Logo of the Legislative Assembly

Hansard Blues

Legislative Assembly

Draft Report of Debates

The Honourable Darryl Plecas, Speaker

5th Session, 41st Parliament
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Morning Sitting

The House met at 10:05 a.m.

[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]

Routine Business

Prayers and reflections: Hon. C. Trevena.

Introduction and
First Reading of Bills

BILL M207 — REPEAL BILL 52 AND
BILL 15 ACT, 2020

J. Rustad presented a bill intituled Repeal Bill 52 and Bill 15 Act, 2020.

J. Rustad: I am pleased to introduce the bill, Repeal Bill 52 and Bill 15 Act, 2020, standing on the order paper in my name and for the member for Delta South.

The pandemic has made British Columbians focus on our provincial economy [audio interrupted] for greater self-sufficiency. Many borders still remain closed. In no other sector has this become more apparent than in the agriculture sector.

Local farmers work tirelessly to enrich our economy and provide us with the fresh, local food that we all need. In doing so, they have many challenges, both natural and man-made.

Bills 15 and 52 have diminished the farmers' ability to manage their own land and make those decisions that are so critical for food production. Bills 15 and 52 increase financial hardships for farmers that are currently struggling to harvest their crops as we speak and threaten the existence of multigenerational family farms.

This bill would repeal these two bills, both Bill 15 and Bill 52, and would restore farmers' rights to manage their own land.

Mr. Speaker: The question is first reading of the bill.

Motion approved.

J. Rustad: I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M207, Repeal Bill 52 and Bill 15 Act, 2020, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Statements
(Standing Order 25B)

TALITHA KOUM SOCIETY
ADDICTION RECOVERY SERVICES
FOR WOMEN WITH CHILDREN

J. Isaacs: When you're struggling with addiction, your world is turned upside down. If you're a mom, it's even more challenging, not knowing how your children will be cared for during your recovery. Talitha Koum, or TK, is a non-profit organization empowering women with addictions to lead healthy and fulfilling lives by providing a home, a nurturing community, 12-step programming and life skills training. Recovery is challenging, but with volunteer support and the commitment of organizations like TK, recovery can be a shared experience where moms and their children are supported through recovery and healing.

Brianna is a mom of two young boys. She's a member of the Tsimshian First Nation, a high school graduate and a recovering alcoholic. Brianna's drinking escalated at the age of 15, when her mom passed away. She became trapped in a cycle of recovery, relapse and binge drinking. Like many alcoholics, once Brianna started to drink, she couldn't stop.

When Brianna needed help, she chose TK, because she wanted her children with her while she was recovering. Brianna is enthusiastic about her progress. She has opened her mind and heart, found a higher power, and is working on developing the spiritual and cultural aspects of her First Nations heritage.

[10:10 a.m.]

Alicia grew up in an abusive and dysfunctional home, and by the time she was 15, she was a heroin addict. Alicia was also stuck in a revolving cycle of recovery, relapse and overdose, and entered TK's recovery program with no hope. But Alicia had a spiritual awakening that did give her that gift of hope and helped her through her recovery.

Alicia had another gift of hope, something very special. Alicia gave birth to a healthy baby girl while in TK's recovery program.

Talitha Koum is transforming lives and is supporting women and their children throughout their journey of recovery.

VANCOUVER ISLAND UNIVERSITY
RESPONSE TO COVID-19

S. Malcolmson: In Nanaimo, we are learning from the pandemic, from the staff and students at Vancouver Island University. VIU has found new ways for its trades students to continue learning. Their carpentry department, with Nanaimo builder Ken Grewal, is building a north-end duplex with nine students in each unit so they can work in two teams and ensure physical distancing. Cam Frenette, their carpentry instructor says: "We teach workplace safety in all of our trades classes, and this is an additional layer of safe practice our students are learning."

Another example are MBA students at VIU. In partnership with the Vancouver Island economic resiliency initiative, they are coaching Island businesses navigating economic recovery, connecting them to programs and investments.

Students are keeping everybody connected and learning through this time. They transformed their annual leadership conference into a month-long virtual event.

VIU turned one of its state-of-the-art labs into a Health Canada–approved hand sanitizing manufacturing facility, so it wasn't just the distilleries that did this.

VIU is researching the ways that COVID-19 is affecting our region and how to improve responses in the future. There are about ten different programs. One of them, health care professionals with depression and PTSD, which is something that hits the sector hard anyway…. Those that have had this exacerbated through the pandemic are part of a study using ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

Quality of life and housing situations are being researched. Creating a web archive of COVID impacts for scholars and citizens to access in the future. Studying what has been the impact of new ways of delivering teaching through K to 12 for teachers and students and all school employees.

All of these are being researched out of Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo for the benefit of the whole province. Thank you to the students and staff that are leading the way.

ROLE OF ROYAL CANADIAN LEGIONS

D. Davies: Today I'm going to talk about an organization that is dear to my heart, the Royal Canadian Legion "Keepers of Remembrance." The Legion was founded by veterans and for veterans 95 years ago. It now advocates for the care and benefits for all who served Canada, regardless of where they served or when they served, including our new younger members.

The Legion also provides representation and assistance to them, including currently serving Canadian Armed Forces members and the RCMP and to their families and access to services whether they are legion members or not. The Legion helps thousands of veterans each year to make significant positive changes in their lives. Many legions also have close relationships with local fire departments, paramedics and other para-military organizations.

Mr. Speaker, I've been a member of my local legion since 1995 and know the role that it plays in my community. With 145 branches across the Legion, these are cornerstones of all of our communities. From Port Alice to Blue River to Vancouver to Prince George to Fort St. John, their members provide local services and supports to build a stronger Canada and, indeed, a stronger British Columbia. Whether helping local veterans to support seniors by providing new sporting programs, raising funds, volunteering to help those in need, legions provide essential services to their communities. In fact, legions in B.C. raise and give back nearly $4 million each year to our communities.

Sadly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these legions will have no choice but to close their doors. In B.C., it is estimated that nearly 40 percent of legions will not be able to recover financially from hardships that this pandemic has caused. Closure of the legions will not only affect veterans that we should be giving our support to but will also leave a giant void for seniors who need our support now more than ever.

Unfortunately, legions do not qualify for many of the aid programs, leaving them no way to keep their doors open. Legions need our help. Please, wherever you can, support these incredible community hubs, the Royal Canadian Legion.

[10:15 a.m.]

