. This event is, of course, hosted by the Business Examiner Victoria and Business Examiner Vancouver Island publications, and
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it’s held at the Westin Bear Mountain resort.

This year there were a record number of nominations submitted, and I’m pleased to recognize among the winners some of the businesses that were from Victoria. We had manufacturer of the year go to Viking Air, which is a growing company here on the Island creating many high-skilled jobs and exports for our manufacturing sector.

PBX Engineering was also cited and won an award as the technology company of the year. Patriot Electric for trades company of the year was a winner. Atomique Productions, which is host to the Rifflandia Festival and many other great concerts and events throughout the year, received the award for Entrepreneur of the Year. Finally, Hoyne Brewing, located in my constituency and selling craft beer across British Columbia, received the award for best business with under 50 employees.

I want to extend my congratulations to all of the outstanding and innovative businesses who were nominated and to all those businesses who were recognized by receiving an award at those events, here in the House this morning.

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D. Barnett: I’ve spoken in this chamber before about the television show Timber Kings and how Pioneer lumber is exporting log homes around the world and boosting the Williams Lake economy. We’re all proud of the attention the show has brought to the sector and how it has highlighted the skill, talent and commitment of those who work in our forest industry.

But today I want to talk about the men and women who each day go to work without a camera, simply doing their job, providing for their family and helping to strengthen our regional economy.

We all know the benefits from forestry are important to our economy, employing more than 58,000 British Columbians, representing 35 percent of B.C.’s exports and helping build schools, roads, hospitals and infrastructure that we all use daily.

Closer to home, forestry has always been the backbone of the economy of the Cariboo, and it remains so, through some tough times when markets changed and the pine beetle epidemic hit. What hasn’t changed is the resiliency of the people and the companies who make the region their home. They work to help to develop new markets. They developed new products and found new uses for wood waste through cogeneration.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Forests, it is the everyday stories of the people of the Cariboo that I bring with me to Victoria. We’re going to keep seizing these opportunities, keep our forest sector growing and create jobs to support families and communities across British Columbia.


V. Huntington: On a rainy day in June 1960 the motor vessel Tsawwassen shuttled its first passengers between the newly built terminals of Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay. Over the ensuing 55 years the ferry service in British Columbia has grown to become an indispensable part of both our coastal economy and our coastal lifestyle.

Today ferries are a critical component of B.C.’s transportation infrastructure; 35 vessels serving 47 destinations ply our coastal waters. Many communities are wholly reliant on the ferry service for their economic and cultural survival. They rely on ferries not only for basic transportation but also for the delivery of goods and services. And for many small communities, that marine transportation link has become a key economic driver. Tourism has created enormous opportunity and is a significant contributor to the success of our coastal island and rural communities.

B.C.’s ferries are vital to the timely and safe passage of British Columbian and visitor alike. They are crucial to our economic well-being and directly link our major road networks. Ferries have become an extension of our highway infrastructure. Even our capital city is completely reliant on a ferry system that transports food and supplies on a daily basis. Many members of this House, including myself, are frequent users of the Swartz Bay–Tsawwassen run.

B.C. families rely on the ferries. Our economy relies on the ferries. Our unity relies on the ferries. It is a service critical to the very nature of British Columbia. Our ferries play an essential role in this province and in the lives of British Columbians. I trust all members of this House will join me in acknowledging the importance of B.C. ferries to our provincial and national highway systems.


Moira Stilwell: Breast cancer is women’s No. 1 health concern. Here in B.C. we are lucky to be the leader in treatment and prevention. We have some of the lowest incidence and mortality rates for breast cancer in the nation, and our five-year survival rate is higher than 82 percent. But there is so much more to do.

This year alone an estimated 3,600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in this province, and nearly 600 will die from it. Despite increased awareness of breast cancer and its risk factors, many women don’t take the necessary steps to develop an early detection plan.

Early detection is key because it provides patients with more effective early treatment options. In fact, when breast cancer is detected in the early, localized stage, the five-year survival rate jumps to 98 percent.

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Mammograms are one of the most effective ways to detect breast cancer in its early stages. Research shows
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that mammography screenings have led to a 25 percent reduction in deaths from breast cancer in B.C. It’s imperative that we encourage more women to talk to their doctors about mammography screening, particularly women over the age of 50, who have a screening participation rate of only 52 percent and yet account for more than 80 percent of detected breast cancers.

Sixty-five percent of our province mammography machines are now digital, and the remaining machines will be upgraded over the next few years. Today we have the unveiling of the first of these three new digital mammography vehicles. These vehicles are fully equipped to provide mobile mammography screenings and will travel across the province to reach women in rural, remote and First Nations communities.

I encourage all women to talk to their doctor, find out about how you can access these services and develop a plan for early detection today. Finally, I want to thank the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation B.C.-Yukon chapter for their unstinting work in education, awareness, research and treatment in their efforts to provide a future without breast cancer.


B. Ralston: The celebration of the lunar new year continues to grow in significance here in British Columbia. The actual day of lunar new year, based historically on the Chinese lunisolar calendar, varies each year but takes place in late January, early February and fell this year on February 19.

Many British Columbians will know the Chinese New Year’s lunar new year’s parade that takes place in the Chinatown district in Vancouver. The parade took place last Sunday and drew over 100,000 people, including the Premier and the Leader of the Official Opposition. But not only Canadians with connections to China and Taiwan celebrate lunar new year. Those Canadians connected to Korea, Mongolia, Tibet and Vietnam celebrate lunar new year as well.

Many MLAs, whether in Victoria, Prince Rupert or the Lower Mainland of British Columbia will have participated in a dizzying round of lunar new year festivities of dinners and other festive events, and it’s not over yet. At Central City in my riding of Surrey-Whalley the management team, led by Bill Rempel, along with Vivian Li, marketing manager, and Lucy Ng, an event planner, hosted a lively lunar new year celebration complete with a traditional lion dance.

Sharing their greetings with the big crowd were Jasbir Sandhu, Member of Parliament for Surrey North; Jason Kenney, federal Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism; and MLAs for Surrey–Green Timbers and Surrey-Panorama. Councillor Mary Martin was there, representing the mayor of Surrey, and Anita Huberman spoke on behalf of the board of trade. Nguyen Manh Hung from the consulate of Vietnam in Vancouver was there as well.

The event was so successful, I suggested to Bill Rempel that he expand to a lunar new year week next year. I’m sure a changing Surrey would welcome it.

Let me conclude. Gung hay fat choy. Gong xi fa cai. Saebae bok manhi bonaeseyo. Chuc mung nam moi. Losar bzang. May the new year bring everyone and their families health and good fortune.


J. Sturdy: “Super, natural British Columbia.” These words excite our imagination. Add this to a feature that’s 20,000 years old, 42 kilometres long, waters ranging from 300 metres deep to rock walls rearing 2,700 metres high, and you have Howe Sound, the west coast of North America’s southernmost fjord.

It is a visually spectacular home to a diverse ecosystem, which includes herring, dolphins, orcas, rockfish, Roosevelt elk, grizzly bear and a growing number of people. Howe Sound’s human settlement dates back some 9,000 years, when the Coast Salish peoples first hunted and fished post–ice age.

Today communities and governments around Howe Sound recognize the management of this special place presents a unique challenge to share and engage collaboratively. The Howe Sound Community Forum was established in 2002 as a place to provide municipal governments, regional districts and First Nations with a setting to discuss maintaining and enhancing the economic, environmental, cultural and social well-being of the sound for the benefit of present and future generations.

The forum meets several times each year in one of the member communities and work within an agreed-upon principles of cooperation. Most recently the forum endorsed participation in a provincial cumulative effects assessment framework initiative for the Howe Sound ecosystem.

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In bringing communities together, the forum has helped the region to chart a shared path to social well-being, supported by a vibrant economy and sustained by a healthy environment. Howe Sound Community Forum is an excellent example of partners cooperating for a common good.

Oral Questions


J. Horgan: British Columbians are paying more, and they’re getting less. Students are paying double the tuition fees than what they were doing ten years ago. Debt is increasing.
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Yesterday the Minister of Advanced Education demonstrated how out of touch he is with students today. The association of B.C. students was in the audience hearing him be indifferent to the crippling debt that many students carry out of their post-secondary education. Despite that $35,000 debt on average, according to the Bank of Montreal, the minister was again indifferent to the former minister, the Minister of Citizens’ Services, giving a $177,000 contract to a B.C. Liberal insider.

Now that the minister has had an evening to reflect on this, could he stand and join with me and denounce that practice?

