2017 Legislative Session: Sixth Session, 40th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
official report of
Debates of the Legislative Assembly
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Volume 43, Number 10
ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)
Introductions by Members
Introductions by Members
King George Dragons boys basketball team
S. Chandra Herbert
Introductions by Members
Introductions by Members
Service to Legislature by MLAs
Statements (Standing Order 25B)
150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation
Technology summit and high-technology industry
I always hoped
Community organizations in West Kootenay
Election campaign financing
Hon. S. Anton
Contaminated soil case in Saanich
Hon. M. Polak
Hon. S. Bond
Rental housing costs and regulation
Hon. R. Coleman
Conservation of Owl Island and return to Coast Salish Nations
Hon. S. Thomson
Mental health and addiction services
Hon. M. Morris
Hon. T. Lake
Conditions at Prince Rupert Middle School
Hon. M. Bernier
Liquor Distribution Branch distribution centre project, capital project plan, February 2017
Guarantees and indemnities authorized and issued report, fiscal year ended March 31, 2016
Orders of the Day
Committee of the Whole House
Bill 6 — Information Management (Documenting Government Decisions) Amendment Act, 2017
Hon. M. de Jong
Report and Third Reading of Bills
Bill 6 — Information Management (Documenting Government Decisions) Amendment Act, 2017
Second Reading of Bills
Bill 4 — Election Amendment Act, 2017 (continued)
Hon. A. Wilkinson
Hon. P. Fassbender
Throne Speech Debate (continued)
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15, 2017
The House met at 1:36 p.m.
[Madame Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
S. Fraser: I notice that one of my constituents is visiting us today in the gallery. He and I are about to embark on a quest for this seat for Mid Island–Pacific Rim. Would you all please make Darren DeLuca — the Liberal candidate for this upcoming election for Mid Island–Pacific Rim — feel very welcome today.
Hon. T. Lake: I have the pleasure today of welcoming some very good friends to the Legislature: Greg and Diane Neilsen, from West Vancouver, and Diane’s brother Ross Hayward, who is actually from Victoria and serves as the executive director of performance monitoring and evaluation for the Ministry of Health.
Greg and Diane and Lisa and I have been friends since 28½ years ago, when our first children were born at the same time in Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. I just need to put on the record that Greg and I had a gentleman’s bet on which baby would arrive first. Little Lisa, as Greg and Diane’s first child is known, was born an hour earlier. But Big Lisa’s, my Lisa’s, due date was later, actually. So, technically, I did win that bet.
I’d like the House to welcome Greg, Diane and Ross to the House today.
G. Heyman: Joining us in the gallery for her very first direct view of question period is Brontë Renwick-Shields. Brontë is not only my legislative assistant but also the legislative assistant for the members for Vancouver–Point Grey, Coquitlam-Maillardville and Surrey-Whalley.
Brontë is a recent graduate of the University of Victoria. She’s been working in this building for about a year. She is smart. She likes her work. She is always looking for ways to make our lives easier and find things that she can do to make them easier, and she finds them.
Will the House join me in making Brontë very, very welcome.
Hon. M. Polak: Today in the gallery, we are joined by Grant and Vera Ward, two very longtime friends and supporters. They have brought with them their grandchildren Reilly Ward and Casey Ward. Reilly is a 12-year-old future NBA star and Casey is ten years old, but I am certain at some point you’re going to see her with an Olympic medal around her neck for track.
Would the House please make them very welcome.
S. Simpson: Today we’re joined in the precinct by Irene Lanzinger, the president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, along with a contingent of union and labour activists, about 20 members of affiliated unions to the Federation of Labour.
They’re here to continue their strong advocacy for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and to make the case that we need to lift all boats. We start that with a $15 minimum wage.
Please make the representatives of the Federation of Labour welcome.
Hon. M. Bernier: In the building today, we have a group that, obviously, represents tens of thousands of teachers in the province of British Columbia, the B.C. Teachers Federation. It’s my pleasure to have with us today President Glen Hansman and Vice-President Teri Mooring, who are joining us today to have more meetings with myself and my staff, as we move education forward in B.C.
Please make them welcome.
M. Mark: I have a number of friends in these chambers today that I’d like to introduce.
First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge my constituency assistant, Christina Rzepa, who gets me to work every day and makes sure that things are in my calendar, that I get fed and that I pick up my kids on time. She gets me to where I need to go. She is responsive and generous to all the constituents of Vancouver–Mount Pleasant. It’s been a steep learning curve. We’ve done an accelerated degree in one year, getting elected in a by-election last year. I’d like to thank Christina for all of her work.
I’d also like to acknowledge and introduce the men’s basketball coach at Capilano University, Cassidy Kannemeyer. The Blues recently placed second in the PACWEST provincials, winning their first silver medal since 2004. Cassidy Kannemeyer is also a student support worker at Grandview Elementary School, which is in my constituency — a dynamic inner-city school. So please, if the House can join me in thanking him.
I’d also like to introduce — I have so many friends here; people are so excited in these chambers — and acknowledge my good friend nupqu ʔa·kǂam̓. He is a Ktunaxa writer and broadcaster living in Lax Kw’alaams territory. He recently completed a residency at the Banff Centre and has been published in the Malahat Review. He is a senior adviser to the Ktunaxa Nation council and is the host of Native Waves on CFUV radio station. If the House could please join me in welcoming Troy Sebastian.
Last but not least, Denise Moffatt, my constituent who is here with the B.C. Fed. Thank you so much for being an amazing constituent.
Please join me in welcoming my friends.
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Hon. S. Thomson: I’d like the House to welcome a couple of guests in the gallery this afternoon.
Darren DeLuca is the vice-president of conservation for the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. He was previously introduced and also acknowledged as our candidate for Mid Island–Pacific Rim.
With Darren is Shane Mahoney. Mr. Mahoney is an internationally renowned speaker on hunting and the North American model of wildlife conservation. He is the president of Conservation Visions, an organization devoted to conservation in North America. He hails from Newfoundland, from the far other coast of Canada, visiting here today.
I’d like the House to make both of them very welcome.
R. Fleming: I’d also like to welcome the president of the B.C. Teachers Federation, Mr. Glen Hansman, and the first vice-president, Teri Mooring, who are here in the House with us today, as the minister has mentioned.
There are other educational leaders that have joined us who I’d also like the House to give a warm welcome to. We have George Davison, the president of the Post-Secondary Educators of B.C. He represents over 10,000 faculty and staff in colleges, universities, institutes and private sector ESL schools in British Columbia. With him is Terri Van Steinburg, FPSE’s secretary-treasurer. Also joining this delegation is Norman Gludovatz. He’s a staff representative for policy and communications with the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C.
Would the House make these guests most welcome here this afternoon.
J. Yap: In the gallery today is a constituent who is visiting. We had lunch today in the dining room. Randy Sandhu is an active member of the community. He observed that he has not been visiting the Legislature. The last time he was here was about 20 years ago. He thought the dining room looked a little larger. All in all, a very delightful lunch.
Would the House please offer a warm welcome to Mr. Randy Sandhu.
S. Robinson: I have two guests with me here today in the gallery. My dad, Irv Dardick, is here. He’s my biggest cheerleader. He’s now a retired small business owner. He was the first feminist in my life, who has always told me that I could be whatever it is I wanted to be as long as I put my mind to it. He’s joined by his friend Arlene Howard, who is a wonderful friend and companion to my dad. She introduced my dad to the arts, making him a much better person for it.
Would the House please join me in welcoming Irv and Arlene.
Hon. D. Barnett: Today I am delighted to have a lady here with me from the Chilcotin. Do you know how far away that is? She’s here with her husband at the guide-outfitters convention. Out in the Chilcotin, their family works very hard. They have for many, many years. They’re a historical family of guide-outfitters, trappers, ranchers and small business people.
Would the House welcome Bev Madley.
L. Krog: I want to recognize the passing in Nanaimo on March 13 of Stan Wardill, one of our community’s outstanding musicians. Indeed, it was his passion for music that introduced him to his wife, Bernice, at the Pygmy Pavilion in Nanaimo. They were married for 65½ years with Stan’s death on Monday, still survived by Bernice.
Stan had a remarkable career. He was the third generation of a pioneer Nanaimo family. Bernice Nash, his wife, was another pioneering Nanaimo family. Stan’s family came to Nanaimo in 1887.
He had a long and wonderful career as a proud native son, practising law for many years in Nanaimo by himself and then with his partner, George Henderson. He became a part-time magistrate and, eventually, a Provincial Court judge, serving until he was 70 years old.
He was an avid boater, a great trumpet player, a community-minded person. As I say, he was one of those sons Nanaimo is very proud of. I could not pass this day without recognizing that.
I must tell you, as his daughter informed me, that Stan said all the most significant events occurred on the 13th and the 26th of the month throughout his life. Born on the 26th, he passed on the 13th. I would ask the House to recognize the passing of a fine citizen of Nanaimo.
Introductions by Members
J. Thornthwaite: I’d like to introduce some constituents of mine that have surprised me today by coming: Jessica Macht; Ben Macht, who’s 11 years old and in grade 5; Hannah Macht, nine years old and in grade 4; Jacqueline Hardy; Abby, who’s 13 years old and a grade 8 student at Argyle Secondary; and Megan, who’s 11 years old and a grade 5 student at Ross Road Elementary. I look forward to meeting them later on this afternoon.
Can the House please make them welcome.
J. Rice: I would like the House to please make welcome Alex MacDonald, who is my constituency assistant.
Hon. S. Bond: All of us are blessed with fantastic staff who make sure we get to the right places. When you’re a rural MLA, in particular, there are lots of details around how we commute to work, etc. I would like to ask the
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House to make welcome two of the administrative staff in my ministry, Izak Brussow and Amanda Robb. Both of them do an exceptional job as part of a great team in JTST.
I’m really pleased that they’re able to join us here in the Legislature today, and I would ask all members to make them welcome.
J. Darcy: I see my good friend Justin Schmid in the gallery today. I’ve known Justin for a very long time, ever since he was a member of the CUPE young workers committee. You can’t all see him, but it wasn’t that long ago. It’s been wonderful to see his career develop since that time. He is today the legislative coordinator for CUPE B.C.
Will the House please join me making Justin welcome.
Hon. S. Anton: I’d like to introduce two of my staff: my chief of staff, Martyn Lafrance, who always keeps things moving in the right direction — in particular, me and my responsibilities — and Christina Starko, my administrative assistant, who is a treasure in our office in the Ministry of Justice.
I’d like to thank them for the hard work that they do every day. Both of them are relatively new to the British Columbia government, and both of them are completely outstanding.
Would the House make them feel very welcome.
K. Conroy: I, too, would like to welcome the guide-outfitters who are here today with the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. I want to thank them for the lovely breakfast they threw this morning for the official opposition. I think that I can safely say that we came afterwards agreeing more than we disagree with each other.
I also want to welcome Shane Mahoney to B.C. I’ve heard him speak a number of times, and I’m so impressed with what he has to say about the outdoors, back country, wildlife and all those things. So I welcome him to B.C.
I want to acknowledge one guide-outfitter, Ken Robbins. He’s actually from Nakusp. It’s rare I have people from my constituency, so I’d like to welcome Ken. Could the House please join me in welcoming all these people.
E. Foster: I have two friends in the audience today, Ian Hames and Theresa Sanesh. They hail from Chase, which is in the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure’s riding, but Theresa grew up in Lumby. We’ve been family friends for 35 years. I’m sad to say to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure that they’re moving from Chase. They’re going to move back to Lumby.
Ian and Theresa are great people. They are paramedics, now actually working in Vancouver. They do a great job for the province. I would like the House to make them very welcome.
N. Simons: I’d like to start with two introductions. I’d like to welcome to the House Gabe Dalpiaz from Powell River. He’s visiting Victoria for we don’t know how long. I hope he gets back to Powell River soon.
As well, I’d just like to add to my friend, the member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, who, in her extolling of the virtues of her constituency assistant Christina Rzepa, failed to mention that she is also very capable of playing harmonic minor and melodic major scales on the cello — a former cello student of mine. I’m happy to have her here. If the House would please make them both welcome.
If I may, also, I’d like to welcome Linda Tenpas to the public gallery this afternoon. Linda is the mother of Nick Lang, a boy whose name sadly has been mentioned many times in this House as we’ve sought answers to troubling questions about services to children and youth. On behalf of all members, I’d like to offer Linda and her family our ongoing, heartfelt sympathies as well as the encouragement that she may need as she strives to make things better for others. Thank you, and welcome to the House.
J. Tegart: I’m very pleased to welcome two constituents from my riding today, Bonnie and Murray Abram. They’re valuable community members, wonderful supporters and great friends of mine. They have travelled from the community of 16 Mile. Please make them welcome.
J. Wickens: Joining us in the gallery today is also Samantha Scott. Samantha Scott is my legislative assistant, along with some of my colleagues. I’ll never forget the moment when the panic actually set in, and I realized all the things I had to do as an MLA. It’s because of our legislative assistants and constituency assistants that we are able to do what we do. So thank you, Sam, and thank you to all of the staff that help us do what we do.
Hon. C. Oakes: I would like to recognize fantastic staff who are here today, Dustin Dobravksy and Kirby Delaney, and, of course, staff who are back in the office holding down the fort: chief of staff Derek Cummings and Yarko Petryshyn. Thank you very much for all your work.
KING GEORGE DRAGONS
BOYS BASKETBALL TEAM
S. Chandra Herbert: First off, I want to congratulate the King George senior boys basketball team, the Dragons, for placing No. 3 out of all basketball teams in British Columbia. It’s the best that they’ve ever done in their history. Huge congratulations to them, the teachers and all of the fans and parents who helped them achieve such great success.
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Introductions by Members
S. Chandra Herbert: I also want to welcome to my office, and hope the House will help me welcome, Paul Smale and Sarah Kim, who are joining my office and the very capable Murray Bilida as constituency assistants.
J. Thornthwaite: I’d also like to introduce some members from the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative: their project director, Val Tregillus; Vancouver Island regional lead, Roxanne Blemings; and a very special young person, the Saanich Peninsula and Victoria regional action team lead, Jasmine Rakhra. Could we please welcome them.
G. Holman: Joining us today in the precinct and meeting with opposition caucus members today are representatives of the Active Manufactured Home Owners Association, including some constituents of mine — Joyce Klein, Trevor Hunt, Samantha Sanderson and Wendy Kaye. We’re discussing with them amendments to legislation that governs compensation for homeowners that are being evicted. Could the House please make them feel welcome.
D. McRae: I have two guests joining us in the chambers today, beyond yonder pole. I have Ron Webber and Lorraine Webber. Ron served as an elected official, both as a city councillor and as mayor of the city of Courtenay, for 30 years. Lorraine can only be described as his rock. The two of them have lived almost all their lives in the Comox Valley and continue to work hard to make our community a better place. I’ve had the honour of knowing them for 31 years. I’m proud to say that not only are they great Comox Valley citizens; they’re also the best in-laws a son-in-law could ask for. Thank you very much.
C. Trevena: I’d like to inform the House of the sudden passing of Rod Naknakim. Described as a beacon for the community, he used his professional skills as a lawyer to advocate for Laich-Kwil-Tach rights and title. He was also deeply involved in the Nuymbalees Cultural Centre on Quadra, working on the repatriation of cultural artifacts, and had been involved in the majestic Tribal Journeys event that’s planned for this summer. A service will be held in Cape Mudge for him this Friday, and I would ask the House to send its condolences to Mr. Naknakim’s family.
Introductions by Members
L. Throness: It’s always a pleasure to have family visit. I have four siblings, and I have the special pleasure of having my brother, Trevor, from Abbotsford, visit today. He brings with him his wife, my sister-in-law Jennifer, nieces Julia and Ella and my nephew, Will. I promised them fireworks in question period today, so I’m looking forward to great things. Would the House please make them welcome.
S. Fraser: I would note that I think we’ve maybe set a record in welcomes this afternoon. It’s almost a half-hour. With that in mind — and it’s just about the end of the session — for anyone that wasn’t welcomed so far in the gallery, would the House please join me in making them all feel very welcome.
D. Routley: You think so, eh? All right.
These notes were passed to me by my CA, and I’m introducing some wonderful people, one of them from Ladysmith, a longtime resident, Winnie Stubbington. Winnie was nurse and head nurse in the OR in the Chemainus hospital for many years, the hospital that I lived two doors from for several years. Winnie is a fixture around the community, and people who have been treated by her and know her will smile every time they see her. She and her late husband, Jack, were familiar faces in local NDP campaigns.
Winnie’s daughter, Nessie Magee, is from Victoria. She’s a special education teacher here in school district No. 61, and she’s been doing that job since 1986, affecting many lives. Winnie’s son, Ray Stubbington, was an electrical contractor with a company that served Duncan and Ladysmith. He’s also with us today.
And this part I’m not sure about. I’ve got to get my glasses. It says: “Also with them is the best CA ever, Patty McNamara.” Yeah, that’s it. May the House please help me make them welcome.
SERVICE TO LEGISLATURE BY MLAs
J. Horgan: For those students of politics, this is not a filibuster. It appears to be a filibuster, delaying the tactics in the House.
What I wanted to do was to take this opportunity to say thank you to many members of this place who will not be seeking re-election in the weeks ahead — the member for Vancouver-Langara, the member for Kootenay East, the member for Surrey–White Rock, the member for Peace River North, the member for Comox Valley and, of course, the member for Kamloops–North Thompson on the government side; our venerable independent from Delta South, who will not be seeking re-election.
On the opposition side, Burnaby-Lougheed; Burnaby–Deer Lake; Cowichan Valley; Columbia River–Revelstoke; Skeena; my bestie, from Esquimalt–Royal Roads; and, of course, the longest-serving member on this side, with
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the Opposition House Leader, the member for Surrey–Green Timbers.
To all of you: thank you so much for what you do. For those who came to watch fire and brimstone: it is coming, but this is one of those rare opportunities for all of us to thank, from the bottom of our heart, the sacrifices, on both sides of the House, by our retiring members.
You’ve done your community and yourselves proud. I thank you for your work. I thank you for your effort. And now let the games begin. [Applause.]
An addendum, Madame Speaker. Of course, members don’t know that you can’t name people in this Legislature in complete names but you can say thank you to Moira, Bill, Gordie, Pat, Don, Terry, Vicki, Jane, Kathy, Bill, Norm, Robin, Maurine and Sue. Thank you all very much.
(Standing Order 25B)
150th ANNIVERSARY OF
J. Tegart: Our nation stands strong and free. In 1867, the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined Confederation, marking the birth of our country we now know as Canada. A few years later, the country grew larger with the additions of Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, P.E.I. and British Columbia. Canada didn’t stop growing in both population and territory, with the last addition of Newfoundland in 1949.
Every province, every city, every Canadian has a reason to be proud of the 150 years of Canada’s history. From the days prior to our formation, consisting of our First Nations peoples; to the founding of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who keep our country safe coast to coast; to the patriotic Olympic victories, we can stand back and say that was all history. But when you stop and think about it, these are the events that have formed the foundations of our country and continue to shape us and the generations that will follow as Canadians.
An example of this history is showcased in the village of Clinton in my riding of Fraser-Nicola, where they, too are celebrating Canada’s 150 years. Their 150th annual May ball, being held May 20, is the longest-running event of its kind in Canada. I would love to invite you to attend, but this event has been sold out for over a year.
Many men and women have come before us in the past 150 years who have planted the seeds that continue Canada’s growth, and there is so much more to come. Happy 150th, Canada. We truly do have so much to celebrate.
A. Dix: In years after the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, some 840,000 Vietnamese fled their country, mostly by boat, and 60,000 were accepted as refugees in Canada through the efforts of grassroots organizations everywhere. For example, my neighbour Winnie Cao grew up in the province of Jianyang. She was an elementary school teacher and began her escape on the last day of the school year in 1981. There were 21 people in her boat, 15 adults and six children, including Winnie’s 7-year-old daughter, Van Tran.
They survived storms, robbery by pirates and made it to a refugee camp in Thailand. She arrived in Canada in October 1981 and has become a successful small business person and community leader.
British Columbia today is home to some 40,000 Vietnamese Canadians, who contribute every day to making our country a better place. I think of Hap Fam, a friend of my colleague from Surrey-Whalley, who raised money to support Syrian refugees whose difficult path mirrored his own, and active organizations such as the Mekong Delta Friendship Society, the Free Vietnamese Association, the Vietnamese-Canadian community in greater Vancouver, the Vietnamese Veterans Association, the Greater Vancouver Vietnamese Women’s Association, the Little Saigon Foundation, the Vietnamese Cultural Heritage Association in Surrey, and many others who give life in B.C. to a Vietnamese culture that is 4,896 years old.
In 2015, the Parliament of Canada unanimously passed a bill recognizing every April 30 as Journey to Freedom Day. This April 30 will take place, of course, during the election campaign, but I encourage my colleagues to commemorate this event and look forward to the next Legislative Assembly of B.C. coming together to commemorate Journey to Freedom Day with yellow scarves on April 30, 2018.
TECHNOLOGY SUMMIT AND
R. Lee: Today members of the tech industry are celebrating day 2 of the sold-out B.C. Tech Summit in Vancouver. The 5,000 participants attending the summit see the latest and greatest innovations from over 300 of B.C.’s technology companies, research labs and post-secondary institutions. Throughout the summit, small and medium businesses have the opportunity to further their growth and share ideas with larger tech firms and government agencies.
This exciting event is in conjunction with the announcement of a renewed B.C. tech strategy yesterday. The B.C. tech strategy aims to increase investments by up to $100 million by 2020 and the number of tech companies with ten or more employees by 20 percent by 2021.
Through this strategy, great local companies and institutions are getting supports. Our tech sector is already strong in Burnaby, with companies like Ballard Power, General Fusion, Glentel, Creation Technologies,
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Traction on Demand, Xenon Pharmaceuticals, D-Wave and Electronic Arts. Public institutions like SFU and BCIT are educating the next generation for the industry.
Whether it is exploring a new source of practical, renewable clean energy; creating connections through innovative wireless communication; providing leading-edge, innovative technology and engineering; bringing companies to clients through cloud technology; developing of novel medicines; researching and delivering quantum computing systems and software; or creating the next generation of video games, each of these companies is keeping B.C. tech on the move.
I would like to ask the House to join me in supporting them as they continue to create and develop the innovative technologies we use daily.
S. Robinson: We all have businesses in our community that do more than run a business. Many of them also care for their community. There is one such business in Coquitlam-Maillardville that is the go-to place for my community when you need help to make your company or your event look good.
Since I can remember, Ken Doty and Sandpaper Signs have been where everyone goes to get their signage and their decals done. When the “three divas” decided to host a community fundraiser Oscar party, with red carpet and all of the glam, it was Ken Doty from Sandpiper Signs who put together the backdrop of sponsors so that the divas could look good while raising money for the community agencies.
