2016 Legislative Session: Fifth Session, 40th Parliament
This is a DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY of debate in one sitting of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. This transcript is subject to corrections, and will be replaced by the final, official Hansard report. Use of this transcript, other than in the legislative precinct, is not protected by parliamentary privilege, and public attribution of any of the debate as transcribed here could entail legal liability.
DEBATES OF THE
monDay, april 4, 2016
MONDAY, APRIL 4, 2016
The House met at 1:33 p.m.
[Madame Speaker in the chair.]
UBC THUNDERBIRDS FOOTBALL TEAM
AND VANIER CUP WIN
Madame Speaker: Hon. Members, we have some very special guests who are in the precinct today. At this time, I would like to ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to open the doors of the chamber and allow our guests to be presented at the Bar of the House.
I would like to introduce the Vanier Cup champions, the UBC Thunderbirds football team. I'm pleased to welcome Boyd Richardson and Vikaram Varpaul and the Vanier Cup to our Legislature. This past November, our UBC Thunderbirds football team stormed to victory over the defending Montreal champions in a thrilling final game.
I would now like to recognize the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to add to our welcome.
Hon. P. Fassbender: As everyone in this House knows, the Vanier Cup in 2015 was won by the UBC Thunderbirds. Joining us in the House today are seven players from that team — Boyd Richardson, Yianni Cabylis, Vikaram Varpaul, Levi Hua, Malcolm Lee, Charles Nwoye and Marshall Cook. Joining them, as well, is Blake Nill, the head coach. Blake was the coach at the University of Calgary and St. Mary's. He has been the winning coach of three national championships.
Joining them, as well, is David Sidoo, who is a member of the UBC board of governors, and his wife, Manjy. David is a resident of the great city of Surrey. He earned scholarships to play at UBC in 1978, where he played with the Thunderbirds until 1982. He was the most valuable player, a defensive back who led the team to an undefeated season in 1982. The reason he deserves the recognition is that he is such a tremendous supporter of athletics at UBC. He and his wife give tremendous support to their community, to the province, through their activities.
The UBC Thunderbirds beat the Montreal team 26-23. It is a very heavy trophy, but these are big guys. They can handle it. That field goal that won it was done in the last few seconds of the game. It's a great way to have a national championship, and they did a tremendous job. This is the fourth Vanier Cup in UBC's history. The last one was in 1997.
The University of British Columbia has had a banner year in 2015. The Thunderbirds captured national championships in men's and women's swimming, women's field hockey and women's soccer.
I'd like to ask every member of the House to congratulate the team that's here and all of the people who contributed — the coaches, the volunteers and the parents who support their sons who play on the team.
Madame Speaker: It's now my pleasure to welcome the member for Coquitlam-Maillardville.
S. Robinson: On behalf of the official opposition, I am thrilled to welcome the Vanier Cup and the victorious UBC Thunderbirds to the House today.
As a sports fan and a wannabe athlete, I will confess to the House that I have played one game of powder-puff football. The biggest challenge in the game was finding shoulder pads small enough to fit me. It is an exciting game.
I think it's important to just give a little bit of a play-by-play of this particular winning game, because it was thrilling. UBC led through the first half. But it was the second half that became a true contest, where there was a fumble, an interception and then a miraculous field goal with seconds — literally one second, I think — left on the clock, which really sort of spoke to the tenacity of this team and the commitment and the drive to win this championship game.
I want to just extend a thank-you for loving this game — for all of the team members and for all of the coaches — and for giving us an exciting, nail-biting experience and for bringing this Vanier Cup to British Columbia.
Madame Speaker: The minister and the member are going to officially welcome them.
If I can invite all of the members to look this way, because the photographer is above and will be capturing a gorgeous photograph of all of you.
Thank you, all. Thank you for joining us today.
Introductions by Members
K. Corrigan: Coincidentally, it also gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce a number of students who are members of the Alliance of B.C. Students.
Here today in the precinct are Gloria Liu of the UBC Graduate Student Society, Kelly Taverner of the UBC Students Union Okanagan, Solenn Madevon of the UVic Students Society, Kathleen Yang of the SFU Student Society, Melissa McGregor of the SFU Graduate Student Society, Alex McGowan of the Kwantlen Student Association, Ben Glassen of the Capilano senate and Raj Jaswal of the Langara student society.
They were here to talk about their concerns about financial aid to students — grants, scholarships — and housing and student safety.
I hope that you will make all of them very, very welcome.
Hon. A. Wilkinson: To reiterate the wise remarks from my colleague across the aisle, it's a pleasure to have students here from a large number of our post-secondary institutions on behalf of the Alliance of B.C. Students. We have a very positive and productive working relationship with the Alliance of B.C. Students, and it's always a pleasure to have them visiting us here in Victoria so that they can get to know the place a bit better and make their important role in society known to my colleagues and to the members opposite.
Just to recap, we have representatives here from the Capilano Students Union, Kwantlen Student Association, Simon Fraser Student Society, UVic Students Society, Langara Students Union, UBC Students Union Okanagan and the Graduate Student Society from both SFU and UBC. Please make them welcome.
S. Robinson: In the House today, we have 32 grade 11 students from Archbishop Carney. I know that they are joined by their teachers. I bumped into them outside in the parking lot. I have never seen a more eager bunch of students. I encourage you all to say hello to them. They're very, very excited to be here, which is, I think, a wonderful thing. Let's keep it all under control today, shall we?
Hon. A. Virk: We have in the House today, in the audience, four budding leaders and potential university students that are work experience students. We have Kalif Ananyakada. We have Diane Yu. We have Charles Balsida and Rosetta Pike. They are all work experience students that are learning about democracy and government and will become future leaders in this province. Would the House please make them feel welcome.
They are accompanied by my constituency assistant Sam Schaap, who is also in the precinct as well. Would the House please make her feel welcome.
SELKIRK SAINTS HOCKEY TEAM
K. Conroy: To keep on with the sports theme, and for those of you who would like a little hockey good news, I'm very pleased to announce that Selkirk College, for the fourth year in a row, is the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League champion. They successfully defended their title against rather large institutions like SFU and UVic and beat Trinity Western University from Langley in the finals on March 19 before a packed house in Castlegar.
As well, a number of the Selkirk players were honoured. Top goaltender of the entire league is James Prigione. The college rookie of the year is forward Dallas Calvin. Both were named to the first all-star team. Also, on the second all-star team are forward Ryan Edwards, who scored the winning goal in the final game against TWU, and defenceman Tanner Lenting, who is also the Saints captain.
Please join me in congratulating the players, coaches, managers, fans and everyone involved with helping the Saints attain this amazing achievement as the only team in the league to have ever won four championships in a row. Congratulations.
HOCKEY EVENTS IN
KAMLOOPS AND KELOWNA
Hon. T. Lake: Often we get up to introduce people from our home cities or constituencies that are visiting. But I can tell you there's no one, except the Minister of Transportation and me, from Kamloops in the House today. They are either in Kamloops cheering on Canada in the gold medal women's world hockey championship this evening or in Kelowna cheering on the Blazers as they defeat the Kelowna Rockets in game 7 of their series.
On behalf of the House, I wanted to thank all of the organizers of the women's world hockey federation championship. The world championship is being held in Canada's tournament capital, thanks to Norm Daley and his team. It has been a great week for Kamloops and for the Canadian hockey team. We just want to cheer on our wonderful team tonight and tell them to play like a girl because they're going to beat the United States tonight.
Introductions by Members
L. Reimer: It's a great pleasure today for me to welcome my constituent Mr. Graham Walker. Graham is a police officer with the transit police. He's very, very interested in history.
I just want to take this opportunity to also thank the Royal B.C. Museum and our legislative security folks who have provided Graham a tour of the museum and the legislative precinct here.
Would the House please make Graham very welcome.
A. Weaver: I am pleased to introduce three guests visiting the Legislature today. Samuel Meyer zu Erpen, a grade 7 student from Central Middle School here in Victoria, is visiting, along with his uncle Walter Meyer zu Erpen and grandmother Phyllis Meyer. Would the House make them feel very welcome.
I also have an additional group. It's a large group of students visiting from Lambrick Park School. I'm very pleased to welcome to the House students and teachers from Mother Teresa High School in Ottawa, who are on a visit to Victoria this week and are being hosted by Lambrick Park high school in my riding. They're accompanied here by Tom Turnbull, a teacher from Lambrick Park, with students from Lambrick Park, together with Kim Mathieu and Mike Rowley from Mother Teresa School in Ottawa and their students here as well. Would the House please make them feel very welcome.
D. Barnett: On March 17, 2016, the family, friends, community of Likely and British Columbia lost a true maverick: Robin Hood. Robin moved to Likely in '82, and he operated a woodlot from 1996 to 2009, where he obtained a second one. He was the president of the B.C. Woodlot Associations for many years.
In the late 1990s, Robin headed a small group in Likely that responded to the proposals for a community forest pilot project — his vision, a homegrown model of a community forest between Likely and Xatśūll First Nation.
In 2004, Robin was elected to the British Columbia Community Forest Association and served for ten years. He started as president. There were seven community forests — now 53. He was president of the Likely Chamber of Commerce and self-declared mayor. His life was lived to the fullest, and he leaves us a legacy. I would ask the House to send its sympathies to Likely and his family.
Introductions by Members
J. Rice: I understand that today in the precinct I have a high school visiting from Masset. We have students and their teacher Ms. Young from George M. Dawson Secondary School in Masset, along with two other chaperones. Could the House please make them feel welcome.
N. Simons: I recently attended a memorial service, or a memorial party, on the Sunshine Coast to pay tribute to a well-known figure, a Sunshine Coast resident. Walter Sturdy was born in Vancouver in 1942, where he grew up and began a long career working in the energy sector. Also known as Walter Wonderful or Double Standard Sturdy, he moved to the Sunshine Coast where he worked for Howe Sound Pulp and Paper but in 1999 ended up purchasing and presiding over the Roberts Creek general store and its environs.
As noted in his obituary, Walter may or may not be missed as the longtime unforgiving and unofficial mayor of Roberts Creek. He was not known to shy away from a debate, and you could often find him at the store or at the legion arguing the merits of various political issues.
He enjoyed beer, food and women — apparently in that order — and lived well, mentioning before he died that he had a great life, had few regrets, was not afraid and it was time. While he'll be remembered for his outspoken manner and an intolerance of hippie potheads — I can assure you I'm not one of those — he was also a generous and considerate man.
I got to know Walter. In the mornings, I'd drop off Slim, my partner, who worked there, and we'd often have really interesting discussions. They were always civil. They were always entertaining. I knew a few things about Walter. He had these conditions of purchase if you wanted to buy things in his store. He had a whole list of people who were banned, many of my friends included. If you arrived at ten o'clock when the store closed and you needed diapers or you needed something on an urgent basis, he would open the door. But if you needed booze or smokes, you had to wait till tomorrow.
He had a big heart as well. He was known as a generous man who always threw some money towards the legion if it needed repainting, and he did a lot of things for the community. It was the centre place for discussions around the OCP. That's where all the minutes were dropped off, stacks of information. He was very much encouraging the community.
He was proud of his children and in later years felt fortunate and privileged to have such a dedicated and committed staff at his store. He is survived by his children — Jordan, Caleb, Jessica, William, Katherine and Anne — along with his five grandchildren. Born January 17, 1942, he died peacefully in Sechelt just short of his 74th birthday surrounded by his family.
First Reading of Bills
BILL M211 — ELECTION FINANCE
AMENDMENT ACT, 2016
V. Huntington presented a bill intituled Election Finance Amendment Act, 2016.
V. Huntington: I move that the bill entitled Election Finance Amendment Act, 2016, of which notice has been given in my name on the order paper, be introduced and read a first time now.
V. Huntington: The Election Finance Amendment Act, 2016, would prohibit organizations from making political donations at both the provincial and local government levels and would limit contributions to $1,500 a year from residents of B.C. only.
The Victoria Times Colonist once said: "In this province, there are no rules to break…. The Wild West approach to campaign donations fuels public cynicism and invites special interest groups with lots of money to buy political influence." That is the truth, and our voters know it.
British Columbia has the distinction of being the largest Canadian province with no restriction on who finances our political campaigns. Unlimited corporate, union and even out-of-province donations remain the norm.
In 2015 Alberta joined Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and the federal government in banning corporate and union donations. Ontario has announced it will move in the same direction this spring. Yet B.C.'s campaign finance rules remain the weakest in the country. Parties and candidates can solicit any amount of money from any organization or any person anywhere in the world.
In B.C., there is a public conviction that money talks, that democracy is bankrolled by special interests. It is a conviction that undermines not only the legitimacy of our democracy but also our trust in the institutions of a democracy.
This bill reasserts the principles of our democratic values by limiting the amount that can be donated and the right to donate to the very people of British Columbia that we report to — the individual voter. The Election Finance Amendment Act is a practical change that will show all British Columbians that we honour their vote and that we will be accountable to them and only to them.
I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill M211, Election Finance Amendment Act, 2016, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
(Standing Order 25B)
Moira Stilwell: Here in B.C. we take pride in our standard of living, in our active, healthy lifestyles and in the excellence of our health care system, which has given us some of the best health outcomes in the country.
An important part of our health care system is palliative care. Palliative care is not just end-of-life care. It is care for people facing life-threatening or prolonged serious illnesses and helps patients achieve the best possible quality of life right up to their death, focusing on comfort, pain management and psychological support.
Palliative care is provided in different settings, including hospitals, hospices and a patient's home. Because of our aging population, the availability of palliative care is becoming increasingly important. As part of our government's provincial end-of-life-care action plan, our goal is to double the number of hospice spaces in B.C. by 2020.
We are also collaborating with the B.C. Centre for Palliative Care, the B.C. Hospice Palliative Care Association and others to increase access and improve end-of-life care throughout the province.
Palliative care is a priority for our government, and we're committed to improving access and enhancing services so that we aren't just helping people die in peace but are ensuring that they spend their final days in a safe, comfortable setting, surrounded by family.
CANCER AWARENESS AND DAFFODIL MONTH
S. Robinson: I asked my caucus colleagues if I could be the one to speak to Daffodil Month here in Canada. It is the symbol we have all come to identify as the Canadian Cancer Society symbol in the month of April.
I asked to speak to Daffodil Month because this month it will be ten years since I heard the words: "You have cancer." I know I'm not alone in this chamber. The Leader of the Opposition, the member for Vancouver-Hastings, the members for Peace River North and Vernon-Monashee and the member for Victoria–Beacon Hill have all heard these words.
These are not words I wish for anyone to hear. For me, it's been ten years of regular blood tests, CT scans and daily chemotherapy. For ten years, I've been living with this disease, because there has been incredible research that makes it possible for me, with a daily oral chemotherapy, to have a full and productive life.
That is why I urge all members and their constituents to support the Canadian Cancer Society daffodil campaign. Hearing the words "You have cancer" is no longer the death sentence that it once was. With continued support from the Canadian Cancer Society and a focus on early screening, more and more Canadians will be celebrating milestones, and a focus on prevention will have fewer Canadians hearing those words: "You have cancer."
In the meantime, know that when you buy your daffodil pin and wear it in April, you show your support for Canadians living with cancer, you show us that you understand how life-altering a cancer diagnosis can be, and you show us that you want to help and create a future where there is life after a cancer diagnosis.
L. Reimer: April 2, 2016, marked the 8th annual World Autism Awareness Day worldwide. All across the globe, the Light It Up Blue campaign drew attention to families who are affected by autism spectrum disorder.
Autism is characterized by a profound withdrawal from contact with people, repetitive behaviour and fear of change in the environment. The emotional disorder also affects the brain's ability to receive and process information. Presently, we don't have a medical test that can diagnose autism. Instead, specially trained physicians and psychologists administer autism-specific behavioural evaluations. Often parents are the first to notice that their child is showing unusual behaviours, such as failing to make eye contact, not responding to his or her name or playing with toys in unusual and repetitive ways.
In British Columbia, the Ministry of Children and Family Development works in collaboration with the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Development to provide an integrated, accessible continuum of quality services, including assessment, diagnosis, intervention, and education and support services to meet the needs of children. B.C. is also the only province in Canada that has a no-wait-list policy for families to access autism funding once their child or youth has received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
Families are able to choose the type of autism interventions, based on best practice, that best meets the needs of their children. In total, B.C. provides funding to over 11,200 children and youth diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and their families. Families of children with ASD are also eligible for a variety of other services and supports, including early intervention therapies, school-age therapies, infant development, supported child development and family support services, including respite.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this very important subject.
B.C. WILDLIFE FEDERATION
K. Conroy: The B.C. Wildlife Federation is celebrating 60 years of conservation leadership at their 60th AGM and convention, to be held in Nanaimo later this month, hosted by the Nanaimo Fish and Game Protective Association. The federation is a provincewide voluntary conservation organization representing all British Columbians, whose aims are to protect, enhance and promote the wise use of the environment for the benefit of present and future generations. It is also B.C.'s largest and oldest conservation organization. Their origins can be traced back to the 1890s, when some of its current clubs were formed, calling themselves either fish and game clubs or fish and game protective associations. In those days, B.C.'s fish and wildlife was managed by a provincial employee, the chief game warden. It was a cooperative affair between the existing clubs and the warden.
Today the B.C. Wildlife Federation has two strategic objectives:
"(1) To ensure the sound, long-term management of B.C.'s fish, wildlife, park and outdoor recreational resources in the best interests of all British Columbians and to coordinate all the voluntary agencies, societies, clubs and individuals interested in that objective, and
"(2) To develop and support a comprehensive educational program to make all British Columbians aware of the value of B.C.'s fish, wildlife, park and outdoor recreational resources and to arouse in the public conscience a recognition of, and a respect for, the place of fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation in the wise, integrated use of the nation's natural resources."
The federation's membership is made up of over 100 separate and distinct clubs throughout British Columbia, ten regional associations and direct members, for a collective voice of about 50,000. They also are the voice for almost half a million resident hunters and anglers in B.C.
I believe most members in the House have had the pleasure of enjoying our local clubs' annual banquets, and I'm sure all members join me in thanking all those involved in the local organizations and the federation for the incredible work they do to ensure the responsible and sustainable management of wildlife in B.C.
AND FLEX MSE SYSTEM
M. Hunt: The reason British Columbia has the strongest economic outlook in Canada is because of our diversified economy. We have highly talented, home-grown entrepreneurs right here in British Columbia. They're thinking outside the box and taking the world by storm.
Mike Callewaert is one of them. He's developed a product that is designed to disappear right before your eyes. Now, if that sounds strange to you, hon. Speaker, well, we need to take a closer look at Mike's company, Trexiana, of Surrey. They recognized that demand is growing around the world for an environmentally friendly building material. Their flex MSE system is simply a system of geomodular construction. It consists of geotech bags filled with sand, soil and rock fastened together with an innovative plate to create retaining walls, deal with erosion control, provide slope stability and shoreline protection.
The flex MSE replaces concrete-and-wire-basket wall systems with a rock-solid organic system that does all the work of concrete at a fraction of the cost and labour. Flex MSE doesn't attract graffiti. It can be vegetated as well, which is why it can also be a disappearing act. It withstands cold, wet environments and heavy traffic. It's an environmental win with 50 percent recycled content, expending 3 percent of the greenhouse gases produced by concrete and steel. This product has been used on the Sea to Sky Highway and the interchanges around here in Victoria.
Trexiana is now being used in major infrastructure projects in the United States, Europe and throughout the southern hemisphere. Trexiana is about to announce a major expansion into the eastern United States, but manufacturing will stay here in British Columbia to ensure quality control. Trexiana currently employs 75 people in jobs ranging from manufacturing through to marketing and has plans to further expand in the States as well as international markets.
I would hope that all members of the House would join me in recognizing B.C.'s home-grown entrepreneurs, who are changing the way we view the world as we speak.
UBC eSPORTS ASSOCIATION
D. Eby: Well, in Vancouver–Point Grey, we're all, of course, very proud of our famous Vanier Cup Tbirds, but we're also very proud of another UBC team that may or may not be as well known to the members here, despite their international reputation.
Founded in July of 2012 by UBC students Carman Lamb, Michael Medley, James Choi and Sean Oh, the UBC eSports Association has built an internationally renowned video game club that boasts over 2,000 members.
D. Eby: I hear some giggling. This is big business.
In May of 2015, after thousands of hours of practice and preparation, they accomplished their biggest feat to date. They won the North American Collegiate Championship Tournament for League of Legends. This is the most prestigious college video game competition in North America. It included months of multiple rounds of competition, and it culminated in last year's final championship tournament in L.A.
