Fifth Session, 41st Parliament (2020)



Monday, August 10, 2020

Afternoon Sitting

Issue No. 353

ISSN 1499-2175

The HTML transcript is provided for informational purposes only.
The PDF transcript remains the official digital version.


Routine Business

Introductions by Members

Statements (Standing Order 25B)

J. Sims

S. Bond

J. Rice

J. Yap

S. Malcolmson

J. Sturdy

Oral Questions

J. Johal

Hon. A. Kang

Hon. A. Dix

M. de Jong

S. Furstenau

Hon. R. Fleming

T. Stone

Hon. S. Robinson

J. Thornthwaite

Hon. S. Robinson

Tabling Documents

Report pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act regarding Ministerial Order M256/2020

Report pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act regarding Ministerial Order M257/2020

Report pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act regarding Order-in-Council 449/2020, Attorney General

Report pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act regarding Order-in-Council 449/2020, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

Report pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act regarding Order-in-Council 451/2020

Report pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act regarding Order-in-Council 453/2020, Attorney General

Report pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act regarding Order-in-Council 453/2020, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

Report pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act regarding Order-in-Council 457/2020, Attorney General

Report pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act regarding Order-in-Council 457/2020, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General

Report pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act regarding Order-in-Council 459/2020


Hon. D. Donaldson

Reporting of Bills

Orders of the Day

Third Reading of Bills

Committee of Supply

C. Oakes

Hon. D. Donaldson

T. Wat

J. Sturdy

M. Morris

I. Paton

D. Ashton

M. Bernier

D. Davies

J. Rustad

D. Barnett

S. Furstenau

Third Reading of Bills


The House met at 1:36 p.m.

[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]

Routine Business

Introductions by Members

Hon. D. Eby: Some of the members will have a noticed a stranger on the floor. It is our lovely daughter, Iva. She’s 11 months old, and this is her first time being in the House — a little delayed for the presentation than we would have liked but very glad that it’s finally happening. Up in the gallery are our son Ezra and my beautiful wife Cailey, who makes it all possible for me to be here and for us to have such amazing kids.

Thank you, Cailey, thank you, Ezra, and thank you, Iva, for coming to visit.

Would the House please join me in making them feel very welcome.

J. Yap: In the House, virtually, today to follow proceedings is my constituent George Ing. He’s also here following the proceedings with his two granddaughters, Nimkish Young Ing and Aisha Young Ing. They’ll be following, through the streaming webcast, this afternoon’s proceedings. I ask the House to join me in welcoming George Ing, Nimkish Young Ing and Aisha Young Ing.

G. Kyllo: It gives me great pride to rise in the House today and give special thanks to the Canadian Mental Health Association in the Shuswap. Both Dawn Dunlop and Denise Butler do amazing work in providing services to the folks of the Shuswap. I recently contributed some dollars to them through a fundraiser, in which case I actually allowed my grandchildren, Nolan and Siddha and Kylie and Hannah, to participate in shaving off my COVID beard and cutting my hair. I am doing a bit of a comb-over today. There happens to be a little bit of a short bang problem on this side, but it was all for a great cause.

I want to give a special thank-you to all of the folks in the Shuswap and across the province that contributed about $6,500 to help support the work of the Canadian Mental Health Association in the Shuswap.

J. Sims: Joining me today is a family from Surrey-Panorama, Eka and Amer Sidhu. They are the proud parents of Sia Sidhu and, of course, her young brother Aryan, who is a future hockey and soccer star, or so he told me. I want to thank the parents — I would say the very proud parents — of Sia, who is an award-winner with the Surrey Board of Trade for her innovation and creativity. You could tell that they were just absolutely glowing when they brought her to my office, masked and, of course, properly socially distanced. We really had an amazing visit.

Please help me welcome them to our proceedings today.

(Standing Order 25B)


J. Sims: Every year the Surrey Board of Trade highlights 25 innovative and creative entrepreneurs under the age of 25. As I scrolled through this year’s list of 25 Under 25, there was a number that jumped out at me, and it was the number 11. Among the winners was an 11-year-old named Sia Sidhu, who was the youngest winner and who also happens to be my constituent.

[1:40 p.m.]

Sia is a polite, well-spoken and focused young woman who dreams of making a difference. At six, Sia decided she wanted to have a lemonade stand. She raised $300 for the local care home. Since her first fundraiser, Sia has sold ice cream, cream sundaes and hot dogs and most recently hosted Sia’s Burger Shack.

Sia has learned the value of teamwork. She recruits friends and family to help her execute her plans. Over the last five years, Sia has raised over $17,000 for the children’s hospital. Last year $9,200 was earmarked for muscular degeneration, a disorder that affects two of her cousins. Sia plans to host a virtual fundraiser this year, and I look forward to supporting her.

Congratulations, Sia Sandhu, the 11-year-old winner of the Surrey Board of Trade’s Top 25 Under 25 Award. Your future is bright, and at such a young age, you are making the world a better place. Thank you.


S. Bond: It came without notice and literally shook Garry and Mabel Moore out of their beds. Mud, water, rocks and dirt slammed into the home near McBride, B.C. that they have lived in for 37 years. They said it sounded like a freight train as the massive debris slammed into their bedroom wall at about 1:30 in the morning.

Garry and Mabel instinctively knew that they would need to find a way out. They used a log that was floating through their home to shatter the kitchen window and climb out. Unfortunately, Garry received serious cuts that required surgery as a result of him having to climb through the smashed window, and Mabel broke a toe and was covered in bruises. We are very thankful that there was no loss of life.

Once they had escaped their own home, the Moores worked their way across a huge stretch of mud and slid down a steep embankment to ensure that their 81-year-old neighbour, Joyce Godfrey, was safe. Joyce was sound asleep when Mabel woke her up and told her that they needed to get out of the house, worrying that a second slide might come down.

Garry, who is 70, and Mabel, who is 67, have lost every­thing, and 81-year-old Joyce has lived in her home for 50 years and now has a yard full of mud and debris. Other residents were impacted as well.

Mabel and Garry said they are so grateful for the support of family. The McBride community have stepped up to provide the care that all of the impacted residents need. Now work is underway to secure the necessary resources, through disaster financial assistance, so that these families can rebuild their homes and their lives. Nothing will replace the treasured memories or items that were lost in those traumatic minutes.

The Moores can’t believe that they managed to escape the mudslide. As Mabel said: “We’re together, and we’re still here. So that’s the main thing.”


J. Rice: Recently I had the pleasure of touring the facilities of Coastal Shellfish, an Indigenous-owned, sustainable scallop farming operation on the north coast. It’s an example of the kind of sustainable economy we can and should be striving to build in B.C.

Coastal Shellfish came directly out of a First Nations–​led struggle to protect the Great Bear Rainforest. Coastal First Nations knew that to protect the Great Bear Rainforest in the long term they had to build an alternative to the traditional extractivist boom-and-bust economy that has dominated Canada for years. If we want to protect our forests, rivers and oceans and have a thriving economy, we need sustainable industries that respect environmental stewardship, Indigenous rights and local communities.

Since 2003, local First Nations on the north coast have invested over $25 million to create the first scallop aqua­culture operation in North America and, likely, the largest operation in the world. They are developing a brand-new industry in North America, and this year they were poised to dramatically ramp up operations. While COVID-19 has sidelined their planned growth, they still are optimistic about their future prospects as North America’s leaders in shellfish aquaculture.

Today Coastal Shellfish employs around 60 people in Prince Rupert and surrounding communities in their scallop farm and processing plant. This is a huge turning point for Prince Rupert, which has been losing fishing and processing jobs for decades. In fact, Coastal Shellfish is now operating out of the old Canfisco fish processing plant, which ended operations four years ago, putting 580 people out of work.

[1:45 p.m.]

I hope this initiative acts as an example of the type of sustainable industry that can make B.C. a beacon of sustainability around the world and help our economy recover during the pandemic.

Thank you to the Metlakatla Development Corp. and all the coastal First Nations communities that made this project possible. I’m proud of what you’re doing on the north coast.


J. Yap: I rise today to speak about the life of an incredible community member and constituent, Dr. Rosalyn Ing or Roz to those who knew her. On July 23, Roz suffered a fatal stroke at the age of 82. Although she’s no longer with us, her legacy will live on.

Roz was from the Opaskwayak Cree First Nation in Manitoba. She endured a traumatic childhood, surviving the horrors of the residential school system. Despite this challenging start at life, Roz was resilient. She did not let past misfortune prevent her from achieving success.

Roz met her husband, the future Lt. Col. George Ing, when she served as a fighter control operator with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

After raising two sons, Greg and Ted, at the age of 48, Roz went back to school. Roz was ardent about education, believing that it is paramount for strengthening ourselves and our communities, particularly for Indigenous people. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and a master of education, and in 2001, she received her PhD from UBC in educational studies.

Roz spent 11 years researching the lasting impacts of the residential school system and then proceeded to teach at the Native Education Centre and at UBC. Roz also supported the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Roz took it as her duty to mentor, inspire and empower young people to achieve their potential. In 2012, Roz received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work in Aboriginal education.

Rosalyn Ing’s remarkable story is one we all can learn from. With enough determination, resilience and passion, it is possible to move past whatever hardship and adversity we may face.

We mourn the loss of a truly inspiring person. We also celebrate her exceptional accomplishments and contributions. The world is a better place because of Rosalyn Ing.


S. Malcolmson: Last month the new residents of Nanaimo’s newest affordable housing on Uplands Drive began selecting their units. Twenty-eight townhomes are being built right now, just the final finishing touches being put in place by the Nanaimo Association for Community Living. These are homes that are going to change people’s lives. They’ve got group kitchens built in, a social lounge and the infrastructure for people to gather for weekly meals.

The tenants selected…. Many of them are essential service workers. Most of them are developmentally disabled adults living alone. This is how they describe…. These new homes are going to change their lives. They said: “It’s a realization of a lifelong dream.” A home of their very own.

Smiles, tears of happiness and joy, and enthusiasm were common occurrences for the tenants during their unit selection meeting. One person said: “I think it’s going to be really good. I like the fact that I can be more independent, that there’s a social group, that I won’t be lonely. There are going to be people around all the time, and I like that.”

This is the culmination of years of work by the Nanaimo Association for Community Living. They’re doing this, together with the province of B.C., with a $5 million investment. They describe it as a project that began with a dream, a request and an openness to possibility.

Looking forward, just in the next few months, at the 880 affordable housing units that are going to be starting construction or are already well underway in Nanaimo…. Next we’ve got 23 units at Rosehill, built with M’akola and Vancouver Island Mental Health Society. Next, 74 units open on Estevan, built with the United Church. Next, 159 low-income seniors units in Buttertubs Marsh, built together with Nanaimo Affordable Housing.

Altogether, it’s going to have a huge impact on our community, and every one built with a fantastic community organization that’s leading the way and changing lives in partnership.

[1:50 p.m.]


J. Sturdy: Beyond the bike lane debates of urban British Columbia, right across the province, connecting communities with a safe and healthy alternative to the car to get into town, to school or to work can be as simple as a metre-wide, crushed-gravel trail that provides a real alternative to the skinny shoulders of the deep-ditch provincial highways.

Rural commuter trail development and maintenance is a bit of an orphan. Traditionally, mountain-bike trails are most often conceived of and built by local groups like the Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton Off-Road Cycling associations in the case of the Sea to Sky. Reflecting their membership, these groups often focus on building and maintaining downhill excitement and the climbs needed to service them.

Multi-use trails connecting communities, regional districts, municipalities and First Nations are complicated by jurisdiction and bureaucracy. Even for groups like the Pemberton Valley Trails Association, with decades of experience, the task can demand skills and resources that would challenge any community group but that are made even more difficult without a consistent funding model.

Enter an opportunity for a COVID recovery program that could support these worthy groups and leave a lasting provincial community legacy. A coalition has come together to form trails for a COVID recovery task force. The task force is a working group within the Mountain Bike Tourism Association. It is supported by Indigenous Tourism B.C., Destination British Columbia, the Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia, the Adventure Tourism Coalition and the Outdoor Recreation Council. They’ve developed a plan for economic development and employment opportunities targeting communities and tourism across the province.

