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, JULY 25, 2016
MONDAY, JULY 25, 2016
The House met at 10:04 a.m.
[Madame Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
S. Chandra Herbert: It gives me incredible, incredible pleasure — I'd say MLAs probably don't know how much pleasure — to introduce a gallery of activists, advocates, allies, speakers, questioners, emailers, petition-signers — all those people who helped persuade our government to introduce legislation later today to ensure gender identity and expression are explicit in our human rights code.
I've been asked not to name all of them, since there are over…. Well, it probably could be close to 100 up there, and there are many more, indeed, watching at home, many who will watch later, because it's such a historic moment for a province to take action to explicitly put in protected grounds in a human rights code.
Many have waited many, many years to get here. Some of them have been introduced in this House multiple times at multiple introductions of legislation. But they're here today to see our House finally unite to get it right and protect transgender and gender-variant people in our human rights code.
I'd just like to ask the House to help me in welcoming them, finally, fully into the human rights world of British Columbia and, indeed, into our legislation and, of course, our Legislature. Welcome. Thank you. You did it.
Hon. S. Anton: I would like to join with the member for Vancouver–West End in welcoming the many advocates, allies, friends, supporters, people who've come to talk to me and people who've talked to many of us here in this House in advance of this change to the human rights code which is being proposed today.
I know we're not introducing too many individuals, but I have to introduce two who I've known for over 20 years, longtime friends of mine — Kaitlyn Bogas and Lisa Salazar. I'd like to thank them in particular, through their long acquaintance. I'm acquainted with many people here in this room, but I will choose those two because of their longtime acquaintance with myself.
I know there are many, many people in this room who have worked hard in their advocacy with, as I say, members opposite and members on this side of the House for a cause that we are happy to agree with, when the bill is introduced in a moment — that gender identity and expression should be explicitly recognized in our human rights code.
Hon. B. Bennett: I'd like to introduce a friend of mine individually as well. Robert Quartermain is up in the gallery.
Bob is someone who distinguished himself in the mining industry over a few decades internationally and then came back to B.C. and decided that he was going to build a mine here in this province. It's a challenge to build a mine anywhere in today's world, and Bob has managed, with his excellent team and his company, Pretium, to partially build — it's still in construction — a mine called Brucejack, which is in northwestern British Columbia.
He has managed to do that with the support of all First Nations. He's managed to do that by getting along with his neighbours in Alaska. He's managed to do that without having unmitigated effect on the environment.
There are 650 people — mostly British Columbians, many of them First Nations — working at that mine today. That mine will be complete, hopefully, within the next eight to ten months, and it'll employ 500 people permanently for decades and decades.
I would like to thank Mr. Quartermain and to have the House help me recognize him.
V. Huntington: I, too, want to make a special mention of an individual in the House today, and that's Miss Tru Wilson, who has been an extraordinary advocate for equality and the protection of gender equality. Tru is still in school and has become a watchword in Delta, and I think the community has responded well to what she's taught us.
I would like the House to welcome Tru Wilson and her family to the precinct today.
Hon. J. Rustad: It's significant. Everybody here knows the call to public service, and it's always a challenge. I want to introduce somebody today who has also stepped up to the plate and is seeking a seat in this Legislature. That is Stephen Roberts, who is a candidate who is now acclaimed for our party for Saanich North and the Islands. I just want for the House to make him welcome.
D. Donaldson: I, too, would like to join the Minister of Energy and Mines in welcoming Robert Quartermain to the Legislature today — of Pretivm and Brucejack mine, as the minister pointed out. I remember six years ago now, at least, meeting Bob Quartermain at the Vancouver Airport. We had breakfast, and he pulled out of his satchel a large core sample with shiny flecks of gold in it and said: "This is what we're after in the underground workings of Brucejack."
Here we are not too long later, six years later, with a mine going to be opened and in production quite soon, in 2017. Like any great mining leaders, it's the sense of timing that is apparent here, with gold prices having increased substantially over the last year. I don't know if he could have anticipated the Brexit, but lots of good timing is involved as well. Thank you for the House to welcome Bob Quartermain.
L. Reimer: It's with great pleasure that I rise in the House this morning to wish a happy birthday to the city of Coquitlam. Today marks the 125th anniversary of Coquitlam. Coquitlam is my home, and I was so proud to attend this past weekend's Kaleidoscope Festival as part of the celebrations for such a milestone event. I hope everyone in the chambers will join me in wishing the citizens of Coquitlam a massive congratulations and a very happy 125th birthday.
J. Horgan: On the birthday theme, I want to let everyone in the House know that the member for Port Coquitlam celebrated a birthday on Saturday, keeping him again two weeks older than me. I would hope that everyone in this House and in the galleries would acknowledge the long service and the long tenure on the planet of our friend from Port Coquitlam.
First Reading of Bills
BILL 27 — HUMAN RIGHTS CODE
AMENDMENT ACT, 2016
Hon. S. Anton presented a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2016.
Hon. S. Anton: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. S. Anton: I'm pleased to introduce Bill 27. In British Columbia, every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection. The purpose of the bill is to make that explicit by amending the code to add gender identity or expression to the list of protected grounds covered by the code. This bill serves as a public reaffirmation of our commitment to protecting the rights of all persons in British Columbia — including, in particular, transgender persons.
In closing, I'd sincerely like to recognize the important work done by all the many advocates who are here with us today and all around British Columbia, and also the hard work done over the years on this issue by the member for Vancouver–West End.
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 27, Human Rights Code 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.
BILL 28 — MISCELLANEOUS STATUTES
(HOUSING PRIORITY INITIATIVES)
AMENDMENT ACT, 2016
Hon. M. de Jong presented a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Miscellaneous Statutes (Housing Priority Initiatives) Amendment Act, 2016.
Hon. M. de Jong: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Hon. M. de Jong: I'm pleased to introduce the Miscellaneous Statutes (Housing Priority Initiatives) Amendment Act, 2016. It amends four statutes.
Firstly, it amends the Vancouver Charter to enable the city of Vancouver to impose a municipal vacancy tax on owners of vacant residential property. The legislation enables, but does not require, Vancouver to impose a vacancy tax. If Vancouver chooses to impose a vacancy tax, the legislation sets out key elements of the tax but leaves the design details, including any applicable exemptions, to Vancouver to determine and to impose by bylaw.
In addition, the legislation would ensure that the revenues received under this vacancy tax would be used by Vancouver in relation to affordable housing initiatives and administration of the tax itself.
Secondly, the bill amends the Real Estate Services Act to implement the key recommendations of the independent advisory group report and to end self-regulation of the real estate industry. All members of the Real Estate Council of B.C. will be appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, and the amendments provide the superintendent of real estate with broad new rule-making and oversight powers. The amendments also strengthen the regulatory regime and deter and punish unlawful behaviour in the marketplace. Measures allow for substantial increases in monetary fines, the forfeiture of any commissions earned and the ability to fine licensees for each contravention of the act, regulation or rules.
Thirdly, the act amends the Special Accounts Appropriation and Control Act to establish a new housing priority initiatives special account within the consolidated revenue fund. The new housing priority initiatives special account is intended to provide a strategic central funding vehicle from which priority initiatives may be funded in respect of provincial housing, rental or shelter supply, access and support programs. It is intended to be complementary to proposed amendments to the Property Transfer Tax Act. The special account will be effective on royal assent of the bill.
Finally, Bill 28 amends that Property Transfer Tax Act to impose an additional tax of 15 percent on transfers of residential properties where the transferee or purchaser is a foreign national as well as certain corporations or trusts that involve foreign nationals. For example, the additional tax on the purchase of a home selling for $2 million to a foreign national will amount to an additional $300,000. This additional tax will be effective August 2, 2016, and will apply to property transfers located in the greater Vancouver regional district, excluding the lands of the Tsawwassen First Nation. The amendments include anti-avoidance rules designed to capture transactions that are structured specifically to avoid the additional tax.
I move the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 28, Miscellaneous Statutes (Housing Priority Initiatives) 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.
Hon. M. de Jong: Madame Speaker, simply to alert the House to the fact that this afternoon the government will communicate its preference and will be seeking leave from the House for Bill 27, the Human Rights Code Amendment Act, to pass through all the three readings on this day.
Madame Speaker: Thank you.
Orders of the Day
Private Members' Statements
G. Kyllo: I appreciate the opportunity to rise today and speak on the importance of investing in British Columbia's skills training. Between now and 2024, we're expecting nearly one million new job openings in British Columbia. By making the right investments, we can ensure that interested British Columbians have the skills needed to attain quality, in-demand jobs. Without making those investments, more businesses would be left without much-needed labour and would be curbing their growth.
[R. Lee in the chair.]
This government has made clear that we are investing in British Columbia's continued success and that we will continue to ensure a strong economy and a strong future for B.C. We work with training providers like the Electrical Joint Training Committee. To date, this government, through the Industry Training Authority and the Ministry of Advanced Education, has provided $14.6 million to add 3,730 critical trades-training seats in 14 of our post-secondary institutions.
It's absolutely essential that training is not done for the sake of training alone. It's essential that those who choose to undertake training are doing so with a reasonable expectation that they have long productive careers to look forward to. This government is making investments in this province that will help make that happen.
