Fourth Session, 41st Parliament (2019)
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Issue No. 278
The HTML transcript is provided for informational purposes only.
The PDF transcript remains the official digital version.
|Orders of the Day|
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2019
The House met at 1:31 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Orders of the Day
Hon. D. Eby: I call continued committee stage on the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2019.
Committee of the Whole House
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 35; R. Chouhan in the chair.
The committee met at 1:33 p.m.
On section 19 as amended (continued).
M. de Jong: The first thing I feel obliged to do is to pass on to the Attorney that farmers and farm families have been tracking the debate and are grateful and appreciative of the steps that have been taken and the willingness of the Attorney, on behalf of the government, to not just consider but endorse an amendment to the legislation that profiles and highlights the challenge that some of them are facing and that all of them are threatened by.
In the family whose example I used, Excelsior Farm, Ray and his family have been watching and continue to watch. I should say I’ve been hesitant to use their last name. It’s a testament to the threat that they feel under that I am hesitant to use their last name, because some of these groups, unfortunately, take that as a licence to further threaten and try to intimidate. Suffice it to say that they and other farm families are gratified for the step we have taken today.
What follows…. I just wanted to take a few moments to explore, with the Attorney, the other part of the question. That is: having created this tool — or enhanced it or amplified its appearance, whatever the correct description might be — what is the best way to utilize it? Are there any other tools? Short question.
Then I think I heard the Attorney General confirm his willingness to do this in the days ahead, but it’s worth putting on the record. Will the Attorney General commit to providing confirmation of the number of prosecutions that have taken place under the provisions of the Trespass Act?
Hon. D. Eby: Well, I’ll certainly confirm to use best efforts to figure out how the act has been used and any obstacles that may stand in the way. There may be a challenge in providing the exact number that the member is looking for. Often statistics gathered by the prosecution service don’t have context, and the statistics around Criminal Code offences versus provincial offences are gathered differently.
I’ve told the member previously. I’ll tell him again. I’ll do my best to get the information. What I understand that everybody in the House has a shared interest in is understanding. I had a good conversation with the Minister of Agriculture, who’s also very engaged on this, obviously. What we’re all interested in is knowing if there’s a barrier to using the legislation as it stands. What is it, and can we address it? Certainly, he has my commitment to best efforts around that, and I know he has the commitments of the Agriculture Minister as well.
M. de Jong: To the Attorney, the next question is somewhat more philosophical in nature. It does relate to his role as the Attorney General. Does he see this as an appropriate tool? I’m not asking him to comment on what has or hasn’t happened in the past. And I don’t say that as a criticism.
But having learned and heard from me and some of my colleagues about the activities, the attacks, that farm families have encountered or been exposed to, is the Trespass Act, in the Attorney’s mind, an appropriate tool for dealing with people and agencies that believe it’s acceptable to invade a farmer’s private property to advance their views on food consumption?
Hon. D. Eby: We’re getting well away from the bill and the amendment. But I will, because I do understand the importance of the issue for the member and for his constituents — and if they’re following along at home.
The bill is one tool — the Trespass Act, the law, which did cover previously, before the amendment, and now after the proposed amendment will even more explicitly cover farm land and buildings in the same way it covers other land and buildings throughout the province — available to law enforcement.
The members have described a number of different scenarios, some of which may or may not be the subject of law enforcement investigation and prosecutions. I don’t know, so I’ll speak generally.
When you’re talking about threats or breaking and entering or destruction of property, mischief, I believe the Criminal Code is an appropriate tool for police to use, because it brings with it a couple of pieces, one of which is, obviously, the criminal record, potentially, for those who are involved, as well as the sorts of tools of the Criminal Code — peace bonds and other tools that courts can use — to enforce certain standards. It doesn’t require the family themselves to necessarily bring it forward. The Crown does that on behalf of the public. So the Criminal Code provides a number of helpful tools in scenarios like those that the member has described taking place in British Columbia.
The Trespass Act is another tool available to law enforcement. Police discretion is important, and how they decide to use it. Whether they use this or the Criminal Code, the Criminal Code trespass provisions are more limited than the Trespass Act. There’s trespass at night. There’s assault by trespass, but there’s not a trespass Criminal Code simply freestanding. Just trespassing — that’s a criminal offence. This Trespass Act does close some of that gap in the Criminal Code with a provincial offence.
Police have to look at the circumstances. Did it happen at night? Was there a physical resistance as part of the trespass when the person was asked to leave? These kinds of things.
It’s a decision by law enforcement in the moment. What I think all of us want to do is identify whether law enforcement feels that there are other issues or tools that are missing that would prevent them from taking action using either the Criminal Code or the provincial Trespass Act. We’re very reliant, on the ground, on experienced prosecutors in law enforcement, which is why we’ve reached out to both prosecutors and to the chiefs of police to ask them what they’ve seen on the ground.
M. de Jong: I don’t want the Attorney to be concerned that I’m trying to unnecessarily prolong this. I’m coming to the end of the questions that I have for him. I have found his answers to be helpful. I think people watching and listening will have found them to be helpful.
Some of the people watching may not be aware — in fact, I don’t think many people are necessarily aware — of the unique role that the Attorney General plays as the chief legal officer for the province and may be under the mistaken belief that the Attorney is directly involved in making decisions around whether or not to move forward with a prosecution or direct that prosecution. Of course, that’s not the case. The Attorney has pointed that out. I’m standing beside a former Attorney General, and sat in that seat for a while myself.
Oppositions aren’t always particularly generous when criticizing the government about wanting to acknowledge that Attorneys General don’t directly intervene in individual prosecutions. They do, however, and are entitled to, make their views known to the prosecution service around the use of legal tools in a very general way. There are examples of that. There are examples of Attorneys General in the past indicating, setting out expectations around a particular class of offence that may be prevalent and making their views known to the prosecution service.
All that is by way of preamble to: in the time he has had to think about this and consider the matter, and based on the information he has, is the Attorney General prepared…? What is he prepared to do, going forward, to ensure that those agencies that he has mentioned, the police and the prosecution service, are deploying the tools? We’ve just created or amended one of those tools here today. Is he prepared to…?
He’s mentioned that he’s reached out. Is the Attorney prepared to provide some manner of direction in a very general way — not in a case-specific way but in a very general way — about how he and the government view this situation and these attacks that are taking place on farmers and farm families?
Hon. D. Eby: If I had any reason to believe that our prosecutors or police didn’t understand the seriousness of situations like those — without commenting on a specific case because I don’t know exactly what’s going on with that case — situations of allegations of threats, of harm — of harm to economic interests, breaking and entering, threats to families — I would certainly issue direction to that effect. But I have every confidence in our Crown prosecutors, in our police, that they, like all British Columbians, are proud of our farm families and want them to feel safe in their homes, in their farms and in their work — all British Columbians, in their workplaces, to feel safe — and to have that protection of the law.
I don’t worry about a lack of compassion, understanding or concern on the part of either Crown or police. But I do worry that sometimes there is an issue with the law. A police officer will identify that when they go to try to use a law that they think they can use, and then they find out that there’s an issue, or a prosecutor will identify it when a case comes up from police for consideration. That may not always make its way up for amendment or for consideration by government, which is why we’ve reached out to the chiefs, why we’ve reached out to prosecutors.
It’s to say: is there an issue here? Is there a tool that’s missing that you feel that you would need to address situations like that? We’ll wait to hear from them about their best advice on that. I have confidence they’ll understand the importance of that.
M. de Jong: I think this will be my last submission to the committee and to the query of the Attorney General. He has heard over the course of the discussion yesterday and today about the situations that have arisen and the activities that have arisen here in B.C. and in other jurisdictions.
In those other jurisdictions, governments have responded by amending legislation, particularly, by increasing the sanctions that are applicable to those who breach the provisions of the law. I and we didn’t advance, at this stage, amendments relating to the penalty section, because, quite frankly, it didn’t fit within the confines of the specific amendment that was on the floor of the House, though we believe that that is appropriate.
My last question for the Attorney General is: is he prepared to consider, at some future time, increasing the penalties that would be applicable in cases where someone or an agency is found to have violated the provisions of the Trespass Act, whether it is section 2 or section 6? Is he prepared to consider strengthening or enhancing the penalties that would be applicable to someone or an agency found to have violated this act?
Hon. D. Eby: Just given that this is not the specific section, as the member has rightly noted, that’s in front of the House, what I’ve committed to the member, and I’ll commit it again, is to follow up with law enforcement and with Crown.
Is there an issue around, among other things, the penalties available under the act which include the ability to apply to court for compensation? Is there an issue there that should be addressed?
We’re going to do that work, and I hope that can bring us to moving forward with the remainder of our work for the day and a shared agreement that this is an ongoing discussion and concern for both government and, apparently, the opposition as well.
L. Throness: I just wanted to thank the minister on behalf of my constituents, as well, for his willingness to be flexible. The member for Abbotsford West brought forward a very limited amendment, and we appreciate the minister responding overnight. That was very rapid.
There are more specific and targeted things that could be done that require more consideration and study, and we hope that, as we bring those forward, the minister will be amenable to further changes.
Section 19 as amended approved.
On section 20.
M. Lee: Just wanted to ask, in terms of section 20, whether there’s been an assessment as to…. Given that sub 20(2) has a retroactive effect in terms of what has been added under section 3(1)(c) of this act, has there been an assessment as to the impact of this retroactive nature of this particular section?
Hon. D. Eby: This is part 2 of a two-part amendment around the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act and the ability of the director to enforce arbitration awards. The first part, which we’ve already passed, was intended to make it explicitly clear that an arbitration award could be enforced by the director of the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act.
Already, under the older act, arbitration awards were included in the definition of “maintenance order.” There were actually 12 arbitration awards — from that time in 2015 when it was added to the definition — that were actually enforced through the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, everybody operating under the assumption, which we believe is correct, that there was jurisdiction and authority to do that.
The council identified that we could be clearer that arbitration awards are explicitly included. So to reflect that intention that was there in 2015 and to make it really clear, the amendment that we’ve passed already was made.
The concern is: in making that amendment, does that mean that the 12 individuals that have had arbitration awards enforced against them could come back and say: “Well, there was no authority to do that”? So this transitional provision says: “Yes, there was authority. It was the original intention of the Legislature. We believe that that was the impact of the act.”
All we’ve done is make it clearer that these arbitration awards are enforceable under the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, and this transition provision makes it explicit that the authority existed then — as it did — in the act, in the intent of the Legislature and now in the transitional provision.
M. Lee: Thank you for that response. In the case of those 11 individuals, has there been any level of enforcement against those individuals in the interim period?
Hon. D. Eby: I can advise the member that it’s our understanding that these were registered with the program and were therefore subject to some level of enforcement. I don’t have information for the member about what the enforcement actions taken on those 12 awards was.
M. Lee: In terms of the actual wording of section 20(2), is this language that refers to how retroactivity should be treated standard wording for how we impose language around retroactive effect in B.C. statutes?
Hon. D. Eby: I’m advised that this is the standardized legislative language to apply retroactively.
Section 20 approved.
On section 21.
L. Throness: I want to ask some questions of the minister, but I would like to preface my questions with a few short remarks. During estimates, on March 5 of this year, the minister made quite a strong statement that I want to quote. This is what she said:
“The powers, duties and functions conferred on a director under the Child, Family and Community Service Act, the CFCSA, are among the most powerful authorities in society — for example, the authority to investigate a child’s need for protection and the authority to remove a child from a parent’s care. With these powers comes a duty of care that a director owes to the people served, many of whom include some of society’s most vulnerable members.”
I agree with that, and I would point out that the minister is acting through her directors and that she bears ultimate responsibility for that duty of care.
The amendment before us seeks to change section 92.1 of the Child, Family and Community Service Act. It would allow the director to expand the scope of agreements that he or she may enter into with a First Nation, the Nisg̱a’a Nation, a treaty First Nation or an Indigenous community. The very idea that we would expand the scope of agreements that can be made with various Indigenous groups implies that we might retract the scope of the ministry as we hand over more responsibility to Indigenous peoples.
I don’t have a problem with this in principle. I think it can be a very positive thing, and I’m happy to vote for this section of the bill. But there is an issue in the act, called its guiding principles, which tasks the minister with a number of areas of responsibility. I want to make sure that we clarify these areas of responsibility for the minister.
The main guiding principle of the guiding principles section of the act says that “the safety and well-being of children are the paramount considerations” of the minister. I presume that she can’t delegate those guiding principles to any other person or body and, indeed, would not want to. Certainly, there’s nothing in the bill to suggest that.
When considering the best interests of the child, the minister has to take into account: the child’s physical safety; physical and emotional needs; continuity of care; quality of relationship; cultural, racial, linguistic and religious heritage; the views of the child; and issues of delay, which is a long list of responsibilities.
In respect of the minister’s main responsibility for the safety and well-being of the child and all of its sub-elements, I have some questions about how the new power to make agreements will work in practice.
The first question is…. When the minister, through her director, makes an agreement with a First Nation, they will obviously do so because they’re concerned for the safety and well-being of the child. Once that child is placed under an expanded agreement that may involve guardianship, what will be the minister’s continuing role with respect to that child? Will she have any more legal responsibility?
Hon. K. Conroy: I want to thank the member for the questions.
I want to introduce the staff that are with me. I have Alex Scheiber, who’s the deputy director of child welfare, and Francesca Wheler, who’s the executive director of child welfare policy.
Just to clarify with the member that when the ministry enters into an agreement with the First Nations, it doesn’t pass on the ultimate responsibility of the child. The ministry, or the director, maintains those responsibilities. It’s a way of ensuring that the First Nations Indigenous communities have more say into what happens with the child.
L. Throness: The idea of guardianship, though, suggests that the care and the responsibility for the welfare of the child will pass to the guardian. The ministry is the guardian, now, of the child in care. Once it makes an expanded agreement and that agreement involves guardianship, does that not transfer responsibility?
Hon. K. Conroy: Just to clarify, the answer is no. If you read the legislation, it says, “planning for the needs of the Indigenous children of the First Nation, Nisg̱a’a Nation, treaty First Nation or Indigenous community who are in the custody of the director” or care or guardianship…. So it carries on.
L. Throness: I assume, then, that the ministry staff will be involved in monitoring, on an ongoing basis, the progress of that child — for example, their ongoing physical and emotional well-being and the quality of the relationship — in order to ensure the child’s well-being?
Hon. K. Conroy: Yes.
Section 21 approved
On section 22.
S. Thomson: Appreciate the opportunity to direct some questions on this important part of the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. I’ll have some questions. My colleague the member for Kelowna West will as well, and there may be others as we go through some of the questions.
Maybe just to get things started, then, could the minister provide, for the record and for the House, the rationale in the background and the objectives of this amendment that is before us?
Hon. D. Eby: The member will note that there are two sets of amendments in the section here. For the first, which is a minor amendment, it ensures that the provision contains wording that is consistent with the new wording proposed in sections (p.1) and (p.2). The issue is that the wording of the current section is potentially confusing and that it conflates the concepts of disclosure with the concepts of storage and access. The new proposed wording uses the phrase “results in” to attempt to resolve this potential for confusion. The other minor change to this section is to remove redundant wording.
Now, there’s a more substantive part to this which authorizes public bodies to disclose personal information inside and outside of Canada for temporary processing. For this amendment, it will empower ministries and non-ministry public bodies to choose tools and services that provide best overall value to citizens and offer the most effective security protections.
Currently the B.C. public sector is significantly inhibited in its ability to use common technology, which is impacting the ability of public bodies to provide services to citizens. The disclosure of personal information for temporary processing is crucial to enable the B.C. public sector to use common technology, such as email and other office productivity tools. No other jurisdiction in Canada is restricted from using these technologies.