Because of their win, they were recognized as North America's best collegiate League of Legends team. Each of the six team members got a $30,000 scholarship, and 80,000 people watched the live stream on YouTube. Those viewer numbers aren't surprising; 36 million people watched the most recent season of the League of Legends World Championship.
E-sports are a big deal around the world. That's why the UBC club's remarkable accomplishment has resulted in multiple scholarships and sponsorships. UBC eSports Association hosts video game viewing parties, tournaments and icebreaker events for the membership. They organize fan meets, mentorships and train hard for these competitions.
They continue to build on their momentum. On March 19, they again advanced to the semifinals of the North American championships, this year in Austin. We're all hoping they bring home the championships again this year.
Congratulations to the UBC eSports Association in creating a supportive and successful gaming community, and good luck in this year's tournament representing our province's school of champions.
HEALTH CARE WORKER LAYOFFS AT
SENIORS CARE FACILITY IN NANAIMO
J. Darcy: For the second time in two years, frail seniors at a care facility in Nanaimo, many of whom suffer from dementia, are facing a major disruption in their care. This time all 155 staff at Wexford Creek care home are being fired. The care facility is being sold because this government isn't providing enough funding for it.
Can the Minister of Health explain to these frail seniors and their families why the government is subjecting them to this latest round of disruption in their lives?
Hon. T. Lake: Quality of care and safety for residents is an absolute priority for the ministry and for health authorities. Whenever a service agreement is transferred to a new operator, the health authority works very closely with the operator and with the families of residents to ensure a smooth transition.
I am always concerned when residents of care facilities are impacted by these changes. This was a result of an organization that put in an RFP, that won an RFP, a fair and open contest, and now has decided that they can no longer operate under the conditions under which they bid.
We will work closely with Island Health. We will work closely with the operator to ensure that the impact on residents and their families is mitigated as much as possible.
Madame Speaker: The member for New Westminster on a supplemental.
J. Darcy: Every time we raise one of these stories in this House, the minister says the same thing. He's concerned, he shows some empathy, but nothing changes. It keeps happening over and over and over again, and it's not acceptable.
It was exactly two years ago in this same facility that layoff notices were issued to all of the staff — the care aides, the nurses, the housekeeping staff, the food services staff. And while they were rehired, most of them at lower wages and with very few benefits, it was not before incredible anxiety was created for the 150 frail seniors in that facility.
We know that continuity of care is vital for seniors and that they form intensely close bonds with the staff who care for their most intimate care needs every single day. It is this government's actions which have resulted in these repeated rounds of layoffs which are harming frail and vulnerable seniors. It is part of the shameful legacy of the B.C. Liberal government's Bill 29, and it's time it stopped.
Can the minister explain why his government is so heartless that it is letting this happen once again and disrupting the lives of these frail elderly in care?
Hon. T. Lake: This government was the first in Canada to appoint an independent seniors advocate. A seniors advocate….
Hon. T. Lake: The members opposite may mock.
The seniors advocate has done amazing work looking at the needs of seniors around the province of British Columbia.
Madame Speaker: Members. Members.
Hon. T. Lake: The reality is that we have added almost 7,400 publicly subsidized residential care, assisted-living and group home beds since 2001 to almost 32,000 beds, a much better record than members opposite had when they had the opportunity.
We will work with Island Health. We will work with the operator to ensure that there is no impact on the residents and their families in this particular situation.
D. Routley: Since it took numerous private members' bills from the NDP opposition to get the government to appoint a seniors advocate, it will probably take numerous situations like this to get the government to do anything.
The operators of Wexford Creek raised the alarm over what they called chronic underfunding two years ago. They said then, two years ago, that the funding model from the government wasn't working. This government refused to listen, and it's frail seniors, my constituents, who are paying the price.
How can the minister justify forcing Nanaimo seniors to face losing their care providers for the second time in two years?
Hon. T. Lake: The operator knew what the costs were and what the payments were when they bid in an open and fair and transparent process. It's a situation that we face now. We will ensure that there is a smooth transition to any new operator, that the residents are looked after and that their families are looked after. We will ensure that they continue to get the high-quality care that they deserve in this care home.
Madame Speaker: The member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan on a supplemental.
D. Routley: "Work with the operators." "Smooth transition." This is not a smooth transition. In 2012, Ombudsperson Kim Carter said that continuity of care was a crucial issue for seniors. She said that the ministry had not taken sufficient care to make sure that seniors were protected from the impacts of large-scale layoffs. That was four years ago.
In the last two years, seniors at Wexford Creek have faced the turmoil of losing their care aides and nurses and others not once, but twice. It is this government's shameful legacy, a legacy of Bill 29, a legacy of putting ideology ahead of the interests of vulnerable seniors.
Will the minister finally step in? Will he make sure that these seniors aren't going to face more disruption at Wexford Creek?
Hon. T. Lake: Forty-two percent of the expenditures of the provincial government goes to health care in the province of British Columbia — 42 percent. The members opposite talk about spending more here, spending more there, this opportunity, that opportunity. It only takes more money, more money, more money. Yet the members opposite do everything they can to prevent…
Madame Speaker: Members.
Hon. T. Lake: …our ability to grow the economy, to ensure that we have the ability to increase spending on health care across the province of British Columbia.
ON MONEY LAUNDERING
D. Eby: The B.C. Lottery Corporation used to provide $1 million a year to the RCMP to police organized crime like money laundering and loansharking in B.C.'s casinos. In 2009, the minister now responsible for natural gas pulled that funding. Now, keep in mind, the savings here — $1 saved in policing for every $30 the B.C. Lottery Corporation spends on advertising.
Now we learn that the civil forfeiture office, a branch of the Solicitor General's ministry, says — no surprise — we have a big problem with money laundering in B.C.'s casinos. Will the Solicitor General stand up and announce that this government will re-fund the RCMP casino policing team?
Hon. M. de Jong: Look, as long as there is a criminal element in our society, we're likely going to be confronted by circumstances in which they are endeavouring to legitimize the proceeds of that criminal activity. That's something we take….
Madame Speaker: Member.
Hon. M. de Jong: That is something we take very seriously. Under the anti-money-laundering strategy that's been in place, some progress has been made, but we think and believe that there is more work.
I can take advantage of the member's question to advise that back in October of last year, I wrote to the head of the corporation. Amongst other things…. I'll provide the member with copies of the correspondence or table them — to indicate that we did want to develop a coordinated enforcement approach with the RCMP. Then the following week, the Attorney and I wrote to the head of E division and subsequently met.
I'm happy to tell the member in the House that we are now in the process of finalizing a coordinated approach to this question that will address questions of money laundering in ways, quite frankly, that the previous organization that the member has referred to never did. That was not part of their mandate and not something that they focused on. This step that we are taking in a coordinated way between the B.C. Lottery Corporation, GPEB and the RCMP will do just that.
Madame Speaker: Vancouver–Point Grey on a supplemental.
D. Eby: The minister knows very well that it was part of the mandate of the integrated policing team. Fred Pinnock was all over the media saying that if you get rid of this team, money laundering will go up, and guess what. Now we have a money-laundering problem.
According to the government's own court filings, a gentleman named Michael Mancini was caught in a traffic stop with $70,000 the Solicitor General's ministry says was laundered through B.C. casinos. Now, these same court filings say he claims to have won an astonishing $2.2 million from B.C. casino slot machines over 18 months but that his money really came from "unlawful activity, including trafficking of controlled substances." He wasn't on the list of the 108 people involved in organized crime banned from B.C. casinos. He was only caught through a fluke, through a traffic stop.
Perhaps the minister can enlighten us. Exactly how much of the $1 million that his government cut from funding for police in casinos is his government going to restore with this new initiative?
Hon. M. de Jong: The member may wish to be a little bit cautious in a variety of ways. First of all, whilst it is true, happily, that the Lottery Corporation does from time to time expel and preclude citizens from participating in lawful gaming activities within casinos, I think I just heard the member state that in all cases, those are people involved in organized crime. I'm wondering if, in his former capacity as head of the Civil Liberties Association, he would have been comfortable making that statement.
As I've just indicated to the….
Madame Speaker: Members.
Hon. M. de Jong: The question of money laundering and the steps that are being taken to address money laundering are serious, and we take them seriously, which is why we have embarked upon a partnership — a specific partnership with the RCMP and the gaming policy enforcement branch — in a coordinated way that heretofore has not existed. We track suspicious cash transactions. I'm happy to provide the member and members of the House with that tracking.
I can tell you this. We take very seriously the obligation that we have to British Columbians to ensure that the activities that take place within regulated and lawful gaming establishments are being conducted with proceeds that are not — I repeat, not — the result of criminal activity.
J. Wickens: The issue of money laundering, actually, in B.C. goes far beyond our casinos. Canada's financial intelligence unit, FINTRAC, did an audit of Metro Vancouver's realtors, and the results show this problem has spread to B.C.'s housing market. Realtors are breaking Canada's anti-money-laundering laws by failing to disclose who their clients are and where the money they're using in the real estate market is coming from. FINTRAC says: "Vancouver's housing market is highly vulnerable to money laundering."
To the Solicitor General: what is your plan to stop money laundering in B.C.'s housing market?
Hon. M. de Jong: I agree with this part of the member's submission and this part of her question — that there are strict requirements in place under federal legislation that require reporting by, amongst others, people involved in the real estate sector.
They are obliged, and we expect that they will abide by those requirements. When they don't, they are in violation of their obligations.
The member will know that the Real Estate Council is, in concert with the superintendent, in the process of conducting a review. They are in the process of preparing a report that will examine this, amongst other things, and provide regulations.
But I can assure the member of this. The government and, I'm certain, all members expect that everyone involved in the real estate sector understand and abide by the statutory requirements that govern their conduct.
Madame Speaker: Coquitlam–Burke Mountain on a supplemental.
J. Wickens: The recent audit from FINTRAC gives more proof to a problem that everyone but the government seems to be aware of. Auditors went to 80 realty offices in Vancouver, and in 55 cases — 55 — they found serious compliance problems.
Money is coming into our housing market, and we don't know where it's coming from. In many cases, large, suspicious transactions aren't being properly reported.
My question for the Solicitor General is a serious one and one that British Columbians want to know. Evidence that money is being laundered through the housing market is growing. Hasn't the time come to do something about that?
Hon. M. de Jong: There's no question that the real estate market in British Columbia, not just Vancouver but many parts of British Columbia, continues to be very robust. That is the result of a province that is leading the country in economic growth — that people are coming to British Columbia.
Madame Speaker: Members. Members will come to order.
Hon. M. de Jong: Now, I have heard a variety of theories from members of the opposition. It just seems like a few weeks ago that we were told it was, in the case of Vancouver, the product of exceptionally high vacancy rates, except that the report that was produced by the city of Vancouver said that wasn't the case.
There's a part to this narrative that I think just galls the opposition. I think they are viscerally offended by the notion that British Columbia is leading Canada.
When the Conference Board of Canada says that of all the jurisdictions in this country, British Columbia will lead in investment, lead in employment growth, lead in attracting people to come to this country — that that will be British Columbia — I think that whilst every other British Columbian looks in the mirror and says, "Right on," the opposition says: "My god, that's a terrible thing to befall British Columbia."
On this side of the House, we are celebrating the fact that people are coming to B.C. They're coming back to British Columbia. They're investing. They're purchasing homes, and they're raising families in the leading economy in the country.
B. Ralston: I have another question about money laundering in another area of provincial jurisdiction. Last May a B.C. liquor store manager voiced his concerns after seeing several cash transactions worth more than $10,000. The store manager wanted to report these transactions to FINTRAC but was instructed to report them to senior management only.
My question is to the Solicitor General, not to the Minister of Finance. B.C. liquor staff are raising red flags about large cash transactions. He's the minister responsible. Why isn't he listening?
Hon. M. Morris: There's nothing wrong if the manager of any retail outlet in British Columbia…. If he has suspicious activities that he thinks are unusual, he can go straight to the police force of the jurisdiction, report it and have it investigated.
Madame Speaker: Surrey-Whalley on a supplemental.
B. Ralston: Well, fine words from the Solicitor General. But in fact, what B.C. Liquor Stores said when confronted by this question is that they aren't legally required to report large cash transactions over $10,000 to FINTRAC.
Can the minister clarify this? Is he directing liquor stores in British Columbia to report suspicious transactions to FINTRAC and not merely to senior management, as took place last May?
Hon. M. Morris: Just to remind the member opposite that it is federal legislation. There's no requirement under FINTRAC for retail outlets to report large cash transactions like that.
But again, any retail manager, if they encounter any kinds of transactions that are suspicious, I encourage them to report them to their local police with jurisdiction.
S. Simpson: We've got some pretty remarkable answers coming from the Finance Minister and the Solicitor General. We've got long-standing money-laundering issues in the casino sector. We know that.
The government abandons the million dollars that it provides for integrated RCMP support. We know that we're having, now, challenges. FINTRAC is identifying challenges around money laundering in the real estate sector. "Highly vulnerable to money laundering." That's what FINTRAC says. And now, $10,000-plus cash transactions in the liquor stores, and the Solicitor General thinks it's fine.
How can the minister justify having nothing to say and paying so little attention to the priority of ending money laundering and getting organized crime under control in this province? Maybe the Solicitor General could answer that.
Hon. M. Morris: FINTRAC is under the jurisdiction of the federal government, so how they lay things out is entirely up to them. But I will say that the RCMP and all police organizations in British Columbia take gang activity, money laundering — any kinds of criminal activity — very seriously, and they're investigating it all the time.
The member opposite earlier talked about a traffic stop and how they were able to uncover this money-laundering episode through that. Our traffic police right across this province are our front-line resources that uncover all kinds of criminal activity, and we need them out there to continue doing that.
GUN VIOLENCE IN SURREY
H. Bains: Last year, Surrey experienced 60 shootings. This year, we are on track to more than double that number. On Sunday, Surrey experienced its 30th shooting this year. In 12 weeks, 30 shootings. Thirty times in three months my neighbourhood and neighbourhoods all across Surrey have been terrorized by gun violence on our streets, and the worst part is they see no end in sight. These could easily have been 60 deaths last year, 30 deaths this year.
My question to the minister responsible is this: how many shootings, how many deaths will it take for this government to take this issue seriously and take some action that is effective?
Hon. M. Morris: The shootings that have taken place in Surrey last year and this year are of great concern to the police and to the communities, to the city of Surrey and to this government.
The city of Surrey spends $120 million a year on policing. We put in an additional $60 million a year into our anti-gang unit that has been working extensively in Surrey, tracking these individuals and trying to gather enough evidence in order to put these folks in jail.
Last year, in 2015, the RCMP made over 800 arrests on individuals that were involved in street-level gang activity. They seized over 170 weapons and over 150 vehicles that were involved in these activities. Just recently the RCMP seized $4½ million worth of drugs as well as a substantial amount of cash and other paraphernalia.
They are working. They're dedicated. Believe me, from my own experience, there's nothing that gets the ire of a policeman more so than the continuation of these offences in a community, and every resource is put on it to ensure that they stop.
Madame Speaker: The member for Surrey-Newton on a supplemental.
H. Bains: Obviously, this minister — and this government — doesn't get it. They don't get it. This minister, the minister before this minister and the minister before him read from the same script and rattled off the same numbers, and nothing has changed. That's the reality.
These words of the minister ring hollow to the people of Surrey, really. It's because they've heard these promises before. They've heard these numbers before. People saw an average of one shooting a week last year. This year we are on track to have double that — two a week so far, already. The gun violence isn't going down; it's escalating. Whatever strategies this minister and the minister before have rattled off here aren't working.
So my question to the minister is this. What effective additional actions are you proposing and willing to take today to protect people of Surrey who are terrorized by this kind of gun violence on a daily basis?
Hon. M. Morris: On a regular basis, I'm getting updates from the RCMP as to the extent of the investigations that they are doing every day on these issues. The manpower they've got dedicated to these resources here…. The anti-gang unit that we have in British Columbia has been focused very much on the individuals that are responsible for these things.
The member opposite asked what additional things we can do. The families of the individuals that are involved in these kinds of activities have been a little bit reticent to come forward and say anything to the police. What I'm encouraging the….
Madame Speaker: Members. Members.
Hon. M. Morris: What I am encouraging the families to do is to come forward to the police and provide them with the information that's necessary to move these investigations forward to conclusion so that we can successfully put them behind bars.
S. Hammell: On Saturday night, there was another shooting in my neighbourhood. It was eight o'clock in the evening. It was still light near Kirkbride Elementary School. Kids were playing outside nearby. Those children were terrified by the gunshots. Imagine the fear their parents felt when they found out what happened. And this is not the first time that shots have been fired near a Surrey school in the last 12 months.
To the minister: what are you going to do about this today to keep kids in my city's neighbourhoods safe from this out-of-control gun violence?
Hon. M. Morris: We're going to continue to put the resources into the situation in Surrey until we put these individuals behind bars. But we're also imploring the members of the family, the people that have information in Surrey on the activities of these individuals to come forward to help to speed up these investigations. The police are doing everything possible.
I've been keeping pace with those investigations. They could do even more if the families of these individuals would come forward and provide information to the police.
[End of question period.]
Point of Privilege
(Reservation of Right)
D. Eby: I rise to reserve my right to move a point of personal privilege in relation to comments of the Minister of Finance.
Orders of the Day
Hon. M. de Jong: In Committee A, Committee of Supply, for the information of members, the ongoing estimates of the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development; and in this chamber, continued second reading debate on Bill 15.
[R. Chouhan in the chair.]
Second Reading of Bills
BILL 15 — PROTECTED AREAS OF
BRITISH COLUMBIA AMENDMENT ACT, 2016
Hon. S. Bond: I am delighted this afternoon to make some comments related to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act. I have a very personal connection to the work that's being reflected here. One of the pieces of protected areas that is referenced in this bill is known as the Ancient Forest. It is an extraordinary part of British Columbia, and I'm very blessed that it's actually a part of my riding in particular.
I want to tell a little bit about the story of the Ancient Forest. It is an incredible place. It is very unique when you look at what it represents in terms of being the only inland temperate rainforest that we know exists. When one thinks of rainforests, they don't normally think about Highway 16 in northern British Columbia. It's an extraordinary place, and people are deeply connected to it.
I want to tell the story a little bit through the eyes of the volunteers, the people who have really poured their hearts, their souls, their physical labour into making the Ancient Forest the incredible place that it is today.
In the words of Nowell Senior, who is an amazing person…. He has spent much of his recent past trying to teach us about the importance of the Ancient Forest. I want to read a little bit about the Ancient Forest in Nowell's own words.
Nowell began, he says, building a trail in the Ancient Forest in 2005 on a part-time basis as a volunteer with the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Club. The trail opened to the public in 2006 and became popular very quickly, but it wasn't accessible to visitors with mobility challenges. So in 2010, they began to work on a solution, a 456-metre-long boardwalk that would enable everyone to experience the Ancient Forest. "And when I retired," in Nowell's words, from his regular job in 2011, "the Ancient Forest became my full-time job."
"My background was working with children and adults with disabilities, not building boardwalks. However, with a donation of lumber to build the first 50 metres of boardwalk, a chainsaw, $30 cash in hand, some hammers, a small box of nails, a huge box of optimism and a crew of Caledonia Ramblers retirees, we began to build a universal boardwalk.
"The boardwalk took four years and 6,500 hours of labour by 200 volunteers to complete. There were 72 sponsors who have funded all the projects at the Ancient Forest, with 42 of these funding the universal boardwalk. On opening day of the boardwalk, over 500 people came to celebrate the completion of the universal boardwalk, with local businesses donating enough food and other refreshments for all of these visitors. And 15,000 visitors came before we turned the Ancient Forest into a class A park" — or we will, with the passing of this bill.
"We continue to be astonished at the scope of the work done that's done by volunteers. To date, visitors have signed in from across Canada, 38 states and 43 countries.
"In the past 10 years, I have made over 500 trips to the Ancient Forest and driven 115,000 kilometres. Together with the other volunteers, we have contributed over 14,000 hours during these ten years."
The Ancient Forest evokes that kind of passion, that kind of love.
I want to tell you a little bit about David King, who is another one of the volunteers, who first came to my office and sat down with me and talked about how imperative it was for our government to consider a level of protection for the Ancient Forest that would allow them not only to ensure that this incredible jewel in our part of British Columbia would be preserved and protected for future generations but would also allow us to now move on to seek World Heritage Site status.