SPIRIT ORCA SWIMMERS
AND GREAT BIG SWIM EVENT

M. Dean: Each Saturday or Sunday this month and next, Susan Simmons, Jasmine Kremer and the Spirit Orcas are entering the water of the Salish Sea and swimming along the shoreline. They're going ten kilometres a day along their route from Brentwood Bay to Esquimalt Lagoon. Their eight-leg journey will total about 80 kilometres, expecting to conclude on August 16.

The Spirit Orcas are a group of six developmentally disabled adults with big hearts and lots of courage. All of the swimmers are from Vancouver Island, and they believe that swimming is a great way of staying fit and managing wellness. Susan is a swimmer with multiple sclerosis, and she says: "Swimming in the open water provides me with a special kind of freedom. Multiple sclerosis is a cruel disease. While one of the best ways for me to manage it is to exercise, exercise is also one of the things that can cause me to overheat and potentially lead to damaging attacks. The open water keeps me cool, where I'm free to exercise."

The Spirit Orcas are raising awareness about the importance of staying fit during COVID-19 and raising funds for Vancouver Island's rapid relief fund. The swim has been called the Great Big Swim.

As whales may frequent the waters of the chosen route, the swimmers have rules about their encounters. If they're spotted, the swimmer may be removed from the water temporarily, and then they're able to re-enter the water when the whales have passed in exactly the same spot.

On August 16, the swim will end, and I intend to join them at Colwood waterfront, Esquimalt Lagoon. Thank you so much to everybody who's supporting the Great Big Swim, and a good swim and good luck to one and all.

SENIOR HEALTH CARE CASE AND
AMBULANCE SERVICE IN SMITHERS

J. Rustad: A constituent of mine, Laura Blackwell, asked me to read this statement on her behalf.

"On July 9, my 85-year-old grandfather, Robert Carol, had a fall. Immediately, he pressed his Lifeline for help. At 12:03 p.m., his daughters and an ambulance were notified that he had fallen.

"His daughters went to his rescue, but because of COVID-19, they were unable to enter his assisted-living home, which is The Meadows, located in Smithers, B.C. Standing outside looking through the window, they could see their dad lying on the floor but could do nothing but wait. Meanwhile, a worker in the home sat with my grandpa while waiting for an ambulance.

"Thinking it wouldn't be long till the ambulance arrived, everyone stayed and waited to ensure that there were no serious injuries like a possible broken hip. As minutes ticked by, no ambulance arrived. After an hour and a half, an ambulance arrived.

"I'm writing this statement to ask why. Why did it take an hour and a half to rescue a senior citizen from a fall? I called the Smithers ambulance to see what took them so long, and they told me that there was only one ambulance scheduled for the day, and they were out on a code 3 call, which apparently has a higher priority.

"How does one ambulance service a community of over 5,000 people? This is a disgrace. It needs to be fixed today, not later, and not only for the community of Smithers but for every northern community that suffers inadequate health care.

"Have you heard the saying in the north: 'There's no hope past Hope'? Whether it be an ambulance or other medical care, this statement rings true every day for us northerners."

COVID-19 OUTBREAK IN HAIDA GWAII

J. Rice: Last week Northern Health declared a COVID-19 outbreak on Haida Gwaii. As expected, this has flared up tensions that have been building in the region since the start of the pandemic. It is believed that all of the cases are either residents who had recently travelled off-island or had exposure to other residents who had recently travelled off-island. All of the active cases are self-isolating at home, and clear processes are in place for identifying and informing close contacts so they can take appropriate precautions.

A learning for us in the north coast is that the virus can hit any community at any time, even despite valiant efforts to protect communities. This is why it's important that we always act as if the virus is in our community. Keep within your bubble. Keep physical distance. Avoid crowded places. Wear a mask when you can't. And wash your hands frequently.

[10:20 a.m.]

Another learning is that we need to stop fearing the other. I get calls on a daily basis from people worried about tourists from other provinces and countries visiting our communities. The worry is that these outsiders will bring the virus into the community, but what the recent outbreaks tell us is that disregarding health advice is our biggest threat, not outsiders. We need to remember that.

While international borders are closed, there are people from the United States and other provinces who live and work in our communities that have kept their home licence plates on their vehicles for one reason or another. If you see a licence plate from a different jurisdiction, be kind. Don't immediately assume that they are not allowed to be in town and are not following public health guidelines.

If we don't follow the advice of public health experts, no amount of restrictions to travel will stop local outbreaks. Let's not let fear get in the way of public health.

As Dr. Bonnie Henry says: "Be kind, be calm, and be safe."

Oral Questions

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR
TOURISM INDUSTRY

M. Stilwell: Landsea Tours in Vancouver typically hosts 120,000 people annually. They typically, at this time of year, have about 130 people working for them, but their workforce has been reduced to just two staff members.

President Kevin Pearce tells me: "We had to close our doors on March 16, and we have had zero revenue for the past 18 weeks. An economic recovery plan for tourism is desperately needed now."

To the Minister of Tourism, what is she waiting for? Is she waiting for businesses like Landsea Tours to go broke?

Hon. L. Beare: I thank the member for the question. We know how hard tourism and the tourism sector has been hit, particularly businesses like Landsea who predominantly rely on international visitors.

The operator that the opposition member has mentioned is eligible for a number of supports, both federal and provincial. They include an enhanced commercial rent program, which provides up to 75-percent rent reduction for businesses. They can qualify for deferred taxes, the 75-percent wage subsidy that we successfully advocated with the Canadian government for, and zero-interest loans for small and medium-sized businesses.

Staff and my ministry have reached out to the operator that the member mentioned and have had a conversation to ensure that they are aware of all the supports they need during this challenging time.

We know that there is more to do. That is why we are currently working on our economic recovery plan and consulting with industry and the public as we speak. Our government is going to continue to work closely with the industry, and we're going to continue to provide support that puts people and businesses first.

Mr. Speaker: The member for Parksville-Qualicum on a supplemental.

M. Stilwell: Well, the minister seems to say that she's listening. It's been four months of businesses coming to the government, asking for the support. Landsea Tours doesn't need rent relief. They own their property. They've had to sell their office, their shop and their yard space that they've operated from. They've also had to start selling vehicles just to keep their doors open. They need help now.

Kevin says: "The bills are still coming in, but there's no money coming. I'm baffled by the delay to act by this government." Kevin, again, has been waiting, along with businesses across this province who are impacted by this pandemic, four months.

When can he expect to see a tourism-specific recovery plan from this minister?