S. Thomson: Thank you to the minister for that answer.
I guess, for greater clarity, could the minister indicate what gap is being addressed with this amendment? Is this amendment covering a situation and a practice that currently exists and is being undertaken? Are these amendments being brought forward to address that — in other words, a practice that is currently happening; or is it to address a gap in terms of providing services?
Hon. D. Eby: If the member is asking if these are in response to a privacy breach, they are not. This has been an ongoing discussion since I was in opposition on the committee around the act. We had a very good discussion about how we handle the processing of information that may cross international borders for automatic processing by servers before returning back to Canada. It’s been an ongoing discussion.
The concern is that the restriction prevents the public service and non-ministry public bodies and ministries from choosing tools and services that Canadians take for granted as part of our electronic life that provide effective security protections for British Columbians and also value to British Columbians. The component of some of these services is that the disclosure of personal information for temporary processing is part of the service.
We look across Canada. We’re the only province that restricts that. The other provinces in Canada appear to have been able to offer both security and value to citizens with these services. That is why it’s in front of the House here today.
S. Thomson: To the minister: thank you for that answer.
Can the minister confirm that, in these amendments that are before us, there is no provision in those amendments for the storage of data outside of British Columbia or Canada — that this simply refers to the processing disclosure that may happen through that process, but this does not at all include storage of data?
Hon. D. Eby: The proposed amendment specifically excludes the storage of personal information that is not metadata, which is the data that the computer uses to process the information itself.
So in section (p.1), “if the disclosure (i) is necessary for the processing of information” is the first test, then “if that processing does not…(B) result in the storage of personal information, other than personal information that is metadata, outside Canada” then it goes on to set out another test.
You have to meet all these tests in order for it to be allowed, so it cannot result in the storage of personal information other than personal information that is metadata. So to the member’s question, that is part of the proposed amendment here.
S. Thomson: Could the minister provide for information, with this amendment that’s coming forward, an assessment or a bit of an idea or any data or information on the amount of activity that takes place in this realm — what this amendment is providing for in terms of the scope and scale of this activity that will now, as you point out, provide opportunities for increased service and increased opportunities? Can you provide any information in terms of the scope, the demand, the need for this and the use of this?
Hon. D. Eby: There are some strict restrictions, and some stakeholders have argued too strict, around the ability to have information processed outside of Canada in this amendment. We can’t quantify for the member, although I would like to, how much of this activity we’re talking about.
What I can advise him is that personal information could be disclosed only for temporary processing, which is done by machines — it takes a few milliseconds for the servers to do this — and only in a situation where the personal information will not be accessed by a person and only where it won’t be stored outside of Canada, except in the situation of metadata, which we have already discussed.
The change will, we hope, allow for the use of Canadian-based cloud applications, but it will not allow for the use of all cloud-based technologies that could be available to public bodies. They have to meet the requirements of these amendments. So it will expand the choices available to ministries, non-government public bodies, but it doesn’t open it up to everything that might be available to public bodies in other jurisdictions.
B. Stewart: Last year during estimates debate, a fair amount of time was spent on the new speculation and vacancy tax in terms of the data that was being collected for the use of government in implementing that particular taxation model. A lot of concerns were raised by citizens of British Columbia, both prior to and then during the declaration period. Subsequently to that, there are some people that I know that still refuse to comply with the government’s request for information. I’d like to ask the minister if this legislation amendment is in any way in response to those concerns.
Hon. D. Eby: I’m advised this is completely unrelated to the speculation and vacancy tax.
B. Stewart: Well, okay. During that discussion with the Minister of Finance…. We had a lot of dialogue with both the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Citizens’ Services responsible for this act, freedom of information and privacy protection. During the discussion and debate….
A company headquartered in Colorado had a data breach in 2017 with some data that was being used in Detroit on property tax or employment information. This company is the contractor for the Ministry of Finance, or subcontracted through the Ministry of Citizens’ Services. That particular company — obviously, its track record speaks for itself, in the sense that there is data that was breached for 1.9 million users.
I guess the question we have is: are there concerns that are going to be protected for British Columbians? Even though, as the minister described, a split-second transaction, updates, all of the things that are listed in the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act here…. I guess the question we’re really wondering is, is that this information…. Are there any of the processes in here that are being done outside of the country, or is it just the platform that Fast Enterprises has developed?
Hon. D. Eby: I advised the member that this is totally unrelated to the speculation and vacancy tax. That’s the advice that I’m receiving here, and I will repeat that for him. The amendments don’t change data residency requirements for British Columbia. This is for processing as part of an application outside of Canada. I’m not sure that I can provide him with any more clarity than that.
B. Stewart: My point is not about the speculation and vacancy tax. It’s about the software that this particular company has been employed or contracted to produce for the Ministry of Finance to track the data. They already have a record of having a serious breach within their own country.
The question really is that British Columbians want to know that with 1.6 million records that are stored on this platform…. We want to make certain. That number could grow as high as over three million records. What we want to know is the fact that the software and the company are being properly restricted in terms of making certain that the data is protected and that there is no data transmission in order to process those records in the United States.
Hon. D. Eby: I’m advised that the procurement of software related to the speculation and vacancy tax was undertaken before this amendment and was compliant with the law as it stood in British Columbia then and as it stands now, until this amendment is passed. I’m not sure if that’s sufficient to address the member’s concern.
B. Stewart: I appreciate that rules do change and that the situation is that this contractual arrangement is to have Fast Enterprises do this software development for the Ministry of Finance. I guess, as a British Columbian, and people that have been reluctant to provide information…. There is this relationship between the U.S. PATRIOT Act and data. The U.S. PATRIOT Act…. I think that it’s well documented that there are companies that work and specialize in that here in Canada, and clearly, companies that are U.S.-based can be ordered to give up information if the U.S. government deems that under the PATRIOT Act.
I guess in terms of the concerns about that, we want to make certain that there is no data or information that would compromise privacy of British Columbians, either through this software or other pieces of software that are being used in government.
Hon. D. Eby: Maybe the member wasn’t here, but when the B.C. Liberals were in government, they entered into contracts with any number of American computer and software companies. The PATRIOT Act was existing then, just as it exists now. Nothing has changed since we formed government. We go through a procurement process which is compliant with B.C.’s strict data residency requirements, just as we expect the previous administration should have done.
Nothing has changed. The member can be reassured that the procurement of the software for the speculation and vacancy tax was done in compliance with the law as it stands today, before this amendment. It is unrelated to this amendment, to the best advice that I’m receiving. I don’t know. You can ask the same question a number of times, but the answer will be, unsurprisingly, the same.
S. Thomson: I think it’s fair to say that on both sides of the House here, we all support the need for the strongest possible protection of personal and private information. All disclosure and storage disclosure and any exceptions to that should be strongly protected and limited, particularly as we see the increases in technology and cloud technology, as the minister referenced.
With respect to these amendments that are being brought forward here, was this an issue that was raised and suggested by the Privacy Commissioner as something that should be addressed?
Hon. D. Eby: I don’t wish to misrepresent the commissioner’s position, but I think it’s safe to say that the commissioner has some concerns about this provision and allowing personal data to be processed outside of Canada.
I’ll also say that there are a number of stakeholders — UBC, Vancouver Coastal Health — that are very concerned that this provision does not go nearly far enough to allow them to be able to use cutting-edge technology tools to assist with health care, in Vancouver Coastal Health’s situation and, from the University of British Columbia’s perspective, to assist with research and technology at that university. I would imagine it would be a concern shared with other post-secondary institutions that do that type of work and other health authorities.
We’re trying to strike, as best as possible, a balance. So this amendment does incorporate a number of protections. The data can’t be stored. It can only be for processing. Only metadata can be maintained outside of Canada. Humans can’t be involved; it has to be machines doing the processing. So those safeguards are in place.
Our hope is that that opens up some of the tools to concerned stakeholders, while respecting the very valid concerns that have been raised by the Privacy Commissioner around opening this door to allowing processing of data outside of Canada.
S. Thomson: I take it from that answer that this is not a step that has been advocated for or requested by the Privacy Commissioner in terms of opening this up. Was a privacy impact statement done in the preparation of the legislation?
Hon. D. Eby: I’m advised that, yes, it was completed.
S. Thomson: Was the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner consulted on that privacy impact statement?
Hon. D. Eby: The commissioner was consulted on the legislation itself.
S. Thomson: Would the minister be prepared to provide for the House a copy of the privacy impact statement and the consultation that was carried out with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in this process? And the nature of that consultation — was it around the specifics of the legislation? Was it around the principle? What was the level of consultation, and what was the level of the privacy impact statement that was done?
Hon. D. Eby: I’m advised there’s no difficulty with sharing that privacy impact assessment with the member. I can also advise that in terms of the correspondence…. And I apologize to the member. From the correspondence that I received from the Privacy Commissioner, I recall — but I’d have to have a look at the letter — the commissioner saying that he, as is his practice, was sharing it with the official opposition and the critic for the position. So that may not have made its way through the channels. I can ask staff to try to find that letter, as well, if that’s helpful for the member.
S. Thomson: I think the letter that the minister is referring to is the letter that we’ve received a copy of. We do have a copy of it, and I know it went to the Minister of Citizens’ Services and, presumably, to the acting Minister of Citizens’ Services and to the Third Party and a number of deputy ministers as well. That letter came after the introduction of the legislation, so that doesn’t confirm that there was consultation with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
In fact, it more leads to the concern that the legislation was drafted and brought forward prior to any consultation with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. You said there was a privacy impact statement done. The question was: was that done internally within the ministry and not in a process of consultation?
I think the question that we have, given the concerns that have been raised by the commissioner, is that it appears — and maybe the minister can confirm this — that that consultation…. It would really raise the question of whether that consultation took place prior to the introduction of the legislation or during the drafting and the development of this legislation. Significant concerns have been raised, which we would have thought would have been taken into consideration in bringing the legislation forward, and having to come in after the fact leads us to the concern that that step wasn’t taken.
Hon. D. Eby: I can advise the member that the advice I have is that the commissioner was consulted on two separate occasions prior to the tabling of the legislation in the House. The commissioner can’t comment on legislation before it’s tabled, so that’s why the member saw the comment come out after it was tabled. It doesn’t mean that the commissioner wasn’t consulted before or that the commissioner’s concerns weren’t considered very carefully.
The commissioner has a really important job of flagging for government privacy concerns that government should be aware of and also flagging those concerns for the opposition. I’m glad that the opposition got a copy of that letter so that they could ask questions about this.
We do have a responsibility in government to balance different interests, one of which is privacy and one of which is the concerns of very important stakeholders in our community that come forward and say: “Look, we’re barred from using a lot of technologies that would improve people’s health care, or we’re barred from using a lot of technologies that would assist us in doing research, because of these restrictions.” So it’s a challenge to balance these things, and the conversation is ongoing about how our legislation both protects the privacy of British Columbians and responds to a changing technological landscape and the requirements of various actors.
The commissioner has rightly, as is part of the office, drawn concerns to the attention of the opposition and the attention of government — and publicly, following the introduction of the bill. I definitely appreciate the commissioner’s efforts in doing so and in ensuring government is informed on that front.
S. Thomson: I appreciate the commitment of the minister to provide us with a copy of the privacy impact statement that was done in preparation. I presume that that privacy impact statement would show the consultation that took place with the office and confirm the point that the minister made that that consultation did take place.
We addressed some of this issue in estimates and things with the former Minister of Citizens’ Services during that process around a privacy impact statement. This was in relation to another issue, but it was very clear from her comments that…. This is from Hansard, the response in estimates. “The Ministry of Finance did a privacy impact statement, as is required. It was reviewed by our senior staff. We are satisfied. It meets all the requirements of FOIPPA. We also reviewed with the Privacy Commissioner’s office, and as clarification, the oversight party is actually the Privacy Commissioner.” So again, pointing out clearly the important role that the Privacy Commissioner has in this process.
I think it’s still, on this side of the House, a concern and a surprise to us, in a sense, that the Privacy Commissioner has had to provide that commentary, following introduction of the legislation, on something which, as the former minister pointed out, has the oversight.
If consultation had taken place with the office and with the Privacy Commissioner and serious concerns raised, why do we see him having to state those concerns now? We would have thought that some of those concerns that he raised…. We’ll be talking about some of those specific concerns in some further questions. Why aren’t they incorporated in the existing legislation?
As the commissioner pointed out in his response, the objective is laudable and supportable. He’s not opposed to what is being done here. As well, we support the direction of the use of this technology as well, but we also want to make sure — and we have a responsibility to make sure — that the strongest and strictest conditions are in place for the protection of citizens’ personal information and the privacy of that information. He has raised some concerns that the legislation that has been tabled doesn’t quite do that and opens up some risks to that information.
We would have thought that those risks would have been addressed earlier if a full consultation had taken place during the privacy impact assessment process. So we’ll need to look at the privacy impact statement to see if that took place or not, whether those concerns were raised then, during the statement. We’ll look forward to receiving a copy of that impact statement.
[J. Isaacs in the chair.]
Again, maybe the question I would direct to the minister, then, is: if those concerns were raised during the consultation process while the principles of the legislation were developed, and in consultation with his office, were those concerns raised and dismissed? Were they not…? Did the government bring this legislation forward, knowing those concerns and having had those concerns addressed during that privacy impact assessment, and move forward anyway, despite the concerns that were raised by the Privacy Commissioner?
Hon. D. Eby: I don’t feel comfortable speaking on behalf of the Privacy Commissioner about what concerns were or were not raised during the engagement with government. What I can advise the member is that on October 9, a letter was sent to government — it went to the opposition and was posted on the Privacy Commissioner’s website — raising concerns, saying: “Here’s what I think government should have done. I don’t like this section as much as I could. I support the overall goal.”
This is taken really seriously. When the commissioner reaches out like this, this is considered by staff. It’s considered by government as part of the ongoing dialogue between us, the Privacy Commissioner, industry, Advanced Education and government agencies as we try to find our way through a challenging field, which is the question of privacy and technology.
There’s a spectrum here. On one end of the spectrum is: “Absolutely no data, under any circumstances, ever crosses a Canadian border.” On the other end of the spectrum is: “There is no border with respect to data.” For many of the applications that British Columbians use every day — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Gmail, you name it — that data goes across borders. It’s stored all over the place, and there are no controls in relation to that. For government, we’re on the opposite end of the spectrum, where only under the most rigorous and strict restrictions, proposed under this amendment, could you even move data for temporary processing across the border.
We’re trying to find that balance. It’s not like there’s the Privacy Commissioner’s perspective, and then there are no other perspectives. It’s a really important, valued perspective — a necessary perspective that we support and fund because it’s critically important that that voice be part of the discussion, a voice focused on privacy for British Columbians. But there are other voices in the discussion. Those include agencies and post-secondary institutions that say: “These restrictions are totally out of whack with international norms, and we need more space to do this work.”
For Coastal Health — remember when they presented to our committee about sepsis — they said that it’s a matter of life and death. This would improve our ability to detect and prevent sepsis. There are ways forward through these dialogues, and that is what we try to do.
The amendment that’s in front of the House, I will say, in my opinion, is a modest one: temporary processing, no human contact, no storage of data and enabling the use of technology tools that Canadians would assume a government would have access to, because they bring the twin benefits of cost-effectiveness and security of data for British Columbians.
You don’t need to go deep into the consultation or engagement with the Privacy Commissioner. There’s a public letter here that outlines concerns that are part of the discussion.
I hope the member understands now a little bit more about the picture of the considerations that go into an amendment like this and the assessment and the decision of government to bring it forward.
S. Thomson: I know and appreciate the fact that the minister says that he doesn’t want to speak and can’t speak for the Privacy Commissioner. But the question we’re asking is whether or not the concerns that the Privacy Commissioner has had to bring forward, post the introduction of the legislation — significant concerns, in our view, and also concerns that, in our view, don’t preclude the advancement of the technology and the use of it…. He’s simply looking to make sure that the conditions and the wording in the legislation is as strict as possible in order to protect and not create a threat to individual citizens’ privacy.