Dave King is another one of those incredible volunteers. Here's what he has to say about the Ancient Forest:
"Over the years, I've explored many new areas for possibilities of new trails, and I've located and built several. One of those areas was the Driscoll Ridge area in the vicinity of the present-day Ancient Forest Trail. In 2005, the club applied for a trail up Driscoll Ridge and simultaneously, from Dome Creek and Crescent Spur, put in an application for an interpretive trail. Both proposals began from the same spot on Highway 16, now the parking lot for the Ancient Forest.
"The Caledonia Ramblers were given the go-ahead for both trails. I began cutting out the rough Ancient Forest interpretive trail with help from Nowell Senior and others. We had several work bees, and by 2007, it was improved and being used by the public. We slowly made improvements.
"In 2009, Nowell and I laid out a location for the universal boardwalk. We realized that the main part of the Ancient Forest was not usable by people with physical or some health disabilities. The concept was approved, and we began construction in 2010. It took four years to complete, and I built about 90 percent of the foundation.
"Visitor use continued to increase, and the main trail was taking a beating, so in 2014, we began laying a plank walk around the entire main trail of two-plus kilometres. That should be completed in 2016, and it will provide protection for soils and vegetation and make it easier for visitors.
"With regard to the park proposal, Nowell and I made a presentation to the regional district in 2009 to have the Ancient Forest included as a regional district park, but it did not meet the requirements.
"In about 2011, Dr. Darwyn Coxson, from the University of Northern British Columbia, had come to realize the old-growth cedar forest in the Ancient Forest area really should have a World Heritage Site designation. Darwyn and his students have been carrying out research in the area since the late 1990s. But for a World Heritage Site designation to happen, the area must first be protected in a provincial park."
That's when they came to visit me, and I can tell you we have spent the last number of years working together to ensure that this exceptional part of British Columbia is protected now and into the future.
I want to recognize Darwyn Coxson. He is a professor in ecosystem science and management at the University of Northern British Columbia. He was one of the founding faculty, actually, at our very important university. His research on wet-temperate rainforests in British Columbia and internationally has been a very important factor in recognizing the significance of the Ancient Forest Trail area within British Columbia's Robson Valley.
It is an incredibly important day for me today as we proceed with second reading. It was such an honour to bring volunteers here to the Legislature when the bill was introduced, when they realized their heart's dream of protecting this unbelievable cedar-hemlock forest — as I said, the only known inland temperate rainforest in the world, which provides habitat to a very diverse range of species. It is only appropriate that it be protected in this way.
It's also important to know that from our perspective, it's incredibly important as an economic diversification tool as well. When you think of some of the challenges that the Robson Valley has faced with the downturn in the forest industry and other issues, this is a way that we can encourage people to come and to visit this incredible part of British Columbia, perhaps spend some time in McBride or Valemount and travel down Highway 5, Highway 16.
All of those things are important factors, but the most important factor is that we're stewards of the land, and we have a responsibility to protect for future generations the magnificent and pristine Ancient Forest that we have. That is exactly what this bill is intended to do.
I should give you just a bit of detail. The area that we call the Ancient Forest is home to some of the largest old-growth cedar trees in the province. Several of these are more than 1,000 years old. The park will ensure that this very unique habitat will be excluded from some activities, but other activities will be allowed to continue. Once the legislation is passed and the Ancient Forest is a provincial park, we then have the opportunity to work together with the federal government to consider this area for a UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination.
I'm very pleased that very recently, in the last week, I was able to meet with the Minister of Small Business and Tourism for the federal government, Minister Bardish Chagger. It was ironic that she brought up the issue of the Ancient Forest to me. I thought it was very interesting and very important that already that issue is on their radar screen. I'm very grateful for that.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the important role that our First Nation had to play in moving forward in the partnership. The Lheidli T'enneh have been partners in pursuing the protection of the park since the very beginning. Chief Dominic Frederick would often join the group that came to my office advocating for us to move this protection forward. I want to say a very heartfelt thank-you to Chief Dominic Frederick and the members of the Lheidli T'enneh, who worked so very constructively with us as we sought to have the forest protected.
In recognition of the Ancient Forest, in fact, the forest will carry…. It will always be known, obviously, as the Ancient Forest, but it will also carry a First Nations name. I will apologize in advance if it's not pronounced correctly, but the name of the forest will be Chun T'oh Whudujut. That's the name that will be attached to the Ancient Forest, recognizing the important partnership that we have with First Nations in this particular region of the province.
With those remarks, I do want to once again recognize the incredible passion and hard work that has brought this particular part of this bill to the floor. It simply wouldn't have been possible without people who worked tirelessly. In fact, I saw someone on the weekend. They're already out there working this season to look at how they can finish the plank laying that has been undertaken.
It is a place that, once you have been there, you feel a very deep connection to the special place that it represents in British Columbia. So I want to thank the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and, in particular, the Minister of Environment, who met with us on numerous occasions, who worked through all of the things that are necessary to ensure that we can pass this incredible gift on to our children and our grandchildren. I look forward to sharing it with mine. They have the opportunity to come and to visit and to be in the Ancient Forest, so I am very grateful for that.
I want to conclude my remarks with my heartfelt support for the creation of the province's newest class A park, the Ancient Forest. Thank you for this opportunity.
D. Donaldson: I'm happy to take my spot in the second reading debate on Bill 15, Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2016. Of course, second reading is a time for general comments, and I'll have some comments specifically to the proposed amendments under the act around parks and also around our provincial park system in general.
I know that most members in this Legislature would agree with me to say that our provincial park system is a legacy. It's something that highlights the beauty of our province. It also preserves the fundamental ecological systems that they represent for future generations. An important part, as the previous member spoke about, too, is that they add to the economic diversity of many of the rural communities that are situated close to those parks.
I have a few specific questions for the minister that either she might take the opportunity to respond to in the closing of this second reading debate or in committee stage.
One of the areas that stuck out for me is Tazdli Wyiez Bin/Burnie-Shea Park, which is situated on the border of the constituency I represent and the constituency that the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation represents. That park is a wilderness park. There's no road access to get to the park. It's in the Howson Range, a spectacular setting south of Smithers and Telkwa — just a beautiful, beautiful area of the province.
In the proposed bill that we are discussing today…. It covers many parks. Some are additions, and some are boundary readjustments. We have a class A park designation proposed that I'll be speaking to. In the instance of Tazdli Wyiez Bin/Burnie-Shea Park, the amendment is to repeal the Wet'suwet'en part of the name — Tazdli Wyiez Bin — and just let Burnie-Shea Park stand as the name of the park.
This park sits on the traditional territories of the Wet'suwet'en Nation, and so I have been curious about the name change. The minister, in her opening comments in second reading, said: "Fourthly, the amendments change the name of four parks and correct the spelling of one park. Tazdli Wyiez Bin/Burnie-Shea Park is being renamed Burnie-Shea Park at the request of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, who do not feel that the First Nation name they originally provided for the park correctly reflects its meaning."
The reason that caught my attention is that the Wet'suwet'en First Nation is an elected band council. It's the Broman Lake band, and the same mistake was made by the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation in budget estimates when I was asking him about the difference.
The difference is that the Wet'suwet'en Nation is the name for the hereditary chiefs whose territory the Burnie-Shea Park covers. The Tazdli Wyiez Bin is actually on Tsayu clan territory, and that's traditional territory.
I'll give the minister the opportunity to correct the record that it's actually the Wet'suwet'en Nation who would have jurisdiction over that area, because it's not within the boundaries of the reserve that's represented by the Wet'suwet'en First Nation or the Broman Lake band, and that's an important distinction when it comes to aboriginal title and decision-making over traditional territories in the northwest and especially in relation to what we're discussing in Bill 15 — the Burnie-Shea Park.
The translation of Tazdli Wyiez Bin refers to the Burnie Lakes and "the little mist on the water" or "mist is falling" — the geography there demonstrating that there's a lot of elevation gain and fall, and the waters are tumbling down. That's the translation of the Wet'suwet'en language that this amendment is suggesting to repeal.
Again, it would be great to hear some clarification from the minister, as she is wrapping up second reading debate, around this dropping of the Wet'suwet'en name and also the fact that it's the hereditary chiefs who are the authority in this territory, and it's not on reserve lands.
I'd also like to discuss a little bit more about Burnie-Shea Park. Although I've visited a number of the provincial parks that are mentioned in Bill 15 and many other provincial parks in the province, I have not had the opportunity to set foot in Burnie-Shea. I've been close to it in another area that borders Burnie-Shea that is also only accessible by foot or helicopter.
I would look forward to setting foot in Burnie-Shea Park because there's a commercial operator there who I know very well. Bear Mountaineering built the Burnie Glacier Chalet in 2001 in Burnie-Shea Park. The chalet is rustic but very, very comfortable, and it's where Christoph Dietzfelbinger, who is the owner of Bear Mountaineering….
He's a certified Canadian mountain guide and certified international mountain guide. He guides back-country ski mountaineering trips out of that Burnie Glacier Chalet, and it's also very beautiful in the summertime as well. A question for the minister would be, as well: as the commercial leaseholder and the only commercial leaseholder in Tazdli Wyiez Bin/Burnie-Shea Park, was he consulted on the fact that this bill proposes to repeal the Wet'suwet'en part of the name?
I note in his advertising materials that he still includes the Wet'suwet'en name for the park, as well as Burnie-Shea Park, and he's very proud of the fact that he negotiated and consulted and did a lot of work as a member of the community with his Wet'suwet'en neighbours and friends to ensure that their interests were reflected in his commercial back-country development and in the naming of the park.
It would be good to know whether the minister can advise, through her summing up of the second reading debate or in committee stage, whether the only commercial leaseholder in Burnie-Shea Park was actually consulted about the change of the name.
Of course, this man, Christoph Dietzfelbinger, is marketing not only to B.C. but to the rest of Canada and to an international crowd, and we know that there is great interest internationally in First Nations issues and culture. When the renaming or the repealing of the Wet'suwet'en part of the name of the park is suggested by this bill and by this government, one would think that commercial implications to the only leaseholder in the park would also be considered. I would be interested in knowing the consultation that occurred there.
Again, the Burnie Glacier Chalet is an amazing place to visit. It's on my list to get to. It might have to be after I'm no longer the MLA for Stikine, when I have more time to get in better physical condition to enjoy Burnie-Shea Park, as discussed in Bill 15, and get into that chalet for some great back-country activities — skiing or hiking, perhaps even under my own power. You can. I know Christoph has led people in, including his own daughter, on alpine touring skis, so you don't have to necessarily use a helicopter to get in. That would be a challenge that I would look forward to.
You can also access the chalet through non-guided means too. You can rent the chalet.
It also brought up an interesting point for me — Bill 15 — in that Mr. Dietzfelbinger pays a lease fee, which he's comfortable with or realizes is part of the obligations he has in using that area. He has made improvements in Burnie-Shea Park, trail improvements, so that everyone can have greater access to the spectacular scenery and views and alpine terrain. From subalpine to alpine, he has built these trails — and then lower down to the Burnie lakes, as well, in case people come in by floatplane.
These trails are part of the requirement under the lease. Obviously, Mr. Dietzfelbinger would wholly endorse this, as the trails are public. Anybody can use these trails, even though Mr. Dietzfelbinger has undertaken to build them at his own cost.
He was asking of me — and I asked this several years ago, as well, to the Minister of Environment at the time — if there could be any possible recognition of that kind of investment when it came to the lease fee. In other words, accommodating the fact that a commercial back-country leaseholder has put in capital investment into infrastructure that is open to everybody in the public…. Could that not be considered an accommodation being made on those costs under the lease fee that he pays to the province for operating his business within the provincial park?
That conversation and that suggestion has gone nowhere with the provincial government. But I hasten to add that although we're talking about Burnie-Shea Park under Bill 15, there is precedent. We know that forest companies…. When they build roads into their forest licence areas, those kinds of costs are accommodated when it comes to paying the cost of stumpage to the province. Those kinds of input costs by forest companies are considered.
Here we have a commercial recreation leaseholder who provides back-country recreation opportunities and also has input costs into infrastructure that the public can use, and he is not, under the current legislation or the current policy by this government, allowed to be accommodated for those costs in his lease fees.
That's something else under Bill 15, under the Burnie-Shea amendment regarding the name of the park that struck me. I would like to see some consideration by the government on this. Perhaps the minister will address that in her comments to wrap up second reading.
There are a number of other parks mentioned in Bill 15. A few of them I have visited. Prudhomme Lake Park is close to Prince Rupert, and we see that there's going to be an adjustment to the boundaries of that park. It's got an interesting atmosphere, that park. It's very close to the coast, obviously, so there's a huge coastal influence. But it's a freshwater lake, and you don't get a lot of those where you can actually camp at very close to the tidewater.
It's also a spot where it's hard, difficult often, to get a spot because it's the only provincial park in close proximity to Prince Rupert along Highway 16. Many people use it as a stopping-off place so they can go in and access the amenities of Prince Rupert. That shows, again, as the previous speaker from Prince George mentioned, how provincial parks also have an important economic aspect for local communities.
I was able this summer to stay in a couple of provincial parks. I stayed at Tyhee Provincial Park, which is in Stikine on Tyhee Lake, very close to Telkwa. I had a staycation there. I managed to…. Even though it's only about an hour from where I live, I took a week's holiday and set up for five days in the Tyhee Park. It was beautiful — sunsets, paddling, hiking, running, and not too far from Telkwa, where there's an amazing bakery. You could actually run into Telkwa, if you felt like it, and have some amazing pastries.
Purden Lake I also stayed at. This is connected to Bill 15 in that Purden Lake is just east of Prince George. It's a very beautiful park up on the plateau to the east of Prince George. The reason I mention it in connection to Bill 15 is that this summer my wife's relatives from Scotland visited, and we camped at Purden Lake. We also visited what is being now proposed in Bill 15 for a class A park, the Ancient Forest — the Chun T'oh Whudujut Park, in the Lheidli T'enneh First Nations language. That is being proposed as I've said, in Bill 15 for a class A status.
When we camped at Purden Lake…. I don't know if people from other parts of the province knew, but we had an amazing spring and first half of the summer in northern B.C. Around July 20, when my wife's relatives from Scotland were coming over, we said, "We're going to camp at Purden, and we're going to go to the Ancient Forest," as referenced in Bill 15. "Don't worry. Just bring your shorts. It's been an amazing summer." The day they landed it started raining, and it never stopped in northern B.C. for the rest of the summer and into the fall.
At Purden, we sat around the campfire and smoked our hotdogs and smokies and tried to give them the Canadian experience. They were impressed, but it was pretty wet. They brought that from Scotland, I think.
The next day we stopped at the Ancient Forest, the area that's being proposed for the class A park. We were on our way east to Jasper and the Rockies and stopped in. Many times I've driven that route from Prince George to Jasper and then down further south along the Icefields Parkway, and I hadn't stopped. I saw this sign, "Ancient Forest," and I saw a big parking lot. But I was in too much of a rush.
Often that happens to us. We're more intent on getting from A to B rather than enjoying the journey along the way. I guess that's what's nice about holiday time and having visitors from other places. We actually stop and take in, sometimes, the sights that are almost in our own backyard that we don't appreciate.
That day we stopped at the Ancient Forest that is now being proposed to become a class A park — 11,190 hectares and a great effort by the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation and the Caledonia Ramblers hiking society. I was super impressed. In a previous career, I was head of back-country maintenance for a national park in the Rockies. I was a former trail builder on a trail crew for a decade. So when I see a new trail and I see the effort that was put into it, I really appreciate the thought and the engineering that has gone into the work.
What struck me first was the 500 metres of boardwalk. It's not often that you stop, really, in the middle of nowhere, halfway between Prince George and McBride, about 120 kilometres east of Prince George, in this big gravel parking lot, and you get out of your car and there is this amazing 500 metres of boardwalk.
It's great because that kind of accessibility is needed more and more in our parks. It gives people who have mobility issues a chance to experience the wonders that that area holds — the interior temperate rainforest, just an amazing, amazing forest. The boardwalk was constructed pretty well, I think, with volunteer labour by the Caledonia Ramblers hiking society, and it's a real testament to their volunteerism and the value that they put in this area.
After the 500-metre boardwalk, the trail continues, and there's a loop with a trail jutting off it. The loop is about three kilometres in length. It was great. I took the opportunity to put on my running shoes, and while my relatives were walking, I took a run around the trail loop just to stretch the legs between the drive from Prince George to Jasper and then down — we were heading to Field, B.C. at that time — so it was a great stop for that.
I was taken aback, actually, when I got back from my run. The number of vehicles in and out of the parking lot at the Ancient Forest was phenomenal. It was busy. I was surprised. I have learned since then that in 2015, 20,000-plus visitors stopped at that park.
There's the boardwalk, there's the interpretive signage, and there's the three-kilometre loop. It all shows that if you build it, people will come. And if you build it in areas that are as special as the Ancient Forest, the Chun T'Oh Whudujut Park, people will come and enjoy it. I think it was being talked up a lot in the visitor centres in Prince George. Again, it's another reason for people to stay a little longer in the area and to spend a little more time and, oftentimes, a little more money in the area.
We have the addition of this park, proposed under this Bill 15 — 11,190 hectares — and we have had a proposal, even, that it might become, or it's going to be promoted to become, a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of that inland temperate rainforest. You know, when I went through it, I appreciated it, but where I live, in Hazelton, we have a lot of that style of forest — cedar, hemlock. But to see it so far to the east, almost to the Rockies, is what makes it so special and unique.
We have an addition to the park system, and we have this, perhaps, going to be presented as a UNESCO World Heritage Site candidate. Yet there's the concern that in the budget, basically, the budget line item under the Ministry of Environment for parks is flatlined. It's 0.2 percent of an increase. That increase doesn't even match inflation, so actually the parks line item under the Ministry of Environment budget is losing ground in this budget year.
That's a concern because we see addition to parks, like a good proposed addition here, a class A park, but without the necessary resources to accompany it. That can be a problem.
That can be a problem for maintenance of these parks. That can become a problem for the quality of the visitor experience — how well maintained, for instance, that parking lot and the washroom facilities are. That applies across all parks, whether it was in the parks discussed in Bill 15, the more front-country parks, like Prudhomme; the ones I visited this summer, like Tyhee or Purden; or the more back-country parks, like the Tazdli Wyiez Bin/Burnie-Shea Park in Bill 15. This becomes an issue when you don't add any resources to the existing base to support these parks.
As a previous speaker said, from Prince George, these parks are not only important from the aspect of preserving unique ecosystems for now, for enjoyment now and for future generations, but they have a role to play in driving diversity in local economies. If you do not invest in that kind of asset, then you risk compromising the local economies and compromising that diversity that allows rural communities, especially, to weather the ups and downs of the natural resource cycles by having diversity in areas such as tourism.
That's a concern — that new parks and existing parks do not have the resources necessary to be all they can be when we see the park line item in this year's budget, under the Ministry of Environment, actually losing ground.
There's also a concern that Bill 15 makes me think about, and that's that in 2014, Bill 4, the Park Amendment Act, was presented and passed by this minister. It permitted exploration research for industrial development for parks and protected areas. Not only did it do that, but it was at ministerial discretion — in other words, an order-in-council. There would not necessarily have to be any public debate.
We know people really have a strong feeling for their national parks. If there's going to be any kind of industrial development — even if it is for research purposes, like drilling or geotechnical work — then that should be out in the open. It shouldn't be a decision made behind closed doors at the discretion of the minister and the cabinet under an order-in-council.
That was a bill that this government tabled and passed in the Legislature in 2014. Again, when you look at Bill 15 today and we celebrate and the minister, rightly so, celebrates the provincial parks we have in this province…. Yet the same minister who really should be defending provincial parks introduced an amendment two years ago so that this kind of ministerial discretion could be used to permit industrial development in parks without the kind of public debate that should occur.
D. Donaldson: The minister seems to object to that, but Bill 4 was a bill that she introduced two years ago and that was passed. That was passed, and now when we talk about Bill 15 and the possible UNESCO protection, I think this government will have to answer to that.
You're applying for a provincial park or you may be promoting a class A provincial park for UNESCO status. It was in the provincial government's, this government's, press release that they were looking forward to that potential. Yet they're going to have to answer at that time to an organization like UNESCO about permitting research for industrial development in parks at the same time.
Of course, "research" means geotechnical drilling, setting up drilling pads and drilling sites in provincial parks. That's the kind of thing that this government is going to have to answer for — rightly so — if they want to promote to UNESCO world heritage organization that this kind of class A park that's considered in Bill 15 could become a candidate for that.