For instance, the construction and operation of the Site C project will provide significant economic and environmental benefits for all British Columbia. Not only will it provide clean, reliable energy. That investment will provide approximately 10,000 person-years of direct employment during its construction and 33,000 person-years of employment in total.
When our government says yes to these projects, we are saying yes to a future that contains continued growth for B.C., for jobs and for our future. Opposition to projects like Site C isn't just predicated on opposing the benefits of clean energy. Those opposing it are also opposing the jobs that are created and supported.
I want to point out comments made by a representative of the Ironworkers union quoted in the Province earlier this spring. The quote: "The Ironworkers heavily support industry as far as LNG, Site C, dams, mining — stuff like that. That's our bread and butter. That's the thing that puts our young people to work and create a strong tax base."
For our part, this government is not only making investments that will create jobs; we're also investing in training opportunities for interested British Columbians so that they'll have the skills needed to obtain those jobs that are in demand.
Under this government's watch, there are now nearly 40,000 registered apprentices in the system. I want to point out that this is more than double the number of apprentices registered in 2004, just over a decade ago, when the Industry Training Authority was first created. And let me be clear. This is not just training for the sake of training.
When it comes to satisfaction with training, here are the results of the annual KPI survey. Eighty-five percent of apprentices are satisfied that the training they receive in this system signals an ability to meet industry requirements. And 90 percent of employers, a vast majority, say that they are satisfied with the skills and the abilities of ITA-certified trades workers that come through the system.
We're very proud to have one of the best, if not the best, training systems in the country. This government has worked hard and worked diligently in partnerships with the ITA. We've begun to build a demand-driven training system for the trades, one wherein funding is aligned to specific high-priority trades.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone that British Columbia, like so many other jurisdictions, is in the midst of a major demographic shift. In many sectors, there are now fewer young workers entering the workforce than there are older workers leaving. Those retirements, paired with our province's ongoing economic growth, will result in numerous job openings. It's integral that young workers have the opportunity to pursue the skills training needed to obtain those jobs, and it's paramount that older workers or anyone looking for a career change have the opportunity to pursue skills training to obtain those jobs.
Furthermore, as announced in Budget 2016, this government has made a new investment, almost $8 million over the next three years, to support and implement a new integrated youth apprenticeship program. This innovative new program will map out a clear path for youth to start their trades training earlier in high school, through post-secondary and then into the workforce.
With this new approach, more students will be successful on the path to trades certification, as more students will have a career when they leave high school. We've seen other jurisdictions, such as Germany, succeed with similar approaches. It just makes common sense to implement programs that position our young people for success.
S. Simpson: I'm pleased to join in this debate around this motion concerning skilled trades. I think we all know the importance of trades. We know the importance of those trades not just in terms of construction but across the economy and the demands we hear from all sectors for more skilled workers. We hear that in the technology sector. We hear it continually across the province. But when we look at that, we need to consider the circumstance that put us in the place we are today.
We know, if we recall and we look back, that in about 2002, the government made the decision shortly after taking power to rip up ITAC, which was the predecessor to the ITA. They did that and put in place the ITA, a process where they eliminated the role for organized labour. They eliminated the role for educators, essentially, in skills training. That started the downward spiral as our training programs across the province, certainly the government-driven ones, went straight into the ditch.
That continued to be the problem, in fact, until some of the companies that the government was interested in looking at to invest in LNG essentially said to the government: "This isn't acceptable. You have to have a workforce that can build our infrastructure if you want us to be here." That caused the scramble to restructure the ITA.
It was also those companies that said: "We have confidence in organized labour, most specifically in the building trades, to help deliver those programs." That brought them back to the table, as it brought educators back to the table. We've seen some improvements in the system, but the challenge is that we still have a system that's anemic at best.
The last documented records show 38 percent completion rates for people coming through the apprenticeship programs. Think about that for a minute. Think about what we would be saying here if we said K to 12 has 38 percent completion rates or if we said post-secondary has 38 percent completion rates. It would be a crisis. We'd be in a spin. Everybody would be concerned. Yet in the case of the ITA, that's exactly what we're dealing with here. I heard the Minister of Labour, after we had this discussion in estimates, say that she was hopeful they might get up to 40 percent.
The challenge is that we have a situation where we're not achieving the kinds of objectives that anybody should reasonably expect. There are a number of reasons for that, not the least of which is the lack of apprenticeship placements.
We know that's a challenge in the private sector, but we know that government has to provide leadership there. There was a piece of legislation adopted by this House to deal with that on public sector projects. The problem with that is that it set no true targets. It's all aspirational. It didn't say that we need to meet targets.
The member previous, speaking to this, talked about Site C. Site C is a project that we'll spend $10 billion, $11 billion, $12 billion, $13 billion on if it gets to completion. There is not a commitment in the Site C project that obliges one apprenticeship. It's crazy. We're going to spend all of that government money, all of that taxpayer money, with no commitments on apprenticeships at all in Site C. There is no obligation for any of these companies to fulfil.
It's time to get back, to put those obligations in place, to put compulsory trades in place. If you call yourself an auto mechanic, you should have to actually be an auto mechanic. That means putting compulsory trades back in place. If we did those things, if we talked to employers about being partners in this in a more fulfilling way, we might start to achieve the objectives that skills training should be all about, not just in the conventional trades but in technology in a number of areas.
We all want a skills-training program that makes sense and that works, but we have a lot more work to do on that to achieve that here. We have a lot more work to do, and the government has to lead on that. Currently, particularly in areas around placements and that, we're not leading. Whether it be in the public service, whether it be in government-funded programs and capital projects, we are not providing the leadership necessary in order to meet the objectives that we should aspire to meet.
It becomes critically important that we have a rethink here, and I hope that the government will do that. I'm certain that we will have this discussion moving on over the coming months as we head to next May. Yes, we should all be focused on skills training and making it work, but we have an awful lot of work to do because the government's initiatives to date have fallen short by far.
G. Kyllo: For training to be successful, it's important that training be employer-driven, and that has to be attainable by those who need the training. That's why I'm proud of this government's role in working and negotiating with the federal government to create the Canada-B.C. job grant. This is an innovative employer-driven solution that ensures that British Columbians have the skills needed for available jobs.
I think that's the important point: available jobs. In order for people to truly be successful in an apprenticeship training program, it's very important and critical that there's actually a job for them to work into. So although the apprenticeship trades training program is the initial catalyst for youth that are actually looking to further their educational skills and enter the trades, it's critically important that they actually have a real job to move into.
The member opposite speaks about Site C as an example. The number of jobs that are created in Site C are very critical and are going to be providing lots of training opportunities and job opportunities for those apprentices as they move forward and further their apprenticeship training.
For employers in B.C. who invest in skills training for their employees, they can also take advantage of the training tax credit for employers. There's also a shipbuilding and ship repair industry tax credit and the apprenticeship job creation tax credit.
These credits and opportunities incentivize the use of apprentices in workplaces, connecting employers with valuable new talent while giving apprentices increased opportunities to finish their training and to succeed. Through our federal partners, there are more opportunities available for apprentices, like the apprenticeship incentive grant, the apprenticeship completion grant and the Canada apprentice loan.
There's economic opportunity here in B.C., and it's critically important that there are adequate training opportunities and incentives. Our government has taken action to ensure that those opportunities continue to exist and that British Columbians can make the most of them.
British Columbia is currently home to Canada's most successful economy, outpacing the Canadian average by threefold. We'll stay successful if we never lose sight of the value of small businesses, the backbone of our economy in all regions of our province. We will stay successful if we recognize that skills training is not a challenge but an economic opportunity to be embraced and is truly an investment in the future of our province.
HUMAN RIGHTS FOR EVERYONE
S. Chandra Herbert: I rise today to speak about human rights. Human rights for all is the statement title. I put this motion forward to speak on this topic prior to this session, prior to an announcement that we had earlier around legislation for explicit protections for transgender people. But you know, I think the need to talk about human rights is still very much present, so I'm glad to have this opportunity.
As people who have looked at history in our province will know, we have a bit of a checkered history with human rights. Of course, a province born out of colonization will have one of those, because moving into somebody else's land and not recognizing them as people is a pretty big problem. And it's one that….
Thankfully — only now; I wish it had happened earlier — now we are starting to talk about reconciliation, about racism, about colonization and about getting to a true relationship of reconciliation. A province founded, in part, in that conflict is going to have a challenging future unless it can recognize that past.
Well, that past, of course, extended to the Japanese internment, head tax, laws against aboriginal religion, the lack of voting rights, and on and on it went. We had a hard time recognizing fellow humans as human. Indeed, human rights law is all about recognizing each other in our incredible diversity and our ability to be who we are.
B.C.'s history continues. Obviously, I won't go through it all, but there have been bright spots. I think of Rosemary Brown, who, when she was first elected to this Legislature back in the '70s, spoke out about the lack of a real human rights code for British Columbia — a human rights code that had so many gaps, you could drive a truck through it. I think that was her quote at that time. Emery Barnes, Colin Gabelmann — a number continued to advocate for human rights changes up to the present day.
