The committee met at 8:30 a.m.
[J. Routledge in the chair.]
J. Routledge (Chair): Good morning, everyone. My name is Janet Routledge. I'm the MLA for Burnaby North and the Chair of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, a committee of the Legislative Assembly that includes MLAs from the government and opposition parties.
I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting today in Vancouver on the traditional territory of the Coast Salish people, specifically the Musqueam people.
I would also like to welcome everyone who is listening to and participating in today's meeting on Budget 2022 consultation.
Today we are looking forward to hearing more presentations on priorities for the next provincial budget. British Columbians can also share their views by making written comments or by filling out the online survey. Details are available on our website at bcleg.ca/fgsbudget. The deadline for all input is 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 30, 2021, less than two weeks away. We will carefully consider all input and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly on what should be included in Budget 2022. The committee intends to release the report in November.
For today's meeting, all presenters will be making individual presentations. Each presenter has five minutes for their presentation, followed by five minutes for questions from the committee members. We will give each presenter a 30-second warning so that you'll know when to wrap up. All audio from our meetings is broadcast live on our website, and a complete transcript will also be posted.
I'll now ask members of the committee to introduce themselves.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Good morning. My name is Ben Stewart. I'm the MLA for Kelowna West and the B.C. Liberal Housing critic.
M. Dykeman: Good morning. I'm Megan Dykeman, MLA for Langley East.
M. Starchuk: Good morning. I'm Mike Starchuk, MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale.
It is located on the unceded, traditional lands of the Coast Salish people, including the Katzie, Kwantlen and Semiahmoo.
L. Doerkson: Good morning, everyone. My name is Lorne Doerkson, and I am MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.
P. Alexis: Good morning. My name is Pam Alexis. I represent Abbotsford-Mission.
It sits on the unceded and ancestral territory of the Stó:lō people.
H. Sandhu: Good morning. I am Harwinder Sandhu, MLA for Vernon-Monashee.
I'm coming to you from the unceded and traditional territory of the Okanagan Indian Nations.
I look forward to your presentation. Thank you for joining us.
G. Kyllo: Good morning. I'm Greg Kyllo, MLA for Shuswap, and I'm the critic for Labour.
J. Routledge (Chair): Assisting the committee today are Jennifer Arril and Mary Newell, from the Parliamentary Committees Office, and Amanda Heffelfinger, Simon DeLaat, Mike Baer and Billy Young, from Hansard Services.
With that, we'll get started. We have a lot of presentations today. Our first one is Jane Blaine, B.C. Blind Sports and Recreation Association.
Budget Consultation Presentations
B.C. BLIND SPORTS
AND RECREATION ASSOCIATION
J. Blaine: Thank you for the opportunity to present to you on behalf on the B.C. Blind Sports and Recreation Association.
I respectfully acknowledge that the work of B.C. Blind Sports takes place on many traditional, ancestral territories throughout the province of B.C. and that this presentation is taking place on the unceded, traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
I've been involved in programming, education and administration of para and blind sport for over 40 years, and my involvement spans from the grass roots to the international level. I'm the executive director of B.C. Blind Sports, and have been so for the last 35-plus years.
At B.C. Blind Sports, out vision is that British Columbians who are blind, partially sighted, deaf-blind, or who are blind, partially sighted and have additional disabilities, or who are from additionally underrepresented populations, will experience a healthy and active lifestyle through sport and physical activities that are safe, appropriate to the stages and principles of long-term participant development and the Canadian Sport for Life model.
Okay, that's a little bit wordy. In developing that, our board, most importantly, wanted people to know that we welcomed them. We work towards a barrier-free environment that provides to access to all, meeting the individual's needs across their intersectionalities. Diversity is a fact, and inclusion is a choice, and we've chosen inclusion.
We support the sport sector ask. Sport B.C. and its provincial sport organization members, which we are one of, are very important partners in the amateur sports system in B.C. and the provincial sport organization, linked to national sport organizations in Canada, is extremely important to us as well. We often call a provincial sport organization for a recommendation of a club or program in a community to help include a student or individual who is blind in a sighted, able-bodied community sport program.
We support inclusion of British Columbians in regular community programming as well as provider-own programming. We train a number of sport guides. That would be a guide runner or a swim tapper who is tapping the swimmer as they swim into that wall that they don't see. Our programs and activities support British Columbians who are blind and their families and supporters, and again, span from promoting early movement in infants through early intervention through to activities for seniors who have lost or are losing their vision, and everything in between.
I'd like you to consider the population that we work with. The child who is born with no light perception — what is their motivation to move? How do we help them if they don't see something and reach for it? How do we help them experience what a sighted child would when they'd see their elder sibling riding a nice, shiny, red bike or something like that? How do we help them to have those experiences?
We use a lot of instruction modification, and we provide that expertise throughout the province of B.C. We identify, screen and closely monitor sport guides who are working closely with athletes. That's a very important relationship. There's a growing demographic of children with a cortical visual impairment, which is a vision impairment that originates in the visual cortex of the brain. Many of these children have additional disabilities.
B.C. has an aging population, as well. Senior women are amongst the most isolated in the blindness community, given that sometimes they don't have a spouse to support them in a sighted-guide sense. The impact from COVID has impacted a number of things: access to information for individuals who are blind or partially sighted; getting to programs; ability to use transit or not; being able to tell the distance from others for physical distancing; level of comfort of sport guides that maybe aren't in their family or household. They need to use those as well.
There's been a huge impact. We have provincial funding through viaSport, as well as gaming. There has been an impact of other funding on COVID as well as from the wildfires. Again, we support the importance of our ability to work within the B.C. sports sector. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Jane.
Now I'll open it up to questions.
M. Dykeman: Thank you for your presentation. It's lovely to see you again.
I just wanted to check and see where…. As you're heading into this year, what are your top three priorities for the Blind Sports and Recreation Association's year going ahead?
J. Blaine: Getting back into schools. Dr. Henry has mentioned the impact, particularly on students who have special needs or unique needs.
The programs that we provide in the education system, in partnership with B.C. Vision Teachers Association, are very important. That could be one student in a school where we go in and provide programming, support their inclusion in physical education and probably do some programming with all of the kids in their grade, because they're going to move along as they grow.
We're going to provide virtual programming. For quite some time now, we're doing seven programs a week — virtual programming for adults and seniors. That's been very popular. Again, level of comfort and ability to get out into community has been interesting.
Then fund development is a big concern for us, with some of our fundraising activities being impacted by COVID, by wildfires and with the unknown of what will happen.
M. Dykeman: Thank you.
J. Blaine: Good to see you again, too, Megan.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Jane, for your presentation. I often smirk when I don't have to be inundated with numbers. So now I get to ask: what kinds of numbers are we talking about with participants and coaches and assistants?
J. Blaine: So numbers. The demographic. If you look at the education system numbers, for example, of under 19, children and youth, there are approximately 1,600 children. I can get you exact numbers. As I say, there is a growing demographic of children born with cortical visual impairment who have additional disabilities.
Certainly, numbers in terms of the aging population…. As we age, our level of vision can decrease, and certainly vision impairment, or partial vision, and blindness is a condition of aging. That number is growing.
I don't have the exact numbers off the top of my head. I'm sorry.
P. Alexis: I thought Mike was asking about numbers as far as funding. So my question is about funding. You have received how much from the other organizations that you've relied on? Or nothing at all?
J. Blaine: We don't receive funding from other organizations. We partner with a number of other organizations in the field of blindness and in the sport field, but we don't charge those organizations, and many of them are not-for-profit organizations as well.
P. Alexis: So how do you fund your operation?
J. Blaine: We receive gaming funding. In the last number of years, we've been fortunate to receive the full $250,000 as a provincial sport organization. We also believe that we could equally apply because of the work we do in early intervention and with seniors in human and social services but have applied in gaming. So $250,000 in gaming.
We have a telemarketing campaign which brings in some funding. It has decreased a little bit this year, but that's in the neighbourhood of $60,000, give or take.
We were fortunate to do giftwrapping at Oakridge mall for quite some time, and that brought in, in the neighbourhood of $25,000. Oakridge, as you know, is shut down. We're working with another mall. But that funding is essentially gone.
And we get around $92,000 to $95,000 through viaSport. We have four full-time staff people, and three of them are program folks.
J. Routledge (Chair): Well, not seeing any other questions, I want to thank you, Jane, for your presentation, on behalf of the committee, and also thank you for the work that you do. Some of the stories and some of the examples you've given have been very enlightening. Thank you for making it possible for young children to experience the joy of movement and belonging and for seniors to continue to experience that joy.
Our next presenter is Michelle Collens, B.C. Sport Tourism Network, Sport Hosting Vancouver.
We'll give you a 30-second warning. Start whenever you're ready.
B.C. SPORT TOURISM NETWORK,
SPORT HOSTING VANCOUVER
M. Collens: No problem. Thanks so much, everybody. Good morning. Thank you for having me here.
My name is Michelle Collens. I'm the director of Sport Hosting Vancouver, a strategic partnership between the city of Vancouver, the Vancouver Hotel Destination Association and Destination Vancouver, which proactively identifies, bids and invests in sport events to support the visitor economy while aligning social priorities in our community.
I'd also like to acknowledge that I'm ever so grateful to work, live and play on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh. It's been a privilege to welcome and host with them, as partners, many world-class events in Vancouver.
One of the last sport events that I went to before the pandemic was the World Rugby Sevens at B.C. Place Stadium, and just this past weekend, it was the first event that I went to in the new world of the pandemic. With over 21,000 vaccinated fans over two days, wearing their masks, and 14 international teams playing before a live audience, it was the economic stimulus and confidence that the tourism and events sector of British Columbia needed to show that we're ready to host safely and welcome visitors back to British Columbia.
If sport has taught us anything, it's that we always come back stronger together. So I stand before you here, not as Sport Hosting Vancouver but on behalf of the B.C. Sport Tourism Network, a provincewide advisory board made up of 25 B.C. communities and counting who have dedicated staff and resources supporting sport hosting and sport tourism initiatives in their community.
Collectively, we have recommendations to support a Team B.C. solution that will support the greatest return on investment in sport events for British Columbia, not just Metro Vancouver but the long-track provincial championships in Fort St. John; or my colleagues at the Encana centre who will be hosting the youth under-18 girls national hockey championships; or the aspirations of Cowichan, which hopes one day to host the North American Indigenous Games.
In Canada, sport hosting is a community economic development driver that represents $6.8 billion in annual spending. Prior to the pandemic, it was one of the fastest-growing sectors in tourism. The annual value of sport tourism in British Columbia is $1.4 billion. B.C. ranked third amongst provinces, only behind Ontario and Quebec, in sport tourism visitors, but it ranks first in the percentage of sport tourism revenues generated by international visitors.
Sport events draw more than two million visitors to British Columbia each year, be it the dragon boat races in Vernon to the women's Olympic qualifiers at Softball City in Surrey or the Para-Nordic Championships in Prince George. If your community has pickleball courts, build them. They will come.
Sport tourism and event hosting has traditionally been underfunded, under-leveraged, and in some cases, taken for granted for the contributions to the economies, the social capital and the advancement of sport development it provides.
There are currently three funding programs available that provide public sector financial supports for sporting events: Hosting B.C., supporting regional and national-level events; major event hosting; and the tourism events program. We appreciate the support that has been provided to date, but the demands of the sector are vastly over-subscribed, and there remains an opportunity for greater coordination and evaluation of how we can better support a greater return on investment for British Columbians.
Hosting B.C. is the most accessed program, and in 2019 it distributed $500,000 to 116 events at the community, regional and national level in literally every corner of our province. Thirty-eight communities applied for a grant. Unlike business events, sport events have a much larger reach to every region in British Columbia.
For sport hosting to play its part in the recovery of our communities, our economies and our facilities and the supply chain that relies on sports, an increased investment and a forward-thinking approach are needed for sport events in British Columbia to leverage their full potential, from bidding to hosting to legacies. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the sport events industry to pause and reflect on the future. As borders reopen, travel restarts, and communities, provinces and countries attempt to move on from the pandemic, the event markets will be more competitive. Our competitors are investing more.
Governments around the world see events as an essential part of the recovery strategy and an excellent way to boost the economy and market their destinations as ready to welcome tourists again and provide much interaction within their own communities. New investments are needed to support health guidelines and new operational protocols of events, proactive risk management, reduced revenue due to limited event capacities, and the increased costs of skilled labour to replace previously supported volunteer positions.
Your return on investment in sport events will be realized in more than just a room night or a venue rental, but also significant social value for local communities. The Sport Tourism Network recommends an increase in investment that will leverage a minimum return of 5 to 1 for each dollar spent on sport events. With access to more resources, B.C. communities, in partnership with provincial sport organizations, will be able to bid more and host more at home. They can invest in referees, officials, infrastructure and equipment, and will be able to host more quality events that drive quality competition and thus provide more opportunities to British Columbians to play, volunteer and work while showcasing our amazing destination to visitors and supporting the local economy.
Sport is more important than ever. With sport events, we can help build a stronger B.C. Please join Team B.C. and be the reason why we win more, not the reason why we lose more.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Michelle.
Questions from the committee?
M. Starchuk: Thank you for your presentation, Michelle. A question. You didn't touch on it, but I just have a little bit of knowledge into it. Is there a dedicated amount out of the MRDT to go to sports tourism specifically in those 25 communities that you speak of?
M. Collens: There's the tourism events program, but unfortunately, due to the hotel revenue tax, it's not dedicated, in the sense that it is shared amongst arts, culture and sport. But it's a marketing fund. It's not a fund to attract events.
Once you've won it, then you can apply for it, so it's not helping us in that first stage. Many bids are now requiring governments to have participation in the bid upfront. Unfortunately, the MRDT tax is only available after you've won it. The system's set up so the province understands the wins we bid that we win. It doesn't understand how many we're losing.
L. Doerkson: Thank you for your presentation. I just seek a little bit of clarity about what exactly your organization does. When I bring the World Pickleball Championships to William's Lake, will you offer support to me? How will you engage with that?
M. Collens: For sure. I liaison or my colleagues, similar to myself in those communities, liaison into the community. We let you run the field of play. That's what you do best, and then we leverage it for every potential outside of it. You've not come to our community often, so we'll help to set up the hotels, to the infrastructure of the transportation, to understanding how you're going to promote it locally but also create the legacies.
When Rugby Canada comes to town to host an event, they don't know how to approach our First Nations to understand how they'll be engaged in the event. I introduce those protocols. I guide them through the process, and I leverage the event for reconciliation and direct social purposes.
At the same time, they don't know that maybe you should be investing in this form of marketing in order to get more people to come out to the event. All they care about is selling a ticket. I care about where this ticket is being sold to or where the people are coming that want to play in it. That's how we're going to increase new revenue to British Columbia as opposed to just recycling what's already here.
L. Doerkson: Great. Thank you.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): I guess the question I'm not really clear on is the funding that you receive currently and where it comes from — the lift that you're looking for or further investment. Could you better describe the existing situation and what you'd like to see in the future?
M. Collens: For sure. Right now Hosting B.C., collectively with the major events program, is $1 million annually. That funding has not changed for the last ten years for us, increasing the amount of events that we can host. When you compare it to our competitors…. And I'm talking Canadian competitors before we even aspire to our competitors that live in Scotland, New Zealand and Australia who host major events. Their investments, at minimum right now, are over $4 million annually for events at all levels.
I've had Kamloops call and tell me: "You know, Michelle, we wanted to bid on the ultimate national championships, and Ultimate Canada told us that we lost the bid to Edmonton because they invested $50,000 into the event." It merits that. It has that return of $250,000 in economic impact in that community, but they didn't even have $5,000 to apply or request because of the demands of the program. They had no funding and support from the government. As a result, they lost that bid.
It's there. It's just oversubscribed now. So many more communities are leveraging events to attract that there are just too many applications. As a result, the applications have diluted the investment to $1,000 and $2,000 as opposed to the $15,000 it used to be prior to 2010.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Help me understand. How does the B.C. Sport Tourism Network get funded besides Hosting B.C.?
M. Collens: The B.C. Sport Tourism Network doesn't get funded. We are collaborating with each other to come up with solutions. We came together during the pandemic because we don't see ourselves as competing against each other anymore. We see ourselves as supporting each other. I have key learnings in the city of Vancouver, looking at how I can better utilize the funds I do receive. How do I share that experience with my colleagues in Dawson Creek to see how they can better utilize the minimal resources they receive?
We're now interchanging and sharing best practices with each other. We don't see ourselves as competing anymore. We see ourselves as supporting an industry on the comeback. If they can host, then that's going to tell a better story for when I bid on my next event to say: "This is how British Columbia hosts." We show up. We're at our events, and we see ourselves collaborating.
It definitely connects to Victoria. It connects to Dawson Creek. When I learn of a best practice in my bid book that I put in Vancouver, I can share that expertise now with Victoria. We don't compete for the same things; we don't have the venues. No one else has a 55,000-seat venue in British Columbia. I do. I have that experience. But the Pomeroy Centre up in Fort St. John has an oval. So how can I help them win more speed skating events in order for them to host more visitors and drive more incremental benefits, but also social legacies, in their community?
J. Routledge (Chair): We are running out of time. Did you have one more question, Lorne?
L. Doerkson: Sure. If I could, Chair. Just a quick question.
In the case of the Kamloops situation where they were applying for the ultimate or whatever, you're not, then, in a position to help them come up with that $50,000, are you?
M. Collens: No. The B.C. Sport Tourism Network is just a bunch of colleagues getting together, because right now there is no one that is looking out for our industry in the sense of…. You know, there are sport development grants, and the Sport Ministry does support sport development.
There's now a line of commercial events which, if you're going after the Gay Games or the CARHA Hockey championships, are not supported by sport development because they are more commercial in nature and are master sports. So we don't have, necessarily, funding that's available from the province for things like that, but yet it drives tourism and attraction to the cities. Other communities — in Edmonton, Montreal — are receiving that funding to support those commercial events as opposed to the events that drive sport development.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Michelle, for coming and making your presentation and reminding us that fun is so good for the economy — and all the work that needs to go into it in the background. When we go into stadiums and arenas to have fun, we don't necessarily know all that's happening and how important it is. So thank you so much for your time.
M. Collens: Thank you so much. It's not just about the mega-events. It is about the bread-and-butters every year. That's what we're trying to do: support our economy more than every 20 years.
J. Routledge (Chair): Our next presenter is Brian Gisel, B.C. Ultimate.
B. Gisel: We didn't plan to have the previous speaker talk about my sport, so that was good. I am the ultimate guy.
I'd like to thank all the members of the group here for their time for this process.
I'd like to acknowledge the traditional lands of the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Squamish First Nations on which this meeting takes place today.
My name is Brian Gisel. My pronouns are he, him and his. I'm the general manager of B.C. Ultimate, a PSO which works with local leagues and communities to bring disc sports to over 8,000 members annually. I'll be using this time to talk about accessibility to sport.
Overall, sport is seemingly everywhere. It's on playing fields and in schools, on baseball diamonds, hockey rinks and curling clubs around the province. The physical and mental health benefits of creating a lifelong habit of activity has been spoken to by other speakers here in this forum, and I think it's something which we can all agree on.
It is easy to see those who are participating in sport, but it is harder to see those who do not have that opportunity to participate. It is that opportunity to participate which is paramount to everything that PSOs do.
I have a somewhat inelegant motto that I use when talking about the development of our sport and the mission of BCU. It's simply: "More ultimate better." I like to boil it down to that. That speaks to my belief and the belief of our organization that the more people who are exposed to and who play disc sports, the better off the world is in general. We truly believe that.
In this venue, I would expand that to say: "More sport better." B.C. has 70 PSOs and countless community organizations whose staff and volunteers are enthusiastic, eager and experienced at delivering programming. The bottom lines of all of these organizations are measured by the growth and development of safe sport.
PSOs are not just focused on those who are playing, but those who are not. This means directing programming to those groups with lower participation rates: girls and women, Indigenous persons, persons with disabilities, recent immigrants, economically disadvantaged groups, older adults, members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and those living in rural and remote communities.
With the effective reduction of sport funding over the last ten years due to inflation, on top of the negative impact that the pandemic has had on many organizations' internal revenue streams, the request for $12 million, over the next three years, for Pathways to Sport will be needed so that these organizations, which are already in place, can build sport back better but also more broadly.
An example of this kind of work can be found in Ultimate Spirit, a program of ours which partners with groups such as ISPARC and native friendship centres to bring our sport to Indigenous communities around the province. Beyond just teaching sport, participants share values such as community, inclusion, connection and spirit. Ultimate is a sport with a low economic barrier of entry, which allows us to provide communities with all the equipment and knowledge they need to continue participation independently.
An integral part of our vision is identifying and training local leaders in communities, who can then teach the next generation of students. Our long-term vision for this goal is giving youth not only the opportunity to play and learn but also to connect with other communities, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, to create a network of youth throughout the province using ultimate to build connections and understanding, as a small effort towards reconciliation.
Programs of this type around the world have enjoyed tremendous success. Over and over again, we have seen how providing youth with frisbees can create positive change. Our program is modelled after one called Ultimate Peace, from Israel. That programs brings together Israeli Arabs, Jews and Palestinians in week-long ultimate camps, to not only teach sport but create understanding.
Recently Al Jazeera has reported on how the sport has seen exponential growth in the Assam province in India, where it is played by 4,000 athletes in over 100 villages in that area. The sport is blurring ethnic, caste and gender lines when it comes to sport in that area. It would be hard to describe the pride I felt when reading the following from that story:
"When ultimate frisbee entered the scene, children and youths from all groups lapped it up. But can a sport bind everyone together? When asked this, one of the local coaches, who started playing at the age of 16, some six years ago, responded: 'It is difficult to say that, but ultimate has given us a platform to play, communicate and resolve our differences better.' One of their community leaders added: 'Ultimate has brought out the talent and inherent goodness of our youth.'"
That is the power of sport, and that is a power that can only be achieved if we can create those opportunities to participate.
Thank you very much for your time.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Brian.
P. Alexis: Wow. I had no idea. We have golf frisbee in my community. I made the mistake one day of actually walking in the area when they had their tournament. I was like: "Oh my goodness. I had no idea it was so hardcore." Anyway, really interesting, out of Israel — amazing stuff.
You're looking for part of that funding that goes to Pathways to Sport, that $12 million ask.
B. Gisel: Yeah. Certainly, we feel that overall, the increase of funding to sport in general is a net benefit for the society. I think we all believe that.
We're funded through viaSport, through our core funding — core funding is our main revenue stream — but also through membership. Like many organizations, in 2020, we received zero dollars in membership funding from our members. There were basically zero activities going on with our members, and we forgo collecting membership fees because of that. That's true with a lot of organizations. We certainly want funding to continue our work around the province. General funding increases are beneficial for everybody. We see that. We want more people playing sport.
Our sport pulls a lot of athletes from other sports. People play a lot of sports. We have a lot of people who've played soccer, rugby and basketball who find our sport like I did, a little bit later in life. I didn't start playing ultimate — not too much later but when I was 22 or 23 years old — until after I was out of university. We pull a lot of those people in. We want to build more athletes in this province.
J. Routledge (Chair): Well, I think everyone is stunned.
B. Gisel: Thank you very much.
J. Routledge (Chair): On behalf of the committee, I really want to thank you for your presentation and for giving us some insight. I think your quote from Israel is profound, and I will be looking at frisbee in the park with just a whole different sense of just how significant it is.
B. Gisel: Yeah, we are everywhere. One of our lead program coordinators for our Ultimate Spirit program was a coach at Ultimate Peace for a few years. It's an amazing program to go and speak to the kids there, who, as they say….
I have a quote where one of them says that these are other kids they would have never connected with, ever. They wouldn't have even thought about being in the same sector as Spirit. It brings them together in that sport.
J. Routledge (Chair): Yes. Wonderful.
Our next presenter is Kris Jonasson, British Columbia Golf.
K. Jonasson: Good morning, everyone. My name is Kris Jonasson, and I am the chief executive officer of British Columbia Golf.
B.C. Golf acknowledges and respects the many diverse Indigenous nations in whose traditional territories golf and its operations take place. Today I meet with you on the traditional and unceded lands of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh.
I would also like to thank the government of British Columbia for its support to sport during these difficult times. Golf maintains an ongoing partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Destination British Columbia. We work in partnership, solving environmental issues and creating sustainable tourism practices to support the economy.
British Columbia Golf, itself, has over 55,000 members, who play at over 275 member facilities around the province. Data estimates an additional 600,000 British Columbians play recreational golf at public, pay-for-play facilities. Golf facilities are a major part of community infrastructure within municipalities and within a growing number of Indigenous communities.
Golf is good for British Columbia's economy. In 2019, golf contributed an estimated $3.7 billion to the GDP in B.C. and employed just over 52,000 British Columbians. Golf drives tourism. Prior to the pandemic, golf attracted close to one million overnight visitors from the U.S. to play our courses, and we hope they can come back soon.
Golf is good for the environment. We manage vast areas of green space, providing much-needed refuge for wildlife. We work closely with and respect regulators in maintaining responsible water use and sustainable practices. Recently, in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, we produced an integrated pest management manual, now regarded as best practice within the industry.
Perhaps most importantly, golf is good for physical and mental health. Golf is a low-impact activity. Over the course of the pandemic, golf has also demonstrated it is a sport that naturally physically distances participants while providing tremendous and much-needed physical and mental benefits. Additional information is available in the Golf and Health report, which I circulated earlier.
British Columbia Golf is immensely proud of its work to ensure more British Columbians have access to the sport of golf. Just last year, our efforts were recognized by the government of B.C., with the inaugural leading in diversity and inclusion award. This award noted our successes in board diversity, our work with First Nations and our efforts in accessibility. We're committed to ensure golf is accessible to all, and I'd like to provide two concrete examples.
Recently I played a round of golf in Trail with several of my board members, one of whom has cerebral palsy and leads our Accessible Golf For All committee. When we arrived at the course, there were a few looks of surprise when we unloaded a wheelchair.
At the first tee, a lot of the golfers were eating lunch on the patio and warming up on the putting green. They all stopped to watch as Joe used a cane in one hand, balancing with a golf club in the other, to walk out onto the tee. I teed his ball for him while he informed me that if his shot was bad, it was my fault. Balancing with his cane and swinging one-handed, Joe hit it straight down the middle. You could hear the applause coming from the patio.
I'd just like to say that at some time in the future, we hope that we don't have to hear applause. We just think that people should recognize that it's normal.
B.C. Golf is also committed to reconciliation and ensuring that First Nations realize the economic and social benefits associated with their sport. In 2022, British Columbia Golf will hold two provincial championships on Indigenous-owned golf courses. Talking Rock in Chase and Nk'Mip just outside Oliver are true championship golf courses, and both proudly display their Indigenous culture and history in all areas of the province. Both courses are must-play on any best-in-B.C. list.
Going forward, it is our hope the partnership we have with ISPARC and the work we do with individual Indigenous nations will create golf operations which are not only owned but managed and staffed by the members of the nations. These are not short-term goals. Sport needs to continue growing, and it needs to grow within all demographic communities.
I am therefore here today to support our sector's request for an additional investment of $12 million over a three-year period. Your investment will help make sport in B.C. more accessible and inclusive and help more British Columbians realize the economic benefits that come from sport.
Thank you for the opportunity to present to you today.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Kris.
Questions from the committee?
P. Alexis: Just for clarity, the $12 million. Are you talking about, as well, the Pathways to Sport?
K. Jonasson: Yes.
P. Alexis: Okay, thank you. Just wanted clarity on that.
L. Doerkson: Thank you for the presentation. Your story about Joe is definitely touching. No question about that.
You mentioned about social distancing and golf. Did you guys receive an uptick in membership or people playing or…? How did COVID affect your sport?
K. Jonasson: Actually, it affected us in a positive way in most areas of the province. For the last two years, it's been virtually impossible to get a tee time anywhere in the province. We are seeing a tremendous amount of uptick in play.
Having said that, I mentioned in my presentation that golf courses are a major part of the infrastructure in every city in the province. That means they do a lot of weddings. They do a lot of banquets. They do a lot of corporate events. Those events have all kind of gone by the wayside. If they had a reliance on food and beverage operations, they're hurting. If they had a reliance on tourism, they're not getting the Americans coming over the border to play golf.
So while we're getting a lot of play from people within British Columbia, we still do miss the tourism opportunities that come from people who are coming from away.
L. Doerkson: Yeah. It's an amazing loss, actually, for the whole province.
Thank you very much for your presentation.
K. Jonasson: You're welcome.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Kris.
Just a question. The $12 million additional over three years. Where do you see that being put and used?
K. Jonasson: Well, that will be up to viaSport, as to how those funds are utilized. I would anticipate that all of the sports in the province would be eligible to apply for grants. We all have programs that we would like to do if there was sufficient funding available.
I would also like to say that golf benefits from an investment in every other sport. We are a sport — primarily, the only sport — that is practised by the older generation. But we rely on a lot of the other sports to provide the physical literacy for young people to learn how to run, jump, hit, kick — all the things that sport provides to them so that when they come to golf later in life, they have some success, and they enjoy it, and they play it for life.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): So through viaSport, that $12 million will be shared across other organizations. How would B.C. Golf put the funds to use if it was successful? Where would you be allocating it? I mean, I know that there are youth programs and seniors and stuff like that. Is there any particular area? You mentioned some of the courses that have suffered from the pandemic and things like that, and I'm just wondering: is it to promote golf, or is it to help golf courses recover financially? Where do you see that?
K. Jonasson: Well, it would be a little bit of both. We do have some programs that we would like to implement that would help the golf courses market properties when we get back to where people can travel. We have also looked at the province. We can run events in areas where there isn't a golf course. Certainly, we would like to do that. We think that golf needs to be played in other areas, or it needs to be taught in other areas of the province other than the major centres.
We would like to expand what we're doing with accessible golf. There are opportunities for people with mobility limitations to be out on the golf course, to be enjoying fresh air, to be getting some exercise, but those require special adaptive equipment, and we would like to see some of that equipment at every facility in the province so there are no barriers to anybody who is playing the sport.
So there are a lot of different areas where we could reinvest that fund into growing the sport in areas where they're not currently played as much today as they should be.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks, Kris.
J. Routledge (Chair): Okay. With that, I want to thank you so much for your presentation, Kris, and I want to tell you that when I go home tonight, I'll be sharing your stories and your perspective with my husband, who is a golf enthusiast.
K. Jonasson: Thank you.
J. Routledge (Chair): Our next presenter is Keith Ryan, British Columbia Provincial Football Association.
K. Ryan: Good morning.
J. Routledge (Chair): Good morning.
B.C. PROVINCIAL FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION
K. Ryan: First of all, I'd like to thank you for my time this morning to speak to you today on behalf of…. I'm wearing a few different hats. One is for the British Columbia Provincial Football Association. The other is for an organization called Water Polo West, another provincial organization, and, as well, for a committee that we have at Sport B.C. called the advocacy committee.