Hon. L. Beare: To the member: as the Minister of Finance said, I believe two weeks ago now, everything we have been doing here in our province surrounding COVID-19 has been a plan. We put a plan in place immediately to be able to support businesses and people with immediate relief — a $5 billion plan.

[10:25 a.m.]

We put in a safe restart plan so that people can have the confidence to travel around the province and go back outside and experience these tourism operators that the member is mentioning again. You know, we created that safe restart plan. Everything we are doing here in B.C. is working towards keeping people safe and towards economic recovery.

You know, I've got a quote as well. It's from a business in her riding, actually. Richard Varela, the park director of Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park in Parksville, has recently been accessing the tourism support resiliency network that was created through funding from the province. Richard says: "The biggest benefit of the Vancouver Island coastal tourism resiliency program was having the assurance I'm not alone, that someone is listening and that someone has my back."

Member, we're going to continue to work very closely with this sector to work towards economic recovery together as we lay out our $1.5 billion recovery plan, and we'll continue working with the sector hand in hand as we move towards recovery.

D. Clovechok: WildPlay Element Parks typically employs around 270 people. Over a 72-hour period, they were reduced to five people. Even today this business can only operate with a skeleton team of staff. Tom Benson, the co-founder of WildPlay, as well as countless other struggling tourism businesses, are asking this question: "Are we going to make it through the storm?"

To the Tourism Minister, why are business owners like Tom having to wait so long for the government to provide the much-needed support?

Hon. L. Beare: Our government does have a plan. We have our provincially coordinated approach to recovery, our $1.5 billion recovery plan that is going to support economic resilience, business recovery. It's going to help people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the pandemic.

So I'm going to continue working closely with industry leaders as we work towards recovery. We're going to continue taking actions and listening and addressing their needs, whether it be addressing the $10 million in community destination marketing that the sector was asking for or accelerating disbursements to resort municipalities, whether it be providing wholesale liquor pricing or increased access to patio spaces.

We are listening to the sector, and we're going to continue to work closely with them and put their input into our provincially coordinated economic recovery plan. I'll continue to advocate for the tourism sector as a part of that.

D. Clovechok: I'm sure Tom is going to find a lot of comfort in those words, but I quote: "The only way we can prevent generations of lost economic activity, jobs and tax revenues is by acting decisively now." Those are the words of Vivek Sharma, chairman of the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia.

Tourism operators across this province are desperate, and they are sick and tired of this minister's shallow talk and abysmal leadership. They are demanding action.

To the minister, how many more businesses have to permanently close before she does something to help them?

Hon. L. Beare: As I have said, our government has put plans in place. We put a plan in place that addressed the health care crisis, a plan that flattened the curve. Without that, we wouldn't have the safe restart plan that we have in our province, and we wouldn't have the ability to go and support those local tourism operators.

Everything that we are doing in this pandemic is working closely with the tourism sector. We've been able to provide a number of supports to date. We know there is more work to do, and that's why we're working very closely with the sector as part of our $1.5 billion economic recovery plan. We're getting that input from the sector as well as the public, and we'll continue working together with them towards recovery.

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES AND FUNDING

A. Olsen: In the last few years, there have been substantial mental health funding commitments made by the provincial and federal governments, including the creation of the B.C. Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, as mandated by the confidence and supply agreement.

[10:30 a.m.]

Even still, in Canada, only 7 percent of the health care budget is dedicated to mental and behavioural health. As a result, access to comprehensive mental health care and addiction support often depends on the size of your bank account. Data clearly shows that lack of access to mental health care is most pronounced in those with lower incomes, fewer years of education, minority groups and people with other vulnerabilities.

Based on this year's budget estimates, it appears the breakdown seems to be that over $20 billion is being spent on the Ministry of Health and $10 million for the Ministry of Mental Health.

My question is to the Minister of Finance. Does the minister have a more detailed breakdown of the percentage of the B.C. health care budget that is dedicated to mental and behavioural health care delivery?

Hon. J. Darcy: We are working very hard to build a comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care in the province. We certainly believe that we need to get to a place where mental health is treated in the same way that physical health is. We have not had a system that does that, and we have a long way to go. But our government has been making some significant investments.

We spend an average — and we canvassed this in estimates — of $2.5 billion a year on mental health and substance use care. Those are figures from last year. In addition, we have committed $74 million to new initiatives for child and youth mental health. That includes expanding Foundry to 19 centres that we've committed to across the province. There was $3 million budgeted for Foundry when we took office. It will be $15 million this year, five times as much.

The member used the term that access to care should not depend "on the size of your bank account." He's quoting very well from when I made the announcement, a $10 million announcement last fall of significant investments in mental health and addictions counselling — the most significant investment in a decade.

We believe we needed to build access, strengthen access to counselling on the ground by investing in community agencies, no-cost and low-cost counselling, with those funds targeted specifically to the most vulnerable people in the population. A third of those agencies that received that funding were Indigenous organizations.

In addition to some of those things, we're beginning to build child and youth mental health teams in our school districts so that we can start early and catch small problems before they become big ones. In the Ministry of Education: $12 million invested in school-based mental health programs. In the Ministry of Advanced Education, for the first time ever, post-secondary-education students have access to 24-7 phone lines for access to mental health counselling.

We're just getting started. We've got a long way to go. We had a big mess to clean up, but we're on the road. We've made some significant progress to date, but we absolutely need to get to a place where we reduce the stigma about mental health and addictions and where we treat it with the equity with physical health that it deserves.

Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.

A. Olsen: Thank you to the minister for her comprehensive response.

For most British Columbians, our health care system does not guarantee access to specialized, evidence-based mental health care treatment. Consequently, our walk-in clinics and emergency rooms become the de facto provider for people experiencing mental health challenges. This, in turn, leads to individuals overusing the health care system because their mental health needs are not being adequately addressed.

Ineffectively treating mental illness costs our health care system twice as much as providing appropriate care in the first place. As the minister noted yesterday, four out of five people killed by an illicit drug poisoning had previously been in contact with the health care system, most likely with the primary care system. GPs are working heroically to support people in crisis, but they're inundated and in need of additional specialized mental health resources.

Research shows that when patients are provided with brief psychological assessment and targeted cognitive and behavioural interventions, their conditions improve, both mentally and physically.

My question is again to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Does the minister agree that by providing a level of mental health accessibility, similar to what we expect for physical health, we can create better health outcomes and lower medical costs?

[10:35 a.m.]