It's important that we think about why you have to advocate for human rights changes. Why do we have human rights law to begin with? I think it will point to a problem that we still have in this province today. Unfortunately, right now we're living in a system that believes that if you don't notice problems, if you live in privilege, if you are not facing racism, if you are not facing homophobia, transphobia — the various isms, sexism and so on — it's pretty easy to get insulated in a little bubble where you don't recognize that those problems are even occurring at all.
Indeed, I talk to people across this province, and they'll say to me: "You know, we're not so racist anymore. We've learned our lessons," or "We're not really homophobic. Why do we have the pride parade? Why do we have this? Why do we need these human rights laws? They're for these special interest groups." Indeed, it's an argument I've heard again and again about why we shouldn't act on human rights.
But you know, that's the argument of the privileged, the one that doesn't have to feel the pain, the one that does not have to wake up and make the case each and every time about why they should be given space, why they should be given the same opportunity that some of us take for granted. I think it's the obligation of the majority, the obligation of those privileged not to have to live on the street, the obligation of those privileged to be able to walk into a room, give a speech and have everybody expect you're the one to speak.
I have a small understanding of that. Certainly, when I first started in my political career — if you want to call it that — I would go into a room and people thought I was the assistant to the older gentleman to my right. And I say that because there are certain privileges that come with age.
Now, as my hair starts to thin, as I start to round out, people start to assume that I am the politician in the room and that I'm the one privileged to have the opportunity to speak — as, indeed, there are certain assumptions of power that go with being a white man that I think we need to acknowledge. If we're ever going to get us to a society of true equality, we have to acknowledge that power comes in different forms and that some people are given power. They wake up on third base, as the saying goes, and think that they've hit a triple.
Indeed, there are many people in this House.... I would count myself in that. I think we all have to acknowledge our privileges. We may not know what we don't know, because we don't live those experiences.
I turn back to human rights. The majority has an obligation to put forward strong legislation, strong regulations and strong laws to protect the rights of the minorities of people who do not have as loud a voice as the privileged majority, people who are not acknowledged for the contributions that they make. In B.C., we've made slow gains in that regard.
We've, of course, added sexual orientation. Soon we will add gender identity and expression. I don't think it's enough to rely on the vulnerable — to rely on those who've been pushed down, who've been assaulted, who've been ignored sometimes by mainstream society — to change all of our minds so that we'll finally recognize their right to exist.
I think we, as a majority — and I include myself in that — have an obligation to go out and to seek the challenges that people who do not have the privileges we have live. That's why all provinces in Canada — except B.C., unfortunately — have human rights commissions, bodies that have stated their obligations are to make sure that, although we live in a society where people who are discriminated against for who they are, we actually have government policy, government action, business action, societal action, to help make things more equal and to go: "Well, that's actually systemic discrimination. We're going to change the rules to make sure that doesn't happen again."
That's what human rights commissions can do. That's what they should do. Unfortunately, B.C. does not have a human rights commission, does not have an active, loud voice able to shake government — shake us out of our situations of comfort and make us consider that maybe others need a hand up and maybe others need a hand to gain the same equalities and the same freedoms that so many of us take for granted.
Indeed, it goes back to that old suggestion, the old quote, about the law, in all its majesty, that makes it illegal for rich and poor people to steal bread. It makes it illegal for rich and poor people to sleep under bridges. Well, the rich don't need to steal bread, and they don't need to sleep under bridges, so they don't. But we make it illegal for poor people, who often have no choice, because we don't provide adequate housing and we don't provide adequate food to ensure that people have the same chance at success that so many of us do.
We don't live in their shoes, so sometimes people forget that, actually, those people may not even have shoes because of the systems we have created. We must act for human rights in a proactive way, not in just a reactive way. I'll share a bit more about ways to do that when I respond later.
S. Sullivan: It is a pleasure and a privilege for me to rise, figuratively, in this House today and speak to an important subject and one that is close to my heart. As we are all aware, there is a significant piece of legislation before this House. However, standing orders of our Legislative Assembly prevent me from directly discussing it right now. Instead, I feel I should make mention of the effort that went into this initiative and thank the individuals whose hard work and dedication have brought us here.
I would like to, first of all, applaud my colleague across the aisle for the work he's done and the effort he has invested into seeing this day come. The member for Vancouver–West End has been a tireless advocate for the rights of LGBTQ citizens in our province. Though we may sit on opposite sides of this House, I genuinely thank him for his efforts and the great work he has done for our community.
There is another parliamentarian who I'd also like to recognize, though he is no longer someone who sits in this House — the former member for Vancouver-Burrard. Mr. Lorne Mayencourt was also a dedicated advocate for LGBTQ citizens and did fantastic work towards combating discrimination and homophobia in our communities during his time in this Legislature. I know today has a lot to do with his work.
Thank you, Lorne.
Of course, I would like to thank the countless advocates of LGBTQ rights throughout British Columbia who do great work every day in ensuring that our province remains a place where any citizen may be who they wish to be and love who they wish to love without fear of prejudice or discrimination.
I am pleased to see that these efforts have culminated in an initiative that will reaffirm British Columbia's place as a leader in human rights protection. There is perhaps no duty more important to a government than the protection of its citizens. In British Columbia, we are fortunate to have a robust legal system that incorporates some of the strongest protections of human rights in Canada and around the world. A cornerstone of our liberal democracy is the belief that individuals possess inalienable rights by sole virtue of being a citizen in this province.
Equally important to our legal system is the idea that every individual — regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation — is entitled to be treated equally before and under the law and has the right to receive equal protection by it. To enforce this, British Columbia has enshrined a human rights code into law, an expansive piece of legislation that establishes equal rights for all British Columbians and prohibits discrimination or harassment in areas such as the workplace, in a store, a restaurant, or between a landlord and a tenant.
I am proud to call British Columbia home and equally proud of the fact that our province remains a place where all citizens have the freedom and protection to live their lives how they wish, with dignity and respect.
I thank all members and individuals who have been involved in calling for stronger legal protections for our citizens. We must always strive to strengthen our laws to ensure that every British Columbian feels they are equally respected and protected by the law. Today is a major milestone in that effort.
S. Chandra Herbert: Thank you to the member for False Creek for his strong words of support and also, of course, for his own work in terms of helping change minds around ability and disability and being such a leader in his own community. So thank you to the member.
It wouldn't be me, though, if I didn't disagree with something he said. It wouldn't be me in terms of the fight for human rights if there wasn't some friction. The member opposite said this reaffirms B.C. as a leader for human rights. Well, I think normally the leaders come first, not almost the last. You know, B.C. is one of the last places in Canada to explicitly protect gender identity and expression in our human rights code. It's not a leader, per se, although I'm glad we've got there. But that's not leadership.
We don't have a human rights commission — the only province in Canada without one —which is an active body that will actively go out and fight discrimination and help create change, rather than just react. I think that's the crux of my argument. We as a government and we as opposition need to be active, not just reactive, because when you're reacting to violence, somebody's already been hurt. But if you're acting against violence and acting against hatred, you can stop it before it begins. You can make sure that nobody has to go through not getting a job due to racism, because you've helped make sure that all employers are using good practices.
That's being active. That's educating. And that's, I think, what we need to do as a province, because we shouldn't wait for the victims to have to come and speak out before we decide to act. We should recognize that people will be victimized due to hatred and discrimination and take action to educate so that fewer of them have to deal with that. That's including our schools, making sure that — whether it be lesbian, gay, bi, trans — issues are actually explicitly taught in our schools. Again, B.C. is one of the last provinces in Canada that still refuses to take explicit action there, unfortunately. That's not leadership.
I'm very excited that we've got here today, but we could've got here years and years ago. We would've got here years and years ago if we were being active — proactive — in our approach to making sure that human rights were there and seen to be there for everyone, and that our education system, that our government, that our society is there walking in lockstep together, forward, for equality for all.
Well, maybe not in lockstep. There are always people who are going to want to walk a slightly different way, and I think that's a good thing. But again, that's what human rights legislation is meant to do, and that's what a human rights commission could do — make sure that we're actively ensuring that the diversity of our people is supported in law, in regulations, in our culture, and by our government in true non-partisan and bipartisan form to celebrate and support diversity.
Hate crimes have no place in our society. Human rights do. That's what we must unite for each and every day in a proactive way.
B.C.'S BOUNTIFUL HARVEST
S. Gibson: It's that time of the year in the Fraser Valley. It's blueberry season. I know all of you here have probably…. You've probably all treated yourself to blueberries, and you can thank the growers — the folks in my riding in particular. I also want to acknowledge Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows and Abbotsford South and our team here. We've had some other folks here looking a little lost, but we'll honour you a little later on.
Blueberries. It's that time of the year, and I want to take some time to talk a bit about that. Blueberries account for 50 percent of the total berry production of B.C., and it's growing. Many years ago we used to be strawberry country — some of you remember that when you were younger — but California, unfortunately, has taken over. Then raspberries came after strawberries, and now blueberries are kind of the burgeoning crop in the valley.
Under our government, we've been really encouraging the industry to grow and thrive, and it's been going very well. It's my privilege to work closely with the growers and see the incredible work ethic and marketing successes.