Hon. A. Wilkinson: It’s always a pleasure to stand in this House and point out the enormous success of our post-secondary education system.

There has been some uncertainty about the level at which students get into debt in recent days. To clarify this, and to address the cackling chickens on the other side, we have 430,000 students in our system. Some of them are part-time; some of them are on short courses. We have 180,000 students who are in the system full-time and eligible for student aid.

Of those 180,000 students, 45,000 turn to the province for financial aid — meaning that 75 percent of students, more than was quoted on the CBC yesterday, go through their education without incurring debt through the provincial student aid program.


Hon. A. Wilkinson: The members opposite say that’s just not true. They rely upon a Bank of Montreal survey which surveyed 602 students across Canada, 78 in British Columbia.

We have taken the time to find the real data on 430,000 students because we believe in…. When we’re in this chamber, we tell the truth.

Madame Speaker: The Leader of the Official Opposition on a supplemental.

J. Horgan: I guess it’s just good news that the association of B.C. students isn’t here today to see this appalling performance by the minister. I find it hard to believe, hon. Speaker. After yesterday I thought the minister might have taken a couple of courses on acting so that he could at least act empathetic.

We posed a number of questions to the minister responsible, and he continues to bring up issues and facts that are convenient for him. Let’s go back to this fact. We know that the Minister of Citizens’ Services signed a $177,000 contract so that a B.C. insider could lobby for Kwantlen University.

To the minister: is your lack of sympathy in this regard a result of the fact that you also worked with Mr. Jiles…

Madame Speaker: Through the Chair.

J. Horgan: …and lobbied on behalf of Simon Fraser University? Are you okay with this because you benefited from it?

Madame Speaker: All commentary will come through the Chair.

Hon. A. Wilkinson: Dedicated as we are to transparency, probity and telling the truth, the facts of the matter are that I have asked Kwantlen Polytechnic University to provide us with the necessary documents and to deal with these wild accusations from the members opposite — groundless allegations.

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The members opposite seem to think they have some basis for saying that the Minister of Technology signed the document in question. Where’s the document? Where’s the proof? Empty allegations from an empty caucus running out of gas and so desperate for airplay that they’re prepared to toss out headlines that lead to things like “Luckily for the NDP….”

Madame Speaker: Minister, there are no props in the chamber.

Hon. A. Wilkinson: The next election is still two years away.

Madame Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition on a supplemental.

J. Horgan: British Columbians paying more and getting less. Opportunity being reduced for British Columbia students. Increasing debt. Challenges in every corner of this province. And the Minister of Advanced Education has the audacity to stand up and repeat the same miserable refrain as the last minister responsible for advanced education. My only hope is there’s a pattern emerging, and he will be removed from that position as quickly as possible.

Now, I can appreciate that for the B.C. Liberals this is win-win all around. The $177,000 to Mr. Jiles translated into a $50,000 contribution to the B.C. Liberal Party from that Mr. Jiles. That’s $177,000 of public money not going into classrooms, not providing hope and opportunity for children but instead going into the pocket of the B.C. Liberals. The minister lobbied for Simon Fraser University. The minister is okay with $50,000 coming from the public back to the B.C. Liberal party. Is that okay with you, Minister?

Madame Speaker: Comments through the Chair, please.

Hon. A. Wilkinson: What a fine state of affairs we find
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the opposition in these days. We’ve just had the Leader of the Opposition suggest that a practising lawyer who approaches government and meets the criteria in the Lobbyists Registration Act for registration as a consultant lobbyist somehow is not acting in a forthright fashion by registering. Lawyers comply with the law. That’s what I did. That’s what members opposite have done. But lo and behold, perhaps some of the members opposite should have registered and didn’t.

Let’s carry on with this line of questioning.


K. Corrigan: The practice of hiring lobbyists with education funds was not limited to Kwantlen. It appears that the board of Vancouver Community College also felt that it needed help lobbying the B.C. Liberals.

In 2011 the board of VCC entered in a contract with B.C. Liberal insider Don Stickney to provide services, including developing “a regular program of engagement with key stakeholders and contacts in government.” Mr. Stickney, of course, was well placed to help engage with government, given he was fresh off his work as a key organizer of the Premier’s leadership campaign. In exchange for his services, VCC paid Mr. Stickney $75,000.

My question to the Minister of Advanced Education: does he think students of VCC were well served by paying $75,000 to a B.C. Liberal lobbyist?

Hon. A. Wilkinson: It’s been abundantly clear since I took this role that access to my ministry and to me is unlimited for all the institutions. So as we proceed through these next few months, I’ll be making it clear to them that we do not see the need for them to retain government relations consultants. However, under the terms of the University Act, which the members opposite surely endorse, those institutions make their own decisions. We impose expectations on them. We do not control who they hire.

Now, the member….


Madame Speaker: Order.

Hon. A. Wilkinson: The members opposite last week were decrying the fact that we have asked for administrative savings from universities. What a terrible thing this could be that universities are asked to trim their fat and to trim the sails. Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing on this very point.

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I suppose that one can always speculate. Perhaps I will be removed from my position, but I will then be in good company with the stream of leaders who’ve been replaced regularly on the other side.

Madame Speaker: The member for Burnaby–Deer Lake on a supplemental.

K. Corrigan: VCC also paid Mr. Stickney to develop “a government affairs strategy, complete with key messages and background materials on VCC.” So the B.C. Liberal–appointed board of VCC paid a key player in the Premier’s leadership campaign to explain VCC to the B.C. Liberals.

To the minister, why would VCC need a lobbyist to explain VCC to the B.C. Liberals?

Hon. A. Wilkinson: One could note that the chicken coop has gone quiet as these questions lose momentum. One can also note that there are at least four current or former members of the Law Society on the other side of the bench. One of them, the member for Vancouver–Point Grey, registered as a lobbyist a number of times, as he was required to do. He proudly shakes his head because he knows he’s compliant with the law of the land.

But lo and behold, an advocacy organization whose sole purpose is to influence decision-makers, who puts together an advocacy guide, whose executive director during his tenure increased its profile and influence…. The member sits opposite, and gladly, he’s a former leader. Did the member for Vancouver-Kingsway register when he was a lobbyist for four years?

D. Eby: We’re talking about taking student tuition dollars and government funding and using it to pay B.C. Liberal insiders, and the best that this minister has to offer is to call the opposition the chicken coop. Is that correct?

That is sad, because VCC wasn’t the only school in on this racket. The board of Royal Roads University decided to take more than $40,000 of this public money and give it to a B.C. Liberal insider group, the Pace Group. The contract was for “government relations services.”

To the minister — hopefully, a better answer: why would the B.C. Liberal–appointed board of Royal Roads University take $40,000 of student money and give it to a B.C. Liberal insider group?

Hon. A. Wilkinson: Well, I’m glad to see that this line of questioning has now been elevated to the top five so that we’ll get some substantive queries from the opposition.

The member opposite knows perfectly well that the university institutions in this province are autonomous. I will be communicating with them, increasingly. I’ve been to see all of them, other than the three in the lower Vancouver Island, in the last six weeks. Those doors are wide open. There’s no need to retain government relations consultants, and I’ll be impressing that upon them. The members opposite need to turn the page, turn to the interests of students and stop digging up mud from the past.
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D. Eby: Royal Roads University’s board paid the Pace Group to “secure provincial and federal funding for a new academic building.” In other words, they used public dollars to pay the Pace Group to convince the B.C. Liberals to give them more public dollars. I believe this is what the minister would call “entrepreneurial.”

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To the minister, will he go beyond saying “it’s not necessary,” to direct B.C. universities and colleges not to spend student money, not to spend government funding, on B.C. Liberal insiders?

Hon. A. Wilkinson: The member opposite alludes to the capital funding of our institutions as they build out their physical plant and put together new facilities. We’re extremely proud of the $2 billion we have on the table to build these institutions, and we, of course, expect the institutions themselves to approach the federal government.

We don’t tell them how to do that. They’re autonomous. If they elect to do it through someone that they’ve retained, that’s their business, not ours. We’ll be talking to them about the lack of any need to have someone approach me or my colleagues. There is simply no need for government relations representatives.

But it’s actually somewhat alarming that the members opposite think that those 430,000 students aren’t being well served by the fourth-lowest tuition in Canada, a 2 percent cap on tuition fees and the fact that 75 percent of them graduate without approaching the province for financial assistance. This is a record we are very proud of, and these unseemly attacks from the other side, suggesting that there is some kind of culpability, are surely beneath them.


Madame Speaker: Members.