Local trail societies can form the framework on which coordinated trail development would improve and expand transportation and recreation networks throughout British Columbia. These organizations are raring to go, with shovel-ready trail projects that will support our beleaguered tourism sector and that will also leave important alternative community transportation infrastructure right across this province.

Let’s strengthen the trail network in British Columbia, because trails build community.

Oral Questions


J. Johal: The opposition has documents that show that the private medical information of British Columbians is being accessed by Americans. This is against the law.

Shockingly, more than 5,000 files containing information from medical exams to prescriptions to contagious-disease information are being viewed by Americans, with the blessings of the B.C. government. Donald Trump has shown nothing but increased hostility towards Canadians but now has access to these files and can use them for whatever reason the U.S. sees fit, including barring British Columbians entry to the United States.

Can the Minister of Citizens’ Services, who was specifically asked in her mandate letter to safeguard the personal information of British Columbians, tell us why she has allowed this to happen?

Hon. A. Kang: Thank you to the member opposite for asking my very first QP question during the COVID-19 period. I’m answering this question virtually, from my office in Burnaby.

British Columbians must have the utmost confidence that their information is secure and protected. This is one of the passions that I have in my job. Our government is committed to continuously strengthening our privacy protection. I can assure the member opposite that we are doing our utmost best during COVID-19. Whatever we are doing here is not an uncommon practice throughout Canada.

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

J. Johal: I asked a very specific question. For the record, the minister did not answer. In many ways, she has sloughed this question off. I don’t think she understands the severity of this situation. This is a significant breach. There is no dispute, quite frankly, that this is happening.

The government’s handpicked contractor, NTT, has confirmed that Americans are accessing the private medical information of British Columbians. They have confirmed that 5,000 files, though it could be higher, have been made available to people located in the United States. That means their private medical information is subject to the Patriot Act. Whether they have cancer or a prescription for medical cannabis, that information is now available to the Trump administration.

Again, to the Minister of Citizens’ Services, whose one job was to protect our information: why are Americans being allowed access to our private medical information?

[1:55 p.m.]

Hon. A. Kang: When it comes to cyberattacks, cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated. That requires ongoing vigilance and updating technology to continue to fend off these attacks.

In British Columbia, the office of the chief information officer provides government with strategy and leadership in IT security. Our staff of experts have systems, to protect our network, that operate 24-7. This includes firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, antivirus software and a vulnerability scanning program.

The government notifies the OIPC on a monthly basis of all suspected or actual privacy breaches that may have occurred in ministries. In the rare event that a suspicious privacy breach is suspected, the OIPC is practically notified and as soon as possible. We are going to continue to work with the OIPC and all of our partners in British Columbia to make sure that our information is secure.

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

J. Johal: The minister just went through various security protocols. Quite frankly, every single one of those has failed. This is not a security breach in the sense that it’s coming from within the system. It’s coming from without, outside. This is a contract that this government signed. Why has this minister forgotten that?

Now, with this government being so inept when it comes to protecting our private medical information, it’s not just the Trump administration that now has access to it. It’s not just the Americans. Documents obtained by the opposition also show that people sitting in India, in clear violation of B.C. law, also have access to British Columbians’ private medical information. “My shift time is over in India. Could you please reassign this to some resource in a Canadian time zone to take care of this?”

Again to the Minister of Citizens’ Services, who is failing spectacularly at protecting our private information: can she tell this House why not one but two countries have access to our personal medical information?

Hon. A. Dix: I just want to put it in context, because I think if people listen to the question of the hon. member, they really wouldn’t understand what we’re talking about. In 2011, the previous government contracted out services, IBM Canada services, to support people working in health care. In 2016, the previous government decided to put that contract out for tender, and the winner of that contract was a company called NTT Canada. That contract was awarded after I became Minister of Health, in March 2018. The transition to the new contract occurred on July 29, 2020, just a couple of short weeks ago.

There were some concerns at the beginning of this transition, as one might expect — after all, approximately 150,000 people in health care and about 80,000 machines are serviced — about delay times, which were too long on July 30, way too long. Those delay times, in terms of responses to services, are down to a little over two minutes.

During the transition, NTT did ask some of its U.S.-based contractors to support Canadians. But I just want to be clear that they were providing technical support only. They had no access to, nor did they store, personal or health data. In fact, it’s part of the contract that NTT Canada has to operate consistent with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

I think if the member is interested in the substance of the issue, which is a significant one with respect to health information, I would be happy to arrange a briefing for him and the opposition so that they can look thoroughly through the question. I would say that I don’t…. It’s in trying to raise these issues in this way, with partial information, that we work hard to get at the truth. But I’m absolutely prepared to share all of the information necessary with the hon. member so that he can be satisfied with the answer.

M. de Jong: Thanks to the Health Minister for that remarkably selective description of the history of this. The transition that he describes began last year and, by all accounts, has been a disaster, which has given rise to this situation in the first place. Thousands upon thousands of operational problems have led to the company, which this government contracted with, making the decision….


[2:00 p.m.]

M. de Jong: You know what? Maybe the Premier wants to answer the question, because someone over there had better answer for a serious breach of security of the privacy of individual British Columbians, which so far the minister whose job it is to do that has been unable to do and the Health Minister has been unable to do.

The company that this government contracted with made the decision to send files and provide access to personal health information to individuals located outside of Canada, in the United States and apparently also in India.

Surrendering personal records or access to personal health records is an offence under our privacy protection legislation. It is an offence, and it is an offence that needs to be investigated.

My question to the minister whose job it is to protect the privacy of British Columbians is: has that investigation been commenced, has she made the required request for the retrieval of the information, has she notified the Privacy Commissioner, and has she notified the British Columbians whose personal health records have gone to foreign agencies?

Hon. A. Dix: As noted, this service, this important service in support of British Columbia health authorities, had previously been contracted out. This was the result of a formal contracting process. A new contractor took over on July 29. At that time, there were 3,995 incidents that were still open — the previous contractor had been IBM — and 7,237 service requests. Since NTT took over on July 28, there have been 12,464 new incident tickets, and 11,127 of them have been resolved.

There’s no one currently — no American people — supporting the Canadian operations currently working on the issue. But I would be happy to give the opposition a full briefing on the question. If the opposition has concerns and specific issues to raise, I’d be happy to look into them in great detail.

We obviously take the privacy of health records extremely seriously. We worked through these processes methodically. I think it’s fair to say that on July 30, there were long delays in getting access and getting response to service requests in the health authorities. As a result of that, significant action was taken, and now the delays have gone down. The response time delays for service requests have gone down to 2.4 minutes.

But that said, it’s a significant issue. So what we’re doing is responding to that issue in the way the member would expect. If the members have concerns, I’d be happy to provide a full briefing to them from the provincial health services authorities. They have an obligation, as does NTT Canada, to follow the laws of British Columbia embedded in the contract. The health supports they received were for Canadian services and Canadian responses.

I think that the member…. What I’m saying to the member is that there are clear responses to the questions, and we’d be happy to provide them.

Mr. Speaker: The member for Abbotsford West on a supplemental.

M. de Jong: The Health Minister can try to minimize this all he wants. What we know for a fact, because the company acknowledges this, is that a minimum of 5,000 files, caught up in operational difficulties, were transferred and access was granted to individuals located outside of Canada, in the United States and in India, contrary to British Columbia laws. If the minister is now saying that you can provide IT support in the health sector of the sort being contemplated here and being dealt with here without having access to the actual files, he’s wrong or severely and seriously misinformed.

I know the minister and the government have been watching. The President of the United States hasn’t exactly been whistling love songs in Canada’s direction lately. He characterized Canada as a security threat only two weeks ago. He continues to attack our number one industry in British Columbia, softwood lumber, that the Premier said he was going to solve three years ago. And now his security agencies have access to personalized health information from British Columbians. If the minister doesn’t think that those security agencies will make use of that intelligence in any way that they deem appropriate, then I think he is being seriously naive.

[2:05 p.m.]

Will the minister confirm that by surrendering personal health records to Americans, the very ability of British Columbians, whose records have been improperly surrendered, to gain entry into the U.S. may be compromised?

Hon. A. Dix: The member makes a series of assertions. If those assertions were accurate, then the concerns he raised would be accurate as well. Certainly, those concerns are my concerns. I’d be happy to review any information that he believes that he has.

What we know from our side and has been confirmed from our side is that no such information has been shared to the United States. I know that this is the time when making grandiloquent speeches about the President of the United States is a popular thing to do in Canada, but my focus is to ensure that health services are delivered in an effective way.

As you know, and as the member knows, and as I’ve acknowledged, there were issues around response in this system — this internal system which supports 80,000 machines and 150,000 people in the regional health authorities in the PHSA — and improvements have been made over the last number of days. It’s one thing I’d say — that all of the issues that have been dealt with were reviewed, consistent with the protection of personal information of British Columbians in the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act.

The health authorities, I think, take the health information and protecting the health information of British Columbians very seriously. They assure me they’ve done so in this case, and I’m happy to review any information the member has.


S. Furstenau: Children throughout B.C. will be going back to school with in-class learning in under a month. This short timeline makes it challenging for the necessary conversations to happen between parents, teachers and government about what classes will actually look like and what preventative measures will be taken.

The education of our youth and the benefits of in-class learning can’t be overstated, but there are a number of unanswered questions. A primary concern of teachers and parents is that in many cases, the class sizes are simply too big to allow for safe physical distancing in classrooms. Moreover, not making masks mandatory, like other provinces are doing, is creating a lot of worry.

My question is to the Minister of Education. Will he consider delaying the restart of school to provide a plan to British Columbians that has funding for smaller class sizes, more support for teachers and other necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Hon. R. Fleming: Thank you to the member for the question.

The plan that we’ve developed in British Columbia, which is an update of a plan we developed in May of this year, was done with safety being the paramount priority for all students, staff and teachers in a school building. It was done under the direction of our provincial health officer. It was done in close collaboration with all of the K-to-12 education stakeholders. We announced that on July 29. School districts are busy preparing things like timetabling, implementing the health and safety guidelines and ordering supplies that are funded by government to make schools’ restart safe.

I understand from the member’s question that parents are anxious to have information, and primarily information that comes from local sources. The connection they have to their local school communities is their primary point of contact and what’s of most interest to them and their families. I can tell you, and I can tell the member, that school districts right now are busy working within those health and safety guidelines, organizing their schools around the advice that was given to us by Dr. Bonnie Henry.

We have a safe, strong plan here in British Columbia. It’s built on sustained investments in the education system that we’ve made from day one as a government. We’ve invested, for example, $450 million to make class sizes in British Columbia the smallest they’ve been in a generation. That means an average of 18 students, for example, in kindergarten; 19 students, typically, in primary grades; and 22 students in high school settings.

[2:10 p.m.]

Those are the basis and the result of profound investment that this government has made in schools. That was made much prior to the pandemic, but helps us and stands us in good stead during a pandemic — to have smaller learning environments, more one-on-one attention by teachers.

We’ve organized the safe return to school on a number of principles that were developed by public health. We are working with a steering committee in British Columbia on an almost daily basis now to make sure that we make the best use of the time we have between now and September 8. Also — you’ve heard the Premier speak about this last week — we are working with those very same partners about how to start school in the best way possible.

This is not a normal September in the sense that kids return to their last year’s classroom. They need the time and space to have the learning teams, the administrators, the teachers and support staff very familiar with the health and safety protocols and the organizational layout of a school. And then we’ll be in a position to safely, and on a staggered basis, welcome students back to school.

So we’ll have more details about that. Those are conversations that are active and ongoing right now. But those are also discussions that have arisen at the steering committee that we’re very conscious of and that we’re working through with all of our education partners.

Mr. Speaker: House Leader, Third Party, on a supplemental.

S. Furstenau: That was a lot of information. I take it, as the minister pointed out, not considering a delay to the start of the school year.

