1985 Legislative Session: 3rd Session, 33rd Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5, 1985
[ Page 6447 ]
Special Enterprise Zone And Tax Relief Act (Bill 49). Hon. Mr. McClelland
Introduction and first reading –– 6447
Ministry of Forests estimates. Mr. Howard –– 6447
Expo 86 Corporation president. Mr. MacWilliam –– 6447
Chemical poisoning. Ms. Sanford –– 6448
Expo 86. Mr. Passarell –– 6448
Aid to Cominco smelter. Mr. D'Arcy –– 6449
Bingo operations. Mr. Hanson –– 6449
Expo 86. Hon. Mr. Richmond replies –– 6449
Coquihalla Highway Construction Acceleration Act (Bill 2). Second reading
Hon. A. Fraser –– 6450
Mr. Passarell–– 6451
Mr. Ree –– 6452
Mr. Nicolson –– 6453
Mr. Davis –– 6453
Mr. Lockstead –– 6454
Hon. A. Fraser –– 6455
Committee of Supply: Ministry of Transportation and Highways estimates. (Hon. A.
On vote 67: minister's office –– 6457
Hon. A. Fraser
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 5, 1985
The House met at 2:06 p.m.
HON. MRS. McCARTHY: Mr. Speaker, I have a very important and, I think, a very nice announcement to make to the House. I know that the members will be pleased to join me in congratulations to one of our fellow members of the Legislature, and my parliamentary secretary, whose little boy, 6 pounds 8 ounces, Christopher Sean, was born this morning at 10: 14 in Victoria General Hospital. The member for West Vancouver-Howe Sound (Mr. Reynolds) tells me that both his new little son and his wife are doing very well.
HON. MR. PELTON: In the members' gallery today is a personal friend of mine from Maple Ridge, Mr. Clark Chilton. I would ask the House to make him welcome, please.
MR. MICHAEL: I would ask the House to make welcome a friend of mine, a former resident of Salmon Arm now residing in the city of Victoria, Dave Howard.
Introduction of Bills
SPECIAL ENTERPRISE ZONE
AND TAX RELIEF ACT
Hon. Mr. McClelland presented a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Special Enterprise Zone and Tax Relief Act.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Speaker, just a couple of words before moving that the bill be introduced and read now. This bill will allow the government to implement one of the key components of its program for economic renewal. It will set up special enterprise zones, providing British Columbia with the flexibility to attract new kinds of industry — and I stress that — and development to the province. Important tax incentives include relief from the corporation capital tax, a move which augments the phased elimination of this tax, as announced in the March 14 budget speech. It provides sales tax exemption in the zones on construction expenditures and on purchases or leases of machinery and equipment used by a firm in manufacturing or processing, as well as on the goods consumed.
It will see special enterprise firms get relief from British Columbia corporate income tax for a period of ten years, and a second very important measure of relief will provide a five year period of relief from provincial corporate income tax for all eligible corporations who undertake substantial new investment either in those municipalities which have signed agreements under the Provincial-Municipal Partnership Act or in unorganized areas outside of municipalities, which will ensure, Mr. Speaker, that in effect every region of British Columbia will have the opportunity to become a special enterprise zone and get the benefits therewith.
In our search for new investment, new export markets and new jobs for British Columbia, this is a very important part of our total package, and I move the bill be introduced and read a first time now.
Bill 49, Special Enterprise Zone and Tax Relief Act, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.
MINISTRY OF FORESTS ESTIMATES
MR. HOWARD: I'd like to direct a question to the Minister of Intergovernmental Relations (Hon. Mr. Gardom) in his capacity as government House Leader, and ask him, given the extreme importance that forestry has in this province, why there is a delay in calling the estimates of the Ministry of Forests for consideration.
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. members, prior to recognizing the government House Leader, the Chair must advise the member for Skeena, who I am sure is fully aware, that the question is not in order in this particular forum. It relates toHouse business, which, as the member knows, must be conducted outside of this particular forum.
MR. HOWARD: I'll rephrase the question and ask the minister if he has decided to call the estimates of the Ministry of Forests. Or is he, like the minister, treating forestry as a sunset industry?
MR. SPEAKER: Hon. member, the Chair must once again advise the member that the previous statement by the Chair equally applies to this statement. As it revolves around House business, it is not in order in question period.
MR. HOWARD: Am I correct in assuming then that we may never see the estimates of the Minister of Forests? Is that what you're doing? You're hiding them.
EXPO 86 CORPORATION PRESIDENT
MR. MacWILLIAM: To the Minister of Tourism. Will the minister confirm that the president of Expo Corporation is now subject to disciplinary action by the board of directors for his handling of public funds regarding the purchase of a luxury automobile and a directors' meeting held at a luxury California resort?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: The answer is no, Mr. Speaker.
MR. MacWILLIAM: A new question to the minister. Why is the board of directors only now dealing with the matter when it has been leaked to the public by a member of the news media, when the incident in question took place more than a year ago? When you're caught mishandling public funds, should not the discipline be swiftly handled?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Mr. Speaker, the member correctly points out that the incident — both incidents — took place roughly a year and a half ago. The matters have been dealt with by the chairman of the board and were dealt with at that time.
MR. MacWILLIAM: A new question to the same minister. Since he has taken control of Expo Corporation, Mr.
[ Page 6448 ]
Bartlett has fired a number of senior staff, including the vice president of marketing, the vice-president of finance and the vice-president of planning and development. Will the minister please advise whether he has approved these firings on behalf of the government?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Mr. Speaker, I remind the member that Expo 86 is a Crown corporation. As the president of the corporation, Mr. Bartlett is not required to report to the government when he dismisses a member of his staff.
MR. MacWILLIAM: It's my understanding that the minister is in fact a member of the board of that Crown corporation. Would he now answer my question?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: My response is the same, Mr. Speaker. The president of the corporation has no requirement to report dismissal of staff to the government or to the board of directors.
MR. MacWILLIAM: I wonder if the minister is saying that the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. However, a new question to the minister. The minister is surely aware that Mr. Bartlett has hired two vice-presidents, two directors, five managers, a supervisor and a producer who are all former cronies of his at Canada's Wonderland theme park in Ontario. Has the minister approved of this on the part of the Expo president?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: In answer to the first part of the member's question about the right hand versus the left hand, Mr. Speaker, indeed they do know what each other is doing. The answer to the second question is that the president of the corporation is charged with putting on a successful fair. It is not the intent of this minister to question every decision that that person makes.
MR. MacWILLIAM: A new question to the minister. The firing of senior staff involves hundreds of thousands — possibly even millions — of dollars in severance payments. The hiring of Mr. Bartlett's cronies to fill virtually all of the senior administrative positions raises the question of why no British Columbians are given access to these opportunities. Has the minister decided to review the hiring practices of Mr. Bartlett? Has the minister decided, as a member of this government; has there been any decision, as a member of the board?
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Mr. Speaker, suffice it to say, in answer to the member's question, that many good British Columbians are working at Expo at all levels of the corporation.
MS. SANFORD: I have a question for the Minister of Environment. The federal health protection branch will release later today the name of the chemical involved and the name of the cucumber grower involved in the chemical poisoning of a number of consumers. I'm wondering what steps the minister has taken to ensure that the existing limited protection, under the Pesticide Control Act and regulations, will be better enforced to ensure the public's health and safety.
HON. MR. PELTON: There is a strong suspicion that the chemical involved was a chemical called Temik, which is a very toxic granulated pesticide.
The investigation is still ongoing. I know a greenhouse operator is suspected. I don't know his name at this point in time, but I'm sure that I will be apprised of the name as soon as it becomes available.
Insofar as any future action is concerned, I would think it prudent to wait until the investigation is complete and we have all the details before we make any determination of what might be required to be done from here on.
MS. SANFORD: If in fact it turns out that this was an illegal application of that particular chemical by the cucumber grower, then it seems to me that the problem is one of deterrence and penalty rather than regulation as such. I'm wondering if the minister is satisfied that the penalties under the current statutes are sufficient to deter or prevent growers from the illegal use of chemicals.
HON. MR. PELTON: With all due respect to the hon. member asking the question, I think it was hypothetical in a great degree, so I do not really feel inclined to respond at this moment in time.
However, I don't mind advising the hon. member that we do have some rules in place already which would see the individual who might be found responsible being prosecuted through the courts.
MS. SANFORD: This issue has raised tremendous public concern among the population of British Columbia. This whole issue is very damaging to the reputation of all the growers in the province. I'm wondering if the minister has decided that he could take one step, regardless of the outcome of this particular investigation, and that is to implement recommendation 19, which was submitted in 1975 in the Mackenzie royal commission report, which would require that all applicators take the course.
As it is now, Mr. Speaker, I think there are only about five pesticides that require the full training of people who are making those applications. Will the minister assure the House that he will ensure that recommendation 19 of that commission report is implemented regardless of the outcome of this, so that all applicators are required to take a course so that they know what they're doing?
HON. MR. PELTON: As much as I would like to give that type of assurance, Mr. Speaker, I do not really consider myself in a position to do so at this particular time. I would like to wait until the investigation is completed and we have the whole story.
MR. PASSARELL: Mr. Speaker, a question to the Minister of Tourism. The Expo world's fair was originally planned as a showcase of transpiration technology. Can the minister explain why the government is cancelling the vintage car show scheduled for July 6 to 10, 1986?
[ Page 6449 ]
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I don't have all the details for you yet. I am having my staff took into that matter, because I, like you, am not pleased with that decision on the surface. I don't know the details, and I will pledge to that member to bring an answer back to this House just as quickly as possible.
AID TO COMINCO SMELTER
MR. D'ARCY: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Industry and Small Business Development. Sinclair Stevens has announced that Ottawa will not support the retention of lead smelting and refining in Trail unless there is a significant new provincial financial component in any grant or subsidy that may be forthcoming, in keeping with the spirit of agreements reached elsewhere in Canada. Has the minister been authorized to negotiate with Cominco and the feds on a partnership basis in order that these criteria can be met?
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: Mr. Speaker, first of all I'd like to see a copy of that announcement. I am not aware of Mr. Stevens's having said that. Certainly he didn't say that during our press conference a week ago Monday, following the meeting of industry ministers from across Canada. In fact, he announced at that time that the federal government was still negotiating with Cominco. It's my understanding that those negotiations took place as late as a weekend ago, on a Sunday, with Cominco officials and Mr. Stevens. I am still convinced that federal government aid should be forthcoming, and we'll do everything we can in discussions with the federal government to ensure that that will happen. So there are further discussions necessary yet.
However, in terms of the British Columbia contribution to aid to Cominco, Cominco officials have said that British Columbia has met all of the requests that Cominco made of the government and more. In fact, in the tax advantages and other financial advantages that will be available to Cominco, at both its Trail operation and its Kimberley operation, aid over about a ten-year period will be well over $100 million. Cominco itself has said that we have done everything they asked and then some.
We'll await further negotiations, primarily between the company and the federal government, to find out where those negotiations go, Mr. Speaker.
MR. D'ARCY: Mr. Speaker, the information — the announcement — did come from Sinclair Stevens's office, and there's been no denial.
Has the minister requested that the provincial water tax for electricity be reduced in order to conform with that particular federal requirement, and that has long been a requirement of Cominco as well? I do not like the situation of representations of what various private parties outside this House may or may not have said. Quite frankly, we're dealing with the government and what the federal government has requested and required in this particular case.
HON. MR. McCLELLAND: I'd like to ask that member to table those announcements. I have never heard them. I have never heard Mr. Stevens say them. Mr. Stevens' officials have never said them to us. He's never said it to me and, so far as I know, he's never said it to Cominco. So if you have those announcements, I'd sure like to see them.
MR. HANSON: I have a question for the Provincial Secretary with respect to commercial bingo operations. On at least three different occasions the Provincial Secretary has told this House that he is awaiting a report from officials in his ministry regarding the question of restoring bingo inspection services cancelled when the Provincial Secretary fired his staff. Has the minister decided to table that report?
Has the Provincial Secretary considered the action of the Saskatchewan government, faced with a similar problem? They have faced up to the reality and organized a full public inquiry. Will you table a report, and will you do what Saskatchewan has done?
HON. MR. CHABOT: Well, I'm not familiar with what Saskatchewan has done regarding a public inquiry vis-à-vis bingos. I don't know what the problem is in Saskatchewan. Maybe they do have a problem –– I don't view British Columbia as having a problem regarding bingos. The document that you make reference to is an internal document prepared by officials of my ministry to the Provincial Secretary, informing him of the activities of bingo operations in British Columbia — the kind of approach that is taken by the province of Alberta. I've had an opportunity to examine the document and have come to the conclusion, in view of the fact that it's an internal document prepared for the minister's information, that it's not a document that should be tabled. It's not a document which involves the expenditure of public funds. If it had been a public inquiry or if public funds had been expended outside of government, then there would have been a requirement, my friend, to table that document. But this is strictly a ministry internal document; it's nothing earth-shattering. There is no need for its tabling.
HON. MR. RICHMOND: Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer questions I took as notice yesterday.
The first answer is to the second member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Lank) when he asked me if Mr. Fawcus is receiving a salary from Expo or from government for the services he's providing. The answer is that former Justice Fawcus is retained by the audit committee of the board of directors of the Expo 86 Corporation. He was retained to draft conflict-of-interest rules, and I'm told that the conflict-of-interest rules laid down by former Justice Fawcus are the most stringent of any to be found in any corporation. He is also retained at an hourly rate on an as-needed basis by the same audit committee of the board of Expo and is paid at the usual hourly rate — whatever that is — and I'm sure that the second member for Vancouver Centre would know that rate better than I.
Also, Mr. Speaker, yesterday in answering a question from the first member for Vancouver East (Mr. Macdonald) about whether Mr. Pattison has any financial connection with the Expo 86 Corporation other than the guidebook contract, I said: "To the best of my knowledge, no." But in order not to even hint at misleading this House, and wanting to get the full story out, I would like to more fully answer that part of the question by going into some of the research that I've done since yesterday as to just what contracts Mr. Pattison's companies have with the Expo 86 Corporation.
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First is the highly publicized bid of Mr. Pattison's leasing company to purchase the Mercedes-Benz. His was the highest of three bids received. Secondly, when the decision was made by the board that General Motors would be designated as the official car manufacturer for Expo 86, Mr. Pattison left the meeting, as he is a GM dealer; and that decision was made.
Also, his company, EDP Industries, has been given a contract for computer software and payroll services. Mr. Pattison, again, was not involved, and the bid by EDP was by far the best.
Also, there are two signs being provided to the corporation by Neon Products Ltd., one in the amount of $11,868.52, and the other for $49,726.98. These were the lowest of four bids.
The international division of Expo also purchased copies of Beautiful British Columbia magazine to provide mementoes to international guests to British Columbia. The amount was $3,000.
