Hansard — Monday, March 24, 2014 p.m. — Volume 8, Number 7 (HTML) (2024)

2014 Legislative Session: Second Session, 40th Parliament
HANSARD


The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.

The printed version remains the official version.


official report of

Debates of the Legislative Assembly

(hansard)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Afternoon Sitting

Volume 8, Number 7

ISSN 0709-1281 (Print)
ISSN 1499-2175 (Online)

CONTENTS

Page

Routine Business

Introductions by Members

2277

Tributes

2277

MaryAnne Arcand

Hon. S. Bond

A. Dix

Introductions by Members

2278

Introduction and First Reading of Bills

2279

Bill 25 — Port Metro Vancouver Container Trucking Services Continuation Act

Hon. S. Bond

Bill M205 — Electronic Petitions Act, 2014

J. Shin

Statements (Standing Order 25B)

2280

Pharmacists

D. Bing

Mary Steinhauser

M. Farnworth

B.C. film industry

J. Thornthwaite

Community response networks for prevention of elder abuse

K. Conroy

Ethel Tibbits Awards

J. Yap

Pharmacists

M. Elmore

Oral Questions

2282

Government response to truck operators labour dispute and concerns of independent truckers

A. Dix

Hon. T. Stone

H. Bains

Portland Hotel Society audits and oversight

S. Simpson

Hon. R. Coleman

Penalty for overcut of non-beetle trees in Morice timber supply area

N. Macdonald

Hon. S. Thomson

B. Routley

Preparedness for oil spill response and wildlife recovery

S. Chandra Herbert

Hon. M. Polak

Tabling Documents

2286

Office of the Auditor General, report No. 14,Working Capital Management Since 2010

Orders of the Day

Second Reading of Bills

2287

Bill 17 — Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2014

Hon. S. Anton

L. Krog

V. Huntington

S. Chandra Herbert

A. Weaver

N. Simons

Hon. S. Anton

Government Motions on Notice

2293

Motion 9 — Government response to Judges Compensation Commission report recommendations

Hon. S. Anton

L. Krog

Motion 10 — Government response to Judicial Justices Compensation Commission report recommendations

Hon. S. Anton

L. Krog

Committee of the Whole House

2297

Bill 13 — Off-Road Vehicle Act (continued)

N. Macdonald

Hon. S. Thomson

Report and Third Reading of Bills

2299

Bill 13 — Off-Road Vehicle Act

Committee of the Whole House

2299

Bill 4 — Park Amendment Act, 2014 (continued)

S. Chandra Herbert

Hon. M. Polak

A. Weaver

V. Huntington

Report and Third Reading of Bills

2315

Bill 4 — Park Amendment Act, 2014

Royal Assent to Bills

2315

Bill 3 — Missing Persons Act

Bill 4 — Park Amendment Act, 2014

Bill 6 — Provincial Capital Commission Dissolution Act

Bill 8 — Budget Measures Implementation Act

Bill 13 — Off-Road Vehicle Act

Bill 16 — Supply Act (No. 1), 2014

Proceedings in the Douglas Fir Room

Committee of Supply

2315

Estimates: Ministry of Children and Family Development (continued)

C. James

Hon. S. Cadieux

M. Karagianis

Estimates: Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development

Hon. C. Oakes

S. Robinson

D. Eby

G. Holman


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MONDAY, MARCH 24, 2014

The House met at 1:35 p.m.

[Madame Speaker in the chair.]

Routine Business

Introductions by Members

Hon. T. Lake: I rise today to introduce the 25 B.C. Pharmacy Association members visiting the Legislature today, led by the B.C. Pharmacy Association's CEO, Geraldine Vance, and their board vice-president, David Pavan. I won't name all of the members who are here, but I hope members of the Legislature had an opportunity to visit with the pharmacy team in the legislative buildings here today. It's important to recognize the team because of the important care that they provide, the health-related services, ensuring we stay as healthy as possible.

Of course, their role in the health care system is very varied, from dispensing medications, which is probably what we know best, to monitoring patient health and progress, research, education of customers and patients on the use of prescriptions; and also working closely with physicians, nurses and other health professionals on drug decisions.

Will the House please help me welcome this important member of our health care team.

R. Austin: It's not often I get to introduce people who come all the way from the riding of Skeena, so it's with great pleasure today that I'm here to introduce Keith and Rosemary Goodwin, longtime friends, who are in the gallery today. Keith has spent his life as what he would call in his old country, the U.K., a chartered surveyor.

He got to a very high place in that profession and, in fact, was the national president of the Appraisal Institute of Canada. Very often these kinds of positions are dealt to people who live in big cities like Vancouver and Montreal and Toronto. But from little old Terrace, B.C., we had somebody who led a national institution.

His wife, on the other hand, has spent her life in another very important sphere of public life, and that is teaching our children as an early childhood educator. Not only has she been a kindergarten teacher for many years, but she's also taught at Northwest Community College to teach future ECE workers.

I'd like the members of the House to join me in welcoming them.

J. Thornthwaite: I have two sets of introductions today. First of all, closer to my heart, my daughter Zoey, her friend Parmis and her friend Megan, who have already been introduced to the House in July when they visited. But we've got an added advantage of Alicia.

Thank you very much for coming and joining us on spring break.

My second introduction is two people from the film industry, from Vancouver Film Studios. Vancouver Film Studios won the B.C. Export Award for digital media and entertainment in 2013. They're currently home to the hit series Arrow and Bates Motel,and they have spun off four companies since starting in 2000: Blackcomb Aviation, Pacific Backlot Services, Signal Systems and Gun Lake Pictures, all of which now employ 200 people. I would like to have a very, very warm welcome to Mr. Peter Mitchell and Mr. Jason McLean.

Welcome to the Legislature.

V. Huntington: I'd like to introduce three constituents of mine today who are visiting the House and my office — Michaella and Michael O'Connor and their daughter Hannah Miller. Would the House join me in making them very welcome.

Tributes

MARYANNE ARCAND

Hon. S. Bond: On Saturday in Prince George hundreds of people came together to remember and celebrate the life of MaryAnne Arcand. I'm sure there are members on both sides of this House who would be well acquainted with MaryAnne. She's described as someone who brought people together and was always ready to help. She was amazing. She never stopped. When she decided to go after a project, she dug in full force and never wavered until she got results. In fact, one of her favourite sayings — and I heard it often — was: "Let's just get 'er done."

Well, her celebration was indeed just that, as hundreds of people shared their reflections of their relationship with MaryAnne. She was taken far too quickly from us. She was diagnosed with cancer, and it was only a matter of weeks before she lost her battle — one of the ones where she wasn't actually able to bust that barrier.

[1340]

She was an incredible woman. She was 59 years old. I am very privileged to have called her my friend and was very grateful to have had an hour of quality time with her before she died.

One of the things that was most important to her was working on the Small Business Roundtable — many would know her from that — but I think, most importantly, talking about worker safety, particularly in the forest industry.

We will miss her, but no one will miss her more than her husband, George; her loving parents, Bill and Ditty DeWitt; her children, Harald Bartel, Willy Bartel, Tina Neufeld and Melanie Lockington; and the pride of her life, her ten grandchildren. I would ask the House extend
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the condolences of every member in this Legislature to MaryAnne's husband, George, and her siblings, her parents and, of course, her children and grandchildren.

One thing she had was faith about her future, and she reminded all of us that she was going ahead to get things ready. Her last comments to her family were: "I'll see you on the other side." We ask that condolences be extended to MaryAnne's family.

A. Dix: I want to join with my colleague in supporting sending our best wishes to George and their family. I was in Prince George last week when this happened, and it was on, of course, the front page. What I found remarkable in the time I was there was how many people asked me, "Had you met her?" and "What were your dealings with her?" and "What did you think?" because people in town were very, very proud of her. I know her family is. I know the member is. I know all of us are.

It's a huge loss for our province, and I join the minister in her very, very profound words.

Introductions by Members

H. Bains: In the House — they are already here, or they will be here soon, as they promised that they will be here — are Gavin McGarrigle, area director for Unifor, and Bob Orr, from Unifor — they will be here if they're not already in the vicinity — and Meeka Sanghera and Harmen Shergill from United Truckers Association. They are to bring home to this House the serious concerns their members face as truckers and their customers face. Please help me welcome them to this House.

D. Barnett: Today I have the privilege and the honour of introducing two very gracious ladies. I would call them young, but I might get in trouble. First of all, I'd like to introduce Grace McGregor, who is the director and chair of the regional district of the Kootenay-Boundary region. She is also chair of the Southern Interior Pine Beetle Coalition, and she is a member of the rural B.C. strategy we are working on. She gives her time and her energy continuously.

I'd also like to welcome another lady, Mayor Kerry Cook, from the city of Williams Lake, who is a great advocate of rural British Columbia, of mining, of forestry. Would the House please welcome them.

K. Conroy: I don't get to introduce family very often, so it gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce this group of family. My daughter Sasha here with her four children. Daira is 13, Ryen is eight, Aydenn is seven, and Kaelin is three months. I think Sasha just had to take him out of the chamber. You might have heard him.

They're also joined by a friend of the family, Rosa Cutler, who also has her six-month-old with her, and I realize she just had to take him out of the chamber too. But the three big ones are still here, so could you please join me in making them very welcome.

S. Sullivan: I'm pleased to introduce a resident of my riding, a graduate of Emily Carr, entrepreneur, graphics and identity consultant, who actually lives in the riding and even lives in my home sometimes, daughter of Lynn: Jenny Shipper.

[1345]

R. Fleming: I'd like to introduce Mr. Ben Hyman, who is the executive director of the B.C. Libraries Cooperative, which is an organization that works across the library sector and provides critical technology and infrastructure services for libraries and the people they serve at 243 public library service points across B.C. I look forward to meeting Mr. Hyman this afternoon, and I would ask the House to please make him welcome here today.

S. Gibson: I'm happy to stand in this House today and introduce a constituent, David Prentice, who is here for meetings in his role with the Christian Labour Association of Canada, also known as CLAC. With David today is Ryan Bruce, a friend to many in this House, who joins us in his capacity in membership development. I trust the House will make them feel very welcome today.

S. Simpson: As one of the members said, I don't often get to introduce family and that here, but I'm really pleased that my sister, Debbie, is here and her partner, Martin, and he who is often known to those of us in the family as Little Trouble, my nephew, Liam. Please make them welcome.

J. Martin: It's a great honour for me today to be able to introduce my father, John Martin Sr., and his wonderful wife, Audrey Martin. My father is a long, longtime resident of Richmond and an even more longtime supporter of the Glasgow Celtic. Please make him feel welcome.

M. Dalton: In the gallery today we have three special guests from Canadian Parents for French, B.C. and Yukon. We have Patti Holm, the president, from Kamloops; Greer Cummings, director and secretary treasurer from Parksville-Qualicum; and Glyn Lewis, the executive director, who lives in Vancouver.

There are 7,100 members of CPF in the province, and I'm one of them. They volunteer in the school about 26,000 hours every year. There are three delivery programs for French in British Columbia: French immersion, which has about 48,000 students; core French with 180,000 students; and intensive French with 640 students. French immersion has seen an increased enrolment for the past 16 consecutive years in a row.

I know when I was a classroom teacher, I found CPF to be a great help in promoting the language. Would the
[ Page 2279 ]
House please make them feel welcome and wish them bienvenue.

Hon. T. Stone: It gives me a great deal of pleasure to introduce to this House a good friend and constituent from Kamloops. Julie Ford is one of the many board members of the B.C. Pharmacy Association who are in Victoria today. She's got her hands full with two beautiful young daughters. She's actively involved in Kamloops. She comes from a great family in Williams Lake — a thriving irrigation business throughout the Cariboo and Kamloops. I want to ask the House to please make Julie Ford welcome.

Introduction and
First Reading of Bills

BILL 25 — PORT METRO VANCOUVER
CONTAINER TRUCKING SERVICES
CONTINUATION ACT

Hon. S. Bond presented a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Port Metro Vancouver Container Trucking Services Continuation Act.

Hon. S. Bond: I move that the bill be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

Hon. S. Bond: Today I am introducing Bill 25, the Port Metro Vancouver Container Trucking Services Continuation Act. Today the legislation being tabled is part of the immediate and coordinated action that the province is taking with the government of Canada and Port Metro Vancouver to address the work disruption at the ports.

The province's jurisdiction is limited but important. This act will impose a 90-day cooling-off period for the approximately 250 truckers who are members of the union Unifor. Every day that Port Metro Vancouver, Canada's largest port, is unable to move goods there is a significant impact on British Columbians and, in fact, Canadians.

[1350]

Much work has been done to date to address the issues impacting truckers, including developing a 14-point action plan to deal with their concerns. We are supportive of the federal government's decision to retain the services of mediator Vince Ready and have received assurances that Mr. Ready is available and can resume discussions immediately upon a return to work by the truckers involved in this dispute.

Our preference for resolving collective bargaining disputes is always through a negotiating process. The cooling-off legislation tabled today is the least interventionist of the options available. We believe that a 90-day cooling-off period is a reasonable approach that will require the parties to return to the bargaining table.

Introducing this legislation today is a necessary step in ensuring that future economic impacts are mitigated and comes after multiple attempts over the past weeks to end the dispute and to get Port Metro Vancouver back to full capacity. The disruption at Canada's largest and busiest port is impacting our economy, jobs and, importantly, our trading reputation.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill 25, Port Metro Vancouver Container Trucking Services Continuation 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.

BILL M205 — ELECTRONIC
PETITIONS ACT, 2014

J. Shin presented a bill intituled Electronic Petitions Act, 2014.

J. Shin: I move the introduction of the Electronic Petitions Act, 2014, for first reading.

Motion approved.

J. Shin: Petitioning has played a central part in our parliamentary practice for centuries. Currently only paper petitions are accepted in the B.C. Legislative Assembly. This bill complements this longstanding democratic tradition by allowing and recognizing electronically submitted petitions. We're at a time where voter turnout across Canada has steadily decreased to its all-time low. At such a time it is imperative that our provincial government does its part to promote democratic participation by engaging British Columbians in the political process in every way possible.

Thanks to modern technology, we now have an opportunity to enhance this tradition of petitioning with increased accessibility and efficiency. Electronic petitions can serve as a low-barrier entry point for our citizens, especially the youth, to communicate their concerns to this House.

Signatories will provide their name, phone number, mailing and e-mail addresses to validate their identities. E-petitions can improve the aspect of legitimacy more than their paper counterpart, with built-in authentication measures against invalid or incomplete entries. Thus, this may reduce clerical work and be cost saving. An e-petition system is already implemented in many other jurisdictions, such as the U.K., the U.S. and Quebec.
[ Page 2280 ]

Federally, Canada has also moved forward with all parties coming together to recently pass MP Kennedy Stewart's motion on e-petitions. We have the chance to demonstrate the same collaboration here to British Columbians, and I hope we will say yes to this bill together.

I move that this bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting after today.

Bill M205, Electronic Petitions Act, 2014, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Statements
(Standing Order 25B)

PHARMACISTS

D. Bing: The province of British Columbia has proclaimed today as Pharmacy Day. Pharmacists play a pivotal role in British Columbia's health care system. I thought the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia laid things out perfectly on their website when they said: "Simply put, pharmacists are there for patients. It's that simple."

Pharmacists are often the public's most accessible health care professionals, and they are medication experts. They work as part of a team with your doctor and other health care professionals to make sure you get the best possible care. It is fitting that today, March 24, 2014, we recognize and support the pharmacists' integral role in health care delivery and to do what we can do to encourage others to enter this profession.

Pharmacy Day offers a unique opportunity for MLAs, government officials and legislative staff to interact with pharmacists and learn directly about the health services and primary care delivered in community pharmacies. Activities planned for this year's Pharmacy Day include immunizations, medication reviews, health screenings, consultations for asthma and diabetes.

Pharmacists have seen their roles in British Columbia grow. Since 2009 they have been able to renew routine medications for patients who run out, without always needing a doctor's appointment first.

[1355]

In the last fiscal year British Columbia community pharmacies dispensed 65.7 million prescriptions. This figure includes products which may not require a physician's prescription but would have been entered into the PharmaNet system by the pharmacist when covered by a patient's drug plan. Examples of this would be over-the-counter medication and insulin. During the same 12-month period 793,000 beneficiaries received coverage for their drugs through at least one PharmaCare plan.

Pharmacists also play a key role these days in providing immunizations to people aged five years and older. In so doing, they are helping to protect more British Columbians from diseases such as influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, pertussis and human papillomavirus.

MARY STEINHAUSER

M. Farnworth: Mary Steinhauser — nurse, social worker and Canadian peace officer — was a crusader for the rights of prison inmates in the latter part of her professional career. She was particularly interested in aboriginal inmates in B.C.'s penal system, who were overrepresented in the system. In 1970 she graduated from Simon Fraser University with a double major in psychology and sociology. She went on to acquire a master's degree in social work from UBC.

Following her graduation from UBC, she began work as a classification officer for the B.C. penitentiary in New Westminster, where her role was to minister to the needs of the inmates on her caseload and, upon their release, to ease their transition from prison life to life on the outside.

On the ninth of June, 1975, there was a prison breakout attempt by three inmates in which 14 classification officers, including Mary, were held hostage for a period of 41 hours. Because Mary was respected and admired by the inmates and felt she could communicate effectively with them, she offered herself as the principal hostage. In the early hours of June 11, after several of the hostages attempted to subdue their captors, a prison guard riot squad stormed the vault area, firing many shots in the direction of the hostage takers and of Mary, who was being used as a human shield by one of the inmates.

Two of the bullets hit Mary, and she was killed instantly. Mary was the only one to lose her life that day. The story of this event and Mary's role was the subject of the play Walls, written and produced by Christian Bruyere, and of a subsequent movie in 1984 by the same name. In 1976 a coroner's inquest into Mary's death was undertaken by the B.C. chief coroner.

As a fallen peace officer, Mary's name is listed on the provincial monument for the fallen Canadian police and peace officers on the legislative grounds of Victoria, British Columbia, and on the federal monument for the fallen in Ottawa, Ontario. On this 40th anniversary, an evening of stories, song and dance will be held to highlight Mary's life on Saturday, March 29, at the Terry Fox Theatre in Port Coquitlam.

B.C. FILM INDUSTRY

J. Thornthwaite: Another great tweet last week came from North Van district. "Crews are filming in Deep Cove today. They'll be in Panorama Park at the wharf and at Deep Cove Park." According to Friday's North Shore News, they were on the set of The Intruders. Just another day on the North Shore, and what a year it has become.
[ Page 2281 ]

B.C. is now the fourth-largest film production centre on the continent and home to professional crews, state-of-the-art infrastructure, beautiful scenery and great weather. It doesn't hurt that we are close enough to L.A. to provide a comfortable commute in the same time zone.

Fifteen projects are currently in production, and more are coming, thanks in part to the extension of the distant-location tax credit announced in Budget 2014, which is expected to double the film business in months. That means more jobs and investments in B.C.

Last week was the official opening of the Lucasfilm Industrial Light and Magic new Vancouver studio, where it was announced Star Wars is coming to town. ILM's visual effects contribute to award-winning films like The Lone Ranger and Pacific Rim. So 133 employees currently work in the state-of-the-art facility, which is expected to grow to 200 at the end of the summer.

Also, last week fellow MLAs and I took in a tour of Deluxe Entertainment Services Group Digital Film Central and Post Modern Sound to learn more about B.C.'s important post-production facilities. Did you know all of those footsteps, sniffles, barks and horseshoe-trotting are added to the final product after filming by a highly skilled Foley artist in their sound labs? And 240 highly skilled workers helped make robots look better than Matt Damon in Elysium as well.

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The film and television and digital media industry contributes to the B.C. jobs plan by directly employing more than 25,000 British Columbians and more than double that indirectly in construction, small business, hotel stays, municipalities and school districts, to name a few.

I would like to congratulate B.C.'s film and television industry for putting B.C. on the map and look forward to their continued growth in the future.

COMMUNITY RESPONSE NETWORKS
FOR PREVENTION OF ELDER ABUSE

K. Conroy: Imagine verbally abusing your granny or stealing from your granddad or, even worse, physically or sexually abusing your mom or dad, aunt or uncle. Actions that most people find intolerable are, sadly, a fact of life for some seniors in this province.

One in 12 active seniors in B.C. experiences some form of financial abuse. Five percent of older British Columbians living in private homes experience one or more forms of abuse at the hands of family members. It is estimated that 70 percent of women with disabilities have experienced some form of abuse.

Sadly, approximately 70 percent of abuse is not reported to police. Seniors who are abused can feel ashamed it has happened, afraid to tell someone, especially if it is a family member or caregiver they trusted.

Thankfully there are organizations in B.C. that are working to eradicate this rising phenomenon. The B.C. Association of Community Response Networks provides support to individual community response networks, or CRNs, across the province. The CRNs come together to create a coordinated community response to adult abuse, neglect and self-neglect.

Today there are 107 CRNs across B.C. In Nelson and Cranbrook they are engaged in their community by sitting on advisory committees. In Vancouver they are raising awareness of abuse and neglect by engaging with many service providers. In Sechelt and Chilliwack CRNs have facilitated workshops about financial abuse, with their local financial institutions. All work to promote World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, every year, on June 15.

Sherry Baker is the executive director of the B.C. association, and she provides incredible support to the many coordinators throughout the province. She brings a strong voice to the issue of elder abuse. Her tireless commitment to ensuring community awareness, in combination with her own energy in pursuing seniors issues, is one of the reason CRNs are able to work together so successfully on behalf of seniors.

Much of the work being done is directed at helping communities become safe for vulnerable adults and ensuring that they are ultimately free from abuse and neglect. We, too, can add our voices in eradicating elder abuse in our province.

ETHEL TIBBITS AWARDS

J. Yap: Every year the city of Richmond honours the memory of one of the most incredible women, Mrs. Ethel Tibbits, and the outstanding contributions of incredible, dynamic women in our community through the Ethel Tibbits Women of Distinction Awards.

Ethel Tibbits was for nearly 30 years the owner and editor of the Richmond Review. Her articles and commentary, while often controversial, were always well-thought-out and well argued, and more often than not proved accurate. Most notable of these was a series of articles she wrote in 1942 criticizing proposals to intern B.C.'s Japanese-Canadian residents.

This unwavering leadership that Ethel Tibbits displayed made honouring her legacy each year with the Ethel Tibbits Women of Distinction Awards a unique Richmond success.

I am pleased to share with this House the 2014 winners of the Ethel Tibbits Women of Distinction Awards, which were recently handed out in Richmond with you, Madame Speaker, in attendance. Corisande Percival-Smith is the winner of the Community Volunteer Award. Emma Partridge was given the Youth Award. Anne Gillrie-Carre received the Sports Award. Carol Young won the Professional Award. Shelley Smith received the Business Award. Elena Steele was honoured with the Arts Award.

And a special mention. Mary Gazetas, a tremendous
[ Page 2282 ]
woman in our community, who, unfortunately, passed away in 2012, was posthumously awarded the 2014 Pioneer Award, an award created in 2009 to recognize lifetime achievement.

Lastly, this year's recipient of the Ethel Tibbits Scholarship is Sandra Bodenhamer, a Richmond mother, volunteer and active community volunteer.

I ask all members of the House to please join me in congratulating all of these distinguished women. I know I'm not alone when I say to them all: "Thank you for your dedication and hard work for our community and province."

PHARMACISTS

M. Elmore: The group of professionals that I speak about today is second only to firefighters as the one most Canadians trust, according to a 2013 Reader's Digest trust poll.

Recently I met three of them at my community office. Jag Deol, Juliana Li and Brooke Stenerson are very dynamic, entrepreneurial, highly educated and qualified young pharmacists. Along with being trustworthy, I found them to also be dedicated and committed to their patients' care.

[1405]

March is Pharmacy Awareness Month, and today is Pharmacy Day here at the Legislature. As such, this is an opportune time to thank them and the many other pharmacists who play a key role in helping to improve patient outcomes, increasing access to primary care and decreasing overall health care costs. Pharmacists are often the front line of our health care system. They're usually the first ones that we in the general public come into contact with when we have health concerns.

Five ways they help us. They provide vaccinations, as 85 percent of community pharmacies have at least one authorized pharmacist to administer injections. They help us to understand how to use our medications safely and effectively. They also help to prepare us for upcoming vacations. They renew or adapt prescriptions. And they can take medications that we no longer use for safe disposal.

The B.C. Pharmacy Association represents more than 4,200 community pharmacists in over 1,100 pharmacies in 133 communities. In almost every community across B.C. there's a community pharmacist available to help British Columbians.

I believe that the many skills that pharmacists possess can also be utilized more efficiently to improve primary care and help bring down health care costs, particularly in supporting our preventative approach to manage chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, in terms of helping patients with their monitoring program, and pharmacist-led smoking cessation and asthma management programs.

I'd like to thank again these pharmacists for the great job they do every day. I hope that as we recognize their commitment to health care, we also acknowledge that there are many areas for improvement so that we can maximize their contribution to British Columbia.

Oral Questions

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO TRUCK
OPERATORS LABOUR DISPUTE AND
CONCERNS OF INDEPENDENT TRUCKERS

A. Dix: I have a question for the Minister of Transportation. Since the fall, representatives of independent owner-operators, who comprise the majority of truck drivers in B.C., have approached Port Metro Vancouver about serious, legitimate issues, such as undercutting of rates and delays at the port.

The port's response in recent weeks has been to threaten owner-operators with the revocation of their licences — perhaps, in terms of what the Minister of Labour just introduced, part of a joint Port Metro Vancouver, federal and provincial strategy.

Does the Minister of Transportation agree with me that such threats are totally inappropriate? Will he support small businesses in B.C. against an unaccountable federal agency and tell them to back down on these threats to owner-operators?

Hon. T. Stone: I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. Today is day 26 of a disruption at Canada's largest and most important port, Canada's Asia-Pacific gateway.

Here's what's at stake. There are 100,000 direct or indirect jobs, 60,000 of which are here in British Columbia, and $126 million in cargo that moves through this port every single day, on a normal operating day. There is the potential for increased job losses, impacts in every corner of our province, whether they be mills, mines or manufacturing companies. Indeed, B.C.'s reputation across the world is at stake with our trading partners.