J. Darcy: Last year mayors throughout the Lower Mainland raised repeated concerns….


Hon. A. Wilkinson: Madame Speaker, I wish to withdraw the last few syllables of my remarks.

Madame Speaker: Member, please continue.

J. Darcy: That passes for an apology, eh?

Last year the mayors throughout the Lower Mainland raised repeated concerns about response times in the B.C. Ambulance Service. In 2013 the emergency health services downgraded 74 types of calls, meaning thousands of people who called 911 are now waiting longer for an ambulance to arrive, including for calls by seniors and for assaults. In response to the huge outcry, two types of calls were later upgraded to urgent, leaving 72 types of calls still classified “routine.” In other words, British Columbians are still getting less service from 911, but they’re paying more.

In this month’s budget we see health care premiums rising once again, faster than inflation, for the sixth consecutive year.

Can the Health Minister explain to British Columbians why they’re paying more for health care and getting less service, including from the B.C. Ambulance Service?

Hon. T. Lake: We have canvassed this subject prior, but I will once again talk about the B.C. Ambulance Service, which really is the emergency department on wheels. It is an extension of the emergency department.

Ambulance services across North America, not just in British Columbia but across North America, regularly review how they respond to emergency calls. The object is to make sure the right resources are at the right place at the right time. With this resource allocation plan, we have seen response times for the most urgent calls go down. That saves lives. That is good health care. That’s what we will continue to do.

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J. Darcy: This minister’s responses may sound good on paper, but it’s a whole other story for people out there in the real world waiting an hour or more for ambulances to arrive. And if the minister is so brimming with confidence about his statistics that his government did the right thing, why is he still refusing to release the data on ambulance response times that was requested last May?

Media reported last month that the Ambulance Service has repeatedly — repeatedly — promised to release a full data report on response times and then failed repeatedly to do so. Is the government refusing to share this information because they’re embarrassed that wait times have gone up at the same time that they’re charging British Columbians more for health care?

Hon. T. Lake: These resource allocation plans are regularly done in ambulance services across North America to make sure that the right resources are applied to the right patients at the right time, as I said. It’s about appropriateness. It’s making sure those resources are there for the most urgent of patients.

It saves lives, Members. It saves lives, Madame Speaker.

We had Alan Craig, a leading emergency response expert in North America, a former paramedic. He did a review of the changes, and he said it was based on the best science available.

We continue to serve the people of British Columbia, making sure that emergency department comes right to them when they need it, saving lives, increasing health care outcomes for British Columbians.
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S. Chandra Herbert: Downtown Vancouver residents and the paramedics tell me they are concerned that residents who need help the most will be left waiting because this government has sold off downtown Vancouver’s only ambulance station. That’s right. The only ambulance station in downtown Vancouver will close at the end of this month, meaning residents will have to wait for ambulances to come through bumper-to-bumper traffic from the eastside in order for them to get help.

Can the minister tell us why he refused to come up with a backup plan to serve the residents who need ambulance service when he decided to sell off downtown Vancouver’s only ambulance station?

Hon. T. Lake: Thank you to the member for the question. It gives me an opportunity to talk about the great men and women who serve in our B.C. Ambulance Service. I had an opportunity to spend a morning with them in the Downtown Eastside. They do tremendous work, often at St. Paul’s emergency department.

The Richards Street station has been sold, but the station on Cordova will be expanded. Also, we’re working with St. Paul’s to make sure those ambulances can be restocked at St. Paul’s.

The key thing is those paramedics aren’t sitting in a station. They are in their vehicles. They’re going to calls. They’re going to the hospital. They are actively looking after the vulnerable people of the Downtown Eastside particularly. They continue to provide great service and will continue to do so in the future.


S. Robinson: This problem extends beyond the city of Vancouver. In Mission the city council is worried about long response times and are looking to this government to fix this mess. There are two ambulances stationed in Mission, but the city council is worried that it just isn’t enough for this growing community. Mayor Randy Hawes, a name that might be familiar to members across the aisle, says: “Minutes are lives. The ambulance service needs to be there.”

What is this Minister of Health doing to make sure that the ambulance service is indeed there for this growing community and the people of Mission?

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Hon. T. Lake: Again, the B.C. Ambulance Service is, in fact, one of the best paramedic services in all of North America, and funding for the B.C. Ambulance Service has risen 115 percent since 2001-2002, to $318 million.

The budget has gone up. The number of full-time paramedics has also gone up. We are working with B.C. Ambulance Service to create community paramedicine. We’ll be hiring more paramedics throughout the province this year to make sure that all areas of the province have the coverage that they need to make sure that they get to the emergency department as quickly as possible.


M. Karagianis: Last year the Minister of Transportation said that he had met with “about 80 organizations, local governments, First Nations and others” to discuss safer transportation options along the Highway of Tears. So we filed an FOI asking for the government records of these consultations. The result was no records at all.

Well, it seems incredible that they would hold 80 consultations and not have one record of any of those meetings, so my question is through to the Minister of Citizens’ Services. Either the meetings did not happen, or the records were all destroyed. Could the minister please stand up and tell us which of those things occurred?

Hon. T. Stone: Indeed, the member opposite is correct. There were a wide array of meetings held last summer. The staff in the Ministry of Transportation met with over 80 First Nations leaders as well as municipal leaders and other organizations — a very, very good exchange of ideas, again, all focused on fulfilling the recommendation from the missing-women report to identify safer transportation options for folks on Highway 16.

Subsequent to that meeting we have announced a number of initiatives. There’s a new web portal which has pulled all of the information together so that folks up there are able to access services that are available.


Madame Speaker: Order.

Hon. T. Stone: We continue to have discussions with folks up along that corridor.

J. Rice: The question asked is in regards to: where is the result of our FOI request? We actually know that there were records, because the ministry asked for an extension to our FOI request. They said they needed an extension because the records were handwritten and they needed to be transcribed.

Can the Minister of Citizens’ Services explain what happened to those handwritten records and why they are now being hidden from the public?

Hon. T. Stone: Again, as the members opposite should know, all freedom-of-information requests that come into the government are actually handled and addressed by professionals in the civil service. Again, I think the
[ Page 6034 ]
fundamental issue here is that this government is taking action to ensure that safety along Highway 16 is improved and that there are safer transportation options provided.

As I mentioned in my previous response, there’s a new web portal that is in development that will pull all of the existing resources together and make it much easier for people to access services that are available. We also did provide $75,000 in funding to support increased training for access to driver education, safe-driver and driver-licensing programs for First Nations, and as I said earlier, we will continue the dialogue with folks along the corridor.

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J. Rice: The parliamentary secretary for Justice said to me: “I’m therefore certain that the member will welcome the news that in June and July of this year, staff at the Ministry of Transportation travelled along the Highway 16 corridor and held face-to-face discussions with over 80 communities. They met with the leaders of 12 First Nations. They spoke with 13 municipalities and regional districts.”

The question is: where are the results of our FOI request? The Minister of Transportation told the public that the people on the highway didn’t want safe, affordable transportation. He said no one thought it was practical. Yet that’s not what people have told me. People up and down the highway all want the same thing: safe, affordable public transportation. Maybe that’s why these records are being hidden.

Again to the Minister of Citizens’ Services: will he do his job and release the records, or have the B.C. Liberals already destroyed them?

Hon. T. Stone: I know that the members opposite are aware of the fact that there is an appeals process through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. If the members opposite feel that they have not been provided information that they’ve asked for, there is that process, and they’re more than welcome to engage.

Again, I come back to…. The issue here is to highlight that this government is taking very seriously the recommendations from the missing-women report and specifically on transportation to identify safer transportation options. As I have detailed in previous responses here today and previously, we are following through on that commitment.

[End of question period.]

Point of Privilege
(Reservation of Right)

A. Dix: I reserve my right to raise a matter of privilege with respect to the comments by the Minister of Advanced Education.

V. Huntington: I’d like to introduce a petition.

Madame Speaker: Proceed.


V. Huntington: Joined by the member for North Island, I would like to present a petition signed by over 20,000 British Columbians, which states that B.C. coastal ferries should be returned to the department of highways, that coastal ferries should be regarded as infrastructure and the ferry routes as extensions of B.C. highways and that B.C. ferries are vital to the well-being of island and coastal communities.

L. Krog: I’d ask leave to make an introduction.

Leave granted.

Introductions by Members

L. Krog: They’re all here now, so on behalf of the member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan, I’d like to welcome nine members of the Ladysmith Probus Club and 34 members from the Nanaimo club. I note they stayed all through question period. They’ve earned their medal the Premier promised in the throne speech.

