Second Session, 42nd Parliament (2021)
Monday, October 18, 2021
Issue No. 107
The HTML transcript is provided for informational purposes only.
The PDF transcript remains the official digital version.
|Orders of the Day|
MONDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2021
The House met at 1:34 p.m.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
Introductions by Members
Hon. J. Horgan: I just want to advise all members of the House that there is an Olympic gold medal in the gallery today. That Olympic gold medal belongs to Andrea Proske, who was sitting at No. 4 in the women’s eights. In under six minutes — as many of you will know, I often can’t get to the point in six minutes — they travelled the distance to beat all comers, from beginning to end, and to win the gold medal for us in the Tokyo 2020-21 Olympic Games. [Applause.]
Yes. Hear, hear.
It’s particularly exciting for me to introduce Andrea to the House and to British Columbians. My wife, Ellie, and I were on the Lady Rose leaving Port Alberni on our way to Bamfield in the late winter, I guess, in January of 2020. There were very few people on the Lady Rose at that time. I can tell you that a holiday in the Alberni Inlet is unusual for that point in the year, but if you’re an avid scuba diver, it’s a place to go.
Robin Swanson, who joins Andrea here today, is not only a physicist of big bang theory fame. He also operates a cyclotron — which is not a Peloton, member for Delta North, but a cyclotron. Robin and Andrea were travelling to do some scuba diving, and Ellie and I took up a conversation, over the course of the trip, which led to, actually, cookies being delivered to the vessel on the way back from the camp that they were staying at, and then text messages back and forth between Ellie and Andrea as she prepared for the 2020 Olympic Games. Well, we all know COVID got in the way of that, and an Olympian’s dream was almost dashed.
At 27, Andrea took up rowing late in her athletic career, and the opportunity may not have come back had Tokyo not gone forward. Nonetheless, she persevered. She continued to train, was supposed to be in the pairs in Tokyo and was cut at the last minute. This is the story that I think should stick with all of us: try, try again, as my mom used to say and, I’m sure, all of your moms used to say. Andrea persisted and was named to the women’s eights team.
Then a few months later, despite COVID, despite a delay, despite no fans on the waterway, she joined the many, many women who had success in the pool, who had success on the water, later on the soccer pitch and, of course, on the ball diamond as well, to become now and forever an Olympian.
Andrea’s story is an inspiration to all of us. She will be joining us in the Hall of Honour after question period. I know all of you will want to come by and touch, as I did, the gold medal. Andrea, when she was cut from the pairs, went out and bought a pair of socks to cheer her up. Now she uses those socks to hold her medal so that it doesn’t get scuffed.
She finished, of course…. I don’t know if any of you remember, but certainly Ellie and I were glued to the television set to watch Lisa Roman, Christine Roper, Madison Mailey, Sydney Payne and Avalon Wasteneys — the British Columbians in the eights boat with Andrea.
Andrea, of course, was born in North Vancouver and makes her home now in Langley. For the members from Langley, you’re going to want to get some mail out right away on this one.
It is just exciting for me to have the opportunity to highlight many of the British Columbians who were successful in Tokyo this past summer. Of course, Christine Sinclair and Julia Grosso, on the soccer pitch. In athletics, Jerome Blake took a bronze medal. Taylor Ruck, in the pool, took a bronze. The bronze medal for our softball team, Danielle Lawrie, Emma Entzminger, Larissa Franklin, Sara Groenewegen, Kelsey Harshman, Lauren Regula, Jennifer Salling. Also, of course, in the boats, Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens.
I know that this is really exciting for me; I hope it’s exciting for all of you. Would you please once again put your hands together for our once and always Olympic champions. [Applause.]
M. Dykeman: I’m just thrilled to see our friend and colleague from Abbotsford-Mission back today, MLA Pam Alexis. I was wondering if the House could please join me in giving her a warm welcome back.
Hon. R. Kahlon: Hon. Speaker, joining us today in the members gallery, from Germany, is a delegation from the state of North Rhine–Westphalia, led by Dr. Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner, Minister of Federal, European and International Affairs. The minister is here as the first official visit to British Columbia.
Earlier this morning he had the opportunity to meet with you, hon. Speaker, and, I believe, with the opposition leader and the Third Party Leader as well. The Premier and I had the pleasure of meeting with the minister, with Klaus Schmidt, the consul general, and with the entire delegation this afternoon.
I would hope that this House can make them all feel very welcome today.
N. Letnick: If you want to blame anyone for me being here, that would be Doris and Norbert Kotscha, right up there. I’d like to make them feel very welcome.
Also, today I met with Michael and Brenda Bacon. All six of us are grandparents and enjoying the life immensely. Please make them feel very welcome.
Hon. S. Robinson: I’m very pleased today to welcome to the House David Miller. David wears many hats, all of them fashioned for a person who cares about the environment, the economy, social equity and sustainability.
David currently serves as the chair of the board of directors for B.C. Infrastructure Benefits, a Crown corporation we launched in 2018 to employ underrepresented or underemployed workers on public infrastructure projects operating under the community benefits agreement. I want to thank David for helping make sure that British Columbians get access to good-paying jobs, skill development and apprenticeships and for providing opportunities to underrepresented groups like Indigenous peoples, women and people with disabilities.
Now, David has and continues to hold a variety of public and private positions. He’s also the director of international diplomacy and global ambassador of inclusive climate action for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. He also is an economist and a lawyer. David also is very familiar with public service. He served as the mayor of a small little town called Toronto for seven years.
Would the House please make David feel welcome.
T. Wat: It is my pleasure to welcome my constituency assistant William Tu and his two young friends Benny Lam and Jackson Su to this House this afternoon.
This is the first time that my CA William has come to the Legislature since he became my volunteer for my riding — I think more than four years ago, when he was still a student at SFU, studying communications. He has been working as my part-time CA for the last several years, and I’m so pleased that he’s taking time off from his work to take his two young friends to see democracy at work and to see what the life of the elected official is like.
I’m so proud of these young people who are paving the way for the future of British Columbia and also paving a multicultural and diverse community in harmony.
Would the House join me in welcoming the three young guys.
B. Anderson: Yesterday was my mother-in-law’s birthday. You know what they say about mothers-in-law? I have the very best one. She is incredibly kind and compassionate. If I can’t get a hold of my own mom and I need some motherly advice, I can always count on Marian Dixon from Cranbrook to pick up the phone and give me some excellent guidance.
I’m grateful every day for you, Marian. Will the House please join me in wishing you a happy birthday.
Hon. K. Conroy: I just wanted to add to the Premier’s introduction. He neglected to introduce a very, very special person, someone that I refer to as Saint Ellie, and that is the Premier’s wife, Ellie, who is up in the gallery as well.
Hon. B. Ralston: Change is a constant here at the Legislature. In that vein, I wish to note that Andrew Cuddy, my senior ministerial assistant, is, as of today, performing the same role for the Minister of Forests.
His diligence, formidable work ethic and good advice will be as welcome in his new role as I will miss his help in my ministry.
Hon. L. Beare: Joining us today in the gallery are my lovely administration staff, Brianna Leppard and Shay McEwen. We all know how important our staff are in keeping our offices organized and keeping us running. I want to say a big thank-you to these two amazing women. Would the House please make them feel welcome for their very first question period.
M. Starchuk: This morning’s private member’s motion spoke to women working in traditionally male-dominated industries. There are a number of MLAs who had specific references to women firefighters in this morning’s debate.
Joining us today are two of Vancouver Island’s heroes. Join me in welcoming to the House firefighter Amy Tai from the Victoria fire department and assistant chief Haida Fortier from the Esquimalt fire department.
S. Chant: Thank you for the opportunity to rise and make two introductions to the House this afternoon. The first is my friend of over 40 years, who recently retired from the Canadian Armed Forces as a chief petty officer in the military police. Now, if you don’t know what a vastly underrated position for females that is, think about it a bit.
The other important role that she holds is that she is godmother to my daughters, Lindsey and Nicole. My daughter Lindsey Chant is also in the gallery with Jennifer.
I hope the House will welcome these two generations of strong, independent women.
First Reading of Bills
Hon. L. Beare presented a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2021.
Hon. L. Beare: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
I am pleased to introduce Bill 22. This bill amends the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This act has not been substantially updated since 2011, and we are quickly falling behind other jurisdictions. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted people’s need for safe and convenient online services. This bill proposes amendments to ensure government provides the level of service people deserve, keeps pace with new technology and enhances privacy protection.
The changes we’re proposing will strengthen government accountability and transparency by enabling us to be more responsive to the needs of people by adding more public bodies and charging new offences for destroying records to evade FOI.
By updating FOIPPA’s data residency provisions, we will improve how people access government services while we continue to ensure that the personal information that people trust us with is protected. We will enhance public sector privacy protections and increase accountability by implementing mandatory privacy breach reporting and increasing penalties for general and privacy offences under the act.
We are demonstrating the province’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, reconciliation and equity by increasing information-sharing with Indigenous peoples, adding Indigenous cultural protections and removing non-inclusive language. Indigenous leaders, stakeholders and public body representatives have been asking for these changes for over a decade. These amendments will address their feedback and make it easier for people to access information while also strengthening B.C.’s leadership role in safeguarding information.
Mr. Speaker: Members, the question is first reading of the bill.
Hon. L. Beare: I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
Bill 22, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act, 2021, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
(Standing Order 25B)
ISLAMIC HERITAGE MONTH
AND ANTI-MUSLIM RACISM
R. Singh: Today I would like to extend my best wishes to Muslim Canadians as they celebrate Eid Milad-un-Nabi, the birth of the prophet Muhammad, one of the largest celebrations of the year. Eid Milad-un-Nabi marks the birth, life and teachings of the prophet Muhammad.
To make it even more special, I stand before the House today in recognition of Islamic Heritage Month. It is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the perseverance and generosity of Muslim communities and to learn more about the history of Islam in Canada. Our Muslim sisters and brothers have a rich history of contributions in B.C., whether it’s in arts, culture, academics or business, and these contributions consolidate the depth and diversity of an abundantly multicultural province.
While this is a time to celebrate the community, we also know that the community has experienced significant challenges over the past few years. We have seen a notable increase in hateful attacks against Muslims across Canada and British Columbia, a substantial increase in anti-Muslim comments on social media and in incidents of women being attacked for wearing a hijab, and these are just the incidents that are actually reported.
Hate has no room in our province, and it takes all of our collective voices to stand in solidarity against hate. I’m proud of our commitment to tackle race-based and faith-based hatred as well as discrimination of all kinds in this province. It heartens me that we are moving forward on anti-racism data legislation, which will help pave the way to a more equitable and more inclusive province.
Last but not least, I would like to ask my colleagues here in the House, and others around the province, to join in celebrating Islamic Heritage Month by participating in local events in your community and learning more about various Islamic cultures and traditions that make our province so culturally rich and diverse.
FOOD SECURITY AND FOOD PRICES
I. Paton: On Saturday, we marked World Food Day, a day to celebrate our agrifood system but also an opportunity to reflect on how we can make the system more sustainable.
What does that mean? It means less food and the resiliency to avoid shocks to the system, like extreme weather or a global pandemic. It means limiting, not worsening, the impacts on our environment. It means we can supply a wide variety of nutritious, safe food that is available at an affordable price to everyone. That’s becoming more and more of a challenge for people.
Just the other week I heard a story about how our grocery bills are going up yet again. The cost of meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables, in particular, is going up due to weather patterns, logistical challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-increasing costs of production facing B.C. farmers and ranchers. This means more and more people are clipping coupons, looking for deals, reducing the intake of meat and taking other measures in a bid to save money on food.
We can probably surmise that these are the realities faced by more affluent folks in our society, who are still able to grocery shop regularly but are noticing the hit to the pocketbook as well. It reminds us that there are many others in our communities who are much more food insecure and vulnerable. This is something that has been on the minds of farmers in my riding of Delta South, as they reflected on the pandemic and wondered how they could help those in need.
Over the past year, my constituency assistant and I have spent many Wednesday mornings picking up 300 pounds of potatoes from our generous Delta spud farmers and delivering them to the dedicated volunteers at the South Delta Food Bank. I want to thank these farmers and volunteers for ensuring that people in our community continue to have access to fresh, nutritious food. I also want to acknowledge the hard work they do each and every day as a critical part of Canada’s national food security.
We know it takes more than farms to feed a country. It also takes whole supply chains of feed, fertilizer and equipment suppliers; veterinarians; crop specialists; transporters; processors; and distributors.
There are so many valued participants in our agrifood system, and it’s up to all of us to support them on World Food Day and beyond.
AND ANTI-MUSLIM RACISM
M. Elmore: Mawlid is the observance of the birthday of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, which is commemorated in Rabi’ al-Awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar, and 12 Rabi’ al-Awwal translates to August 29, year 570 in the Common Era. That’s the accepted date among most of the Sunni and Shia scholars. This year that begins tonight, on the evening of Monday, October 18, and ends on the evening of Tuesday, October 19.
This day is celebrated the world over in mosques and homes with the recitation of poetry, the sharing of food and charity. That is how the robust and diverse Muslim community in B.C. will also celebrate this important day of faith.
B.C. has a long relationship with its Muslim citizens. By 1911, there were reputed to be over 500 Muslims here, mostly from Turkey and Bulgaria, and they faced the racism that was rampant at that time.
Right from their introduction, Muslim organizers were integral in challenging the discriminatory laws that non-European communities faced. Twenty-seven of the passengers on the Komagata Maru, which we have spoken about many times here, were Muslim. Although the community has been subject to some of the most vile and violent discrimination, it endures and has grown to become a vibrant and integral part of the fabric of British Columbia, with several mosques representing the diversity, and many organizations that actively give back to the larger society.
Some of these communities include the Vancouver Madinah, Voices of Muslim Women, Sisters Speak and the Muslim Food Bank and Community Services Society, headquartered in Richmond with a space right next to the Carnegie Centre, from which they serve food to the community in the Downtown Eastside. In recognition of the contributions of the community, this government has already declared October Islamic History Month.
I want to also take this opportunity to give gratitude to all Muslims in British Columbia and to ask that we all celebrate this very important day for the community.
A. Wilkinson: On September 6, British Columbia bid farewell to Peter Bentley. This is a name that’s known throughout the province. He was a kind, gentle man who was known to make the most of every opportunity. In his 91 years, almost all spent here in British Columbia, he built a legacy that all of us can be proud of.
Peter Bentley was born in Vienna in 1930. We all take note of that date, because eight years later Austria was annexed by the Nazis. His family fled in the dark of night, with nothing. They eventually settled in Vancouver. They found light and safety here as darkness fell over Europe. They also found endless opportunity, and they started a small, small business in New Westminster. That business came to be known as Canfor.
Peter believed in making the most of every opportunity in life. He was tireless in making sure that people had the chance to get ahead, and his legacy is enormous. From the growth and success of Canfor to the opening and growth of the University of Northern British Columbia to the establishment of the Vancouver General Hospital Foundation, which has raised over $1 billion to support health care in British Columbia, Peter Bentley was instrumental and essential to their success.
The list goes on, from bringing NHL hockey to British Columbia — to keep the Leafs out of our territory — to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame and to Golf Canada. Peter was tireless in using his endless goodwill and energy to make British Columbia a better place for everyone. He liked to get things done, and he did exactly that. Our province has benefited enormously from his loyalty, from his commitment, from his dedication, from his energy, and we will miss him for that.
We wish his family every success, and our condolences, as his family continues to move forward in building British Columbia.
ACTION ON POVERTY
B. Anderson: I have lived in Latin America, Asia and Africa and have seen people living in deep poverty. People don’t only live in poverty in the global south but in each one of our communities in British Columbia.
This morning I had anti-vax protesters outside of my office, and I was checking in on my staff to ensure that they felt safe. My CA said: “Thank goodness we have such a good relationship with the people that hang out in our back alley. I know if I have to escape, they’ll have my back.”
Many of these people, who we know by name and who frequently hang out in our back alley, behind my office, live well below the poverty line. Many of them are currently homeless or have experienced homelessness. Our government is working hard not only to house these people but to ensure they have the support they need through our Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
Globally the number of people living in poverty is expected to rise by approximately 150 million people this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why I rise today to raise awareness of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year’s theme is “Building forward together: ending persistent poverty, respecting all people and our planet.”
In 2018, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act set targets to reduce overall poverty by 25 percent and child poverty by 50 percent by 2024. In 2019, B.C. lifted 185,000 people, including 81,000 children, out of poverty.
While this is great news, we need to make sure we aren’t slowing down. We need to continue to ensure adequate supports are in place and that people in B.C. — our friends and our neighbours, including the people who hang out in my back alley — have the opportunity to get ahead.All British Columbians need to know that we have their back.
T. Wat: B.C. is home to a wide array of unique neighbourhoods and landmarks. Symbols of pride, they exemplify the spirit of our hometowns.
In Vancouver, few places are as iconic a landmark as our historic Chinatown. The massive arches of the Millennium Gate, the bright neon lights and colourful cultural buildings of Chinatown stand as more than a symbol of our city’s success. It is a testament to our multicultural heritage, the hopes of so many new immigrants to our province and the dreams of countless multicultural families that could be achieved in our great province, as well as an homage to so many generations before us that helped forge the prosperity and success that we all enjoy today.
Like many communities across B.C., Chinatown has faced some incredible challenges over the past 20 months. But the people who still call this great neighbourhood home have and continue to show the resilience and spirit of hard work that the people of Chinatown are known for.
Light Up Chinatown took place last September, an initiative by the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation to kick-start the return of friends and visitors to our beloved Chinatown. Through live entertainment, food trucks, light festivals, decorations and much more, the Light Up Chinatown weekend served as a way to show people that the area’s businesses and residents are still here to welcome people to the neighbourhood and help restore Chinatown to its former glory.