Clearly, a continuation of this dispute cannot continue. That is why last week the federal government, Port Metro Vancouver and the B.C. government announced strong and coordinated action to get the port back up and running so that normal operations can resume. The B.C. government will take tough action within our jurisdiction. That action will take the form of the cooling-off legislation that was introduced earlier today.

We also want to thank the federal government and Port Metro Vancouver for the decisive action that they are taking. It is this coordinated effort on the part of the federal government, the B.C. government and Port Metro Vancouver which is absolutely necessary to protect jobs, to protect B.C. families, to protect B.C. businesses and, indeed, to protect our reputation across the world.
[ Page 2283 ]

[1410]

Madame Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition on a supplemental.

A. Dix: An arrogant, unaccountable federal agency threatens small business people in British Columbia, 1,100 of them, with a revocation of their licences for bringing forward legitimate issues that were known about not just months ago but years ago and that this government and the federal government did nothing about.

I want to be quite specific to the Minister of Transportation. Does he support this federal government agency threatening small business people in B.C. with the revocation of their licences?

Hon. T. Stone: Beyond every single other consideration, our obligation is to act in the best interests of British Columbia's economy and the jobs here in British Columbia. Again, we're talking about thousands of jobs directly and indirectly related to the port, but we're also talking about the potential for many other job impacts across the province as well as our reputation with international trading partners. This is why we cannot allow this dispute to continue for one more day.

Again, while we understand the concerns of the truckers — we understand their concerns related to rates, to licensing, congestion and wait times — we urge the truckers to come back to work, and we urge them to come back as quickly as possible. Vince Ready, a federally appointed mediator, is available and waiting on a moment's notice to sit back down at the table with the truckers, and with all the other parties, to bring an end to this dispute.

Madame Speaker: The Leader of the Opposition on a further supplemental.

A. Dix: A federal agency and the provincial government have known for four years that the situation at the port was untenable. Here we have an unaccountable federal agency threatening small business people in B.C. I heard the minister correctly. I'm not taking him out of context. His response was to thank Port Metro Vancouver for threatening B.C.'s small business people.

Let's hear it from the minister. It's pretty clear. Does he agree with threats made by Port Metro Vancouver against 1,100 small business people in B.C. to revoke their licence if they don't get their own way?

Hon. T. Stone: This government supports working with the federal government, the Port of Metro Vancouver and indeed the truckers, along with the support of mediator Vince Ready, to get to the bottom of the issues that are of concern to the truckers. But before that can happen, the truckers need to go back to work. We've been very clear in saying that.

Now, 58,000 British Columbians are directly employed in forestry across British Columbia. I'm sure that the hon. member opposite also is aware that 43 percent of those forestry export volumes go to China, and that number is continuing to increase year over year. Continued success at building markets overseas for our forestry products depends on a stable, reliable port. There are thousands of men and women forest workers in this province, amongst many other sectors who depend…. Their jobs depend on this port being opened.

Again, we urge the truckers to come back to the table with Vince Ready, the mediator, and to work with us and to work with the federal government and the Port of Metro Vancouver, to solve these issues.

H. Bains: The minister talks about 26 days of disruption, of millions of daily losses. He talks about our reputation across the globe. He talks about thousands of job losses. Whose fault is it? It's because of this government, because they were sleeping at the switch for the last months and years.

[1415]

Issues have been brought to the port's and to this minister's and previous ministers' attention for months, and they did nothing. As a result, we have turmoil on our hands now.

In addition to the list that the minister has read here are small businesses. They are being charged higher and higher storage fees right now. According to some reports, the fees have gone from $240 per day to $455 a day, and the port is not required to refund any of that. That's why there are no negotiations. If they were required to make it up to those businesses as a whole, negotiations would be going on now.

My question to the minister is this: will the minister call on the port now to refund to the small businesses these fees right now?

Hon. T. Stone: Well, it certainly is fascinating to hear the member opposite wax eloquent about how important the port is when every single opportunity that the opposition members have had over the years to support the Port of Metro Vancouver, they have not supported it. Where was the hon. member and the opposition with the Ports Property Tax Act, which has resulted in $1 billion of additional activity at our ports?

Let's talk about small business. Some 98 percent of the businesses here in British Columbia are small businesses. The member opposite should know that small businesses across this province depend on a stable, reliable port to import their goods and export their goods. We encourage the truckers to come back to the table, to sit down with mediator Vince Ready and all other parties so that we can work together to, once and for all, resolve these issues.
[ Page 2284 ]

Madame Speaker: The member for Surrey-Newton on a supplemental.

H. Bains: This government received reports in July last year that made it very clear that they need to address the concerns of independent owner-operators. This government, this minister, ignored that report and then, this fall, wouldn't put pressure on the port to work with independent owner-operators when they raised problems around undercutting on rates and port delays.

If the Premier and this government had taken the concern of independent owner-operators seriously last year, the small businesses would not be left paying these escalating fees, and thousands of people would not be out of work right now.

These operators are here today — in the gallery, I think. They want to know the answer to this: why the Premier of this government didn't take the action last year that could have avoided this turmoil. Why isn't this government using negotiations, rather than the heavy-handed back-to-work legislation, then?

Hon. T. Stone: This is exactly why we have been consistently saying over the last couple of weeks: the truckers need to come back to the table. They need to go to work. They need to come back to the table and sit down with mediator Vince Ready. I'm sure the hon. member knows full well that mediator Vince Ready has got a tremendously well-respected reputation by truckers as well as all the other parties.

He is waiting. He is available. He is available today to sit down with the truckers, to sit down with all the other parties, to discuss these issues and to seek a long-term resolution. But for that to happen, the truckers need to go back to work.

[1420]

PORTLAND HOTEL SOCIETY
AUDITS AND OVERSIGHT

S. Simpson: My question is to the Minister for Housing. I know the minister would agree with me that the Portland Hotel Society has done some very effective and innovative work supporting some of our most vulnerable citizens. I believe we would also agree that the expense revelations of the audits released last week are not acceptable by any management or accountability measures or standards.

It's vitally important that the front-line services offered by the Portland are protected so that some of our province's most vulnerable are not left behind. Government oversight will be an important aspect of that success. The audit did identify shortcomings around the oversight process.

Can the minister outline what steps he's taking to improve general government oversight, and also at the Portland Hotel Society, so that staff, the people they serve and the broader public can have confidence that those services are being well managed and protected?

Hon. R. Coleman: Indeed, the last number of months, as we tried to work through the issues with the Portland Hotel Society, have been troubling. Our primary concern all the way through this process is, first of all, the 1,000 or so tenants that the Portland Hotel Society were responsible for and the services that were provided to them. The action that we took…. At the end of the day, it had to be dealt with in a way that was respectful of those people and the services and the employees of Portland Hotel Society.

I can tell the member today that there is now a professional board in place at Portland Hotel Society, including a person that was actually in charge of the Vancouver Foundation, a former head of Vancouver Coastal Health, a CEO, as well as a number of other very professional people on that board who have now stepped into place. The management of the society has been taken over by a senior manager from B.C. Housing and another senior management person from the Health Ministry.

In addition to that, as well, a very competent accounting firm is in there working through the issues and making sure that the services are provided and that we moved in such a way that we would protect the people that this society served.

Madame Speaker: The member for Vancouver-Hastings on a supplemental.

S. Simpson: I would agree with the minister that the new board is eminently qualified and that there are some very respected individuals. I appreciate that the minister and the new board have begun to take some steps here.

What we know about the audit is that it covered a three-year period, but there remain a number of unanswered questions in the public's mind about the oversight at the Portland and about how long these issues that have been identified may have gone on. Can the minister confirm what previous audits or reviews have taken place, and will the government release that information?

Hon. R. Coleman: To the member opposite, and I know he's asked his questions before in estimates, basically every society in British Columbia that does non-profit work in housing submits an audited financial statement to B.C. Housing on an annual basis. That is actually reviewed by the management team at B.C. Housing per society, and any irregularities or concerns are usually dealt with, with the society, trying to improve their management and outcomes.

There was an audit done on the Portland Hotel Society in 2002. That audit dealt with an issue in and around how the books were being kept. It was done partly because
[ Page 2285 ]
of the passing of their accountant, who had died during the period of time that we had these issues. We went in. We put an organization there to help the society improve their management techniques, and for the next eight to nine years there were no anomalies found with the society on an annual basis.

In about 2011-2012 a small deficit appeared, and as a result of that small deficit, we started to work with the society with regards to its outgoing fiscal management. It led to a couple of financial reviews, then an audit, and then a significant audit, more of a forensic quality. If the member doesn't understand the depth of that, I know — because my father was actually a forensic auditor — how long it takes and in how much detail it has to be done and how it has to be followed up item by item by item as you're trying to work through a group in these issues.

As we've done with every other society, including the unfortunate shutdown of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association, we took the time to try and work with the organization with a cooperative arrangement to try and solve these issues for them. That wasn't possible.

As we got more detailed in the troubling nature with regards to some trips and some other things that came out, the decision was made that the society would have to change its management and change its board. Otherwise, they would have been put into a receivership, because government could not tolerate that type of behaviour.

[1425]

PENALTY FOR OVERCUT OF NON-BEETLE
TREES IN MORICE TIMBER SUPPLY AREA

N. Macdonald: In the middle of a growing timber supply crisis, this government allowed two large companies to massively overcut healthy trees and non-pine species for five years. Canfor and West Fraser were supposed to be focusing on cutting beetle-killed pine in the region but instead overcut healthy greenwood by nearly a million cubic metres.

Can the Minister of Forests tell us what penalties were levied against West Fraser and Canfor for overcutting in the Morice TSA between 2008 and 2013?

Hon. S. Thomson: We are working with both of those companies in terms of management of the harvesting in that timber supply area. They have filed management plans with us. Those are being monitored on an ongoing basis, and we continue to work with them to ensure that the continued focus of harvesting activity focuses on the dead pine, on the pine-leading stands that are part of the uplift process through the response to the mountain pine beetle.

We continue to work with both of those companies to make sure that the harvest activities are consistent with the objectives of the uplift and the focus on response to the mountain pine beetle impact.

Madame Speaker: Columbia River–Revelstoke on a supplemental.

N. Macdonald: The non-pine species were supposed to be saved so that there would be a long-term and mid-term timber supply for jobs in the future. The legislation provides for a fine of up to $1 million, plus the cost of stumpage. Instead, a week before the start of the election campaign the minister personally intervened and cancelled the fine.

The penalty that the minister has talked about is an extremely weak, I guess, promise from the company that they are going to do things differently in the future. The question to the minister is this: how can the minister justify allowing two major forest companies to overcut by a million cubic metres, in the middle of a timber supply crisis, with no penalty whatsoever?

Hon. S. Thomson: As I've indicated, we have met with both companies. We have required the companies to file a management plan, a harvest plan, that is consistent with the objectives of the response to the mountain pine beetle impact. We are monitoring that regularly. They're required to report against that management plan.

We're working with both those companies to ensure that the focus remains on the pine beetle stands, the impact as a result of that activity. We're making sure and will require them to live…. Harvest activity in response to that management plan is to be filed with the ministry.

B. Routley: A week before the official start of the election two large companies were given a free pass for vastly overcutting in the middle of a timber supply crisis. This has already cost jobs in the region and will only cost more jobs in the long term. The response by the Liberal government is to say: "Please, please, don't do it again."

Can the minister explain why he allowed two companies to get away with overcutting nearly a million cubic metres without paying any kind of penalty at all?

Hon. S. Thomson: The response that this government has undertaken in response to the mountain pine beetle impact is to provide for the uplift and harvest activity to focus on the dead pine stands. That is while there is merchantable value, while there is value in that product.

[1430]

That has been the focus, and that is the work that we continue to do with the companies in responding to this significant impact. That is what has allowed the industry to make sure that we focus on those apportionments in those stands.

We are working with both companies to ensure that over the cut-control period they comply with the apportionment direction. They have filed management plans with us. We monitor those management plans on a regular basis, and we'll ensure that the companies manage
[ Page 2286 ]
their harvest in response to meet the objectives of ensuring that we access those dead stands and the pine stands while they have merchantable value.

Madame Speaker: The member for Cowichan Valley on a supplemental.

B. Routley: Well if anything sounds like jiggery-pokery, there it is — more jiggery-pokery. This government knows that with a timber supply crisis they should be looking at the long-term timber supply needs of this province for future generations of British Columbians. Instead we have, a week before an election, the minister personally intervening and cancelling a fine.

How does the minister justify allowing two major forest companies to overcut a million cubic metres in the middle of a timber supply crisis with no penalty whatsoever?

Hon. S. Thomson: As I've said, companies have filed management plans. They're responding to the harvest in response to those management plans, and they're being monitored.

The most immediate threat to the future of the forest industry and to jobs in the forest industry in British Columbia right now is the situation at the port of Vancouver. We have heard from mills and companies across the province of imminent curtailment of activity.

I'll be very interested, and we'll be very interested on this side of the House, to listen to the response. If the members opposite have that concern for the forest industry, we'll be very interested to hear their response to the actions, because those are the actions that are going to continue to protect jobs and investment in forest companies and mills across this province.

PREPAREDNESS FOR OIL SPILL
RESPONSE AND WILDLIFE RECOVERY

S. Chandra Herbert: Twenty-five years ago the world was stunned by images of sea otters, birds and other wildlife covered in oil dying on the shores of Alaska because of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. At the time governments promised to do better.

Yet according to a report produced as part of the Enbridge review by the BCSPCA, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and other wildlife rehabilitators, "British Columbia lacks all the major resources to conduct a swift and efficient wildlife response, including localized facilities, equipment and trained personnel" in the case of an oil spill. They say that without a plan and dedicated resources, even more wildlife is at risk of being killed by an oil spill on B.C.'s coast.

My question to the Minister of Environment: how can the B.C. Liberals even contemplate supporting increased oil tanker traffic when we don't even have the resources needed to respond to an oil spill today?

Hon. M. Polak: Well, it was this government that stood up and put in place five conditions that have to be met. It was this government that proceeded to hire Nuka Research to do one of the most comprehensive studies of spill response capability on the west coast of Canada that has ever been done. And it was this government that also conducted work on the terrestrial land-based spills and has now been put in a position to work with not only industry but environmental organizations so that we have the best possible information to work with.

[1435]

It's a result of those actions that the province of Alberta signed on to our five conditions and that the federal government is now working with us to develop the kind of spill response capabilities that we need on this coast, regardless of whether or not there's an increase in oil shipments.

Madame Speaker: Vancouver–West End on a supplemental.

S. Chandra Herbert: Well, mountains and mountains of paperwork may make the minister feel good. They won't help the bird covered in oil in the harbour today, should there be an oil spill.

There is no designated lead agency to deal with wildlife response in B.C. The minister knows it. There's been no lead designated agency since 2007, and oil transportation continues along the coast of British Columbia.

My question to the minister: if they're dedicated, as they say they are, to making sure that oil spills are dealt with and making sure that we actually have a plan, why has her government refused to have a plan to deal with wildlife covered in oil along our coasts since 2007?

Hon. M. Polak: I am actually astonished to be listening to questions from the opposition that are taking this kind of a frame. It was our government which stood up and said: "Not in British Columbia unless you meet our five conditions." If the opposition wants to continue to put forward the view that rather than evaluate the evidence, rather than evaluate the information but instead they should simply make a snap judgment based on their gut instincts, then nothing much has changed on that side of the House.

[End of question period.]

Tabling Documents

Madame Speaker: Hon. Members, I have the honour to present the Auditor General's report on Working Capital Management Since 2010.
[ Page 2287 ]

Orders of the Day

Hon. M. de Jong: In Committee A it's Committee of Supply — for the information of members, the ongoing estimates of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. In this chamber it's second reading on Bill 17, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act.

[D. Horne in the chair.]

Second Reading of Bills

BILL 17 — MISCELLANEOUS STATUTES
AMENDMENT ACT, 2014

Hon. S. Anton: I move that Bill 17, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2014, now be read a second time.

Bill 17 amends a number of statutes. This bill would amend statutes concerning the Certified General Accountants Association of British Columbia, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of British Columbia and the Certified Management Accountants Society of British Columbia.

[1440]

In May 2013, as part of a national initiative underway in all Canadian provinces and territories the three associations agreed to unify into a new organization known as the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia.

As a first step toward the merger, the Accountants (Certified General) Act, Accountants (Chartered) Act and Accountants (Management) Act will be amended to allow members of the three associations to use the new chartered professional accountant designation.

The amendments will also allow the associations to make bylaws regulating how their members use the accounting designations that are provided for under the three statutes.

Amendments to the Adoption Act provide a technical correction to the legislation and will clarify the legislative authority of a director under the Child, Family and Community Service Act to request the placement for adoption of children in care and support eligible families through adoption assistance payments.

In addition, the amendments retroactively validate previous adoptions and provide protection from prosecution or lawsuit for having placed or received a child for adoption without proper legal authority. This retroactive provision provides important certainty for adopted children and their families that their adoptions are valid.

The proposed amendments to the B.C. OnLine Act will support government's decision to repatriate B.C. OnLine operations following the expiration of an outsourcing agreement set for April 30, 2014. The amendments will enable government, in its role as operator of B.C. OnLine, to collect and retain the operator fees associated with delivering the service. The changes are an important first step as government looks forward to restabilizing and enhancing B.C. OnLine services in the future for the benefit of its partners and clients.

The proposed validation legislation for the Employment Standards Act confirms the appointment of Brent Mullin as chair of the Employment Standards Tribunal for the period February 13, 2009, to October 5, 2011. This legal-housekeeping legislation will correct an oversight that resulted in Mr. Mullin's appointment to the tribunal technically lapsing during the period of February 13, 2009, to October 5, 2011, although Mr. Mullin continued to act as the chair.

The proposed legislation would apply retroactively and would confirm the validity of all decisions rendered by the Employment Standards Tribunal between February 13, 2009, and October 5, 2011. There are no financial or other direct impacts for government.

The Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Belt Tax Act will be repealed. No tax has been assessed under this act for over 40 years, and repealing the act will clarify that there is no intention to assess or collect this tax in the future.

The proposed legislative amendments to the Local Government Act, Community Charter and Vancouver Charter will support economic development in B.C. by changing local government legislation to cut red tape that can delay building projects and add costs for developers and landowners.

The amendments will also help streamline and modernize government regulations. Specifically, these amendments will remove unnecessary ministerial approvals for some local government land use planning and development bylaws, including those that apply to regional district official community plans, zoning and subdivision.

They will terminate all outdated land use contracts within ten years, allowing them to be replaced by modern local government land use policies and practices that provide the same level of regulations, and they will protect developers from increases in development cost charges for 12 months after fee increases are made where a development application is in process.

The amendment to the Mines Act gives the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council the power to prescribe fees and charges through regulation for services provided and duties performed under the Mines Act. The amendment also ensures that fees are paid prior to the issuance of a permit or a permit revision. The primary purpose of this amendment is to facilitate the introduction of fees for Mines Act permits to maintain timely and efficient service.

Amendments to various statutes allow nurse practitioners to work more fully within their existing scope of practice.

They will also modernize the Vital Statistics Act and change the approach to providing identity-related ser-
[ Page 2288 ]
vices for those who wish to change their record of gender on a birth certificate.

The bill also amends the Real Estate Development Marketing Act to help facilitate real estate development and increased stability and predictability in the industry by bringing clarity and certainty to the scope of purchasers' remedies and the enforceability of purchased contracts.

The amendments would also enable the use of consolidated disclosure statements and phased disclosure statements, helping to enhance consumer protection by providing clearer, simpler disclosure for purchasers.

[1445]

The proposed amendments to section 9.4 of the Special Accounts Appropriation and Control Act will facilitate the implementation of the B.C. training and education savings program. This program enables B.C. children born on or after January 1, 2007, to receive a one-time payment of $1,200 into a registered education savings plan.

The amendments also authorize the creation of a separate fund or funds to provide for the training and education of former children in care and other vulnerable children who have had significant involvement with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The amendments to the Taxation (Rural Area) Act rationalize how taxation notices are issued for properties in the rural area of the province that have a large number of owners. The amendments will permit a representative owner to be designated to receive the taxation notice for the property. Sending the taxation notice to the representative owner instead of every owner will avoid taxpayer confusion and duplicate payments.

This bill also includes an amendment to the Workers Compensation Act that fulfils government's election commitment to restore heart disease in firefighters to the list of presumptive diseases recognized by WorkSafe B.C.

Under the proposed amendment, if an eligible firefighter suffers from a heart disease or a heart injury, including a heart attack, it will be presumed to be due to their work as a firefighter unless the contrary is proved. This legislation will thus support B.C. firefighters in receiving workers compensation should they suffer from heart disease or heart injury as a result of their work.

Finally, the bill also makes validating provisions and a number of consequential amendments.

L. Krog: We're addressing here in the chamber today what I call the poor cousin of the legislative process. This is a matter that doesn't even merit its own particular piece of legislation. It's not even up there with Bill 14, which is the Justice Statutes Amendment Act that deals with statutes relating to the Ministry of Justice.

This is the potpourri. This is the little tidbits of every piece of legislative change the government might need to consider. It gets tossed into the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. This is the first of this session — not that I'm necessarily anticipating any more. But I'm sure we might come across a few.

I am — and I say this only with a little bit of sarcasm — modestly disappointed that the minister didn't offer a briefing on this particular bill. I was offered a briefing on Bill 14.

Of course, we in the opposition take the view that briefings are offered to the opposition on essentially three bases: firstly, just out of courtesy, and the government is often courteous; secondly, because it's a really technical matter and they are going to try and educate the opposition and the opposition critic in such a way that not too much of the House's very valuable time will be wasted; or thirdly, we always think they're trying to put one over on you.

Now, I don't think the third one applies here. I would have been happy to have one on the basis of the second — and certainly, on the basis of the first — of my suggested three reasons for offering a briefing. But who knows? There may be time for a briefing, depending on when this is called on the legislative calendar, and for a more intensive discussion. Certainly, for the people watching at home, and I'm sure there are a few, a miscellaneous statutes amendment act includes a number of provisions that relate to a number of statutes.

Indeed, the minister…. I'm not sure whether she said it in her remarks, but my understanding is…. I believe this amends over 34 pieces of legislation in its 48 pages. That is a remarkable range of change.

In fairness, I think inferentially there's an admission here by the government that it hasn't really moved that quickly on behalf of the chartered professional accountants. The reality is that there was a hope and a belief that in fact there would be a fresh statute — that indeed there would be something new to deal with the amalgamation of the profession.

I think a lot in the general public who haven't been paying close attention haven't realized that they're not talking about CGAs anymore and CAs. Suddenly they're all in the same boat — somewhat, I suppose, like the amalgamation of the nurses, both the licensed practical nurses and the registered nurses. There are consequences to that.

[1450]

One can understand that you need appropriate legislation to deal with that, to protect the public interest — which is always, I think, and should be, paramount in the government's mind when it comes to dealing with professional bodies, particularly those that have the ability to license their own members, whether that be the lawyers in the province under the Law Society of British Columbia or the doctors with the College of Physicians and Surgeons — all the situations where they have the ability to ensure that the public interest is in fact protected.
[ Page 2289 ]

What we really have here, I would suggest politely, notwithstanding the minister's comments, is a bit of a stopgap measure. This is just something to fill in that gap while they figure out what they're really going to have to do. It's kind of like papering over the crack in the plaster or slapping a bit of tarp on the roof when it's leaking before you actually address the real problem.

This government, which is notorious for it, is great at campaigning — and Lord knows I've mentioned often enough how well they did on May 14 last year, so it's a very sincere compliment — but when it comes to actually delivering on legislation, I would suggest politely that in fact what we have here today is an admission that things haven't gone entirely well when it comes to getting prepared for things.

We know that this government has prided itself on the number of contracts it gets out there. So much of government is now delivered by the "private sector." It's supposed to be more efficient, it's in the public interest, it's cheaper, and you avoid having public servants who develop experience and knowledge over years in collective memory and who you might have to pay a pension to if they survive long enough in the public service. No, they have bragged constantly about privatization and how it's the way to go, it's the best thing for British Columbia, and it saves money, etc.

Now, we know the reality is that the province is committed to billions and billions of dollars of long-term contracts for the delivery of government services. What we have again here, I would politely suggest, is admission number two. They haven't been able to get up to speed dealing with the accountants and their issues, and here's admission number two — that B.C. OnLine will enable the government to collect and retain operator fees, etc. They're a first step, they say, as the government tries to enhance B.C. OnLine services.

In fact, I would suggest politely that really what we have here is an admission that this was another aspect of privatization — because, goodness knows, that's supposed to be in the public interest, as I say — that didn't quite work. Again the government, inferentially, is saying: "We tried it, and it didn't work out."

I suppose one of the questions that might be asked during the course of committee stage debate is: what exactly did that little experiment cost the people of British Columbia? How much of the public's resources was wasted in that experiment, which has, obviously, not worked out?

For a government of such a strong ideological bent to bring something back under their control, it tells me that it must have been quite a bit of a boo-boo, to use a term that might be appropriate for my five-year-old grandson. Dear Archer might talk about his boo-boos, but he only requires a band-aid to fix them, whereas in British Columbia when you're talking about legislation, it might require millions of dollars and the transfer of public resources from various entities to other entities.

Hon. Speaker, with great respect I think there's nothing sneaky in this, as I said, but there is an admission that not all is well over on the other side of the Legislature when it comes to some of the changes that are proposed.

Now, I must say, as a person who was born in Nanaimo, that whenever you hear the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Belt Tax Act mentioned, that piques everyone's interest in Nanaimo. On Vancouver Island, talking about the E&N Railway is much like talking about your sainted mother. You just gotta love the E&N Railway. I couldn't think of a better thing than to guarantee, however, that we apparently won't have to pay any more tax to support the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway.

[1455]

In that context, of course…. I know that the members opposite are quite excited by the prospects of section 54 of this bill. I do hope that that doesn't mean the government won't be looking forward, notwithstanding the obvious desire of the people of Vancouver Island to support the New Democratic Party and not the B.C. Liberal Party — notwithstanding that incredible desire — and that they will, of course, be generous and kind and thoughtful when it comes to resourcing this incredibly important public asset here on Vancouver Island.