Today we'd like to address the role of provincial sport organizations in the need for continued funding and more robust funding, and that is in support of the $12 million submission that's been made.
Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting today on the traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples — of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam peoples. I thank them for allowing us to meet together on their lands.
As mentioned, I'm Keith Ryan. I'm the executive director of B.C. Provincial Football and Water Polo West. Individually and collectively, there are over 60 PSOs governing and managing the sport community in British Columbia, and it covers all communities across the province. Football, for example, is as far north as Prince George and Vanderhoof and as far east as the Kootenays. We have many clubs on the Island, and we have an extensive network of organizations in the Lower Mainland.
Water polo is a more Lower Mainland–based sport, so we have two different organizations: one a heavy focus on the Lower Mainland and one a more provincial-regional organization. The unique factor of both of those organizations is that they actually are new provincial organizations. The previous organizations actually financially collapsed in on themselves organizationally, and so they're new organizations. This speaks to the current situation within provincial funding.
When an organization stumbles and falls and they have to be rebuilt, their accessibility to funding becomes very limited, and that's in part because funding has, for PSOs, remained very stable for the past ten years. Having said that, British Columbia has a long history of funding sports properly and quite robustly. The standards that are in place at the provincial level are considered some of the best in the country.
Having said that, the population of British Columbia continues to grow. Sport participation can grow in some sectors, but we know that active lifestyles are declining in our children, which is causing later challenges for us.
The government funding that we have received continues to support stable standards within sports, but there is much work to be done.
The question was previously asked: "What does a PSO do?" Really, from my perspective, it does four core things.
Capacity-building. We help build clubs. We help build leagues. We help build participation. Participation has been a language that has been very dominant in our organizations for over ten years now, and it goes back to the legacy of the 2010 games, which was obviously a great success, when one of the targets was to increase participation by a certain amount by the time we had the games.
Operating standards. Improving how organizations operate under standards. Sport Branch and viaSport have set standards and said: "You need to reach these standards in order to maintain your funding." So there's a robust model in place for the management of the funds that we're given.
The three other main areas of a PSO are athlete development, coach development and officials development. I think it's safe to say that most people would not find officials development sexy or enthused or something that gets your blood stirring. It's a big challenge. You speak to many sports, and recruiting of officials is a real challenge.
The pool of funding has maintained a stable level for about ten years, but in real terms, that's a decline. We have more to do, with less funds. Inflation is becoming an increasing part of our lives today. So what we see is when the funding stays flat, it actually results in a net decline.
The only option for Sport Branch and viaSport is to…. If they want to expand funding to different organizations…. You've already had presentations from sports like B.C. Ultimate, which is a newer sport, and then you've got the historic sport of golf, which has a long history in the province. So in order for B.C. Ultimate to get more money, golf has to get less money. That's the challenge we face in both football and water polo.
The challenge underpinning this is: how do we continue to support all sports? Football is a good example where we have a very low level of funding, comparatively. There are around, pre-pandemic, 9,000 football players in the province among high school, minor football and junior. But that's a sport that received $29,000. So in order for football to attract more funding from the government, where does that come from? That's the challenge we face today, which is why you've seen a financial ask of $12 million.
The system that's in place has built strong recovery. Football is a good example. The organization is five years old now. We have membership revenues. We attract sponsorships. We're hosting national championships. Next year we'll host the Canada Cup in Kelowna and the Western Challenge for U16 athletes in Langley. So we're hosting events, and we had a great presentation earlier from the hosting. We'll support the organizations like that and other funding coming in that makes for a very successful event in British Columbia.
We have no room for continuous improvement. We need to expand our programming to reflect the needs of society today. When we think about — and Jane Blaine was here from Blind Sports — how do we engage with disability sports, how do we support their involvement, work with Indigenous communities? We can work with organizations like ISPARC, but without funding, that's a very difficult relationship to pursue.
Especially, one of the things coming from a very small island of England to a country like Canada, I think that sometimes one of the things we forget in B.C. is the size of the province. What's happening in Fort St. John? What's happening in Prince George and Terrace? We forget the distance between communities. I think there are challenges to British Columbia that require a certain amount of funding.
According to B.C. stats, the total population is projected to increase over the next ten years for every age cohort we work on. That is going to be one of our biggest challenges.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Keith.
G. Kyllo: You referenced the reduction in activity of our youth. Are there any particular stats? Where are you getting that information from?
K. Ryan: I think one of the key stats is that viaSport measure actual participation every year. A really good example of that would be soccer. Soccer has seen a 10 percent decline in their reported participation numbers, so I think you've got two areas to discuss there: the organized sport participation numbers, which we have empirical data for, and then the anecdotal thing that you'll read in the media about more people playing video games, etc. It's actually being statistically measured.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions?
I think you covered a lot of bases, a very clear presentation. I want to thank you on behalf of the committee. I guess the final comment that I would make is…. When you talked about athlete, coach and official development, that resonated with me.
My grandson is an umpire, and at a very young, at 13 years old, he had to learn how to fend off angry parents. It's a great life skill.
K. Ryan: Absolutely.
Thank you all very much, and thank you for your work.
J. Routledge (Chair): Our next presenter is Walt Judas, Tourism Industry Association of British Columbia.
Walt, you have five minutes. We'll give you a 30-second warning to wrap up.
TOURISM INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION OF B.C.
W. Judas: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I also want to say, on behalf of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. and our members and stakeholders: thank you for including tourism as part of your committee's report and recommendations to the province for the 2021 budget.
Eighteen months into the pandemic, we're at a critical juncture for many tourism and hospitality businesses throughout the province, particularly small and rural operators, as well as those that rely almost exclusively on international visitors, especially now that the peak season is over. The primary issue that operators continue to face is meeting monthly fixed-cost expenses.
With recovery anticipated to be well beyond 2022, businesses need version 2.0 of the circuit breaker or small and medium-sized business recovery grant that kept many of them alive earlier this year. The province might also consider backstopping loans, with more favourable terms through the credit union system, for larger operators such as hotels and attractions that have not yet received the kind of support needed to sustain operations over the long term.
Recently TIABC submitted a brief to Minister Kahlon to help inform the province's new economic strategy. The brief noted that for the industry to emerge positioned for long-term success, it needs to formulate a long-term strategy that combines imaginative planning with successful practices from other sectors.
The strategy needs to be a collaboration between government and industry and must address critical issues and opportunities such as improvements to current infrastructure as well as development of new and unique tourism amenities, especially projects that connect tourism with other sectors, for example, the establishment of a new museum of screen-based media that would provide a world-class tourism attraction and build on B.C.'s expertise and reputation as Hollywood North.
The creation of new partnerships with Indigenous groups to build tourism products and bolster the path to reconciliation. Identification and promotion of environmentally friendly visitor experiences and increased investment in the B.C. parks system for new trails as well as maintenance.
Promotion of sustainable business practices — for example, installation of electric charging stations and provision of incentives for private operators for the electrification of their businesses, and widespread adoption of digitization, new automation and AI tools that help to improve tourism operator efficiencies.
Increased investment in tourism marketing, through Destination B.C., and continued commitment to the MRDT system for funding community destination marketing organizations. Access to and recruitment of workers representing all demographics, with a focus on Indigenous, women, immigrants, new residents, students and underrepresented segments of the workforce, including people with disabilities. Further training and career advancement opportunities for people from all walks of life to attain the knowledge, expertise and skills to advance to one of the thousands of good-paying, stable, full-time skilled positions available in the tourism industry.
We also believe the time is right for a renewed focus on attracting the best and the brightest to the tourism industry. As past data demonstrates, the consensus by industry analysts is that as B.C.'s tourism industry recovers, it can make important economic contributions to other sectors, while taking a leadership role in promoting inclusion and sustainability.
One idea to help advance these goals: we suggest the creation of a B.C. tourism industry commerce centre that could be similar in concept to Innovate B.C., which focuses on helping B.C. technology companies. We believe that through a partnership between government and the tourism industry, the centre would help B.C. businesses better understand their opportunities as suppliers to the tourism industry, to develop innovative new products and services for tourism businesses and to increase exponentially B.C.'s share of the global tourism industry supplier marketplace.
Such an initiative could also bolster efforts to support Indigenous-owned businesses, firms owned by women and minorities, and companies that have a focus on sustainability and innovation. Moreover, it would greatly benefit the B.C. tourism industry by helping the sector to become less reliant on fragile international supply chains and by fostering the development of innovative new made-in-B.C. products and visitor experiences.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Walt.
Questions from the committee?
P. Alexis: You've given us a lot of concrete examples of how government can assist.
I just want to go back to the…. You said the tourism conference centre…. Is that what you called it, or did I miss something there? Commerce centre. Pardon me.
Can you tell me a little bit more about how that would work — an investment of that kind that would benefit absolutely the tourism operators? If you could explain that a little bit more.
W. Judas: It would really be the kind of a centre that you may recall was in place during the 2010 Olympic Games — the B.C. Commerce Centre — which talked about what the needs were for procurement, whether within government or government-related organizations, and companies that registered that could provide those types of services. So it's really about bringing two sides together and offering B.C. companies an opportunity to understand how the procurement process works within government or understand how they might be able to service the tourism sector.
The tourism sector, as you know…. Take the cruise industry as an example. They rely a lot on suppliers every time a ship docks here in port. To that end, those suppliers really don't know how to access those tourism businesses. So it's about bringing the two sides together.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Walt. Can you describe a little bit better about circuit breaker 2.0? Like, we know 1.0 is gone. What's the new program that you think that the tourism industry…? The ones that are remote, smaller — what do you think that they're looking for? Give me some sort of idea besides the credit union one.
W. Judas: Yeah, I would suggest it's probably akin to the first circuit breaker grant. It's a grant program for those businesses that have been most drastically affected, particularly those that rely on international visitors. Many of them, in some sectors, didn't operate at all. They couldn't pivot to domestic visitation or guests. It would be a very similar program with similar criteria.
The same for the small and medium-sized business recovery grant — a special disposition for tourism businesses, because many of them could not open or they were too late in the season by the time the international border, the American border, opened. So it allows them just to sustain themselves through a grant program and be able to continue operating — at least at the very base level — so that when we start seeing visitors again in the peak season next spring and summer, they're still around as businesses.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Yeah. I know when we walk around Victoria — we're going to be back there pretty soon — it's not a very pleasant sight to see the empty streets and shops and stuff like that. I mean, people have lost everything, and those are the ones that are gone.
W. Judas: Yeah. Indeed.
L. Doerkson: Not so much a question but just a comment. Thank you for presenting today on behalf of all of these businesses.
You touched on cruise ships and the partners that they, of course, have. It's so much more than tourism. There is that wake of success behind your operators, from everybody that sells gas to a hamburger on the side of the road. So it's certainly an important aspect of the economy of British Columbia for certain.
I also just wanted to point out that these operators, of course, have not only suffered through COVID regulations for almost two years, but just when we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, we had wildfires throughout much of the province. So that also added more time to closures, and of course, now that we've recovered from that, we're right back to COVID restrictions.
This is definitely a sector that has suffered greatly, and I'm appreciative of your presentation.
W. Judas: Thank you for those comments. I will add that most people don't realize how extensive the tourism sector affects other sectors and how much other sectors rely….
I often say that the person that pumps gas into houseboats in Sicamous doesn't realize that they're in tourism, but they are. They're not in the gas business; they're in tourism. That's the extent that tourism fans out across the province, into every community.
J. Routledge (Chair): With that, on behalf of the committee, I would like to thank you, Walt, for coming and presenting. I echo what others have said. Your presentation — your recommendations are very specific. Very concrete. You've highlighted how important tourism is to British Columbia, and I think it was really important that you linked your recommendations to other government priorities, as a way of fulfilling some of those priorities. Thank you again.
W. Judas: Thank you very much. Thank you to the work that the committee is doing. Appreciate it.
J. Routledge (Chair): Our next presenter is Eric Chene, Vancouver International Marathon Society, RUNVAN.
E. Chene: I'd first like to thank everyone around this table for the opportunity to speak today and also for the provincial government's long-standing support for events and sports.
Today, I'm here to represent not only the Vancouver International Marathon Society but all events and sports in this province. This includes regional, community and national events that generate millions of dollars annually to the local economy through sport tourism.
Events such as the BMO Vancouver Marathon, the RBC GranFondo, the Vancouver Sun Run and the Penticton Ironman bring thousands of international and national guests to our province annually. On average, participants that travel to these events will bring 1.5 guests and will stay in the province for four days, travelling across the province from Vancouver to Kelowna to Vancouver Island.
In 2019 alone, pre-pandemic, there was over 350 running events in the province, with over 200,000 registered participants. On average, participants pay approximately $50, which would generate $10 million in fees alone, without factoring any other economic impact.
Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic has been very difficult on event organizers. We were the first ones to shut down, and to this day, we are the last ones to reopen. Large events are one of the few businesses in 2022 that are unsure whether or not we can reopen and have our events. Events over 5,000 persons outdoors are still not possible in the province today.
Increased cost has also become a major hurdle for us as event organizers. Many of our key suppliers and partners have become insolvent, because their main form of business is supporting events like ourselves, whether we are sporting events or other events in the city. The few suppliers that are left have major staff shortages and supply chain issues, and we're seeing anywhere between a 50 to 200 percent increase in quotes when we are planning our events in the coming year.
New provincial legislations around traffic management has also negatively impacted events, especially smaller events. These legislations around traffic plans — and this goes anything from a parade to a run to a cycling event — are extremely cost prohibitive for smaller organizations. For example, ourselves, who run four events a year, were quoted $150,000 to redo all of our traffic plans. These are to meet the new ministry guidelines.
In terms of events just in running that are no longer viable because of the pandemic, over 50 have been cancelled, and we assume more will be cancelled in the years to come, strictly due to restrictions, and also, a lot of these companies have become insolvent over the last few years.
One thing that is forgotten about events is our positive impact on charities. Since our inception of our charity program with the Vancouver International Marathon Society, we have raised over $60 million for local, national and provincial charities, such as KidSport, Canadian Cancer Society, Children's Hospital and local food banks.
The two events that we have upcoming in the fall, with only 2,000 total participants, have raised over $10,000 to the local food banks and the Children's Hospital. Running events in the province in normal times has raised approximately $2 million to local, national and regional charities.
One of the unique things about running events or cycling events or any other sporting events is that we're inclusive of all ages. We have youth as young as five and seniors as old as 100 participating in our events at the speed and at the rate that they can. Our events are not only inclusive of ages but also ethnicities and have little to no restrictions in terms of entry or to barriers.
We've worked very closely with East Vancouver to ensure sports are accessible to all, providing various garments and hundreds of free entries — especially youth at risk, who would otherwise not be able to participate in sports. In addition to this, we also offer grants to seniors, youth and marginalized communities to ensure races are accessible to all. Unfortunately, we may have to cut all of these programs without additional support due to increased costs with putting on events.
One of the important factors that our events also do is…. We have thousands and thousands of volunteers. Our small society alone has over 4,000 volunteers annually that help in our events. These youth are our future, and we provide them extremely important leadership roles. Increased investment in sport hosting will not only boost social and economic benefits in the province but also help recovery for the tourism sector, small businesses and charities who suffered greatly through the pandemic.
Many people that I've spoken to that have been at the start line have said that at a major race, you could power a city. Please help us continue to power the dreams of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people that look to participate in sport year over year.
Thank you for your ongoing support of sports events and sport tourism in this province.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Eric. Questions from the committee?
P. Alexis: I'd like to talk about the traffic plans, if I could. I know that in my own community, we have a process that has to be followed when we do the big parade. Once it's done once, is it not good enough? Or do you have to continue to do the same traffic plan for the same event the next year, even though you've reached those new standards? That's my question.
E. Chene: The way the traffic plans work is that they need to be accepted yearly by city officials, potentially ministry, potentially UBC. So even though our races are in Vancouver, I actually run it through eight jurisdictions, ironically. I need sign-off on every single jurisdiction.
Whenever there's a small change — so a bike lane, as an example — I need to revise that traffic plan. Each page will probably cost you $500, and then you need an engineer to stamp that page for another $500. Because cities grow, there's a lot of construction, so every time I have to change the route. In theory, I believe a plan is good for three years.
Unfortunately, there is a shortage of engineers, and the ones that are in the business are, to be honest, in the business of making money and will quote $500 per page. The BMO Vancouver Marathon — we have a 100-page plan. So to stamp 100 pages every three years, plus changes to all those pages, is quite cost prohibitive.
It is one of those things…. I do understand from the safety that it's something that needs to happen. But there might be some efficiencies there, especially for the…. To be honest, a lot of the small events that I know that have been cancelled in major cities…. It's because of the traffic plan. They just can't afford to put on the events, to create a new traffic plan.
P. Alexis: Thank you for that.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions?
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): I don't know if…. It's a comment. But Eric, you did a great job in graphically pointing out the impact of these larger events. We've heard from smaller tourism operators and the sport organizations. But for a big organization — and having been in the Vancouver Marathon, I know how big it is — I never thought about it.
Are you here in support or working with viaSport and their request?
E. Chene: Yes, absolutely. We are here as part of the bigger picture with viaSport. We are part of B.C. Athletics, so all of our events do get sanctioned by B.C. Athletics. To be honest, we've had great support in the past from Sport Hosting Vancouver as well as Destination B.C. The marathon alone brings in, typically, runners from 65 countries and over 3,500 international guests. I'm not sure about 2022. And it is our 50th anniversary next year.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Well, anyways, I hope we can get things back on track.
P. Alexis: I just want to go back to traffic plans, if I could. Have you talked to the city about the inefficiencies there and that you're looking for ways to streamline or anything? Is there any help there?
E. Chene: It's interesting. Depending on the city, they interpret the new Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure plans differently.
The city of Vancouver is, basically, at the extreme of asking for every single thing to be stamped, everything to be done, even though it could be a minor change. A change could be that there is a new road, and I need to add a police officer at this intersection. That change might cost me $1,000. And that person will cost me $800 to make him stand there for five hours on event day.
Again, just for us, when I started working with the Vancouver Marathon in 2013, to shut down the roads for the Vancouver Marathon cost us approximately $200,000, which seems like a big bill. I've been quoted $650,000 for 2022.
P. Alexis: Wow.
E. Chene: It turns out my main source of revenue comes from runners. So sponsors like BMO and Running Room are great, but they represent 10 percent. The only way to get additional money is support from the province, support from the city and also increasing runner fees, because those are my options. Then runners start complaining that we're charging too much.
We're trying to keep it accessible, especially for youth and other groups as well. Running is supposed to be accessible for all. You need a pair of shoes, a pair of shorts, and you can go out and run a 5K or a 10K. But when I'm charging you $70 to do that, it becomes inaccessible for people that otherwise could do it.
P. Alexis: In eight years, you're saying it's gone up three times?
E. Chene: Yeah. Over 300 percent, yes.
P. Alexis: There's something funny there. I don't know how you can make ends meet with those kinds of costs.
E. Chene: I mean, we're a non-profit, but yeah, it's challenging. We're worried about the future. We're looking at redesigning courses that run in circles, because it's more cost-efficient to run 40K four times in a loop than running on multiple streets.
J. Routledge (Chair): Well, we're out of time. Thank you so much for giving us this insight — the unintended consequences of others' decisions that impact on your sport and also how much it gives back to the community. Great presentation.
Our next presenter is Haydn Wazelle, Canadian Media Producers Association, B.C. branch.
Haydn, you have five minutes. We will give you a 30-second warning so you know when to wrap up, and then the committee has five minutes to ask you any questions.
CANADIAN MEDIA PRODUCERS
ASSOCIATION, B.C. BRANCH
H. Wazelle: Excellent. Thank you very much.
Good morning and hello, everyone. My name is Haydn Wazelle, and I'm representing the Canadian Media Producers Association as one of their national board members. I'm a B.C.-based media and entertainment producer and software developer.
I'd like to take a quick moment just to acknowledge that I live, work and play on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples.
I consider myself to be a true, independent B.C. media producer, and I've had the fortunate opportunity to work on international and interprovincial co-productions, multiple TV series. I've produced feature films, documentaries and two video games right here in B.C.
My software company, ZedDrive, has managed over 350 film and television productions, including many Netflix, CBC and Bell Media productions, along with every season of favourites like Letterkenny and the locally owned Kim's Convenience.
The CMPA, B.C. branch, has nearly 150 members — independent, B.C.-owned production companies that generate substantial full-time-equivalent employment in our province. Given the overpowering rise of the streamers and the uneven playing field across the country, B.C. producers find themselves challenged.
Last year the provincial government contributed $2 million to the local film and television industry through Creative B.C. It was the culmination of years of advocacy and very welcomed, so thank you. Many colleagues I have worked with closely for years have applied to this fund, and I've agreed, personally, to join the advisory panel to help distribute those moneys.
Our main ask today is to see that $2 million increased to $5 million and be pledged annually. Such an investment in B.C. would still be well below the provincial support received by producers in Ontario and Quebec and is crucial for our B.C. content to stay in the hands of B.C. producers.
Right now some of the $2 million has entered the market through Reel Focus and the domestic motion picture fund, and 21 emerging equity-seeking and sovereignty-seeking creators received project development grants. The CMPA-BC is adding business capacity–building support on top of that.
A widely cited report from McKinsey and Company recently posited that Hollywood is losing $10 billion in potential revenue annually by not resolving its inequity issues when it comes to Black inclusion in the film and television industry. I suspect that B.C.'s relationship to the Indigenous community, Asian and South Asian communities will also show substantial missed revenue opportunities.
I would further add that we need to remove the barriers in place to allow other provinces to co-produce with B.C. producers, by not forcing them to give up their majority ownership stake in projects they've created or developed, just to work with us. More production in B.C. is good for B.C. Creative B.C.'s production program, which is $800,000 this round, will allow a small handful of more established producers to leverage provincial support to attract federal and foreign investment into B.C.
It's important to highlight that B.C. continues to lose out in terms of our fair share of federal public funding. The Canada Media Fund, which invests in TV shows and interactive projects like video games, consistently allocates 10 percent to our province. Telefilm Canada, which invests in feature films, averages closer to 6 percent. We need to see those numbers double. Support from your offices, as we lobby the feds, can help make that happen.
Even with a pandemic, B.C.'s film and TV sector is holding steady at well over $3 billion annually in production volume. But B.C.-owned domestic content is hovering at just above 10 percent of that figure — not just quite $400 million. B.C. residents do not own the substantial amount of production that happens within their borders.
We all fully appreciate the foreign location service work that happens in this province and the stable, labour-based tax credit that's so central to attracting those studios here. In fact, many of our members are actively engaged in this work and have built their businesses on this model. But we believe that effective lobbying to the feds for B.C. to get their fair share, representative of our population and production volume, will only benefit the province and increase the number of full-time-equivalent jobs created.
Together we need to leverage B.C.'s current production volume size to better set ourselves up for the future so that we can withstand any changes to foreign investment by building a stronger domestic industry. As producers, we can best build our companies by developing our own IP, our own intellectual property. We need to own the copyright, exploit the asset, retain the revenues and reinvest the profits right back here in B.C. IP ownership leads to IP exploitation, which is what creates a viable local production sector for the long term, one that's not quite so subject to external variables and trends.
Our bonus ask is for the provincial government to contribute to the CMPA-BC–initiated public-private partnership to create a stand-alone IP optioning fund, which I look forward to sending you more information about in the future. With a one-time $250,000 investment from the province, we could confidently go out and seek matching funds.
It has been my pleasure to speak to you today on behalf of B.C.'s media producers. I thank you for your attention and your time. I wish you nothing but the best as you work to make our communities better for all of us. Please be well.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Haydn.
M. Dykeman: Thank you for your presentation. That was really interesting. I learned quite a bit.
I do have a question. You sort of mentioned the lack of infrastructure that we have in B.C. for B.C.-owned and -operated…. Is that what is referenced on page 6 of the submission, where it talks about a barrier being "lack of local decision-makers"? It says: "Canada Media Fund, Telefilm, CBC, major broadcasters and foreign streamers." I was wondering if you could just expand on that a bit.
H. Wazelle: Yes. Historically, Telefilm, the Canada Media Fund and all the broadcasters hold their corporate offices where their commissioning editors, the people that effectively sign the cheques and choose what projects get made, are: in Ontario — basically, in Toronto.
To give you a good example, a lot of the producers will basically be attending events quite regularly, whether it be the Toronto Film Festival or just the natural parties that happen in Toronto. If you live in Toronto, that advantage is tenfold compared to what we have to deal with, whereas I'm in Toronto about three times a year at this point. It's largely for large events where everyone is quite excited, and it can be quite difficult to get the time that you need in front of those executives and get that focused attention.
It's definitely changed during this Zoom era where there's been a bit more access and a bit more concerted effort to reach out to B.C. But I would say that's primarily what we're speaking to. It's not as easy to casually make those connections and form those relationships.
M. Dykeman: I totally understand. That makes sense. Thank you very much.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Haydn. To your presentation, as soon as you said Letterkenny, my whole brain started going in a completely different direction, and I apologize for that— or not.
With regard to being behind Quebec and Ontario and the ask that's there, what happens if it doesn't come?
H. Wazelle: Well, here's what I'll say. I feel like there is a common thought process, when I speak with my colleagues from Quebec and from Ontario, that there isn't a strong creative industry in British Columbia. Just recently, I'm literally getting off set. I spent the last three weeks on set, working with a very close colleague out of Toronto who was shooting here in British Columbia. They'd asked me to come and support their project, as they didn't know the region.
I can say that they were shocked, and it just did not compute, at how busy British Columbia is, how many trained and capable crews and professionals are here in British Columbia, because we primarily market to the American industry in Hollywood. They seem to be the only ones that are aware, as you can probably tell, and coming to work here, whereas our colleagues over there don't think that there's any real strong voices, talents, creatives or companies out on the British Columbia side.
I think as a result of that, what we've seen historically is that the projects that, as Canada, we put out in the world as successful Canadian projects largely come from Quebec — for multiple reasons, one of which is the foreign language. That'd be the French language component. But there's the substantial investment in their creative and their artistic endeavors there, not only from an artistic point of view but also from a business standpoint. It feels like we need to do a better job in marketing the success of our industry, especially over the last 20 years.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions for Haydn?
Well, on behalf on the committee, I would like to thank you for taking the time to present, giving us some insight into your industry. I, for one, need to think this through and compute what you're telling us. I live in a community where there are movie studios. There's filming happening everywhere. We have EA. It's really important what you've told us, in where it fits into what's happening elsewhere in Canada. Thank you for that.
Our next presenter is Peter Leitch representing the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of B.C.
MOTION PICTURE PRODUCTION
P. Leitch: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for taking the time to listen this morning. It's always great having somebody like Haydn speak before me, especially on the Canadian part of the business, because there's so much British Columbia talent that we, I would say, underutilize in some ways in terms of the real, creative talent that creates new projects.
One of the things that he talked about was leveraging federal funds. That's one thing that we haven't been that successful with, compared to Quebec and Ontario. It's a really important aspect that you might want to focus in on. Also, I think our experience with COVID shows our dependency on the U.S., and I represent a lot of that here today. It can be precarious; it's not guaranteed.
I do look forward to the day that we have a stronger creative sector here. We certainly have the talent, and we've really got that worldwide reach too now. All good news.
Okay. In March 2020, the motion picture industry in British Columbia effectively shut down as a result of COVID-19. I was really amazed at the following six months in terms of our collaboration with the unions and the guilds, suppliers, producers, production managers and the B.C. health authority. I thought everybody did a fantastic job — first of all, in keeping the numbers down and then getting the industry back to work in as safe a way as we possibly could.
Our whole studio changed in terms of the way we operated, and it was amazing to see. It looked a lot different. It was a lot more expensive, but that was actually accepted by our customers, because it was like that globally. So it wasn't a competitive disadvantage. In fact, our low numbers actually became a competitive advantage for us.
Again, the work that was done, especially on behalf of the industry by the unions and guilds and again, the health authority and Creative B.C…. Creative B.C. really stepped up this last 18 months to make it all work and to take leadership in a lot of these areas. So it was a real success story.
The motion picture production industry is a major contributor to B.C.'s economy now. We're a major industry here, and we employ in excess of 60,000 direct and indirect jobs. We contribute in the range of $2.5 billion to the economy. It's a $3-billion-plus industry here in terms of…. Most of it, as Haydn said, relates to the service industry.
When we talk about the service industry, really, we are talking about the business coming up from the United States. We've got great relationships. In fact, we're fortunate in Canada that the Motion Picture Association actually has a representative up in Canada, Wendy Noss, who happens to sit on our board. So we have direct access to the major studios in that way as well as just our relationships that we've built up over the years. We're very strong in terms of our service work, and I think we'll continue to do that. The government's been very supportive in terms of having competitive tax credits.
I won't speak for the domestic industry, because that's a bigger challenge in some ways in terms of the tax credits. We've worked very closely with the provincial government over the years — all parties — to make sure that we're competitive. We don't have to be the best, because we've got other advantages here. Our time zone is a huge advantage. The world of looks we have in British Columbia is a huge advantage in the talent base that we have here.
We talk their language in Los Angeles. We've been doing it long enough now. I started over 30 years ago in the industry and just the development of the crews and the sophistication of the crews have changed dramatically. We've really embraced the move to digitization over the last ten years now, I guess. It's certainly rapidly speeding up. Of course, we have taken advantage of our capabilities here.
It's not only the economic benefits of the industry, but the industry is very supportive of the communities that we work in. We like to give back. We give back to places like the food bank and the restoration of green spaces. I know we contributed $165,000 recently to help regreen some of the parks.
Our partnerships with Creative B.C., the unions, guilds, industry associations, major studios and local producers have created, I would say, the most collaborative motion picture industry in North America for sure. That's kind of our secret sauce — that we work together. Some of my closest colleagues are my competitors, and that's because we know that if we can bring the business up here and we all do a great job, then it will be great for the industry.
I know I'm running out of time. Three quick current priorities. Workforce development — really big, including equity, diversity and inclusion, which is a big part of it. Our climate change initiatives with Reel Green — this is really important to us. The fires impact our industry a great deal in terms of our ability even to shoot up in the Interior.
Community engagement is the other thing. All the film liaison people in the municipalities have been such a great asset for us. We get around the table once every second month with that group, and there are about 40 or 50 people there. I’m just amazed at how everybody is making this contribution.
On workforce development, one of the big changes with COVID, of course, is that animation and visual effects, even post-production — they all ended up working from home very quickly. It was impossible before then, but all of a sudden, when the need happened, we made technology work for us and enabled them to securely — and that's the key — work from home, and some of that is not going to change.
It's great as an outreach, our ability to attract people from all over the province, when they can just work from their house in Campbell River or Prince George or wherever. It's fantastic for us, and it gives us the opportunity to build the industry, because there's going to be a workforce shortage. There's no doubt about it.
Community engagement. Again, we're dependant on locations where we shoot. Without that community engagement and the support of government…. The provincial government and the municipal governments own a lot of the properties that we shoot on. That's really key to us.