I was in Chinatown to experience much of this event and was so excited to see so many young people and families there of different ethnicities, not only Chinese Canadians, enjoying the many businesses and attractions that Chinatown has to offer.
Since the Legislature was not sitting in September, I would like to take this opportunity now to extend a very heartfelt thank-you to Carol Lee and the Chinatown Foundation, the Chinatown Business Improvement Area as well as the countless business owners, staff members and volunteers who made this weekend such a success.
Our work to save Chinatown is far from over, and there will be many events to come that will help promote and preserve this iconic neighbourhood.
Whenever you members are in Vancouver again, please take a moment to visit our historic Chinatown, see the Millennium Gate for yourself, dine and shop to help our small businesses and help save this historic site that, for more than a century, has been a symbol of all that makes our province great.
Mr. Speaker: Members, a reminder to all members that statements are to be only two minutes long. Please keep that in mind.
COVID-19 BOOSTER SHOTS FOR SENIORS
IN LONG-TERM-CARE FACILITIES
S. Bond: The numbers are staggering. As many as 80 residents, more than 20 staff and at least ten deaths as a result of COVID, and that’s just at Willingdon Care Centre. It only has 95 beds.
Vulnerable seniors in long-term care were supposed to be getting their booster shots starting weeks ago. But when it comes to implementation, this Premier rolls out the plan and then fails to deliver.
What we’re seeing is a slow, overly bureaucratic, uncoordinated rollout, a patchwork across health authorities. And you can imagine my shock when, in a Fraser Health document, it was confirmed — a timeline for when booster shots may take place. “We expect that all eligible residents and tenants will be offered a third dose by mid-December.” That is simply unacceptable, and the Premier knows it.
Outbreaks and tragedies are mounting across the province, including at Willingdon Care Centre in Burnaby. Mid-December is not good enough for frail, elderly British Columbians. Our seniors need protection, and they need it now.
Will the Premier get up today and assure British Columbians and their families that frail, elderly British Columbians will receive their booster shot immediately, not by mid-December?
Hon. A. Dix: As the member will know, a number of British Columbians have started to get booster shots since the middle of September based on the recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. On September 13, we started to immunize the extremely vulnerable. There are about 15,000 people in that category. On September 28, the day that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended that we proceed in long-term care, we started the process of immunizing people in long-term care.
The standard is six months after second dose, which is, I think, where the member gets the information from. That immunization will be completed long before the middle of December.
So far, about 62 care homes, across all health authorities, have been immunized with a third dose, a booster dose, and 60,000 British Columbians have received either a dose to complete their course, their original course, in the case of the extremely immunocompromised or in the second category of moderately immunocompromised and the third category in long-term care. That’s 60,000 — in addition to the 4.133 million British Columbians who, of course, have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Official Opposition on a supplemental question.
S. Bond: Thank you very much to the minister. Those words are cold comfort for families who are deeply concerned about their frail, elderly loved one, who may have to sit in long-term care, not my words — Fraser Health Authority’s words — and wait for their booster shot.
In fact, we know that the majority of residents in long-term care and assisted living received their second dose in February. So the wait is too long, and the minister knows it. The minister can reference NACI all he wants. Let’s look at what this note from Fraser Health actually says. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization warns that delaying the third dose will increase the period during which individuals “may have reduced protection” — reduced protection.
Perhaps the Premier can get up and answer the question. Let’s look at Saskatchewan. They started their booster shots on September 7. Alberta started on September 1. Ontario started in August, and they have provided third doses to 96 percent of long-term care residents. What do we find here in British Columbia? A message that says: “Actually, you might have to wait until mid-December.”
This is not a supply issue. We know that. The government has the supply necessary. It is a failure to organize the rollout.
Let’s be clear. Frail, elderly British Columbians need and deserve protection. Will the Premier stand up today and commit that frail, elderly residents in long-term care and assisted living will receive their booster shots immediately? It is all hands on deck. Time is of the essence.
Hon. A. Dix: I agree it is a priority for all those in long-term care and assisted living to receive a booster shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s precisely what we’re working to do — 62 care homes already and more every day. We’re working systematically through the care homes.
Those are not the only people who require a booster dose. As the member will know, our extremely immunocompromised population…. It was recommended on September 13, I believe. We proceeded, and the vast majority of them have already received their dose — that 15,000 people.
Over 60,000 people have received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As the member also knows, with respect to many of the innovations that have been done to protect long-term care in B.C., from the single-site order to the 5,000 workers that have been hired to supplement people in long-term care, British Columbia, I believe with Quebec, was the first jurisdiction to implement mandatory vaccination of all staff in long-term care homes as of October 12.
M. Bernier: With all due respect to the minister, if it’s such a priority, why will it take until December to help these vulnerable people? We all know many vulnerable British Columbians started receiving their second dose at the beginning of the year. That was well over six months ago, so protection is waning.
Vulnerable seniors are worried and rightfully so. They’re waiting on this government, and they’re not getting a clear message on how they will be protected and get these much-needed boosters. The B.C. Care Providers have been calling on seniors to receive this booster shot since the beginning of September, almost two months ago. I quote from them: “We all knew this was coming. We all knew the need was coming. We were caught flat-footed.”
To the Premier, to his government, why were they caught flat-footed? Why can they not just implement this now for the seniors that need it?
Hon. A. Dix: Well, as I said in the answer to the first question, people across the long-term-care sector, across long-term care and assisted living, will receive their booster dose well in advance of December. So that is not correct, and that is not the situation that we’re facing. To date, 62 care homes have been immunized in this effort.
In addition, I’ll just say that I was asked questions directly, and I’m answering those questions directly. They will be done before then. That is what I’m saying.
People in care homes across British Columbia know that they have the protection that every worker in a care home now is vaccinated. That is not without its challenges, as all members of the House know. That’s why B.C. was first to do that, first to do single site, has provided extraordinary resources in long-term care and, as the seniors advocate report stated, has, I think — compared to the other equivalent jurisdictions in the country — the best record of protecting seniors. There is urgency in this.
This is not, I would say to the House Leader of the Opposition, a laughing matter. It’s not a laughing matter for me. It’s not a laughing matter for anybody. I say to you: we take it extraordinarily seriously. That’s why the people at Immunize B.C. — who put on, I think, what is on record as the largest immunization program in the history of the province, with enormous skill and dedication — are applying themselves to this task with that same skill and that same dedication.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Peace River South, a supplemental question.
M. Bernier: Well, the minister is correct. It’s not a laughing matter, but for this government, it seem to be a confusing matter.
The minister and this government need to get on the same page as the health authorities because the problem is that everybody is getting a different message. No wonder people are confused. No wonder seniors and family members in this province are worried.
Frankly, this government lost the public’s trust on this issue after burying the Ernst and Young report with their response to deaths in long-term care. Frankly, people don’t trust the messages coming from this government, because it’s always changing and never the same.
There’s a tragedy unfolding right now, as we’ve been talking about, in the Willingdon Care Centre, where at least ten deaths have been reported so far. Ten people have died. Those are families affected. These are people that we’re talking about, not just deaths. These are people.
The head of the B.C. Care Providers says: “If the residents there had had their booster when Alberta and Ontario were giving out their boosters, it’s highly probable this would not have happened. We’re heartsick, because we’ve been asking the Ministry of Health about boosters since the first of September.”
To the Premier, why, again, can we not do this now? Why are they failing the seniors around the province and, specifically, now at the Willingdon Care Centre?
Hon. A. Dix: I think members will know that, obviously, COVID-19 is devastating in long-term care. It’s why, from March of 2020, our government has led on this question. Our public health officer has led on this question. It’s why we’ve had, I think, compared to other jurisdictions, including the jurisdictions that have been used as examples here in this House, the best record in responding.
That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been extraordinary loss and extraordinary tragedy that everyone involved feels every single day. It’s why we put in place a single-site order to protect people in long-term care. It’s why we ensured, before all those jurisdictions that were mentioned here, that contracted long-term care homes had access to PPE. It’s why we’re ensuring today that everyone will be vaccinated — everyone — in long-term care and assisted living.
That priority and that announcement was made and initiated the day that NACI made the recommendation — the day. And 62 care homes have already received that vaccination and more to come every day.
It is a high priority for obvious reasons, and we’re going to continue to work with the same diligence that Dr. Penny Ballem and Dr. Bonnie Henry, our leaders in this effort, have put in from the beginning to ensure that everyone gets the protection they need from COVID-19.
CONSTRUCTION OF RENTAL UNITS
AND HOUSINGHUB PROGRAM
A. Olsen: Today I’m hoping to better understand this government’s perspective on housing. Does this government consider housing to be a human right?
Hon. D. Eby: I think there’s been quite a dramatic shift in government’s philosophy around housing since our CASA agreement with the Green Party that brought the NDP into government in 2017. Now, that shift was a shift from seeing housing as purely a market-driven commodity to seeing housing as a human right. That shows up in a number of aspects of our work, from our response to encampments to the speculation tax, which says that if you’re holding housing empty, you should pay more because that is costing the system more.
These are really important principles. We stand by them.
I thank the member for the question.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
A. Olsen: As I think everybody in this House knows, we have been languishing in a housing crisis since the 2017 election. This morning when I opened up my email from the Capital Daily, I read that the Canada Mortgage and Corp. report doesn’t believe that Victoria’s housing market is overpriced, even though the cost of a single-family home has increased 30 percent since pre-COVID and the average home costs 20 times the median income.
Despite this government’s 30-point housing plan, the housing market is increasingly less affordable. One response of this government was to create the B.C. HousingHub to increase the supply of affordable rental housing and home ownership through community, government, non-profit and private sector partnerships. [Applause.]
Take your victory lap. That’s good.
Billions of dollars of public money are now being used to finance new construction. It’s a smart program as long as that public investment is not just more fuel on a red-hot housing market. I’ve heard many stories that housing that is called affordable is still out of reach for many British Columbians.
Again to the Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, what specific safeguards are in place to ensure that the billions of dollars of public money that we are investing in the HousingHub are going to build non-market solutions that British Columbians can actually afford to live in?
Hon. D. Eby: Thank you to the member for the question.
First, a few numbers. B.C. Housing just released their data around housing registration. This is completed housing in the province, their September report. I’m happy to say that in 2021, year to date, 11,000 new rental housing units have opened, just since the beginning of 2021. And 2019 was the previous high, with 13,000 rental housing units opened that year.
Let me just have a look at pre-2017 here. It’s tough — an average of about 2,000 units a year. So right now we’re building five times the number of rental housing units a year. In 16 years, the previous government built 130 student housing beds. Let me just check. We’ve got four times that amount under construction at one school, BCIT — one school.
The member asked about safeguards. It’s an important question. Safeguards are important, especially when we saw what happened under the previous government and their combination of political donations and housing policy.
Safeguards are really important. We know that having a safe and effective system in place of oversight is critically important. That’s why we’ve commissioned a third-party business firm to come in and do a review of B.C. Housing safeguards. We’re working with the Office of the Auditor General to review B.C. Housing’s work, to make sure the money is going where it’s supposed to. Oversight is vital. We’re providing that in ways that we haven’t seen previously.
COVID-19 CIRCUIT BREAKER
RELIEF GRANT FOR BUSINESSES
IN NORTHERN B.C.
D. Davies: Many small businesses in the north, particularly locally owned restaurants, have been trying very hard to do the right thing as we fight this pandemic, and it has not been easy. It’s come at a cost, not just to their bottom lines but to their physical and mental health.
The new restrictions for the north add more worry to these people who are struggling to survive, struggling to pay the bills, to pay their workers.
To the Premier, will the circuit breaker grant programs be reoffered to those businesses in Northern Health facing these new restrictions?
Hon. R. Kahlon: No doubt, the last 19 months have been challenging for businesses all across this province, and this Small Business Week we pay homage to all the struggles that they’ve had. We are proud on this side of the House that we have provided the highest per-capita support for businesses and people throughout this entire pandemic.
Just in the north alone, that means $15 million has gone directly to business owners so they can pivot their businesses and navigate this challenging time. The new health restrictions that have come in place, limiting alcohol serving till 10 p.m…. Businesses can still operate in a safe way.
We’re going to continue to communicate with the local chamber and businesses on the challenges that they may have, and we’ll see how the pandemic proceeds into the future.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
The member for Peace River North, supplemental.
D. Davies: I’m not sure what I heard there, but it certainly wasn’t what business owners and small businesses across the north are wanting to hear.
Let’s look at the program that’s been rolling out for the first, second, third wave — a $156 million, of $470 million, combined small business recovery grant and the circuit breaker. That’s only a third that has been put out as of this summer. And $300 million still not put out to these businesses that need it.
We’re not talking multinational corporations here. We’re talking small businesses, ma-and-pa shops, men and women who are living in the Peace country throughout the north that are supporting their communities. It’s kind of like this government and the Premier live in a bubble that they can’t look beyond and see the issues that are out there that people are struggling with.
If you’re going to be imposing these restrictions, these businesses need support. They need these circuit breaker grants to be delivered so that they can continue to support their communities. But here we are, 20 months later. We saw the failure in the first, second and third wave of delivering these grants.
Will the Premier help out these small businesses across the north that are barely holding on by a thread?
Hon. R. Kahlon: I’ll start by saying the member’s numbers are completely off. I’m not quite sure where he’s getting his numbers from. Hon. Speaker, $526 million has gone out the door to support small businesses throughout this province, and $15 million in the region that the member’s from going directly to businesses.
We lead the country in economic recovery. We’re leading the country. We have more jobs right now than we did prior to the pandemic. It didn’t happen by accident. It’s because people followed the health guidelines led by the Minister of Health and Dr. Henry.
People are following the rules. They’re doing what they can. They’re getting vaccinated. They’re using the vaccine cards. We had a StrongerBC plan.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. R. Kahlon: A StrongerBC plan — billions of dollars of targeted supports supporting those businesses with the needs that they need, built by them because we listened to them when we built our plan. We have provided hundreds of millions of dollars of support.
Mr. Speaker: Members will listen to the answer, please. You are wasting your time.
Hon. R. Kahlon: We’re going to continue to support businesses through these challenging times.
AMBULANCE RESPONSE TIMES
AND SERVICE MANAGEMENT
T. Stone: On the evening of October 9, Kamloops resident Sue Mark was beyond worried. Her mother had fallen, and she may have broken her hip. Her mother had fainted, and her mother has a history of stroke. Sue did what anyone would do. She called for an ambulance. It took 15 minutes for that phone call to be answered, and it took two hours before the ambulance actually arrived — two hours.
Sue says: “This is unbelievable and so terrifying. A two-hour wait could have been the end for my mom.”
My question to the Premier is this. Does the Premier think it’s acceptable for a frail senior who has fallen, might have broken her hip — a senior that has fainted, a senior that has a history of strokes…? Does the Premier think it’s acceptable for that senior to have to wait two hours for an ambulance to arrive in her moment of need?
Hon. A. Dix: I think that when you call 911 and you need an ambulance urgently, you should get an ambulance urgently. That’s what I think, and that’s why, since becoming Minister of Health, other than Mental Health and Addictions, we’ve increased the budget of the Ambulance Service more than any other part of the Health Ministry. As you know, there’s significant demand across the Health Ministry.
We’ve gone from $424 million, when we started, to $559 million. We’ve seen, I think it’s fair to say, this year an unprecedented increase in stresses on our ambulance system. We are acting by increasing supports in remote communities, increasing 24-7 care in rural communities, increasing care across urban communities as well, adding ambulances, adding dispatchers and adding ambulance paramedics. I believe — and I think I share the view of the hon. member — that when people call for an ambulance, they should get one.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Kamloops–South Thompson on a supplemental.
T. Stone: The minister can sit here and rattle off all kinds of numbers and statistics. He can talk about budgets. At the end of the day, that’s cold comfort for people that have lost their lives. It’s cold comfort for the families of loved ones who have nearly lost their lives because a call doesn’t get answered for 15 minutes or an ambulance takes up to two hours to arrive.
That’s on this government. That’s this minister’s responsibility — to address those realities that are happening in our emergency system, which, frankly, Mr. Speaker, is on the verge of collapse.
Now, unfortunately, Sue’s experience is not an outlier. We are all hearing stories just like Sue’s. I’ll share a couple more quickly. On the same night in Kamloops, October 9, Elaine had this to say about her experience calling 911: “I couldn’t get through last night. I waited on hold for 30 minutes. BCEHS called me back one hour and 45 minutes later to ask if I still needed an ambulance. I was already at the hospital.”
Or Judy, who had this to say — again, about the same night in Kamloops: “I called an ambulance for my mom who was unresponsive, and I was put on hold. I called back four times, and I finally screamed: ‘Don’t put me on hold.’ It was a nightmare, an absolute nightmare.”
Mr. Speaker, what does the Premier have to say to Sue? What does he have to say to Elaine? What does he have to say to Judy and the countless other British Columbians just like them who want to know when the Premier is going to actually take the decisive action that’s required to make sure that British Columbians get the emergency services that they need when they need it?
Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the member for Kamloops–South Thompson for bringing these issues to our attention.
As the Minister of Health has already said, we have made significant investments to try and beef up a system that was clearly failing under the previous government. We have much more work to do. We have much more work to do.
It’s not dissimilar…
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
Order, please. Order.
Hon. J. Horgan: …to references to long-term care, where, prior to coming onto this side of the House, nine out of ten care facilities didn’t have sufficient staff to meet the challenges. We’ve been working on all of that. We’ve been doing it in collaboration, by and large.
To the families that the member references, I absolutely understand their complete frustration. It is unacceptable to wait that long to get emergency services wherever you may live in British Columbia. We have made that commitment since we came to government. We’re going to continue to make the investments to put….
Hon. J. Horgan: During those four years, we’ve been making investments…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. J. Horgan: …to build up the capacity. It’s all well and good to stand up in this place and say it’s not good enough, but you have to work with us to bring these issues forward in a collaborative way.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. J. Horgan: Yelling louder will not help, but keep it up. Keep it up.