As he notes, there’s a lot to consider with the restart of schools. Many parents rely on school not just for kids’ education but also for child care, and before- and after-school programs are crucial for many working parents. So if we expect people to go back to work, they need to know that their children will be taken care of.

As we’ve noted, the back-to-school plan requires more clarity, and the steering committee has yet to discuss, as far as we know, the before- and after-school programs. Meanwhile, many care centres usually care for children from multiple schools. While the province has been talking with teachers and school administrators, we haven’t heard about what additional supports there will be for early childhood educators. The last time the government website was updated on information for early childhood educators regarding COVID-19 was June 2, 2020.

My question is again to the Minister of Education. For children to go back to school in the fall as normal, then parents need to feel assured for the safety of their child. Will there be a plan presented that encompasses the entire spectrum of the education system, including before- and after-school care?

Hon. R. Fleming: I think perhaps the member misheard me. I very clearly said that the steering committee is working on how we have a welcome-back-ready school community in every part of the province — taking the time to do exactly that.

So those are under discussion. We’ll have more to say about that shortly. We’re working with principals and vice-principals. We’re working with school district leaders, teachers and support staff on exactly that. Parents will have information on what week 1 of school will look like in short order.

On the question of organizing the kinds of supports — before- and after-school child care, specifically — that the member asks for, I think it’s good to see districts and providers out there serving parents, trying to assess what the demand looks like. For those before- and after-school child care operations that are on site, they’re looking to coordinate that with the school community.

So that’s ongoing work that’s happening right now. I can’t give the member specific answers today on which child care operations have developed their plans exactly. But you can see, around British Columbia, that they are serving parents just to see who is interested in resuming those kinds of services. We expect that before- and after-school care will continue to be there for families in their school communities. That’s what districts are working on coordinating right now with many partner organizations that deliver those services.


T. Stone: After three years of this government, we have a report on the number of homeless in Metro Vancouver. The 2020 Homeless Count in Metro Vancouver report shows that, overall, the numbers have increased between 2017 and 2020. In Richmond, there are 21 percent more people experiencing homelessness today than three years ago. In Surrey, homelessness is up 7 percent. It’s up 21 percent on the North Shore. And in Burnaby, it’s up 80 percent over the last three years.

[2:15 p.m.]

My question to the Premier is this. When will the Premier stop passing the buck; when will he show some leadership, and when will he accept responsibility for the fact that, under his watch, the situation with homelessness is far, far worse today than it was three years ago? That only serves to fail the most vulnerable citizens in our province. It fails small businesses and, ultimately, it’s failing neighbourhoods right across this province.

Hon. S. Robinson: I want to thank the member opposite for the question. We certainly inherited a significant challenge around homelessness and unaffordability in housing. We’ve been working diligently since we formed government to make sure that we had a plan in place. We have a ten-year plan, $7 billion to invest. Homelessness continues to be a challenge, because you can’t fix 16 years of bad in three short years.

However, I can say that we have housed well over 2,500 people in our supportive housing program in the last three years. We certainly have more to do, and that’s why we have a ten-year plan. We’re working diligently to make sure that we have the supports to make sure that people continue to be housed.

With our supportive housing program, we’ve done, certainly, some research and analysis, and we’ve discovered that well over 90 percent of people continue to stay housed because we’re bringing in those wraparound services, and we look forward to continuing to deliver for the most marginalized in our communities.

Mr. Speaker: The member for Kamloops–South Thompson on a supplemental.

T. Stone: Well, Audra of Audra’s Image and Wellness Spa in Kamloops had this to say to me the other day: “Only a week ago, one of my clients was walking to my spa and had to step over and around two people with needles in their arms on the sidewalk at 2 p.m. in the afternoon on a weekday. She was horrified. I could go on and on about the vomit and urine and needles and drugs I have found at my door daily. My husband and myself are worried for my safety, and I’m worried I will lose clients and ultimately lose my business.”

It’s time for the Premier to get real about what’s actually happening in this province under his watch. Homelessness and overdoses are up. Encampments are bigger than ever before. The government’s warehousing of people in hotels is an unmitigated disaster. Entire neighbourhoods are left to deal with daily break-ins, surging property crime, needles in playgrounds and threats to their personal safety. This is tearing communities apart in every corner of this province. Even the Premier said recently: “It’s not just Victoria and Vancouver where there are challenges with homelessness. It’s Nanaimo, Smithers, Kamloops, Kelowna, right across the province.”

Again, my question to the Premier is this. When will the Premier admit that homelessness, encampments, addiction, related crime...? All of this is much worse in B.C. today than it was when his government assumed power three years ago. And when will he step up and provide the needed 24-7, on-site supports that the most vulnerable citizens, the most at-risk citizens in this province need in order to get better?

Hon. S. Robinson: We’ve canvassed this series, these kinds of questions, for quite some time. Homelessness has been a significant challenge in this province for many, many, many years, well before we formed government. Frankly, it’s because the provincial government — historically, the B.C. Liberals — didn’t do what they needed to do on this file, and we have started to make progress. We’ve absolutely started to make progress.

In fact, there was an article recently in the Times Colonist, where the reporter went and interviewed Ross and Shelby, two people living in the Travelodge. This is what the article had to say about Ross and Shelby: “Since moving into the building, each has received long-overdue medical care from on-site nurses and doctors. Shelby had painful abscesses in her teeth fixed, and Ross has been put on anxiety medication…. ‘We’re not doing illegal activities anymore,’ said Ross, adding that their reliance on street drugs has dramatically reduced. ‘We are absolutely becoming people who are trying to make change….’”

Their long-term goal, the long-term goal for Ross and Shelby, is to get clean, to stabilize and perhaps move into a building where they can become resident caretakers. They have an opportunity to settle.

[2:20 p.m.]

I don’t want to minimize the impact and the challenges and the concerns that local businesses have been experiencing long before we became government. There certainly has been challenges around homelessness. That’s why, as part of what we do, B.C. Housing goes out and meets with these businesses to address their concerns, to meet with neighbours to address their concerns, to bring people together so that we can help people find their path, find their life again.


J. Thornthwaite: It is very clear that this government has no comprehensive plan to deal with homelessness or the underlying mental health and addictions that fuel this crisis. Instead, the government continues to warehouse people, hoping the crisis will just solve itself.

Ali of Downtown Florist on Davie Street says the situation has put everyone — those in need, him and his employees, his customers and all visitors to the neighbourhood, all of them — at risk. I’m quoting what he said. “My wife and I can no longer leave only one person at the shop, as we fear for the other partner’s safety.” This is outrageous.

When will this minister admit that warehousing people without 24-7 supports is a complete failure?

Hon. S. Robinson: It continues to be very disingenuous for the members opposite to suggest that people are without support. In fact, their own colleague, a colleague from Richmond South Centre, points out, in her community, that our program delivers these sorts of services. She points it out in a letter to the editor. Again, I read this into the record some weeks ago. But it just seems that the members don’t want to believe it, because they didn’t come up with the idea. They didn’t initiate it.

We took action. We are in 30 different communities delivering supports for people. The member for Richmond South Centre, again, reminds everybody in her community that this is an opportunity to build housing that matters, that this supportive housing matters to people. She talks about how it is important that people have a sense of belonging, that people have a place to lay their head, that we continue to work with people.

I know that there are members opposite that have acknowledged the value this has in their communities. The member for Parksville-Qualicum also acknowledged — certainly to me, I think it was, in estimates not too long ago — how grateful she is to have this kind of housing with the supports in her community.

I know that the members know that that’s, in fact, the case. I think that’s really, frankly, quite disappointing.

Mr. Speaker: The member for North Vancouver–Seymour on a supplemental.

J. Thornthwaite: Minister, everything has gotten worse under your government. You cannot hide from your own record. You used to say you had all the answers. Now you’re in government, and everything is worse. Homelessness is up. Community disorder is up. Break-ins are up. Vandalism is up. Assaults are up. Open drug use and drug paraphernalia in parks and playgrounds are up. Calls to police are up. Overdoses are up.

In fact, May and June saw the highest number of overdoses ever, under this government’s watch. Paramedics reported that on June 26, they revived a record 131 people from dying of an overdose on that one day, under this minister’s watch. In July alone, they answered over 2,700 overdose calls. That’s 87 overdoses each day.

Even the NDP Vancouver mayor admits that it’s worse than ever under this government. When will this minister finally admit her failures and get on with a comprehensive mental health and addictions strategy that actually gets people well so that businesses and residents can get on with their lives?

[2:25 p.m.]

Hon. S. Robinson: Well, in case the member has forgotten, we are living in a pandemic. Those who are most vulnerable…. We took action right away, because we knew the kind of risk that they were under.


Mr. Speaker: Members. Members, the minister has the floor. Thank you.

Hon. S. Robinson: I’m sure that the members opposite would appreciate how important it was that we reduced the shelter space, that we made sure that people were able to physically distance. That’s exactly what we did. The impact of that has had significant challenges on those most vulnerable and in communities right around this province.

We have also taken very significant action to lease hotel space so that we could continue to house people as best we can. Again, we are continuing to deliver on services. There’s absolutely more to do. I look forward to continuing to make sure that people have their needs met so that communities and businesses can also have the opportunity to flourish.

But we are all in this together, and we all have to work together in order to address these significant challenges.

[End of question period.]

Tabling Documents

Mr. Speaker: I have the honour to table reports from the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and from the Attorney General regarding certain regulations made, which are required to be laid before the House pursuant to the COVID-19 Related Measures Act.



Hon. D. Donaldson: During committee stage of Bill 13, on July 15, 2020, the Attorney General, speaking on behalf of myself due to technical difficulties with my virtual connection, advised the member of the opposition that the new section 117.1 of the Water Sustainability Act had been reviewed by the Privacy Commissioner.

I would like to make a clarification on this point for the record. As per the required process for developing legislation, ministry staff consulted with the privacy, compliance and training branch within the Ministry of Citizens’ Services, which advised that there were no concerns with the proposed legislation and that consultation with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner was, therefore, not recommended.

Reporting of Bills


S. Chandra Herbert: Pursuant to the resolution of the House of July 29, 2020, I rise to present a report regarding Committee of the Whole proceedings on Bill 23, intituled Workers Compensation Amendment Act 2020, which took place on July 31, 2020.

Committee of the Whole on Bill 23 reports the bill complete without amendment.

The results of the division taken by the committee under section 15 of the aforenoted resolution of the House are attached to the report.

Mr. Speaker: When shall the bill be read a third time?

Hon. M. Farnworth: Later today.

Orders of the Day

Hon. M. Farnworth: I call third reading of Bill 23.

Third Reading of Bills


Hon. H. Bains: I move third reading of Bill 23.

Mr. Speaker: The question is third reading of Bill 23, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2020.

Division has been called. Pursuant to the sessional order adopted on June 22, 2020, this division will be deferred until 30 minutes prior to the end of this sitting day.

Hon. M. Farnworth: I call the estimates of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations.

[2:30 p.m.]

Committee of Supply



The House in Committee of Supply (Section B); R. Chouhan in the chair.

The committee met at 2:31 p.m.

On Vote 29: ministry operations, $489,126,000 (continued).

J. Rustad: This afternoon we’re going to go through a number of MLAs that are going to be asking questions. We’re hopeful that we’ll keep things fairly tight with short questions and, hopefully, short answers. We’d like to be able to get through as many of my colleagues’ questions as possible.

With that, I will turn it over to the member for Cariboo North to continue the estimates debate.

C. Oakes: Thank you for the opportunity to raise some concerns from constituents from Cariboo North.

This past year, since spring freshet, has been a significantly challenged one for much of our region. So my first question is around flooding. We certainly appreciate the significant efforts of the B.C. Wildfire Service. From 2017, the work that they’ve done on the ground has been significant, with FireSmart and such, in our communities. It’s been wonderful.

I’m wondering why the policy has changed where B.C. Wildfire Service no longer will protect people’s private properties when a flood occurs.