The question we’re asking is: were those concerns raised in the consultation process during the development of the legislation, prior to the introduction? If so, were they acknowledged? Were they recognized but not included in the legislation as you moved it forward, given the comments you made around wanting to try to open up the opportunity?
The Privacy Commissioner’s view is that you may have opened up the opportunity a little bit too vague in some areas and with a little bit too much risk in some areas. Were those concerns raised during the consultation process with his office and during the privacy impact assessment work in developing the legislation?
Hon. D. Eby: I can tell the member that at a minimum, they were raised on October 9, 2019, in a public letter. They’ve been considered by government, and the amendment is in front of the House today, which includes government’s consideration of the concerns raised by the Privacy Commissioner’s letter.
I definitely thanked the commissioner for the letter and the comments on the wording. We’ll be responding to the commissioner’s letter. We will continue to have an ongoing dialogue with the commissioner and other stakeholders on this really important issue of technology and privacy.
S. Thomson: Agreed. The concerns have been brought forward in the letter. That is, post the introduction of the legislation, he’s had to take the step of formally advising of the concerns, as is noted in his letter, his practice of providing the information to both the official opposition and the Third Party.
I still go back to the point that we are seeking the clarification or the answer on. Were those concerns specifically raised during the process of consultation with the Privacy Commissioner’s office prior to and during the development of the legislation?
I would think that if the answer to that is: “Yes, those concerns were raised. We decided not to take those concerns in, in drafting the legislation and bringing it forward….” That’s one answer. The other answer, maybe, is that the depth and level of consultation with his office — and maybe that’s what we’ll see through the privacy impact statement — didn’t have that depth of conversation in developing the legislation with his office, and he’s now had to put those concerns on record.
Again, the minister says: “We’ve got the concerns that came on October 9.” That’s just a couple of days after the legislation was introduced. So he’s had to take that extraordinary step of doing that.
The question we’re really asking is: were those concerns raised and noted during the privacy impact assessment process and decided not to take those concerns into consideration — or not?
I think that’s really the question that we’re getting at, because it seems a bit extraordinary to us that he has had to come in and raise these concerns after the fact. We would have thought, given the important role of the Privacy Commissioner, that he would have made it clear beforehand that those kinds of concerns would have been addressed, as we said. He supports the objectives, and so do we, but has raised legitimate concerns about whether the protections are actually there while you move into this new technology.
Hon. D. Eby: In the letter that the member received from the Privacy Commissioner, the commissioner writes: “Consistent with our long-standing practice when commenting on a bill tabled in the Legislative Assembly, I’m providing a copy of this letter to opposition critics through your ministries in addition to your deputies.”
It’s a long-standing practice because there is a dialogue that takes place between government and the commissioner. It’s a public dialogue. That’s why the member was carbon-copied on it. The official opposition critic for the Attorney General was carbon-copied on it as well — there were two members of the opposition carbon-copied on it — so that this could be discussed in the Legislature.
Now, I’m not quite sure why, but the member is very interested in when exactly these concerns were raised, even though there’s a letter dated October 9, so he knows that they were raised. He knows that government is aware of them, yet here is the legislation in front of the House.
So government clearly considered this. The legislation is in front. Hopefully we’re going to vote on it sometime. Does he have questions about the concerns that were raised and why government may or may not have headed in that particular recommended direction? Does he have questions about why we didn’t go further and expand the categories in which public agencies, health authorities and others could have information processed or have information transit through other countries? I’m not quite sure.
It doesn’t matter. I mean, I’ll do my best to answer. But when he knows that there’s feedback from the commissioner, that we’ve received it…. He knows we’ve received it because he got the letter too, and here is the bill in front of us. It’s fairly self-explanatory — how we got here.
S. Thomson: Well, I think it is quite self-explanatory, the issue we’re addressing here, with the fact that legislation was tabled, and two days later the Privacy Commissioner had to register significant concerns about the legislation in terms of the wording. If you look through it, things like the language is too permissive, vague, should be more strictly limited — words along those lines…. Obviously we will have some further questions around those concerns that have been raised.
The real question is, and what we would have thought…. I served in executive council before, when legislation was going through the legislative review process, through drafting and everything like that. There were a number of tests that had to be met, boxes that had to be ticked off — privacy impact assessment, First Nations consultation, trade and regulatory compliance. All of those kinds of steps had to be…. A pretty rigorous process in bringing legislation forward.
Again, back to the basic question, which I think is a very legitimate question. It is: were these concerns that he has raised in the wording of the legislation that is now tabled — and he had to raise them after the tabling — raised during the privacy impact assessment, during the consultation process that the minister says took place with the office?
Were those concerns raised and discounted on the balance of wanting to open up and provide the opportunities? I think that’s the question. Maybe we’ll have a little bit more clarity around that when we see the privacy impact assessment statement, because that should outline the steps that were taken in terms of the discussion and any concerns that may or may not have been addressed during that process.
Again, back to the basic question: were these concerns raised during the process of consultation and before the legislation was introduced?
Hon. D. Eby: I’m afraid I’m at the limit of what I can assist the member with in terms of clarifying government’s intention, the commissioner’s concerns and the consultation that I’m advised took place.
If it’s of assistance to him, I’m advised that there was consultation, at least, on September 9 and 24. I don’t know if that’s helpful. But other than that, I’m not sure how else I can assist him.
P. Milobar: Maybe I’ll rephrase the question to the Attorney General. Really, what we’re asking and what we’re curious about here is: there was consultation with the Privacy Commissioner ahead of the drafting of this legislation or while it was being drafted. The letter has been sent after the legislation was already tabled in the House. The Attorney General has not amended it, to my knowledge, to coincide with what the Privacy Commissioner has recommended in the Privacy Commissioner’s letter.
Therefore, were the articles listed in the letter by the Privacy Commissioner brought forward to the staff as the bill was being created on, it sounds like, September 9 and September 24? If so, why was it ignored and not changed to be a part of the legislation?
Hon. D. Eby: Perhaps it would be easier for the member if he wanted to ask about a specific issue — why government headed in one direction or another — rather than a sort of a broad question. I have outlined the intention of government and the balancing of interests in terms of the broad response to his colleague.
If there’s a specific proposed amendment that he’s curious about, I’d be glad to do my best to assist.
M. Lee: I believe the reason why we’re asking these questions is to have confidence in the process in which this government has come forward with this legislation.
As the Attorney General has referred to, this is an area of great concern to all British Columbians in terms of what the government does — how it handles private personal data information of British Columbians. I would have thought, as the member for Kelowna-Mission has outlined concerns around and the member from Kelowna West, in the face of the speculation tax, with over 1.6 million users and filers providing personal information to this government, that concerns around how the government utilizes and processes that data is very important.
With the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, that office has a role to play in all of this. The Attorney General has acknowledged that. But in the dialogue of the questions and answers that we’ve been hearing, we’re not getting any comfort around the process in which the concerns that were outlined after the legislation was introduced in this House were brought to the attention of the official opposition.
The Attorney General has referred to the letter, which we have. Clearly it sets out in detail…. We’re happy to discuss in detail the concerns around the legislation. But the question is: what confidence can we have in the process that this government has followed in reviewing the privacy impact assessment for this act?
So the reason why the members for Kelowna-Mission and Kamloops–North Thompson have been raising this question is to get some understanding as to whether the commissioner’s concerns were addressed in the process that the government followed prior to the introduction of the bill.
I think that is a fair question to be asking. We’d ask, again, the Attorney General if he would please answer that question.
Hon. D. Eby: The member says that he would like to discuss the bill. I would like nothing better than to discuss the bill. However, the members seem to be doing everything but discuss the bill.
There is a letter dated October 9, 2019. I thought the member for Kamloops–North Thompson…. He was so close. He said: “Okay, so you got this letter from the commissioner on October 9 that outlined some concerns. We’ve got this bill. It doesn’t seem to change based on what the commissioner sent.”
Instead of saying “therefore,” the commissioner raised the concerns. Government considered them and decided not to adopt them. Therefore, were these concerns raised earlier?
I’m not sure where that gets us. We have the concerns in hand. I think they’re important concerns. They were raised by a very serious person with a very important office that government supports to bring up exactly this kind of concern.
The government considered the concerns. The government has put this draft legislation, this bill, in front of the House for debate and discussion and voting. I know the members have a copy of this letter from the commissioner that raises concerns about the language as sits in front of the House right now.
The member thinks it’s a fair question. That’s fine. He’s welcome to think that. The issue is the commissioner has raised concerns. The bill is as it stands, and it is the product of balancing a number of different priorities and concerns.
I’m very grateful to the commissioner for the commissioner’s work. I think it’s important that copies of the letter be sent to the opposition, to the Third Party and to my office and to the acting minister’s office. It’s all part of the process which includes engagement with the commissioner before the bill is tabled.
Now, the members draw a great deal of significance from the fact that the letter arrived after the bill was tabled. They just read the last paragraph of the letter. “Consistent with our long-standing practice when commenting on a bill tabled in the Legislative Assembly,” they’re providing a copy of the letter to opposition critics.
When we engage the commissioner on draft legislation, the commissioner can’t…. Part of the deal is you don’t put up a letter on your website about the legislation, because you’ll be announcing government legislation instead of government announcing it.
So we want your feedback. We want your input. We need to be able to engage with you. This was a practice engaged in by the previous administration as well, and it’s a necessary and very helpful process to ensure that our laws are as consistent with our values around privacy, as well as technology and innovation, as they can be.
If the commissioner finds that the commissioner still has concerns on the bill being tabled, the commissioner then writes a letter and sends it to everybody. Then it’s out in the open, and we can have a debate about it in the Legislature — or theoretically, we can have a debate about it in the Legislature. Or we can talk about exactly when the concerns were raised, even though there’s a dated letter in the hands of the opposition.
M. Lee: Well, let’s try this one more time. In terms of the September 9 and September 24 interaction with the commissioner, can I ask the Attorney General: what was presented to the commissioner to comment on for the purpose of that discussion?
Hon. D. Eby: With apologies to the member, I was just briefly consulting with staff. Could the member repeat the question?
M. Lee: No worries. Just to say again that for the purpose of understanding the process, what was the information provided to the commissioner on September 9 or September 24 in the discussion of what were, what we’re hearing earlier, principles for this bill?
Was the language, and the actual language of the proposed amendments, tabled for the commissioner’s review?
Hon. D. Eby: I can advise the member that standard practice is to provide draft legislation amending the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act to the commissioner for comment and review in any engagement process.
M. Lee: In that engagement process, did the commissioner provide revised or additional language, alternative language, to your ministry, stemming off the September 9 and September 24 interactions?
Hon. D. Eby: The practice is to provide the proposed legislation for comment by the commissioner so that government…. It’s really helpful for government to hear issues, concerns, suggestions, from the commissioner’s office because they have a great deal of expertise in privacy and information management. So it’s part of the process when we’re amending the act.
S. Thomson: I don’t think at all that we’re disputing here the consistent practice of the Privacy Commissioner, following the tabling of legislation and the practice of providing copies. I think that’s a valid process and part of the important role that the Privacy Commissioner plays.
The concern, and what we have been probing, is…. Given the nature and the concerns and the recommendation to government in the letter outlining some of the risks, some of the concerns that he has around it, and his wording in the letter, saying: “I therefore strongly urge the following amendments to the bill, which would better protect British Columbians’ privacy while serving the amendments’ goal….”
He has made some recommendations here that he believes better protect British Columbians’ privacy. He indicates that those can be done in a way that doesn’t compromise or doesn’t meet the objectives of the amendments that have been brought forward. In fact, earlier in his letter he says that the overall objective is laudable in terms of what is being proposed here.
It goes back to the questions that have been raised earlier, that I’ve raised and that my colleagues have raised: if they were raised in the process of consultation, during the privacy impact process leading up to it, why weren’t those concerns addressed in that process? And why has he had to step forward now with the significant concerns that are in his letter?
We would have thought that those concerns might have been raised during the process. That’s what we’re probing. I expect that if they had been raised in the process, and they are legitimate concerns around the overall objective of ensuring the strictest possible protections in place for individual citizens’ privacy, they might have been incorporated in the legislation that was brought forward. But they’re not, and that’s why we’ve been asking the questions around process — whether or not those concerns were raised in that process.
As I said, maybe the privacy impact statement will give us a little bit more clarity on it. Clearly, the minister is not prepared to indicate whether that’s the case or not, referring back to the letter that we do have in front of us. But, again, that was post the introduction of the legislation, to have those concerns formally conveyed.
Maybe I’ll ask just one more time. I know I probably may not get the answer, but did the nature and the level of these concerns that have been raised in the letter of October 9…? Were they part of the discussion in the consultation processes that took place on the dates that the minister referenced?
Hon. D. Eby: The government has considered the important feedback of the commissioner and has put forward what we believe to be the best balancing of ensuring that the public service, public agencies, have access to the technologies that have high value and high security for British Columbians while preserving privacy. We believe that this language reflects the best matching of those goals.
P. Milobar: Well, the minister wants a specific question about the letter, so I’ll try to provide one. In the letter of October 9, the commissioner writes: “The proposed section 33.1(1)(p.1)(A) would permit disclosure of personal information if necessary for the processing of information and if that processing does not involve the intentional access of information by an individual. This language is too permissive. It should be replaced by the following: ‘Permit any individual to have access to personal information in the ordinary course of the processing.’”
Was that recommendation made by the Privacy Commissioner ahead of the October 7 presenting of the bill, and if so, why was it ignored?
Hon. D. Eby: The language that’s in front of the House prohibits the intentional access of information by an individual, which is a stricter standard than allowing an individual to have access to personal information in the ordinary course of the processing. You might have an unusual course of processing and then an individual intentionally accessing that personal information in that unusual circumstance. That is something that would not be permitted under the language that’s in front of the House, so we believe, actually, that the standard that’s in front of the House is a more strict standard than that proposed by the commissioner.
S. Thomson: I know the minister wants to move on and look at the specifics of the legislation. I think we’re probably at that point. I know we’re not going to get the answer that we’ve been looking for as far as process getting to this point, and as I said, maybe the privacy impact assessment, which I heard — a commitment from the minister — would be provided to us.
As I said earlier in my comments, we all support the strongest possible protection of personal information and privacy — that disclosure and storage, whether it’s within Canada or outside Canada, should be strongly protected and limited, particularly, as I pointed out earlier, with the increasing technology and opportunities that are there. But we do want to make sure — it’s important to ensure — that the legislation is as tight as possible.
A lot of this debate maybe could have been clarified and addressed if the…. You know, in our sense, we have a concern or a worry that the minister — now, in this case, the former minister — may not have had that level of consultation with the commissioner during the process, and the commissioner has now had to weigh in after the introduction of the bill. It’s disappointing to see that this may be the case, and since we haven’t gotten the answers, that’s one assumption we can make.
But I think the commissioner has provided some very thoughtful, informed comments and advice on the proposed legislation and has recommended a number of specific amendments to the legislation that would, in his view, provide that greater level of protection and reduce the risk to citizens.
I’d like to table an amendment to the bill. I have copies here for the Clerk and for the minister and for the official opposition.
[22 Section 33.1 (1) (b) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 165, is amended by adding the following paragraphs:
(p.1) if the disclosure
(i) is necessary for the processing of information and if that processing does not
involve the intentional access of the
information by an individual
permit any individual to have access to personal information in the
ordinary course of processing, or
(B) result in the storage of personal information, other
personal information that is metadata
for the minimum period of time that is necessary to complete the
processing, outside Canada, and
(ii) in the case of disclosure outside Canada, results in temporary access that is limited to the minimum period of time necessary to complete the processing;
(p.2) if the information is metadata that
(i) is generated by an electronic system, and
is generated by an individual’s interaction with the electronic
unless it is not possible to do so, personal information in
individually identifiable form has been removed from the metadata or
(iv) in the case of disclosure to a service provider, the
public body has prohibited any subsequent use or disclosure of personal
information in individually identifiable form
express authorization of the public body
without the prior written agreement of the public body;
On the amendment.