Mr. Speaker: Members, when the question is asked, let’s listen to the question. When the answer is given, let’s listen to the answer, please.
K. Kirkpatrick: To be clear, the system is failing under this government.
Erin Booth, in the Premier’s home of Victoria, needed an ambulance but gave up after waiting 30 minutes on hold and took a cab. Almost two hours later, at the hospital, while she was getting prepped for a scan, she got called back, asking if she still needed an ambulance. She says: “I think our current government is really into hiding what is actually going on, trying to minimize it. There wasn’t even a triaging process, and anyone calling is going to be faced with that wait.”
People should not need to call a cab to get to their hospital, but that’s where it’s at under this Premier. So when is the Premier going to stop the talk and start providing the care people need?
Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the new member for her question.
Again, sometimes I wonder if the opposition understands…. “They just arrived a couple of days ago, and everything was fine when they got here.” It wasn’t. These are complex systems that require nurturing and care all the time. It requires investment. It requires investment not for four years, not for four months but ongoing.
That’s exactly what we’re doing: the largest investments in B.C. history, budget over budget, to increase emergency health services. That means hiring people, something they didn’t want to do. That means making sure we’re putting people in place. We’re putting infrastructure in place in the north — $66 million for air ambulance, $66 million that went to new equipment and more people. That’s what we were faced with.
I’d like to go back to the question about long-term care. The member…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. J. Horgan: …on that side of the House did not mention him by name, but the person responsible for the private care facilities is a guy named Terry Lake, who happened to be the Minister of Health for four years while that government didn’t fund long-term care. They didn’t hire enough people to do the job, and they didn’t invest in health care.
Mr. Speaker: All right. The first question is over.
Members, come to order, please.
B. Banman: Under this NDP government, under this Premier’s leadership, people are dying, literally dying, waiting for medical care.
You can blame the other side all you want. Under your watch, right now, people are dying.
Mr. Speaker: Member, through the Chair.
B. Banman: Despite record delays, despite a pandemic, this government has yet to address the bureaucratic red tape that prevents those first on the scene from saving lives. Firefighters are often the first to arrive, but they are not allowed to provide any medical help or transport people to the hospital.
The Auditor General released a report on access to emergency services in 2019 that called for government action. Recommendations of the emergency medical assistants licensing board on the expansion of firefighters’ scope of practice were due September 6. That was a month and a half ago. Right now people expect action and all hands on deck.
To the Premier: will you stop and please tell us what the recommendations are? Stop hiding behind it. Will the government table them today and act now to save lives?
Hon. A. Dix: I think the facts…. The member from Kamloops said it was unfair to talk about investments. Well, investments reflect priorities of government. When you double the investment, the rate of increase to the Ambulance Service, that reflects double the interest in real terms. That’s a significant difference.
From 2017 to 2019, 115 permanent positions added, 14 ambulances. Between January 21 this year and June 21, 271 paramedics hired, including 66 new scheduled on-call positions. On July 2, 322 new paramedic positions were rolled out across the province.
The issues that the member refers to between ambulance paramedics and firefighters have been around, as the member will know from his experience, for decades. We are dealing with it by working with firefighters, by working with ambulance paramedics. We will be responding and bringing not just reports, not just recommendations but change soon.
[End of question period.]
ROLE OF SERGEANT-AT-ARMS
Mr. Speaker: Hon. Members, I would like to advise the House that I’ll be recognizing the Government House Leader momentarily to present a motion for your consideration regarding the appointment of the next Sergeant-at-Arms.
As members will know, our Sergeant-at-Arms leads the Legislative Assembly Protective Services, which ensures our safety and security on the legislative precinct, enabling members to undertake our duties without interference or interruption, thereby ensuring the continuity of our democratic system of governance. The Sergeant-at-Arms also oversees the chamber, gallery and corridor teams and undertakes duties as prescribed in our standing orders.
The Legislative Assembly undertook an external open recruitment competition for the position of Sergeant-at-Arms. The successful candidate in this competition was Ray Robitaille.
Ray has a passion for public service and a deep respect for this institution. He joins us from a career in policing — specifically, the Calgary police service, from which he retired in 2019 at the rank of deputy chief of police. He was invested as a member of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces by the Governor General of Canada.
Ray brings with him a strong track record of leadership, and I am confident that he is very well suited to take up his new responsibilities.
Ray, welcome to the Legislative Assembly. On behalf of all members, we wish you the best as you take up the role of Sergeant-at-Arms.
I would also like to thank Greg Nelson for his service as Acting Sergeant-at-Arms since October 2019. His steady hand during a period of great change has been most appreciated.
On behalf of all members, I wish to sincerely thank Greg for his service to the Legislative Assembly in this capacity.
Hon. M. Farnworth: I seek leave to move a motion concerning the appointment of the next Sergeant-at-Arms.
Motions Without Notice
APPOINTMENT OF SERGEANT-AT-ARMS
Hon. M. Farnworth: By leave, I move, seconded by the member for Kamloops–North Thompson and the member for Cowichan Valley:
[That effective immediately, Ray Robitaille be appointed Sergeant-at-Arms.]
Orders of the Day
Hon. M. Farnworth: I call Committee of the Whole, Section B, Bill 19, Societies Amendment Act.
Committee of the Whole House
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 19; S. Chandra Herbert in the chair.
The committee met at 2:44 p.m.
On clause 1.
The Chair: We are on Bill 19, Societies Amendment Act, 2021.
Did the minister want to jump up?
Hon. S. Robinson: I look forward to going through this bill clause by clause.
I want to introduce my staff team, here to help us get through this piece of legislation. I’ve got Renée Mounteney, my assistant deputy minister. I have Andrew Avis, who is the director of business organizations, financial and corporate sector policy branch, and Maria Montgomery, who is the senior policy advisor, financial and corporate sector policy branch.
I look forward to the members’ questions.
M. Bernier: Thank you to the minister, and welcome to her staff. We’ll spend some time here going through some riveting stuff here on the Societies Act.
I know in second reading we talked about the importance of this and why the act was brought in originally. But maybe I’ll just backtrack for a moment on a few generals before we get into a few more specifics, if the minister will indulge me.
My first question is…. The original consultation that I’m aware of…. I believe the minister said, too, that it was in 2019. There was some consultation that was done about looking at maybe some of these changes that were brought forward. I guess my question is: are these changes brought forward specifically and selectively only from that consultation? Or have we learned anything through the last 18 months of the pandemic and some of the stresses or challenges that maybe the societies faced that they have maybe reached out to the ministry?
Hon. S. Robinson: Specifically to the member’s question, almost all of this is actually as a result of those consultations that were done prior to the pandemic. The member will recall that we made some legislative amendments to the Finance Statutes Amendment Act that allowed societies to hold fully electronic meetings with members and directors as a result of the pandemic. That work has already been done. This is about all that consultation and that work that had gone on prior to the pandemic.
M. Bernier: Okay. So a lot of the changes that have been brought forward, then, were based on that two-years-ago consultation. I know we’re going back a little bit, but the minister is fortunate enough to have her staff next to her maybe to help.
To put things in perspective then, when that consultation was done in 2019, what kind of feedback…? What kinds of numbers, approximately, did we have through government then? What kinds of submissions through agencies? Maybe give a bit of a cross-section.
I’m just curious on…. I mean, there are 115 sections here. As we talked about quite a few, mostly, I would say minor…. A few are significant changes. But I’m just curious. What kinds of numbers or the feedback that came in, considering there are about 29,000 societies out there…? Was it just from a few? Or was there a really a good uptake on the consultation?
Hon. S. Robinson: Thank you very much. Grateful for staff who are around to facilitate that.
Back in July, summer of 2019, the Ministry of Finance conducted a public consultation. There was a letter sent to every deputy minister inviting them and their staff who work with societies to provide feedback. Information about the consultation was posted on public government websites — the Ministry of Finance’s website, the corporate registry website and Societies Online.
An email with the consultation letter was also sent to 27,000 societies and other identified stakeholders, including members of the public and the legal community who have commented on the Societies Act. Recipients included many Indigenous friendship centres that are structured as societies here in British Columbia.
The ministry also engaged with the First Nations Summit, the Métis Nation B.C., the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. As well, both the Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government and the First Nations Summit reviewed the draft legislation. So there’s been a wholesale engagement.
Societies and public were able to provide their feedback by email to a societies consultation email account or by mail to the financial and corporate sector policy branch. What we received was over 150 responses to the public consultation from societies, from lawyers, other ministries and the public.
Many of the responses were positive, commending government for doing the consultation and proposing amendments to make the Societies Act more user-friendly. A few responses raised concerns about making amendments to a newer act. This was the basis of the consultation, as the member had requested.
M. Bernier: Too many years in a rock ‘n’ roll band. I had a hard time hearing the minister. Did she say just over a hundred people responded? She can nod if I am incorrect or if it was higher. Sorry. Maybe I’ll just have you quantify that.
Hon. S. Robinson: It was 150.
M. Bernier: Out of 27,000…. So 150 agencies. The minister talked about that going out to everyone. One of my questions then will be…. Since it is only 150 respondents…. In the past, feedback on submissions when there was a consultation like this would usually be posted publicly so people would have an opportunity to see what kind of feedback was submitted. Is that going to be happening here in this case?
Hon. S. Robinson: In response to the member’s question about reporting out…. There are no policy changes. These were more technical and housekeeping in nature. So as a result, there was no reporting out.
M. Bernier: My apologies if the minister misunderstood. It’s not from government reporting out. It’s more of…. In the past when there’s been consultation, the consultation feedback that comes to government — a lot of times through redaction or others — usually gets posted online publicly so people have an idea what kind of feedback was garnered by government through a consultation process.
My question was more: is that information going to be posted online or public? Not government responding back to them, but the information that people gave to government.
Hon. S. Robinson: Thank you very much. Perhaps I didn’t communicate my previous answer well.
As practice, we don’t communicate back what we heard on a housekeeping, technical consultation around what this consultation was about, which is more around feedback around how this legislation is working or not working and how it needs to be tweaked. It wasn’t about a large policy perspective, per se. It was more about what would make this work better and better meet the needs of societies.
Clauses 1 to 3 inclusive approved.
On clause 4.
M. Bernier: I’ll thank the minister for her last answer. I mean, there are honestly some changes in here — not many but some that we have questions on.
In section 4, we’re talking about the meeting of members and general meetings that are in here. They’re being changed. Can the minister provide an overview of the obligations, I guess, around minute-taking? How will those be facilitated now? How are those going to change with this section?
Hon. S. Robinson: This change is really about making it very clear, when reading legislation, about what the expectation is — the type of meeting for which societies must keep minutes. In this case, it’s the general meeting.
M. Bernier: When I’m reading that, though, are there any other special circumstances or any other areas where minute-taking will be required, then, under the Societies Act? Or now with this change, is it going to be just the general meetings?
Hon. S. Robinson: In this case, it is for the general meeting, unless their bylaws state otherwise, and to provide clarity.
A prime example would be when a group gets together, of the society, to plan an event. That doesn’t need to be officially minuted in the way that is required under the Societies Act. They might want to, to hold people accountable for the things that they said they would do and then don’t do. Then that’s a whole different kind of requirement.
This is for the Societies Act’s purpose. It’s for the general meeting.
Clauses 4 to 8 inclusive approved.
On clause 9.
M. Bernier: Just a quick change here in clause 9 that I’m curious about. Can the minister explain this change and why it was needed? This one here is really about reporting remuneration of only the ten most highly remunerated people within a society, if I’m reading that correctly. Can the minister explain why that recommendation came forward or why this change is needed?
Hon. S. Robinson: In short order, it’s truly about transparency. Societies are independent, democratic agencies. Members of a society must have access to the society records to ensure that the society is run appropriately, including financial decisions. So to that end, the Societies Act requires all societies to present financial statements and auditors reports to members at the annual general meeting.
To comply with the act, the financial statements must contain a note specifying any remuneration paid to directors and the cumulative remuneration paid to employees and contractors. This mandatory reporting requirement is just to help members of a society ensure that the society is spending money appropriately.
Clauses 9 to 15 inclusive approved.
On clause 16.
M. Bernier: Thank you, Chair. If there are larger groups than that of clauses, I’ll let you know. But for the next little bit, we’ll continue to do this pace, if that works for the Chair.
On clause 16, I guess the first question I have is maybe at the bottom. We’re eliminating — I’m trying to understand the rationale here — the right to vote by proxy, in this situation, for the meeting of directors. Can the minister maybe explain what kind of feedback she heard, some of the challenges with that, of why we’d now be eliminating proxy voting for directors? It looks like just for a meeting of directors, when I’m reading through the entire act and the changes, but I just want to clarify that.
Hon. S. Robinson: What this does is remove proxy voting for directors. I suspect the member opposite, perhaps, has been a director a time or two, as have I. When you think about how significant the bylaws and the liabilities to directors are, the thinking is that you need to participate in the voting in terms of the direction that society is moving in.
The Societies Act is really about appreciating and valuing the participation, so there was support in the consultation to remove this. But also, what I think is interesting now, given that there are online opportunities, the need for any proxy opportunity is further reduced because people can participate legally in a remote way now, which further adjusts our ability to do business and conduct business and be fully present without being physically in the same room.
M. Bernier: You’re reading my mind on where I wanted to go on that, then, to clarify. With technological changes — as we’ve all seen over the last, specifically, 18 months to two years — being able to use Zoom or other tech platforms for communication…. Is that specifically changed anywhere within this bill for the act, or was that already contemplated before?
The minister is nodding yes. She might want to get up and add that.
I’m just curious on…. I didn’t see any of those kinds of changes being made anywhere in this bill. So when I see that a director cannot vote by proxy, I just want to ensure that the other opportunities are there. I know a lot of societies have their own different bylaws that allow for or do not allow for technological attendance at meetings. But I’m just curious, within the act, because I didn’t see anything within this bill for change.
Hon. S. Robinson: I appreciate where the member is coming from. It’s also an “and by the way.” When this was put together, it really was the intent to make sure that people are fully present to participate in moving a society forward and that because of the liabilities to directors, they needed to engage rather than to do a proxy.
It’s with the act we changed in May, the Finance Statutes Amendment Act, where we amended…. It’s within that where we amended the Societies Act to permit societies to hold fully electronic meetings of members or directors. That really furthers this piece that says you can participate. Even now you don’t need the proxy — even less now — given that we have this change that was brought forward in May.
Clauses 16 to 18 inclusive approved.
On clause 19.
M. Bernier: On clause 19, I’m just trying to clarify a few things here. It looks like the changes are more around the conflict-of-interest portions, because we’re talking about material interests. The wording is actually adding in the words “that is known by the senior manager or reasonably ought to have been known” after the portion of “material interest.” To me, that’s the conflict-of-interest requirements and disclosure under those rules.
When the Societies Act consultation was going on, there was more of a look, if I remember, at the due diligence side of things. So I’m trying to, maybe, on this section, even though I know it’s only a couple of words being added…. I’m just wanting to give the minister an opportunity, I guess, to clarify in here. We understand its transparency. I’m trying to pinpoint now whether it’s just conflict-of-interest rules that are going to be contemplated. Are these due diligence requirements? We do mention the word “reasonableness” that’s coming in here. I’m just looking for a little bit of clarification around how the ministry sees that ruling.
Hon. S. Robinson: This particular clause clarifies that senior managers who are reasonably unaware of their conflict of interest need not disclose it, as it is impossible to disclose an interest in a matter in which the senior manager has no knowledge. The test considers conflicts of interest that are known or reasonably ought to have been known, and it makes the conflict-of-interest rules that apply to directors consistent in its application to senior managers.
M. Bernier: Just one more for clarity. Can the minister…? Obviously, some groups brought this forward. I’m trying to understand. I think the overarching concept was already in there. I understand a bit of the word tweaking. Is this more from a legal standpoint, around the reasonableness of defense in case it’s challenged legally on a…?
We talk about conflict of interest, and to the minister’s answer there, as what somebody may or may not know. I’m just kind of trying to clarify again why this change was put in. Was it more, again, from a legal standpoint just for protection of the directors in case of a legal challenge of something that took place?
Hon. S. Robinson: Again, this is around just clarifying what might be a conflict, but you can’t know it’s a conflict because you don’t have all of the information. For example, investing in a mutual fund that’s broad, but you don’t have all the specifics that might potentially be a conflict. But you don’t know because it’s in a fund. So that’s just an example of what this is trying to clarify.
Clauses 19 and 20 approved.
On clause 21.
M. Bernier: I’m glad you have good peripheral vision.
Just on clause 21, very simple. We’re changing a general meeting — some of this — from 200 to 500 words. I’m just curious. Did we throw a dart at the board? Where did 500 come? Why the change from 200 to 500? Was that a very specific request from organizations, or did they just say they wanted more opportunity to have more words on the paper when they put a request?
Hon. S. Robinson: I appreciate the member’s comment on this. I know that he is well aware that it actually takes much more skill to say something in 200 words than it does in 500 words. But the feedback from the time this was implemented was that that’s just not enough words.
So 500, I hope, should be sufficient. It’s more than double what people had been networking with before, and we expect that that should be sufficient going forward.
Clause 21 approved.
On clause 22.
M. Bernier: Another kind of very simplistic question on here. It’s just another numbers one. I’m curious where this came from. When we’re looking in this section here, we’re decreasing the number of members required for the purposes of notification from 250 to 100.
Where did that number come from? Why a hundred? Why only a hundred? This is, again, around that, like specifically around the threshold. I’m just trying to understand, because I know a lot of groups have a lot smaller, some a lot larger, but where do we come up with the hundred number for this?
Hon. S. Robinson: In this clause, we’re amending the notice of general meeting, and what this does is it allows a greater number of societies to send the notice electronically. This is about continuing to move into the modern era. It helps save money for sure, reduces the need for an envelope-stuffing party for societies.