All in all, I'm happy to talk to Bill 15 at this second reading, because it gives the opportunity to say how much we all enjoy and appreciate the provincial parks in this province. I look forward to the second reading comments or, perhaps at committee stage, for the minister to correct the record on the Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chiefs aboriginal title over the Burnie-Shea area versus what she, I think, perhaps misspoke, referring to it as a reserve area under the Wet'suwet'en First Nation, the Broman Lake band — and also to hear about the consultation that occurred on the change in the name of the park with the commercial back-country operator in that park.
With that, I conclude my second reading debate comments.
J. Thornthwaite: I am happy to add my voice to those supporting Bill 15, Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2016. I'd like to start off with a quote. "It was a time when the critters were closer to the folks, and the folks were closer to the critters, and you might even say things were better all around." Where did I get that? In Critter Country, in Disneyland, last week when I was on a holiday with my family. And of course, Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin spent a lot of time in the ancient forest.
The proposed legislation will establish one new class A park, add land to four parks and one conservatory, add marine foreshore to one park, adjust the boundary of one park and will make administrative changes to clarify park descriptions. Five parks and one conservancy will see land or foreshore additions, making up 530 hectares of the increase.
Halkett Bay Marine Park has added 136 hectares of marine foreshore, and there's a name change from the Halkett Bay Park to Halkett Bay Marine Park to reflect the increased significance of the marine component, 136 hectares of marine foreshore being added to the park.
The Okanagan Mountain Park has 263 hectares added. Prudhomme Lake Park — 2.2 hectares of land and 1.9 hectares of lake foreshore. Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, 98 hectares. I'm going to probably get this pronunciation wrong for this park: sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ Park, 0.4 hectares; and Sheemahant conservancy, 28.5 hectares.
This legislation will add more than 11,700 hectares to B.C.'s protected area system, including the establishment of a new provincial park, an ancient forest: Chun T'oh Whudujut Park. The legislation was created with extensive consultations about the Ancient Forest Park proposal, including local government, First Nations and the public. The ancient forest is 120 kilometres east of Prince George, along Highway 16, adjacent to Slim Creek Provincial Park.
The creation of a new class A park brings the total number in the protected area system to 628. Our Class A parks are dedicated to the preservation of the natural environment for the inspiration, use and enjoyment of the public. Development in a class A park is limited to that which is necessary for the preservation and maintenance of recreational activities. Activities such as grazing, hay-cutting and other uses — except commercial logging, mining or hydroelectric development — that existed at the time the park was established may be allowed to continue.
Three of the name changes reflect the aboriginal significance to the area, including reflecting communities of the Osoyoos Indian Band.
The ancient forest is part of an interior cedar-hemlock forest, the only known inland temperate rainforest on earth. The area is home to a diverse ecosystem which includes some of the oldest western cedar trees in British Columbia.
In July 2015, B.C. signed an agreement with the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation and the Caledonia Ramblers hiking society, a community-based conservation organization, to explore the possibility of protecting this special area. Extensive consultations ensued, including a series of community meetings in McBride, Dome Creek, Shelley and Prince George. A consultation paper was posted on line for public feedback, drawing more than 100 submissions.
Local governments, including the regional district of Fraser–Fort George, the city of Prince George and the village of McBride, were invited to attend all these open houses. The Lheidli T'enneh First Nation, which is the only First Nation whose traditional territory includes the proposed park, has been working in close partnership with the government and has provided part of the name for the park, which means "the oldest trees."
I add my voice to those that are supporting Bill 15, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act.
S. Chandra Herbert: It gives me great pleasure to speak in support of Bill 15, the Protected Areas of B.C. Amendment Act. It gives me great pleasure because I love nature. I love parks. I love our wilderness areas. I love what they do for us as a society, as a community. I love what they do for our economy, for our environment, for our understanding of our place in the world.
It doesn't take long from entering a park…. For me, my joke — it's probably reality — is: my church is nature. That's where I go to find spirituality. It doesn't take too long before you enter most any one of our natural areas in B.C. till you're reminded about how connected we are to the greatness of nature, of this place that we all live on; how small we are; how we should perhaps be a bit humbler, which I think is something that our constituents would appreciate from every one of us elected politicians. Humility is a good thing, and nature can certainly provide that.
You know, one thing that I think I'd recommend everyone in this House and at home do if they're interested in the history of parks, if they're interested in how B.C. created the number of parks or announced or named them — the parks were there before we called them a park; that's an important thing that I'll touch on soon — is to pick up a book that I read the other day, which I don't think got the same attention that it should have.
It's from 2011. It's called British Columbia's Magnificent Parks: The First 100 Years, by James D. Anderson. He's a former B.C. Parks employee, a staff member who worked for many years in the trenches helping to build our parks and our Ministry of Environment, as we know it today. He goes through the history of each and every park, from Strathcona on upwards: how they came to be, the difference between classifications of parks, how we used to manage parks.
What was interesting, I think, in the book was how many times the creation of the parks didn't come from politicians. It wasn't political leaders who wanted to pat themselves on the back and stand in front of a press conference. No, it came about because of community action and the staff in the ministry themselves. Staff members went out and scoured the province — on horseback in the early days, in many cases — to find what we had, what was here, what needed to be protected, what particularly spectacular places needed to be saved.
Now, of course, I think it's important to acknowledge that First Nations people, who were here long before most of us, were here protecting those areas, working with those areas and living with those areas. Of course, in this bill today, there's actually a recognition of that, to an extent. I do want to acknowledge and thank the government for doing that.
One very simple way to understand it would be to look at sẁiẁs Park, what was formally known as Haynes Point Park — which, of course, before that had an Osoyoos Nation name. To change the name to just the First Nations name, in the Osoyoos language, I think is really important, because it frames how we should understand that park.
It wasn't a park all of a sudden on which now we go: "Oh, now the First Nations people are wanting there." In fact, no, it was one of the major crossing points for the nation. I understand, in talking to the Osoyoos Nation as well as archaeologists up there, it's an incredibly important park for the history and understanding of civilization, of settlement, of living in the Okanagan Valley for thousands upon thousands of years.
It's very important that we acknowledge that and that it be understood, because too often our parks have been created, and only now are we acknowledging that, no, they were village sites, their homes. They were foraging and hunting sites, important religious and cultural sites for First Nations, straight through to today.
The naming of a park, or the creation of a park, didn't change that. Sometimes, unfortunately, in a number of cases, the B.C. government of the day acted in such a way as to try to dispossess the people who were on the land to begin with, who were there, and to keep them away from territory that they knew better than the B.C. Parks staff or the ministry or the politicians who were stepping in and saying: "No, this is a park. Don't you know how important this is?" Well, obviously, the nations did, as they were protecting and taking care of the areas for many generations prior to us. I think that is very important.
I do want to acknowledge that the Ancient Forest Park, which is being created in this legislation, was created in partnership with the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation. Chun T'oh Whudujut, I believe, is how I heard others say it, and I'm going to meet a Lheidli T'enneh First Nation person to learn it one of these days when I actually get up there and do a fuller walk around the park.
I must admit that I only did complete half of it. I was late, but I'd always heard that it was a place to visit. Prior to its becoming a provincial park, I did get in for a visit and a hike along that volunteer-created trail part of the way. I realized that I was going to be late for a meeting, so I had to pull myself out of my temple, out of the forest, and get out there on the road to get to another meeting in the community.
It's an incredible place. I do want to thank the volunteers. Again, going back to my earlier point: it's volunteers, community members who are out on the land, who get to see these places, who know these places, who then raise them, often, with politicians or ministry staff who then bring forward these recommendations for action. It's an exciting day to be able to see that part of a new park, the actual creation of a new park here. Community; First Nations; volunteers; the government, in this case; forestry and others are coming together to say: "We need to protect these parks. These places are important."
Our parks need our help. I know we're shifting some boundaries, adding a few bits and bobs here and there in a couple of other areas — important changes, absolutely — but we're not, at least in my view, doing enough to acknowledge that parks are incredibly important places in a time of climate change.
The connections between parks are vital. It doesn't do us all that much good if we protect an endangered species in one park, but all of a sudden they can't get anywhere else. That makes them prone, of course, to disease and various other things, because they cannot interbreed with other creatures of the same ilk. They can't do their business, so to speak, and they can die very quickly.
That's happening across Canada now, as we're seeing a die-off globally of endangered species, unlike any we've seen for many, many years — since the ice age, they say — from anthropogenic changes, human-caused changes, which are impacting species in ways we could never predict.
While we've managed to protect many areas that are important for ecosystems and ecological health, unfortunately the linkages between them are not that great. So you can get an island effect, where you have islands of protection which aren't integrated to create an entirety of protection which a species may need to survive. We need to look at that.
Does that mean new parks? Yes. Does that mean changes to certain other areas — that maybe it's not a park, but it's a conservation area, or it's an area with limited uses? Yes, we need to look at that kind of thing. It's looking at how we can do things where there are already settlements in areas that are blocking species diversity and seeing how we can integrate species into our communities rather than keeping them out.
Sometimes something as simple as ensuring that there's an access way under a road for amphibians could be all the difference in terms of: do they survive or not? That has to be integrated into all of our thinking.
I, of course, as well, would urge that we should look to actually get a B.C. species-at-risk act so that B.C. by law is much stronger in terms of how we address species at risk, so that we actually have an obligation to ensure that we're not saying goodbye to certain species for the last time, never to be seen again in this province, by us or anybody. To the next generation, surely, we have an responsibility to do that.
There are other challenges with our parks. Of course, climate change is a massive one, in terms of changes to the parks themselves.
Maintenance issues. We people coming into parks can do all sorts of things. We can do great things; we can do damaging things. In some cases, maintenance and enforcement and conservation really aren't keeping pace with the demands the public is putting on places. You're finding very sensitive environmental areas trampled. You're finding, in some cases….
Boardwalks are important to keep people off of very sensitive ecosystems, aquatic ecosystems. etc. You find boardwalks broken or nonexistent. Then, of course, people are trampling through the bogs, trampling through the brush, creating a real mess, in some cases, in environments that take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to bounce back to the strength that they had before. With climate change and that stress, that's even more difficult.
When I read through mountaineer websites, when I read hiking websites, Facebook, etc. — I'm a bit of hiker, bit of an outdoor enthusiast — what I hear loud and clear from most parts of the province is this. This incredible trail, which I last took in the 1990s…. It was clean. It was clear. It had just been rebuilt. Now you can't find it anymore. You find that in park after park after park. Trails that were built through student grants, in some cases….
The government of the day had programs designed to get youth working — youth unemployment programs to help youth get employed, and not just youth — and environmental leadership programs, where you could go out and build trails. Maybe it was a small grant to a community organization in B.C. parks. Those don't really exist anymore, and we're seeing the damage in park after park after park.
You hear about it — unfortunately, sometimes — from visitors, who come here. They say: "I love the place. You've got incredible natural areas. But, you know, you really don't take care of them very well. Why?" They compare us to Washington state, Oregon, Alberta. They compare us, in those cases, unfavourably. They say we've got incredible assets, which are better than any of those provinces, but that we're not taking care of them as we should.
Certainly, as we add more parks in B.C., I would argue that you have to add more parks protection and support — support to keep those parks healthy, support to keep those ecosystems healthy and to deal with the conservation challenges. Sometimes people go into parks and do some pretty bad things. They cut trees down — massive cedars. I was at one park on Vancouver Island — Carmanah Valley. What happened there? Well, somebody came and chopped down an old-growth cedar, put it in the back of their pickup truck and drove away. Now, it's far away. It's hard to get there. So I understand it can be challenging at times to get enforcement actions.
But really, when you talk to anybody who works in parks these days or who volunteers or who just uses them a lot, for the most part they can't tell you the last time they saw somebody actually employed by the parks department, by the Ministry of Environment, actually out in the field. The park rangers, the conservation officers, will tell you the same thing. They say it used to be any time, anywhere. Now they say it's call me, maybe. "You call me. Maybe I'll respond. Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll have gas money to be able to get to the issue. Maybe I can't. Maybe I'm the only conservation officer in an area the size of France."
That's actually true. That happens in a number of parts of B.C., where it's good luck getting an officer out. They want to come, but there are too few of them, and the geography is vast. Environmental laws go unpunished. People break them. They don't have to deal with any repercussion. We see that all across the province. I know that the Wildlife Federation has raised this issue time and time again. They want action. Ecotourism businesses want action. But unfortunately, we're not getting there.
While we create new laws, while we pass more protected areas, while we create more conservancies, I think we also have a duty and obligation to ensure that they're more than just a word on a paper, that they actually have that standard of protection and support. A class A park should be a class A park. It should be an area that we put our utmost attention to protecting and ensuring it's there in just as healthy, if not healthier, a situation in the future. Many of our parks, to be honest, need some help. They really do.
We, as humans, have impacted them in ways that we may not have thought of as being an issue at all. I think of a local park. There had been people living there prior to it becoming a park. What happened? Well, they wanted it to be like home back in jolly old England. What did they bring? They brought their English ivy. They put it out all over their gardens. They thought the ivy was the most beautiful thing in the world.
They've long since left that area, and the ivy hasn't. It has taken over tree after tree after tree and killed a whole bunch of pretty useful habitat for species. It's just an English ivy morass, very difficult to eradicate. You can, and I have, in a number of parks now. A favourite thing to get aggression out on the weekend after being in the Legislature is pulling English ivy. But that's the kind of thing we're dealing with in parks today: the disturbances that we have left of habitats or species we may have introduced, thinking that it would help. Well, it hasn't.
Of course, forestry. In that tradition, we have a lot of work to do to help re-establish some of the ecosystems that may have been impacted during days when we didn't have very good protections to ensure that forestry was done to the level of protections that we should have — challenges which, I might add, we continue to face in some parts of this province.
I'm excited to be able to visit a number of these parks in the future when they are actually officially parks, in the case of the Ancient Forest. I'm excited that we're seeing interest, at least, in the naming of parks. I'm certainly hopeful we can then follow that up with investments in parks.
Finally, I think there are a few things we still have left to do. In British Columbia's Magnificent Parks: The First 100 Years, something James D. Anderson had to say a lot about was the importance of acquiring parks and the importance of people thinking forward, thinking long term about how to create places to visit, places that people want to go to. He identified a few parks in B.C. which wouldn't have come about if it hadn't been for the staff and community members and others working together, some of them Rathtrevor Park, Ruckle Park on Saltspring, Porteau Cove, Okanagan Lake.
For many people in B.C., when they hear those names, they think of camping. They think: "Oh well, I've been to that park. I've stayed in that park." They're incredible parks. They are some of the parks with the highest occupancy rates in B.C. Why is that? They're close to population centres. That helps. But they're incredibly useful places that you can get to quickly — bring your family, hang out, visit, have an up-close-and-personal visit with nature. And they were purchased through a fund in the budget to purchase parks.
I think we need to have that fund in a bigger way again, where community members can raise money. They can put money together. Others maybe want to donate a property or sell part of their property, what have you — ways that we can expand the system through community support, ways that we can work with the tourism industry as well. So when there is a site that would draw a lot of interest — tourism interest, public interest as well — we can step in and protect it and make sure that it's there forever.
Park architects of the past, park staff, community members and a few brave — well, I wouldn't say brave, actually; that would be the wrong term — a few hopeful politicians — and actually, once they did it, then all the politicians wanted to get in on it — have helped expand the park system in B.C. to a level that we've never seen before. There are still a few ecosystems which aren't included — one that I think we need included in the national park in Okanagan-Similkameen — but that's still to come, I hope. I knock on wood.
We've still got a way to go for sure, but this is a good day to declare a new park, and I'm proud to support the bill.
D. Plecas: I'm pleased to rise today on behalf of my constituents in Abbotsford South and speak to, and in favour of, Bill 15. That is the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2016.
British Columbia, as we all know, is known around the world for its pristine natural beauty. We as British Columbians are lucky to have such an immense natural playground, which offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and exploration. Our incredible system of parks not only protects significant ecological and cultural values, but it also provides visitors and residents alike with unforgettable experiences.
Bill 15 demonstrates government's commitment to preserving our province's spectacular natural beauty for generations in the future and for all British Columbians. If this legislation is passed, B.C.'s parks and protected area systems will increase by more than 11,000 hectares.
The proposed legislation will establish one new class A park, add land to four parks and one conservancy, add marine foreshore to one park, adjust the boundary of one park and will make administrative changes to clarify park descriptions. These administrative changes include changing the names of four parks and clarifying several park descriptions.
The proposed class A provincial park named the Ancient Forest or Chun T’oh Whudujut Park is an ecological marvel in our province. Located 120 kilometres east of Prince George along Highway 16, the Ancient Forest is part of the interior cedar-hemlock forest, which is the only known inland temperate rainforest on earth. The area is home to a diverse and healthy ecosystem, including some of the oldest western cedar trees in the province.
Class A parks are lands dedicated to the preservation of their natural environments for the inspiration, use and enjoyment of the public. Development in a class A park is limited to that which is necessary for the preservation and maintenance of its recreational values and ensuring that the Ancient Forest remains a pristine natural wonder for future generations to explore.
There were many groups that were extensively involved in preserving this space, and I would like to take this opportunity to mention some of them today. In July '15, the province signed an agreement with the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation and the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society, a community-based conservation organization, to explore the possibilities of protecting this special area.
Since that time, extensive consultation about the Ancient Forest Park proposal has been undertaken with local government, First Nations and the public in order to create this legislation. A series of community meetings were held in surrounding communities, including McBride, Dome Creek, Shelley and Prince George. A consultation paper was posted on line for public feedback, and it drew more than 100 submissions.
Local governments — including the regional district of Fraser–Fort George, the city of Prince George and the village of McBride — were invited to attend open houses. In addition, the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation, which is the only First Nation whose traditional territory includes a proposed park, has been working closely in partnership with the government throughout this process. They have even provided part of the name for the park, Chun T’oh Whudujut, which means "oldest trees."
I would also like to mention Darwyn Coxson, a biology professor from the University of Northern British Columbia, who was very helpful and knowledgable as resource throughout the consultation process.
The Ancient Forest Provincial Park will be managed within the current budget of B.C. Parks, which will continue the existing arrangement with the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society for the maintenance of the popular hiking trail and boardwalk in the park. After establishing this area as a provincial park, work can begin on getting the area named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bill 15 will also provide land or foreshore additions to five parks and one conservatory, making up 530 hectares of the total increase to B.C. parks and protected areas. Halkett Bay Marine Park will be increased by 136 hectares of marine foreshore, which protects a recently discovered rare glass sponge reef southeast of Gambier Island.
Okanagan Mountain Park will be increased by 263 hectares, resulting from Crown lands being added to the park. Prudhomme Lake Park will see additions of 2.2 hectares of land and 1.96 hectares of lake foreshore as a result of a private land acquisition. Tweedsmuir Park and sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ Park will see increases of 98 hectares and 0.4 hectares respectively, due to a private land acquisition.
Finally, the Sheemahant conservancy will be increased by 28.5 hectares, resulting from the inclusion of a former forestry road and cutting area.
I would also like to note that Bill 15 will make slight changes to the boundaries of the Nahatlach Park, with the removal of 1.2 hectares to offer those lands to the Boston Bar First Nations as part of a negotiated settlement.
Bill 15 also proposes name changes to four class A parks. Halkett Bay Park is being changed to Halkett Bay Marine Park to reflect the increased significance of marine foreshore in the park's area. Tazdli Wyiez Bin/Burnie-Shea Park is being renamed to just Burnie-Shea Park. This change is being made at the request of the Wet'suwet'en First Nations, who did not feel the name they originally identified for the park reflected the correct meaning.
The legislation also removes the words Haynes Point and Okanagan Falls from sẁiẁs and sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ parks, following their official renaming on May 15 to their traditional First Nations names. These two park names are being changed, again, to reflect commitments made by the province in a more recent discussion with the Osoyoos Indian Band.
To summarize, the changes proposed by Bill 15 reflect government's commitment to work with First Nations and other groups to ensure that B.C.'s natural beauty can continue to awe and inspire generations to come. For these reasons, with my constituents in Abbotsford South in mind, I am proud to speak in support of this act today.
J. Rice: I'm happy to rise today to speak to Bill 15, Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2016. As mentioned earlier, the proposed bill creates a new class A provincial park near Prince George, preserving an ancient forest. It adds land and aquatic foreshore to five parks and one conservancy, and it adjusts the boundary of another park and makes some administrative changes to clarify park descriptions.
I will rise today and support this bill, but I'll take the opportunity to make comments on two of the impacted parks which fall within my constituency — one being Prudhomme Lake Park, which is just outside of Prince Rupert — a very popular area used by local residents and visitors. Another park, a much larger park, which is Tweedsmuir Park, encompasses so many constituencies of so many MLAs. But the proposed changes in this amendment act impact the area of the park close to my constituency — Bella Coola.