S. Thomson: These amendments incorporate the provisions that have been recommended by the Privacy Commissioner. The government has had his recommendations for close to two weeks now but clearly indicated that they are not going to consider his recommendations in bringing and continuing to bring the legislation forward, which they could have done.
The amendment that we have provided a copy of does bring in those provisions and adds the following. I will need to read these into the record, I think. That’s the process.
The amendments would be, under part 1(i), to strike out, under section (A), “involve the intentional access of the information by an individual” and replace it with the wording: “permit any individual to have access to personal information in the ordinary course of processing.” That is to address the concern that he has raised in his letter around the initial language being too permissive.
Then in part (B), where we talk about “result in the storage of personal information, other than…” to strike out “personal information that is metadata” and put in the wording: “for the minimum period of time that is necessary to complete the processing outside Canada.” This is another section he’s recommended, where he is saying that the storage component of it should be much, much more limited and recommends that it relate to the minimum period of time that is necessary to complete the processing.
In part 2, subsection (ii), to take out the word “describes” and to replace it by the words “is generated by,” because in his view, the word “describes” is vague and potentially broad; to strike out the words, under (iii), “if practicable” and replace those with the words “unless it is not possible to do so.” Again, he pointed out in his letter that the word “practicable” is vague, open to judgment and leaves a lot of questions as to what’s practical and what’s not practical. What he’s saying is it should be strengthened to the point where it says “unless it is not possible to do so,” which is a much higher test and a much higher provision as to when that exception could take place.
Then under part (iv), to take out the wording “without the express authorization of the public body” and replace that with the wording “without the prior written agreement of the public body.” He has recommended that wording and his view of providing for greater transparency, accountability and certainty in that provision, which is one of the hallmarks of what we want to see in the legislation — that transparency and accountability in the process.
That’s the amendment that we’d like to move for consideration.
Hon. D. Eby: I looked at the amendments proposed by the members. Again — this is the second time today — we provided access to legislative drafting counsel. These are lawyers who are expert in drafting statutes in British Columbia — consistent legislative language, consistent terms so that our laws make sense to people when they try to figure out what they mean. And we receive, again, twice today, a last-minute proposed amendment from the opposition that clearly hasn’t gone through legislative counsel.
I will flag for the member that his first amendment…. He stands up and says: “Oh, this is going to tighten controls and prevent people from accessing personal data.” But the first amendment increases access to personal data.
In the phrase, “If the disclosure is necessary for the processing of information and if that processing does not,” he’s struck out: “involve the intentional access of the information by an individual.” So that clause says that you just can’t access the personal data by an individual. You just can’t do it. If it’s intentional, you can’t do it. If it’s accidental, okay. But if it’s intentional, you can’t do it.
He has replaced it with language that would permit an individual to access personal information as long as it was outside the ordinary course of processing. He says that he wants to restrict access to personal information outside Canada, introduces a provision that would increase access to personal information outside Canada and does so in language that is inconsistent with B.C. statutes and will create unintended harms, because it hasn’t actually been considered by legislative counsel.
So no, I won’t be supporting the amendment of increasing access to personal data outside Canada. I don’t think the member understands, actually, what he’s proposed here in the first section if his intention is truly to restrict personal access.
I would urge the opposition, again, to take advantage of legislative counsel so that their amendments could, if the government supported them, actually be adopted.
S. Thomson: Speaking to the amendment, the amendments incorporate, to the best of our ability, the provisions that have been recommended by the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The minister and the members opposite have also had the recommendations for close to two weeks. It is clear that they, in consideration of this, have decided that the Privacy Commissioner’s concerns, as registered here, don’t warrant any further consideration or amendment. They have the opportunity, with bringing the legislation forward, to recognize the concerns that he has brought forward.
So our amendment is to bring those concerns into the legislation — going back to the point that, in our view, it appears the process leading up to this didn’t have the potential rigour in terms of engagement with the office that might have prevented all of this discussion and debate.
The amendments have incorporated his direction and his concerns — to bring those into the legislation. So we’ll be supporting the amendment unless the minister has another process here that would address the Privacy Commissioner’s concern.
P. Milobar: I rise to speak in favour of the amendment as presented. It’s important, I think, that we get this right, as we’ve heard. We do support, obviously, trying to make sure people’s access to their personal information is safeguarded and that, as best as possible, we keep the issues around the PATRIOT Act and other access points down into the States at a minimum.
People do have that option with their apps and everything they do on their phone, as the minister has pointed out. They have unlimited border-free data-sharing going on already. But it’s important for those government agencies to make sure that not only are people getting access and efficient access to their information between agencies and between health authorities and moving information around, but it needs to be done in a secure fashion.
When you read the letter from October 9, which the Privacy Commissioner provided, it makes it very clear that, despite what the minister’s answer to my last question was, the Privacy Commissioner is in direct odds with the minister’s answer. The minister said that the language in the bill as it stands is actually much more secure.
But when you read the Privacy Commissioner’s letter, it says flat out that this language is too permissive. It should be replaced. There are other points in the letter where that similar theme comes up.
On balance, that the intent of the legislation and cleaning up of the legislation is to modernize it and to better reflect what’s going on with technological advances and the fact that some of the routing does dip into the States and straight back over into Canada again is understandable for why that would need to be done. But it is very troubling that the Privacy Commissioner’s concerns seem to have been dismissed out of hand by this minister.
We’re not sure what the original Minister of Citizens’ Services would have thought as, obviously, that minister, basically, as the bill was being tabled in the House, was no longer the minister. It makes for a bit of an awkward situation moving this bill forward in terms of getting an understanding of what actually was going on within that ministry as this bill was being drafted and the interactions and the comfort level that they may or may not have had with how this wording has happened.
The other problem that I have, and the concern that I have, is that the Attorney General…. I think we were being very clear in the intent of what our questions were. The fact that it took the amount of questions that it did over the length of time that it did to get a simple answer to whether or not the advice in the letter was actually properly reviewed and why it wouldn’t have been acted upon when it’s very evident that it’s obviously not in the bill…. It’s very evident. We agree and we understand that the advice always comes after the final bill has been tabled — the official public letter. But there were the meetings ahead of time, as the minister pointed out, with this bill.
To see such evasive answers continue, question after question after question, about something so basic and simple to connect together really does make one wonder if the Attorney General was truly not understanding what we were getting at. One wonders how he was able to shepherd through complicated legislation in this House. That would lead me to believe that instead we’re seeing very much an effort to try to evade the question. Why? We’re not sure.
That’s why I have comfort with the amendment. The amendment makes it very clear and very succinct in terms of making sure that it’s more in line with what the Privacy Commissioner would recommend.
I would suggest that before the Attorney General was the Attorney General, either in opposition or in his previous role at the civil liberties, if a privacy commissioner had come out with recommendations like this on a piece of legislation by the previous government, there would have been a lot of concern being expressed as to why the Privacy Commissioner was being dismissed out of hand — not being just dismissed out of hand but 180-degree opposite interpretation of the same clauses.
The Attorney General isn’t just sharing a slight difference of wording opinion with the Privacy Commissioner. The Attorney General’s answer to me — on my question around why one of the proposed changes was not enacted or taken seriously and dismissed outright — was the exact opposite of what the Privacy Commissioner says about the wording. I’m going to err and go on the side of the Privacy Commissioner every time.
That, to me, seems to be why we have the Privacy Commissioner in the first place. It’s to safeguard and make sure that breaches like this don’t happen. Now, I don’t know if it’s because right now there seems to be a back-and-forth battle with government and the Privacy Commissioner and offices around FOI and if this is a way to try to plant a flag — who’s the boss — when it comes to these types of things or not. I’m not sure.
What I am sure, though, is that the Privacy Commissioner made some very clear recommendations on this legislation, and they have been wholly and completely ignored by the government — dismissed completely. What would be the point of consulting with the Privacy Commissioner if you have no intention whatsoever of following through on any of the recommendations?
It does make one wonder why there is such an apprehension by the government to adopt any of the recommendations at all that the Privacy Commissioner has brought forward when you consider the ramifications on a piece of legislation like this. If it’s not followed through properly in terms of people’s access, especially as it relates to their medical and health records that public bodies would have access to….
I know that this seems to be frustrating to the Attorney General and some of his colleagues, that we’re asking these many questions or that we dared to bring forward an amendment that actually is in line with what the Privacy Commissioner is recommending. But I would point out it wasn’t that long ago that the Attorney General wrapped up second reading debate on this by trying to admonish this side for not spending enough appropriate time debating the miscellaneous statutes bill, the overarching bill of this, because there were some important pieces of legislation in there and important changes. We agree with that. We wanted to get to this stage.
I guess we could have flipped forward and started to re-debate the throne speech, but that side didn’t feel it was important enough to debate back when it was first introduced. So we had nothing but Bill 35 to debate on that day that the Attorney General decided to admonish us for not debating long enough.
Yet here today the Attorney General seems very frustrated that we are daring to ask questions when there is a very clear contradiction of opinion between the Privacy Commissioner and the Attorney General, as well as the Minister of Citizens’ Services and their drafting of this legislation. That’s why the amendment is so important to make sure that any changes to information storage and handling, especially by public bodies…. Where people really don’t have that self-control over their own decision-making as to whether or not they want to be on an app, a Facebook or a Gmail account or any of those other types of services, that people have that individual right to be able to do that.
You don’t have that individual right when you’re going in and you’re accessing the health system or you’re using other government services. You’re at the mercy of how those records are going to be maintained and controlled if you want to try to receive the services from government that you should rightfully be receiving.
That’s why it’s important that we be the gatekeepers of making sure that any changes are being done in such a way that they will stand up to the rigour and not compromise any data being transmitted whatsoever in ways that it should not be accessed. That is why it’s troubling, the complete dismissiveness towards the Privacy Commissioner that we’re hearing from the government today in terms of anything to do with making sure that this legislation actually stands up to the rigour.
When you look at the language that the Privacy Commissioner recommends and that is contained within our amendment, the language that the Privacy Commissioner is saying in the existing bill, time and again, refers to various ways of things being too permissive or not strong enough. Those types of languaging, phrasing, is all through the letter.
It was a quick turnaround on the letter too, I would note. So the Privacy Commissioner was definitely taking this seriously, definitely recognizing that once it was in the assembly’s hands that things could move forward in a quick fashion. I applaud the commissioner for doing his work so quickly to make sure that this House was apprised of his concerns.
If the government had taken any of those concerns seriously in the first place, probably the letter would have read: “This piece of legislation aligns with what we’d recommended as we worked together behind the scenes to create the legislation.” Changes that were needed.
But that’s not what this letter states. This letter very clearly states, in one way and another, that “the government ignored me, and here are the changes I would make,” and why because the government’s legislation is too loose, it’s too easy to circumvent, and it will not provide the protections for the general public that they rightfully should expect from their government agencies that they are receiving services from and providing their data to.
Again, the minister routinely goes on about the legislative drafting services available and seems to use that as a reason why to not adopt legislation. The simple fact is we do bring forward amendments that do meet the criteria and do stand up to the scrutiny of whether or not it’s legislatively possible and worded correctly or not. But that seems to be a convenient reason, it seems, for the government not to enact the changes.
The changes that we have in our amendment are the same changes proposed by the Privacy Commissioner. If the government would have taken even a moment to seriously consider the Privacy Commissioner and the expertise that that office actually brings to the table, they could easily, over the last two weeks, have brought in their own amendments to clean up the bill.
We’ve seen several government bills come through that same legislative drafting service that required a lot of amending and corrections made for drafting errors, for language errors. I know that the Minister of Environment had several changes in a piece of legislation that I was the critic for and that we had to point out. By the time we came back from a week away, I think there were about 16 different amendments that the minister had to do because the legislation was not correctly put together.
So I’m not quite sure why the minister seems to get so agitated when we dare to try to amend things for the betterment of our communities. We saw that earlier today with the Trespass Act, in terms of that amendment, and the spirit and the intent behind that. We see that again today. Instead of focusing in on the merits of why the Privacy Commissioner’s recommendations are being flat out ignored by this government, the government tries to cloud things by stating that the amendment did not go through a drafting service.
I seem to remember another amendment that came forward through the drafting service by the Third Party that was ruled out of order after all of the rigmarole of doing that. So there’s no guarantee that that is what indeed will happen in going through the drafting service. Certainly, our staff are very professional when they put things together as well. I stand behind their work wholeheartedly with this amendment.
Hopefully, this House will see the wisdom in aligning with the thoughts and the views of the Privacy Commissioner, the office that’s actually set up to make sure that these types of protections are in place. Instead, what appears to be just another internal fight of government with the privacy commissioner, because they seem to be unhappy with how the rulings have been going against them in regard to FOI and records document management. Perhaps, with the new minister in place, things might change. But for the time being, in this legislation, drafted under the old minister that was in place at the time, we’re not seeing that.
I fully support the amendment, and I hope this House will as well.
M. Lee: Well, I’d just like to also speak in favour of this amendment. I think the questions around the process were indicative of the concerns around the nature of these proposed amendments. When the opposition caucus received copies of this letter dated October 9…. It clearly lays out the concerns by the Information and Privacy Commissioner in respect of the various sections of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that are being amended, for the good intention of modernizing that act, in the sense of all of the availability and processing of data — health care and otherwise — that might occur, temporarily, outside of Canada.
In terms of the concerns that are addressed in the letter, they are spelled out in a way that would suggest, in the commissioner’s view, that the way that the amendments that have been proposed, under Bill 35, to these various sections, is actually deficient. They’re deficient in the way that they’re worded. As the member for Kamloops–North Thompson just demonstrated in the exchange there, there’s a difference in interpretation in respect of the first provision that’s being amended. I would suggest the reason for that is that the commissioner has said that the language in the proposed subsection 33.1(1)(p.1)(i)(A) would be “too permissive.”
The reason for that is because when you look at the current wording that’s being proposed, as the Attorney General stated, where the processing does not involve “the intentional access of the information by an individual….” That is the wording that the government is proposing. The alternative language,in the amendment tabled by the member for Kelowna-Mission, reflects the wording that this government had notice of on October 9.
[R. Chouhan in the chair.]
Spelled out very clearly in their letter is that the alternative wording should read: “if that processing does not permit any individual to have access to personal information in the ordinary course of the processing.”
Intentional access. Well, what does “intentional” mean? I believe, having not had the opportunity to speak directly with the commissioner, that his concern around the language being too permissive is that that test is too high. It’s the opposite of the interpretation the Attorney General just shared with this House. It’s only if the processing involves intentional access.
Well, what is intentional access? That is, presumably, processing that enables access to personal information that is intentional — intentional, arguably, outside of the purview of this act. The wording that’s been provided by the commissioner in the alternative would provide that the processing does not permit an individual to have access to personal information in the ordinary course of processing.
That is the type of processing that would be permissible under the purview of this act. That is what the commissioner is presumably referring to. I would suggest to this House that the language that the member for Kelowna-Mission is tabling is completely appropriate and very clear, on its face, to provide a greater level of protection for the temporary processing of information in this manner.
The second amendment, under (p.1)(i)(B), is substituting the wording that says…. In this section, the government is proposing that personal data that is metadata can be stored outside of Canada. This language is actually saying that that is permissible. This is the language proposed by this government. Again, “personal information that is metadata” can be stored outside of Canada. That’s the effect.
The language of the commissioner, outlined clearly in his letter of October 9, two weeks ago, to this government is that that language should be: “other than for the minimum period of time that is necessary to complete the processing” outside of Canada. There is a time period there that’s prescribed in this recommendation by the commissioner to this government that’s very clear — the concern that any processing or storage of personal data be for a minimum period of time.