When SHARE Family and Community Services needed print materials for their Imagine gala, it was Sandpiper Signs that stepped up to the plate. Whether it is Festival du Bois, Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation, the Amanda Todd Legacy fund or Crossroads Hospice, Sandpiper Signs has been there to support their efforts every single step of the way.
Now, Ken just retired from the company he built up over several decades, and he will be sorely missed. The good news for us, with Ken’s retirement, is that one of my constituents, Carlo Zarillo, purchased controlling shares of the company. He says: “Sandpiper Signs is an institution in the Tri-Cities and the Lower Mainland. Their community involvement is what sets them apart, and I really wanted to be part of that story.”
I know that Sandpiper will continue to contribute to the overall health and well-being of our community. Thank you for setting the standard, Ken Doty, and thank you to Sandpiper Signs for everything you do, including making us all look great.
I ALWAYS HOPED
G. Hogg: I know many of you will be saddened to learn that my inspired two-minute speech entitled “What to Say When You Have Nothing to Say,” followed by two minutes of silence, has been cancelled. Sorry. So instead, this.
I have believed — and, I am sure, still believe — many things that just aren’t true, and I have embraced or rejected what turned out to be bad or good advice. I have, like many of you, been the recipient of lots of unsolicited, unsubstantiated advice, and sometimes I embrace it, maybe because of the messenger and maybe, as Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman argues, we believe what we believe because someone we know and trust has told us — someone like my mom.
She, in grade 11, told me that she read in the local newspaper that there was a shortage of little league coaches and she thought I should volunteer, that I should give back, just as so many coaches had given to me. I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I started coaching. A few years later, our team got the right to go to Edmonton for the championships, and the league president asked me to go to a White Rock city council meeting and ask for support.
That council meeting was my first formal contact with elected politicians. I had no idea what was going on, and it was so foreboding and incomprehensible to me.
When I got home my mom asked how it went, and I said: “Oh, Mom, we were last on the agenda. We didn’t know what was going on. It was old people making stupid decisions.” And she said in a motherly way: “Son, I hoped I’d always raised you to be the kind of person that if you didn’t like something, you wouldn’t complain about it, but you’d get involved and try and make a difference.” She said that was my responsibility as a citizen. Again, I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I got involved. I ran in the next city election and got elected.
Well, I still believe a lot of things that aren’t true, and sometimes I even am incomprehensible myself. My formal contact with politicians, even today, is often like that first visit to city council. I have only a vague sense of what’s going on, and it still seems somewhat foreboding, and sometimes our opinions seem to be based more on what team we belong to and less on our assessment of the facts.
Well, we are told that human rationality is bounded rationality. Although we often do things we regret, we do them in very predictable ways, and we are always trying. Thanks, Mom.
IN WEST KOOTENAY
K. Conroy: I want to share a few milestones that are being celebrated in our region this year. On March 4, I had the pleasure of attending the West Kootenay Big Game Trophy Association’s annual awards banquet in Trail. There were a number of awards and trophies presented by the association and the Trail and district Wildlife Association, as well as a very special recognition.
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The club itself is 60 years old this year. Founding members consisted of Pat Archibald, Harold George, Cookie L’Ecluse and Lou Kratky. Pat, Harold and Cookie have all passed away, but Lou is still very much alive. Not only was Lou at the dinner as one of the remaining founding members; he was also recognized as one of the first Boone and Crockett scorers for the club. In fact, it was also speculated that he might be one of the first scorers to be registered in B.C. Lou, at 86 years old, is a long-time resident of Montrose but has recently moved to Kelowna to be near his family.
Another organization celebrating in our area is the Trail Maple Leaf Band. Members include people from throughout the region of varying ages and musical ability. The band first appeared at the Colombo Lodge functions in 1911 as the Italian Band. In 1917, a contest for a new name was held, and the band became known as the Trail Maple Leaf Band.
Under the direction of Frank Giovanazzi, there was a membership of 72 musicians. Joseph Fuoco, a tuba player, began conducting the band in 1986. During his tenure, the Maple Leaf Band celebrated 75 and 95 years of playing and now, this year, is celebrating its centennial. Performances are held at many different venues throughout the region and are always a big hit at all the parades.
On February 27, they played at Sandy DiPasquale’s memorial service. Sandy was born in Trail in 1920 and lived his entire life there, except for the three years he was in the army. He joined the Maple Leaf Band at ten years old and was still playing until last year — a total of 86 years in the band. Amazing.
If you’re in Trail this summer, July 20-23, please take the time to come and hear this fabulous band as they celebrate their 100th anniversary.
ELECTION CAMPAIGN FINANCING
J. Horgan: For the past number of weeks we’ve been raising issues about the influence of big money in our politics here in British Columbia, and we’ve run up against a stone wall of silence from the government side. So I want to pose a question to the Attorney General, who in 2009, when she was a city councillor, had the following views when it came to municipal fundraising. She described it as “the Wild West” to the Georgia Straight, which is something that we’ve heard a lot about lately. I think of the headline in the New York Times, which described our politics as the Wild West.
The then councillor, now Attorney General said…. She pointed to huge cheques from individuals and from corporations and questioned whether or not funds are being donated through public relations firms. Shocking, shocking. Gambling in Casablanca. I’m shocked. The current Attorney — then councillor — went on to say that she called for limits on donations saying that nobody should be allowed to give cheques of $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000.
So my question to the Attorney General: what happened?
Hon. S. Anton: Thank goodness this debate is on the floor of the House a little later this afternoon so the member will not be confined merely to the 30 seconds of his question, but he can talk for 20 minutes on that very subject.
Madame Speaker: The Leader of the Official Opposition on a supplemental.
J. Horgan: Well, I’ll be very surprised if members of the executive council can muster five minutes on defending the indefensible.
What we’re going to be discussing later on…. Apparently, Members, the problem is not the $100,000 donations. What that side of the House wants to do is ferret out those $100 donations from Granny and Grandpa. Those are, apparently, the problem in our politics. That’s what they’re focusing on.
The people of British Columbia want to know why it is, for example, that the Pace Group, which is hosting a fundraiser for the Premier the day that this Legislature dissolves — and the tickets range from $500 to $10,000 for the Premier’s inner circle — is doing this? Is it out of the goodness of their heart, or is it because of the $4 million in government contracts that the Pace Group has received since the Premier sat in that chair four years ago?
Madame Speaker: The Chair does not compel anyone to answer.
J. Horgan: I rise on a new question.
I find it passing strange that the Attorney General was goading me on to speak for 20 minutes, and she’s got nothing to say. Maybe it’s the quantum. Maybe the $4 million since the current Premier took that chair isn’t big enough to get anyone’s attention.
The Pace Group has received, since 2001, $23 million to put ads on television telling us how great the Liberals are — all for a measly donation of only $160,000. Only $160,000 from the Pace Group. I’d say they’re a little bit below average for the usual donations on that side.
However, I will again ask the Attorney General: what happened between 2009 and today? Was it that back in those days you weren’t benefiting from the donations, and now you are?
Hon. S. Anton: The Election Act is on the floor of this House, and the member may debate it freely when it is called again this afternoon.
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CONTAMINATED SOIL CASE IN SAANICH
L. Popham: Last week I asked the Environment Minister about the Blazkow family, who are living on an oil-polluted farm in Saanich.
The Ministry of Environment is insisting that the Blazkows pay over $400,000 for a cleanup on a decade-old oil spill even though they were not the polluters. The minister said she wanted more information, so I tried to schedule a meeting with her and the Blazkows for this week. The minister’s staff said she simply couldn’t find the time.
But on Monday night, the minister did find some time to attend a private fundraiser in Saanich, less than ten minutes from the Blazkows’ home.
My question is to the Minister of Environment. Should I have advised the Blazkow family that the only way to talk to the minister about their polluted farm was to buy a ticket to her fundraiser?
Hon. M. Polak: I’m sure the member is aware that we do already have a meeting scheduled for my staff to meet with the individuals tomorrow, I believe it is. In fact, the other day just before question period, I believe it was, I mentioned to the member that, likely, given the schedule this week, on such short notice, it would be difficult to arrange a meeting with myself but that I would do everything I could to make sure they could have a meeting with staff this week. And I have done so.
When I advised the member of that, she seemed pleased with it. So I’m saddened to hear she’s not pleased with it anymore.
L. Popham: I was happy that there was some hope to get a meeting this week with the minister’s staff. But I was told the ministry staff were all out of town this week, so I couldn’t get a meeting.
A week has passed. The Legislative session is ending, and the Blazkows are no closer to getting a solution to their problem.
The minister won’t talk to them, but she found the time to talk to donors at a party fundraiser in Saanich. Couldn’t the minister have found the time to visit the Blazkows on her way to the fundraiser, or didn’t she want to keep her donors waiting?
Hon. M. Polak: I’ve been working in this building for many years, working in many ministries. I’ve worked with very many members from the opposition on various constituent issues. I’m always happy to do that. Had the member come to me before bringing the question to the House, we could have scheduled something, I’m certain.
Instead, the member came immediately after raising the question first in the House and my advising that we could put together a meeting. As I understand it, we have that meeting put together. They’re meeting with the individuals on Thursday. And I think all members know that my office is always open to them for constituent issues. I think I have a strong record in that regard.
S. Simpson: Francesca is a 34-year-old woman living in southeast Vancouver with her husband and her ten-year-old daughter. She works two jobs as a cleaner, seven days a week, trying to make ends meet. She earns a little more than minimum wage, being paid $10.95 an hour for one job and $12.75 an hour for the other. Her life revolves around working every day to try to pay the bills, leaving little time for her family and the volunteer activities she enjoys at her church. If Francesca made $15 an hour, she could work a little less, earn a little more, and she would have more time for her family and her church.
Can the minister responsible tell the House why her government thinks it’s okay to have a minimum wage that guarantees that people like Francesca struggle every day to stay out of poverty?
Hon. S. Bond: First of all, I want to recognize the members of the B.C. Federation of Labour that are here today. In my role as the Minister of Labour, I have met with them quarterly for the last four years, and we had many, many difficult and, also, some constructive conversations. Minimum wage was certainly an issue that was on every single agenda. Sometimes we agree to disagree on the approach to how British Columbians should be able to care for their families in British Columbia.
Today the average hourly wage in this province for adults is over $25 an hour, and the average hourly wage….
Madame Speaker: Members, the Chair will hear the answer.
Hon. S. Bond: The average hourly wage for youth in our province is over $15 an hour.
I have a great deal of respect for the family that was mentioned here today. That’s why this government wants to ensure that our number one priority is creating well-paying, family-supporting jobs in this province, and that’s what we’re going to continue to focus on.
Madame Speaker: The member for Vancouver-Hastings on a supplemental.
S. Simpson: This government is always saying: “We don’t have a poverty reduction strategy because our strategy is a job.” But the half a million people in this province who work for under $15 an hour are struggling in poverty. The majority of low-wage workers in B.C. are over
[ Page 14377 ]
25 years of age, they’re supporting families, they’re largely women, and they work full-time.
Sadly, B.C. has the worst rate of wage growth in this country, and we have the highest poverty levels for working people in the country. Someone who works full-time, who works hard, should earn enough to stay out of poverty. The current minimum wage does not allow that. People like Francesca can’t afford the indifference of this minister and this government to her situation.
Will the government do the right thing? Give Francesca, and the half a million people like her, a chance by raising the minimum wage.
Hon. S. Bond: Well, as I said to the member previously, the average hourly wage in the province is significantly higher than the minimum wage. The minimum wage will be increasing in September of this year. And you know….
Madame Speaker: Through the Chair, please.
Hon. S. Bond: One of the things we actually have to consider is the impact on small businesses in British Columbia and, also, the impact on families. What Francesca cannot afford…
Madame Speaker: Members.
Hon. S. Bond: …is the hypocrisy of the opposition, who continue to say no to every single project in British Columbia that would create well-paying, family-supporting jobs. That’s hypocrisy at its height.
Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition would like to check out the benches and see their position for the people who have currently got jobs on projects in British Columbia, because the member for Saanich South, the other night, made it perfectly clear…. In opposition to, we think, what the Leader of the Opposition thinks, she made it clear that she was going to ask the BCUC to make a decision on Site C. She said clearly they would not support the project. So I’d like the member for Saanich South to go look 2,000 people in the eye and say: “No job for you.”
RENTAL HOUSING COSTS AND REGULATION
G. Heyman: Hon. Speaker….
Madame Speaker: Members. Members, this House will come to order before the member continues.
G. Heyman: Once again, when members on the other side of the House hear about real British Columbians struggling with affordability, they blame the opposition instead of their own policies.
Madame Speaker: Just wait.
G. Heyman: So let me once again raise a real story of real British Columbians. Yesterday my constituent Joanna Reid called to tell me she and her neighbours were recently issued a rent increase notice of 35 percent based on the geographic comparability policy. She and her neighbours are organizing to contest the rent increase, but they are stressed and worried by their landlord’s demands.
My question is simple. It’s to the Minister Responsible for Housing. Why has his government left this gaping policy loophole that allows a few landlords to demand outrageous increases that renters just can’t afford?
Hon. R. Coleman: To the member opposite, there is a provision under the act for people or landlords where there are extraordinary expenses and issues like that with regards to geographical area — it could be things like taxes, water, sewer, repairs, those types of things — to make an application to the residential tenancy branch under that section of the act.
They’re allowed to go forward with it. There has been an application made to the residential tenancy branch. It will go to arbitration, which is basically the administrative law process with regards to that. The tenants have the right to actually go and present and say it doesn’t work for them.
In the last few years, there have been 15 of these applications. One of the applications was settled between a landlord and the tenants to actually improve the building in cooperation with each other. Three have been approved, and the other 14 have actually been turned down at arbitration.
Madame Speaker: The member for Vancouver-Fairview on a supplemental.
G. Heyman: The minister appears to think that there’s a process that renters who are struggling daily to put food on the table, make ends meet and get on with their lives can suddenly turn their lives upside down to defend themselves against every loophole that an unscrupulous landlord will try to walk through.
After rent-hike demands of up to 43 percent in Vancouver–West End were reported in the news, the minister said exactly what he said in this House. But we
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now have two cases in two weeks, and renters say there are many more.
Unscrupulous landlords have found a loophole, and they will exercise it if they can. Not every renter is able to take the time and study the options available to them to contest these. In the very, very difficult Vancouver rental market, people are being asked to bid up rent auctions while those who have a home are being forced out so the bidding wars can begin.
To the Minister Responsible for Housing, will he close this B.C. Liberal loophole before more landlords escalate the affordability crisis facing struggling renters in British Columbia?
Hon. R. Coleman: In actual fact, probably for about 30 years now, this particular provision has been in successive residential tenancy acts in British Columbia. The reason for it is that as aging buildings come along, they need to be renovated or fixed. You have two options. You can either tear the building down and demolish it and lose the rental stock, or somebody can come and make an application for an extraordinary issue relative to a building. It’s always been there for the protection of both property and long-term rentals.
The reality is, hon. Member…. I will not prejudge the outcome of any one of these applications. It’s totally independent of government. It goes to arbitration under the Residential Tenancy Act. They get to go and have the arbitration. The arbitrators rule, and there can also be a judicial review subsequent to that.
If somebody has a rent stress in British Columbia and it’s relative to their income, they can always go to the rental assistance program, even if this was to be a success or not successful. There are over 30,000 households on that, none of which are supported by the opposition with regards to rental in British Columbia, because they don’t support the program.
In the city of Vancouver alone, there are over 150 people who have been approved to buy their first home and will vacate rental housing when they buy their homes in the next couple of months and put an additional 150 rentals on the market, for people to rent in the marketplace. I think….
Madame Speaker: Thank you, Minister.
Hon. R. Coleman: The process is there. It will be followed through, and I’ll not prejudge the outcome.
CONSERVATION OF OWL ISLAND AND
RETURN TO COAST SALISH NATIONS
G. Holman: Owl Island is a First Nations burial island on the southern Gulf Islands. The Tsawout First Nation in my constituency has requested the return of the island to the Coast Salish peoples.
The property owner is offering the island for sale. A group of conservancies and community leaders — some of whom I have met, with government — have formed to assist First Nations in acquiring and protecting this burial island. This group is also working with Parks Canada and the capital regional district to explore possible partnerships.
My question is to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. To avoid the shameful and costly repeat of the Grace Islet fiasco, will he commit to working with local First Nations and conservancies to return Owl Island to the stewardship of the Coast Salish?
Hon. S. Thomson: Thank you to the member opposite for the question. We have had communication on this particular issue, and the member opposite should know a number of things with respect to the site.
First of all, the sites are protected. The archeological sites are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act. The owner has taken the property off the market to allow the process that the member opposite just outlined to get underway and to be worked through. There are no site alteration applications on the site. Should there be any applications received, they would be fully referred, dealt with, and fully referred to First Nations in the process.
That is the current situation on the island, and the process continues. But he should know, and as we have communicated directly to him, that there are no site alteration applications. The sites themselves are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act, and they are registered.
MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION SERVICES
S. Robinson: In June 2016, William Landeweer admitted himself to Royal Jubilee Hospital because of intrusive thoughts of harming his stepbrother. He was released with anxiety medication, no diagnosis and no additional mental health support.
Desperate for help sometime later, he contacted the police in a bid to keep himself and others safe. He was then put in jail for 30 days because there were no other alternatives for him. His grandmother, Carol Tysdal, who is now looking out for him, is angry that her grandson was locked in prison instead of getting mental health supports he desperately needs.
To the Minister of Health, can he explain to Carol and William, who are here today in the gallery, why, seven years into his government’s ten-year mental health plan, William and others are forced into jails instead of getting the health care supports they need?
Hon. M. Morris: From personal experience, these are tragic situations when somebody suffering from mental health is incarcerated and spends some time in jail. I’m not going to comment on any specific cases, because I can’t. But I will assure the member opposite that the only
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reason that people are in our correction centre, whether they’ve got mental health issues or any other issue, is because the court sentenced them to go to jail.
The other aspect of this is that every single inmate that comes into any of our correctional centres in B.C. is assessed within 24 hours. If there are any medical issues or mental issues that are determined, we have skilled mental health workers in every single facility that will work with these individuals. They’ll develop case plans for these individuals during their period of time of incarceration.
When they’re released, we work with agencies and groups outside of the corrections system to make sure that they have the care available to them.
In addition to that, what we’ve done is…. Now we will be going to the Provincial Health Authority to take over all of the medical issues for corrections services. Any inmate that comes in will be properly diagnosed and put on whatever regime of therapy that they need. It’ll be a seamless transition into the communities when they leave the correction centre.
Madame Speaker: The member for Coquitlam-Maillardville on a supplemental.
S. Robinson: Well, this young man needed mental health services. He did not need to be in jail. The police did not want to take him there, and it was the only choice they had in order to keep him and other people safe. So I’ll try another question for the Minister of Health.
Sarah Johnson, her mother, Corrine, and grandmother Susan are here today. Last month Sarah showed up at her parent’s home after years of addiction and homelessness, and she told her mom that she was ready to get clean from her heroin addiction. The first thing the next morning, with hope and determination, Corrine took Sarah to the methadone clinic here in Victoria, only to be told it would be about a month’s wait before a doctor could see her — a month.
Corrine knew that her daughter would get dope sick if she couldn’t get a substitution drug, so Corrine did what any loving mother would do to care for her daughter. She resorted to purchasing illegal, possibly tainted, street methadone herself so Sarah wouldn’t take off and be lost to her once again. It was only after Corrine went public that Sarah was offered some help up-Island.
To the minister: why do people have to go public in order to get the help that they need?
Hon. T. Lake: The members opposite know very well the huge investment that we have recently announced into mental health and substance use over the next three years — $140 million. A lot of that is focused on young people — hiring more than 120 trained mental health workers throughout B.C. to ensure young people have increased and timely access to supports, focused staff and resources to increase the interventions upstream.
The members opposite know that this government has spent over $100 million on the opioid crisis in this province, including making sure that Suboxone is available at no cost to most British Columbians. No government has done more on mental health and substance use in the last year than this government, and we will continue to do that.
PRINCE RUPERT MIDDLE SCHOOL
J. Rice: I recently asked the Minister of Education about the appalling health and safety issues faced by children and staff at Prince Rupert Middle School. I told him that this school is a high seismic risk. I told him sewage and water pipes are bursting, and the building is sinking into a garbage dump. The school needs $19 million in upgrades. B.C. Liberals have known about these worsening problems for over a decade and have done nothing.
My question is to the Minister of Education. Can you tell the 400 kids going to this school why you’ve done nothing to deal with this?
Hon. M. Bernier: When it comes to this school, specifically, and that school district, we did commit. We are working with the school district. We’re looking at what the issues are that they are facing.
If you look at what we have in this budget going forward, this year alone we’ve increased…. Over $600 million is going in to help capital and seismic improvements around the province of British Columbia. One of the big focuses we’re working on is making sure our schools are seismically safe. That school there that the member is referring to is one of those schools. That’s why we’re committed to making sure that those schools are completed and seismically mitigated by 2025 — something our government committed to doing, something we can follow through with.
The members opposite had to cancel seismic programs. Why? They couldn’t afford it. The seismic mitigation program did not come into place until our government actually took that as a serious priority and made sure that those investments are there for our students.
Madame Speaker: North Coast on a supplemental.
J. Rice: The minister knows Prince Rupert Middle School has desperately needed repairs and upgrades. He knows he has neglected it for so long that the school now needs to be replaced. The minister’s own report found the building to be beyond repair.
Why is the minister forcing children to attend this decrepit school?
Hon. M. Bernier: I’ll repeat the fact that we’re making huge investments in education around British Columbia
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— that school specifically. In fact, I’m going up there to meet with that school district in just a week to make sure I’m touring that school, to make sure we’re actually looking at these issues that they’re facing.
The commitment we’ve made is to work with that school district and every school district in the province of British Columbia on what their priorities are and how we, as a government, can make sure we make the investments for those students and for those school districts.
Those are investments, again, that can only be made when you have the money to make the investments, something that happens with our government. When you look at the fact…. Again, $600 million is being invested. Our focus is on the seismic mitigation and the safety of the students, and that school is exactly one of the ones we’re working on.
R. Fleming: In 2002, this government ripped up contracts with teachers. We’ve gone through the saga in the Supreme Court. In 2002, they cut school capital budgets by 60 percent. We now have a collision of both of those failed policies in our school system. The minister knows that there’s $1.2 billion of deferred maintenance in our school system. That’s the record of the B.C. Liberal disaster on public education.
It’s not just this school building that’s beyond repair. According to the minister’s own internal report, most of the main systems in the school — including fire alarms, hot water and lighting — are all beyond repair.