Again, we heard feedback from many societies that being able to provide the notice electronically is time saving, and it’s cost saving. What we’re proposing to do is to lower the threshold to a hundred members.
Clauses 22 and 23 approved.
On clause 24.
M. Bernier: Yes, just another very simplistic…. I know we’re changing some numbers around. This one is adding a 500-word restriction to the combined length. Were there any difficulties with the original member-initiated proposals process, or why was this specific area wanting to be changed?
Hon. S. Robinson: This is about being consistent. In the earlier clause, where we went from 250 to 500 to demand a meeting — this is just about being consistent. If you have a proposal, it’s the same consistent word count.
Clauses 24 to 33 inclusive approved.
On clause 34.
M. Bernier: The minister mentioned earlier that I’ve always sat on a few societies or boards, as I know she has as well. There’s a section in here…. We’re talking about dissolved societies, though, and recordkeeping.
Can the minister explain, under these changes of a dissolved society, how those records are going to be maintained, or how will they be tracked by government? Where is the accountability that will lie…? Who is truly accountable, and how does the government fit into that, if a society is no longer in existence?
Hon. S. Robinson: I was just saying that I probably have records of societies that are dissolved that are probably 30 years old.
When dissolving, part of a dissolution requirement is appointing a recordkeeper, and their contact information, including their address, gets sent to the registrar of companies. They have to keep those records for three years. If there’s a change of recordkeeper within those three years, that too needs to be updated and needs to go to the registrar of companies.
M. Bernier: Just for clarity, in 152.1 it is talking about the three years, because I might be in the same position as the minister. If it’s the day after three years, can you shred everything then? Is there a requirement for government intervention to continue — the fact that those records are still carried on in some format? Or is the requirement no longer after three years on the dissolution of a society?
Hon. S. Robinson: I am very happy to tell the member that he could have a shredding party. You don’t need to keep them after three years.
Clauses 34 to 50 inclusive approved.
On clause 51.
M. Bernier: Clause 51. We’re talking now a little bit about donations coming to societies.
When there’s one that is through a will, let’s say, as we’re talking about, in some areas here, “public donations” ensures donations, upon death, do not trigger unintended regulatory consequences owing to the difference between member-funded and other societies.
It’s an interesting portion that I’m reading out there. Can the minister give an example, then, of when or how this could happen?
Hon. S. Robinson: I believe that the member is talking about testamentary dispositions. I’m much more familiar with bequests, but that’s what we’re talking about here.
What we heard from an advisory group is about expanding the pool for member-funded societies, which generally don’t accept donations, contributions, from the public. This just allows those that were previous members to provide contributions to the member-funded society.
M. Bernier: If I can, maybe in this section, too, I’ll ask. Donations are one thing. Funding coming through into societies…. We all saw, through the pandemic here, that there were some challenges, possibly, with some societies when they were looking at applying for government funding or COVID grants while they’re already having some societal government funding, possibly, and some of the challenges that they could have with that emergency aid.
I couldn’t find it, but is there anything in this that maybe helps clarify, for these societies, some of the exemptions? Because, especially in a circumstance, as we’ve seen…. We all stood in this House trying to look at ways to help organizations, employers and societies, in some conditions. But we did hear, as I think the minister probably heard as well, that some societies were unable to or worried about applying and receiving some of these emergency aids because of the Societies Act and the way that it was worded, because of restrictions through government funding.
Were any changes contemplated, or are they here somewhere that I missed?
Hon. S. Robinson: I want to express gratitude for the member’s thoroughness. We did pass a regulation this summer to exclude member-funded societies from being challenged from taking some pandemic support, recognizing that created some challenges. We addressed that through regulation this last summer.
Clauses 51 to 64 inclusive approved.
On clause 65.
M. Bernier: In section 65, we’re looking at extending the period of time for the societies to file a transition application from two years to six years. Can the….
Well, it’s great to see the Premier in here showing off his gold medal that he won in the hallway. Shiny gold medal. Yeah, he’s taking a lot of pride in that. I don’t know if he’ll give it back. Maybe I shouldn’t tell Hansard that the Premier is this excited. It’s the first time he’s won something legitimately. It’s great to see. Anyway, I digress.
On clause 65, extending from two years to six years. Can the minister explain why the change from two to six? Was there a problem, I guess, with some of the societies for that transition? Was there a problem because of outreach and support? Why are we looking at having to change it from two years? What wasn’t working before that societies were saying they needed that much more time?
Hon. S. Robinson: The member was correct in his assumption around that there is a reason for this. It’s taken a significant amount of time to get societies to transition to redo their bylaws. I know that he knows this — that they’re volunteers. The bureaucracy of making sure that everything you’re doing is by the book is not what excites people to step forward to volunteer and to deliver. Usually it’s about delivering good service, taking care of the community and providing some benefit in some way.
So it has taken some time to get all 27,000 up to speed. We have about 600 left, and by extending it, we believe we can achieve that goal. We don’t want anyone to be offside, and so this is about making sure that we can help people transition and help societies transition.
Clauses 65 to 115 inclusive approved.
Hon. S. Robinson: I just want to take a moment to thank the member for his thoughtful questions. I know that with 115 clauses, it was a significant body of work on his part. So I want to thank him for being so thorough and representing so well, and I want to thank my staff who were diligent.
With that, I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 3:30 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 19, Societies Amendment Act, 2021, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.
Hon. S. Robinson: I call Committee of the Whole, Bill 14, Early Childhood Educators Act.
Committee of the Whole House
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 14; N. Letnick in the chair.
The committee met at 3:32 p.m.
The Chair: The committee will recess for five minutes.
The committee recessed from 3:32 p.m. to 3:38 p.m.
[N. Letnick in the chair.]
Clause 11 approved.
On clause 12.
K. Kirkpatrick: In “Inspections by the registrar,” could the minister explain what would constitute or warrant entry into the facilities or the location of one of these schools? What would actually bring that on and the minister would feel it was warranted?
Hon. K. Chen: Thanks to the opposition member for continuing this discussion, and thanks for the time that she’s spending on this very important legislation.
For inspections, they are necessary to ensure that institutions are providing the necessary education and training to develop required competencies in their studies for their students. Authorities are also necessary to ensure that inspections are efficient for both the registrar and for the institution. The depth and scope of the inspection, in practice, really depend on their circumstances.
Normally, we may have an inspection upon the time of the application, during a routine visit or when there is a complaint.
K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister for that answer. It actually gives me a bit more clarity on this.
Can I confirm with the minister: is this ever warranted by a non-compliance issue, and is notification required — to give to the institution — prior to one of these on-site inspections taking place?
Hon. K. Chen: There is no requirement for notification before inspection. However, in practice, most inspections will have advance notice. There are circumstances where advance notice is not provided. This is generally only done when the advance notice would compromise the inspection.
K. Kirkpatrick: Sorry, I actually didn’t hear that very last piece that the minister said. It would come at what point?
Hon. K. Chen: Only when…. Normally, we would give advance notice. But when we don’t, this is normally only generally done because the advance notice would compromise the inspection or the investigation.
K. Kirkpatrick: In a scenario where it would compromise the investigation, am I to understand that would be a compliance issue, where there was something egregious occurring in, perhaps, quality of programs or issues where the facilities weren’t safe?
Hon. K. Chen: Yes, those are some of the examples.
K. Kirkpatrick: If there is a situation where there is a non-compliance issue where there are concerns about safety or, sometimes, about enrolment numbers not matching how many students — those kinds of things — would it not make sense to contact the investigators through the private training agency board? Is it not a duplication to have those powers vested in both organizations?
Hon. K. Chen: No, it doesn’t duplicate the work. The role of the registrar is really to focus on the competency of the programs and make sure that the program meets the requirement and the competency that’s required.
For Advanced Education, for a public institution that’s offering diplomas and certificates, they normally don’t review that part. Then for the private training institutions branch, they also don’t review the competency part. Again, we do work very collaboratively with our Advanced Education partners to ensure that we don’t duplicate the process.
K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister. Just so I can clarify. It wasn’t with respect to…. An on-site non-compliance issue, where you would actually go on site without giving notice to the institution, wouldn’t be for a curriculum issue. That would be where there was something a bit more egregious. There was a health and safety issue there. Or is that not the case?
I mean, are there…? Let me just jump to…. This is the same, but a little bit different. Regulatory reform requires you to go through this checklist to confirm that whatever you’re doing in new legislation, you’ve taken a look at how that legislation can work with other legislation so that it’s not duplicating a particular section.
It comes back to…. If there was some kind of egregious regulatory issue, why would the minister, why would MCFD, have their own — I don’t know what you call them — investigators or officers when there is already something else that exists that does that same thing for an egregious non-compliance issue with a school?
Hon. K. Chen: To clarify, Advanced Education has reviewed the draft legislation to ensure that the provisions related to both public and private post-secondary programs are aligned with and do not overlap or interfere with Advanced Education programs and their existing authorities for post-secondary institutions.
No concerns were raised during this collaborative process. Advanced Education and MCFD will continue to collaborate on the development of the regulations that we’ll be bringing into the Early Childhood Educators Act when it’s brought into force.
Also, just to clarify on the health and safety part, the registrar is really focused on the competency of the programs. The health and safety is to ensure…. The competency of the programs and the students and the quality of education will ensure the health and safety of the children that they care for. In terms of the health and safety of the institution or the students, that’s really under Advanced Education.
Clauses 12 to 18 inclusive approved.
On clause 19.
K. Kirkpatrick: “Actions relating to approved programs.” To the minister, could you give an example of a circumstance when the registrar would suspend or cancel a program approval, yet that program would still be registered under the Ministry of Advanced Education?
Hon. K. Chen: If the program no longer offers curriculum that covers the required competencies, students graduating from the program are no longer eligible for the provincial certification. If the program is not willing or able to update their curriculum to meet the standards and come into compliance, the registrar may suspend or cancel the program’s approval. Again, that being said, as we discussed before, if the student already graduated when the program was still eligible, then they continue to be eligible.
Suspension may also include a condition that lifting of the suspension will not occur until such time as the curriculum is updated to meet the requirement. Suspension or cancelling a program is really the most restrictive action the registrar can take and would be taken in situations where the issues of non-compliance are serious and the program is unable or unwilling to come into compliance, which doesn’t really happen very often.
Also, just to clarify, the registrar’s job is to make sure that the program meets the competency under the ECE registry. The program is eligible for registration under the ECE registry, but they can still be approved by the PTI or Advanced Education.
K. Kirkpatrick: Does the registrar have a duty to or an expectation that they will notify the Ministry of Advanced Education when an ECE school’s program is cancelled or suspended?
Hon. K. Chen: Yes. The registrar’s office will normally work with the institution and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training to support and reduce the impact on students.
Clauses 19 to 23 inclusive approved.
On clause 24.
K. Kirkpatrick: The registrar is able to exempt a person or a program from the requirements of this act. Would the minister be able to give an example of something that might be exempted either for a person or for a program?
Hon. K. Chen: Yes. For example, for individuals living in rural and remote communities where there is a shortage of certified early childhood educators, the experience requirement could be a barrier to registration. The registrar could, based on a situation, grant an exemption in the circumstances such as….
For example, the requirement to complete the 500 hours of work experience under the direct supervision of a Canadian-certified ECE could be reconsidered or waived.
K. Kirkpatrick: Just to clarify, that was for an individual ECE licensee. Does this also apply to exemptions that could be provided to some of the training institutions or universities?
Hon. K. Chen: Yes. We will be working really closely with Advanced Education and institutions to make sure there is engagement and consultation. That will occur during the drafting of the regulations to make sure we look at potential scenarios.
Clauses 24 to 53 inclusive approved.
On clause 54.
K. Kirkpatrick: This is a clarification just to, actually, help me understand how this works, then. It’s related…. This is an amendment or a change. Or it’s an addition.
The question is related to criminal record checks, where an ECE worker is required to have a criminal record check. Currently, they need to have a criminal record check specific to a particular employer so that there isn’t, as I understand it, the ability for flexibility for an ECE worker to work at different child care facilities unless they had a CRC specific to that child care facility.
Will this replace the fact that with the registrar now, they are having a criminal record check which has to be updated? Will that replace the need for the individual criminal record checks at each of the employers?
Hon. K. Chen: During the drafting of the regulations — that’s going to have a lot more details to this legislation — we’re going to be working really closely with PSSG and Ministry of Health to look at how we can ensure there are no duplications and burdens on early childhood educators and employers, while ensuring that we are protecting the health and safety of young children.
K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you to the minister and her staff for the answer to that question.
This is more a statement. That would be a really great thing, because I know that it does stifle some flexibility and people being able to cover other shifts at other places.
So end my questions on this bill.
Clauses 54 to 57 inclusive approved.
Hon. K. Chen: I now move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 4:04 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Reporting of Bills
BILL 14 — EARLY CHILDHOOD
Bill 14, Early Childhood Educators Act, reported complete without amendment.
Mr. Speaker: When shall the bill be read a third time? We are waiting for the minister, right?
Member for Abbotsford West.
M. de Jong: I beg your and the House’s indulgence. I see that my neighbour from across the river is back in her post. She was welcomed by members of her caucus back to these proceedings just prior to question period, but it is very good to see her up and about. I don’t know if that’s her office or her home — I’m sure they’re both equally well laid out — but it’s very good to see her up and about with a smile on her face.
Third Reading of Bills
Bill 14, Early Childhood Educators Act, read a third time and passed.
Hon. N. Cullen: Mr. Speaker, I’m wondering if we could take a ten-minute recess to allow the minister to approach for Bill 21.
Mr. Speaker: The House will be in recess for ten minutes.
The House recessed from 4:08 p.m. to 4:17 p.m.
[N. Letnick in the chair.]
Second Reading of Bills
Hon. D. Eby: I move the bill be now read a second time.
This bill includes amendments to the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act. The proposed amendments will clarify and improve provisions in the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act that prescribe standards of review to be applied by the courts in judicial reviews of decisions made by the civil resolution tribunal.
Currently the standard of review provisions rely on cross-referencing between the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act and the Administrative Tribunals Act. However, this cross-referencing has led to uncertainty and confusion about how these provisions are supposed to function in the context of the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act. Proposed amendments would clarify this issue by encoding provisions that prescribe standards of review for judicial review of this tribunal’s decisions directly in the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, rather than adopting them by cross-reference.
The proposed amendments reflect the language of the Administrative Tribunals Act as closely as possible with respect to the standards of review prescribed by statute. This approach is meant to promote consistency and to signal that the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act standard of review provisions should be interpreted in the same way as their equivalent provisions from the Administrative Tribunals Act.
The Offence Act amendments in this bill respond to requests from modern treaty First Nations to support the law-making and enforcement authority granted to them under their representative final agreements. Each final agreement with Tsawwassen First Nation, Maa-nulth First Nations and Tla’amin Nation, respectively, provides the authority and responsibility for the First Nation to enforce their laws, and to prosecute offences under their laws in accordance with the summary conviction proceedings of the Offence Act in Provincial Court.
The proposed amendments will provide clarity within provincial law that violation tickets issued by treaty First Nations for offences under their laws can be disputed in B.C. Provincial Court under the summary conviction proceedings of the Offence Act.
Under the framework created by this bill, treaty First Nation laws will continue to govern the issuance, service and process to dispute a ticket issued for a violation of treaty First Nation law. One of the purposes of the amendments is to clarify that the procedures under the Offence Act will apply once the Provincial Court receives notice that a person is disputing a violation ticket.
This bill and the underlying policy work were developed in close partnership with treaty First Nations. An important aspect of the bill is that existing and future treaty First Nations will be able to choose whether to access the Provincial Court for disputes of violation tickets issued under their laws. The need for the legislation to be optional for treaty First Nations was determined through the partnership. Overall, this bill reflects government’s recognition of, and commitment to, self-government and self-determination of Indigenous peoples.
This bill also contains provisions related to the Victims of Crime Act. The Victims of Crime Act is being amended in this bill as part of the aforementioned Offence Act. This amendment will clarify that a victim surcharge levy will not be payable on treaty First Nations violation tickets.
This bill also includes proposed amendments to the Representative for Children and Youth Act, which I’ll refer to as the RCYA. The RCYA is the enabling statute of the Representative for Children and Youth, an independent officer of the Legislature. The statute sets out the appointment, functions and powers of the representative. The amendments respond to some of the recommendations of the last statutory review of the act undertaken by the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth. Some recommendations have been addressed previously through regulatory changes, and others will be considered in the future.
The amendments in this bill will enable a greater number of vulnerable young adults to benefit from the advocacy assistance offered by the representative for access to specific government programs. A new definition of “included adult,” which replaces the term “young adult,” will expand the eligibility criteria for receiving assistance from the representative. Specifically, the age requirement will be expanded by three years, and other criteria will be broadened and simplified. The amendments will also clarify a statutory definition in relation to the representative’s functions respecting children.
This bill also proposes amendments to the Safety Standards Act. This act governs high-risk technical equipment such as gas and electrical systems, boilers, elevators and mechanized amusement rides. The proposed amendment aims to increase public safety by addressing a critical safety imperative related to trampoline parks and other similar non-mechanized amusement devices. By adding amusement devices as a regulated product under the act, government will be able to establish regulations and adopt standards and codes for the safe operation and enjoyment of these amusement experiences. The goal is to give British Columbians confidence that fun family activities are also safe activities.
The bill contains proposed amendments to the Adoption Act and the Child, Family and Community Service Act, which I will refer to as CFCSA. These amendments include three objectives.
First, allow information-sharing under the Adoption Act to support First Nation adoptees to register for status under the federal Indian Act. The ministry previously disclosed adoption information to Indigenous Services Canada under a memorandum of understanding. However, legal counsel advised that amendments to the Adoption Act were needed to establish legal authority to share information for this purpose. This amendment will help about 30 adoptees each year who rely on the province to provide adoption information to support their status applications.