The member is aware, as it was covered yesterday, that Beautiful British Columbia magazine bid on the guidebook contract. There were 200 bids for that contract, and 68 bona fide bids were gone through very carefully. It came down to a shortlist of three. Beautiful British Columbia magazine's bid was by far the best, and the decision was ratified by the board while the chairman was absent from the meeting.
Some other contracts were awarded but not brought to the board because of the relatively small size. They include: a contract to Neon Products Ltd. for a sign at the Expo centre in the amount of $2,685.27; vehicles purchased from Pattison Pontiac: two pickups, eight Blazers and one station wagon. They went to public tender: 11 tenders were received, and the Pattison Pontiac bid was the lowest on each tender. Expo also leased one vehicle for a member of the executive for a short period, for a sum of $1,200.
Through Expo's advertising agency, Baker Lovick Ltd., ads have been placed in the media on behalf of the corporation, and some of these ads have been placed with CJOR radio station in the amount of $4,800.
Also Baker Lovick, acting as the agency of record for Expo, placed advertising through Seaboard Advertising Co., which is owned by the Jim Pattison Group, in the amount of $36,000. Also, occasionally employees of Expo corporation fly on Air B.C. at the regular rate, and some of the employees even admit to shopping at Overwaitea Foods.
I should add, Mr. Speaker, that just in case it should come up, there is an employee of the Jim Pattison Group on loan to Expo at no charge to the corporation, to assist us with the parking situation in downtown Vancouver. Mr. Pattison offered the service of this person, Mr. Denis Carlin, to the corporation free of charge.
That ends my questions taken as notice, Mr. Speaker. Now I would like to make a very short ministerial statement. I have been informed by the chairman of the board of the Expo 86 Corporation that he has accepted the resignation of the president of the corporation, Mr. Michael Bartlett.
MR. SPEAKER: The opposition is entitled to a response. There is none.
Orders of the Day
HON. MR. GARDOM: I call public bills and orders, Mr. Speaker, starting with Bill 2.
CONSTRUCTION ACCELERATION ACT
HON. A. FRASER: I am happy to say a few remarks and move second reading of this bill.
This will enable the government of British Columbia to offset the costs involved in accelerating the schedule for the Coquihalla Highway. The normal schedule for a project of this magnitude and complexity is eight to ten years. As the members of the House are aware, this has been revised to two to three years.
This shortened schedule translates the already difficult project into a major and challenging undertaking. However, both the government and private industry have proven themselves equal to this challenge. Currently the construction of the first phase is well underway. As a matter of fact, as you probably read in the press, it's at the 50 percent completion stage. All the grading and crushing and the majority of the bridge contracts have been awarded. The design work for the second phase has commenced.
Questions have arisen regarding the rationale behind the acceleration of this project. The reasons are basically fourfold, the most compelling reason being that acceleration means the creation of jobs. Currently there are 1,350 people employed, and I think that's been revised; currently there are more than that, probably 2,200, rising to 3,000 by about August, 1985.
In addition, it is anticipated that the Coquihalla project will act as a catalyst for further economic development. Already the communities of Merritt and Kamloops have received development proposals which are directly related to the construction of the new highway.
With the opening of Expo 86, it is anticipated that the tourist industry of B.C. should experience a dramatic increase. This will translate into a substantial increase in traffic using the provincial highway system. To accommodate this situation, additional capacity has to be supplied. From the various engineering studies done by our ministry, the construction of the Coquihalla was deemed the most cost-effective solution to this problem.
Finally, the current competitive bidding climate will enable the government to construct a modern freeway facility at costs significantly lower than they would be in a less competitive market. I might say that the pattern seems to be, on the bids that have been awarded for the first phase, that they're running about 30 percent below the costs that we were experiencing in the same type of work in 1979, 1980 and 1981.
The toll structure being proposed in this bill to offset the costs related to this acceleration calls for a minimum charge of $8 for cars and up to $40 for large commercial trucks and trailers.
HON. A. FRASER: I'm coming to that. Don't get in a hurry, Mr. Member.
The basic philosophy employed to determine the toll structure has been to relate the toll to the expected benefits enjoyed by each user type, and set a 50 percent benefit recapture rate. This means that the government and the users of the new highway will be equal partners in offsetting the costs related to accelerating the project.
[ Page 6451 ]
Mr. Speaker, the first year revenue from tolls — the first full year — is estimated, and I repeat estimated, at $20 million.
The use of this new facility can expect to save approximately one hour to one and one half hours of travel time between Vancouver and Kamloops, and a distance saving of 80 kilometres. This translates into an annual operating saving of $40 million for the operators of the vehicles.
An additional benefit to be enjoyed by the people of B.C. is the use of higher standards and safer highway facilities. This could result in a saving of millions of dollars in accident costs, etc.
I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that considerable consideration has been given to the location of the toll booth. Since the toll is intended for the long distance traveller, the ministry will construct the toll booth plaza at Coquihalla Lakes, a distance of 55 kilometres north of Hope. This will allow travellers to take advantage of the recreational potential of both the Coquihalla River and the Coldwater River valleys without paying toll.
I think I've overheard a mention regarding maintenance. I didn't have it in the notes, but I will tell the House that our ministry doesn't see any difference in the maintenance costs of this road than any other road — as an example, the Rogers Pass.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, this bill will provide the mechanism for the government to provide a large leap in the level of service offered by the provincial highway system at a time when the people of B.C., visitors and industry urgently require it. I would like to further say that we shouldn't forget that if motorists don't want to use the new toll road we have two excellent highways that do not have a toll. I refer, of course, to the Trans-Canada Highway and the Hope-Princeton. So there are a lot of choices.
In conclusion, I move second reading, Mr. Speaker.
MR. PASSARELL: I have a number of questions to direct towards the minister in regard to the bill we're debating today. First, why are we debating this bill? You have the authority under your ministry to do this highway without going through Bill 2, unless it's on the aspect of borrowing the hundreds of millions of dollars. But the building itself could have been done without the debate in here on Bill 2.
There are a number of concerns that I would like to raise. The first one is the Charter and the mobility clause. If I'm not mistaken — the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs (Hon. Mr. Gardom) can correct me — I think it's clause (6) on the mobility rights of the new Charter. The problem that's involved is having so many people in British Columbia unemployed and — in dealing with the Charter itself — who have skills and who should be encouraged to work on this project with our high unemployment rates in the province right now, instead of bringing people in from Alberta to do the work. Our tax dollars, Mr. Minister, are paying for this project, and we should be encouraging as many British Columbians as we can to gain gainful employment on this project for the next year and a half.
With regard to the labour issues, I think some of the problems associated with the Coquihalla and reported in the press can be discussed at a later time.
Mr. Speaker, I have five specific issues I'd like to raise concerning the issue of the Coquihalla. As the minister said in his opening remarks, if people want to use it, then they should pay the tolls. I don't find any disagreement on that. There have been tolls on major highways in the United States for years. It's very commonplace to find toll-roads in Pennsylvania and the eastern states. Paying $8 for a car and $40 for a truck, you probably save that in the gas that you'd use by driving that road. You're saving an hour and a half at the speed limit of 100 "klicks," which will be 60 miles per hour in the old system.
One of the concerns I have — and the minister touched on this briefly in his opening remarks — with setting up the toll in the middle of the highway, or 55 kilometres north of Hope, is some of the problems that will be associated with a toll booth in that area. It is more or less in the middle of the wilderness of the highway. With, let's say, 1,000 cars per day and 200 trucks per day, that toll booth is going to have close to $20,000 during a day. What type of security is the minister going to propose for a toll booth in the middle of a highway where there will be $20,000 at any one time? I think that's a question that the minister is going to have to address.
MR. PASSARELL: Well, I'm sure those issues probably happen in Prince George, Mr. Minister of Education. But it's a question we have to address. We could say Atlin, but under this government there hasn't been a business in Atlin that's ever been able to accumulate $20,000 in one day, so....
MR. PASSARELL: I would like the government to resign, sure, Mr. Member from North Vancouver.
I think security regarding that toll booth is something we have to look at.
MR. PASSARELL: Moved it out? The last time there was a bank in Atlin was 1901, I think. I wasn't even born, let alone here to move my bank account out at that time.
The second question I have is service stations along the route, regarding Crown land that will have to be sold for service stations to be put into the area. Does the minister have any information he can give to the House regarding Crown land and service stations? How will these service stations be supplied with power? Will B.C. Hydro be running a 750 KV line up the Coquihalla? Or will service stations have to provide their own power sources? If they have to provide their own power sources along the route, then we're going to fall into the same kind of problem associated with the Alaska Highway operators this winter. They were complaining about the high costs of fuel to keep power in the power stations, and a boycott happened along the Alaska Highway this winter.
If the ministry is going to be asking service station operators, because people will have to buy gas or mechanical parts along the route, to provide their own power source, will there be financial assistance given to service station operators to put their services in the area?
The third question I have is fire protection along the route. I wonder how this will be accomplished since we'll be going through a wilderness area. If you look at the Hope-Princeton route, Manning Park is there to provide fire assistance in the area. I'm wondering what's going to happen.
How many permanent highway camps will be installed along the Coquihalla to deal with the tremendous amount of
[ Page 6452 ]
snowfall we get in the area? As we know, the snowfall issue is a major one that the ministry and the engineers had to face in the construction of this project. There have been reports that snow will have to be loaded onto trucks and packed a couple of miles because of the steep banks and hillsides on the right-of-way. This will increase costs. Does the minister have any figures on what he expects the cost for snow removal to be per year on the Coquihalla?
The fourth issue I'd like to direct to the minister regards game. You'll be opening up a new area of this province, and there will be more hunters coming into an area that was previously inaccessible to hunters. The regulation in the province of British Columbia regarding hunting in this area is a quarter mile on either side of a highway. There have been outfitters in that area for years, but now we're opening up and resident hunters can go and drive up into the area and hunt. I'm wondering if the minister would look at a moratorium.... Instead of the quarter-mile hunting on each side of the right-of-way, would the minister look at a mile on either side of the right-of-way as a moratorium for four or five years — not that you can't hunt after the mile, but not to encourage game depletion in an area that previously was inaccessible to a lot of hunters. That was an issue that was raised at a recent outfitting conference in Smithers.
Costs. We know that the phase 1 original costs were $375 million, which was doubled from the initial announcement. You're supposedly building on frozen ground up in some of the summits of the mountains there. Does the minister have any plans on the construction of the pavement that will be going up in these higher elevations? How long do you expect the pavement to last, being built on frozen ground?
Bridges. We see that some bridges on the Coquihalla are costing $10 million. They are major projects. They're quite impressive, from what I've seen and read about them. There will be certain areas on the Coquihalla that will be similar to the Squamish highway. Has the ministry brought in any new technology, for instance, for runoffs and snow avalanche removal on the Coquihalla? In the states of Washington and Colorado they have some new technology that could be used on this highway in regard to these two issues. Has the minister been looking at new technology for avalanches and runoffs regarding these bridges?
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
This is a major project, as most of us are aware, and we basically look at three project completion dates on this. Phase 2, from Merritt to Kamloops, basically has a road there now. It's quite windy. I know the minister has probably travelled on it and knows the difficulty that the local residents have to contend with. If I'm not mistaken, the $375 million covers phases 1 and 2. Is that right, Mr. Minister? Okay.
The third phase, which will link the Coquihalla to the Okanagan, has been announced to go through Peachland, even though there have been other rumours that the road will go into other areas in the Okanagan. Maybe the minister could enlighten the House as to exactly where this road to the Okanagan from the Coquihalla will be going in phase 3, since there is much controversy surrounding the announcement of exactly where it'll be going. Will Peachland be used as a terminus, or Kelowna, or Vernon?
Regarding local hiring of day labourers in phase 3, I would like to see some employment centres set up in the communities of Vernon, Merritt or Kamloops. The local employment offices could be set up by the Ministry of Highways for day labourers to provide much-needed jobs to residents in the Okanagan and the northern interior.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I have to say that this government has taken a massive megaproject underway here. It's unparalleled in many of the roads that have been built in North America. There is a lot of emphasis being placed on this road, and I would hope that the government place their priority to helping the residents in the area to improve our tourist industry, to provide jobs on the local level, to encourage business development in the area; basically all coming down to helping our economy. I would hope that the priority of this government is to help the local economy, instead of using it simply as a tool for a pre-election...as a campaign issue for re-election. The province will be watching this construction very closely, across from the constituencies of Atlin down to the south. I hope the project itself comes under budget; that it won't encourage any further massive borrowing by the taxpayers of the province to build this road.
Those were the main issues I'd like to discuss at this time, and I hope the minister could answer the questions that I've directed to him.
MR. REE: I'm very pleased to extend a few comments with respect to this bill — or not so much the bill, but the Coquihalla. This Legislature, at the end of the last century and the beginning of this century, spent many, many hours in debate dealing with the Coquihalla, or with the transportation of goods from the Kootenays to the coast of British Columbia. Many hours were spent in debating various bills for railways and what not through the Coquihalla at the beginning of this century. In fact, at one time the people on Vancouver Island put a caveat that any bill to permit the building of a railway through the Coquihalla should also require the builder to build a fixed link from the mainland to Vancouver Island, and failure of such a thing would be the secession of Vancouver Island from Confederation.
It's changed today, the feeling of the people of Vancouver Island. There's record of that, and it's well set out in a book called McCulloch's Wonder; the author is Barrie Sanford. I commend that book to all members of this Legislature with respect to the impetus for the building of the Kettle Valley railway, and particularly the Coquihalla portion of the Kettle Valley railway. The hardships and the race between the builders of the railways, either from the interior to Spokane or from the interior to the coast here, is well reported in that book, and it is fascinating reading in the history of this province.
The route through the Coquihalla has been recognized, as I sort of indicated, since the end of the last century, because there were many resources — and there still are many resources — in material and in people in the interior of British Columbia. The building of this highway will facilitate the movement of these resources to the coast and from the coast to the interior, a route we have been without for some years, since the railway was closed down I think back in the 1950s. I had the great fortune — I think it was in 1947, 1948 somewhere — to ride the Kettle Valley railway from Lethbridge in Alberta through to Vancouver.
AN HON. MEMBER: Scary.
MR. REE: It was scary but it was beautiful, beautiful country. To have it opened up at this time.... In fact I got
[ Page 6453 ]
off at McCulloch Junction. McCulloch Junction, Mr. Speaker, was about 20-odd miles out of Kelowna, and you had to go by an old dirt road. There was a bus system to get you in and out of Kelowna at the time, and you got off the railway at about 11 o'clock at night, actually, and you went down this highway to get back on. I had a chance to see this highway again in the daylight, and I was glad I'd first come down in the darkness, because it was very frightening. But it's wild country; it is hard country; it is beautiful country up in that area.