Access to the major industries is important. Right now, we're trying to get better communications with B.C. Hydro, because we use a lot of their facilities. Of course, TransLink has been another one that we want to have access to, all the transportation networks.
In general, I don't really have a particular ask today, except for what Haydn was asking for, which I think is really important and worth consideration. But the important thing is communication, where we have a dialogue and we have a constant dialogue with government.
The other thing is that the funding for Creative B.C. is really important to us. They've really taken leadership, and they're the ones…. In terms of the operating companies here, they're relatively small, and Creative B.C. takes the lead on some of these initiatives that we're doing and provides us with administrative support, which allows us to excel in some of the areas that we're excelling in.
That's my presentation. I'm open for questions. Sorry, I kind of ran through it quickly.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Peter.
M. Dykeman: Thank you, Peter. It's lovely to see you again.
I just wanted to ask very quickly on the workforce development. Hearing you talk about the relationship with Creative B.C. and community engagement…. I know, in my riding of Langley, our local government and the film industry have such a wonderful relationship, and we're such a growing municipality in the area of film. Creative B.C., through the pandemic, has been fantastic to work with. It's great to see that your industry was such a leader in really being a safe return to work, and everybody spoke to that.
Now, in the area of workforce development, I know there have been some initiatives that have been taking place, like looking at maybe working with post-secondary or with high schools. What areas do you see are the most pressing in workforce development to support this industry?
P. Leitch: Well, it's interesting. There are a couple things. One is that Creative B.C. has developed Creative Pathways in working with the unions and guilds. Creative Pathways — first of all, equity, diversity and inclusion are real, key points of that.
Also, with Creative Pathways, we always had trouble in terms of attracting people, because they didn't understand how to get into the industry. The unions and guilds — and with Creative B.C. and Creative Pathways, which will be launching, I think, next month, and they're working closely with Advanced Education on this — are going to create these pathways where people can access the industry. It's not going to be your brother or your cousin or whatever or people that look like me that are lined up to get into the industry. It's going to be a more diverse-looking group, and we're going to attract a lot of the talent, again, provincewide.
I think that we failed, in some ways, to do that up until recently, but now we're working hard to make up for that. And we need to, because there is absolutely going to be a shortage of workforce. I mean, I'm looking at the list of studios that are going to built over the next two years. It's probably another fifty sound stages, and where are we going to find the crews to accommodate that? And we want to find as many local crews as we can.
M. Dykeman: It's huge. Well, thank you so much. It's so exciting to see how much this industry is growing in B.C.
H. Sandhu: Thank you, Peter. It's more like a comment. You highlighted how when COVID first came, it was hard. But I know that I was humbled to recognize, during creative week in the Legislature, how they work together. Industry and guilds and unions came together.
I think we were one of the first jurisdictions to start production. If I'm not wrong, at one time, we had 60 productions happening in that fall. I think that was a proud moment and a great example of everyone working together.
The reason I was so keen about everybody coming together and industry bouncing back…. Despite the challenge in my own riding, Vernon, we hosted a production for Under a Lover's Moon and Love on the Vine during that season. It was so great to know that we were considered one of the safest locations in North America to have these productions. So thank you for the work you do.
I think I would really want to mention that when I see young people who perhaps want to enter into the industry in various roles, they don't know where to start. So I'm glad to hear that there is some work being done in order to create that awareness or, probably, create some kind of format that they know where to start and who to contact. That would be really…. We have a lot of talent in B.C.
Thank you for the work you're doing, and thank you for your presentation.
P. Leitch: Thank you. You'll see some evidence on the unions if you go to the unions' websites. Go to IATSE 891, for instance, and you'll see that they've started to create the pathways in. Also with visual effects and animation, we kind of have an open house and a work forum for young people wanting to get into the industry.
They also have…. There are places, like, where we've supported…. For instance, Capilano University. I worked for Nat Bosa and contribute to the Bosa Film Centre there to develop that talent. The skills that they're teaching align with the needs of the industry. That's hugely important for us.
J. Routledge (Chair): Not seeing any other questions, on behalf of the committee, Peter, I want to thank you for coming and sharing your enthusiasm with us. Again, I want to say that it's a big part of my community. A lot of those 60,000 jobs you're talking about are actually my neighbours.
I live around the corner from Overlynn manor, which is a very popular site for filming. It directly funds seniors' low-income housing. So it's great that those connections are there in the community.
P. Leitch: Great. That's good to hear.
Thanks very much for the opportunity. I appreciate it.
J. Routledge (Chair): It looks like we'll have one more presentation before we take a break. Our next presentation is Humera Jabir, West Coast LEAF.
WEST COAST LEAF
H. Jabir: Good morning. My name is Humera Jabir. I use she/her pronouns. I am a staff lawyer at West Coast LEAF.
I live and work on the unceded homelands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
Thank you for inviting West Coast LEAF to speak here today.
West Coast LEAF is a B.C.-based legal advocacy organization founded in 1985. We use legal strategies to create an equal and just society for all women and people who experience gender-based discrimination.
West Coast LEAF will be providing written submissions with our full recommendations on how B.C.'s 2022 budget can address the growing social and economic inequality experienced by women and people who are marginalized because of their gender. My remarks today, however, are focused on three priority areas that we believe must be reflected in the upcoming budget. The upcoming budget cannot simply be about recovering from the pandemic but must invest in critically important system changes.
We recommend, firstly, reviewing and enhancing financial supports to kinship caregivers, who are family or community members who are caring for children, including children involved in the child protection system; secondly, allocating funds toward concretely implementing the calls for justice of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls; and third, funding health and mental health supports for survivors of gender-based violence.
Our first recommendation is to review and enhance financial supports to kinship caregivers. There are more than 13,000 kinship families in B.C. consisting of grandparents, aunts, cousins and other extended family and community members who are the principal caregivers to children. Many are grandparents and older single women who are living on a fixed income or in poverty.
Enhancing financial supports to kinship caregivers will reduce the crisis of childhood poverty in B.C. and also help to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in government care by supporting families and communities to stay together.
The basic maintenance rates for caregivers in the extended family program were last increased in 2019, and still many children in kinship care are not benefiting from the program. A review of the financial supports for kinship caregivers is essential and necessary to address the systemic barriers that kinship families face in accessing support.
In June, West Coast LEAF wrote to the Minister of Finance to report the wrongful denial of the B.C. recovery benefit to kinship care families and to demand that barriers kinship caregivers face in demonstrating their eligibility for the benefit be addressed.
Our second recommendation is to allocate funds to concretely implement the calls for justice of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. This committee advanced this recommendation in its last report, and we urge you to make the calls for justice a priority now.
One example of concrete funding action this committee can recommend is implementing the call for justice 4.8, which asks that all governments "ensure that adequate plans and funding are put into place for safe and affordable transit for Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people living in rural and remote communities."
Last year this committee recommended strengthening funding models and addressing transit gaps in rural and remote communities. This remains critical today. The lack of safe transit places women and people of marginalized genders in greater danger when they are forced to resort to hitchhiking or other risky transportation to access health care, jobs and even attend legal appointments and court appearances. Safe transit is essential to human and economic security.
Our third recommendation is that funding be allocated to health services, Indigenous healing programs and other culturally appropriate health and mental health supports for survivors of gender-based violence.
Currently most funding is directed at justice system interventions. Conversely, health-focused supports and services are largely absent from the provincial response to sexual assault. Survivors suffer short- and long-term harms from being sexually assaulted, which can include anxiety and depression, and long-term harms, including suicidal ideation and depression, and require an approach that is trauma-informed and that prioritizes health and well-being.
We urge you to recognize sexual assault as a health care issue and recommend funding that supports a cross-sectoral response to gender-based violence.
Thank you for your time this morning to briefly review our key submissions. We will be making further recommendations in the written submissions as well.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Humera.
Any questions from the committee?
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Humera.
You mentioned about transit in rural communities, etc. I just kind of…. The practicality of trying to do that — what ideas or solutions do you see that would be reasonable for the province to try to support? I know that they have done some things. I mean, having been on many of the rural highways in British Columbia and places in the communities, I'm just not certain how we can make that happen. That's why I'm asking you.
H. Jabir: I think that's exactly, in terms of…. What we are wanting to present in our recommendations is the need for system-level changes. Some of them are bigger asks. Certainly, with the closure of Greyhound and other forms of transportation, that is a really enormous gap in our systems, both federally and provincially.
I know that the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has been working on recommending changes related to driver's licensing to make that a more accessible process. I think that it requires a bigger-picture approach in terms of thinking of what these solutions could be.
In bringing that forward today, what we were trying to do is really look at…. The calls for justice include very specific and concrete asks for funding allocations and government resources to be directed at system change. We hope that you will take a look at the calls for justice and see where those changes can be made and where we can turn our minds in creating system changes.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Well, as much as I support that recommendation, the only thing I can say is the practicality of implementing it is the barrier to making it happen. I mean, it's easy to say it. The reality is that if you live in Fort St. James or some other rural and remote community — I mean, how many places — it is an issue.
I'm just wondering if there are some other solutions that might be able to improve the safety, or whatever, that you may have come up with. That's why I asked that.
H. Jabir: I'm not able to provide you with that at this time. I think that this is something which we want to bring to your attention in order to facilitate a conversation on it.
At West Coast LEAF, we are focused on systemic-level changes. What we want to do in bringing that recommendation forward is to start a conversation, because it's not something which we can simply say it is too big to ever address. The call for justice specifically requires that all governments work on addressing this issue, which has been identified in a number of reports at this point.
I would bring that forward to begin a conversation and hopefully one that consults with the Indigenous communities and Indigenous groups that are affected to work forward on really bringing home what concrete implementation of the inquiry means in this province.
H. Sandhu: Thank you, Humera. I just want to say thank you for the work you're doing, and thank you for the presentation.
I wonder. I know you mentioned Greyhound, which left big gaps. But then recently the government…. We reinstated the northern connection route. Also, to address the connectivity issue on Highway 16, there are many implementations or even the towers that are installed with federal and provincial partnership. I wonder if you hear back any positive feedback of if that made any impact.
I agree with you that some asks might be bigger, but they're very important, and I think that, therefore, these couple steps are taken and still more work underway. We would be happy to see, in your written presentation…. When you go back and talk with your organization, please feel free to highlight any other ideas that you think we can look at. But I'm curious if what we've done right now, there is any positive feedback that you've received at your organization from Indigenous women or women living in rural and remote communities.
H. Jabir: Yes. Certainly, we will address that in our written submissions. I don't know about feedback from that work that has been done, but I would say this is one example of the bigger picture.
We're focusing in on what one area is in which the province can allocate resources as this was mentioned in the last report of this committee, as well, in terms of allocating funding towards transit, but the "Calls for Justice" include a number of areas in which Indigenous communities are asking for funding to be allocated. I think this is a bigger ask in terms of really focusing in on the national inquiry for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and making sure that those "Calls for Justice" aren't left to languish.
H. Sandhu: Thank you for the work you do.
J. Routledge (Chair): I'm not seeing any other indication of questions.
I'll wrap up this part of the presentation by thanking you for appearing before us and raising these issues. I look forward to reading your written submission. I want to thank you for the work that West Coast LEAF does. You've been an important contributor to changes in our society, making our society more equal.
I think we hear you when you say that you're looking at systems changes. We need to be making changes in the system, and that that's hard work and requires a lot of dialogue and creative thinking and letting go of some old ideas. So thank you for your advocacy, and thank you for pushing us.
We will take a break now until 10:45.
The committee recessed from 10:24 a.m. to 10:43 a.m.
[J. Routledge in the chair.]
J. Routledge (Chair): We'll continue with our presentations on the next provincial budget.
Our next presenter is Howard Jang, representing the B.C. Alliance for Arts and Culture. Howard, you have five minutes. We will give you a signal when you have 30 seconds left, just to give you a signal to wrap up, and then we'll have five minutes for questions.
B.C. ALLIANCE FOR ARTS AND CULTURE
H. Jang: Thank you so much for letting me have an opportunity to speak with you. Good morning, and thank you for this opportunity. As said, I represent the B.C. Alliance for Arts and Culture, which represents over 480 arts organizations and individual artists from around the province.
My name is Howard Jang. I'm the executive director. I'm of Asian descent and a fourth-generation British Columbian.
I'd like to take a moment to express my gratitude for the privilege of working on the unceded, ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and to acknowledge their role and the role their ancestors played in stewarding this land over thousands of years.
First off, I want to thank you for your additional investment of $21 million in the B.C. Arts Council, announced just a year ago, and last March, a $14 million fund for resilience supplements over this very challenging year. The fact that this government recognizes the importance of the role that arts and culture and creativity play in the everyday lives of British Columbians sends a hopeful message to our sector, a sector that has been labouring for decades to be sustainable. We are so very grateful that this contribution we make to society is being acknowledged by this government.
It would be an understatement to say that the past 18 months have been the most disruptive in modern history — and continue to be. It is also widely understood that the arts and cultural sector will be one of the last that will begin to consider entering a recovery period. In terms of recovery, we've been using the phrase for several months, "Now that there's light at the end of the tunnel…." But I would certainly say that the light we see at the end of that tunnel is so different than the light we entered in on. We aren't sure what the environment is going to look like.
Excuse the analogy, especially here in British Columbia, but it feels like we've been hit by an earthquake, and we are trying to rebuild from the ash and rubble. We know that we must rebuild to become earthquake-proof. We did some recent polling of our sector, and the concerns are very consistent: uncertainty in identifying sustainable operating models, and developing the trust to return to live events and gatherings.
We need to rebuild, with a goal of regrowth, re-emergence and sustainability. Our single most pressing issue is how our current models of funding can respond to the growing needs of artists, audiences and communities as we move toward the new light of greater social, racial and environmental responsibility in our work and our presentations. The arts hold up a mirror of our world while also pointing the way forward. Ford Foundation president Darren Walker says, you know, that the arts create empathy. Without empathy, you cannot have justice.
This much we know: if you were to ask an artist how much money they earn, they will tell you in terms of monthly income, not annual income. Making ends meet is their most pressing issue. The need for secure and stable funding is essential in this period of uncertainty and should include a consultation on the support that is needed to adjust and respond to new business models.
I would like to focus your attention on two aspects of the infrastructure that is universal to our whole ecosystem and particularly troubling for the arts and cultural sector: housing and basic income. Here are the housing challenges: the lack of appropriate government funding to invest in social-rented homes; the lack of skills or capacity in housing departments to build new homes; the dramatic reduction in the supply of social and generally affordable housing through policies such as the right to buy; the lack of effective regulation in the private-rented sector; and the high cost of renting and home ownership. This is the state of our world.
As for basic income, the Canada emergency response benefit, which provided $2,000 per month in guaranteed income, along with the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which subsidized employee wages for eligible businesses…. The CERB provided temporary security and relief from the stress of losing work, something a large portion of the country's population, some 5.5 million people, experienced when COVID hit. The fact that the government was able to provide this emergency support so quickly, and with few bureaucratic hurdles for applicants, proves that what is often deemed impossible is actually not: expanding the social security net to include more people and to offer genuine support instead of crumbs.
While CERB was the closest Canada has come to a federal basic income program, it still left many out and was dependent on meeting a previous-employment threshold. People who had earned under $5,000 in 2019 were ineligible, along with those who had been unemployed before the pandemic or were coming off EI or parental leave. This is where basic income differs. Basic income programs are not tied to employment and, unlike welfare and disability assistance, they do not require constant monitoring to determine eligibility and deservedness.
Addressing the housing and income crises will advance the recovery period for our sector. As I have said, we are last in line. I know this is a big ask and beyond the scope of a direct request for the arts and cultural sector, but this is an unusual time, and we need to think creatively and broadly for the good of the whole community.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Howard.
Questions from the committee?
P. Alexis: I know that the industry has suffered terribly, and I know that your membership has suffered tremendously. How many have you lost to other sectors because they've given up in their own…?
H. Jang: We've been trying to do some of those numbers. I don't have an exact number for you. We do know that several have been lost.
For example, designers and so forth have moved on to the commercial side. I know a personal designer who moved down to L.A. to become an interior designer, who was a set designer of world renown. That's an anecdotal moment, but I will say there are many that are certainly reconsidering. But having said that, this is their passion. This is what they feel they've been put on earth to do.
P. Alexis: Can I ask a follow-up? As a result of that loss, what impacts are we seeing, perhaps now that things are kind of getting back up and running? What are the impacts because of that loss?
H. Jang: Similar to many of the other industries, such as tourism, hospitality, the employment opportunities are great, with fewer people to choose from. We are finding it much harder to actually employ, both behind the scenes and on stage, right now. I know many musicians who have just decided not to perform anymore because they just can't make ends meet.
The housing issue is really a critical one. I just was speaking this morning to several colleagues who are now being evicted because they can't make ends meet. There are landlord issues, things like that.
P. Alexis: Wow. Thank you for your presentation.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): I understand the hardship and what people are feeling, and it's interesting when you mention housing. You just actually said that people are being evicted or they're unable to do that.
I guess my question is…. The availability of units that are affordable. It seems to me that the supply is shrinking because of other uses, and I say that meaning not renovations or renovictions or whatever you want to call it but even things like Airbnb, for instance, where they'll make more money in three or four or five nights of rental than they would in a month. Is that something that you'd agree with?
H. Jang: Absolutely right. I would just say personally, I have the pleasure…. I reside on Saltspring Island, by the way. Saltspring Island is a beautiful location, as you know, with zero occupancy rate. They cannot find anyone to work in the service industry, because they can't afford housing. In fact, the nurses and doctors can't find housing. They're putting them up in hotels, etc.
I can say in that microcosm of Saltspring, everyone's turned their properties into Airbnbs, so there is no rental. I fielded many calls from colleagues who want to move there or are considering it, but housing is an issue. That's a microcosm, and that is happening provincewide, without a doubt. The challenges I've tried to lay out are the policies around some of that and trying to really expand the inventory level.
There is also a safety issue here too. There's also a safety issue around the ways in which the landlord-tenant relationship is actually quite fraught.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): I just look at the government's inability to actually make the process happen, to build more of that, and I'm thinking that maybe some simple changes might lead to freeing up some of that stock.
H. Jang: I think there is a bit of that, and certainly, I can speak specifically from the arts and culture sector. We know so many artists. You ask about people that are not available for work and things like that. They've moved way out of Vancouver, so the ability to actually bring artists or have artists work in Vancouver and that kind of thing –– they just can't afford to be here anymore.
When I started my career, the artists were actually living mostly in North Vancouver, by the way. All the families from the Vancouver Symphony were all living in North Vancouver. There was all of that. Now they are way out in much farther reaches just to even find affordable housing and raise a family.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): That's a very good point. Thank you.
J. Routledge (Chair): Mike's indicated that he'd like to ask a question, and we are quickly running out of time.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Howard, for your presentation. You made a comment. I may not have written it all down, but you said that you need to adjust to new business models. What would that look like?
H. Jang: Thank you very much, Mr. Starchuk, for asking that question. I'll give you an example: touring for organizations for Ballet B.C. or smaller dance companies or individual artists. They're now having real challenges touring because the cost of touring is extremely high now. So the business model has changed significantly, let alone climate change issues on top of that, when you think about going on the road, flying to spaces.
The initial cost right now of actually just trying to understand how to rebuild an audience will cost significantly for an organization like, say, the Arts Club Theatre Co., or, as I say, the opera companies or others, in essence, to rebuild and regain that confidence. The impetus in terms of marketing, the impetus in terms of really building that relationship….
The arts and cultural industry depends so much on loyalty, so much on being able to foster that intimate and close relationship with their community. We know, through the pandemic, how important that has been to have done that. You see the absolute results of those organizations who have built their intimate relationships, but that costs a significant amount now, to really foster those and keep those relationships.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Howard. I want to thank you on behalf of the committee for making your presentation and reminding us that work in arts and culture is not marginal work. In fact, it is central to our being able to think creatively about what we want our future to look like. It's central work. Thank you.
H. Jang: Thank you for this opportunity. All the best.
J. Routledge (Chair): Our next presenter is Heidi Waechtler, representing the Association of Book Publishers of B.C.
Heidi, you have five minutes. We'll give you a 30-second warning so you know when it's time to wrap up, and then we'll ask you questions.
ASSOCIATION OF BOOK PUBLISHERS OF B.C.
H. Waechtler: Thank you, Ms. Chair and committee members, for having me here this morning. My name is Heidi Waechtler, and I'm the executive director of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia.
Our office is located on the traditional, unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, and we're very fortunate to do our work there.
I appeared virtually before this committee last year, and I appreciate the opportunity to update you on how our industry is faring in the wake of the pandemic and share where we believe Budget 2022 can continue to support sector recovery.
Our association represents 30 small- to medium-sized businesses operating across the province, and they publish in all genres, including local history, fiction, arts and food, and children's books. B.C. publishers employ more than 500 people directly and another 1,200 indirectly and contribute $76 million to the GDP.
It's notable that women make up 70 percent of the industry's workforce, and approximately a third of our companies are either owned by women or have women in primary leadership positions.
We want to convey gratitude to the province for renewing the B.C. book publishing tax credit in last year's budget for five years. This is a critical support measure for our sector that will increase our stability and competitiveness coming out of the pandemic.
Many B.C. publishers have also been able to access the support measures though the Stronger B.C. plan, including supplementary funding through the B.C. Arts Council. As a result, we're pleased to report that all of our member publishers continue to operate and that staffing levels have remained consistent.
Still, challenges remain. Although reading has been a popular activity during the pandemic, disruption to supply chains, declines in regional tourism and widespread cancellation of in-person events have disproportionately affected independent publishers' revenues and their authors' royalties and created unprecedented market uncertainty.
While consumer book sales are rebounding, according to Stats Canada, B.C. book publishers' operating revenue is estimated to have contracted by 10.6 percent in 2020. Supply chain pressures around the paper and pulp industry and distribution persist and continue to impact our ability to get local books into readers' hands. B.C. creators and publishers also continue to experience a significant loss in licensing revenue, owing to the education sector's uncompensated use of their works in classrooms under self-defined fair dealing guidelines.
We have three recommendations to the committee for Budget 2022, which we'll also elaborate on in a written submission.
One, we ask that the province, through the Ministry of Education, recommit to fairly remunerating creators by paying the royalty rate set by the Copyright Board for the use of their copyrighted material in classrooms. This rate is $2.41 per K-to-12 student, including payments from 2020 onwards.
Two, we recommend a program to incentivize the purchase of B.C.-published books in schools and libraries. One way would be to reinstate the school library purchase program, which was funded by the B.C. government between the 1970s and '90s, and gave public schools each a small budget to purchase books for their libraries.
Three, we recommend that the province increase its investment to B.C. Arts Council and Creative B.C. to allow these agencies to deliver enhanced support to book publishers through their respective programs. These are vital programs that ensure a more level playing field with our multinational publishing competitors.
The work of B.C. publishers impacts authors, illustrators, booksellers, librarians, educators and readers, and we appreciate your taking the time to consider our recommendations, which will help ensure that our region's stories continue to be shared.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Heidi. Questions for Heidi.
P. Alexis: Heidi, I remember that you were part of the celebrations when we did the Creative B.C. week. Thank you for that.
Can you just explain a little bit more — because I didn't realize it — regarding the change in rate to authors for textbooks and that kind of thing?
H. Waechtler: It's for photocopying of material for use in classrooms. There is a tariff that is set by the Copyright Board that then permits schools to use those works, and to ensure that the authors are fairly compensated. It's a tariff that is currently not able to be enforced by Access Copyright, owing to a federal court case.
Where it is currently impacting B.C. publishers and creators is that they're now in a position where they're the ones that have to then collect these tariffs. They have to ensure enforcement of copyright on their own. Many small publishers are not in a position to do that.
P. Alexis: I can understand that one. Thank you so much. That's something that's in the courts right now?
H. Waechtler: It has been dealt with at the Supreme Court level, but there's also a provincial element as well, of payment of tariffs.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Heidi, and for the times you've come to the Legislature and sent out books for all of us to enjoy. Good on you. Years ago, one of my first jobs was actually rebinding books, back when I was about 14.
I want to understand this copyright infringement. Did something change that started this? Was it being paid, and it's not being paid? What action caused that?
H. Waechtler: That's correct. Starting in 2020, the Ministry of Education ceased making payments, pending the outcome of this federal case. We're now asking that they recommit to paying creators.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): That amount is $2.41 per….
H. Waechtler: Per full-time-equivalent student at the K-to-12 level. The amount totals to about $1.5 million per year.
L. Doerkson: You touched on funding for libraries. Earlier in this process, we heard, from associations that would be representing libraries, that they do get funding, but they were all sort of looking for more, of course, to purchase books. Is it your thought that there is no funding, or am I misunderstanding?
H. Waechtler: No. I believe there is funding. I think where we're hoping to see more investment is in locally published books and in ensuring that there's more local content available to library patrons.
L. Doerkson: And more funding to purchase them — specifically for that?
H. Waechtler: Yes.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions? Okay.
With that, Heidi, on behalf on the committee, I would thank you for making a presentation and giving us some insight into the challenges in book publishing. I think probably a lot of us take books for granted. They're a big part of our lives, and we just think they always will be. Thank you for signalling what could be overwhelming challenges.
Our next presenter is Kevin McCort, Vancouver Foundation.
Kevin, you have five minutes. With 30 seconds left, we'll give you a signal so you know when it's time to wrap up.
K. McCort: Good morning. As mentioned, I'm the CEO of Vancouver Foundation. I'd like to thank you for the work you're doing in hearing from British Columbians about the priorities for the upcoming provincial budget.
My time is short today, so I'll quickly summarize the main themes that Vancouver Foundation would like to see in the 2022 budget. I will encourage you to read a more detailed submission that we will be producing for the committee's consideration — a written submission.
First, a bit of background. As you may know, Vancouver Foundation is the largest funder of charities in B.C. outside of government. Not only are we Vancouver's community foundation; we also invest in communities in every corner of the province.
Last year, as community organizations struggled to meet new and rising demands, we stepped up to grant more than ever before in our history. Through the generosity of our donors, the commitment of our partners, the dedication of our staff and the returns off our endowment, we mobilized $115 million in grants for community. That was some $47 million on the year before.
I'm incredibly proud of that work and grateful that our foundation could be there at a time when so many British Columbians turned to us. But we're worried about the future if we don't centre community in the recovery and on the longer-term path to address the challenges to come. The past 18 months have been a reminder of our darkest hours. It's community that gets us through — the local organizations, services and supports people turn to in times of uncertainty and vulnerability. That network is vital to building a province where all of us have the opportunity to thrive.
To establish a strong foundation for us to succeed, Vancouver Foundation is asking the hon. members of this committee to ensure three key priorities are reflected in the 2022 budget.
First, support charities and non-profits struggling from the effects of COVID-19. The pandemic created a perfect storm of widespread vulnerability and rising need at the same time as many organizations were experiencing a significant drop in donations and earned revenue. Government has stepped up to support key sectors like tourism, and we believe that charities and non-profits need the same kind of support. We would like to see, in the next budget, a $500 million stabilization fund, as proposed by Vantage Point and others.
We should go even further, to ensure that community organizations — which employ 86,000 people in our province and contribute nearly $7 billion to GDP — are guaranteed eligibility for all existing and new programs aimed at small and medium-sized employers. We often see programs aimed at the private sector, but we want to ensure that they're aimed at employers, whether they're private sector or non-profit.
Second, we believe we can mobilize more resources for community services. Thousands of organizations work to meet urgent needs and address the root causes of challenges in our community every day. But the fabric of the safety net is frayed and dangerously close to tearing. On the expenditures side, we need to boost the sector with an injection of stable, long-term funding, and on the revenue side, we should move quickly to unleash new streams of funding.
In our written submission, we will outline three possible sources of funding that would go a long way to ensuring the sustainability of the sector. I'll summarize them here. First, we would like to see an expansion of British Columbia's unclaimed property program to activate more dormant assets and fund more community services. Second, we would like to ensure that as gaming revenue rises in coming years, so too does the portion allocated to community gaming grants. Third, I believe there's an opportunity to increase the provincial portion of charitable tax credits to incentivize individual donors to be even more generous in giving to charities.
At a time when governments are reluctant to raise new revenue through taxation, these three revenue sources could be tapped to shore up charities and non-profits without any additional burden to businesses and individuals.
Third, we'd like to harness the power of non-profits in the post-pandemic recovery. Our sector plays a unique role in delivering what the private and public sectors do not. Our part is equally essential, and we need to modernize the relationship between these three important drivers of prosperity and well-being to ensure that each sector is maximizing its full potential. To do that, we must address the unintended consequences of the Lobbyists Transparency Act and ensure that community voices can be heard without restrictions or barriers.
Second, we need to develop a more sophisticated picture of the size, scope, impact and opportunity of our sector by investing in a dedicated data strategy. Third, we'd like the committee to endorse many of the recommendations of the federal advisory committee on the charitable sector, which has identified numerous ways to strengthen the charity and non-profit sector.
Finally, we want reconciliation to be central in all of our work through budgets, legislation and policy. Embrace us as your partner. We're balancing interests between private, public and community sectors, and we believe our sector can play a very strong, supportive role. I hope that message resonates with you today.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Kevin.
M. Dykeman: Thank you for your presentation today. I was wondering if you could just expand a bit on your concerns about the lobbyist act and the restrictions.
K. McCort: Yes. I'll just give you a very specific example. United Way of the Lower Mainland wrote a letter to government encouraging some changes to policy around food security. Quite a number of charities were reluctant to sign that letter because by signing the letter, they would have had to register as a lobbyist. They simply didn't want to do that.
It was a very low threshold — actually, no threshold. Any connection, any interaction with elected members causes registration through the lobbyist act. So there are many organizations that don't want to or find it difficult to maintain the filing. That is one very specific example.
The act is unintentionally causing charities to censor themselves and not participate in public consultations.
J. Routledge (Chair): Other questions?
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Kevin. There's a lot that you've said in that five minutes. I hope that your presentation…. We do need to understand this. You've touched on the benefits to so many people in the province, so I look forward to your written presentation.
Can you just explain, expand the unclaimed property comment that you made?
K. McCort: Yes. In 1999, the Auditor General recommended a revision to the unclaimed property legislation in B.C. That legislation was promulgated by 2003, and it created the Unclaimed Property Society, which is a controlled entity of Vancouver Foundation.
Dormant assets — they're credit union accounts that people have forgotten about. They might be court payments that are mandated that have not been collected. Those payments are remitted to the society. It tries to find the owner. If it can't find the owner, then it gives the money to Vancouver Foundation, and we use it in our charitable granting program.
Since 2003, the society has received about $100 million in dormant assets. It has reunited about $20 million of that to British Columbians, and it has granted over $50 million to us, with which we have, in turn, funded charities.