My question for the Minister of Education is the same question as the member for North Coast. Why has this government repeatedly failed to make Prince Rupert Middle School a safe place for kids, support staff and teachers?
Hon. M. Bernier: I think what’s really important to focus on is the fact that we’re in a strong state where we can actually make investments in our schools in the province of British Columbia. Again, I’ll remind the members opposite that it was something they were unable to do. In fact, the Minister of Education under the NDP government actually said: “We need to cancel our seismic plans in the province of British Columbia, and we have to stop investing in old schools. Why? We don’t have the money to do it.”
That money is now available. We have a strong economy. We have the opportunity to invest not only in our schools but in the students of the province of British Columbia. Why? I know that every child in this province deserves the opportunity to soar. We’re going to make sure we make those investments. We are building an education nation here in the province of British Columbia, the envy of the world.
[End of question period.]
Madame Speaker: If you could take down the piece of paper that’s at the front.
Madame Speaker: Mr. Leader.
N. Simons: I rise to present a petition from…
N. Simons: I’m being heckled during a petition. I don’t need leave.
…the Catholic Women’s League — names calling for the government to make sure that hospice and palliative care facilities are separated from those that offer assisted suicide and euthanasia and that implementation of regulations will respect the freedom of conscience of all health care workers.
J. Rice: I rise to present a petition on behalf of the Prince Rupert Middle School parent advisory committee with over 300 signatures. “Prince Rupert Middle School, built in 1958 on a former landfill site, has been classified with a risk rating of H1 and is at risk of structural collapse in the event of an earthquake. Other issues with the facility include lead in the drinking water system, power outages, failed water and sewer pipes, and air quality issues. The petitioners respectfully request that the House replace Prince Rupert Middle School without further delay.”
S. Robinson: I’d like to present a petition on behalf of 2,447 signers that calls on the government to retain the Riverview lands as a centre of excellence for mental health and wellness, set within the existing world-class arboretum and surrounding green space. They ask that the Riverview lands must remain in public hands and not be sold to private developers for the purpose of market housing.
R. Fleming: I seek leave to present a petition. Today I am pleased to be tabling a petition of over 18,000 petitioners calling for the government, after having raised tuition fee revenues by 400 percent over the last 15 years, to make higher education in B.C. colleges, universities and institutes accessible and affordable for students in B.C. and for all middle-class families.
D. Ashton: I rise today to present to the Legislative Assembly a petition from a community that I represent, consisting of over 5,600 names, asking for consideration of local government accountability legislation for the citizens.
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J. Darcy: I rise to present a petition on behalf of the B.C. Health Coalition and some of us on Bloodwatch Canada. “The undersigned call on the government of British Columbia to safeguard the health of Canadians and the integrity of our voluntary blood donation system by enacting legislation to ban the sale of blood and plasma in the province of British Columbia.” It’s signed by 6,500 British Columbians and another 10,000 Canadians.
Hon. C. Oakes: I have the honour to present the report of the capital plan for the Liquor Distribution Branch distribution centre project.
Hon. M. de Jong: I respectfully present the guarantees and indemnities authorized and issued report for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2016, in accordance with the Financial Administration Act, section 72(8).
Orders of the Day
Hon. M. de Jong: Committee stage of Bill 6.
Committee of the Whole House
BILL 6 — INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
(DOCUMENTING GOVERNMENT DECISIONS)
AMENDMENT ACT, 2017
The House in Committee of the Whole on Bill 6; R. Lee in the chair.
The committee met at 2:52 p.m.
On section 1.
D. Routley: Mr. Speaker, would I be able to question the title of the bill in this?
D. Routley: Okay.
Section 1 extends the mandate of the chief records officer. This is referring to, I believe, enforcement and oversight. Can the minister explain why the mandate of the chief records officer didn’t require a specific duty to document, rather than simply a recommendation?
Hon. M. de Jong: Thank you to the member. May I do three things, with the committee’s and the member’s indulgence — first, introduce David Curtis, Joel Fairbairn and Melissa Sexsmith, who are in the House, joining us for the purpose of the debate; secondly, point out that I think I understand the nature of the member’s question, and it’s probably going to involve more than a single exchange; and, with great apologies, seek his indulgence? I find I have to excuse myself for a moment. If we might recess just for five minutes.
The Chair: The committee will be in recess for five minutes.
The committee recessed from 2:54 p.m. to 3:03 p.m.
[R. Lee in the chair.]
Hon. M. de Jong: I apologize for the delay, but I can assure members that my ability to concentrate on the matter before us has been enhanced dramatically.
I think the member’s question with respect to section 1 perhaps goes to the heart of what I recall some of the issues have been regarding some of the criticism that has unfolded in some quarters — not all, but in some quarters.
He has asked about this question of creating a requirement. I know we will get to it. I hope we will get to it eventually, when we come to section 5. But the newly created mandatory requirement around the creation of documentation…. There had previously been an obligation to retain government documentation. But the obligation to create certain information and documentation is actually contained in section 5.
The member may wish to explore in more detail the specifics of the creation of a subsection (e) to section 3 of the Information Management Act and the expanded authority granted to the chief records officer. But the mandatory requirement — the duty to document, as it were — is created mandatorily in section 5.
D. Routley: We’re all aware there are leaks in government, and they become more frequent as the government gets older, so we’re happy to accommodate.
The section refers to the mandate of the chief records officer being extended. Can the minister explain why the choice was made to amend the Information Management Act rather than, as the commissioner recommended, create either a stand-alone act or amend FIPPA to include this concept of duty to document?
Hon. M. de Jong: From time to time, I may refer, in the course of the discussion, to the benefit we had of advice and recommendations. I know the member is familiar with the report produced by a former commissioner, Mr. Loukidelis, at the end of 2015. He made a very specific recommendation around ensuring that the chief records officer under the Information Management Act….
He identified the chief records officer, and he identified the Information Management Act as ensuring that that person and that office has the authority to establish guidelines on information management systems and as-
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sisting ministries in ensuring compliance with the act. So I guess the short answer is that the amendment to this section is in direct response to the recommendation we received from Mr. Loukidelis.
D. Routley: I’m wondering why the government would choose to observe the recommendation of Mr. Loukidelis when it concerns the chief records officer, versus the establishment or amendment of FIPPA, rather than repeated recommendations from the Information Commissioner.
Hon. M. de Jong: If I understood the question correctly from the member…. Why did we choose to follow through on the recommendation from Mr. Loukidelis? Well, I guess the short answer is, one, he is a former Privacy Commissioner, a former Deputy Attorney General. He is well regarded within the field.
Secondly, the recommendation makes sense. This is about empowering that officer of government, that officer within the government who has the authority and the responsibility for maintaining records and making sure that they have the power to ensure that that happens.
It’s probably not a lot more complicated than that — a recommendation from a very reputable source.
By the way, I don’t think there’s a lot of disagreement, to be fair. I understand, from the debate and some of what I’ve read, where some of the disagreement may lie. I don’t think there is a lot of disagreement anywhere with the notion of providing the chief records officer with additional powers to create those guidelines. I think that is something that virtually everyone thinks makes sense.
D. Routley: I’m not wanting to directly dispute the words of the minister but to question his assertion that virtually everyone agrees. I certainly don’t agree. Some of the stakeholders I speak to do not agree, including FIPPA, including some of the journalists who have written on the issue — do not agree that this is the effective choice. The chief records officer is not the correct position to be overseeing this creation of documents.
I wonder. Could the minister confirm for me that the chief records officer reports to the minister and not to this House?
Hon. M. de Jong: Well, a couple things. Maybe I’ll just return to my original point, and I won’t belabour it. I understand the disagreement that exists between where to place the duty to document — the Information Management Act or the information privacy act. I understand that. The government has made a choice. I think that the member disagrees with the choice, and there are others who disagree with that choice.
But I don’t think, to be fair, anyone would disagree if you asked them about ensuring that the chief records officer has the powers necessary to fulfil the functions that already exist in the act. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. They might disagree later when we come to the provisions around the duty to document. But I don’t think anyone would disagree with this particular provision, although I acknowledge that there is disagreement on the other point, a significant point.
Secondly, the member’s question about the chief records officer. There’s no question that the chief records officer…. The minister with the responsibility for the Information Management Act is ultimately responsible. Therefore, there is a reporting line that flows through that, and there is a ministerial responsibility and accountability for the work of the chief records officer.
We will come later to provisions which create, for the first time, a requirement that an annual report be presented to this Legislative Assembly. So there is that additional point of contact between the office of the chief records officer and this assembly. But that is something that perhaps we’ll discuss a bit later.
D. Routley: Does the minister believe that the officers of this Legislature are more independent than officers who might be appointed by government?
Hon. M. de Jong: I think that is true. I’m hesitant to guess, off the top of my head, how many legislative officers we have now, but the means by which they are appointed is different. The means by which they report is also different. I don’t think there’s any question about that.
D. Routley: I would suggest that the important difference is that the officers of the Legislature are immune from influence from government, that they report directly to both sides of the House in absolute independence of government, whereas the chief records officer is both hired and fired by the minister. I think most people would acknowledge that there’s a pretty clear difference there.
I’m really not trying to be difficult or unreasonable. I really do believe that it would have been a better choice to bring this under the scope of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. I just am at a loss as to why the government wouldn’t choose that route.
The government finds itself — sure, the minister might not agree with this — mired in difficulties around this issue of creating documents. They’ve been repeatedly rebuked by successive commissioners for failing to create documents or improperly destroying documents or not acknowledging that documents exist.
If the government really wanted to escape from the pressures of that kind of scrutiny, would the minister not agree that handing this responsibility to an independent officer of the Legislature would be a much better statement of commitment by the government to make change and to reform and to bring more effective oversight?
[ Page 14383 ]
Hon. M. de Jong: Well, it might have been politically more convenient, but I will tell the member — and I appreciate he’s not being argumentative about this — he is not alone on this question. There are others who have made a similar argument. There are others who very much agree with the approach that we have taken here.
There are within government, separate and apart from statutory officers, officials that acquire, by virtue of the work they do and statutorily, a different status. I think of the comptroller general, who conducts work on an independent basis and occasionally is required to assert that independence, I’ve been told, in the past. The chief forester exists within the Forests Ministry but, I think most members would agree, conducts their work in an independent way. So whilst there is a difference, I still believe that the powers that exist and are being expanded for the chief records officer, will allow for the work to be done that needs to be done.
I will say, as well, that at the end of the day, where the task, the focus is the creation and maintenance of documentation as opposed to access to that information and privacy relating to that information, therein lies the difference. The latter very much falls within the ambit, the authority and the logical jurisdiction of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. But the Information Management Act exists.
Remember, it took over from the Document Disposal Act of 1936. Its raison d’être, if you will, is to provide the framework around which documents are created and kept. So there is, I acknowledge, not a convincing argument — for the member. But there is a very compelling argument, in my view, and one that I ultimately accepted, for enshrining these mandatory duties to document in this act.
K. Corrigan: I appreciate that Mr. Loukidelis did do a report. But the report that Mr. Loukidelis did, which was commissioned by the government, is one of many reports that have been commissioned by this government. Some of them — I’m not necessarily saying this report fell in that category — more than one of them are found to have been wanting and have been characterized as being whitewashes for government.
I don’t think, once again, when you have a report that is not independent from government…. This was a report that was commissioned by government. I think it actually points right back to the issue of independence from government.
I’d like to read from this submission that the Privacy Commissioner made about why she thought it was important to include the duty to document — I know we’re talking about a separate section, but it’s all part of who takes responsibility — and why she thought it was important to include the duty to document in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, rather than through the Information Management Act. She said:
“While I have previously stated that the duty to document could be placed in information management legislation, there are compelling reasons why FIPPA should contain this requirement. The Information Management Act only applies to ministries” — and perhaps the minister can talk about that narrower mandate — “and designated government agencies, whereas FIPPA applies to all public bodies. Further, there’s an integral connection between the duty to document and access rights. Last, FIPPA contains the oversight framework that is needed to ensure that the duty to create and retain records has the appropriate oversight.”
I’m wondering if the minister would mind addressing the various issues that are canvassed in that statement.
Hon. M. de Jong: I can do so, or will try to do so to the best of my ability, with this caveat, because I think both members have raised a relevant and legitimate issue. It is not a section 1 issue. It is more properly a section 5 issue, because what we are talking about — and I acknowledge it as a legitimate issue — and what we are discussing now is whether the mandatory duty that has been created in section 5 should be created in this act or the information and privacy legislation. I’m happy to have that conversation. I think it’s a legitimate one, as long as we all understand that it is not a section 1 discussion per se.
I’ll come back, then, to the issue. The member has referenced some of the comments from Ms. Denham. I will say to the committee that I genuinely have a lot of respect for her thoughts on a broad range of matters, and I think it was a great loss to B.C. when she accepted the posting — a great gain for the U.K. and a great loss for us — over there.
On a number of occasions since I assumed responsibility for this area of public policy — I guess a year and a half ago; I think it was a year and a half ago — I had the good fortune to be able to discuss a number of matters with her. As I have said to the member’s colleague, when she made the point that government needs to deal with information in the same way that we deal with money, with the same rigour and the same discipline, I thought that was a very apropos analogy.
On this point, I disagreed with her, and I said to her I disagreed with her. The task of overseeing the access to information, ensuring that citizens have access to the information that government holds, and the task of protecting the privacy of citizens, very much falls within the ambit of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. But under our legislative construct, the task of ensuring that government is organized and does properly hold the documentation — and now properly creates the documentation — is one that statutorily has been placed in the hands of the chief records officer.
They are different responsibilities. I believe that that function can be performed by the chief records officer and can be done with a sufficient measure of independence, whilst also fulfilling the other important functions that numerous commentators have referred to, about helping to organize government.
[ Page 14384 ]
Maybe that’s a part of this that I haven’t spoken about before and should. I accept that the member was not trying to disparage Mr. Loukidelis. At least, I don’t think she was. I think his report was not very complimentary of government, and there were good reasons for that because of the circumstances that gave rise to its need in the first place.
His thoughtful — I think there were 27 — recommendations spoke to the need to ensure within government that there is a proper understanding of the importance of the need to maintain records, to hold records and, ultimately, to create records. I find that part of those recommendations from him very compelling.
I acknowledge there was a different view about where to deposit or where to place the statutory duty to document. In the choice between that officer — independent, as the members have pointed out — who is responsible for access and privacy and that officer who is responsible for the maintenance and now creation of records within government, I opted for the chief records officer and the Information Management Act. The member is quite entitled to criticize that choice, as I’m sure she will, but it was ultimately the choice that I made.
D. Routley: This should be the last question, I think. I’m still concerned that the government would make this choice when the Information and Privacy Commissioner explicitly recommended that FIPPA be amended numerous times. She’s made that recommendation, and it was presented to the committee of review.
I feel as though the government has a special committee to review the act every six years. Last time there was a review committee, the government established its own review committee after the work of the legislative committee. At the time, it was perceived that it was…. People who presented to the committee spoke to me about how dismayed they were about the fact that the committee was being undermined, in the minds of some of the people involved. Whether or not the government meant that to be the case, that was the case.
I think that if the minister and the government aren’t careful — if they care about this — they will continue to accumulate this perception that they’re avoiding what would be considered independent, rigorous scrutiny. When I look at the recommendation of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner that my colleague from Burnaby–Deer Lake referred to….
I have also asked the minister to consider the language of the report from the committee, and if he wouldn’t mind, I’ll read some into the record. It says: “Government should create a legislative duty to document within FIPPA as a clear indication that it does not endorse ‘oral government’ and that it is committed to be accountable to citizens by creating an accurate record of its key decisions and actions.”
It further noted that the commissioner had “recommended that government adopt a duty to document to demonstrate commitment to public accountability and in order to preserve the historical legacy of government decisions and as a key records management component of proactive disclosure.”
This same recommendation was made by the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association that this be an amendment to FIPPA rather than either the Information Management Act or any other act.
Mr. Loukidelis encouraged government to consider a duty to document. So I would just question whether the minister is seriously considering the recommendations of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and of the committee that is legislated to review the act every six years when, in fact, the recommendations seem to have been ignored.
The final recommendation of the committee was pretty darn simple. Let me read it. It’s pretty long. “Add a duty to document to FIPPA.” That was the recommendation — simple and straightforward.
I just find it difficult to imagine that the minister would portray or characterize this as a simple opting for one or the other — a simple choice. Well, they’re two distinctively different animals. You’ve got an oversight in the case of the Information Management Act, which is not truly independent from the House — not. And then you’ve got the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, which is. So it seems an odd choice.
Even if there was an expediency to it…. I haven’t yet seen that expediency demonstrated or proven. What it winds up doing is perpetuating a perception that the government is resisting independent oversight.
I wonder if the minister cannot acknowledge that that perception is broad spread and that the government, perhaps, should have exercised the extra caution of following the recommendations of this review committee and the Information and Privacy Commissioner to amend FIPPA or create stand-alone legislation.
[R. Chouhan in the chair.]
Hon. M. de Jong: I’m reasonably certain that I am not going to convince the member or his colleague of the wisdom of the choice or the correctness of the choice. I am mindful of the fact that in discussions with the acting commissioner — and it is an acting commissioner at the moment — he has described this as a good first step.
We did examine what exists in other jurisdictions. Some of those jurisdictions don’t have the equivalent of a chief records officer. Some of them do. They recognize where there are differences — the difference between the task of protecting access to information and privacy versus the creation and maintenance of records in the first place.
I’m not certain I can say a lot more beyond again pointing to the fact that we have — on the strength of recommendations that have emerged from a variety of sources
[ Page 14385 ]
— endeavoured to create a framework here that capitalizes on the good work that already takes place.
There is a huge paper trail for decisions within government, and I can assure the member of that. The member is going to work hard over the course of the next number of weeks to achieve the privilege to see that for himself, and I will work hard to save him from that burden. But were it to occur, he would certainly see, firsthand, how diligent the public sector is in terms of creating a record of decisions as they’re made.
Ensuring that there is the training, the guidelines and a mandatory requirement that can be pointed to in statute — requiring that to occur — we thought was and think is an appropriate step. I will only conclude that the member and others, and I and the government, disagree on the statutory instrument that should be relied upon to create that duty to document.
D. Routley: I had planned that to be the last question, but I think, now, hearing that answer, I need to respond.
I really appreciate the minister. He’s a hockey player, and he’s a good guy, and I don’t want to be a meanie. But you know what? I completely disagree, Mr. Minister — through you, Mr. Chair.
The minister, in his answer to one of the questions from the member for Burnaby–Deer Lake, referred to the fact that she wasn’t disparaging Mr. Loukidelis. Neither am I disparaging the fine bureaucracy and its members in British Columbia. In fact, I very much appreciate their work and their dedication. But that does not change the fact that one senior bureaucrat in the government’s employ was charged for having not told the truth about the destruction of important documents. That became a huge scandal for government.
We’ve got other examples where…. Mr. Boessenkool, a senior member of the Premier’s staff, was fired. When the investigation was carried out, they found there were no records. The same could be said for the firing of the health researchers. There were no records.
The minister says there is a complete and thorough paper trail. I understand that that’s probably the case in most cases, but these are particularly politically sensitive circumstances and examples, and these, in fact, are the examples where there were no records created. They’re the most politically embarrassing, difficult or challenging for government. Those are the ones where they had no records to offer or no records were produced.
So while I agree with the minister that the bureaucracy does a fine job and is very accountable, something happened that shouldn’t have happened. That triggered the investigation by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and the title was Access Denied — at least the beginning of the title.
Given the fact that the government has had these difficulties, I still would question the minister and the government’s choice not to allow an independent officer of the Legislature to make this review, one which, as my colleague pointed out, has the oversight powers and the structure in place — that FIPPA, the other bill being referred, allows for greater independent scrutiny.
I don’t necessarily need the minister to answer that. He can make comment or whatever. I just really needed to put my view forward about the establishment of records.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
D. Routley: I’d like to move an amendment to section 2. I have copies of the amendment here.
[SECTION 2 by deleting the text shown as struck out and adding the underlined text as shown:
(1) The chief records officer
may must issue directives and guidelines to a government body in relation to a matter under this Act]
On the amendment.
D. Routley: The purpose of this amendment is to delete the word “may” and replace it with “must” to create a positive duty for the chief records officer to issue directives and guidelines to a government body in relation to a matter under this act.
If I may speak to the amendment, this amendment attempts to address the perceived inefficiency in this act — that there is not, in fact, a positive duty to document and that there is, in fact, what amounts to an optional requirement, an optional recommendation, to do certain things.
I wonder if the minister could explain why the amendment that he is proposing to the Information Management Act does not contain the type of positive language that was included in the recommendation from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the committee that there be a legislated positive duty to document government decisions.
Hon. M. de Jong: The member may be surprised to hear this. The practical aspect of the amendment he is proposing in no way offends me. It in no way offends me because I know, with certainty, that the guidelines are going to be issued.
What I am confronted by and must, and will, pass along to the committee is that from the perspective of legislative drafting and legislative counsel…. When we are dealing with the provision for the creation of regulations, the creation of guidelines, the advice is that that is not the place where the mandatory provision exists. Instead, it exists elsewhere in the provisions — in this case, in section 5, where it is mandatory.
A couple of things. That’s probably thin gruel for the member. I can tell him that at times it’s a little bit frustrating when one is confronted by the advice from experts
[ Page 14386 ]
in drafting where one says: “Well, look, we’re going to do this. It’s going to happen.”
I see no downside to replacing “may” with “must.” Yet the very, very strong advice is that throughout the canons of construction and the drafting that takes place, in the case of the creation, to impose that kind of obligation leads to all kinds of complication if they were ever to be amended, if there was an agency for which a different set of guidelines was deemed appropriate or if it were to take a little bit longer, with respect to a particular agency, to create the guidelines.
It’s not that the member’s suggestion in any way offends me. I know that there are going to be guidelines. We have said that repeatedly, and that’s the whole object of the exercise.
The only point I would make is…. Well, maybe not the only point. The key point is that the provisions here that authorize and prompt the chief records officer to create these guidelines…. The determinative language around the duty to create documents is contained in section 5, and it is mandatory. There is no discretionary authority whatsoever around that obligation that will exist in a statutory form.
K. Corrigan: I appreciate that section 2 and section 5 have to be read together, essentially. Again, the point that my colleague from Nanaimo–North Cowichan has made is that, overall, when you look at the scheme…. I’d hope, hon. Chair, that you’ll allow me to refer to section 5 at this point. The problem is that if you read the two sections together, it is absolutely discretionary.
I agree that in section 5, it says that there is a responsibility for ensuring that an appropriate system is in place within the government body for creating and maintaining records. But it is, section 5 says, in accordance with applicable directives or guidelines issued under section (1). In other words, it goes back to the point that it is completely up to the discretion…. There’s a mandatory requirement, but it’s up to the discretion of the chief records officer as to what exactly those directives and guidelines are for the creation of records. Because section 5 follows the directives and guidelines of section 2, it is, overall, a discretionary theme.