I know that the Attorney General herself grew up in the community of Duncan. I don't know if she was close enough to the tracks to hear the wonderful train whistle blow, but it was part of the childhood of growing up on Vancouver Island. As most of you know, the grant for the railway extended 20 miles on either side of the track.

Indeed, in Nanaimo there was a most interesting lecture the other night presented by the Nanaimo Historical Society, a dedicated group of volunteers working hard to preserve the history of Vancouver Island, talking about the area back in the hills where the great inventor of the modern train whistle, after the steam engines disappeared, used to test the train whistles, a most interesting bit of British Columbia history. Indeed, that individual was responsible for creating the whistles that you hear on major vessels around the world, let alone the trains in North America.

As I say, as a native Nanaimoite, when you hear the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Belt Tax Act mentioned, you do get a little bit excited. But if I'm excited by that, I can tell you that there are a couple of constituents, at least, and particularly the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association, who are somewhat upset by what the minister, with great respect, I think glossed over to some extent: a lot of proposed changes around real estate. In particular, section 62 of the bill, I believe, will have the effect of repealing section 23.

In fact, the apparent effect of this section is to allow a purchase agreement to be enforced against a purchaser where a developer has in a disclosure statement included a misrepresentation of a material fact and the developer
[ Page 2290 ]
was not aware of the misrepresentation at the time. This would prevent, it appears, a purchaser from terminating or renegotiating the agreement upon discovery of the misrepresentation.

That, I'm advised, is, in fact, the practical legal effect of that section. That may be good for the development industry, but from the public's perspective — the people who will actually be purchasing condominiums or purchasing property — I don't think that will be seen as good news.

What it really allows is a developer to recklessly include unsubstantiated information in a disclosure statement, and they can later make the claim that they didn't know about the inaccuracies and still expect to, apparently, according to this legislation, enforce the purchase agreement. To use the words of a board member of the Vancouver Island Strata Owners Association, it would appear to enable "an open season on purchasers by irresponsible developers."

That's why one of the wonderful aspects of miscellaneous statutes amendment acts is that the real meat is generally found during committee stage of the bill, and I'm alerting the minister to that one in particular, and I trust she's going to pay close attention to it. That's the belief of thousands of Vancouver Island strata owners. If that's accurate and they've raised this point appropriately, I'm sure the government will wish to reconsider its position with respect to section 62.

The real estate industry on Vancouver Island is very important, employs a lot of people and works very hard, through the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board and the Victoria Real Estate Board, to ensure a high level of professionalism. I wouldn't like to think that the government, through this legislation, is in fact proposing something that would have the effect, potentially, of detracting from the hard work of the association to professionalize the work they do and to ensure that the public interest is protected.

[1500]

I think that is an important aspect of this bill that the government has to look at very carefully. I'm trusting that the minister is going to listen to my words and review that before this matter gets to committee stage of the bill.

I would suggest that the rest of it is probably not too concerning to the public. I note a number of sections related to adoption that may or may not be, but I suspect they are appropriately in the public interest. The amendments, as I understand it, will provide legal authority to enable the family and child services acting director to request the director of adoption to place a child in care for adoption. It will retroactively validate some pre-existing adoption orders back to 1996.

I could be cheeky, but then again, if it goes back to 1996, it probably has something to do with the previous government as well. So we probably won't drift into that territory too much today. Clearly, it's been an ongoing issue, and I'm surprised it's taken the government this long to in fact deal with those issues.

Overall, it's always a pleasure when one of the misc bills comes up. But there are some issues buried within this that will have to be addressed. I look forward to committee stage. If the minister has some opportunity to potentially provide a briefing, that would always be appreciated.

V. Huntington: I don't have a great deal to say at this stage of the bill, and I do look forward to committee stage, especially those areas under the Local Government Act. I'm going to be very interested in some of the explanations for the policy decisions made here in the amendments to certain sections.

However, I am extremely concerned — as was my colleague — about the amendments to the Real Estate Development Marketing Act. I think that what we see here is a failure to protect the public interest — absolute failure to protect the public interest — and a movement towards specific protection of the developers' interest. I would like to say that by protecting a material change to an agreement by making purchasing enforcement…. When the developer's disclosure statement includes a misrepresentation of material fact….

How the government could move to protect that misrepresentation by allowing the developer to say he was unaware of it at the time the agreement was entered into is beyond me. That itself should be an issue for the civil courts, if anything. But to remove the ability of a purchaser to rely on a contract is, I think, a failure to protect that purchaser and a failure to protect the public from entering into contracts that end up being unenforceable from their point of view or at least not representing what they signed.

In any other area the contract is considered critical and important. It is a major piece of law, and here we are protecting the developer against an enforcement of a contract that has a material change to it. I just wanted to put my concerns on record, and I will be extremely interested in hearing the minister's discussion of this during committee. I believe this is a mistake. I believe that government is not acting in the proper interests of the public, and I would very much like to see the minister reconsider this amendment.

S. Chandra Herbert: I rise to speak in support of some sections of this bill, some sections that I was quite pleased to see introduced, that the government has acknowledged needed a fix. I think there are some challenges with the section. I speak of part 7. In part 7 the Vital Statistics Act is amended to change various requirements around naming a child and name changes. It also allows changes to sex designation on birth certificates.

Just imagine if your birth certificate and your principal forms of ID have the wrong sex listed. If you felt to
[ Page 2291 ]
your core of cores that you were a man and yet your ID said you were a female or vice versa, this change will allow greater access to changing those very foundational documents. So transgender or intersex people in British Columbia will be able to have their ID accurately reflect who they are.

[1505]

I'd written to the minister some time ago making a similar request to this, and I'm glad that the minister acted. Of course, human rights changes in Ontario probably also had a push to get legislative drafters to act. Ontario found rules which required undergoing surgery to change one's parts, so to speak, to more accurately confirm and connect to our societal definition of what being female or what being male would entail. The courts in Ontario said that was discriminatory, that if you lived your life as a man or as a woman, regardless of the nether regions, you are that person and you should be respected as such.

That's something that we've talked about many times in this House. Of course, I've moved amendments to human rights legislation to say that transgendered people should be allowed to be who they are, should have explicit protections for gender identity and expression in the human rights code, and I continue to believe this. This is one way to slowly get there.

Many in the community have said: "Well, wait a second." Australia, Nepal, I believe, and a number of other countries and regions have decided to remove the sex identifier all together. Their argument is that gender, for some, is not exactly clear. Certainly, we've seen that, as non-traditional relationships and as strict family roles of the woman in the house and the man at work have shifted and as greater equality has been seen in our society and also our fundamental scientific understanding of gender has changed as well, our understanding is that it is a bit more of a fluid process.

Certainly, for young children who are born and genetically, physically, spiritually or socially do not define with one or another, there should be a change to allow for that variance, that difference, to be reflected on our birth certificates and ID as well. We should certainly value the full person, and one's dangly bits or non-dangly bits, however they may be, do not define the person. It is their heart that defines the person, their brain, their spirit.

I think that while this is a step forward, I would say that there's a lot more to do. I talked recently with a woman who had been in to the doctor. She had been born, at least according to the birth certificate, a male, but she always felt like she was a woman, and that was certainly how she lived her life. That, indeed, is of course what the medical science would later determine: yes, you are a woman, and you should live as a woman. She underwent a number of surgeries and is continuing to live a full life.

She went into the doctor because she still needed a prostate exam. She still needed to do that because of the way her body had been built. She still needed to go for a prostate exam. Now, they said: "But your birth certificate says you're female. You can't have a prostate exam." She had to try to explain to them, "Well no, I still have a prostate, and there are still certain things that I need to do," as somebody whose body may be one way and whose mind may be the other.

What the doctor ended up saying to her was: "Well, why don't we come up with a fake male name for you. You can list yourself as a male, even though you are a female by law, and we'll run you through the test and pretend you're a man." That's how we can get you through the health system because of their coding and the way that they have, I would say, discriminatory practices — practices that have not brought down through the entire law true equality for transgender individuals. There are cases like that all the time, in the health system in particular, in relation to transgender people.

This is one step, but I would urge the government to go further, to decide that human rights are rights that should be celebrated by all and that equality of transgender people should be celebrated by all — that should be taught to all, that should be understood by all, and that should be protected, of course, in the law, but explicitly protected by all. That's what we could do if we put a true lens of equality for transgender individuals on our law and in how we treat people across society.

[1510]

It's been a slow change. I think back to just nine years ago. I was on the park board in Vancouver, and I raised the question: how do we treat transgender individuals in our washrooms? How are staff trained to make sure these individuals are made welcome and not harassed in community facilities, as sometimes occurs?

The staff member at the time — and this was quite a high-paid staff member, somebody who had been working in the parks and recreation system for a long time — asked me: "Well, what does transgender mean?" They didn't even know. How could you, as a system, support transgender individuals if you didn't even know that they existed or what that might mean to a person?

To fast-forward nine years to today, to see our government finally responding to a call for a change like this is very hopeful — if it doesn't still go far enough. So I will be very supportive of that section.

Another section of part 8 I'll just spend a few moments on is adding heart disease into presumptions recognized by WorkSafe B.C. for firefighters. I believe that's the right move. The B.C. government had done this years and years ago and then for the intervening 13 years or so withdrew this presumption. I think it is a good step. I know there are certainly requests for breast cancer, as well, to be added to this section, as well as prostate cancer, which both Manitoba and Alberta include. This government has chosen not to do that, and those provinces have.

It's incredibly stressful work. We all talk to and praise
[ Page 2292 ]
and like to discuss how heroic our firefighters are, but it is important that we remember that that kind of work puts them in a place few others of us ever have to go. Some have raised questions — and I hope the minister can confirm this or explain how this will roll out. What about the volunteer firefighters? What about firefighters who've been trained to work not as a firefighter in the traditional sense but, say, a firefighter for B.C. Ferries. In one case, I've had a constituent raise that concern with me. Will they be covered? How do we determine who is covered?

How do we ensure that this kind of legislation is fair to those who may not be, traditionally, firefighters? They may have very similar health impacts and health injuries to them and, of course, then their families, as they may have to take time from work or may not be able to work at all. So I'm very supportive of that section.

I thought I'd raise two points in a large bill of many different points, Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. I always enjoy discussing these bills because there are little, surprisingly hidden things in them sometimes that often prove newsworthy — if people notice they're there at all — but also prove very important to communities. If you're not watching for them, sometimes they pass by without notice, and sometimes errors are made.

I appreciate the chance to speak to Bill 17, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act. I thank the hon. minister for bringing it forward.

A. Weaver: I plan to take a similar stance and approach, as the member for Vancouver–West End, in focusing on specific themes within Bill 17 before us. Obviously, Bill 17 makes amendments to a number of different acts. I've only got questions on some of these amendments and, in particular, as to how they pertain to nurse practitioners.

I'd like to start with a story, a story raised to me by one of my constituents, as I feel that this story is quite enlightening. Last year the doctor of this constituent retired. The constituent was a mother of two, and what she did is what all parents would do: she'd start looking for a new family doctor. She called doctors' offices throughout the area and received the same message: none of them were accepting new patients.

Then what did she do? Well, she came to her MLA's office. When she came to our office, we also started together, searching and phoning to see if we could find a doctor for her. In fact, we phoned all around the capital region, and it wasn't until sometime later that we realized that there was not a single general practitioner accepting new patients south of Mill Bay.

Fortunately for this constituent, we managed to find a doctor who made an exception. But unfortunately for so many others, this problem is all too common. Too many people in B.C. lack easy access to primary care.

[1515]

I commend the government for the steps it's taking to solve this problem through its GP for Me program. The goal of providing everyone in B.C. with a doctor by 2015 is ambitious. The government's determination to maintain fiscal prudence, including in its health budget, raises the bar even higher.

The truth is we likely won't achieve this goal by 2015. Yet this is not a reason to give up or to lessen our resolve. While the goal of providing every British Columbian with a GP is ambitious, it's also necessary, so we are tasked with finding innovative, evidence-based solutions to this difficult challenge. One of those is nurse practitioners.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who've undergone an additional two years of training at the graduate level to qualify them to provide additional primary health services. They have been widely used in many parts of the United States and in Ontario and have been used in British Columbia since 2005.

Yet, compared to other jurisdictions, nurse practitioners remain a relatively underdeveloped profession here in British Columbia. To give you a sense, the B.C. Nurses Union represents some 40,000 nurses. In contrast, we have roughly 250 practising nurse practitioners. Part of this is because of limited funding and training positions for nurse practitioners in B.C., and part is because of the limits placed on the scope of nurse practitioners in our legislation.

Again, I commend the government for taking steps here in the bill to remove some of those barriers to the scope of practice of nurse practitioners. Yet the truth is the steps taken in this bill are relatively small, and there is still much, much more that could be done.

According to the B.C. Nurse Practitioner Association, there are nearly 50 different acts and statutes that need to change to fully expand the scope of nurse practitioners so that we can make the best use of their role. Expanding the role of nurse practitioners can help increase access to primary care through team-based care models while also making our health care system more affordable. It can serve as one of the most innovative solutions we have available to us — to work alongside GPs in a team-based approach.

I know this is an area that the minister is already focused on, and I look forward to the further legislation being brought forward on this in the weeks, months and years ahead.

N. Simons: I want to add a few comments to the discussion about Bill 17. Obviously, it's a fairly substantial bill covering a lot of issues — everything from ensuring we define "parent" appropriately and making sure that nurse practitioners and medical professionals can take blood samples from hunters.

It runs the gamut, really — not to mention amending the Adoption Act to ensure that the adoptions that have taken place since 1996 in British Columbia aren't all going to be suddenly reversed. We're talking about 4,000 adoptions, all of which, apparently, are under a cloud
[ Page 2293 ]
until this legislation can be passed. Perhaps not. Perhaps that's a matter of opinion, and maybe this is just a point of clarification for the Adoption Act.

It's interesting to me, with all the troubles facing child welfare and the Ministry of Children and Families, that this is the one area that required immediate correction, despite the fact that the problem has existed since 1996, apparently. I'm looking forward to getting into some more detail around the changes that are being made to the Adoption Act.

I'd like to join my colleague from the West End in saying that I approve of those changes being made to the Vital Statistics Act to make life a little bit better for people who identify as transgender or people who do not fit into the categories that we so commonly just perpetuate. In that respect, I think that this bill offers a number of things to a number of different sectors in our community.

One particular change, in terms of how it affects mining and miners in this province. I think we've heard in this House concerns about fees for some small-scale or small mining companies and the fact that some of the costs associated with them doing business is going to be borne by the industry more than ever.

[1520]

I think it would be appropriate to make sure that we explore the Adoption Act issue in great detail. Clearly, it wasn't done appropriately in 1996 by the opposition of the time. I'm not going to blame them for that. But it's important that we do have a thorough discussion of all the legislation contained in Bill 17.

Deputy Speaker: Seeing no further speakers, I call on the minister to close debate.

Hon. S. Anton: Thank you to the members opposite for their comments, which we will have noted.

I move second reading of Bill 17.

Motion approved.

Hon. S. Anton: I move that Bill 17 be referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting after today.

Bill 17, Miscellaneous Statues Amendment Act, 2014, read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration at the next sitting of the House after today.

Hon. M. de Jong: I call Motion 9 standing on the order paper in the name of the Attorney General.

Government Motions on Notice

MOTION 9 — GOVERNMENT RESPONSE
TO JUDGES COMPENSATION COMMISSION
REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS

Hon. S. Anton: I move Motion 9 standing in my name on the orders of the day.

[That pursuant to section 6 (2) of the Judicial Compensation Act the Legislative Assembly:

a. reject the following recommendations of the Report of the 2013 Judges Compensation Commission as laid before this Assembly on February 18, 2014 as unfair and/or unreasonable for the reasons outlined in Government's Proposed Response to the Report of the 2013 Judges Compensation Commission filed in this House; and

b. set the remuneration, allowances or benefits that are to be substituted for the rejected recommendations;

as follows:

1. The recommended salary for puisne judges for April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015 of $241,500, an increase of 2.9%, is rejected. The salary for April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015 is set at $236,950, which is a 1.0% increase.

2. The recommended salary for puisne judges for April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 of $245,122, an increase of 1.5%, is rejected. The salary for April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016 is set at $240,504, which is a 1.5% increase on the substituted salary for fiscal year 2014/15.

3. The recommended salary for puisne judges for April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 of $250,024, an increase of 2.0%, is rejected. The salary for April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 is set at $244,112, which is a 1.5% increase.

4. The recommended increase in the pension accrual rate for judges from 3% to 3.25% effective April 1, 2014 is rejected. The pension accrual rate is set at 3%.

5. Recommendation 5 that, effective April 1, 2014, government take steps to continue judges as active members in the Public Service Pension Plan to age 75 is accepted in part. Recommendation 5(d), to the extent that it applies to any retroactive measures, including return of pension payments, making back-contributions, or making interest payments, is rejected.

That the Legislative Assembly accept the remaining recommendations contained in the report.]

I'd like to take a few minutes to speak to this motion respecting the compensation that is paid to the province's Provincial Court judges. The process that is followed to determine judges' compensation is necessarily different from collective bargaining. The reason for this is the need to ensure that judges are, and are seen to be, independent of government.

Judicial independence is a cornerstone of our justice system. It is critical to our democracy, so that anyone who is accused of a crime or challenges government before the courts can be sure that their case will be decided by an impartial judge.

Instead of negotiating over judges' compensation, there's a process governed by the Judicial Compensation Act under which government and representatives of the judiciary make submissions to independent commissions every three years. These commissions, in turn, make recommendations to government setting out what the commissions believe would be the appropriate salaries and benefits for judges.
[ Page 2294 ]

[1525]

The government and this assembly are not bound to accept the commission's recommendations, but if we wish to depart from them, we must do so supported by reasons that satisfy a constitutional test that has been developed in case law over the years. Rejection of a commission recommendation must be based upon a rational reason that rests upon a factual foundation. In B.C. we have additional language in the Judicial Compensation Act that the Legislative Assembly must find a recommendation to be unfair or unreasonable before it can be rejected.

The courts have also affirmed, including in the most recent decision on judicial compensation by the B.C. Supreme Court, that the role of the Legislature is unique and paramount in determining the allocation of resources between competing priorities. These are decisions for which the executive and the Legislature are publicly accountable.

Before I address the response government is proposing, let me first say a few words about the judges of the Provincial Court. Although I have been Attorney General and Minister of Justice for only a short time, I can say that it is a privilege to serve in this office and to have the opportunity to engage with the Provincial Court judiciary. The vast majority of criminal cases are heard in the Provincial Court, as are a majority of family law matters as well as small claims. I am impressed with the dedication and commitment that our Provincial Court bench devotes to their work and to the British Columbians who appear before them.

Over the past few years great strides have been made in addressing some of the difficult challenges faced by the justice system. Government has done its part to meet those challenges by engaging in a systemic review of the system, including implementing the Justice Reform and Transparency Act and the Justice and Public Safety Council. The judiciary is an important participant in these justice reform efforts.

Turning now to the government's proposed response to the 2013 Judges Compensation Commission, I can say that responding to reports of this kind often involves making difficult decisions. We are guided by the need to respect the independent commission process in order to ensure that judicial independence is preserved. We are also required to formulate a response that pays heed to the fiscal imperatives within which government must operate.

It is government's task to balance the competing interests and demands on public resources and to present our spending proposals to the Legislative Assembly for approval. We are the ones who are accountable for the expenditure of public funds.

The commission's report makes eight recommendations respecting judges' remuneration, benefits and allowances. As set out in the motion, we propose that the commission's salary recommendations be rejected, that one pension recommendation be rejected and that one pension recommendation be accepted in part.

In making this proposal, I can assure all members of the House that we looked carefully at what the commission recommended. Detailed reasons are contained in the response document appended to the notice accompanying this motion. I'd like to highlight some general principles that underlie these reasons.

In light of the current fiscal situation facing the province, government agrees with the commission that a modest increase in the salary of judges for the period covered by the commission's report is justified. However, we differ on the appropriate amount of that increase.

I am very proud to be part of a government that has achieved a balanced budget. This has not come easily. Above all, it has happened because government has been extremely disciplined when it comes to spending.

In particular, as part of the restraint measures government has implemented over the past few years, we have been very careful in limiting compensation increases paid by public funds. We continue to freeze the salaries of management employees and have implemented other restraint measures, such as severely restricting public service hiring and slowing the growth of health spending, in order to meet our fiscal targets.

If all of the 2013 commission's recommendations were to be accepted, the total cost to government for judges' compensation over the three years covered by the report would be approximately $7.9 million. Government's proposed response, if accepted, would reduce that total fiscal impact to around $3.5 million.

The commission's recommendations respecting salaries, if accepted, would result in a cumulative fiscal impact of about $5.3 million for judges' salaries over the three years covered by the commission's report. The salary increase for each judge would be more than $15,000.

Government's proposed increase will result in a fiscal impact of approximately $3 million for judges' salaries, a difference of $2.3 million from what the commission recommended. Our proposed response would still provide an increase of 4 percent, or approximately $9,500 per judge over the three years.

[1530]

The proposed increase, in our view, strikes the appropriate balance between making a fiscally responsible decision while recognizing the work of the provincial judiciary.

We believe that our proposal largely meets the commission's stated goals respecting modest increases for judicial salaries, albeit with greater weight placed on the need for ongoing restraint in order to ensure the continued financial health of the province. Within the justice system, which continues to face cost pressures, the difference of $2.3 million I noted earlier is a meaningful amount of money.
[ Page 2295 ]

Government also recommends that the assembly accept the commission's recommendations to make some adjustments to judges' pensions. These adjustments include taking steps to seek an exemption from the federal Minister of National Revenue so that judges who continue to sit full-time to age 75 would continue to remain members of the pension plan.

As members in the House may know, normally age 71 is the cutoff for pension plan membership, and after that age, a person must begin collecting their pension. However, judges, uniquely, are appointed with tenure to age 75, so the commission has recommended that they be permitted to remain in the pension plan until they retire.

We do not believe, however, that retroactive steps should be taken in respect of a few judges over age 71 who have already begun receiving their pensions. This would require reclaiming pension benefits received and calculating retroactive pension contributions that would need to be made by both government and the affected judges. It would require changes to pension legislation, specifically for the affected judges, and it would also officially change the individual incomes of those judges for past taxation years, which we do not understand to be permitted under the federal Income Tax Act.

Special consideration for a few judges risks personalizing compensation decisions, which, as a matter of policy, should normally be avoided. However, we propose to accept the part of the recommendation that would permit the affected judges to re-enrol in the pension plan on a prospective basis only. Again, that is dependent on the federal approval which I have referred to earlier.

Finally, we again propose to reject a recommendation that there should be an increase in the rate at which judicial pensions accrue. The current accrual rate of 3 percent already takes into account the fact that most judges are appointed relatively late in their working lives. Judicial pensions, as they stand, are more than fair and reasonable, and we do not believe that the public purse should bear a greater expense in order to enhance those pensions.

I would like to conclude by thanking all of the participants in the 2013 compensation process, particularly the commissioners, who I know undertook their responsibilities faithfully — Mr. Simon Margolis, QC, chair; Robin McFee, QC; Randy Kaardal; Kirsten Tisdale; and Roy Stuart.

L. Krog: There was a time when it was regarded in certain classes of society that it was quite distasteful to discuss the topic of money, whether it be value or income or an asset base. Unfortunately, in our system, the only way to deal with judges' compensation is to discuss it very openly. They are subject to public scrutiny, not in the same way politicians are, I suppose, but certainly their salaries are made public and are the subject of public debate around this motion today.

Let me say at the outset that the opposition will be supporting the government motion. It is very hard to say to the public, generally at any time, that public servants — whether they be high or low on the scale, whether it be an independent office of the Legislature, members of the Legislature themselves, the judiciary or anyone — receive increases when many in the public are, in fact, worried about whether or not they'll retain their employment, let alone see any increase in what they're paid or what the basis of their remuneration might be, particularly those on commission, with a declining economy, who see their incomes drop. Notwithstanding, they're still there. They're still working. They're still trying to sell things.

Having said that, I would suggest that what is proposed here is, in fact, reasonable, that it passes that commonsense test of reasonableness.

I suspect that if you said to many of these judges — and I am pulling this out of the air to some extent — "Guarantee me that I'll see 10 percent less SRLs, self-represented litigants, in my courtroom," they would happily forgo an increase in salary.

[1535]

As the Attorney General very wisely and ably pointed out, it is the Provincial Court where the people rub up against the justice system in a very real and meaningful way. Certainly, in the Court of Appeal and the B.C. Supreme Court you do see self-represented litigants. It's a fairly substantive figure but nothing in the way that you see it in Provincial Court, day in, day out, whether it be in the small claims division, family court or the criminal courts.

There judges are confronted with the often very difficult circ*mstance of facing two litigating parties, one of whom may have representation, the benefit of legal counsel, and the other who may not. Trying to navigate that particular fact pattern and achieve justice — and leave both litigants feeling, as they should after any hearing, that justice was done, even though they may not like the decision — is no small task.

As much as we give great honour and respect to those who sit on the Provincial Court bench, they also do expect to be paid for what they do. Certainly compared to some senior partners in major law firms in Vancouver, compensation may seem rather modest, but as the judges grow older, they will come to appreciate that having a pension at the end of their days might not seem such a bad concept.

Moreover, I'm not advised by any of the Attorneys General that I've been acquainted with over the last few years that there's a shortage of applicants for the Provincial Court bench either. Indeed, the possibility of sitting on the bench is still regarded as the general pinnacle of a legal career, and the mere honour of the appointment is not to be discounted. But what we're dealing with here today is the compensation for what, as I said earlier, is an extremely difficult task. The Provincial Court judges
[ Page 2296 ]
have to work hard. They hear numerous cases in a given day, day after day trying to do justice between parties.

On the criminal side, I would argue that there's a semblance of a legal aid system left, so they don't see as many unrepresented people charged with criminal offences. Nevertheless, they do see people charged with criminal offences who don't know the law, who are there defending themselves and for whom, again, the judges in a sense have to bend over backwards trying to ensure that justice is done.

You can't sit on the bench and pretend you're ignorant of what the law is or what possible defences may exist. When you're hearing the difficult matters that arise when a family unit or a relationship breaks down or the care and parenting of children or the access to those children is involved, you can't help but appreciate all of the difficult legal principles that apply. To render justice takes no small amount of skill.