[2:35 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Thanks for the question from the member for Cariboo North.

The B.C. Wildfire Service personnel have been deployed as usual this year. There’s been no change in policy. I believe the member will probably come up with an example that she wants to bring to my attention. The deployment of the Wildfire Service personnel has always been based, and most recently based, on recommendations in consultation with emergency management B.C. and the local governments.

C. Oakes: We did receive a policy change during this flooding season. But I will go to a specific example to demonstrate the change that has happened.

Spring freshet began very early in the Cariboo. Nazko specifically is an area that has been ground zero — in 2017 with the wildfires, 2018 with the wildfires. Since the wildfires, we’ve experienced significant flooding year after year.

At the end of March, Chief Alec, the Chief of Nazko, came to my office to request specific assistance with the flooding that they were very much concerned with and, specifically around COVID-19, ensuring that we were very much prepared for the inevitable flooding that would occur during the freshet. We received several challenges.

First, it took a significant amount of time to get back from the province to the Chief. First, it appeared that there didn’t appear to be concerns about freshet this year. Then we found out, actually, that the flights to look at the snowpacks actually didn’t occur because of COVID-19. But the people on the ground certainly knew freshet would happen and certainly knew that there would be challenges.

[2:40 p.m.]

We put in a request to get a sandbagging machine, and again, one of the challenges we received was that we couldn’t receive a sandbagging machine until flooding actually occurred.

The challenge is that we knew we needed to prepare. We don’t have, in some of our remote areas, the amount of people necessary. We appreciate that when the weekend hit and the flooding did occur, as people on the ground predicted, living in Nazko, that we were able to get the B.C. wildfire crews out there.

The challenge in our remote areas is that it often takes many hours for these crews to get out into these areas. The difference was that…. The change now is that when flooding occurs in our communities — and B.C. Wildfire Service is now the agency responsible for doing the flood protection — no longer are private properties protected.

You know, I look at Grand Forks, or I look at any place across British Columbia that has experienced flooding. One would imagine that when flooding occurs, the province and public safety would step up and actually help community members resolve that. At that point, we were advised that B.C. Wildfire Service…. The policy has shifted to where it doesn’t protect private property. The private property owners were on their own for flood protection.

We were certainly able to access, eventually, sandbagging machines and sandbags, and we appreciate that. This was prior to the EOC being set up through the Cariboo regional district, because, again, Nazko is ground zero and usually occurs before some of these programs are put in place. But it still leaves Nazko in a very precarious situation.

The question is why…? Does the province protect private property from flooding and wildfires? That’s the first. Well, I’ll leave it there, and I’ll see what the minister says.

[2:45 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: There’s been no change to policy in how we deploy B.C. Wildfire Service personnel when it comes to floods and wildfires. We respond based on recommendations from EMBC and from local governments in specific situations. The river forecast centre was able to operate smoothly this spring on modelling around the spring freshet, despite COVID-19. We’ve added crews in the Cariboo this year.

As I said, the protection of private property through flooding and wildfires…. Those priorities are set by EMBC. Our stance hasn’t changed. In fact, on wildfires, the member might be aware that just last week we had a tactical evacuation due to wildfire in the Interior, specifically in order to protect lives and private property.

C. Oakes: I’m still trying to get a clear answer from this minister. When it comes to flooding, does the B.C. Wildfire Service have the ability to go and protect private homes? What I think I heard the minister say is that it’s up to EMBC whether private homes are protected. If that is the case, my question is….

When we heard that private homes were not going to be protected this spring freshet, we did put in a request, because we have both Team Rubicon in the Cariboo region and the Canadian Rangers. Both came to my office to offer their assistance. They’re very well equipped. They are well trained. They are here in our communities. They are here, ready and willing to protect the citizens and to protect our property.

If the province isn’t willing to step up and provide the necessary protection that the people in the Cariboo deserve…. If that decision was, in fact, made, then, through EMBC not to protect private properties, why did the government not sign off then on the ability to have volunteer agencies within our community that were waiting for the government to sign off — to say that they could actually go in and help private properties with the flooding?

[2:50 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Once again, the priorities about deployment of the B.C. Wildfire individuals, depending on floods and wildfires and around private properties, is set through EMBC, so those questions are best addressed to the Minister of Public Safety. Of course, EMBC and local governments set those priorities, so if there’s private property that is needed to be protected during a flood — I think that was the specific question from the member — then the deployment of our personnel would be dependent on EMBC and local government priorities.

As far as the signing off — I think that’s the way the member described the involvement of rangers, and I’m not familiar with the other organization, Rubicon — we haven’t heard of that request. If there was that kind of request, that sign-off would be through EMBC, so questions are best directed to that ministry on that question.

C. Oakes: I’m deeply disappointed with the minister’s response and the fact that there appears to be tiers of priority in the province of British Columbia. I think it’s disgusting that government would suggest that whether you are…. Everyone should have equal access to public safety in the province of British Columbia. It shouldn’t be determined that one person gets one access to certain priorities. “Oh, you might get some protection for flooding; but you live somewhere else, and you don’t.”

The fact that there are services and agencies on the ground in our communities willing to step up and help and the only way that they can do that is if this minister signs off on it is, I think, tragic. I think every constituent…. You know, I would encourage the MLAs who are watching this to ask yourselves: how would you feel if some of your constituents might have access to public safety protection in your communities and others won’t, depending on who’s prioritizing and who is making those recommendations?

I did ask EMBC, and, yes, we get guided to you, Minister, because, as I mentioned before, before states of emergency get put in place and before emergency centres are put up through the regional district, we rely on your ministry to put those things in action. Nazko was prior to the local emergency office being put in place, through the regional district.

It’s deeply disturbing, and quite frankly, it’s not good enough that you point fingers and provide lip service for people who pay taxes and who should have access to the exact same services as anywhere else in the province.

I will go, because my time is limited. The other challenge that we’ve had with over 200 areas that have been impacted this past year by spring freshet…. Many of our main highways have experienced landslides because we did not have proper preparation prior to the spring freshet. So we had significant road damage.

[2:55 p.m.]

Now we’re in a situation where so many of our communities are relying on poor service roads as their main roads in and out of their communities. Most of our communities are ranching communities, and on our core service roads, the cattle liners will not bring the cattle in. So now we have whole communities that are impacted by the fact that we can’t get cattle from ranch back to communities or we can’t get cattle out to range and we can’t get food in to these communities. What we get…. Well, it’s a forest service road. Then it gets turned over to the Ministry of Transportation, but it still has forest service road standards.

The two organizations…. We need some leadership, and we need some of these organizations working in coordination to make sure that these communities aiding the economy is able to continue. It’s a significant impact on not just the agricultural sector. The mining sector, the forest sector, all of these folks, and the people, quite frankly, who live in these communities are now competing on forest service roads as their main highway, all because the government didn’t put resources in prior to spring freshet. Now we’re in the challenges that we are.

What type of coordination is being done on the ground between, obviously, the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and the Ministry of Agriculture to make sure that the significant challenges that we’ve experienced in the Cariboo from 2017 right through to now gets resolved? Quite frankly, it keeps getting worse under this minister and under this government. Our citizens are tired of, year after year, being second-rate citizens and not getting the necessary resources put on the ground. Now their lives are significantly altered.

What kind of cross-coordination is happening, instead of everyone pointing the finger, like the minister did earlier, and saying that it’s somebody else’s minister’s responsibility?

[3:00 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Thank you to the member. She asked a number of questions; I’ll start with the coordination. Yes, we coordinate under the auspices of emergency management B.C.

When we anticipate a freshet challenge, we coordinate with the Ministry of Agriculture staff, Environment staff, Transportation staff, local government, First Nations. We have a $3 million capital budget for forest service road projects in the Cariboo in the coming fiscal. We’re spending $784,000 on operations or maintenance on forest service roads in the Cariboo. We prioritize and support connections to communities, as part of protecting from road failures, with the Ministry of Transportation and with forest service roads.

As far as the member’s statements about being disappointed in the response — she used some terminology I’d call tiers of priority — I want to remind her that the policy hasn’t changed with the deployment. It’s the same as when she was a member of cabinet. If the member had a problem, she could have raised it then. Obviously, she didn’t. The policy remains the same, because it’s working.

C. Oakes: Just maybe in closing, there has been a change in the policy on how it is working on the ground. I do strongly encourage him — I know that the minister is from the north — and would just ask that he refresh and talk to the folks on the ground on how things are working, that there have been some changes. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I just want public safety for all of our citizens. When we have other agencies like Team Rubicon and the Canadian Rangers willing to step up and help, I think we should be seeking them.

My final comment — it’s not a question, just maybe a comment: I continue to have significant challenges and concerns about the approach that the government has taken around the spruce beetle. I think we’re going to be in significant challenges. I understand the speaking points that the minister raised earlier, but I think it’s far more pressing. I would ask the minister to double down and look at what’s really happening on the ground, the same as with the Douglas fir.

Just on permitting, going from FrontCounter in our community, a lot of the permitting has been moved to Williams Lake. To go from 60 days to 180 and up to 200-plus days under this government is significantly challenging for our region and for our economic development.

Finally, we’re getting calls from folks who are getting bills for water licences in the agricultural sector. They get their bills for the water licence year after year and don’t even have their permit yet. It’s great that the government wants your money, but we’re just not getting the permitting done.

With that, I’ll pass my time over to my next colleague.

T. Wat: Thank you to the minister for giving me this opportunity to ask a question that the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture refused to answer. She referred me to the minister here.

[3:05 p.m.]

Two years ago on February 1, 2018, this minister, together with the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, signed an OIC to include 21 Chinese-Canadian heritage sites in the Chinese Canadian Heritage Properties Regulation. These 21 sites were chosen from a list of 77 places nominated by British Columbians in 2015.

I would like to ask the minister: will he tell the House why he made the decision to include the 21 places in the Provincial Heritage Register back in 2018?

Hon. D. Donaldson: The 21 heritage sites were selected after a public engagement process with affected communities — in this case, going back to the Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report that recommended legacy initiatives. The evaluation process followed a values-based model, ensuring that the evaluators reviewed the nominated places based on how they represent the overarching heritage values of the Chinese-Canadian community in British Columbia. The evaluation was guided by a contact statement that provided a summary of history of the role of Chinese Canadians in the development of British Columbia. That was in answer to the question of why those 21 heritage sites were chosen.

[3:10 p.m.]

To finish off on this answer, I want to make sure the member understands that our staff is fully aware that the heritage registry didn’t reflect the full scope of B.C.’s history, so the program has made an effort to rectify that. This is one of the measures being taken.

T. Wat: Thank you, Minister, for your very detailed explanation of why you made that decision. I certainly applaud you for continuing the work of the former government. It happened I was the Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism. You already cited why you did so. It’s because formal recognition of these historic places builds awareness of our shared heritage.

As I said, I really applaud the minister for doing that. But unfortunately, two years later, on February 2 of this year, after I was so pleased that this minister continued the legacy initiative started by the former government, the minister, who is responsible for the heritage act, decided to repeal the Chinese Canadian Heritage Properties Regulation, overturning his own initiative to include these 21 Chinese heritage sites.

I’d really appreciate if the minister could enlighten this House as to why he overturned his own initiative.

[3:15 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Sorry. I apologize for the delay. We just wanted to make sure that we had an accurate answer to the member’s question.

Specific to the question about the OIC, what we did is we repealed the requirement to seek an OIC every time we sought to recognize the cultural heritage of a cultural community. It was an administrative change that removed the specific OIC for the Chinese-Canadian recognitions and instated a new power that allows government to record all provincially recognized historic places on the registry, including Chinese-Canadian ones, without having to seek an OIC each time.

What this did was make it easier to recognize the heritage value of places and delegated that ability to staff rather than having to come with an OIC every time.

T. Wat: Given the time limitation, actually, I’m not happy with the minister’s response, because I have one final question. But I would like to put it on record that I will send all my questions in written form to the minister. Hopefully, the minister can respond to me as soon as possible, because I’m supposed to ask this question. But given the limitation of time, my colleagues also have a lot of questions that they want to address to this minister.