Mr. Speaker, one of the main reasons I wanted to speak on this bill or speak at this time is my family background dealing with the Coquihalla. I had the opportunity when I was with Trans Mountain Pipe Line to travel it a number of times. Trans Mountain and Prettys' Timber had purchased the right-of-way from the CPR up the Coquihalla, and as I say I had the opportunity to travel through there up the old right-of-way through some of the tunnels and through some of the snowsheds along the right-of-way of the pipeline. It is, as I say, rough country. In certain valleys you could see the old boxcars still at the bottom of the valley where they had fallen off the railway. There are old trestles up there, and I understand the CPR — or not the CPR, the engineers out of Chilliwack — used to go up there on training exercises blowing some of these trestles down.
But, Mr. Speaker, as I say, I have family background on the Coquihalla. My grandfather, Angus Creelman, of Creelman Construction, was one of the prime contractors back in the beginning of the century in the building of the Coquihalla railway. I'd like that to be in the record, Mr. Speaker. I also had an uncle, Robert Verge Creelman, who was killed in a rockslide in the building of the Coquihalla on December 20, 1918 — a 19-year-old youth at that time. So it has been close to the family — the centre — and I'm most pleased to see its development, to see it as an access not only for industry but for tourism for this province. I'm sure it will add to that, and the costs in the long run will be minimal compared to the benefits received.
MR. NICOLSON: Mr. Speaker, I'd just like to say a few words about this, because as was mentioned by the previous speaker, this is part of the Kettle Valley line. I'd like to talk about how this affects Nelson-Creston.
This particular bill is taking dollars away, I think, from work all over the province — taking energies and personnel from all parts of the province and concentrating them into this one major effort. But I'd just like to bring to the minister's attention that the Nelson-Creston area and the Kootenays — particularly the West Kootenays — are really like an isolated fortress. It's been necessary through history to breach that fortress in order to make them accessible. Certainly the building of the original Coquihalla railway was part of that, as it connected to the Kettle Valley. The southern trans-provincial route generally follows the Dewdney Trail, and the Dewdney Trail was put into that area in order to bring access so that we would not lose our sovereignty in that area.
Then the member mentioned Spokane; and the natural trading patterns for that area, if the border were taken away, would be with Spokane. Now here you're really shortening up the length between Calgary.... You're making the option which people have had, which has been pretty well an equal option to go on the southern trans-provincial route or to go on Highway 1.... It's really been six of one, half a dozen of the other, particularly if people take off at the point where the Trans-Canada Highway divides in Alberta into the two alternative routes. It's actually shorter to go along Highway 3 at the present time, or the Crow route. Also to breach the natural geographical defences of the Kootenays, the Crowsnest agreement was brought in. So there have been some major moves to remove the isolation of that area. Of course, the Kettle Valley line was another, and, I suppose, latterly the upgrading of the Dewdney Trail into what is the southern trans-provincial highway. The last really major move was the construction of the Blueberry-Paulson link, and of course the Kootenay Sky way, and even the link between Castlegar and Salmo, which the minister presided at the opening of.
This new route, the Coquihalla route, really becomes a shorter route between Vancouver and Calgary. There is another option too, and I would suggest at this time that the ministry should give serious consideration to the ramifications of allowing a gradual evolution of the use of Jumbo Pass. It could be first introduced as a summertime route, suitable basically for recreational vehicles; it could evolve, and then become perhaps in the future a year-round route. This is something that should be done very gradually; it should not impact on the area in too sudden a way. But it is something that should really be looked at. What is happening here is that we are really speeding up the route between Calgary and Vancouver; and I think that we make diversion from that route less and less of a likelihood. In terms of it being just an extra half-hour to go along the southern transprovincial, the choice now becomes one of hours. I think that it could have a very negative impact and that it's time the ministry gave consideration to some other forms of accessing the Kootenays. This is one that will not require going across on the ferry; this is something that joins basically from Invermere to the Kootenay Lake valley north of Kaslo.
There are presentations before the minister on this. As I say, it's something that I think would have to go along rather slowly, so as not to impact too quickly on the area. For that reason, I would hope that while we go ahead with this very major development.... An offer has been given to the minister whereby people would do this privately: make the link. It's only about a ten-mile link required to make this passable for recreational vehicles in the summer months. They would put a toll on it to recover their costs; and they say they can do it for a couple of hundred thousand dollars. I don't know if that's the best approach. But we're looking here at $375 million, and I'm convinced that it's going to be a lot more than that; this won't be the last bill that we'll see before this House.
Maybe for a few million dollars we could allow something and see if it will grow and develop naturally. It would put access a great deal closer to Calgary and, I think, enable a little bit more commerce in a trading pattern, which I think is more reasonable and practical than our having to look all the way to Vancouver. Certainly the only other real logical alternative is to alter the Canadian-U.S. boundary; and I don't think anyone wants that to happen.
MR. DAVIS: I'm supporting this bill for two reasons. One is that it provides much-needed employment for segments of the construction industry, which otherwise are largely unemployed currently in the province, The other is the user-pay principle which it appears to endorse.
[ Page 6454 ]
One of the members opposite was wondering why this bill was brought to the House at all: doesn't the minister already have sufficient authority under the transportation legislation of this province, or under the Highway Act, to build the Coquihalla highway at an accelerated rate? There's a principle here: it's loosely the principle of user-pay; it's the revival of tolls. I think that tolls are not only desirable but in some instances necessary. In the case of a facility like the Coquihalla highway where the tolls will defray a large part of the cost and where there is an obvious benefit to the users in terms of energy saved and time saved, levying a charge on those who use this new avenue of transportation is sensible. It identifies the benefits in a concrete way, and it translates them into construction now rather than construction later.
[Mr. Ree in the chair.]
I hope that this principle — not only the principle of user-pay, but using tolls to defray costs in the early years — is applied to some other projects in the next decade or two. I think that right now a good case can be made for a shorter ferry link across the Strait of Georgia: a crossing, let's say, from Point Grey to Gabriola Island. If that shorter link is analyzed in the same fashion from a cost-benefit point of view as the Coquihalla Highway, I believe that the economics of that particular project are more favorable indeed than those of the Coquihalla Highway. In future years, and perhaps I'm looking into the 1990s or even later, a highway north through Pemberton, a link up into the Chilcotin country and so on — I'm sure this would appeal to the minister — might also be contemplated as a toll facility in whole or in part. This too would accelerate the construction of a transportation link, which in the long run will obviously be needed but which could be made available much more readily, in a much earlier fashion, by the institution of tolls.
The cost of the Coquihalla Highway through, I gather, to Kamloops is $375 million. The annual interest and maintenance charge would be of the order of 10 percent or 12 percent of that — of the order of $40 million. The minister tells us that, in the early years at least, revenue from the tolls which have been indicated — $8 for cars, a maximum of $40 for trucks — might bring in $20 million. He told us that the $20 million figure was half of the estimated benefit. If the benefit is $40 million a year and the cost is $40 million a year, obviously it's break-even from a cost-benefit point of view. If the traffic builds over the years, $20 million a year income to the project will become $30 million in five or ten years and will become $40 million by the turn of the century at the very latest.
So this appears to be, even when the users pay half the benefit, a break-even project. It's a break-even project in circumstances where otherwise around the province road transportation arteries, street transportation avenues and so on are provided free, at least on the surface, to the user.
There's been no mention in the calculations of the gasoline and other taxes paid by the user of the Coquihalla. That's another income to the province. So I think that the benefits of the project are clearly favourable.
If the user in this fashion will pay for the project, why not not only get on with it, but get on with others of a similar nature? All I would say to the minister is: let's look at another crossing across the Strait of Georgia in the same fashion. Let's look at other longer-term and necessary highway developments for the 1990s and thereafter. Let's at least start analyzing them now and rating them and deciding which should proceed first, second, third and so on.
The hon. member for Nelson-Creston (Mr. Nicolson) decried the fact that this Coquihalla link might divert some of the southern Alberta traffic northward through the Rogers Pass, and of course down from Kamloops through Hope and so on. He's ignoring the fact that much of Alberta is north of Medicine Hat, and that much of western Canada, certainly many of the resources of western Canada, is north of Calgary and the two great barriers of the Rockies and the Coast Range. To the extent that a new, more direct, more easily traversed artery is driven through the Coast Range, this has to be good for western Canada. It has to be good for British Columbia.
So while we're not concentrating all our activity and interest along the international boundary, I think this highway link has to be good news for the great majority of people in this province and certainly for Alberta and Saskatchewan. So I'm supporting this bill, Mr. Speaker.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: I didn't actually intend to get up in this particular bill and thought I could save my comments probably for estimates. But since I see everybody else in the House getting up, I thought I might as well get on record on this bill. Why not?
First of all, Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you, in spite of some of the remarks that I've listened to here this afternoon, that I am opposed to tolls on any highways in British Columbia. Some years ago the former Premier of this province, W.A.C. Bennett — it would have been approximately 16 years ago — abolished all tolls on the highways of British Columbia, including the tolls across the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver. You could have said that was done for political reasons, but nonetheless those tolls were abolished. I believe that the income the government is going to receive in tolls on the Coquihalla Highway will not even pay the cost of the $375 million borrowing on that particular project.
The other thing is that tolls like these are a regressive tax. That is, those people on lower incomes are paying exactly the same tolls as the millionaires who buy $48,000 Mercedes and drive up that highway. They're paying the same $8 toll. So it's a further regressive tax on many people in this province if they wish to utilize that particular highway.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: I know they don't have to.
I'd like to say that I had occasion to drive over the Hope-Princeton just a short time ago, and in my view, that highway is not being properly maintained. I usually have to make that trip once or twice a year, and I see the highway in certain sections. The Hope-Princeton is falling apart, as are many other highways in the province. The government announced this Coquihalla project some time ago — and you may not remember this; the minister will confirm this — and then because of so-called restraint, a two-year hold was put on the project. Approximately two years, as I recall.
Now why has the government chosen this particular time about a year ago now — to reinstate the project, while the so-called restraint program is still on? If we have to borrow money for highway construction, could we not, for example, have utilized that money in other parts of the province to create jobs all over the province? Everywhere I go we have
[ Page 6455 ]
roads that need repair or reconstruction, or even new roads that are required. Could we not have created employment for those small contractors, the working people in those areas, particularly in areas like the Sunshine Coast and Powell River? That's close to home; we could talk about other areas of the province. Other areas of the province have the very same problem. I wonder if the minister had considered that aspect of utilizing the $375 million that we're going to have to pay interest on for many years.
I have more, Mr. Speaker. I think I will save my further remarks for debate of the spending estimates of the minister. But I did want to get on record on this topic, and I look forward to the minister's response.
HON. A. FRASER: I appreciate the discussion that we've had. In my closing remarks I'm going to try to reply to observations made. The first one is the member for Atlin's observation: why the bill at all? We have to pass the bill to have the authority to collect a toll. Apart from whether the government borrows the money or not, we have to have the legal authority to collect a toll. On that subject, with the formalities that are involved we expect to have the road in operation May 1, 1986, and there's a lot of lead-up to that. So I hope that answers that part.
Regarding Alberta workers and so on, most of this work has gone to tender call, and gone to the low bidder, which is the policy of the government. About 95 percent of the work on this project is being done by British Columbians, as far as I know. We have one contractor that has made some headlines. The name is Ledcor. I just make the observation that Ledcor bids to our ministry and his address is Richmond, British Columbia. That's the address, and that's the way we do business with him. I'm aware that they were originally based in Alberta. As a matter of fact, Ledcor was low bidder on jobs for our Highways ministry five or six years ago, and shows up every once in a while as the low bidder. They have two fairly good-sized jobs on this at the present time. But I'd remind the House that he bids as Ledcor, Richmond, British Columbia. We have had problems, and I'd like to acknowledge the help we've had from union people and so on to resolve it. We have tried somewhat.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
The other observation is one that I had myself. It's really security that you're talking about at the toll gate itself. The toll gate — I'd like to bring it down — is going to be at the Coquihalla Lakes. That's at the summit, actually, of the road. You climb all the way from Hope to the Coquihalla Lakes, and then you decline into Merritt. It's about half way. Believe it or not, some smart people in our ministry have devised it so that when you pay your $8 it goes down a concrete tube into a concrete cell underground. I thought that was pretty smart. So the only cash that would be available to anybody who wanted to try anything would be the $8, or the $40 they're handling at the moment. But the build-up of cash.... There's safekeeping being built into the system, and I guess it will be carried away as required by Loomis, and I hope they come quite often. Yes, it's all.... And the tender call on that structure is going out any day now, I believe, to have it built in time — the toll booths and the security that will go along with them.
Regarding the Crown land and the power source on the road, our ministry is coordinated with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing, and most all of it — you're correct — is Crown land. They will be coordinating where the pull-outs will be and where Crown land, as I understand it, will be made available to people who want to locate on the road,
We'll probably get to this in my estimates; we also are involved in a fairly large Hydro extension. I'm not saying for the whole area. I believe our ministry has to pay for a power extension from there to Coquihalla Lakes. I'm not clear just what happens to the power supply from Coquihalla Lakes south to Hope.
The member for Atlin asked: "What about a highway camp?" As you know, in your riding we have maintenance camps and we run the camps. It will not be necessary, as I understand it, to have camps, but we'll have a maintenance establishment at Merritt and we' ll have another maintenance establishment at Coquihalla Lakes — housing for the snowploughs and so on — and I don't think it will be necessary for people to have camps; that is, they can commute to Merritt or the Merritt area or the opposite way toward Hope. So we haven't got quite the problem we have in your area regarding maintenance.
I might say that there's a lot of concern — and believe me I share that; thanks to my ministry, they've informed me — regarding the snowfall and the maintenance of the road in general. The attitude of the engineers in my ministry is that the snowfall is equivalent to the Rogers Pass, and they have really no problems with the Rogers Pass and they don't anticipate any unusual costs — in other words, about the same as the Rogers Pass costs for snow removal. But the snow is very heavy. I think the average in the wintertime is 40 to 45 feet. That's a lot of snow. But I would tell the House that we're building snowsheds to start with in the more severe avalanche areas. The tender call for the snowshed is out right at the moment. One very large snowshed — I'm not sure but I think it's 2,000 feet in length — covers, in the opinion of our engineers, the worst part. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the House I think realizes that we already have an excellent avalanche control team, and they, of course, will be looking after that, as they look after the Rogers Pass, the pass going into Stewart in your area and the confined area we have on Highway 16 from Terrace to Rupert where we have avalanches. But we have a whole avalanche staff and I might say that their experts do a good job. This will be added to their responsibilities.
Hunting regulations. I have the same feelings that.... I think it was you who.... I'll pass that on to the Minister of Environment (Hon. Mr. Pelton) — about hunting regulations and restrictions.