We believe there are hundreds of millions of dollars more that are dormant in the province. The legislation needs to be strengthened to encourage mandatory remitters to actually remit. Many do not. But there are also significant categories of voluntary remitters. We would like to encourage them to do the right thing and remit this money. It's significant. We know of this in many other jurisdictions around the world, and we believe this is a significant opportunity to reunite owners with their money in British Columbia.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): That's very powerful.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Kevin, for your presentation. I just wonder if you could expand upon the tax incentives becoming more generous. I think that was your phrase that was there.
K. McCort: Sure. As you know, when you make a gift to a charity, you have both a combination of a provincial tax credit and a federal tax credit. British Columbia's provincial tax credit is one of the lowest in Canada. On the first $200, British Columbia credits you with 5 percent of that donation. Alberta is 10 percent. Manitoba is 10 percent. Quebec is 20 percent.
Then it goes on. There's an amount for over $200, and that's added to the federal tax credit. So where it works out in the end is that B.C. comes in around eighth position in Canada at $406 on a $1,000 gift. That is below the Canadian average of $413.
One of the ways of addressing this is if B.C. increased the credit on the first $200 or the amount over $200. Then people who are giving gifts to charities would receive a higher tax credit.
We know that for many donors, tax credits do motivate donation, so that's one thing that we see that British Columbia could look at. It obviously has an impact on the public purse as well, because it's a tax expenditure. But we do know that tax credits do spur giving.
P. Alexis: I, too, am really looking forward to this, because I've written down as much as I could. But I've found, in just looking back at my notes, I'm going: "I don't know if I understand this completely." So I'm really looking forward to your submission.
I just want to say thank you. You have supported some of the organizations that are near and dear to my heart and in my community. I just can't thank you enough.
I really appreciate the direction that you've taken in the past when you've surveyed the community and sort of taken its pulse so that we can all respond to the things that you've uncovered. You've done some magnificent work in that social realm, and I just greatly, greatly appreciate it. Thank you for helping so many people.
J. Routledge (Chair): Kevin, we're out of time. On behalf of the committee, I want to thank you. At the beginning of your presentation, you asked us to centre community in our recovery plan, and then you proceeded to give us some very concrete ideas about how to do that. Thank you so much.
Our next presenter is Cherie Payne with Vantage Point.
You have five minutes. When you have 30 seconds left, we will signal to you so that you know when to wrap up.
C. Payne: Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to present today. As you know, I'm here on behalf of Vantage Point and our members in the not-for-profit sector. I appreciate the attention that you're giving the sector as we work together with government to deliver crucial services to British Columbians.
Vantage Point has two recommendations for the province for Budget 2022, and in addition to today's presentation, we'll also submit a written brief that I hope you'll also have time to review and consider.
First, it will be helpful for you to know a bit about Vantage Point. We represent 530 members. We're in 68 communities across the province. Each year we reach over 10,000 not-for-profit leaders through our leadership training and capacity-building services.
As you heard from the last presentation, the not-for-profit sector represents more than 86,000 jobs and also mobilizes volunteers across the province. We make a direct contribution of more than $6.4 billion to B.C.'s GDP.
Now, over the last year, Vantage Point has surveyed over 1,100 individuals for an assessment of the impact of the pandemic on their organizations and to identify the needs for their recovery. We've partnered with the Vancouver Foundation, the YWCA, the Disability Alliance and other not-for-profit leaders to canvass their priorities, and our recommendations today are based on our consultations.
Our first recommendation is to establish a $500 million stabilization fund for the sector. Government has stepped up in a major way to support key sectors like tourism, and now not-for-profits also need that kind of support.
What would a stabilization fund look like? We recommend that a fund be administered through networks of funders that are deeply established in local communities. Examples might be the Victoria Foundation, the Vancouver Foundation, the United Way or Vancity Community Foundation. We really encourage you to think about stabilization funding and stimulus spending beyond business development to include investments in social infrastructure.
Our second recommendation is around access to Internet and connectivity. We know that in September 2020, the province invested $90 million in the connecting British Columbia program for increased access to high-speed Internet and cell access along provincial highways. That was an excellent step forward, especially for British Columbians living in rural and Indigenous communities.
To build on that investment, we encourage the provincial government to address the uneven access to affordable technology faced by not-for-profits due to grant and funding restrictions at the provincial level. Current funding and granting systems make it difficult for not-for-profits to invest in the upkeep of technology, hardware, software and training. Current rules for B.C. community gaming grants, for example, restrict organizations' ability to invest in training for their teams.
We can modernize the relationship between the provincial government and the not-for-profit sector. Our sector has evolved to do more than small-scale good deeds. We are a major employer in the province, and we are balancing the work of private interests and the public good. The not-for-profit sector will play a big role in delivering on building the social infrastructure of the province, as we move into economic recovery. So we look forward to your support.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you so much.
Questions from the committee?
L. Doerkson: Thank you very much for the presentation.
You mentioned a number of charities that would have access to this $500 million. I presume that it would be your group or association that would be kind of handling those funding opportunities. Can you give me a better sense of who else might qualify for this? Certainly, rural B.C. — how will it affect those folks and all of those not-for-profits?
C. Payne: Absolutely. I think what we're recommending is a fund for the province as a whole. A way to distribute the funds across the regions is to work with local foundations, not necessarily to move the money through Vantage Point.
For example, you might work with a local Victoria foundation or with the Vancouver Foundation. So in each region, you partner with a local group or a local municipality or a regional government who can be in touch with the organizations in their community, understand the local ecosystem and distribute funds that are specifically earmarked by the province for distribution to local non-profits.
J. Routledge (Chair): Additional questions?
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Cherie.
Just the second point you made about the $90 million that the government gave…. When you talked about connectivity — I'm thinking in terms of access to Internet and things like that — it sounded like you ended on the equipment at not-for-profits as being considerably less than modern. Was the $90 million put into connectivity in terms of broadband expansion with the federal government program that NDIT is administering? Or is it in equipment or both?
C. Payne: It was mainly on the Internet side, and we saw that was a good first step. I know that last year Vantage Point really recommended that kind of investment, so we were glad to see it. And what we saw over the course of the year was that in addition to that investment, it was difficult for not-for-profits to really maximize and leverage the investment because of restrictions to funding at the provincial level.
If there were opportunities to be more flexible, to offer unrestricted funding through community gaming grants, for example, then not-for-profits in different regions would be able to invest in the technology to really maximize the opportunity that comes from increased Internet access that is available now. Does that make sense?
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): I can see both sides of it. I mean, there's no use increasing the connectivity if you've got MS-DOS or something like that. That's a bit ancient. Anyway, I do see that, and I do think that it's got to go hand in hand.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions?
Well, on behalf of the committee, Cherie, I would like to thank you for your presentation. I was busy writing down, as you were wrapping up, the role that non-profits play in balancing private interests and public good. That thought resonates with me a lot. So thank you again.
Our next presenter is Laird Cronk, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour.
Laird, you have five minutes. We'll give you the signal when you're at 30 seconds to go.
B.C. FEDERATION OF LABOUR
L. Cronk: A labour advocate with five minutes. Okay, I'll give it a shot. Thanks so much.
I appreciate the opportunity to be back here in person, after the last virtual ones. I think it's important. Look, I'm going to bring a worker lens today. I'm going to bring a worker lens on behalf of the half-million workers the B.C. Fed represents and on behalf of all of the other workers who don't have a collective agreement.
I'm going to talk about three things, and I'm going to talk about very modest amounts of money compared to many of the folks you'll hear from.
Workers have gotten us through the pandemic. The pandemic — as we know and we hear so often, and it's true — has shone a bright light on many of the missing pieces for workers in this province. It's exasperated some of those divisions.
Let me start with the Labour Relations Board. The Labour Relations Board in British Columbia — and I've been interacting with it for about 29 years, myself — is the authority of the government with respect to unionized environments. It governs the employer, it governs the unions, and it governs the acquisition of bargaining rights. How do you join a union?
It governs labour relations between the two parties if it breaks down. It's really a critical piece. You don't hear a lot about it because it doesn't break down all that often. But when it does, if the board struggles with its services, you will hear about it.
The irony is not lost on me. We're about to go into public sector bargaining. I'll be at a PSAC council meeting this afternoon. The Labour Relations Board plays a key role if there are breakdowns within that bargaining structure — in private sector and public sector. The board needs help. The board needs modernizing. It needs modernizing. It's been doing modernizing in its infrastructure. It needs to do more.
The mediation services. Mediators, like many other sectors, are aging out. We need more training. We need to make sure there are labour relations officers available when folks exercise their Canadian Charter right upheld in the Supreme Court to join or form a union and a vote needs to take place. It needs to be quick. It needs to provide the services and needs.
We're asking for…. I should say the board received about $2 million in the last budget. It looked like an increase, but it was not. They're funded through the Attorney General's office as a tribunal, and the $2 million replaced not core funds but funds they used to have to ask bill by bill the Attorney General to approve.
It got a level core funding, which was good. It needs another $1 million. Another $1 million to make sure that it's responsive and there to govern those workplaces. I want to move on because I know time is fleeting.
Employment standards branch. This is what governs the rest of the workplaces, the workers and the employers. It's the minimum standards in the province. This government has done very good work to bring up to standards, if you will, that minimum floor. Here's the difficulty, and I'm going to be a bit grumpy about this.
Right now, today, if you are a worker, imagine in your job, you don't get paid by your employer next week or you don't get overtime if you worked overtime or you get fired and no severance, and there was no just dismissal. It is between a year and a year and a half before the employment standards branch endeavours to hear your claim. I'm going to tell you that justice delayed is justice denied for too many workers. It's happening right now. It could be somebody you know. If you simply don't get paid, it's over a year before the branch gets to you, sometimes a year and a half. It's not good enough.
We need to make sure that the announcements and the things that we celebrated in terms of the employment standards branch — the minimum standards in the province for workers — is upheld with the money and the funding. We say it needs $14 million. It's a rounding error in the big scheme of things for employment standards backlog to be taken care of and to actually proactively train employment standards officers and proactively promote the protections of the code.
The final thing I'll talk about is the gig economy, but I won't call it the gig economy. I'll call it, far too often, the misclassified economy. I want you to picture a worker that you see quite often now: somebody on a bicycle, maybe an electric bike, maybe not. They have the big thing on the back of the bike that carries hot food to somebody.
Far too many of these workers who are called gig or precarious workers are being told by their employer — and it is an employer-employee relationship when they start — that they will sign a document that says they're not an employee. They don't know that they are an employee. They don't know they can challenge it, and they have to wait a year to a year and a half if they decide to challenge it.
In 30 seconds or less, these workers…. Why is it important to you? Not only aren't they getting the minimum employment standards, they're not covered by WCB if they get injured at work. They're not covered by presumptive WCB coverage if they get COVID at work. The government is missing the revenue. It's a shell game.
Employers are getting away with an unfair advantage over other employers. Workers are not getting their protection. So you're not getting the provincial tax. There's no federal tax. There's no WCB. The social program funding that needs to be in place fairly across the sector is disappearing. This is an increasing problem in the province of British Columbia. We need proactive action through the employment standards branch, part of that $14 million.
J. Routledge (Chair): Questions?
P. Alexis: Can you elaborate on the B.C. Labour Board needs modernizing? Can you just give me a little bit more, please?
L. Cronk: Absolutely. Part of the modernizing is making sure that we have new, diverse mediation services. As mediators age out and time out, we need mediators to reflect actual folks in the community — not a whole bunch of old white people like me — people that are trained, that are diverse, that are inclusive, that have the knowledge and the skills to do the job.
The computer system was woefully outdated, and some work has been done on that, and it's better. For example, the registry of collective agreements is easier to access. That's a public document. But more infrastructure work is necessary.
So there are two quick examples. There are more, but given our time frame….
G. Kyllo: Thank you very much for your presentation.
It was interesting last year, with a couple of labour bills that came forward. It took me about three hours of questioning to get an answer from the Labour Minister to acknowledge that the backlog at the employment standards branch was upwards of a year, which, to your point, I think is absolutely offensive.
Workers in this province, certainly, are due the respect of having equal and expedited access to justice. So to your point, for the employee that may have been denied severance pay, who is looking for that financial payment so they can actually cover their rent or whatever it may be, to be denied the opportunity to even have their claim heard for upwards of a year is, really, offensive. And to your point, I certainly agree that the government needs to take a lot more attention to decreasing that.
My understanding was that just four years ago the backlog was about two months. At the time, I know people were even concerned about a two-month backlog. But for it to have grown to over a year…. And full knowing — government was aware of the increase. Obviously, it didn't just happen overnight that it went from two months to a year. To see this incrementally happening and yet government not addressing that issue is certainly something that's very concerning to me and, I think, many British Columbians. So thank you for raising that.
L. Cronk: You're welcome.
If I could just say…. The backlog from before, I think, was partly because there were self-help kits, and labour folks in British Columbia long advocated that self-help kits didn't work. Workers simply looked and said: "I'm having a problem with my employer, and I have to try and self-fix it? I've already been fired." So they fell off the map. They didn't apply.
This government changed so that every claim is actually heard by somebody and is taken seriously. Obviously, that increased claims. If the funds don't flow to back that up, then we have the system we have today. That's what we need to fix.
H. Sandhu: Thank you, Laird. I really appreciate your presentation and for meeting you in person now.
I want to say…. It's more like a comment. Thank you for the work you're doing. Thank you for highlighting what workers have done. I always hear rhetoric loud and clear — anti-union, anti–B.C. labour, B.C. federal labour rhetoric. I try to tell people that there is no economy that can move forward without workers.
What happened during COVID — mostly workers were affected, were marginalized. Thank you for showing the dark side of the gig economy. When I see, we see, all around us, day-to-day life, those are also people from racialized communities and from marginalized groups. They don't even know their rights. They're too busy doing two or three jobs to make ends meet. So I really appreciate you're not only helping the unionized workers.
That's the other dialogue I have with people — that when unions fight, they have contracts and better wages. It does not just improve their members' living conditions, it also sets the standards for non-unionized workers.
I really appreciate your presentation and the work you're doing. Thank you for shining the light on many fronts that people like to ignore.
L. Cronk: Thank you very much.
I would just humbly say, on behalf of the labour movement, collective agreements ensure equity in voice and a distribution of power in the workplace that's fair and equal. I think that's an important thing coming out of "build back better." That's a practical way to do it.
I do want to say that we're not opposed to the gig economy per se. We're not opposed to employment. We're not opposed to employers. But they need to play fairly within the rules. The minimum standards of the province should apply to every worker.
These workers that ride their bikes make profit for somebody. They're told where to go, what to pick up. They're told how much they're paid. They're not getting the protections they should have. And the really important piece is that the employer community that lives within the rules is being affected by the employer community that is not funding and living within the rules. I think we need to also look at that piece, and government should pay attention to the funding that you can increase your budget on which should just be there as a baseline.
J. Routledge (Chair): We have time for one more question. Megan has a question. Then, unfortunately, we're going to have to wrap it up.
M. Dykeman: Thank you for the presentation. It was really interesting. Learned quite a bit.
I was wondering: will you be providing a written submission?
L. Cronk: Yes, we will, and it'll have a whole bunch more things I didn't talk about.
M. Dykeman: Fantastic. I figured it would. I'm very much looking forward to that and appreciate your attention on the precarious employment that comes from a gig economy and how that does disproportionately affect vulnerable people, because sometimes it's the only access to work. We're seeing so many jobs disappear that it is a growing issue.
Thank you for your presentation. I look forward to your witness submission.
J. Routledge (Chair): On behalf of the entire committee, Laird, I'd like to thank you for a very powerful presentation. Thank you for reminding us and for framing your presentation in the context that it was workers who got us through the pandemic and how important it is that we don't exploit them for that. You gave us some very clear things that we need to do to make sure that we thank them properly for getting us through the pandemic.
L. Cronk: Thanks for your time and the work you're doing.
J. Routledge (Chair): Okay. Our next presenter is Pascal Spothelfer, Genome B.C.
Pascal, you have five minutes. When you have 30 seconds to go, we'll signal so you know when to wrap up, and then we'll ask you questions.
P. Spothelfer: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. As mentioned, my name is Pascal Spothelfer, and I am the president and CEO of Genome B.C. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about how research and innovation strengthen our society and grow the economy and how Genome B.C. is positively contributing to British Columbia's future.
While our work is done in all parts of the province, I would like to acknowledge that Genome B.C.'s office is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples, including the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations.
For 21 years now, Genome B.C., a non-profit organization, has been supporting world-class genomics research and innovation with the aim of growing globally competitive life sciences sectors and delivering sustainable benefits for B.C., Canada and beyond. We manage a cumulative portfolio of more than 472 B.C.-based research projects and innovation initiatives. We have engaged in over 1,000 collaborations and advanced more than 120 B.C.-based companies, generated 733 patent applications and attracted over $900 million in co-funding to B.C. However, the real value of our work is in the impacts that our projects have on the life of British Columbians, including advancements in health care, food security, environmental stewardship and fighting climate change.
The COVID crisis has shone a spotlight on the value of genomics. Both the pandemic and the applicability of genomics in fighting it had a profound impact on Genome B.C. We reacted immediately by reaching out to our partners and launching a rapid funding program to support the response to COVID-19 in B.C. We've worked closely with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control in support of the public health officer to identify where new cases of the virus originate and monitor spread within communities. Overall, Genome B.C. has provided over $3½ million towards 27 projects to address challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, which attracted almost $10 million in co-funding for B.C. researchers.
These projects are already delivering real-world impacts. One example is that our funding to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control helped the development and validation of enzymes needed to perform the SARS CoV-2 test that resulted in a tripling of the testing capacity in the province. Our ability to respond to emerging and important issues will continue to be a competitive advantage for B.C.
This year British Columbians also experienced the unprecedented effects of climate change. It is key, as we prepare for the future, that we focus on the resiliency of our food supply, forests, wildlife, our health and our environment. Genome B.C. is working to advance genomics-based solutions that are aligned with government and industry priorities. For example, genomic tools are helping tree breeders know which trees are most resistant to heat, drought and disease and will flourish in western Canada's new climates. This is expected to result in up to 30 percent greater timber yields, with a proportional impact on the economy and employment as well as sustained ecological and environmental benefits of our forests.
These are just some of the initiatives that were made possible through the continued support by the government of B.C. We're on track to deliver on our commitment to leverage provincial funding of $57 million over three years, of which $30 million has already been provided, into our $193 million in funding for genomic research and innovation to benefit B.C.
Continued provincial support is critical for three main reasons. It attracts and retains outstanding researchers and innovators for B.C., it enables us to maintain and expand B.C.'s globally competitive life sciences cluster, and it ensures that B.C. will continue to accrue social, environmental and economic benefits from its long-term investments in genomics research.
Provincial support through secured early funding has been a critical element of Genome B.C.'s success. Last year alone, we competed for and secured 30 percent of all available federal funding through Genome Canada, the highest in the country and well above the 13 percent that B.C. would expect based on its share of Canada's population. The government of B.C.'s ongoing support allows Genome B.C. to capitalize on the critical first investment dollar that drives funding partnership, enables us to support B.C.-based start-ups, partner internationally, attract co-investments and retain top talent.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of climate change show in a dramatic way that science, research and innovation are essential for the well-being and success of our region. We very much appreciate your support of Genome B.C. to date, and we look forward to continuing to advance B.C.'s health care priorities and contributing to the province's economic recovery and future growth.
Thank you for your time. I am happy to take any questions you may have.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Pascal.
M. Starchuk: Thank you for the work that you do and the presentation.
Inside of the package that you have here, there's one that stands out that I would love for you to expand on a little bit with regards to Indigenous people and the biological samples and genome data that you speak to in there. What is the overall achievement with that project?
P. Spothelfer: In genomics, when we sequence the DNA of an individual, in our western culture, we own that DNA as an individual. In the Indigenous culture, it's the community that owns the DNA, which is really a logical approach. My DNA is my parents' DNA, my sister's DNA and my kids' DNA, at least to a large extent. So for the community to own that DNA is an important factor and changes the way scientists, and we, have to approach working with Indigenous communities when it comes to genomics.
Genomics has also been used in the past, not just with Indigenous people here, but in general, for racialization of communities and as a source of discrimination. Furthermore, the genomic research has been very much focused on white males from its origin. So if you think about the blueprint of DNA, it's the blueprint of a white male, which is not the blueprint for a white woman or a woman of colour or an Indigenous person.
To understand genomics, you need huge data sets because we have to compare things. Working with Indigenous communities to gather their DNA information in a respectful way that retains control of the DNA by their communities and then using these results — again, in a respectful and equitable way — is an important part of our work. We have led that work in Canada and continue to do so.
M. Starchuk: I thank you, because the one comment that is inside of there is "for the first time in Canada." I love to read stuff like that. Thank you very much.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions?
Well, in thanking you and wrapping up this part of the presentation, what I do want to comment on — I made a note for myself — is that you have taken some very sophisticated, very specific scientific information and made it very accessible to us. It was a fascinating presentation, and the work you're doing is very exciting. Thank you for your presentation, and thank you for your work.
Our next presenter is Michael Goehring, Mining Association of B.C. Michael, you have five minutes, and we'll give you the 30-second warning when it's time to wrap up. Then we'll ask you questions.
MINING ASSOCATION OF B.C.
M. Goehring: Good morning. My name is Michael Goehring. I'm the president and CEO of the Mining Association of British Columbia. I'm pleased to be here with you all.
I'm on the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.
Thanks for the opportunity to come before you today.
The MABC has been operating in the province since 1901. We represent 14 of the province's major mines and two smelters. Prior to the pandemic, our industry made more than $1 billion in direct payments to the provincial treasury to fund public services.
We're also much bigger than the sum of our operations. We support approximately 35,000 direct and indirect jobs. Many of our operations are organized through the Steelworkers. We also support over 3,700 small, medium and Indigenous businesses across the province in every community.
We have a leading and critically important role in economic reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. We have a long history of partnering with Indigenous nations through very innovative impact-benefit agreements, job creation, contracting opportunities and community programs. Not to mention employment, which in some of our mines in the north is 30 per cent Indigenous Peoples participation.
Last week I moderated a panel about the Blackwater goldmine with Minister Ralston, the proponent and representatives from the Lhoosk'uz Dené Nation in Vanderhoof. The theme was partnerships and collaboration, and it was clear from all the participants how valuable this project will be for the Lhoosk'uz Dené Nation.
We will be providing a comprehensive written submission to the committee that outlines what is needed to accelerate our industry's role in economic reconciliation with our Indigenous partners, why mining is critically important for decarbonization and climate action and how mining supports health education, social services and family-supporting jobs throughout B.C. But I only have a few minutes today, so I'm going to focus on one top priority, and that's carbon tax equality.
As you know, we've had a carbon tax here in B.C. since 2008. That's longer than any other jurisdiction in North America. The tax currently sits at $45 a tonne and is scheduled to rise with the federal benchmark to $170 a tonne in 2030.
There are a few things you should know when it comes to mining and the carbon tax. First, B.C. mining companies support a price on carbon. It is the most effective way to reduce emissions. Second, our mines are already among the lowest-carbon-emitting operations in the world, and that's been verified by the province of British Columbia and third-party independent analysts. This is because almost all of our mines, with one exception, run on clean, renewable hydroelectricity. We have demonstrated a commitment to continuous improvement over many decades, which includes adopting emissions reduction innovations.
The third is we're price-takers. That means we can't pass any additional costs onto customers in international markets where we sell all our minerals and refined metals. That's why every other comparable mining jurisdiction provides carbon tax relief to support their local industry and workers. We're an outlier in B.C. in this regard, putting B.C. workers and communities in a tenuous position.
We're asking the B.C. government to bring its carbon tax policy in line with other provinces and places in the world. We have two programs through CleanBC: the CIF, the clean industry fund, and the industrial incentive program, the CIIP, which provide a modest amount of carbon tax relief.
Mines which achieve the threshold for low emissions are eligible to apply for funding for new low-carbon initiatives. Although the CIIP and CIF are not currently broad enough, in principle they can be effective. There are great examples of emissions-reducing projects funded through these programs. Copper Mountain's electric trolley system, Pretium's transmission — all of their haul trucks are going to be electric — and Teck's four new electric buses to transport workers.
All are examples of electrifying equipment or vehicles that previously used fossil fuels, so what does that mean for B.C.? Yes, the 35,000 direct and indirect jobs and upwards of $1 billion for government services are important. Also important: carbon tax relief will help ensure that British Columbia meets its GHG emission reduction targets.
As I said, our mines are already among the lowest-emission mines in the world. The easy changes that have been made have been made. The biggest opportunity for mines to reduce their emissions is to electrify transportation, but this technology is both expensive and about a decade away.
So how can we do this? By enabling B.C. mines to reinvest money that would otherwise have gone to pay carbon tax in the new electric haul trucks and other GHG emissions–abating equipment, we can do this.
If B.C. increases the CIIF and the CIP, it will support B.C. workers, protect and grow government's tax base and help British Columbia meet its climate change responsibilities.
Let me close, before you think that this is a left-field kind of suggestion or recommendation. We have been before the committee for several years and have been talking about this. But just last month, the government's own Climate Solutions Council, with many very credible economists, NGOs and other people in the social strata, wrote a letter advising the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Minister Heyman, to make similar changes to the carbon tax that we're advocating for now. If you go online to the Climate Solutions Council, you'll see two letters written by the government's own Climate Solutions Council advocating for changes to protect trade-exposed industries like mining.
I thank you for your time. I'm happy to take some questions and appreciate the opportunity.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Michael.
Questions from the committee?
G. Kyllo: Thanks, Michael. We have to look at our competitiveness here at home. I think that the initiatives you're asking for as far as the carbon tax relief for different initiatives to try and provide some funding back certainly make a lot of sense. Far too often I think we handcuff our own industries here at home, and it just further reduces our competitiveness in an international marketplace.
As you've indicated, the prices are dictated far from British Columbia, and yet you have to compete with other jurisdictions that do not have carbon taxes, as an example. So certainly appreciate the time you've taken to put this forward.
The recommendation that you've indicated came forward directly from the climate initiative council, I think, is certainly going to help bear out what we hope to be a positive outcome for your recommendations. Thank you.
M. Goehring: Thank you, Greg. I think it's fair to say that we would all like to see other jurisdictions in a different place in terms of how they manage carbon and putting a price on carbon. The problem is that many jurisdictions have just not taken the leadership role that B.C. has, and that's why we're an outlier today. That's why we're asking for some change over time.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks, Michael. I guess a question that comes to mind would be…. Your competitors…. You're a price-taker. You don't get to set the prices for the things that we produce. Is there any type of measurement so that people — British Columbians or others — can see the amount of CO2 or carbon tax that's on a tonne of copper from X, whether it's South America or somebody else?
I guess the question really is: is it being treated in terms of importation? I know this is something on cement, for instance. That's a very different and difficult discussion. Does that exist in the mineral regime of MABC's suppliers, where we're importing…? I know we don't produce that much. We have the two smelters. Is there that much that we can kind of differentiate ourselves? Especially when it comes to things that…? Especially in this whole world of electric everything, we need so much copper and other rare minerals, etc. I guess what I'm trying to do is…. We need to let British Columbians know that a tonne of copper from British Columbia has so much versus other producers.
M. Goehring: Good question. Work is underway on that. I mentioned there was an MOU signed by the climate action secretariat and B.C. Business Council, where they had third parties assess carbon emissions per tonne of mining material from British Columbia. We know that aluminum, copper and met coal are all among the lowest in the world, relative to our competitors.
What's been going on since that time is that the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation is looking at a responsible metals strategy and trying to come to some agreements with stakeholders and Indigenous nations on how we can market our minerals and metals as being responsible and low carbon globally.
I don't know if, globally, people are prepared to pay a premium for a commodity, but it's certainly a competitive advantage. That work is being undertaken right now.
L. Doerkson: I just want to commend the industry. I represent Cariboo-Chilcotin. Certainly, there are hundreds of mining jobs within an hour of my main area, which is Williams Lake. I know that the industry is trying hard. Great ideas, like trading carbon for an investment to actually reduce the carbon output — trading that for tax, I think, is a great idea. Thank you very much, and I'll do what I can to support that.
J. Routledge (Chair): On behalf of the committee, Michael, I'd like to thank you for your presentation. It was very clear, to the point. I guess my personal comment is I'm very intrigued about your reference to electrifying trucks. Just last week I had an opportunity to tour Ballard in Burnaby. They don't sell any electrified trucks in B.C. They sell them all over the world but not in B.C. I'm quite intrigued to find out how we can connect that.
M. Goehring: Well, thank you, Chair. I would say in eight to ten years we should all come back and do a check in. We're talking the large haul trucks, right? There are electric trucks. There are electric vehicles. There are smaller electric trucks working underground, as I mentioned, up at Pretium and Brucejack mine.
It's going to take some time for the technology to mature in order to be able to move, you know, multi-tonnes worth of material in one of those large trucks. That's where all the emissions are, because our operations are very clean as is. There are thousands of people everyday waking up to try and work on that problem to electrify.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Sorry, Michael, just to the Chair's comment about Ballard. We did some deals with Ballard in Asia in selling actually the largest fuel cell. It occurred in Foshan. But is that a possibility, rather than electric? Are fuel cells an option for those big off-road…?
M. Goehring: Yeah. Well, it is an option. The real challenge that I am told with these large haul trucks is torque and being able to go up a very steep slope with a lot of weight. You can have fuel cell locomotion, but I believe it's limited in terms of the weight that those trucks can carry. I think you can see 18-wheelers. But of course, one of the tires on these large haul trucks is probably as high as the room that we sit in now, so we're talking a huge differential in terms of the weight.
The technology is coming along, and we're preparing to be net-zero or carbon-neutral mines by 2050. That's our aim, and we want to get there. That's why my ask is before you today, to help us to do that.
J. Routledge (Chair): Our next presenter is Doug Slater, representing FortisBC.
Doug, you have five minutes. When you have 30 seconds left, we'll signal so you know it's time to wrap up.
D. Slater: Sounds great. Thank you for the opportunity.
I'd also like to acknowledge that I am presenting from the traditional, ancestral territory of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam.
I'm here representing FortisBC. For over 100 years, FortisBC has proudly delivered energy that British Columbians need to drive prosperity for families and communities. Our history in B.C. extends back to the 1860s, and today we're proud to serve, on a combined basis, more than 1.2 million customers, providing natural gas, electricity as well as alternative energy services.
Looking ahead, we know that FortisBC has an important role to play in decarbonization as well as helping British Columbia recover from the significant impacts of COVID-19. We are committed to investing in projects that will make life more affordable for British Columbians, improve efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and drive innovation. We are among the first utilities in the world to set an absolute GHG reduction target, called 30BY30, which represents a 30 percent in our customers' emissions by 2030.
When developing the budget, FortisBC advocates for the B.C. government to consider two items.
The first is to develop programs, policies and infrastructure to establish B.C. as a global LNG marine fueling hub. A global energy transition is underway to reduce environmental impacts of the marine shipping sector. Increasingly stringent emissions and air quality regulations are putting pressure on the marine shipping sector to reduce the environmental impact of global shipping. The marine sector is looking to LNG as a fuel that can address these challenges.