If, according to what the minister said, this is only an administrative kind of arrangement…. I did look at the website, and I see the provincial historic places of British Columbia. I see that there are 59 B.C. heritage sites there. I wonder how many Chinese heritage sites are in this 59. Are the 51 that we recognized two years ago there or not?

Hon. D. Donaldson: I’ll see if I can get an answer to that quickly, and if not, I will respond in writing. I can commit to doing that, to the member. But let’s see if we can get an answer quickly on it first.

J. Sturdy: I have three questions for the minister — quite different ones.

The first one is around Mount Meager and the Meager massif. The minister should be aware that in 2010, there was the largest rock avalanche in Canadian history, dropping 50 million cubic metres of material into the Lillooet River. This has resulted in tremendous amounts of sediments making their way down the river. We have what they’re calling a sediment slug that is making its way down into the more populated areas of the valley.

[3:20 p.m.]

It’s depositing, the estimates are, something in the neighbourhood of 400,000 cubic metres a year of material into areas that are protected by dike-protective structures. The area 4 piece, which is a particular concern, run from Miller Creek, down the Lillooet River and then to Pemberton Creek and protects the bulk of the improvements in the Pemberton Valley.

This was upgraded in 2003 to a one-in-200-year protective structure. Well, because of the sedimentation in the river, the aggradation, we are finding…. The estimates now, based on cross-sections done recently, are that this one-in-200-year protective structure is now a one-in-50-​year protective structure.

There are obviously significant concerns that this adds tremendously to the flood risk in the Pemberton Valley. What I was wondering…. Two things to the minister.

One would be: would the minister commit to a monitoring program for the Meager Massif? We do understand that there is significant potential for additional debris flows, which could exacerbate the situation. So the monitoring is an important component.

The second part of this question is: would the minister commit to supporting and funding a sediment removal program for certain sections of the river to try and bring back that same one-in-200-year protective structure?

Hon. D. Donaldson: Yes, I’m quite familiar — as much as a minister can be — with the topic the member raises in his own constituency, because he has oftentimes talked to me about it.

[3:25 p.m.]

I’m going to provide some answer and also further clarification. When the member talks about the monitoring program and “commit to a monitoring program,” I just want to make sure that he’s asking about the monitoring program around further potential slides on Mount Meager.

On sediment removal, EMBC has been leading that public engagement process around that and leading that process. I know there have been public meetings in the member’s constituency. Much of it has to deal with the amount of sediment that is continually coming down and our ability to manage natural elements and natural processes.

The understanding I have is that at public meetings, it’s been presented, through EMBC or scientific data, that we don’t have the ability to remove enough sediment to make a difference because the sediment buildup is so frequent and so robust. EMBC, as I said, is leading this, because it has to do with public safety around where buildings are being located, and working with local government on that.

As far as the monitoring, now that the member has indicated to me through nodding that it is the monitoring program on the actual mountain to determine the risk of potential slides coming, I’ll just get back to him on that part of the question.

J. Sturdy: While I recognize EMBC has some part to play in this, some of this is very much a maintenance program. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of material that needs to come out of the river, but there are areas that are acute and can make a difference in terms of overtopping existing structures. So I think it’s important that we continue.

What I could take from what the minister said is that we are just going to abandon any strategy to mitigate some of these challenges. That would be alarming to the people of the Pemberton Valley. I think the minister would well understand that. I’ll look forward to getting additional information in the future — perhaps a briefing from staff.

The second issue I’d like to raise is the one of Crown land lease rates for residential properties. Specifically, in the Paradise Valley and the Squamish Valley, we have received numerous complaints about the exorbitant rent increases or lease rate increases for these properties over the last number of years.

The government, as the minister well is aware, has limited private property owners to CPI as a maximum increase to rents, essentially, but it doesn’t hold itself to the same standard. What we’re seeing are situations where leasehold properties are seeing — it’s very, very significant in some cases — massive increases in lease rates. I wondered if the minister would consider limiting any increases to CPI as they do to other private property owners.

[S. Gibson in the chair.]

[3:30 p.m.]

The Chair: Minister.

Hon. D. Donaldson: Thank you, Chair, and welcome to the chair.

Going back, first off, to the previous question around sediment control, I commit to discussing with staff the topic raised about acute areas that could potentially receive attention. I’m not saying that the situation is being “abandoned,” using the member’s word. I’ll commit to that and ensuring that the member is involved in those discussions around acute areas needing attention on the sediment load.

As far as Crown land lease rates, our staff are aware of the situation the member has described. Of course, impacted tenure holders have the ability — as all impacted tenure holders have — to appeal their property assessment with the B.C. Assessment Authority to reduce the size of the tenure area or dispute the rent by following the process outlined in the Crown land disposition price resolution procedure, which I think the member is focusing his question on.

Our lands branch is reviewing our pricing and looking at the pricing methods and how we calculate rents for tenure holders on Crown land used for residential purposes, to better reflect affordability. That work will be done in the next six to 12 months.

It will also include the impacts I believe the member was alluding to under the consumer price index, under the Residential Tenancy Act, which is an act not under our ministry. We believe it’s under the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. That review will also bring into account the changes under that act and how that could make a difference on it to better reflect the pricing.

[3:35 p.m.]

J. Sturdy: Thank you to the minister for that answer. An interesting twist to this is that when the tenant appeals to the assessment board, the only circumstance where the tenant is actually appealing the assessment versus the owner or the landlord appealing the assessment…. Just recently in one of these situations, the appeal was not successful. When they went to appeal that application, it’s only the landlord or only the owner that can appeal, and the FLNR has declined to appeal on behalf of the tenant. It is a complex circumstance and difficult for the tenants. I’m sure that they, as a philosophy, would like to see government hold itself to the same standard that they hold other landlords to.

The last item is one…. I apologize if we’ve covered some of this last week. It’s with regard to First Nations licensees in the Sea to Sky forest district. I’ve spoken to numerous licensees — the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh forestry, Tsetspa7, the Líl̓wat — and they’re all having the same problem. They point out that the large licensees in the province don’t invest a nickel in this region because this region is one of the highest cost producers in the world.

They have numerous concerns about fibre recovery zones, about the remote locations which do not get additional costs. Tsetspa7 actually has a camp that costs them $5 a metre, give or take, and none of that is considered in stumpage fees.

Then, of course, generally, the stumpage fees — the complaint here I have is that the recent coast appraisal manual changes have intensified the distortion of the system.

Again, I recognize we may well have covered much of this for the coast, but one question or suggestion that I was asked to forward…. There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty, and there may be delays around getting fibre to market. It may be a function of fires. It may be a function of water, low water, to be able to remove, especially down the Harrison side, or get the logs from the sort to market. There are potential delays, and there’s a high level of uncertainty. So it may be some time between when the budgets were created and the cutting permit was submitted, between that time and the time that the product actually gets to market.

The question, on behalf of these First Nations licensees, is: will the government or will the minister consider aligning the stumpage fees with the cutting permits? For as long as that cutting permit is in place, can the stumpage rate be maintained at the level it was when the cutting permit was issued?

We have situations where we might see a cutting permit issued, yet the logs don’t get to market for six or eight months for a variety of different reasons, after which point the stumpage rates could have changed significantly and made the block uneconomic. They do recognize, of course, that this can go both ways. But they would very much like to have this one piece of uncertainty removed from the equation.

[3:40 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, I’m happy to report that lumber prices are at a near-record high right now. I think the spot price was $648 today. That, combined with the lowering of stumpage rates July 1 — 18 percent on the coast year to year and 35 percent in the Interior year to year — has definitely made it more attractive for harvesting activities, because the mills have a demand for their product. That’s making a difference around the province.

As far as the specifics on the suggestion that the member relayed on behalf of his constituents, I think he described it well when saying it cuts both ways. Yes, there’s a three-month time between how stumpage is calculated. In some cases, that benefits those who are harvesting, and in other cases, it doesn’t benefit them. So for some, the stumpage is too high. For some people, the stumpage we charge in the province they see as being too low.

We’re not going to be changing the process at this time, especially in light of the litigation that’s underway under the softwood lumber dispute. The risk that changing in the manner that the member presents would create in investigation by the U.S. Department of Commerce could be very detrimental to the industry.

The Chair: Member for West Vancouver–Sea to Sky, there is another member who would like to ask some questions, but please proceed.

J. Sturdy: Thank you to the minister. I think they just would like to be able to budget with certainty — and the variability of the problem.

The Chair: You may return to other queries later.

M. Morris: In the last 18 months, nearly 600 people in Mackenzie have lost their jobs due to mill closures and shutdowns that we have up there — that, while nearly a million cubic metres of wood is leaving annually for communities outside of Mackenzie. So it’s pretty frustrating for the folks in the town to have a log yard right there, and all the logs are leaving town.

In a letter I got back from the minister or from the minister’s office about a month ago, it stated that the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is well aware of the situation in Mackenzie — and I’m glad to hear that — and is working to find solutions to support the forest economy there.

I’m wondering if the minister can go over anything that he’s done recently. This is a train that’s been coming down the tracks now for a couple of years. I’m just wondering if he can relate to us and the people in Mackenzie that are watching this as to what he has done and what he is doing to help the folks in Mackenzie maintain the forest sector there.

[3:45 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Thank you to the member for Prince George–Mackenzie. Yes, we were both at that Mackenzie Matters rally a year ago. We know the frustration of workers who are losing their jobs and, at the same time, seeing logs leaving their area. Of course, the accurate number is 750,000 cubic metres over five years, leaving the area. Nonetheless, that’s a difficult pill to swallow when you see a mill being shut and the logs going elsewhere — in this case, benefiting jobs in other communities, like Prince George.

The member well knows that this isn’t, as he described it, “a train coming down the tracks in the last couple of years.” Tying fibre to local mills was something that was in legislation before the B.C. Liberals changed that legislation back in 2003, which has a direct impact on the logs leaving Mackenzie to other mills in other communities. That was a change made under the previous government.

As far as what’s been done lately, there’s a long list, but I’ll just focus on a couple of items that have assisted in the Conifex mill restarting — 160 direct jobs there. That restart was July 6, I believe. The ability to restart was due to great work done by ministry staff for that area — for instance, a chart area reallocation process that enabled more fibre to be accessible at an economic level for Conifex.

The continuing log-cost-driver initiative that’s been ongoing for the last number of months will be making an impact as well, but our staff are working. That’s an example of something that’s happened recently that’s made a difference for Mackenzie and a difference for 160 people directly going back to work.

M. Morris: I’m happy to see the minister acknowledge that he’s had a lengthy amount of time since he’s been minister to do something about this, as this is a train that has been coming down the tracks for several years, according to him, and we haven’t seen much take place here. I also dispute the numbers: 750,000 or whatever that was, over five years.

Anyway, apart from that, there has been a significant amount of overharvesting in the southern reaches of the TSA, to the point that it’s had a significant impact on the green standing timber. A lot of the licensees have refused to adhere to the partitions and take the dead spruce, of which we have well over a million hectares up in that area because of the spruce beetle.

What agreement has he made with Conifex? Is that impacting on the southern part of the TSA, and in an area that has already been significantly overharvested on the green side of the harvest level?

[3:50 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: I’ll get to the member’s question, but his comment needs responding to. I would say that the displeasure of his constituents at seeing logs leave their community falls directly at the feet of the member when he was in government and the government of the B.C. Liberals chose to not attach volume into local mills. That’s very unfortunate. People in Mackenzie are suffering because of that decision by his government when they were in power.

As far as the management of harvesting in the southern part of the TSA, I know that’s of high concern to the people of Mackenzie. They want to make sure that harvesting is balanced across all the TSA. We are managing that with BCTS blocks and Canfor blocks over a five-year period. Conifex, in their blocks in the southwest part of the TSA, will not exceed the partition over a five-year cut period, which is the routine cutting period around the province.

These are not specific deals. This is under the chart reallocation process.