But I might say that before we ever decided on routes, our ministry did a monitoring with the environment people — fish and wildlife. We know where the game crossings are and we've provided already for that. Hopefully that will mitigate a lot of problems with the interaction of highway traffic and wild game, causing accidents to the wild game as well as the people in the vehicles. We hope that we have a handle on it. We've looked at that, but you raise a good point and that should be brought, if it has not already been, to the Ministry of Environment's fish and wildlife branch.
We were talking about costs. Just to spell them out again, our estimate was: phase 1, which is Hope to Merritt, $250 million — I don't know how we're going to make out there.
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Most of the contracts are let, but some things could happen. The job's about half complete, but it looks like we're not going to be far out. Phase 2, Merritt to Kamloops: we've let one contract and that is estimated at $125 million. We'll have to wait and see. There has only been one contract let. As I recall, it's for about 10 or 12 kilometres, heading from Merritt toward Kamloops, and we have 63 more kilometres to call to build a four-lane from Merritt to Kamloops.
You mentioned frozen ground and pavement. I just say, Mr. Speaker, that we will not be putting any pavement on frozen ground, I can assure you. We might be putting it on solid rock, but we're not going to put it on frozen ground.
HON. A. FRASER: Oh, I see, it's built over frozen ground. Well, what happens there is if we have got some fill that's frozen, it'll thaw out, and we'll have to fill it up prior to paving. That thawing process will be going on now, and we don't plan on actually having a paving contractor on the Coquihalla till about Labour Day. We're in a very tight timeframe to get a first lift down prior to winter setting in. We can't start till Labour Day because we haven't any road to pave until Labour Day. So we're in a tight time-frame, but our engineers assure us that we can make it.
We have already done a lot of upgrading on Highway 5, which is Merritt to Kamloops, and Highway 8 — Merritt to Spences Bridge — to get out to the Trans-Canada, as these will be the main arteries, on the basis that we get to Merritt with a four-lane in '86 before we get the four-lane completed to Kamloops at freeze-up 1987. These are the two access roads, plus the Marnit Lake Road to Logan Lake and out. But we will have adequate accommodation with the traffic coming off the four-lane at Merritt when it opens in May 1986, until we get the four-lane built from Merritt to Kamloops by freeze-up '87, by the use of these roads — Highway 5, Highway 8 and the Marnit Lake Road to Logan Lake.
You asked about phase 3. This is referred to as the Merritt to Peachland. We were in Merritt last week, and our engineers have found two routes. We're going for public discussion on those I believe this week, with a final decision.... But the route we're looking at is phase 3, and there's been a big discussion about whether we're bypassing Merritt. We're not bypassing Merritt, and the traffic will go from Merritt and the Aspen Grove country straight east to Peachland with way better type of construction than we're in from Hope to Merritt.
Again, we have not put a value on it, but I'd like to guess it's roughly the same length as the route from Merritt to Kamloops. We're estimating that at $125 million, and being more or less the same route, and more or less the same type of terrain but a lot easier going.... In other words, we're probably looking at a minimum of $125 million going from Merritt to Peachland, and that is going to be four-lane as well to connect with Highway 97 there.
AN HON. MEMBER: It's cheaper through Kingsvale.
HON. A. FRASER: Well, I don't want to get into the Kingsvale argument here. Maybe that can come up in the estimates.
I made a note here about local hiring. I might say we are already hiring locally for day labour under the project. We're going to be hiring more. We have another condition with our contractors that have most of the work that they are to hire local trucks. As an example, our paving contractors and our grading contractors are to hire local trucks if at all possible, considering their contracts and so on. For the information of the House, we need 450 dump trucks starting on the first of August just to haul gravel alone for the gravel lift prior to the paving. I think you will see that will be for a fair length of time. Hopefully most of those machines will be local machines, not only from Hope and Merritt but from Kamloops and so on.
HON. A. FRASER: What size? Oh, now the contractors want trucks and pups for gravel, but they also will hire some standard tandem trucks.
I mentioned that all the contracts on the job are the low bidders.
I appreciate the observations of the member for North Vancouver–Capilano (Mr. Ree) that his family has had some historical background in there, and I appreciate the remarks he made.
The member for Nelson-Creston (Mr. Nicolson) — I wasn't sure, but I've had no less than 4,000 letters about the Jumbo Pass and why it's so necessary in our highway system, but I've answered most of them. It really hasn't got a priority in our ministry, but maybe that could come up again in the estimates.
The member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Mr. Davis) — I appreciate his remarks on user-pay; that's correct. It just reminds me, Mr. Speaker — I shouldn't say this — that the member wants, I believe, a tunnel to Gabriola Island.
MR. DAVIS: A ferry link.
HON. A. FRASER: Pardon me. But I've heard a lot of things in this Legislature, and I'd remind this Legislature and a lot of you people who are still here that I know a member of this Legislature who said we should build a tunnel from Vancouver to Prince Rupert.
The member for Mackenzie (Mr. Lockstead) said he's opposed to tolls, and that will be on the record. I think you mentioned the poor who can't afford that. Quite frankly, we're not asking anybody to use the road. As I said in my opening remarks, we have two excellent highways — in spite of your remarks — that serve the interior to the coast and the coast to the interior. I refer to the Trans-Canada as well as the Hope-Princeton. We're not forcing anybody to use the Coquihalla toll road.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: It's the whole philosophy of tolls.
HON. A. FRASER: Oh, I see. All these things cost money, and this facilitates.... It takes a little sting out of it. One thing that hasn't been said — and I'll say this in closing — is that the government speeded up the Coquihalla to create work, but that also meant that maybe the government might have to borrow money, and this would help offset the increased cost of borrowing that money earlier. That was one of the theories and philosophies.
With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of this bill.
[ Page 6457 ]
Motion approved unanimously on a division.
Bill 2, Coquihalla Highway Construction Acceleration Act, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.
The House in Committee of Supply; Mr. Strachan in the chair.
ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
TRANSPORTATION AND HIGHWAYS
On vote 67: minister's office, $224,728.
HON. A. FRASER: I'd like to make opening remarks. They'll only take an hour or so. I would sincerely like to say that this is a prepared text that I worked on for three months.
Regarding the estimates for the ministry for this fiscal year, I should have some staff show up here. I wanted to introduce them, but I guess they've left.
The government's economic renewal program is emphasized in the budget provided for our ministry for the year '85-86. Special funding is specified for two major projects: the Coquihalla Highway, which we've just discussed, and the Fraser River crossing at Annacis. These two projects have generated opportunities for private sector contractors to recover from the recessional period of the early eighties, to provide and maintain employment for their many workers. During the peak summer months of 1985, there will be in excess of 3,200 on-site workers, with a further 500 employed off-site, such as steel fabrication. In addition, 800 ministry and consulting engineer staff are engaged in the design and construction supervision of the more than 100 contracts involved.
Direct employment created by the renewal program for special highway capital construction in '85 is 4,500 jobs. Spinoff benefits to the private sector providing materials, transportation and other services will result in at least a further 6,000 jobs, making a total of 10,500 persons employed during this construction season as a result of the special highway construction program.
In addition to the economic renewal program, opportunities for private sector employment are provided by the general highway capital program. Construction and reconstruction of highways in other areas of the province will create some 2,000 direct jobs and a consequent spinoff of a similar number in supply and support industries. Collectively, highway construction and reconstruction in the province will provide direct or indirect employment for an estimated 14,500 persons in 1985-86.
While the thrust of the budget for 1985-86 is towards job creation through accelerated construction programs, other services provided by the Ministry of Transportation and Highways will not be neglected. There will be an increased capability for emergency health ambulance service by the acquisition of another jet aircraft. This will increase the number of dedicated air ambulance aircraft to three, and increase the ambulance flying hours to a minimum of 3,000 in the present fiscal period.
As you know, the B.C. Ferry Corporation is my responsibility. Planning for the future is an item important to successful operation, as traffic flows and demands alter constantly. One major change this past year was the lifting of the Queen of Alberni and the installation of an additional vehicle deck. This ferry is currently operating on the Horseshoe Bay–Langdale route, with capacity increased to 300 cars, compared with the previous 145-car capacity. Other operational changes this past year included construction at Tsawwassen, Swartz Bay, Departure Bay, Horseshoe Bay and Langdale. New facilities include an additional upper vehicle ramp, enlarged vehicle holding areas, new waiting-room, and resurfacing of the vehicle loading area.
In terms of future direction. B.C. Ferries introduced Adm. Andrew Collier as president and chief executive officer, commencing December 1, 1984. Adm. Collier brings a wealth of experience in heading up a large marine organization, as he has been both an admiral in the Royal Canadian Navy and commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard.
New, stronger colours are evident on some B.C. Ferries vessels now, and other vessels will be completed during normal refit and painting. The prominent display of the Expo 86 logo on the funnels of B.C. Ferries vessels will reinforce to visitors and residents the awareness and excitement of the coming exposition in Vancouver.
I can tell you that the B.C. Ferries Inside Passage route is receiving a great deal of attention this year. During the summer of 1985 all sailings will be almost totally during daylight — a change from the past, when most trips operated during the evening for a portion of the journey. What I am referring to there is the Queen of the North operation from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert with a stop at Bella Bella.
Significant changes are being implemented in the motor vehicle department that will provide an improved service and a safer environment for the citizens of the province. In the matter of safety, child restraint legislation became effective on March 1, 1985; at the same time a more rigorous testing program was introduced for the testing of motorcycle riders.
Bill 45, Transport of Dangerous Goods Act, has passed third reading, and the department has established an implementation plan to bring into effect the provincial requirements in line with the federal regulations. I would like to comment here, Mr. Chairman, that our Bill 45 that we passed in the Legislature is to support the federal legislation, and there has been a lot of discussion going on about what time it should take effect. The Minister of Transport for Canada has said July 1 right along, but all industry is very much opposed to that effective date because of the cost impact and so on, but it is my understanding, through the media yesterday, that the federal minister said he was not going to back down, and it would be law and put into effect on July 1, 1985.
The draft regulations for a new commercial vehicle inspection program are being reviewed by industry, and the regulations and standards are scheduled for completion by the end of May 1985. The program is scheduled to be introduced on a phase-in basis in September, with a mandatory date for inspection to be established January 1, 1986. A total of 9,500 vehicles were inspected at roadside check-points in 1984, while 2,500 school buses were checked on a semiannual basis.
Standards for a school bus permit system have been drafted and have been reviewed by industry. Final changes are now in progress, with a view to early implementation,
New federal legislation dealing with impaired driving and dangerous driving charges under the Code will initiate amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act, and drafting is now in progress. The Attorney-General is also planning to introduce
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amendments to address challenges under the Charter of Rights, including 24-hour prohibitions, potential blood samples, service of notice and motorcycle helmet legislation.
The ministry is not concerned with highways alone. We'll be spending about $80 million on ferry services this year, including a $40 million grant to the B.C. Ferry Corp. and close to $40 million for the Highways ministry ferries.
We'll be providing grants of $6,650,000 to the B.C. Railway. Those grants will go towards the passenger service to Lillooet and Prince George from North Vancouver and towards the operation of the Fort Nelson extension. I would emphasize that the Fort Nelson extension is a subsidy freightwise, not passenger-wise.
Our grants for airports will be increasing, with more than $2.5 million budgeted for grants under the air transport assistance program. We have issued 150 grants to more than 60 communities since the air transport assistance program started seven years ago. These grants have helped communities build new airstrips and pave and upgrade existing strips throughout the province. We have improved the safety of air travel, opened up access for air ambulance service to a number of communities and laid the groundwork for new scheduled air services. With deregulation of air carriers at the federal level, there is renewed interest in the scheduled air service in places like Atlin, Dease Lake, Merritt, Pemberton and Salmon Arm, as just a few examples. All of these communities and many others have benefited from the ATAP grants in the past, and we plan to make further progress this year.
I would just say I look forward to discussion of the estimates of the ministry. Before I sit down I'd like to introduce the people that actually do the work: my deputy minister, Al Rhodes on my left; Tom Johnson, assistant deputy minister; Keith Jackman, superintendent of motor vehicles; and George Baldwin, the boss of B.C. Ferries.
MR. PASSARELL: I am pleased to see the minister's able staff in the House. I haven't seen so many chairs being moved around since the minister last made his speech up at Charlie Lake. I know it's important to have his able staff here. They have been very helpful to me whenever I've had to go to the ministry to ask questions.
I have about seven or eight provincial issues to raise, and then I'll move onto the favourite of my constituency issues, Bailey bridges.
We'll start off first with the motorcycles. When the ministry brought in the new regulations regarding motorcycles, that was just about the time I was going through the testing to get my licence, and I appreciated it. One concern I have is these little mopeds — and maybe Mr. Jackman knows about this — that they are renting around Victoria and other cities. You just go with your class 5 and you can rent these little things. They have speed limits of 30 to 40 miles an hour, and you just go in.... I see a lot of kids — teenagers and people in their early twenties — renting these things with a class 5.
1 think the government has to bring in legislation to cover these little mopeds that are skirting around, because they have no training whatsoever. They are almost like bicyclists. Many bicyclists know the rules of the road, but there are too many that don't. With these kids just picking up these mopeds on a class 5 and scooting around Victoria, I think we have to address motorcycle legislation, because you can be killed just as easily on one of these hitting somebody at 20 miles per hour as you can on a bigger bike smashing into somebody. So I would like the government to move further in the direction of protection for motorcyclists, and to tougher legislation on that. I don't think you're going to find too many arguments from the official opposition on that aspect.
The second major issue I would like to discuss is air services. I think the air services branch provides one of the finest services of any government in Canada. The use of government air services and the ambulance service in the far north is something that many people in the lower mainland and the south take for granted. But for us in the far north this is an essential service in our health care — particularly after we've just gone through Bill 41 and some of the statements that were made last week concerning health care in the far north. The air ambulance provides excellent service in the far north. With the upgrading of airports, as in the communities of Atlin, Dease Lake and Smithers, it's going to be beneficial to residents in rural areas of this province to be able to be flown to the major health centres in Vancouver to receive topnotch medical care when an accident or a problem arises.
The third major provincial issue I'd like to discuss is the closing of the motor vehicle inspection branch. I don't know if the minister drives much anymore, but I certainly do. I've noticed since the closing of the motor vehicle branch that there are a lot more junks out on the road. There are people driving around with some pretty beat-up cars. I think this is a major safety concern, and any individual who drives is worried about it. After the closing of the motor vehicle branch, I don't know if it was just that people said, "Well, heck, I don't have to have safety on my car any longer," or if it was some kind of an impression that went through their minds, but there are a lot of junk vehicles out on the road today, and we've got to get them off the roads. I appreciate it when the ministry has safety closures, where they get six or seven ministries involved, as they did a few weeks or months ago at Golden on the Trans-Canada. That was excellent. But there are so many junk vehicles going around in the cities, and I don't know how you're going to be able to have those massive inspections, unless we have some kind of motor vehicle inspection branch reopenings, because people are just driving around with some real bad-news vehicles on the road.