I think I'll talk a little bit about just the fact that in the central coast…. To access Tweedsmuir Park in the Bella Coola area, that part of the park, one of the ways of getting there is by ferry. This is the central coast ferry route that was cut, subsequently, in the last two years. We've lost the key tool to accessing this part of Tweedsmuir Park. It's a gorgeous park. I visit it every time I visit my constituents in the central coast.
I've also had the pleasure of staying in a cabin within Tweedsmuir Park near the Atnarko River watershed area, which is an area that is being expanded in this particular bill — lots of grizzly bears, lots of wildlife in general. Last summer was probably one of the few trips where I had more pictures of animals than I did of people — of foxes and bears and other wildlife, lots of waterfowl.
A really beautiful area, a stunning area. The awesome photographers that we have in the central coast, in the Bella Coola Valley, are residents that take phenomenal photographs that are hugely popular on the Internet and draw a lot of people to wanting to visit the area.
However, as I've mentioned in other opportunities speaking in the House, the key way of getting to this part of Tweedsmuir Park is by ferry, and we've lost the Queen of Chilliwack ferry, which used to take over 100 cars. It's been replaced by the winter ferry, which is the Nimpkish, which has a maximum carload of 16 vehicles. There has been quite a bit of research done in the area on how this is providing a big choke in tourism.
The central coast has had to reinvent itself on more than one occasion: being in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, participating in the new management regime of ecosystem-based management, which, generally speaking, most people are supportive of because it makes sense. It makes ecological sense. It benefits the people. It benefits First Nations. It benefits the wildlife. It preserves sensitive areas. It allows for a robust and sustainable forest industry.
Considering that people had to really make big changes in their lives and their livelihoods in the Bella Coola Valley near Tweedsmuir Park, tourism — which was the idea of the provincial government, this B.C. Liberal government for…. That was the idea that this government had for Bella Coola Valley residents to reinvent themselves with, and so they did.
There were some resources put into the valley many years ago for the residents of the Bella Coola Valley to reinvent themselves as an ecotourism centre. We have gorgeous lodges. We have accommodations, from motels all the way up to really remote cabins, to camping — beautiful places within Tweedsmuir and outside of Tweedsmuir.
We have rafting guides. We have photography tours. It's a very phenomenal place to witness grizzly bears. In the fall, the amount of grizzly bears that we see in and outside of the park, even in the communities and people's backyards, is pretty spectacular. This is something that is really attractive to tourists.
My concern is that in expanding Tweedsmuir Park and creating a beautiful gem for British Columbians and tourists alike to visit and to participate in, we have also got to support the mechanisms for people to get there, which is providing that area, the Bella Coola Valley area, a robust ferry system.
We have another option of getting into that southern part or eastern part of Tweedsmuir Park, which is by road, Highway 20 from Williams Lake. It's an infamous highway. There's the infamous hill. Not all vehicles can do that trip in the wintertime. It's a long drive. It's a beautiful drive. I've done it. However, many tourists are reticent to take a long drive into the Bella Coola Valley to see this part of Tweedsmuir Park and then do the return trip up the hill back out.
What tourists really want to do is the circle tour. It used to be called the Discovery coast circle tour. You drive in one way and ferry out the other, going down to the northern part of Vancouver Island, possibly through Vancouver and up through the Interior. Or they do that trip in reverse. They come up from the Vancouver area or even the United States, travel through Vancouver Island, get on the ferry in Port Hardy, get off in Bella Coola and drive out the highway — drive out and camp and participate, go fishing, hiking, take photography trips — through Tweedsmuir Park and back out through Williams Lake and down again. Some of them travel up even north.
It's really hard to do this trip now. I tried to book the circle tour last spring for this past summer. I was quite proud of myself for being organized and pre-emptive in planning my trip in March to take in July or August. However, by the end of March, the ferry had been already booked up until September. So I wasn't pre-emptive enough, and I wasn't organized enough, because the 16-vehicle ferry had already been booked up.
Great opportunities for aboriginal tourism in this area. Just outside of Tweedsmuir Park are some beautiful petroglyphs. I've actually seen rock art or petroglyphs and petrographs all over our province, but I've never seen so many in such a small area, I guess you could say, or so close together. You can take a tour with a Nuxalk guide who will show you all these beautiful petroglyphs with interesting creation stories, interesting history.
Yet, in order to do that, we have again removed the one key tool for people to participate. While I support expanding Tweedsmuir Park, protecting an area that is a crucial area…. The particular expansion area is crucial for salmon, a salmon habitat area, a salmon feeding area. It's also an important area for waterfowl and other wildlife. It's an important area to protect.
[R. Lee in the chair.]
It's also an important area to share with British Columbians, to share with tourists. Therefore, while I support the expansion of the park, I also support the implementation of a robust ferry system so that people can actually witness this area and participate and we can provide economic stability for the residents of the Bella Coola Valley. I feel that they have unfairly been the bearers of a huge burden of constant government cutbacks and changes, with limited consultation, to the area.
They're very resourceful people. However, it's a real struggle for them to continuously face ferry cuts — not even ferry changes, but ferry cuts — and the huge impact of removing the Queen of Chilliwack. A ferry of a decent size could actually allow them to have a tourism economy, which they were encouraged to do with changes to the way forestry practices were conducted in that valley. I feel that they are at least deserving of some basic, minimum-service levels, as well as opportunities for a robust tourism industry.
The other park that is impacted by this amendment act is Prudhomme Lake Park, which is just outside of Prince Rupert. It's maybe 16 kilometres, I believe. It's a short drive. That's all I recall. I've been to the area numerous times, although I'm sad to say I haven't visited the area in recent times due to my schedule. However, I've been inspired to go back and perhaps do some kayaking on the lake, which is something I enjoyed a few years back before being an MLA. I look forward to bringing that back into my life.
It's an interesting park in that it is on a lake and it's so close to the ocean at Prince Rupert. There are some cottages that are only accessible by boat or by kayak or canoe. It's a heavily utilized area. Quite a few people have cabins on the other side of the lake. You can see the cars that belong to the cabin owners just lined up along Highway 16.
It's an area of high congestion that really needs some attention. Not only that, there is the campsite, which is heavily utilized by Prince Rupert residents because it is so close to Prince Rupert. It's one of the closest places to camp if you're a Prince Rupert resident and therefore very popular. Expanding that area to allow for camping, I think, would be a good idea.
I'm not sure. I've looked at the map, but I can't tell from the map how it would impact the cabin owners, so I'm reticent to speak to that. But if it makes for easier access for the cabin owners and the campers, then of course I would be supportive of that, especially just in regards to the safety of accessing and enjoying the park.
I know it's a bit concerning to have so many vehicles parked along the side of the highway. The boat ramp, or the water access area, is heavily utilized by boaters as well as canoeists and kayakers. It's been brought to my attention that any way we could support the recreational users of Prudhomme Lake would be appreciated and beneficial. Again, considering it's a highly utilized area, anything to make sure that safety is of utmost concern — and fairness in allowing people to access and enjoy the area.
It's a great place that is located so close to Prince Rupert, a great escape for folks. I do know that it's also visited by tourists from afar. People that are going on to Haida Gwaii or up to Alaska will often stop and stay in Prudhomme or near by. So anything we can do to accommodate that and, again, bring in tourism dollars to Prince Rupert I would greatly support.
One thing I'd like to talk about…. While we're expanding parks, which I think most people would think is a good thing, and allowing better access, which I think is a good thing for residents, I think I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the fact that we face quite significant cuts to park employees and the resources that are needed to maintain, access and fully enjoy our parks.
In 2009, I wrote a little editorial. This was shortly after the economic crises. At that time, I was a little concerned that we were again facing more cuts to park rangers. I wouldn't mind sharing my editorial from 2009. It's called "Say Good-bye to Smokey the Bear." It goes like this:
"In the words of environmental lawyer and author David Boyd: 'Parks are a soothing balm for environmental guilt, for at least we have managed to preserve these priceless places and extraordinary biological diversity as a lasting legacy for future generations.' Have we really?
"Quietly, two weeks ago, close to 60 people got a pink slip from the Premier himself. Bob Fuhrer, who has been a B.C. park ranger for 15 years, is not going back to work this summer after more cuts to British Columbia's park ranger jobs. This is in addition to park staffing cuts, which were slashed by 34 percent when the current government came into power in 2001.
"The B.C. Government and Service Employees Union tells us the most recent cuts will reduce current park ranger positions by an additional 40 percent. That leaves less than 50 full-time-equivalent rangers to patrol 13.5 million hectares of protected areas where approximately 20 million people visit yearly. Once the summer visitations have dropped off, we'll go from 22 to ten permanent park rangers for the entire province.
"According to the Sierra Club of B.C.'s website, they cite a 2001 government report that shows that for every dollar the government spends on protected areas in B.C., more than $10 is returned to local economies through visitor expenditures.
"Despite the revenues that parks generate — not to mention the protection of important areas and satisfaction they bring British Columbians and tourists alike — all across the province, taxpayer-funded campgrounds and recreation areas will now fade away into the wilderness. Our invested dollar is down with the composting toilets. Picnic tables and park benches will be left to become one with nature, and hiking trails overgrown and impassable.
"Regardless of the fact that parks pay for themselves, the rationale for abandoning the best place on earth by our government is that we have no money. Consider this. Despite not having any money, the taxpayers of this province will be providing the oil and gas industry, one of the richest industries in the world, with $1½ billion in subsidies over the next three years.
"The entire Ministry of Environment — which manages eight divisions, including B.C. Parks, fisheries, water management, environmental protection and environmental assessments — ran on a $476 million budget for the 2007-2008 fiscal. In comparison, the cost for a new roof at B.C. Place is $365 million, $808 million for the Golden Ears Bridge and $600 million for the Sea to Sky Highway improvement project. Perhaps our current government's priorities are simply focused on urban British Columbia."
I must just interject that I'm talking about an editorial that I wrote in 2009. Of course, things have changed.
J. Rice: Pardon me. It wasn't $600 million. It was $514 million.
"On the B.C. Parks website, there is a link to something called the B.C. Parks Program Plan, 2007-2012. It's described: 'The B.C. Parks Program Plan translates the broad direction provided by government…into a plan that will guide the actions of the agency over the next three to five years.'
"It's no surprise that the web link to this plan is a dead link and that government's future plans are not available to us. Speculation is that when funding is cut for the protection of parks, the government is preparing to privatize them by turning over their care to private management companies. Considering the trend of how other B.C. resources are managed, I think this is a safe conjecture.
"It is predicted that with the current state of the economy, people will stay closer to home for summer holidays to save money this year. With the increasing knowledge of global warming and the desire to lessen one's carbon footprint, park visits should increase as people make a concerted effort to avoid carbon-heavy air travel. Regardless, oil and gas and Vancouver city infrastructure projects take priority. So much for our lasting legacy to our children and grandchildren.
"If you're visiting one of B.C.'s magnificent parks this summer and you encounter a bear while recreating, hit a moose with your car, need interpretation of an ecological reserve, vandals have graffitied the washrooms and trashed your campsite or, worse, you witness a forest fire, rest assured that Smokey the Bear will be in Vancouver, working at B.C. Place, should you need assistance."
I reiterate that I wrote this in 2009, when we were facing, again, more cuts to more B.C. park rangers. Of course, the numbers have changed, if not marginally. We've seen, actually, larger increases. In 2013, 60 percent was the percentage funding cut to park ranger staff since 2001. Those are some of the numbers that we have. The number of B.C. parks having operating seasons shortened since 2009 was 45.
The amount that government was spending per hectare in the B.C. parks system was $2.29, whereas the amount that the Alberta government was spending per hectare was $25.29. Again, we've just seen a significant decreasing of supports for B.C. parks. With the loss of park staff, the amount of area that is expected for a park ranger to cover is quite large and, in many cases, just unfeasible to manage in a realistic manner.
Knowing that we receive quite a return…. Not just from recreation or cultural purposes but from a financial perspective, we receive back so much for every dollar we invest in B.C. parks. I would love to take this opportunity to encourage more support for B.C. parks.
I will sum up my remarks by saying that I do support Bill 15, the parks amendment act, and will be voting in favour of this. I've appreciated the opportunity to talk about two important parks in my area, which are Tweedsmuir and Prudhomme Lake.
Thank you for your time.
J. Sturdy: It is a pleasure to rise to speak in support of the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2016.
This is a great day for B.C. parks. I think it's worth noting that our park system here in British Columbia is the third-largest park system in North America, after Canada and the United States national systems. So as a subregional area with the third-biggest system in North America, I think that's certainly a testament to what we've done here in British Columbia.
B.C. parks and protected areas. There are some 1,029 of them, totalling — actually, this comes, I must admit, out of Wikipedia and will need to be updated after the successful passage of this bill — 14.4 percent of the land base of British Columbia, which is 14,063,250 hectares, with some additions, including some significant additions over the course of the next couple of weeks, one would hope.
I think it's worth, also, maybe just touching on the various classifications of parks here in British Columbia. We've got our class A parks. One of the big ones, of the 11,000-hectare addition, is for a class A park, which is dedicated lands to preserve their natural environments, which is the principal objective of it, with development generally restricted to recreational facilities only.
A class B park allows for additional activities, provided they are not detrimental to the recreational values and environmental values.
A class C park is generally smaller and consists of local recreational amenities.
Conservancies are lands protected and maintained for biological diversity, natural environments and recreational values and also explicitly recognized for social, ceremonial and cultural uses of First Nations.
Protected areas are natural areas that generally have existing or proposed activities that are normally restricted from a provincial park, such as industrial roads or transmission lines.
Ecological reserves are areas reserved for ecological importance and for providing suitable scientific research and educational purposes; representative examples of natural ecosystems or ecological recovery; habitat for rare and endangered native plants and animals; and rare examples of botanical, zoological and geological phenomena.
It's quite a range of opportunities and objectives in our parks and protected area strategy. These designations do provide important distinctions to lands across the province, reflecting the landscape, the flora, the fauna, the communities and the diversity of British Columbia. They do, also, demonstrate what we talk about when we talk about integrated sustainable land use here in British Columbia.
We have an opportunity and, I would dare say, an obligation to work with our people and our natural environment in a cooperative and integrated way. Really, if we can't be successful here in British Columbia, in a province that's as large and diverse and, fundamentally, with such a low population density....
If we can't be successful in incorporating suitable landscapes, ecosystems and economies overall, in many ways, I guess I'd have to say I'm afraid for our species globally. We have as good an opportunity to do a great job as anywhere — in fact, a better opportunity. Here in British Columbia, our parks and protected areas legislation is an important framework from which we can work.
Bill 15 proposes some significant amendments to the parks and protected areas inventory. Okanagan Mountain Park is a 100-hectare addition. There's Prudhomme Lake; Tweedsmuir, mentioned a little bit earlier; Sheemahant conservancy; and sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ. And of course, Chun T'oh Whudujut Ancient Forest is an 11,700-hectare addition in the Valemount area that the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, the MLA for Prince George–Valemount, spoke so eloquently about earlier, certainly acknowledging the people supporting and advocating for this magnificent piece of British Columbia.
In this case, I did spend, as a younger man, many years tree planting in the area. Interestingly, I had heard of this place. It had a reputation even way back then. But I never had the opportunity to understand exactly what its location was or where it was specifically. You know, as a tree planter, you're not necessarily spending a lot of extra time out in the bush. Your objective, once the shift is done, is to get back to P.G. and not necessarily for good reason.
Certainly, it was interesting to note that I have planted and worked extensively in the Slim Creek area but never actually had the opportunity to visit. It is now on my renewed bucket list, because trees of this stature are so incredible, so magnificent and, in this case, so accessible that it's absolutely worth stopping and taking the time to visit this interior cedar hemlock stand — the only inland temperate rainforest on earth, I understand. It is a pleasure to be involved in supporting the inclusion of this new class A park.
As well, there've been some changes to reflect the traditional First Nations names in a number of parks: Haynes Point and OK Falls. I'll try not to mangle them here. Sẁiẁs — I take it that the community is a reflection of that original First Nation name; and sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ. I think it's important that we do reflect our First Nations histories and First Nations names. I think this is a good place to…. Certainly, I support these recommendations.
What I really wanted to focus on today — which should be no surprise, I don't think, to the House; I have spoken on it before — is the addition of a 136-hectare extension to Halkett Bay Park in Howe Sound. It is actually going to have a name change as well. It will now be the Halkett Bay Marine Park, because of the extension of the park to include the foreshore and some ocean floor.
The impetus of this particular inclusion is the discovery of glass sponge reefs in the area. Howe Sound is a habitat for a species that was recently thought to have become extinct over 60 million years ago, and that is, of course, glass sponge bioherms, which I'm sure you're all very familiar with. They are really previously only heard of or only known of from their fossil record. They once formed enormous reefs, some of which are recognized as being more than 3,000 kilometres long, historically.
Some would refer to these structures — or these animals, as a matter of fact — as a Jurassic Park submerged. But fundamentally, they are not museums. They're not dead at all. They are, in fact, very much alive. Currently, as live plants, essentially, or live animals, they are also habitats for many other species, including rockfish and other creatures which are struggling to recover in places on the coast.
The sponges, in fact, attach themselves to rocks and other structures, and then, as they die, they grow on themselves, much as the way coral would, I suppose. They build on one another. They look like plants, but they're actually animals — in fact, the oldest multicell organism on earth. They pump water through their bodies to breathe and feed and remove waste.
Today in Howe Sound, there remains pockets of these glass sponge reefs. While the glass reference refers to their fragility, there is evidence that these sponges have been in Howe Sound an enduring 9,000 years. So that doesn't sound particularly fragile, but they are under threat, especially from mechanical types of damage.
Typically, these reefs are found only in very, very deep waters. However, one site in Howe Sound is quite different. That is the site off Halkett Bay, just off of Gambier Island. These sponge reefs are found in a shallow 30 metres of water, which allows for access to these reefs using scuba gear. In most parts of British Columbia where there are other sponge reefs, this is just not possible. This does give opportunity for people, for scientists, for the public to actually have access to them and view them.
Many people were involved in the discovery of these incredible and unique animals — ancient animals, ancient life forms. I would like to mention and acknowledge some of those groups and individuals who did bring these to government's attention. That is the Marine Life sanctuary, specifically Glen Dennison, who I had an opportunity to tour the area with; Lena Clayton, from the Underwater Council of British Columbia; Adam Taylor, who has been a tireless and persistent and welcome advocate for this initiative; good work through the Vancouver Aquarium — Jeff Marliave, Donna Gibbs and Jessica Schultz; the Canadian Marine Environment Protection Society, Roy Mulder; the Future of Howe Sound Society.
Then, of course, there is the inimitable Mel Turner, from the Elders Council of B.C. Parks; and Stephen Foster, who is also a strong advocate for Howe Sound, as well as work done by the students of the University of British Columbia.
I would like to acknowledge all of these people and thank them for their work, their passion, their advocacy, their understanding and their tremendous commitment to the region of Howe Sound and to the province of British Columbia.
This is an important initiative not just with regard to the glass sponge reefs but to the work done all around the province on behalf of parks and protected areas and all the people that go about supporting these initiatives.
Again, I'm pleased to be able to stand and support Bill 15, and it's my pleasure to speak on it.
S. Fraser: It's good to be here speaking today. It's second reading on Bill 15, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2016. It's interesting listening to the debate back-and-forth, either here or on the monitor in the office, and it's good to see decisions being made here that are agreed to by most or all in the House. I'm pleased to take part in that discussion. Of course, it in no way means we can't have some criticisms about how to make things better. That's part of our job here in the opposition.
Bill 15, in essence, creates a new class A park, which is a big deal, and it's been in the works for a long time. I'd like to begin…. I would like to acknowledge the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation and the work that they've done towards this park. They've been instrumental in making this happen along with local groups — the Caledonia Ramblers hiking society. It's wonderful to see local communities and First Nations working together with the provincial government to create something special, something that's so important.
Our park systems are complex. They include, of course, class A parks and other classes of parks and protected areas. Also, I'd just like to take a moment, as the critic for Aboriginal Relations, to cite that there are other designations that are being brought forward in the province that are exciting in their own way, and these are First Nations tribal parks. I think this is just part of the mosaic that we need to see in the province, of us working together with First Nations to create — between the provincial park system and the tribal park systems that are being developed.