I guess, like the Attorney General, I want to conclude here by expressing my thanks to the Provincial Court bench for what they do but asking them to acknowledge that when many, many British Columbians are struggling to survive and when you consider that a person on basic social assistance in this province is getting a little over $600 a month to live on entirely, the compensation for judges seems eminently reasonable.

As much as I appreciate the work of the commission and likewise thank them for the work they've done, I think the balance that is being struck by this…. One could argue that that's the nature of politics: to strike a balance. I would argue that the balance struck by this motion is in fact the correct one. It protects, if you will, the concept that judges should be compensated for what is a difficult job but at the same time takes account of the public's willingness to pay for their justice system.

None of us know whether we're ever going to run up against it or need it. But knowing that it's there and that there are people of great competence hearing the issue on the Provincial Court bench is important, I think the compensation as proposed is reasonable, and the opposition will support the government.

Motion approved.

Deputy Speaker: Motion carried unanimously.

[1540]

Hon. S. Thomson: I call Motion 10.

MOTION 10 — GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO
JUDICIAL JUSTICES COMPENSATION
COMMISSION REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS

Hon. S. Anton: I move Motion 10, standing in my name on the orders of the day.

[That pursuant to section 6 (2) of the Judicial Compensation Act the Legislative Assembly:

a. reject the following recommendations of the Report of the 2013 Judicial Justices Compensation Commission as laid before this Assembly on February 18, 2014 as unfair and/or unreasonable for the reasons outlined in Government’s Proposed Response to the Report of the 2013 Judicial Justices Compensation Commission filed in this House; and

b. set the remuneration, allowances or benefits that are to be substituted for the rejected recommendations;

as follows:

The recommended salary increase effective April 1, 2014 of 5% is rejected. The salary increase effective April 1, 2014 is set at 1.5%.

That the Legislative Assembly accept the remaining recommendations contained in the report.]

The general comments I made earlier with respect to the Provincial Court judges apply equally to the judicial justices of the peace. JJPs, as they're often called, have two broad responsibilities. They sit in Provincial Court to adjudicate traffic and bylaw ticket matters, and they staff the justice centre to hear applications for search warrants and interim release, also known as bail applications.

JJPs deal with a very large number of matters, day in and day out, both in Provincial Court and at the justice centre, and we rely on them to dispense justice both quickly and fairly.

There is a separate independent commission that issues a report and recommendations with respect to JJPs' compensation, but the process is the same as for judges. The judicial independence I spoke of earlier applies, as well, as it is imperative that they are, and are perceived to be, independent arbiters of the matters that come before them.

While we have considered the report of the 2013 Judicial Justices Compensation Commission on its own, the general circ*mstances facing government that I spoke of earlier are no different when it comes to proposing how this House should respond to the commission's recommendations. We must respect the independent commission process in order to ensure that judicial independence is preserved, but we must formulate a response that pays heed to the fiscal imperatives within which government must operate.

The commission's report makes seven recommendations respecting judicial justices remuneration, benefits and allowances. As set out in the motion and in the detailed reasons accompanying the motion, we propose that six of those recommendations be accepted and one be rejected.

Among the recommendations we propose to accept are, firstly, salary increases in the second and third years of 2 percent each year. Secondly, a change to the formula for calculating the daily per diem of those judicial justices who are appointed on a per-diem basis. This change will result in an increase of some 5 percent for those per-diem judicial justices. Thirdly, increases in the professional development allowance and educational leave provisions.

The one recommendation we propose to reject would
[ Page 2297 ]
provide judicial justices with a 5 percent salary increase in 2014-15, the first year covered by the commission's report. We propose substituting a 1.5 percent increase in that year.

The comments I made earlier with regard to the fiscal realities facing government apply equally here. The commission's recommendations respecting salaries, if accepted, would result in a cumulative increase of 9.2 percent for judicial justices over the three years covered by the commission's report. Government's proposed response would reduce that increase to 5.6 percent over the three years and would thereby reduce the fiscal impact by almost half. While the salary component of judicial justices is not a large component of the overall justice budget, it is nonetheless necessary for government to ensure that we adhere to our fiscal plan, which includes continuing measures for expenditure restraint.

[1545]

The proposed increase, in our view, strikes the appropriate balance between making a fiscally responsible decision while recognizing the work of the judicial justices. We do differ with the commission's view that the salary gap between judicial justices and the Provincial Court judges must be narrowed. However, the proposed response would ensure that the gap will not increase over the period of time covered by the commission's recommendations.

I would like to conclude by thanking all of the participants in the 2013 Judicial Justice Commission process, including the several representatives of the judicial justices who made individual and collective submissions to the commission. In particular, I would like to thank the commissioners: Murray Clemens, QC, chair; David Butcher, QC; Randy Kaardal; Bev Park; and Dr. Brian Burtch.

[R. Chouhan in the chair.]

L. Krog: I will be extremely brief and commence by repeating what the Attorney General concluded her remarks with, and that is thanks to the commission for doing the work that it did. I think I can safely sum this up with the old line: sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

The compensation proposed for Provincial Court judges and, likewise, for judicial justices, by the two motions — one of which is already passed by the second motion — I think is the appropriate response for all of the reasons that I outlined in my earlier remarks, speaking to Motion 9 on the order paper. That is appropriate for a whole series of reasons. It is the time to be reasonable.

Again, I'm not advised that there is any great shortage of applicants for these positions either. It is, I think, always to be recognized that it is an aspect of public service, and it is an honour to receive an appointment such as this. The compensation is not unreasonable in comparison to many other positions in society or in the public service. So I'm not going to draw this out anymore but simply say that the opposition in fact supports Motion 10.

Hon. S. Anton: I move Motion 10.

Motion approved.

Hon. S. Thomson: I call continued committee stage debate for Bill 13, the Off-Road Vehicle Act.

Committee of the Whole House

BILL 13 — OFF-ROAD VEHICLE ACT

(continued)

The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 13; R. Chouhan in the chair.

The committee met at 3:48 p.m.

Sections 20 to 25 inclusive approved.

On section 26.

N. Macdonald: As we wrap up the committee stage on this bill, for those that are just picking up with Hansard here, of course it's a bill that we, as opposition, have indicated our support for. There are just a few questions we have as we continue with the legislation.

[1550]

Starting on 26, the figure of $2,000 is a fine. Presumably that is a figure that is consistent with other acts. I think the best way to word the question would be to ask the minister to provide the rationale for the $2,000 limit for the fine and to explain where that figure comes from.

Hon. S. Thomson: As pointed out, there are three levels of fines in the legislation — $2,000, a fine not more than $5,000 and a fine not more than $5,000 or six months' imprisonment or both. It's important to point out that the previous fines were, under…. The Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act had a maximum fine of only $500, and we felt that higher offence amounts were necessary due to the nature of the offence and to ensure the work towards compliance.

It is consistent with other legislation. The Motor Vehicle Act itself has a maximum fine of $2,000, but it's important to point out that in that legislation not only is it the maximum fine, but there's also the point system, which provides for additional financial penalties in those cases, depending on the number of points. That's why we looked at the staged process, consistent with an initial fine of $2,000 for the more minor infractions and things and then an increasing level of fines throughout the process for the more serious infractions.
[ Page 2298 ]

Section 26 approved.

On section 27.

N. Macdonald: Again, just to question the…. Section 27 sets a time limit for the commencement of prosecution, and the period given is within two years. Again, the question is: is this something that is standard with other pieces of legislation that are in some ways similar to this legislation, or is there a different rationale for that period of time?

Hon. S. Thomson: As pointed out, the time limit is two years. This is consistent with comparable legislation. For example, the Forest and Range Practices Act has some as two and some as three. But this was set at the two years to be, first of all, after the date on which the facts become knowledgable, and it allows, in some cases, the offences from other acts to be bundled when an offender may be facing multiple fines.

Depending on the nature of the offence, it may be an offence under this act, but it may be also causing an offence under other legislation or other regulations as well, so it's bundled to be consistent with those other pieces of legislation.

Section 27 approved.

On section 28.

N. Macdonald: Basically, this section sets outs the fact that the owner of the off-road vehicle is responsible for that vehicle and any contravention of the act. Whether the person is driving it at the time or not, the responsibility sits with the owner of the off-road vehicle. Specifically, vicarious liability is laid out here.

I guess the question for those businesses that rent ATVs or snowmobiles: how does it apply to those sorts of businesses?

[1555]

Hon. S. Thomson: What is important to recognize here is that this definition relates back to section 1, which will be the prescribed definition of an owner. In the cases of rental or leasing companies, they would be prescribed out of the liability for this section, so the requirements here would not relate to rental or leasing companies. That would be referenced back in the definition of prescribing the owner under the definition.

Sections 28 and 29 approved.

On section 30.

N. Macdonald: My understanding with this and a series of sections is that it basically gives the minister the ability to create regulations and to modify those regulations over time. I guess the question is: are those regulations ready both for this section and for subsequent sections, or is it going to be a period of time before the regulations are completely ready?

Hon. S. Thomson: First of all, it's important to point out that this is regulation-making power through order-in-council, so not ministerial regulation, but also to point out that various stages of regulation development are underway. What's important here is that I think we indicated, in earlier discussions prior to the break week, on this around the timing of when we hoped we would be able to bring implementation in for the legislation this fall.

I also want to point out that it will be important. We've had a very, very engaging process with our stakeholder groups through the process — the advisory groups. We will need to continue that engagement with that broad advisory group as we develop the regulations. That's our commitment — to do that.

The concepts of the regulations are in, as part of the engagement process, and the consultations we've had are there. But in terms of finalizing, we will need, once the legislation is passed, to work with those groups with a view to bringing the regulatory side of it in place by this fall.

N. Macdonald: For the benefit of the Chair, the next question I have will be on section 55. If the Chair wanted to ask questions on the sections based on that information, that would be fine.

Sections 30 to 54 inclusive approved.

On section 55.

N. Macdonald: Section 55 deals with the special account that has been set up. Of course, this is one of the things that the minister has referenced a number of times. Also, when this legislation was first talked about back in 2005, my understanding is that this was a fairly major part of it.

I guess the question then is: can the minister explain how this account is going to work? Also, if the minister could put on the record a sense of the timeline for that account.

[1600]

Hon. S. Thomson: This is, as the member opposite has pointed out, an important component of the legislation, and something that the groups have requested be included in bringing the legislative package forward so that we have that opportunity in the future to be able to establish the fund.

It comes in under section 5 of the Special Accounts
[ Page 2299 ]
Appropriation and Control Act. That establishes a number of other funds. The forest stand management fund has three subaccounts in it now — environmental remediation, small-scale salvage subaccount and silviculture payments subaccount. So an additional subaccount would be created for this purpose — a subaccount called the off-road vehicle trail management subaccount.

In terms of funding that would go into that, there are various sources. It could be revenue derived from the act. That's a portion of the registration fees that could go into that. It could be security or contributions received by the ministry towards that, and that would provide the funding for it. It may come from foundations, for example, or other processes — and interest earned on the account.

In terms of timing. First of all, the member opposite will know that we need to — through the registration fee and keeping it as low as possible, which was the direction we received — pay, on a user-pay basis, for the establishment of the system and the infrastructure in order to do this. Once that is completed, we have the opportunity then to put a portion of the fee towards the fund.

There may be instances earlier, where there are permit fees established for geographically specific areas, where in consultation the local groups want to establish a permit fee for recreation in those prescribed areas. Those permit fees could be put into that fund. This will give those organizations the capacity to do it. It will, as part of the ongoing commitment to consult with the stakeholders to look at bringing that opportunity forward. They wanted to make sure it was there.

We aren't ready to immediately move revenue into it, but we wanted to make sure that we had that placeholder in the future, because they do see it as a very, very important part of it. As we get the registration system established, implemented and paid for, then we can look for the opportunities.

N. Macdonald: As we wrap up the questions — because I think this is just a couple of sections left that we don't have questions on — just to say, again, it's legislation that we're of course supporting. It's very well put together, and just to again commend your staff and those that worked for a long time on this and to commend the minister on putting a good, well-thought-through piece of legislation in front of the House.

With that, we're finished. You can move through the remaining sections, if the Chair chooses to do that.

Sections 55 to 58 inclusive approved.

Title approved.

Hon. S. Thomson: Just before I move the motion, I want to echo the member opposite's comments and thank the staff, as they're leaving here, for their support on this but for their work, over many years, in bringing this forward.

I know that there will probably be a few champagne corks popped this evening by some staff who've got a lot of time and equity invested in this legislation.

We look forward to continuing the process of implementing the system, bringing the regulatory components forward, as I said, in continued close consultation with our advisory group.

With that, I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.

Motion approved.

The committee rose at 4:05 p.m.

The House resumed; Madame Speaker in the chair.

Report and
Third Reading of Bills

BILL 13 — OFF-ROAD VEHICLE ACT

Bill 13, Off-Road Vehicle Act, reported complete without amendment.

Madame Speaker: Minister, when shall the bill be read a third time?

Hon. S. Thomson: With leave, now, Madame Speaker.

Leave granted.

Bill 13, Off-Road Vehicle Act, read a third time and passed.

Hon. M. Polak: I call continued committee stage debate on Bill 4.

Committee of the Whole House

BILL 4 — PARK AMENDMENT ACT, 2014

(continued)

The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 4; R. Chouhan in the chair.

The committee met at 4:08 p.m.

On section 2 (continued).

S. Chandra Herbert: I'm happy with the answers I received on section 2, so we can move on to the next section.

Section 2 approved.
[ Page 2300 ]

On section 3.

S. Chandra Herbert: I'm just curious if the minister might provide an explanation for why the title "Research" does not have a definition.

Hon. M. Polak: Two reasons — the first and simplest being that we rely on the common definition of research, which was not felt the need to expand on in the legislation.

[1610]

Secondly and perhaps more importantly, our reliance in making these decisions is not just on whether or not the proposed permitted activity is within the bounds of what would be considered research but also on the evaluation of the impacts of that activity. Even if the research itself is fairly benign and would meet the definition of what most people would consider research, it still may not be an activity that we wish to permit because of other impacts as a result of work needed to be done in order to accomplish the research.

S. Chandra Herbert: Can the minister provide what her staff feel is the common definition of "research"?

Hon. M. Polak: We would rely on the general definition of "research" that you would find in most accepted English dictionaries. For our purposes here, I could refer the member to the definition of research in the policy that will govern the activities of our decision-makers. In that case, research is defined as…. I'll just read it as it stands. Research means "activities that are intended to increase knowledge of a certain study area, including investigation of phenomena or matter using established methods of inquiry based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence."

S. Chandra Herbert: I think one thing that we've all, on the opposition side, raised concerns about is what research really means. Could it be used to interpret allowing drilling, allowing seeking out ore bodies or other things in parks — things that most would not find to be acceptable in parks? Although, of course, at one time they were acceptable in B.C. parks many years ago.

Maybe at this time…. I understand that my colleague from Oak Bay–Gordon Head has an amendment, which I think certainly would improve things. I have some concerns around it, but I'll let him move it, and then I'll speak to it at that time. I'm supportive of his intent here, and I think it would help to understand whether the government was just as supportive of the intent and not looking to find ways to potentially allow industrial activities in our parks. I'll let him stand now and find out which way it goes.

A. Weaver: I have an amendment I'd like to please table at this time. This is an amendment that provides a definition of "research" to be included in section 3, which I provide copies of now. The amendment says:

[To amend the Park Amendment Act, 2014 as follows:

In Section 9.3 (1), by adding the following:

"research" means experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view]

[1615]

On the amendment.

A. Weaver: Now, this definition was taken from the United Nations OECD. It's a well-established international definition of the term "research." The reason why I think it's important to bring this definition directly into the bill is that the definition of research is in policy. A policy is not law; the bill is law. Policy is open to interpretation; the bill is law.

By being quite specific here as to what research means, it narrows down any potential misconceptions about it being used for environmental assessments or any other "prescribed project." It really alleviates a lot of the concern that's out there within the community.

Whether or not it was intended in the introduction of this bill or not, the reality is that people are suspicious because a social licence has not been achieved for this bill, in light of the fact that public engagement is occurring now as opposed to prior to the bill being introduced.

Now, I recognize a lot of this could be viewed as housekeeping, but because of such glaring omissions, like the term "research" being formally defined in the bill, in the act, there is concern out in the community, concern that I share, frankly. For that reason, I bring this amendment forward to actually embed research — an internationally agreed-upon definition of research to be embedded within the actual act itself.

S. Chandra Herbert: I was hoping that the minister would be able to jump up so that I could ask questions afterwards, but I understand she will get her chance, as well, to respond to this amendment.

I think the intent here is to ensure that we are protecting our parks, that we are allowing basic levels of research which are non-intrusive, which are just some of the similar kinds of research we're having now in our parks system. I think that's the intent here. I will support this.

However, I must just say that there are certain concerns that I have, and these come from the fact that this bill has not been to consultation with anybody. Nobody has been consulted on this. So amending a bill that has not had the benefit of thorough consultation with people in the community who care about our parks is a little problematic and certainly why we tried to amend the bill or move the bill so that it could be delayed for six months
[ Page 2301 ]
to give the public a chance to have a say.

I think there are kinds of research which may have actual objectives in parks which may not completely coincide with this definition of research. When I say "with specific purposes," I think of maybe research to look at how we deal with pine beetle in a certain park or how we deal with an invasive species coming into a park. There are specific applications or uses in that research. So under this amendment, there could be some challenge. Now, I know the act has many clauses, and this may be dealt with properly in a different section.

I will support this amendment, as I understand the intent is to limit industrial activity in the parks and to actually suggest that that should go through the normal, more formal process of park boundary amendments. But I do say that there are certain things in this amendment which I have some concerns with. However, we will be supporting this amendment.

Hon. M. Polak: On the amendment, we will not be accepting the amendment. Let me give a couple of examples. Actually, I'll give one specific example of the limitations of this particular definition.

Read literally, if you had to use this as a test for granting a permit and you had to reach the standard of having, at the end of the permit, "without any particular application or use in view…." One very good example would be a permit that was recently issued for the exploration by the Kitselas First Nation of the opportunity to locate fresh drinking water for the Kleanza Creek boundary adjustment that we have proposed in legislation in this House.

Of course, the research was conducted with a particular purpose in mind, and that was to determine whether or not there was the viability of their drinking water coming from that location. Therefore, they would intend to make a subsequent application to move a boundary.

There is, though, another piece that I think is maybe even more important. People are very much focused on the idea of granting a permit and government having an interest, as we have stated, in having the legal certainty around our granting decisions.

[1620]

The reality is that that legal certainty cuts both ways. As we now are advised that we lack the legal certainty to grant those permits, it equally means we lack the legal certainty to deny permits that are applied for.

If under judicial review a proponent was able to show that they had met what is the test in the legislation, then our ability to deny a permit application can also be in question. So very purposely, this is not an omission. It was very purposely that we did not include a definition of "research," because we do not want to wrongly establish a test that is determined on the basis of whether or not the activity qualifies as research.

There are many activities that could qualify underneath this definition that we, quite frankly, would not grant, because it is not the research alone that we evaluate. It's all the activities that would take place around it.

Again, we won't be accepting the amendment. It is our view that that important legal certainty is what we need to achieve. It would not be achieved by inserting a test with respect to the activity and whether or not it qualifies as research. That is not the most relevant aspect of our evaluation of the granting or the denial of a permit.

[1625]

The Chair: Members, please take your seats.

Amendment negatived on the following division:

YEAS — 34

Corrigan

Simpson

James

Ralston

Dix

Farnworth

Horgan

Popham

Fleming

Conroy

Austin

Hammell

Donaldson

Chandra Herbert

Huntington

Macdonald

Karagianis

Eby

Mungall

Bains

Elmore

Heyman

Darcy

Krog

Robinson

Trevena

B. Routley

D. Routley

Simons

Fraser

Weaver

Rice

Shin

Holman

NAYS — 43

Sturdy

Bing

Hogg

Stone

Fassbender

Oakes

Wat

Thomson

Virk

Rustad

Wilkinson

Yamamoto

Sultan

Hamilton

Reimer

Ashton

Morris

Hunt

Sullivan

Cadieux

Lake

Polak

de Jong

Coleman

Anton

Bond

Letnick

Barnett

Yap

Thornthwaite

Dalton

Plecas

Lee

Kyllo

Tegart

Michelle Stilwell

Throness

Larson

Foster

Bernier

Martin

Gibson

Moira Stilwell

The Chair: The committee will be in recess for five minutes.

The committee recessed from 4:29 p.m. to 4:34 p.m.

[R. Chouhan in the chair.]

A. Weaver: The study here talks about…. The act men-
[ Page 2302 ]
tions the term "feasibility study." I was wondering if the minister could provide some specific examples of what a feasibility study might look like — two or three examples of such.

[1635]

Hon. M. Polak: It's difficult to divorce the examples from the list of what types of projects a person might be looking into or investigating in terms of a feasibility study, but I will try.

Probably one of the best ones is one that I mentioned just a little bit earlier, which is the Kleanza Creek one, where the community was looking to establish a new location for access to their fresh drinking water. Part of the research they conducted was to determine whether or not it was feasible to drill a well in a location that, at that point, was still part of the park. It remains part of the park as we speak but is proposed to be taken out so that a well could be drilled for them. That would be, probably, a fairly good example of the kinds of things you're looking for.

Again, though, what it brings us back to is that the evaluation is going to be based not on whether or not their activity fits a particular list of activities; it's what impact that activity is going to have on the park, the park's purposes and the park's values. That's the test that will be applied.

In terms of precise examples of activities, it would be difficult to give you an exhaustive list. Some of that work will be developed further in regulations, just as we have done with the policy around the draft for how permits will be evaluated for research purposes.

A. Weaver: My concern extends because the words "without limitation" are added in terms of a definition of "feasibility study," which suggests that there may be something down the road that may be considered a feasibility study. My concern is that this is putting this into law without limitation.

So my question to the minister is: what was in mind when the words "without limitation" were being added to this definition?

Hon. M. Polak: The phrasing there, "without limitation," simply allows for there to be an expansion of the list below. If at some future point that was necessary, that could be done by regulation.

[1640]

Again though, we're not seeking to define all the facets of research or feasibility studies that may, at some stage, be contemplated and approved or denied. That will be based on the merits of an individual application, and we, of course, want our decision-makers to go well beyond simply looking to see if an activity qualifies as a feasibility study.

That would simply be hurdle No. 1 if the activity proposed qualifies as a feasibility study. Next, of course, is the full evaluation as to whether or not the permit should be granted given the impact that is determined to take place on the ground in the park.

That's the basis upon which the decision would be made, not on whether or not the activity was defined under "feasibility study." But that's the reason for the "without limitation." It allows us to expand the list if necessary, in case in the future there are things that we have not contemplated that may be appropriate in regulation.

V. Huntington: I wonder, then, if the minister could answer. On one or more of the following — road or highway, pipeline, transmission line — why you wouldn't restrict these opportunities for this type? This is the issue that has so many people upset and where the social licence is that the hon. member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head has said does not exist for these changes to the act.

Why would you not restrict these things more tightly if it's going to be allowing drilling for water for community use? Those types of restrictive definitions would be much more palatable to the public than these open-ended decisions that look like the act is paving the way for industrial development.

If the minister's comments are in fact genuinely pertaining to opportunities that some communities might need to support themselves, then why don't the words in the act move in that direction? Why aren't they more limiting? This act does nothing, and these words do nothing, to give comfort to the public.

Hon. M. Polak: The important thing to remember is that there are significant portions of the Park Act — which is, full-on, about 30 pages long — that continue to apply and continue to guide the decisions that will be made around park use permits that would be granted and around the activities that may or may not take place in a park.

As a result, industrial activities are not allowed to take place in class A parks, which is one of the reasons that you have proponents and others seeking to have adjustments made to park boundaries, because they couldn't possibly undertake those activities inside a park land.

All of those, the boundary adjustments, have to be brought to the Legislature. There is a significant amount of consultation that takes place with respect to each and every one, be they major or minor in terms of addition or subtraction from a class A park.

This amendment, the Park Amendment Act that is here before you now, is not intended to replace the entire Park Act. If one looks at the sections that remain in terms of the purpose of the class A park, purposes of the conservancies, other designations that could be made in section 12, for example, it's clear that you could not have things like mining and other activities like that take place in a park. Under the guise of research it wouldn't change a thing with respect to those particular sections of the
[ Page 2303 ]
Park Act which remain.

The intention of this amendment is to provide legal statutory certainty for the granting of research permits, commercial filming permits that we have been granting but have been advised that we do not have sufficient legal certainty in order to proceed as we have.

That, of course, in a situation where we anticipate a larger number of applications and greater pressures in terms of resource activity on the land base upcoming, makes us concerned that decisions either to grant a permit or decisions to deny a permit application could be met with a failure in the court because we have not clearly established our authority to make those decisions.

That is the limitation of the amendment. It's not intended to go further than that. The Park Act itself outlines all the other aspects of parks and park values that staff have to consider when determining whether or not to grant or deny a permit.

[1645]

S. Chandra Herbert: Currently, in section 8, there's discussion around research would have to pass the test of it being "necessary for the preservation or maintenance of the recreational values of the park involved." I understand that this is, in a sense, a change, that research is also allowable if it relates now to an environmental assessment or a feasibility study or "(d) the research will inform a decision of the Lieutenant Governor in Council or the Legislature in relation to the boundaries of the protected area."

This does seem to be quite a striking change: to go from, potentially, one area, which says this has to be about benefiting the park or about a public health issue to one which could also involve environmental assessments or studies which could potentially change boundaries of parks.

I know the minister says the legislation doesn't allow mining in parks, and that is true. The question is really about what happens should the land be taken out of the park. Does this grease the wheels to allow changes in park designation so that one area of a park could have…? Let's say Garibaldi Park or maybe Cypress Park. It could be any number of parks, depending on where you are in B.C.

Let's say that there was a proposal to drill for oil, just to throw it out there. The minister was talking about water wells; I can talk about oilwells. Let's just say there was a big bunch of oil under one of the parks or maybe even just a hint that there might be some under there.