Again, the language used that is spelled out is more restrictive. That, in the words of the commissioner in his letter of October 9, suggests that this language that I just stated for that (B) wording ought to be changed to provide for a stronger limit so that there is a limit placed on the storage of personal data that is, in effect, metadata.
Right now, in the wording that the government has proposed, there is no limit. There’s an exclusion for the storage of personal data or personal information that is metadata. I would have thought that if that concern and concept was raised, even by way of principle, on September 9 and September 24, this government would have heard that concern by this commissioner, because in concept, that is a very clear concept that everyone can understand.
So the fact that as the Attorney General took us through the process to suggest that all concerns of the commissioner were taken into account and that we only have the evidence of the response of the government by virtue of the non-reflection of what the commissioner is clearly recommending in his letter of October 9….
That’s clear indication that this government has rejected that advice and presented legislation which is defective, weak and doesn’t place the level of protection around the handling of personal information in the manner that the Information and Privacy Commissioner of this province, who is charged with that responsibility, recommends.
If you read the letter…. It’s available on the website to the public. The letter is worded very strongly in terms of his level of concerns. The Attorney General talked about the broad spectrum of review and input that’s being provided. But I ask, and I just raise rhetorically…. We have to respect this office. This commissioner is playing the role. He is charged with the responsibility for the protection of information and privacy in this province.
With the level of data that this government is requiring from British Columbians, at the very least, British Columbians would expect that the commissioner would be heard and his recommendations would be accepted. In the face of a letter that all members on this side of the House have received — as well as the member for Saanich North and the Islands, as the critic for the Third Party for the Ministry of Citizens’ Services — we have grave concerns as to how this government is proceeding with this legislation. That’s the reason why we’ve taken the time to reflect the recommendations identified very clearly by the commissioner in his letter of October 9 in the proposed amendment that’s being tabled.
The member for Kelowna-Mission has gone through the other amendments that are being set out in the manner that is described in the October 9 letter, but I would urge all members of this House to consider this. There can be nothing more fundamental than ensuring that the data that British Columbians share with their government is kept in a safe, reliable, secure manner.
Again, in the face of the level of increasing data requirements by this government, of personal information that is being required to be shared with this government, and the use of that data, we need to ensure that that data is well protected. With the modernization of how data is stored, transmitted and processed, we do need to modernize this act. We all agree that that is necessary. But the process by which we’ve gotten here is questionable, in the face of this letter from the commissioner. That’s the reason why we’ve tabled this amendment for the consideration of this House.
We would urge all members of this House to consider carefully these amendments, because in our view, we agree with the commissioner about the concerns. We’d certainly be happy to discuss, if necessary, each of those amendments. But they clearly strengthen the act. They clearly provide for the right level of clarity around the provisions dealing with protection of personal information and the processing of that information.
The language used that is proposed in this amendment would ensure that we have that level of accountability. To ensure, for example, that if there is going to be a disclosure…. In sub (iv), at the end of the section being proposed, is another example: “In the case of disclosure to a service provider, the public body has prohibited any subsequent use or disclosure of personal information in individually identifiable form without the express authorization of the public body.”
In this case, the commissioner has proposed language to this government that that be strengthened, that that only be in the case where there has been a prior written agreement of the public body. Prior written agreement. The use of the word “prior,” of course, demonstrates that any consent or approval by a public body must be done prior to that disclosure. That’s important to ensure, again, how personal information is being disclosed in an individually identifiable form.
Here, again, we go back to metadata. People say: “Well, it’s just data.” But this section, which is a very important section, provides for that disclosure in an individually identifiable form and under what conditions that could be possible. Again, we have this big carve-out under this section for metadata.
Then we have, in the language presented by this government, loose language. If you’re going to identify, individually, personal information, that must be done with the prior written agreement of the public body. That is what the commissioner has written in his recommendations. That is yet another example of the reason and the purpose for which these recommendations are being put forward. It’s very clear that these recommendations, each of them, need to be adopted to amend the proposed language that this government is bringing forward and that one needs to question, in the absence of this….
If this government is pushing this forward and is prepared do this in the face of not accepting these recommendations, British Columbians need to ask themselves: “Well, what is this government doing? Are they not putting in place the right level of protections for our personal information? What confidence can we have in providing and continuing to provide our personal information to this government?” That is the concern. We need to ensure that British Columbians have confidence in the way that their personal information is being handled.
Again, I’m speaking in favour of these amendments in totality, because in my view, they need to be adopted by this government. If they’re not prepared to adopt these amendments, they should stand down these amendments and have the thorough discussion with the commissioner and leg. counsel, as necessary, to ensure that these concerns are properly addressed.
Amendment negatived on the following division:
YEAS — 41
NAYS — 43
Sections 22 to 32 inclusive approved.
On section 33.
S. Bond: We appreciate the opportunity to ask a few questions on the finance amendments that are included in Bill 35. Obviously, the finance amendments could be dealt with as a whole or by act, so what my co-critic and I thought we would do is ask our questions about one act, knowing that they apply to the others. So we’ll deal, then, with the Carbon Tax Act, and we’re going to start by looking at section 33 if that’s amenable to the minister. She’s nodding. We do appreciate that.
The sections we’re going to talk about, primarily sections 33 and 34, are…. And we do want to recognize the minister and thank her for her heads-up on the bill and giving us a general overview about the content. Much appreciated.
Section 33 enables a series of new ways to deliver tax documents to both individuals and businesses. Would the minister explain if these provisions are the new standards of tax document delivery and why it was necessary? And perhaps I’ll just add an additional question. Perhaps give us a sense of the magnitude. How many of these things are delivered? How big a challenge is this? So, again, is this a new standard of delivery for tax documents, why is it necessary, and what’s the magnitude of the number of documents we’re talking about?
Hon. C. James: Thank you to the member for the opportunity to go through.
As I mentioned in my comments about the act, we really are talking about amendments that are around clarification. As you’ll see through most of the acts, it’s consistent in each of the sections and is basically…. I think the member asked a very important question: is this the new terminology to be used in acts? And yes, in fact, this is making sure that all of our acts are consistent. That’s really the purpose of, in fact, almost all of these amendments — to make sure that there is consistency with the new acts that have been brought in.
It replaces the language that was previously used with consistent language in other tax acts. It ensures, for example, how documents can be given and the range of ways they can be given so that’s consistent. I think this is very important, and you’ll see it in the other sections as well. It doesn’t reflect, in this one, a change in policy or interpretation. It, in fact, only provides clarification in the act.
These would be all notices, so we don’t have a number. I can try and get a number. But this would include everything from collections to assessment. Anyone who is dealing with the tax department and has a challenge…. Any of those notices would be served through this process. It would include all of the notices that would be served in that kind of way through this act.
S. Bond: Is it fair to describe, then, the changes as basically catching up with practice? It doesn’t introduce new methods. It’s simply looking at catching up with practice and making sure that it’s consistently applied across a number of acts.
Hon. C. James: That’s a good description. It’s really making sure that if you’re receiving a notice, it doesn’t matter whether it’s this act or a past act or a current act, you will now know…. It’s basically providing clarity to taxpayers so that they know, when they’re getting a notice, that these will be consistent throughout the acts.
S. Bond: Thank you for that.
I know the minister has clearly said to us that this is about consistency and clarity. I just want to be sure that this doesn’t impact the way, for example, that the revenue division will treat non-payers or late payers of taxes. In essence, there’s no differentiation there. There will be no changes to that.
Hon. C. James: The member’s correct.
S. Bond: Is there an anticipated cost? If we’re looking at a consistent approach across a number of acts, is there any anticipation by the minister as to an increase in cost as a result of standardizing the delivery methods?
Hon. C. James: In fact, I think there could be an opportunity for savings in the long run, because you will have the ability to use email in some cases. You will have the ability to not have to send it by registered mail but to send it by regular mail. Through efficiencies, there could be savings. I don’t think they’ll be large, but I don’t think it’ll be an additional cost. I think it’ll be the other way around.
S. Bond: That does make sense. I appreciate that answer.
What will be the procedure for choosing a particular method of contact? Is there an order of preference? Is there an order of precedence? In other words, does it start with one particular method and work its way through a list? How does the ministry decide what kind of delivery method they’re going to use?
Hon. C. James: Many of these are generated by the system, through technology. So the first option is always ordinary mail. That’s the first outreach that is done on these notices. If that bounces back or the person didn’t receive the notice, then other methods are utilized. But ordinary mail is the first method.
S. Bond: Just for clarification, is the government required to use all methods of contact in the end? If you’re attempting to track someone down, is there a requirement that the government go through the entire range of options that might be available?
Hon. C. James: That is, in fact, part of the reason that we want to make this clarification. It’s because this will permit any method to be utilized and the range of methods listed to be utilized. That will assist in making sure that we can reach people.
S. Cadieux: So, then, for some clarity, Minister. In an earlier answer, you suggested this could lead to cost savings because of the switch to other methods. How, then, will government make the choice? If there are all of these options available — some of which are much more secure and more likely to result in someone receiving a notice and some significantly less secure and very likely that the situation will have changed or the address expired, etc., for someone…. How is government going to make that choice? Under what circumstances — for what types of notices — would, for example, registered mail be required?
Hon. C. James: I think the important piece to note in these notices that come out is that this is not the first time someone hears from the tax department. The notice is not the first contact. They’ve talked. They’ve had conversations with people in the tax department. They know a notice is coming. The information is checked. That’s why ordinary mail is the first push out from that contact that has already occurred with the tax department.
If the ordinary mail bounces back — the person didn’t receive it — then the opportunity is there to utilize the other services. That’s why ordinary mail is the first choice. It’s not the first contact that people have had. They’ve already had a contact with the tax department.
S. Cadieux: Subsection 2(e) suggests or contemplates leaving documentation with somebody who is apparently an employee at a business that the intended recipient is also an employee or owner of. What would the process be for validating that the person is indeed an employee? For example, if somebody were to walk into Starbucks, could that document be passed to a barista? Are there going to be different practices depending on the size and scope of a business and what relationship the individual whose notice it is has with that particular business?
Hon. C. James: Just a little bit of background that I think might be helpful on this piece. These would be served by a process server or services or an auditor, perhaps — so someone trained who knows, as they’re going in, the importance of making sure that they check that the person is employed at the business. They would usually have, again, already been in contact with the person — went to serve the person who was there — and would then check that someone was employed in the business.
It would be their responsibility to ensure that it wasn’t just left with someone who was a customer and appeared to be employed in the business. They would have to show that they were employed in the business.
S. Cadieux: Subsection (2)(f), then, contemplates the use of mail or regular mail; (2)(g), the use of email. How will the delivery of documents be managed through that process, assuming that…? It says that it will be sent to the last known address. Again, how is that going to be managed?
I certainly have had experience with email addresses that malfunction or servers that boot out into junk mail or spam. How will government manage the transmission and ensure that the individual receives that email, assuming that they have given, through those initial contacts, a correct email address?
Hon. C. James: I think, again, kind of following the chronology…. They will have already had contact with the branch or the tax people or the officials or the auditors — whoever is doing the work and needs to serve a notice. So they have current information.
They would try ordinary mail first. That’s the route it goes. If that bounces back, then they can look at some of these other options, including email. They would use the email address that they would have received during the contact that had occurred at the beginning and give that a try. If they didn’t hear back, or if they were told that it had bounced back, or they saw that it was bounced back, then they would go to some of the other methods, perhaps serving in person. That might be another route for them to go to.
Again, it goes from the regular mail and works its way through based on the contact information that was first there.
S. Bond: I just want to make sure that would be similar with fax, because the next subsection is (h), and it talks about fax. Can the minister just confirm it’s the same?
Hon. C. James: Yes, it will be the same process. Again, it’s making sure the tools are there and the ability to use those tools, always recognizing that ordinary mail is the first route to go. That’s usually the contact that people have because they’ve already talked to the tax department and know a notice is coming. That’s usually the process that serves the notice to them.
Section 33 approved.
On section 34.
S. Bond: Just our last couple of questions. As the minister pointed out to us earlier, it is…. While it’s not housekeeping, it is certainly administrative consistency, and we appreciate that.
I want to just ask for a moment about the burden of proof, because section 34 actually places the burden of proof on the recipient of a tax document to prove that the document wasn’t received. What would be the means of doing that if the document was sent to the wrong email address or an out-of-date fax number?
Maybe just speak a little bit to the burden of proof and the person on the other end — cognizant of what the minister has said, that obviously there has been previous contact. But it’s now up to the recipient to prove they didn’t get the document. How would they do that?
Hon. C. James: This is no change. There isn’t any change in this section at all from what was previously in the bill. The burden of proof was already there. All this section does is actually reorder the section. It doesn’t make any changes.
The burden of proof has always been there. That’s really up to someone to show that we had the wrong email address or there was an issue at the ends. But there’s no change. This section doesn’t change anything to do with the burden of proof that was there before.
S. Bond: Thank you to the minister for that answer. We discussed previously whether an employee actually received the document. What would happen if an employee, under subsection 2(g) of the previous section, were not to properly communicate the document to their employer or to someone else? They’re in receipt of a document. They don’t do what they’re supposed do with it. Are there consequences for that behavior?
Hon. C. James: There isn’t an offence in the act for someone who might not have passed it on to somebody else. But again, I think the important piece to remember in all of this is that they will have already had contact with the tax department, so they will have known that a notice was going to be served.
It’s up to the individual. If they don’t receive the notice, they know it’s going to be served at their work. If they don’t receive the notice, it’s up to them to be able to get back to the tax department to ask for a copy or whatever would occur. But it would have been deemed to be served at that point — because, again, they will have had an initial contact with the tax department at the start.
S. Bond: Thank you for that. The last question that my colleague and I have. We just want to ensure that the kinds of questions we’ve asked would also now go on to apply to the other acts that are included. Those would be the Motor Fuel Tax Act, the Provincial Sales Tax Act, the Speculation and Vacancy Tax Act and the Tobacco Tax Act. In essence, for those questions, the answers would apply to all of those acts. We now have, across these acts, a consistent way, a series of options to actually deliver tax documents. Would that be a correct assessment?
Hon. C. James: The member is quite right. All of the sections have very similar kinds of approaches. The questions the member has asked — they have similar kinds of approaches through here.
A couple of the acts have typos or errors that have been corrected. So that may be the only additional piece in an act. I don’t want to leave the member to believe that there’s nothing else, because there are a couple of those typo pieces in there. But for the rest, yes, the standard questions that have been asked apply to each of these sections and each of these acts in making the language consistent.
S. Bond: Thank you to the minister and her staff for the information this afternoon. We appreciate that. I know we’re going to spend a lot of time together on other bills later in the session. That’ll be our last question, and that will take us through to section 75.
Sections 34 to 79 inclusive approved.
On section 80.
M. Lee: I just wanted to raise this. I know the Attorney General, in his response to my second reading speech, gave a partial response about the understanding around the section that I’d like to raise to the Minister of Health. It’s the subsection 24(c)(3)(a).
We had a briefing, as I mentioned before, that was arranged by the Attorney General’s office for a number of hours on the day that this bill was introduced. I had understood at the briefing that the backdrop to that particular provision is that there is an agreement that is in place.
I did receive a note from the Attorney General’s office clarifying the question I had around what they were mentioning to me, which is that there is an agreement in place between ICBC and the Ministry of Health in respect of health care costs and that that agreement has been in place since at least 1988 and that in 2008, when the government enacted the Health Care Cost Recovery Act, which we’re looking at amendments to in this bill, that continued to be the case, where the government continued to have a pre-existing agreement to recover costs from ICBC.
What I had understood…. And it makes mention that the proposed wording changes to this section are to permit the province to continue to recover costs from non-ICBC insurers, where the corporation also happens to be a party.