I hope that the minister can also address the issue that…. No, I’ll leave it at that right now.
Hon. M. de Jong: Well, we’re on the amendment, but we’re kind of cross-pollinating. That’s okay with me because I think it is all relevant to the conversation that we’re having.
I would say two things. In my view, the paramount obligation that is created by these instruments is the one that befalls the head of a government body to ensure that there’s an appropriate system in place within the government. That’s the provisions of section 5.
In so doing, they have to be mindful and consistent with the guidelines. Now, there’s a whole body of material about why those guidelines are advisable and how to take account of different agencies and departments within government and how those guidelines might be shaped to properly take into account practical practices within those various agencies of government.
But the other thing I want the members to know — and I suppose, to the extent that pledges, undertakings and whatnot are still meaningful…. Very much the intention and the work is being undertaken now to ensure to have, at the time the act is proclaimed — if it is, if the Legislature sees fit to pass it — those guidelines in place simultaneously so that there is no gap — so that in addition to the statutory obligation created by section 5, at the moment that becomes operative, the guidelines that we are dealing with under section 2 of the act would also be in place, and there would be no gap.
D. Routley: I just want to thank the minister. I have to attend a committee meeting, so my extremely capable colleague from Burnaby–Deer Lake will continue the debate.
I’d like to thank the minister for the explanations and clarifications — not necessarily in agreement. But I appreciate the candour and directness of it and would definitely like to thank the staff for their diligent work and dedication to the province and this type of work.
Amendment negatived on division.
K. Corrigan: To go back to section 2 and appreciating the minister’s agreeing that we discuss more than one section at a time, because they operate together in some senses….
The decision has been made to essentially widen the mandate, in some ways, or add to the mandate of the chief records officer, in order to essentially provide the guidelines and so on and the directives for creating a duty to document. In practice, when the chief records officer is doing that work of creating the directives and guidelines with respect to the types of records that constitute an adequate record, would the minister responsible oversee or have a final yea or nay on that work?
Hon. M. de Jong: I wanted to cross-reference both what the intention is and what the practice has been. In both cases, the intention is that these guidelines and directives would be generated by the chief records officer without the involvement of the political branch of government, without ministerial-level involvement, though I expect that the chief records officer would want to consult with the head of the government body and below the deputy level as well.
But there’s no contemplation, and I’m told there has been no practice, of the chief records officer consulting
[ Page 14387 ]
at the political level with ministers in the development of the guidelines and directives.
K. Corrigan: The minister is essentially saying that is not the practice. There’s nothing…. My understanding would be that the chief records officer reports to the minister responsible. So is the minister, then, assuring me that the guidelines and directives with respect to creating records of this government, which has had a very damning report called Access Denied, criticizing its record in its past and destroying records and so on…? The minister is telling me that there would be no political involvement in the creation of those directives and guidelines, with respect to the creation of records.
Hon. M. de Jong: I took a moment, because I wanted to make sure everything I told the member a moment ago was accurate. I thought there was a slight difference. I heard something slightly different in this last question.
The chief records officer has a delegated level of authority that doesn’t require her or him to consult with the minister with responsibility for the Information Management Act, or any other minister for that matter, and the practice has very much been for the CRO to do that work and not consult at the political level with either line ministers or with the minister, presently the Minister of Finance, with responsibility for the legislation.
Now, there wouldn’t be anything precluding the chief records officer from consulting with the minister with responsibility for the Information Management Act. I should acknowledge that. I don’t think that has happened thus far, but the chief records officer has specific delegated authority to do this work without the need to refer or consult with the minister responsible, or any ministers responsible.
K. Corrigan: Just to be clear…. Well, I guess I’ll ask a question. How is the chief records office appointed? Is it by an order-in-council?
Hon. M. de Jong: Under section 2 of the Information Management Act, it is the minister with responsibility for the act who appoints the chief records officer.
K. Corrigan: Just to make the point again, the reality is that the chief records officer is somebody who is appointed by their superior. The minister can say that there isn’t a practice of interfering. But the reality is that in an area where there have been deep problems for this government in terms of access to information, destruction of documents, a very damning report and, in fact, criminal charges, the reality is that the chief records officer is appointed by the minister and could be terminated by the minister — as opposed to the Privacy Commissioner, which is an independent officer of this Legislature and reports to this Legislature.
We’re deeply concerned about it. We’re not going to spend a lot more time on this bill. I will say that we’re very concerned about this bill, the fact that there is no mandatory requirement to create guidelines. It’s a permissive requirement, and there is really nothing in this legislation that requires that there be a robust system of requiring a duty to document. That’s our primary concern about it. I’m not going to spend too much more time, because I know there is lots of other business in the House.
Sections 2 to 4 inclusive approved.
On section 5.
K. Corrigan: Just to keep things interesting, we want to ask a couple more questions. Section 5 is the section that we’ve been referencing in conjunction with section 2. Perhaps the minister would again address the issue. It is true — is it not? — that because the applicable directives or guidelines are created under section 2, really there is nothing in this section 5 that, in and of itself, ensures that there is going to be a robust duty to document in this legislation.
Hon. M. de Jong: As the member, I think correctly, has said, we’ve canvassed this in part. The member has restated her and her colleagues’ concern, and it is one that others have expressed.
I will restate and reiterate my view and that of the government — the contrary view that very purposely, the objective here is to create a mandatory and statutory obligation, to bestow that obligation on the head of a government body and impose upon them that responsibility for ensuring that an appropriate system is in place for ensuring there are adequate records of that government body’s decisions. I want to restate again that it is…. I believe that obligation exists and will exist — period.
The member highlights the reference to directives and guidelines. To the extent that she and her colleagues continue to harbour concerns around that, I want to, as best I can, restate here on the record, for her, that it is this government’s intention to ensure that that directive and those guidelines are proclaimed simultaneously to the enactment or the triggering or coming into effect of the act. That work will take a number of months to complete. But I think that is where our difference of opinion exists. I understand it. I respect it. But I also want to restate, on the record, why I believe this can fairly and properly be characterized as the first example in Canada of a mandatory statutory duty to document.
Sections 5 and 6 approved.
[ Page 14388 ]
Hon. M. de Jong: With thanks to the member, her colleague and the members of the committee, I move the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 4:06 p.m.
The House resumed; Madame Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
BILL 6 — INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
(DOCUMENTING GOVERNMENT DECISIONS)
AMENDMENT ACT, 2017
Bill 6, Information Management (Documenting Government Decisions) Amendment Act, 2017, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. M. de Jong: I call continued second reading debate on Bill 4.
Second Reading of Bills
BILL 4 — ELECTION
AMENDMENT ACT, 2017
Hon. A. Wilkinson: This, of course, is the Election Amendment Act, which requires the attention of this House in a timely fashion, given that we’re about to head into an election. Of course, there’s a bit of history here, in that this bill is designed to address the transparency issues around disclosure of donations to political parties in a timely fashion. This is an important function in our society, and I think it bears notice right off the bat that this party, the B.C. Liberal party, has moved toward timely disclosure within 14 days of deposit of a donation and, the bill proposes, within five days of the holding of an event. This has been done voluntarily.
However, the other major political party of British Columbia, the NDP, has flatly refused to go down this path for reasons that are only known to them. I suspect there’ll be some heckling from the member for Surrey-Newton. But I see he has decided not to.
In any case, the history of this is somewhat relevant in that there has been a huge amount of change in the financing of political parties since World War II. Initially, of course, it was a complete free-for-all with no accountability and no tax credits associated with it. That led to the slow evolution of the political fundraising environment and the accountability for that from about the 1970s onward.
Most of the provinces and the federal government, by about the year 2000, had moved to the point where they provided for tax credits, which would be issued to donors to political parties, recognizing that it was a highly desirable function to have effective political parties in our society and that the level of public sentiment behind them was an important measure of their success. Political parties, by definition, seek to gather like-minded individuals who form around policy goals and leadership. Then they seek to fund themselves so that they can reach out to the electorate and make themselves known, as we all are in these days leading up to the election.
Now, the motivation for individuals to get involved, of course, is a threshold that has to be crossed. So limited tax credits were provided from about the 1980s onward, which provided that, to a certain cap of a few hundred dollars, an individual would be recompensed through the tax system for their political donations. This was routine across the country, as I’ve said, by about the year 2000 in all jurisdictions.
Since then, there have been a number of waves that have come in and out in terms of political fundraising, most notably at the federal level, where initially there was a move in about 2003 to cut down the level of donations to a maximum, I believe, of about $6,000. That was later cut down further to about $1,500.
In the midst of all that and the need to recognize the desirability of having political parties which can reach out to the electorate, especially during the election campaign itself, the system of federal grants on a per-vote basis to political parties emerged. This, of course, was a siren song to the Bloc Québécois, who had a lot of trouble raising any money whatsoever. But for about ten years, they received millions of dollars from federal taxpayers in their attempt to break up this country forevermore. This proved to be intolerable. Eventually, those per-vote subsidies were removed in about 2008, and we returned to a system of grassroots fundraising with caps at the federal level.
[R. Chouhan in the chair.]
We can see that there was an initial wave of misguided reform, shall we say, which came into effect but then was reversed. Now we find, federally, that there’s another wave of this response to pressure to decide what to do about the issue of political fundraising.
Across Canada, we have seen that there are a number of moves to do similar things to what we have done. Ontario is the only other Canadian jurisdiction that requires timely reporting of political contributions, and that arose because of recent issues there. This issue that the members opposite like to raise of who will be a donor has been addressed in half of the Canadian provinces and not the other half.
[ Page 14389 ]
There are many schools of thought on this issue, and I think Premier Clark has shown remarkable leadership in this field by saying, “Let’s clear the air altogether by having an independent commission look into this,” which has never been done anywhere else in Canada, to my knowledge. Usually, parties insist on retaining this issue for themselves, as has been the case with electoral boundaries in the United States, where these absurdly shaped ridings or electoral districts are construed by the parties in mutual self-interest. In North Carolina, there are ridings or electoral districts that string along an entire river valley because that’s where certain people live, and then the entire area around that river valley is a separate district based on elevation because that’s where the votes are for the respective parties.
That system was completely abolished in Canada in about 1986, when we developed the system throughout the country of electoral boundaries commissions, which are usually chaired by a judge, containing also the Chief Electoral Officer and another worthy individual. They come back with a recommendation for fair and reasonable boundaries, which is then voted upon by the House as a whole. This is an entirely desirable and workable regime, and that is a metaphor for what Premier Clark is proposing — that there be this independent fundraising commission that looks at this over the summer and comes back to the Legislature, in its newly minted form after the May 9 election, with some suggestions and recommendations.
Now, in anticipation of that, we have the need for transparency. There has been a great deal of foofaraw in the media about supposed foreign donors. Well, in fact, all the donors are listed on the respective party’s disclosure forms. Our B.C. Liberal disclosure forms are current and up to date and show that the number of foreign donors, as they’re characterized, is in fact very small and that the amounts are a tiny, tiny percentage of the overall donation regime. A similar story applies to the NDP, of course. So this issue of who the donors are is resolved immediately by transparency. By timely disclosure, as Bill 4 requires, this issue will be resolved.
Now, one has to wonder about tiny parties, perhaps starting with the Green Party or even smaller parties, and how they would respond to this rather onerous compliance regime. That’s why this bill provides, in the definitions section, that it only applies to major political parties, within the definition there, which would be, under current circumstances, two parties in British Columbia — Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and the governing party.
This is a large step forward in improving the electoral fundraising regime and its transparency. Some of the members opposite break into smiles and find this amusing. Well, that’s, I think, because they have completely failed to engage in the kind of transparency the public expects. This is a world we now live in where it’s essential that people get to know, on a prompt and timely basis, who is funding the parties, and this side of the House has fully satisfied that expectation.
Now, in terms of fundraising functions, there has been a great deal of media coverage about this across the country in the last year, and again, the responses have been piecemeal across the country. But we are proposing, as I said earlier, a comprehensive approach to this through an independent commission to look at this and come back with recommendations.
In the meantime, this bill provides, in section 3, that information respecting those fundraising functions will be disclosed — including, as noted in subsection 6, no later than five days after the date of the fundraising function — and that the information be published in terms of the items listed in subsection 4, which are the date and time of the fundraising function, its location and the usual name of the political party, candidate or constituency association that is involved in that event. This would apply to all events where the individual charge was greater than $100. That is a downward revision of the current disclosure threshold of $250.
Once again, the governing party, the B.C. Liberals, is very keen to have a full degree of transparency — disclosure right down to the $100 threshold — and to get this matter out of the public domain so that the public and the media can digest the material, as they have been doing in recent weeks, and come to their own conclusions and so that the full information is on the table and all of the electorate of British Columbia will be informed as to where the funding for these parties comes from.
We’ve also heard some inclinations from the opposition and some of the members of the media that we move toward a system of taxpayer-funded political parties. This, of course, violates a fundamental proposition of our electoral parliamentary democracy, which is that parties must seek popularity. They have to get out to the communities and seek the endorsement of individuals who will actually go to the ballot box and vote.
That also implies, upstream from the election, that they must be able to go out and demonstrate their popularity by raising some money to pay for their signs and their offices and all the rest of it — and, of course, for the comprehensive audits that are required by Elections B.C. at the end of each electoral campaign.
This is a system of remarkable transparency, which this government stands by and which has been successful. We fully intend to pursue the goals in Bill 4 so that all of us in this House can proudly stand, stare at the Chair, see ourselves on the camera…
Deputy Speaker: Members. Members.
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Hon. A. Wilkinson: …and say with integrity that we believe in disclosing donors on a timely basis, that we believe in parties earning their way with votes and credibility and fundraising and that that is the essence of our democracy.
That is why Bill 4 is an essential step to oblige the members opposite to show their cards, show us where the money comes from before the election and follow the lead demonstrated by the B.C. Liberal Party in a remarkable effort toward transparency that is unprecedented across Canada.
S. Hammell: I rise to support Bill 4, the Election Amendment Act, which is before the House this afternoon. But 16 years later and 55 days before an election, this is the government’s response to the serious and sustained public criticism of their fundraising regime. I am supporting this limp response of the government but do recognize that it is only a feeble attempt to appear to be doing something about the role big money plays in our provincial election.
This bill describes as a major political party those receiving over $50,000 in contributions annually and/or having a representative on the Election Advisory Committee — a little bit of inside baseball there. But you do have to say, “Wow, chump change to the Liberal fundraising machine,” because last year the Liberal Party of B.C. collected around $12.4 million in one year. I mean, $50,000 is just nothing. You could pick that up in two days when the machine is really rolling.
The other major move this bill makes is to lower the threshold for reporting contributions from a single contributor to $100 from $250, which is what the member just praised his government for. But who does target? You have to ask.
Nine organizations contributed more than $10 million to the Liberal Party — nine organizations. The vast majority of contributions to the Liberal Party are well, well over $250. Requiring the reporting of contributions to major political parties, candidates and constituency associations within 14 days of their deposits and to post fundraising functions on their website is hardly breaking news. Not much heavy lifting here. Not many earth-shattering advances.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, on the central issue of big money playing an obscene role in our democracy. Not a ban on union and corporate contributions. No restrictions on foreign donations or outside donations. No limit on the size of donations — anything goes. No ban on the Premier’s second salary. The panel of the afterthought is not in the bill. So we can talk about a panel, but there’s nothing in the bill — nothing but a thought, from the Premier on what she might do if she is elected again.
Let me quote one of the pundits from the media. He said:
“This piece of legislation is a little bit like shutting the barn door after the cash cows have bolted. The Premier’s promise of an independent panel to review British Columbia’s out-of-control political fundraising is way too little and way too late. Clark’s Liberal Party has refused for years to modernize B.C.’s obsolete and unlimited fundraising porkapalooza.
“It’s easy to understand why: the Liberals have raked in vast sums of money from corporations, lobbyists and even foreign organizations, giving themselves a massive, massive money advantage over their opponents. But with the next election looming, the Premier is clearly feeling the heat as she moves on to talking about an independent panel.”
Millions of dollars of inappropriate, improper donations. Big donors paying thousands of dollars to attend exclusive dinners with the Premier and her ministers. A second salary for the Premier financed by B.C. donors and ensuring questions on apparent conflict of interest.
The Wild West of fundraising Liberal-style in B.C. appears to look like this. In 2016, $12.4 million raised — $4.5 million from individuals and $7.9 million from corporations in one year. In 2015, $9.8 million raised — $3.3 million from individuals and $6.5 million from corporations. In 2014, $10 million raised, and the list goes on.
The top ten donors have contributed over $9 million. And $20 million from corporations. That figure is actually higher, because it is alleged that individuals have donated on behalf of corporations. That is the reason Elections B.C. referred their investigation of Liberal donations to the RCMP.
Again I’ll quote one of the pundits.
“I mean, this is a government that has said for over a year that the current system is fine. They’ve said for more than six years they are not going to change it. They’ve rejected every attempt to reform the system. They say the public doesn’t care about it, and now that the election is only two months away, or even less than that now, and the RCMP is investigating, it’s all of a sudden a problem, and they’re committed to making some minor changes.”
What is the issue? What is the core issue? What is the central value of this debate? The core issue is a level playing field so that the arguments during an election, presented to the public, the people who are voting during an election, can be fairly heard and considered, that the positions of all parties are presented and the wisdom of the electorate respected. That is the essence of a democracy. The essence of a democracy is an informed public.
We put down the might of the sword and chose to determine our governments through the marks of a pen. Big money is threatening the fairness of the system built by generations before us. When the establishment funds one political party at the peril and disregard of the public, and the noise of the cash register threatens the ability of the electorate to hear and to make reasoned judgments, then that is a problem and not good for our democracy.
That is what the big-money argument being made throughout the province is about, and that is why it has been articulated and why it is resonating with the public within our jurisdiction. That is why we are being called the wild, wild west, because there are few rules of sub-
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stance, and the advantage to those who dominate the airwaves through buying is an outrageous advantage.
I think, if we were really clear, if money were bullets, there would be a massacre. There is so much imbalance in terms of the funding. I know the ruling party thinks it’s their given right to rule on behalf of the establishment in this province. After all, the establishment funds them. They keep them in power, and so the circle turns.
Let me describe the unfair playing ground just for a minute. The Liberals are spending…. I’ll tell you what the Liberals are spending before the election. First off, $15 million in public broadcasting — $15 million — and millions of dollars in Liberal Party pre-election funding.
Deputy Speaker: Members.
S. Hammell: You’ve got $10 million and another $9 million, and you got $12 million last year — millions of dollars through an independent citizens group, plus $11 million spent during the election, plus the established power of being in government. You know, it’s the combined money….
S. Hammell: Obviously, he’s sensitive.
Deputy Speaker: Members.
S. Hammell: A lot of money is pouring down from the establishment into the coffers of the Liberal Party. This combined force of big money is trying to convince the electorate not to vote for the opposition. The elephant rolled over with the endgame of eliminating any threat that the mouse might present. In fact, it’s absolutely amazing that our group of 35 members should pose such a threat that the Liberals would go to this extreme.
It also means that the Liberals do not believe they can compete with the electorate on a level playing field. You just don’t think you can do it, because, otherwise, why would you pervert the funding system around our democracy to such an extent?
It is so terrifying — the thought of losing power — that this mound of money had to be amassed to prevent a fair and even review, during an election, of the government’s past four years.
Let me just quote one other source. Another pundit says: “For a government that is all about politics, all of the time, the mounting criticism the B.C. Liberals were facing over the absence of any substantive rules around campaign financing became a threat to the one thing they value above all else, and that is power. There is no other explanation” for the current situation.
It is all about power and control. The thought of not controlling the levers of power of the largest organization in this province, the provincial government, is an anathema to the establishment of British Columbia and a terrifying thought to the representatives across the aisle. But the essence of a democracy is not only about winning, but also about learning to lose.
The exchange of power peacefully from one group or party to another is what democracy is all about, and one that should be celebrated as a signal that our democracy is operating and functioning effectively. This is one idea that I hope to celebrate — the exchange of power from one group to another — after this next provincial election.
Hon. P. Fassbender: I stand up to speak to Bill 4, but there are a couple of comments I want to make before I get into the substance.
One of the things that I’ve been hearing in last few days on this debate, and a lot of the innuendo and suggestions that have come up during question period…. If I was to use a couple of adjectives…. “Sanctimonious” is one of them. “Totally out of touch” is another one. And “totally disingenuous,” when I look across the way.
I’d like to remind the members…. I know the member for Vancouver-Kingsway has got a perspective. But when he was a member of government…. It seems to me that if I look around this House, there is only one party that I’m aware of that was ever charged and convicted for taking money from charities, and that was proven in court.
All of the innuendos that are being thrown are strictly that — innuendos of undue influence, and unfair. I would suggest that that particular situation was taking money from charities to use for its party purposes for the election. I think it is totally, totally irrespective of the people of British Columbia when I have members opposite making the kinds of innuendos that they are.
There is only one party in this House that has ever been charged and convicted for taking money and using it for party purposes. I think that is a truth that the opposition cannot hide from, and their sanctimonious approach on the issue of fundraising is, I think, totally inappropriate.
That being said, I am a total supporter of the democratic process, and the democratic process says anyone has the right to support any person for election, whether that is at the local government level, the provincial level or the federal level.
We have clearly, as a party and as a government, said that we believe transparency is at the heart of everything we do. Bill 4 indicates that we want to take that even to the next level. Currently there is only one party that is posting, in real time, all of the donations that are being made so that the public has the right to see who is being supported.
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It’s important for me, as a person who’s been both in local government and provincial government, to say to people, “I want your support if you’re willing to give it,” and I am more than prepared to have that public so that people in my constituency who choose to vote — and I hope all of them do — will know exactly where I’ve got the support. I’m not afraid of that, nor am I afraid of my track record as an elected official, to make sure that the public knows who has supported me.
When I get support — as I believe is true for all of my colleagues — there are no strings attached to that support. That is given freely. It is given willingly by our supporters, be they individuals, be they corporations and even unions.
I think it is disingenuous, again, when we have the members opposite talking about support that the Liberal Party may have received, when I know, for example, that since 2005, the HEU has given $725,000 to the NDP party. The member for New Westminster was the secretary–business manager at that time, from 2005-2010, and signed all the cheques that went to the NDP party. Yet I heard that same member stand up here and say that it’s time to get big money out of politics, when she signed the very cheques going to the party that she represents.
But you know what, Mr. Speaker? I don’t have a problem with that. If the unions decide to support the opposition party, that’s their right. And it is obvious — because I was able to get the facts — that that’s declared. So we know that the union has supported the opposition party, and they have a right in a democracy to do that.