The question that I wonder is: when moving away from just discussing beneficial use to the park or necessary for public health, does that allow the introduction of work that could lead to an establishment of an oilwell or a mine or something in what was then formerly a park, since legislation would be required to change the boundaries? While technically the minister may be correct in saying this legislation does not allow mining in the park — maybe some ore sampling or something like that — it could lead to mining in what was a former park.

If the minister could clarify to me why the change, the addition of "environmental assessment" as well as "Lieutenant Governor in Council," rather than just the earlier test in terms of being consistent with protection of beneficial use to the park.

Hon. M. Polak: I'm going to approach this in reverse order, if that's all right with the member.

I fully recognize the member's concern and the concerns of the public with respect to the reasons why an adjustment might be made to a park boundary. That should concern all of us. Those decisions should be taken with great seriousness. They are. They're debated here in the Legislature. There is a process that's been established that is virtually the same now as it has been since the year 2000.

This act doesn't change it — not at all, not one iota. It doesn't touch it. That process remains the same. Today a proponent could come and make an application to move a boundary because they would like to build a mine and take land out of the park to build a mine, or they'd like to remove land from a park to drill for oil. Today they could do that. There's a process.

They would likely be denied, I would think, in terms of just raw: "There's oil there. We want it." The point is this act doesn't change that. That stays the same the day after this amendment is passed as it is today. All of those things have to come before this Legislature and have to be debated here — as you've seen an act come forward that has a number of different boundary adjustments.

In terms of our decisions, though, as to what it is that will be allowed in a park, it still comes down to the same values that have been outlined right from the beginning in terms of what constitutes a class A park and what its purpose is. That, at the beginning of the Park Act, still has to be considered by the decision-makers, is part of the legislation and is fairly strong language, I would say. If you read what the description of a class A park's purpose is, it's fairly definitive. That, of course, would be looked at under any judicial review with respect to a decision that the minister or her delegate made to grant or deny a permit.

[1650]

Lastly, when it comes to the removal of that language, again, it simply comes back to what we are trying to do here, which is to gain legal standing, certainty, to be able to make those decisions. This is the reason that that section is being removed — again, to provide that certainty or that authority for the minister or the minister's delegate to make those decisions to grant or deny permits.

S. Chandra Herbert: If the intention of these changes, as the minister suggests, is to basically keep the Park Act the same, keep the Park Act whole…. "Don't worry.
[ Page 2304 ]
We're going to be saying very clearly that protected areas — their intent is to remain protected, not to be changed, to stay as they are." Then I'm curious why, instead of saying under, I guess it would be, subclause 9.3(2)….

We've got "(a) to do so is consistent with the purpose of the protected area, (b) the research relates to the improvement of public health or safety, (c) the research relates to an environmental assessment or a feasibility study, or (d) the research will inform a decision of the Lieutenant Governor in Council or the Legislature…." I'm curious why the minister has added subclauses (c) and (d) rather than just leaving that it's consistent with the purpose of the protected area or relates to the improvement of public health or safety.

If that was the intent — and I know that's often what's talked about in press releases and in this House, from the government side — why the addition of "environmental assessment or a feasibility study," the very things that could lead to that oil pipeline or oil tanker or oil drilling that the minister suggested would not be accepted under the park boundary adjustment guidelines?

Hon. M. Polak: Firstly, though, I want to address this issue of the purpose. I think it's important to just read into the record again the purpose of a class A park. "The Class A parks…are dedicated to the preservation of their natural environments for the inspiration, use and enjoyment of the public." That is overarching and stays in the act and is there to remain to guide the decision-making.

The addition of (c) and (d) in 9.3(2) is recognizing what we have been granting permits for in terms of research. It has proven very valuable to be able to allow that research for the purposes of an environmental assessment or feasibility study.

Probably the best example is what's happened with Khutzeymateen. We actually believe that you'll see more and more of this — that the research conducted ultimately ends up in a boundary adjustment proposal either being withdrawn or being denied. In the case of Khutzeymateen, people are aware that initially the proponent was engaged in activities that they were not allowed to be doing. Subsequent to that, they made a proper application to us. They were granted a park use permit for research purposes.

It was as a result of that research that they, the proponent, decided it was not going to be worth their while to have the pipeline go through Khutzeymateen, and instead they chose a different routing that took them away from that conservancy.

As I've said before, these things all cut both ways. The evidence could support someone's boundary adjustment requests. It could very well do the opposite. The evidence garnered from the research could be the very evidence that our decision-makers use to say: "I'm sorry, too much impact on the park. You're not allowed to do that."

S. Chandra Herbert: Thank you to the minister for the answer. I guess I'm a little confused, because earlier on in the debate a couple of weeks back it seemed that the argument was that we had to do this now. Otherwise, we would have potential environmental devastation, should there be an environmental assessment next to a park, and the parks folks and the environmental assessment folks not be allowed to do any research in the park, so you would have no clue what the impact of a mine next to the park might be.

I'm overexaggerating a little bit, but that seemed to be the argument that I heard. Now I'm hearing that in fact no, the research is allowed to happen already, but this just makes it clearer that it's already allowed and that it's already being done.

[1655]

Some have asked me: "Well, how the heck can this research be going on if it's actually illegal and you need to change the law to make it legal?" Are there independent legal opinions that could be provided? How did we get here that we're changing the law to do something the government says it's already doing but is also saying that they're not allowed to do?

Hon. M. Polak: The member has correctly identified the challenge that we are trying to confront here. We discussed this around films. The member knows that there are filming activities that take place in parks. There are also research activities that have taken place in parks under park use permits.

The reason we brought forward the amendment — and I would say one of the reasons that the consultation has not been aggressive or thorough on this — is that we are seeking to ensure that we have the statutory authority for things that up until now we took for granted that we did.

We've been advised that the granting of the permits as we have done likely would not stand the test of a judicial review, and therefore, we need to amend the Park Act to ensure that we can continue on with what we have been doing but with the statutory authority so that we would not be in a case where either the granting of or the denial of the application for a permit could be successfully challenged and overturned based on our lack of authority.

It is, I believe, something that is of an urgent nature, because without that statutory authority, it's one thing to be conducting your business believing that you are acting appropriately. When you have then been advised that you do not have that statutory authority, it's quite another thing, then, to proceed with your activities. I would want to be certain, as we see the increased pressures on the land base, that we are able to employ every tool possible to be able to make those decisions in the most informed way.

S. Chandra Herbert: I think it's interesting that the more we go down the rabbit hole, the questions of what is
[ Page 2305 ]
allowable or what's not and what may have happened and what may lead to judicial reviews and so on…. I guess the question is: what kind of activity under the current legislation could be ruled, through a judicial review, unallowable? What are we seeing here that the ministry is concerned will be challenged?

Hon. M. Polak: There are currently 113 active research permits across the province. Activities are in the range of research on wild rangelands by domestic cattle, fossil collection. Some are geotechnical studies around understanding earthquake hazard in B.C.

Under the previous test, even the research that was conducted for the sake of the Kleanza Creek Park, for example, wouldn't have met the test, because the test requires that the research be necessary for the preservation and maintenance of the park. You could not possibly argue that although it's a valuable effort to try and improve the human health status of the Kitselas First Nation, it does nothing to maintain or preserve that park — the research into determining whether or not there's clean water.

The test simply is a step too far for what most people would consider fairly benign research activities. Nevertheless, I just want to repeat that we evaluate more than just the research activities themselves. We want to understand overall impact of a research request. Even if the research is benign, if other activities surrounding it are going to negatively impact the park, then likely that permit would not be granted.

S. Chandra Herbert: Is there a level of prioritization in terms of what values matter more when making decisions at the ministerial level regarding these research applications? For example, does preserving the recreational values and the ecological integrity of the park rate higher than, let's say, the demand for somebody to do an industrial project that may not be consistent with that demand but may not have a lot of impact long term?

[1700]

Is there a priority? In the Kleanza example, I had been led to understand that public health was also on an equal footing to preserving the recreational values. Maybe the minister could illustrate how that values chain works in making these decisions.

Hon. M. Polak: I'm sure the member will appreciate it's not a precise science, and it's certainly not a quantitative one. A whole lot of it depends on what the purpose of that particular park is.

For example, if you take the Khutzeymateen, that is a very, very specific area. Well, of course, it's a specific area, but it's protected for a very specific reason. As a result, the activities in that area are very, very restricted, to the point where even flying over the park can be something that harms the bear population and their standing in the Khutzeymateen area.

You could go all the way from that to a park where there are heavy uses for recreation, for example — maybe boating on a lake.

Those would be two very different examples. The very same activity that might be allowed in a provincial park — let's say Cultus Lake or something…. What you would allow to go on in a place like Cultus Lake might be very different than what you would allow to take place in somewhere like the Khutzeymateen.

The values judgment, and it is a values judgment, is one that's made by our staff, in large measure based on the nature of that particular park area — also, in the case of a class A park, based on the management plan that's laid out for the park as well, which of course is developed in conjunction with communities and First Nations around and about the area. Those who are making the decisions are looking for consistency with those kinds of plans.

S. Chandra Herbert: If there is no management plan for a park, as I know many class A parks don't have management plans or conservation strategies, would the minister entertain research projects that could lead to boundary adjustments?

Hon. M. Polak: Yes, there are parks that do not currently have management plans in place. In the absence of those, we would utilize things such as our B.C. Parks impact assessment process and the conservation risk assessments. We may also in some cases take a look at a relevant land use plan.

So a number of different tools, but all the time looking for consistency with what the park is utilized for, remembering that the enjoyment that we are to consider as a value in terms of providing to the public, as outlined in the purpose, involves their ability to not just go and appear at a park but be able to enjoy its environs that, hopefully, are not damaged by activities such as this.

Again, it's trying to take a look at as many assessment tools as possible and looking for that consistency with the purpose of that park and the activities that regularly take place there.

S. Chandra Herbert: What percentage of class A parks currently have management plans?

Hon. M. Polak: It's 77 percent.

S. Chandra Herbert: I went back and I was looking through legislation brought before this House — in particular, a bill that was brought May 1, 2007. It was the Parks and Protected Areas Statutes Amendment Act, 2007. At the time this was around adding some areas to the parks, changing some areas to the parks and a range of other discussions.

[1705]


[ Page 2306 ]

At the time the Minister of Environment said: "In addition, our government intends to have management plans in place for conservancy before park use permits will be issued for activities that are not currently being conducted in that area." Then it continues on a range of conservancies, activities and things like that which were going on at the time. Of course, Pinecone Burke Park was much in the news at the time with proposed power lines going through that park, which continued through the debate.

I'm curious. At what point does the government think it will have management plans in place for our parks, for the other 33 percent that we don't have management plans for? I ask that because, of course, the Auditor General raised this issue a number of years ago.

As well, I think the public would feel a certain sense of more security around how our parks are potentially going to be impacted by research — as it seems very clear that the government intends to push this through — if they knew that the parks had their ecological values completely mapped out as best as they were able to — that we know where the endangered populations are or where we know that if we do something in one area it will have an echo effect on a different area or we know if just that area is so sensitive, because of any number of reasons, that it's just off-limits.

We can't say that with any huge sense of security right now for some of our parks, I would argue, since we do not have management strategies or plans in place.

Sorry, it's a long question. The short, real question I have is just: when do you think we'll be able to have management plans in place for the 33 percent of our parks that don't?

Hon. M. Polak: Just to give the member some comfort, while we certainly aim to eventually have management plans over all of our class A parks, they nevertheless are not without their information with respect to conservation values. Almost every single one of the parks has had a conservation risk assessment conducted and completed. That work is there, and that information is there.

It will take several years, likely, to get to the completion of the rest of the management plans, in part because it is a consultation-heavy process. We conduct significant consultations not only with communities but with First Nations. So we are not the only party that is engaged in trying to achieve these management plans. Therefore, we don't have sole and complete control, nor would we want to.

It's the nature of the process that we want it to be community-driven. We want it to involve First Nations values. That is going to take some significant time — understanding as well, though, that those management plans will stand in many cases for decades, sometimes generations, to come. We want to make sure that in the first instance we are putting together something that has had the full and complete participation of the communities and the First Nations. That is going to continue to take us a number of years still.

S. Chandra Herbert: I understand it does take time when you're talking with communities and you're trying to develop the best information you have so that you can develop those management plans. Certainly, I'd worked on some of these kinds of things when I used to work on the park board back in Vancouver and we looked at those kinds of things.

Interjection.

S. Chandra Herbert: I won't designate that with a response, hon. Member. Oh, I just did.

Anyways, I would just ask…. In terms of management plans the minister makes a good point: that it takes some time. How many management planning activities are we currently engaged in, in class A parks?

I ask just because in terms of this bill, I think there would be more comfort with people if they knew that the minister had the very best information at her fingertips when having to make a decision like this. If we don't know how soon we'll get there and we don't know how many management plans are currently being developed and how many we're going to get through in a year's time, we could be talking several years being 50 years or towards several years being two years from now. If we can get a sense of that number, that would be helpful.

Hon. M. Polak: The number is always changing, in part because you can be active at a table and in discussions, and then, for various reasons, people are engaged in other activities in a community and maybe it stops for a while.

[1710]

I can tell you that we have five that are going out for public consultation next week. The activities change around the province in terms of which tables are most active, but it is ongoing work that we're engaged in.

I should emphasize, as well, that when it comes to park use permits, First Nations are consulted with respect to the evaluation of the proposal to grant a park use permit. It's not without its consultation, even in the absence of alignment with a management plan.

V. Huntington: I'd like to canvass a comment the minister made a little bit earlier on this section. Would it be fair to say that this section is closing a loophole that enables an organization or an entity or an individual to challenge the government in court on a decision it has made on a boundary line adjustment?

Hon. M. Polak: That wouldn't be correct. What it does is change the test. In the past if they were to chal-
[ Page 2307 ]
lenge a decision under judicial review, the test that the judge would be evaluating is that test that we've removed, which asks: "Is the activity necessary for the preservation and maintenance of the park?" That's a very, very high bar. Very few activities would actually reach that.

It doesn't close a loophole in terms of their ability to challenge; it changes the test. In other words, it changes the anvil upon which the judge would make their decision. It wouldn't be that. It would, instead, be the grounds that we've outlined.

S. Chandra Herbert: The minister did mention that First Nations communities, through the constitution, will be consulted when these kind of permits are applied for. Some would ask: if there is a certain test, a certain larger degree of research, shouldn't the community be involved as well? Just to clarify if the minister has a test of when community consultation, beyond First Nations consultation, would occur.

Hon. M. Polak: It actually harkens back, if the members recalls, prior to the break week when we were talking about commercial filming. Our folks on the ground tend to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis, depending on what type of impact it's going to have. In the case of the commercial filming that we discussed, if it was simply a matter of taking some still shots of a few trees and some birds up there, nobody is going to care. But if you're going to blow up a car on the entryway into the park, people are probably going to want to be consulted to a greater extent.

The same would be true for this. It really would depend on the extent to which we believe there's a potential impact. If it was very, very minor — maybe somebody is going to gather scat two feet into a park boundary — I don't know if anyone would really care about that.

If there was a case, for example, like the Kitselas drilling to see if they can find fresh water, that would be a case. Now, it was the First Nation, so I guess you wouldn't be consulted. But as an example, that would be a case where you would want to make sure that people were aware of what the activity is, and it's something that we do already.

S. Chandra Herbert: Just to come back to the question I'd asked earlier about which section takes precedence over environmental assessment or park permit or the demand the minister received in her statement letter from the Premier suggesting we need to get good economic activity going. Of course, that's something we're all supportive of. When that rubs up against the demand around preservation of a park area, what wins out? What are the real tests in there?

I think the public wants to know that protecting our parks takes the highest degree of support over something like if somebody had a project which could generate some jobs but could also cost that park ecology, biodiversity and various other park values we hold dear. Is there a way that the minister can show us that there is a higher priority, at least even in this amendment, as opposed to, of course, the first words in the Park Act itself?

[1715]

Hon. M. Polak: It still comes down to not granting a park use permit for activities that would have an adverse impact on the park, on the park values, right? So taking a look at the purpose of that park. If you take a look at the policy that guides our decision-makers in how they evaluate, that's a big part of it — for them to look at whether or not there's an adverse impact on those park values.

I hesitate to go broadly in terms of stating where the values lie, because of course we can all think up individual circ*mstances where there could be a reason to trump those values.

I would say this, though. That's one of the reasons you have two separate processes here. One is authorizing research through a park use permit. The other is that when you have things that would be of an adverse impact to a park, then there can be a boundary adjustment requested — right? — because you're not allowed to do that stuff in a park.

Of course, though, then they have to meet the much taller order of trying to achieve that which we know takes many years, in a lot of cases, and is certainly not always successful. We see that in terms of the most recent legislation coming forward, where we certainly, in evaluating that, recognized that we've only had…. Since 2004 there have only been 12 proponent-driven boundary adjustment requests — only 12. Of those, only eight were granted.

It still comes down to those two different things. If you want to do something that's going to be damaging to a park, you're not going to be allowed to do it. You're just not going to be allowed to do it. Your only option is to see if you can get the Legislature to approve that you should be able to take this land out of a park, and as we've seen, that's not an easy thing to achieve. It'll continue to be the same high bar as it has been in the past.

S. Chandra Herbert: I think, really, what it comes down to is people are looking at this and going, "Well, if somebody comes forward for a research permit, it's a lower bar to meet," in the sense of: "Well, I'm just doing research. I'm not building a mine in the park" or "I'm not putting a pipeline or a transmission line through the park. I'm just doing research."

So yes, it may sound alarming that somebody wants to do research into the potential mineral values in a park or something like that. Well, it's just a research permit. We can always say no down the track. Then the person spends a lot of money, because they've been given the go-ahead. "Do some research. Knock your socks off. See
[ Page 2308 ]
what you can find. Just do it in an environmentally sensitive way."

Then they come back and they say, "Oh my goodness. We've found an incredible ore body. Minister, I need your approval to do the boundary adjustment now," at which point the question then gets asked of the public, "Do you want to allow this mine, or do you want a park," in a sense, because the question is: should we go ahead with this project at the time? People see that as a thin edge of the wedge — that you're basically opening up exploration in areas, potentially, that were off-limits to this date.

Would the minister say that a research permit application is a lower bar to meet than a boundary adjustment?

Hon. M. Polak: It absolutely is a lower bar. It is now and it'll continue to be, because to adjust a boundary is a hugely serious process. It changes the very nature of a park and changes the very nature of that land.

I have heard the same concerns from people. When I have spoken to them, what has become apparent to me is that very many people don't understand that right now, this very day, a mining company could come to my office with an application to move a boundary so they could build a mine. Right now, today, they could come with that. Nothing stops them, and this doesn't change that.

The process for evaluating a boundary adjustment, though, also does not change. This amendment does not do anything to that. All it does is take the research activities that are already being permitted and give us statutory authority for that, which we, apparently, have been lacking.

So why do I feel concerned about that? The member has heard me say it before. I not only want to be certain of my legal standing when I grant a permit; I want to be certain of my legal standing when I deny one.

[1720]

I want to know that you are not going to have a company with deep pockets able to use the lack of legal certainty to push forward an application for a park use permit for research that I, as minister, don't think should go forward, but they're able to because they can go to court. They can find that we don't have the legal certainty, and they can overturn that denial of a permit.

All of those opportunities still exist for judicial review, etc. Nothing closes the door on that. What it does is give us the standing so that we do not have that risk that we've been advised of — that in fact, the authority for granting or denying those permits just doesn't exist currently in the act.

S. Chandra Herbert: I appreciate that the minister has clarified that, of course, seeking a research permit is a lower bar.

I think the question is, really…. People's concern is that all of a sudden you come forward with the information, saying, "Here, look how great the find is," as opposed to: "We're just not interested in research going on in our parks which could lead to changing them massively and opening them up for certain industrial activities." That's the question, and that's the challenge, I think, with a lot of this discussion.

I'm curious, though. Something the minister said concerned me. I know, of course, that earlier I tried to paraphrase the minister's concern around how, without this act, we're putting our environment at risk.

She talked about the research — that we need to move quickly to ensure that we are able to have the adequate research information. It's very important, for example, in parks where there are existing roads, existing mines. There was a real impetus that we must act now, and the minister has stated it again.

I guess the question is: had we stopped issuing permits once we got the legal opinion that we are at risk? I'm just concerned that, if this is the case, we are at real legal risk that some big company — as the minister talked about — could come in and force something through or, alternatively, somebody is not properly heard or something because somebody has a louder voice and goes through the judicial process, or a good decision the minister made be overturned. What's the status of that at this stage?

Hon. M. Polak: We haven't ceased completely. There are things that are necessary to take place. Staff have been risk-managing it, essentially — not carrying on with as much speed and efficiency as they may have in the past, waiting for this legislation to take its place in the act and dealing with applications when there seems to be an urgent need.

For example, the Kitselas would have been a good example of that — right? — where you had a health and human safety issue. To take a strict reading of, "We're going to stop and not grant any," would have been harmful in that case.

They've been making their best decisions as to which types of research really needed to be granted in the interim, but we have not shut that down entirely. We've just been, at this stage, dealing on a case-by-case basis with items that we think are necessary to be approved.

S. Chandra Herbert: Would the minister agree or take issue with the assertion that this act will allow industrial companies and others to potentially do research on the possibility of setting up a mine in what could formerly be a park should they go through the park boundary adjustment process?

Hon. M. Polak: Before I decide whether I take issue with you or not, I think one of the things we need to be clear about…. It seems to be alluded to, but it's not quite being said.

This would not allow bulk ore sampling in parks. It would not allow drilling to find oil in parks. That is not
[ Page 2309 ]
research, and that would have an adverse impact on the values of that park. There is no way that those things would be approved. They're industrial activities. They are not research.

Now, I couldn't rule out that the proponent who maybe decides they want to try their hand at requesting a boundary amendment…. I wouldn't necessarily be able to tell, based on their application for research, whether or not that research is for the purposes of seeing a boundary adjustment so that they could build a mine.

[1725]

For example, what if part of what their research is, is to go and take a stream sample? They go in with a little vial, and they get a little bit of water. Well, maybe, ultimately, they end up using that as part of their case that they're building that they need to have a boundary adjustment.

I wouldn't, therefore, on the basis of your statement, simply rule that out flatly, because you couldn't. To a certain extent, that illustrates the reason behind the way in which this amendment is framed. There are so many circ*mstances that you couldn't possibly conceive of in drafting the legislation that to try and create an exhaustive list that describes each and every possible circ*mstance…. You couldn't do it.

We try to create the framework as best we can. We provide the legal certainty. We have, of course, the values that are outlined in the Park Act. We ask our staff to rely on those. Ultimately, we want each individual decision to be decided on its merits, but let me be clear. There will be no bulk ore sampling in parks; there will be no drilling for oil. Those are major industrial activities. They are not allowed to take place in our parks.

S. Chandra Herbert: If the minister could…. It sounds like she's got it in her head — the list of things that are not allowed in B.C. parks, including drilling for oil and opening mines or doing bulk ore sampling. Some suggested there might be smaller ore sampling rather than large bulk sampling, but anyway, I won't quibble here on that one.

What other sorts of industrial activities are not allowed in parks despite this legislation?

Hon. M. Polak: The ones that come to mind in British Columbia — of course, logging. That used to be something that was allowed years ago. I mean, I'm pulling out examples. The reality is, if something is going to have an adverse impact on the park, it's not going to be allowed — industrial activity, generally.

I couldn't give you an exhaustive list because maybe next year somebody will think of a new industry that I haven't come up with yet. That, again, points to the challenge you have when you're trying to construct legislation like this. As soon as you draft a list, somebody's got an exception.

We want our staff to be evaluating their decisions based on the values that are represented in the Park Act, based on the designations of the different parks and protected areas. We want them to be asking the question — not just does this seem like a benign activity, but, in fact, is it going to adversely impact on the park and on those values?

V. Huntington: Could I then ask if the minister is saying that a bulk ore extraction wouldn't be allowed in a park, and therefore, it's not sort of listed here? Industrial activity is bulk ore extraction. Are you saying, then…? Is the act, then, suggesting that a pipeline or a transmission line or a telecommunication project is now no longer considered an industrial activity?

What I'm concerned about is that we're getting sort of a language here that says we're not permitting this, but we will permit this in case they want to change the boundaries. I'm trying to figure out why you wouldn't restrict these, and, if by not restricting these, you are saying that the feasibility of a pipeline, and therefore a potential boundary line adjustment in a park, wouldn't be considered an industrial activity.

Hon. M. Polak: I believe the member is talking about the list of purposes for which they may address a feasibility study. Remember that we do allow in the park boundary amendment process…. Those are things people can apply for park boundary amendments for the purposes of. In some cases, it will be very small.

We have cases where, in terms of some transmission lines, very tiny parts of parks have been moved because overall, the siting of that transmission line through that corridor proved to be better for the environmental values than another path that may have been chosen. Those are all activities that are allowed.

There's no distinction in terms of: are you allowed to…? I mean, you are not allowed to have a transmission line through a park. You're not allowed to have a pipeline through a park. I know there are pre-existing ones. You aren't allowed to have industrial activity like that in a park.

[1730]

Anything a person wants to do that conflicts with the designation of that land as a class A park, they would have to request to adjust the boundaries and remove the land from the park. It isn't a matter of saying which things a person could apply for or which reasons. All those are evaluated individually when an application comes forward, right?

This outlines, in the feasibility study, some of the things for which they could be able to conduct research, but those could be added to, as well, in terms of the regulation. It still comes down to the individual case and its merits. But let's not forget that the boundary adjustment process is an entirely separate thing from the Park Act.
[ Page 2310 ]

S. Chandra Herbert: Under 9.3(1) there's a list, as the minister noted and as the member for Delta South just spoke around, under "feasibility study" of what a feasibility study could be used for: "(a) a road or highway; (b) a pipeline; (c) a transmission line; (d) a telecommunications project; (e)" — and I'll come back to (e) — or "(f) a structure, improvement or work related to a project described in any of paragraphs (a) to (e)."

I'm just curious, and apologies if I've missed this, but can the minister share what current prescribed classes of projects there are under subsection (e), where it says "a prescribed project or a project in a prescribed class of projects"? What are those prescribed classes of projects?

Hon. M. Polak: This is an enabling part of the legislation. We would describe that in regulation.