Hon. J. Darcy: Thank you to the member for the question. I don't think there is any question that that is a goal that we share. It's going to take us a while to get there. We're very proud in Canada to say that we have a universal health care system, but the reality is that at a federal level, mental health and substance use is not integrated into universal medicare in the way that it should be.

We continue to press the federal government for further investments, because it is absolutely the case that too often people have to pay privately for access to care. They have to pay for psychologists, to the tune of $150, $250 an hour. They have to pay privately for access to addiction care. We are strengthening the public parts of the system, while we continue to press the federal government to treat mental health and substance use truly as part of universal medicare in this country.

I would also note that we are integrating mental health and substance use into primary care. We've heard the Minister of Health announce, in one community after another, new urgent and primary care centres and new primary care networks, and we are integrating mental health and substance use professionals into those teams. In Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice, where I live — the first primary care network that was announced — there's a team of five mental health and substance use professionals attached to that team.

We want to reduce the stigma. We want to expand access through the public health care system. Do we have a ways to go? Yes, we do, because this is an area that was ignored for 16 years. But we're on the road — much accomplished and more to do.

GOVERNMENT PLAN FOR
EDUCATION SYSTEM REOPENING

J. Johal: Tomorrow is the deadline for the government's fall education plan. So far, the government has done all it can to make sure that parents have no idea what to expect. On one day, the Minister of Education says students can expect to be back in class full-time, and then the next day the Premier says parents should have a plan B.

The question to the Premier: will he lay out a clear plan tomorrow that doesn't force parents to come up with their own alternative plan?

Hon. R. Fleming: Thank you to the member for the question. We were one of the only jurisdictions in North America to be able to reopen schools safely in June. That is a testament to the teaching profession — support staff, principals and vice-principals, parent organizations, First Nations, everyone involved in the education system. What we will update the public about tomorrow — and parents are eagerly awaiting this — is an update to a plan that we developed and released on May 15. As you've heard Dr. Bonnie Henry say on many occasions, we learned a lot from the June restart. We learned how to do that safely.

We want to return to in-class instruction in British Columbia, and we should. This jurisdiction is in the top percentage in the world that have safely managed the pandemic. The social and emotional costs of a long suspension of learning plays a heavy toll on families and children. That's what we will do. We will outline that safely tomorrow, and we will do so on a collaborative model of having developed a safe plan to return to schools in September.

The Premier commented, and rightly so, that we do not know where this pandemic will go — in British Columbia or anywhere in the world. So we have to have a nimble plan, and I say this to the member. We have to have a nimble plan that is regionally sensitive, perhaps, that follows the health and scientific advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry.

We don't know where we will be in the fall and winter if there is a second wave in British Columbia. We have to have a plan that can move forward, as we plan to do in September, and move back, if we need to, to keep families, kids, teachers and support staff safe in our school system.

Mr. Speaker: The member for Richmond-Queensborough on a supplemental.

J. Johal: Parents want clarity. They've gotten clarity from governments in Alberta…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

J. Johal: …Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan. I remind this minister that when the opposition started pushing on this question, he said late July. But prior to that, the announcement was going to be made in late August. That's what he said, and that's what the ministry has been stating. This plan is being made up as we go along.

Parents understand that there is more than one potential scenario for September. But government has had months to plan for these scenarios and give parents options, not to tell parents that they're on their own. Here's what Julie, in the Premier's own constituency, said: "I'm so annoyed by this. No, Premier, you actually have to find a plan B."

Again to the Premier, who has been sowing confusion every time he speaks, tomorrow can parents expect to be provided with clear rollout options for what schools will look like in the fall?

[10:40 a.m.]

Hon. R. Fleming: I know the member opposite is familiar with the plan that we rolled out in May. I believe he may have even returned his own children to school in June. But 200,000 children did return to school in British Columbia, and that has given us very, very valuable lessons about how to have schools reopen safely, how to physically lay out space in schools. We have had jurisdictions to the south of us, across the country, look to British Columbia's restart plan, which we developed in April and May and returned to school in June. That will be updated and released to the public tomorrow.

The member is incorrect. Ontario has not released a plan yet. They are waiting for it. What Ontario does have, though, because they haven't followed the collaborative way forward that British Columbia has, is they have lawsuits on their hands. I think the members opposite will be well familiar with lawsuits between employee groups and the education sector and the government. That is not a way forward. That is not a way to give clarity to parents about their expectations. We are going to do that.

We have worked with parents every step of the way. The B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils supported our stage 3 plan in June. They will support our plan moving forward. We will communicate with parents and everybody that relies on the education system effectively, and we will do so in a science-based way forward. That will be done by Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health — under their leadership.

D. Davies: School is a little over a month away. Parents are worried and concerned and need….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members. Members, the member for Peace River North has the floor. Thank you very much.

D. Davies: You know, school is a little over a month away. Parents are worried and, rightly so, concerned and need plans. One parent, Danny, writes: "This is infuriating to me. This is a total slap in the face to parents, especially single parents. Putting this on parents is ridiculous."

That frustration and desire to know that everything is under control is common from Fort St. John to Fernie to Fernwood. Families and teachers are looking for guidance and support, not some flippant remarks.

My question to the Premier: will he commit that tomorrow's plan will clearly lay out all of the options for this fall?

Hon. R. Fleming: Thank you to the member for the question. I understand that everybody in British Columbia, in every walk of life, and relying on any public service in British Columbia wants certainty in these uncertain times. That is why our school system responded so well, in a collaborative way, to be able to do what no other jurisdiction in North America was able to do, which was to reopen schools safely.

We did that working with parent organizations. We did that working with front-line teachers, support staff, principals, vice-principals, superintendents, First Nations and education officials. We did that in British Columbia.

As you have heard, and as the member has heard Dr. Bonnie Henry say, there were very valuable lessons in that restart that will serve us well for a strong start in September. Those details will be available tomorrow. It's an update of our May 15 plan.

The member is welcome to have a briefing. I want to offer him as much information as possible. We offered him a briefing on June 11. We offered him a briefing again on June 18. We didn't get a reply. He wrote a letter to me, I understand, on July 6. My office is 100 yards from his. It was never delivered to my office, but I did find the letter on Twitter, so I thank him very much for that.

If he wants to have specific information and a detailed briefing, because…. As we work with everybody in the K-to-12 education sector, it includes him. We've invited him. He can take up the offer for the provincial health office if he doesn't want a briefing from my office. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control…. But we want to move forward and give accurate information in a pandemic. There are no political margins here. There should be no….