I would note in particular this amazing tribal park being developed and highlighted now by the Tsilhqot'in First Nations and their work, since this has been going on long before the court decision was arrived at. This has been in the works for a long time, an incredible tribal park area — again, something that we should be supporting, I think formally, in one way or another, in this House too.
In my own constituency, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations have embarked on a tribal park system. I went to a wonderful symposium in Tofino at the Tin Wis resort just a few weeks ago. It brought in First Nations from all over the province, including the Tsilhqot'in. Marilyn Baptiste from the Xeni Gwet'in was there, and everyone was talking about their park initiatives.
This Bill 15 is timely in the sense that it's bringing in a large class A park. This is over 11,000 hectares. This is a major park. I would also like to take a stab at the pronunciation of that park, the Chun T'oh Whudujut Park. This is just 120 kilometres east of Prince George. This is a park area that I have not yet…. I've certainly driven through the area, but I have not stopped and been able to get a look at what it is on the ground.
Like many British Columbians, I think it's important that we pay attention to this stuff, because these parks should be an attractant in their own right. When parks come about in this province, I think it's important that we promote them as much as possible. Parks and the protected area strategies and such — they're not just about conserving something. Certainly, that's hugely important.
Critical ecosystems. In many cases, the park system is the only option we have for true protection of the ecosystems that could be in danger of extinction. In British Columbia, we have many ecosystems that are endangered. I think the park system…. It's not the only tool in the tool bag, but certainly it's an important one, and we should be mindful of that.
But it's not just the raw conservation effort of creating a park like this. Of course, in the case of Chun T'oh Whudujut, this is a unique old-growth forest system in the interior of the province. When we say it's just in the province, we need to recognize that that's likely anywhere in the world. This is important, and we have ecosystems here in B.C. that are of that nature. We have the only remaining examples of these ecosystems left, in some cases, in the world.
Again, supporting this bill and seeing the.... I'm just speaking, first, to the ancient forest protection of the Chun T'oh Whudujut. It's certainly the most significant piece of this but not to diminish the other parts of this bill. It also adds lands to marine foreshore, to five parks and one conservancy. It adjusts the boundary of one park and makes some administrative changes to clarify park descriptions, that sort of thing, relatively minor parts to the bill — again, I would submit, supportable by all in this House.
The forested area in Chun T'oh Whudujut Park that's being established here is known.... The actual pronunciation of the word I may have butchered a bit, but the meaning is clear. It's a Lheidli T'enneh term, and it refers to the size and age of these trees. They are impressive. I've seen photographs of these, too, and it will be part of my summer tour. I'm going to go and check out this park for sure. I do like big trees, and this one sounds very impressive. A big park.
It does follow a legacy. I know governments like to take credit for these things, as they should. This follows a pattern of increasing the park system in this province that goes back, spanning other governments, spanning NDP governments and such. It's nice to see that legacy continued and the recognition that, yes, we need to conserve critical ecosystems and unique ecosystems in the province but that we also need to provide for recreational activity for the residents of this province. This magnificent province that we have is home to so many unique ecosystems that should allow British Columbians to take part in experiencing and celebrating these incredible natural history wonders in our province.
It gives us the ability in British Columbia, in the creation of parks, to recreate in ways that would not otherwise be there. I will touch on this in a bit as I just speak on, but I must say the creation of such parks and the magnitude of the creation of these parks should not end there. The creation of a park of this size, for instance — 11,000 hectares — requires resources. Otherwise, a park is not a park.
The facilities that are necessary for people to recreate, to draw in people from all over the world to celebrate this incredible province that we have.... This is a huge economic generator. Unfortunately, what we have seen concurrent with the creation of parks such as this, the Chun T'oh Whudujut Park.... We're not seeing the resources necessary. As a matter of fact, we've seen huge cuts by this government to the B.C. park system.
As we increase the size of that system, it puts much more strain on the existing resources, which were already woefully inadequate to provide for a world-class park experience for people coming into this province, that we want to come into this province and be part of our economy but also for the people living in the province now. Residents are the true owners of these resources. We are all part of that.
We have all heard stories, complaints, in our municipal offices — sorry, I come from municipal government, and I received them when I was in municipal government too — about the state of our parks in the province. They are getting worse. Stretching the few resources that we're seeing coming forward with these parks is going to make things much more challenging, I would suggest.
I did not see in the budget.... I know the minister is here now, but I do not believe that there are any significant resources, or any at all, being budgeted for the increase in the park system in British Columbia.
I think that would be a big strategic mistake by any government. This is where the positive criticism can come into play. While I support Bill 15, I support Bill 15 with a rider on it. If we are going to create a park system in British Columbia that is second to none, it requires resources.
I've been doing this job for 11 years — 2005 when I first got elected. I know when this government got in originally, in 2001, there was a huge cut in the budget to the park system. Boots on the ground disappeared. A third of the boots on the ground disappeared in the system. We saw facilities diminish and start to rot in many cases — as simple as picnic tables and such became derelict.
I remember a time, just a couple of years ago, raising in question period…. I believe it was in Carmanah park, on the Island here. There had been…. I'll call them poachers, who went into the park, right in the park parking lot, and they were taking down 1,000-year-old trees and carving them up there. Of course, the amount of timber, the amount of wood, you get out of a tree of that size is huge, so there's a huge value to that. This was happening with impunity.
They were basically running a forestry operation. Do you know how long it takes, if you're not like old MacMillan Bloedel or any of these big companies that come in? Just a couple of people coming in, taking down a tree of this size and then having the time to take it apart in the parking lot and then sell it and market it from there. I don't believe anyone ever got caught for that. There weren't enough people in the park system to even inspect that parking lot on a timely enough basis to make sure that people weren't taking the very attractants that brought people to the park.
I would urge the government, and the minister, to ensure that when we're creating parks, we're not just doing it in name, that we're actually providing a world-class experience that will draw people in. This can't be done in a vacuum. This can't be done with no resources that go with it. This can't be done with parks on Vancouver Island, where Alberni–Pacific Rim is. You can't do that unless you allow for an affordable and efficient ferry system, which my colleague from North Coast spoke so eloquently on just a few minutes ago. You are defeating some of the purposes of the park if you're not allowing access to the park.
With that, I would touch on a freedom-of-information request that we obtained just last year from the ministry. There are so many pieces to this, but one caught my attention as being germane, specifically relevant, to this discussion on Bill 15.
In the FOI, it revealed that financial pressures at B.C. Parks over the last number of years…. This is coming internally, just for those watching. This is not me saying this. This is coming from within the ministry itself. They're saying that over the last number of years, lack of investment in B.C. Parks by the B.C. government — this is a quote from the FOI — has "forced B.C. Parks to shorten operating seasons, eliminate park ranger positions, reduce preventative maintenance and implement other program cuts. The organization cannot continue to operate at current funding levels without seriously encroaching on other budgets within the ministry or further reducing services."
Fast-forward less than a year from when we received this FOI, and we've seen a very large increase in the park system, through Bill 15, with no budget to go with it. You know, I'm certainly not an economist or an accountant, and you don't have to be to know that those things are not compatible. You can't expand a world-class park system and keep it world-class, especially when it's already been highlighted that it's no longer world-class because of government cuts.
I would urge…. While government members may be celebrating this bill and while we may be supporting it, this does not come without significant criticism. I'm levying this in the spirit of constructive criticism.
I must say that this is…. Part of the challenges which are highlighted in the FOI that I just cited are to be dealt with by increasing the fees to the very parks that we're trying to attract people to.
The FOI goes on to suggest that these fee increases will indeed have impacts on the number of people visiting our parks. Again, if they do not get a world-class experience as they come to these parks, they may not come back. They may not tell their friends to come back.
I was in the tourism industry for many years. In Tofino, my wife and I ran a bed-and-breakfast. You know, you can get an awful lot of happy people that have a happy experience in your business. In this case, it was a bed-and-breakfast. But if you've got one that's not happy for some reason — I learned this in a little course I took on dealing with the public — that can ruin the hundred other great experiences that existed for the other people.
When we have a system where the government's own ministry, as highlighted through freedom of information, is saying things like we'll have to shorten the operating season, eliminate park ranger positions, reduce preventative maintenance and implement other program cuts — and, of course, increasing fees and making it difficult for people to get somewhere because they can't get there by a ferry because it's too expensive — well then, the park system expansion will be for naught.
We will not be getting the true potential out of the increase to the system that we should be. Indeed, by stretching the finite dollar, as it's been cut by this government in the park system…. By stretching that to expand to incorporate new portions to the park system, we may be, well, killing the golden goose. I hate to use these clichés, but it's a fact.
You give people a bad experience. They come to a park from all over the world, from wherever they're coming, to this province to see wonders that don't exist anywhere else. If that experience turns out to be a shabby one, to have nobody on the ground to help with interpretation, to have facilities — outhouses, park benches, whatever — falling apart and crumbling, which is already happening in the park system, and to have exorbitant fees to get to the park and stay in the park, then we're not going to see the results of a robust park system in the province.
We can name the parks, and we can increase the parks, yes. But the quality of the experience can also diminish. This is not in anyone's best interest — not at all. As a matter of fact, I've got park operators that have come to my office and have been complaining for years — rightly so.
These are people that are licensed tourism operators. They're bringing in tourists from all over the world. They're first-class companies. They do their best to make the experience shine for those coming into our province. And they end up….
I'll give one example. It's a company called Batstar, an excellent tour company. They do kayaking tours and treks and back-country stuff. They've done just an incredible job of bringing people in from all over the world.
They get a contingent of people from Europe who are spending thousands and thousands of dollars, specifically coming to, in this case, Port Alberni and going into the back country, into some of the provincial park systems on Vancouver Island. We've got waterfalls that are just spectacular, second to none — require multiple days of hiking to get there. Before they arrive, they are to find that the trail system has been rendered impassable, that a windstorm that happened three weeks before has taken down trees, has made the entire trek unsafe to continue and to complete.
The reason that the people came here and were sold the wonders of B.C., rightly so, by the tour operator, who is doing a great job…. Suddenly, the rug gets pulled out, and all of their expense that they've had — the thousands of dollars of travelling — has been pulled away from them, and they can't finish the trip of a lifetime that they have come to British Columbia to experience in B.C. parks.
This is somebody that pays a substantial licence fee, multiple licence fees, for multiple tours on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and there was nobody in the ministry to even give them a call and tell them that this system was closed. Nobody in the ministry knew that there was a problem because there wasn't a boot on the ground from the ministry.
This is a big, big problem. Those tourists that came here, that we want to come here, that we want to come to visit Chun T'oh Whudujut Park…. This is the new opportunity that's opening up. If that failure to provide the resources continues, these parks may become substandard. These parks may have operations come in that start taking down trees, because they know there is nobody on the ground. There is nobody from the ministry overseeing our park system. I would submit that that is something that we need to address, and I would suggest that that has to happen concurrent with this bill.
Bill 15 is something that we are all supporting. I'm not in the position at this moment in time to put in an amendment. Of course, an amendment would be found out of order if it involves money, but the budget for bringing about this Bill 15 is not there. There has already been a failure in the park system, as I've said. So I would suggest that that's a problem.
Having tourism operators that are in good faith, paying their licensing fees to the ministry…. They're supposed to get some kind of quid pro quo. Some kind of relationship needs to occur.
When a licensed tourism operator pays, in good faith, their fees to be able to operate in this province in B.C. parks, then they need to have B.C. Parks provide something in return: safe parks; clean parks; parks that can provide some level of interpretation; parks that have some facilities that are necessary — washrooms, picnic tables, any number of facilities; and viewpoints that are maintained. If they're not, then those tourism operators are being given a disservice, and their fees are being paid unfairly. They should get a refund on their fees.
Another tourism operator in my constituency does tours in MacMillan Provincial Park near Cameron Lake, between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni. Now, this is a beautiful stand of old growth, largely Douglas Fir. There's a mixture, though. It's unique Douglas Fir, because it's a wetland. It's right along the Cameron River.
The tour operators that I know and that run in my constituency have to pay a fairly hefty bill. Their stop in Cathedral Grove, which is part of this big attraction of big trees…. They do interpretive work there. They have to pay for a licence for that, and rightly so. That's fair enough. They had no problem paying that.
There are tour buses coming in there, doing exactly the same from outside, and they're not paying anything. When they've complained to the ministry, there is nobody to oversee that. That's the explanation they've gotten.
Not only do we have a park system that's severely under-resourced and underfunded and now is going to be stretched even further; we have tourism operators that we want to encourage to attract business, quality business, to get people to these parks for all of the right reasons. They're being sold a bill of goods when they pay for their licence fees. They're not being treated fairly.
With Bill 15, while I support the creation of not just Chun T'oh Whudujut Park — I'm looking forward to the day that I can say that without looking down at my notes — I would note that there are other smaller expansions to parks.
I know it was already mentioned. That Halkett Bay Marine Park addition is 136 hectares. The foreshore addition to this park will protect the significant marine life. Well, the park is located on the southeast shore of Gambier Island in Howe Sound. I think it was five or six years ago. I remember, here in the Legislature, having a meeting with a group that was trying to educate us as legislators about the incredible phenomena that were there, which are those crystal reefs that have been spoken of in this House. They are incredibly rare.
From what I learned in that discussion, unlike Halkett Bay Marine Park, which is part of this bill, anywhere else in the world where these crystal reefs exist, they're in very, very deep water, inaccessible to, certainly, any recreational scuba divers. It's just too deep. The addition of the 136 hectares will bring the Halkett Marine Park up to 448 hectares, a pretty big marine park. But to incorporate the bulk of these crystal reefs…. Much of this will be within reach of not just recreational scuba divers but for those snorkellers, breath-hold divers, without even the benefit of scuba gear.
This opens up, I would suggest, a very good market for the world to come and see. There are a lot of people that will travel all over the world to dive in unique areas and special areas of the world. I think we need to promote this for what it is. It's an important marine park, and I certainly support the inclusion of the 136 hectares into this park.
Along with that, again a gentle, positive criticism that this government needs to manage our ferry systems in a better way. People should not be scared to go to these parks because of the cost of getting there. That defeats the purpose of the economic development that we need to have all over the province. The province is not just about LNG.
These park systems, if they're managed right, if they're managed appropriately — like highlighting these crystal reefs and targeting the groups that travel around the world that are willing to pay money to come to British Columbia to see such a thing, to be able to dive on such reefs…. It's a wonderful opportunity here.
We can't squander that opportunity and the potential of that for the province and the economy of this province by not funding, again, the park system itself, and in this case Halkett Park. Also, to make sure that the other pieces that are still integral to the success of a park system and of people coming to the park system, our transportation systems need to be put into place, need to be managed properly, need to be affordable. They are a part of this puzzle.
I wish that the government would look at these things a little more holistically, potentially look at the way that First Nations addressed some of these park issues looking at the long term, the tribal park initiatives. Don't just look in a silo and name a park and then walk away from it. Provide the resources so that that park can shine and that B.C.'s park systems can be held to the highest standard in the world.
Let that be an economic windfall for our future generations. If we wreck them now and we lose our reputation, that will follow the next generation and the next, and they'll have to fix those problems and regain our reputation for this province of having some of these unique and incredible ecosystems that we hold dear and are trying to protect for future generations in our park system.
With that, I will take my seat, noting that Bill 15, despite my criticism — I've been trying to be measured on that — is something that I support and will vote in favour of.
Hon. M. Morris: I'm standing in support of Bill 15. You know, the park system that we have in British Columbia is a fantastic attribute for our province. It covers a wide spectrum of the geography that we have in this great province of ours.
We're very fortunate in British Columbia to have some of the greatest biodiversity in Canada and, in fact, North America. When I look at North America…. I look at the southeastern part, with Florida, with the immense biodiversity and the different mammals that they have down there, in comparison to what we have in the northwest part of North America, with the number of mammals that we have. We have more mammals in British Columbia than anywhere else in Canada — more mammal species in British Columbia.
The more parks that we add to protect a lot of these species and to protect the biodiversity that we have in British Columbia, from my perspective, is great — although fully understanding that we have to make sure that we also maintain this great province of ours with sustainable resource development right across the spectrum.
I want to concentrate a little bit, though, on the Ancient Forest that we have in our area, up in Prince George there — and I apologize to Edith Frederick, with the Lheidli T'enneh people; she hasn't spent enough time with me yet to try and teach me how to say the words — Chun T'oh Whudujut Park and the oldest trees in the country.
I remember this part of the province as a young constable stationed in McBride in the early '70s. Travelling between Prince George and McBride, I'd often see this place. I was drawn to the wilderness right from a young age. I spent a lot of time hiking through the various regions of B.C. I would spend two or three weeks by myself, hiking into the furthest reaches of the province sometimes, just enjoying what I saw.
This particular area here…. I hiked up into this area back in the early '70s before it was even considered a park, and I was amazed at the biodiversity, the size of the trees, the moss — just everything that was in there. In areas like this, like the Ancient Forest and like other old-growth areas in the province, the biodiversity that we have in there is phenomenal.
I go back to my roots as a trapper. I've been a trapper and a hunter and a fisher-person all my life. Trapping was the first industry in Canada, the first industry in British Columbia, that took advantage of the natural resources that we have here.
The Ancient Forest is home to all of the fur-bearing species, or most them, that we have here in B.C., other than the raccoon and the bobcats, which are too far south for our area up there. The mustelid family — your fisher and your martin and your wolverine and those particular species — flourish in old growth that we have in the Ancient Forest there. I'm glad to see the negotiations will allow trapping to continue on in that particular area.
The area is just so unique. The Ancient Forest and some of the other areas that we have in B.C. that have been set aside for parks where you allow trapping show you that trapping doesn't have any impact on biodiversity. Trapping is a very sustainable natural resource in British Columbia, and most trappers manage their traplines to ensure that the populations are stable and continual and will be sustainable for decades and centuries to come. The Ancient Forest will really demonstrate that.
The Caledonia hiking club in Prince George has done a great job in building a boardwalk into the park. I believe they've built one that's about 600 metres into the park, which allows access to folks who probably can't walk as well as they could — people like myself, maybe with a little bit of osteoarthritis. The boardwalk makes it a lot easier to hike through portions of the park where they, too, can get to see some of the magnificent trees and biodiversity that we have in that particular park.
Right through this entire province of ours, the areas that have been set aside demonstrate the uniqueness of British Columbia in our biodiversity. From the Okanagan through to the coastal areas through to the northwest part of the province, the Interior with the Ancient Forest and some of the other areas in northern B.C. — all have very unique biodiversity, very unique geography that demonstrates to people from around the world just what a great province we have here.
People who come to British Columbia, whether they're coming in by plane or boat, start in Vancouver, and they work their way through the province visiting our park system. They will be introduced to something very spectacular that will be remembered by them for their entire lifetime.
Bill 15 is something that I fully support. Some of the slight changes that are included in the bill and the significant changes that we have in establishing the Ancient Forest all go towards maintaining British Columbia's reputation of having just spectacular parks for people to come and visit us.
The member opposite for Alberni–Pacific Rim was talking about: what do these tour operators get? They pay these fees, and what do they get from the province in return for paying these fees? I say: what they get in return is spectacular biodiversity, spectacular areas that are going to be maintained for lifetimes ahead of us that all of the people can see. That's what we all get in return for what we're doing here with Bill 15 and all the other parks that we've created in this province.
I fully support Bill 15, and I look forward to what these parks will offer British Columbia and the world.
N. Simons: Thank you to 1½ colleagues who appreciate me standing up to speak on Bill 15. I do appreciate their support, and I am pleased to have this opportunity. If they're waiting in anticipation, they should probably lower their expectations a little bit.
I am pleased to speak on this bill because, in particular, there's one section relating to a provincial park on the Sunshine Coast, actually on Gambier Island. I was pleased to see that the park boundaries were expanded. Nobody told me, and I don't even mind. Sometimes one would think that, maybe, if it's in your riding, somebody would speak to you about it. Hey, this government has its own way of doing things.
I'm saying yes; it's a good idea. You'll hear us say things in support of government when there are some good ideas coming from that side.
We do have some cautions around this bill. I'm sure we're all going to support it wholeheartedly when we stand. But while we say, "Good job on expanding the areas and increasing the areas of parks, creating parks," we have to remember that with that, with those announcements, comes the substance of supporting those parks, providing for those parks.
As we all know, it's not enough to say, "This area is now a provincial park," and then neglect it. We need to say, "This area is a provincial park. This area deserves some promotion. This area deserves some added protection," and provide for the park the way British Columbians expect their protected areas to be provided for.