Reports from Committees

Hon. M. de Jong: I have the honour to present the first report of the Special Committee of Selection for the fourth session of the 40th Parliament. Insofar as I believe it has been distributed to all interested parties, with permission of the House, I’ll spare reading the contents of the report to the House.

Madame Speaker: Hon. Members, the question is that the report be taken as read and received. All those in favour?

Hon. M. de Jong: I should probably move that the report be taken as read and received.

Motion approved.

Hon. M. de Jong: I ask leave of the House to move a motion to adopt the report.

Leave granted.

Hon. M. de Jong: I move that the report be adopted.

Motion approved.

Hon. M. de Jong: I rise to seek leave to move a series of
[ Page 6035 ]
motions activating four parliamentary committees. The full texts of the motions have been provided to the opposition, the hon. Opposition House Leader and to the independent members of the House.

Leave granted.

Motions Without Notice


Hon. M. de Jong: By leave, I move the first motion regarding the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

[1. That all reports of the Auditor General of British Columbia transmitted to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly be deemed referred to the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts, with the exception of the report referred to in section 22 of the Auditor General Act, S.B.C. 2003, c. 2, which is referred to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services; and,

2. That the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts be the committee referred to in sections 6, 7, 10, 13 and 14 of the Auditor General Act, S.B.C. 2003, c. 2.

In addition to the powers previously conferred upon the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the Committee be empowered:

a) to appoint of their number one or more subcommittees and to refer to such subcommittees any of the matters referred to the Committee;

b) to sit during a period in which the House is adjourned, during the recess after prorogation until the next following Session and during any sitting of the House;

c) to adjourn from place to place as may be convenient; and

d) to retain personnel as required to assist the Committee;

and shall report to the House as soon as possible, or following any adjournment, or at the next following Session, as the case may be; to deposit the original of its reports with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly during a period of adjournment and upon resumption of the sittings of the House, the Chair shall present all reports to the Legislative Assembly.]

Motion approved.

Hon. M. de Jong: I move the next motion regarding the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

[That the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services be empowered:

1. To examine, inquire into and make recommendations with respect to the budget consultation paper prepared by the Minister of Finance in accordance with section 2 of the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act, S.B.C. 2000, c. 23, and, in particular, to:

a) Conduct public consultations across British Columbia on proposals and recommendations regarding the provincial budget and fiscal policy for the coming fiscal year by any means the committee considers appropriate;

b) Prepare a report no later than November 15, 2015, on the results of those consultations; and

2. a) To consider and make recommendations on the annual reports, rolling three-year service plans and budgets of the following statutory officers:

(i) Auditor General

(ii) Chief Electoral Officer

(iii) Conflict of Interest Commissioner

(iv) Information and Privacy Commissioner

(v) Merit Commissioner

(vi) Ombudsperson

(vii) Police Complaint Commissioner

(viii) Representative for Children and Youth; and

b) To examine, inquire into and make recommendations with respect to other matters brought to the Committee’s attention by any of the Officers listed in 2 (a) above.

3. To be the committee referred to in sections 19, 20, 21 and 23 of the Auditor General Act, S.B.C. 2003, c. 2, and that the performance report in section 22 of the Auditor General Act, S.B.C. 2003, c. 2, be referred to the committee.

In addition to the powers previously conferred upon the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, the committee shall be empowered:

a) to appoint of their number one or more subcommittees and to refer to such subcommittees any of the matters referred to the Committee;

b) to sit during a period in which the House is adjourned, during the recess after prorogation until the next following Session and during any sitting of the House;

c) to adjourn from place to place as may be convenient; and

d) to retain personnel as required to assist the Committee;

and shall report to the House as soon as possible, or following any adjournment, or at the next following Session, as the case may be; to deposit the original of its reports with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly during a period of adjournment and upon resumption of the sittings of the House, the Chair shall present all reports to the Legislative Assembly.]

Motion approved.

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Hon. M. de Jong: By leave, I move the next motion regarding the Special Committee to Appoint an Ombudsperson.

[A Special Committee be appointed to unanimously recommend to the House the appointment of an Ombudsperson, pursuant to section 2 of the Ombudsperson Act (RSBC 1996 c.340)

The said Special Committee shall have the powers of a Select Standing Committee and in addition is empowered:

a) to appoint of their number one or more subcommittees and to refer to such subcommittees any of the matters referred to the Committee;

b) to sit during a period in which the House is adjourned, during the recess after prorogation until the next following Session and during any sitting of the House;

c) to adjourn from place to place as may be convenient; and

d) to retain such personnel as required to assist the Committee;

and shall report to the House as soon as possible, or following any adjournment, or at the next following Session, as the case may be; to deposit the original of its reports with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly during a period of adjournment and upon resumption of the sittings of the House, the Chair shall present all reports to the Legislative Assembly.]

Motion approved.

Hon. M. de Jong: By leave, I move the final motion, the fourth motion, regarding the Special Committee on Local Election Expense Limits.
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[A Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limits be appointed to:

Examine, inquire into and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly by June 12, 2015 on expense limit amounts for candidates, including, but not limited to, the general relationship between limits for the various offices, and for third party advertisers in local elections.

The Special Committee shall specifically consider spending data from the 2014 local elections and other comparative information in making the above recommendations.

The Special Committee shall undertake the above examination with due regard for the following:

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸThe Report of the Local Government Elections Task Force, including principles (May 2010);

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸThe Expense Limits in Local Elections - Summary Report on Expense Limits Engagement (May 2014);

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸThe Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, 2014, including its application to elections for mayors, councillors, electoral area directors, Islands Trust trustees, parks board commissioners and boards of education trustees;

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸThe expense limits model approved by Government in July 2014, which is to have provincially-set limits for candidates and third party advertisers in local elections, with limits to be set using a flat-rate amount for jurisdictions under 10,000 people and a per capita formula for those over 10,000 and third party limits as a percentage of a candidate’s limit in the jurisdiction where the third party is advertising;

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸThe Special Committee on Local Elections Expense Limit report (December 2014); and

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸThe nature of local elections and the differences between local and provincial election systems.

The Special Committee shall limit its consideration of campaign finance topics to forming recommendations on expense limits for local elections.

The Special Committee shall have all the powers of a Select Standing Committee and in addition is empowered to:

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸAppoint of their number one or more subcommittees and to refer to such subcommittees any of the matters referred to the Committee;

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸSit during a period in which the House is adjourned, during the recess after prorogation until the next following Session and during any sitting of the House;

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸConduct consultations by any means the Committee considers appropriate;

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸAdjourn from place to place as may be convenient; and

• ŸŸŸŸŸŸRetain personnel as required to assist the Committee.

The Special Committee shall report to the House on the above date, or as soon as possible, and shall deposit the original of its reports with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly during a period of adjournment and upon resumption of the sittings of the House, the Chair shall present all reports to the Legislative Assembly.]

Motion approved.

Orders of the Day

Hon. M. de Jong: Continued debate on the budget.

Budget Debate


[R. Chouhan in the chair.]

On the amendment (continued).

Deputy Speaker: The member for North Island will continue.


C. Trevena: I’m very glad the Finance Minister is going to be so engaged in my remarks that he’s asking his colleagues to quieten down. I do only have about 11 minutes left, but they’re going to be 11 perfect minutes. I’m sure he’s going be glued to his seat — take every piece of information that I have and use it well.

I was talking yesterday evening about the cost of post-secondary education and the amount of post-secondary education fees that are part of the budget. It comes to $1.6 billion that goes into public funds through post-secondary education fees. We have had a discussion earlier in question period about how post-secondary education is handled.

One of the things that seems to really be missed when we are talking about post-secondary education and the cost of it is the cost of student loans. That increases the cost of education for those many students who have to take student loans by about 27 percent, which isn’t reflected, I imagine, in this budget figure.

Here we’re talking about the straight fees, not the money that the students have to borrow. In other provinces there is a mix of grants and fees. Here in B.C. there isn’t. There is just the straight-up fees. We are often compared to Newfoundland and Labrador, which at one stage was a have-not province and is now doing very well and has only grants for its students.

I think it really is incumbent on the government if it is forward-looking, if it isn’t willing just to have this carry on as-is business model that it’s been going through, as members have been talking about on the other side, that it’s safest just to be quiet….

If there was actually some engagement here, the government might want to be looking at how to ensure that post-secondary education was affordable for students, that we’re not looking at just taking their fees and putting it into general revenues, as with MSP, as with other areas, but that we are looking at it. Be inventive, look at grants systems, look at other systems, because this is our future. This is the investment in where B.C. will go.