I'm not going to tell the opposition how to do their job, but I would suggest that trying to score political points at a time when fear and anxiety are at a heightened stage, not just in British Columbia but around the world…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. R. Fleming: …is probably a bad political strategy.

[10:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker: The member for Peace River North on a supplemental.

D. Davies: You know, speaking of broken promises, the minister did promise weekly updates on April 9. I only did receive a few phone calls. Anyway, I'm not going to go on there.

You're right, though. We did learn a lot from June, and the BCTF actually also learned a lot. They actually found that only half of the teachers felt safe during the Premier's trial run earlier. A lot of it was around the accessibility of PPE.

Parents want to know that their kids are going to be safe. They also want to know that teachers and staff are going to be safe at the school.

So another simple question to the Premier or possibly the minister: will he be dumping all of these extra costs on local school districts and teachers, or will he show some leadership and provide the funding for PPE this fall?

Hon. R. Fleming: As I've said in previous answers, we have involved the B.C. Teachers Federation at the highest level of developing the health and safety protocols that will guide a safe restart to schools. That was done in May. We reopened schools in June. There was a lot of fear and anxiety from teachers. Ninety-one percent of professional teachers in British Columbia returned to the classroom in June. We made accommodations for additional ones.

We are working with the B.C. Teachers Federation today. They are on our steering committees and working groups to develop all the protocols that will be related to the safe reopening of schools. I am in regular communication with the B.C. Teachers Federation, including, just yesterday, meeting with their executive again.

What I can say is that we have worked collaboratively with the B.C. Teachers Federation. It's refreshing to even hear the opposition quote the BCTF, I think, outside of a court filing, if I may say. But the difference is working with them. That's what makes a safe reopening of schools possible. It's why we had a safe reopening in June.

It's why Dr. Bonnie Henry has been profiled around the world, in part because she was able to reopen schools in British Columbia, which is, in this corner of North America, the only place that was able to do so in June. That is our plan, moving forward. It's to update those health and safety protocols and to safely have a restart with kids back in school for in-class instruction in September.

GOVERNMENT PLAN FOR
EDUCATION SYSTEM REOPENING
AND CHILD CARE AVAILABILITY

J. Tegart: Parents are not only anxious about the return to school. They are also worried about what child care will look like for September. What happens when they need to return to work but are only allowed to send their kids to school on a part-time basis? Parents want to know if an actual plan exists for kids who may only get hybrid schooling this fall and need child care.

To the Minister of State for Child Care, can she tell parents if there will be enough child care spaces made available for when their kids are not in a classroom?

Hon. K. Chen: We have been working hard with the sector — with child care providers, with parents — to ensure that child care can safely operate. Also, thanks to our public health and Dr. Henry and her team, we have ensured child care can safely operate — and they have been — during this pandemic.

We do know that there are going to be more parents returning to work. Also, we are seeing more child care because of the support from our temporary emergency funding. That has supported over 4,500 child care centres to stay open and, with a lot of spaces available, being able to serve essential services workers and other parents returning to work.

We are seeing more centres opening, and we're expecting more centres opening. We are currently seeing a preliminary number of about over 85 percent of child care centres that are open and receiving our temporary emergency funding, and we'll continue to monitor that.

We do need to remember that the child care sector was neglected for many, many years. We have been working hard since 2017 to make sure we have a Childcare B.C. plan to support and accelerate the creation of spaces, to support the workforce and, at the same time, support affordability.

Mr. Speaker: The member for Fraser-Nicola on a supplemental.

J. Tegart: Parents are unsure what days their kids will be in class, and they don't know how they're going to find a child care space or before- and after-school care. Families are desperate for safe and available child care spaces. They want to know this minister has a comprehensive contingency plan in place. Or is she like the Premier, telling parents they're on their own? To the minister: what is your plan?

[10:50 a.m.]

Hon. K. Chen: Well, it is very encouraging to hear the member opposite talking about child care. But let's remember the child care crisis has existed for many, many years. We have been working really hard since 2018 to accelerate the creation of spaces, to support the workforce and to also support parents with their child care needs.

We have been planning since day one of this pandemic. We have been supporting child care providers to continue to maintain their spaces through operating grants and through temporary emergency funding, which has really supported a lot of providers to serve essential service workers on the front line, and then with more parents returning to work right now. We'll continue to monitor the situation.

We also have an online matching program that has been so successful. It has matched a lot of front-line workers and, also, now, more parents returning to work, to make sure they can find child care near their home or near their workplace.

We'll continue to work with the Ministry of Education, and thanks to a lot of school districts that have stepped up to support parents' needs for before- and after-school care, which has worked really well during the pandemic.

We'll monitor the situation. We'll work with parents, and we do encourage parents to look online and look for information about public health and safety and also our matching system.

As a mother with a young child, I know how parents have struggled with child care in this province for many years, and we're committed to continuing to provide that support.

S. Bond: It's time this minister did something other than monitor. It is time for action.

Working parents — mothers, in particular — are facing the prospect of not being able to go back to work because they can't find child care. We know that women have already been especially hard hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19. The unemployment rate for women in B.C. is up from 4.7 percent in January to 13.4 percent in June.

While the Premier seems to think it's up to parents to have a plan B, it is this minister's job to stop monitoring and ensure that families have the child care support they require.

A very simple question to the Minister of State for Child Care. It's her job. It's not up to parents alone, as the Premier suggested. What is her plan for a part-time return to school in September?

Hon. K. Chen: We have been working hard, as I mentioned to the member opposite.

The child care crisis has been there for years, with parents not being able to find the services they need. As a mother with a young child, I know how that feels, when you're unable to find child care services. I continue to know how that feels when I'm trying to find before- and after-school care and summer break care for my son.

We have been working closely with the sector. We have been providing the temporary emergency funding to support the operation of child care centres, and we're very thankful to see early childhood educators who are working on the front line and making sure those child care spaces can come back in service. We're currently looking at over 85 percent of the centres receiving our emergency funding that are opening to parents, and we're expecting that there will be more spaces opening for parents.

Again, we would encourage parents to look for our online matching services that have successfully matched a lot of front-line workers, especially the health care workers, and a lot of parents who need to return to work, to be able to find child care services.

I just want to end with a quick quote that we received from a child care owner who's talked about how our government's action…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. K. Chen: …opened plans that have supported parents' needs for child care.

[End of question period.]