In British Columbia, we are already, in fact, using LNG in the marine sector. B.C. Ferries was our first customer, and anybody riding a Spirit class ferry between Vancouver and Victoria has ridden on an LNG-powered vessel, using energy provided from our Tilbury facility.
Importantly, Tilbury LNG has one of the lowest carbon intensities in the world. This is because the Tilbury facility is powered by renewable hydroelectricity, which significantly reduces emissions compared to competing LNG facilities powered by gas turbines. When used as a marine fuel, Tilbury LNG can significantly reduce emissions from ships in B.C. and abroad compared to conventional fuels. LNG also significantly reduces local air pollutants, improving local air quality in our region.
We are in the process of expanding our marine fueling capabilities to meet this anticipated demand from global shippers, and as we do, we are seeking to realize mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous partners and local companies and communities.
We are supportive of the British Columbia government's 2020 throne speech and commitment to support the development of LNG marine fueling at B.C.'s ports. As we collectively focus on economic recovery, we encourage government to continue this work and support the development of programs, policies and infrastructure to realize the environmental and economic benefits of this opportunity to establish B.C. as a global LNG marine fueling hub.
The second recommendation is to support the creation of policies to enable increased investment in renewable gas development, including hydrogen. FortisBC was the first utility in North America to offer renewable natural gas, or RNG as it's called, to our customers, and we continue to expand supply. Fortis B.C. has committed to making 15 percent of all gas in our system carbon neutral by 2030, aligning with the provincial government's CleanBC plan.
Regulatory amendments enacted by the province earlier this summer will support this goal. However, this is the first step towards gradually increasing the amount of carbon neutral, renewable gas in the gas system, making the energy our gas system transports cleaner.
In addition to renewable natural gas, hydrogen represents an opportunity to further reduce the carbon footprint of our energy systems. As a first step, we're collaborating with the province, with academic institutions like the University of British Columbia Okanagan, and our utility colleagues in B.C., to support how hydrogen will perform in our infrastructure and determine how to use it most effectively.
We see a role for utility-scale investment as both a producer and buyer of hydrogen. To enable these investments, we would encourage the province to continue developing policies and funding programs that support the expansion of utility-led investment in renewable gas development.
With that said, I'd like to thank the committee for your attention and would welcome any questions you have.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Doug.
Questions from the committee?
G. Kyllo: Hi, Doug. Thank you for your presentation.
With respect to hydrogen, it's my understanding you can mix about 20 percent hydrogen into natural gas without having to change orifice sizes for appliances and that sort of thing. Are there any projects actually underway right now, or pilots, to actually try and implement or to try and prove this out?
D. Slater: Yes, there's quite a bit of work underway today. We are developing pilot projects. Nothing that we've kind of got to the stage of announcing. However, I would say that over the next 12 to 24 months, we'll see a number of those come to fruition.
I would also just add that there a number of ways to incorporate hydrogen into the gas system in British Columbia. As you indicated, blending it into gas infrastructure directly is one of the ways in which it's done around the world, particularly in Europe.
There are also ways to incorporate it in direct use in industrial applications, where maybe those harder to decarbonize industries can be decarbonized and the costs of doing so can be spread across all ratepayers for their benefit — spreading the environmental attributes across ratepayers. So a number of different ways, and we're looking at all of those and, again, working with the province to assess the readiness of our infrastructure.
G. Kyllo: Just a follow-up, if I may.
J. Routledge (Chair): Of course.
G. Kyllo: Are there any government funding streams that are available? Is government actually participating in some of those projects with Fortis?
D. Slater: Good question. Yes. In last year's budget, the province committed to participating in the infrastructure readiness study involving utilities in B.C. and looking specifically at our infrastructure. I believe they have supported with $5 million and there will be another $5 million from industry going into that study, as well, as one of the precursor steps to understanding how we can begin to incorporate hydrogen into our system.
G. Kyllo: Excellent. Thank you.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Doug, for your presentation.
You made mention about the 15 percent of renewable natural gas by 2030. I'm extremely familiar with the biofuel plant in Surrey and how it's injecting it back into the system. What are we sitting at now, and is there any future for those types of facilities elsewhere in the province?
D. Slater: Great question. At the beginning of this year, we had 20 projects approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission. We have seven more that we expect to be either in front of the Utilities Commission now or in the next coming months.
We have line of sight to just over 10 percent already. We do expect to exceed 15 percent by 2030. Just like, I would say, other renewable industries like solar panels and wind and whatnot, we're continuing to see expansion and development of renewable gas and the availability and costs of that coming down.
It's growing quite rapidly from where we began. We recently had our ten-year anniversary, so we've now been offering renewable natural gas for ten years. I think we've hit the phase now where it's really starting to ramp up in availability and volume.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions?
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks, Doug. Just on the marine sector and Tilbury. Those B.C. Ferries that you mentioned that are running on LNG. Is there a delivery network? You mentioned…. I think you talked about an expansion of marine LNG to other ports. Where is that in terms of progress?
D. Slater: We have an environmental assessment application, which is expected to go to the minister later this fall. That assessment is for a marine jetty to enable us to provide ship-to-ship bunkering. Today we are using a process of truck-to-ship bunkering, so we drive a truck onto the ferry or onto one of Seaspan's ferries, as well, and we would fuel directly from the truck into the ship.
The marine jetty is a key piece of infrastructure that will help us load LNG into a bunkering vessel whose job it is to go around to other types of vessels and fuel them up in our ports. That piece of infrastructure is under assessment. We have had a number of vessels that are powered by LNG visit our ports already. It would be our vision to fuel those when they come to B.C.'s ports and have that infrastructure so that those ships call on B.C.'s ports.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Doug. We are out of time now. I want to thank you for your presentation and, also, on behalf of the committee, thank Fortis B.C. for embracing the challenge of helping us to convert to cleaner energy in the future.
D. Slater: Thank you very much.
J. Routledge (Chair): Our final presentation of the morning is made by Julia Balabanowicz, representing Innergex Renewable Energy.
INNERGEX RENEWABLE ENERGY
J. Balabanowicz: Good afternoon. Thank you for having me today. I really appreciate your time.
Of course, I'd like to begin by acknowledging that we're gathered here on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish people — the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.
For those of you who haven't met myself, Julia Balabanowicz — I'm the director of government relations at Innergex — or our company, I'll just give a little introduction before diving into the matters I wanted to speak about for the 2022 budget. Innergex is a Canadian renewable energy company. We've been developing, constructing and operating renewable energy facilities for the last 31 years across Canada, as well as into the United States, France and Chile. Right now we have 77 renewable energy facilities generating almost 4,000 megawatts of electricity and more in the development queue to come.
In B.C., we've made a $2.5 billion capital investment to develop 22 renewable energy facilities. That's been over the past 15 years. What that investment looks like on an annual basis is a $60 million operational spend, for maintenance and operations, as well as 100 employees across the province and partnerships with 25 First Nations that translate to over $48 million in revenues to those nations over the past ten years alone. That's who we are in British Columbia.
While we continue to operate and maintain our large fleet of facilities here in B.C. and have the requisite economic impacts, we haven't had an opportunity to make another capital investment in B.C. since we completed the construction of our last facility in 2017. However, since then, we have invested $1.8 billion in cap ex in the United States. That looks like solar and battery storage facilities in Hawaii; the largest solar farm in Texas, at the time of its commissioning in 2018; wind facilities that sell electricity on the spot market in Texas; as well as solar facilities that sell electricity directly to corporations like Amazon.
I'm telling you a bit about these investments as a reflection on the types of investments that we're looking to bring back to British Columbia as we work together to achieve net zero. In addition, though, to investing in these technologies that we have a proven expertise in and that I just spoke to, we are looking to establish ourselves as a leader in the green hydrogen industry.
You've just heard a bit about hydrogen and what it could do in our province, but I want to speak a little bit more to it from a developer's perspective, from the producer's perspective, and what it will take to really spur that industry here in British Columbia. Green hydrogen uses electrolyzers that draw on the clean electricity from the grid, of which we have an abundance in British Columbia, and water to create hydrogen. In B.C.'s hydrogen strategy, it's been identified that there's a potential to reduce emissions by 2050 at the magnitude of 7.2 megatonnes using hydrogen, which is 11 percent of the province's 2018 emissions.
Our federal strategy in Canada identifies the potential for hydrogen to meet 30 percent of Canada's energy requirements by 2050. Furthermore, global projections tell us that 12 percent of all energy use internationally could be met by hydrogen by 2050. Importantly — this is probably the most important number I'm going to share with you right now — two-thirds of that global hydrogen demand is anticipated to be for green hydrogen — this hydrogen created from clean electricity, renewable energy and water.
As noted in B.C.'s hydrogen strategy, renewable hydrogen, or green hydrogen, is at a cost disadvantage compared to hydrogen produced by fossil fuels, but market analysis shows that green hydrogen is positioned to be the most cost-effective form of hydrogen as soon as 2030.
I see that I'm running out of time here. I'm going to cut what I wanted to share with you today off a little bit and maybe some of your questions will draw it out, but I will be submitting it in writing.
What we've outlined is a pathway for British Columbia to provide short-term supports to the green hydrogen industry — that's between now and 2030 — to ensure that those investments come to British Columbia. As a developer who's looking to make a large play in hydrogen, we're surveying the world right now for jurisdictions that are looking for first movers and are looking to establish their jurisdiction as global leaders in green hydrogen. We've outlined what that cost challenge is between right now and 2030 and how it could be addressed through government supports. I'll share that in writing with the committee.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Julia.
Questions from the committee?
G. Kyllo: Thank you, Julia, for your presentation. When you talk about government supports, are you guys looking for reduced rates for electricity? Is that one of the asks?
J. Balabanowicz: Well, the government supports would be shaped in the form of cap-ex challenges and op-ex challenges. The cap-ex challenge would be on the cost, basically, of the electrolyzer right now until 2030, when this industry is expected to be scaled up massively. The cost of that technology is high, so there would be a cap-ex-type grant that we're asking for, as well as on the op-ex side. The inputs to produce hydrogen electricity is one of the costs.
While we're not specifically asking for reduced electricity rates, we're proposing a production or purchaser incentive that would be based on the tonnes of hydrogen either produced or purchased to bring down that cost of purchasing or selling the hydrogen. That incentive could be provided to the producer, like Innergex, or to the buyer, like Fortis.
G. Kyllo: Might I ask…? Does renewable natural gas sell at a premium over conventional natural gas?
J. Balabanowicz: You know what? Right now that's hard to say. However, I could project that being the case where, if green hydrogen is going to help companies that are greenhouse-gas-intensive-type industries to bring down their GHG emissions and meet their targets, they're going to be willing to pay a bit more for it, eventually.
The other reality, though, is that it's a short gap right now, between now and 2030, when green hydrogen is going to be more expensive. By then, with the projections and various things, including the carbon tax, hydrogen from fossil fuels should be either at cost parity or even more expensive than green hydrogen.
G. Kyllo: Great. Thank you.
L. Doerkson: Thank you for the presentation. I noted that — I want to make sure that I had this right — you had about 22 renewable investments in B.C. itself. In 2017, the last one of those was built, and since then, I think, $1.7 or $1.8 billion has been invested south of the border. That's all correct?
J. Balabanowicz: Correct.
L. Doerkson: Can you tell me why? What happened after 2017 that changed things?
J. Balabanowicz: I mean, when it comes to building renewable energy facilities, their output is electricity. So a jurisdiction needs to need the electricity, first of all.
British Columbia hasn't, to this point, had an increase in demand in electricity. Naturally, there hasn't been a need to build more facilities that produce electricity. However, that's going to be changing into the future with the needs around electrification to meet our climate change targets. While we knew that B.C. wasn't going to need more facilities from us, we were investing elsewhere. Now we're repositioning as CleanBC is being implemented.
L. Doerkson: It's just you're talking to a complete layperson here. I thought that we could generate electricity and sell it to other locations — obviously, the States.
J. Balabanowicz: Yeah, we have inter-ties into Alberta and into the United States. There is currently trading that happens north and south of the border. There could be potential to do more into the future. This isn't what I'd planned to talk about today, but there are opportunities, I think, for British Columbia to position the renewable electron to be our next biggest export product — a natural resource export product, even.
As you look south of the border, most of the states and — now that President Biden is in power — the federal government are setting renewable portfolio standards, 100 percent renewable targets. When you look at all of that and how it's going to add up, I can't envision how they will build it all themselves, south of the border.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Julia, for your presentation and for slowing down your presentation, as well, so that we weren't madly writing and trying to catch up to you.
With climate change the way we see it today and what happened in the province of B.C. this year, I think consumers are beyond the tipping point. They want to…. If they have to invest a little bit more to have something that actually plays out better for the environment, I think we're ready for all of that. So my question is: if we're ready for all of that, can you just tell us why we have to wait nine years?
J. Balabanowicz: It's not that we have to wait nine years. What the nine-year time frame is, is for the projected economics of green hydrogen to come into cost parity with hydrogen produced from fossil fuels. To your point, the time is now, but it's really hard for producers looking to build green hydrogen facilities and sell it to have the economics right in order to get an off-taker, because we'd have to sell it for less than the cost of producing it right now.
Our position is that the time is now to build it because we're in the most critical decade to meet our GHG emission reduction targets. It's not just about setting them; it's about meeting them. It's super critical. As you pointed out, British Columbians really felt it this year.
Then the other piece is that governments around the world are in a race to position themselves as the leader in this industry. It's going to be — I wish I had the exact number in front of me — worth hundreds of billions of dollars within a couple of decades, and the governments and jurisdictions that get that industry going now with the companies that are looking to be first movers are going to be the ones with the market share.
While there are some current technological challenges around how we would export green hydrogen, I'm confident those will be solved in the coming decade, and the international market will be immense.
M. Starchuk: Madam Chair, if I could just provide one little comment.
What I'm hearing here is my favourite movie, Field of Dreams. If you build it, they will come. I wish you well, because that is it, 100 percent. You're building it. We will come. We will purchase it.
J. Routledge (Chair): On behalf of the committee, Julia, I would like to thank you for your presentation. I admit I need to read up more about this to better understand it, but it's intriguing and very, very hopeful what you've presented us with. Thank you so much.
J. Balabanowicz: Thank you for your very helpful questions. My written submission will give you more helpful detail on what it might mean for the budget.
J. Routledge (Chair): Great. Okay, thank you so much.
We'll recess now until 1:30.
The committee recessed from 12:23 p.m. to 1:29 p.m.
[J. Routledge in the chair.]
J. Routledge (Chair): Our next presenter is Chuck Zuckerman, representing B.C. Wildlife Federation.
Chuck, you have five minutes. When you have 30 seconds to go, we'll signal so you know it's time to wrap up. Then we'll ask you some questions.
B.C. WILDLIFE FEDERATION
C. Zuckerman: Outstanding. Thank you so much for allowing me to attend here. I'm glad to see that everybody is nice and healthy and we're back in business again.
I'd like to begin by saying that I do not envy you your decisions and the deliberations that you have to make. I do budgets with my own organization, and they're quite challenging at some times.
I went through the budget and fiscal plan this morning that formalized on April 20, 2021, and I enjoy the ethical, responsible spending that you have when you develop your expense categories — four health categories, 13 people categories, business and a reconciliation category. The thing that kind of brought me to a bit of a stall was the provincial debt, at $87 billion by the end of the fiscal year, which is $11 billion higher than projected at the beginning of the year.
When you extrapolate that out using the statistics that are in that report, it's quite possible, if we're $11 billion off again for the next three years, that by the end of three years, we'll double our debt. Doubling a debt in three years is very troublesome and problematic.
Also, what I'd like to talk about is FLNRORD — Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development. The B.C. Wildlife Federation, as a conservation organization, is interested in putting more animals on the landscape, fish in the waters, protecting the environment, worried about climate change and habitat as well as access.
Since the 1970s, there was an increase — it's very mild — in the amount of funding going to the fish and wildlife department originally. However, right now, the budget forecast is to start withdrawing funds and, therefore, to be $41 million this year, $30 million next, $4 million the following year. It's almost a 10 percent reduction over three years. We're concerned about that funding.
The B.C. Wildlife Federation has 43,000 members, and the vital issues to us are natural resource management and wildlife sustainability. Unfortunately, wildlife management agencies have a history of being understaffed and underfunded. Our province's motto is: "Splendour without diminishment." That's what we embody. That's what all British Columbians have in their hearts when they go out into the wilderness areas.
To give you an idea about…. We have the most biodiverse jurisdiction in North America, yet when it comes to funding, we spent, in 2017, only $37 million on fish and wildlife, while the state of Idaho, one-fifth the size of B.C. but one-third the population, spent three times as much — $106 million as compared to $34 million.
This reduction in inadequate funding results in the mountain caribou being an endangered species, as their herds have declined throughout the province. The Chilcotin and Thompson River steelhead face imminent extinction. Annual returns, easily, of that particular species, are estimated to be less than 50 fish per river system. Prior to the slide in 1914, the salmonoid return was 120 million fish. So we're down to less than a fraction of a percent over that.
In the last decade, mule deer and elk populations have experienced severe declines, and the moose population declined almost 70 percent throughout the province. In addition….
J. Routledge (Chair): Sorry, Chuck. We're just going to put you on pause for a minute. Just wanted to make sure that we all actually got to hear you.
C. Zuckerman: No, that's fine. I also sent a written submission of what I'm saying, so you'll be able to refer back to that as well.
J. Routledge (Chair): Continue.
C. Zuckerman: Continue on. Okay. I see I'm getting near my end.
The recommendations that we have…. The first one is to establish a wildlife governance and funding model, following the Premier's mandate to improve wildlife management and habitat conservation and collaboration with stakeholders.
The second recommendation: to establish a minimum of a $200 million permanent water security fund that would develop appropriate watershed scale and collaborative partnerships, modernize watershed-based land use developments and develop innovations supporting provincewide advancement.
Your children and their children depend on you to make the right decisions. We need collaborative coalitions for fish and wildlife and habitat. We need to start a conversation of conservation.
Ultimately, the solutions of today must not exacerbate the problems that we will face in the future. We can change the future, and we can fix those problems by providing adequate, stable and continuous appropriate funding now, for the future.
I think that kind of brings me up to my time.
J. Routledge (Chair): That's great. Yes. Thanks, Chuck.
The committee now has an opportunity to ask you some questions.
L. Doerkson: I'll give you a little bit of a chance and a little extra time to make up for what's happened here in this meeting. My apologies for that.
You talked a little bit about establishing a couple of different funds. The $200 million fund that you're talking about — where did you get that number from? Where does the $200 million come from?
I can appreciate, by the way, all of the damage that you referred to. I represent Cariboo-Chilcotin. I know that we have diminished stock in steelhead. We've got problems in our caribou herd, and we've got fisher now red-listed — so very serious issues in our ridings.
I just wanted a little bit more background about that $200 million.
C. Zuckerman: Thank you for the question. When you go back to the budget and fiscal plan, a lot of the revenue that comes from the water extraction resource industry goes to general revenues and is not developed back into the security fund that we're talking about. So if just that revenue was deemed to be directed at a watershed funding model, then it would be locked in. So it's sort of user-pay, and that was where that comes from, as a beginning.
Often you find that when you can define to the public exactly where the money is going and what it can be used for, then they're more apt to add more money willingly. So there might be a tax on recyclable bottles of water, those little 750 millilitre bottles of water that are very chic to have. But what happens in the recycling industry? Is that used, or do they go to the dumps? How much does it cost to recycle it versus just sending it to the dump? Perhaps if we paid more for the bottle itself, that might help. That might be dedicated back to the watershed refunding.
Then in the watershed, we also would then take a look at the forestry management practices to maintain those watersheds, because now, instead of clearcutting, which is not quite…. They take away the old growth, leave the shorter growth, and then they take all the limbs on the trees and put them on the ground. That's what enhances the fire situation that we have, and we don't have adequate money to fight the forest fires. Usually we're about 30 percent less than, in fact, what's paid.
It's a whole integrated climate, environmental perspective that we're asking that the committee take a look at. Do not silo the separate issues and the separate answers. There has to be a comprehensive way of looking at it. That would be the beginning to tie things together — dedicating funding models.
M. Dykeman: Thank you for your presentation and for your patience with our slightly chaotic start.
My question is related to your paper submission. I've read that. I see that your first recommendation is related to a governance funding model. What I'm wondering is…. You mention setting objectives for habitat, fish and wildlife in legislation. Can you expand a bit on that? I know that there are…. Objectives, as I understand it, are set through various means. What does this look like to you? Recommendation No. 4 of that, on page 2.
C. Zuckerman: Okay. This recommendation would "set objectives for habitat, fish and wildlife in legislation"?
M. Dykeman: Yes. That's correct. I'm just wondering if you can expand a bit.
C. Zuckerman: Thank you. Yes. Are you asking from the budget and the funding point of view or the general management point of view? Okay. Funding point of view.
We have the Columbia River Basin. The Columbia River fish go up through the Columbia system, cross the border and come into British Columbia. We've built a number of dams along those river systems. Some dams work; some dams don't. There's disabling of dams, deactivation of dams going on now.
In the United States, they spend almost $550 million, and they represent two-thirds of the Columbia Basin — $550 million. Here in Canada, we're spending $50 million. Therefore, we're exceeding the amount that we're paying for. In fact, we are getting "a good deal."
That would be one of the places that, in fact, deserve more funding on the same scale as they have in the United States. That's just comparing apples to apples, as it were. The objectives for habitat, fish and wildlife and legislation would talk about the preservation of what we have now in terms of numbers and further recruitment and restoration of the habitat and the numbers of animals that we have.
When you go back to traditional numbers…. Moose, let's say. There is not a word in the First Nations language for moose because prior to 1900, there were no moose in our province. There were huge fires that existed at the Yukon-B.C. border. Those fires lasted for over a year. Then they came through the undergrowth, much like in coal mines, and came to the surface again. But with those fires, they cleared enough area in the timber for the moose to then migrate south.
In fact, in B.C., you have the Alaska-Yukon moose, the andersoni moose, the Canada moose, and in the southeast part, we have Shiras. Those numbers, then, in the Bella Coola Valley increase to the point of being 50,000 to 60,000 moose. If you compare to Sweden — again, one-third the size of us with two-thirds of the population — they harvest over three times as many moose as we do. That's because of proper habitat management, resource extraction management.
By going towards the inventory and the numbers of animals, whether it be the land-based animals or the fish, that would be the target that we want to achieve and maintain and, therefore, is going to be the sustainability.
When we talk about First Nations FSC, they have food, ceremonial and sustenance purposes. Therefore, conservation is the overriding concern. But that's in the federal dictate of section 35 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We don't have something similar in British Columbia. British Columbia, again, becomes siloed.
There's a regional manager for each of the eight regions in British Columbia, and they all have different perspectives on how to manage their landscape. The thing is they don't have enough funding to do it. Sometimes it's a "by gosh, by golly" guesstimate as to the number of animals that are on the landscape.
The fish? You could have counters in the streams, and they can count the fish as they come back to spawn. But there's nothing like that for the animals. Therefore, we have reporting of animals that are harvested by B.C. hunters. Then you have the anecdotal reporting that comes from other hunters and gatherers in British Columbia.
But where would be the targeting? With these objectives, in consultation with First Nations and groups such as my own and scientists, you could come up with: what can the habitat sustain, and what's it going to be to meet the needs of society? That would be a whole discussion as to where to go. But what we're trying to do is look from the end result and then work our way backwards.
It's not enough to have a fight over who's going to shoot the last moose. That doesn't do anything. The point is let's increase the environment, the carrying capacity, to have hundreds of moose and then designate it to the needs of different parts of society.
M. Dykeman: Wonderful. Thank you so much.
J. Routledge (Chair): Well, thank you, Chuck. We are going to have to wrap it up now. Again, we apologize for the disruption, and we tried to give you a bit more time to account for that. This is a much bigger discussion than can take place in what amounts to ten minutes.
Your knowledge in this area is very impressive. I hope that we have an opportunity to have further discussions about how we can better protect all the aspects of wildlife in British Columbia. Thank you for your time.
C. Zuckerman: Thank you. I'll have my communications director get a hold of you, and if you can spare some time, I'd be more than willing to get together and have a conversation as long as you're available.
J. Routledge (Chair): Great. Okay.
Our next presenter is Tom Green with the David Suzuki Foundation.
Tom, thanks for joining us. You have five minutes to make a presentation. We'll let you know when you're at the 30-second mark so you know when to wrap up, and then we'll ask you questions.
DAVID SUZUKI FOUNDATION
T. Green: Sure. Sounds great. Thanks very much.
Thank you for the invitation to participate in this process on behalf of the David Suzuki Foundation. What brings me here today is the need to align B.C.'s budget with the accelerating climate emergency.
All British Columbians were touched this summer by the devastating effects of heat domes, wildfires and more. We are now confident, through advances in climate attribution, that human emissions of greenhouse gases are exacerbating extreme weather events. They will only get more serious and more frequent unless we immediately take climate action.
Three years ago B.C. responded with CleanBC. However, with goalposts of what is needed shifting rapidly with new science, this climate plan is no longer sufficient.
Here is where we believe B.C. needs to focus its budget. First, adequately fund CleanBC's implementation. That means following the advice of former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, who said that government should be spending about 2 per cent of their GDP on climate mitigation efforts.
Second, strengthen and implement missing elements of CleanBC. Implementing the remaining 25 per cent of CleanBC's plan without delay is crucial, as is strengthening existing climate policies to reflect the emergency situation we face. For instance, the timeline in B.C.'s ZEV, zero-emission vehicle, mandate needs to be accelerated.
Third, stop supporting fossil fuel expansion and forestry practices and investment in LNG export facilities that will further destabilize the climate. The International Energy Agency stated this year that no new oil, gas or coal projects could be built in the world if we are on track to stay for limiting heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The IPCC issued its code red for humanity report this summer, confirming that humans are unequivocally responsible for the climate crisis because of fossil fuel dependence and massive deforestation. Our expectation for the roadmap to 2030 is that oil and gas sector emissions will be immediately capped today and must decline steadily in line with achieving the sectoral target, the 2030 target and, ultimately, to net zero by 2050.
We also need to take into account the carbon footprint of the fossil fuels we export, which in 2018 were 2½ times B.C.'s emissions.
Four, end all fossil fuel subsidies, financial incentives and other provincial support by 2022, and support workers to transition away from fossil fuel industries to clean energy opportunities.
The contribution the oil and gas sector makes to B.C. economy is too carbon-intensive and is misaligned with achieving 2030 targets. The sector is 3.45 per cent of B.C.'s GDP but 20 per cent of our carbon pollution. According to a Stand.earth report, these subsidies amounted to $1.3 billion in 2020-21 in British Columbia.
Five, stop accelerating climate risk, and focus on nature solutions. A report this year from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services — that's a mouthful — IPBES, makes it clear that conserving and restoring nature are essential to solving the climate emergency and global declines in nature.
We'd recommend that Budget 2022 allocate the necessary funds to ensure 30 per cent of terrestrial and marine ecosystems can be protected by 2030; support and invest in Indigenous-led conservation initiatives; fund restoration of natural ecosystems degraded by industrial activities; issue a moratorium on industrial logging of all old growth forests, which are critical sinks; and allocate funds for the old growth strategic review.
Thanks again for your time and attention. I hope the urgency of the climate emergency is reflected in Budget 2022.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Tom.
Now I'll open it up to questions from the committee.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Tom, for your presentation.
Whenever there are numbers, it makes it hard to write down what you're trying to hear, so some of my numbers are sideways. If you could just explain the number that you used near the end — the 2018 fossil fuel export was 2.5 times — what that made reference to.
T. Green: Yes. We'll also be doing a written submission by the end of the process, so you'll have all the numbers and footnotes and so on. But if you look at all the coal, natural gas and oil that we export from the province, so mainly coal and natural gas, and you account for the emissions when those are burned in other countries, that's 2½ times the carbon footprint of all the emissions that we have in this province.
M. Starchuk: Okay, great.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions?
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks, Tom. I look forward to your written submission, because it was a lot of information that was put across. But I guess the main thing about it is that you talked about the numbers that Mike just brought up, about the exports, etc. I'm assuming that when you say coal, you're talking both metallurgical coal as well as other exports of non-metallurgical coal and oil and gas. Is that correct?
T. Green: Yeah. B.C. is mostly metallurgical coal.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): That's right. What's the solution for turning the metallurgical coal and the temperature it achieves, etc…? What's the alternative to that, just in terms of an alternative to being able to produce the products that metallurgical coal is used in?
T. Green: Those are great questions. It's an area of a lot of research right now and some pilot projects, such as in Sweden, where they're going for zero-emission steel. Different alternatives are being considered, including…. You know, green hydrogen is one of them and other ways of achieving high-temperature processes. There's also using electric furnaces and avoiding the use of a fossil fuel as well.
There are different pathways that are being evaluated. Actually, one of the top researchers in that area, Chris Bataille, is associated with Simon Fraser University. He's the kind of person we often turn to, to understand what those pathways are. But those windows are now opening up to different ways of doing things.
One of the points we would make, I guess, is that B.C. has to start to anticipate that world where the world won't be wanting metallurgical coal anymore because there will be other, cleaner pathways that can fit within our carbon budget.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Of course, this is a huge transition, and if you don't plan for it, you don't really arrive at the point where you have solutions as to how you're going to do that. I didn't know that there were solutions being worked on right here in British Columbia by that gentleman, Chris, you mentioned from SFU.
I guess, in terms of the overall opening comment, you mentioned about LNG, etc. Having spent some time in Asia and seeing how terrible the air quality is and their choices…. Do you support the transition from the products they're using, with things like LNG? Or is that just not an option in your mind?
T. Green: Yeah. The idea that LNG would be this bridge fuel, I think, has less and less credibility as a climate solution as we understand, for instance, that B.C.'s methane emissions are about twice what's reported in the official inventory. There was research that came out this summer.
Also, the problem with LNG is that often it can actually be displacing renewables, rather than coal. So it's not necessarily going to replace coal-generated electricity. Like, I agree. We need to shut down coal-generated electricity across the world as quickly as possible. It's one of the major contributors to global emissions, but we can leapfrog that.
The IEA now reports that solar PV, solar photovoltaic, is the cheapest source of new electricity in most countries around the world now. Prices have dropped so dramatically over the last ten to 12 years that that is one of the solutions.
Then we've seen remarkable advances in wind, in battery storage. We actually have a project where we're modelling that for Canada called Clean Power Pathways, which we'll be releasing next year. That's more a domestic thing, but we're seeing the same kinds of things — where these new technologies are able to give clean electricity reliably around the clock even though the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine.
J. Routledge (Chair): Okay. I don't see any other questions. So Tom, I want to thank you for your presentation. I, for one, will be reading your written submission very carefully. As you point out, we have lived through a summer in which it has come home to roost.