Drunk drivers. I don't think you'll find a political party in Canada that won't support tougher drunk-driving legislation. There's a lot of concern out there — the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers — and we have to have tougher legislation on drunk drivers. I would think we could use some of the legislation that's used in Europe, in which if you get caught driving while drunk, you lose your licence and that's it maybe even a jail sentence in that regard.
When we get into the legislation aspect — and the minister touched on it under the Charter of Rights — I was quite upset when Judge Van der Pol, I think it was, threw out the suspension aspect that the government had. If I'm not mistaken, when an individual accumulates 81 points, the superintendent of motor vehicles has to act on it. And then some county court judge can say: "Well, that's okay. Under the Charter of Rights you should be back out there." That man's a menace on the highways. Anybody who accumulates those kinds of penalties for infractions against the Motor Vehicle Act should have his licence suspended for good. I think the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Smith) is involved in that case now, and I certainly hope that that would come back. I do think the superintendent of motor vehicles should have the right to say that an individual has his licence suspended when he accumulates 81 points.
[ Page 6459 ]
The sale of Pacific Coach Lines. I've already discussed this issue with the minister out in the hallway and sitting and talking with him. There are some problems, as I have told the minister, in regard to the cost, which has gone up, of the sale of Pacific Coach Lines to private enterprise. As this article states in the Times-Colonist for March.... The title of the article was: "PCL Sale — Job Total About 250 Says Union." Some problems have arisen, particularly on the Island here, with the sale of Pacific Coach Lines and the increased fares that have been charged. I have received letters from different individuals on the Island complaining about the problems associated with the sale of PCL, and saying that the new owners aren't providing nearly enough bus service to the residents of Vancouver Island.
Rail. I know it's a federal jurisdiction, but I'm wondering what the minister is doing to encourage improved passenger service between Edmonton and Vancouver in time for Expo 86. The mayor of Vancouver, Mike Harcourt, has spoken many times concerning improved passenger service between Edmonton and Vancouver in time for Expo 86, with the influx of tourists who will be coming to Vancouver. The train is an excellent way of travelling, particularly from Alberta to British Columbia — great scenery; it's a good old trip.
The question I have with regard to the BCR, which really doesn't fall under the minister's estimates or under his authority, is this: has the government made any further studies into extending the BCR up to Dease Lake?
We have an ongoing problem in this province in regard to regulating authorities for taxi licences. Sometimes when you go out to Vancouver International Airport, depending on how much ice is on the road or what, it's pretty difficult to get a cab. There are some problems, with discussions I've had with Transport Canada, in regard to the taxi stands out at Vancouver International Airport, as well as some problems in Victoria with taxi service and some of the problems that happened in the city of Victoria in regard to taxis. I would think there would have to be some further legislation in regard to taxi services in this province.
I know my colleague the hon. member for Mackenzie (Mr. Lockstead) will be discussing ferries under your estimates. Since we've just passed Bill 2, we can't further discuss that in the House till we get into committee on the bill, so that won't be brought up by me, and hopefully, after advice from the hon. friend at the head of the table there, it won't be further discussed.
Some local constituency issues. The minister is aware of the problems with Highway 37. It's unfortunate that we can't find a buyer for those Bailey bridges. It would be great if we could go off to Hong Kong or something and say, "Hey, we've got a deal for you," and be able to take all those Bailey bridges off Highway 37 that are spread out around the province and be able to get a buck from them. They're dangerous, those Bailey bridges. With more and more....
MR. PASSARELL: Oh, yes. Back in World War II they were great — or World War I, or whenever they were developed — but in 1985 on a major highway such as Highway 37, it's about time that they were replaced, particularly with the.... The minister is aware of the increased amount of traffic on Highway 37, which is being pushed as the quickest route to Alaska. Then with Klappan coal being in operation and the shipment of coal down from Klappan to Stewart using Highway 37, there is a definite need to have those Bailey bridges replaced.
I don't know if the minister will be able to answer this, but within 100 years or so as a ballpark figure, when can we expect pavement from Meziadin north on Highway 37?
MR. PASSARELL: Not next year, but within the next 99 years, says the minister. I'll be able to go back and tell my constituents that the minister has said within the next 99 years we'll be able to have some pavement on Highway 37.
The Atlin road. There has been right-of-way clearing started, if I'm not mistaken, a year and a half ago on that. It has improved some of the safety aspects. Those boulders that I had discussed with the minister in his estimates last year have been replaced along the road. With more and more tourists coming into Atlin from the Yukon on their way to Alaska, there definitely has to be an improvement on that road. It's only 30 miles from the Yukon border to Atlin.
There has been a big improvement, as I said earlier, concerning the airport construction, particularly in Atlin and Dease Lake. Dease Lake has its blacktop now. Are there any plans to blacktop the Atlin airport?
Another question is in regard to construction on the Telegraph Creek road. I don't know if the minister ever drove that or flew over that area. It's a very scenic road but very dangerous in a lot of aspects. I don't know if I have the solutions or the minister has the solutions, but I'm wondering if there's going to be any major improvement, particularly in regard to the bridge approaches. You have two major bridges on that road, and when you come down from the one hill — Tanzilla Hill — you almost have to be a stock-car driver to gain the approach onto the bridge without going off into the river.
Those were basically the issues I wanted to raise: the PCL bus sale; bringing back the motor vehicle inspection branch — the closures on that; drunk drivers; the air services branch — the excellent performance they provide in the province; motorcycles — I would like to see some kind of further licensing on those mopeds, even if they have to take some kind of test for 20 minutes before they can get on these little critters; the railroad; and the constituency issues.
I didn't use all my allocated 30 minutes on this, but I'm certainly sure that if I have some more questions I'll be directing them toward the minister.
[Mr. Ree in the chair.]
MR. D'ARCY: I would like first of all to thank the minister for recently calling a surfacing contract in my riding, which we had wanted and greatly needed for several years — recently awarding it, in fact. But I want to put in a plea that the minister would proceed as soon as possible in calling a second major contract on the west Trail approach.
His ministry was ready to go and did a lot of work in destroying a neighbourhood in west Trail in 1979-80. Apart from the many people and businesses who were displaced, changing the character of that part of town completely, the city of Trail alone has been out of pocket $30,000 a year in lost property taxes due to the Crown's acquisition of those properties. In addition, I'm not even counting whatever losses in school taxation there may be. I suppose in a city the
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size of Vancouver or some of the major lower mainland municipalities that might not be a big deal, but in a place the size of Trail that kind of tax loss is significant.
But the main reason for proceeding is that this particular improvement will replace a 1920s standard highway with hairpin turns so sharp on it that ordinary-sized transport trucks can't negotiate them. It's only one kilometre — an expensive kilometre, I agree — at the south end of a modern 60-mile-an-hour highway, but it's the busiest kilometre on that particular stretch of highway and is of extreme importance not only from a safety point of view and a commercial point of view but also in terms of operating efficiencies for the plants that would be bypassed by the removal of the present road. The minister knows, I think, that there is, I believe, around $1 million available federally for railway crossing removals. There are two crossings — one of three tracks and one of two — that will be bypassed by this improvement.
There are also significant benefits from a safety point of view to the city of Trail due to the relocation of services and improvements made on the culverting of Trail Creek. I'm sure the minister will remember in 1969 that there was significant damage in the city of Trail. It was not the ministry's fault, but there was significant damage due to flash-flooding on Trail Creek in west Trail. The city and the ministry have long since agreed that as part of this project they'll make significant improvements here. That again is an urgent need to proceed with.
But the main need, Mr. Chairman, is that the public in that area have returned a great deal of revenue to the province over the years. This is not just a 1940s or 1950s highway we're talking about replacing; it's a 1920s highway that ordinary vehicles can't negotiate — ordinary licensed vehicles. Standard-sized trucks can't negotiate it at all and have to take a detour to get around.
One contract has already been completed for a number of years now. The public looks at that one contract, at the ravaged part of west Trail, and they see a scar on the hillside and a brand new bridge built for the CPR, and say: "What the heck is going on? There's nothing more going to happen here." That's what that first contract did. It removed a lot of property improvements and built a new bridge for the CPR.
Another constituency point I want to bring up with the minister is that the Pass Creek Road, due north of Castlegar, originally and perhaps still intended to be a day labour project.... In fact the urgency and gravity of this particular project no doubt should warrant a contract job. When I inquire about it, I keep hearing from ministry officials and from regional officials: "Well, we've got a water problem with Raspberry-Robson, and we're doing more studies." Mr. Chairman, I sympathize with the water problem in the Raspberry-Robson improvement district, but the fact remains that the public have to use the road, and it's way overdue to be improved. It's very narrow; it's very dangerous. It was never properly constructed in the first place; it's essentially a grader mix over the top of a fairly primitive road which was never properly constructed from the point of view of compaction and the correct placing of materials. It's heavily travelled by logging trucks. The residents who have to use that road consider it a major hazard, particularly in winter.
I have one other point I want to bring up here — without taking too much time of the committee — and that is the Trail bridge. The bridge itself is very functional, but partly because it's in the immediate lee of Cominco's smelting operations it has a real corrosion problem. Even though it was repainted in the mid- 1970s, it is in drastic need of a repainting job. I don't know how bad these things have to get before there is structural damage to a bridge; but it's gone beyond a point where it's an eyesore, Mr. Chairman, to the point where, I believe, structural damage could occur if the cancerous parts of the girders aren't sandblasted out and refinishing done, urgently. I want to point out that part of the problem — I think everybody concedes — is the proximity of the bridge to the Cominco smelting operations. But certainly if you have to start having to replace steel work, it's going to be very expensive.
One general comment, Mr. Chairman. Because the ministry and Treasury Board have decided to put essentially all projects into two baskets, the Annacis crossing and its attendant highway improvements, and the previously discussed Coquihalla route, the rest of the highways all around the province — and I'm not just talking about my riding; I'm talking about everybody's riding, on both sides of the House — are being neglected. I do a fair amount of travelling, and there are a tremendous number of major routes which are in dire need of resurfacing.
There are a major number of projects which are outstanding, from a traffic flow and a safety point of view, throughout the province. I know that the minister simply can't call up Treasury Board and request funds; but the fact is that the decision to do these two major projects and put all of the resources into them has denied whole areas of the province. I'm not just talking about the West Kootenay; I'm talking about the East Kootenay, the central interior, the Okanagan, Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley, the north, the northwest, the Peace River. All are being denied highway funds for outstanding projects because of the tremendous commitment of resources. I do believe that megaprojects may rate the headlines, and he may get columns written in the newspapers about them; but everybody pays the bills, and only some areas benefit. We're past the time where we can continue to deny large areas of the province any highway construction, even though there are pressing traffic needs that have been there for a number of years, and a deteriorating highway system in which the people of this province already have a very large investment.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: First I was going to do something else here, but just to follow along with the member for Rossland-Trail, the point of my earlier remarks, when we were debating second reading of Bill 2, which I'm not going to discuss, was that it's my personal feeling and view that other areas of the province are being denied certain reconstruction jobs — I'm going to mention some in a few minutes — that should be done, in my own riding at least, while we're spending massive amounts of borrowed money on a large megaproject in the Coquihalla.
I wanted to open my remarks, Mr. Chairman, by saying that this particular minister and his staff.... Because of the nature of my riding — all kinds of highways, some good and some very poor, and lots and lots of sideroads — I get a lot of highway and road problems and ferry problems. The fact is that when I do write to the minister or to his staff, I get a prompt and long and detailed explanation. So I want to say off the top, before I get into the other part of this debate, that I
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appreciate that kind of response from that minister and his ministry.
However, I want to talk, first of all, about a couple of constituency problems, and then perhaps we'll get into some of the B.C. Ferries stuff.
Mr. Chairman, I know I bring this matter up every year; but we've had no major reconstruction on Highway 101, up the Sunshine Coast, since 1976 or possibly early '77. I know that there's band-aid work being done there all the time; it has to be, as the highway is collapsing here and there from time to time. Once again, I just want to go on record as suggesting to the minister continued reconstruction of that particular stretch of highway north of the Jolly Roger up eventually to Earls Cove and then into Powell River. It is not only required but would provide jobs for local contractors and local people who are out of work. In that area, we have at least 24 percent — I'm advised 26 percent — of the population out of work and receiving government assistance of some kind or other — UIC, welfare or whatever. So not only would we be improving the highways but we would be enhancing the opportunities for tourists that come into the area by improving those highways — and ferries, which we'll get to in a while — and providing local work. So there's one project.
While we're discussing Highway 101, the highway through the municipality of Powell River — and I know the minister has been there; it may have been two years ago, but things haven't changed at all; in fact, it's getting worse — has a section that is actually falling into the ocean. I know that the planners from the municipality of Powell River and people from the Ministry of Highways meet from time to time and attempt to perhaps outline or designate an alternate route through the municipality. But that has not been done, and I don't know why. It is either because Highways doesn't have the money, or the municipality doesn't have the money, or they can't reach agreement for some reason or other. That may not even be necessary.
I am informed by one of the Ministry of Highways engineers that for a relatively lower cost, although it would be quite a massive job, that highway along that route could be stabilized and perhaps be usable for many years to come. I'm not kidding you when I'm telling you of the tons and tons of rock and dirt.... As erosion takes place next to the ocean, this highway is falling into the ocean. There have been a few — and I'm happy to say not serious — accidents that I'm aware of on that particular stretch of highway. but nobody has been killed to date, as far as I know. So I hope you will take that into consideration.
There is another minor problem I've written to your ministry about. I haven't had a response yet, but I haven't perhaps had time to receive a response. This wasn't too long ago, but I want it on record. There's a large subdivision just north of quite a large Indian village called Sliammon involving lease lands. The native Indian people have control of the access road to that quite large subdivision along the waterfront. So just for the record — and I know this will eventually be brought to your attention, Mr. Minister — it is my understanding that the native Indian band is prepared to turn those access roads over to the Ministry of Transportation and Highways. I know that hundreds and hundreds of residents in that subdivision would prefer that the Ministry of Transportation and Highways maintain those roads, so I hope you will give that matter serious consideration when it comes to your attention.
I have one other matter dealing with gazetting of roads at Manning Park approximately a year ago, and I'm not going to go through the whole Manning Park charade here again this afternoon. But I just want it on record, Mr. Minister, that when a government agency was operating that park through the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing, one of the major costs, and the reason that operation was losing money, was that the parks branch at that time was responsible for the maintenance and snow clearing. It was a large item, up on the top of those mountains, as you well know, to the ski lifts and that kind of thing.
However, before the government decided to privatize the operation, to relieve the major burden of cost to the new private owner, those roads were gazetted and placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transportation and Highways, thereby removing that cost from the private owner and placing that burden of cost onto the provincial taxpayer. I'm not going to go through this chapter and verse, because I've already done that in this House, but I wanted the minister to know that.... Well, why did you not gazette those roads when the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing controlled that operation? They would not have shown a loss, and there would have therefore been no need to privatize. In effect, we sold anywhere from $12 million to S18 million worth of taxpayers' assets for $500,000. I'm still very unhappy about that, by the way.