Just in my area alone, Powell River–Sunshine Coast has — I counted — 28 parks, 28 provincial parks, marine parks. There are three on Lasqueti Island, which isn't in my riding yet, but I plan to annex Lasqueti Island, and I'll have three more parks. When that happens, the Sunshine Coast will have the most number of provincial parks of any constituency in British Columbia.
Now, just to speak to the Halkett Bay Provincial Park, soon to be Halkett Bay Marine Provincial Park, I remember the time that my friend from Alberni–Pacific Rim was speaking about, when folks came to this House to tell us about the importance of protecting the glass sponge reefs, knowing that there were some in the Strait of Georgia at risk to trawling activity and mechanical damage. We soon became aware there were similar sponge reefs in Howe Sound at a much shallower depth, so even more susceptible to potential damage. I think that is a good reason that we provide for protection of that area.
I have to concur with my friend from West Vancouver–Sea to Sky country. I concur with his words of appreciation to the many organizations and individuals who were involved in ensuring that the province did what was necessary to protect our collective assets, values, things that we collectively, as a province, consider important.
I think, in a way, our provincial parks are how other people in other provinces even sometimes see us. When they think of British Columbia, they think of the natural beauty and they think about the historic care we have taken to protect our parks, to ensure that they were well maintained, that they were accessible to all families and individuals in the province or to visitors. What I worry about is that that reputation of provincial parks, British Columbia parks, could be at risk if we weren't careful and deliberate in ensuring that our parks are adequately resourced.
Now, I have a fundamental problem with charging people to go into our collectively owned areas, where we are supposed to collectively share in the appreciation of nature while acknowledging the values that those parks have towards the ecology and the environment. If we are to solely think of our parks as economic generators, we know that that will limit access to those parks for people who are unable to afford what are increasingly expensive places to camp.
I remember my first experiences in this province camping in provincial parks, and I remember them to be of a high standard. There was firewood. I was on my bicycle, and I spent about a week or so in this province on a larger ride. I got an opportunity to compare provincial parks in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
I have to say that when I was here those first few times, the parks were always seen as something that we cherished. They were the crown jewel of the province, those places that were emblematic of the different geographical areas, each one having unique qualities. I would like to think that this bill is, in part, an effort to strengthen that image that people have of our parks.
I don't think it can happen alone with legislation. For our parks to be truly appreciated and for government to show appreciation, real concern and respect for our park system, we need to see a reinvestment in resources to ensure that those parks are viable and sustainable — to use common language. I'm not saying throw money at it. What I'm saying is that the province should value our access to parks enough to make it a higher priority in terms of resource expenditure.
Now, I've seen parks where there are park interpreters, where there are nature walks, where there are activities and such that draw people who otherwise wouldn't have an experience in the natural wilderness. Those are important as well. I think it's more than campgrounds; it's more than areas that are mapped out and protected. It's a statement about our fundamental belief in the importance of preserving land for public enjoyment and for environmental protection.
The glass sponge reefs off Gambier Island. I think that particular amendment to that park boundary, adding a couple of hundred hectares, will serve Gambier Island marine provincial park well. They will put into legislation the protections that are necessary. I hope that that, in and of itself, can be seen as a reflection of our collective belief in the importance of protecting these areas.
In the government press releases, it concerns me in a way that some of the language indicates this is about the government creating parks. I'd like to just say that it's the people of this province who own those parks. It's the people of the province that care about these parks. It's because of the people of the province that these parks have been created in the first place.
Now, we can take credit at various times and in various ways about why they were all created. I'm sure there were a number of provincial parks created under a number of different administrations before now. So while we can be self-congratulatory, perhaps, and while we should remember this as an occasion where we've all agreed on something — we're getting to yes or something like that — we do agree that this is an important step, and I'm pleased to support it along with my colleagues.
I think it's a wonderful thing to see a provincial park named with a First Nations name. That, I would suggest, is long overdue. I would point out that there are some provincial parks in our province that have been named…. Spipiyus Provincial Park. There are names that reflect the cultural heritage of the areas they represent, but this is the first time an English name has been changed to one reflecting the First Nations traditional territory, unceded territory, and I congratulate all those involved in ensuring that that happened.
I think and I understand that if you go to the park website, you can actually find how to pronounce the names of those parks, which is good, because I don't always know — because all the languages are written slightly differently — what each of those letters represents. I remember working for the Shishalh Nation, and the agency I worked for had a name that I had to practise to pronounce — [a First Nations language was spoken].
Anyway, I think it was a wise idea to ensure that the public has an opportunity to know what these park names are and to make an effort to pronounce the names of the parks the way that they might have been pronounced by the folks who were in that area at the time. Specifically, I'm talking about the parks in the Okanagan. I have not had a chance to fully learn the pronunciations.
The additions to parks…. I should also point out, in the notes that I was given by government on this, that some of the park areas grew because of individual private donations of land. I think there might be an opportunity — I hope there's an opportunity — for a government member to raise up those people who donated land to add to parks, to acknowledge that contribution and to thank them for reflecting on parks the way we believe parks should be seen. That is, a common enjoyment of nature, a common enjoyment of the land that is in our province.
I thank those individuals and families who had the foresight to either will or give land that has perhaps been in their families for a long time, to allow the parks to embrace those pieces of land.
I thank those involved in the expansion of the Gambier park. I know that there are other issues on Gambier Island in terms of the need for protected areas. There are some beautiful park-like areas that would certainly benefit from some protection, considering the nature of the area. I hope that the government, and every government in the future, always considers the creation and the protection and the strengthening of our park system as a work in constant progress.
We should not be satisfied yet with the amount of land that is set aside. We are happy that we continue to increase it, but while we're increasing the amount of protected area, we should be ensuring that we have the human power to ensure that the rules and regulations within those boundaries are adhered to. We should ensure that people from all walks of life have access to those parks to share in the common wealth of our province.
With that, I thank you for the opportunity, and I look forward to supporting this bill.
Hon. S. Thomson: I'm pleased to take my place to support Bill 15 and to provide some comments on the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2016. The reason I want to rise is I do want to talk about a couple of specific parts of the additions to the parks area in British Columbia — particularly one that I've got a close personal connection to that's partly in my riding and in the Okanagan.
First, just a general comment. B.C. is recognized as having one of the largest protected area systems in North America. Some 37 percent of B.C.'s land base is under some form of conservation designation, whether that's wildlife habitat areas or old-growth management areas, parks, conservancies, protected areas. There are currently over 1,029 provincial parks, recreation areas, conservancies, ecological reserves and protected areas that cover more than 14 million hectares — approximately 14 percent of the provincial land base.
The additions that are being provided in this legislation, the additions to the protected areas of B.C., follow very closely on the announcement and the agreement around the protection of the Great Bear Rainforest — 6.4 million hectares, 85 percent protected. The certainty that's provided on the land base under ecosystem-based management, and the support of First Nations, environmental organizations and industry in achieving that very, very significant agreement.
Here in this legislation, we have some other great additions to the protected areas of British Columbia. So without at all discounting or diminishing the importance of all of the additions that are in this legislation…. It's a very, very important piece, as everybody has pointed out. It's a very significant.... Parts of the legislation in terms of the naming opportunities or the naming and the recognition of First Nations heritage in the naming of the parks — all very, very important.
But the one I want to talk about a little more specifically is the addition to Okanagan Mountain Park, in the Okanagan. As I said, part of it is in my riding. Okanagan Mountain Park is an area that is a very important area, one that is enjoyed and utilized by many constituents in my riding, many of the constituents in the riding of the member for Kelowna–Lake Country and the member for Westside-Kelowna.
It's a great spot in the Okanagan, and being able to add 263 hectares on the east side of Okanagan Lake to that park, bringing the total to over 11,000 hectares is a great addition, but what's more important about this is what it actually achieves.
It's not just an addition to the park. This provides a very vital linkage between the Okanagan Mountain Park and two regional parks in the Okanagan: the Cedar Mountain Regional Park and the Johns Family Nature Conservancy Park. This addition to the park links the Okanagan Mountain Park to those two regional parks, creates that vital corridor for wildlife, provides a vital corridor for access between those regional parks and Okanagan Mountain Park. There are plans to bring a trail through from the regional parks to the Okanagan Mountain Park.
The reason it's really great to see this is that the Johns Family Nature Conservancy Park was an area that was donated, 324 hectares, by Alf and Nancy Johns. Alf and Nancy were longtime pioneers in the Okanagan. They are a brother and sister. They were neighbouring farmers of our family farm in Okanagan Mission and we shared the fence line with them for many, many years.
I can remember, as young kid growing up, working for the Johns. When I wasn't working for my dad hauling hay on our farm, I would hop over the fence and work for the Johns. Alf and Nancy were probably two of the hardest-working people you've ever seen in your life, in terms of the workday that they could put in.
I would go over there as a 14- or 15-year-old kid and spend the day working with them and get worked into the ground by this lady. Nancy Johns, who was probably — I won't say her age or anything — a lot older than I was at that time, could work anybody into the ground. You would start early in the morning. I'd have to be over the fence at 4:30 or 5 in the morning, and you would work right through the day, helping them get their hay crop off.
They were great neighbours. They were the kind of neighbours that just…. Everything operated on a handshake with them. There was never any paperwork deals or anything — like about how we shared irrigation ditches, how we shared fence maintenance or anything. They were just great people.
That did create a few problems later, when they sold their property and moved up to their range property, which is now the Johns Family Regional Park. All of these agreements that my dad had with the Johns family, because they weren't on paper, suddenly became problematic. The new person who had bought the farm wasn't quite in that same kind of attitude or mindset around some of the sharing and that sort of thing, so it got a little bit more problematic.
We lost great neighbours, but they were still in the community. They moved up to their range property, where they ranged cattle during the summer and all of those sorts of things. It was a great place, this area. We went up there regularly with the family — hiked the area.
A tradition every Boxing Day after Christmas was a family hike up to the Johns' cabin, who lived up on this range property. They had two separate cabins up there, the brother and the sister. Alf, who was the older brother, lived in the little trapper's cabin, because they had a kind of trapper's cabin. They're very rustic. He lived there. His sister lived in the little more modern house on the property.
They ran cattle up there and finished out their lives up there. But one of the things they did was to donate the whole property to the regional park system in Kelowna on their passing. Nancy passed first, and then Alf passed a few years later. He was a great, crusty old character. He was just salt of the earth, but he wanted to leave this legacy of all of that park.
The member for Powell River–Sunshine Coast talked about people who do these kinds of things. This was a family, a brother and a sister, who had that vision for that property.
To be able to see that property and their vision of a regional park linked to another regional park…. It was on the boundary of another regional park, Cedar Mountain Park. Now to be able to provide that vital linkage between Okanagan Mountain Park and their legacy in that regional park creates a great, continuous corridor that protects all those values. It's a significant wildlife corridor — has lots of species, lots of biodiversity in that area — and they saw that vision.
[R. Chouhan in the chair.]
I know of this because at the time when the regional park was being created and the Johns family was working to donate the park and work through with the regional parks system and get it into the conservancy and everything like that, we helped them do that. We worked with Robert Hobson, who was a city councillor in Kelowna, who had a great vision for building regional parks. He helped facilitate getting the regional park in place, and he always had this vision that the adjoining property would somehow be protected and create that linkage.
At the time we did the regional park, our ministry — I was the minister at the time — put a Land Act reserve in place over top of that area so that it would be available for the future in order to try to work through to get the addition to Okanagan Mountain Park, and now with this legislation, we see that being achieved. It kept that property available for that purpose during that period of time while this longer-term vision was worked on.
I'm very pleased to stand in the House and support the legislation for all the good things in it, all the pieces that are part of this, but also because it does complete a vision and a legacy that this family wanted to leave. To have that addition to the park, I think, is something that if they were looking down at us, they would say: "Thank you very much for getting that done."
They were such a great family and great neighbours over all those years. Along with my dad, Nancy Johns was probably one of the greatest contributors to growing up with a work ethic that I've tried to keep going. If you ever had to work with her, you'd know what I mean. It was a chore every day just to stay with her and to work as hard as she did and not let her run you into the ground and say that she'd actually worked harder than I had for that day.
It was a great learning experience in a very neat area that now brings two regional parks together in conjunction with Okanagan Mountain Park and provides that vital broader protection through the whole area with the provincial park and two very significant regional parks.
I also just wanted to comment briefly about the Ancient Forest addition that the member for Prince George–Mackenzie has talked about and the member for Prince George–Valemount has talked eloquently about — another very significant addition. I had the opportunity to meet with the proponents for the park up in Prince George — the Caledonia Ramblers; the university; the local volunteers; the Lheidli T'enneh, the First Nation that were supporting it.
I could see, when I first had the opportunity to see the proposal in more detail — and along with the Minister of Environment, had the opportunity to look closely at the proposal — and recognize that this was something that we wanted to try to achieve and that so many people in the community supported it. So many people had put so much time and effort into bringing the proposal forward. So I was, again, very, very pleased to see this addition to our park system as a class A park.
This went through an extensive process of consultation, including community meetings in McBride, Dome Creek, Prince George, Shelley. We had local government consultations with the regional district in Fraser–Fort George, with Prince George, the village of McBride and open houses in the process, lots of engagement with the Lheidli T'enneh, whose traditional territory includes the park — working in partnership and all working to achieve that objective.
I think we owe, as a province, a big thank-you to the First Nation, to Chief Dominic Frederick, who was a key supporter, a staunch supporter, of the initiatives; the volunteer groups that did so much work and helped support it. As the member for Prince George–Mackenzie has mentioned, the Caledonia Ramblers have built and maintained kilometres of walking trails and a 500-metre, wheelchair-accessible boardwalk. There are longer-term plans to have it considered towards a UNESCO World Heritage Site, based on the outstanding value of the ancient cedar stands.
We want to preserve our heritage, we want to preserve our environment, but we also want to introduce people from around the world to the beauties of British Columbia. This is an addition to our parks system that I know is going to attract lots of visitors from around the province, from across the country and internationally. People are looking to come to visit those kinds of places.
The creation of the Ancient Forest, the Chun T'oh Whudujut Park, will bring the total number of class A provincial parks to 628 and B.C.'s protected area systems to 1,030. Again, two very important pieces that are part of this legislation, along with the other additions that are part of the legislation — important additions, as everybody has pointed out. The marine park, Prudhomme Lake Park, the Tweedsmuir Park addition, the inclusion in the Sheemahant conservancy — all of those.
As the member for Powell River–Sunshine Coast pointed out, a number of those are as a result of private land contributions. We need to acknowledge and recognize the opportunities that those private land processes provide to add to the values that our parks and protected area systems provide for British Columbia and for all of the citizens of British Columbia.
With those comments — most specifically around the addition to Okanagan Mountain Park but, again, not diminishing at all the importance of all of the additions that are included in the legislation in Bill 15, the Protected Areas of B.C. Amendment Act of 2016 — I'm pleased to stand in the House and support the legislation, support the additions and look forward to these pieces in this legislation continuing to contribute to the great parks and protected areas system and protection of values that we have here in British Columbia.
C. Trevena: I rise to speak about Bill 15, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act. Like my colleagues, I would be happy to be supporting this, with a few riders.
I'd like to acknowledge the comments from the Minister of Forests, who put a real personal touch onto the importance of this. We all talk about how important parks are to us, but to see the legacy from people he's known and how they'd be able to contribute to parks….
I look around in my own community at some chunks of private land that are still there that are surrounded by park and would love it if whoever owns those pieces of land felt that sense of community that they felt that they wanted to ensure that the land was forever protected in a park. It is rare individuals who really have that foresight, that are willing to do that as a legacy, so I do thank the minister. It's very interesting to hear how it can happen.
In my own community in the north Island, on Quadra Island, we recently had a park extension. That was done after many years of land swap, of negotiations, of money exchanging hands. It's hard work when people aren't willing to just say: "This should be protected. It is part of the B.C. park system, and we want to ensure that it is there for future generations."
We have, oftentimes, this sort of almost comparison about who has the nicest constituency, who has the most beautiful constituency. I think we could fall into that trap with who has the most parks. One of the reasons I'm speaking today about Bill 15 is not just because of the importance of parks generally throughout the province and the importance of parks in my constituency. But, dare I say it, one of the parks in this bill is in my constituency, albeit a very small portion of it, which is Tweedsmuir Park up in the northeast of the constituency.
My constituency, although it's called North Island, does go up into the mainland. When you're looking at the electoral boundaries map, you can look at that very top piece in the northeast corner, and part of Tweedsmuir Park is part of the North Island constituency.
I'm not being flippant. It is very important to recognize the parks within one's area that you represent, because you are not just representing the individuals who live and work in communities, but you are trying to ensure the protection of the values. I think that B.C. parks really reflect our values, the values of us as B.C.'ers.
My colleague from Powell River–Sunshine Coast was talking about when he was camping in B.C. many, many years ago and staying in provincial parks. I remember that one of my first trips to B.C. many years ago, about 20 years ago, was a camping trip. Like many other people, I was out camping. We still tent. I was in awe of B.C. parks. We were rating the parks across the country. B.C. parks came up close to Ontario. We had to weigh up, depending on which park we were in. But they were fantastic parks, and we grew to love them, in those accessible parks.
In the intervening years, and still being a very regular user of B.C. parks like many of my constituents, like many people across the province, I've seen a deterioration. While I think that this is really a bill that is extraordinarily important…. There is a recognition that we are growing the park system, a park system that, back in the '90s, the NDP grew from 6 percent of the land base to 12 percent of the land base. To add to that is always valuable. It reflects our values.
But I've got to say that the government has got to put its money where its mouth is. You can create protected areas as much as you like, but unless there is a willingness to ensure their protection, to ensure that…. As my colleague from Alberni–Pacific Rim cited, there was logging of old growth in what is a provincial park because there was no oversight there.
If we are going to be serious about expanding parks, creating new parks, really ensuring that we protect our wilderness for future generations of people, for future generations of flora and fauna — that the wildlife can continue to thrive there, that the trees continue to grow, that we have these massive trees that I think all of us in this House are really excited to, at some stage, try and get to see in this new park and in other parks, that we make sure that they are truly protected — that means investing money. It means investing money in the park service. It means investing money in the land base. It means investing money throughout the system.
The Minister of Forests, as well as giving the lovely story about his former neighbours, his family's farm neighbours who donated the land, was also talking about the protected areas of B.C. I think we have to be very careful when we are discussing this and discussing Bill 15. There is a difference between protected areas and parks. There's a difference between conservation areas and parks. Parks are, really, the top level of protection.
The minister was talking about the Great Bear Rainforest. The bill is still on the floor of the House, still for debate. I look forward to participating in that debate and discussing that and working through it at committee stage. But that isn't a park. That is eco-based management. It's a working forest. It is protected. It will develop in a certain way. It isn't a park. What we have here in Bill 15 are very clearly parks — very important to protect. But we have to be very precise about what it is we're talking about.
Parks are not just for the easy user — the drive-ins, the car campers, the hiking campers or those in their kayaks or in their canoes. They are for protecting species, as I say. They are to ensure that, in the long term, there is a legacy. It's our responsibility to ensure that legacy. One of our jobs as legislators is to protect the values that we as a province, I think, reflect.
In saying that, I have to reflect on the fact that it was only two years ago that I was standing on the floor of this Legislature questioning the government on what was then termed Bill 4. We always go by bill numbers, although we've had, obviously, a new Bill 4 in the last session and this session — but Bill 4 at that time in which the government was allowing some development in our provincial parks. There was a huge uproar about this, a huge concern about this.
There's always got to be a caution when we are talking about provincial parks, that we are not just naming them and expanding the land base but that we are really treating them with the seriousness they deserve and ensuring that, as I say, we put the money where the mouth is and not through development and not through....
As one of my colleagues mentioned earlier, we had done a freedom-of-information request just last year about the fee increases in B.C. parks. One of the things that the freedom-of-information request showed is not just that there were going to be fee increases, making it more expensive for people to access what is public land and public camping and public space but that a "deeper transformation" included plans for corporate sponsorship of the parks.
Well, corporate sponsorship.... If you're going to have a corporation giving money and donating money, fair enough. But how far along do we take corporate sponsorship? Are we going to see a visitor information centre with the name of a corporation on the side of it? Are we going to see various facilities in a park that are sponsored by corporations, or are they just putting money in to assist the government, which, I would suggest, should be done through the corporate taxes? The government takes the money and then decides how they're going to allocate it. Any sensible government that cared about parks would allocate it to the park service as well as everything else.
We have mechanisms, and to be looking outside for private sponsorship for parks.... I get a bit concerned about this. I really do think that we have that mechanism, and that is our taxation, our revenue, our royalties system in this province. Then the government has, in its priorities, the ability to look at how to spend it. So there are ways of doing it.