These are the people, young adults, who are in their 18s, 19s and early 20s. They’re the ones who in 30 years’ time, I hope, or even sooner, are going to be filling this chamber and filling other important roles. We should be giving them every assistance to be in a position to do that.

While we talk about education, I have to say that I mentioned in my response to the throne speech a couple of weeks ago the government’s limits on education and its unwillingness to engage fully on public education. The fact is that we have parents involved, and when they send
[ Page 6037 ]
their kids to school, they end up being chief fundraiser for that school, making sure that they have the school books, that there’s the playground equipment, that even school meals are provided.

There is a fundamental problem with the way that the government funds education. By having per-pupil funding, you’re getting inequities. In rural areas where you have fewer students, there is less money going into the education system. Where you have declining rolls, you have still a need to have a high-quality education. It is harder and harder for school districts to provide that because of this per-pupil funding.

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The government really needs to…. Instead of boasting about what it is or isn’t spending on education…. In reality, it is not enough. You can go to any school district anywhere in the province, whether it’s a rural one or an urban one — in Surrey where they need the extra space or the north Island where they need the extra support. They know that there isn’t enough funding for education.

At the same time, they look and they see that there is a more than 33 percent increase in this budget to private education. I know we have these two levels of private education: the religious schools, those schools that get 50 percent funding; and then the more elite private schools that get the 30 percent funding. Surely the government could be looking at some way to reduce this inequity.

Be honest. If you are a parent who is willing to send your child to an elite private school, whether it’s Shawnigan Lake or St. George’s or whichever of these elite private schools, you make a decision. You decide that you’re not going to use the public system, you’re going to use the private system, and therefore, you should have the responsibility to pay for that. That in most jurisdictions is the way it works.

As I say, I exclude the religious-based schools. They have a different history. But if you’re looking at the elite private schools, there has to be a different system instead of putting essentially very limited public money into this. It’s quite extraordinary. We have seen this 33 percent increase in the funding for the private schools.

We had a discussion in question period about paying lobbyists and where the money comes from — lobbyists and everything. It’s very interesting to see that the Federation of Independent School Associations that lobbies the government about independent schools gets paid by the government to lobby the government. It gets $28,000 funding. I know this is a small amount in the bigger scope of the budget, but we could be looking at ways that we could better be using our education dollars.

Public education is the great equalizer. It allows every child, no matter what their background, the same start. It gives them that quality of education no matter where you are from, no matter what your background, no matter again whether you’re living in Surrey or Port Hardy or Terrace. Wherever you are living, you are going to get a high-quality public education, but not when you keep whittling away at it, whittling away at it and whittling away it.

In the short time that I have left, I just wanted to touch on a couple of other areas. It will be touching, because we only do have half an hour to speak on this, and there are many, many issues that I’d like to be able to address. Hopefully, in this session I will be able to try and find other ways to address them.

One is what is clearly missing from this budget. It’s the serious commitment to our infrastructure, our physical infrastructure. Whether it is the schools, the roads, the bridges, there is really a lack of willingness to invest serious money, public money in public infrastructure, looking to the future. We have the need to invest in our social infrastructure. We also need to be investing in our physical infrastructure.

We’ve had many people talking about this, including Jock Finlayson, who was quoted in the Vancouver Sun last week as saying that this is something that needs to be done. This is something that a sensible government would be doing, using this opportunity, using this time when we’re talking about a surplus to say: “Okay. We are going to make sure that the fabric of our roads is good, so that Highway 1 from the Alberta border through to Kamloops isn’t some pipedream of ‘yes, we will eventually four-lane it’ but is made to be a safe four-lane highway.” We’ve had record numbers of deaths along that highway.

This is the main link through B.C. Highway 1 connects us with the rest of Canada and the ocean. It is part of the whole gateway strategy that this government was talking about ten years ago. This is an essential part of it. The government has been promising to invest in this since before the 2009 election. The billboards are still there saying it’s going to happen, but nothing is happening.

Investing in our infrastructure with a serious business plan would be a very valuable thing this government could have been doing, and they could have used this budget to announce it.

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I say with the business plan because we know that we have, again, billboards up for the replacement to the Deas tunnel, to the Massey Tunnel. The billboards have been up since 2013 saying that in 2017 the work will start. But there has been no business plan provided of how that work is going to be…. There has been no business plan about why even there needs to be the work.

I know this is the modus operandi of this government. Last year we saw massive cuts to our ferry system without a business plan. We see this potential continuing. We’re going into another performance term — so we can see that happening — without a business plan. When you’re investing millions and millions of public funds in a serious piece of infrastructure, there should be a business plan that should be public. That has not come yet.

I think this is something that the government could
[ Page 6038 ]
be looking at. I know it might feel its feet being burned. We can see the mess it has created with the Port Mann Bridge and the money that it is losing hand over fist there. It is a Crown corporation, so in the end the government is the one that’s losing the money there. I think maybe they feel that their feet are being burned.

Get serious. Invest in our infrastructure. Invest. Look, but do it thoroughly. Have a business plan. Come forward and tell people what you’re doing.

I’ll go back to where I started here. We have a budget that is sorely lacking. The government talks about how it is that there’s been a surplus. The Minister of Finance was crowing about this around the beginning of the budget.

I will emphasize once again that they cannot be talking about a surplus when we have record levels of child poverty. They cannot be talking about a surplus when we have people who are still struggling to pay their rent when they’re on social assistance or when they’re getting a disability cheque, when this has turned into a punitive process rather than something that’s supposed to be helping people. We cannot be talking about a surplus when we have falling infrastructure, when we have parents fundraising for the schools, when we have, as we heard in question period, problems with our ambulance service.

This isn’t a surplus. We need to be investing in our province. We need to be investing in the needs of our people. We need to be investing in the needs of our communities. We need to be investing in the needs of our infrastructure. Only then will we really have a B.C. that is truly working for the people of B.C., the communities of B.C. and the economy of B.C.

With that, I’ll take my place. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak.

D. Plecas: It gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today and provide my comments on Budget 2015.

Abbotsford is a beautiful part of British Columbia that is steeped in history. Our agricultural heritage dates back to the 1860s and has now established itself as an important part of the provincial economy. Abbotsford has grown over the years, and the Conference Board of Canada has identified our local economy as one of the most diverse in the country. In addition to agriculture, industries also include transportation, manufacturing and retail.

The Fraser Valley trade and convention centre, or Tradex, is one of the largest facilities of its kind and holds trade shows, consumer shows, banquets and other special events. Abbotsford is also home of the University of the Fraser Valley, the Abbotsford International Airport and, of course, the now world-famous Abbotsford International Air Show. We are also home to a growing number of aerospace companies. This industry includes companies like Cascade Aerospace, Marshall Aerospace, Conair — all leading the way.

I’ll talk about what this does for the aerospace industry later, but before I do, I would like to point out that Abbotsford is also represented by three members of the Legislative Assembly.

Reminding the House of that, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Abbotsford-Mission on his recent appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education for Independent Schools. The Premier recognized his expertise as a lifelong educator and the significant contribution that independent schools make to British Columbia.

I, too, have also accepted a new role as Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors to the Minister of Health. Later on I’ll be talking about what this budget is doing in the field of health and promoting healthy lifestyles for seniors.

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Before I leave the topic of Abbotsford, I’d be remiss if I forgot the rather soft-spoken and unassuming member for Abbotsford West. He just so happens to be the Minister of Finance and the lead on the document that we have before us, Budget 2015. For a rather unassuming guy, the Minister of Finance is garnering a lot of attention both nationally and internationally.

That’s because he’s been able to do what many other jurisdictions around the world are struggling to do, and that’s achieve a balanced budget — not just for one year but for three years in a row. That’s a remarkable achievement, especially being able to do that in the wake of a global economic meltdown in 2008, now known as the Great Recession.

I don’t think we can say enough about what the Minister of Finance has achieved here. A little over three years ago the Premier handed the minister what seemed to be an impossible task: get our finances in order — that is, take the province, a province in a deep deficit situation and one that was having to borrow money just to cover operating costs, and fix it. In fact, between 2009 and 2012 we spent $5 billion more than we received in revenue.

It was a rather tall order to take control of spending and lead us out of the woods without deep cuts to services that virtually every British Columbian depends on. We are talking about a public enterprise that spends $45 billion a year, with all sorts of pressure on public spending coming from very different directions — health care being chief among them.

All things considered, coming up with a three-year plan and hitting every target on an annual basis with just razor-thin margins is something quite remarkable. From a deficit position, I would challenge anyone to come up with a three-year fiscal plan and try to account for any number of our unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances, like the sudden plunge in oil prices, and somehow still balance the books. It’s incredible. It’s like landing a man on the moon. One small miscalculation, and things could have gone out of control.