A second objective — to ensure the continued use of virtual technology to deliver services under the CFCSA after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. The pandemic has changed how services are delivered, such as child protection mediation, and how the ministry communicates with children and families. Virtual communication tools such as Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams have allowed the ministry to continue providing services in a safe way.
However, confidentiality requirements under the CFCSA limit how these tools may be used to deliver alternative dispute resolution services. The amendments clarify confidentiality requirements under the CFCSA to ensure that virtual communication tools can be used to facilitate alternative dispute resolution services safely and accessibly.
The final objective is to align the CFCSA with the information-sharing requirements of the federal Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families, which I will refer to as the federal act. Currently information can only be shared for the purposes of the CFCSA.
This is proposed to be resolved in the bill by creating two clear authorities in the CFCSA: the authority for the ministry to enter coordination agreements and information-sharing agreements under the federal act and the authority for CFCSA directors to share information as necessary for the administration of the federal act or an Indigenous child and family services law. This allows directors and social workers to share information with Canada, Indigenous governing bodies and Indigenous peoples so that we can implement the intent of the federal act.
Under the amendments, CFCSA directors are required to share information with Indigenous governing bodies where there is an agreement in place under the federal act. Where there isn’t an agreement, directors have the discretion to share information for the purposes of the federal act but also under Indigenous laws. Most Indigenous laws don’t have the force of federal law yet, so the legislation ensures there is flexibility in implementing the intent of the federal act. These proposed amendments will improve access to information and enhance service delivery to those involved in the child welfare system, who are disproportionately children, women and Indigenous peoples.
Proposed amendments to the Oil and Gas Activities Act will enable the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission to exempt a permit holder from requirements under the Dormancy and Shutdown Regulation and impose conditions with respect to that exemption. The Dormancy and Shutdown Regulation imposes timelines on the cleanup of oil and gas well sites in British Columbia.
There are cases where an exemption from the requirements may be needed. For example, if there is unforeseen equipment failure, the commission would need to provide a permit holder with more time to comply. An exemption with conditions can also be used to modify the standard requirements to improve efficiency, minimize unnecessary surface disturbance and increase the overall rate of restoration. The proposed amendment will support the timely restoration of well sites by providing flexibility for circumstances that cannot be effectively addressed in regulations.
This bill also includes proposed amendments to the Treaty First Nation Taxation Act. These amendments will establish a regulation-making power to provide or enable time-limited property tax exemptions for eligible treaty members or constituents for property on eligible treaty lands of a taxing treaty First Nation. This amendment supports broader work with treaty First Nations on property taxation policy issues.
In the absence of other measures, a change in a treaty member’s taxation status following the expiry of a treaty’s transitional tax exemption has the potential to create adverse consequences for the administration and enforcement of a taxing treaty First Nation’s property taxation system. This amendment provides a mechanism for taxing treaty First Nations to temporarily maintain the property taxation status quo on their treaty lands while the broader treaty property tax work is underway. It was prepared collaboratively and in consultation with all of the treaty First Nations. It is also consistent with government’s commitments under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
The Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act’s proposed amendments are proposed to correct technical issues in the 2019 amendments made to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. The act was amended in May 2019 to regulate lenders of high-cost credit products, such as high-interest loans. The framework has not yet been brought into force.
The proposed amendments clarify provisions affecting borrower cancellation rights around holidays. Transitional provisions are also being updated so the legislation properly applies to new and existing agreements. The amendments will ensure that the legislation functions as intended when brought into force. Housekeeping amendments are also being made to update language based on current style conventions.
Finally, amendments to the Passenger Transportation Act will postpone the special committee appointment date under the Passenger Transportation Act to on or before July 1, 2023. Currently, section 42.1(1) of the PTA requires the Legislative Assembly to appoint a special committee by January 1, 2022, to conduct a review of the passenger-directed transportation industry, which includes taxi and ride-hail companies.
Due to the pandemic, the industry has not been operating in a normal state. Many operators have suspended or reduced services due to restrictions on non-essential travel and gatherings since B.C. declared a public health emergency in March 2020. Postponing the appointment of the special committee provides the passenger-directed transportation industry time to normalize its operations as the economy recovers and will enable the committee to review industry data that is representative of a normal operating state.
M. de Jong: On Bill 21, a misc statutes amendment act, I think, as the House is generally aware, the usual practice is to explore this in far greater detail in the committee stage.
[S. Chandra Herbert in the chair.]
It’s called a miscellaneous statutes amendment bill, which doesn’t mean the matters being dealt with in its provisions aren’t significant and aren’t important. It does refer to the fact that rather than being an entire bill focusing on one area of public policy, in this case, there are six parts dealing with a range of public policy areas.
I’m going to, in the time I have this afternoon, attempt to do what I usually do with these kinds of bills, and that is to alert the Attorney General and his colleagues, other ministers, and undoubtedly the staff that track these debates to some of the issues that we intend to explore further at committee stage, and hopefully that will be helpful to the Attorney and his colleagues in terms of preparing and seeking the information that would be relevant to that discussion.
In the first part of the bill, we have heard amendments to the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act. The Attorney has alluded to the fact that there are not huge substantive changes in the law here but merely an incorporation into the act of language found elsewhere, in the Administrative Tribunals Act. But I will want to canvass with him whether that causes any substantive changes. I suppose, more particularly, in the time that the tribunal has been operating, have any issues arisen that have prompted the introduction of this amendment?
The amendments to the Offence Act are interesting, and I’ll say to the Attorney General that when we come to that part of the committee stage debate, it might be helpful for us to deal with that — and I’ll ask him to deal with it — by pointing to examples, reminding people that we have First Nations in the province who are treaty First Nations, being clear about who they are, where they’re located, where these amendments are significant. Amendments that relate to the issuance and adjudication of violation tickets by treaty First Nations and the manner in which they’re adjudicated are of more than just passing interest.
Rather than deal with them in the abstract, I hope the Attorney is able to walk the committee through what will take place following passage and enactment of these provisions and how they represent the drawing down of authorities and jurisdictions agreed upon in the comprehensive final agreements signed by the First Nations who are defined as treaty First Nations.
The legislation also deals with amendments to the Safety Standards Act, and I am aware, as I think many members of the House are, of some of the tragic circumstances that have led to the decision to refer to amusement devices.
I’m going to make this suggestion to the Attorney. I’m not sure he will agree with it, and even if he does, I’m not sure he’ll be in a position to follow up. This is one of those sections where the government has decided, and this is not unique to this government, to add a term, to add a regulatory power — in this case, relating to amusement devices. It’s a term that’ll ultimately have to be defined. It would be very useful — I know the good work that takes place within the offices of leg. council — if the government and the sponsoring minister were to bring in a draft of that regulation, because it can alleviate a lot of concern. It can alleviate a lot of uncertainty.
I think everyone will understand that today, in advance of debate, let alone passage of the particular provisions, there wouldn’t necessarily be a final regulation ready to go, but it’s pretty clear that the government has something specific in mind here, and the people involved in the amusement business…. The Attorney has referred to trampolines and trampoline parks, but he’s also, in just his second reading remarks, included reference to a definition that could capture a whole lot more than just trampolines or trampoline parks.
In part 2, I suspect some of my colleagues will want to explore the relationship between the provincial Adoption Act, First Nations and the federal Indian Act and, of course, the nature of the consultation that led to these changes in what has, over the years, always been a very difficult area in which to take good intentions, which there has been no shortage of, and codify them in a way that best protects the safety and the interests and the well-being of children in British Columbia, including, with respect to these amendments, Aboriginal children.
Part 3 of the legislation refers to amendments to Energy, Mines. My colleague, I’m sure, will have some questions about the implications of those amendments, the additional authority that will be granted to the Oil and Gas Commission and what the rationale is, on the part of the government, for advancing those particular amendments today.
The next part of the bill, dealing with finance amendments. These relate specifically to the treaty First Nations and the granting, the authority they have — again, I presume, and we’ll want to confirm this with the sponsoring minister — drawing on the powers and authorities and jurisdictions afforded them in the final treaty agreements signed with the Crown in Right of the Province of British Columbia and the Crown in Right of the Government of Canada not so many years ago.
The minister will, I hope, be in a position to explain the circumstances in which the utilization of those powers — the exemption, the property tax exemptions that they contemplate for, I believe, two years — might come into play.
Part 5 relates to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. We have heard in second reading the Attorney General acknowledge that these touch upon amendments that were introduced, debated and passed in this House some two years ago and then never enacted.
I hope whichever minister on the government side of the House is responsible for answering questions on this matter will anticipate the obvious question, which is: what happened? The House passed amendments two years ago that have not been enacted. What was the problem? When did the problem become apparent, and how do these amendments address that problem, if at all? And when should we anticipate, if they pass, as I suspect they will…? When does the government plan to enact them?
Finally, the provisions of the bill dealing with the Passenger Transportation Act and the postponement of the appointment of the special committee of the Legislature to review passenger-directed vehicle services and transportation network services. The delay, for reasons we have already heard, may well be justified, but I’m sure a few of my colleagues will want to explore the rationale for the delay with the minister.
As part of that discussion, I would think the minister would want to be prepared for questions, general questions, relating to an update on the evolution of passenger-directed vehicle services and the impact it has had already, with respect to other parts of the transportation services network, including the taxi industry.
It may well be. I expect we will hear about how it is difficult to draw absolute conclusions from a period of time when people have not been moving about to the extent that they frequently do and the impact the pandemic has had on businesses relating to the movement of people. Nonetheless, I think it would be helpful for the minister to anticipate questions relating to the present status of that passenger-directed vehicle service sector.
I expect — well, not expect. I suppose it’s my job to advise the House that the opposition, as is generally the case on a bill of this sort, will register its questions and concerns in the committee stage and is pleased to facilitate second reading passage now to allow us to get to committee stage as quickly as possible.
S. Furstenau: I’m delighted to take a few minutes to speak to the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2).
As my colleague from Abbotsford West has gone through many of the pieces of this bill as well as the Attorney General…. There are amendments to the Adoption Act, the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, the child and family service act — among many others — and Passenger Transportation Act.
The piece that we are going to be most interested in canvassing questions about in committee stage, obviously, is the amendments to the Oil and Gas Activities Act. One of the reasons we’ll be asking questions is…. I listened quite closely to the minister just now as he spoke about it. He essentially repeated the government communications on this act. I’ll read it, and I’ll explain part of my confusion.
It says that amendments to the Oil and Gas Activities Act will provide the Oil and Gas Commission with enabling powers to exempt oil and gas development permit holders from requirements of the Dormancy and Shutdown Regulation in circumstances that merit it — obviously, we’re going to want to understand that a bit more closely — and to impose conditions on the exemptions. The Dormancy and Shutdown Regulation requires permit holders to clean up oil and gas well sites within prescribed time periods. The exemption power will support the timely restoration of well sites by providing flexibility to address technical issues, minimize unnecessary surface disturbance and improve efficiency.
So there is a little bit of an Orwellian twist in here, which is that we’re going to allow the Oil and Gas Commission to give exemptions on the timelines that are required of companies to clean up dormant wells, and somehow that will make the cleanup more timely and efficient.
I think it’s good to put this into a little bit of context. This is an article from May of 2020. I’ve also got a couple here from earlier this year about…. As we know, the federal government provided funds to clean up many of the dormant wells as part of the COVID funding that came out in 2020, a $100 million fund aimed at cleaning dormant oil and gas wells in British Columbia.
I think that it’s important to have it on the record and for the House to know and for the public to know that currently there are somewhere in the order of 25,000 oil and gas well sites in British Columbia. That number is going to rise significantly because of the decision of this government to help LNG Canada go forward with its plans to massively expand LNG production in this province at a time when we’re in a climate emergency. But to produce that LNG, it’s going to be a whole lot of fracking in the northeast of B.C. So it’s good to understand this, make these connections.
We currently have about 25,000 oil and gas well sites. About 7,700 are dormant, meaning that they have been inactive for five consecutive years, unlikely to return to service. So 30 percent of wells are dormant.
Dormant wells are one thing. Another thing is orphan wells. These are wells that are dormant, but the companies that own the rights to the drilling have either gone bankrupt or are unable to clean up the wells. We had about 348. That doubled because Ranch Energy, a Calgary-based company, went bankrupt. So another 300 to 400 were added.
What is the problem with this? The problem is, I think, well explained by Julia Levin. She’s the climate and energy program manager for Environmental Defence. She’s concerned that most of B.C.’s funding, this $100 million that we got, was earmarked for dormant sites that likely still have owners rather than to clean up the fast-growing orphan wells.
Ultimately, what this comes down to is still-viable companies being able to get government funds, taxpayer funds, to clean up well sites after they’ve extracted not just the gas but the profit. So it is a kind of privatizing of profit and socializing of the cleanup. So in addition to what we learned two weeks ago from the oil and gas royalties review report that came out, the public has not been particularly benefiting from oil and gas extraction in this province for quite a while, and those benefits have actually decreased while the capacity for oil and gas companies to claim credits against the revenues that they would owe to government have steadily increased.
The Premier himself indicated, of course, this is going to take serious looking at, but the reality is that we have a situation in British Columbia where companies have been able to extract oil and gas, leave a dormant site or an orphan site and then benefit from public money to do the cleanup that should have been part of their job all along.
Instead of an amendment to the Oil and Gas Activities Act that further provides flexibility — which I’m a bit nervous about and will be canvassing at committee stage — I think what the public would like to see is an amendment to the Oil and Gas Activities Act that would ensure that any company that’s doing any drilling is actually putting the costs up front for the cleanup.
It’s a public resource. It’s a cost to our environment. It’s a cost to our air and water. If a company wants to do that, the role of government, the role of regulating agencies, should be protection of public interest. To achieve that, if you want to have access to this public resource, here are all of the costs up front that you’re going to have to put in place so that when you are done extracting the oil and gas, done extracting your profits, you don’t get to just leave or leave your site dormant and then wait until public funding comes along and helps you clean up.
It is disappointing to see that this amendment to the Oil and Gas Activities Act doesn’t really address a very serious problem we have that 30 percent of wells in the province are dormant wells needing cleanup. It doesn’t address this very serious and growing problem of orphan wells. It doesn’t ensure that the responsibility is clear and laid out and expected of any company that is doing business with the public resourcing in British Columbia and that the public interest is put first and foremost.
I will be looking forward to asking many questions about this at committee stage and interested to hear what those answers will be.
Hon. B. Ma: I am pleased to be able to rise in order to speak to the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2021, introduced in the Legislative Assembly on October 7, 2021.
This miscellaneous statutes act, as people know, includes amendments to many different statutes. We have the Adoption Act; the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act; the Child, Family and Community Service Act; the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act; the Offence Act; the Oil and Gas Activities Act; the Passenger Transportation Act; the Representative for Children and Youth Act; the Safety Standards Act; and the Treaty First Nations Taxation Act as well.
The portion of the bill that I’m going to be speaking to today will be the Passenger Transportation Act. For those who are viewing this very exciting program from their homes, the Passenger Transportation Act piece is part 6 of Bill 21. In my package, it’s on page 14. I’m not sure if people following from home will know that it’s also on their page 14. It is titled “Part 6 — Transportation and infrastructure amendments.”
The change is quite simple. We are seeking to strike out, from section 42.1 of the Passenger Transportation Act…. We are amending it by striking out “January 1, 2022,” and substituting “July 1, 2023.”
Some information about why we are going with this change here. Currently section 42.1 of the Passenger Transportation Act requires the Legislative Assembly to appoint a special committee by January 1, 2022, to assess the impacts of taxi modernization and the introduction of app-based ride-hail services, also known as transportation network services, and the impacts of that on the transportation network industry. This industry includes taxis, limos, app-based ride-hailing, intercity bus, tour and shuttle companies.
This amendment will postpone the special committee appointment date under the Passenger Transportation Act to on or before July 1, 2023. The committee is mandated to conduct a substantial review, including whether the Passenger Transportation Act has promoted an adequate supply of passenger-directed vehicles, including accessible vehicles; whether it promotes passenger and driver safety; and its impacts on public transportation, traffic congestion and the environment.
For those members who I am absolutely sure are aware…. Shortly after app-based ride-hailing services launched, the province had to declare a public health emergency, due to the spread of COVID-19. So this pandemic has greatly impacted the passenger-directed transportation industry and substantially reduced demand for services for quite some time.
Those demands for services are now starting. We’re starting to see a rise, but many operators have suspended or reduced services due to restrictions on non-essential travel and gatherings. As such, a special committee will be quite compromised in its ability to adequately assess the impacts of taxi modernization and the introduction of ride-hail on the passenger transportation industry.
For example, as part of this review, the committee will need to rely on industry data, which does not yet show a normal operating state. Also, many operators had not yet implemented new data collection requirements before the pandemic hit, so the data set that we currently have is incomplete. Postponing the appointment of the special committee provides industry more time to normalize its operations as the economy recovers and will enable the committee to review industry data that is more representative of a more normal operating state.
Now, this shouldn’t be too controversial of a change. Referring to the Transportation Network Services report that we produced in 2019…. In March of 2019, I was very pleased to be able to chair the Select Standing Committee on Crown Corporations that was assigned to take a look at transportation network services and transportation network companies. The discussion of delaying the review actually…. There was actually a discussion about delaying the review.
For those who are following us from home who aren’t familiar with the select standing committee process, it is an all-party committee consisting of members from all the different political parties. There were New Democrat members. There were B.C. Liberal members. There were also B.C. Green members. Together we worked very well, cooperatively and collaboratively, to produce a unanimous consensus report. All of the recommendations in the report were agreed upon on a consensus basis by all members.
On page 4 of my report, on the last paragraph of this page, I will read out: “The committee acknowledged that the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act, 2018, provides for a review of regulations in 2022 and is supportive of reviewing the industry to assess impacts. The committee discussed delaying the initiation of a review of transportation network services until 2023, to ensure that data is representative of a normal operating state and that government has a full understanding of any associated impacts.”