We also know that unions have supported the government party. And you know what? It’s because they believe we’re the party that creates jobs, that provides more members for their unions, that gives them good jobs that help their families to prosper and succeed. We have done that, and they know it. That is why the Ironworkers have stood up and said: “The B.C. Liberals are the party that we support because they create jobs and prosperity.”
Maybe a couple of other facts. Since 2005, for the members opposite — I’m sure they know this, but I’ll maybe remind them — the Health Sciences Association has donated $86,543. Since 2005, the B.C. Nurses Union has donated to the NDP party $16,884. And you know what? The amount is not important. In a democracy, these unions have a right to support who they want.
But I also know, as was clearly mentioned by other members on this side of the House in the debate on this bill, we are well aware that there are services given to the opposition party by unions not just in British Columbia, but from Ontario, to do phone calls, to have their member supported in a riding. And you know what? I’m okay with that too.
But let’s stand up and declare it. Let’s make sure that value is put on that kind of support and that it’s declared. I don’t necessarily say that they can’t do that, but nobody ever wants to talk about that on the other side of the House, because we know it goes on. I know, in the last election in my own riding — that very same kind of approach, where people were brought in from outside of the province who worked in my riding, union members who got time off to come out here and fight the election on behalf of the opposition.
But you know what? I’m absolutely happy with that, because you know what? We still prevailed in spite of that, and we did that in ridings throughout this province.
Hon. P. Fassbender: I’m not worried about the quantity of the vote. I still won the seat. The member opposite can chirp away, but democracy says that if you win by one vote in the end, you’ve won the election. That is the bottom line. I know they don’t like that, but that’s okay.
This legislation is trying to address a number of key elements. It does build on the lobbyists registry, the first in Canada, which we brought into place. That, again, allows the public to know who’s lobbying who on what issues. That’s important. To me, it’s the transparency and for the public to have the facts, not the innuendos that have been thrown around and continue to be thrown around.
This legislation completes what we promised to do last year, and we are moving ahead. Improving the reporting allows British Columbians, as I’ve said, to see who’s donating. I know clearly every person that has supported me. It’s clear that their name will be out there and that they can be asked why by the public, if they choose to do that. I’m okay with that too.
But as I’ve said, we are not…. I heard a comment made the other day that this issue is about creating a fog so people don’t see. Well, I can tell you, we’re clearing the fog. I know that the party opposite doesn’t want that fog cleared because of the support that they get that they don’t declare. They don’t want that to be obvious. That is the bottom line to this.
We have clearly said that it is not our intention to ban any donations from any group, be they individuals or organizations, be they unions. They have the right to make that decision, and we are going to ensure that through this bill, the clarity, the disclosure is there, and that relates to all things.
The fundraising functions that are often talked about…. It’s all about transparency — when those happen and the timeliness of those. That is reflected in this bill. These changes will ensure, for all parties, that they are tracked by the date the event was on and who sponsored the event, and that the public record is kept of those fundraising events, both the ones in the future and the past ones, so the public can easily and clearly see who’s supporting who.
I think it’s interesting that the members opposite talk about the fact that the current government has been sup-
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ported by a broad cross-section of British Columbians — companies and otherwise. Well, do you know why that is? It’s because they know that we have a vision for this province, that we have a vision for the future, that we are committed to working to create economic prosperity, that we are committed to making sure that British Columbia continues to lead the country.
We are going to do that with the support of people from all walks of life, from every sector of our economy, and we are delivering the results that they see day in and day out.
The amendments will come into force with regulations. It means that Elections B.C. will also develop information and education for voters so that they know what is happening, how support is raised by the political parties. I think that is a key principle to everything we’re doing.
We know that this legislation is not effective for this election. I think anybody who understands the timing would not be surprised by that. But we also know that we are going to bring this forward, should we be given the honour of forming government again. We are committed to more transparency, more timely information, more disclosure and all of the things that we hear.
And I will say this. In all of the time that I have been out in the community, I have had very few members of the public say to me: “I’m concerned about the political donations to political parties.” Whether it is the current government or whether it’s the opposition, it’s not a subject that people worry about.
I believe most British Columbians believe in the principle that if someone wants to support someone who’s running for election, be it an individual or a party, they should have the freedom and the right to do that. That is at the essence of a democratic process.
I believe the sanctimonious positions of the members opposite on this issue, when you look at their track record…. I think it smells, and it smells big time. And I think it’s unfortunate that the innuendo campaign that has been going on in this House is totally disingenuous and does not befit the honour of this House and the work that we do here.
I will conclude my remarks by saying this. We as a government, we as a party, are committed to transparency, openness and a willingness to stand up and be counted for what we do and how we do it. That’s what this bill is all about. That is what the future is all about. I think the British Columbia population will respect our intent behind this bill.
A. Weaver: It gives me enormous pleasure to stand and speak to Bill 4, the Election Amendment Act.
I do appreciate the last speech that the member opposite gave because we won’t be seeing him back in a few months. That member’s landslide victory of over 200 votes is likely in jeopardy, in light of the fact that this government is not listening to the will of the people.
Time and time again, it has been made very clear that what the people of British Columbia want is big money out of politics. This government’s response, through this bill, is to rub it in their faces a little more often — hardly listening to the people of British Columbia.
What is this bill doing? It’s essentially saying that you’ve got to report out the egregious donations you’re getting from any union, any corporation, any individual, anywhere in the world. Because only in the Wild West of B.C. can any person, any union, any corporation anywhere in the world donate any amount of money they want to any political party, any time. You can’t make this stuff up.
There’s a reason why the New York Times laughed at us. There’s a reason why people around the world laugh at us. This government says: “You know what? We’re doing this because it’s right.” No, they’re doing this because it serves them right. It serves their wishes because they know that their donors will donate vast amounts of money to ensure that they remain in power.
What happens when you’ve been in power for so long is the level of arrogance with which you govern becomes unbearable.
The fact is that we have a government here that has lost touch with the people of this province; a government that, under its watch, has created disparity between those who have and those who have not like no other jurisdiction; a government that only reacts reactively to issues, rather than thinking about the proactive response; a government that is so cynical that it makes an unpredicted windfall from an out-of-control speculative real estate market.
What do they do with that money? Not what most British Columbians want. Most British Columbians would say: “You know, you’ve created a problem. Use that money to help solve the problem you created.” Did that money go into affordable housing? Did that money go to assist people? No, it didn’t. It went back to try to incentivize an out-of-control market by giving people who can barely afford a mortgage an interest-free loan. It’s reckless.
This government is out of control, and this bill, Bill 4, exemplifies that. Bill 4 essentially says: “We’re not here to listen to you. Our corporate interests are far more important than the actual interests of the people of British Columbia.” Unions don’t vote. Corporations don’t vote.
We got union and corporate donations. In fact, the party that I lead, the B.C. Green Party, started receiving an uptick. Historically, it had been about 10, 12, 13, 14 percent of our donations. In the fall, it started to pick up. Two unions donated to us, and we’re very grateful that they did. And a major international corporation donated to us, and we’re very grateful that it did.
But we didn’t like the direction that was heading. We wanted to show leadership, because we recognize that unions don’t vote and corporations don’t vote. So what
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did the B.C. Greens do? We banned union and corporate donations from our party. We banned them, and immediately upon doing that, the people of British Columbia responded, and our fundraising went through the roof.
As a party we raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars in the month of December alone, and each and every penny was donated by individual people, with an average donation of about $58. In January, in February and March, we’re shattering historical records by more than 500 percent in our fundraising — again, each and every penny coming from people, not unions or corporations. That’s how the people of British Columbia responded.
But what do we have here? A government that actually doesn’t want to represent the people, a government that says: “You know what? If you want to get something done in B.C., you’ve got to pay. It’s pay-for-play in B.C.”
Let me give you a bunch of examples. If this government doesn’t believe it’s pay-for-play, then this government would simply do what’s right. They would say: “We’re not going to accept union and corporate donations.” They would have brought a bill like this that said: “We’re not going to accept them.” But they’re not. They’re afraid because they don’t have the support of regular people.
They have the support of the corporate elite. They can fund advertisements and fill the airwaves, not only with taxpayer money — not only with the taxpayer money advertising MSP premiums that aren’t even going to come into effect until next year — but also to try to brand various people and groups in the way that they want them to be seen in British Columbia.
This is the banana republic of B.C., under this government. This is not what we expect in a democracy.
So what do we have? We have reporting a little more often. Now if you raise $100, that’s going to be reported out. All those people who want to give $100 are now going to have to be reported out. That’s fine. We can live with that. Again, all it’s doing is shoving it in your face. When you know — people tell you — that they are donating to the B.C. Liberals because they feel they have to…. When you get these people contacting your office saying that, you know there’s a problem in B.C. If they think that that’s not happening in this province, they are out of touch.
That’s why I’m convinced that British Columbians…. You have seen the voter turnout drop in B.C. over many years. British Columbians have become cynical with this government, which runs like an oligarchy, with less than one in four registered voters supporting them. The 75 percent of British Columbians who did not support the B.C. Liberals in the last election feel disenfranchised.
How we move forward is to get people to actually vote in the upcoming election, because a high voter turnout means that this government is gone. Whatever combination of others in this room forms government will deal with this.
We’ll deal with this and actually bring politics back to the people of British Columbia. We’ve dealt with this proactively. The official opposition has promised to deal with it if they get elected. I believe them on that. I wish, obviously, that they had done it as well, earlier on, but I believe that they will.
Obviously, this bill will not pass. We don’t even have time to pass it. It’s Wednesday, and we’re rising tomorrow. We’ve got to go into committee stage, but we’ve already been booked off. The Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council is coming at 11:45. How cynical can you get? We’re debating a bill that the government has no intention of passing, because we’re rising at 11:45 tomorrow. What a hypocrisy we are seeing play out with us here. This bill — it’s not a prop; it’s actually the bill — is not worth the paper it’s written on, because this government has no intention of passing it.
This government is doing this purely as a ploy to distract from the ongoing RCMP investigation into the funding of their party by lobbyists who back-bill their corporate clients and then who, actually — in the article by Kathy Tomlinson — point out that they claim the personal tax receipt. They claim: “We’ll cooperate, but we don’t know anything about it.”
I cannot wait for this RCMP investigation. What I hope is that we get to some truth. My dream would be that this government would be fined millions and millions of dollars so that the playing field in B.C. is actually fair and level — a fair and level playing field that is not propped up by the companies that donate to them.
Let me give an example. Whose interest are being…? Let’s look at Mount Polley. We had a tailings pond breach. Not a single person has been held accountable.
A. Weaver: We have: “The investigation is not done.” Of course, it’s not done. There’s an election coming up. It could and should have been done.
This Mount Polley tailings pond happened several years ago. We know that the company involved is a substantive donor to the B.C. Liberals. We know, frankly, that the union that put the workers on was a substantive donor.
A. Weaver: Right.
Deputy Speaker: Members.
A. Weaver: There are so few conservation officers left in British Columbia because they’ve cut them all back. No wonder it’s taking so long.
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A. Weaver: Oh, it is true, because in the first cuts in 2001, when the government first came in, we found that mining was in the same ministry as oil and gas. Back in 2001, this government was getting a lot of revenue from oil and gas so when the cuts across the board came down, they were targeted at mining, not at oil and gas. I know that, because I work in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at UVic, which has a geology component. The B.C. geological survey was absolutely decimated. Those are the decisions that this government has made.
Coming back to it, whose interests are being represented in the Mount Polley case? Is it the people who live in the area?
A. Weaver: Oh. Minister of Environment says it is the people’s interest. Why is it that they feel — the people there — that they have to contact me? Time and time again, residents are contacting me, the lone Green MLA on southern Vancouver Island, because their interests are not being represented by this government.
A. Weaver: Shawnigan Lake is another example.
Thank you to the member for Columbia River–Revelstoke.
Shawnigan Lake — whose interests are been represented there? Is it the people’s interests? Is it the people’s interests, who actually had to take their own government to court to have their interests represented? Mount Polley — the people there are taking this government to court.
Why is this happening time and time again, when the people of our province feel that the only way that their interests are heard is by taking this government to court? I’ll tell you why. It’s because this government cares more about catering to the donors that come to their party than it actually does to the people who were out who voted.
Corporations don’t vote. Unions don’t vote. The people vote, and they ignore the people’s voice. It will be at their peril because, let me tell you, you have a very hard time in British Columbia — certainly on Vancouver Island — finding anybody who believes or admits to voting Liberal. They’re so afraid of admitting to vote Liberal, I don’t know if they actually exist.
Have you found some there in Vancouver?
Have you found some in Powell River–Sunshine Coast?
A. Weaver: My friend here found a couple. I don’t know where they are.
A. Weaver: Oh, that’s right. Good point.
Obviously, I cannot support this bill. But it’s not really that important whether I support it or I don’t support it, because as I pointed out, we’re not going to pass this bill, because this government is acting, yet again, so cynically.
This bill is put forward so they can look to the public like they’re fulfilling a promise, like they’re listening to the people, that they’re actually doing something about the outrageous donations that are happening in this province. They’re not. They’re not doing that.
There are talking points with this bill not worth the paper it’s written on, because we’re not going to pass it. We not going to take this bill into committee stage.
Look at the time. It’s nearly five o’clock, and the speakers are lined up a mile deep wanting to speak to this bill. We can’t get to it. We can’t even finish all these speeches. If we can’t finish these speeches, we can’t go into committee, and if we can’t go to a committee, we can’t pass it. This is cynical.
I predict what’s going to happen. At about 6:30 or 6:15 today, a vote will be called. It’ll be called on division, and that means because the Liberals will try to put a trap in. All the official opposition and I will stand, voting against this bill, and all the Liberals, like sheep, will stand and vote against — even though most of them, frankly, don’t even believe the words that are emanating from their own mouths.
The Minister of Advanced Education. Did you see the Minister of Advanced Education? He was literally laughing as he was speaking. That’s the level to which this discourse has fallen, when people don’t even believe what they’re saying. People stand up and deliver a speech because they have to. It’s not because they believe in it.
I look forward to this vote. I look forward to British Columbians recognizing just how cynical this is. I look forward to the legislative press gallery, who I hope are watching right now, who actually will report out that this is a cynical approach, that we’ll continue to hold this government to account and point out the egregious nature of the money that flows within.
How much money has the oil and gas industry donated to the B.C. Liberals? Millions of dollars. Is there any surprise that here in B.C. we’re fixated on trying to drag ourselves back into the 20th century on LNG? Millions.
What do we end up with? Let’s look at Woodfibre LNG, a company that’s a big donor to the B.C. Liberals. This big project that’s being delivered — the subsidy, the per-taxpayer subsidy per job, for those 100 jobs, is $440,000 a year. That’s good Liberal economics. Each and every one of those jobs at Woodfibre, if it ever happens, is subsidized by the public to the tune of $440,000 a year.
You could take 880 people on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and give them $50,000 a year, and that would be a greater injection into the B.C. economy, because we know people on the low-income scale spend
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their money in the economy and don’t ship the profits offshore to another jurisdiction.
This is Liberal economics. This is what we get in B.C. when we have this Wild West of corporate donations. You want to play? You pay. When you pay, we’ll use the taxpayers’ money to subsidize.
[R. Lee in the chair.]
We’ll build Site C dam. Why do we need the power? We don’t need the power. Power hasn’t increased since 2005 or so. It’s flat. We’re building Site C. It’s going to come in at 13½ to 15 cents a kilowatt hour, when all is said and done — about double, maybe even triple, what wind would cost.
In doing this, we’ve killed the clean energy sector. We’ve killed it in terms of its ability to thrive because of the fact that we have power that no one needs.
A. Weaver: Oh, the Penticton mayor is all excited about ten windmills in his riding. Just excited about it — ten windmills, wow. We’ve got ten windmills in Penticton.
A. Weaver: I would argue that the member for Penticton, who also is about to lose his seat…. I would argue that what he should do is actually travel around and recognize that Penticton, with ten, is nice. Vancouver has one. They earn more in tourism from that one windmill than they actually do from energy.
The problem here is they’re out of touch. We have Site C power. Again, it’s a subsidy for an industry that doesn’t exist. The reason why it’s being built is because this government, through its corporate and union donations, has decided that they want LNG to happen — try to squeeze water from a rock, a really big rock, and squeeze no water. They can’t.
They sign contracts, like the Woodfibre LNG electricity contract. Like the Shell…. Oh, there’s a good one. B.C. Hydro and Shell signed electricity purchase agreements to deliver into at below-market rates. Shell just packed up and left. We don’t hear that from this government.
We continue to get donations, and they’re proposing to rub this in British Columbians’ faces a little more often and argue that, somehow, this is transparent. Somehow it’s transparent to rub it in their faces a little more often — the egregious nature of their donations. I don’t think so.
You know, we need a change. We truly do need a change in our electoral finance. Sadly, I don’t believe that is exemplified in Bill 4 here. Bill 4 maintains the status quo. In fact, I would argue it takes us backwards.
It takes us backwards because it puts an onerous burden on smaller parties, smaller parties that may be starting out — the people’s party or whatever — that may raise $55,000 because the grandmother of somebody running it decided that they’d bequeath $55,000 so their grandchild could start a party. They get thrown into a red-tape process like we’ve never seen before.
Oh, I forgot. This is a government that introduced Red Tape Reduction Day — a Red Tape Reduction Day that quietly passed by a few Wednesdays ago. It quietly passed by. We didn’t celebrate the red tape. The irony with that, of course, is that any red tape we’re reducing…. I’ve spent four years here, and I see more and more red tape being increased, including the actual act itself, which created another bit of red tape. And any red tape that is to be reduced would simply have been brought in by this government in the first place because they’ve been in power for so long.
When the Red Tape Reduction Day bill was put forward, I put in two amendments. One was to peg it to April 1. That was supported by the opposition, and I was so very grateful when they stood with me in supporting that this move to April 1. The second was to tie it to the fixed election date. That was voted down, again, by the government.
I can’t recall whether the opposition supported it, but I’m sure that you would have. It was reasonable to tie it to the fixed election day. The argument I made then, of course, was that the red tape that had to be reduced was brought in by this government in the first place. The best way to reduce this red tape is to replace this government.
I’m very thankful, actually. I think it won’t be necessary to actually have that amendment because a B.C. Green government or a B.C. Green coalition would eliminate Red Tape Reduction Day and proudly tear up the paper because it’s not worth the paper it’s on. The fact is it’s not celebrating anything. It’s just creating red tape. We didn’t celebrate Red Tape Reduction Day this year. Why?
We’re creating red tape in this Election Amendment Act — creating red tape to ensure that the status quo prevails and that small parties that want to start…. The people’s political party of New Westminster. Small parties might want to start. Now they get thrown into a red-tape nightmare.
But I forgot. We’re not going to pass this bill because we’re doing second reading today and we have no time for committee before the Lieutenant-Governor comes. So there really isn’t much point even talking about this. I think I might take my own words at that point, recognizing that there is little point talking about a bill that clearly is just a cynical ploy by the government here. Clearly, it’s not going to be passed.
So perhaps I would allow one of my colleagues here on the other side to see if they can find some words to speak in favour of this bill. I’ll be listening very attentively. I particularly hope that the member for Port Coquitlam stands up and offers some fine words on this bill. I’m sure we would think of a few things to say. I’m also hoping that my friend here in his last speech….
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R. Austin: I did yesterday.
A. Weaver: Oh, my friend from Skeena did his last speech yesterday on this bill. It’s kind of a sad way to leave. So I would like to thank, on behalf of the people of British Columbia, the member for Skeena for giving his last speech on a bill that we’re not even going to pass. Sorry about that.
With that, I’ll sit and take my place in this debate. I look forward with bated breath to the words in support of this bill — the wise words, the profound words, from the opposite side. I can only hope that the member for Surrey–White Rock stands up and speaks to this bill. It would make my day, as his last speech in this Legislature. It’s a challenge. My challenge to the member for Surrey–White Rock is to make his last, final speech in the Legislature on this bill, because I really want to know what he thinks.
D. Bing: On behalf of my constituents of Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows, I am pleased to speak to Bill 4, the Election Amendment Act, 2017. Our government believes that B.C.’s electoral process should be fair, accountable and transparent in all aspects. We follow the current rules and expect all parties to do the same. With respect to accountability, there are rules in place to ensure that political parties disclose the names of donors and how much they contribute.
With respect to transparency, the B.C. Liberal Party has taken the disclosure process one step further and retroactively and voluntarily moved towards real-time reporting of party donations within ten business days. This is an unprecedented move by any political party in the history of our province, and we’re encouraging other parties to follow suit.
Public accountability and transparency are the key to integrity. Regular reporting on political party donations is one of the ways we can increase that accountability for the British Columbians we serve.
We all know that there is a public appetite for more information about how political parties are funded. We want to accommodate that by allowing the public to have access to information in a transparent and timely fashion.
We’re talking about how modern political parties finance themselves. In Canada, most political parties have no source of funding other than membership fees. While these fees do provide a steady source of income, there’s not enough to finance a provincial campaign over the course of a month-long campaign.
In British Columbia, most political parties look to the private sector, which includes unions, to help to raise funds. For example, we know that prior to the last election, the NDP received large-scale donations from unions in the province. The BCGEU contributed $1.4 million to the NDP between 2005 and 2013. The B.C. Federation of Labour contributed $1.3 million. The Canadian Union of Public Employees gave $1.2 million, and the Steelworkers donated $1 million.
These are obviously important sources of funding for the NDP. It is not clear to me if members of the opposition are suggesting that we should move towards some form of public financing in which taxpayers must pay for political parties.
We did have that in Canada for a short period of time. It was based on how you cast your ballot. If you voted for one particular party, you would receive an annual subsidy for each year between elections. This approach did not last very long at the federal level.
This legislation is a major step towards transparency and timeliness. It builds on reforms like our lobbyists registry, which was the first in Canada, which allows the public to see who is lobbying and on what issues.
This legislation covers the changes that were promised last year. Improving reporting allows British Columbians to see who is donating to which party and how much they are giving in a much more timely way. This builds on our strong track record as the first government in Canada to set fixed election dates. It also builds on the action we took to set spending limits for political parties, candidates and third-party advertising.
At the moment, contributions are only disclosed in annual reports and election financing reports after an election. With technology, people expect more timely reporting in the manner in which this legislation applies.
Since 2002, there have been no less than 17 statutes passed by this House relating to our election laws. These statutes cover a broad range and include the following: the process of voter enumeration, expense limits by registered political parties and candidates, an increase to the current number of electoral districts, changes to current electoral boundaries, the process of updating the provincial voters list and a host of other miscellaneous statutes. All of the changes contained in these statutes were designed to promote democracy and make it work better.
In the Canadian context, British Columbia stands out amongst all other provinces with respect to re-examining our system. In 2003, it was this government that introduced the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. It was composed of 161 members. One man and one woman were randomly selected from each of B.C.’s electoral districts, including two aboriginal members and a chair. Assembly members were selected by a lottery that ensured (1) a gender balance and (2) a fair representation by age group.