That’s exactly what the member for Abbotsford West has achieved as Minister of Finance, and he deserves the gratitude of all British Columbians. Of course, that’s not
[ Page 6039 ]
to say he’s done this all by himself. Public servants and their unions did their part by reaching agreements with modest increases. Today more than two-thirds of B.C. public sector workers have already signed five-year contracts. Under the new mandate, their wages will increase as the economy grows.

The core review of government services has also been successful in finding efficiencies and doing more with the same tax dollar. If anything, one of the most significant benefits of a balanced budget is a triple-A credit rating. This means that when the government has to borrow money to build a significant infrastructure project like a bridge, a hospital or a school, we pay the lowest interest rates available. Compared to other jurisdictions in Canada, with credit ratings lower than a top triple-A credit rating, we are saving British Columbia taxpayers up to $2 billion a year compared to other provinces. That’s $2 billion that we can instead focus on debt reduction and vital services like health care and education.

That being said, while some critics will argue that all this government cares about is crunching numbers and the bottom line, they are wrong, dead wrong. What makes this budget balanced is its approach to addressing the most pressing needs of British Columbians in steps we can afford.

There is no value in eliminating a fiscal deficit if all we do is create a social deficit in its place. Sure, there are many demands on the public purse once a government begins to emerge from deficit spending. But the hallmark of this government is to first deliver financial assistance to those most in need.

I’m proud of the fact that, effective September 1 of this year, parents receiving income assistance will not see their benefits reduced when they receive child support payments from non-custodial parents. This means that parents can keep every dollar they receive in child support.

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That translates into $32 million over three years for some of the most needy children and families in the province.

In addition, approximately 180,000 families will also begin receiving B.C. early childhood tax benefits, starting April 1 of this year. It provides up to $666 a year for each child under the age of six to help offset the cost of child care.

In 2015 we’re also providing a small enhancement to B.C. tax reduction. This will mean that an individual can earn more than $19,000 a year before paying any personal income tax. Again, that’s $19,000 a year before paying any income tax. Modest as this measure is, it will benefit half a million low-income families in the province.

To support those most in need, others measures include an additional $106 million over the next three years to Community Living B.C. to support people with developmental disabilities. There will also be an additional $20 million for income assistance programs. While these are small steps, they are the first steps the government is taking in a balanced approach to managing public tax dollars. That’s a balanced budget.

I promised earlier that I would talk about some of the investments that we are making in agriculture. The government recognizes the critical role agriculture plays. B.C. has one of the most diverse agrifood industries in the country, providing approximately 60,000 jobs and generating almost $12 billion a year for the B.C. economy.

Every week across B.C., B.C. growers donate thousands of pounds of nutritious food for those most in need. We believe it’s time that farmers be recognized for this. In the coming year the government is going to explore options to give farmers credit for their donations. In the meantime, we are committing a further $2 million to our Buy Local program, which helps farmers and food processors promote their B.C. products.

In addition, we are committing another $1 million towards the B.C. fruit and vegetable nutrition program, which benefits close to half a million children. This new funding will ensure that milk continues to be provided free of charge as part of this program to participating schools. The program will also be available to First Nation band schools as well.

I mentioned earlier that Abbotsford is home to some of B.C.’s leading-edge aerospace companies. This industry already contributes $2½ billion a year to our economy and provides direct employment for 8,300 people. Budget 2015 recognizes the importance of this industry and will follow through on our commitment to provide $5 million over five years to expand and grow B.C.’s world-class aerospace industry. This is welcome news to Abbotsford.

I also mentioned earlier that I wanted to talk about health care. One of the things that we’ve been able to do in British Columbia — and many thought it couldn’t be done — is arrest the runaway costs of the health care budget. We have reduced the growth of health care spending to an annual average of 2.9 percent. That’s down nearly 8 percent from the mid-2000s. That doesn’t mean we’re underfunding health care. In the next three years funding increases for the Ministry of Health. That funding amount will increase by almost $3 billion.

We have been recognized for having some of the best health care outcomes anywhere on the planet. The Conference Board of Canada recently ranked British Columbia third in the world, behind Sweden and Switzerland. One of the reasons why B.C. continues to have the longest life expectancy in Canada is just because of that.

Before I conclude, I just wanted to mention that I had a chance to meet the folks at the BCSPCA this year. I was impressed with the work they do to investigate reports of animal cruelty and enforce animal cruelty legislation. Every year the BCSPCA is able to assist tens of thousands of animals in distress.

Most people don’t realize that all of this work is done without provincial funding to support their operations. They rely on 80,000 regular donors to carry out their work.
[ Page 6040 ]

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But the fact is that many SPCA facilities are aging. They need to be fixed. They need significant repair and updating, and we want to recognize the importance of the work of the SPCA. For the first time in history, Budget 2015 will provide $5 million to support the replacement or renovation of SPCA facilities right across the province. This is good news because British Columbians are passionate about animals and love their pets. As I once noted in this House before, there is research that indicates that people love their pets more than their spouses. I’d also like to go on record here now and mention, in case my wife is listening, that I am not one of those people.

D. Donaldson: Thank you for this opportunity today to respond to this government’s budget and respond to the budget speech that took place last week.

A budget is a chance for the government to set some of their priorities. We know that the throne speech that started this session was supposed to be the upcoming aspirations for the coming year of the government. Not just members on this side but many members of the public as well as the mainstream media talked about the throne speech day as the day that the B.C. Liberal government ran out of new ideas.

In connection to the budget, we knew that there wouldn’t be a lot of new ideas in the budget. But really, what it does give us the chance to do is it gives us a glimpse into the real priorities of this government. I think the contrast…. There were some stark contrasts that jumped out at me, and I’ll run through a few of them that really show the priorities of this government.

We know from the budget document that there was an $879 million surplus in 2014-15. You look at that, and then you look at the budget for 2015-16 that we’re considering, and you look at the amount invested in funding a public transportation system along Highway 16, the Highway of Tears, as recommended by experts. You see that there is zero dollars invested in that.

An $879 million surplus; amount invested for the safety of women along the Highway of Tears in a public transportation system: zero. I think that’s a contrast that really shows the priorities of this government.

It’s not as if this government hasn’t known about the issues and the solutions that people in the north along the Highway 16 have put forward. I’ll refer to a couple of documents, because I refer to experts. This one, in particular, was a Highway of Tears Symposium recommendations report from June 16, 2006.

This was a symposium held in Prince George. More than 500 people attended. There were representatives from the government, the B.C. Liberal government. The former Solicitor General John Les was there. The former Minister of Children and Family Development Stan Hagen was there. There were many members of the official opposition there as well: Gary Coons, Diane Thorne, Jagrup Brar. Our federal representative for the north, Nathan Cullen, was there as well.

Not only that, there was many groups, First Nations groups and others, who have firsthand experience along Highway 16. They came together — again, this is in 2006. One of their highest priority recommendations was for a public transportation system along Highway 16, along the Highway of Tears.

What the recommendation No. 1 called for was that “a shuttle bus transportation system be established between each town and city located along the entire length of Highway 16, defined as the Highway of Tears.”

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They go on to say in that report that “except for the Greyhound Bus Line that services the Highway 16 Corridor from Prince Rupert to Prince George, no other public transportation system exists.” Since that report in 2006, nine years ago, the Greyhound bus service has decreased dramatically — once a day.

“A shuttle bus transportation system would focus on the pickup and drop-off of young female passengers at all First Nations communities, towns and cities located along the entire length of the highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert.”

This was in the Highway of Tears Symposium report from 2006, nine years ago. We know that the government of the day at that time was the B.C. Liberal government. In the last nine years this has not been addressed.

More recently was the inquiry on missing and murdered women conducted by a former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister, Wally Oppal. He concluded that inquiry in 2012, three years ago now. That was a very extensive inquiry. Mr. Oppal called his inquiry, which spanned 93 days of hearings and heard from 85 witnesses, a heart-wrenching experience.

I can attest to that. Mr. Oppal’s inquiry stopped four times in the constituency of Stikine, in four small communities that I represent. People came forward with, as he called them, heart-wrenching experiences. Many of the families of the 18 women who are missing along Highways 16, 97 and 5 — Highway 16 especially in Stikine, in my area — came forward during those hearings that Mr. Oppal held.

Again, one of the leading recommendations — in fact, one of two recommendations — from the murdered and missing women’s report from Wally Oppal was enhanced public transit to northern B.C. communities, especially along Highway 16, the so-called Highway of Tears.