As Canada's strongest economy, blueberry producers in B.C. have the opportunity to succeed in the domestic market, as we know, and now getting to exports. This is the really exciting dimension to the story. Last year, blueberry exports were worth $218 million and growing. According to the British Columbia Blueberry Council, there are over 800 blueberry growers. If you take the time — perhaps some of you that live in the greyness of the city want to come out and enjoy the tranquility and the bucolic atmosphere of the valley — feel free to come out to the valley and savour the experience. I know you'll be refreshed for it, and improved, no doubt.
According to the council's figures, there are approximately 28,200 acres of farmland growing approximately 170 million pounds of blueberries. Those 800 growers are part of the reason why Canada is the third-top-producing country in the world for blueberries. In fact, B.C. growers are producing about 96 percent of the production of Canadian blueberries, and these 800 growers are benefiting the strong economy and are part of the success of our province.
A little bit about supporting growth in agrifoods in general. This government's agrifood strategy is on track to lead growth in the sector to $15 billion by 2020. It's ambitious, but we believe that we're going to meet it as government.
Only a few years ago, in 2014, this government opened the University of the Fraser Valley's Agriculture Centre of Excellence. It was my privilege to teach for a number of years at that university. In fact, we have two colleagues here that also taught at the University of the Fraser Valley. It's growing as a major university, internationally recognized, and the Agriculture Centre of Excellence is a part of that dimension.
It was that occasion, the 40th anniversary of the university, that allowed this development to take place. Our minister was out there. It's an exciting initiative. It increases dramatically the profile of the university nationally and, for that matter, internationally, and we want our growers to become more productive and more competitive in a diverse economy.
Just over a year ago, my colleagues may recall that I stood here in this place and spoke about another historic opportunity, and you're reading that right now in the popular press. It's all about China. The federal government and China had made significant progress on a new deal for exporting B.C. blueberries. Earlier this month — good news. This is the first season where British Columbia blueberries were shipped to China. B.C. blueberry growers could see up to 65 million exports to this market alone.
I want to acknowledge the work of our Minister of Agriculture in this regard — very enterprising and very committed to the cause.
When it comes to agrifoods, China is now the second-largest export market for B.C. growers. Growers here in B.C. benefit from access to markets. They benefit from having access to markets both at home and internationally. We don't want to say no to those opportunities. Reducing market access means reducing the ability to sell products and ultimately presents a profound roadblock to success.
Benefits of B.C. agrifoods. Now the product grown here — beneficial internationally for a number of reasons. If we don't support trade and the growth, we're not going to have the expansion of our economy that we all look forward to. That's why, today, B.C. blueberries and those from Abbotsford are growing in significance internationally.
Revenues for B.C. agrifoods, in general, and seafood have been climbing. Here are a few stats of interest: in 2013, $11.6 billion; 2014, $12.2 billion — a nice growth trajectory; $2.9 billion from primary agriculture; almost $1 billion in primary seafood; $8.5 billion from food and beverage manufacturing.
This is the result of the quality and the commitment that we have to producing the finest products for the world's consumption. Nearly all of the berry production in B.C. occurs in the Lower Mainland and southwest part of B.C.
Next steps. Government is focusing on expanding markets, increasing product exports and implementing a B.C. agrifoods and seafood strategic plan. It's the key to building success. It's that effort that's making us well recognized internationally.
I'm excited to be a part of a government that says yes — yes to agricultural growth, yes to going into new markets and yes to expanding the blueberry production so we can ship all around the world. As you know, as I mention, here we are beginning with China. Endless possibilities are available if we grab onto them and seek those challenges and those opportunities for our growers.
D. Donaldson: I rise to speak to this private member's statement presented by the member for Abbotsford-Mission on B.C.'s bountiful harvest. It's something that's close to my heart. We grow all our own food on our small property in Stikine. I say "we" grow it, and I just want to say to my wife: "I know I'm only there 30 percent of the time, so I use 'we' very, very generally."
The member for Abbotsford-Mission focused on one particular topic in agriculture, and that was blueberries. I welcome that focus. I was just in Pitt Meadows last week and toured a blueberry farm, Twin Berry Farms, where the major focus of the product was export to specialty markets in China and Korea and Japan. It was a truly amazing tour. One of the smaller operations, I'm told by the owner — only 30,000 pounds a day, which is mind-blowing when you look at the scale in other parts of the province of food production.
One aspect that he pointed out to me was the high-tech part of the involvement of his farm. Amazing computer programming goes into the processing, which I believe is quite innovative on Twin Berry Farms, especially on the processing line. One gap that he pointed out to me, which the government hasn't addressed, is the young people who want to get into technology and high-tech professions and the opportunities that farming presents for that. He felt that there was not very good emphasis on that, despite what the member described as an innovation centre in the Fraser Valley. The owner of this particular farm pointed out that not enough encouragement was being conducted by government for young people who are interested in the high-tech industry to get into farming, because it really is a high-tech sector.
I'd like to broaden it out a bit more though, past blueberries, and recognize the amazing food production in this province, up in my area, whether it's hay, even for export or domestic use, or in farmers markets. I've recently visited farmers markets in Kamloops and Quesnel — and also the strong farmers markets we have in Smithers and Hazelton.
These farmers markets, of course, depend on the quality of clean land, clean air and clean water in order to produce the good, nutritious food products that they produce.
I know that the member for Abbotsford-Mission would agree with me that the foundation of agriculture is clean land, clean air and clean water. That's why it's concerning, on the land front, when we see land in the ALR under this government being able to be used for industrial purposes — a two-zone plan, especially in the north — or trees being planted on ALR land, as has been pointed out to this government, who didn't seem to have a clue about what was going on in that aspect — so good agricultural land with trees being planted on it.
As far as water goes, we know that water is the basis for good agriculture — good clean water. We've had incidents of aquifers, in Spallumcheen, with concerns about pollution there. We've had lake water concerns in Shawinigan Lake with clean water. And, of course, we've had river water concerns with incidents like the Mount Polley disaster.
Clean land, clean air, clean water is the basis of not just the blueberry production but of all food production. I must say that that has to be truly understood by government if we're to reap B.C.'s bountiful harvest.
One other aspect of local food production is people knowing what's growing in their neighbourhood. Many of the producers I know are proud to have clean land, air and water to produce very, very nutritious food products. Yet I had a recent incident in my area. I have a letter here to the Minister of Agriculture, dated June 16, that I wrote on behalf of a constituent who was told to go to the freedom-of-information office to determine if the Agriculture Ministry is supporting GMO trials of corn on the property next to hers, a rural property outside of Smithers.
I haven't had an answer to that letter, but obviously, it's not a high priority for this government. Yet GMO trials are of major concern to people who want to produce nutritious, good-quality food.
I welcome this private member's statement by the member, and I hope that we will have more on this, as far as clean land, clean air and clean water. That is at the foundation of agriculture in this province.
S. Gibson: I thank the member for the response — some good points.
I want to reinforce that for berry growers and other agrifoods in general, it's important that we continue to pursue new markets. In my earlier remarks, I made the point of emphasizing that we do have a real strategy in the B.C. agrifood and seafood growth plan, which is a key component to building and growing market success. We want to say yes to new markets, and the historic Trans-Pacific Partnership, that agreement, will benefit richly our province.
Sixty-five percent of British Columbia's exports currently go to those countries. As a result of this partnership agreement, goods are expected to increase by $320 million, and our GDP could increase by as much as $325 million per year. But if we don't participate, if the TPP doesn't go forward in this manner, then we have limits to our markets. Currently, we face tariffs in countries like Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam, so this is something that we're viewing with great interest.
It's true for blueberry growers in my area in Abbotsford and for other agrifoods in general across the province. That's why I strongly support our government's initiative in pursuing these markets. We can't support industry if we can't support getting our products around the world.
Just a closing comment. For those of you that are conscious of your health patterns and wanting to improve your health, a simple handful of B.C. blueberries contains 3.6 grams of dietary fibre and only 80 calories. So you can have blueberries for breakfast, lunch and for dinner.
Thank you very much and be sure this week, hon. Members, to go out and savour the majesty of British Columbia's blueberries.
BUYING B.C., BUYING LOCAL
L. Popham: It's a pleasure to rise and to speak about something I am so passionate about this morning. I think the previous member opened up a great transition for me to begin talking about buying B.C. and buying local food.
Now, there is so much talk from the other side of the House about being committed to agriculture, about agrifood dollars increasing. But in my view, this government has missed the boat on embracing agriculture and food production as an economic driver in this province.
Most people across the province know somebody who has or have experienced themselves a visit to the hospital. When they get presented with food in the hospital, the reviews are not the best on the food that is served in the hospital.
[R. Chouhan in the chair.]
We see in other jurisdictions, across Canada and in the United States, that local procurement contracts are being set up with local growers and processors to bring food that's regionally based into the hospital system. This is not a new idea. This is an idea that has been investigated and also been pursued over a decade.