T. Green: Yes.
J. Routledge (Chair): We need new, more powerful solutions, and we need partnerships. As a layperson, I need to educate myself. I think that we all feel like we need to educate ourselves so that we make the right decisions as government. We really value the work that you're doing and the work that the David Suzuki Foundation is doing. It's really important. Thank you.
T. Green: Thank you so much. Thank you to the Chair and members.
M. Dykeman: Madam Chair, although I know we're running a few minutes behind, could we please take a five-minute recess? I'm supposed to go into another meeting, and we just need to figure out where everyone's going to be.
J. Routledge (Chair): Yes. I think we should do that.
M. Dykeman: If we could please do that. Thank you.
J. Routledge (Chair): We will now recess for about five minutes to regroup.
The committee recessed from 1:56 p.m. to 2:01 p.m.
[J. Routledge in the chair.]
J. Routledge (Chair): Michael, would you come to the table? I apologize. We're a little bit behind now. You've been very patient. We're in the process of dealing with an emergency, but I think we have it somewhat under control. We certainly don't want to, in any way, limit your opportunity, or anyone else who comes after you, to make your presentation.
For the record, I will say that our next presenter is Michael Bissonnette with West Coast Environmental Law.
You have five minutes to make a presentation. We will try to give you a 30-second warning when it's time to wrap up, and then it will be open to the committee to ask some questions.
WEST COAST ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
M. Bissonnette: Thank you very much. My name is Michael Bissonnette. I am a marine lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law. Thanks a lot for having me today. I hope everything's okay, and I completely understand the disturbance.
Today I'd like to speak about the importance of allocating funding in the 2022 budget for the development of the B.C. coastal marine strategy, which is something this government committed to this past November.
West Coast Environmental Law has been working with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, championing this strategy, the coastal marine strategy for British Columbia, for about three years now, through the Blueprint for the Coast initiative. We are very pleased to see this work being prioritized by this government. But that being said, it is really important that this process be supported in the 2022 budget.
I'd like to begin just to talk briefly about why this is so important and why it's needed right now. B.C.'s coastal communities and ecosystems right now are facing a multitude of unprecedented challenges up and down the coast. Some of the most prominent challenges right now are things like the climate change impacts, which are going to be leading to sea level rise, flooding, ocean acidification — all things which communities are trying to prepare for.
We're also seeing, unfortunately, catastrophic declines in salmon. We're seeing loss of coastal habitat. Related to those issues, as well, we're seeing a lot of the local economies in many small coastal communities that are really struggling right now. If you put COVID on top of that, it's a very difficult situation.
That's why the British Columbia coastal marine strategy is so needed right now. British Columbia is one of the last coastal provinces or states in North America that doesn't have some kind of unified coastal strategy or law that directs its management and ties it together. Instead, right now, we have decisions being made on the coast through a number of different ministries and departments, but they're not always necessarily working in concert. There isn't necessarily a greater vision on how these decisions will work together and the goals that we're seeking to achieve for our coastal management.
Thankfully, the province has recognized that it needs to address these challenges. What it has chosen to do is to develop a B.C. coastal and marine strategy. As I said, B.C. is one of the last provinces to have developed one of these. One of the upsides of that is that there are a lot of examples around the world that we can look to. Based on the success of coastal strategies in other places, we know that a B.C. coastal marine strategy really has the promise to truly revamp coastal management and also to meet many of the foundational objectives of this government.
Just to give you a few of those, this is an opportunity to ensure coastal communities have resilient, sustainable local economies so that those who rely on the coast for their livelihood will be able to do so for generations to come.
A few years ago it was calculated that ocean-based activities in British Columbia contributed more to the B.C. economy than either forestry or the technology sector. So this is a significant sector that really deserves government attention.
This is also an opportunity — and these two go hand in hand because the environment and the economy are not opposed; they need to work together — to ensure sustainable, ecosystem-based management of our coastal and marine areas.
Last but not least, this government has committed to developing this with Indigenous nations and other orders of government. This is an opportunity to co-create it with Indigenous nations and to implement the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is something that this government has made a commitment to, in law, through statute.
In order to do so — and that's why I'm here today — it's really important that we make sure that there's sufficient funding allocated to this process. Long-term funding is really what's going to be needed for this. If we really cherish our ocean and ocean economy, we need to make sure that we're properly funding our management program for it through our coastal strategy.
Some of the things that we certainly need funding allocated for are, first, to make sure that the body that's going to develop and implement the coastal strategy has the funding it needs to do that process. Given that the government has committed to co-creating it with Indigenous nations, it's also going to be really important that there's funding to make sure that Indigenous nations have the capacity not only to be engaged in this process but to partner with the government to make this a success.
Lastly, coastal stakeholders and coastal communities, especially, are really going to be needed at the table and to be part of this process, because they're our key stakeholders in all of this.
I come here today…. The submission is that we really need funding allocated in the '22 budget so that the strategy can start to be developed now and implemented during this mandate. Coastal communities' ecosystems are really an integral part of B.C., and I think it's an integral part of British Columbians' identity. A strong marine coastal strategy will ensure that B.C.'s coastal areas and the communities that rely upon them have a sustainable, ocean-based economy that can support them and that they're able to continue their livelihood for generations to come.
Thank you very much for your time today. I'm very happy to answer any questions you may have. The last thing I will say is that we do intend to submit a written submission during the period as well.
J. Routledge (Chair): Great. Thank you, Michael.
Lorne, did I see your hand?
L. Doerkson: Sure. Thank you, Madam Chair.
I guess I heard two things that I would have questions about, or perhaps you could expand on them a little bit. I wasn't aware, but you had touched on the point, that in November there was a commitment to come up with a plan. But it sounds like there was no commitment to funding the plan. I guess my question would be: do you have a suggestion as to how much funding it may require to go ahead?
M. Bissonnette: With respect to your first question, the commitment I'm referring to was in the mandate letters of five members of cabinet, including, I believe, three ministers, after the election we had in October. So it found its way into the mandate letter of five ministers.
You are correct that the commitment itself didn't include a specific funding allocation with it. We were slightly concerned not to see it allocated in the 2021 budget. For that reason, we really are emphasizing the need for it to be in next year's budget. Developing an effective coastal strategy is going to take a bit of time, and it's really important that it be done this mandate, if possible.
With respect to your second question about how much money, exactly, is needed, I haven't come today with a specific number. I just want to emphasize, I think, a few things on that question and why we certainly shouldn't lowball a commitment to a coastal strategy.
First of all, as I said, the ocean is a large part, and can be a large part, of the B.C. economy if we manage it and support it in a sustainable way. Not having a ministry dedicated to ocean activities right now, like we might have for forestry…. We need a substantial commitment to make this successful.
The other thing is that when you look at plans that involve different orders of government — in particular, in our case, when you're working with Indigenous nations — it's really going to be important that everyone feel included and supportive of that strategy. If we don't fund Indigenous nations to be part of that and to be proud of those plans and stand behind them, and other orders of government, then we might not have this transformational coastal strategy that I think a lot of people are hoping for.
I would say…. I could give you numbers from previous consultations on other campaigns to change legal amendments, but I think one thing to keep in mind, in this case, is that the government wants to create it with Indigenous nations, and we need to account that that's going to require some extra funding as well.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Michael, for your findings. Every once in a while some good things happen when you're behind the curve. You've identified that this might be a positive effect that's there, for not having it ready.
My question isn't necessarily about money, but more about…. You've identified that there have been cross-ministries. I make the assumption that the federal government is part of this decision-making model, as well, to a certain extent. So rather than how much, what would your expectation be as to how long?
M. Bissonnette: Interesting question. What I'll say about that, just because you brought it up….
You're absolutely right that the federal government could have a very important role to play in this, because, obviously, the federal government has important ocean responsibilities, in particular for fishing and for shipping. To have a federal government right now that has also committed to developing a blue economy strategy, so a strategy for an ocean-based economy, is really a good time to engage with the federal government.
With respect to funding, I think we should make a distinction between the development of the coastal strategy and the implementation of the strategy. Certainly, at this point, we need to develop the strategy. But it's really going to be important, if you put all that work into a strategy, that it also does get funding long term so that the implementation of the strategy could continue.
We've, unfortunately, had examples in the past…. I'll just give you one example. We've had smaller marine plans, in scope. For example, we had the Fraser River estuary management plan, which was a plan on where developments could occur in the Fraser River estuary. It did involve the federal government, provincial government and local governments. It worked for a while in the 1990s, but one of the problems was that it didn't have a promise of long-term funding, and at one point, the federal government cut off funding for that initiative.
If you don't have long-term funding for the implementation afterwards, there's a risk that all that money you've put into developing a strategy will be all for naught.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Michael. We are now out of time. I want to thank you and West Coast Environment Law for your presentation and for your leadership on this.
As you say, our coast is a big part of British Columbia's identity. It's one of our defining features. If we need to take transformational action in order to maintain that identity, it is really important that we have people at the table in the beginning who don't feel that something that big is imposed on them. We need to be doing this in partnership.
Thank you for that perspective. I look forward to reading your brief later.
M. Bissonnette: Thank you very much.
J. Routledge (Chair): Our next presenter is Jill Tipping, with B.C. Tech Association.
Jill, you have five minutes to make your presentation. We'll signal you when you have 30 seconds left so that you have an opportunity to wrap up, and then it will be open to the committee to ask questions.
I should mention to you that the fact that there are so many empty seats here is not that we're not interested in the presentations. We had a bit of an emergency, and that's being attended to.
B.C. TECH ASSOCIATION
J. Tipping: Wonderful. Well, it's great to see you all. This is my first 3D interaction with government since the 4th of March, 2020.
Thank you, everyone, for the opportunity to share the B.C. Tech Association's recommendations for Budget 2022. B.C. Tech is a member-based non-profit that supports tech companies to grow and scale and supports non-tech audiences to understand and adopt technology.
I'd like to start today by drawing the committee's attention to our recent publication. I'll make sure that you all have a copy. It's called A New Economic Narrative for B.C. It reviews the current state of the B.C. economy, how global trends are reshaping economies around the world and what B.C. needs to do to position our economy to stay competitive for the future.
Over the past three decades, a massive shift has occurred in B.C. as we rapidly became a knowledge- and services-driven economy. Here are some statistics. Today, 80 percent of the jobs, 75 percent of the GDP and 50 percent of our exports are from the services sector, not the goods sector. That surprises most people I share, and I assure you, it's based on government data. But we've continued to allow our out-of-date, 20th-century thinking to drive decisions in the 21st century, and that's a mistake.
Our report recommends that we must, as an urgent priority, start capturing better data on B.C.'s economy to identify the real economic drivers of long-term prosperity and competitiveness in the knowledge economy.
Two, really embrace technology and innovation as the critical drivers of economic growth and resilience, with increased investment in tech talent and support for entrepreneurs to scale up.
Third, increase access to education and skills training and invest in the infrastructure of the services economy so that we're taking people with us and sharing prosperity. Specifically for the tech sector, we really want to make B.C. the best place to build a tech company by helping firms grow into scale-ups and anchor companies — the larger companies that really anchor our economy.
We have long had a thriving tech sector, with start-ups in abundance, and I think you know that. But our start-ups have struggled to scale up. In our 2020 Tech Report Card, we found that of 11,000 tech companies in B.C., only 220 of them employed 100 people or more. That's just 2 percent of our tech companies reaching that kind of measure of success, and it's not enough.
Why? Well, start-ups are a vital and absolutely essential part of the ecosystem. That's why we recently launched a BCTech4Startups program to support them and help them grow. But start-ups are, as the name implies, just the start of the story. We also need a thriving and growing spool of scale and anchor companies with 100-plus employees. It's resilient scale-ups and anchor companies that deliver long-term economic strength and stability.
There's a myth that is often repeated to me as a fact. I'd like to share it with you and bust it. It is that in B.C., our tech companies just get acquired and leave B.C. It's one of those things that might have been true 30 years ago and hasn't been true for a long time. Today capital is in far greater supply than it was 30 years ago, so there's plenty of capital available to companies who want to grow and scale and put down roots rather than grow and sell and realize a quick gain.
Today it is tech talent that is the constrained resource. So even when a company is sold today, the new investor has just bought a team of talented people who can work together to create value, as much as they've bought a business.
The research shows that once a company reaches 100 or 200 employees, it's much more likely to stay in its local community, even if acquired. That means the jobs stay, and the tax revenues that come from those jobs stay.
Here's the mission we must embrace: how can we ensure that more than the 2 percent make it? How can we embrace the challenge to enable 10 percent of our tech companies to reach that 100-person-or-more stage? That would mean another 1,000 scale and anchor companies for B.C. — not 220 but 1,220. That sounds like a mission worth getting our heads around.
Now, mission-oriented innovation policy is not a new idea. The government of British Columbia has, of course, partnered with Mariana Mazzucato to look at mission-oriented strategies for the new economic plan. I would propose that B.C. Tech's ScaleUP B.C. proposal is an ideal mission-oriented innovation strategy.
ScaleUP B.C. is 11 organizations representing the tech ecosystems of Vancouver Island, the Interior, the North and the Lower Mainland, and we've come together to build a ScaleUP platform for B.C. It's targeted accelerator programming that will grow the next generation of B.C.'s scale and anchor companies.
I just want to assure you that the return on investment associated with high-quality, multi-year accelerator funding is very well established and documented. An independent third-party audit of B.C. Tech ourselves found that with every dollar government invested, we delivered $14 in GDP and $9 in tax revenues. Those are exceptional rates of return, whichever way you look at it.
J. Routledge (Chair): Sorry, Jill. You're way over time. So if you could just finish up.
J. Tipping: I apologize.
A $10 million Budget '22 investment from the provincial government will enable us to unlock $31 million in federal funding and launch the ScaleUP B.C. platform.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Jill.
Will you be following up with a written submission?
J. Tipping: Absolutely.
J. Routledge (Chair): Great. I'll now open it up to questions from the committee.
M. Starchuk: Thank you for your level of enthusiasm. We see it from time to time here.
Can you just explain the $12 million opening up federal money and how that works?
J. Tipping: Yeah. In April of 2019, the federal government invested $52 million in Ontario to leverage a provincial investment there of $24 million and launched a ScaleUP platform for Ontario. This fall we will be invited to apply for federal funding for our ScaleUP B.C. proposal, and we know that one of the critical success factors will be: "Is the provincial government co-investing alongside?"
So $31 million will be our federal ask, and $10 million is what we think we need to secure from the provincial government to access that $31 million. We've been talking about this proposal for a while now, so we're fairly confident in those numbers and what would flow from that kind of investment.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions?
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Jill. I just would like to know more about….
You mentioned about the tech talent shortage. I guess what I'm thinking is…. You know, a few years ago when we were talking about tech and growth and all these companies…. Is it because of our success, or is it because of the shortage of people being trained at institutions that are putting out qualified tech staff? Where is the gap?
J. Tipping: Well, we're in the lucky position that the demand for tech talent has never been higher, whether it's homegrown tech companies, inbound foreign investment tech companies or non-tech companies that are discovering they must have tech talent internally to make a success of every industry. So it's a demand-driven issue — which is great for economic growth — to which we must respond with increased supply.
We need more talent both at the entry levels and also more senior, experienced talent. Some of the immigration streams are extremely important to us. The PNP program is excellent, and making permanent the tech stream has been a really good thing for the industry. But what we also want to see is funding for these kinds of ecosystem programs.
I like to say that we provide talent as a service. So if you can't access senior, experienced talent to fill all ten of your C-suite roles, you can access services from me that will somehow compensate for the lack of senior, experienced talent in the ecosystem.
G. Kyllo: Thank you very much for your presentation.
I'm hearing a lot about competitiveness and how B.C. stacks up, with respect to other jurisdictions, from a tax competitiveness perspective. Do you have any comments? Is that a concern for the industry sector as far as…? We certainly hear about some of the increasing cost barriers, like the cost of housing in the Lower Mainland, for example.
The other piece that I hear a lot about from business owners is that we're continuing to…. I guess our tax competitiveness is starting to erode compared to other jurisdictions. You may be able to comment a little bit about your perspective on that.
J. Tipping: Sure. Well, it's definitely the case that we would like to have a very clear and coherent tax structure so that companies are very confident in what the cost of doing business will be in British Columbia. We tend to be an industry that is slightly less tax-sensitive than others. We love to see a great environment, because it definitely encourages more investment locally, but one of the benefits of the tech sector is that we do create well-paying jobs with….
I like to talk about job-years. When we create a tech job, we create a tech job for 30 years, not for three months or three years. We future-proof the people of British Columbia whichever direction the economy happens to grow, because we're investing in flexible skills. The tech business is actually a people-based business, more than it is a corporate-based business. I might call it that.
We're really invested in making sure that B.C. is a great place to live and grow and do great work and raise a family. I will be honest, housing affordability is something that shows up with increasing regularity, not just the price of single-family dwellings but the price of rental apartments for young talent getting started.
So housing, more than tax, funnily enough, is actually where we start when we're thinking about what we need to do to make this tech sector grow and grow sustainably in a way that works for everyone.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions?
With that, Jill, I will thank you so much for coming and making a presentation. Your numbers are very impressive, and it's a lot of food for thought. I think that we have been told for a long time that tech is our future and that we need to get ready for it. You've certainly reinforced that.
I can say, from my experience in my own community, we have some impressive tech companies. And yes, housing and child care are what they say they want, to keep the talent.
Our next presenter is Juan Solorzano, representing the Public Health Association of B.C.
Welcome, Juan. You have five minutes. We'll give you a signal when you have 30 seconds left so that you can wrap up your comments, and then we'll ask you questions.
PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION OF B.C.
J. Solorzano: Thank you very much for the opportunity of being here today. It's really a true honor to speak to elected officials in government. The role that you play in improving the health of residents in our province through your daily decisions is unparalleled, and we appreciate the difficult balance that you have to strike here, given the competing and diverse interests.
As I mentioned, my name is Juan Solorzano and I'm here on behalf of PHABC, a not-for-profit, member-driven organization that represents public health professionals across the province. The current investments in public health represent approximately 3 per cent of health care spending in B.C., and this has been eroded over the years. This workforce hasn't increased, despite increasing demands. And in the face of tightening budgets, it's often common to see some of the funding for public health go to other health care areas. This is clearly a short-term gain for long-term loss as investments in public health result in reduced demand for hospital care.
We have calculated that for every dollar spent in public health, the province stands to save approximately $7 in mental health and addictions treatment, for example, and an additional $30 social costs and loss of productivity.
Over the course of the pandemic, this has really highlighted the importance of having a robust public health system, not just in terms of services but also on disease surveillance and evidence-informed policies.
Unfortunately, at this time of crisis, when we need our public health professionals the most, we're also facing a crisis within the system. Public health has been on the receiving end of unprecedented levels of antagonism. The expertise of local public health leaders has not been adequately appreciated and leveraged, and that has affected the morale and performance of the professionals who have been making enormous sacrifices over the past year and a half. From public health units across the province, we hear of concerning levels of staff burnout, the inability to recruit and retain professionals in the field, and prospective staff choosing other career paths.
On behalf of PHABC, our members would like to recommend government to consider an increase in the investment in public health to 6 percent of the health care expenditure and that this funding is ring-fenced so it is directed to public health initiatives and with clearly articulated outcomes for health authorities. We also recommend that some of those funds go to the development of the public health workforce and that we protect the scientists and public health leaders that can ensure the system readiness and search capacity that we need.
We also need to work with post-secondary educational institutions to prepare those public health professionals for facing the issues of the 21st century. The burden of the economic impacts from the pandemic as well as the unintended consequences of the public health orders have disproportionately affected the most disadvantaged members of our society, and while there has been a laser focus on the COVID cases, we have seen lesser attention on some of those serious impacts outside the cases.
Recent surveys, for example, of our population have seen a concerning deterioration of mental health in residents, particularly youth and children. We have seen increases in binge drinking and the use of cannabis, as well as record increases in deaths by overdose. Service disruptions have affected the deterioration of chronic conditions, and in the summer, we got to see the immediate impact that extreme weather events bring to the residents of our province.
Many of these consequences will stay with us for years to come, and public health professionals will be called again to lead responses to these complex problems. In the face of this, the B.C. Public Health Association recommends that government leverage Budget 2022 to ensure that our province is ready to face these challenges.
We recommend resourcing the implementation of a health-in-all-policies approach across all government departments. This is because these complex problems require whole-of-government action, and it is critical that we strengthen our response capacity. To do this, we need to strengthen our public health surveillance, the population health data collection, and then resource public health units in local areas to be able to work with partners and develop cross-sectoral interventions aimed at the root of the problems.
We recognize that whenever we come here and request additional funds, it's important that we also put forward some opportunities for generating revenue. We echo our partners with the Alliance for Healthy Living in putting forward three revenue-generating proposals that include a cost-recovery fee for tobacco and vapour products; setting a minimum price for alcohol and taxing drinks based on alcohol content; and extending the provincial sales tax to non-carbonated sugary drinks, as well as working with the federal government on an excise tax on sugary drinks. These revenue sources have the dual benefit of also nudging behaviours toward healthier lifestyles.
With this, I conclude, and I just want to thank you for the opportunity. I'm happy to answer any questions.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thanks so much, Juan.
Now I'll open it up to questions from the committee.
G. Kyllo: We received a number of presentations yesterday from B.C. sports, different sports organizations in the province. We've talked about some of the challenges we have with the current pandemic — the impact it's had on reducing children's involvement in sports, which will have potentially negative health outcomes in years ahead. You've referenced, obviously, some of the challenges with new products, like vaping, for example, and then you also reference cannabis.
I'm not sure if there have been any stats that really determined what the cannabis usage in British Columbia is now compared to five or ten years ago. But when you reference taxation as one means of providing some additional dollars back into the system…. I’m from the riding of Shuswap, and there are about 23 different cannabis shops that have appeared there in the last three years, all set up on First Nations reserve land — not licensed, not complying with any particular regulation or policy and no taxation whatsoever.
I'm certainly, in my constituency, often hearing a lot of concerns from the legalized shops that have had to follow through and meet all the different criteria, feeling that they can't compete on a level playing field with these cannabis retail shops that are set up. They seem to be proliferating throughout the entire province, and yet there's no taxation whatsoever.
I appreciate it's a bit of a tricky situation where a lot of them are operating on federal reserve land, but do you see any opportunities for governments to provide some form of taxation? Obviously, although the sale is being conducted on First Nations reserve lands, it's lots of folks that are living off reserve that are taking advantage of the uncompetitive nature of the taxation. Yet they're still having an impact, obviously, on our health system.
Do you have any thoughts on that unlevel playing field that seems to be appearing in the province?
J. Solorzano: Yeah, I appreciate the question. Thank you very much for it.
Recognizing the sovereign jurisdiction of First Nations governments on reserve land, we can only point to the need to work in partnership for a regulatory framework that covers those instances. It is important that we have, not just for the benefit of the cannabis industry…. We have seen a direct correlation in terms of price and access to consumption of substances like alcohol and cannabis. The need to have a regulatory framework that covers the whole of British Columbia is very critical.
I do recognize that it is a complex environment in terms of jurisdiction. I will just recommend the partnership with First Nations communities for doing so. And perhaps, if those dollars get directed to the First Nations communities themselves, they might be able to level the playing field while still investing in their own health units.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Juan, for your presentation.
Earlier on today, we heard from some organizations, and there was a lot of leapfrogging. They were supporting similar programs that were there. It wasn't until the end of your presentation that you made mention of the Alliance for Healthy Living and those points that are there.
My question to you is: is there a correlation or partnerships formed with other organizations that are similar to what you're after where that ask has already taken place and you're part of that partnership?
J. Solorzano: Thank you for the question.
The B.C. Healthy Living Alliance brings together not-for-profit associations from across the province. The PHABC is a member of them, so their submission will be covering many of those aspects. Their submission has specifically focused on investments at the not-for-profit level. We are focusing more on the public health units that are part of the health authorities. That's the particular focus of our submission.
I think there's an opportunity of working on a proposal that integrates that better. I think that's a good challenge for us, to take it back and see how, perhaps as a follow-up in our written submission, it brings that connection between the different proposals.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Juan. The number you touched on — a 6 percent increase in public health funding. I heard a broad spectrum of what you think that money should go to. The 6 percent is based on…? Like, 6 percent of what? And what are the specific things?
J. Solorzano: The recommended increase is going from the current 3 percent of health care expenditure to 6 percent. I guess it's a 100 percent increase to public health funding as representing 6 percent of the health expenditure.
B.C. spent, last year, about $21 billion in health care, and revenue across provinces is becoming more and more directed to health care. There's a real concern that we don't invest upstream, so our proposal is to go to about $1 billion of investment. That's what 6 percent represents — $1 billion into public health units. So it's about a 100 percent increase.
What we see is that there will be cost avoidance as a result of those investments upstream. And then, as I've mentioned, the three revenue sources are very targeted taxation strategies. I think we're very concerned about regressive taxation that punishes those who have less means. I'd rather focus on those that nudge the behaviour in the right direction.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Your solution for some of the taxation, to get that back…. You mentioned sugary drinks, I think, at the end, right?
J. Solorzano: That's right.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): I think the government has already taken steps to implement a tax on sugary drinks.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): A little bit. Okay. An increase.
I'm just wondering. You don't have to answer this now. But your submission will explain your recommendation for increased taxation on tobacco products, and the one you mentioned, alcohol by volume, and how that would be. Just so we can understand.
J. Solorzano: Absolutely. Those three recommendations are also included in the B.C. Alliance for Healthy Living. I will read the submission, and that will be referenced in both.
J. Routledge (Chair): We're out of time, Juan. We'll have to wrap it up. But I do, on behalf of the committee, want to thank you for making a presentation.
I also want to thank the members that you represent. You have reminded us that they're on the front line when it comes to the health emergency that we've had in the last 18 months. I guess it's more than that now. But it also reminds us that they're more than just jobs and services. They're our neighbours, family members, who haven't just protected us. It's had an impact on them as well. We note that.
Our next presenter is Tessa Seager, Council of Canadian Innovators.
Come to the table, Tessa. You have five minutes. We will give you a signal when you have 30 seconds to go so you can wrap up. Then we'll open it up for questions.
COUNCIL OF CANADIAN INNOVATORS
T. Seager: Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the members of the standing committee for meeting with us today.
I'm here on the unceded, traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, where we are grateful to live, work and play.
As the Chair said, I'm Tessa Seager. I'm the B.C. lead for the Council of Canadian Innovators, which is a business council that represents over 140 of Canada's scaling technology companies, including 15 based here in B.C. Led by our chairs, Jim Balsillie and John Ruffolo, we advocate for policy that spurs innovation and helps domestic tech companies successfully scale up globally.
Today I want to do three things. I want to tell you what scale-ups are, I want to tell you why scale-ups matter, and I want to tell you what scale-ups need from you.
Put simply, scale-ups are technology companies that are well beyond the start-up stage. They are selling products or services. They are making millions in annual recurrent revenue. They have positive cash flow. They pay taxes. They employ dozens, if not hundreds, of people, and they are all hiring rapidly. They are attracting an array of positive spillover effects, from investment attraction to philanthropy. Most importantly, they are growing, meaning that with the right supports, they can scale in revenue from millions to billions, providing valuable returns to national economies.
That is precisely why these companies, these scale-ups, matter. Scale-ups are our local communities' best economic resource. Innovation experts have consistently said that one essential element for sustained regional growth is the significant concentration of scale-up companies. It is only with the continued success of our scale-ups that our economy will have the wealth-generating capacity needed to pave the way forward for a post-pandemic recovery.
That brings us to the question of what our scale-ups need from you, our provincial government. While a full written submission will supplement my remarks, today I want to focus on two concerning trends our members are experiencing firsthand. The first trend is an inability to access talent. The second trend is our inability to adapt to the 21st-century digital economy.
First, on talent. For years, the biggest issue hindering B.C. tech companies' ability to scale has been access to highly skilled workers. The shift to remote work during the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. Over the past 12 months, we've been hearing from our members that it's harder than ever to find and retain highly skilled talent.
With the pervasiveness of remote work, physical geography and national borders no longer matter. Highly skilled Canadians are now the target for Silicon Valley tech companies without ever having to leave their home offices or their kitchen islands. This geographical freedom, together with foreign multinationals' ability to pay significantly higher salaries, is distorting the talent pool and having a direct impact on the ability of Canadian firms to compete and attract the highly skilled talent they need to grow and scale.
To help B.C. tech companies gain access to talent in this new, post-pandemic economy, Budget 2022 must do three things. It must commit to work with the federal government to pursue innovative immigration policies, like the United Kingdom's new high-potential individual route and its new scale-up route so companies can access more imported talent.
It must further invest in upskilling, reskilling and micro-credential programs to create a new source of domestic talent, and it must incentivize repatriation to bring back the Canadian-bred talent that so often leaves our borders. With these measures, B.C. can start to create, attract and retain the talent that our scale-ups need.
The second trend I want to identify is more structural and pervasive, and I think you heard it from my friend Jill two sessions earlier. Over the last 40 years, there has been a remarkable shift from the tangible economy to the intangible one. This new economy is no longer mainly fueled by capital assets, like equipment and machinery, but instead is increasingly driven by intangible assets, such as domain names, software and patented technologies.
Data and intellectual property have become the two most valuable assets in the world and are now the primary source of wealth creation. Despite this, governments across the country have maintained a stubborn reliance on 19th- and 20th-century policy strategies — ones that have nothing to do with how wealth is generated in the 21st-century global economy.
This has resulted in us lagging significantly in the global IP and data race. To right the ship and capture this wealth, B.C. needs to update its policy infrastructure by following through on its commitment to develop a provincial intellectual property strategy, including the implementation of a patent box for biotech and other key industry sectors, by modernizing its privacy regulations and by building a provincial data strategy.
Only by embracing this 21st-century policy infrastructure will B.C. be positioned for success in a post-pandemic, data-driven economy. On behalf of CCI's members, we look forward to working together to do just that.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Tessa.
Now I'll invite members of the committee to ask you some questions.
L. Doerkson: I think mine's a simple one on a very complex presentation. You mentioned committing to work with Canadian immigration to help get people here. I understand that that is an issue, and the third thing you mentioned was bring back Canadian talent. What was the one between there?
T. Seager: That one is investing and upskilling, reskilling and micro-credential programs –– so creating a new source of domestic talent from people that might be looking to retrain through some labour shortages created by the pandemic.
J. Routledge (Chair): Any other questions? Ben and then Mike.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Tessa. That was great. It was really good to hear your presentation, and I look forward to more details in amongst the written submission.
The last thing you touched on, though, was the intangible economy. You mentioned B.C. provincial protection of IP. Was it IP? I guess I'm just wondering: is that a provincial jurisdiction that we actually have the authority over, or is that federal?
Secondly, I want to know more about the privacy regulations that you said need updating.
T. Seager: It's a great question. It's one of those things where the federal government has a role to play in protecting IP, and the provincial government does as well. Actually, the B.C. government has committed to implementing a provincial intellectual property strategy, and that will be B.C.-focused. Then you can see there's action being taken on the federal side as well.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): I see. Okay.