It is interesting or worthwhile to note that this report was actually produced before the pandemic. Even back then, prior to our knowledge of the pandemic, committee members of this committee had already identified that a delayed review may be preferable.
Going back to this report, I’ll also read out the rest of the paragraph, which was: “The committee also extolled the merits of including local governments in the review of transportation network services to help provide a better understanding of regionally specific impacts. A well-timed review would provide an opportunity to update the regulatory framework to ensure that transportation network services benefit the public and that any unforeseen impacts of the industry are managed.”
The recommendation that was produced — it was recommendation 3 on page 5 of the report — read: “Do not begin the ‘review by special committee’ process stipulated in section 42.1 of the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act, 2018, earlier than 2023.”
This amendment, through the miscellaneous bill — the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2021 — is actually quite consistent with the recommendation that was produced by the committee two years ago, two-and-a-half now. I don’t expect that that change will be very controversial.
Before I close my remarks on this section of the miscellaneous statute bill, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the people who have been working in the transportation industry. Certainly, COVID-19 has changed a lot about our lives and the way that we live our lives and conduct business on a day-to-day basis, and we know that COVID-19 has certainly had a financial impact on many people who work in the transportation industry, whose livelihoods have relied for decades on this career.
With ride-hail services like taxis and app-based transportation network services having been designated an essential service very early on, the people in this sector have played a very vital role in ensuring British Columbians can continue to get groceries, medicine and health care supplies, as well as transport other essential service workers safely to where they need to be.
I want to extend my personal thanks and gratitude to these drivers on behalf of myself, as well as the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. We know that this has been an incredibly stressful time. I know that many taxi and ride-hail companies continue and their workers continue to work under very difficult conditions to ensure the public can continue to access essential services.
I also want to recognize the financial impact COVID-19 has had on those who work in this industry itself. A recent report by Dr. Dan Hara has shown a significant decline in passenger volumes in the industry, with taxis showing a large reduction in trips compared to pre-COVID. This is something we’re monitoring very closely as we’re concerned for the livelihoods of those who work in the industry and for those who depend on the services that are provided by this industry.
We’ve been working with partners at all levels across government and industry to mitigate the financial impact that the pandemic has had and to put supports in place. Some of these supports include a regulatory change that allowed companies with expiring passenger transportation licences between April 1, 2020 to June 1, 2021 to defer renewal and associated fees.
The ministry also reduced its annual $100 licence renewal fee, per vehicle, for taxis to $50 and placed a licence fee cap of $5,000 for taxi operators with fleets of more than 100 vehicles. In addition, many industry members were eligible for the B.C. small and medium-sized business recovery grant, which ran until July 2, 2021.
Outside of the taxi and ride-hail industry, we’ve also provided funding for both the air passenger and intercity bus sectors to support them during extremely challenging economic times. We know that COVID-19 has touched all aspects of our lives and our economy, and in this challenging time, we commit to those who work in this sector that we will continue to support this work and the workers that depend on that sector.
With that, there are not very much more words that I can add to speaking about this section of the miscellaneous bill, and I anticipate there may be others who may wish to add more of their voices to this section or other sections of the bill. With that, I’m looking around to see if any of my colleagues are very interested in this bill, but I will have to take my seat because I’ve run out of words.
D. Coulter: I am particularly excited. This is my first miscellaneous statutes bill that I get to speak to. This is some good stuff here. As always, I’m excited to speak in the House. I think, since the return of the Legislature this fall, this is my first time that I get to speak, and I’m very excited that more of my colleagues can be here instead of just 20 or 25 people. It’s great to actually speak to real, live people instead of just into the camera at home.
I think the one section I want to talk about right now is the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. Government continues to work to protect financially vulnerable people from predatory lending practices. Amendments to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act will update provisions pertaining to high-cost credit products such as high-interest loans and lines of credit. These changes will clarify borrower cancellation rates around holidays and update transitional provisions.
For folks in my riding, the median income is $68,000. It’s a working-class riding, and there are a lot of people who make a lot less than that and rely on some of these high-interest loans to make it between paydays. I think that that has only been exacerbated with COVID. It is very hard for folks to get out from underneath high-interest loans if they’re using them to try and make it to their next paycheque, so I think this amendment is needed. I’m glad that the Attorney General has brought this forward.
These amendments will enable the enactment of 2019 legislation to regulate high-cost credit products. Once enacted, the new regulatory framework will establish licensing requirements for high-cost credit providers. That’s very important. We need to have some sorts of licensing requirements and regulation on high-cost credit providers.
I’m very happy about this bill. I think it’s going to be very good for my constituents, especially the folks that are working poor in my constituency. I’m happy also that it’s going to strengthen consumer protections for borrowers and improve affordability for the most financially vulnerable people in B.C. That’s very important. A lot of my constituents fall into that category, so I’m very, very happy that this statute is happening.
Maybe I’d like to speak about the Passenger Transportation Act. Under the act, the Legislative Assembly was required to appoint a special committee to conduct a review of the passenger transportation industry. That was supposed to happen by January 1, 2022, but the industry hasn’t been operating as normal, obviously, from COVID. This committee wouldn’t be able to speak well to the industry, as it is not operating normally.
The proposed amendment will postpone the appointment date by 18 months, which I think is appropriate, to July 1, 2023. This will give folks that will be on the committee time to view the business, the transportation industry, as it’s operating in normal times. I’m excited about that part too.
This is my first miscellaneous statutes act, I will say, and I don’t have a heck of a lot more to say about it, other than I’m very happy that I was able to speak to this today.
S. Cadieux: Well, this is quite something. We have a miscellaneous statutes bill that we’re debating, and member after member is getting up, trying desperately to find something to say about it.
As our critic stated in his remarks, there’s nothing very controversial here. We’ve got some questions. We’ll go through them at committee. That’s how we do this. We’re not against the bill, yet we’re going to spend the rest of today watching government members get up and discuss, well, as the last two members have said, not very much. “I don’t have much more to say.”
Well, I have a few things to say. I mean, the Minister of State for Infrastructure is the former chair of the ride-hailing committee and felt the need to bring that up, but I agree with her. She’s trying to defend the misc stats bill and spend some time on it here. Why? Because we have nothing else to do today. Government’s legislative agenda is so light that we have nothing else to do today.
Well, except one thing, Mr. Speaker. There are private members’ bills on the books, and we could be debating those. We could be debating equal-pay legislation, legislation that this government promised in the election last fall but has not bothered to bring forward in their own bill. They could debate mine. I’ve given them four versions now over the last four years. We could be doing that. The reality is that the government doesn’t have anything to do. So we’re here, and member after member of that government will get up and find something to talk about in the miscellaneous statutes bill.
I find it fascinating, because the new government has a lot of new female MLAs. I applaud that. I think that’s fantastic, and I’m happy that they’re here in this House. I would think, though, that those same members, if this situation were reversed, would be on the front lawn of this Legislature protesting how we could possibly be debating miscellaneous statutes for the rest of the day when equal pay for women is sitting on the books, ready to be debated. But we’re not, and it’s fascinating, absolutely fascinating.
The minister of state got up and talked about: “This is so important that we’re…. It’s so good that we’re going to delay this.” There’s nothing controversial about delaying the date. As she said, the committee recognized it might be too soon. It’s no big deal. What is kind of interesting is that the minister of state gets to talk about it after the government basically ignored the whole report. But I digress. We are here, trying to find something to say about a miscellaneous statutes bill that nobody has any issue on, because government has not bothered to introduce legislation of any substance for us to debate.
That says something. I would hope that government will see that there’s something else we could do today. There’s a piece of legislation on the books that we could all agree on. Theoretically, we’ve been told, government agrees on equal pay for women. They agree so wholeheartedly that they promised it in the election. Well, let’s get it done. Call the bill. Let’s get it done.
M. Dykeman: Thank you to the member opposite for their comments. I was really excited. It’s a big day when I bring out the Post-it Notes. I have quite a bit to say. I’m glad that it’s not controversial, but I still think it’s always important for people to have the opportunity to speak in the House about the good work that’s being done — so much so that I’ve tabbed them from one to four, and I’ve even used different coloured ones.
The first one I wanted to talk about was the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act. It is the first online dispute resolution tribunal that can resolve strata property condominium disputes, small claims disputes, motor vehicle accident disputes and disputes about societies and cooperative associations. My background is in governance, and this is something that I was really thrilled to see come forward.
One of the biggest challenges — it actually hit my home riding of Langley East pretty hard — was a strata dispute. You know what? The challenge with stratas is that this is your property, your home. Something you’re invested in. Then often these things can become quite personal, they can become quite messy, and they can be cost-prohibitive for many people to deal with. So seeing this come forward is a really fantastic thing.
Looking through the actual wording of it, they talk about the claims. One of the lines in here that I thought was really good was related to section 56.7(2).
“On an application for judicial review of a decision of the tribunal for which the tribunal must be considered to be an expert tribunal, the standard of review to be applied is as follows: (a) a finding of fact or law or an exercise of discretion by the tribunal must not be interfered with unless it is patently unreasonable; (b) questions about the application of common law rules of natural justice and procedural fairness must be decided having regard to whether, in all of the circumstances, the tribunal acted fairly; (c) for all matters other than those identified in paragraphs (a) and (b), the standard of review to be applied to the tribunal’s decision is correctness.”
These are small changes which will make things much more accessible for people. You know, having the opportunity to have these improved provisions, related to judicial review of the civil resolution tribunal decisions, is a major change that’s going to help everyday people in being able to have motor vehicle accident disputes and disputes about societies and cooperative associations much more available to people in a shorter period of time. It makes a big difference for people to have access to speedy and cost-effective justice. I’m thrilled about that one.
The other one was looking at the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, where government is working to protect financially vulnerable people from predatory lending practices. Amendments to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act update the provisions pertaining to high-cost credit products such as high-interest loans and lines of credit. This is something that is actually quite near and dear to my heart.
I knew a person many years ago, and they had ended up going through quite a messy separation. In that time period, they were stuck in this loop that many people get into when they’re going and taking payday loans. The situation got so messy that they would go and take a payday loan, and then the time would pass, and the interest and the fees and the penalty for paying it early became so expensive that they would then go and put their rings in a pawnshop to go back and pay the payday loan, and then take a payday loan to go get their rings out of the pawnshop. Every week it just became this bigger and bigger hole.
The people who are affected by these things often are our most vulnerable and most financially vulnerable people. So knowing that these changes are being made…. There are changes that have been made, and now there’s going to be an improved one related to statutory holidays, which was unfair for people, if they couldn’t pay back because things were closed. Making these changes may, on paper, seem like a very small thing, but in reality, they make a big difference in everyday people’s lives.
That’s something that I think…. It’s great that we’ve had this opportunity to talk about it in the House. We have an opportunity to share it out. These are big, big changes. These are things that people in my riding care about.
These amendments will enable the enactment of 2019 legislation to regulate high-cost credit products. When enacted, the new regulatory framework will establish licensing requirements for high-cost providers, strengthen consumer protections for borrowers and improve affordability for the most financially vulnerable people. That’s a good-news story. That is a big deal, and I’m happy to see that this has gone forward and that I’ve had a chance to talk about it today.
Now, the other one is the Passenger Transportation Act, and this is one that I know we talked a lot about in my riding also. It’s an amendment that will move the appointment date of a special committee reviewing passenger-directed transportation from on or before January 1, 2022, till about July 1, 2023.
Like so many things with COVID, this has been a disruptive thing, a thing that has had to be pushed forward in its timeline to a later date so that the information that the ministry is working with and the decisions that are going to be made will have a full amount of data to look at. If we don’t approve this amendment, then the special committee will be stuck and will be required to work with very limited data, which doesn’t help operators who are providing services in an unstable environment due to the pandemic.
Many operators reduced or suspended services, and the amount of quality data available to the special committee would end up being lower than expected, which wouldn’t be very helpful. This would have the effect of reducing the relevance and quality of the committee’s review and assessment of the industry and the impact of introducing ride-hailing in B.C., which I know is much discussed and very, in some areas, controversial.
It’s very important that the information that’s being worked with is current and relevant and as fulsome as possible, so this is a good thing. Moving this committee back by 18 months actually won’t directly impact the passenger transportation industry or its operations.
COVID-19 really had a very big impact on the passenger transportation industry, for taxicab drivers. That focus of mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the industry is within the focus of our government and helping the industry to recover, which is, once again, a good-news story.
The last thing I wanted to talk about here…. I’ve just got to get to my notes. This is why I had the Post-it Notes. I have to say that I’m thrilled to be speaking about this Bill 21, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. I know the member for Abbotsford West laughed at the raucous applause. The raucous applause about the miscellaneous statutes bill was from this section of the House. It gets really excited about all the different bills we get to talk about. Although it may have seemed that we were unnecessarily animated over this, it really is an honour and a big deal for us to get to talk about these important changes in the House.
The Safety Standards Act. The amendment to the Safety Standards Act is something that, once again…. In Langley, we have a trampoline air park, and my children, growing up, were both in trampoline, which scared me to death. My children competed at a local place called Flip City in Langley with Rusty, who was just this fantastic coach.
They would go bouncing on the trampoline from a young age. Finally, I thought: “You know what? We really need to get them into some sort of lessons because I just don’t have the ability to do the first aid that would be necessary in my backyard if they didn’t know what they were doing.”
Both of my children went on to compete in trampoline. My son went all the way off to the Western Canada Cup. I’d watch him soar through the air. My son’s tall. My son’s 6-8. He’s 240 pounds. He’s a big, big guy.
His last trampoline competition, he was bouncing up in the air. They get this thing called “the twisties.” They sort of lose track of where they are when they get a big growth spurt. My son goes up in the air, and you could just see. He comes down, and he lands. He says: “I don’t know where I am anymore.” He’d gone from 6-4 to 6-6 almost overnight. He said: “I’m going to compete one more competition, Mom. We’re going to go to Saskatchewan. I’m going to do the Western Canada Cup, and I’m quitting and joining football.” That is probably a much better choice when you’re that size.
The thing is that all of these trampoline parks are such an awesome opportunity to stay active, but they’re also places where safety regulations are a good thing. You hear about some of the tragic, tragic things that have happened in these. It’s not the trampoline park. Certain activities just are inherently riskier.
I’m really excited to see that our government is taking action to amend the Safety Standards Act and allow the development of regulations for safety oversight of trampoline parks and similar amusement parks and devices. It will allow the province to work with the industry to help ensure that amusement devices like trampoline parks are safe for British Columbians of all ages.
That’s the thing. Trampoline isn’t inherently unsafe. It’s just anything where you’re moving at speed in the air and twisting, or any sort of activity like that, can be risky. I think it’s important that we’re having those conversations with the businesses that are affected to ensure that the regulations that are developed work to improve the safety while still having the opportunity for people to engage in really fun, very active activities. That’s something that, definitely, I was really excited to see as part of this Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act.
With that, I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to speak today on this bill and will take my seat now.
B. Bailey: While miscellaneous, this is not an unimportant act. It has a number of different sections. It’s pretty juicy, in fact.
First, I’m just going to talk for a moment about the structure of this Bill 21 and which acts are actually affected by it, because it’s quite a significant number.
The structure of this bill is as follows.
Part 1, the Attorney General amendments. This includes changes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, the Offence Act, the Representative for Children and Youth Act, the Safety Standards Act and the Victims of Crime Act.
Part 2 is Children and Family Development amendments, which include changes to the Adoption Act and the Child, Family and Community Service Act.
Part 3, Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation amendments — changes to the Oil and Gas Activities Act and the Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Statutes Amendment Act.
Part 4, Finance amendments, which include changes to the Treaty First Nation Taxation Act.
Part 5, Public Safety and Solicitor General amendments, include changes to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act.
Lastly, part 6, Transportation and Infrastructure amendments, are, of course, changes to the Passenger Transportation Act.
I’m going to go through each of these in turn. First, part 1, the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act. Amendments to the CRTA will make improvements related to judicial review of Civil Resolution Tribunal decisions, CRT decisions. The CRT is Canada’s first online dispute resolution tribunal. That’s a big deal.
There’s a joke going around right now in the tech sector, which is: “Who is the person responsible? Who’s responsible for your go-to-digital strategy?” You’d think it would be your CEO or your CTO or your CIO, but actually it’s COVID.
While, of course, the pandemic is no laughing matter and has caused tremendous harm, one of the positive things is that we are looking more seriously at what ways we can do our work in a digital manner. I don’t know if that’s the driver behind this, but I’m glad to see that there are changes coming specifically to the legal sector, because for those of us who have interaction with folks in law, there’s still often faxes used. This is not a sector that has readily adopted change.
I, for one, am quite excited to see the online dispute resolution tribunal. I think that will improve access for people, and it’s something that is needed. We need that actually, in my view, even further in all areas to make things easier for people — particularly people with disabilities or folks who might be parenting and have difficulty getting to attend in person. So I’m excited about the online resolution tribunal. It can resolve strata property condominium disputes, small claims disputes, motor vehicle accident disputes, disputes about societies and cooperative associations.
The amendments will clarify the legislated standard of review applied by the Supreme Court of British Columbia and applications to review decisions of the CRT. These amendments will improve access to justice for parties involved in judicial review of CRT decisions and will promote consistency in British Columbia’s administrative justice system. I don’t think that is a waste of our time this afternoon. These are important things, and I’m really excited that we’re doing this work.
The second part of the part 1 Attorney General amendments is the Offence Act. There’s a lot to this. There are a lot of changes here, and they’re really positive.
These amendments create a framework for treaty First Nation violation tickets to be prosecuted in Provincial Court under the summary conviction proceedings of the Offence Act. They include changes to some of the definitions under the act, such as including treaty First Nations enforcement officers under the definition of enforcement officer and including treaty First Nations violation tickets under the definition of violation ticket. The amendments set out which provisions of the act do and do not apply to the dispute of a violation ticket issued under First Nations treaty law.