The Chair: Do you have any further questions, Member?

M. Morris: No, thank you, Chair. I’ll keep my comments to myself and turn it over to the next speaker.

[3:55 p.m.]

I. Paton: To the minister: thank you for your time. I’ll try and make this quick. One subject is land use in the very north part of B.C. The other is land use in the very southern part of B.C.

My first topic would be an area a little bit north and west of Dawson Creek called the Sunset Prairie Community Pasture. Hopefully, the minister is familiar with this area. It is supervised and run by the Sunset Prairie Livestock Association.

In 1959, over 30,000 acres of grazing land up in this area were designated as grazing land for the farmers and ranchers in that area. Since then, as you can see on satellite imagery, there are hundreds and hundreds of cutblocks and dugouts and well sites and gravel roads and whatnot that have gone into this same area of grazing for cattle.

Every year over 4,000 head of cattle get taken from their home farms to this community pasture. Everybody cooperates and comes and gathers up their cattle in the fall of the year. It’s a great place for cattle to put on weight during the summer, and the farmers are able to grow their crops on a better use of land on their home farms. Two young people from Dawson Creek Secondary School have done a fantastic synopsis on the future of this.

To get to the point, Minister, the petroleum and forestry industries were told back in 1959 — and there’s an agreement — that they would compensate the livestock association and the community pastures for the loss of grazing lands by the cattle industry from the forestry industry and the well and petroleum industry. This is not happening.

What I’m asking you today…. Is the minister familiar with the historic agreements with the lease from the forestry district and with the FLNRORD guidelines for compensation and mitigation? Will the minister commit his staff to meeting with the Sunset Prairie Livestock Association to ensure a commitment and funding by forestry and petroleum to regenerate grass for grazing and for the replacement of aging fences, roads and corrals? Thank you.

Hopefully, I could get an answer that I could relay back to the people at the Sunset Prairie Livestock Association.

[4:00 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: To the member for Delta South, always good to hear from him about agriculture issues, an important part of the ministry I represent. I always enjoy hearing what he’s hearing on the ground.

What I can say is we are committing that the northern ADM will meet with the Sunset Prairie Livestock Association — I believe that’s the full name that the member used — soon — in fact, I believe it’s going to be in early September — to discuss these issues.

I know it can be a complex issue around the compensation piece when cattlemen in the northeast have arrived at individual agreements with other users of the land base around compensation. Over time, this has happened. As part of the work, I’ll try to bring some consistency to that. I definitely want the member to know that he can relay to the association that the assistant deputy minister for the north, the most senior manager for the lands file in the north, will be meeting with them soon.

I. Paton: I’ll move on now because we are short on time. Of course, I bring this up every year. It’s regarding Brunswick Point lands in Delta. To remind the minister, Brunswick Point was part of 4,000 acres of expropriated farmland in Delta back in the late 1960s. Now, most of that land was sold back to the original farming families from whom that land was expropriated, totalling just over 3,000 acres. It went back to the original farm families.

However, Brunswick Point, which is an incredibly fertile piece of farmland, which not only has the original five farming families still living there, but it is owned by the Crown. It was never sold back to those five farming families. It is also a very, very important migrating route for snow geese, ducks and swans, etc., and it’s a great resting area for them heading south in the wintertime.

Minister, I would like to read quickly just how important this is in Delta, not only to the city of Delta but to the Delta Farmers Institute, the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust, the Delta Agricultural Society. Here’s a quote from Mayor Harvie with the city of Delta. By the way that was a private member’s bill that I put forward last fall regarding saving Brunswick Point.

The quote is: “The intent of Bill 221 is to require that the Brunswick Point properties are kept as Crown land and leased to either the original farm families or other local farmers for a minimum lease term of 20 years. Despite the current restrictions on the land use, Delta is concerned that the Brunswick Point lands could be sold to speculators with no interest in farming and plans for future non-agricultural development.”

Hon. Minister, I go on to one more quote from the Delta Farmers Institute, from the president, Jack Bates:

“We have been fortunate for over a century that the 600 acres of Brunswick Point with its fertile soil and proximity to the ocean has produced high-quality vegetable crops while providing habitat and feed for millions of migratory birds. The community needs to know that this farmland will remain as a public heritage asset in its natural environment and feed our population. It is an integral component of Delta’s 22,000 acres of agricultural land.”

Hon. Minister, we’ve been kicking this around for too many years now. The Tsawwassen First Nation, right next door, had their treaty. Good for them. They’ve gone ahead. They’re doing some great economic things. But the borderline has to be drawn so that we don’t have any more Amazon warehouses creeping on to our farmland, which has happened. But we don’t want it to happen any further.

To the minister: will you commit today to agree with my statements that this land rightfully should be sold back to the original farm families who still are on the land or, at very least, this land should remain as agriculture only and be held in perpetuity by the province for agriculture and wildlife habitat and be leased back to Delta farmers with long-term leases?

[4:05 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Thank you to the member for raising this topic. Once again, I’ve become familiar with it not simply through staff briefings within the ministry I represent but through his advocacy efforts as well. So I congratulate him on keeping it on the front burner.

What I can commit to…. I mean, this is farmland that’s in the ALR, which is under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture, and perhaps the member canvassed this topic with ministers in his critic role. But what I can say is that our government has no intention of removing this land from the ALR, and that includes my ministry. It’s not necessarily the lead agency on that, but we have no intentions of advocating for the removal of this from the ALR and want to see it stay in the ALR.

As far as strategy for the future of the land in the ALR, we are in discussions, and staff have reached out — and the member probably knows this — to the city of Delta and Tsawwassen First Nation to assess their interests, once again, and review with the families, as well, potential solutions. We’re doing that as well.

I guess the certainty that the member is looking for is part of the answer I gave — that this land, as far as my ministry is concerned and the government is concerned, needs to remain in the ALR.

I. Paton: One more quick question on the same subject.

[4:10 p.m.]

My office received a letter about Brunswick Point from Mr. Coburn back on July 31, and actually, shockingly, we found out, with a map that came along with it, that the province recently sold, back in November of 2019, 195 acres of farmland in and around Brunswick Point to TFN, Tsawwassen First Nation. I do have a map of this here, showing the parcels that were sold to Tsawwassen First Nation.

It was also said in the letter that it was sold at fair market value. The question I’m getting from a lot of our farm groups is: can we be told what the fair market value was of that land in November 2019? The 195 acres that were sold to TFN — what was the fair market value of that agricultural land?

Hon. D. Donaldson: The question was: the parcels of land that were sold — what was the fair market value? The lands were sold for $18.5 million. These lands were in the ALR and will remain in the ALR.

The Chair: Member for Delta South, do you have a further question at this time?

I. Paton: No. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: I now recognize the member for Penticton.

D. Ashton: Thank you, hon. Chair. Appreciate it.

Minister, nice to see you again. In the essence of time, I have three questions and one comment. Just to put them on the record. I would ask for responses as soon as possible from the ministry staff.

Minister, the city of Penticton, for two years, has been in the precursor of negotiating the extension of a lease to facilitate some additional area for a CN tug for the marine museum park at Penticton, which contains the SS Sicamous and another vessel.

I have two years’ worth of correspondence back and forth. I’ll have it delivered to your office directly, today or tomorrow. Can we get an update, please? I know that time is of the essence on this lease. Two years seems to be a bit of an issue for the city, for the time that it’s taken to get to fruition on this.

The second one is also a status for the renewals of the leases for both the Naramata and the Peachland yacht club basins. Dredging — I know, in Naramata, that they have to get the leases in place before they can facilitate the dredging, which is long overdue. Also, Minister, this has been going on for an extended period of time. If ministry staff could get back to me and also the Naramata and Peachland yacht clubs on the status and when fruition might come forward.

The third and last one is facilitating access across the Crown land, not through private property, as what’s taking place right now, at Chute Lake. We had talked about this before. I know that there’s a concerted effort. They would like to get this solved. As we all know, there are issues regarding egress and issues regarding liability. We had talked before about the possibility of replacing some culverts. However, apparently, that is not going to be able to be facilitated with the forest company that has tenure up there.

[4:15 p.m.]

Minister, if we could have another look at that. Like I said, I know there’s a whole bunch of people that would like to work with the ministry with the possibility of getting this resolved.

Last but not least, Minister, I would like to thank you, personally, and your staff. I had a conference call about a week ago regarding the continual full- and over-pooling of Okanagan Lake. I just want to say thank you to the ministry staff for coming forward. Minister, we all have to work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter on this. In three of the last four years, Okanagan Lake has exceeded its full pool, and it is causing continual damage, erosion, settlement of homes, etc.

Once again, thank you, and if you can just plant the seed with ministry staff on that. I know that there’s an awful lot of people…. It’s not just lakeshore owners. With the water table affected, it affects homes far back from the lakefront.

Minister, if I could leave those with you — again, in the essence of time — and get a response, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much, sir.

Hon. D. Donaldson: Just quickly to the member for Penticton, thank you for raising the issues that you did. I’ll direct staff to get back to you in an expeditious manner about the city lease; the renewal of the yacht club tenures, I believe it was; and continuing work on Chute Lake, which the member has done a good job of keeping in front of myself and the ministry. So thanks.

M. Bernier: Thank you to the minister. I’m going to try to make my questions a little bit more succinct without too much monologue from myself, and hopefully, we can get the same from the minister.

I’m going to switch and try not be too repetitive from previous questions, but I still want to talk about what’s relevant in my riding around the caribou recovery plan.

Can the minister let me know, within his budget, now that a partnership agreement is signed…. How much does he have in his budget to help fund the caribou recovery plan? What are the objectives and increase in numbers over the timeline for caribou as projected within that plan for those dollar amounts, please?

[4:20 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: I’ll try to be quick with the answers. Digging down through numbers takes a little bit of time sometimes.

The annual caribou recovery program this year provincially is $10 million. We covered that — you’re right, Member — in previous questions. Specifically, though, the central group for activities like herd planning, population management, maternity penning as well as the partnership agreement…. It’s $1.2 million for this fiscal.

The second part of the question from the member was the population and what the goal is. Specifically, in the partnership agreement, there’s not a number. It’s to achieve self-sustaining herds that support Indigenous harvesting rights as well.

The overall population in the central group right now is estimated at about a little less than 300. The historic levels were in the range of 2,000 animals. It would take a long time to get to those numbers. Of course, the herd could become self-sustaining and also be able to provide Indigenous harvesting rights opportunities before that historic number is reached.

M. Bernier: I think the whole point, though, I guess would be…. We’re investing a lot of money trying to protect the caribou — a lot of taxpayers’ money. Even from the minister’s own admission just now, it sounds like there are not a lot of benchmarks or deliverables on what we’re going to accomplish with those dollars.

Can the minister tell me, then, hopefully quickly…. If he’s covered some of this, he should have it accessible quickly. What are we spending, then, in the South Peace or the Peace region in order to help to protect those caribou? What are we spending on wolf cull right now?

[4:25 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: He used the term: “We’re spending a lot of money to protect caribou.” I want to make sure to remind him that the money is well spent if it’s considered against the threat we are facing by the federal government under the Species at Risk Act that would to have led to a unilateral decision by the federal government based on habitat protection alone that could have had devastating effects on local economies and those kinds of factors.

So the money specifically that he asked about: the wolf cull is $500,000 out of that $1.2 million. Provincewide we spend approximately $2 million on wolf predator management.

We had a situation where the herds that are considered under the partnership agreement were facing extirpation — in other words, local extinction — and through our measures, we’ve managed to go from annual declines of 15 percent to an increase of 15 percent per year on the populations from the measures that we’ve taken. So money well spent in the larger context of what could have been a very disastrous situation.

M. Bernier: Interestingly, I’m not going to argue too much about whether the money is well spent or not. The comments about spending the money are fine, if we can show deliverables for the taxpayers and for, more importantly, the recovery of a species at risk. That’s the main thing.

I’m running out of time, because I know I’ve got more colleagues that want to speak. So I am going to submit a few to the minister in writing. I hope he appreciates. But one last one that I just want to make sure that I get on the record. It’s actually not around the caribou, but it’s around another species, and that’s elk.