Petitions

T. Stone: Along with the member for Kamloops–North Thompson, I would like to present a petition signed by over 6,300 people, organized by Elisha Hamilton of Kamloops, calling for the expansion of Car 40, a mental health crisis service that pairs a mental health practitioner with an RCMP officer as they respond to calls involving mental health situations.

Recognizing that mental health crises don't just happen Monday to Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., the petitioners are calling for a second shift to be added on weekends and evenings.

Reports from Committees

PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE

S. Bond: I have the honour to present the first report of the Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts for the fifth session of the 41st parliament titled Summary of Activities 2019-20.

I move that the report be taken as read and received.

Motion approved.

[10:55 a.m.]

S. Bond: I seek the leave of the House to move a motion to adopt the report.

Leave granted.

S. Bond: In moving adoption of the report, I'd like to make some very brief comments.

The report details the accomplishments of the hard-working Select Standing Committee on Public Accounts in 2019-2020. The committee examined 16 reports from the Auditor General, covering the effectiveness of government's financial statements as well as important programs like emergency health services, the safety of our drinking water and services for children and youth in care.

On behalf of all committee members, I want to thank Russ Jones for his steadfast leadership as our acting Auditor General. He's been acting since January.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome to Michael Pickup, who started his new role as B.C.'s Auditor General yesterday.

Of course, we need to thank the Clerk of Committees, Kate Ryan-Lloyd, and her incredible team for the work she does to support the committee. I want to make particular note of Ron Wall, who has done a fantastic job on our behalf. We also need to express our gratitude to the comptroller general and all of the senior public servants who appeared before the committee to ensure that government's programs meet the highest standards.

Lastly, I want to thank the dedication and collaborative approach that all committee members bring to the table, especially the Deputy Chair, the member for Esquimalt-Metchosin. Together we have worked hard. We play an important role in promoting accountability in government spending and program administration.

M. Dean: I also would like to just say a few thank-yous, starting with a thank-you to Russ Jones and all of the team at the Office of the Auditor General and, of course, welcoming now Michael Pickup, the new Auditor General. I think he will see, especially from this report as well as past reports, that we do a lot of work in the Public Accounts Committee.

I want to say a special thank-you to all of the members of the committee who worked so diligently, and special recognition for our Chair, who leads us so well and also shows so much respect for the professionalism of everybody who takes part in the committee discussion and debate, as well. Appreciation for the public service, for all of their work every day, not just in coming and presenting to the committee but the daily work of keeping good, quality government services going, and, of course, the work of the comptroller general.

Finally, I'd like to end with special thanks to the Clerk's office. I think the Public Accounts Committee was the first B.C. Leg committee to do a virtual meeting. I know it took a lot of work for us to be able to pivot so quickly. Of course, that's so much work going on behind the scenes with Hansard and everybody down at the assembly.

Again, thank you everybody for all of the hard work in making sure that we're continuing to improve services for British Columbians.

Mr. Speaker: The question is the adoption of the report.

Motion approved.

Orders of the Day

Hon. M. Farnworth: I call third reading, Bill 4, Budget Measures Implementation Act.

Hon. Speaker, I have been informed that we will have to deal with that one later this afternoon. I will, in that case, call third reading of Bill 24, Municipalities Enabling and Validating (No.4) Amendment Act.

Third Reading of Bills

BILL 24 — MUNICIPALITIES ENABLING
AND VALIDATING (NO. 4)
AMENDMENT ACT, 2020

Bill 24, Bill 24, Municipalities Enabling and Validating (No.4) Amendment Act, 2020, read a third time and passed.

[11:00 a.m.]

Hon. M. Farnworth: I call committee stage, Bill 18, Economic Stabilization (COVID-19) Act.

Committee of the Whole House

BILL 18 — ECONOMIC STABILIZATION
(COVID-19) ACT

The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 18; R. Chouhan in the chair.

The committee met at 11:03 a.m.

On section 1.

The Chair: Minister of Finance, do you have any opening comments? No.

Prince George–Valemount has a question.

S. Bond: All right. Well, why don't we begin with whether or not the minister can confirm that all of the taxes deferred will become due at once? We know that has been a very, very significant issue for small businesses across the province, so that is going to be absolutely essential, as we look at this issue. Could the minister confirm that all taxes deferred will become due at once?

[11:05 a.m.]

The Chair: Minister.

Hon. C. James: Thank you very much, Chair. Welcome to the debate, committee stage on Bill 18.

The member is quite right. September 30 is the date that has been set for the taxes, both remittance and the consumption tax and the employers health tax.

Just a little bit of context, which I think is important. The remittances: that piece is really relief for administration, for businesses. Those are taxes that businesses submit that they have collected from others. Those are put aside. As a business, they are not allowed to spend…. This isn't a cash flow issue. When it comes to the remittances, those are, in fact, taxes collected from other bodies that are then given to government. But we recognize that, obviously, when businesses were closed, it would be very difficult for businesses to do their regular reporting time period, which is why we've delayed those to September 30. That's one group.

Then, as the member will know, consumption tax — the EHT tax, for example: those payments have been delayed to September 30 as well.

I think, as I've mentioned in this House and other places, all of those are under consideration now as part of the recovery plan. Many businesses have come forward with ideas and options for looking at things. We're starting to see the federal government make their decisions as well. We recognize that those decisions need to be made, and we'll be making those in the next while.

S. Cadieux: Has the minister explored payment plans? I think there is some expectation amongst the business community, certainly, that not all businesses will be able to make the time frames that have been laid out. So has the minister explored payment plans for businesses for these deferred taxes?

Hon. C. James: Yes, all options and ideas are being explored. That certainly has been one of the approaches and suggestions that have come forward around payments and looking at when payments are due and whether those payments could be adjusted to be able to support cash flow as well. All ideas are on the table currently.

S. Cadieux: When will the minister expect she will be letting businesses know about what her ultimate decision is? They have a lot of decisions to make going into the fall. A lot of businesses are sitting at the brink of bankruptcy and are having to make a lot of decisions about whether or not they're going to be able to continue business in the fall. Knowing what their anticipated expenditures are and cash flow plan is for the fall will be really important for them in order to make some pretty significant decisions. When does the minister think she will have an answer for businesses?

Hon. C. James: I don't have a specific timeline or date to give the member. We're in those discussions with businesses right now. We certainly recognize the pressures that they're facing. As I mentioned, there are two different kinds of pressures. One isn't actually a cash flow issue at all, because it's remittances and they can't, in fact, spend those dollars. Those have to be remitted, because they're collected from other parties. But certainly, on the employers health tax, we recognize that there are pressures on the businesses and recommendations businesses are making. We're in that process now.