We are in the middle of the budget process at the moment. I don't see that there is.... I haven't gone through in detail on the Ministry of Environment and how much is allocated to parks, but I would hazard a guess that in this era of strictly balanced budgets from the B.C. Liberals that effectively become cuts across the board, there isn't a huge amount of money going into B.C. parks.
It's not just the new parks. We've got existing parks in my constituency. Yes, they've got Tweedsmuir up at the top. Tweedsmuir is expanding, and that is all well and good, if people can access it. I know that my colleague from the North Coast was talking about the difficulties of accessing it. One way in is Highway 20. The other way in is the ferry, and the B.C. Liberals got rid of the ferry. There really is a huge problem of accessing Tweedsmuir for many, many people. No matter the goodwill in the expansion of it, it does create great difficulties.
As I say, there are, in my constituency, many parks. It is interesting, also, to see the growth of parks. In looking at maps of the late '80s, to looking at maps that have evolved over…. Particularly in the 1990s, you saw a massive expansion of parks, many of them in my constituency.
We also have the oldest provincial park, Strathcona Provincial Park, which is gorgeous — absolutely stunning — and has lots of different ways that people can access it. For people who just want the day experience to go out there, walk around Paradise Meadows, just look at the easy boardwalks. For people who can go for multi-day hikes, can go mountaineering, there's huge opportunity there. But it needs investment. I think anybody who uses Strathcona Park and the valley….
The Friends of Strathcona Park are out there fighting for the protection of the park — the lack of development to the park in the commercial sense but for development of ensuring that the trails are kept up, that there are the interpretive programs where they're needed, that we have protection from misuse of the park, however that is interpreted. These people fought long battles to protect this park a number of years ago. I think everybody has the memory of the battles that were taken upon these volunteers. People were so concerned about the park that people really will take action to protect their parks. We have Strathcona Park.
Going up the Island, we have parks all the way up to Cape Scott at the north end of the Island, and there are other ones throughout the Island. We've got Brooks Peninsula on the west coast. We've got Cape Scott.
As I say, to ensure that these parks are valued and are serving their purpose of protection of the land mass as well as potential access for people, there needs to be money put into them. For instance, driving up Highway 19, just before you get to Woss, you'll see a turnoff to Schoen Lake Provincial Park, a beautiful lake. It's absolutely gorgeous. You go up an old logging road, and you get to a lake. You get to alpine meadows. Absolutely stunning. I would suggest that anybody who likes canoeing go up, anybody who really loves the wilderness.
It's comparatively easy access — you're just off Highway 19 — except that the road access up to Schoen Lake, year after year, deteriorates because there isn't the money. The park operators don't have the money to improve the road access. So you've got the park just a turnoff away from the main highway and a few dozen kilometres up the mountain. It's absolutely beautiful. You can do it in a regular four-by-four, an SUV. You could do it, but the road has been deteriorating.
Likewise, if you're going out to the west coast, for those who don't want to go to the busyness of Tofino and Ucluelet but who want the west coast experience, San Jo Bay, Raft Cove, Grant Bay are absolutely beautiful west coast parks. They are right there. They're part of the provincial park system. But again, the roads have been allowed to deteriorate. Unless you, as I said earlier on, put your money where your mouth is, you can name all these parks and put the designation on the map, but it means very little.
Likewise, the protection of the rest of the land base. We live, particularly on the Island but throughout B.C., in, obviously, communities that are dependent on the forest industry. I will not hesitate to say that we in the north Island have, for many years, developed and evolved because of logging. It's something that people have invested in and have been very proud to do, and it continues to create jobs for people and wealth for some communities. Not through mills anymore — we don't have any working mills, apart from one or two few small shake mills or sawmills. We don't have any big, large-scale mills anymore, but there are people still working there.
However, there is also, with the large forest companies, a clear decision to go for some of the old-growth trees. They're very valuable to these companies. These companies have, through agreement with this government, the right to log. They have the right to access those TFLs, and they have the right to log those old-growth trees. But if you're doing that right on the edge of a park….
I'm thinking about towards the east coast of the Island where we have, just north and south of the Brooks Peninsula, really serious full-grade logging which is out of sight of many people. We're seeing a lot of large, old-growth trees being pulled out of there. That is going to have an impact on the neighbouring park. That's going to have an impact north, up towards Cape Scott, and it's going to have an impact south, down towards Brooks Peninsula.
You can't look at the ecosystem in pieces and just say: "Oh, this park's fine. Everything's protected. You can log here, and then you can have a park here." You've got to look at it as a whole. I think that that is one of the things that is really missing when we are talking about land management, forestry management and our parks plans. We don't look at it in the whole.
Yes, we have the Minister of Forests talking about the protected areas, but the protected areas don't mean, as I said earlier, parks. I'm not saying that every area needs to be protected, but we do need to be looking at our land mass in a very coherent way because, to be honest, once you log the old growth, you haven't got anything left. It's gone. We don't get a second opportunity at a tree that's 1,000 years old. That's it.
It's not just the trees. It's all the species around it, whether it's flora or fauna. We need to be looking very constructively. We have to be doing it in a way that also respects the fact that we have many people still working in the forestry industry who expect a life of work in the forestry industry. I think we can do it. I do hold out great hope for the Great Bear Rainforest, but let's not kid ourselves. We have to look at the way that our land mass interconnects and the way that our forest base interconnects.
I think that this is going to be a great boon for our province. We talk about the fact that the image of B.C., the image of our parks, pulls tourists. That is going to be…. The fact that we've got more parks I think will help that industry.
Again, tourists are like the people of B.C. Like the people for whom the parks are being created, on whose behalf the parks are being created, if I might say, they're expected to be kept to a standard, not to be downgraded, not to be cheapened, not to be corporatized, to have the money there to make sure that we have what we all hope and think our park system is going to look like. Whether you're sitting in Burnaby, whether you are in Victoria, whether you're in Port Hardy, whether you are in Prince George, whether you are in Burns Lake, we all have our images of what our parks should be like.
We've got to make sure that we can live up to those standards and those images — that they are valuable, that it is a resource worth investing in. It's a resource worth investing in, as are many other resources, and it is the responsibility of a government that is doing good government to continue to invest in the land base, not just put a designation on it.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I'll take my seat, and I thank you for the opportunity to speak about Bill 15.
D. Bing: On behalf of my constituents of Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows, I'm pleased to stand in the House today and speak on Bill 15, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2016.
The proposed legislation will establish one new class A park, add land to four parks and one conservancy, add marine foreshore to one park, adjust the boundary of one park and will make administrative changes to clarify park descriptions.
We all acknowledge that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The natural beauty of our parks provides an opportunity to explore and discover the different areas of our province.
In my own riding, I am lucky to have the Golden Ears Provincial Park. This park is one of the busiest parks in the entire park system. This park contains the largest campground area in the province, with a total of 409 vehicle-accessible campsites and with a season average of 620,000 campers annually.
Our provincial park system not only protects significant ecological and cultural values but also provides visitors and residents with unforgettable experiences.
This legislation will add more than 11,700 hectares to B.C.'s protected areas system, including the establishment of a new provincial park — Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh Whudujut Park.
Extensive consultations about the Ancient Forest Park proposal with local government, First Nations and the public took place in the creation of this legislation.
The Ancient Forest is 120 kilometres east of Prince George, along Highway 16, adjacent to Slim Creek Provincial Park. The Ancient Forest is part of the interior cedar-hemlock forest, the only known inland temperate rainforest on earth. This area is home to a diverse ecosystem, which includes some of the oldest western cedar trees in B.C.
Class A parks are lands dedicated to the preservation of their natural environments for the inspiration, use and enjoyment of the public. Development in a class A park is limited to that which is necessary for the preservation and maintenance of its recreational values.
There were many groups that were extensively involved in preserving this space. I'd like to take the opportunity to mention some of them today. In July 2015, the province signed an agreement with the Lheidli-T’enneh First Nation and the Caledonia Ramblers Hiking Society, a community-based conservation organization, to explore the possibility of protecting this special area.
Since that time, extensive consultation about the ancient forest park proposal has been undertaken with local government, First Nations and the public in order to create this legislation. A series of community meetings were held in surrounding communities including McBride, Dome Creek, Shelley and Prince George. A consultation paper was posted on line for public feedback. It drew more than 100 submissions. Local governments, including the regional district of Fraser–Fort George, the city of Prince George and the village of McBride, were invited to attend open houses.
In addition, the Lheidli-T’enneh First Nation, which is the only First Nation whose traditional territory includes the proposed park, has been working in close partnership with the government throughout this process.
I would also like to mention Darwyn Coxson, a biology professor at the University of Northern B.C., who was a very helpful and knowledgable resource throughout the consultation process.
After establishing this area as a provincial park, work can begin on getting the area named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bill 15 will also provide land or foreshore additions to five parks and one conservancy, making up 530 hectares of the total increase to B.C.'s parks and protected area.
Halkett Bay Marine Park will be increased by 136 hectares of marine foreshore, which protects a recently discovered, rare glass sponge reef southeast of Gambier Island. Okanagan Mountain Park will be increased by 263 hectares, resulting from Crown lands being added to the park. Prudhomme Lake Park will see additions of 2.2 hectares of land and 1.9 hectares of lake foreshore as a result of a private land acquisition. Tweedsmuir Park and sx̌ʷəx̌ʷnitkʷ Park will see increases of 98 hectares and 0.4 hectares respectively, due to the private land acquisition. Finally, the Sheemahant conservancy will be increased by 28.5 hectares, resulting from an inclusion of former forestry roads in a cutting area.
Three of the name changes reflect the aboriginal significance to the area, including reflecting commitments made to the Osoyoos Indian Band. I am pleased we are creating another provincial park for British Columbians to enjoy, and I'm pleased to add my support to Bill 15.
B. Routley: I think it goes without saying that all of us will be supporting this legislation, Bill 15, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act. But I also want to use this opportunity to review some of the current concerns that I have with regard to our B.C. park system. One of those concerns is about the fact that this government has been steadily increasing provincial park fees. One of the concerns is based on the fact that this is now just another user fee.
We have user fees for a whole range of areas. But we've commercialized British Columbia so that now even the disabled, people living in poverty…. To make matters worse, not only can they not afford their rental system, they can't even take their little tent and go out and find a place of peace and quiet to get away in the summertime because this government has embarked on a system where it's user-pay.
The folks that can afford it and get on the line get the best spots. You know, there's something wrong with that system. I've been to other countries. I was in Sweden. I'm happy to report that in Scandinavia, even though they had more than 400 years of history where, in a lot of cases, the land had already been handed down from generation to generation so a handful of elites had all of the castles and all of the moats and all of the beautiful pristine lakes, small lakes or even rivers….
Do you know what they did, hon. Speaker, that's just the reverse of what we see here in British Columbia? The government introduced…. Wait for it. I'm not sure the Liberals will be ready for this. They'll probably just be shocked that we would even talk about such things in this House.
They have a public access to private land act. Now, why would they have that? I must admit I was surprised, myself. Really. "We're going to have the public access to private land act." Why did such innovation…? Why would it even be necessary? Well, it was necessary so that people could have access to some of these pristine areas, beautiful little lakes that were on some huge 500-hectare estate, 1,000-hectare estate. There was some beautiful river and an old castle that was dilapidated and almost down to the rubble, but still it had significant value to people for tourism.
What the country did — that was very wise, I might add — was to come up with the concept of a public access to private land act, which allowed a person to go and camp. They had to check in with the owner or somebody that they had hired to assign you to an area, and you had to follow their rules.
We got to consult with one of these private land owners and said: "How do you feel about this?" We would call it an imposition here in our country — the idea that if you had private land that somebody would have public access to those rights. However, in that country, the owners pointed out that if we didn't have this, there would be most assuredly a problem of vandalism. This was done for the public good, and even those estate owners understood that they were part of a country and that they were part of providing a public service that was valuable to the whole country, to the whole nation, if you like.
Sadly, we have become commercialized to a point where, now, for those people in British Columbia that can least afford it, the door is slammed on a park experience. It's just not right. I remember being a young man in British Columbia and, when I first was able to drive, getting in the old Volkswagen van and heading out, staying in Rathtrevor Park, Qualicum Beach, all for free. Back in the day, you used to be able to sleep right on the beach.
Now, I know that there have to be changes. We've got to deal with the huge volumes of people that we have, so there has to be some kind of a system. But it's just not right that people that have lived in this land for all these years are now taxed in another form, and that is if you want to go to the park, well, you better pay.
Sure, a lot of us can pay. I can certainly pay to go to the park, and it's not that big a deal, although I've got to say that that stupid parking in Long Beach area really bugs me. You park. You go out of your car. You're there for a few hours, and you've got to pay for like a whole day to park there. It's just a money grab.
It's just another way for these B.C. Liberals to find their way to tax middle class. Certainly, it's a really regretful tax, in my view, on those people who can least afford it, and it's not right and not fair that we would live in such a country that does those kinds of things.
Now, I want to talk about where we've come, in parks in British Columbia, from back in 1995. I looked, actually, on the B.C. Parks website, and they rightly point out that the amount of parkland in parks dramatically increased in 1995.
Who was in power in 1995? Well, that would be the NDP. We hear about: "Oh, things were so bad in the 1990s." Yet at the end of the day, things weren't so bad, because the government of British Columbia did something amazing. Their website even says that we went from 2.5 million hectares saved in parks in British Columbia to 7.5 — a five-million-hectare increase, more than doubling the size of the parkland in British Columbia in 1995. By the year 2000, it had all improved from 7.5 million to ten million hectares — ten million hectares by the year 2000.
I'll give credit where credit is due. Have the Liberals done a few things? Yes. Well, it's not 7.5 million, and it sure isn't up to ten from 2.5 million. But, yeah, from the NDP era, they have improved to 13.5 million hectares. Now 14.26 percent of B.C.'s land base is in a park or protected area, that kind of thing. Is that a good thing? Absolutely. It's true, I think, that for future generations, we're going to see improvements. I'm happy to see that some of this is in land that has even been donated.
I will acknowledge that the largest parkland by far, in Bill 15, is the addition of a total of 11,000 hectares near Prince George in the Ancient Forest that has got that wonderful First Nations name. Only the Minister of Forests can say the name, but I'm sure we'll all learn it. I look forward to having more lessons on that name.
The total amount of parkland that's being improved under this bill is 11,700 hectares. There's a whole long list of parks. The list goes on and on, several pages. I think it's a total of 89 areas that are included in the total list. Again, that's a good thing.
All of them have a much smaller land base than we're talking about with the larger area, but there are unique features being protected. The Halkett Bay Marine Park, with the 136-hectare marine offshore area, has got these rare glass sponge reefs that are southeast of Gambier Island. Again, that's a unique feature, and it will no doubt bring world-class attention, whether it's from divers or people that are scientists interested in this kind of area which, at one time, was thought to no longer exist. It indeed is a good thing that we have that here in British Columbia.
Other issues that I wanted to talk about. Not only have we got these continuing fee increases and user fees; it's noted that.... We did some freedom-of-information work and discovered that the parks with the highest attendance in British Columbia were the ones that were hit the hardest with fee increases.
If you're an ordinary British Columbian and you want to go to your favourite park year after year…. I've talked to people that have gone to the same park year after year for as many seasons as they can remember, some of them 20 or 30 years. I know a fellow that has gone for 30 years in Strathcona Park to the same pristine lake because that's his favourite place in the whole wide world. Having seen it once, I kind of understand why it's very important. It's a place so unique and so special. I think we find that all over British Columbia. Just about every one of these parks you find to be so amazing, so unique. I think a lot of people would call them very special.
It is, again, wrong that where ordinary or average British Columbians find their joy, in one of these areas, and it then becomes the highest attendance area, they are whacked with this theme park strategy.
[Madame Speaker in the chair.]
They're like theme parks. It's like going to Disney World or something, how this government.... Somehow we should pay. We should just pay. The folks should just get used to assuming the position. Open your wallet, and be prepared to pay for your park experience. It'll be good for you. That's the plan. That's what we hear from the folks over there. It'll be good for you to pay. Somehow that's a great idea.
Let's imagine the real worst-case scenario to me. That's this idea of the deeper transformation that is being undergone right now. Can you imagine if corporations get to do what they've done to arenas and community centres all over British Columbia? I wrote a few down. I'm sure you'll appreciate this creativity.
We've got the Coquihalla River Park, sponsored by Canadian Tire. There you go. It'd be perfect, eh? Canadian Tire would be all over the Coquihalla River Park.
Then there's the Dall River Old Growth Park, brought to you by Home Depot. There's the idea. Or Castle Rock Hoodoos Park, by Big Joe's Mini Golf. Blue Earth Lake Park — that could be White Spot. These kind of things….
How about Artlish Caves Park, brought to you by Matrix tile and stone? That's a good one. You've got to admit that's not bad. What about Rainbow Alley Park, brought to you by Tim Hortons? Or Read Island Park — that sounds like a place where you could go and read, but we could have it presented by Best Buy. Have a little plaque.
We would complete the job of the commercializing of our green space. It's just like…. It wouldn't be Long Beach anymore. You could go up to Long Beach, and there it is: Long Beach, presented to you by Walmart. Somehow it just misses some of the specialness of that kind of selling our assets off to the highest bidder. It's just wrong.
I'm not going to have near enough time. I had full intentions to go through chapter and verse of the Cowichan River Park. I got so excited when I saw this. Wow, there is quite a description of Cowichan River Park. All the parcels or tracts of Crown land, together with all the foreshore and the land covered by water situated in the Cowichan Lake district and the Sahtlam district and contained within the following described boundary.
Now, to wrap things up. There are seven areas. The good news is, for saving the fullness of time, I won't get to read all seven of these areas. I'll skip right to the end and read…. Although, it would have been good, hon. Speaker. You would have been transfixed about all these wonderful areas that we were going to have. We'll get right to the seventh: lots A and B, section 7, range 1, Sahtlam district, plan 24-9-21, containing 1.11 hectares. For a total, the whole park will contain 753 hectares.
On behalf of the people of the Cowichan Valley, we are in joy today, knowing that there's a new park added under this bill, so we celebrate the bill and the additions. That is a good thing, and I do acknowledge a good thing when I see it.
I do see that the government has some work to do, making our beautiful parks experience doable for all British Columbians. That should be the goal. When you go home, think about those folks that can no longer afford the park experience. Can all of us? Oh yes, we can still go to a park. But what about those families just trying to make their dollars stretch? They're trying to pay their rent and their hydro increase — 28 percent hydro increase.
All of the increases, whether it's school fees, ferry fares, transportation on the bus.... All of those things bite away at their pocket to the point where it's just too hard. That's wrong. I'm sure that we should try to do something about that.
I don't know whether it's going to be a new vision. I hope I'm giving the minister responsible for people living on disabilities.... There's a place to start. What about that? Why wouldn't you...? You know, if we can't get you to fix the bus pass problem, maybe you can look at: what about creating an opportunity to at least go out and enjoy one of B.C.'s beautiful parks? Particularly, when we have spent all kinds of money — whether it's disabled parking, all these other things — and then at the end of the day, you find out they're not getting used. Why? Because it's unreachable for people that don't have the funds to do that.
With that, hon. Speaker.... Or do you want me to go for a little bit longer? I can talk about Horne Lake Caves. How about we do that? I'll talk about Horne Lake Caves and all those parcels and tracts of land.
But I see the minister wants to wrap things up. I'm happy to do that. The whole park area is about 123 acres. I love Horne Lake Caves. I've been there a number of times, taken my young children there.
With that, thank you very much.
Madame Speaker: Seeing no further speakers, the minister closes debate.
Hon. M. Polak: I want to thank everyone for their contribution to the second reading discussion. It's clear there's a lot of support for our British Columbia parks, and I think that's well deserved. They really are spectacular.
I want to acknowledge the hard work of so many people that has managed to bring about the additions to our parklands that are represented in this legislation. There are a number of technical adjustments, but in the areas such as what's happening in the Okanagan, the Ancient Forest and then the glass sponge reefs.... All these things have taken, in some cases, years of time — community members devoting their time to get us to the place where we are today and, of course, the First Nations involvement as well.
I'm pleased to hear that it sounds like we have support on all sides of the House. With that, I would move that the bill be read a second time now.
Hon. M. Polak: I move that the bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House to be considered at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 15, Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2016, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
Committee of Supply (Section A), having reported resolution, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. M. Polak moved adjournment of the House.
Madame Speaker: This House, at its rising, stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.
The House adjourned at 6:24 p.m.
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