The form, content of and requirements to display a treaty First Nation violation ticket will be set out under treaty First Nations law, not the act. The act will begin to apply to the prosecution of a treaty First Nations violation ticket once the Provincial Court receives notice of dispute. The amendments relate to several key principles that guide the recently proposed First Nations justice strategy, including Indigenous-led transformation of justice services and systems and the reclamation of traditional law and practices of First Nations.
Disputes of a treaty First Nation’s violation ticket will only be brought under the jurisdiction of the provincial B.C. court at the request and with the consent of the nation. With this legislation, what laws are enacted by treaty First Nations can be heard or disputed in Provincial Court.
The final agreements recognize each treaty First Nations law-making authority in a variety of areas, including land and resource management, elections and membership. This includes the power to issue and serve violation tickets for contraventions of offences such as those related to zoning regulations, resource harvesting laws or fishing regulations. These legislative amendments provide the operational mechanism to ensure that treaty First Nations can enforce and prosecute their violation ticket offences as provided in their final treaty agreements.
We expect the fiscal implications to be negligible as the treaty First Nations will be responsible for issuing their own violation tickets as well as for the costs of administering the violation tickets and enforcing them. The impact on provincial resources will only be triggered if a violation ticket is disputed and enters the Provincial Court process.
Under the final agreements of the treaties, the province will pay to the treaty First Nation any fines imposed on a person and collected by the court for an offence under the treaty First Nation law. Similarly, B.C. makes payments to the federal government for fines that may be collected for B.C. for federal Contraventions Act tickets.
In regards to consultation, these legislative amendments have been drafted in partnership with treaty First Nations and the Nisg̱a’a Nation. While the Nisg̱a’a Nation is not directly impacted by the amendments at this time, they’ve been involved in a knowledge-sharing capacity, as they may wish to adapt the legislative framework to meet the needs of the Nisg̱a’a Nation at a future date.
[N. Letnick in the chair.]
The province supports First Nations’ rights to self-determination and is committed to strengthening the relationships with First Nations people in the spirit of reconciliation. We’ve been mindful of the requirements of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act as we’ve developed this legislation. We’ve done an assessment of this legislation as it relates to aligning with the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples.
The proposed framework for treaty nation violation tickets is an important part of the negotiated treaty rights of the Tsawwassen, the Maa-nulth and the Tla’amin First Nations. It’s a step towards achieving their self-governance goals and supports the cross-government priority of reconciliation.
It also includes changes to the Representative for Children and Youth Act. Amendments to the RCYA will enable a greater number of vulnerable young adults to benefit from the Representative for Children and Youth’s advocacy assistance. New criteria will be set where the age requirements will be expanded by three years, to 26, to align with other government services and programs for vulnerable young adults, such as the agreements with young adults and tuition waiver programs.
This is something I just want to stop and discuss for a moment, because I think it’s so important that we are acknowledging that our responsibilities don’t stop the moment someone turns 19, that youth in care are deserving of a parenting relationship beyond the moment that they’re no longer in care.
As a mother of three people in their 20s, I recognize that while it might have been true 30 years ago that you’re a fully grown adult at 19, I just don’t think that’s the case. That’s certainly not to insult my children, who are wonderful, but it hasn’t been the case in our family. There have been lots of ways that I continue to assist the young adults in my family, and that’s appropriate. We, as essentially the acting parents, acknowledge that and acknowledge that young adults continue to need support, and that’s the correct thing.
As well, other eligibility criteria will be broadened and simplified to allow more young adults to access the representative’s advocacy. The defined term “young adults” will be replaced with “included adults” to recognize the eligibility criteria other than age.
The proposed amendments will also clarify a definition issue in the statute. The RCYA is the enabling statute of the Representative for Children and Youth, an independent officer of the Legislature that sets out the appointment, functions and powers of that incredibly important office.
Also in section 1, there are some changes to the Safety Standards Act. An amendment to the Safety Standards Act will enable the development of regulations for the safety oversight of trampoline parks and other similar amusement devices, although I don’t know what other similar amusement devices might be. Trampolines are pretty unique.
This will allow the province to work with industry to help ensure amusement devices, including trampoline parks, are safe for British Columbians of all ages. The regulation will be introduced through a phased transition to mitigate compliance costs for the industry and allow time to adapt new requirements.
I’m on to part 2, Children and Family Development amendments, including changes to the Adoption Act. The amendments to the Adoption Act authorize information-sharing under the act and provide for the legal authority for directors to share adoption information with the government of Canada that would support adult adoptees seeking status under the Indian Act. The changes will establish this authority to support First Nation adoptees in obtaining their status so they can gain access to federal health, dental and other benefits.
Part 2 also includes changes to the Child, Family and Community Service Act, the CFCSA. Amendments to the CFCSA will align with the information-sharing requirements of the federal statute, An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families — that’s the federal act — and allow for the expanded use of virtual technology under the CFCSA. Aligning the CFCSA with the federal act will ensure that there is clear authority to enter into the coordination agreements and information-sharing agreements and for the CFCSA directors to provide information obtained under the CFCSA to the government of Canada and Indigenous communities.
The expanded use of virtual technology is currently authorized under the CFCSA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes will ensure that these technologies can continue to be aligned with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and will help improve options for service delivery.
Part 3, Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation amendments. Changes to the Oil and Gas Activities Act, the OGAA. Amendments to the OGAA will provide the Oil and Gas Commission with enabling powers to exempt oil and gas development permit holders from requirements of the Dormancy and Shutdown Regulation, or the DSR, in circumstances that merit it and impose conditions on the exemptions.
The DSR requires permit holders to clean up oil and gas well sites within prescribed time periods. The exemption power will support the timely restoration of well sites by providing flexibility to address technical issues, minimize unnecessary surface disturbance and improve efficiency.
Also under part 3 is the Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Statutes Amendment Act. I don’t have notes on that. Excuse me.
Under part 4, the Finance amendments, are the Treaty First Nation Taxation Act changes. An amendment to the Treaty First Nation Taxation Act will establish a regulation-making power to provide or enable time-limited property tax exemptions for eligible treaty members or constituents for property on eligible treaty lands of a taxing treaty First Nation.
This regulation was identified as necessary by the province and taxing treaty First Nations as a short-term measure to support continued work on property tax systems on treaty lands. In the absence of other measures, a change in the treaty’s member taxation status resulting from the expiry of a treaty transitional tax exemption has the potential to create adverse circumstances for the administration and enforcement of a taxing treaty First Nation’s property taxation system.
This amendment establishes a mechanism for taxing treaty First Nations to temporarily maintain the property taxation status quo on their treaty lands while broader treaty property tax work is underway. Exemptions under the proposed regulation-making power will only be established on the request of a taxing treaty First Nation. This amendment is the result of collaboration and consultation between the Minister of Finance and treaty First Nations.
Part 5, Public Safety and Solicitor General amendments. Changes to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. Government continues to work to protect financially vulnerable people from predatory lending practices. Amendments to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act will update provisions pertaining to high-cost credit products such as high-interest loans and lines of credit. The changes will clarify borrower cancellation rights around holidays and update transitional provisions. These amendments will enable the enactment of 2019 legislation to regulate high-cost credit products.
Once enacted, the new regulatory framework will establish licensing requirements for high-cost credit providers, strengthen consumer protections for borrowers and improve affordability for the most financially vulnerable people in British Columbia. Again, not a waste of our afternoon.
Part 6, transportation and infrastructure amendments. What is the proposed legislative change here? Under the Passenger Transportation Act, the Legislative Assembly is required to appoint a special committee to conduct a review of the passenger transportation industry. This review will assess the effects of taxi modernization and the introduction of ride-hail on the passenger transportation industry. Currently this special committee is to be created on or before January 1, 2022. The proposed amendment will postpone the appointment date by 18 months to on or before July 1, 2023.
Why is this amendment required? Well, due to COVID-19 and restrictions of non-essential travel and gatherings, the passenger-directed transportation industry has not been operating normally. As a result, many operators suspended or reduced service early in the pandemic and, due to reduced demand, have yet to offer services at levels similar to prior to the pandemic.
Moving the appointment date allows industry time to return to a normal operating state and for the special committee to use more representative data in its assessment of the industry and the effects of taxi modernization and the introduction of ride-hail.
If we don’t approve this amendment, the special committee will be struck and will be required to work with limited data, as operators were providing services in a very unstable environment due to the pandemic. As many operators reduced or suspended services, the amount and quality of data available to the special committee will be much lower than expected. This will have the effect of reducing the relevance and the quality of the committee’s review and assessment of the industry and the impact of introducing ride-hailing in British Columbia. Frankly, we want better data.
Will this amendment impact industry, specifically the taxi industry? Moving the special committee back by 18 months will not directly impact the passenger transportation industry or its operators. We recognize the impact COVID-19 has had on the passenger transportation industry, especially for taxi drivers, and we’re committed to continuing our focus on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the industry and to help the industry recover.
Other measures have been taken to support the passenger transportation industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, of course. In 2019, the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure reduced annual licensing fees for taxi and limo companies, waived plate fees for all operators and provided COVID-19 relief grants to intercity bus providers. The ministry also worked with ICBC to allow insurance payments to be suspended for fleet and non-fleet customers.
The Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, through its small and medium-sized business grants, provided financial relief to the transportation industry companies — in particular, to taxi companies.
Through the major anchor attractions program, tour bus companies that service tourism attractions were provided emergency funding to enable them to operate at minimal levels until domestic travel resumed. I know that in my riding of Vancouver–False Creek, that was particularly well received for the operators who take folks from YVR to Whistler.
So there’s a lot in this miscellaneous but not unimportant bill. I thank you for the opportunity to speak to it today.
R. Leonard: It is my privilege to rise today in support of the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2021, also known as Bill 21. It is a small and mighty act. When I say that, I think of our Minister of Finance, who would probably agree that small is better and mighty is better as well.
As has been mentioned, it’s miscellaneous because there are a lot of different things that are being addressed in this legislation. I’ll go through some of them. I don’t know that I’ll go through all of them, but I’ll go through some of them.
In terms of the Adoption Act amendments, it is going to support adult adoptees seeking status under the Indian Act so that they can gain access to federal health, dental and other benefits. This is part of a movement forward to address inequities. It is not an unimportant piece of legislation, and it does make change in people’s lives.
The second thing that is on the list — I think it’s in alphabetical order, my list — is the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. This has to do with the high-cost credit providers and creating that next step. There was legislation, but we need to move it forward so that it actually starts to make a bigger difference to strengthen consumer protections for borrowers and improve affordability for the most financially vulnerable people in B.C. These are the kinds of changes that make a difference in people’s lives.
The next one is the Child, Family and Community Service Act. The first point I’d like to raise is that we have, through COVID, had to endure a lot of struggles, barriers, but we’ve also had some opportunities. Embracing technology and the virtual world has opened up opportunities for communications that have shown to be a benefit in certain circumstances. This legislation — this amendment to the Child, Family and Community Service Act — is going to make those positive outcomes from our experience with COVID permanent, something that can continue on into the future.
The second piece of that is the confidentiality requirements that come with going into the virtual world and just making sure…. People do want to see legislation that actually strengthens their trust and confidence in the systems that we are providing. The virtual world is…. Well, you know, you can’t touch it. It isn’t something concrete. So we have to have rules in place that make it so.
The other piece of the Child, Family and Community Service Act is putting into law information-sharing between…. Part of it is between the feds and the province, but it’s also with Indigenous bodies. Where there is a lack of agreement, there is still discretion to be able to do that information-sharing.
It’s an interesting piece, because we have this opportunity. Just this weekend I got to hear the Iona Campagnolo guest lecturer, the tenth annual lecture series. Her name was Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson. She’s an environmental lawyer and represents the Haida Nation. She’s also an artist, a musician and a knowledge-keeper.
At her lecture, she spoke of the need to move forward in recognizing Indigenous law. As she described it…. When I, as a white settler, think about law, it is our court system. It is all of the things that I learnt about our legal system. When she introduced it, she introduced it within that framework of art. It was like a different language.
If we are setting in motion an opportunity for Indigenous laws to be incorporated into how we are serving children and youth and families, it is the right step forward. It’s an important thing for us to be able to recognize Indigenous laws and find ways to move forward.
The next piece was the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act. Like a previous speaker, I have had some constituents talking about civil resolution tribunals and their concerns. If there is confidence in the courts, how do we make sure that our administrative justice system has equal confidence amongst the people who are having to turn there for their help and to resolve disputes?
This amendment is intended to improve our access to justice through the opportunity for judicial review of decisions. It’s going to promote consistency in the decision-making system.
It’s Canada’s first online dispute resolution tribunal, so it’s really important that we be able to have a system that people can rely on for a strata property, condo disputes, small claims disputes, motor vehicle accident disputes, disputes between members in societies or around co-op associations. Those are the kinds of things that are going to benefit from improved confidence.
Under the Offence Act…. Now, this is enabling — to strengthen treaty nations’ right to self-determination and to demonstrate the government’s commitment towards reconciliation. This is really…. It’s bizarrely important. I mean, the right to issue tickets and to take matters into your own hands as a government is important. That’s what local governments do. I know that there have been opportunities for improvements along the way, and this is yet another step for rights to self-determination and to move forward again on our commitments.
The next one is the Oil and Gas Activities Act. This amendment is, again, an enabling piece of legislation around exempting permit holders from requirements of the dormancy and shutdown regulation, in certain circumstances. I think it’s important to recognize that this isn’t a way out for oil and gas companies. This is a way to find a way forward to get a better outcome. The value is in minimizing, as an example, the unnecessary surface disturbance and increasing the overall rate of restoration, which is obviously the goal that we all have in this world of climate change.
A lot has been talked about with the Passenger Transportation Act. I don’t think I’ll go very far with that, other than to say that I know, in my community, that taxi drivers have gone under, have suffered a lot through COVID, and the issue of…. Well, I’ll call it ride-hailing. It has a different flavour in my community compared to more urban centres, but it’s there. The fact that it’s not yet resolved is important for us to note and demonstrate that we haven’t forgotten about it. We’re moving forward. It will move forward.
On the Representative for Children and Youth Act, I’d like to just be very congratulatory about the fact that we are finally moving forward to raising the age — up to the age of 27. It is something that has been moving along slowly. As a former member of the Select Standing Committee on Finance, I got to hear from the representative around the challenges, and when we went out on our public consultation, we heard a lot from youth who were going to be aging out and the value that this change is going to bring to people’s lives to help them move forward. It’s really important — really important — and has been long-awaited.
We’ve talked about trampolines under the Safety Standards Act. Family-fun activities mean safe family activities. Again, it’s a question of using the tools we have with legislation to make people feel confident that they can embark on going out to a trampoline park — something that you will never see me on — or any other kind of amusement park activity that people want to be able to go to and feel: “Yeah, we’re being taken care of. We can go and have some confidence in having these wild rides, these fun things that are non-mechanized.” And who knows what will come after trampolines? Who knew that trampolines would become a thing?
I’m not going to speak to the First Nation Taxation Act for treaty nations. It’s complicated, and I’m really glad that somebody’s taking care of it.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say I support this bill, and I look forward to all of these small and mighty changes coming to fruition to move us forward for a better B.C.
H. Yao: Thank you for the opportunity to speak on the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (No. 2), 2021. I’m not going to speak to every one of them, but I will hit a few of those sort of dear to my heart. I will piggyback off my colleague’s comment earlier about the Safety Standards Act.
The reason why I want to talk about trampoline parks? Because before I got involved in politics, I used to be a youth worker. One exciting thing we used to do was finding something exciting for the kids to participate in. We did archery, fishing, windsurfing. We have done paintballing. And I’m sorry, but paintball hurts. And, of course, we have done laser tag.
When a trampoline park first became available for me to bring the kids to attend, it was exciting. It was new. It was something we never thought about before. I’m not too sure how many people actually in the chamber have ever participated in a trampoline park activity, so if you guys don’t mind me entertaining the chamber a bit, I will share my personal experience first.
One lovely thing about a trampoline park: it is a great way to break your legs. [Laughter.] It is extremely intense jumping, running around, bouncing back and forth.
Thank you to the colleague for the laughter of encouragement. I appreciate that.
I do want to say that when you’re playing tag, you’re running around, jumping over different corners, and it makes you very, very easily exhausted. But people always have to pay attention. Every trampoline park has a giant trampoline in the middle, all attached by springs attached to the corners. When kids run around, it’s easy for them to misstep and actually step somewhere they’re not supposed to step. I personally sprained my ankle a few times in a trampoline park.
I also played dodge ball in a trampoline park. I’m not too sure if anybody ever tried dodge ball in a trampoline park. They provide you with a 45-degree-angle wall on each side. You get to jump around like a ninja, bounce on one side, throw your dodge ball, land on the trampoline, and hopefully, you actually land on the other angled platform so you don’t miss your step. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s really enjoyed. It’s really an opportunity to embrace the inner ninja in all of us. But at the same time, it is also again an opportunity for injuries.
The wonderful thing about, also, trampoline parks is we love to do basketball dunking. I hate to say it, for me weighing 250 pounds, but I never seem to be able to dunk, despite the help of a trampoline. But it is still very challenging to participate in. People have a cage on the side. People are jumping all around, and not to mention if you miss your hoop-hanging…. I’m pretty sure there are a few basketball players among us. If you don’t hang on the hoop properly, you slip off. You fall back straight onto the ground. Obviously, back there will be a trampoline park, but let’s just hope we don’t fall to a wrong location.
All I’m trying to say is that trampoline parks are like many other forms of entertainment — a great asset to a community. And families are looking for safety. They’re looking for reassurance. They’re looking for trust to participate in.
That’s the reason why I’m so excited that we’re making steps towards the right direction and putting a proper regulation around the Safety Standards Act to ensure that trampoline parks and similar forms of entertainment and amusement parks are being properly evaluated to ensure that we are giving families a sense of safety, a sense of comfort and a sense of trust. No parent wants to send their kid to have a fun camp day, or even just simply going for entertainment, and have to worry about rushing to the emergency room because the kid had a misstep.