I think there is a differentiation here, by the application of this section. So I would just like to resituate what I received in writing as a difference from what the Attorney General indicated, which was that this had nothing to do with ICBC’s financial situation, that it’s related to the province being able to recover health care costs from wrongdoers who are not ICBC-insured — for example, a car manufacturer who makes a defective car and results in a number of injuries in British Columbia. That was the example the Attorney General provided in his response in second reading to my comments in my second reading speech.
I had raised the concern — and I’ll just say it so the Health Minister can address it — whether this amendment effectively raises the hurdle, let’s say, for other insurance providers from operating in British Columbia in terms of new requirements by virtue of health care costs recovery. It’s that juncture that I’m particularly focused on, and I would suggest that the information I received back suggests that that is the area, at least, that is being addressed here.
So if the Health Minister can address my concern, perhaps we can proceed with this discussion.
Hon. A. Dix: The intent has nothing to do with and doesn’t affect other insurers and their operation in British Columbia at all. The intent here is really the intent of the Health Care Costs Recovery Act, which was brought in by the previous government in 2008 and has been a success in that it has ensured that money that should be owed to the health care system is provided to the health care system.
This is to deal with a circumstance in which more than one party might be at fault and where everyone involved in a particular incident or circumstance would get the benefits of the agreement with ICBC, which was never the intent of the legislation. It just closes a potential loophole. It had been recommended. Really, it’s to maintain the ongoing strength and integrity of the Health Care Costs Recovery Act, which of course has been in place for 11 years and has been — I think most would agree — a success.
M. Lee: Could I ask then, specifically, what is the impact on a non-ICBC insurer as to how they will be complying or being asked to comply with this provision?
Hon. A. Dix: They have been complying with the law these many years. This is just to clarify the circumstances when the different insurers — one ICBC, one not ICBC — are involved.
Sections 80 to 86 inclusive approved.
On section 87.
M. Lee: Could I just ask for a brief recess on section 87? We do have another member who wants to ask questions with respect to that — part 8.
The Chair: The House will be in recess for five minutes.
The committee recessed from 4:26 p.m. to 4:32 p.m.
[J. Isaacs in the chair.]
M. Hunt: In the midst of this part 8 of the legislation, there are actually two acts that are being dealt with, and many of the amendments are exactly the same. So rather than being redundant, I’m going to ask the question once only. If there’s a difference or a nuance between the two acts, I’d ask the minister to simply to bring that to my attention because of, for the sake of time and brevity, working these two together.
So on section 87, my question is: what is the purpose of limiting this definition?
Hon. S. Simpson: We’ll do that and try to…. Much of this is a duplication for the second act, as the member says.
I’d like to start. I want to introduce the staff who are with me to support this piece of work. I have David Galbraith, the deputy minister; Molly Harrington, the assistant deputy minister for research, innovation and policy; and Tricia Daykin, the director of legislation in the policy and legislation branch.
Section 87. What this does is ensure that two people who reside together are not considered to be a single family unit solely on the basis of taking a parental role for a dependent child as we move forward. Without this change, if someone is living with their child and another adult, and the other adult starts to help out with the child — tasks that could be seen as co-parenting — the parent could lose their status as a stand-alone recipient of assistance. This means that they would have their rate reduced or potentially be cut off of assistance.
The current definition has been used to find people — in most cases, women — ineligible because a co-resident has provided even minimal levels of support to children, and we don’t believe that that should be the intent.
Section 87 approved.
On section 88.
M. Hunt: My question is a simple one again. What is the problem that the minister is trying to solve by this amendment?
Hon. S. Simpson: The issue, really, is that the current provision does not fully recognize 50-50 shared parenting, where separated spouses continue to live together, which has become more common since these provisions were first put in place in 2002. We see that more, certainly, with people with modest incomes, where they have a residency, there has been a formal separation, and they end up in the same place. So this is a provision that will recognize that division of responsibility.
M. Hunt: The next question is: how does the minister distinguish between — and how is the ministry, ultimately, going to distinguish between — a shared and a dependent child?
Hon. S. Simpson: Well, in some instances, there may be a formal agreement that’s in place in regard to that division. In other cases, it potentially is an informal agreement. But staff, the ministry, would be responsible to ensure that we had an understanding of what that agreement was that satisfied the question that the member has.
M. Hunt: Does this mean that, for example, the social worker involved — or whoever the staff person is involved — is actually going to get into the marital status and the relationship between these two in deciding who gets what and how? I’m just wondering about the mechanics of this actually working in the real world.
Hon. S. Simpson: The questions…. I think where the member is going, which is definitions of spouse and a separation and how does that formally happen…. I don’t want to assume what the member is saying. Those questions may fit in the next section better, but I’ll leave it, obviously, up to the member to make that determination.
In this case, it is about, kind of, whose file is the child on? The child will have a relationship, will be on the file of one parent or another. Whose file is it on? And we can determine that — things like the Canada child benefit. Who is the recipient of the Canada child benefit on behalf of that child? Those are the kinds of things we can use to determine that. And I would say that we do always have an ongoing relationship between officials and staff in the ministry and parents. So there is a relationship there. The ministry does have staff who do understand the circumstances of the parent and the child in these cases.
M. Hunt: I think the minister may have slid past the answer on this one, but can a child be a dependent of both parents?
Hon. S. Simpson: Under the law, the child is a dependent of one parent, and that’s a formalized relationship. What this will do is provide some broader parameters where there are levels of co-parenting that are going on, where there is an active relationship and support for the child, for us to be able to better support that in the interests of the child.
M. Hunt: I think that gets to the heart of the challenge. The challenge is that relationships aren’t always as black and white as we would like them to be. There are real worlds, and there’s real sharing that…. All of a sudden, the ministry is going to have to make a relatively arbitrary decision, by what you have here, on one or the other. I’m just simply confirming that that is what will happen. It’ll be one or the other. A decision will be made — period, full stop.
Hon. S. Simpson: The reality is — and partly as the member says — for purposes of the ministry and the act, the child will be a dependent of one parent or the other. The challenge is to be able to support the broadening of that co-parenting process in support of the interests of the child. What this will do is help to take us in that direction.
If the question that the member has is, “Is there potential for judgment calls to have to be made in this?” there are always judgment calls in a lot of things that this ministry does. Yes, there is that ability, but it is about, in fact, that one parent will legally have responsibility for dependency of the child.
M. Hunt: Absolutely no one is suggesting that this minister and this ministry have an easy job in dealing with people and parents and all these situations that happen in life. So absolutely, there’s a recognition that this is walking into a bunch of challenges. We’re trying to deal with the challenges that the ministry has been faced with.
That leads me to the addition that the minister is, in fact, adding. That’s (2.1), where it says: “The Lieutenant Governor in Council may prescribe circumstances in which a child is not a dependent child of a parent for the purposes of this Act.”
Could the minister please give me examples of what types of circumstances he’s referring to or he’s anticipating with this amendment?
Hon. S. Simpson: This clause that the member references does provide a level of discretion. For example, in a circumstance where you had a couple that would split…. One would be on income assistance; one may not be on income assistance. They may have employment. They may have a different circumstance. This, in fact, allows the discretion to determine that the child is a dependent of the person on income assistance if that’s, in fact, where the supports are going.
M. Hunt: Am I to surmise from the minister’s response that, in fact, he isn’t planning on a cabinet order coming from this — that this is simply a provision for a possible future?
Hon. S. Simpson: The member is correct. This would require regulation to be written. I would remind the member that we’re talking here about a circumstance which is not totally unique but not all the time, where both of the individuals would be cohabitating in a single residence there with the child.
It is a bit of a unique situation. But, yes, the member is right that there will need to be a regulation written to support this change.
M. Hunt: The question I’m leading to, or trying to get to, is…. I would assume that if the minister is putting this into legislation, there are specific situations that have happened numbers of times in the past. Therefore, now we need to codify this.
We don’t want to codify this in legislation. We want to codify this through regulation instead. We’re trying to solve a problem that has occurred many, many times. It’s just been a real problem. Let’s get this amendment so that we can clean this up and deal with the problem.
That’s not the answer I’m sensing from the minister. I’m sensing from the minister much more an answer that says: “Well, this could possibly come up some time, and maybe some time in the future we’ll deal with this.”
My question is: why is the minister putting this here at this time with today’s urgency?
Hon. S. Simpson: I think the reality is it’s not simply maybe something that will happen down the road. We are seeing, in the ministry and its analysis, increasingly this circumstance of shared parenting, of people where relationships are ending. In fact, people are staying in the same domicile, mostly for financial reasons there.
The determination that we’ve made is…. There are regulations available to the ministry and to me as minister to be able to deal with some shared parenting situations. What we know is that they aren’t comprehensive enough. They aren’t complete enough, in terms of the scope, to be able to address issues.
The determination that I’ve made is that this particular change provides another tool, a regulatory tool, to be able to meet what seems to be an increasing circumstance since the time when this legislation was originally written and the change in circumstances that we’ve seen in families and how families relate after separations happen and how they interact with their children.
This is about looking forward, but also about having an increasing amount of experience that says that these kinds of circumstances become less unique all the time in terms of how people live and how they cohabitate moving forward. This is part of a reality that we’re seeing change. We’re looking to be able to address those changes now in this series of legislative changes that are in front of you today.
Section 88 approved.
On section 89.
M. Hunt: In section 89, we’re dealing with this shift of three months to 12 months. It’s the focus. Pre-2006, married couples and common-law couples were treated exactly the same from day 1 of relationship, or as close as we could get to that in common-law. They were both considered to be married, and their benefits changed appropriately.
In 2006, an amendment was made in order to continue the single benefits for three months before that common-law couple would be considered married. So the question is: what is the current rationale for extending these single benefits to common-law couples now for 12 months?
Hon. S. Simpson: The member will know that under the CRA, the Canada Revenue Agency, their acknowledgement is one year. That’s the term that they use for tax purposes. The member will know that under the Family Law Act, it’s two years to identify common-law relationships.
This is a recognition, after consultation, that a three-month period for a couple that come together and whether you determine that that becomes a long-term engaged relationship…. That three months is a short period of time to make that determination. So it’s moving, and we decided where we would move to make that consistent. Since it deals with financial matters here, obviously, we made the determination to adopt the Canada Revenue Agency measurement, which was one year.
M. Hunt: When we’re talking with CRA, we are, in fact, talking about income tax, dealing with income tax, where, in fact, the act is conferring a benefit upon single-income married couples — not dual-income married couples, but single-income married couples — in order to give that single-wage earner the benefit of the deductions of the one who is not employed or is choosing to stay home or whatever they choose their relationship to be.
This amendment, in fact, is continuing to confer a benefit on the common-law couples as compared to married couples by continuing the singles benefit for both parties now for a year. Therefore, if we looked at it, which way we are encouraging? We’re encouraging the common-law relationship, because that way you can get an extra year’s worth of benefits from that.
The question is: what is the estimated cost to the government of this amendment?
Hon. S. Simpson: As the member will know, there were two spouse-related pieces here. There’s this matter that we’re talking about, the three months. There also is the second matter about individuals living in the same residence. Those two matters combined are about a total cost of about $4.6 million. Our expectation is it will affect slightly over 1,700 people.
M. Hunt: Now, in other places in the amendments that the minister has put forward, the minister is giving “the Lieutenant Governor in Council” the ability to prescribe solutions. In this case, why is the minister choosing to legislate “at least the previous 12 consecutive months”?
Hon. S. Simpson: This is following legislative convention. The member will know the three months was explicit in the legislation, so it’s a matter of following that practice and moving to one year and being explicit as the current legislation is explicit at three months.
M. Hunt: Well, I would debate that, Mr. Minister, simply because of the words that you’re using. The words that you’re using are “at least the previous 12 consecutive months.” I don’t have to go very far in my imagination, since after all, the minister did say that many of these relationships are financially based. He’s absolutely correct on that.
How will the minister deal with a couple who lives together for ten months and then separates for a week or a month or two, and then reconciles for the next 11 months, or who shift their relationship and decide to go to a shared relationship from a common-law relationship, since, after all, the minister is putting this into precise legislation that his staff is going to have to administer precisely as worded?
Hon. S. Simpson: I guess what I’d say to the member is that we do a lot of checking up on people now, and that’s the reality, to understand relationships. There is a department within the ministry that has responsibility for that. It includes matching data. It includes having understanding of people’s bank accounts. It includes having a sense of tax information.
There’s a lot of information that’s made available to the ministry when people are on income assistance or disability assistance. I think the member can be assured that it would raise a lot of flags and questions to be answered if, all of a sudden, we had these short recesses in the relationship and then the relationships re-established after that. So there are a lot of tools here available to ensure the legitimacy of these.
I might suggest to the member that, in fact, the three-month model raises even more questions about the legitimacy of relationships when it’s three months than if people have been together for 10 months. And obviously, all that would be involved in separating relationships and separating bank accounts and all of those things are real things that we have information in regard to because of the nature of the requirements of being eligible for assistance.
M. Hunt: While I can agree with the minister, we also have to recognize that people who are coming into these situations are usually coming into them because of some traumatic-type situation that has led to this, whether they’ve lost their job, whether they’ve had an accident — all sorts of different trauma in the midst of the relationship that also would be trauma to the relationship.
So while, yes, I agree with the minister that three months is not a long time in the midst of the individuals that we could potentially be talking about here, versus the previous decision prior to 2006 where it was immediate — that’s it — by the same token, we are, in fact, conferring benefits. And as we’re doing this, we’re going to be in the process of dealing with relationships, dealing with finances.
I just see a whole pile of potential challenges that the minister is walking into by the precise wording that he has chosen. If, in fact, he had chosen to put this over to the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, I would say fine, because there, at least, he’s created flexibility for himself. If the current government is anything like it was when this side was in government previously, I remember hearing how long it took to get legislative changes and legislative amendments versus something going through as a cabinet decision.
Again my question to the minister is: how is the minister going to distinguish between shared and dependent or common-law relationships?
Hon. S. Simpson: Thank you to the member for the question. I appreciate the comments.
What I would say is that the changes that are seen in this legislation do not change the test. The test will be the same test that exists today. and the test reads, under the meaning of “spouse,” that they have resided together for at least the previous 12 consecutive months and “the minister is satisfied that the relationship demonstrates (i) financial dependence or interdependence, and (ii) social and familial interdependence, consistent with a marriage-like relationship.” That is the current definition under the legislation as it was adopted in 2006 or as the member talks about.
M. Hunt: Then my question would be: how does the minister define “shared relationship”?
Hon. S. Simpson: There is no definition of a shared relationship in here. The member maybe wants to elaborate a little bit. Maybe I’m not understanding the question correctly.
M. Hunt: Well, throughout the minister’s answers, as well as his comments in second reading, he made a great distinction between shared relationship…. No, say it’s this way: we have a couple that was married or in a common-law relationship. They now have difficulties, and they are living in a shared relationship under the same roof, but now it is different, and we have this whole shared, dependent child and all the rest of these sorts of things. If we don’t have a definition for what a shared relationship is, then I’m wondering: how is it that the minister is making this distinction? How is this actually going to get walked out in the real world?
Hon. S. Simpson: I think the clarification I would make is that we are talking about a situation — I believe the member is talking about this situation as well — where the relationship, in terms of the familial relationship or that interdependent relationship, has ended in many ways. What we are sharing here, in this case, is a shared accommodation. We are saying that we will treat this situation no differently than we would treat people who had never been in a relationship and who may in fact share an accommodation as well.
M. Hunt: Not to get too specific, but there was a movie several years back that was — what was it? — friends with privileges, or something like that.
M. Hunt: Friends with Benefits — I stand corrected. As the minister is walking through this, I just see so many land mines that the minister is creating here. I’m just concerned. One minute he talks about shared. And we can have a shared relationship as two people that say: “Hey, housing is not affordable in Vancouver. Let’s live under the same roof. You have your bedroom, I have my bedroom, and we, you know….” But we can also have two seniors that are married. One has my bedroom, and the other has their bedroom.