S. Chandra Herbert: Well, of course, when we hear "we'll describe that in regulation," the skin starts to crawl a little bit, the hair shoots up on the back of the neck, and the opposition start to go: "Okay, what are they trying to hide here?"

I'll be fair to the minister. It may just not just be written yet, but can the minister outline what kind of class of projects this could be? What are they considering, and what kind of consultation will they be doing on this? This could be just about anything. You could throw in a nuclear power plant if you wanted, just because we don't even know what could go here. I'm just throwing out possibilities, and I'd love to hear what the minister is actually considering.

Hon. M. Polak: Let's not forget, though…. It is easy to forget when we're discussing an amendment that's about a page and a half, and it's easy to then begin to imagine that that is all that exists. I know the member was being somewhat facetious, but the member mentioned a nuclear power plant. Well, there are all sorts of other acts and legislation that would ensure that in fact there wouldn't be a nuclear power plant.

There's no attempt here to try and put everything that we need to regulate into the Park Amendment Act or, indeed, into the full Park Act — because, of course, it exists in a world that is surrounded by other pieces of legislation and regulation.

When we say that this is going to be done through regulation, if you take a look at (e) with the sentence "one or more of the following," one of them is "a prescribed project or a project in a prescribed class of projects." In other words, this definition enables us to construct, in regulation, entire classes of projects that we would describe.

It still doesn't change the nature of the test that the proponent would have to go through if they're seeking the park use permit, but it enables us to make adjustments as time goes on and as there may be different reasons for it. But the reason behind their request is not the basis upon which the person is going to be making the decision, right? The decision is going to be made based on the alignment with the values that that person is guided by in the Park Act, in our policy and in the conservation risk assessments, the B.C. park impact assessments and all those kinds of things.

[D. Horne in the chair.]

S. Chandra Herbert: Hon. Chair, I'll let you get seated there. Got you on your feet. That's good.

To understand that, basically the argument is that the prescribed class of projects, things that we might not have even thought about yet, things that could come up down the road…. Five years from now if something arrives which isn't a pipeline, a road, a transmission line or a telecommunications project, or it could be something else, then that's what this is for — to allow that to go ahead.

[1735]

I guess that would be made through order-in-council, so we'll learn obliquely, for those that pay attention to those orders-in-council, as it goes.

Again, I guess the concern is that no matter the purpose that the person has made the research application, it's not what is considered. It's the impact. Of course, the concern goes back to what started this all: does this make it easier? Does this open the door, so to speak, to a certain class of projects which people might be allergic to if they knew they were coming to a park near them?

Is there any sort of, on the ministry side, guidance in terms of saying to folks that come forward with their money — I guess there's no money at this point — come forward with their park research questions, potentially also looking at park boundary adjustments down the road…? Is there guidance to just say: "Well, you can do your research, but the likelihood is that you're never going to get a park boundary adjustment through for these reasons"?

Is there guidance at that early stage, or is it: "You can do your research, and then we'll consider whatever you bring to us down the road"? You wouldn't want to create a situation where people are doing all this work. There's a whole bunch of community concern about a project potentially going through because of the research. They see the surveyor's tape, and they see the kinds of things that could happen to their park, yet the minister has no intention of actually proceeding with it.

How do we gauge that? You don't want to waste people's time, and you want to be respectful of the community.

Hon. M. Polak: Actually, the member lays out a concern that generated a change to the policy in 2010, which was to provide for a stage 1 approval that essentially be-
[ Page 2311 ]
came what you might call the sniff test. The application comes in, and there's an immediate decision to the proponents that says…. Well, almost immediate, as fast as you can turn around. It's a very quick, high-level look that would give the proponents an immediate no.

If it was something that we weren't even willing to consider, then we'll tell them that right off the bat: "You are barking up the wrong tree." That happens at stage 1.

Flipping that around, a stage 1 approval doesn't tell them: "Well, yeah, Bob's your uncle. You're off to the races." It simply says to them, "Okay, yeah, we're willing to look at it," but they're told right at the very beginning. That policy is outlined on the website as well, if people are interested in taking a look at it. They can see the stages that proponents would have to go through.

A. Weaver: I wanted to link in the question that was just posed by the member for Vancouver–West End to one that I earlier posed to suggest that perhaps this definition is entirely useless for "feasibility study." It says that it means "a study of feasibility, including, without limitation" — which simply means wide open to anything. It talks about "a prescribed project or a project in a prescribed class of projects," which isn't defined. We have a definition that is essentially any activity without limitation to any project, which isn't defined.

My question to the minister is: would the minister and her staff consider bringing back a more succinct, accurate and inclusive definition of "feasibility study" later? This is not something that anybody can work on, because it simply includes everything that you could possibly imagine as being part of this definition.

Hon. M. Polak: It brings me back to some of what I've been saying earlier, which is that we are, in this amendment, attempting to provide the legal certainty necessary for us to act. We're advised that this is the language that is appropriate for us to use in describing feasibility study and in achieving that particular goal of having that legal certainty granted to us in the legislation.

I sympathize with the member. There are many times when I have sat on legislative review committee and listened to legislative counsel describe why certain wording has to be a certain way.

[1740]

It doesn't always feel like the way that everyday people would ordinarily want to read things. Nevertheless, that's what I'm advised, that in terms of describing a feasibility study and where it appears later in subsection (2) and (c), this fits appropriately with what we're trying to achieve.

A. Weaver: Well, obviously, I respectfully disagree. Again, coming back to this section later, where it does talk about an environment assessment or a feasibility study, it comes back…. I mean, the legal advice might be to do this, but the obvious corollary is that that legal advice is asserting: "We want this to mean nothing." So the definition of "feasibility study" is entirely meaningless. There is no formal…. Everything qualifies.

Again, my question, going back to the minister to reinforce, is: is there some way that the legal team working with the minister on this could actually come back with a definition that doesn't include every potential project, from the so-called nuclear power plant that the member for Vancouver–West End raised right the way through drinking water? This is so inclusive as to be non-exclusive. Everything's in then.

Hon. M. Polak: In part, that's because of the objective that you're trying to achieve. But remember, I would say, if you compare the two definitions, environmental assessment and feasibility study…. The significant portion of the definition is not the listing underneath with respect to the types of things one may conduct a feasibility study for. It's in what you see there: "…the feasibility of the location, design, construction, use, maintenance, improvement or deactivation, of one or more of the following…."

The following part…. The nature of it is that it's going to change over time — the reasons why someone may wish to look into those things — because the nature of activity on the land base changes over time. Technology changes over time. I think the important part of the definition still stands, and it differentiates it from an environmental assessment.

A. Weaver: Thank you for bringing back to…. The definition of the environmental assessment, of course, refers to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the detailed discussions therein. Again, the words "without limitation" imply that anything can happen.

I don't want this to be argumentative. I just reiterate the question a final time to the minister. Is it possible that the ministerial staff will look at this? The words "without limitation" include everything, because there is no limit to what's being defined here as feasibility, particularly in the words "a prescribed project or a project in a prescribed class of projects," where the word "prescribed" is open for interpretation by one and all.

Really, is there any chance that we will get a look at this? This is the final time I ask this, I promise. But this is so meaningless it is creating enormous concern within the environmental communities across British Columbia, within First Nation communities, because of a lack of clarity as to (a) the term "research," but (b) here, what a feasibility study is, when anything falls under this definition.

Hon. M. Polak: As I've advised before, the effort here is to find that legal certainty with respect to our authority to grant or deny park use permits for the purposes of research. In this case, as we've gone through the work to construct the act, we are advised that this is the appro-
[ Page 2312 ]
priate way to achieve that in terms of describing a feasibility study.

V. Huntington: You can see the problem that we're having with this on this side of the House. I mean, feasibility study, prescribed areas. What is that — mining? Would it be oil extraction? What could the prescribed areas be that we won't know about that are being regulated by the ministry itself?

Could I ask, then, for instance: what would a feasibility study for a pipeline be permitted to entail? Would they be allowed to clearcut? Would they be allowed to remove vegetation, trees, etc., whilst doing their feasibility study in a park? And let's not forget that by permitting the feasibility study, there's almost a presumption that you might be able to get your boundary line adjustment.

So what exactly will be permitted under each of these categories?

[1745]

Hon. M. Polak: Herein lies, I think, one of the larger misunderstandings. The "feasibility study" definition is not the test as to what can or cannot happen in a park. It's simply the definition of a feasibility study. And we have the permission…. If we pass this, we have the statutory authority to grant a park use permit for that purpose — for the purpose of a feasibility study.

What governs the decision as to what will happen is not that definition. What governs that decision is the things we've talked about earlier. So no, you could not clearcut. Whether or not this definition or this amendment ever happened, you could not clearcut in a park. You could not do that for research. It's one of the reasons we have not defined "research."

Let's say the research you want to conduct is very, very benign but in order to get to the place where you need to do it, you need to hack away a bunch of bush and clear out a whole bunch of trees to get your equipment in. We wouldn't allow it, because it has an adverse impact on the park. It conflicts with the values.

Let's not make the mistake of thinking that the definitions involved here on feasibility study, research, etc…. They are not the testing ground. They are not what determines what could happen. They simply are outlining the legal grounds on which the minister can grant or not grant a permit, as the case may be. They don't stand by themselves. They stand in the midst of the entire Park Act, and they stand in the midst of all of the other different acts that govern activities on the ground — Environmental Management Act, all those kinds of things.

This is in the context of every other protection that exists, so it wouldn't matter what the feasibility study outlined in its definition. It wouldn't impact on the kind of test that needs to be applied by the decision-makers and, in this case, the consideration they have to give to the park values and the purposes of the park. They still have to do that.

S. Chandra Herbert: I'm curious. Under section 9.3(2)(d), it says: "the research will inform a decision of the Lieutenant Governor in Council or the Legislature in relation to the boundaries of the protected area." I ask that because I asked for an explanation of the difference between the two, as I understand there are still a few class A parks that were not legislated class A but were made class A parks through orders-in-council.

For those watching at home, that means the government did that behind closed doors in a meeting with ministers, and they brought in those changes. Some of that has occurred on and off again over the years. I understand that most class A parks were made in this Legislature, as opposed through an order-in-council, but the concern would be, of course, that research into a road, a pipeline or something like that could be used to inform a decision of the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council.

So my concern here is: does this allow the minister, theoretically, in council with her colleagues, to potentially, using research that's created out of this act, change the boundary of a park that is not covered under the current boundary legislation?

Hon. M. Polak: Whether or not a park or protected area can have the boundary adjusted through an order-in-council is dependent upon under what authority that park or protected area was established in the first place. The member is also correct that the vast majority of those would require a legislative amendment.

In terms of this particular passage, it doesn't change the current process or requirement. It simply provides that one of the allowable reasons to grant a research permit would be in preparation for an application for a boundary adjustment, shall we say. We could use the research in evaluating that in a decision, but it doesn't alter the current structure of how a boundary adjustment has to be made or taken forward, etc. It simply outlines that that research could be for that purpose.

S. Chandra Herbert: For the benefit of those in the House who haven't had the lucky fortune of sitting down with ministry staffers, as I did, to inquire about things like which parks are class A and which parks were created through legislation, as opposed to orders-in-council….

[1750]

If the minister could share which parks — or what number, I guess, to make it easy, or maybe percentage; I'm not sure which measure would be more helpful for the minister or the public — are order-in-council parks as opposed to legislated parks.

Hon. M. Polak: I apologize to the member. My staff brought all that information along when they briefed you.
[ Page 2313 ]
They did not bring it along here today, I'm afraid, so we don't have that off the top here. I think the member already has the information, but we could always pursue it for anyone else who's interested.

S. Chandra Herbert: I understand. I guess…. Yes, here. I have a list. The minister probably has the same list in a different binder. For once, I've got a one-up on the minister here — secrets in this letter. Four of the parks that I, through a letter from the minister to myself….

"When the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act was enacted in 2000, most class A parks and ecological reserves established by order-in-council under either the Park Act or the Ecological Reserve Act were placed in schedules to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act.

"Currently four class A parks that existed at the time the Protected Areas of B.C. Act was enacted remain established by orders-in-council under the Park Act."

For those watching at home, taking notes, keeping score, those are Arrow Lakes Park, Blackcomb Glacier Park, Cypress Park and Mount Fernie Park. There's some concern that, potentially, that may have some challenges there. Of course, the Liard River West Corridor Park also had some action at that time.

I would like to table this letter so that those watching at home or those wanting this information would be able to receive it. It's a letter to myself, and if….

The Chair: There's no provision, actually, to table a letter in committee.

S. Chandra Herbert: Not within committee stage? Okay.

Well, for all those keen for that information, they can contact me on Twitter, Facebook, fax, phone, mail, e-mail, in person here at the Legislature or other places, because I think this is the people's information and it should be made public. But alas, I can't do that through this forum. It's quite a long letter. I've read out certain sections, but I'm quite happy to read more.

The Chair: I'm not certain of the relevance of reading it out, so you could move to a question, if you could.

S. Chandra Herbert: Alas, I have yet to be able to convince the Chair of some of this relevance. I'll work on him again.

Anyways, at this point I think we on the opposition side have raised a number of questions. The minister has provided her answers on these sections of the legislation. I remain unconvinced that this is the correct path. I do worry that we are making it easier for potential invasions, in some senses, of our parks by activity that is not normally permitted. We will see.

I hope the minister's assurances are correct and we will not see the kind of devastation in our parks that some are so strongly concerned about. But I think, again, a lot of this concern could have been alleviated had the public actually been asked and had they been given the information and involved in the process in terms of updating legislation. There are still a few more sections to go, and we'll see. There may be more questions from other members on this side as well.

Section 3 approved.

On section 4.

S. Chandra Herbert: If the minister could just explain the purpose of this section.

[1755]

Hon. M. Polak: This, in partnership with the section we discussed earlier on "feasibility study," is part of what enables the minister to have the authority to grant park use permits for the purposes of a feasibility study.

A. Weaver: That was very fast. I had a simple question: how will the fees be administered around the issuance of research permits for feasibility studies or prescribed projects?

The Chair: Could the member repeat the question?

A. Weaver: How will fees be administered around the issuance of research permits for feasibility studies or prescribed projects, as per the amendment on section 29(3)?

Hon. M. Polak: We don't have a fee schedule as of yet. We have to go to Treasury Board with that subsequent to having the legislation, hopefully, passed in the Legislature. But it'll be consistent. The management of it will be consistent with what you see take place in other permitting ministries with respect to the policies that govern fees that are charged for those things. We have to take a fee schedule to Treasury Board and have that approved in order to have that for the act.

S. Chandra Herbert: The member provided me some words that I could then ask about, which, of course, are fees. I understand, of course, that the minister has said that that's still to come, should there be fees for these kinds of things. What percentage…? If the minister could provide a ballpark figure on how much is currently spent by the ministry, of taxpayers' dollars, assessing these kinds of permits.

Hon. M. Polak: It would be impossible to estimate. It's part of the regular staff business. It's part of their day-to-day work, evaluating applications. It would be impossible to give an estimate. There will certainly be fees, but in terms of what those are, it would be impossible to say until we've had our trip to Treasury Board and made our
[ Page 2314 ]
proposal.

S. Chandra Herbert: In terms of legislation enacting this, of course, it will take some work and doing the follow-through of feasibility studies, environmental assessments, etc. Does the minister foresee an increase in the number of asks for research permits in the year ahead after this legislation is going to pass?

Hon. M. Polak: There's nothing that we have before us currently that would signal that. Again, we have up until now operated with the idea that we were appropriately granting park use permits. There is, though, as all of us have noted, the likelihood of increased pressure on the land base, so in all likelihood as resource activities increase on the land base, we could see increasing numbers of requests. Currently, though, we have nothing in front of us that would show that.

S. Chandra Herbert: Just to be clear, there currently are no fees for research permits in parks. Is that correct?

Hon. M. Polak: There are currently no fees, but that's what we'll be working toward.

Section 4 approved.

On section 5.

[1800]

S. Chandra Herbert: The final section is asking that this bill be brought into force on the date of royal assent.

I'm curious. Something that's a common occurrence in much legislation in the United States are questions around sunset clauses or questions built in to do a review of the legislation in two years or five years, whatever the case may be, depending on the ask. What provisions are built in, in the system, to review this act to see if it is leading to changes that some foresee that are not positive to the parks? Does it just keep things the same as they were?

Or is it beneficial? Are we seeing less detrimental occurrences in our parks? What kind of assessment process will the minister undergo, and when will we see results of that assessment?

Hon. M. Polak: As with all ministries, we're constantly reviewing our legislation before we enter legislative sessions to see if there are amendments that are needed, changes that are needed, new legislation. When it comes to the management of our parks, we're constantly monitoring the activities that are taking place and evaluating whether or not they are consistent with the management of the parks that we're trying to achieve. But there's nothing specifically built into the act that would require it.

S. Chandra Herbert: While regulations for this act are still being designed, and there's still some discussion going around the policy, when will the minister be able to share with the public what the final findings were of the policy document which was hastily e-mailed out when I raised the concern that there'd been no consultation on this? When will that be public, in terms of the government's response to that concern? And will the minister commit to meeting with environmental groups that have written her on this act specifically to raise concerns around the lack of consultation?

Hon. M. Polak: We have, to date, received 25 comments with respect to the draft policy. Staff have already been meeting with various organizations — so far, the Sierra Club, B.C. Nature, Wildsight, CPAWS, Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C., ForestEthics.

We expect that we'll have a finalized policy within the next month or so, but it is the nature of policy that it can adapt when there are concerns raised. So we will continue to consider any input or concerns that are expressed even after the policy is finalized, if there's a need for us to adjust that.

S. Chandra Herbert: On the section regarding when this act will come into force, the corollary to this act really is the boundary adjustment policy, which we've been discussing earlier, and of course, the question around policy. As the minister said, policy can be changed over time, but in this regard, this act will become law. It certainly takes a lot longer to change law than policy. I ask this: are there any conversations about doing a review of the boundary adjustments policy?

[1805]

Certainly, there are some concerns with how it allows proponents, potentially, to set up consultation processes, as opposed to ministry, and some real concerns around fairness around boundary adjustments, which of course, I would argue, very much ties into the Park Amendment Act.

Hon. M. Polak: There are no active discussions about potential changes to the boundary adjustment policy. The current policy was put in place in 2000. It was amended in 2004 and then also in 2010, but it largely remains the same as it began in 2000.

Again though, as with the policy around park use permits, we're always open to input that people may have for us to consider to try and improve how those processes operate. In fact, that's part of how we arrived at amendments in both '04 and in 2010, one of those being what we discussed earlier, where there is an early no. If the request being made is one that we would never even countenance, we don't allow the proponent to continue down that path any further; we tell them no right up front.

The Chair: Questions on commencement are rare, and
[ Page 2315 ]
I've now allowed four.

S. Chandra Herbert: I appreciate it, Mr. Chair. Here's a fifth. Just because the minister raised it, the question of the stage 1 yes or no — a go. Does that stage 1 go to the local First Nations for their say on a stage 1 in terms of maybe this site is very important to them spiritually or involved in a connection for their traditional uses?

Hon. M. Polak: The proponent may, and in some cases they have already canvassed their proposal with First Nations, but there's no requirement that they do. Again, the stage 1 really carries — how can I say it? — no weight in terms of the future decision. It is that step that is designed to give an early no, so it's not a very involved process. It really is more a question of giving it that initial look.

Let's pick something wildly outlandish. If somebody decided that they were going to start a nuclear facility in Wells Gray Park and they're going to put it on top of a waterfall, well, I wouldn't have to consult with anybody. I would take a look at the stage 1 and say, "You're crazy; get out of here," right?

That's the purpose of the stage 1. It's that cut and dried. It's that quick. There's no particular consultation required. Nevertheless, sometimes proponents have already canvassed their proposal with First Nations at that time.

The Chair: I would remind members of the committee on both sides that we're currently debating commencement.

Section 5 approved.

Title approved.

Hon. M. Polak: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.

Motion approved on division.

The committee rose at 6:09 p.m.

The House resumed; Madame Speaker in the chair.

[1810]

Report and
Third Reading of Bills

BILL 4 — PARK AMENDMENT ACT, 2014

Bill 4, Park Amendment Act, 2014, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.

Madame Speaker: Hon. Members, I would ask you to keep your seats. The Administrator is in the precinct and will be with us shortly.

[1815]

His Honour the Administrator requested to attend the House, was admitted to the chamber and took his place in the chair.

Royal Assent to Bills

Deputy Clerk:

Missing Persons Act

Park Amendment Act, 2014

Provincial Capital Commission Dissolution Act

Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2014

Off-Road Vehicle Act

In Her Majesty's name, His Honour the Administrator doth assent to these acts.

Supply Act (No. 1), 2014

In Her Majesty's name, His Honour the Administrator doth thank Her Majesty's loyal subjects, accepts their benevolence and assents to this act.

His Honour the Administrator retired from the chamber.

[Madame Speaker in the chair.]

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

Hon. M. de Jong moved adjournment of the House.

Motion approved.

Madame Speaker: This House, at its rising, stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 6:20 p.m.


PROCEEDINGS IN THE
DOUGLAS FIR ROOM

Committee of Supply

ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
CHILDREN AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT

(continued)

The House in Committee of Supply (Section A); M. Dalton in the chair.

The committee met at 2:44 p.m.

On Vote 16: ministry operations, $1,356,419,000 (continued).
[ Page 2316 ]

C. James: I think we'll start off with poverty plans — the discussion around the poverty direction for the ministry. I won't give a long talk. The minister knows my position and our position around poverty reduction — that we should, as other provinces do, have a provincial-wide poverty reduction plan.

Could the minister tell me if any discussion has taken place within the ministry, or across government through her ministry, on a provincewide poverty reduction plan?

[1445]

Hon. S. Cadieux: No.

C. James: My next question, then, to the minister. As we talked about the poverty plans in July, the minister said that in all the seven communities that had operated with a regional poverty plan, a total of 72 families were served. Could the minister tell me what tracking has been done of those 72 families and what additional programs and supports are in place based on that regional poverty plan?

Hon. S. Cadieux: The total number of families that have been referred now, to date, is 101. Sixty-eight of those families have had information tracked and consented to us tracking information about the work that was done with those families. Because individual families needed different things, as I'm sure the member remembers from our other conversation, it has varied from what supports were put in place for families, depending on community.

I can give you some examples. For example, there was one family that was assisted to develop a plan to work from home so they could care for their children and become self-sufficient and no longer have to rely on income assistance. Another family was connected to medical services that they needed but couldn't afford to pay for. Some families were assisted to apply for B.C. Housing subsidies. Another mother with two children was struggling with low income and mental health issues and was given access to family support services.

It really varies depending on the individual needs of the families, but what it has shown us is that there are certainly lots of circ*mstances in the province where there are people who have challenges and who are not aware of or have not been able to access services themselves, and so services have been put in place that already exist.

C. James: When we had this discussion in estimates in the summertime, the minister said there would be a report coming forward based on the work of the regions, that it would have measurable plans in the communities and that it was going to come forward in the fall. Could the minister tell me where that plan is?

Hon. S. Cadieux: Yes, a lot longer in coming than I had hoped, certainly. But it is in its final drafting stages now and at the stage of desktopping, so we'll be able to release that very soon and certainly will make the member aware as soon as that is publicly available.

[1450]

C. James: The minister also stated back in July that no other communities would be added, that the ministry was going to stick with the seven communities, that the poverty work was going to be embedded into the work of MCFD in the communities and that UBCM and the ministry agreed that we would not move forward with additional communities at this time. Could the minister tell me if that's still the case?

Hon. S. Cadieux: Yes. When I met with UBCM last year, it was jointly decided not to move ahead with any additional communities until such time as the report had been prepared and we had sort of learned what we were to learn from the first phase.

I have met with UBCM — just last month, actually — to discuss the upcoming report and where we go to from here. They are still very supportive of the work and positive on the work that has been done to date. We are meeting again shortly so that they can have a final view of the report before it is made public. At that time we will be putting forward the plan and the steps forward.

That said, if there are other communities at that time or after that time that wish to work in the same way, we would be open to that, but it's not a government decision. That would be a UBCM decision.

C. James: Could the minister tell me the cost of seven communities and the poverty plan going ahead in the ministry? What is the cost for the program?

Hon. S. Cadieux: It's not a specific budget. It's primarily the cost of staff time, and that would be in the neighbourhood of about $500,000 a year.

C. James: Just to raise again the issue of a plan that is integrated, that is across ministries and that is, from my perspective, more sufficient. I'm pleased that 101 families have now taken part in this program, but I think that's a drop in the bucket when we look at the poverty numbers in our province and when we look at the impact.

Has the ministry done a study or a review of the impact of poverty on children in care and the child welfare programs within the ministry?

Hon. S. Cadieux: The short answer would be no. But if you have a more…. We're a little bit challenged by the question. If you'd like to give more detail as to what you mean, in the way of research.

C. James: I think there's no question — and I believe
[ Page 2317 ]
that your front-line social workers would tell you as well — that often cases related to child welfare are also related to poverty. In other words, parents not able to find housing, related to poverty, therefore can't get their children back — those kinds of issues around children being taken away, not necessarily because of neglect and abuse but because of the poverty issues that parents are living in, with no other option and choice available to them.

[1455]

Hon. S. Cadieux: We haven't done any specific research in that regard, because poverty is not, in and of itself, any reason to have us bring a child into care. If a family was presenting and the only issues they were dealing with were related to income, we would work with the family and develop plans with other resources, be that other ministries or community, to prevent the need for children to come into care. That doesn't play a factor in the decision. There would have to be other child protection concerns, parenting concerns — not strictly income-related.

C. James: I will respectfully disagree with the minister. In fact, there are many families that are stuck in the cycle of poverty and, therefore, not able to get sufficient housing.

[M. Bernier in the chair.]

There is not sufficient social housing available for families that are living in poverty, that are living on income assistance. Often a criterion for getting children back from MCFD is to have sufficient housing that is safe, that is clean, that is reasonable for children. That is a reality for families. I think the fact that there are no additional resources put aside to address poverty in this province and from this ministry shows a lack of understanding and a lack of support for an area that is critical when it comes to supporting children.

I'm pleased, as I said earlier, that 101 families have been addressed in the poverty program. But there are 153,000 families, children, living in poverty in British Columbia — 18.6 percent. And we've addressed 101 in almost two years? That's the extent of a poverty plan?