We have the reverse problem in my region, and that is the elk were almost becoming like an invasive species in the sense that the amount of damage that takes place in the agricultural zones due to our elk is incredible and, also, the issues we have ever since this government has changed the direction around other predators, such as the grizzly bears, the problems we have with them as well — coming closer into communities, now going after cattle and some of the problems there. So it’s a multispecies issue.

My last question I’ll just ask to the minister, and then more, I guess, back to the issues around agriculture.

[4:30 p.m.]

What studies are done within the ministry to ensure that we’re taking care of and listening to those issues that the farmers put forward? Can we look at more — in region 7, for instance — LEH or more opportunities for opening up hunting? At the end of the day, we’re losing a lot of money, and there are huge risks to farmers because of this. So if he could give me a quick answer on that, then I’ll pass it along.

[R. Chouhan in the chair.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: I’m going to get to the answer to this question. We just have a bit of a power issue here, so I’m going to ask for a quick recess after this question to deal with that.

But yes, the specific was around studies to take care of the issues that farmers put forward. One example that was given was the elk. I’m familiar with this from the eastern part of my constituency, as well as the member for Nechako Lakes. There is an LEH, a limited-entry hunt, for elk — and the member probably knows that — in Peace River South.

We engage and collaborate with private landowners, including ranchers, on that hunt. Its purpose is to reduce the impact on feed especially. I know that elk can make a mess of farmers’ stored feed, as well as the feed that’s coming up out of the ground. So we monitor that to make sure that the LEH is doing the job that it needs to do, and if it needs to be increased, then, as long as those levels are sustainable, we’ll do that.

Chair, if I could suggest a quick break in order to deal with the power issue we have here. Maybe five minutes.

The Chair: No problem. Yes, the House will be in recess for ten minutes.

Hon. D. Donaldson: Okay. Thank you.

The committee recessed from 4:34 p.m. to 4:42 p.m.

[R. Chouhan in the chair.]

D. Davies: Thank you, Minister, for the opportunity to ask some questions. I appreciate it. I know that we’re stretched for time. Half the hook is already around my neck, ready to pull me off here. So I’ll be as quick as I can.

I appreciate you know quite a bit about the industry, and I’ve talked to you about it numerous times before in Fort Nelson, with the issues up there. I appreciate we’re close. The community forest is, I think, in the final stages of being wrapped up — a great partnership between Northern Rockies as well as the Fort Nelson First Nation. That is, of course, being developed, technically, to help to create a local forest industry again back in the community of Fort Nelson, which is much needed.

Recently some of your senior staff had a meeting with Northern Rockies and some of the partnerships up there about looking at how they can best improve the forest industry. Of course, we know that Fort Nelson is removed from market. It’s a long ways up there, and looking at rates out of Fort St. John is not a feasible way to look at how to price things.

One of the concerns from this meeting was that they’re going to be testing the market to see what it can hold. I mean, I don’t think we need to really test the market. It’s been 12 years since there’s been anything happening up there. We know the issues. We know that the issue is the distance to market.

[4:45 p.m.]

The easiest thing would be to just create a correction by having that distance worked in already and adjusting the stumpage rate accordingly. But it sounds like they’re going to be taking a little piece of the community forest and putting it up — basically, treating it like a B.C. Timber Sales program — to the highest bidder, which, of course, can come from anywhere and could artificially fix that price.

Basically, my question — and I have many; I might have to put these into a formal piece of correspondence, which I’ll send you later — is: why does FLNRORD seem that they want to interfere and undermine the local objectives that were initially the reason why the community forest was created?

Hon. D. Donaldson: Yeah, thank you for the question. We’ve discussed the situation in Fort Nelson and how it’s so important for them to be able to diversify their economy by reinvigorating the forest sector there. Yes, the member’s information is correct that one of our senior managers, the assistant deputy minister for the north, met recently with the Northern Rockies and the Fort Nelson First Nation and other parties up in that area, or perhaps it was by Skype or whatever we’re using these days.

Yes, we need to get some data points in order to make an accurate stumpage rate for the area. There hasn’t been anything to put the factors that the member is talking about into place. There’s been no data collection in the last ten years, because not a lot has been happening in that area in last ten years.

We have been in discussions with the community forest to see if they’re interested in providing some of their volume for a licence. We wouldn’t do it unless the community forest was on board, and it might be helpful to them because they have a fire management plan where they want to do some harvesting of fibre for wildfire risk purposes. That’s where it comes to the term that the member used of testing the market.

[4:50 p.m.]

We agree that there likely needs to be a more appropriate stumpage rate reflected in the distance from market and that it’s likely not the same stumpage rate that he referred to that is being charged in more southerly portions of his constituency. We’re working on that, but this is a step to get there. I know that the member says that we need to…. We know that there’s some need for this to be adjusted, but the only way we can do that is to first put this licence on the market and then go from there.

D. Davies: Again, I do thank you. I know that at least the conversation’s happening, which I think is important. But I certainly implore the ministry to make sure that the local piece is extremely important — the local processing as well, wherever possible — and to make sure that this market test…. Like I say, truly, it’s a base rate correction that really needs to be looked at. We don’t want to have a false market created — you know, you get a big company that does a bid just to play with the prices. I implore you to look into that, and I look forward to further conversation on that as well.

My last question — making kind of a statement, then hopefully, I’ll just get a written response from you, which is just fine. I know there has been a little discussion around water licensing as well. We have a number of businesses, and they’re actually essential services located on the Alaska Highway — these small little stops from Buckinghorse, Pink Mountain, Sikanni, and the list goes on. These small, little, tiny places are essential stop points, often the only place where someone can go to call 911 on the Alaska Highway, if they need — washroom points as well as fuel points. Water licensing…. They are, of course, being used for non-commercial uses.

These businesses are barely keeping afloat. To have more of these costs put down onto them and this incredible burden that they’re facing…. I’m hoping that the ministry’s able to look at some of these unique situations. I know there are probably others around the province where these small gas stations and little places fill an essential service. But hopefully, the ministry is able to look at some special consideration around licensing for these places.

I’ll leave it with that, Minister, and thank you for your time and turn it over to my other colleagues.

J. Rustad: I have one quick question. Then I’m going to turn it over to my colleague from Cariboo-Chilcotin for some rural development questions.

During the blockade on the Morice River Road, there were a number of spots set up. One in particular, set up by the Gitdumden, was a spot, of course, that was taken down to allow for access through to the pipeline construction site for Coastal GasLink.

The site has never been cleaned up. It’s a mess. There are a lot of things that are being left behind. Apparently, there was a letter that was sent to the ministry asking for the ministry to take some action and clean it up. I believe there was a response sent back that said that no action would be taken.

The question is: can the minister confirm that there will be no action taken to clean up that site? If that is the case, could the minister explain why that would not be cleaned up by the ministry?

[4:55 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: It’s nice to see my critic back on the screen and asking questions. I appreciate that it’s a constituency topic for him as well.

Staff are unaware of either receiving the letter — as the member said, the letter to the ministry to clean it up — or of sending a letter out on this topic. But if the member has access to a letter, I definitely would appreciate it being forwarded on.

Having said that, if there’s debris left on the site that needs to be cleaned up, we’re willing to work with the Hereditary Chiefs and the clan to ensure that it gets cleaned up.

The Chair: Any further questions from other members?

J. Rustad: I turn it over to the member for Cariboo-Chilcotin.

D. Barnett: Good afternoon, Minister. My questions, basically…. You may not think it, but they’re all going to revolve around the importance of rural development. The first question that I have is: what is the minister’s rural development plan in this budget?

[5:00 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: To the member, I apologize for the delay. It’s just that it’s a lot of work ready to be undertaken, as far as rural development goes, not just in this ministry, but overall in government.

One of the main parts that our ministry plays is ensuring that communities that are dependent on forestry are able to still have that vital part of their economy functioning. Our emphasis on value over volume is an example of rural development in this budget. We’ve allocated $10 million towards the new forest economy that will allow more communities and more tenure holders, especially First Nations, to pursue that value-over-volume prospect and opportunities.

We know that in the Interior, there is an overcapacity — with the beetle wood coming down, and the annual allowable cuts coming down because of that. In order to support forestry jobs, we need to get more value out of the wood that we bring out of the forest.

As far as contractors who work in the forests and are experiencing — well, up until recently — potentially a lack of work…. But with the high lumber prices, many of them are going back to their regular harvesting activities. Under the forest employment program this year…. That’s under our Interior forest worker support program. But the actual envelope that this ministry is in charge of is the forest employment program of $9 million targeted to activities in the bush that will put contractors back to work bringing fibre out and reducing wildfire risk.

[5:05 p.m.]

The important part of rural development is keeping communities safe and also the added benefit of increasing fibre supply. So we have the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. spending around communities in the forests. That’s part of a rural development aspect, and that’s in the neighbourhood of $40 million this year in that program to be spent. We have the community resilience initiative fund program for within municipal boundaries in reducing wildfire risk.

We were able to secure community grants at the end of the year, $14 million, and allocate that towards trail and recreation site projects as well as other projects that’ll make a difference in communities. That’s allocated for this year. That’s going to be spent in communities.

That is just part of it. I mean, the overall picture is that we want communities to be livable. We want to keep people in rural communities so that there is the ability to stimulate the economy. That’s something that is the basis of our thoughts — that people are the basis of the economy.

We need people making decisions to sustain rural communities. That’s why infrastructure projects, the $20 billion over the next three years, not specifically in my ministry but across government — building schools, building hospitals, building housing: it all helps to make rural development happen and connectivity as well.

D. Barnett: Thank you, Minister, but that’s not quite the answer I was looking for. I was the one with our government that put together a rural development strategy. It was a strategy that was inclusive of all ministries, everybody cooperating and working together, and of course, that strategy was a great strategy. It was put together by local people throughout the province of British Columbia who volunteered their time to put this together. The funding was accessible to everyone, not just local governments. It was accessible to anyone who had a great initiative, and the decisions were all based on the economy.

So, Minister, I would appreciate in writing from you, if I may, exactly where your ministry is going with rural development. Who’s involved with it, and who is going to be inclusive? I would appreciate that in writing, because we don’t have time to discuss it further today.

I would also like to know: all this money you’ve talked about…. That’s normal money — infrastructure, etc., etc. Who qualifies, and what is the application process for this funding?

[5:10 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, it really depends on the envelope of funding that we’ve made available under the rural development topic area. I will commit to respond in writing to the first part of the member’s question.

As far as examples of who could qualify for the funding that I mentioned…. For instance, in the forest employment program under the Interior forest worker support program, those are contracts that are put out in consultation with district managers, in consultation with the Interior Logging Association. If it’s over a certain dollar value, it’s put on B.C. Bid in targeted areas of the province where we know that forestry contractors need employment. So they regularly monitor B.C. Bid. If it’s under a certain value, we have a prequalified list of contractors as well.

The member asked about infrastructure grants. Of course, that would be under other ministries in a cross-government approach. But it’s not just local governments; First Nations and non-profit associations can apply for some of those infrastructure dollars that I described already.

In the rural community development grants that I mentioned, the $14 million went to local governments, to Indigenous communities and organizations, to non-profit organizations. That was open to a whole gamut of different groups, not just local government.

D. Barnett: Minister, I would appreciate all that in writing too. Thank you.

My next question. They all pertain to rural development; this is all about rural British Columbia. With the funding that is going to be announced here pretty quickly, the $1.5 billion for COVID, will there be any low-interest loans for young entrepreneurs who have great ideas and need just a little helping hand to get into the value-added business in some of these rural communities?

[5:15 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Yes, $1.5 billion is the economic recovery fund associated with COVID. There has been extensive public engagement where ideas, in the form of the one that the member mentioned, were canvassed — not just public engagement but engagement with specific sectors and the ministry advancing various proposals as a result of all the ministers talking to their groups that they deal with regularly.