Again, personally, I’m a huge supporter of this. I’m so thankful that we’re making major strides in the Safety Standards Act to ensure that we’re putting proper regulations on trampoline parks and future amusement or entertainment activities to ensure that these kinds of amusement devices are properly looked at so that when families go, they can have a sense of comfort. And when they come back, they’ll have some exciting memories to share.
I also want to talk a bit more about the Representative for Children and Youth Act. On the surface, on the paper, it talks about a 26-year-old, where lining up for three years old is great. We’re calling somebody from young adult to included adults.
I think there is a theme behind it we often miss when we’re looking at this act itself. Many vulnerable youth, young adults, who end up going through the foster system when they’re going through a different kind of family challenge or any kind of life circumstance that makes them vulnerable, often become detached from their social network, especially families, especially people who can actually provide a helping hand.
I’ll use myself as an example. When I was going to university, I didn’t know what I was doing. I remember when I was asked to pick somewhere to go, my family all said: “Go to UBC. UBC is great. Just go to UBC.”
H. Yao: I hope to disappoint you guys after this.
When I went to UBC, I didn’t even know what faculty to pick. I readily picked psychology to participate in. I went through the process because my parents had minimal understanding of our post-secondary education.
At the same time, when I went to university, I was thankful, at least, I still completed my education program. I know some of my friends who went through adulthood with me did not bother to go to university, college or any other post-secondary education. They just felt it’s not necessary.
I think we are taking a step back and really realizing…. There are a lot of really great government programs that are actually designed to create almost family-like services. Some kind of social network, of social protection, to ensure our young adults…. As they continue to progress through life, there is someone there to lean on. There’s a family member. We could call them a family member, somebody who is a service provider to help them understand their options, to help them navigate and move forward.
We, as individuals, take families for granted. But in reality, as many of my colleagues here understand, many of us fall through…. Young adults who go through the foster system, many young adults who are facing vulnerable situations, the first thing they lose is the social connection. The next thing they’re going to lose is their ability to navigate through challenging systems. For them to actually address the vulnerable factors in their life, it amplifies the challenges ahead of them.
I’m just so glad our government is now taking steps to re-ask ourselves: what can we do to create a social network, to create this almost family-like opportunity, to extend the age from 23 to 26, to continue to match and make small steps towards the right direction to help young adults to really have opportunities to continue to thrive and discover their full potential?
It is in our government, our community and our individual best interests to ensure our neighbours, our friends, are able to discover who they are and who they are meant to be in our society. That way, they can be a contributing factor into a community.
We are facing many different pandemics right now, including the toxic drug supply. We’re also facing different forms…. There are also a lot of addiction issues in our community. I did participate in one of the AGMs at the Richmond Addiction Services Society, and we were talking about different challenges that many young adults have to navigate through. I’m just so excited to be able to see our government making major strides in many different aspects to help our Representative for Children and Youth Act so that young adults can access youth advocacy as they move forward.
I did also want to talk a bit more, if the chamber wants to entertain me, about the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. This is something, actually, to me. I did have personal experience with it.
When we’re talking about predatorial lending, people having their life taken advantage of while at their most vulnerable situation, we have to ask ourselves: who actually seeks high-interest loans? Nobody in their right mind wants to seek a high-interest loan, unless the circumstances force them to, unless a certain situation challenged them to the point where they have nowhere else to turn.
As I mentioned earlier, talking about young adults seeking community support, many adults who have no family, who are vulnerable, are often the target of predatory loans, as well, those high interest rates that have been going around without proper regulation. I’m so glad we are now looking at it and really asking ourselves: what can we do to help our community?
A loan is meant to help us provide an opportunity to gather additional resources so we can overcome a challenging time, but it also comes with an expectation of paying it back afterwards. But high-interest loans can sometimes become so predatory that a person doesn’t get out.
Most young adults will tell you, based on my youth program, that if you have anything over $5,000 in credit card debt, as a young adult or with basic earned income, you will never get out of it, because you end up paying interest. You’re trying your best to balance your budget, but sooner or later something will also force you to borrow money again.
We’re always trying our best to ask ourselves: should we allow financial institutions — I shouldn’t call them financial institutions but predatory lenders — to take advantage of the most vulnerable members of our society? What are we, as a community, responsible for? Are we able to stand up and say: “No, we need to actually lend that poor fellow a helping hand” or “Let’s allow the circumstances to further bury the person into unrecoverable circumstances”?
This is one reason why I would like to talk a bit more about it. I’m just so glad our government is looking at the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act to really talk about how we protect financially vulnerable people from predatory lending practices.
The last one I would like to talk about is the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act. On this one, I would say, I do want to put a bit more extra time in on, because this is one that a lot of my constituents actually approached me to talk about. Individuals will often come to my office talking about an issue with their landlord. It’s often a tenant who will bring this up, because when we’re looking at a landlord-tenant relationship, there is an amount of power imbalance.
I understand that the residential tenancy branch is there to provide an opportunity to provide a fair and accessible opportunity to help them balance out the decision-making process. Unfortunately, if the residential tenancy branch provides a decision that is not satisfactory, many of the tenants are asked to go to the civil resolution tribunal.
As we discuss all of this, some of the things that I often encounter are the rumours, the misinformation and the fear associated with taking an issue to the residential tenancy branch or the civil resolution tribunal. It’s because a typical community member has minimal exposure to how to use the residential tenancy branch or even the civil resolution tribunal.
I personally want to bring it up. I actually had an issue with my strata where it almost reached the point that I wanted to talk to the civil resolution tribunal, because my unit was broken into twice in one day. They wanted to talk about helping to install a security camera for my unit, and we were having a lot of back and forth.
I spoke to a statutory officer for the privacy act. I spoke to different lawyers and different individuals. For me, who is an MLA, it took me four months to navigate through my options before I could make up my mind and make my decision. I hate to see a constituent who has minimal connection to their community — who is, potentially, an immigrant who has language barriers or even cultural barriers, like they are not supposed to be challenging authority — to be asked what they can do to actually address the issue.
I’m really looking forward to the opportunity, whenever we can, to use the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act to actually clarify a lot of legislative standards to help our communities have a better opportunity of understanding and appreciating a system that’s creating a standardized set of practices.
That’s the reason I want to take a moment to express my support for the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2021.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak.
Hon. R. Kahlon: It’s my pleasure to speak in favour of this. There are a lot of pieces here, but there are a couple of them that I want to focus on that are important to people in my community.
The first one is the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. Many people could look at this and think: “Meh, that’s not a big deal. It doesn’t affect many people.” But it has got a huge impact on people and communities.
I’ll give you a little example. I represent a community that has about 30 percent new immigrant populations, lots of folks that have come recently from India and Pakistan, a significant community that has come from the Philippines and a portion that has come from the Chinese community, which has come mostly from mainland China but some from Taiwan as well. My region has got a significant new immigrant population and racialized communities.
To a person who perhaps lives a comfortable life, this might not seem like a big deal, but when you represent constituents in your community that come from immigrant communities, what they’ll tell you is this is a big deal. Sometimes we talk about things in this House that are so up here, so above the clouds that it doesn’t touch people’s lives. This touches people’s lives.
If you talk to immigrant communities, they will tell you about the lending practices of some of these companies and how they essentially take advantage of the vulnerabilities that these people live in. Lots of people who come from other countries cannot get accounts, sometimes for fear of the establishment and the government, sometimes for other reasons. They go to these types of organizations to get their supports, and what they find is that the little bit of money that they actually had goes away real quick, pushing them deeper into poverty.
Many people might think: “Oh well. This is not that important.” This is extremely important. How many times have I had international students come into my office to talk to me about the challenges they face? Lots around employment. Lots around not being sure about their future here and parents spending a lot of money sending them here. Lots of pressures. What they don’t talk about very often with many people is them having to go to these organizations, because they can’t go to their family members in India, in China, in Philippines to ask for more money.
So what do they do? They go to companies like this to get loans. Then they realize that the rates are so high, they’re getting pushed deeper and deeper into poverty, making them more and more vulnerable.
This is important stuff here. I know that time is running short, and a couple of my colleagues want to speak. But anyone that has worked with children in care will know why this is important — the Representative for Children and Youth Act. Anyone that has worked with children in care will know that we have a major crisis with children in care aging out and then not having the supports they need.
I don’t think I need to remind this House of the cases that we’ve heard and the tragic stories. We have young people who come to this Legislature to advocate for better supports, not for themselves but for others that are coming through so that they have an opportunity to succeed where perhaps they didn’t have those opportunities. To be able to extend this age by three years so that people up to 26 years old can access the important services is important stuff.
I wasn’t planning on speaking today, but when I hear people talk about how this is not important and how there are things…. There are other things that are important, no doubt about it. But this is important stuff.
There are a lot of times in this House that there are bills that come forward. Members, when they think it’s important, should speak to it. They should speak to it. When something comes forward and it’s important to their constituents, they should take the opportunity to do it, and I know members do. To criticize people because they don’t think it’s important…. Well, perhaps they need to connect with people whose lived lives are affected by this stuff every single day. Then they’ll realize how important this is.
M. Bernier: I just want to follow up on the minister’s comments here. I think it’s really important, because this is a misc stat bill. This is a typical bill that’s seen in front of the House, and it’s unfortunate that the minister had to try to go to the point where he’s trying to say that the reason why we weren’t speaking to it was because there were things in here that weren’t important.
I know that our critic, when we started, right at the very beginning of this, highlighted in detail some very specific areas that we wanted to canvass. Typically, we like to canvass these things, specifically on a misc stats bill, during committee stage. The minister and the House are well aware of that.
We were under the impression that the government wasn’t going to be really speaking to this either, because we would be taking it to committee stage to talk about it a little bit further.
I do appreciate, though…. I want to thank those members in the government’s side who did stand up today to highlight some of the same important areas that we want to make sure that we talk about during committee stage. At no time, though, were we saying — again, to the minister — that these things were not serious.
I had no intention of standing up and speaking to this bill, but I’m actually very honoured and pleased to be able to do that now, especially in light of the fact that so many government members have highlighted some of the very specific areas that we want to talk about.
It’s not a very long bill. In some areas, I guess we’ve got about 40 sections — 38, 40 sections. Not quite as long as the one I was debating and doing committee stage on earlier today, which had 115 sections, but I do recognize that misc stat bills come forward at almost every opportunity when the House sits to make sure that we talk about areas that can be improved, things that need to be changed in different sections.
I know that the leader of the Green Party stood up, and she was speaking eloquently to some of her concerns, as she usually does, even though we sometimes will agree to disagree on some of the things that she will bring forward. But I do want to acknowledge, for this House, that that’s one of the things that I enjoy — that we have the differences of opinion, that we have the opportunities to be able to stand in this House and have the debates and be able to highlight things that benefit the people of British Columbia, things that we want to bring that are important.
I know my colleague probably flagged earlier on today the equal pay bill, which we could have easily been discussing as well — things that are important. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, yet we’re spending the afternoon talking about a misc stats bill, which I’m okay to do.
I’m okay to stand up here. I know I have almost 30 minutes that I can talk about the misc stats bill and some of the details within it. That, I know, is my prerogative, and I’m excited about the fact that the House is going to let me do that, in light of the fact that so many government members reminded me of some of the things that are so important in this bill that we’re going to make sure we canvass in committee stage, as I mentioned.
I know there are a couple of sections, as the Finance critic, under the finance amendments…. I’m really looking forward to getting into that, because it’s around some of the First Nations issues that we’re facing, around taxation, as we try to move our First Nations partners and friends in the province forward, at their request. I know we worked with the Nisg̱a’a. I know we worked with other First Nations groups around the province.
For many years, when we were in government, in fact, we signed a lot of treaties. I think the B.C. Liberal Party, when we were in government…. I can’t remember how many dozens and dozens of First Nations treaties we were able to sign. I’ve yet to find one in the last 4½ years that’s been signed under the NDP government, but I do appreciate that in the misc stats bill, there are opportunities in here to make sure that we’re allowing for some discussion. I’ll bring up some points, if my colleagues don’t, in committee stage, around some of the finance amendments that we’re putting forward in this misc stats bill that government has put forward.
I also know, on the energy and mines side of things, that even though there are not a lot of specific details within the misc stats bill, it’s going to be an opportunity to really talk in detail around some of its, as government says, housekeeping amendments. I appreciate that, but housekeeping amendments can have on-the-ground implications.
I know my colleague from Creston, as the critic, is going to be….
M. Bernier: Cranbrook. Sorry. Thank you. Hey, that was no faux pas intended there. I know the member spends a lot of time in Creston, but my apologies for that. We’ve only been sitting on the same side of the House now for — what? — almost ten years, and my apologies, again, to him. But as the critic, I know he’s got some questions.
He and I were talking earlier today around getting to committee stage to be able to get into those, especially in a riding like mine. I appreciate my colleague for always flagging that for me, because I didn’t pick that up at first, when I was looking through the misc stats bill, because it was just two sections, and it was just basically striking this out and moving this and moving that. At first read, you wouldn’t think much of it, but as my colleague reminded me, things like that can have huge on-the-ground impacts when you change something really simple.
I can say right now that one of my largest concerns is that we do not want to be having anything without not only full consultation, but hopefully, at the end of the day, full support from our resource sector. I know right now, on the ground in my riding and I know in other ridings in rural British Columbia, the impact in the forestry sector, the mining sector, oil and gas sector, specifically, that are at the core has me worried, because people are worried about investments. They’re worried about certainty. They’re worried about whether they want to continue investing in the province of British Columbia.
In fact, I’ve received emails this week from other companies that are unsure what the direction is by this government and whether they should be investing in Alberta, the United States or in British Columbia. Of course, I know what my first answer would be: of course British Columbia. We want those jobs. We want that investment.
The problem is they don’t need to hear that from me. They need to hear it from the government. They need to hear that there’s certainty. They need to hear there’s opportunity. I’m looking forward to when we get to committee stage on this bill to maybe ask a few more of those specific questions about what that will mean for the resource sector.
I looked through this bill again, and I want to thank the members for highlighting so many of the areas, because I know our critics are going to take them, but some of them have obviously deep meaning to not only myself but other members.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
When we talk about children and family, and children in care, when we talk about — as my colleague to my left, rightfully, earlier today talked about — the need for our children to be in daycare and the supports for early childhood educators, when we look at all the opportunities, even in a misc stats bill, to be able to set directions, set policy and to try to help in areas where we’re lacking….
I can tell you as a father of five, as somebody who fostered and somebody who, I think, over the years, had six other children that lived in my home for a year at a time or more, this is something near and dear to my heart: to make sure we have the supports in the province for families. But it’s also, more importantly, supports for these children. I know firsthand what it’s like to have a child in care who struggles with mental health and addictions, for instance. I know what that means.
I know, for rural British Columbia, the lack of supports and equality that, I would say, we have for those resources and how many times as a parent or as a caregiver I had to be told, “I’m sorry. We can’t help you. Those resources are down in the Lower Mainland” — if you can navigate to get to them, if you can get on the list and if you have the financial means, in most cases, to do that. I can see why so many people are struggling when there is not enough support for them. That is a problem.
We have the Solicitor General here. I know there are sections in this bill pertaining to business practices and consumer protection. Well, one of the biggest things that’s facing us right now is the lack of personnel on the ground, lack of enforcement and lack of supports that we have for our RCMP, for our bylaw officers, for people in our communities who are struggling with trying to implement the notifications from this government around COVID-19.
I had a good talk, actually, with my staff sergeant on the weekend, who said — I didn’t know this; I wasn’t aware of this — the RCMP have zero authority right now to give tickets, to do any enforcement when it comes under the COVID Measures Act, which was cancelled or changed under this government. They have no authority.
I’m looking forward to the minister maybe correcting me later, maybe even when we get to committee stage on this bill….
M. Bernier: Well, I’m looking forward to the minister, at any time, correcting what my staff sergeant and other RCMP in the province are saying, who are struggling, who are getting the notifications from people around the province that they are the front lines, but yet they have no supports.
Like I said, I didn’t have any intention to get up, and I want to thank, again, the government, so many members who got up to highlight…. I do appreciate that they don’t get the opportunity, during committee stage, to get up and ask questions. They do at the caucus room. They do at the committee table, or they do at the cabinet table if they’re there. I know they don’t get, a lot of times, that opportunity. So I do appreciate hearing from some of them. I was a little surprised by some of the comments and where they went with this, but nevertheless, that is their right to stand in the House and do that.
As my colleague from Abbotsford said…. He’s got a lot of history — more so than, I think, a bunch of us on this side of the House put together — and is very familiar with misc stats bills, how they work and the reason why we bring them forward to the House.
There is absolutely, I didn’t think, no debate on the reason for bringing a misc stats bill in front of the House. We’ve done it lots, did it lots when I was in government. Next session, I’m sure, the minister will bring it forward again. But to be characterized by some on that side that the reason why we weren’t speaking is because there was nothing important in here is absolutely not factual.
Again, we will characterize a lot of the issues when we have time in committee stage, when we get to that, to ensure that we bring forward, through this bill, line by line — as we normally do in committee stage — and ask the tough questions. It won’t just be of one minister, because we know, through this, it’s a few different ministries that are involved with the misc stats bill, which is normal. So I know that they’re all part of putting this together and thank them and leg. counsel and everyone for working with them to put that on.
I know when we talk about…. Again, a big part of this is around dealing with First Nations. I do respect the position that government is in. I acknowledge that government has been very open with wanting to ensure they continue to, on every opportunity, on every bill….
Oh. Sorry, Speaker. I still have more comments, but noting the hour, I guess, I’ll reserve my place for the next debate. I move adjournment of the debate.
M. Bernier moved adjournment of debate.
Hon. M. Farnworth moved adjournment of the House.
Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:28 p.m.