[1500]

I think it shows, as I said, a complete lack of a commitment and lack of regard and lack of understanding from the ministry and from this government on the impact of poverty when it comes to everything from justice to child welfare to education to health care.

I will leave it at that and move on to questions on ICM because I know we're tight on time in our estimates. I'll ask a couple of questions to address the ICM piece. Could the minister tell me how much has been spent on ICM to date by this ministry? And what are the ongoing costs for the ministry on ICM — regular, ongoing yearly costs for running ICM?

Hon. S. Cadieux: Once again, the capital budget for the ICM project is with Social Development and Social Innovation, and it remains at $182 million for the project. The operating costs for ICM and all our other computer systems for Children and Families — the MCFD portion, therefore, of the Shared Services division — is $13.4 million.

[1505]

C. James: Thanks to the minister. There've been a number of concerns raised, over the time period of ICM as it was being implemented, around missing files, around information not being correct, around information that was put into files and then didn't appear. When After Hours, for example, was looking for information, it wasn't appearing.

Could the minister tell me what kind of auditing process is being done and what kind of checks and balances have been put in place to double-check whether the information is any more accurate than it was when ICM was first being implemented?

Hon. S. Cadieux: When the discussions first started that there were problems or potential problems, the director of the child welfare office reviewed 19,290 files entered into ICM between April 1 of 2012, when the child protection workers started using the system, and December 31 of 2012, when all of the training and upgrades had been completed to that time.

There was no evidence that any child was ever left at risk as a result of the system. We wanted to make sure, of course, first off, that that was, in fact, the case.

That said, moving forward, we also made sure, in the fixes that were made and in the work that's going on for the last phase, that we had sequential and logical navigation in terms of the data that would be required in relation to child welfare and new and improved search functions that include both individual contacts and familial relationships and that sort of thing — to make sure that, very quickly, staff had access to all of the information that they might require.

[1510]

C. James: I'm glad to hear that. I'm certainly pleased to know that the ministry is moving on ICM to make sure that it's put in place and working for those people within the ministry. Is there going to be a regular audit of ICM files to ensure that files are accurate?

Hon. S. Cadieux: In addition to the regular file audits that the ministry is doing — the four a year, which do go right down to documentation, as the member would know — there are ten data stewards on staff. Their job is to continuously look at the data for things that are look-
[ Page 2318 ]
ing technically wrong, duplicates, etc., to then determine whether or not there is a systemic issue that needs to be dealt with in terms of a change to the system or whether or not there is a need for training in a particular area and how to input data and so on.

[1515]

C. James: Could the minister tell me whether the ministry has had any discussions with the Privacy Commissioner around any concerns raised by MCFD staff or others around ICM and the sharing of information? Have there been any other privacy issues raised by the commissioner with MCFD?

[1520]

Hon. S. Cadieux: As a part of the initial implementation in the spring of 2012, there were a small number of staff who raised some concerns around privacy. Those were looked into internally by the ministry, and fixes were made to the overall system in the fall as a part of that first wave of changes.

The Privacy Commissioner also took a look at that to see if there was anything further but did not make any recommendations to us for any changes and did not raise any big flags. The Privacy Commissioner is consulted or her office is consulted regularly by the ICM office staff on the broader project, and they met as recently as just a month or so ago.

C. James: I have a few questions still related to ICM, but I don't want to take up my colleague's time that I know has child care questions. I just want to ask…. Again, I have some youth justice questions that I'll send in writing to the ministry just around the number of children in custody right now — the number of children in care that are in custody as well. I'll put those in writing.

So just a last question for me, and then I'll turn it over to my colleague for the next bit. To ask the ministry: are there any changes planned right now for the existing youth justice structure in the province, including any facility changes? Is there any consideration being given to any changes to programs and services or to facilities when it comes to youth justice in the ministry?

Hon. S. Cadieux: I'm sure, as the member opposite is aware, there is a reality that we continue to see the number of youth in custody go down, which is, of course, a positive thing, I'm sure we can all agree. We've seen a decline of 70 percent over the last decade, which is pretty much unheard of. We're leading the country in that and are certainly seen as a leader in having one of the most progressive and effective systems of youth justice services.

Of course, that does raise some challenges for us in terms of: how do we best provide programming and service to those youth that are in custody? How do we make sure that we position them best for their release and make sure that we're giving them the best service that we can?

We're looking at that intensively, trying to determine how best, with limited numbers, to make sure that we are able to provide that good service. We are re-examining how we do that, looking at new ways of doing things, using technology to our advantage and so on. But that said, at this point we have no plan in place to make any significant changes because we're still looking at what our options are to maintain the best service for the youth that we do have in custody.

C. James: Thank you to the minister. I certainly agree. I think it's a plus when you're looking at these numbers. And I agree around the challenge.

My last question. Is the ministry looking, then, at doing a consultation out in the field around youth justice? I think it's obvious that if there's a change in facilities or otherwise, more community programs will be in place. So is it expected over this next year that the ministry will look at doing any kind of consultation, public consultation or opportunity for discussion?

[1525]

Hon. S. Cadieux: There are a number of things going on. First off, as it relates to our own staff and our probation officers and their diminishing workloads, in many cases we're looking at how best to use our professionals and their skills. Some of those mean shifting roles into other child welfare roles and so on, but making sure we best use the expertise that we have and keep the best expertise around.

Number two is looking at the best use of our community contract dollars — what programs work best; how do we maximize those program dollars? — and looking at best practices in the field, both in British Columbia but elsewhere if there is more to be learned.

Then third is ongoing conversations with the union as it relates to this area. I am aware that the GEU has asked their members for their creative ideas, too, in terms of: how do we manage through a change of this size, and what does it looks like? Certainly, we have an obligation to provide that good quality of care and opportunity. We've got some award-winning-level programming and certainly some partnerships with Burnaby school district and others that we really value. We want to make sure we take advantage and make the best of those things.

Through that process and through those conversations, I was to meet with the president last week, but because of estimates that has been postponed. But I plan on meeting again soon to continue having those conversations and to learn from their experience as well.

M. Karagianis: I have a couple of questions on the domestic violence office first, and then I'll move into child care, if that's all right and doesn't cause too much
[ Page 2319 ]
inconvenience.

I just wanted to ask some questions about the provincial office of domestic violence. Can you clarify for me the budget? Currently, I believe the budget is…. The line item in the three-year plan is a budget of $5.5 million, but I see that that's only for the 2015-16 year. Is that correct? Have I got the wrong number? Is that for a larger budget that comes out of the Justice Ministry? It's a bit confusing trying to break them out.

[1530]

Hon. S. Cadieux: To clarify, the provincial office sits in this ministry and has a budget of $878,000 to cover the eight staff for that office, which provides the coordinating function across government and our liaison with communities, and so on, and put together and brought together the plan that was released, the three-year plan. The three-year plan is a $5.5 million plan set out over three years. The new program dollars in year 2 and year 3 of the plan — none of those dollars are in the Ministry of Children and Family Development. They would be in the Ministries of Justice, Health, Housing….

A Voice: Transportation.

Hon. S. Cadieux: Yeah, potentially. They will be in other ministries and in their programming in the years to come.

M. Karagianis: Okay. That makes some sense. But I'm curious as to why they are in this budget for the 2015-16 year but not in any of the other years. You said that the budget for the office is in this fiscal year only. Did I understand you to say that? And you said it's in the Ministry of Justice for the other years?

Hon. S. Cadieux: Just so I'm clear. The provincial office of domestic violence in this ministry is funded to the tune of $878,000 per year for staffing. That's an ongoing line in our ministry. That is separate from the $5.5 million announced for the plan.

Those are new program dollars that would sit in other ministries — primarily Justice, Health and Housing — in out-years, because that plan shows that those dollars would come in, in year 2 and year 3. Those dollars are in addition to the $70 million worth of programs relating to and supporting victims of domestic violence in the province of British Columbia — again, housed in other ministries, including Housing, Justice and so on.

M. Karagianis: Right. I'm sorry that it is confusing, but trying to bridge together the responsibilities of several ministries. The office resides here. I'm trying to understand how the responsibilities of the office relate to all the other ministries.

Maybe the minister could clarify: what exactly do these eight staff members do? And ultimately, I guess, who has the responsibility overall for ensuring that these programs are delivered appropriately? I think about the integrated teams. We discussed this in July of last year when we had sort of a small session of estimates.

Ultimately, who is responsible? What are the tasks and roles of the provincial office and how much responsibility does it bear for oversight of these various programs, from the domestic violence teams to the other programs that have recently been rolled out?

[1535]

Hon. S. Cadieux: The provincial office of domestic violence is the permanent lead for government in terms of coordination and collaboration across ministries for an improved and systemic approach to domestic violence. The assistant deputy minister responsible leads a cross-ministry working group from Children and Families, Aboriginal Relations, Education, Health, Justice, Social Development, and the Ministry of Natural Gas Development and the Ministry Responsible for Housing — because that's one ministry.

The leads from those particular ministries work with our office to strengthen the services and supports for children, women and men and families affected by domestic violence. The office engages with academic partners and community anti-violence partners to stay informed on the most up-to-date and relevant information and best practices and to partner on key initiatives.

The office is responsible for monitoring and evaluating and reporting out on the responsiveness and effectiveness of government policy, initiatives and training. It's a focal point of information and best practices and coordination for all of the ministries and Crown corporations with DV-related portfolios.

It's connected very much with the anti-violence sector to provide the expertise on gaps, issues and strengths within the services and programs that are provided outside of government. It brings together working groups that are inclusive of the necessary government ministries or Crown corporations and other partners.

For example, the provincial office established a protection order working group across government to support implementation of the Family Law Act. The office hosted the cross-ministry violence against women working group to engage in cross-ministry planning and information-sharing and implementation of initiatives and recommendations aimed at strengthening child welfare, health, social and justice system responses to domestic violence, and organized provincial consultation, including an event that cabinet ministers attended to support the development of the three-year plan.

The general public consultation, as well, was led by the provincial office — the general public consultation on the process — on domestic violence to receive input for that provincial plan, which we will now be responsible
[ Page 2320 ]
for, for reporting out on progress of the implementation of that three-year plan. But the ultimate responsibility for programs and services will reside with the ministries who are paying for and providing or contracting the particular services.

[1540]

M. Karagianis: I thought I heard the minister begin to say that, as the lead in covering all of the domestic violence programs and all the various ministry pieces that are distributed through a number of ministries, the accountability would ultimately lie here — with oversight, with reporting out and all of that. But then the last comments were that no, the actual accountability rested with all the various ministries that hold pieces of it.

At the end of the day…. First of all, it seems like a very cumbersome model. Why is such a cumbersome model used, where the office resides with the Children and Families Ministry and all of the other programs rest with a variety of other ministries, from Justice to Health to Transportation to wherever?

I mean, how can you possibly have a source of accountability with that? I heard the minister kind of say: "Yes, we're the lead, and we're the one who provides oversight of all of this." But at the end of the day, the accountability rests with all the ministries.

It seems to me that it's a mixed message. Either this office is the lead and ultimately accountable for all of the programs and their delivery success or failure, or else it's not at all, and why is this office in place in this ministry? Why such a cumbersome model?

Really, it's very difficult listening to you explain it and certainly very difficult, I think, for the public to understand why this really convoluted kind of system has been put in place.

[1545]

Hon. S. Cadieux: I do understand that it's a lot to try and understand in terms of where everything sits and whose responsibility it is. The services related to domestic violence reside in multiple ministries for very good reasons. Police, MCFD — all have roles to play in addressing domestic violence, so it wouldn't be practical to put all of the responsibility in one area.

However, there was a demonstrated and obvious need for collaboration and coordination and better planning. So that is what resides in the provincial office: responsibility for cross-ministry collaboration, coordination and planning of its strategic, sort of cross-government initiatives. For example, again, we sponsored the development of the three-year plan. We will also then monitor and report out on the progress in achieving the outcomes laid out in that plan.

Also, a need was identified for cross-ministry, cross-organizational training and for a consistent approach on looking at risk factors for domestic violence. So the provincial office of domestic violence took the lead on coordinating that training and delivering that training to community anti-violence workers, child welfare staff in MCFD, police, school personnel, and employment and assistance workers — to the tune of over 24,000 people over the last couple of years — to ensure that there was a consistent approach being taken by all of the parties that work in the anti-violence sector.

However, there are specific costs and specific responsibilities related to policing or domestic violence units, etc., that would sit with the line ministries that deliver those services. They still have responsibility for those particular services. We have responsibility for helping to coordinate an overall consistent approach.

M. Karagianis: Great. Thank you very much.

That then means that in order to, I guess, ask questions about oversight or accountability for things like the domestic violence teams, we have to basically go to each of those ministries or discern where each of the pieces of responsibility lie. Certainly, I plan to go and ask questions in the Justice estimates as well.

But I'm just trying to understand what the purpose is of this office, right? Eight people. What are they doing, and what is the purpose, and why this cumbersome model rather than allowing the Justice Ministry, where it would seem there would be a more natural fit, to take on the responsibility, even for this kind of collaboration and coordination?

I'm not certain as to why the Children and Families Ministry is given this task, when in fact all of the functions lie elsewhere in government. It seems to me those resources for having an oversight office that coordinates and collaborates, as the minister said….

[1550]

It doesn't seem to me to be a very effective use of children and families' resources and the ministry's time and resources as well. Nonetheless, I will ask further questions and try and pin down accountability and reporting out on the success or failure or the timelines or anything else on many of these other services. And I guess I'll have to go to those ministries. But it seems a bit counterintuitive not to be able to go to the office and ask questions on these services and be able to get those answers. Hopefully, the minister will understand my frustration in that.

Then, conscious of the time, I'll move on to child care, if I may. I know that means a bit of a switch in staff. We have only limited time here, and I do have some questions to ask.

First of all, I'd like to kind of preface my questions with just an observation. Back in 2009 the ministry stopped funding the major capital funding program for the creation of new child care spaces and has only recently resumed an endeavour to create a couple of thousand new child care spaces over the coming years. There is a huge gap in services that has existed, though, from 2009 until
[ Page 2321 ]
the initiative that's being undertaken now to put more spaces in place.

I'd like to ask some questions around that and around the very real experience that families are still having in communities with the lack of affordable, accessible child care and what steps the government is taking to try and change that. Fundamentally, we all know that without child care, people can't go to work. So it would seem to me that if the government is focused on a jobs plan, there should be a much more aggressive effort put into a child care plan that supports families — more families and more people able to get out and take jobs and support their families.

Can the minister talk to me about the B.C. early-years strategy?? I see that we have no budget beyond 2015. So can we talk about your budget for the next three years, your three-year plan and what happens after 2015-16?

Hon. S. Cadieux: The early-years budget for the next three years. This year is $17.699 million. Then the next year is $52 million, and the year after, $52 million.

M. Karagianis: I have that as part of the strategy. But I've got here a note to myself about the early-years services: $267.6 million out of the MCFD budget of $1.356 billion, so 20 percent for the 2014-15–2016-17 service plan. Now, do those figures make sense to you? Okay.

Let's talk about, then, how this money is being spent in relationship to your creation of new spaces. You talk about 2000 spaces — 1,000 next year and 1,000 the year after, I believe — in those two following years. How does this budget apply to that?

[1555]

Hon. S. Cadieux: The capital budget for new spaces is $13.1 million this year, $13.1 million next year and $13.1 million the following year. The anticipation is for 1,000 new spaces a year in each of those three years — with a goal, as stated in the strategy, of 13,000 over eight years.

M. Karagianis: Did I hear the minister say 4,000 spaces rather than 1,000 spaces each year? How many spaces next year and the year after — 13,000 spaces? Can you just give me those numbers again, please?

Hon. S. Cadieux: So $13.1 million this year for 1,000 new spaces, $13.1 million next year for 1,000 new spaces, $13.1 million the following year for another 1,000 new spaces, with a goal of 13,000 new spaces over eight years.

M. Karagianis: How far does that go to filling the gap from 2009 until this initiative, which is new spaces? In 2009, when the government stopped funding the major capital funding program for the creation of new child care spaces, there was a huge gap. How far does that go now to filling that gap of child care spaces from that period to now? Then I'm going to ask more questions about moving forward after that.

Hon. S. Cadieux: Between 2001 and 2009 the province invested $35 million in funding to create more than 6,500 licensed child care spaces. The government wasn't in a position to do that, I guess, for a number of years. With the introduction of the early-years strategy, we are looking to now ensure that there is money going to do that. So it's $13.1 million this year, $13.1 million next year and $13.1 million the following year to add, hopefully, 3,000 additional spaces.

[1600]

M. Karagianis: I guess that basically says there is going to be no ability to backfill the gap that occurred from 2009 forward. I accept that. I will say, though….

The minister talks about 1,000 new spaces for each of the coming three years but says 13,000 spaces in five years. That means you're going to have to really bump up the investment in the following years. You're talking about 10,000 spaces in five years. That has not been achievable over the last decade. Certainly, that's a big challenge.

We've queried this before, previously in July. Given the fact that this plan, this early-years strategy, seems to now be in motion, does the government know how many children are waiting for child care spaces in British Columbia right now?

[1605]

Hon. S. Cadieux: According to the early child education and care report of 2012, there were enough regulated child care spaces for 24.6 percent of children aged zero to four in the province and 18 percent of children aged zero to 12. These figures are comparable with the Canadian average of 22.5 percent for children zero to five and 20.5 percent for children aged zero to 12.

Beyond that, we don't track individual numbers or statistics on this in the province. We rely on these cross-jurisdictional pieces. However, that said, the last parent survey that we did in the province was in 2003, and we will be doing that this year — another parent survey.

M. Karagianis: Great. I'm sure a parent survey will be very, very helpful.

Now, what is the status of the online registry, and will that in fact provide any kind of wait-list for child care? And what is the timeline around all of that?

Hon. S. Cadieux: The development of the on-line registry that we spoke of in some limited detail last year is intended to improve parental access to up-to-date information regarding the availability of child care in community and to reduce the administrative burden on providers that is associated with maintaining and track-
[ Page 2322 ]
ing wait-lists. The creation of all of the systems and requirements and the planning for that is complete. The full implementation of the registry is expected in 2015-'16, subject to the capital request.

M. Karagianis: So we won't have any data on that for a number of years to come. Certainly, I would think that that might help educate the capital plan around increased spaces. I expect the government will find that the current plan is wholly inadequate to get enough people into the workforce to help the economy and help families prosper. But we're not going to have that data, obviously, for a few years now.

Let me, then, ask some questions about the cost of child care per month in British Columbia. Does the minister know what the current costs are? I know that the government has implemented the $55 per month early childhood tax benefit. What bearing does that have on the cost? That certainly doesn't buy you a lot of daycare. And I guess, secondly, is that going to in any way affect child care subsidies in the province? First of all, what is the average cost for child care? Will the $55 per month be deducted from child care subsidies? And in fact, what effect is that supposed to have on affordability for any of these spaces?

[1610]

Hon. S. Cadieux: I'm sure, as the member would be aware, the cost of child care varies not only by facility but also by type of care, age of child and so on. I have a table of averages, the highest average monthly cost being $965 for an infant, down to the out-of-school monthly cost of as little as $250 for before- or after-school care.

The answers to the second and third questions. The early childhood tax benefit that will come into play for families next April will provide up to $660 a year, or $55 a month, per child under the age of six for B.C. families, because we know that families with children under the age of six struggle financially in many cases, regardless of whether or not they have their children in child care. It's meant to ease that burden, whichever form of child care or support is required, for the family. The amount of that childhood tax benefit will not affect subsidy.

M. Karagianis: I do know that when you talk about the cost of child care, you say the high end is $965 for infants. Certainly, people in the Lower Mainland will talk about the thousands and thousands of dollars it costs them for child care, so it would seem to me that the data you have doesn't sync with the anecdotal information we get from families. But we will hope to see more accurate numbers in tracking in the future.

I would like to ask a couple of questions about the early-years centres. There were to be five pilot projects up and running up by the end of March 2014. Could the minister tell us what the state of these sites is — and any other information she can give us on the current situation with those sites?

[1615]

Hon. S. Cadieux: Before I get into the answer for this question, I think it's important just to note for the member that the costs I quoted are average costs provided to us by the registered child care providers that access our child care operating fund. So they're not numbers that are made up. They are averages. However, that does not take into account the cost for sibling groups for families. So if a family has a number of children in child care, their bill for child care will certainly be higher than the average cost for an infant or one child in after-school care.

The answer on the early-year centres is yes, we had hoped to have the pilot sites up and running. However, that was delayed, as was the opening of the office. But we have an RFP that was launched on March 14 — it is open for six weeks — to identify up to five initial test sites.

We did have a lot of interest over the last year since the announcement of the early-years strategy, and a lot of feedback, actually, that we were receiving from community was incorporated into that RFP that is now out. There is an information session, as well, relating to that RFP, scheduled for April 2, to provide additional information to interested parties.

M. Karagianis: Can the minister explain what the difference is between these new early-years centres and some of the already existing programs like family resource programs, Building Blocks programs and other existing programs. What is the difference? What's new coming to the table? Or is this simply an entry point for more of this big-box corporate child care?

Hon. S. Cadieux: The difference is that the intent with the early-years centres is to bring together all of the programs — ones that the member referenced but beyond just MCFD programs and, in fact, also look at Health programs, Education programs, federal or local community programs — together into one place for easy access for parents and their children.

What we know is there's a lot of really good programming out and available for families with young children. The bigger challenge is for those families to easily access that, to understand what's available in their community, where and how they interrelate.

[1620]

The four goals of the centres are to enhance integration or coordination of early-years services, which could include information-sharing or referrals between distinct programs. It could include the sharing of resources or staff or co-location of services, but that is not required.

The second goal is enhanced access to early-years services. The centres will be supported to enhance access to existing early-years services, including parent and child
[ Page 2323 ]
drop-in programs or parenting sessions, cultural programs and so on.

Enhanced advice assessment and referrals for parents with children under six could include things like sharing resources with parents through things like websites or social media, brochures, community maps. It could include linkages or co-location, again, with other MCFD services, like CYSN or CYMH services — ultimately with the goal of, over time, creating or supporting one-stop access for families to all of those early-years services.

Finally, the fourth goal: linkages to local community planning tables. We would envision that centres would be required to consult with local community planning tables within their geographic region in order to ensure alignment with established community priorities and to address community need.

M. Karagianis: How is that, then, different from child care resource and referral agencies? Are they not meant to be a gathering point for all of these programs and for information for families? You say it's a one-stop access point for all of this. Isn't that the whole purpose behind the CCRR programs?

[The bells were rung.]

The Chair: Division — it looks like it has been called. At this point we will be recessing until completion of division.

The committee recessed from 4:21 p.m. to 4:33 p.m.

[D. Plecas in the chair.]

Hon. S. Cadieux: To the member, on her question about child care resource and referral, the early-years strategy is more than just child care. It actually encompasses early childhood development, zero to six. Child care is zero to 12, and early learning is zero to six. So it's broader than just child care.

The child care resource and referral's focus is on available child care and would form part of an early-years centre. In some communities an early-years centre might be a child care resource and referral centre, if that's what makes sense for that community. In other communities an early-years centre may be a family resource centre or a neighbourhood learning centre or another centre altogether.

We don't have a cookie-cutter approach. That's why we're asking communities to put forward proposals on what they think works best for them. Then through our five test sites we'll take the time to see what works best and build on the lessons learned from those.

[1635]

M. Karagianis: Just one last question, and it'll be a little bit longer so that I can scoop a few things into it. It really is about recruitment and retention, and I'm sure that the minister is aware of the ongoing challenges around this. I think one of the first barriers that we continue to hear about around recruitment and retention is the low wages for early childhood educators, and I'm wondering what strategy the government has for dealing with that.

I will note here a piece that appeared in the Fernie Free Press, which kind of outlines a number of these programs. I'll read a couple of pieces out of this that really highlight the issue for many communities.

"The Fernie Child Care Society daycare is Fernie's only registered daycare facility and is licensed for 12 infant-toddlers and 16 three- to five-year-olds. Due to a shortage of staff, they are unable to offer all of their 28 child care spaces. The wait-list for the infant-toddler program currently sits at 32 children."

They go on to say in this article as well:

"'The situation in Fernie is that there are not enough qualified people in the child care field. We have been advertising for one and a half years now for qualified staff…. One of the issues is that the B.C. Early Childhood Educator Registry does not recognize all educational institutions from other provinces and countries.'"

This has meant that some applicants with certificates, diplomas and degrees have been told that they have to take additional courses in order to become licensed in British Columbia.

It would seem to me there are three components of this problem. One is low wages. Second is finding people in communities that are smaller or are more remote communities. The third piece is around making it easier for people from other provinces to be able to take some of those jobs, but I think that the most critical piece of that is around wages, and that goes a long way to both recruitment and retention.

What are the plans that the government has in place? This is not a new problem. This has been an ongoing problem for a number of years. I hear it from child care providers right across the province, in some various forms or other. I mean, those kinds of low wages, $12 an hour, certainly do not keep anyone even at the poverty line, who's trying to take these jobs. If you're living in a metropolitan area like Vancouver, even wages around $17 an hour are still very marginal.

What plan does the government have around providing some of these new spaces and ensuring that child care providers actually can have staff, can pay staff a living wage and that they can deal with the issue around recruiting in other communities, retaining their staff and making sure that if people have credentials from elsewhere, it's easier to make that transition into B.C. standards?

[1640]

Hon. S. Cadieux: So that the member is aware, based on the ministry's CCOF provider profile survey, the median wage for ECEs in B.C. in 2012-13 was $17 per hour. That's a 22.5 percent increase in wages in the sector
[ Page 2324 ]
since 2005-06, and consistently, B.C. is amongst the highest in the country for wages for our trained ECE folks.

[1645]

Another way we look at providing stability for the sector is through the CCOF, where licensed providers of group and family care who take subsidy are eligible for up to 15 percent of their operating costs to be subsidized by government.

The available training for ECEs in the province at the moment is through 34 institutions — 19 public, 13 private and two adult learning. Of those 34, 27 provide both basic ECE training and infant, toddler and special needs programs as well.