S. Cadieux: If the minister decides to, indeed, provide some flexibility on the repayment dates, does the minister plan to attach interest to those repayments?

Hon. C. James: None of those decisions have been made yet. Obviously, everything is under consideration, and many ideas have come forward.

[11:10 a.m.]

S. Cadieux: Given that a lot of decisions seem to be still up in the air…. Certainly, as we heard yesterday from the minister, she was very reticent to provide any clarity as to where revenues are sitting, where anticipated revenues and deficits are, because, of course, they are, as we've fully acknowledged, uncertain and likely to change. Clearly, some of that thinking has got to include the reality that there are going to be business failures.

For the minister, has the ministry allowed for the reality that some deferred payments may not be realized due to bankruptcies, and on what proportions has the ministry based the bankruptcy rate?

Hon. C. James: First, I just want to recognize again that we, in fact, put out a July economic scenario, not a full economic statement, because of the uncertainty. That's, in fact, why we're talking about these kinds of numbers, because we did, in fact, put out an economic scenario in July, with the best information that was available at the time. So I think that's important to note.

The member asked about bankruptcies or whether any of that had been built in or has been built in. We built in growth projections. Obviously, with GDP growth, it's too early yet, at this stage, to look at those kinds of numbers. That data will come in. We have the first quarterly report coming in September.

We did, though, build in to the scenario that came out in July a drop in non-residential property tax, presuming that there will be some businesses that will not be able to pay their property tax. So we have a drop of about $30 million in the scenario that came forward in July, which is about 2 percent of the taxes collected.

[11:15 a.m.]

S. Furstenau: Just to be clear, we're in part 1, section 1. This is speaking about a number of due dates for taxes. Recognizing the very challenging situations that we're in across the province in so many ways, my one question is related to the carbon tax, which was set for a $5 increase April 1, which did not happen.

Recognizing that it is vitally important for us to set a direction for the economy as we recover from COVID-19…. Overwhelmingly, people are recognizing that the other crisis that we have happening concurrently with COVID-19 is the climate crisis. If we want to clearly identify where we want our economy to go, the carbon tax plays an important role in that.

Could the minister give us some indication of her plan on the carbon tax and when the set increases will continue to happen?

Hon. C. James: Thank you for the question. Certainly, we agree that it's important to make sure that as we address the challenges with COVID, we also continue — it's part of our economic recovery plan, in fact — our commitment to climate action, to making sure that we're moving ahead with CleanBC. That is one of the values of our recovery plan that gets measured.

As I mentioned, with the other taxes that we've either delayed or deferred to September 30, the carbon tax increase was one of those as well. We're working through that process now around whether adjustments are needed in any of the dates, so those decisions have not been made yet.

Section 1 approved.

On section 2.

S. Bond: We are moving on now to the carbon tax section. I think that the minister is getting a sense of the concerns that we have as opposition. These are extraordinarily difficult times for businesses.

Looking at reinstating the carbon tax and looking at a deferral, it is certainly different than some of the suggestions that we've provided related to relieving some of the tax burden. Those are going to be important issues. We're going to see, as my colleague pointed out, a significant number of businesses that simply will not survive.

So let's talk a little bit about the carbon tax. Can the minister tell us how much carbon tax revenue was deferred during COVID?

[11:20 a.m.]

Hon. C. James: The updated number for the carbon tax revenue, coming in, in the July statement — that was the updated number from the budget; I'll use the most updated in the scenario — was $1.6 billion for the year, as dollars coming in on the carbon tax revenue. So if we just calculated that over the half a year, up to $800 million, then, could be deferred. That would be the potential for the amount of money that could be deferred if you were looking at the half a year just to September 30.

Right now we've had about 54 percent of people still filing their returns — some with nil, because obviously, there are businesses that were not open. It doesn't mean that 54 percent have paid their remittances at this stage, but 54 percent have filed returns. We'll have a better sense, again, over the next couple of months, of those dollars. Then, obviously, a decision will need to be made on the revenue as well.

I'll stop there and see if the member has further questions.

[11:25 a.m.]

S. Bond: Can the minister then…? She described that 54 percent of people, while they may not have remitted financially, have basically responded. How many businesses does that reflect? Can we tell, at this point, how many businesses have actually deferred their carbon tax?

Hon. C. James: Just another piece of data for the member. I mentioned that 54 percent have filed returns; not all of them have paid.

In the numbers that we're gathering right now, it looks like about 33 percent of that 54 percent have paid, out of that portion. We don't have a breakdown — I can get that number to the member — with us, around the number of businesses that that calculates to, because some businesses do monthly returns, some do quarterly returns, and some may do more than one return, depending on their business. That's a deeper calculation, but we're happy to get it to the member.

S. Bond: Thank you very much to the minister. I know that as we work our way through these questions, one of the challenges…. Certainly, it's not as challenging for us as the challenges the minister is facing. We know the total value of deferrals, and the minister presented that in her update. What we don't have is the specific tax-by-tax breakdown of what has been deferred. Our overarching concern, obviously, is that a deferral is still going to be very challenging for many businesses across the province.

[11:30 a.m.]

Perhaps the minister could just walk through, then, what process she will use, as she considers what the new carbon tax revenue amount will be.

We now know that 33 percent of 50-plus percent have filed. Some of those have paid, and others haven't, in that percentage. Could she just walk us through how she will use the numbers that she shared with us today to estimate new revenue for the carbon tax? If she can give us a sense of how these numbers are going to be used to estimate a new revenue number…?

Hon. C. James: To the member, there's no question these are unprecedented times. I use that often. I'm sure we've all used that often in the challenges that we're facing.

I think perhaps the best way to describe it is…. Look at what happens normally in a normal budget year. When we're going through the budget, we would table the budget, and then estimations would be reassessed as we go into Q1 and as we go into Q2, etc.

That same process occurs. That same process occurred in building the scenario for the carbon tax. We would certainly look at year-to-date data and then, obviously, look at economic forecast. If you see slowdowns in the economy, that obviously has an impact on carbon tax revenue.

For September, for Q1, and probably, I would expect, for the next while over this next year, we'll be relying, more likely, more on the economic forecast, because year-to-date numbers are not going to be as certain, because of the uncertainties going on in the economy. We'll be looking at all this data. We'll be looking at the deferrals. We'll be looking at the information that's there.

But obviously, the uncertainty has an impact, and therefore, the economic forecasting will be more critical when it comes to looking at any changes around the carbon tax revenue.