This government is not committed to using agriculture as an economic driver. Boy, do they love to talk about their commitment as we get close to an election, because how they run the Ministry of Agriculture, under this current government, is on an election cycle. You cannot have a successful agriculture system in this province run by election cycles every four years. You have to be committed. You have to be committed for the long term.
Many people will know that using local food, locally processed food, is not only good for the economy in British Columbia; it's good for our health. Yes, we can eat a cup of blueberries a day to increase our health. But when you're in the hospital and you're sick, if you're in a long-term care institution, you're frail and elderly, what you need is the best food as medicine that's available to you.
What's stopping us? Well, the Minister of Agriculture is not a champion for this idea. In fact, he was recently on Voice of B.C. He was asked if he supported the idea of procurement contracts within our hospital system, where we are using taxpayer money to purchase food which is not necessarily from B.C. In fact, most likely and in most cases, it's being imported into B.C. to provide food into our hospital institution food systems. He was asked whether he supported this idea.
Unfortunately, the Minister of Agriculture, who is supposed to be a champion for agriculture…. You would think this is the biggest cheerleader we should have for agriculture in the province. He basically said: "Is it in the best interest of British Columbians to dictate to a hospital that they must spend more money on out-of-season products?"
Now, nobody was talking about out-of-season products. We are using tax dollars in the hospital system. I don't know if I would use the word "dictate," but we are supposed to be setting policy in this province that would support our agriculture and food system.
What are the spinoff effects from doing that? Well, you would incent food processing. This current government hasn't even been able to support a food innovation centre in the province of British Columbia. We're one of the only provinces that doesn't have one. This idea has been talked about and talked about.
If you have, for example, a requirement for applesauce in a hospital system…. I went and spoke to an apple processor. They currently are buying apples from Washington and processing them. They're not using B.C. apples. I asked this processor: "If you were required to do a certain percentage of B.C. apples in order to get a procurement contract in the hospital system to sell your applesauce, would you switch to B.C. apples?" They said that absolutely they would, because it creates a stable domestic market within our province.
I'm not against exports. I am not against encouraging our export market. But why would you turn your back on a domestic market that basically would incent processing and growing all across the province — not just in urban British Columbia but across the province in rural areas that might be suffering from other problems with their economies?
This is a stable, stable idea. Again, it's not my idea. This is being done all across North America. The person that's supposed to be a champion for this sort of thing decided that he's too much of a free-enterpriser to support our taxpayer-purchased food products.
Now, we have a situation that's happening up in 100 Mile right now; 100 Mile was cooking their own food in their hospital system and in their extended care areas. That kitchen is being shut down by the government, and they're going to be trucking food in from another area 300 kilometres away. This is very upsetting to the residents of 100 Mile. Why would you shut down a hospital kitchen that has the potential to use food that's being grown in that area?
Now, this might be arm's length from the Minister of Agriculture, from the Minister of Health, because it's a health authority. But why would we not use our policies as a provincial government to insist that food is purchased locally and processed locally?
I got a very unfortunate email from a gentleman who was looking after his wife in a hospital in Vanderhoof. He was buying his wife's meals because the meals within that hospital were so not appealing to his wife. His wife is ill. She's trying to get better, and what she's being given is rethermalled mush.
Is that what this government thinks is good enough for people in our province that are in the hospital system — imported mush, rethermalized, from many kilometres away? It's not about agriculture for this government. It's not about good, healthy food. It's about getting the most for cheapest, regardless of health outcomes.
Maybe if we took a step back and started to connect the dots between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, we might be able to see a connection between health and food. This is where this government is missing the boat.
I've been talking about this since I was elected in 2009.
J. Sturdy: I am pleased to rise today and respond to the statement by the member for Saanich South — "Buying B.C., Buying Local." As a member of the agricultural industry for the last 25 years, growing 45 acres of certified organic vegetables and berries, I think I have some experience from which to speak.
"Beautiful British Columbia." It's more than just a motto on our licence plates. British Columbia has many iconic, unique and distinguishing geographic features that make it one of the most beautiful places on earth, from the coastal mountains to the Rockies, from the forests and rolling grasslands of the Interior to, of course, the Pacific Ocean, the mighty Fraser and the many networks of rivers, lakes, streams that run throughout British Columbia.
The biodiversity of this province is simply amazing. This biodiversity means climatic conditions that produce significant opportunities for one of our most important industries — British Columbia's flourishing agrifood and seafood sectors. It's a major contributor to our economy, and that's why it was identified as one of the eight key drivers of the B.C. jobs plan.
It's vital to our province's economic, social and environmental well-being. British Columbia's agriculture, food and seafood industry is the most diverse in Canada, and most importantly, it is growing. The sector includes agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, and food and beverage processing. Our agrifood businesses produce more than 200 agricultural commodities, 100 seafood species, and over 1,500 companies produce processed food products.
The sector also directly employs around 55,000 British Columbians, and once all the related jobs in the value chain are included, the sector is responsible for employing over 310,000 British Columbians.
Many people in the province are aware of the benefits of healthy eating and healthy living for their families, including, clearly, the member opposite. As a result, consumer demand is growing for fresh, local foods from sustainable sources. As the buy-local trend grows, B.C.'s agrifood producers continue to have more opportunities to supply fresh, healthy food directly to consumers. British Columbia's government is dedicated to supporting buy-local initiatives.
Building the local market for B.C. food is a key commitment of the government's Agrifood and Seafood Strategic Growth Plan, which provides a road map to increasing provincial revenues from the agrifood and seafood sector to $15 billion a year by 2020.
On the local front, government has increased agriculture funding, investing $8 million in the Buy Local program, including $2 million in Budget 2016. The program helps B.C. farmers and food processors promote their local food and seafood products through buy-local initiatives aimed to increase consumer demand and sales of B.C. agrifoods. Businesses and organizations can apply for matching funds from the British Columbia government for projects to promote local foods.
Without question, the passion for local foods has never been stronger. Many local businesses have benefited from the B.C. Buy Local program, including 40 Knots Vineyard; Hardbite potato chips; Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt; Eatmore Sprouts and Greens Ltd.; B.C. blueberry growers, as was referenced earlier, represented by the B.C. Blueberry Council; Singletree Winery; Paradise Island Foods and many, many more.
The Buy Local program recognizes the needs and uniqueness of our province's agricultural diversity, allowing businesses to use their expertise, not necessarily government's expertise, to market British Columbian products in a way that they think is best. As a result, representatives of B.C.'s farmers markets, agriculture, seafood, wine, restaurant and retail sectors all solidly support this program.
We've also worked with the B.C. Ag Council and funded the We Heart Local campaign, which promotes B.C. foods in the retail sector and restaurants. It connects British Columbians to their local foods in their communities, all on their smartphones.
The Buy Local program has been a huge success. It supports B.C. food products and B.C. jobs. The B.C. government's vision is for the agrifood and seafood sectors to be an innovative, adaptive, globally competitive sector valued by all British Columbians, because, as we know, we eat to live.
L. Popham: It's a pleasure to respond to the member across the way, because he is a farmer. He has a certified organic farm, as did I. So it saddens me that he doesn't stand with me in this chamber and champion the same idea that I am championing.
The member continues, and other members continue, to talk about the numbers of dollars in agrifood: $15 billion here, this export there. You know what? Does that mean anything to the woman who's 95 years old, who's lying in a long-term care facility — residential care facility — lying in bed, day after day, at the end of her life, when all she has to look forward to is a good meal? Is that what our residents in British Columbia deserve — a government who continues to list off agrifood dollars here, there and everywhere?
Mrs. Smith in 100 Mile doesn't care about your agrifood dollars and your export plan. That's the bottom line for the government. Spend time on that. But also pay attention to what's going on in our province.
Is that what we want our parents to eat — reheated mush that's imported? What about this meal that came in? Is this what our parents deserve, some unrecognizable mush on a plate with burned gravy and a vegetable that the patient couldn't recognize as peas or broccoli because it's been so overcooked? On top of that, as a little bit of a treat for dessert, we have a prepackaged plastic container of fruit, where the largest words on this container say: "Product of China."
Do we not have a strong enough food industry in British Columbia to be able to supply our hospital system with our own food? No, we don't, because this government's walked away from it. Because they've walked away from it, we've had to walk away from processing. We've had to walk away from all the multiplier effects.
In the Lower Mainland alone…. If we supplied 30 percent B.C. food into our hospital system, which spends $50 million a year alone just on hospital meals, 30 percent of that would be enough incentive to get processors back up and working, to get our abattoir system figured out in this province.
You cannot have an agrifood system, an agriculture system, without connecting the dots, and this government has failed to connect the dots year after year. The reason why they're talking about it now, the reason why the words "food security" come up, and "sustainability" and "investments" and "commitment to buy local," is because there is an election in less than eight months. Do not be fooled by the rhetoric of this government.
Hon. A. Wilkinson: Calling next, a private member's motion.
Deputy Speaker: Hon. Members, the unanimous consent of the House is required to proceed with Motion 16 without disturbing the priorities of the motions preceding it on the order paper.
Private Members' Motions
MOTION 16 — POWERING B.C.
J. Martin: It's a pleasure to introduce this morning's motion for debate. Welcome back, everybody. That motion is:
[Be it resolved that this House remain committed to powering B.C.]