One or two other items while I have the floor, Mr. Chairman. There are two single-lane bridges in the Bella Coola valley. I wrote to you about this last year. Since the floods about two years ago, they've been single-lane bridges. I think they are the Nusatsum and the.... I don't have the name of the other in front of me, although I can easily obtain it; but your people will know it. They're single-lane bridges, very inconvenient for people travelling up and down the valley, since there is only one road up and down the valley. Perhaps the minister would this year consider including in his budget some money to replace these bridges. They're not big, long, expensive jobs. In fact, one was a three-month temporary bridge, and has been there now for about two years. It's a wooden structure, and the next flash flood of course will wipe it out. We can expect a so-called minor flood up there once every three to five years, a bigger flood every ten years, and a monster flood every 25 years on the average.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: You think I'm kidding. The Ministry of the Environment, Mr. Member, has projected flood stages in that area up to 200 years — 200-year cycles. I just hope I'm no longer a member when the next 200 years comes around. There'll be nothing left in that valley, I can tell you.
Mr. Chairman, I want to change the topic a bit right now and discuss with the minister the B.C. Ferry Corporation. I happen to be debate leader at the present time for that. It has not changed a great deal since last year, except that the subsidy has been reduced. Consequently, there have been some further layoffs within the corporation over and above the 600 people who were originally laid off. There have been fare increases. As a matter of fact, our leader put forward a proposal a few months ago, which naturally I agree with. What else can I say? He's right in front of me. I'm being facetious; actually, Mr. Chairman, our leader put forward a proposal that fares on the B.C. ferries be reduced to increase usage of those vessels. You know, you're really working
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against yourself. Every time you increase those fares, fewer people use the vessels. Right?
AN HON. MEMBER: Wrong.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Come on now. Don't be so hard to get along with.
Anyway, fewer people use the vessels, so what do you do? You reduce the sailings and increase the fares again because you need the money because you've reduced the subsidies. Why don't you try doing the opposite? Reduce the fares. There are no tolls on the highways into Kelowna or the Cariboo.
[Mr. Strachan in the chair.]
AN HON. MEMBER: Not yet.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: Well, I guess there will be.
There are no tolls on the highways into Prince George or Kamloops. People up and down the coast are paying tolls, and pretty hefty tolls. In these hard economic times, people find it difficult. People on the lower-income level are making less and less use of those vessels. Therefore you have reduced usage, reduced traffic; so you reduce the number of sailings and increase the fares, thereby making it more difficult, and the cycle begins all over again.
You might want to consider that aspect. On the other hand, you might not. Who knows?
Also, Mr. Minister, for some time now you've had before you a proposal. In fact, your ministry has carried out a study relating to water transportation — i.e. ferry service — to Bella Coola. I know a study has been done on the cost of a roll-on/roll-off ramp for that area. On this particular question, I know you've written to the chamber of commerce, I think, or somebody up there, saying that because of restraint we can't do it at this time. But I just want to go on record as saying that people up there have not forgotten that proposal. I know that on one of your visits about two and a half years ago, you said you would give the matter serious consideration.
Also, Bella Bella has for some years been asking for.... As you well know, the Queen of the North stops in twice a week at that community — passenger service only, as there is no roll-on/roll-off service. That's Indian band property that's under primarily Indian band jurisdiction, along with the federal government. But I do believe that the band has made a proposal to yourself where they would in fact turn over a piece of property to the provincial government to be used for the purposes of a roll-on/roll-off service. I happen to know that before cabinet very shortly there will be a recommendation regarding the future of Ocean Falls. If that recommendation is to completely terminate that community, which it may well be for all I know — they wouldn't tell me what the recommendations are, but I know it may have gone to cabinet this week, as a matter of fact — then that ferry ramp that is currently in that community should, in my view, be moved to Bella Bella. However, maybe the government is going to reopen Ocean Falls and put in a big sawmill and pulp mill. That may be the recommendation. I hope it is, but I doubt it very much.
1 see my time is up, Mr. Chairman, so I'll take my seat, because I have a whole pile of questions to ask the minister yet.
HON. A. FRASER: I'd like to go back and try to respond to some of the questions that were brought out. I appreciate the questions.
First of all, the member for Atlin (Mr. Passarell) — motorcycle regulations, mopeds and so on. I have a note here from the superintendent on that subject: "The entire issue of mopeds is under review with Transport Canada and other provinces as the industry has introduced new types of small motorcycles. Issues under review include driver licensing and classification." I just might comment, Mr. Chairman, that the superintendent of motor vehicles isn't a very good writer; I can't read it. "An operation...moped requires a driver's licence." This is not the case in all provinces, but it is in British Columbia. They do require a driver's licence.
Inspection was commented on: it previously applied to Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster, the North Shore, Victoria and Nanaimo areas of the province. Aside from the major roadside inspection programs, many checks are being carried out by police, and on trucks by motor vehicle inspections.
While I'm dealing with the motor vehicle things, I'll just share with the member for Atlin his concern regarding the case of the driver of a vehicle that can, by the Charter of Rights, be thrown out of court when he has 80 points. I agree with your remarks completely, that he has no business on our road system whatsoever. My colleague the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Smith) went to court and was the prosecutor in the appeal, and he won. So everything is back in place. The Leader of the Opposition says that's all politics. Well, maybe he might be correct, but I'm real pleased to see that the law is back in place where it should have been in the first place, thanks to the Attorney-General.
The comment was made by the member for Atlin regarding the air ambulance service. Yes, Mr. Chairman, I'm real proud of the air ambulance service. We have three jet aircraft now confined...and that's all they do. I pay great credit to all the members of the air services. Whether it's Fort Nelson or the Queen Charlotte Islands, or it's the holiday season, 50-below-zero snowstorms, rainstorms or you name it, they go and bring higher medical care as requested by the medical people. In most cases they bring the patient to the lower mainland. They have some real experiences, I can assure you, but we're proud of the work they do. Their service is increasing all the time — the demand on that service — but they're proud of the work that they do for the citizens of British Columbia, and I certainly am as well. I'm sure we all are in this House.
You commented about vehicle checks and the condition of the vehicles on our highway system. It tied into the lack of motor vehicle inspection. I know that is generally conceived, and there may be something to it, but the point that I want to emphasize to the members is that it's against the law, Mr. Chairman. It's in the Motor Vehicle Act that you must have your vehicle in good condition at all times.
There have been some surveys made — I've seen them where in the United States in different states they have had vehicle inspections. They can't tie the two together, the experts, that there is really any difference. The point that I want to make is that it's against the law. I deal with the superintendent in the RCMP of the traffic control branch. I
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meet him two or three times a year, and we get excellent cooperation and enforcement of our laws. Maybe we should be asking the superintendent of traffic for the RCMP, which goes out to all the fine officers, to pay more attention to the mechanical side and maybe de-emphasize catching people going to work ten kilometres an hour faster than they should and getting three points. It is against the law, and I notice the same thing myself.
You mentioned Pacific Coach Lines. Pacific Coach Lines was privatized by our government, and that was a philosophy or government policy. I understand Pacific Coach Lines are making money. You say that in the private sector they aren't providing the service, and they've got their rates up and so on. I would just say that I'm delighted with the operation of Pacific Coach Lines in the private sector. I think they're giving good service, but I remind the member that all their increases are approved by the Motor Carrier Commission, as well as the adequacy of their schedules. If people have a complaint, I'm sure they'll find that they will be attended to by the Motor Carrier Commission, which, as you know, is part of this ministry.
You mentioned the Edmonton-Vancouver rail service. Yes, that's right: a lot of people made a lot of noise about it. I didn't, but on behalf of the government I congratulate the Minister of Transport for reinsituting VIA Rail from Edmonton to Vancouver. Of course, that has taken place, and we fully support that. But I'd just like to make a comment, Mr. Chairman, that there are going to be horrendous costs involved, and I don't know how long that will last, but we're certainly going to have better and more frequent VIA Rail service starting now and through Expo and so on. I think we're all thankful for that.
You mentioned B.C. Rail. The only responsibility I have for B.C. Rail is in our inspection branch. We're responsible for the safety of B.C. Rail, their tracks and equipment and so on. I think I can safely say on behalf of our government that I've never heard any discussion about any further work on the Dease Lake extension. I'm not saying that that might not come up, but it's a fairly dormant issue now.
Regarding the taxi service, whether it's in the Vancouver airport or Dease Lake or wherever it is, there are a lot of things that can be desired, in my opinion. As you know, we have city licensing authority and we have provincial authority with taxi services. I might say on behalf of the Motor Carrier Commission that they've had a look at the taxi operation in the greater Vancouver area and they were not prepared to recommend going to a regional licensing system at this time. I've had complaints from MLAs and from citizens about the condition of the vehicles, the condition of the drivers, and how they operate, and I've passed those on to the authorities and know they've had vehicle checks and so on — as a matter of fact, as recently as this current year, particularly around Vancouver airport.
We have a situation that the Vancouver-licensed cabs don't want to see any cabs operating from Burnaby or the North Shore, and there are lots of problems there. I haven't got a resolution to the problems, but I think we're going to have to come up with a solution somehow before Expo 86 so that our visitors to our country anyway get better service than it appears they're getting. It's a highly involved subject.
Highway 37. I'm sure that's in your riding, Mr. Member from Atlin, and I can tell you this. You mentioned Bailey bridges. I wish I knew Mr. Bailey, because that's the best device — I'm sure the chief engineer will tell you — that we have. When one of our fine bridges falls in the water, and it does, Mr. Bailey comes along and gets them across pretty fast. I think they're a great thing, but they're one of these things, Mr. Member, that are put in on a temporary basis and sometimes they become.... Somebody told me once that there's nothing more permanent than anything you call temporary. We have lots of Bailey bridges on Highway 37. Our program really is to eliminate about three per year. I think we've held our word on that for two years. I don't know whether we can.... Certainly the program is to get them eliminated wherever we might have them. Certainly we have our share of them on Highway 37.
With Highways 37 and 37A, just for your information, Mr. Chairman, we're talking about a highway 800 kilometres in length, and at the present time we have half of it paved — 400 kilometres. That has happened in the last ten years. We intend to keep up with that, but it will probably slow down a bit from the pace we've had.
The Telegraph Creek road. I've driven the Telegraph Creek road, and you're right, it is quite a challenge. At the present time we haven't got any plans to upgrade it, so we'll have to continue to negotiate the road........ As long as you drive it according to the posted speed, you can make it all right. As you know, we maintain it.
You mentioned the Atlin road from the community of Atlin up to the Alaska Highway. You're right, we have done some improvement on it, but there's always room for more, in my opinion. I'd like to see that road paved someday, but I don't think the local citizens are that concerned about it. But we are going to continue to upgrade it.
The Atlin airport. As you know, we spent a lot of money developing the airport. We have no plans to pave it for this year, but we have a good gravel strip now, as you know.
Mr. Chairman, the member for Rossland-Trail (Mr. D'Arcy).... We've got the west Trail approach, as we call it in our ministry. We started on it, and we certainly have Smelter Hill.... We have had the pause that refreshes, as I call it. To answer some of your other questions, the railway overpass is complete. The next phase is to move the utilities to Cominco, rechannel Trail Creek and build a new road. Our engineers estimated the cost of carrying that out to be $8 million.
The member for Rossland-Trail said something about federal dollars. I think the House should know that we had the urban transportation assistance program with the federal government. That applied to all provinces, to help eliminate railroad crossings and so on. It disappeared, along with the Liberal government from Ottawa. When they went down, so did the UTAP program. I have personally been to Ottawa to talk to the new government about renewal of UTAP, or whatever, and the sharing of this important program. The answer I got from the present Minister of Transport for Canada was: "Surely you, Mr. Fraser, don't want us to renew a Liberal program." We're still negotiating, and they're promising — of course, they have to look Canada-wide — that they'll have a program to replace it in the fall. But the way it's working in our province and, I guess, in most other provinces is that there certainly won't be a bean for the fiscal year '85-86. So that's where sharing with them on that is.
On the observation that the highways we have are neglected because of the megaprojects, I'd say that it's not the intent of the government for that to happen. I don't think it is. Half our budget is for the existing highway system, if you
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look at it that way, and the other half is for the two projects to improve the highway system — for Annacis and the new extension to it.
The member for Mackenzie (Mr. Lockstead) said Highway 101 is falling into the ocean at Powell River. I'm not sure what they say about it, but I know this has come up before. It is settling toward the ocean and we're continuing to monitor it. It reminds me that my home in Quesnel is slipping into the Fraser River and they're monitoring that, but they've got to do more than that fairly soon or it will be in the river. Maybe it's the same case at Powell River and the ocean. The engineers don't consider it a problem, but a stabilization program will definitely be required.
There was another comment from the member for Mackenzie, but I didn't quite catch it. I wrote down a note to myself, "Subdivision," but I don't see....
HON. A. FRASER: I don't know whether I got an answer on that, but I will get it.
But I do have the roads in Manning Park. As you know, Mr. Member, this came up in the House earlier. The answer I have here is that these roads were made public to provide year-round access to the public campsite near the ski area. The answer is definitely that they were made public, and I guess that was around the time of privatizing that operation.
Regarding the bridges in the Bella Coola valley, design work has been done. They're not on this year's program. Existing bridges were jointly put in, sharing with the forest company. They are structurally adequate, but I emphasize "structurally" adequate. That might not say that they're adequate for the traffic, but they're structurally adequate as far as the engineers are concerned.
I would say, though, regarding the Bella Coola valley, that we have replaced all kinds of bridges, and we still have a few left to go.
HON. A. FRASER: Yes, the timber ones, and we'll get around to them. But you know, we have replaced a lot of them with concrete bridges in the last ten years.
I want to say something about B.C. Ferries. The member for Mackenzie commented that we continue to raise the fares. That is correct. But you suggested, and it's a popular thought, that we reduce the fares to increase our loading and it would have the same effect. I don't think we agree on that philosophy.
The facts with B.C. Ferries are.... I hope to be able to table the annual report in the Legislature this week or next for the year ending March 31, 1985 — fairly current information. You will note from that that the usage of the ferry system is going up, not down. There are a lot of changed things going on in the utilization in the B.C. Ferry system. As an example, route 2, which is Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, is now a busier route most of the time, certainly commercially, than route 1 from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay. That's a new change in the last couple of years.
A lot of things are changing, but generally speaking, thank you very much, business is fairly good. Admittedly, we could haul more. You mentioned the poor people, and I would just say that as long as they're 65 or over, I don't know how much freer we can get. They travel free. I qualify:
Monday through Thursday they travel free as passengers but not their vehicles, as I understand it. But I don't know how free we can get. In other words, we do consider those sorts of things.