The Citizens’ Assembly held public hearings across the province and received a total of 1,603 written submissions. These consultations culminated in a report that proposed replacing the province’s first-past-the-post system with a single transferable vote.
This proposal went to a provincial referendum in conjunction with the 2005 election, but it did not succeed in
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achieving the required threshold to pass. A second referendum was subsequently held in 2009, but that resulted in over 60 percent voting against the proposed changes. In both instances, the people of British Columbia were consulted directly on how they would like to be governed, and individuals had the opportunity to register their opinion by means of a democratic vote. I make reference to this part of our provincial history because it reflects on us as a society.
As I mentioned earlier, proposed changes to our democratic system should be carefully considered, because any change, large or small, can have significant consequences. This applies to placing controls on political contributions.
Currently in British Columbia, we have very well-established limits on the amount of money any political party or individual candidate can spend on an election. This ensures that no matter how much money a given party or candidate is able to raise prior to an election, only a certain amount is legally allowed to be spent during the course of a campaign.
We should also keep in mind that the amount of money spent on a campaign does not necessarily determine the outcome of an election. There are many instances in our campaign history where candidates have spent far less than their opponents and still managed to get elected. Campaigns are not won and lost on just the basis of money but, rather, on the strength of the candidate and their appeal to the electorate. That speaks volumes about the health of our democratic system here in British Columbia.
K. Conroy: This is interesting. The former speaker talked about this being unprecedented as a bill. The only thing unprecedented is a comment from one of our colleagues that this actually should be renamed the Seinfeld bill, the bill about nothing. I mean, that’s what this bill is about: absolutely nothing.
This bill is a reaction by the Premier to the thousands and thousands of people who are disgusted with what’s happening with donations in this province, who are done with the perceived corruption on donations in this province. The perceived corruption — when you look at what’s happening, with a Premier who got $50,000 extra, for some people, that’s their whole take-home salary. She got that from donations. It was $50,000 a year, right? In total, $300,000 of donated money. People donated money to a political party, and it went right in the pocket of the Premier.
Now, if that isn’t a perception of some kind of corruption or buying something, I don’t know what it is, but it is certainly not unprecedented. The only unprecedented thing about it is that it’s happening. It’s why B.C. gets called the Wild West. It’s embarrassing for everybody.
And yes, I’ll agree with the member that spoke before me. We do get union donations, and we’re proud of it. We’re proud to get donations from people who support workers rights, who support safety in workplaces, who support minimum wage. We’re proud of it, and we work with those people to help people in this province. I mean, that is what getting…. Working with unions to ensure that we’re working for everybody, not just a few wealthy benefactors that get money and get favours — or whatever we’re going to call it — from the government.
You’ve got to look at what’s not in Bill 4. It is a real concern. There is no ban on union and corporate donations. We’re the first to say: “Let’s do it.” Not only have we said it once; we’ve said it six times. Six times a bill has been introduced in this House saying do it. Has that been accepted? In fact, our leader just said a few weeks ago: “Take this bill. Table it. Debate it in the House. We will pass it, and we will agree to it.”
Did that happen? No, no — the government…. That’s unprecedented. No, the government didn’t even bat an eye at it. Then we have the Minister for Advanced Education, who seems to be the big-money spokesperson in this cabinet. He said on CKNW: “No one gets special treatment by being a campaign donor.” This is what he said.
I just have to quote here. The chief of staff to the Premier’s predecessor, Gordon Campbell, told the cold, hard truth about the influence of big money in B.C. That would be Martyn Brown — not particularly a well-known socialist but Martyn Brown.
This is what Martyn Brown said:
“For the Liberals, the housing industry, construction industry, real estate, the liquor industry, energy industry, certainly the mining industry, big forest industry — all gave exceptional amounts of money, and they got exceptional attention…. It makes the government stand up and listen when they lobby, and anybody who pretends otherwise is not telling the truth.”
That’s a quote from Martyn Brown. That’s not one of our union brothers or sisters or one of our friends. This is actually someone very closely aligned with the Liberal Party.
Banning union and corporate donations — is that anywhere in Bill 4? No, nowhere. What about restriction on foreign or outside-B.C. donations? Did we find that in this unprecedented legislation? No, nowhere to be found. And limits on the size of donations? That’s not anywhere. I mean, my goodness, how could we limit that? My gosh. There would be millions that would have to be limited, but no, that’s not there. Is there a ban on the Premier’s second salary? Nope, that’s not there.
One thing that the Premier said…. The Premier said there was going to be a panel on financing reform. This was referred to in a press release. This wasn’t part of this bill. I’m not quoting from the bill. It should have been in the bill, if she really believed in it, but it’s not in the bill.
You think, “Okay, financing reform panel,” but then you’ve got to look at some of the examples of panels that this Premier has established. Let’s look at the climate change reform. Let’s look at the climate change panel.
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How well did that do? What happened with that panel? The recommendations they made were ignored by this government. They were ignored.
In fact, our climate change strategy…. We utilized some of those recommendations because we believed in them, and we utilized them in our climate change strategy. But are they utilized by this government? Did this Premier implement them? No.
So it’s a little suspect when the Premier says she’s going to convene a panel on financing reform. Can we believe her? Is she really going to do it? And even if this panel does get constituted, what kind of legs is it doing to have, and what will happen with those recommendations? Will they just end up another dusty report on a shelf somewhere that the Premier ignores? So we have to wonder at that.
Our leader has done this six times now — him, along with a number of our other members. We have put on the table a whole suite of democratic reform legislation, which this bill doesn’t even touch. If you thought we were going to have an election amendment act, that there would be some real amendments to the election — the potential, coming election…. But again, none of the things that we think should be there, that the people of B.C. are calling for…. They’re not in this bill.
The people of B.C. are so disappointed. When you’re going out door-knocking and you’re talking to people…. All of us go home on the weekend, and I’m sure the Liberals are getting it just as much as we are. People are saying to us: “What is this bill going to do?” In fact, as the member from Oak Bay says, it’s not going to do anything, because there’s not enough time to even make sure that this bill passes. So we’re talking about this, but it’s important to make sure that people understand that this is the bill about nothing.
As I said, it’s not going to ban big money. It’s not going to restrict donations. It’s not going to restrict donations to B.C. residents only. It’s not going to establish a committee. It’s not going to ban salaries for the Premier or even cabinet ministers. And why? Why wouldn’t those things be in this bill? They make sense. They’re not there.
One of the things that it also isn’t going to do…. It’s not going to ban publicly funded campaign advertisements, which would have made a lot of sense. You know, the thousands, millions…. What is it? It’s $16 million, of taxpayers’ dollars, that has been spent on government promotion ads. People are tired of it.
People say: “Why is this continuing to happen?” Think what $16 million could do. That $16 million could…. That could provide a lot of MRIs in this province. How many schools could that fix — just the plumbing up in Prince Rupert, things that it could be doing? But no. That’s not in this bill.
It’s in our bill that we tabled. The member for Saanich North and the Islands tabled that bill just a few weeks ago. That’s here. But it’s not in this bill, here.
The bill that we tabled, which should be included in Bill 4 that was tabled, also restores spending limits on political candidates and political parties in the 60-day pre-campaign period. What we’re seeing here in B.C. is an encroachment of U.S.-style politics. The minute a U.S. politician gets elected, they’re not out governing. They’re out fundraising — continually fundraising. The minute they get elected, they’re out fundraising again. That’s what this government is doing — continually fundraising, not governing and not taking care of the people of B.C.
Why isn’t that in this legislation, in Bill 4? It’s not there.
The money in the States…. We were there in ’96. I was there on a parliamentary exchange with my husband. We met with a senator from Montana, and we had just had our election. He said — and I’m going to quote him; he had colourful language, so I’m paraphrasing — to my husband: “Son, how much money did you spend on your campaign?” Ed looked at me, and he said, “Twenty-seven, 28….” And I started to say: “Twenty-seven….” The senator from Montana said: “Son, how the heck did you get elected for $27 million?” We had to let him know that, in fact, it was $27,000.
He was stunned. He said: “Nobody in the United States….” And this is 20 years ago — $27 million. Now they’re talking billions. Is that what we want to see in this province? Is that what we want? Millions and millions of dollars spent on getting re-elected, not on investing in the province? The people that are spending millions on investing in the Liberal government…. Think of what they could do with that money. Think of the groups they could contribute to.
You look at groups in this province like the Legion. Think how much money the legions could utilize to support vets by non-profits, by donations from organizations. I think of the different groups in this province like the B.C. Wildlife Federation, the Wildlife Stewardship Council, even the guide-outfitters. They do amazing work in wildlife in this province, and they do most of it through donations. You can imagine what that money, if that money wasn’t going into the pockets of Liberals to get re-elected, could do.
Just think how magnanimous it would be for these people to say: “Okay, I’m going to invest in legions. I’m going to invest in children and families. I’m going to invest in something other than getting a Liberal re-elected.” You just think of the millions and millions of dollars down in the States that are going into campaign financing. Is that what we want here? Do we want to end up with millions of dollars for elections?
That’s not in Bill 4, and we should have that there. Even the fixed fall election act…. We don’t have the ability, and Bill 4 isn’t going to give us the ability, to really drill down and see what the budget that was presented means. We don’t have the opportunity for estimates, to say: “What does this actually mean? Is this actually in here?” The
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Premier is saying all kinds of things are going to happen, but is it really in that budget? Do we have the opportunity to drill down and ask the ministers: “Is that really there?” No.
We should be having an election in October, so that we do have the opportunity to put the books out there. To be transparent. To say: “Look at our finances here. This is what we’re offering to the people of B.C. Real numbers. Real facts. A real budget.” Not some election budget that is just trying to say: “Okay, we’ve got to give this to the people, because we want to get re-elected.”
There are other things that we tabled that are not in Bill 4. You know, we have a sitting schedule that we do not follow. We have a parliamentary schedule that has not been followed. We must have the worst record in Canada for actual sittings. I know the Premier has said that she hates coming to Victoria. She hates Victoria. She’s like my husband. He doesn’t like coming here either. He’s here too much, he has said. But she’s a Premier. She should be here governing. We should all be here governing and doing the things that we are supposed to do: passing legislation.
Why aren’t we here passing legislation for a poverty reduction strategy? We’re the only province in the entire country that doesn’t have a poverty reduction strategy. Why wouldn’t we be debating that? Why wouldn’t we be having that? It is an issue in every single constituency in this province. We have people that are struggling to make ends meet. Struggling with two or three minimum-wage jobs, and cannot make ends meet — part-time jobs, and cannot make ends meet.
Do we have an opportunity to debate these issues in the House? No, because the Premier decides when she wants us to sit. We need to say we’re going to sit in the spring and we’re going to sit in the fall. We’re going to sit. We’re going to engage in transparent legislation so that we can get things done.
The other one that was tabled that’s not in Bill 4 — really, I look at this one — is around the legislative committees. We have our Finance Committee. Every year, the Finance Committee, well-intentioned MLAs, go out, and they listen to people from all over the province. They come, and they present to the Finance Committee. People spend a lot of time and energy in those presentations to the Finance Committee. They take it very, very seriously.
They give that report, and they expect results. They see the report that comes out of the Finance Committee…. I don’t think, since we’ve been here in 2005 — some of my members can correct me if I’m wrong — that we’ve ever had two reports come out of the Finance Committee. I think it’s always been agreed on by both sides of the House, the Finance Committee report — the issues that need to go forward to the government.
So many times, those issues don’t go forward. They’re not addressed. They’re ignored by the government. They’re not in the budget. Why wouldn’t we have committees that have some teeth? When people present to the Finance Committee, they know that that information is actually going to the Finance Minister. He’s going to read those presentations and say: “These are really good things. They need to be in the budget.” But they’re not.
A perfect example of that was the agriculture committee. It’s on the papers. It’s never been called. We finally did it ourselves, thanks to the members for Delta South and Saanich South, and got amazing input from people across the province. These should be here.
We need to get with the 21st century. We put in a bill on a democratic act around modernizing public participation. It’s done in the House of Commons. It’s about being able to take an electronic petition and put it in the Legislature. Is that in here, in the Election Amendment Act? No, not at all.
There are so many things that are not in this bill. It’s so frustrating. People come to me, and they say: “Why are things not in this bill that should be?” We have the bill. We have it here. It could have been tabled.
We do not want to be the American style of politics. A good friend of mine that works in the States says: “The U.S. is the best government money can buy.” We don’t want that here in B.C. The people of B.C. do not want that. They do not want a government that they have to buy to be heard. They do not want to have cabinet ministers that they have to pay to get their issues heard.
We do not want people that have had their lands soaked with oil by a company that will not pay to clean it up have to pay to go and let the Minister of Environment actually hear their issues. We do not want that in B.C. That is why this bill is just so disrespectful to the people of B.C., who actually want to have some credibility in election financing in this province.
For that reason, we will be voting against this bill.
M. Hunt: I originally hadn’t planned to speak to this bill, but I notice that the silly season has descended upon this House. I thought that if I remained silent, I’d be consenting to all of the comments that have come from the opposite side. Therefore, I wish to speak.
I mean, if I just even take the last speaker’s argument. She’s saying we don’t want American-style politics, as if we’re good and they’re really bad. Yet they quote a U.S. newspaper that says: “B.C. is the Wild West.” So which is it? They raise $10 million in one evening at a dinner in the States. They’re calling us, raising that in a year, the Wild West. This makes no sense. Their logic isn’t even working. It’s one of the classics. We build a scarecrow, we build a false illusion of what is going on, and then we attack the scarecrow as if it’s the real thing, and of course, it’s not.
The only thing I have to do is look at my own history. I realize that when we look at these kinds of things, we look from our history. We look from our background. I
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learned a long time ago that when you point the finger, be careful, because there are always three fingers pointing back at you. So I think it’s a thing that we need to be cautious of.
As I start on my own history…. I started being involved actively in politics in 1983, which means that this election, on May 9, will be my 14th election that I’ve run in. Obviously, there has been a lot of money raised across those 14 elections in order to see me elected. Fortunately, I was involved in local politics. In local politics in Surrey, we run in slates. We run in groups of us, together, and there’s a finance committee that actually raises the money for us, so I never was directly involved in fundraising.
As a matter of fact, what happened is that the first time that I ran, I had an interview with the fundraising committee. Or they had an interview with me. Say it that way. They interviewed everyone who was going to be running or was considering running for the nomination within our group. It was really quite intense, over what did I think about this, that and the other thing. And they went through all sorts of different questions. But when it came to the conclusion of the interview that I had, the response was that they will never tell me how to vote.
All they wanted was a level playing field. The same rules for everybody. They wanted their day in court so that they could make their presentation, just like everyone else in public hearings gets to make their presentation, and then we decide. We’re the ones that are elected to decide and make the decision. Whatever the decision is, that’s your business. That’s what you’re elected to do. You do what you believe is right.
Those are the conditions I have always run on. Those are the kinds of conditions that I’ve worked with. I have never had, for the longest…. At the beginning of my political career, I never knew who gave to the organization that I ran with, and I never knew how much. Quite frankly, I was very happy to never know it because, as the accusations are coming from the members of the opposition, that might taint my perspective going into any application that was before us on city council. I was happy with that.
Things started to change in the 1990s. Things changed. I know that the NDP don’t want us to talk about the 1990s, and I know that the Green Party wants to have term limits so that the memory of the 1990s can be expunged from this House. But in 1993, a thing began called financial disclosures, and I had to actually sign the document that says…. In our case, we had to sign it, each one of us individually, for the whole of the slate or the whole group. So I had to sign saying: “These are the people I have….” It was whatever the percentage was of how many candidates we had running. I was one of the fraction of the whole, and I signed off: “Yes, these are the donors.”
This was the first time that I had ever seen who they were. Actually, I really didn’t want to know the information, but the problem is I had to sign the document that said it was true. Therefore, I had to read the document to be able to say that it was true and that I believed it was true to the best of my abilities.
Why did financial disclosures come in, in the 1990s? Well, let me remind you of something that happened before and started to get exposed during the 1990s. It was 64 criminal charges — theft, fraud, forgery, breach of trust, over $1 million dollars stolen from charities.
I’m sorry. That was not this side of the House. The four words “Nanaimo Commonwealth Holding Society” — a shame to every politician, to anyone who was elected into office. What a horrible shame for us to have that so that people could attack us or anyone who chooses to run.
There are going to be those who say: “Oh, but Marvin, that was the 1990s. It’s not today.” Well, stay tuned. I’ll get to that.
The disclosure forms. Yes, I had to sign them. I had to read through them. Did they influence me? No. Did any of those listed on there ask for favours? No. Well, actually, there was once. There was one time in my 23 years on Surrey council and two years on school board that there was an individual who mentioned something about them having made a donation to the party. I went immediately to the finance committee and said: “That person. Return their money, and never take another dime from them.” To the best of my knowledge, they never did.
I’m sorry. I believe I can speak for those that are on my side of the House because I have spent much more time with them and know them much better than those on the other side of the House.
M. Hunt: That’s true. I can.
This was interesting. Who wanted this information? This information was closed. Who wanted this information? Well, I actually asked the Clerk’s office, as time went on, who actually asked for access to this information.
Yes, at the very first, the press did. At the very first, the press ran a couple of articles on it, and they very quickly found that there was no interest in the public over it. The interest was, in fact, from my political opponents. My political opponents wanted that information.
Why did they want that information? Well, it’s interesting, because we’ve seen a letter waved around this House. I saw the Premier wave it. I saw the Minister of Energy and Mines waving it. It’s a letter from the president of the B.C. New Democrats.
M. Hunt: Oh, it’s not because I know who Craig Keating is, okay?
It says…. November of 2016, so it’s relatively current. You know what is so interesting about this letter? It’s be-
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cause this letter, from this president, is almost exactly the same as the letter that came from the NDP mayor during the 1990s in the city of Surrey. It’s almost exactly the same letter being sent to those who donated to my election and the election of the free enterprise group from the NDP Civic slate that they had — amazing similarities, how the 1990s are still alive and well, folks. They’re still alive and well. It’s the same people doing the same stuff, the same schemes. I’m sorry. But, yes….
M. Hunt: Oh, I’m trying. I will keep cool. Don’t worry about that.
You see, fundraising is difficult. I recognize that. I do recognize that the private sector unions don’t support the forces of no. I recognize that, and they do, too. But what’s been happening with the public sector unions is that the public sector unions are going third-party advertising rather than supporting a particular political party.
Now, for full disclosure…. Mr. Speaker, I must give full disclosure. Full disclosure is that, yes, I have received and I continue to receive donations to my campaign from unions. I received them; I am guilty. But I’m not guilty. They support me because they support good government and good decisions, and I believe that’s what I give.
If we have this going on, and we want to get rid of big money and all this sort of thing, where is this going? What is the NDP and the Greens’ solution going to be? Oh, we know it’s going to go off to some committee somewhere so they can come back with an answer, but we really don’t have to look that far. All we have to do is look at Ottawa. We can look at some of the other provinces, and we can see where this is going, because where this is going to is taxpayer-funded elections.
We’ve seen it elsewhere. Taxpayers are forced to pay for political parties that they don’t support, that they don’t want to be in here. But they’re going to be forced to, because otherwise, they go to jail if they don’t pay their income taxes. You know how that works. I mean, it’s so much better to have forced contributions rather than to have voluntary contributions. So I say no.
I say yes to openness. I say yes to transparency. I say yes to timeliness. I say that those are the solutions. I say voluntary support for political parties of those individual choices is the direction we should continue to go, and that’s why I support Bill 4.
S. Simpson: I’m pleased to join the debate around Bill 4. For those who’ve maybe not been watching too intently, Bill 4 is a piece of legislation that essentially…. What it does is say: “We’ll tell you a little bit sooner about who donated and how much they donated.” That’s about where the bill ends. It really doesn’t achieve anything else.
The objective of Bill 4, though, is clear and apparent. The objective of Bill 4 is…. We have a government that is feeling incredible pressure around big money and around the pay-for-play donations that we’ve seen, the millions and millions of dollars — over $32 million over the last three years. The pay-for-play donations — that’s what we’ve seen, and the government is feeling the heat.
We have to remember the Premier was saying, “Oh, nothing to see here. This isn’t an issue,” and now the Premier is saying something else. So the decision of government is, “What on earth can we do that won’t change, fundamentally, the system we have?” — a system that the vast majority of British Columbians find unacceptable.
What they do is produce Bill 4, which says: “We’ll tell you a little bit sooner what you would find out anyway under the current system.” But what Bill 4 doesn’t do is deal in any way, shape or form with the fundamental issues that people want addressed. It does nothing to ban union and corporate donations.
Let’s be clear. The people of this province increasingly are saying: “Decisions need to be made by the people who have a right to vote. Money and support should come from the people who have a right to vote. Unions don’t vote, and corporations don’t vote, and foreign interests don’t vote; British Columbians vote. So leave it to those British Columbians — the people who live here and live with the consequences of government policy — to make the decisions about donations.” But this bill does nothing to deal with that. It ignores the issue of banning big money. It ignores the issue of pay-for-play entirely.
The other thing that it does is say nothing about the size of donations. Donation size is a pretty important thing. I’m looking here at a list of Liberal donors, and we have the top ten. I heard one of the ministers or somebody, in their speech, talking about how much support and how broad the support is for the Liberal fundraising, and that’s why they realize this money. Well, you know, the top ten — and there are no individuals in here — organizations, businesses and corporations raise over $9 million of donations. Simply in those top ten alone, there is over $9 million.
The big player: $2.4 million — one corporation — in donations to the Liberal party. You know what? Nobody in this province believes that the phone doesn’t get picked up faster when those people call. Nobody believes that the phone doesn’t get picked up faster. But there’s no limit on those donations. There’s no saying: “Enough is enough.”
This government would have been happy to take $2.4 million more on top of that $2.4 million if somebody would have written the cheque. We have nothing about banning union and corporate donations, nothing about saying that the money should come from the people who vote and the people who are impacted. We have no restrictions on the size of donations.
We have no restrictions on donations from outside of British Columbia, from foreign interests, from companies that say: “Gee, maybe I’d like to invest in British
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Columbia, and I could make some money in British Columbia, but there are certain things about how that province operates that are a problem to me. So maybe there’s a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and we can have a conversation about what the arrangement would be. Maybe we can do that.”
Of course, there’s no ban in here at all on the situation of a Premier collecting a second salary from those corporate donations — not a word about that. The Premier had to be embarrassed into giving that salary up. Believe me. Now we have this convoluted thing; nobody is quite sure of exactly what it means, where she will only claim expenses from the Liberal Party. Well, God knows what can constitute an expense in the Liberal Party, but maybe we’ll find out. God knows what would constitute an expense.