The actual details of the $1.5 billion I’m unable to discuss at this point, because it’s still in cabinet consideration, but it will be released very soon. If the member, in the meantime, has some specific cases where young entrepreneurs, as she described, are looking for low-interest loans in order to enter or expand markets, she should be aware that the federal government has a loan program for the kind of people she’s describing — young entrepreneurs. That’s managed through the Community Futures offices, of which there are many in rural communities around B.C.

D. Barnett: Yes, Minister, we are very aware of those programs and the complicated paperwork. I was kind of hoping — if we really do want to kick-start this economy for those of us that are in the forest communities — that because of pine beetle and fires, maybe there would be some kind of a low-interest loan come out in the $1.5 billion. But we’ll wait and see.

The next questions all pertain to rural development. A question I have — I’m asking it for my riding and many rural ridings in British Columbia, and also for my colleague from Prince George–Valemount — is on resource roads. They are very important to rural British Columbia for their economic well-being. Much of our tourism product is created by these rural roads. Many of the rural roads in many, many ridings and regions are being decommissioned with no public consultation.

Minister, could we get a commitment from you that the regions will have public, open consultation before any of these roads are decommissioned?

[5:20 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Yes. Coming from a rural area myself, I totally understand her point of view that resource roads are important for many reasons recreationally for people, but also for tourism product as well.

I’ll get to her specific question, but I wanted to make sure that we’re both on the understanding — and I’m sure we are — that there is a very wide range of resource road statuses in the province and, therefore, many reasons that might be applied for decommissioning, whether it’s for wildlife reasons, for area closures or to do with access permits. I can’t say that every resource road is the same in the province, but I do get her point that they are of high value to local users as well as those who depend on them for economic reasons around tourism, for instance.

Specific to her question, we do engage with the public and with First Nations stakeholders before decommissioning any forest service road.

D. Barnett: Thank you to the minister for that.

Well, Minister, there are a lot of areas where the resource roads have been closed with no public consultation. My question, again to the minister: could the minister commit to having some public consultation? I know, in areas, there is major decommissioning work going on with no public consultation, and once it happens, then, of course, it creates a lot of issues for tourism, for local residents. So would the minister commit to having more public engagement and consultation before decommissioning of these forestry access roads?

[5:25 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: I appreciate the question. Yes, I can reaffirm and commit to having public consultation on the decommissioning of any forest service road on Crown land.

There are situations where there is a permitted road builder. That is a different kind of situation. That’s sort of what I was getting at in my previous answer around the wide variety of resource roads. A permitted road built by a licensee is a different circumstance. But a forest service road on Crown land…. I commit and reaffirm that we will, and we do, engage in public consultation.

If there are specific situations, as the member said, that she has heard or experienced or gotten word about — roads closed or decommissioned with no public consultation — then I’d be happy to look into those situations, if she wants to forward any information on that.

D. Barnett: Thank you to the minister for that. My next question still involves rural economic development.

On Friday, there was an event here in Cariboo North, on the edge of my riding. Forests, Lands and Natural Resources was involved, with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations, in purchasing a ranch. The ranch had grazing leases and licences, and it was a great thing for the First Nation. The rancher is quite content, and everybody is very happy to see reconciliation. Of course, this is in the treaty process, the northern Secwépemc treaty.

There are approximately, to the best of my knowledge — I’ve been very engaged with it — many, many more ranches in Cariboo North and Cariboo-Chilcotin, and a few in the Clinton area, that are still in the treaty process with the northern Secwépemc.

Can the minister tell me: has there been any more indication of purchases of ranches? Are the ranchers going to be compensated if they lose any of their leases and licences, in the near future, when these treaties are finally resolved?

The question to go with that is: is the funding for the purchase of these lands…? Some of it involves FLNRO. Does the money come from the federal government, or is it strictly from the provincial government for the purchase of the lands?

[5:30 p.m.]

[S. Gibson in the chair.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: I’m happy to discuss this situation that the member raises. Yes, it was and is continuing to be a good-news story.

It’s a situation with the northern Secwépemc peoples in their ongoing interim treaty measures, in order to fulfil our reconciliation objective where there’s a willing buyer and a willing seller. Then a rancher who’s willing to sell will put up their ranch. If the First Nation is wanting to get into ranching and the agricultural industry, then that becomes a part of bringing First Nations into — and providing more opportunity to participate in — the economy.

As far as the cost, as the member asked, it’s a federal-provincial combination of [audio interrupted] deals, from a financial aspect. Once the land is purchased, it’ll be leased to the First Nation until the final treaty is signed. The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is the lead on the treaty process.

As far as how many ranches are potentially going to be involved in this situation, on my ministry’s behalf, that’s part of the negotiations with individual ranchers. That is information we keep confidential with them at this time. It’s good news, as far as moving forward with ranchers and First Nations on a willing-buyer, willing-seller approach.

D. Barnett: Thank you to the minister for that. I would also appreciate that answer in writing.

I have more questions, but I have to move on and turn the floor over….

[5:35 p.m.]

S. Furstenau: I’m going to start our questions on the issue of flooding. There was actually an article in the Globe and Mail just a few days ago, from a report from the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, indicating that the provinces in Canada are not doing very well on flood preparedness and that British Columbia is, in particular, quite behind on this, having not updated flood maps in more than two decades and not making maps public.

They indicate that flooding is the most expensive type of natural disaster. The number and frequency of floods has increased in recent years. The yearly cost of overflowing rivers and rising seas could triple by 2030 without more effort on flood mitigation. Here in British Columbia, of course, one of the communities that has been impacted enormously by flooding is Grand Forks.

Given the increasing number of major floods that have happened in Grand Forks and in the Boundary region and the impact on the local economy, my question for the minister is: will government undertake an in-depth hydrological study that looks at the impact of forestry practices and the connection between those and the causes of flooding, particularly in the Grand Forks region?

Hon. D. Donaldson: We are in the process. We’re working on it right now, a provincial flood risk strat­egy. It’s something we’re working on between ourselves and EMBC. It doesn’t just include strategies. It’ll include funding and resourcing and the overall, entire picture provincially.

The member had a question specifically around Grand Forks. Yes, we’re doing a hydrological study in regard to the flooding that occurred in the Kettle and Granby drainages. An interim report will be completed this fall on that hydrological assessment.

S. Furstenau: I’m glad to hear that there’s a study underway. It seems very important to get to the root of the flooding issues that are happening here. There is a lot of research to indicate that there’s a connection between clearcut forestry practices and increased flooding.

[5:40 p.m.]

My understanding is that the allowable annual cut in the Boundary area is the same as it was almost 40 years ago. My question for the minister is: has he considered reducing the allowable cut in the Boundary watershed in light of the extraordinary amount of flooding that has happened there in the past four years?

Hon. D. Donaldson: Yes, the chief forester is the one responsible for setting the annual allowable cut determination. She does that independently of my role, which is to allocate — once her annual allowable cut determination has been set — where the volume is allotted to or to whom.

The annual allowable cut determinations are on a regular basis by the chief forester. The last was in 2015. Normally, they occur every ten years, but because of some of the conditions that we’ve seen, including the flooding, the new review will be initiated within the next two years for the Boundary TSA. The chief forester takes into account all factors when determining a sustainable harvestable level, including hydrological factors.

S. Furstenau: I appreciate the responses from the minister. I’m going to switch to another topic, something I canvassed in question period: the Water Sustainability Act. I wanted to go a little more in depth on this topic with the minister.

It has been four years since the act came into effect, and only about 4,000 applications have been received by the ministry for transitioning existing non-domestic groundwater use into the province’s licensing scheme. At this rate, the ministry would only receive 5,500 applications by the time the transition period ends on March 1, 2022, which is only approximately 25 percent of the existing non-domestic groundwater users in B.C.

[5:45 p.m.]

My question for the minister is: what will the minister do, in the time remaining in the transition period, which is less than two years right now, to ensure that the vast majority of existing non-domestic groundwater users, including small farm users, apply for their water licence so that they can avoid the risk of having no access to water, particularly as we recover from COVID-19 and are looking at very serious issues around food security? Further to that, how will the minister measure success, knowing whether the plan to get the applications in is working or not working?

Hon. D. Donaldson: We are increasing our efforts to encourage pre-existing non-domestic groundwater users to submit application forms, for reasons that the member cited as well as for the reason so the province has much better data and understanding of the use of groundwater for non-domestic purposes.

[5:50 p.m.]

A few of the things we’ve done. As the member indicated, because we weren’t getting a great uptake right off the bat, we extended the application deadline to March 1, 2020. We have improved our advertising and outreach efforts. I guess a subsection of the groundwater licencing is livestock watering, so we formed a team around that specific use to address how to authorize livestock watering. We’ve cancelled the fee, as the member I think alluded to in question period, to encourage people.

So we are seeing an uptick. You know, the member is correct to point out that 20 percent, approximately, of the applications have been received, but that’s grown substantially due to the efforts that we’ve put in place as described. We have 20 percent of the applications in hand. From those applications in hand, we are expecting to have about a 10 percent authorization rate on those — in other words, about 400 done in a year. Now we’ve actually processed 980, so substantially more.

We’ll keep closely monitoring this. We want to make sure that people register in time. We’ll increase efforts if we see that we’re falling behind.

How do we measure success? Well, we’d like to get as close to 20,000 applications in by the deadline of March 1, 2022, as possible. I think that it’s important for this resource to have that in place, and it’s also important because the users need the certainty around their ability to continue using the groundwater.

S. Furstenau: Thanks to the minister for that.

I have several more questions on the Water Sustainability Act, but just looking at the time — and I have another topic I want to canvass very quickly before we end — I’m just going to ask one more question in this round. It’s related to hydrologic science and recognizing that if we’re going to properly manage water in British Columbia, we need to understand how much water there is and where that water is, particularly in light of a changing climate.

This is so essential as part of the Water Sustainability Act, to be able to have a really in-depth understanding of where water is. My question for the minister is on how much of the budget has been given to conduct surface and groundwater studies.

[5:55 p.m.]

Hon. D. Donaldson: Staff is just pulling the specific amount together. I didn’t want to delay any further in providing an answer. We’ll have that information for the member tomorrow.

I did want to briefly highlight one area that we’ve invested in. It’s simply called the water tool, but it has been implemented in five of eight regions under FLNRORD in this province. It’s a tool for staff to understand all hydrological effects in areas in order to better consider licensing or permitting properly. We spend about $300,000 annually on that water tool alone. The water tool development was in-house, and it was awarded a Premier’s Award last year because of the innovation and the, I guess, amazing tool that it has become for land and water managers.

I can’t agree more with the member around the importance of water and the interaction of surface water and groundwater and how that’s going to become even more important to understand as climate change creates new pressures and new consequences.

We have some research projects on the west coast to study surface water and groundwater interactions, and we’ve increased our ability to understand watershed and aquifer interactivity. The Nicola watershed pilot project is a good example of that, the work that’s going on there with partners — First Nations and local community partners — in that project. So all that…. We can wrap up tomorrow with a figure for the member for that kind of resource funding that’s being spent.

I move that the committee rise and report progress on the estimates of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and ask leave to sit again.

Motion approved.

The committee rose at 5:59 p.m.

The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.

[6:00 p.m.]

Committee of Supply (Section B), having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.

Mr. Speaker: Members, pursuant to a sessional order, a deferred division will take place shortly on the motion of third reading of Bill 23, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2020.

Members, pursuant to a sessional order, this House stands recessed until 6:10 p.m.

The House recessed from 6:01 p.m. to 6:10 p.m.

[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]

Mr. Speaker: Members, I call the House back to order. The division will proceed in five minutes.

[6:15 p.m.]

We will now proceed with the deferred division. The question is third reading of Bill 23, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2020.

[6:20 p.m.]

Third Reading of Bills



Bill 23, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2020, read a third time and passed on the following division:

YEAS — 44





Chandra Herbert









































NAYS — 41








de Jong



































Hon. M. Farnworth moved adjournment of the House.

Motion approved.

Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 6:23 p.m.