Getting to Bella Coola and the ramp there, I just recall that they had a fire at Bella Coola, and the Minister of Transport for Canada replaced the dock there. We almost demanded that we would go in with them on a roll-on, roll-off for a replacement, and they just said: "Get out of our road, and we're going ahead. We're not going to help in any shape or form." I don't see any hope or justification that we can go into Bella Coola with that type of service.
Bella Bella. Of course we're stopping there now, but you are correct, just on a passenger basis. The Bella Bella band met with me the other day. You say that they offer land access. It wasn't clear the way you put it, but they turned land over. When they met me the other day, they said they'd turn land over for roads to access the airport they're building. You know, we're quite happy about that, and we'll be working on that to work out an agreement. But I didn't know whether you were tying that.... At the present time we're not looking at a roll-on/roll-off at Bella Bella. Again, another Ministry of Transport dock or the natives or both.... We did look at it at one time, but we're not looking at it now. They are of course serviced by the private sector for their commodities.
I think, Mr. Chairman, that covers most of the questions asked so far.
MR. LOCKSTEAD: I won't be too much longer. I just wanted to finish off this line of questioning. First of all, I'm pleased to hear that the use of the service of the B.C. Ferry Corporation is increasing. If it is increasing, then I would suggest that we increase the number of sailings between all points. I know that the summer schedule will be coming into effect, I believe, on June 26.
1 must say that this year we are going to have one extra sailing up on the Sunshine Coast as well. We had a horrendous problem there over the last two years, and that extra sailing in the early afternoon is going to make a great deal of difference. I appreciate that.
Now I wonder if the minister could once again tell us about the federal provincial subsidy. The subsidy, as you will remember, was granted in, I believe, 1977 by the federal government when the Northland Prince went out of service and — I forget the name of the navigation company; Northland Navigation, thank you — went out of business. That $5 million subsidy at that time was to be used exclusively, as I understood it — I have a copy of the contract before me — to service the central north coast of the province.
That subsidy consequently has gone up to.... The figures I have here for 1984-85 are $14.38 million, and much of that money once again will be going into general revenues. I know I've asked the minister this question every year, but I know that people in Prince Rupert, the central coast and the Queen Charlottes want that full federal government subsidy to go directly into that northern route. The minister knows that. I am just, once again, on behalf of those people living in that area, telling the minister that they want that full federal subsidy to go into the north coast operations of the B.C. Ferry Corporation.
One other matter, minor to some people but........ Through order- in- council the Highways — operated vessel Princess of Vancouver was put, because it's considered to be a major route, on the same fee schedule as the B.C. Ferry
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Corporation's major routes — you know, whatever it is for vehicles and passengers at the present time. But there was an exception: school groups, sports groups or groups of any kind, who on written notice to the appropriate toll booth can get a group rate, a reduced rate for these purposes. However, I recently have found out, because of the complaints coming into my constituency office, that this does not apply to the Princess of Vancouver, and if I'm wrong, and I hope I am, then the problem is we will have to let people — and this is the Highways side — know what is happening. Letters should be going out to these people, because through order-in-council it's my understanding that the fee structure is the same on that one Highways-operated route as it is for the B.C. Ferry Corporation; yet I have these groups of people coming to me telling me that they cannot get the group rate on that particular vessel.
Last but not least, there's one more minor matter dealing with the Queen of the North. I happen to know that on Saturday, May 25, the Queen of the North was made available for entertainment and brunch aboard the Queen of the North — which is fine; I'm not too uptight about that yet, depending on the minister's answer. But I wonder if the minister could tell us whether the ferry corporation paid for that cruise, or the government, or Expo, or Swiftsure. Who exactly paid for that cruise, and how much money was involved? How much did it cost?
HON. A. FRASER: The member for Mackenzie brought up the perennial question of the federal subsidy, and I just want to relate my version of it, or the government's version. First of all, our government negotiated the arrangement with the federal government of the day in 1977, and it was a five year arrangement and renewable or open to negotiations on renewal, which would mean that that expired in 1982. I think you're right; it did start at around $5 million, but it had tied to it a clause that it was tied to the Vancouver cost of living index. You're correct again that this last year that we're in, 1984-85, it's got to about $14 million — maybe a little more but not $15 million.
Getting back first of all to the five-year side of it, as one of the ministers of government I got concerned where they stood — that is, Ottawa — and I was told to be quiet and the cheque would keep coming. That's the arrangement we still have. They just add on, and if the index.... So that's the arrangement at the present time, and quite satisfactory, and I might say that the money, yes, goes into general revenue and that's government policy. But in this current year, the government subsidized B.C. Ferries $40 million out of this same general revenue pot, so what we're talking about is $14 million from the federal government, the people of Canada, and $26 million coming from the people of British Columbia, who are also Canadians; that's the way the arrangement works. It's satisfactory as far as we're concerned, but I just make the observation that the Deputy Prime Minister — I refer to the Hon. Erik Nielsen — is on that program of slashing, and maybe this subsidy is on his list. If it is, we haven't heard it, so we go along with the....
I want to make this one point, Mr. Chairman. We've discussed and debated before in this House that this was allocated to the central and north coasts. I think that was your remark. That isn't our government's version of it. It was to provide ferry service to the Pacific coast and we're doing that, and at a lot more than $14 million a year, I might tell you. I wish you would analyze what's actually taking place. In 1984 we lost around $9 million on the north run alone — we call it Run 10. I don't want to tell the member for Mackenzie what we lost on the central coast run, because it would upset him.
We've also, in the time of this subsidy, spent jugs of money taking the first ferry service — B.C. Ferries — to the Queen Charlotte Islands. I think so far we've more than upheld our commitment to the government of Canada and the people of British Columbia. In other words, the subsidy hasn't even paid for the operating losses plus the installation of new docks at Skidegate and so on so that we could serve the fine Queen Charlotte Islands where 6,000 British Columbians live. They didn't have any service. Those things have been corrected. I don't think that we should be making a big.... I realize that you read into it each year.... I'm not saying that you do; they feel the same way at Prince Rupert. I tried to convince them that really they were getting a good deal and they should be happy with it, but they said: "Dry up and blow away." That's where we still are, but I maintain that we're doing a good job and maintaining a good service.
You mentioned coming down to the real facts of life the member for Mackenzie asked about the Queen of the North and the entertainment put on. By the way, that's a lovely ship. We brought that ship down here. We didn't bring it down; it was down for refit. After refit it was put out on display at Victoria, at Vancouver, on a strictly promotional basis. Invitations were issued. All you people got an invitation. I don't know why you didn't come. You'll have to tell your voters that. But we put that on for promotion. We're changing the system, as you know. I said in my opening remarks that we're going to a daylight cruise to promote it. I'm happy to tell you that the main part of that was to show that vessel off. People here and in Vancouver very rarely see that vessel, because it's on the north run. I'm pleased they have done that. It started on its day run on June 1, and on its first trip had one of the biggest loads they've ever had. It filled the motels at Port Hardy because they go early in the morning. We have a whole new concept. It seems to me that Port Hardy is happy with that. It's brought economy to them through the motel-cafe side, and the same thing is happening at Rupert.
[Mr. Ree in the chair.]
HON. A. FRASER: I'm coming to that. Mr. Chairman, would you put a binder on the leader of the opposition? He gets me off track. He's trying to do it intentionally, I think. We're getting down now to the nitty gritty and the cost. Well, I'll tell you what the cost was. Rather than pay it to radio and television and the Vancouver Sun, the cost for the display, as I understand it, was about $22,000. I'd say it wasn't a cost at all; it was an investment, because we're going to get more usability out of that fine service. That's what it's all about: to try to get our load factor up. Where that run last year lost $10 million, we're trying to get that reduced somewhat. Give us credit for something.
MR. MICHAEL: Mr. Chairman, I would like to direct some questions at the minister. There are a great deal of rumours floating around the constituency which I represent.
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One of them has to do with.... Once the Coquihalla Highway is finished to the city of Vernon, what is the intention of the ministry? Do they intend to take that highway from Enderby straight east through that agricultural land and through Mabel Lake, and on to Three Valley Gap? That rumour keeps popping up. I would like that question answered for the record, so I can get the story out to my constituents.
The second question directed to the minister has to do with the highway improvements from Sicamous to Revelstoke. We know that that's a single-lane highway. There are a lot of improvements needed there. The minister has indicated there'll be some money spent on that highway in this fiscal year. I wonder if the minister would be kind enough to let the House know approximately how much money he intends to spend on the Sicamous-Revelstoke highway this year and the precise time when we might expect some contracts to be let.
The third question, Mr. Chairman, to the minister is on the problem that we can anticipate between Enderby and Sicamous. Down the road, when we see the improvements to the Trans-Canada Highway from Sicamous to Revelstoke, along with the Coquihalla being completed as far as Vernon, what are the intentions of the ministry regarding improvements to that area? It's quite a winding road, it's reasonably narrow, and it's going to be very heavily travelled. I haven't seen any announcements on any amounts of money or plans as to what we might expect between those two communities.
Perhaps, Mr. Chairman, one other question — question number four: does the minister have any immediate plans to do something with the Trans-Canada Highway which runs through the municipality of Salmon Arm? It's creating a bit of a bottleneck there. The road is in need of improvement; it's certainly in desperate need of widening. Does he have any immediate plans to do some work in that area?
HON. A. FRASER: To the member for Shuswap-Revelstoke (Mr. Michael) — you know, this is where we announce new roads like we have with the Coquihalla and the Annacis bridge. I guess the media lose track of the fact that we've already got an existing highway system that.... Because of traffic increases they wear out — old-style engineering and that — and they have to be upgraded.
I made a statement this year that, yes, we are going to upgrade the Trans-Canada Highway. Our engineers say that when we go to upgrading on a major artery like the TransCanada, where in the past and up until now to get further capacity we have three-laned.... They have advised us — and we accept their advice — that for very little more money we'll four-lane instead of three-lane. We have heavy densities of traffic; they increase all the time. As an example: the Trans-Canada from Kamloops to Sicamous, Sicamous to Revelstoke, Revelstoke to Golden, and of course on to the B.C. — Alberta boundary. We are going to start on the upgrading process of that.
It's my information that the engineers, when they do call these tenders, will be building more or less on the same alignment on the Trans-Canada, but tenders will be based on four lanes. The engineers will decide where they feel we have the, I guess, unsafe sections and capacity problems. There's no question that all the way from Kamloops on the TransCanada through........ There are spots where the engineers have a higher priority than others. It's my information that one of the first jobs will be called this current year and will be in the vicinity of Yard Creek. Yard Creek is not far, if I recall, east of Sicamous.
I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, that in my opinion we have certainly some inadequate Trans-Canada Highway around Three Valley Gap and areas like that. We're looking there at real expensive rock work to get the width. Yes, the answer is that we will be getting going on that. We're talking a lot of money, and it will take a good period of time, but we are going to start upgrading that.
I would say also to the member that it's been discussed in our province for years that there was a parallel — and I think engineers looked at it — road to come out at Three Valley Gap that would go through Enderby and that was on the map. I might say that the government is not looking at that in any shape or form, and really has decided to get further capacity by four-laning the existing route. We are not looking at the route through Enderby paralleling the Trans-Canada and coming back out on the Trans-Canada roughly at Three Valley Gap. We're not looking at that at all. But we are aware — the member brought it up — that we are going to have capacity problems and in fact have some now, say from Enderby to Sicamous. We just have to get on and correct that, but I think it's safe for me to say that it would not have the highest priority that the Trans-Canada itself would have where we intended to start in the area of Yard Creek.
AN HON. MEMBER: There goes the Mabel Lake road.
HON. A. FRASER: I dream about the Mabel Lake road, Mr. Chairman. We've got two roads going to Mabel Lake, one out of Lumby and one out of Enderby. The one out of Enderby we've got just about finished. For the one out of Lumby I can't say that. We have more improvement to do. But they're rural access roads. A wonderful place, Mabel Lake. It actually has two accesses.
Really, what I've said here today is that different policies have changed somewhat with modern engineering and capacity problems, and that's the way it seems we're going to go. The only thing that will hold us up is money — the speed we do it.
MR. SKELLY: As the minister was answering questions I was leafing through some of his statistical reports for previous years. I guess everything changes in the Ministry of Highways, including the basis upon which they present their statistics. It's pretty hard to compare, Mr. Chairman, from one year to the next, what's happening in this ministry. Up to a certain point they did the statistics based on the fiscal year, and then suddenly they turned around and they did it based on the calendar year, so it's pretty hard to track these things down.
But one thing is fairly evident, and I think my colleague mentioned this earlier. In certain years the budget seems to go up substantially. Those years seem to correspond with election years. I suppose it's been a tradition, Mr. Chairman, in the province of British Columbia that every election year or just before the election.... In fact, you can predict elections by the amount of blacktop that's going down in the province.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
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MR. SKELLY: I've measured the number of kilometres of blacktop, Mr. Chairman, and who knows, it may be right on. I'm sure the Minister of Highways isn't going to call an election. He's just told, by the person who is, to put the blacktop down, and that's it.
It does seem that there is some correspondence between the elections that take place in the province, speaking historically, looking at the past. I was just reading through the section on paving contracts. In 1979-80 there was 709 kilometres of pavement contracted out; in 1980-81 there was 779; in 1981-82 it dropped down to 575 kilometres. I have to say, Mr. Chairman, that those years I was outlining were fiscal years. Then we switch to the calendar year 1983, and we all know that an election was called in April of that year and actually held on May 10. In 1983 some 1,066.8 kilometres of pavement were contracted out. This is rich with statistics, this little booklet, Mr. Chairman. Some 1,935,836 tonnes of asphalt were laid down by those contractors: a tremendous amount of work done in a single year, especially when you compare it with the statistics that the minister released today. For 1984 calendar year, they did 204.5 kilometres under contract — 1,066 kilometres of contracted paving in an election year in which they laid down close to two million tonnes of asphalt, and the next year, one-quarter of that sum, Mr. Chairman, and only 495,000 tonnes of asphalt — about a quarter of the previous year.
Now everybody jokes about the amount of blacktop that's laid down during election campaigns, and it's almost legitimate now in British Columbia that that happens. It's a historic fact, Mr. Chairman. But let's look at it from the economic point of view. That was, I suppose, a bit of humour in there, but I want to look at it from the economic point of view.
What happens with contractors who, during the rich years, buy equipment and hire people and arrange their corporate planning in order to get this work done? What happens to them during the lean years? I'm wondering if the minister has done a study of these paving contractors. What happened to them during the tough years, in 1984, for example, when only 204 kilometres of road in the province was paved? What happened to the equipment? Was it seized by the banks? Did the people who were involved in those paving contracting companies lose their investment?
MR. KEMPF: Look at what happened to them from 1973 to 1975, and you'll have your answer.