So we have, nine years ago, a symposium and, three years ago, Mr. Oppal’s report. We have 18 murdered or missing women along the Highway of Tears, and we have an $879 million surplus, almost $1 billion in surplus from 2014-2015. And what do we have as a priority for this government? Zero in the coming year invested in the public transit system on the Highway of Tears. I can’t really point out a starker contrast of priorities than that.
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Finally on this topic, the mayor of Smithers, Taylor Bachrach, was quoted regarding this government’s efforts, and especially the current Minister of Justice: “Some of her comments seem to be trying to justify the status quo or suggest the status quo is adequate. Transportation in the north is worse than I’ve ever seen it.”

This was also the subject of a Union of B.C. Municipalities resolution that was endorsed unanimously at the last Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in the fall, regarding the need for a public transportation system along Highway 16 in order to address women’s safety. In response, what we saw the government do was create a website, a website for people to look up to see what kind of public transportation is available.

Of course, if you did have access to a computer and the Internet, which many people that I represent don’t…. But if you did happen to have access, you would look up and see that the options were almost nonexistent. That was the response. Again, I just think it’s a stark contrast — $879 million surplus, zero invested in a public transportation system along Highway 16 in order to improve women’s safety.

Another stark contrast I picked out of the budget that really jumped out at me was something that we were able to find lately, and that was information that was supplied to me by the Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre.

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The Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre is a non-profit society that delivers incredible services to a huge area in the north, much of it in Stikine but some of it in Nechako Lakes, represented by the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.

In this letter, which was dated just February 19 and which was written to the Northern Health Authority, was the revelation that this government has cut funding and as of April 1 will cancel intake support services that are currently done by the Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre.

What kind of intake support services? These are families who have complex special needs with their children — for instance, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder — and they’re trying to access local practitioners that are connected with the Northern Health Assessment Network. Basically, what the service offered by social workers at the Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre did was…. They navigate the intake process. They support the families through the intake process so that they actually can get the services that are available for these children.

This is a very important service, especially in the communities that this program covers, including Smithers, Granisle, Topley, Houston — again, some of those in the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation’s constituency — Telkwa, Kispiox, Moricetown, Gitanyow, Gitanmaax, Hagwilget, Gitsegukla, Glenval, Tachit and other surrounding aboriginal communities.

Although this wasn’t a high cost, it was an incredible service. In the north people need that face-to-face interaction. What is going to be replaced is a telephone number, a telephone line to Prince George, which is over 500 kilometres away from some of the communities like Gitanyow and Gitsegukla — a service by telephone out of Prince George.

One of the social workers who works in the Bulkley Valley I think put it well when he wrote in an e-mail:

“It is very likely that many vulnerable children will be weeded out of the program due to the fact that they are unable to understand or follow through the process being suggested to them over the telephone. To date the program has provided an outreach element which has been built on collaborative working relationships with the family and the team. The importance of this working relationship is essential to the surrounding communities and integral to families engaging in services offered and meeting their children’s complex needs.”

What exactly was the cost of this program? It’s $11,440. On the other side of the ledger, we learn from this budget that this government is giving a tax break to the highest 2 percent of income earners in the province of $236 million. So $11,440 for vulnerable children and families in need to access the services that could help children be all they can be and $236 million given to the highest top 2 percent income earners in the province. I mean, if that’s not a stark contrast and if that doesn’t talk priorities, then I don’t know what could be a better example.

Look at it this way. I think the top 2 percent of income earners in the province, who were not asked if they wanted this tax break…. In fact, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services that surveyed the entire province in their public hearings didn’t have one submission on this.

Think of it this way. I think the top 2 percent income earners in the province would be satisfied with a tax break of $235.99 million in order to give an $11,000 investment to the Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre in order to continue the services that they are providing. I think they would be happy with that, but that’s not what this government decided to do, and it flies in the face of this government saying that children are their number one priority.

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I enjoy my interactions with the previous speaker, the MLA for Abbotsford South. But when he says that this budget addressed the most pressing needs of B.C. in steps that can be afforded, I would say that a $879 million surplus and zero for a public transportation system along the Highway of Tears, a $236 million tax break to the most well-off in the province while cutting $11,000 in service for those most vulnerable families…. I don’t think that’s addressing the most pressing needs of B.C.

I don’t think that people who are fair-minded who would be presented with those kinds of facts would say that that’s addressing the most pressing needs of B.C. I’m sorry. I’m going to have to disagree with the member for Abbotsford South and actually disagree with this government’s priorities when looking at that stark contrast.

The member previous also mentioned that the govern-
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ment has wrestled an 8 percent increase annually in the Ministry of Health budget down to 3 percent. So I would like to say how, perhaps, they did this. The $11,440 that was allotted to the Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre to help families and children with great need came from the Northern Health Authority. It came through the Provincial Health Services Authority.

If this decrease of 8 percent to 3 percent is based on cutting $11,440 in funding, in investment, to places like the Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre, then I don’t think that’s necessarily something to be proud of. I think that’s shortsighted, and I think it’s going to cost more in the long term with the lost potential that could have been gained if these children had gotten the services they needed.

We have a government saying in this budget that they made a promise. That’s what they said. Before the 2013 election they made a promise that this would be a temporary tax hike to the top 2 percent of income earners in the province, the most well-off, and that it would be removed. They feel proud that they followed through on that promise.

But what about the promise about children being the number one priority? You see cuts to the Bulkley Valley Child Development Centre of a mere $11,000, which actually is providing a vital service. What about the promise of families first? Surely, the promise of families first has affordability for families as its basis, as one of its main foundations.

Affordability. It gives us pause to reflect on that promise when we look at some of the issues around affordability that weren’t addressed in this budget. Many of my colleagues have spoken of the B.C. Hydro rate increases that this budget projects — 6 percent in this coming year. Overall, under 14 years of this Liberal government a 74 percent increase.

I can tell you that in the north, many people use electricity either as their primary heating source or a backup heating source. Electricity is something that is very, very difficult to decrease when we have so many cold winter months, to decrease usage. We have houses that aren’t necessarily very well insulated. We have people living in trailers.

As a result of a 74 percent increase in the last 14 years in hydro costs and then, compounded on top of this, 6 percent in the coming year, I have people coming into my office — seniors, people on fixed incomes for instance — who are saying to me: “I’ve got my hydro bill, or I’ve got my food that I have to buy. Which one do I have to do? I have to try to keep the heat on to keep my trailer or my house from freezing, but it means that I won’t have enough at the end of the month to buy groceries that I need.”

These are the stark choices. This is what the lack of addressing affordability and really the lack of following through on a families-first agenda means in Stikine, in the place I represent.

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We also have, from an affordability aspect, ICBC rates. They’re projected to go upwards, anywhere from 3.7 to 6.7 percent in this coming year under this budget. We know that in the last 14 years they’ve gone up 41 percent.

What does that mean to the people of Stikine? Well, we live in communities that are very spread out. Services have been reduced in the last 14 years and concentrated in centres of a little higher population, so people need a car. Again, I just talked about how there’s a lack of a public transportation system and no investment in that by this government in this coming budget.

How do people get around? They either have a car and are therefore faced with increasing rates to insure that car or they pay people who have cars to drive them to appointments, to get groceries, for medical services that they need.

Again, ICBC rates have gone up. If you really cared and were promising a families-first agenda, you would look at affordability and say: “We need to do something about that.” This just wasn’t done in this government’s budget. Trucks are also an important part of that component. Many people use pickup trucks for work, and when they are consistently hit with ICBC rate increases, it impacts their ability to insure those vehicles, to find work and to continue working.

In fact, I relate ICBC to B.C. Hydro in this way. Many people burn firewood because electricity is just too expensive, and many people go out and collect firewood on their own in different parts of the forest. I just saw some people this weekend on the way up to Hudson Bay Mountain who were pulling dead beetle wood out of the forest, bucking it up on the road and loading up their pickup truck.

This by no means was the top 2 percent income earners in the province. These were people who live in my communities who are struggling financially. They’re getting a double hit. They are getting hit by increased B.C. Hydro rates for trying to heat their home. Then when they go out to try to collect some firewood to defray those heating costs, they’re getting hit with increased ICBC rates.

It’s not a families-first agenda, and it has nothing to do with affordability for the majority of people in the province.

I’ll also touch on families first and affordability when it comes to medical service premiums. We know in this budget that a 4 percent increase is expected — and in the last 14 years a 100 percent increase in medical service premium costs to people in this province under this government.