In British Columbia, we are indeed blessed by an abundance of hydro power. It is renewable. It is a green source of power, and we can thank the foresight of former B.C. Premier W.A.C. Bennett for anticipating the growth of our province and putting all the infrastructure in place that we enjoy today.
To be sure, W.A.C. Bennett anticipated growth not only in terms of the population but also the increased demand for electricity by industry. How could we have grown our mining industry, forestry, agriculture or even today's high-tech sector without having an abundant power supply? Consequently, we have some of the lowest hydro rates in North America — the third-lowest residential rate, the fourth-lowest industrial rate, the fifth-lowest commercial rate in North America.
Hydro power is, in fact, our competitive advantage. It's one of the things that makes British Columbia the strongest economy in Canada in 2016 and something that economists believe will continue into the foreseeable future in 2017 and beyond.
This brings us to Site C. Our strong economy is attracting more people and more business to B.C. We need to be prepared to meet the energy demands of the future. Site C will ensure that our province continues to benefit from clean, reliable and low-cost, effective electricity for more than 100 years. That's why it's difficult to understand how critics of Site C, including the official opposition, say that Site C is somehow unnecessary, that B.C. is already meeting current demands, so why worry about the future?
Well, we need to worry about the future, and we need a plan for the future. Site C is a bright part of that future. It's incumbent upon us, as legislators, to plan for the future, and that's exactly what we are doing.
But the Leader of Opposition has said he would halt construction of Site C. Now, I like to hear both sides of the story, so I did a little bit of research, a little bit of digging, and I took the liberty of looking at: what exactly are the opposition's energy plans? What are their plans for the future?
I was expecting a very significant, hefty policy document, but what I discovered was PowerBC. A simple quote: "A bold and progressive plan for the future of B.C. energy." However, this consisted of a mere 449 words and basically reiterated everything that B.C. Hydro has already been doing. Investing in infrastructure — check. Investing in clean energy — check. Retrofitting public buildings and homes — check. We're already doing it. Basically, all the things that government has directed B.C. Hydro to do for decades, so there's nothing new there.
Well, then maybe, I thought, I might have found something, a bit of a backgrounder. Maybe this is where I'll find that bold strategy. Didn't happen. The backgrounder was only 420 words, even less substance than the main document. Instead of Site C, the backgrounder said it would pursue battery technology. Just like the Energizer Bunny, the NDP's PowerBC policy goes on and on about stuff that's already being done but offers little reassurance to the more than 1,500 workers currently on the Site C project this very minute.
If the opposition's plan is to cancel 10,000 direct jobs that Site C will create and approximately 33,000 jobs that will be created through all stages of the construction, then okay. I guess, maybe, that's right. Go ahead and pick up a pack of extra batteries, maybe two or three packs, and put them in your disaster kit at home. You're going to need them. We'll all be needing a disaster kit if the NDP got elected and left all of British Columbia alone and in the dark.
G. Heyman: It's indeed a pleasure to return here to this chamber in the middle of the summer to talk about an issue that's very important to all British Columbians. That is how the B.C. Liberal government has 1950s solutions for a 21st-century issue.
The dams that the member for Chilliwack referred to were important in building our capacity in British Columbia, but we have other options available to us today. That is in fact why the opposition put forward PowerBC, why we will be putting more detail to that plan in the coming months and why we'll be campaigning hard on the aspects.
Unlike the government, we're prepared to put our plan in front of the experts of the B.C. Utilities Commission so that it can be judged as to what is, in fact, in the best interests of British Columbians — whether they're First Nations with treaty rights in the Peace; whether they're ratepayers; whether they are taxpayers; or whether they are workers who would love to see a couple of decades of jobs, in every community in British Columbia, retrofitting houses, commercial buildings and public buildings, instead of going for a few years to a camp and then waiting for the next boom after the inevitable bust.
Let's start with the issue of demand-side management and retrofits. Everyone knows that the cheapest power is the power you don't use. That's why, with five options to choose from, B.C. Hydro initially chose demand-side management option 3. Then, at the instruction of this government, because B.C. Hydro has more power than it can sell, it cut that back to option 2, and it cut demand-side management funding by over 40 percent.
Energy efficiency retrofits will spur job creation in construction and manufacturing all across British Columbia. At a minimum, it will be twice the number of jobs as new dam construction, and some estimates say up to five times. And the cost? What will be the cost of the energy that is saved through demand-side management? A mere $35 a megawatt hour. As the chair of the joint review panel of Site C said: "Have we pushed conservation and efficiency as far as they can go? The answer is no."
There are other economic options for British Columbia. We recently saw, a few months ago, the Canadian Wind Energy Association close its British Columbia operations. It said it was closing these operations because there is no prospect, with the construction of Site C, for new wind projects to be built. Yet wind energy costs have fallen 58 percent in five previous years, while the price of solar power in the U.S., another renewable option, has dropped a whopping 70 percent since 2009.
What is the B.C. Liberal answer to these improving technologies and to prices that keep going down? It is to invest billions of dollars of taxpayer money, saddling ratepayers with unlimited future rate increases, to build a project with old technology in one corner of the province on needed agricultural land, trampling on First Nations rights — with a budget that keeps climbing, with a contingency that's spent and at a cost that has yet to be determined. We can do far, far better than that.
Even if we needed capacity in the short term — and we know that Site C will lose $200 million for its first four years in operation, minimum — we could add a sixth turbine at Revelstoke. We'd get 45 percent of the capacity of Site C for about 5 to 6 percent of the cost. If that's what the member for Chilliwack thinks is building B.C., we have different ideas and better ideas.
Let me simply close with a quote from a recent article by the person who chaired the joint review panel on Site C, the respected Harry Swain. He said: "Bottom line, B.C. Hydro is going hell for leather in pursuit of a wildly unprofitable project that will cost us, its owners, billions. That's without accounting for more 'significant adverse environmental effects' than any project that has ever been approved before, nor for the further erosion of the treaty rights of the First Nations of the Peace."
J. Thornthwaite: I am proud to be able to stand up and support the private member's motion that the House should be committed to powering B.C. I appreciate this opportunity, and I want to speak to British Columbia's continued ability to do so while maintaining a high standard for conservation in the environment.
Some detractors think that there is a choice to be made between conservation and the economy, but that is false. We can succeed in both. Under this government's watch, British Columbia is the envy of all other jurisdictions across Canada. The Clean Energy Act, passed in 2010, required that at least 93 percent of our electricity comes from clean, renewable resources, and as of this year, almost 98 percent of B.C.'s energy comes from clean or renewable resources. Other jurisdictions don't come close. Saskatchewan, for example, is trying to get to 50 percent by 2030.
Only a few short years ago, in 2011, our government launched the First Nations clean energy business fund to encourage B.C. First Nations communities to participate in our clean energy sector. Since that time, over 100 First Nations communities have benefited from over $7 million in funding, including the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nation in my area.
Site C is a continuation of this, which provides new opportunities for First Nations communities. B.C. Hydro has awarded numerous Site C contracts to aboriginal businesses, and new procurement opportunities are still being discussed. Peace River Hydro Partners are also working with First Nations groups to provide employment and training opportunities.
Our government will continue to ensure that there is a role for private sector renewable energy development in British Columbia. Less than one year ago our government and B.C. Hydro signed a memorandum of understanding with the Clean Energy Association of British Columbia supporting collaboration in the continued delivery of electricity to B.C. that is both clean and affordable.
It was also this government that created the innovative clean energy fund to support clean energy technology projects for all British Columbians. This fund is supporting clean energy projects in areas like bioenergies, solar, hydro, wind, ocean wave and tidal energy, smart grid and energy management. This is a commonsense approach to investing in British Columbia's future.
Since 2008, this fund has provided over $70 million in supporting clean energy technology projects, clean energy vehicles and research and development — plus, these energy technology projects have led to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of over 135,000 tonnes, the equivalent of removing 28,100 passenger vehicles from British Columbia's roads.
In conclusion, Site C is the next step in our province successfully meeting clean energy requirements while presiding over a strong and growing economy. Once complete, Site C will provide clean and reliable electricity for over 100 years, powering 450,000 homes every year, and tens of thousands of jobs.
Under this government's watch, we don't need to choose between clean power and a strong economy. We can have both.
G. Holman: I'm very pleased to speak to this motion — that this House remain committed to powering B.C. There's no disagreement on this side of the House about the need to continue providing affordable power to households, businesses, public institutions, industry in British Columbia. The question is how best to do that. We believe that the best way to do that, the most commonsense way to do that, is a program that we call PowerBC.
There are three basic elements to PowerBC: energy conservation retrofits for public buildings, businesses and households; upgrading generating equipment at existing dams; and smaller-scale renewable energy as demand requires.
On a number of metrics, PowerBC is the preferable option. On this side of the House, though, what we say is let's take this to the Utilities Commission, which the provincial government has refused to do. It has precluded the single largest power infrastructure investment in British Columbia.
They have precluded our independent regulator from actually examining the business case and the merits of Site C — $9 billion and counting. That's assuming no cost overruns, which, given this government's record, is highly doubtful. The member opposite just stated very clearly: $70 million on clean energy in British Columbia — very commendable; $9 billion on Site C — 1950s technology.