T. Seager: Did you want some detail about what a provincial intellectual property strategy could look like, or would you like to just look at it in our submission?
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): No, in your submission is fine. I want to know about the privacy that you're…. The only reason being is I think it's being reviewed right now, and I know the file reasonably well. I'd just like to know what's lagging in it or what's not there.
T. Seager: Yeah. That's great. As you say, the special committee has been constituted to review the Personal Information Protection Act, which is the private sector privacy legislation. CCI made a submission, so it's available online, but I can also send it to you individually if you want.
I think the important thing to note on that is that the legislation hasn't been substantively updated since 2004. But our digital world in 2021 looks significantly different than it did then. From our position, it's time to modernize the legislation in a way that protects consumers' privacy but also encourages and promotes digital innovation.
What we're looking for, first and foremost, is this concept of interoperability. What we really don't want to see are provinces implementing a patchwork of frameworks where companies that operate in multiple jurisdictions will have to comply with each individual regime. We're looking for provinces to work with each other as they go about modernizing their privacy legislation.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Michael McEvoy, who's the Privacy Commissioner, is, I believe, working with other jurisdictions but not all jurisdictions. I think that that is an important point in this day and age.
I appreciate your comments. Maybe we can try and help in that regard.
T. Seager: Great.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Tessa, for your presentation. I like the fact that there's some overlap with the BCTech Association as well, because the same issues seem to be there with retaining and maintaining staff and finding people to enter into it.
Just from what you've said, it seems counterproductive to be going down the route of immigration. Inside of it, it talks about the United Kingdom's new high-potential-individual route. Does that not become counterproductive to finding, locating and retaining local talent?
T. Seager: Our members need talent. They're trying to grow so rapidly. We have some members that have a current workforce of 1,100. They're looking to increase it to 1,800. They just need talent here, and there's not enough domestic talent to fill it. They look to access domestic talent, and then they look to access external talent and bring in talent from abroad.
M. Starchuk: When you were talking about bringing in the extra talent from abroad, it's not excluding any local talent, then, from entering into that.
T. Seager: No.
J. Routledge (Chair): Well, I think we're out of time, Tessa. Thank you very much for your presentation, and thank you for fielding our questions.
In wrapping up, I'm struck by the term "intangible economy" and all that that implies in terms of going forward. It's like we're in a new industrial revolution.
T. Seager: Exactly.
J. Routledge (Chair): Before we recess for a bit of a break, we'll now hear from Loc Dao with DigiBC.
Loc, you have five minutes. When you have 30 seconds to go, we'll signal so that you know that you can wrap up.
I don't know if you were here in the room previously when I apologized for what looked like a lot of distractions and empty chairs. We've had an emergency. It's not that people aren't interested in what you're saying.
L. Dao: Thank you for having me. I'm Loc Dao, the executive director of DigiBC. DigiBC is the creative technology association of B.C. We represent over 250 companies in the video games, animation, visual effects, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality subsectors, employing over 14,000 people and bringing in over $2.3 billion a year.
B.C. has long been a leader in the creative tech sector, and it started as far back as the '80s, when we developed a global reputation as a leading creative tech hub. Our member companies are delivering products that are internationally recognized and that many of you, your children or your grandchildren may have enjoyed, from EA's FIFA soccer game to NHL to Apex Legends to Atomic Cartoons' Indigenous kids animated series Molly of Denali — that's on CBC Gem and PBS — to Animal Logic's LEGO movies and Peter Rabbit.
The Coalition, which is part of Microsoft, has Gears of War. Hyper Hippo, in Kelowna, makes ADVenture Capitalist and their co-founder is responsible for the existence of many tech companies in Kelowna, after his previous company, Club Penguin, was purchased by Disney in the 2000s. ILM, Industrial Light and Magic, makes visual effects for the Star Wars films and The Mandalorian, and their innovating and virtual production brings together real-time computer graphics, filmmaking and virtual reality technologies.
As the sector continues to evolve, creative tech will continue to push the boundaries, but our tech can also improve operations and gain efficiencies in more traditional industries. Using artificial and virtual reality, our members are already helping drive digital transformation in natural resource industries. Unity Technologies, in Port Coquitlam, and LlamaZOO, out of Victoria, develop digital twins of natural resource projects, which allow traditional industries to visualize data, streamline procedures and enhance collaborations.
Coming out of the pandemic, B.C.'s creative tech sector weathered the storm better than most. Video games, animation and visual effects were resilient, with lots of animation being watched and lots of video games being played. To cope with the pandemic, our member companies were able to pivot relatively seamlessly to remote work. In fact, employment in the animation and video game subsectors increased in B.C. by 20 percent over that time, with most new employees yet to step foot into the office.
DigiBC and the provincial government share common priorities, including equity and equality, meaningful reconciliation and an inclusive economic recovery. In the midst of the pandemic and in the wake of this summer's devastating wildfires, many British Columbians already experiencing job losses in natural resource industries face additional economic dislocation due to declining tourism. The creative tech sector and DigiBC's member companies are well poised to help. Our member companies can help rural communities get back on their feet.
Creative tech firms and employees aren't limited to being located in the Lower Mainland and greater Victoria. They can work anywhere where there is broadband and power. With so much global demand, we have the capacity to hire people who have lost their jobs, to diversify the tech sector and to tackle the province's skill shortage. Addressing these priorities now will ready us for the new economy, building a pipeline of diverse talent that is critical to the success of our sector and investing in the next generation of B.C.'s tech workers.
To ensure that British Columbians can acquire the skills needed to work in our sector, we're already working with post-secondary institutions from micro-credentialling programs to make education more accessible to creating equity, diversity and inclusion co-op and internship opportunities. This investment in education isn't new for DigiBC. For years we've been investing in skills training for the next generation, with programs like DigiCamp for underrepresented youth, teaching video game development for kids nine to 13, and Play to Learn — high school programming, taught from a race and gender lens, to invite all students to consider a career in our industry.
Our strength is B.C.'s strength, and we can help contribute to the recovery, but we require provincial government support to succeed. Implementation of Alan Winter's 2020 report, Putting Innovation to Work for British Columbia: Growing B.C.'s Companies, would help our efforts. Keeping competitive is also key to our sector's continued development and our ability to connect British Columbians with the skills they need to succeed in this rapidly evolving digital industry.
The interactive digital media tax credit has been critical to the stability and growth of the sector. We believe that targeted tax credits — of 10 percent for firms locating beyond the Lower Mainland and greater Victoria, and 10 percent for businesses employing underrepresented groups — would help spur rural economic development and foster diversity. To level the playing field with other jurisdictions, we would like to see it increased to 25 percent of eligible wages and salaries and extended beyond 2023.
Thank you for all that you and your colleagues have done to protect British Columbians during the pandemic and to make sure that people remain safe. These efforts will again be critical for people in every part of the province and for every sector of the economy as we move forward into recovery.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Loc. Now before I open it up for questions, did you say that the creative technology for The Mandalorian was done in B.C.?
L. Dao: Some of the visual effects scenes are done here. The underlying technology for virtual production is starting to be developed here.
J. Routledge (Chair): So Baby Yoda is a British Columbian.
L. Dao: Baby Yoda's outer layer of lighting and skin, I think.
J. Routledge (Chair): Okay. Questions.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Loc. I want to go back to that last part about the interactive digital tax credit that you talk about. Is it currently 10 percent that you're eligible for, and you'd like to see it moved up to 25?
L. Dao: It's currently 17.5 percent, and we'd like to see it moved to 25. Then we have the two targeted top-ups that we're proposing — for rural economic investment, for companies located outside of the Lower Mainland and Victoria, and then an EDI — equity, diversity and inclusion — 10 percent top-up as well.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): This presentation…. I just would like it to be completely clear so that we understand it. That's all.
L. Dao: Yeah.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): I think it's just a little bit…. Well, it's vague to me. Maybe the others understand it better. Anyways, thanks.
L. Dao: Okay. Thank you for clarifying that.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, Loc, for your presentation.
I agree with MLA Stewart. There's a little bit here that is a little bit fuzzy. I was just happy to see names in a video game that I recognize, with Mario and Luigi, for a change.
When I look at this, I want to ask the question, because I see that you want to see a bigger tax credit to spur rural economic development and foster diversity. If it was really clear, like this is the bump that we're looking for, I think it kind of solves some of the other problems that we hear throughout this session about how hard is it to get rural B.C. involved in some of this stuff that's there, and where does our intellect go once you get trained to what's there.
Was that the intent, the bump, and what would that bump be?
L. Dao: Yeah, the bump would be 10 percent for companies that have employees or offices outside of Metro Vancouver and greater Victoria, and an additional, separate 10 percent for companies that hire from underrepresented groups. They could apply for both, depending on if they qualified or not, in addition to the current 17.5 base tax credit.
It'd be a way to target the tax credit towards some of our goals and some of the province's goals.
L. Doerkson: My question was around that same topic. Trust me, I welcome the idea that you would want to incentivize a company to move some of their operations to rural B.C. My question is: what is the appetite from these companies? I can imagine there would be some benefits, obviously, to being in Metro Vancouver and surrounded by colleagues and peers, etc.
What is the appetite for that?
L. Dao: For video games, it's very much happening right now. We have VR companies in Nanaimo. We have companies in Victoria. As I mentioned, Kelowna has a good little cluster.
What's changed since the pandemic is the nature of work. It's still being discussed right now, but remote work and people going back to the office is not going to be what was expected. So there are a lot of employees that have moved back to help their parents out during the pandemic, and they've stayed there in rural communities, and they're working remotely.
I think we're seeing that as an opportunity, because we're able to work like that in our sector to embrace that. You could hire people in rural communities and they could stay there, working for companies, very much like how the tech companies have been doing that for years, with teams that are distributed around the world.
G. Kyllo: The additional 10 percent top-up — I certainly understand the justification or rationale for it, but when you have individuals that have already, say, moved out of Metro Vancouver or out of the Victoria area and are living remotely with families or whatever it may be, they're already benefiting from lower housing costs, lower costs of living. The extra 10 percent would, ultimately, just for those individuals, be an extra, I guess, incentive or discount for the company.
How would that actually incent additional hires? Do you feel that the extra 10 percent top-up would somehow give the companies the incentive to actually have more focus on remote hiring? Are there other additional costs in setting up employees to work remotely than having them work in an office, for example?
L. Dao: I think it would help the companies expand their infrastructure and their remote infrastructure with the ability to meet and to work remotely. I've heard from company owners that that's how they use part of the current tax credit — to help expand their operations. That extends from physical to online as well.
I think, at a certain point, if certain companies have more than a certain number of employees and a new location, there would also be brick-and-mortar costs if they wanted to be in an office in that town, right?
L. Doerkson: You touched on brick and mortar, and certainly that, in itself, could be a very good-sized incentive for these businesses.
Any kind of office space in the Cariboo, for instance, is certainly a fraction of what it would be in downtown Vancouver, although we do have housing shortages throughout the entire province. But definitely, there is a massive incentive for commercial space, I would think.
L. Dao: One of the scenarios I've discussed with some of our CEOs is…. We're a global industry, but they're very pro-B.C. and pro-Canada. But some of them have opened branch offices in Ontario or Quebec to find additional talent and because the tax credit is better in those provinces. They have told me that they would move those branch offices and have them in…. They'd prefer to have them in rural B.C. if there were matching incentives.
G. Kyllo: Further to MLA Doerkson's question…. I know this had come up previously with film and tax credits. Do you feel that the additional 10 percent top-up that you're looking for…? If it was targeted, if there was a requirement for companies to actually invest that in capital investments in the province, would you see that as a hindrance?
I guess the challenge is that sometimes some of these additional credits, if they're deemed to be a subsidy and it just flows to the bottom line and these corporates are American-held or held from other provinces or jurisdictions around the globe…. The dollars aren't actually being invested back in our communities. So the idea of a 10 percent top-up…. Would DigiBC be amenable to having that as some kind of requirement that there's actually an offsetting capital investment back in our province?
L. Dao: Many of our members have brought that up in our planning discussions and fully proposed that. Most of our members, even our global companies like EA, do invest back in real estate — mainly here — with their bigger offices. And then all the connected GDP benefits off of that. So I don't see any opposition to that.
L. Doerkson: May I have one more? Please, Chair. We're so far behind now.
J. Routledge (Chair): Okay. One more.
L. Doerkson: I guess further to MLA Kyllo's questions, if there was an incentive to bring these companies back, what could that look like to B.C.? I mean, 14,000 employees in the province. Do you have any idea or can you suggest what it might mean for more jobs, more investment — what that might look like?
L. Dao: We're projecting 20 percent, again within two years at the latest, but maybe in the next year. The growth is really high right now.
On top of that, as you know, Disney is coming. I'm sure my colleague from MMPIA mentioned it. Disney is coming, so that's 300 new jobs that we anticipate, or more. Each of my members has been renegotiating office space to accommodate a substantial increase. So I think if we could time that to have them target some of that growth outside of the Lower Mainland and bring back some of the subsidiaries, I think that would be very well received.
L. Doerkson: Thank you.
Thank you for the patience of the Chair.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thanks to all of you.
Thank you for your presentation, Loc. Thank you for engaging the committee. I've got to say that after having heard a lot of presentations that quite rightfully paint a grim picture of the future and ask us to try to turn that around, your presentation is such a presentation of hope for the future. We really appreciate that. Thank you.
We'll a break right now. We'll take a ten-minute break now, and we'll probably be able to take another one a bit later.
The committee recessed from 3:09 p.m. to 3:22 p.m.
[J. Routledge in the chair.]
J. Routledge (Chair): I'll invite Nigel Smith from TRIUMF to come to the table.
Before we proceed, I do, again, want to apologize for what appears to be a bit of chaos. We had an emergency earlier, hence some of the empty seats and hence what appears to be a bit of a distraction.
We definitely welcome your presentation, and you have our entire attention. You have five minutes. We will signal you when you have 30 seconds so that you can proceed to a wrap-up, and then we'll have five minutes for questions.
N. Smith: Thank you very much. My name is Nigel Smith. I'm director and CEO of TRIUMF, which is Canada's accelerator centre.
I'd like to start by acknowledging I'm thankful to be presenting to you today from the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tseil-Waututh peoples. I also respectfully acknowledge that the TRIUMF itself is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Musqueam people.
I'm actually relatively new to TRIUMF. I joined TRIUMF in May of this year, so this is my first interaction with this committee, and I'm very pleased to be here to introduce myself and share some of my perspectives.
I come to TRIUMF after 12 years running a facility, an underground laboratory in northern Ontario, in a nickel mine in Sudbury. In my short time here, I've certainly been struck by a number of things. Firstly, the scenery and the weather here is substantially different to northern Ontario, and secondly, more importantly to this committee, the fact is that British Columbia has a wealth of world-class talent and infrastructure at its disposal.
You will have already heard similar comments from my colleagues at many of B.C.'s post-secondary institutions, but British Columbia's strength in these areas ideally positions us to chart a bold and prosperous path out of the current pandemic.
Founded more than 53 years ago, TRIUMF plays a significant role in B.C.'s science and innovation ecosystem. It's located in Vancouver, and it's Canada's particle accelerator centre. It's home to about $1 billion worth of unique infrastructure and world-leading talent, most of which is trained right here in B.C.
TRIUMF carries out both fundamental science and use-inspired research that's changing the world. That's from advancing our understanding of the beginnings of the universe to advances in batteries and cures for cancer. We stand at the forefront of research.
I'm here today to encourage investment in B.C.'s research and innovation sectors, specifically in areas of strength where our province can have a competitive advantage, both nationally and internationally.
One such area is indeed particle accelerators and radioisotope technologies, where TRIUMF has spent over 50 years fostering activity and expertise. This is very evident in the development and production of medical isotopes for the diagnosis and treatment of critical illness, from neurological disorders to cancer.
Leveraging this strength in 2018, TRIUMF announced the construction of the IAMI facility, the Institute for Advanced Medical Isotopes. This is designed to provide B.C. with isotope security, develop next-generation cancer therapies and enable clinical trials to improve patient outcomes. It supports medical research and drives technological innovation and skills training. It's supported by both federal and provincial governments, B.C. Cancer, B.C. Cancer Foundation and the University of British Columbia. IAMI construction is well underway. Initial operations are set to begin in the second quarter of 2022.
The pandemic demonstrated the need for investment in life sciences research and lab capacity in the province, and IAMI can help fill that requirement. TRIUMF and B.C. Cancer are seeking parallel investments to buildout space that enables the medical, scientific and technological innovations that will create a strong and resilient British Columbia.
TRIUMF is seeking $7 million to construct three additional laboratories, with space for pre-clinical and clinical research as well as facilities for the research and development of specialized pharmaceuticals, medical isotopes and other lifesaving agents. It's well aligned with provincial priorities.
It will provide and add key capacity to B.C.'s health system by ensuring B.C. Cancer and other health providers have a secure, local supply of critical medical isotopes to support a ten-year cancer action plan.
It will increase health system resiliency by creating new lab spaces that can be used to unlock surge capacity for British Columbia in the case of future pandemics. It will enable innovation by providing researchers and early-stage companies access to these highly specialized infrastructures needed to scale up products and enter the market, and it creates new skills and education opportunities through collaboration with academic partners and early-stage companies.
Expanding the lab capacity within IAMI offers significant cost and time savings, compared to a new build. The time to take advantage of this is now. If funding is secured soon, this additional capacity could be online within two years.
In closing, I hope I've made clear the value of targeted investments in B.C.'s science and research infrastructure, and in particular, the benefits associated with additional investment in IAMI. Thank you.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Nigel.
We'll now invite the committee to ask any questions.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks, Nigel. I think we're all…. I actually remember the last crisis we had where there was a failure in the isotope production somewhere, and TRIUMF came to the rescue. So it is a very important asset in Canada, let alone British Columbia.
The $7 million for the three labs is in addition to the expansion for the IAMI that's under construction?
N. Smith: That's right. It fills out basically shell space. B.C.'s already invested just over $12 million in the initial development of IAMI, and this would fill out the additional space. It's in conjunction with an ask that B.C. Cancer itself is putting in, which is about $15 million. Between us, we would then complete the IAMI internal infrastructure and provide space for two cyclotrons and the required lab structures.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Okay. What more can we do? I only say that meaning we're coming through this pandemic. We're looking at all the things that we don't have in Canada, and we're thinking about the foresight and having something like this that's been here for over 50 years. I mean, the reality is I think we'd like to have more independence, if that's possible.
N. Smith: I think it's a great question, because collaboration between the various agencies is really critical in coming out of the pandemic, and that's certainly true in things like the isotope production. So this IAMI is a great example of that, in terms of the collaboration that's occurring between TRIUMF and between B.C. Cancer at the university. It's a great example of how, when we do pull together, we can pull these capabilities in.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Good. I'm glad you're enjoying B.C.
M. Starchuk: Thank you for your presentation. It is always nicer to be up above ground than below ground so that we can see what's there.
I just want to ask a question with regards…. I mean, everything that's on there I think everybody in this room wants. I don't think that there's anybody that's in any disagreement with what you are able to achieve. But is it 18 to 24 months? Is that doable?
N. Smith: It is, because the IAMI construction is actually well advanced. If you come through TRIUMF, which would be great, then you can see the building is already very well advanced, and we anticipate taking beneficial occupancy next year, in terms of the first phase of the development.
The time to look at completing the rest of the labs, completing the shells, is now. I think the opportunity affords itself right now, because we do have the construction teams in place, and the project management and things like that are in place at the moment.
M. Starchuk: Just one follow-up. Where would that position British Columbia in relationship to other provinces?
N. Smith: British Columbia is unique in terms of some of the infrastructure like TRIUMF. There is no other province that has the cyclotron, for instance, that we have, which is a major investment generally. That gives us the capability and the skills to run these other cyclotrons that are used for the medical isotope production. So we have a lot of experience in generating medical radioisotopes.
We're also developing, with the relationship with our medical partners, the ability to target those radioisotopes. Basically, that's the warhead, if you like, that is then targeted to the cancer. So that's where the collaboration comes in — developing the capability to really target these isotopes into the cancerous cells — and British Columbia is uniquely positioned in terms of some of these capabilities.
G. Kyllo: Thank you, Nigel, for your presentation.
I had the opportunity to tour the facility back in 2015. I think it was with respect to B.C.'s jobs plan, and that's when there was some of the initial discussion around the medical isotopes.
What kinds of international inspections are required for the facility? Is it all captured under Canada's jurisdiction, or is there an international organization that also has responsibility for inspecting your facility?
N. Smith: It's all captured nationally, basically. There are protocols that you need to comply with in terms of if you do want to export or take the medical isotopes into other areas, but they're all very well understood.
That's actually part of the ask. One of the labs that we're looking to outfit is a quality control lab. So we're looking to develop what's called a GMP. I've forgotten what the GMP is, but it's a quality control system that would then allow you to basically export those medical isotopes. It's all within the purview of the national regulatory bodies.
G. Kyllo: As MLA Stewart mentioned, we had a bit of a shortage in Canada a number of years ago, and I think the initial focus was to try and provide, like I said, opportunity to not be reliant on other jurisdictions. But export is part of the opportunity and kind of the expansion plan. What do you see the potential growth is for medical isotopes as far as international sales?
N. Smith: I think there's a lot of opportunity. It depends on the isotope, and it depends on the way that you create them. So the initial point that was being raised was in terms of something called technetium-99 that came from, actually, the nuclear reactor production of medical isotopes. The way that we're doing it is different, using cyclotrons.
Depending on the isotope itself and the half-life of that isotope, there are opportunities, for instance, in terms of putting cyclotrons into hospitals rather than sending the drug itself. That's where the technological developments come in. The focus, at the moment, is very much on ensuring B.C. has the reliability of the medical isotope, so that's where our current focus is.
G. Kyllo: Fantastic.
J. Routledge (Chair): Well, our time is up, Nigel, but thank you very much for your presentation and for responding to questions from the committee. I do confess that I don't really understand the science, but I understand that you save lives. Welcome to British Columbia.
N. Smith: Thank you for your time.
J. Routledge (Chair): Our next presenter is Damian Stathonikos, Building Owners and Managers Association of B.C.
You have five minutes. We'll let you know when it's time to wrap up. We'll raise a sign that says 30 seconds to go, and then there will be time for questions.
BUILDING OWNERS AND MANAGERS
ASSOCIATION OF B.C.
D. Stathonikos: Good afternoon, Chair, members of the committee and staff. My name is Damian Stathonikos. I am the president of the Building Owners and Managers Association of B.C., commonly referred to as BOMA.
I'd like to acknowledge we're on the ancestral, traditional and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.
Our over 300 members own or manage most of the commercial space in B.C. as well as the businesses that support them. Our industry contributes over $4.5 billion annually to the provincial economy and employs over 40,000 British Columbians. BOMA supports your objectives to build a strong, sustainable and innovative economy for all British Columbians.
We will be submitting detailed recommendations, but this afternoon I wanted to highlight three areas where provincial investments would bring more opportunities for British Columbians.
First, labour market development. As we transition out of the pandemic, we are focused on the future and diversity within our industry. We will need close to 5,000 facility operation and maintenance managers and nearly 4,000 property administrators in the next decade. With 50 percent of B.C.'s Indigenous population under the age of 25, we plan to add this demographic group and other traditionally underrepresented communities to take part within our industry, with stable well-paying jobs.
For the past five years, we've worked with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training to develop and execute a sector labour market strategy for the commercial property and facility management industry. This strategy includes developing paths for underrepresented communities and equity-seeking groups, and we encourage the government to continue to support our ongoing efforts in this area.
With an additional 3.4 million square feet of commercial real estate coming to downtown Vancouver alone by 2024, we believe there is a need for a focused commercial property management licensing program. Right now, residential and commercial property managers are licensed the same way, despite job requirements being quite different. We encourage the B.C. Financial Services Authority to work with our industry to invest in developing an appropriate and targeted training and licensing program specific for commercial property management.
Second, climate change adaptation. BOMA has been a leader in transforming the commercial real estate industry in environmental efficiency, sustainability and resiliency. Along with our BOMA BESt building certification program to improve building operations and efficiency, we launched the Greater Victoria 2030 District, the second one in Canada.
It's an initiative to reduce waste and emissions by 50 percent by the year 2030 to 2007 levels. We now have over 3.4 million square feet of commercial office and real estate space in greater Victoria committed by leading commercial property managers, and we encourage the government to support the development of additional partnerships, like the 2030 District, in other parts of B.C.
To aid building owners in meeting the province's future emission reduction targets, we have worked closely with the building and safety standards branch on the development of the future renovation code for existing buildings. We feel strongly that forcing major retrofit renovations at the time of application for a building permit is the wrong approach. Instead, we encourage the province to offer major incentive programs for mechanical equipment, roofing materials, building envelope or installation technologies at the natural end of their life cycle.
We have partnered with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation as well as B.C. Hydro on how best to structure a retrofit incentive program over the next five years.
Third, tax policy. Due to a combination of elevated property taxes and an increase in upzoning, commercial building owners are paying up to 4.5 times the residential tax rate in municipalities such as Vancouver. To offset this imbalance, we support the request from the city of Vancouver and other municipalities to create a split-assessment property tax category for commercial buildings. This allows the unused residential density above the property to be properly accounted for and billed rather that treated as more expensive commercial development density.
Our building owners feel challenged to invest in major greenhouse gas reduction retrofits, as tenants benefit from the energy savings rather than the owners. While we are encouraged by the announcement of programs like the commercial PACE pilot project, we recommend full provincial legislation be tabled which allows municipalities to adopt C-PACE.
We also believe that property tax credits for energy and resiliency upgrades to existing buildings should be encouraged by the province with financial support to municipalities for the loss of potential municipal tax revenue. We ask the province to consider developing or expanding the revitalization tax credit program for municipalities who choose to encourage energy and resiliency retrofits through property tax credits. We believe that these recommendations will make a positive impact to growing B.C.'s economy and provide more jobs for British Columbians.
Thank you again to all of you for the opportunity to present.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Damian. I'll now turn to the committee to ask you some questions.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks very much, Damian.
I just wanted to clarify. The second ask was on climate change, in terms of: are building owners being forced to implement changes before end of life of equipment currently because of some law? Or is it…? You said something about building permits, and I'm just kind of confused. When I hear building permit, I'm thinking new. But is it just a renovation or leasehold improvements? Right now they're saying: "Okay…." Is that what's happening?
D. Stathonikos: Exactly. What happens, for example, in municipalities like Vancouver is that if you are making, let's say, a change to the space — a new tenant has come in; they want more space — it can trigger energy efficiency upgrades that include things like getting rid of equipment before the end of its life in order to be able to meet those requirements.
We're also seeing targets that are set by the province, Metro Vancouver and other municipalities to look at limiting GHG emissions, which also ends up forcing people to look at their buildings and say: "Well, if I need to meet this target, I have to make these investments. My boiler, for example, still has another 15 years left in its lifespan. Why should I invest a huge amount of money to either electrify that boiler or switch it out when I still have 15 years of good life left?"
We think it makes more sense to align incentives, to align policy with the natural life cycle of building equipment. People will need to make those replacements anyway. Why not use the opportunity, then, to incentivize higher-efficiency electrification projects, as opposed to getting rid of something that still has life in it?
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Okay. Let me just ask a second question, if I may. As a landlord of commercial space, I have that inefficient boiler that's still got 15 years. But as the tenant, I'm likely the one that's paying the emissions — like, whatever the increased CO2 payment is on whatever the consumption is, right?
D. Stathonikos: What happens now is that tenants pay what are often referred to as the common-area maintenance charges. That includes your energy costs.
That's also a challenge for landlords because they want to make a building operate more efficiently, but ultimately, they're not the ones who benefit from lower energy costs. It's the tenant who benefits from lower energy costs, because their common-area maintenance charges are lower.
It's often referred to as a split incentive, because the building owner is caught in a bind. They want to make these investments. In some cases, they go ahead anyway. They see there's value. They have a corporate mandate for sustainability, for example. Often people look at improving the valuation of the building, but as we can see from our neighbours across the Rockies in Calgary, commercial real estate prices don't always go up. We're very fortunate in the Lower Mainland, but not so in other parts of the province.
That's my comment around property taxes. Our goal is that one way of incentivizing these investments in energy efficiency is by allowing things like tax credits. A building owner invests in a new boiler, and they're able to then use the property tax credit to recoup some of that investment while passing on the energy savings to the tenant.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): If the government does want to pursue its climate change goals, what would make building owners and the tenants come together? What would be the incentive?
D. Stathonikos: It's partly timing the incentives at the right moment to make sure that we end up in a scenario where people are switching out equipment at the right time, as opposed to being forced to do it. It's also looking at educating tenants.
I think there's a lot that we can do as an industry but also a lot the province can do to educate people that there is value in renting space in an energy-efficient building, that it's desirable to be in a building that emits less carbon than in another building that doesn't.
J. Routledge (Chair): Do we have any other questions?
L. Doerkson: Just a quick one.
Thanks for the presentation. Can you clarify for me what you were talking about, the tax incentive for upper floors?
D. Stathonikos: Right now when you have, let's say, a small strip mall, and it's zoned for multifamily residential, it is currently taxed…. The space, the air, that is above this development…. It could be a 30-storey condominium building. That actual density is currently charged at a commercial property rate because the underlying property itself is a commercial building.
What we're saying is that it doesn't make sense for that to be the case when what would actually be built is residential. Let's create an opportunity where you take that piece of land. It's zoned for 30-storey residential. You have one storey of commercial property tax charges and 29 storeys of residential tax.
M. Starchuk: Thank you for your presentation, Damian. I just wanted to clarify. When you talked about 3.4 million square feet by 2024, what type of space is that?
D. Stathonikos: That's referring to our 2030 district, which is a public-private partnership in the greater Victoria area. That's the amount of commercial real estate that has committed to achieving the 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2007.
M. Starchuk: With regard to retrofits, I assume that's part of the energy step code out of the B.C. building code.
D. Stathonikos: It is partly, yes.
M. Starchuk: And that gives you five more years from what date?
D. Stathonikos: Those are two slightly different things. The 2030 is a voluntary commitment that the participants in the 2030 district have made to reach those objectives by 2030. The step code is for everyone in the province. It's not just for this subsection of buildings in greater Victoria.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Damian. Thank you for your presentation, and thank you for responding to the questions from the committee. These are important insights about buildings and commercial buildings. I know that my community in Burnaby faces some of these challenges as well, so I'm somewhat familiar with it. Thank you for your suggestions.
Our next presenter is Mike Leonard, B.C. Maritime Employers Association.
Mike, you have five minutes to make your presentation. At 30 seconds to go, we will signal you so that you know it's time to wrap it. Then we'll follow with about five minutes of questions from the committee.
B.C. MARITIME EMPLOYERS ASSOCIATION
M. Leonard: Good afternoon. It's a pleasure to be here. My name is Mike Leonard. I'm president of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association.