I’m simply trying to get from the minister how the ministry is actually going to be able to distinguish these things. We have clear definitions for married, we have relatively clear definitions — although we’re making some amendments here — for the common-law concept, but the minister has spoken concerning “shared relationship.” Where are those lines? Or is the minister simply saying that it will be at the discretion of the staff, as we work through this, to the best of their abilities?
Hon. S. Simpson: I’ll go back and read the section again that talks about what is a spousal relationship here: “They have resided together for at least the previous 12 consecutive months and the minister is satisfied that the relationship demonstrates (i) financial dependence or interdependence, and (ii) social and familial interdependence consistent with a marriage-like relationship.”
This is exactly the same situation that we have today. So all of the tools that we have and the ability to inquire around this, the only thing that changes is three months to 12 months, in terms of this particular change that we’re talking about here today.
It changes nothing else in that relationship other than extending three months to 12 months here. All of the due diligence the ministry would be required to do to satisfy the nature of that relationship at three months is the same due diligence the ministry is obliged and would do to determine that on 12 months.
Section 89 approved.
On section 90.
M. Hunt: Section 90 looks really simple here. It’s simply repeal, okay? But what we’re repealing is a requirement of two months’ employment. I would simply like to start with the question of: what is the minister trying to accomplish here?
Hon. S. Simpson: What this change does is essentially eliminate the two-year independence policy. This will affect over 1,000 youth in our province, and it will affect others as well.
British Columbia is the only province in Canada to have this kind of obligation. We know that, in fact, the impact on young people particularly, not exclusively, is that we end up forcing young people into increasingly untenable situations when we remove their ability to get support from this ministry, even though they can be in a significantly challenging situation where they would qualify, with the exception of the two-year independence rule. This, I believe — and certainly the advice we get — has created very difficult circumstances for a number of young people who we hope we can capture and support before they end up in an even more untenable situation than they may already be in.
M. Hunt: Except the section has two parts to it and the second part says that the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council may prescribe categories of applicants to whose family units this section does not apply.
So in fact, the minister has the ability today, under the current legislation, to exempt whoever he wishes to from this section. In fact, he could, by regulation, exempt everybody if he wished to. I find it interesting that he’s choosing the course of repealing the whole thing instead of simply dealing with the legislation as it is.
My reason for saying that is because this clause was added in 2002, because before 2002, 70 percent of the clients who were over 35 years of age had a cycle, and the cycle was that they were going on and off assistance for more than ten years. Now, I’ll repeat that just so it can sort of sink in. Before 2002, 70 percent of the clients affected by this over the age of 35 were cycling on and off of assistance for more than ten years. So this was put in to deal not with a youth; this, in fact, may be an unintended consequence that the minister is trying to deal with.
My question is: what is the current pattern for income recipients over the age of 35? Do we find them continuing to cycle on and off of assistance for over ten years?
Hon. S. Simpson: The member talks about this exemption. Well, this is in addition to…. The member may know that when the two-year requirement was introduced in 2002, there were a number of exemptions, decisions made at that time to exempt about a dozen categories. I could certainly read them all into the record, but I think the member might know those categories. I’m happy to do that if the member would like more information in regard to that.
The decision here to do this is about how we support people, primarily young people — not all young people but primarily young people. As I said, we’ve got maybe a thousand, a thousand-plus homeless kids who would potentially…. We think that it’s about 50 a year who would be affected directly by this particular legislation. I believe that we have the opportunity to provide greater supports to those young people as they age out, to provide greater supports if we need to get them into our system, to provide them with counselling supports, other kinds of supports, that hopefully we can work to break that cycle.
It’s my belief that by essentially turning our back on young people who don’t meet that two-year independence rule, we are doing nobody any favours, and in fact, we are increasing the costs in many different ways for society if we leave those kids on the street, if we leave those young people on the street. That’s the challenge we have.
In regard to the specific request I believe the member made about wanting to know about how people over the age of 35…. I believe the member asked how they transition to…. I don’t have that information specifically here with me now, but I’d be very happy to provide detailed information and data to the member pretty quickly on that matter. I simply don’t have that particular information with me today.
M. Hunt: I found, in my time in political life, that laws are created usually to fix a problem. There’s a problem. We figure out a way to try and address that problem, and we introduce legislation to deal with that problem. Many times we get unintended consequences, so we create other legislation to deal with the unintended consequences. But I have discovered that most legislation as well as, in fact, most policy is there to solve some kind of problem.
Here’s my concern. This was specifically introduced in 2002 to deal with the problem of those over the age of 35, with the ability for the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to be able to deal with unintended consequences. Now the minister just wants to get rid of the whole thing.
Well, that may well be fine, but my question is whether this clause has in fact been effective. We no longer have that problem with those over the age of 35, and the question is: if we remove this, what is the effect that this is going to have on that cohort of people and of individuals?
Or are we simply just going to go back and repeat the whole thing all over again and find ourselves exactly where we were before so that another minister, another day, will come in and introduce the legislation to, in fact, put something similar to this back in, because we didn’t deal with the unintended consequences, which is why my focus was on those over the age of 35? My understanding is that that was the purpose of this being introduced, not young people.
Hon. S. Simpson: I guess that I’d say this about the policy. This is a policy that is punitive, nothing else. There is no other reason for it. It’s a policy that no other jurisdiction in the country has. It’s a policy that has at least a dozen significant exemptions to it already. Some would say that, with a narrow exception, it has exempted most people out of this policy. It’s a policy that….
To be clear, nothing here changes the requirements or obligations of a person to have an employment search plan, to do job searches, to actively be engaged in all of those activities that we require from somebody who is employable. All of those requirements remain. What this says is that while you’re in that process, because you’ve not, kind of, had the two years, we are not going to turn our back on you.
The reality is that there’s a reason why no other government in the country has chosen to adopt this practice. It’s a practice that…. I don’t believe there’s any example of it being particularly effective. It’s a policy that has proven to be mostly punitive, without research that supports it.
I’m pretty sure that the fact that, over time, a dozen exemptions, significant exemptions, have been made since 2002 is because there’s recognition that there are lots of people you don’t want to capture. It’s a policy that doesn’t work.
Sections 90 to 92 inclusive approved.
On section 93.
M. Hunt: Now this is a most interesting section here, because it…. Well, why don’t I just turn this the opposite way around and just ask the question. The minister is sort of chuckling, because we’ve already had this debate. I asked him, because throughout second reading I kept hearing the government people talk about this tremendous bill and all the wonderful things that it was doing. None of it’s in the legislation. Finally, we discovered this innocuous clause of where it actually is.
So my question to the minister could be really simple, dealing with the wording here. Could the minister give examples of what sources of income or other means of support that the minister will not consider?
Hon. S. Simpson: As the member knows, this will be determined, as it says in the change, by regulation. I would say that we have one commitment here that I have made to move forward, and that’s to end the practice of early CPP. This is the requirement that’s in place that when somebody reaches age 60, if they’re on disability assistance or they’re on income assistance, at that point we require them to apply for early Canada pension.
The problem with this, I would note for the member, is that what we’re doing…. As the member will know, a significant…. They lose about a third of their income because of penalties for early CPP. We create a circumstance where people who already are on marginal incomes…. We potentially entrench them into a life of poverty post-age 65 because we’ve taken away this at this point.
I have no expectation at this point of other incomes being regulated in this fashion. Early Canada pension is the one that we’re looking at.
M. Hunt: So if I understand the minister correctly, then you’re not actually dealing with regulation of sources of income. You are, rather, dealing with potential sources of income. Because, in fact, a person who is 61 years old, we’re going to assume, isn’t getting a pension at that time. So it is not a source of income. It is to them, in fact, a potential source of income. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. S. Simpson: What the legislation currently does is it talks about the failure to accept or pursue income. That includes early Canada pension. So at the point that you become eligible for that early Canada pension, the current law says that you have an obligation to pursue that income — your Canada pension. Failure to do that potentially leaves you open to being cut off of assistance — of a disability assistance, for example.
What we’re doing is saying that we are not going to require that. We won’t require you to pursue that income in this instance.
Now, I want to be clear, though, that should somebody choose to do that — and it would then be their choice to pursue early Canada pension and receive that Canada pension — we would calculate that income on the value of their disability assistance. So it doesn’t create a situation where you get to do both. You would make that choice. What we will no longer do is compel you to make the application for early Canada pension at 60 or 61.
[R. Chouhan in the chair.]
M. Hunt: Obviously, there’s going to be a cost to this. My guesstimate is that the cost is going to be over the next five years, because it’s going to be a diminishing cost across those five years. My question is: what is the estimated yearly cost over the next five years?
Hon. S. Simpson: The cost is about $1 million a year, and it will affect about 360 people.
M. Hunt: Now, in making this decision, we’re also choosing not to use the federal government’s funds in this, because that pension stays on. Do we have an estimate of how much money the federal government will be saving by this decision?
Hon. S. Simpson: I think the challenge with that, being as I’m not an actuary, and I’m not sure the member is either…. I’m suspecting, by the laugh, he is not. The question becomes: how much did you save or not save when you started paying early but you paid a reduced amount over the life? I guess it really depends on how long the individual lives and collects their Canada pension for, as to what the costs are, being as you’ve significantly reduced the amount of the payment and you’ve added three, four, five years to the term of the payment.
I guess we could, kind of, get an actuary to determine those costs to the federal government and to the Canada Pension Plan that they calculate. For us, we did calculate it in terms of what the real costs are at our best analysis of the real cost for the province to do this.
M. Hunt: It’s simply my expectation that, as the minister is making such an amendment, he has obviously thought it through. The staff have obviously thought it through. They’ve obviously looked at the financial implications of it, which was the first answer, where you dealt with the $1 million a year. But also, there’s a subsequent savings to the federal government. My question was simply: do we know what that is? I’m simply going to take it as no, you didn’t calculate that because that’s theirs and we’re only looking at the provincial impact.
Having said that, also through second reading on this bill, we heard from a number of members. I can’t remember whether it was the minister himself speaking to this or whether it was other members of his caucus speaking to it, but while they were speaking to this, they were suggesting that because they will not be reducing the pension benefits for those aged 60 across those five years, in fact, there would be a benefit on the other side.
So my question to the minister is: what is the estimated savings that the provincial government is going to have in years 5 to 10 of this plan?
Hon. S. Simpson: Two parts to the answer. At the age of 65, an individual, when they reach retirement age — full retirement age at 65 — no longer is receiving a benefit from my ministry. They then are going to their Canada pension, OAS, GIS. Many of them will get all three, because they will be low income. Those will then be their income sources moving forward from the age of 65.
My sense is that what happens between the ages of 60 and 65 in terms of the Canada pension…. The actuarial assessment of that tends to say: “How long do we, as Canada Pension, project” — this is all funds in Canada pension of the federal government, and it is, of course, all a projection — “that an individual is going to be collecting? How long will they live, and how do we calculate the amount of the reduction during the years of early collection of the Canada pension?”
Actuarially, it’s my sense they try to make that as close to a neutral number as they can through the pension process, and that’s the reason that you have the deductions for taking the early pension. You have the penalties that in this case, I think, are 35 percent, 36 percent.
M. Hunt: Simply, the question was provoked by the comments that were made by your caucus. I’m sitting there going: “Yeah, because isn’t all of that money after 65 federal money?” So in fact, there would be no “savings to the provincial government.” I just wanted to make sure that I was right in that, in the way that I asked it. It seems to me the minister is nodding his head appropriately, so I’ll believe him.
I have one final question, and that is this. In the midst of this, is there any thought of past seniors who have, in fact, been required to go to early pension — any compensation for them? Or we’re simply saying: “What is past is past, and we’re going on with the future.”
Hon. S. Simpson: Two comments. First of all, the member is correct. There is no saving for the provincial government at 65, post-65 on. There is no saving at all. What there is, is a significantly improved benefit income for people who are collecting their CPP, OAS, GIS, because they haven’t faced that CPP penalty moving forward on this as we move forward.
Sections 93 to 105 inclusive approved.
On section 106.
J. Sturdy: Just as a preface, I’d like to say that I think it’s useful, and I’m glad to see that there are some amendments coming forward with regard to this section of the Motor Vehicle Act. I think it’s clear that there is a need to expand or to retain the capacity that we have in our infrastructure. There’s an opportunity to embrace and utilize some new technology. I am glad to see the minister has brought forward some ideas here. Mostly, I think what we’ll be dealing with is clarification.
To begin with, perhaps the minister could share with us…. Is there any particular event or certain set of circumstances that led to this set of amendments?
Hon. C. Trevena: I thank the member. I think it’s very exciting, some of the things that we are able do now.
As the member is aware, our government brought forward an active transportation strategy earlier this year. That came after a lot of consultation, both in person and on line, with groups — community groups, First Nations, advanced education, the health sector, the transportation sector, accessibility groups — all of whom were looking at how we could be, basically, modernizing the Motor Vehicle Act and making it more accessible.
That’s what led to us thinking about how we could ensure that we are…. We’re bringing forward these amendments and then the specifics, as we get on in the discussion of the bill, about the pilot projects for some of the other newer modes of transportation.
J. Sturdy: Is this a limited cluster of issues? I take it that the engagement was pretty broad. What are some of the other areas that, perhaps, are not dealt with in this legislation that were proposed to the minister? I recognize that that is a big question. I’m sure there were some very, very interesting suggestions. Perhaps the minister could share with us some of those ideas.
Hon. C. Trevena: I hear where the member is coming from. There are lots — those we didn’t touch on and those that aren’t mentioned here.
We talked to a lot of different road users. I think that what we’re looking at here, particularly in this section, is defining what a motorized personal mobility device is — the scooters, as they were — to see if we can capture that range of motorized mobility devices, whether it’s an e-scooter, the scooter that people who have accessibility issues use, or whether it’s a Segway, to use a trademark. Those are the areas that are captured in this legislation.
When we are talking about…. I think we’ve got an opportunity further on in this section of the bill to talk about the legislation on the pilot projects and how we’re going to be expanding the use of these. This section is to really broaden out that framework of what a personal mobility device is — how do we define that, and what would be embraced in that? — rather than looking at the whole gamut of every single bicycle. All the calls from…. The cycling community is a very vocal community, and we had lots of input from them. We had lots of input from people who are using sidewalks and walking and other areas. This is looking at the actual motorized sections.
J. Sturdy: One of the pieces that I suspect was touched on but not dealt with in this particular set of proposed amendments was the issue of helmets. I think we all note, as we ride our bicycles around Victoria…. We see a range of helmet types, or a lack thereof, and certainly spotty enforcement, if at all.
When we start looking at some of these other mobility devices…. Has the minister considered how helmets can play into this? Would the minister consider making any amendments? I’m thinking of things like hoverboards, for example, and some of these other…. Scooters, even, as a mobility device. Would they require a helmet? Would this require amendments to the regulation or the legislation?
Hon. C. Trevena: We have, under this legislation, regulation-making authority, which prescribes how safety aspects, whether it’s helmets or a reflector or anything else, should be used. I think safety has to come first when we are dealing with anyone using the roads. When we’re looking at these new forms or sometimes older forms of transportation, how best to integrate them into the framework are things that we’re going to be watching very closely to make sure that they are safe. The pilot projects will also allow us to assess, really, the takeup and the way that these are being used.
We absolutely have the ability here to have regulations to prescribe the use of helmets or any other safety device that is necessary.
J. Sturdy: Does the minister feel that the time might be right to review the legislation around the use of helmets on a variety of different technologies? I certainly know, or my experience was, that…. Even at UBCM, where I got one of the Mobi…. It was difficult to find accommodation adjacent to the facility, so I was using the bike lanes and renting a bike. It was very frustrating at times to find access to one of these bikes that actually had a helmet attached to it. Even then, it was a little odd using somebody else’s helmet. I recognize there are hair nets and whatever.