So you have this bill, Bill 4 — pretty benign, mostly. I think, as the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head said, it’s a little onerous for small parties but, essentially, pretty benign. It doesn’t really do much. What it does is nothing to deal with the issue that’s in front of British Columbians.
We have argued, and we have submitted, six times, the legislation that would change this. It would ban union and corporate donations. We’re happy here in a minute to say: “You don’t like the way we get our donations? We’ll give all those union donations up tomorrow, and you give all those corporate donations up tomorrow, and we’ll let British Columbians decide who gets money.” But that’s not likely to happen. What do other folks say? Well, let’s think about that. What about this quote?
“If the B.C. Liberals were serious about changing the province’s unethical, undemocratic political donation system, they wouldn’t have spent the past year dishonestly claiming that the current system is fine and rejecting changes proposed by the opposition parties and many others.” That’s what Democracy Watch said.
What about the media here? We’ve heard about, and we know, the Maclean’s stories. We know the New York Times stories. We know the stories that are in our newspapers here. Let’s talk about one of those, what a local columnist here in British Columbia is saying:
“Talk about shutting the barn door after the cash cows have bolted. The Premier’s promise of an ‘independent panel’ to review British Columbian’s out-of-control political fundraising is way too little and way too late. The Liberal party has refused for years to modernize B.C.’s obsolete and unlimited fundraising porkapalooza. It’s easy to understand why: the Liberals have raked in vast sums of cash from corporations, lobbyists and even foreign organizations….”
That’s what the media says here in British Columbia. And so what does the Premier do? The Premier brings in this legislation. It becomes clear immediately that this legislation is a piece of fluff. It is fluff from beginning to end.
So she says: “I better do something else. Well, I think I’ll create an independent panel, somewhere down the road with some kind of mandate. We’ll talk about that all later. And we’ll do that. It’ll kind of do something. I’m not sure exactly what, but it’ll do something. But it’ll deal with all of these important questions somewhere down the road.”
And as we’ve heard from others, this government has a habit of embracing independent panels until they report and then ignoring what they’re told. We saw that with the leadership panel on the climate. We certainly see it with the B.C. Utilities Commission on a pretty regular basis. We see it with raw log exports. It doesn’t much matter. This government is happy to have a panel in place because it knows it can ignore it.
This government, if it was re-elected, would ignore this panel, and big money will dominate again and again and again because this government has no interest in changing one iota of having those tens of millions of dollars of corporate money shovelled off the back of the truck into their coffers. They will do what they need to do to keep that money coming.
That’s the problem we have in British Columbia, and it’s time for change. It’s time for change for all of us. It’s time for all of us to say that big money has no more place. That’s what governments across this country have been saying, and that’s what we need to say in British Columbia. That’s what Quebec has said. That’s what the federal government has said. That’s what Ontario has said, Manitoba has said, Alberta has said, Nova Scotia has said. There is no more place for big money.
They have banned corporate and union donations. They have put limits on individual donations. Has it changed the political dynamic and how politics plays in those provinces? I suspect it probably has. And that’s okay. We can make that happen. But we need to have the kinds of changes to our system here that allow British Columbians to have confidence in the system and to not be concerned that money is influencing the system. Whether the influence is real or perceived doesn’t really matter.
We talk in this House often. When we talk about conflicts, we talk about real or perceived conflicts. And we know that both of them are critical to undermining the integrity of our political system. There is no question. We can debate about what’s real in terms of conflicts, but there can be no question that the system that we have today to fund political parties raises questions of perceptions of conflict. And it’s time to end that.
We could end that today. We could adopt the legislation that was brought by the Leader of the Opposition. The government could have introduced its own legislation that achieved the same objective, and we could have ended that today.
But we haven’t done that. We’ve done Bill 4. Bill 4 will do nothing to satisfy anybody in this province who isn’t sitting in the Liberal caucus room. I was going to say when it’s adopted, but it’s not going to be adopted. It’s not going to become law. This isn’t going to pass. This is not going to pass.
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It’s stunning that the government…. I mean, the government could have brought this legislation on day one of the session, and we’d have had lots of time to pass it. Instead, they introduce it in the last week. That’s a government that says: “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t have this passed, so let’s just introduce it in the last week, instead of week one.”
We all knew we were going to be here until about tomorrow. That was pretty common knowledge. It’s no surprise.
Why wasn’t this introduced? And you know, we could pass this. The government could always say we’re coming back after the break. That’s the government’s prerogative. You can bring us all back after the spring break. We can come back and deal with this some more after the break. You talk to your House Leader about that. We’ll all be back. We know where the place is. We’ll be here.
S. Simpson: Yeah, let’s talk about empty seats. Let’s count empty seats.
The reality is that there is no interest in this bill being passed, because the government knows what a frivolous piece of legislation it is themselves. But they had to do something. There had to be some kind of distraction here. So Bill 4 is the distraction. “Isn’t it a masterful piece of deflection,” said the member for Delta South around these things.
This will be an issue in the election. I know there are members over there who are trying to convince people that it’s not an important issue. But it is an issue that affects our democracy. It is an issue that, increasingly, British Columbians are concerned about the impact on our democracy. It is an issue that they will pay attention to.
We will have this debate in communities across this province over the next 55 days. I believe that the people, through their actions, will tell us all what they expect. They expect union and corporate donations to be banned. They expect all of us to clean up the system of electoral finance in ways that this bill simply doesn’t.
R. Fleming: Maybe we’ll begin where my colleague from Vancouver-Hastings concluded, in noting the absurdity of debating a bill that is dead on arrival. It will not be passed into law and has all the sincerity of probably the worst parliamentary fig leaf that I’ve certainly seen in many, many years in this place, designed to respond to public outrage while doing nothing to address the substantive and major concerns that British Columbians have about the pervasive and corrosive influence of big money in B.C. politics.
What we’ve seen this afternoon is breathtaking arrogance on behalf of a number of the members across the way, in terms of how dismissive they are that British Columbians have concerns about how big money sloshes around political parties and, through them, governments — these very hallways — into election war chests for re-election.
What did we hear from the member from Vancouver-Quilchena? I think he described it as a bunch of foofaraw. He dismissed foreign donations being an issue for the public and said it’s only a tiny amount of the B.C. Liberals’ war chest. Now, tiny amounts in the B.C. Liberal world have six zeros after them. It goes to show you how completely out of touch this government is with public opinion and with how British Columbians actually live.
Look at this proposed law, which, of course, will go nowhere — this bill. Then look at what it doesn’t do, because that really is the most important thing of this debate.
Now, there’s been a survey of about 100 different democracies — and quite frankly, I think some of them should be categorized as pseudo-democracies — in the world recently. Some of it was mentioned in the New York Times article that we’ve been mentioning, that’s been referenced in this debate.
Do you know this? There are only two jurisdictions that have no restrictions, no limits and no regulations on foreign contributions that are designed to influence the outcome of elections. Only two democracies — or pseudo-democracies, if we’re being charitable — in the world. Guess who is one of them. British Columbia.
That’s why the citizens of this province have a major problem with how this government conducts itself. That’s why this province is hungering for a real debate on what campaign finance reform should look like in a 21st-century democracy. Do we want to be the United States, which is just grotesque in its big-money politics? That’s the question British Columbians are asking themselves.
Now, I mentioned the 100 pseudo-democracies. The United States actually has stronger regulations than the bill that we have before us this afternoon. At least they banned foreign corporate donations in the United States. The fact that the President of the United States is under investigation for allegedly taking donations from Russia is interesting to this debate we’re having this afternoon. Because you know what? If the Premier of British Columbia took donations from Russia, there would be no grounds for Elections B.C. to even conduct an investigation. That’s how toothless the law is in British Columbia.
Now let me go back to the member for Vancouver-Quilchena, because he was so definitive in his disregard for concerns around big money. I think this is probably a little bit embarrassing for him. As my colleague from Kootenay West noted, he seems to be the designated person that they send out to be the defender of unbridled amounts of money that come in — to defend the status quo, to defend doing nothing, to say that nobody cares and to laugh it off in public. He’s been doing that for
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weeks and weeks and months and months as this issue has gathered more and more public interest.
How humiliating that the member for Vancouver-Quilchena, having done that, now has to come into this place and pretend that he favours electoral reform. On the one hand, he goes out and defends the status quo and nothing ever changing because the system is just fine for him. Then today he has to come in here and say: “Oh, we’re going to have a post-election commission that is going to look at some of these possible distortions of campaign financing reform in B.C.”
And then he has to pretend something else. He has to actually pretend that this bill that we’re discussing today is somehow related to campaign financing when, in fact, it is nothing of the sort. How embarrassing for the member for Vancouver-Quilchena that that’s his role in the B.C. Liberal Party. Seriously.
Now, there are four main areas of public interest on big money in British Columbia. One is that British Columbians feel that big money, both from corporate and union sources, has no place in politics. We should be amongst the other five provinces that ban it. We should be like the federal government, the federal system: Elections Canada oversight and ban big money.
British Columbians think we should be with the mainstream of the rest of the country, not a backwater that’s been described as the Wild West by the New York Times — point No. 1 that is ignored by this bill.
The other is that British Columbians think: “You know what? There actually should be limits on individual contributions.” You know, some millionaire or billionaire shouldn’t be able to completely dwarf the contributions that ordinary citizens, millions of ordinary citizens, can make to a political party that they support. So they favour limits on contributions. This bill does nothing on that.
[R. Chouhan in the chair.]
I’ve talked about banning foreign donations. That obviously is a critical concern. I mean, would you want to see — I say this to the people of British Columbia — I don’t know, the Koch brothers, who’ve bought a lot of elections in the United States, sloshing millions of dollars into British Columbia? The point is that they can.
Would you want to see the President of Malaysia, who I think heads up the board of directors of certain petrochemical companies, donating millions of dollars into B.C. elections to try and influence the outcome? Nobody wants to see that, but it’s perfectly legal in this political backwater, and this legislation before us this afternoon doesn’t even touch these basic bedrock issues of what political reform should look like in today’s world.
Now, I don’t know what the B.C. Liberals don’t get, but in survey after survey, 85 percent of British Columbians want big money banned. There’s a tiny percentage of people who are unsure, but there’s hardly anyone, except for themselves, that favours the status quo.
You know, news flash. I hope this doesn’t offend the B.C. Liberals, but you know who else wants big money from corporations or from individual donors to be banned? The corporate sector itself. They’re sick of what one lobbyist described in the Globe and Mail recently as an extortion operation. They’re sick of the shakedown.
I don’t mean to offend the members opposite, but they don’t really want to hang out with you night after night after night, giving over envelopes of cash on the altar of the B.C. Liberal Party. They’d rather be home — I don’t know — with their families or doing something a lot more meaningful than being in a room full of B.C. Liberal politicians. So even the business people who get the shakedown and the phone calls would like to see change in the system.
The business community of Ontario likes the changes that were recently introduced there. The fact of the matter is that 25 million Canadians live in jurisdictions now — either provinces or the national government — where they actually have campaign finance reforms in place.
This government has had opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to do the same. They’ve had six bills tabled by the Leader of the Opposition that they could have readily adopted. They adopted his proposal on the MSP in the budget. They could have done the same with the campaign financing reform bill that we have put before this House for years and years, and they didn’t.
Just to give you an idea of how rotten things are in British Columbia…. This gives you an idea of why B.C. Liberal MLAs cling like the death grip to preserve the status quo of this unregulated political system we have. Let’s look at the shakedown operation that the B.C. Liberals have perfected. They stand and marvel at their own machine that they’ve created, thinking that it’s something great, when it’s so transparently disgusting and borderline unethical and, by the way, under investigation by the RCMP right now. Nobody else admires this tower of Babylon that they’ve created. Nobody else admires it.
Now, let’s dissect the great populist B.C. Liberal Party. These guys are so populist and in tune with ordinary British Columbians that in a province of 4.6 million people, guess how many people count in the B.C. Liberal Party or count more than others? So 185 donors gave this party six million bucks last year. In a province of 4.6 million people, 185 people ponied up tens and tens of thousands of dollars to equate to six million bucks. That’s who your base is. That’s what this party is about. Of course, this bill doesn’t contain anything that would change that situation. They do so well by it.
You can see them over there wondering how they might campaign in a normal province or a normal jurisdiction, where there are limits in place. How the heck would they go out and ask ordinary people for money to support their political party? These guys are addicted to
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big money in the worst sort of way. They would never be able to figure out how to survive as a political party in a normal state of affairs that most democracies have. That’s why they’re against it.
Now, let me go back to 185 people, because I want to put it into some more perspective. We have 87 constituencies, with about 55,000 people living in each one. So 185 people — I’ll let you do the math, but it’s about two people per constituency. Two people out of 55,000 that live in every constituency are who finance the lion’s share of this political party that is governing British Columbia right now. Talk about the elite of the elite of the elite. That’s who they represent.
Look at what this government has supposedly achieved. Its biggest financial commitment, its biggest spend in terms of its budgets in this mandate was a tax cut for the top 2 percent that has cost us over $1 billion in lost revenue at a time when schools are underfunded, at a time when seniors can’t even get one bath per week at nine out of ten care homes in British Columbia. It shows you whose voices matter. And it’s not their voices; it’s their wallets and their chequebooks. That’s the kind of democracy we live in, in British Columbia, in this unregulated system.
Let me make a final point, because I have listened for members opposite offer something compelling as to why they favour the status quo and I haven’t heard anything.
What I find interesting is that in the B.C. Liberals’ world view, in their right-wing ideology, they place more importance on the rights of non-citizens to influence elections through their chequebook than they do over our own Canadian Charter of Rights and individual freedoms, of which the right for citizens to vote is absolutely foundational.
They would rather defend the rights of entities to give unlimited amounts — entities that don’t even have the franchise because they’re not persons; they’re not citizens — than they would to have a playing field that makes sense for the actual citizens who fought and died for the right to vote in this country over many, many occasions where our country was called to arms.
Now, the member for Surrey-Fleetwood has made such an eloquent defence of the right of non-citizens. Having won by only 200 votes, I suspect I know why the New Car Dealers Association’s $1.5 million donation to the B.C. Liberal Party is so important to him. It might have had something to do with getting him just over the line.
Final point here. I think I can sum up the debate this way. What we have seen exposed and laid bare for any British Columbians who care to pay attention to this is that the B.C. Liberal Party is actually to the right of the far-right U.S. Republican position on big money, on shadowy money. They utterly disown our position and the position of 25 million Canadians who live in democracies that do have campaign finance contribution limits. They disown that.
For a party that is liberal in name, it’s shocking. The arguments I’ve heard mustered this afternoon…. They actually disown one of the most critical reforms in the political career of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who gave Canadians campaign finance reform during his time in office. That was a very bold move and a lasting legacy by a Liberal.
No. They dwell in the right-wing Republican, far-right conservative view that believes in the rights of non-citizens, foreign corporations and other entities to influence our tiny democracy here on the Pacific coast of this great continent. That’s what they think is more important than having modern, 21st-century campaign finance reform.
I will take my place in this debate. I wish the government party well when they lose power, when they sit on the opposition benches, when we finally do get modern campaign finance reform legislation here. I wish them well with their addiction to big money, weaning themselves off it. I wish them well trying to engage ordinary British Columbians instead of 185 people who gave them $6 million.
They’re going to have to rethink everything they stand for and talk to different people that they never talk to, because the system will change if change is the result of May 9 here in British Columbia, and it will change for the better.
M. Farnworth: It’s my pleasure to take my place in the debate on Bill 4, a bill that some of my colleagues have described as a Seinfeld bill that does nothing. To be fair, because I always like to be fair, that’s not quite accurate. It does do a few things.
I mean, the government says that it does real-time reporting of donations. I’m not quite sure if they understand what “real-time” is because real-time is actually right now, not two weeks from now or three weeks from now. So they haven’t managed to get that right.
They do say that it requires reporting of donations of $100 or more. It does do that, and — hey — there’s nothing wrong with that in terms of disclosure.
M. Farnworth: I hear some heckling from the other side, and I’m not surprised by that. I can understand how many on the other side might be a bit puzzled by this bill. They might have thought there might have been something more robust in this bill than what we have here today.
Let’s look at how this bill got here. I want to pick up, in a moment, on some words that my colleague from Victoria–Swan Lake talked about.
This bill got here because of concerns that started to be raised from questions asked by the opposition and by the media when it became apparent that, to the government,
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winning the election wasn’t about public policy. It was about: “It’s Christmas every day now because we can get more and more donations.” That seemed to be the operating mantra of the government: “It’s Christmas every day now.” That’s what we’ve heard from some members of the executive council. And it came out that, indeed, it was Christmas every day for some members on that side of the House, most notably the Premier.
[Madame Speaker in the chair.]
We found out that the Premier was getting a $50,000-a-year salary top-up courtesy of the B.C. Liberal Party, who got their funding from the big donors — $300,000 since she became leader. Imagine that. And the Premier called it a car allowance, a $300,000 car allowance. What kind of car was she looking to drive? A fully loaded Bentley? That’s what $300,000 would get you if that’s your car allowance.
Maybe that’s what she thinks she deserves. Maybe that’s what the B.C. Liberal Party thinks the Premier deserves. But you know what? The public doesn’t think that. The public looks at a $300,000 salary top-up when they have been lectured to by a provincial government saying: “We cannot build your school, because we can’t do this. We cannot provide the services that you require because, oh, things are too tight. The budget’s too tight. We’ve got to make sure that we’re dealing with the budget. But oh no, oh no. We managed to find a salary top-up for the Premier.”
Well, $300,000 for many people in many parts of the province would buy them a house — not the Lower Mainland, of course, not southern Vancouver Island. But certainly, in many constituencies on that side of the House, $300,000 would put a roof over people’s heads. Instead, $300,000 goes to the Premier for a car allowance. Then when people start to question that: “Oh no. No, no, it’s not a car allowance. We misspoke.” No, it’s a distraction. That’s what it is. It’s a distraction.
So the Premier says, “Oh, we’re not going to take the top-up anymore.” The donors, I guess, breathe a sigh of relief, because when they pay $10,000 to sit next to a minister or $10,000 to sit next to the Premier…. Or the case of the Minister of Agriculture, whose job is to protect the interests of agriculture in the province. Faced with a choice between, “Do I not talk to the farmers, or do I go to the $5,000-a-plate fundraising dinner…?” When that was his choice, it was, “Oh, I’ll go to the fundraising dinner and not talk to the people that I’m supposed to be representing” — until, of course, that became public. Then the shaming that took place in the media — “Well, I guess I’d better go talk to the farmers.”
You want to know why we need campaign finance reform in this province? That’s exactly why we need campaign reform in this province.
My colleague from Swan Lake talked about the sheer amount of money and the 185 people who contributed $6 million to the B.C. Liberal Party and how that works out to two people per riding, just about. Well, you know what? He’s actually not right. I hate to say it, hon. Member, but you made a bit of a mistake.
M. Farnworth: Yeah, he made a bit of a mistake, because guess what. He’s talking about living people. Guess what’s come out today. Since 2004, a dead guy has been donating to the Liberal Party. Somebody who died in 2004 has been making donations to the B.C. Liberal Party even though they are deceased. Talk about passing the buck.
M. Farnworth: It is on the news, and it is now being investigated — dead people donating thousands and thousands of dollars to the B.C. Liberal Party. If that doesn’t tell you why we need campaign finance reform in this province, I don’t know what else does.
I listened to the member from Chilliwack talk about the history of campaign donations and how we needed to record. They’re recorded. You have to declare those. But you forgot to mention that your side of the House liked to play that game too.
You forgot to remember that you’d like to go to the chamber of commerce and say: “Donate things.” You didn’t want to talk about that, and the same with the member from Surrey. He didn’t want to talk about that either. He also didn’t want to talk about how, yes, while he was upset that “the opposing party” wanted to look at who was donating to him, his group always also liked to do that — to go look at who was donating to the other side.
M. Farnworth: Oh, absolutely. I am serious. What this side of the House is saying is — you know what? — it needs to change.
The member on the other side criticized the New York Times, saying, “Oh my god, the hypocrisy of the opposition for wanting to raise the New York Times in the land south of the border,” when they are just as bad, if not worse, as anywhere else. Well, think about this. The New York Times has long campaigned for finance reform in the United States. It’s something they take a real interest in. They’re a globally recognized, internationally award-winning newspaper.
Think about it. At a time when they have elected Donald Trump as president south of the border, at a time when donations from Vladimir Putin would be illegal in the United States, they are legal here in British Columbia. At a time when Donald Trump is dominat-
[ Page 14408 ]
ing the headlines literally every day and people are glued to CNN to see his latest tweet or his latest whatever, the New York Times took time out of covering that to focus and look at the campaign spending, such as it is, how it takes place in a province of 4½ million people, on the west coast of North America, named British Columbia — 3,500 miles away.
Why? Because they could not believe how corrupt, the perception of corruption, how wrong it is and how outside the mainstream it is compared to the rest of North America, compared to the other jurisdictions in other parts of the world.
You know, the member for Surrey-Fleetwood said that innuendo — that there’s a stench in this chamber. No. What there is amongst the public is a perception that something is wrong in this province when it comes to campaign funding and campaign financing. And there is. They know something stinks, and they’re demanding change. I know that at 6:30 we will be moving to other business, but right now, I’m explaining to the House the need for campaign finance reform and what is missing in this bill.
Madame Speaker: The member will use parliamentary language to do so.
M. Farnworth: Whoa. You’re interrupting.
Okay — parliamentary language. Let’s put it this way. For the public, there is a bad smell when it comes to campaign financing. You only have to look at other jurisdictions in this country. We pride ourselves on being number one. We like to think we’re number one and we are the best place in the entire country. But when it comes to campaign financing, Quebec beats us. The federal government beats us. Ontario. Who in this province could possibly stand by and want to admit that Ontario beats British Columbia at anything? Unfortunately, that side of the House is going to have to stand and admit that yes, they do.
We rank behind Ontario, we rank behind Manitoba, we rank behind Alberta, and we rank behind Nova Scotia when it comes to dealing with a public concern around campaign financing.
The minister for Surrey-Fleetwood says: “Nobody talks to me about campaign financing.” Well, I guess they don’t, when all you ever go to is a fundraising dinner with a ticket at $1,000. Ordinary people don’t go to that.
I’ll tell you something else. If he actually listened to the people who were going to those fundraising dinners, instead of probably telling them why they need to donate more money and why they need to support and re-elect the government, maybe he might hear from them. But you know what? As they said in the Globe and Mail and as my colleague from Swan Lake said, they are tired of being shaken down. They are tired of being shaken down for donation after donation.
That started after the last election, when a lot of them said: “You know what?” The re-elected government has come in. They said they’ve pored through…. Oh, the member for Surrey-Panorama…. They’ve pored through the donation list, and they’ve gone to all the people who donated to the opposition party and said: “Oh, by the way, you’ll give us double what you donated to them.” That’s just not right.