I'd first like to acknowledge, with respect, that I am meeting with you today on the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
Indigenous Peoples are playing a significant role on B.C.'s waterfront. In fact, they're a large part of our future, especially in communities like Prince Rupert, where over 40 percent of our workforce is Indigenous.
Our workforce is at the heart of what we do. They are world-class. They are known for their skill, their innovation and diversity, and proudly work in well-paying, family-supporting jobs that sustain many communities across B.C. As the B.C. Maritime Employers, we are the human resources department for B.C.'s waterfront operators, representing 49 employers comprised of terminal operators, marine carriers and ship agents who employ a workforce of more than 9,400 men and women across the province.
Historically, we're known for labour relations and collective bargaining, but we're much more than that. We've got a deep expertise in training and safety. Work safety is at the heart of what we do, and we spend $30 million every year to ensure that our workforce is skilled and safe and productive in what they are dispatched to provide to waterfront employers across the province.
Where ships meet shore, our members, along with our ILW union partners, move about $500 million worth of cargo at B.C. ports every day. That represents 16 percent of Canada's total trading goods on a daily basis. So from our perspective, our members are a vital part of the B.C. and Canadian economy, and they provide good-paying, family-supporting jobs up and down the B.C. coast.
To put some context around that, the average waterfront job pays $110,000, which is nearly double the national and provincial average of wages. Looking at that on a more specific basis, from a longshore and foreman perspective, respectively they earn $120,000 and $214,000 annually as a group.
Our membership is also a significant generator of taxation revenues, with approximately $400 million paid annually to all levels of government. That's in addition to $204 million in fees and lease payments to port authorities across B.C. So in summary, Canada's west coast ports are critical to the economic and social well-being of British Columbia and Canada.
I'm just going to speak very briefly about the state of the waterfront. I think the one word that summarizes what we've experienced over the course of the last 20 months is "dynamic and ever-changing." Globally and locally, Canadian supply chains have experienced increased turbulence and uncertainty unlike anything that we've ever seen in recent memory.
In the past 20 months, we've experienced supply chain shocks from COVID-19-related shutdowns to rail disruptions due to labour disputes, climate change events and protests. As most of you will recall, this summer all rail service to Canada's largest port, the Port of Vancouver, was stopped for a number of days and further disrupted over a number of weeks following the disastrous and tragic fires in Lytton and in the Interior of B.C.
All things considered, I think our sector has weathered these shocks as well as could be expected and demonstrated that it's operationally resilient. I think, in large part, the success is attributed to the partnership that we have with labour and that the collaborative approach we've taken with them has proven to be quite effective in managing these unforeseen and challenging events.
Moving forward, we expect the supply chain to continue to be challenged by these dynamic events. We believe that it's critical that we continue to work together, have a collaborative approach and take an innovative view in terms of how we try and solve these problems and challenges moving forward as a group.
I'm briefly going to talk about our response to COVID-19. Since the threat of COVID-19 arrived in B.C. ports in early 2020, our members partnered with supply chain actors and innovated and adapted quickly to the dynamic challenges presented by the virus.
We worked with our union partners to come up with processes and procedures to enable the continuing work on the waterfront to move essential goods for Canadian trade. We implemented extensive protocols for both prevention and response through cleaning of workplaces and equipment. We invested heavily in equipment to ensure physical distancing. And we've taken other additional measures, some of them innovative partnering with local breweries, to produce hand sanitizer, which at the beginning of the pandemic was in short supply locally.
We've also worked in collaboration with ILWU to successfully advocate for priority access to vaccines for the ILWU workforce, who are the front-line workforce bringing in the trade and goods and services that are much needed, both medical and non-medical, to Canadians across the country. More recently, one of our members, Ceres Terminals, which was usually well known for running a world-class logistics operation at the Canada Place cruise facility, was redeployed to work in partnership with local health authorities in the B.C. government to provide staffing at five mass immunization sites throughout the Lower Mainland.
Bottom line, from our perspective, we believe in partnerships wherever possible. That approach has brought us to leading the response to COVID.
In summary, by implementing these measures, and while we've successfully navigated this virus to date — in that there haven't been any major outbreaks resulting in any shutdowns of operations — we continue to see periodic cases arising as we speak. Our experience is that they're primarily amongst the unvaccinated at this point.
I'm going to talk about port competitiveness very briefly. All of these adaptations that have been made by the terminal operators have basically resulted in millions of dollars of unforeseen expenditures that have arisen over the course of the last number of months. That's on top of a very competitive environment where U.S. employers, port authorities and terminal operators are vying for our business aggressively on both the east and the west coasts of Canada. They're going after our cargo.
That's in addition to an avalanche of new costs through regulatory measures that are coming from all levels of government — Canada labour code changes; introduction of paid personal leave days; provincial employers health tax; potentially, ten paid sick days, coming out of the federal election — and the previously mentioned generous salary and benefits that we've negotiated with our labour partners over decades.
J. Routledge (Chair): Excuse me, Mike. You're over time. If you can wrap it up.
I'll leave it at that.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you very much.
I'll invite the committee now to ask you questions.
M. Starchuk: Thank you for your presentation. I think we ran out of time there.
At the end of your presentation, you had said that the speed at which these things come forward…. Can you explain in further detail about these things and what time frame would be more suitable?
M. Leonard: Sure. Over the course of the last 20 months, during the course of the pandemic, we've had to address funding considerations as they're related to personal leave days, which is $8 million. That's in addition to the $12 million that we paid for the provincial employers health tax. There's going to be another $20 million or $25 million, potentially, arising out of this election process, with the Liberal government pledging to have six sick days for the workforce.
We believe that there's value in all of these things. They have merit. All we're saying and asking is that the timing for this is not most optimal from a competitive perspective and our ability to compete. They're layering on additional costs at a time when we're sort of on the ropes with competition from the U.S.
It really speaks to the lack of an appreciation for the cumulative impact that it's having on our ability to compete. What we would like to see is a more sustained effort by the government to reallocate targeted tax dollars to areas where infrastructure bottlenecks exist — in rail and roads, for example.
This government has a productive track record in working collaboratively with stakeholders in the private sector and the federal government on major infrastructure projects. That has served us well in the past, and we believe strongly that further efforts in that area would be productive and fruitful for our industry. I would like to take the opportunity to recognize the work that the Ministry of Finance has done and their collaboration with the industry on the review of the policy for the Ports Property Tax Act.
G. Kyllo: Thank you very much for your presentation. I'm hearing similar concerns from businesses. It's the death by 1,000 cuts — everything from increased corporate taxes, employer health tax, paid sick leave, increases to the minimum wage rate. All these things, certainly, are valid initiatives by government, but it is destroying the competitive nature of B.C.
A question I have for you: how important is the U.S. exchange rate differential between Canada and the U.S.? How does that play into your competitiveness and concerns going forward? We did see a strengthening with the Canadian dollar on the back of the election, slightly, but that's certainly, I would imagine, probably, one of the biggest concerns that keeps you guys awake at night: wondering what that exchange differential might be in the years ahead.
M. Leonard: That's a great question. I think a great example of the fragility with that is Prince Rupert. I think a large proportion, upwards of 85 to 90 percent, of the cargo transiting through that gateway is discretionary U.S.-bound cargo. "Discretionary" means that it doesn't have to come through this gateway or come through any other gateway, frankly speaking.
They have a number of things going for them. One is the exchange rate. That helps, but there's also the workforce and the commitment of the employer group up there to being productive and reliable in terms of the delivery of service for that cargo, which is coming from Asia. Clearly, they are being a little bullish and robust in terms of the plans to expand and introduce additional operations up there, but your point's well taken.
There's a lot of volatility, and there are options. Vessels are able to go from coast to coast. There are supply chain changes evolving from shifting trade patterns, so whereas the west coast is going to continue to be used, we're seeing evidence of people using the Suez Canal and going through eastern ports to rail up and truck up cargo from U.S. ports, as opposed to coming through Canada's ports. There are a number of competing considerations that need to be sort of factored in, but that's one of them, for sure.
G. Kyllo: Is there one form of measure that you use to kind of gauge the competitiveness of ports that are operating here in Canada or in B.C., compared to U.S. competition? How do you make a determination on the competitiveness of B.C?
M. Leonard: There's a report that comes out of the U.S. It's an economics-based report that does a study of port operations, globally speaking. It gives us sort of a benchmark in terms of where we sit. We're certainly not at the top, but we're not at the bottom. There's room for improvement. That's through training opportunities, working collaboratively with labour, and the deployment of innovation and technology — all of which have to come to bear in order to be competitive.
This is a very capital-intense environment, a very competitive environment. Again, as I said, vessels are shifting assets. They're not terminals that have bricks and mortar, concrete and iron bolted into the ground, for the lack of better words. So there are a lot of considerations going into the productivity number, but you're absolutely right: that is a very significant consideration.
J. Routledge (Chair): Well, Mike, we're out of time and we're behind time, so I'm going to have to wrap it up at this point. We have other presenters.
On behalf of the committee, I do want to thank you for your presentation and for the work that you represent. Your presentation was very clear and your answers to the questions further deepened our understanding. Thank you very much.
We can now go to our next presenter, who is David Green. David, you have five minutes. We will give you a warning when you have 30 seconds left, so that you know to wrap it up, and then we'll open it up for questions from the committee.
I don't think you were here earlier, when I apologized for what may seem like distractions, and the fact that there are empty seats. We had an emergency earlier this afternoon, and hence, all of us have had to cope with that. We are glad that you're here. We're very interested in having you make a presentation, and you have our full attention.
D. Green: I appreciate the opportunity. My name is David Green. I was the chair of the B.C. Expert Panel on Basic Income. We reported to the government at the end of December, after 2½ years of work. Part of our mandate was to investigate the question: "Should B.C. rearrange its tax and transfer system, centred around a basic income?" Our answer to that was no, but another part of our mandate was to look into the system in general and ask where reforms might happen.
A big part of our report are 65 recommendations that are quite broad-ranging. They range from issues related to labour regulation to questions about, essentially, extended health benefits for low-income British Columbians to reforms to income assistance and disability assistance.
Needless to say, anything that extensive comes with a price tag that's not insignificant. It's a lot less than a basic income and, we believe, much more effective, but we're quite cognizant of the fiscal position the province is in right now, having done the necessary expenditures for COVID. Our submission is essentially a set of steps that we view as a bridge from here to the aspirational goals that are laid out in the report. These are steps that we believe could be done within this budget cycle or the next budget cycle without big impacts on the budget yet be moves towards the goal of making British Columbia a more just society.
They range from options that are ends in themselves…. One of them is a recommendation to have a poverty advocate located within with the Human Rights Commissioner's office. The idea is that a truly just society has the opportunity for people not to be consulted just once when a policy is coming in but on an ongoing basis that is based on a human rights approach. This is much like the approach in the national housing strategy that has been brought in by the federal government.
Many of the rest of the 11 recommendations or suggestions that we're making have to do with preliminary steps, first things that could be done as a move toward some of the bigger goals that we set out in the report. For example, as I'm sure everybody here knows, one of the biggest challenges facing this province, and many other places, is youth aging out of care.
A lot of what's behind the report is a fair amount of data, where one of the most troubling and stunning facts to come out of it is that youth aging out of care amount to about 1,000 youth every year. It's not a huge number, but they make up 15 percent of all deaths of people age 30 and under. What we recommend in the report is a move to a system that involves, among other things, a very robust set of well-resourced community organizations that provide them with a stable base of support and a stable base of attachment.
The first step towards that, in our mind, is to then go to start engaging with the community organizations and former youth in care to try to figure out best practice in this area. In fact, one of the key points here is that 60 percent of youth aging out of care are Indigenous. This move would be something that would be directly involving Indigenous communities and would, obviously, be directly related to reconciliation.
One of the other points is that while the government has made some serious and quite impressive moves forward in this area in the last few years, it's scattered all across the government. There should be, we argue, one point in government that is responsible for youth aging out of care. At the moment, that doesn't exist. Other recommendations — suggestions, I think, is probably a better way to put it — include, as I said before, a move towards extended health benefits, essentially for low-income British Columbians. Right now you get those if you're on income assistance. You essentially lose them when you leave income assistance.
The first recommendation would be a move towards dental benefits. This is something that is essential for people's self-respect. It's purely painful, obviously, also, to not have this taken care of, and it's important for employment opportunities. A first step towards that can be, simply, starting to work on the administrative side and starting to talk to dentists — who, obviously, are going to be big on the other side of this.
One very direct thing that could be done, literally without changing the fiscal structure, is the COB, which is a benefit delivered to families with children. Right now it's scaled out with income in a way so that it reaches way up the income distribution. One of our recommendations is to have that reduction with income be more targeted so that you get a lot more bang for the buck, in terms of poverty impacts, without changing the total envelope going to that.
I'll stop there. As I said, there are several more, but those are some of the highlights.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, David.
Now I'll invite the committee to ask you questions about your presentation.
M. Starchuk: Thank you, David. Your report that you gave us is nicely done. It's easy to read. I get what you're after inside of here. It's a great shopping list, so to speak, and it gives a good start for where we have to go, down the road.
I think what I didn't see inside of there was a number that you brought up, right off the beginning, that shocked me. That's the 1,000 that age out of care. What was the percentage of people under 30?
D. Green: It's 15 percent. I mean, the numbers, when you go through that part of the report…. A lot of this is known by the people who work in this area quite well. Part of what we did was pull together the data. We got a lot of quite good support and access to the administrative data. The numbers down the line are just shocking from one end to the other for this group.
This is a group where, in our minds, what sounds like a pretty sizable amount of money per youth but is not a really big number overall — because there are, like I said, only about 1,000 aging out of care each year — could make a really significant difference.
M. Starchuk: If you don't mind, could you just tell me what portion of that was a representation of Indigenous People?
D. Green: It's 60 percent.
M. Starchuk: I just look at this…. This is something that reflects early intervention in the nth degree.
D. Green: That's right. And I think the other point is the reconciliation point. There is a strong feeling, as far as I understand it, in the Indigenous community that these are the children who've been taken out of homes younger and now, at age 19, are put on the street, in some sense.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Thanks, David. Lots of ideas and recommendations that have been well put together. I don't see any kind of quantified costing or what these things are going to cost.
If I was looking…. I think there are 11. You list the first steps. But if you were to quantify them in a costing point of view so that the government could look at it over a period of time rather than just day one, this is what it's going to be. Obviously, there might be some significant offsets too. Was there any work done on that?
D. Green: In the report itself, every one of the recommendations that these tack into have a number next to them. Those numbers were developed in conjunction with the government.
Some of these specific steps, we haven't tried to cost yet. The one that's costed here is a program that is a wraparound program for women and children fleeing domestic violence. It again builds on some pretty substantial changes that have been made, advances that have been made recently, but putting them together in one program, providing what is essentially a basic income at the first point when they flee the homes. That price tag is $20 million, which is, in our minds, not a huge price tag for something that could make a big difference.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): So the order that says…. You've got 11 steps here. They're in the order that you've distilled it down to. If we look at the full report, it will have the….
D. Green: I'm trying to figure out if they're in any order. They're roughly in….
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): It says 11 first steps.
D. Green: No, no. There are 11 steps. I'm just saying that one is not necessarily way more important in our minds than 11. That's all I'm saying. But these are 11 steps that we see, like I said, as a bridge towards the other bigger recommendations.
G. Kyllo: Thank you, David. I think that we hear it all the time. It's the ounce of prevention or the pound of cure, especially for these youth that are aging out.
What is the cost of not doing anything? Are they not going to potentially participate in the workforce of British Columbia? Are they going to have social assistance for their entire lives? The impact on our health care systems — all the rest of it.
I certainly agree that there's an opportunity to do much, much more for this segment of the population. Thank you very much for your presentation.
D. Green: You're welcome. There is actually…. If you're interested, I can send it to you. I just don't have it at the tips of my fingers.
We actually did exactly that exercise, costed what the impact…. Essentially taking the youth aging out of care, looking at the fact that they're much more likely to drop out of high school, more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system, much more likely to get income assistance, more likely to be in the health system in various ways. I just don't have that number, and I don't want to say a wrong number. But I'm happy to send you that number. It's big.
G. Kyllo: Yes, I'd really like to see that. That would be fantastic. Thank you.
J. Routledge (Chair): Ben, and then we'll wrap it up.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): One other question. You talked about the scattered ministry approach — I know that that happens in government — and you suggest recommending there should be a single place. Could you just restate what you said? What type of ministry would it be? What would it encompass?
D. Green: It's a good question. We don't view ourselves as expert on this part. I mean, one possibility is that it sticks with MCFD. These children have been with MCFD up to the point of age 19. The other main possibility would be SDPR, because they're actually the ones that pick up next. Over 30 percent of these young people at any month are in receipt of income assistance after age 19. Over 75 percent of them are in receipt of IA by the time they hit age 30. So that's another ministry that would be a natural place to put it.
Creating a whole new ministry — that sounds more expensive to me and a longer time frame. But at the moment, the problem is…. There are good initiatives that are being done in different places. Just, nobody is sort of the one place to go to in order to start creating the kind of community system that we're talking about.
J. Routledge (Chair): Well, I'd like to wrap up this portion of the session by thanking you for coming and sharing this with us. This is pretty big to try to pack into ten minutes.
If I understand correctly, what you're doing is that you're tackling the whole issue of poverty by addressing the causes of poverty so that people have the tools that they need and the supports they need to play a different role in society. Much more complicated than basic income, but one that, if I understand you correctly, treats the whole person.
D. Green: That's correct. Can I just say one more thing? The whole report and all of the research that's behind it is on a website called bcbasicincomepanel.ca. I mean, it has also been inside the government somewhere, so presumably you can all access it. But if you wanted to do it at your fingertips, you can do it quickly. Thank you so much.
J. Routledge (Chair): Our final presenter for today is Daniel Fontaine, representing the Métis Nation of British Columbia.
MÉTIS NATION B.C.
D. Fontaine: Thank you so much. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and to be the last presenter. I've got to keep the energy high, so I'll do my best.
I want to thank you all very much for the opportunity to present to you today. I am Daniel Fontaine, and I am both the CEO and also the Deputy Minister for the Métis Nation of B.C. I come here on behalf of the Métis Nation of British Columbia, our public service, our elected cabinet and the 90,000 people who have either self-declared or have become citizens of our nation. I am a proud citizen of the Métis Nation myself as well.
I'd like to start off with a bit of an interactive component to kind of, maybe, get that energy up there. Here's the interactive component. If you wish to raise your hand, feel free. If you just want to answer the question in your mind and at the end of the survey figure out where you got in the true or false, then feel free to do either one.
I'm going to ask a series of questions. They're true or false. I'll start off with the first one. One-third of the Indigenous population in British Columbia is Métis. True or false? Nanaimo was founded by a Métis leader named Joseph William McKay. True or false? The Yellowhead Highway was named after Pierre Bostonais, a Métis trapper. True or false? And the last question, so you can see how well you did, is: Ontario Premier Doug Ford provides more funding per capita to Métis people than B.C. Premier John Horgan. True or false?
So you can add them all up. The answers to the questions are all true. All of those were true. If you answered "true" to all of them, you get 100 percent.
Métis have, actually, a very rich history in British Columbia dating as far back as the 1700s. A lot of people don't know that, and I'm hopeful, in the coming months and years ahead, that the B.C. Legislature will become attuned to the rich history and the culture of Métis People and our presence here in British Columbia.
In the 2021 throne speech, the government of British Columbia committed "to share decision-making and prosperity with the Indigenous Peoples of B.C.," renewing commitments made in previous thrones speeches. The 2020 throne speech specifically mentioned the adoption of the declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, DRIPA, as a significant milestone in the reconciliation efforts of the B.C. government. And while the B.C. government has underlined their focus on Indigenous reconciliation in each throne speech since being elected, there have been very few, if any, specific mentions of reconciliation with the Métis Nation of British Columbia.
One instance where a specific reference was made to the Métis Nation of B.C. was in the 2018 throne speech, where "Indigenous Peoples, be they title-holding First Nations, Métis, Inuit or those living on or off reserve, must be involved in the decisions, programs and policies that affect them."
Further, in his 2016 report to the government of Canada, A Matter of National and Constitutional Import: Report of the Minister's Special Representative on Reconciliation with Métis, lawyer Tom Isaac, a nationally recognized authority on Aboriginal law, states on Métis rights: "It is clear from the law to date that there is no hierarchy of Aboriginal rights within section 35. Métis are a distinct Aboriginal peoples with equal but unique Aboriginal rights as other section 35 Aboriginal peoples."
The 2022 Métis Nation British Columbia budget submission I'm giving you today is an opportunity for the B.C. government to make the first major, concrete steps in advancing real reconciliation with the Métis in B.C. The total amount requested in this budget submission is $100 million to support the much-needed programs and services of the Métis people in B.C. that they require from their government, a majority of which, in this request, is the acquisition of land.
There are two key points of this submission I'd like to highlight. The first is on housing. Ensuring that Métis people have access to affordable housing and can age in place are key components of our housing strategy. We aim to implement programs that will assist and reduce the impact of homelessness of our citizenry. We just heard from the previous speaker how important that is.
Unlike First Nations in British Columbia, the Métis Nation is not land-based. Our citizens are spread across the entire province and require housing and homeless programs and services in all areas of B.C. It is a critical priority for MNBC and our government to begin acquiring land, as has been the case for other Métis-governing members across Canada.
Three key strategic priorities for MNBC under housing are to obtain funding to purchase land for Métis housing developments and building the capacity of MNBC, with the ultimate goal of obtaining eligibility for B.C. Housing and CMHC funding. We want to also establish a new Métis housing authority to administer Métis housing developments and also to launch a home-start program, providing start-up funds for Métis families, people moving into new accommodations to avoid or exit poverty, by covering necessary expenses to furnish their new housing. This program would….
J. Routledge (Chair): You're past your five minutes, but we have allotted another five minutes for questions. So I guess what I would say to my colleagues is let's let you….
D. Fontaine: I have about a minute. This is it.
The program would focus on women, single parents, youth aging out of care and seniors.
Secondly, MNBC represents 38 Métis chartered communities. Those communities are the foundation of our government structure. Typically, a Métis chartered community has a board of directors, including a president, which is elected by their Métis citizens within their catchment area. Métis chartered communities are primarily volunteer-driven and do not receive any ongoing operational funding. The chartered communities serve as a local organization for the Métis in B.C. and deliver most of the community-level programs for MNBC.
For many Métis people across B.C., chartered communities are where they go first, not to our central government. And whether during the COVID pandemic, the heat wave or during the catastrophic fires this season, our chartered communities have stepped up to the plate to provide much-needed support and should be applauded for all of that.
However, there exists a lack of funding. Stable capacity funding for community administration and assistants and volunteer coordination, including office space for all communities to deliver community-driven programs and services, exists. It is integral that we support our chartered communities with stable and consistent funding.
On that note, I want to thank you all for hearing me out and also for allowing me to present today and present to you our 2022 budget submission.
J. Routledge (Chair): Thank you, Daniel. I'll invite members of the committee to ask questions and give you a chance to elaborate some more.
M. Starchuk: Daniel, thank you for your presentation. You used a couple of phrases, but I'm not going to hog all the questions right now. But you said: "age in place." Can you describe what age in place would be in your presentation?
D. Fontaine: Sure. Aging in place — I'll give you an example of one of the programs that we run. It's Ma Nîķi. It's a Michif word for community. Ma Nîķi is a program that allows our Elders to age in place. Many of them, in particular in rural British Columbia….
I was just up at Kelly Lake. For those of you who don't know where Kelly Lake is, it's on the Alberta border, way up in the northeast. Kelly Lake has many Elders who have leaking roofs. They live in almost impoverished, Third World conditions.
Our Ma Nîķi program allows them to apply for funding to get a new roof or to maybe get a furnace replaced or to get something to let them continue aging in place so that they don't have to move or move out of the community or move into a long-term-care or assisted-living setting. We're trying our best, with limited dollars, to allow people to age in place. A lot of our housing programs and housing investments relate specifically to that.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): Hi, Daniel. Good to see you again. Just to help us understand. You said that it's not a land-based First Nation, which I think we know. I don't know about Kelly Lake, but how do you, or the Métis Nation, see, with land from the Crown, handling or using that? You talked about the housing authority.
I'd just like to understand the dynamics of how you see it being managed. Is it different than other First Nations? I'm not certain that they're all the same either.
D. Fontaine: Yeah, they're all unique, as it the Métis Nation. The construct we have with our nation is…. Because we're not in a tight geographical area, a small area like a reserve — we're spread across the province — we do have pockets where there's a higher density, in places like Kelly Lake and up in the northeast and throughout the Kootenays and other areas in the Okanagan.
What we're doing as a nation is we are in the process now of purchasing land. We are actually right now in the process of purchasing about seven or eight pieces of land across the province of British Columbia. It's the first time we've been able to do that, as a result of some federal funding. The strategy we have with that land is very similar, I think, to many First Nations.
First of all, it is being able to have a land base for our people, for our government. But when we purchase the land for housing, we look, as well, at building a daycare, a cultural gathering centre, a place where it'll be a centre point, a bit of a hub or a community spot.
I said we had 38 communities, but there are seven different regions in the province that those 38 communities fall into. Our strategy right now is to, at a minimum in the next 12 months, purchase land in each of those seven regions. We will work with B.C. Housing and CMHC to build the housing. Where we build housing, we build child care. Where we build child care, we look to build community gathering centres. Where we have community gathering centres….
Like I said, for our chartered communities, we'll build office space so they have a place to actually have an office, have an administration. That's kind of part of our strategy right now. Since we're starting from, basically, zero, and by about a year from now, we'll probably have seven or eight pieces of property around the province, it's a large strategy around that land accumulation and then building those nodes and centres for our communities.
B. Stewart (Deputy Chair): So will it be fee simple?
D. Fontaine: No. It's a little bit different. We will own it as a nation and run that. They will mainly be affordable housing projects. We're targeting for, in particular, those with lower incomes. Given the limited dollars we have and the limited ability we have to purchase, the initial wave is really on our government owning those properties and running them as projects for affordable housing for seniors.
In some of them, we're looking at having four and three bedrooms to allow families to move in and be able to actually have something that's affordable that they can reside in. So they're not fee simple at the moment. We're looking at different models, Ben.
There's such a big need right now for affordable housing. I would love to be able to get in other larger development projects that are fee simple, but we have such a high priority on affordable housing that we need to prioritize that over the next three to five years.
G. Kyllo: Hey, Daniel. Thank you. You mentioned in, I think, one of the first questions, that it was 30 percent of Indigenous people in B.C. are Métis. What is that in sheer numbers?
D. Fontaine: It's 90,000 people that, in the latest StatsCan report, indicated that they self-identified as Métis or were actual registered citizens.
I should clarify that we have our own registry, with our own definition of who is Métis. That definition is consistent with all of the governing members of the Métis Nation across Canada, from Ontario west to British Columbia. Within our own registry, once you apply, you have to go through a genealogical process of verification. We have, roughly, 22,000 people now that have gone through that genealogical process.
As you'll see in the budget submission, a big area that we want to focus on is trying to increase that number from 22,000 to 90,000. We would want all Métis people to be part of our citizenry.
When I was just up in the northeast not long ago, I had the opportunity to meet with countless individuals who were self-identified, but oftentimes they couldn't even apply for citizenship because they didn't have the funding to get long-form birth certificates or the kind of paperwork that they need to apply. So we're trying to reduce that barrier.
G. Kyllo: I've got a bit of experience. My wife, Georgina, is one-eighth Cree but, of course, not sufficient percentage to be recognized as First Nation in the province, so Georgina and our four daughters are all registered and have gone through the genealogical…. It was a lot of work. It took Georgina quite a bit of time.
Question for you. My understanding is that there was a federal court appeal that related to the ability for Métis to have hunting and fishing rights in Canada. Can you give us a bit of an update on where that is at?
D. Fontaine: Well, at the moment, the ability for…. It is very much a major issue for Métis hunters and fishers in the province of British Columbia. They're not properly recognized. That still has not had a lot of movement. Part of that is work that we're doing in the legal system and work that we have to do to prepare our case, as well as just a construct of the way the system has operated. It is a very significant and major issue for hunters and trappers and fishers in the province of British Columbia.
G. Kyllo: Was there not an initial ruling in the federal court, and our government appealed it?
D. Fontaine: Yes.
G. Kyllo: So it's going through appeal. Do we know when there's going to be a final resolution to that issue?
D. Fontaine: My understanding is, I believe, there is an appeal that is out there, but there have been some rulings that have provided some rights. We have to clarify those rights with the government of Canada within the context of British Columbia.
There are things that the province of British Columbia can do right now that actually will assist Métis hunters and trappers in that. For example, they have to pay licence fees. We don't have the ability to grant licences ourselves, as a nation, to Métis hunters. Those are the types of things that could be easily done — as they say, the low-hanging fruit — but there are the larger, bigger legal issues around title and rights, and those are still all outstanding at the moment.
J. Routledge (Chair): I'm conscious of the time, but I see Lorne would like to ask a question.
L. Doerkson: I've met with Métis people in my community. It's amazing that, I think, we have about 700 Métis people in the Cariboo area. I think they're both frustrated and excited right now. This suggestion of these potential low-cost housing units, I'm sure, would be very exciting for our area.
You mentioned seven regions. Can you just quickly give an idea of where those are?
D. Fontaine: Sure. So there are seven regions. Region 1 would be Vancouver Island. Region 2 is effectively the Lower Mainland through to about the Hope area. Region 3 is the South Okanagan. Region 4 would be the Kootenays. Region 5 would be north central. Region 6 would be the northwest area of the province of British Columbia. Region 7 is the northeast.
The one you're referring to, your community, is in region 5, if I remember correctly.
L. Doerkson: Just real quickly: any idea of scope? How many units would you guys be thinking of?
D. Fontaine: We're trying to…. Obviously — I'm sure you've heard this before — it is working very much with municipalities in terms of what they'll allow us to build and also the size of the properties themselves. It depends on the region. We can get a bigger bang for our buck in rural British Columbia, to be quite honest, so we're able to purchase a little bit more land, but typically the housing projects will incorporate a four- to six-storey building, and we're looking at a kind of…. The podium level would be the area for office, retail space as well as child care.
We are looking at one larger development in region 2, in this Lower Mainland area — in the Surrey area. That would be our government headquarters. That would include room for our general assembly, our entire public service, housing, a cultural gathering centre. That would be the largest of all the developments that we would build across British Columbia.
J. Routledge (Chair): Daniel, it's been a long day of presentations, and I think the committee is tired. But you have so engaged us in your ask of government. What a great way to end this day. I know that you've really piqued my curiosity, my interest, and I want to find out about more ways I can support you in what you're doing.
D. Fontaine: Wonderful. We're going to be doing some work on housing in your area soon too, so stay tuned. I'll keep you posted.
J. Routledge (Chair): Okay. Please do.
With that, I will entertain a motion to adjourn.
The committee adjourned at 4:35 p.m.
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