S. Bond: Thank you to the minister for the answer. I certainly can recognize the uncertainty, and we know that businesses and families are feeling that every single day.

This is not an easy question, but it's important to ask. I'm wondering if the minister and the ministry are monitoring things like the rate of bankruptcy — specific businesses that have already said: "Okay, we cannot do this any more." So looking at the number of bankruptcies and then assessing things like the amount of the deferred carbon tax, for example, in that particular situation, in order to start getting a more realistic picture of the loss of revenue.

It is substantive. When we think about that, it's over $6 billion that have been deferred. We're not sure how much is going to be paid back. We're not sure who can pay it back or when.

Does the minister have any sense of monitoring bankruptcies and then looking at deferred carbon tax payments that would be associated with those bankruptcies?

[11:35 a.m.]

Hon. C. James: We have staff working hard, as always, in the Ministry of Finance. So the number the member asked for earlier, around how many — the percentage — businesses may have paid the carbon tax, is about 18 percent of businesses that we expect. There may be new businesses, obviously, that come online or other businesses, but 18 percent of businesses that we would expect to pay have paid. That's the number from previously.

[11:40 a.m.]

Then the member was asking about bankruptcy. Certainly, StatsCan provides data on bankruptcies. That's certainly part of…. When we look at a broad assessment of the economy and what's going on in the economy, that's certainly information that we take into account.

There's not current updated information for the July economic scenario that we put out. That wasn't information, again. If you look at the timing of COVID, you're really looking at March, April. Probably many of those decisions wouldn't have come until May and June. We'll hopefully have that updated information as well.

And yes, we certainly assess the deferrals as well.

S. Bond: Thank you to the minister.

I wonder, then, as I wrap up my questions — there may be others — on the carbon tax piece, if the minister could just summarize for me her anticipation of what the new revenue number is for the carbon tax. I know that, as I said, obviously in the update there was a number, but it wasn't broken down tax by tax. So if she could give us what her best assessment is, at this point, of the new revenue for the carbon tax, that would be appreciated.

Perhaps I'll just foreshadow for the minister, because I know that shortly we'll be taking a bit of a break. It'll be a similar series of questions related to each of the taxes: motor fuel, sales tax and tobacco tax. Basically, it's that pattern of questions around how much was deferred, how many businesses have deferred and what the new revenue number might be.

We can take those section by section. But I thought that rather than ask them and then have the minister have to wait for that, we could work our way through those.

That's my final question on the carbon tax: what would her anticipated new revenue number be for the carbon tax at this point, knowing that there's a lot of uncertainty? And then just a bit of foreshadowing about the questions I would be asking about sections 3, 4 and 5.

Hon. C. James: Thank you to the member for the direction that we'll come back to around the other taxes.

Just to fill in on the carbon tax, that's the number that I presented earlier, which is the $1.6 billion. That's the most recent estimate that we have around carbon tax. That was the update that we provided in the July scenario.

I know people get tired of me saying this, but I think it's important just to recognize that it is a scenario, as the member will know. Those scenarios will change depending on our economic growth, on the restart, on where things are going, on collections and people who are sending in their payments as well. So again, Q1 will be our next run at that, the next look at estimating. That will give us a good sense, again, of where we're heading. But $1.6 billion is the most recent number we have for the carbon tax.

Section 2 approved.

On section 3.

[11:45 a.m.]

S. Bond: To the minister, I'm sure she's heard it, too, but we've heard from some industries, obviously, such as the mining industry, that despite the decision of the government to defer the motor fuel tax, they were still required to pay to fuel suppliers under the law. In essence, this had the effect of allowing suppliers like Suncor to defer payment, but not end-users.

Can the minister just speak to that for us? Did she consider that fair, or in fact, was it even an intended consequence or effect? Perhaps she can give us a bit of clarity around that particular situation.

Hon. C. James: This speaks to, as I was talking earlier about, the difference between the deferrals and the taxes. People are paying the taxes versus the deferrals. If I look at the motor fuel tax, for example, this piece and some of the other deferrals weren't designed to have people deal with the cash flow pressures that they were facing. There were other pieces like the employer health tax that we've talked about, the school tax portion of the property tax. Those were cash flow supports to businesses.

These pieces were designed to address the administrative burden. These are taxes that are collected from other parties, other people, that the business holds onto and then remits to government. So we recognize that there may be many businesses that were closed, that didn't have admin staff in place or didn't have their business structures in place to be able to remit those dollars. So those are not dollars that are the businesses' dollars. They're dollars that get remitted through to government.

That's the difference between the cash flow supports that were put in place and the deferrals. People are continuing to pay the motor fuel tax. They're continuing to pay it to the business. The businesses are just not required yet to remit those dollars. But those are dollars that they are required, eventually, to remit to government, because they're not their dollars; they're dollars they're collecting from other parties on behalf of government.

S. Bond: I appreciate that clarity, because it was an issue that we had raised. I think it's just industries and companies struggling to try to find ways to literally continue to operate.

Again, to the minister, perhaps in the hopes of finishing this section before we break, the pattern of questions: how much motor fuel tax was deferred during COVID? Perhaps she has similar percentage numbers that we could take a look at — and, again, just confirming for us what the new revenue target is for the motor fuel tax.

[11:50 a.m.]

Hon. C. James: We'll get the number for the member. We're looking at the July scenario and making sure we divide out the motor fuel tax. I'll get that for the member, if that's okay, when we come back.

Just on the percentages, we could see $400 million to $500 million deferred when it comes to motor fuel tax. That's the amount that we could see deferred. We had $1 billion as motor fuel tax in the budget in February. So that's the amount you could see deferred. But again, I'll make sure we've got the updated numbers around the breakdown for the July scenario for the member when we come back as well, if that works.

I'm getting a nod from the Speaker. Do you want me to rise and report?

The Chair: Let's pass section 3.

Hon. C. James: Okay — fantastic.

Section 3 approved.

Hon. C. James: I move that the committee rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

Motion approved.

The committee rose at 11:53 a.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. C. James moved adjournment of the House.

Motion approved.

Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 this afternoon.

The House adjourned at 11:54 a.m.

Top

NOTICE: This is a DRAFT transcript of debate in one sitting of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. This transcript is subject to corrections and will be replaced by the final, official Hansard report. Use of this transcript, other than in the legislative precinct, is not protected by parliamentary privilege, and public attribution of any of the debate as transcribed here could entail legal liability.