I know that it needs to change. Our side of the House and the independents in this House have all said that after the election on May 9, if the people of the province give us the opportunity to govern, the first bill to be tabled in this House will be a bill to ban corporate and union donations.
Now I will give you the chance to applaud. And know that it’s not that I’m about to sit down. It’s because, contrary to what some of your speech writers have written for you….
M. Farnworth: I didn’t quite catch the comment.
You know what? Contrary to what the Premier has said, there are many, many ways for campaigns to be financed without corporate and union donations, without public financing, without inconveniencing the public.
There are many models from which to choose, but what matters is restoring public confidence. What matters is moving this province up the ladder so that we’re not behind Quebec, not behind Ontario, not behind Manitoba, not behind Alberta, not behind Nova Scotia, not behind New Brunswick and where we join the rest of the provinces in saying that salary top-ups for the Premier, other than her legislated salary, are illegal. None of that is, unfortunately, in this bill.
The real time…. That’s very nice, but it won’t get the problem.
I know that we have some other business to get to, so I am happy because I know that my colleague from Surrey–White Rock has some remarks to make, and I look forward to that.
M. Farnworth moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. M. de Jong: I call debate on the throne speech.
Throne Speech Debate
Madame Speaker: The member for Surrey–White Rock. [Applause.]
[ Page 14409 ]
G. Hogg: Thank you, for the applause, because I stood up without really having a good sense of what I was going to say.
As I was making a decision as to whether or not to run again and meeting with my wife, I said: “What do you think we should consider in terms of whether I should run again?” She thought for a moment, and she said: “Well, life or death.” I said, “Well, what the heck do you mean by that?” to which she replied: “You’re useless around the home, and if you’re home all the time, I’ll probably kill you.” So I just want on the record, just in case my demise should come quickly, that LaVerne is the one you can thank, should that occur.
Certainly, meeting with my two CAs — one has been with me for almost these 20 years — it’s been difficult working our way through that. She was certainly a part of the decision. When we finally made the decision, we all burst into tears. I think there’s something terribly addictive about politics, particularly when you’ve been in it for a long, long time, and I think there’s some withdrawal that we have to go through.
I have talked to some other people who have been in it for a long period of time and then chose not to run again. Some of them told me that they didn’t come out of the house for a year. They didn’t know how to face things. The challenges and excitement — and the honour — of what it is to be a member is gone, and in many ways, we have to realize that we go back to what it was before.
I think it was one of our colleagues who, when we said to him, “You know, you’ll be missed. It’ll be a big difference,” put his finger into a glass of water, pulled it out and said: “The water’s back where it was, and I’m back where I was.” Really, there isn’t much there to remember to be a part of.
Because I’m speaking to the throne speech, I want to talk a little bit about some of the things that I think are happening in our world and then maybe come back to a few more personal stories and anecdotes.
For the first time in world history now, there are more people in the world dying from overeating than from undereating, which is a big change in terms of how our world functions. There are more people now dying from old age than from disease, for the first time. More people are dying from suicide than from crime, terrorism and war, combined. Those are pretty dramatic statistics, but they apply worldwide. Obviously, when you look at averages, there are all kinds of pockets around the world where those are not the examples. It’s within those pockets, even within our society, that we have to look at and manage them.
What it does tell us is that we have the technology. We have the knowledge. We have the experience to be able to cure a number of the things that have been problems for us throughout history — disease being one of the major problems that we faced for so long. We can now manage that. Certainly, so many people dying of malnutrition — we can now manage that.
It seems that the narrative in our world has been that we’re globalizing and we’re moving much more in a global nature. We’re doing that both economically and politically as we take those actions and move forward. And it’s more liberalized in terms of what’s happening with the world.
A lot of the challenges that we have that are worldwide in nature — we don’t have the political structure that supports that, to be able to manage it, because we have so many different governments. Yet we’re expected to be globalized in terms of climate change and how we manage climate change. So getting agreement is certainly a significant and large challenge within it. But the knowledge does exist.
I think the political will of this House, of Houses around the world, is now evermore important in terms of being able to look at and understand that those issues are not just limiting us now. They’re broad-based issues that we have the ability to deal with. We need the political will to get together to manage and to work at those.
The things that we’re facing — again, in the world, but certainly in our province — are an aging population, and all of the problems and issues and advantages and opportunities that provides; rapid urbanization; technological growth; and globalization. Those issues are changing the context of how we deal with things.
The last, sort of, comparator that existed for us — a big change, a cultural change — was the Industrial Revolution. So if we compare what’s happening today with what happened in the Industrial Revolution, we’re actually moving ten times faster now — at 300 times the scale and 3,000 times the impact. So our ability to make decisions in that linear process…. We’re saying that we’re passing policies and laws that are going to apply ad infinitum. They don’t.
The old adage of never put off until tomorrow what you can do today is not as relevant as it used to be. Big decisions, we’re asked to put off. This is suggesting we should put off very big decisions and set a time frame and say, “This is the last moment by which I have to make that decision” — whether it’s an individual decision, a family decision or the decision of a business or government. Putting those off because the context is moving so rapidly, so quickly, that our ability to respond to it in the traditional linear and concrete process isn’t there anymore. There are so many things going on.
Globalization means that we can’t just look at linear processes. Globalization means that even with our own ministries, we can’t look at dividing things into ministries. We’ve got to look at interministerial cooperation.
We’ve recognized for years that people don’t divide their worlds up the way that we divide our governments up. But we have to be able to respond to them in a collected manner, in a way that integrates. Certainly, there
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have been a number of attempts to do that over the years. A number of attempts by different governments — including governments of ours, but certainly, governments around the world — look at how we can have a more integrated and coordinated approach to dealing with the needs of people.
I know that when we were doing the ActNow ministry, which was for health promotion, we had, for the first time, an integrated model. That model required every ministry to say, in their service plans, what they were going to do in terms of promotion of the subjective well-being of the population. They had to report to the Premier through an agenda and priorities committee.
I remember the Minister of Transportation at the time saying to me: “What have we got to do with health promotion?” They had to do with bike lanes, walking paths and all of the things that tie into it. Every ministry actually has a role to play within that framework. We need to put together the structures that ensure that we’re able to do that.
I was invited on behalf of the province to present to the World Health Organization in Bahrain, in the Middle East, which was the largest health organization area in the world. They’d asked me to present on the things that we were doing in B.C. It was basically that integrated model which was so important and the way we held accountability around that. As a result of that, they came and gave British Columbia a best practices model for our approach to an integrated, coordinated model of service delivery. I think that was just a statement in terms of the recognition that the old GDP model is just not as important as it used to be.
It was President Sarkozy of France that, years ago, brought together some of the top figures — two Nobel Prize laureates and a whole committee — to look at what other ways we could examine how we’re doing. How can we look at subjective well-being? How can we establish our world in a way that seems to be past just the GDP model? What are the other ways that we can feel that we’re human, alive, integrated, coordinated and providing those services to people that want them?
Most people that we talk to don’t think GDP is incredibly important to them. They want to know what’s happening with their family, what’s happening with their community, how the world is facing them and how they’re able to achieve their goals, their dreams and their hopes. I think we have to more broadly look at that. There are a number of world evaluations they’re doing — rating people on subjective well-being.
This sense of hope is not just confidence that things are going to happen in the way that we say it. I love Vaclav Havel’s comment when he said: “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” How can we get involved in things that we want to do? So often I think that we want to make sure governments are not…. They are somewhat risk-averse. They’re not willing to try and be creative in the things that we look at. And so we want to know that it’s going to work, because we can’t stand to look at failure.
Yet, businesses do that. The whole notion of social innovation is about how we look at…. How do we integrate? How do we take chances around the things that are possible there for us to look at and for us to do?
As I have, in my almost 20 years here, watched and listened, as we’ve done the many things that we do here, I recognize that, when I talk about GDP, our market-based economy has really served us very well, and it has served the western democracies very well. But I think we have to protect ourselves from it becoming a market-based society as well.
There’s a difference between a market-based economy and a market-based society. I remember reading that in Santa Barbara, California, if you go to jail, you can pay $72 a night and have your cell upgraded. In Houston, their grades 1 through 3 students, they’re paying them $5 for each book they read for grades 1 to 3. They found that they read more books, they read shorter books, and they stop reading in grade 4. So there are all kinds of challenges when we put a market-based economy and try and drift it into a market-based society.
We look at the many European countries and Asian countries where they have the market square, where everybody is equal. Everybody walks around that square and gets together, and that whole social capital starts to happen, that social well-being. Social capital is just the relationship we have with each other and the ability of that relationship to effect change in terms of who we are and how we see each other.
We know that research — Canadian research, actually — shows us that those people who can name more of their neighbours feel safer in their home. Elderly people who have more contacts tend to live five to eight years longer. That whole notion of social integration and social being is so important when we start measuring it on those measurements.
I love David Brooks’s new book on character, where he talks about the difference between our resumé skills and our eulogy skills. He compared a bunch of resumés and what people talked about in their resumé.
They talked about their education and their marks that they got and the jobs that they did and their skills in terms of…. But their eulogy skills, what people looked at, at their end of life, and how people looked at them, had nothing to do with any of those. It had to do with their character — what came from the inside, how they saw themselves, how they related to each other. Their commitment to people in a social way, in a social commitment, seemed to be so much more important in terms of addressing how we face things.
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I hope that we will continue to look — in our western democracies and, particularly, in this House — at ways that we can address in a broader base, not get too tied up in what happens with respect to the market economy and what a market economy can do.
Sitting here and listening to ourselves over the long period of time, I was reminded, and I went back and looked up John Stuart Mill’s book, On Liberty. We often stand up and say, “You guys don’t have a clue what you’re talking about,” and you say the same thing about us, and it goes back and forth. John Stuart Mill, I think, has some good advice for us. He said:
“He who knows only his side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them, but if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them. He must know them in the most plausible and persuasive form.”
I think that’s a really interesting way for us to look at what we do in this House. Are we able to listen to somebody that we disagree with because they’re in a different party, or whatever it might be? Are we able to actually take that argument and articulate it in a way and understand it in a valued way that gives us that type of meaning? I think that helps our side. It helps both sides to have that grasp and understanding that nails it down to the research, to the belief system that we function within.
Another thing that that has intrigued me is that same sense of disagreement, that same sense of: “I’ve got the evidence. I know what it should be. I know where we should go.” It seems to me that when we talk in facts and evidence, people don’t listen.
I had the thrill — it wasn’t actually a thrill — in my oral defence of my doctorate up at Simon Fraser, of 2½ hours of very smart people asking me questions and challenging me. I postulated something that I called cultural cognition. It’s referred to in the literature, and it’s really about motivated reasoning, confirmation bias and the way we see things. The research shows that if you believe in climate change and I don’t, you would think that we would bring together all kinds of experts, and there’d be information. We’d distil that information, and we’d come to conclusions.
What happens, in the research, is that we get further apart. We operate on this assumption that if we’ll bring in expert information, we’ll get closer, but we don’t. The smarter we are, the further apart we get. If we’re not that smart, we might take some of that. But because of confirmation bias, we’re able to listen to what they’re saying, and we’ll pull out all the pieces that make sense to us and confirm our position, confirm how we know what we know — which is usually because somebody we know and trust has told us that.
Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics, taught at UBC for a little while. Then he was teaching at the Hebrew University. He shared a lunchroom with the economics department. After eating sandwiches together for a while, he said: “You know, all of these assumptions you make about how people respond to things in your economic model — none of them are true.” He said: “I’ve been studying behaviour for 30 years, and that’s not how it works. You assume, economically, that people are selfish, people are rational and that people don’t change. All three of those are wrong.”
He actually won the Nobel Prize in Economics for bringing this forward and talking about what happens when people actually make decisions — that they’re much more social and connected and visceral. We don’t make rational decisions. There are all kinds of ways that we make decisions.
We now start to see that if you put up a sign that says, “No littering — $10,000 fine,” your level of compliance is not that great. Yet if people did a rational approach to it and a cost-benefit analysis, they wouldn’t litter.
But if you put up a sign that says, “We care about our community. Please help to keep it clean,” you get much higher compliance. It’s that social…. Even sitting and watching crosswalks and standing at a crosswalk and the light is red and there’s nobody coming — one person steps off and then the whole group goes. It’s what happens in terms of the group dynamics that tie us together.
Daniel Kahneman’s research partner was a guy named Amos Tversky. Tversky was a brilliant researcher. He taught at Stanford for a while, and he tells this wonderful story about an economist who had his office just down the hallway from him. He said he was the most anal economist they’d ever seen, and he was the cheapest economist you’d ever seen. He drove the ugliest, stupidest car. He said: “We were always hacking him up. ‘What are you going to do? You saving every cent? You’ve got to buy a new car’”
So this guy, at the Christmas party, announced: “I’m buying a new car.” Tversky said: “I wandered down the hallway every now and then to see how he’s doing. He had his whole office smattered with every consumer report, everything that was done, and he was doing all kinds of analyses.” Tversky was going to leave Stanford to teach at NYU for the summer semester. He went in and said: “Have you made up your mind yet?” He said: “No, not quite yet but soon.” “Let me know.”
He goes back the last week before he was to leave and said: “Have you made up your mind?” “Yep. I’m buying a Volvo.” Tversky said: “Finally. Finally you’ve made up your mind.”
So Tversky goes off to NYU, teaches for the summer semester. He comes back and sees him and says: “How’s the Volvo going?” “Uh, I didn’t buy one.” “Well, you did all that. Why didn’t you buy one?” He said: “Well, my brother-in-law bought one, and it didn’t work.”
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It’s that whole notion of all of this time we spend gathering data and coming to conclusions and often, they’re not the decisions we make because we have a visceral reaction. It’s much more about who we are and how we express ourselves than just the rational. It’s trying to separate ourselves rationally, in terms of who we are, and thinking we’ve come to conclusions doesn’t seem to work.
It’s maybe the same thing when we start talking about the difference between a market economy and a market society — how we pull those together.
In the defence of my dissertation, I was explaining all of this stuff. We had an external evaluator. The external evaluator was from McGill and whatever the external evaluator says goes. It doesn’t matter if the other five people say you passed. If they say you’re gone, you’re out of there, and you don’t get to do it again.
The second to the last question, he said: “Well, if I understand what you’re talking about, this cultural cognition, what you’re saying is that people have their opinions, they develop their ideas, they have those, and they interpret the rest of the world based on those, and you can’t change them. It’s very hard to change them.” The example of climate change.
So he said to me: “If I think your dissertation is just a bunch of garbage, are you telling me there’s nothing you can say to me to change my mind?” I thought that was a pretty good question. I took a breath and said: “Well, you’ve got the notion of cultural cognition right. However, the issue is that people don’t listen to evidence and statistics until you’ve got some common ground. You have to be able to find that common ground, and I think that too often we quickly go to evidence around that.”
It seems that it’s only when people perceive that a policy or an idea or a fact bears a social meaning which is consistent with their cultural values…. It’s only then that I think people become receptive to evidence-based approaches, to policy, to arguments, to disagreements. Given the state of our world’s cultural values and social meaning, we may be struggling for a while to pull some of those things together.
But I think that there is…. Neuroscience is giving us lots of opportunities and lots of chances to better understand about decision-making and what decision-making can do for us in terms of policy-makers in this House and policy-makers and agreements or disagreements that I have with my spouse and in our family.
My son, tragically, has gone to become a lawyer, and he’s not just taken a bachelor of law. He’s taken a master’s degree in law, and it seems to me that he’s drifted way, way off into that rational — are there any lawyers around here? — world. He and I disagree on just about everything, at this point in time, as he’s trying to tell me about the BNA Act and what happened with that and how that has relevance for something that’s happening with us today.
But it doesn’t seem to mean much to me today. For me, it’s a much more holistic process. Hopefully, I’ve talked a little bit about that from an economic perspective, a personal perspective and a decision-making perspective, in terms of how we look at and do things; and the quality of life, that all of us have a chance to create the context, to modify that context, of what quality of life means for every person in British Columbia. I think for me that has been the greatest honour of this position, trying to do that within the context.
I was thinking of some of the things that mattered most to me. As I mentioned, I got the right, the privilege, of speaking at the World Health Organization in Bahrain. I was invited to speak at the Commonwealth conference in Nigeria, in Abuja. That conference was on domestic violence. I prepared this nice, intellectual report, speech, to present to them. I’d done a lot of work on it. At that point in time, I think it was 93 percent of Canadians that thought domestic violence was a criminal offence and should be dealt with in that fashion.
There were about 130 countries represented there. Myself and a woman from Pakistan were presenting. I met with her about two days before. She said: “We can’t even get our Legislature to talk about it.” I realized that my naive, elitist approach to it was totally wrong. So I rewrote everything that I was thinking, to talk about political will and the notion of political will and what’s engaged in political will and how important it is. The role of political will in decision-making changed a great deal of my approach to many things.
I found some work by a writer by the name of Henry Fairlie. He says there are four jobs of a politician, four important roles that we should play. The first is to reconcile the multiplicities of interests and wills that exist within our constituencies, within the areas we’re responsible for.
The second is to be a catalyst for public opinion, producing good common ground, because it’s only from that common ground that you get the social licence to be able to do all the things that you want.
Thirdly, is to be a link between informed and public opinion. I’ve hopefully talked a little bit about how challenging that is to reconcile those.
Fourthly, is to arouse public interest in politics. How do we actually get more interest in, more people engaged in, more people pleased with politics? Because it is such an important part of our world and the context in which we present it.
The things that have meant most to me. One is that I was approached by a couple in South Surrey whose daughter was deaf. They didn’t have a lot of money, but we, the state, paid for her to go to UBC and have a signer there. But she really wanted to go to a university called Gallaudet in the United States, which is the only all-deaf university. We had all kinds of challenges, even in government. We were working our way through it. We did an economic analysis of what the costs were to have a signer,
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because we paid for a signer to go to class with her and sign what happened.
We actually were able to get her to go to Gallaudet, where she played volleyball. She’s now just finishing her master’s degree there and is planning to come back here and teach. Her parents have been so pleased with that, the changes that happened with that. I had dinner with them a while ago.
Then I was speaking at a conference of social workers about a year ago. As I was leaving, one of the social workers stopped me and said: “You’re the one that was able to help this woman get to go to Gallaudet.” I said: “Yeah. There were lots of people that worked at it, but we were certainly a part of it.” She said: “You won’t believe how that’s changed the culture of the deaf community, particularly the deaf community of kids in this province. Everyone knows about that. All of the kids know about that, and so many of them are now looking forward to the opportunity to go to Gallaudet to be a part of that.”
Another small thing in the community was a fellow that came to me who had macular degeneration and wanted that to be included under our medical services coverage. We were able to work with him.
I think it’s those small things that have been so, so important.
I want to, in my last few minutes, make reference to some of the people that have meant so much to me in this: first, in memory of my mom and dad, who supported me through many elections and, for me, perfectly modelled life’s most important lessons, and they continue to bring and breathe meaning into those for me each day; to LaVerne, whose life is a constant reminder to me of the importance that the moment provides for the meaning of tomorrow; our son, Blair, whose unbounded potential and focus is a living lesson in the potential of the future. I’ve heard so many people stand up in here and talk about all of their grandchildren.
Blair, if you’re listening….
To my siblings, Joan, Linda and John, and my extended family. We have continued to have weekly dinners, which we had when we were growing up. They provide a continued perspective on what is truly important and for their valuable example of purposeful lives.
Lorne Valensky is someone who’s provided me a sense of balance. Paul Lacerte has been instrumental in helping me. In fact, Paul had this wonderful story where we were debating whether we should do something. Paul said: “Stop trying to be so righteous, you jerk. Just do it. You got a chance to help us.” He was pulling me out of my head and making me understand that there were better ways to do things. Rick Brant has been the leader of the partners council and has really helped with the aboriginals.
Verna Logan has been my CA for now almost 20 years. Her persistence and guidance and intuitive genius are a constant and magical reminder of the power of caring. She is just an incredible human being in terms of what she’s done.
Do I have time to mention the rest of the people I wanted to mention? I will quickly try and find the time, if I can find where I wrote them.
I’ll hum for you a little bit. I’m a really good…. I’ve got a rap song that’s on YouTube, if you’d like to hear a couple bits of that.
He’s so fly, flapping with your bling.
He’s so fly, rapping when you sing.
My homies and my peeps are happy in the hood.
My homies and my peeps are doing what they should.
Find out what you’ve got. Give it up. Take it home.
Gee, where did all those papers go?
Okay, I’m pretty sure that somebody has taken them from me. But I just want to pay tribute to Grand Chief Bernard Charles, who passed away a number of years ago but was the first person I referred to when I came here. He started the B.C. association of Indian chiefs, and he was a role model. I had the honour of providing the eulogy for him. He and Steven Point were law partners. He’s been a great person — followed by Chief Cook. And now Chief Chappell of the Semiahmoo Reserve. They have been great people.
I want to acknowledge Elishia, who’s the receptionist in caucus. I’m sure she is going to sadly miss me singing to her every morning as I walk in. She may be able to survive without that.
There were so many people over the years that I worked with. There’s Christie Pruden and Primrose. I haven’t found my list of things that I had made earlier, I’m sure.
Raechelle travelled with me in a number of trips I went on in different places and provided great support to me. Suneil tolerated me for so incredibly long. And Libby picks up our recycling every day, and I get to say: “Libby, Libby, Libby, Libby, Libby.” And she goes: “Gordie, Gordie, Gordie.” But that’s part of the culture when you work in a place like this where you’re together so long.
I particularly want to acknowledge the Clerk’s office and both — I can say your names — Craig and Kate and your staff members who’ve been so good to me. Karen and Angela in the Speaker’s office. I think I introduced food into this Legislature. That may be my legacy. They’ve always been so good to me. They pretend they can’t see me, as I sit down there. To be blind to me and my subtle ways is a great tribute to their ability to adapt. Gary and the staff in this room have been phenomenal in terms of tolerating my eccentricities.
Actually, look in your drawer right now, Gary. I was able to slip a banana peel in there for you yet again.
G. Hogg: Yeah. My drawer is really clean right now, and I want to thank you for taking everything out of it. You and your staff have been remarkable for all of us and
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made it really an enjoyable and positive place to work. I’m going to miss it a lot.
Thank you all so very much for…. [Applause.]
Madame Speaker: If the member for Surrey–White Rock would be so kind as to move adjournment of the debate.
G. Hogg: No, I wanted to continue a little longer. There are those people whose names I have forgotten, and I want to acknowledge all of them.
Madame Speaker: Member, adjournment of the debate.
G. Hogg moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. M. Polak moved adjournment of the House.
Madame Speaker: This House, at its rising, stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.
The House adjourned at 7:01 p.m.
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