MR. SKELLY: I thought you recognized me, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I'm wondering if the minister has done a study. What happens to those paving contractors during the lean years? It's one thing to develop a planned system of improvement to the roads, of additional paving, of repaving old highways, and to maintain a consistent program of highway construction and highway paving and highway maintenance, recognizing the investment that people have made in the private sector, recognizing the commitment that people have made through education to be involved in the paving industry. Has any cost benefit analysis been done?
When you produce a big bubble in one particular year of paving contracts and then collapse it down the next year, how many people end up on unemployment insurance and welfare? How much additional cost to the people of British Columbia does that constitute? What kind of a loss in investment results when people's paving machines and equipment and whatever are seized?
I don't think that that's going to happen in this particular year, Mr. Chairman, with the Annacis crossing and with the Coquihalla Highway full speed ahead, with millions of dollars being paid out in overtime salaries, with equipment being brought in from all over western Canada. I don't think that's going to happen in this particular year. But what's going to happen after mid-1986, when all of these projects come to their conclusion, and then we collapse again? The equipment gets seized and the employees get laid off. The minister mentioned 3,200 employees on the Coquihalla system. As we go into Expo, the same with the people who are currently working on the Annacis crossing; they are going to be looking for work.
One of the serious problems that we have with this government in British Columbia is that it seems to lurch from one contract to the next. It seems to lurch from one megaproject to the next. There doesn't seem to be any consistent plan to maintain and develop a highway system, a plan upon which private industry can base their projections and their investment, and people in the labour market can base their needs and their future on consistent plans that are developed by the government. There simply does not seem to be that kind of consistent planning in British Columbia. Rather than that form of consistent planning, this government seems to lurch from one election to the next. There really is no long-term approach; rather, they are doing their planning from one election to the next, and I don't think that makes sense over the long term for the citizens of British Columbia.
Mr. Chairman, I have one other question. I'll enumerate the questions. One, what is on the drawing board for this province after Coquihalla is finished, after Annacis is finished? What major projects do you have on the drawing board that are going to keep these people in the paving industry and the construction industry working? It seems that there is nothing on the drawing board, and the minister hasn't mentioned anything to move the highway system into the future. Is there any kind of overall plan for the highways system in the province?
I understand that your ministry has done a survey of the highway network in British Columbia. In the survey it was estimated that the average surface life of a highway is maybe 18 to 20 years, and that one of the problems that your ministry has identified is that a large part of this network is now reaching the age of maybe 15 to 18 years, and it hasn't been reconstructed yet.
When you do your paving in those big election years, when you pave over 1,000 kilometres of highway, a lot of that is new pavement that's laid down, rather than attention being paid to the existing highway network and reconstructing the parts of that network that are becoming older and need rebuilding. I understand that there is some concern about your ministry.
I also would like to ask the minister what kind of communication you have with the highway construction industry and the paving industry and the unions in order for them to develop their investment plans over a longer span than three years, and in order for the trade unions involved in that industry — or maybe I should say the employees in that industry.... Trade unions, of course, are the organized people in that industry.
[ Page 6468 ]
MR. REID: They're the only ones you care about.
MR. SKELLY: We care about all of them; that's why we're concerned — in spite of the protests of that member from Surrey, who very seldom stands up to a mike in this Legislature, but spends a lot of time talking from his seat.
MR. REID: How would you know? You're never here.
MR. SKELLY: And he spends a lot of time checking my attendance. And I spend a lot of time checking the Premier's attendance.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order!
MR. SKELLY: Could you silence my members as well, Mr. Chairman?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would all hon. members respect the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has been recognized. All other hon. members will have their opportunity to participate in an orderly fashion within the minister's estimates.
MR. SKELLY: I was just trying to get out my last question here, Mr. Chairman, when I was so impolitely interrupted. My question was: what kind of communication does the minister have with the trade unions involved in the highway construction and paving industry — and with the other employee groups, if they exist — to make sure that they can develop their labour market strategies over a longer timeframe than the period from one election to the next?
HON. A. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, I just want to reply to the Leader of the Opposition. I appreciate his observations, but I must correct him on some statements that he made. First of all, dealing with the heavy paving in 1983, we were happy to get that done. But I don't know why you're upset over there. I would remind you that the election was on May 5, 1983, and all we had up at that time were the four-by-eight signs that we were going to do it. We didn't do the paving until we were sure we were re-elected. Then we did it.
HON. A. FRASER: Yes, we got those signs up before May 5, but we didn't do any paving so as to avoid embarrassing you people. We got it done afterwards.
MR. SKELLY: Some of the signs are still there.
HON. A. FRASER: No, those are all new ones that we have up — a continuing program.
Anyway, I couldn't miss that opportunity. We got heavily criticized, as I say, for not having it done prior to the election, but we were fair to you people and left it until after the people had voted. But then we did it, because we always carry out our promises.
I might say that there was a good-sized program — you're quite right — in 1983. It did roll over into 1984; we didn't finish. There was no election in the offing, even if you said there was, in 1984.
Regarding the paving industry, yes, the government, and I think any government, is concerned that that industry — the road builders and so on — try to have a stable program. But I would make the observation that, while maybe our record isn't that good, we have done fairly well in one way. The paving people and the road builders — the dirt movers — rely on us, yes, for one, but they rely on the municipalities and the federal government as well. They have their problems, but I think over a period of five years, talking to three governments, it balances out for them. They keep going. I might say, Mr. Chairman, that the paving industry as such built up enormously in the late '70s. They really built up to where we pretty near had too much capacity, and they have suffered somewhat for that, because they had at least double their capability of blacktop.
You talk about repaving and so on, and this is a continuing responsibility that the ministry has. The engineers say that the lifespan of our pavement is still 15 years. I'm not so sure of that, but we have some different areas of the province with different lifespans. They are saying that the average is 15 years. We have some areas of the province where our paving is not standing up five years, and some areas in the province where we've had pavement failures....
MR. SKELLY: Alberni.
HON. A. FRASER: No, I'm sure that everything went fine in Alberni. So I'm trying to say there are a lot of factors that are affected by the lifespan of paving.
I think the other point you were making was: who does the government deal with? The B.C. Road Builders' Association represents most of the major and the smaller builders. I deal with them. They have a body that deals with our ministry, and we have meetings. I'm happy to tell you that most of the B.C. Road Builders' contractors are union. They're represented mostly by the teamsters' union and the Operating Engineers. We get along fairly well. Yes, we discuss the things with them, to the point that recently our caucus had the Operating Engineers right at their caucus so we could discuss things. So I think things, communication-wise, are probably better than they have been for some time.
I take strong exception, Mr. Chairman, to the other side being worried about having four-by-eight signs up prior to an election. You know, we wouldn't.... We had them up, but we didn't do the paving, so it wouldn't affect the voters.
MR. SKELLY: Just a short question. Building a huge project like the Coquihalla Highway or the Annacis crossing requires a tremendous amount of materials and coordination of labour and materials and coordination with the private sector as well. I wonder if the minister would advise me for the Coquihalla Highway, for example: where does the asphalt come from? Does it come from refineries within British Columbia? Where does the material come from for that highway system?
HON. A. FRASER: Mr. Chairman, it's my understanding that the asphalt itself comes from Alberta and British Columbia — probably more from Alberta than British Columbia refineries.
Mr. Chairman, for the record, I said that I guessed the Queen of the North cost $22,000, but I didn't guess very
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well. I have a document here now, and I'll read it and then file it with the House. The MV Queen of the North, promotional expenses and returns, May 24 to June 3; this is when it was located in Victoria. Fuel, $2,500; docking at the Princess Marguerite dock, $4,100 — and I assume that's a fee for docking; catering, $1,200; docking at Ogden Point, $10,000; Swiftsure catering, $2,500; fuel, $1,800; for a total cost of $22,100 in Victoria. I was right for Victoria. Vancouver: fuel, $1,500; docking at Centennial Pier, $10,000; catering, $2,000; for a total of $13,500 at Vancouver, and a grand total of $35,600. That's the cost side; I think we should look at the revenue side. The sales from the exercise were: onboard sales, $13,000; package tours, $6,009; reservations centre, $17,103; for total revenues of $36,112 and an overall profit of $512. I am delighted to table this report.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I believe, Mr. Minister, you will have to table it within the House and not within committee. Ask leave at that time.
HON. A. FRASER: Excuse me, Mr. Chairman. Would you tell me where that law is?
MR. CHAIRMAN: You may not be in it at the moment, but if you remain here you'll be in it later.
MR. KEMPF: Well, isn't it funny, Mr. Chairman. Now that we have the exact figures, the socialists opposite don't want to see them. What's the difference when we table it? Facts are facts. It was great fun to make fun across the floor about the cost....
MR. KEMPF: I don't hear any squawking from the Chair. All I heard was from the socialists opposite. Mr. Chairman, it wouldn't.... Oh, let's hear it from a northerner.
MR. HOWARD: On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, it may be that the parliamentary secretary's salary has gone to his head and prevents him from hearing what the Chair said. It was the Chair that denied the tabling of the report.
AN HON. MEMBER: Dizzy with power.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the member for Omineca continue on Vote 67.
MR. KEMPF: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. If we got into an argument as to the size of heads in this chamber, I'm afraid the member for Skeena would lose. I don't hear him standing up to support the Queen of the North. I don't hear him as a northerner talking about what it is that that party.... The fact is that 5,000 Victorians were able, through an open house on May 24, to view the Queen of the North, and we sold that many dollars' worth of trips on the Queen of the North because of it. You don't hear the member for Skeena getting up to speak about that. You don't even hear him in his own constituency, I'll tell you, Mr. Chairman.
AN HON. MEMBER: How do you know? You're never there.
MR. KEMPF: Oh, yes, I'm there. I'm in his constituency more than he is.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please, all hon. members. The member for Omineca has been recognized. Would the other hon. members also recognize that and allow him to continue.
MR. KEMPF: Mr. Chairman, I commend the B.C. Ferry Corporation for the foresightedness of bringing the Queen of the North to Victoria, to allow 5,000 Victorians, outside of the party they speak of, to view the new Queen of the North, because we in the north are proud of that vessel. We're proud of that service.
I heard the member for Mackenzie (Mr. Lockstead) earlier talk about a greater subsidy. I'll tell you, Mr. Member, that not once in my constituency have I ever heard anyone complain about the fare. They know that the fare that they're paying is already subsidized to the tune of 50 percent, because only 50 percent of the cost of that service is paid at the fare box. They're happy with that. They're not like some other people I know who always have their hand in somebody else's pocket. They're proud of the Queen of the North.
I've been to Prince Rupert as well, and I know that the Prince Rupert people are very proud. They're not really concerned about the fare either. I take my minister to task over there. They're not concerned about the fare; they're concerned about the service, and they've got a good service. Sure, they had some concerns last fall when it was thought that maybe the once-a-week service would be taken away. It wasn't, and they're quite happy. They'll be very happy when they see the new Queen of the North, as it was shown here in Victoria, because she's a beautiful ship. She's a beautiful ship, and it's not just northerners who should see that, and that's why I commend the Ferry Corporation for the party they had, because it's about time. [Laughter.] The members opposite laugh, but it's about time that a few....
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The Chair is having difficulty hearing the member.
MR. KEMPF: It's about time that you people in the southern part of this rock as well saw what happens in the north — saw how for years you've been subsidized. I want to tell you, at no time do the people of the north want to be subsidized to the tune that the people on the Gulf Islands are subsidized with their ferry system. No siree, we'll pay our share.
You know, I heard the Leader of the Opposition talking about what might happen to the paving contractors next year in an off year, if next year is going to be an election, or the year after that. What's going to happen to them? They weren't concerned about that from 1972 to 1975, because I know what happened to them during those years: they left this province. In fact for two years, 1976 and 1977, you were hard pressed to find a paving contractor in this province. They'd all gone; they were all driven out by the socialist highway policy. No wonder the member for Prince Rupert (Mr. Lea) left that party.
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The Leader of the Opposition has all his facts. He's got all his statistics. The thing he didn't say, though — and he talked about the Coquihalla — is that the contracts on that particular project are coming in 40 percent under what they would have five years ago. I think that's good business sense to build those kinds of projects when the prices are that way.
MR. WILLIAMS: Depression prices.
MR. KEMPF: Well, ask the 2,200 people who are working up there right now whether they think it's bad. Ask them. Ask an industry that was hard pressed for jobs — the construction industry in this province; ask the workers that you speak of so highly as your supporters. I doubt that; I doubt that very much. Ask those 2,200 people who are working on the Coquihalla project — not just the 2,200 people working there now, but what of the 10,000 in direct jobs created by that project? I know that I can't talk about that. And what about the 15,000 spinoff jobs that will be created by the Coquihalla project? I can't talk about that either, Mr. Chairman. The socialists opposite don't have to worry about the paving contractors and what they might do in a lean year. They don't have to worry about it at all, because individual enterprisers, unlike socialists, don't expect somebody to hold their hand all the time. They don't expect somebody to look after them from cradle to grave. They'll look after themselves, thank you very much. They don't have to have government intervention to do that.
Mr. Chairman, I get a little worked up, particularly when a member from the north speaks out against the kind of thing that we've been trying to create in the north for a long time: a situation where people in the southern part of this province realize what it is that we in the north want, what we in the north deserve and what we in the north fight for — what some of us fight for; not all of us.
Mr. Chairman, I get just a bit worked up when I hear the kind of diatribe that came from the members opposite this afternoon in regard to the Queen of the North and projects that in fact are creating jobs during a very difficult world situation in regard to the sale of natural resources out of this province. Mr. Chairman, it's absolutely ridiculous. As a northerner, I'm proud of these projects. I'm proud of the Coquihalla and I'm proud of the Queen of the North, even if the member for Skeena (Mr. Howard) is not.
MR. HOWARD: Just a very brief comment for the record, Mr. Chairman. I listened very attentively to the second member from Oak Bay, who just took his seat, talk about the Queen of the North and the Ferry Corporation and so forth.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please.
MR. HOWARD: I'm sorry, I meant the member for Omineca. I apologize for that. It's very difficult to tell what he represents these days.
But I would point out, with respect to ferry visits to the north coast, that at one time just a few years back B.C. Ferry Corporation had a surplus in its sinking fund account of something in excess of $3 million that could have been available, had it been left there, to bring the B.C. Ferry Corporation into the port of Kitimat. It wasn't able to do it because the member for Omineca was one of those who urged the Minister of Finance to reach in and grab the money out of the B.C. Ferry Corporation and put it in general revenue. So if there was any cessation of ferry trips to the north coast, the member for Omineca is directly responsible for that. And people in the north and in Kitimat know the role that he, the member for Omineca, played in denying ferry service to Kitimat.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
The committee, having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. Gardom moved adjournment of the House.
The House adjourned at 5:48 p.m.