The point is: is it time now to…? Would the minister consider, at this point, reviewing the use of helmets or a requirement for the use of helmets, be it on bicycles or other technologies?
Hon. C. Trevena: I know it’s one of the problems with bike-shares and why bike-sharing is sometimes slow on the uptake, or people are slow to take it up, because of the sharing of helmets. It’s something that people just don’t want to do.
But to repeat my previous answer…. I might not have said it clearly, but we do have the regulation ability to mandate helmets for use — whether it’s on the e-bikes, scooters, and so on — through the legislation.
J. Sturdy: So for clarity, that authority exists currently on all technologies, whether they’re approved or not at this point?
Hon. C. Trevena: For the technologies contemplated here — the e-scooters and Segways and others, electric bikes. That is included here. So if there is something new that comes out that we haven’t contemplated, we’d have to be looking at those technologies, yes.
J. Sturdy: Getting to the heart of section 106(b) here, under the definition of “regulated motorized personal mobility device,” can the minister give us some clarity on what is self-propelled?
Hon. C. Trevena: A regulation motorized personal mobility device means a personal mobility device that is designed to be solely self-propelled. That would be like a Segway. The person isn’t doing anything; it works on its own. Or “self-propelled with the capability to be propelled by human power” is the electric scooter, where you could put your foot on the ground and get it going. That’s the difference there. One would be something such as a Segway, and the other would be an electric scooter.
J. Sturdy: I’m not sure I understand, then. Self-propelled is not propelled by a human; it is propelled by an energy source. Is that correct?
Hon. C. Trevena: Yes. A car isn’t…. I hope I’m not going to go way out of bounds here, but a car is self-propelled because you’re not using your energy to get it going. An e-scooter — you can use your energy. A bike — you can use your energy. So self-propelled is where it’s an internal engine propelling a device, and you are on it. A scooter or electric bike and other forms have that ability for you to use your human energy to get it going.
N. Letnick: Thank you to the minister and the government for introducing these changes that, clearly, we are supporting.
Just on the question of solely self-propelled or self-propelled with the capability of being propelled by human power, there is no intention to limit the vehicles that would be allowed on public roadways to be either one or the other? In other words, the minister has mentioned Segway, the critic has mentioned hoverboards and the Airwheels, and of course we have scooters. Some of them — in the case of scooters — have the ability of being both self-propelled as well as propelled without, but some of them do not. Some are just self-propelled.
I just want to be clear that this particular change to the legislation would not give the government power to choose specifically only self-propelled vehicles versus non-self-propelled vehicles.
Hon. C. Trevena: I know the member is very keen on these. We’re not choosing one or the other. The definition allows us to use both. It’s neither one nor the other; it’s both.
J. Sturdy: Just in terms of some of these devices, do wheelchairs have their own classification? I know that they can be both self-propelled or human-propelled. And does it matter? I guess that’s the other part of the question.
Hon. C. Trevena: We have two types of wheelchairs, obviously. We’ve got the human-powered ones, no electric. They are already in the act and are contemplated as a pedestrian in the act. We’re also cleaning up the language in this. We’re removing the reference to “invalid’s chair” and talking about wheelchairs. That is already there.
The motorized…. This makes sure that motorized devices, motorized wheelchairs, are also embraced in the act and that motorized wheelchairs can also be defined as a pedestrian. The people who are using a motorized wheelchair can be defined as a pedestrian.
Sections 106 and 107 approved.
On section 108.
J. Sturdy: Can the minister just provide some clarity with regard to the need to change from “under the licence” to “under the authorization”?
Hon. C. Trevena: To the member: this is basically housekeeping. It’s to align the Motor Vehicle Act with the changing language of the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act that we brought in for ride-hail, in which we changed the words from “under the licence” to “under the authorization.” It just makes sure that in both acts we’re using the same language.
Section 108 approved.
On section 109.
J. Sturdy: This refers back to the previous discussion about the wheelchairs. I see that under “pedestrian,” it means “a person using a human-powered wheelchair…or (d) a person using a regulated motorized personal mobility device….” Would that mechanized or power chair be considered under (d)? Or does it need to be added to this?
Hon. C. Trevena: That is under (d). We’ve changed the definition of “pedestrian” from a person afoot or an invalid or child in a wheelchair or carriage to the (a) to (d), and (d) includes the motorized wheelchair.
Sections 109 to 112 inclusive approved.
On section 113.
N. Letnick: Thank you to the minister for answering our questions so far.
Considering the regulations, the first question I have is…. When we are looking at (3.2)(b) it says: “respecting criteria that must be met for a device to qualify as a regulated motorized personal mobility device….” We’re going to have to come up with an acronym for that — MPMD, maybe? Something like that.
For the purposes of a definition of MPMD, what does the government have in mind when they’re talking about specifying criteria when it comes to these particular mobility devices?
Hon. C. Trevena: It depends on the type of device, but we have been looking at other jurisdictions and what they’ve been doing, because we’ve seen pilot projects in other jurisdictions. Just for example, in Ontario, they have published what they’re looking at. They’re going to be planning a five-year pilot.
Some of the things that they’re looking at which we will be contemplating…. Not ruling in and not ruling out, but these are some of the areas that we’ll be looking at. For instance, for e-scooters, a maximum operating speed of a certain limit — they’re suggesting 32 kilometres an hour. There are no pedals or seat allowed on the scooter. It must have two wheels and a brake. Glad it’s got a brake. The maximum wheel diameter…. They’ve got to have horns or bells and be lit, front and back lights, and have a maximum weight and maximum power.
So these are the sorts of things we’re going to be looking at. I’d like to underline that anything we are looking at, within a pilot project or more broadly, we’ve got to do it to ensure peoples’ safety, both those who are trying it out in the pilot project and the community that’s trying the pilot project as well as other road users.
N. Letnick: Thank you to the minister for that answer.
I probably need a clarification on the term “highways,” because we’re talking about these vehicles, or these MPMDs — might as well start using it. For the MPMDs on, for instance, the bike paths — so that’s part of the roadway — I understand why there would be a limit on speed, amongst other things.
What happens if they’re on the sidewalks? Is that covered under this legislation and these potential regulations? And would it be a different set of criteria, as per (3.2)(b), that would be put into place?
For example, if you’re on your Airwheel or your Segway and you’re commuting, you can go up to X speed. But if you’re using it on the sidewalk, you have to use it at Y speed, which would probably be a lot slower so that we can reduce the pedestrian conflicts with these vehicles. Because as far as I understand, currently, helmet or no helmet, bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks, unless you meet a criteria, like kids and that kind of thing.
Could the minister comment on the safety of the walking public, when it comes to sidewalks, and how we’re going to, in a pilot project, ensure or at least try to mitigate potential conflict? So I don’t know if we can always ensure safety, because we do our best, but I think the minister understands the line of questioning.
What can we do to make sure that commuters are going as fast as safely possible on the roads but, if they choose to use their device on sidewalks, that the safety of the walking public is also assured?
Hon. C. Trevena: Thanks for the question. One of the things is that having the pilot projects means that we can work with those municipalities that participate. And I think there’s going to be a lot of appetite from municipalities. I’m already hearing from some, saying: “How do I get my name on the list?”
We’ll be able to work with the municipalities, determining basically where they feel that they want to test them out, as well as where we feel we want to test them out. Does the municipality want to allow its sidewalks to be used for having a personal mobility device zooming around at 32 kilometres an hour? It’s pretty fast for a sidewalk.
So these are the sorts of things that we can work through with municipalities by having the pilot projects. We do have, in the list, (3.2)(f)…. It talks about “respecting the use and operation of a regulated motorized personal mobility device on a highway.” Also (g) — it’s the time of the day. So these are the sorts of things that can be refined and can be in different communities in different ways, just to get a good assessment of what is working.
The member is quite right. You’re not supposed to ride your bicycle on a sidewalk. But will it be okay to have a hoverboard on a sidewalk? These are things that we’ll be able to work out with the municipality and work through, through regulating the regulations that we can bring in.
N. Letnick: Thank you to the minister. So let me ask it in a different way. Does “public roadway” include both the sidewalk and the roadway?
N. Letnick: The answer was yes, just in case Hansard didn’t get it. Thank you to the minister for that.
With all due respect to municipalities — and I’ve served nine years as a municipal councillor — they may not have, depending on the municipality, the expertise that the ministry has at its disposal to determine whether or not it’s actually safe to use a Segway, hoverboard or some other personal mobility device, MPMD on the sidewalks.
Can the minister, on behalf of the government, indicate to the public whether or not they believe that there are any conditions under which it would be safe to use the MPMDs on sidewalks?
Hon. C. Trevena: We’re looking, really, at best practices, at what we can see that has been adopted elsewhere. I mean, in some jurisdictions, e-scooters — let’s use that as the example — are used on the roadway. In other jurisdictions, they’re only allowed on the sidewalk. So we have the benefit of seeing how those have rolled out and how that has worked.
We have the benefit of going to the academic studies. We also have the benefit of working with communities. It’s not saying to the community: “This is it. Just go for it.” The ministry wants to know how this is going to work. The ministry is working with the community to ensure that the pilots are working in a way that gets a real understanding of what will work for the broader application.
That’s why I think it’s very good to be having the pilots. Rather than just saying automatically that we’re going to allow e-scooters on every sidewalk in B.C., we’ll say: “Okay, it works here; it doesn’t work there. How can we make sure…? How can we refine it?”
N. Letnick: Given the government’s ability to look at these peer-reviewed research papers that the minister has spoken about and the experience in other jurisdictions that has already occurred, is it the minister’s opinion that there will be an opportunity, with some limitations as per regulations and working with local governments, to allow the safe use of the MPMDs on sidewalks?
Or, based on these research studies and the experience in other jurisdictions, has the government concluded that there really isn’t any opportunity for the safe use of these devices on sidewalks because they’ve proven, in other jurisdictions, to have a serious safety issue, obviously, when they meet pedestrians?
Up to now, we have not allowed bicycles on sidewalks for adults. These devices — unless, of course, you limit their speed to the speed of a bicycle — would be going faster and, potentially, having way more serious consequences for pedestrians.
Hon. C. Trevena: The member has asked whether we ruled out certain things or ruled in certain things. We haven’t got there yet. This is regulation-enabling legislation. One thing it enables is pilot projects, where we’re going to be testing out the different approaches. We’re going to be working with communities with the information that we have. So we’re not ruling anything in, and we’re not ruling anything out yet. This is enabling legislation to get to the stage where we can see what works and what doesn’t work.
N. Letnick: I would just hope that when they are consulting with potential cities…. I know the government will share the information it has, regarding what works and what doesn’t work, that it has accumulated, so that cities don’t end up in the situation where they have real, serious conflicts.
As the minister knows, nothing — at least I don’t believe — in this miscellaneous statutes bill will create more controversy than a poor implementation of this particular section. I can just see all the letters to the editor, all the costs at our health care facilities and all the calls to our MLA offices the first time that we have someone on a Segway run over a senior on a sidewalk. Be careful what you ask for, I guess, is my answer to that one.
My last question, assuming that it doesn’t cause a ripple on this. In section (d), it talks about “respecting requirements in relation to operators of, passengers on and equipment attached to a regulated motorized personal mobility device….” In other words, my question is: does the minister contemplate instituting a minimum age for the use of these devices on public roadways?
Hon. C. Trevena: Just in response to the member’s statement at the end of my previous question, of course we’re going to be sharing best practices with the communities looking at pilot projects. That’s the reason we’re doing it — to be able to get to B.C.’s best practice.
The age limit, if you’re going to have a sort of age in and age out, is depending on the device. It depends, literally, on what device it will be — at what age you’ll be able to drive it, use it.
N. Letnick: Could the minister expand on that? I think it’s pretty clear what the MPMD options are right now, at least those that we know of: the Segway the minister has mentioned a few times, the scooter that has a battery on it and a motor. We’re talking about the Airwheels. These are three of the most popular ones that, I think, are out there currently.
Are we talking about a different minimum age for these devices? If we are, does the minister have an idea of what that age might be? If we can’t drive a car on public roadways until a certain age, then my question is, is that the indication of the minister as to what the best practices are when it comes to these devices that can go 30, 40 kilometres an hour in and amongst the moving traffic of vehicles?
Hon. C. Trevena: It does depend on the device, again. Some of the electric scooters are really fast, and some are slower. Just to give the member a bit more clarity, Ontario is looking at a minimum age of 16 for e-scooters. Doing it in the municipal jurisdictions, Calgary is looking at 18. In B.C., for motorized assisted bicycles, there is a minimum age of 16. We do have minimum ages out there. This is something that we will be looking at, depending on the device, but we’re not going to say right now: “This is the age.”
Section 113 approved.
On section 114.
J. Sturdy: I noted that this particular amendment is proposed to come in retroactively, as of July 2019. I wonder if the minister could share with us why that is.
Hon. C. Trevena: It’s another housekeeping measure to ensure that there is consistency between the act and the regulations. It again relates to Bill 55, the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act, which amended section 3 of the Motor Vehicle Act to provide for a person who had been issued a licence or is to be issued a licence under the Passenger Transportation Act. That includes TNS authorization. So commercial ride-hail operators must obtain the prescribed motor vehicle liability policy.
The prescribed motor vehicle liability policy was established in the Motor Vehicle Act regulations which were effective July 8, 2019. The requirement in the regulations was done under the authority of subsection 11 in this section. The regulations effective on July 8, 2019, set out two different types of motor vehicle liability policies, one which is applicable to taxi licensees and one to commercial ride-hail operators.
The change here in section 114 of the bill applies to the class-making authority in subsection 9, to all provisions in section 210 of the act, including subsection 11, and applies effective July 8, 2019, when the Motor Vehicle Act regulations came into force.
Sections 114 and 115 approved.
On section 116.
J. Sturdy: This is dealing with those pilot projects. Can the minister perhaps share with us, and communities and interested parties, what that process will look like in terms of the application for entering into a pilot project agreement — what the process will be, what the timeline looks like? Can communities expect to be involved in some pilots, for example, next spring or summer?
Hon. C. Trevena: Section 2 of this sets out, really, the criteria that has to be met before approval of a pilot project. It’s in the public interest. It’s consistent with the objectives set out by government related to both transportation and safety. It has the consent of the local government, so whether it’s a municipality or a treaty First Nation, of the area, the geographic area where the project is taking place. Those are the broad guidelines.
We’ve already had a lot of interest from local governments. At UBCM, I had a lot of local governments come and say: “We’d like to be engaged in having any sort of new testing.” I know we’ll go back to the golf cart communities, and had that, but there is a lot of eagerness out there.
We will be putting out a notification that we will be taking applications from local governments very soon, working with local governments to take in those applications. We’re looking at the pilots being able to start next spring, summer when the weather gets better, because a lot of these are obviously related to nice, summertime weather when you’ll be on your e-scooter or on your hoverboard or whatever it is. That’s when we’re looking at being able to start.
J. Sturdy: Could the minister help us understand how the ministry will define and use the term “public interest”?
Hon. C. Trevena: Public interest is one that always seems to be hard to define. It’s for the common good of the people. We’ve introduced, as I mentioned earlier, the active transportation strategy, which is getting huge uptake. We’re getting a lot of engagement on this. That is part of how we will be defining public interest — getting people using alternate forms of transportation and working with communities to do that.
Likewise, our CleanBC has got massive greenhouse gas reductions. This is also another way of ensuring that those emissions reductions are being met and how — a smaller way — it will all have an impact getting people, again, out of cars. So we’re working with communities to deliver both what the communities have said they want and what people who have been engaged in our active transportation outreach have clearly said they want, which is alternate forms of transportation, not just necessarily a bicycle or a bus.
Mr. Chair, noting the hour, I ask that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.
The committee rose at 6:27 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Committee of the Whole (Section B), having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. M. Farnworth moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.
The House adjourned at 6:29 p.m.
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