PowerBC. We believe PowerBC would be preferable to Site C on a whole number of metrics. First of all, costs — there would be lower costs which would benefit, ultimately, businesses and households and, ultimately, also ratepayers and taxpayers. Lower costs, more jobs — much more job-intensive, as the member on our side, our spokesperson for green jobs, stated.
There would be four to five times the jobs created per million dollars through PowerBC than Site C. Also, very importantly, those jobs would be distributed throughout British Columbia and spread out over time, which would require fewer workers imported into the province. The distribution of those jobs, the distribution of those benefits, would be much more broad throughout British Columbia — another reason why PowerBC, we believe, is better public policy.
Environmental impacts. There's absolutely no question that submerging thousands of hectares of high-quality agricultural land and First Nations' traditional lands — which would be the outcome of Site C — could all be avoided if we were to adopt PowerBC in British Columbia.
As legislators and policymakers, we have an obligation to ratepayers and to B.C. taxpayers to ensure that our energy policy is the lowest cost, creates the most jobs, has the fewest environmental impacts, is responsible and respects First Nations' rights. Site C, in our view, compared to PowerBC, does not do this.
What we challenge the government is to take the recommendations of the joint review panel very seriously. That joint review panel said: "You have not made your case. You have not made your case that Site C is needed. You have not made your case that Site C is the least expensive way and the least environmentally damaging way to provide power in British Columbia."
Harry Swain, the respected chair of the joint review panel, strongly recommended that government take Site C to the B.C. Utilities Commission, our independent regulator. He stated very clearly that not to do so was a dereliction of duty.
We on this side of the House are quite prepared to take our plan, PowerBC, to the Utilities Commission. We challenge the provincial government to do the same.
D. Plecas: I would like to begin by thanking my two hon. colleagues who have spoken to this motion with particular attention to Site C.
Site C is more than just another public infrastructure project; it's a legacy project. It's a legacy project that will provide our province with clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity for more than 100 years.
Our government puts a strong emphasis on job creation for British Columbians, and one of the ways that's going to happen is through the building of Site C. But we're also focused on clean energy, conservation and energy efficiency throughout the province.
British Columbia has one of the most ambitious conservation programs in North America. Just recently, a survey done by Cadmus Group ranked British Columbia sixth among 26 jurisdictions in North America surveyed, and that's well ahead of the only other jurisdiction in Canada surveyed.
I'd like to take a few minutes to talk about our commitment to clean energy and conservation. In 2010, our government introduced the Clean Energy Act, which requires B.C. Hydro to find 66 percent of any new need for generation from efficiency and conservation.
With that in mind, I'm proud to say that B.C. Hydro is on track to meet over 70 percent of all incremental new demand for electricity through conservation. Since 2003, B.C. Hydro has invested $1.3 billion in conservation. That amounts to more than $100 million per year. Over the next three years, they will be investing another $375 million. That amounts to $125 million per year. We're proud of the work B.C. Hydro has done to ensure a greener, more efficient and sustainable energy supply for our great province.
I'd also like to talk for a minute about the ways in which our government has been pursuing energy-efficient and greenhouse gas reduction goals. For instance, we adopted the 2012 national modelling building code amendments for energy efficiency in housing and small buildings. In December 2014, new energy-efficient requirements for housing and small buildings came into effect.
Since 2008, B.C. Hydro has provided financial support and expertise for 600 energy audits and 1,500 energy-efficient projects for major industrial customers. Also since 2008, B.C. Hydro has funded more than 800 Power Smart projects for school districts, saving schools about $3.3 million per year.
Our energy-efficient retrofits. Our government, in partnership with B.C. Hydro and FortisBC, offers programs that can help British Columbia homeowners, businesses and industrial customers to find energy savings and reduce their electricity and gas bills.
We have also provided $200,000 for the innovative clean energy fund to help sponsor and subsidize introductory or certification courses in passive housing design and construction for up to 400 qualified professionals. New buildings can now be designed to consume 80 to 90 percent less energy than conventional construction, using passive housing design principles.
In 2001, B.C. Hydro had energy purchase agreements with 23 clean energy projects either operating or coming on line. That was 23. Now there are over 120.
Private sector renewable energy projects supply about 25 percent of B.C. Hydro's electricity today. That's an increase from just 4 percent in 2001.
All of this is to say that this government has helped build and support the clean energy industry through clean energy–friendly policies and legislation. Clean energy projects have contributed to B.C.'s economy for more than 20 years. We look forward to continued job creation through our province as a result of the construction of Site C.
In closing, the people of this province can rest assured that under the Liberal government, safe and sustainable clean energy projects that create high-paying jobs and allow our communities to grow and prosper will be supported.
J. Rice: I'm proud to rise today to speak to the motion to continue to power B.C. On this side of the House, we do agree with the continuation of Powering B.C. However, we have a better plan for a brighter future. PowerBC is a bold, progressive plan for the future of B.C. energy, with a strong focus on jobs.
Through conservation, investment and innovation, PowerBC will protect B.C. Hydro customers from runaway bills. We will produce good-paying jobs close to home in every community in British Columbia. We will protect our farmland and our natural environment. We will respect First Nations land title. We will launch careers in clean energy and retrofit construction, maintenance, manufacturing and high tech.
We will ensure B.C. has access to clean and affordable electricity for generations to come. That is a better plan. That's for a brighter future, and I'm proud to stand here and speak about that today.
PowerBC has four components. We will retrofit public buildings. I'd like to speak about that a little bit. We will create jobs with a bold new program of energy efficiency retrofits to public buildings such as schools and hospitals. Energy efficiency retrofits create twice as many jobs as building a new dam, and the jobs are long-lasting, good-paying and close to home in every community across B.C.
Conserving energy is the most efficient way to meet B.C.'s energy needs, and B.C.'s public buildings need upgrading. We will combine energy efficiency upgrades to our schools and hospitals with much-needed seismic upgrades. We're going to do it at the same time. We will put B.C. jobs and apprenticeship spaces first so that British Columbians benefit from this work.
We're going to retrofit homes and businesses. PowerBC will protect families and businesses from runaway bills with energy efficiency retrofits in industrial and commercial buildings and private homes. These retrofits are needed in communities all across British Columbia. Energy efficiency retrofits to private buildings are a win-win-win. They reduce your energy bills. They increase the value of your home or your business and create good-paying jobs and spur economic activity close to home. Making buildings more energy efficient will also help B.C. meet our climate change goals by conserving the energy used to heat buildings.
PowerBC. Well, we're going to maximize existing hydroelectric dams. PowerBC will upgrade existing B.C. Hydro infrastructure with Resource Smart projects like the Revelstoke dam. Building unit 6 at Revelstoke dam would add 500 megawatts of energy capacity at a cost of $420 million, a fraction of the cost of Site C, and meet B.C.'s needs for more peak capacity much sooner than Site C.
Across B.C., many hydroelectric dams are operating on 1950s-era machinery. By upgrading these turbines and transformers with modern, high-efficiency technology, we can increase output while protecting our farms, protecting our natural environment and respecting First Nations' land title.
PowerBC. We're going to invest in clean energy. We will capture wind and solar potential by making smart decisions now, freeing B.C. Hydro to pursue wind, solar and battery technology and other renewable energy sources as costs fall and these technologies prove themselves.
B.C. can become a world leader in clean energy and join a global clean energy technology market, with jurisdictions like California, Germany and the United Kingdom. We need to think big, look to the future and allow B.C. Hydro the flexibility to pursue these projects incrementally to meet our energy needs in partnership with First Nations and clean energy providers. PowerBC will position British Columbia as a clean energy champion and a world leader in new and emerging technologies.
To quote our leader, the Leader of the Official Opposition, in B.C., we should lead the way with energy conservation, renewable sources like wind and solar energy technology. "Our plan looks forward, not back."
L. Throness: As we continue to consider remaining committed to powering B.C., I want to go back to consider the lesson of the W.A.C. Bennett dam, which was completed almost 50 years ago, in 1968, and which produces, today, over 25 percent of B.C.'s power. Of course, at the time, there was controversy over the construction — which lasted five years, from 1963 to 1968 — because it was a big purchase. It was a very big purchase. The total construction cost of the W.A.C. Bennett dam was $750 million, plus $200 million for transmission lines, when the provincial budget in 1963 was only $373 million. The projected cost of the dam was almost triple the size of the provincial budget.
Can you imagine today, thinking of Site C, the idea of building something — anything at all by the government — that would cost triple our provincial budget? The risk that was undertaken then would be unimaginable today. The risk today in the building of Site C is really minor by comparison.
Today's estimate for Site C is $8.8 billion in total. It could be less than that if we don't use the contingency funds. The total is spread over eight years instead of five. The total is just one-fifth the size of one year's provincial budget. This means that the financial risk we're undertaking today with Site C is far lower than with the W.A.C. Bennett dam.