People in Stikine don’t expect the moon when it comes to medical services. They don’t expect a specialist to be in every community. They know they have to travel. Again, it goes back to no public transportation system investment along the Highway of Tears and ICBC rates going up. Okay, so they know they have to travel to get some of
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these services, but what about the services that remain? Again, it’s a case of people paying more and getting less when it comes to their medical service premiums.

I had a story told to me, people I know — a fellow who is a cancer survivor and is battling cancer again. He was in a pretty nasty state, so he went into the hospital in Smithers to get lab work done to try to pinpoint what the latest cause of his distress was, his physical symptoms. He happened to go after 4 o’clock on a Sunday. He convinced the hospital to let him go home, even though he was in great distress. He came back the next day to get the lab results because, obviously, he has had cancer, and he’s battling it again and wanted to know what the lab results would tell him about the prognosis.

He was told: “Oh, those lab tests are not back yet.” That was 24 hours later. “Why’s that?” “Oh, the bus that takes your lab work to Terrace left before 4 o’clock. We missed the bus with your lab work. We’re going to have to wait till the bus comes today at 4 o’clock to send your lab work away. So you’re going to have to wait another day for results.”

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This was an initiative by this government to decrease lab service work at the Bulkley Valley District Hospital — and at Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton, I’ll add — and have components of that lab service work transferred to Terrace and Prince George. The minister at the time said: “Don’t worry. It won’t impact people in any way whatsoever. In fact, it’ll add to better service.”

Well, there’s an example of people paying more in medical service premiums — 100 percent more over the last 14 years, 4 percent more in this coming budget. When a person wants to get their lab results in what I would think is a reasonable amount of time, in 24 hours, especially when you’ve had cancer and you’re experiencing another bout of cancer and are told: “Oh, sorry. The new system created by the Ministry of Health under this government means you missed the bus with your lab work, and you won’t get it for another 24 hours on top of the 24 hours you’ve waited….”

Somebody jokingly said to me: “If you need lab work done, don’t get to the hospital after 4 o’clock.” That’s the outcome of this government’s way of cutting perhaps 8 percent down to 3 percent, trying to keep a health budget under control. Well, people are paying more and getting less, and that’s an example.

Ambulance service has been discussed at great length. We’ve had an example in Stewart, where I was contacted about the ambulance service there. People were transporting their friends and their relatives in the back of a pickup truck to get to the hospital because of a lack of ambulance service, because there was nobody to cover when the only ambulance attendant was away or on holidays.

The answer from the ministry was: “Oh, Terrace will serve you.” Terrace happens to be, on a good day, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive away.

Doctors in that clinic told me they were loading up people in the back of a pickup to take them over to the airport to get them medevacked. These people are paying 100 percent more in medical service premiums over the last 14 years, they’re paying 4 percent more in the coming year, and this government’s offer of service is to put them in the back of a pickup truck to get them over to the airport, medevacked.

Getting more for less, and these costs are being jacked up. What kind of families-first agenda is that? Costs are being jacked up on everyone while giving the top 2 percent earners a $236 million break. They made a promise to those people, but the promises this government has made to the rest of the people in the province about a families-first agenda and affordability, I guess we can understand, can be broken.

I want to touch on another area where I saw stark contrast in this budget. This relates again to another promise being broken: “Violence-free B.C.” Do you remember that? That was a slogan from one of the three throne speeches we heard in this past year from this government: “Violence-free B.C.” It was going to end violence against women.

Well, we haven’t seen anything in this budget about an investment in courts for domestic violence, as has been suggested by the children’s representative and by other experts — as we see in Alberta, the case in Alberta.

We haven’t seen anything about men’s programming. I participated in a very interesting and fun event in November put on by the Northern Society for Domestic Peace. It was called Mz Judged. It’s a parody of a beauty contest. It’s men in the community who are asked to participate in a beauty contest setup and take on different personas. The winner of the contest this year was the persona Mz Matriarch.

What they do it for is to raise money for men’s programming, because there isn’t money available from the government to provide men’s programming for men in communities who want to address domestic violence issues in their own lives before it becomes criminalized.

In other words, if you end up in jail for domestic abuse or domestic violence, you might have a chance at getting some help, some counselling. But if you want to try to address this issue, as a responsible man, in your life before it becomes a criminal act, before you participate in domestic violence, then there’s no money.

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That evening we raised over $50,000 for the Northern Society for Domestic Peace’s programming, in preventative men’s programming. We see “Violence-free B.C.”, a promise made and, when you look at the budget, a promise broken.

I see my time is rapidly coming to an end, and there are many areas I wanted to address. Half an hour isn’t enough to point out the stark contrast and broken promises of this government. I will use some of the time in my budget
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estimates to address the budget shortfalls in the Ministry of Children and Family Development in this budget.

What I want to finish off with is a vision, a vision of a government that believes we are all in this together rather than every person for themselves. If we had a government that believed that, that demonstrated we are all in this together, then we wouldn’t see the broken promises that we have seen in the budget allocations. We wouldn’t see decreased affordability when it comes to families first, and we wouldn’t be ignoring the needs of the rest of the people in this province while giving the top two 2 percent of income earners a $236 million tax break.

Hon. S. Thomson: Mr. Speaker, it’s an honour for me to rise and provide my support for Budget 2015. I’ll begin my remarks, and I’ll look to you to signal when the appropriate time is to reserve my spot and continue after lunch.

Again, it is a great honour to be able to provide my support for Budget 2015, because it’s a budget that’s based on an economy that’s diverse, strong and growing. We have near-record employment, nearly 2.3 million people working. We’re consistently in the top three provinces for business confidence.

[Madame Speaker in the chair.]

We have our balanced budget, our third consecutive balanced budget, being part of that exclusive club. Probably only the province of British Columbia will achieve a balanced budget status. We’re consistently in the top three provinces for small business confidence.

We have our triple-A credit rating. Our unemployment rate of 5.6 percent — the largest decrease in Canada since August 2011.

We’ve reduced red tape by 42.8 percent since 2001. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business continues to give us a grade A four years in a row for our focus on red-tape reduction. We are the only jurisdiction to receive an A this year. So it’s a real pleasure to be able to comment on the budget.

Firstly, as many members have done, I just want to acknowledge and thank my family — my wife, Brenda, and my sons Spencer and Andrew and Alex — for their continued support and patience.

I also thank Nan and Jennifer in my constituency office for all the great work that they do on behalf of all of our constituents in the riding of Kelowna-Mission. They do wonderful work on behalf of the community and our riding. I really want to acknowledge and thank them for their continued support. As we are busy with our work here and busy with the work in the ministry, I am not there as much as I’d like to be. They really do a great job there.

I want to do a couple of quick little shout-outs before I go on to talk a little bit about our community and then something about the ministry. I want to give a big shout-out today to my niece Jesse — 27 years old, the youngest competitor in the Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon. That is 430 miles from Whitehorse to Dawson. Started out at minus 25, a minus-40 windchill through the race. To have completed that — and that’s on foot, pulling a little puck toboggan with her tent and sleeping bag in it to get through that race — is a real, real achievement. We are very, very proud of her.

I put a posting up on my Facebook page of the finish line when she completed. Somebody posted: “Are you next, Uncle Steve?” I know we’re the party of yes, but the short answer to that is no. I won’t be next. It is a great accomplishment.

I just want to also give a shout-out today to Rugby Canada as well. Yesterday we were able to join them and announce their successful bid for the hosting of the world sevens in Vancouver at B.C. Place.

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A great opportunity for British Columbia, for Canada and for the rugby community in Canada. This will be a three-year commitment. It brings the best of the world sevens to British Columbia, to Vancouver. We’re going to be able to showcase not only that great entertainment and great sport, but the top countries in the world will be coming here. It will provide a great focus on how great British Columbia is at hosting international sporting events.

It’s a real honour to be able to have that successful bid. I know that we all on this side of the House — and I know the members on the other side of the House who have an interest in the game and even those who don’t have an interest in the game — will really be looking forward to seeing the great action and the great festival that that event brings to British Columbia.

Hon. C. Oakes: And women’s sport.

Hon. S. Thomson: The member for Cariboo North just reminded me, too, coming up very shortly is the World Women’s Sevens out at the centre of excellence in Langford as well.

I’ve got the signal. So noting the hour, I’ll reserve my place and move adjournment of the debate and reserve the right to continue.

Hon. S. Thomson moved adjournment of debate.

Motion approved.

Hon. M. Polak moved adjournment of the House.

Motion approved.

Madame Speaker: This House, at its rising, stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.

The House adjourned at 11:56 a.m.

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