What about provincial indebtedness in 1963? When they built the Bennett dam, our province's total liabilities, direct and indirect, were $1.4 billion, almost four times the size of the provincial budget. Today our entire provincial debt is $66 billion or just 50 percent greater than our provincial budget. We're going to go into more debt with Site C, about $6 billion more. It's not going to put us anywhere near the debt load that we had in 1963. We're taking on far less risk than the Social Credit government did then. Our debt is comparatively lower. Our revenues are relatively higher. We are in a much better all-round position.
When we look forward to the future cost of power, Site C is going to be very affordable. Over the first 50 years of its project life, ratepayers are going to save an average of $650 million to $900 million each year compared to the cost of alternatives.
Why are we confident in that number? Because the cost of electricity produced by the W.A.C. Bennett dam is now by far the lowest of any alternatives. Today we hear very little criticism, even from across the way, from the NDP, about the W.A.C. Bennett dam. It was a good investment. So we on this side are taking a lesson from history. We're going to repeat the good thing that our parents did for this province, with Site C.
Site C is just one element of our power supply. There are other sources of power. Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of going for a boat ride with a company called Innergex. Innergex took 40 people along on a boat ride, which took an hour, up to Harrison Lake to officially open an independent power project at Tretheway Creek. That is a marvel of high-tech engineering. It takes water from the creek and makes sure that fish don't fall through the screen that takes the water. It puts the water in a pipe four kilometres long, and it lets the water back into Harrison Lake after it travels through two big turbines. It hardly disturbs the environment. The facility will power 7,300 homes, and it brings social benefits for local residents.
There were a number of people from two First Nations there, the Douglas First Nation and the Chehalis First Nation, who attended the ceremony and spoke very highly of the project indeed.
There are 108 power projects up and running in B.C. I have seven of them in my riding. Three are under construction. Together, they produce 25 percent of B.C.'s power. Although they're intermittent, they're balanced by the 30 dam systems that we have around the province.
We're blessed with lots of water in B.C. Through the actions of our government, we're going to continue to tap this vast source of energy to provide British Columbians with secure sources of power that are 98 percent clean energy and that are the third-lowest residential rates in North America. Our power generation policy is something all British Columbians can be proud of.
A. Dix: It is, I think, an extraordinary bit of arithmetic gymnastics — what we just heard from the member for Chilliwack-Hope. He presumably didn't even read the annual report of B.C. Hydro for this year, which shows that they're below the forecast by 3,351 gigawatt hours. Even for this government, that's a big miss.
They bought so much more power than we need. It's costing us not in the thousands, not in the millions, not in the tens of millions, not in the hundreds of millions but in the billions owed by B.C. Hydro ratepayers. In fact, the deferral accounts for some of this stuff B.C. Hydro treats as an asset. It's owed by the ratepayers, his constituents, the member for Abbotsford's constituents, the other member for Chilliwack's constituents. That's who owes this money. They are below what they said they would be by 3,351 gigawatt hours, and they're just getting started.
[Madam Speaker in the chair.]
The member talks about history. In 1980, B.C. Hydro and a Social Credit government proposed the Site C dam. They said that demand was going to increase three times over the next 20 years, and they were catastrophically wrong. And what happened? The Premier of the day, ironically named Bill Bennett, said that that should go to the BCUC. The BCUC said that the demand forecasts of the government were wrong, that B.C. Hydro's demand forecasts were wrong and that if we built Site C at the time, it would be solely to subsidize ratepayers in Washington state, in Alberta, in California and, not to mention, in Oregon.
The same thing is happening now. They put forward this motion. How could it be more fatuous, when they produced an annual report last week that showed the basis of their plan was fundamentally wrong? Taxpayers were going to have to pay the price for it. Taxpayers, for 70 years, were going to have to subsidize consumers in other jurisdictions and make B.C. industry less competitive. That's what their report says.
How can they stand here today with a motion and say that? How could they ignore the facts? B.C. Hydro customers can't avoid the costs. It's becoming less affordable for commercial customers and industrial customers and small business and ratepayers to pay for this fiasco.
In 2008, they put forward a plan like this that said we should over-buy power. We should plan on power purchases for low-water years. The result is billions of losses. You know how they got away with it? By exempting themselves from the BCUC.
What are they doing now? They're doing exactly the same thing — basing a plan on 40 percent increase in demand over 20 years. Demand has gone down. They have been shown to be catastrophically wrong.
They don't care about the impact on ratepayers. They don't care about the impact on B.C. Hydro. They don't care they're making life less affordable for people in British Columbia. They don't care about any of those things. They want to create some sort of wedge issue around Site C so they can get through an election. To heck with the next 70 years.
It is completely unacceptable to behave this way, to not follow the law, to not follow what B.C. Hydro itself is reporting, to avoid the B.C. Utilities Commission and not do what is in the public interest, in the best interest of the economy of British Columbia.
You buy the power you need, and they are completely out of sync with that. So 3,351 gigawatt hours this year. Site C in total produces 5,100 gigawatt hours. We heard a member just say they were going to save $650 million a year. Site C power in total is $500 million. It is nonsense economics, and they should be embarrassed to put forward such a motion here in the Legislature of British Columbia.
D. Bing: I appreciate the opportunity to rise and speak to the benefits of upgrading the existing B.C. Hydro infrastructure. This will create jobs. This will create growth, and this will ensure that B.C.'s economy will stay strong going forward.
Keith Sashaw, the CEO of the consulting engineering association, said today: "The best time to invest in infrastructure projects for tomorrow is yesterday."
One million new residents are expected to call Metro Vancouver home in the next 25 years. Well, Site C is part of a larger energy infrastructure plan that will ensure that British Columbia's electricity remains low in cost, reliable and responsible for job creation.
The recent labour force survey put out by Statistics Canada shows the precise benefits of such decisions. Last month British Columbia led Canada in job creation, with over 16,000 new jobs. This government understands that a strong economy is vital to our province's long-term prosperity. B.C. Hydro is investing $1.7 billion per year for the next decade to maintain and upgrade existing infrastructure assets. This capital plan will grow the B.C. economy by creating 110,000 jobs and adding $13 billion to our province's GDP.
Capital project investments create thousands of jobs for British Columbians with a variety of skills. Here are the facts. There are approximately 800 British Columbia companies that are helping B.C. Hydro directly when it comes to capital projects. We support local business. We understand they are the backbone of the B.C. economy, and we all benefit when they benefit.
We know there will be massive investments in utilities across Canada, across North America and across the world. The choice before us is whether we are the party of yes — whether we, too, will make an investment in the future and invest to help job creators — or whether we are the party of no. Should we, as the opposition wants us to do, stop investing in major projects and turn our backs to job creation?
B.C. Hydro investments are being made all across British Columbia: $6.7 billion in the northeast, $5.7 billion in the Mainland and southwest, $1.4 billion in Thompson-Okanagan, $800 million in the Kootenays, $200 million in North Coast–Nechako and $100 million in the Cariboo.
Here is an example of what the investments look like. Just this past April the Site C project hit a milestone when a contract for turbines and generators was awarded. That is a $470 million contract. This contract alone will create approximately 400 jobs for electricians, pipefitters, boilermakers and other professions.
Voith Hydro, which received the contract, negotiated a labour agreement with the bargaining council of the B.C. building trade unions. This allows ten B.C. building trade unions to participate in the installation of turbines and generators for Site C.
If we were to say no to these investments, as the opposition wants us to do, we would be saying no to these jobs. We would be saying no to this investment in B.C.'s future, and we would be saying no to this clean energy project.
In 2014, B.C. Hydro began holding business-to-business sessions for Site C. These sessions connected over 1,500 people and 1,200 businesses with Site C contractors. An investment in energy infrastructure is an investment in B.C. business.
In conclusion, Site C is a clean energy project that is creating jobs right now and will do so into B.C.'s future. By saying yes to Site C, we are saying yes to job creation and yes to clean and renewable energy.
K. Corrigan: My understanding is I'm not going to get the full five minutes. I'll get a couple of minutes, so I will keep my remarks very short.
My father was an engineer. I have told people before that my summer vacations often consisted of going to see dams, like the Keenleyside dam while it was being built. I know all about turbines and cofferdams. I was there the day the St. Lawrence Seaway opened, and I saw the water rise.
I am certainly not opposed to the building of dams per se. But what we on this side of the House are opposed to is the fact that this government decided it was going to build what is now an almost $9 billion dam — the price is rising on it — made the decision that they were going to do that and did it without going to the B.C. Utilities Commission. In fact, they passed legislation in this House that said that the independent, non-politicized oversight of the B.C. Utilities Commission would be removed from that decision.
We have not had the ability to find out whether or not this dam is needed. Instead, we're spending $9 billion of taxpayers' money, which independent reviews, other reviews, have said is not needed, that we do not need this dam.
My father also was the commissioner who heard the Site C hearings in the 1980s. He was independent, and he and that commission — and he as the head commissioner — made the decision that the power was too expensive and that the power was not needed. We do not have that now. Instead, we have a government making political decisions, throwing away $9 billion without it being properly scrutinized.
With that, I will take my seat and move adjournment of the debate.
K. Corrigan moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. A. Wilkinson moved adjournment of the House.
Madame Speaker: This House, at its rising, stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.
The House adjourned at 11:58 a.m.
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