In addition, also trying to focus on the supply of trained people in British Columbia, we announced that we would be putting forward a bursary program. There is a budget of $450,000 for that bursary program this year. The NOI has closed, and the contract will be in place by the end of this fiscal year for the implementation of that program in this next year.

For that bursary program, we're looking at, specifically, aboriginal students, students attending aboriginal ECE programs and students attending programs that address sector shortages primarily.

Thirdly, the last part of your question. The ECE registry credentials B.C.-trained ECE providers and receives requests for equivalency from individuals from out of province who wish to come and have their skills recognized in British Columbia. We don't have a number today of the number of those that have been approved in the year, but we can get that for you.

The Chair: Closing remarks.

C. James: Thank you very much, hon. Chair, and thank you to the next ministry coming in. I know we've been taking a few minutes of the time. I want to say thank you to the minister and thank you to the staff. I know this is our third day, or third go at it. I appreciate the time that people have taken. I appreciate the responses that we've been given. I appreciate the work that you do each and every day. Thank you as well to the staff in the field.

This is, as I said in my opening remarks, one of the most important ministries, from my perspective, in government — with one of the most serious and important roles, which is being a parent often for children who have no other opportunity. It's work that I know people only go into because they are passionate about it. So I want to express my appreciation.

I also want to express my concerns coming out of estimates, just to leave as my closing remarks. I'm worried about a status quo budget. As we've talked about, I think there are huge pressures in this ministry and huge pressures in difficult economic times, that come with the difficult economic times — everything from child protection to youth mental health, the challenges that we face with children aging out, the complexity of needs that children are bringing, the discussion around First Nations governance that still hasn't been addressed. All of those are pressures on a status quo budget that I believe are going to cause some real difficulties for some of the most vulnerable population.

My last concern that I just want to express is the worry about the commitments that have been made — that I hope will happen — but without resources. We heard during these three days that the ministry is looking at increasing beds at Maples; the ministry is looking at increasing mental health and specialized-care beds in regions; the ministry is looking at continued work on regional poverty plans; the ministry is looking at continued support for special needs — all of those with no additional resources, no additional money, which, again, will mean something's going to be pressed somewhere else.

I appreciate the discussion we've had. I appreciate the minister's time and staff's time, and I will continue to press for the resources that I believe are going to be needed for the kind of complexity of services that get done in this ministry.

Hon. S. Cadieux: I'll also make just a couple of closing remarks. Firstly, I thank the member and other members for their questions. I think we had a good exchange. Certainly didn't delve into in great detail many aspects of a very important ministry. I think the member and I can agree on that, although I think we're probably both a little biased. But I do think it is one of the most important things government does.

I, too, would echo the member's sentiments and thank the staff — both all of those members of the executive that have been here to support me, some of whom I remembered to introduce; some of whom I did not — but all really terrific people that work very, very hard to ensure that children are looked after in this province; as well, all of those other 4,500 employees that work day and night and odd hours in very stressful circ*mstances most of the time to ensure that we're doing the best that we possibly can for the children in this province. I think they do tremendous work. I would like to acknowledge that one last time.

[1650]

Finally…. Well, almost finally, I am not as pessimistic about the budget or the challenges. I look at much more of what we're doing in this ministry as opportunities to make things better, to work differently, to work smarter. It's something that I have had some success at in the past and intend to have great success with here in this ministry.

Finally, because it is her last estimates, I'll just make special mention of Randi Mjolsness, who is retiring this year and won't be with us at next year's estimates, but we will hang onto her for every last minute that we are able. I'd like to thank her for her years of service very publicly.
[ Page 2325 ]

Vote 16: ministry operations, $1,356,419,000 — approved.

The Chair: We will have a short recess until the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development arrives.

The committee recessed from 4:51 p.m. to 4:56 p.m.

[D. Plecas in the chair.]

ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF
COMMUNITY, SPORT AND
CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT

On Vote 17: ministry operations, $210,718,000.

The Chair: Minister, do you have an opening statement?

Hon. C. Oakes: Yes, thank you very much, Chair.

I'm delighted today to be joined by our ministry staff, who are distinguished professionals dedicated to public service. I'm pleased to introduce our deputy minister, Becky Denlinger; and assistant deputy ministers Gary Paget, who is in local government, Nicola Marotz, Glen Brown and George Farkas, management services. Other key staff today also include leaders from Crown corporations in this ministry. I really want to thank all of the staff who have been so exceptional in supporting our ministry and making sure that we do an outstanding job for the province of British Columbia.

The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development responsibilities include working with local governments throughout the province to help British Columbia communities provide services needed to support strong local economies and an outstanding quality of life for all of our citizens; supporting B.C.'s talented artists, dynamic artist groups and vibrant cultural organizations in communities throughout the province; and helping to create quality opportunities for British Columbians to enjoy and participate in sports and to support sports as an important part of social and economic life in British Columbia communities.

I'm also pleased to note that despite economic pressures, funding for our ministry's community-based programs remains unchanged. In fact, Budget 2014 ensures that record levels of community-based funding for arts and sports will be sustained.

I'd like to ask my friends on the other side of the House to share an outline of topics that they may wish to address in these proceedings. As you know, a number of our staff members are here to support this process — I'm delighted — including our Auditor General for Local Government, Basia Ruta, who's here today.

Thank you very much for travelling and being with us today.

They have come here and will help with the proceedings.

Thank you, everyone, for your support.

I look forward to questions.

S. Robinson: I want to express appreciation to the minister for those wonderful comments and also express appreciation to staff who have made themselves available to answer some of the other organizational questions that I've had. I'm very pleased to be here.

[1700]

I know, and the minister would probably agree with me, that local governments have the greatest impact on people's lives in our province. I was listening to another member speak at earlier estimates about child and family services. They were talking about how important that was, and this is an important ministry too.

So I'm thrilled, having read through a whole bunch of stuff, and pleased to be here to ask some questions to make sure that I understand and to make sure that we have a solid basis for where to move forward and, if there's some discrepancy in terms of what I think we ought to be doing and what the minister ought to be doing, that we can find a way to move in that direction.

If I might begin with a couple of questions that I have, I'd like to ask the minister if she could outline the steps taken to fulfil each of the instructions given by the Premier in her mandate letter and the amount of budget, if it's broken out, that would speak to each of those areas.

Hon. C. Oakes: Thank you very much for your question and for your kind opening statements.

The first item on our mandate letter was to "eliminate red tape so that we can get to yes on economic development without needless delay."

Bill 17, which is currently going through the House, is an amendment to modernize and streamline local government legislative framework by reducing red tape, removing barriers to development and increasing certainty and transparency for developers and landowners. It removes unnecessary ministerial approval for land use planning and development decisions, allows modern land use policies and practices to replace outdated land use contracts, and protects developers from increases in development cost charges.

The next item on the mandate letter was to "work with the Union of British Columbia Municipalities on a framework for implementing the upcoming federal infrastructure program to maximize provincial benefit opportunities." The federal government has now committed to implementing a new Build Canada plan prior to the expiration of the current plan.

The province, led by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, is collaborating with the federal government to prepare for upcoming negotiations on a new agreement and plan. We have been working closely with
[ Page 2326 ]
local government infrastructure, and we've been working closely with UBCM.

The third item is to create a "framework for the rural dividend for communities in the northwest that will be impacted by the opportunities and challenges that will arise with LNG opportunities." In September the Premier announced planning grants to study the impacts of LNG development on community infrastructure. Through the northwest readiness project, communities are being assisted to prepare for the escalating infrastructure demands through the establishment of priorities and development of information and supports to respond.

The ministry's ongoing local government programs, such as land use planning, infrastructure asset management and local government financing, are engaged in assisting all of the northwest communities. Work on the rural dividend framework is currently underway.

Another mandate letter item is to implement the local government election changes in time for the November 2014 local government elections. The province is committed to implementing the majority of the Local Government Elections Task Force recommendations in time for the 2104 local elections.

[1705]

The proposed changes focus on increasing transparency, accountability, compliance and enforcement, and education and advice. The changes will apply to over 250 local government bodies, including municipalities, regional districts, Islands Trust, parks boards and boards of education. Participant education sessions are starting this March and will be continuing, leading up to November.

Our final item: work with the sport and cultural development communities to make recommendations on how we can provide better provincial support to these organizations, recognizing that we remain in a very difficult financial position. Additional funding to Arts Fest focused on sponsorship training and matching the incentive programs through partnership with the Canadian Heritage and province of B.C., the city of Kelowna, the Columbia Basin Trust, capital regional district and Telus.

The ministry works with partners to develop the plan for 2014-2015 as the program rolls out in four regions of the province. As well, where possible, this ministry encourages finding additional partnerships throughout the province to ensure that we're able to maximize and enhance funding for sports, arts and culture.

Those were the items identified in my mandate letter.

S. Robinson: I want to thank the minister very much. I'd like to ask some further questions about some of those, particularly about the rural dividend.

The minister mentioned that activities to develop a rural dividend are underway. I'd like the specifics about what is underway. These communities are right now really struggling to balance the needs of their communities versus some of the economic growth that is happening. They're struggling with some of the infrastructure needs. I'd like to get more specifics about what the ministry is doing in order to move this agenda forward. Perhaps a timeline would be helpful as well.

Hon. C. Oakes: Thank you for the question. In September the Premier announced $150,000 to local governments in the northwest to study the impacts that LNG developments have on communities' water and sewer systems and road, health, safety and social systems in the northwest. The scope and the scale of the workforce and services required by the LNG development is absolutely a challenge that we recognize for communities in the northwest in providing these infrastructures.

We have currently been on the ground to define the need and lay the framework through a process of consultations. We will begin to start having announcements in April and May of partnerships that we have found that are supporting the communities, both the municipalities and regional districts, to address some of the challenges.

[1710]

I have been up in the northwest. Many of my colleagues and ministers have also been up in the northwest to identify those needs, ensuring that we are all working collaboratively to support those local governments that will be impacted.

S. Robinson: I appreciate the minister's response. So $150,000 to study. How many local governments or how many communities is the minister looking at?

Hon. C. Oakes: We want to ensure that it includes both the municipalities and the regional districts in the northwest, so that includes the two regional districts and the municipalities of Prince Rupert, Port Ed, Kitimat and Terrace.

S. Robinson: One of the other challenges that comes with that is that $150,000 these days doesn't buy you a whole lot, especially when you're taking a look at, it sounds like, four communities and two districts. I suspect they each have their own unique needs. I'd like to hear from the minister about how she plans to recognize that there are distinctions between the particular needs of each of these communities and regional districts.

Hon. C. Oakes: I think what is very important is that we wanted to approach this with a comprehensive analysis of the needs that are based in each of the communities. That is why we've taken the time necessary to qualify the information. We have a strong team that has been in regular contact with the local government, service agencies — agencies that are all up in the northwest — to identify really what those needs are.

Really, the work now begins. We've got the informa-
[ Page 2327 ]
tion. Things are going to start. We're going to start seeing that in April and May. You're going to see a lot more decision points and information that will be coming forward. At this point we've laid the framework. We are doing the analysis of the information, and we'll be starting that rollout in April and May.

S. Robinson: I look forward to hearing about the announcements. I certainly have been hearing from those local municipalities about where they're stretched and where they're challenged, and they're looking for some action.

I'd like to now, if I can, just ask some more questions about the service plan that guides the work of this ministry.

I want to know if the minister can detail what activities she and her staff have undertaken or plan to undertake to meet goal 1, objective 1.3, of the service plan, which says: "Local governments support a positive environment for business and economic development." Specifically, I'm interested in finding out what work has been undertaken with local government, the UBCM and the business sector to "ensure property tax on industrial and business properties promotes competitiveness and investment while maintaining local government capacity."

[1715]

Hon. C. Oakes: To objective 1.3 in our service plan of local government supporting a positive environment for business and economic development. Our ministry has been in continuous dialogue with UBCM on how we can support a positive environment for both business and economic development.

An example, of course, was Bill 17 that is currently going through that supports economic development and streamlining for business. But there are a number of reports that have been internalized by government and UBCM, including competitiveness, internal revenue, looking at industrial taxation pieces of communities — where they're healthy and unhealthy and what that comparative looks like.

I think the most important message — and it's why we have such a dynamic, important team here — is that when local governments have issues or challenges in their communities, we have a solid team within the province that supports them.

They help work through…. Specific local governments — if they're having challenges with industrial taxation in their community, or if there are things that have been coming up or there's transition in communities, we have a solid team that comes in and supports.

There are a number of examples that we have on the support that our staff has done an exceptional job on. I think that's probably the best highlight of objective 1.3.

S. Robinson: The minister mentions that there have been a number of reports, and that sort of twigged for me a report that I've had the pleasure of reading. I never thought I would have pleasure in reading a report on property taxation of major industries, but apparently, it was a pleasurable experience.

One of the recommendations that came out of that report was to "create an ongoing body consisting of representatives from local government, industry and the provincial government to provide advice and recommendations on local government major industrial property taxation matters."

Referring to that recommendation and considering the recommendation to create a forum for ongoing dialogue between all these representatives, why have so many local government representatives been so surprised with the recent LNG taxation announcement made by the minister of LNG?

Hon. C. Oakes: Well, we welcome, always, the opportunity to have a forum for dialogue and continued engagement, and I know that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities will be in Victoria next week, I believe, and they'll be meeting with individuals on both sides of the House to talk about issues that are important for local governments. Hopefully, this one will be one that is certainly brought up that we can continue and have more dialogue on.

I know that they also want to talk about their strong fiscal futures. There are a number of really important reports and pieces that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities have put forward in their policy platform. I always welcome….

To the MLA opposite: I really value the fact that you bring forward the recommendations, because it's important. They do a lot of work on making sure that these policies go forward to their membership and that we should be reading them. So I value the fact that you are reading them and bringing them and holding us to account. They're important.

Next week when UBCM is here meeting with members, I highly recommend that…. A number of these issues are issues they bring forward to us, and I look forward to that conversation.

[1720]

S. Robinson: I just want to be clear. Was the UBCM or any of the municipalities consulted about the minister's announcement about capping the taxation related to LNG?

Hon. C. Oakes: Thank you very much for the question.

There actually has been no announcement on the taxation. I have contacted the communities in the northwest. They are in the process of defining and looking at the scope of taxation, a comprehensive package for LNG's taxation in communities.
[ Page 2328 ]

But I think the general issue, when we're looking at business and industrial taxation as both the province and local governments, is that desire to balance industry — ensuring that we've got greater competitiveness through lower taxation with the needs that…. We have to respect the autonomy of municipalities to address their local needs and finance essential services.

That's part of this northwest readiness project that we're currently undergoing to do that assessment of what the needs are in the northwest and making sure that we're finding ways to support local governments on achieving those services.

S. Robinson: I beg to differ from the minister. There was sort of a semi-announcement or some sort of…. I don't know what to call it, but certainly a mention that there was some consideration of capping taxation to these LNG lands, and that created a ripple through UBCM and some of these communities. I just want to make sure I understand specifically that that is not being considered. Or is it an option that is currently being considered moving forward?

Hon. C. Oakes: There was an article in a paper, but certainly, as we all know, sometimes articles in papers…. Certainly, it's not how we formulate policy. We see that local communities are key partners and allies in realizing the opportunity found from large industrial development in British Columbia. The LNG policy framework is currently still in development.

My mandate as the minister is to work with local communities to ensure that they're able to harness opportunities found from major industrial growth, because it's, quite frankly, a win-win. If they do well, we do well and the citizens of British Columbia do well.

Government is committed to ensuring that we have that right balance struck, one that is fair return for communities while also ensuring that B.C. remains competitive relative to other jurisdictions. The Minister of Finance has urged caution in drawing premature conclusions about what the overall tax regime will look like.

Our government, via the Ministry of Finance, will continue to work closely with local communities on this file, because we see local communities as key partners and allies in realizing the opportunities found from large industrial development.

S. Robinson: Was the minister consulted in advance of comments made by the Minister of Natural Gas Development about this consideration of a property tax cap?

Hon. C. Oakes: Again, it's really best not to prejudge any tax regime that's going forward until it will be finalized in legislation. Again, the Ministry of Finance has urged caution to all of us in making sure that we don't draw premature conclusions of what this overall tax regime will look like.

S. Robinson: I appreciate the minister's response, although it didn't quite answer the question. I'll try it in a slightly different angle.

I'm just trying to understand what kind of conversations are happening across these ministries, given that LNG is going to have huge impact on these municipalities, and these local governments are struggling to make sure that the quality of life for their residents is maintained at a minimum, although it's going to get stretched. I want to make sure — I think we all want to make sure — that they have the capacity to absorb and to deal with the infrastructure needs that are coming on line.

[1725]

I do want to know what kind of conversation is happening between this ministry and the ministry that is dealing with the LNG expansion.

Hon. C. Oakes: We have actually been working on this at numerous different levels. We have a deputy minister working group, a multiministry working group through this ministry, reaching out to each of the other ministries on the work that's doing. The ADMs have a working group on LNG making sure that all of these pieces are connected. We regularly consult to a cabinet working group on strong economies to ensure that at every single level the needs and the capacity of the regions are being looked at.

The first and foremost important piece is what we talked about before in that LNG framework piece. Before we pre-judge, before we start looking at what the needs are, we have to assess what those needs are. So we're doing the comprehensive list of what needs to happen in both the regional district and municipalities in the northwest. That's what the ministry is currently doing — that analysis, that gathering of the information — so that we can start taking those next steps.

S. Robinson: I'm going to leave this for now. I will likely come back to it as I hear information and come up with other questions. I'm going to ask another question, and then I've got a couple of colleagues who have a few questions.

Under objective 2.3, if you go back to the service plan, it says that local governments are implementing strategies to improve community sustainability. So I'm interested in what this ministry has done or is planning to do to encourage local governments to develop effective approaches to increase the supply of affordable housing.

Hon. C. Oakes: It's great to have other staff coming in and joining us today. Lois-Leah is here as well.

We have, currently, ten regional growth strategies across British Columbia. Part of what the regional growth strategies
[ Page 2329 ]
do with our ministry and with regional districts is support in addressing things such as affordable housing, transportation and other key responsibilities. So there is that support.

[1730]

The other thing is I'd like to draw to the attention of everyone…. Please, if members opposite would kindly help get the word out. Last week we sent letters to all of the mayors and regional districts about a guidebook that has been produced around…. It's a community amenity contributions guidebook.

This really is to support local governments — regional districts, municipalities — in addressing some of those key concerns, such as affordable housing and different pieces like that. So I highly recommend to spread the word about this great guidebook that staff have worked on so diligently, to make sure that it gets out into the public.

S. Robinson: I thank the minister for the answer. From my experience with the RGS — certainly, those I was involved in working on — they didn't do a whole lot around housing affordability. It was really about how we're just going to manage growth. There was no tangible anything about how municipalities come together or how they work with developers to do that. If I'm understanding correctly, what this ministry has done is put together a guidebook. I would love, actually, to receive a copy.

Hon. C. Oakes: It's on line.

S. Robinson: It's on line? I'll check it. I'll make a note to take a look at the guidebook.

Are there other things, other than a guidebook, that this ministry is going to be taking on? This is a huge issue. I think it's all around the province; it's not just the Lower Mainland. Certainly, anyone that's going through a boom right now is really struggling with this. I'm not sure that a guidebook is going to cut it, so I'd like to know if there are additional actions that this ministry is going to be taking to look at the issue.

[J. Sturdy in the chair.]

Hon. C. Oakes: Our ministry really focuses on planning. We provide advice, planning and infrastructure, so really, we're the ministry that creates the conditions to move forward on affordable housing. Some of the specifics that you're discussing fall under B.C. Housing, so it's not in this ministry.

But I would like to go back again to plug the community amenity contribution guidebook, because it's not just a guidebook. It's a toolkit for local governments, to provide them some clarifications on ways that local governments can work with the developers to maximize the housing complement within their community. So we really are hopeful this is a tool that local governments will utilize to help increase that affordable complex within their communities.

D. Eby: The minister is, in effect, the mayor and council of a key neighbourhood in my community, the University Endowment Lands. As the minister is aware, the UEL has received an unprecedented rezoning application from the Musqueam people for an area called block F which proposes, potentially, to double the current population of the University Endowment Lands. The UEL official community plan, unfortunately, is very out of date and is not responsive to major project proposals like block F. Unfortunately, that remains the case, and it doesn't seem to be changing soon.

[1735]

As a result, the community advisory committee at the University Endowment Lands has struck a project-based block F working group to try to incorporate some level of community vision for the future into the block F planning process. The group is made up of three members of the council plus nine members from the community at large.

The success of the working group really depends on the cooperation of the ministry and consultants with this group. Can the minister assure the community that the ministry consultants and the ministry staff will cooperate with the Community Advisory Council's block F working group and ensure that the working group's activities and feedback are incorporated into the rezoning process?

Hon. C. Oakes: Thank you very much for the question. Staff of the UEL administration and our consultation team have met with this working group, of block F, in the past two weeks. I will absolutely assure you that we will continue to work with this group and ensure that the community voice is important and that it is heard.

D. Eby: I thank the minister very much for that.

The second question also relates to the UEL and a request for an incorporation study. During the last estimates process the minister advised me that if there was consensus on governance reform on the peninsula, her office would listen and respond. I'm told that a proposal for an incorporation study that comes from the elected University Endowment Lands' Community Advisory Council is on the minister's desk. It's been there for almost five months now, since November, and there hasn't been a response.

Governance reform will be much easier to do now, before the population of the UEL doubles. Will the minister respond to this request from the community for an incorporation study, and will her response ensure that the minister can focus on provincial issues instead of thinking about rezoning in the UEL?
[ Page 2330 ]

Hon. C. Oakes: Thank you for the question. As you well can imagine, the UEL is a complex and unique governance structure with many varied interests involved. It's an area facing great change due to development, demographic and other shifts, so it's important first for us to understand the state of the UEL to get a sense of the appreciation of the current arrangements and implications. The work that we're currently doing right now is gathering the facts about the current state of the UEL and understanding where the temperature is to move forward.

[1740]

D. Eby: Could the minister clarify which steps her ministry will be taking to take that temperature? The elected representatives and a large majority at the most recent meeting asked for this incorporation study. What other indicators will the minister be looking for, and how is she going to find them?

Hon. C. Oakes: Thank you for the question. Some of the things that we're currently looking at on the fact-finding information that we need to address is that we have to start looking at what the service relationships look like.

Of course, we're looking at a unique area that's in a peninsula that has other service relationships. There's financing. Where are the trunk sewer lines? Where are the trunk waterlines? Who owns it? What is the scope of that? Policing — how is that going to be managed within the scope of the current system? The transportation — who owns which roads?

We have consultants on the ground right now that are currently gathering that information so that we can start to really move this forward in a very clear, comprehensive way.

G. Holman: Thanks to the critic for allowing me a couple of questions. Madam Minister, I also have a question about incorporation for another area which has a unique governance model: Saltspring Island. As you know, the ministry funded a pre-incorporation study, if that's the right term. The committee that was convened to oversee that study has recommended proceeding to a formal restructure study. I'm wondering what the status of that is.

Hon. C. Oakes: Thank you very much for the question and for attending today. The final report and recommendations from the committee were received on November 29. The committee has indicated, as you have noted, that there is an interest in exploring the possibility of a governance change. The process that is currently underway is that we have to do an analysis on the Islands Trust to understand the impact of what the governance change would be.

[1745]

We're currently doing the analysis of what this process would look like. It's expected to be completed midyear. That's around the summer. Once that analysis is complete and the implications are fully understood for both the community and the provincial agencies, then the ministry will look at determining whether funding is available for an incorporation study. I'd be happy to meet with the folks from Saltspring.

G. Holman: Thanks, Minister. In terms of the timing, would it be fair to say that even if the ministry were to fund a formal restructure study, it's unlikely that it would be completed and a referendum result completed before the next local election on Saltspring?

Hon. C. Oakes: I wish I could provide you better…. From a timeline perspective, we have a number of local governments throughout the province that are looking at these kinds of processes that they want to take forward in November. With the analysis happening midyear, which will be in the summer, the timeline to do a governance structure…. The next step would be too significant to provide them the ability to get to referendum, which takes a certain amount of days as well, but we would be, certainly, supporting them on going through that process. They just have to contact us.

G. Holman: Thank you for that.

I had another question around funding for water treatment upgrades. I believe that you've received a request from the north Salt Spring water district around upgrading of its facility. The way the provincial rules work now, water districts have to become part of local government, whether that be part of a municipality or part of a regional district, in order to qualify for infrastructure funding.

The water district has requested the province — yourself — to waive that rule in their case, and they have the reasons for that request. I'm not sure if you've responded formally to that. If you have, could you, just for the public record, indicate what that was, and, if you haven't, indicate whether you would at all consider waiving that current rule which means that you wouldn't be able to get infrastructure funding as a water district unless you became part of local government?

[1750]

Hon. C. Oakes: Thank you for the question. We do have a policy that is put in place that has great success. We are looking at supporting the dissolution of water-funding districts — being taken over by other regional districts and municipalities.

The reason for that is we have found that it's a better, safer water system for our citizens — that it has higher standards, higher levels of health standards, with the water systems through regional districts and municipalities. There are more efficiencies, there are more profes-
[ Page 2331 ]
sionals available to support those very important water systems, and finally, there's better accountability for taxpayers.

G. Holman: I would like to have a conversation with you about the specifics around this application. There have been some issues with the capital regional district's management of water systems, which you're probably aware of as well — if we could have an off-line conversation.

I had just one other question about regional growth legislation. On the Saanich Peninsula there are three municipalities, two of which are putting forward or contemplating land use changes that would require approval of the CRD board because of the regional growth legislation that provides a check on individual municipalities.

I understand that Langley is now in a dispute with the GVRD around the GVRD rejecting a land use proposal that affected an urban containment boundary or something to that effect.

My question is: are the rules for regional growth strategy the same in the CRD as they are for the GVRD in terms of the legislative framework? Are the rules basically the same, or is there something different about GVRD, about how the system works?

Just another question is: is the province following this? Are you intervening? Are you concerned about this challenge to regional growth legislation? Are you intervening in the court case? Are you watching? Are you contemplating making changes, depending on the outcome of that case?

Hon. C. Oakes: To the first question, the legislative principles are the same for regional growth strategies in each of the ten areas that are identified.

We are absolutely reviewing the case currently that has been handed down. Currently what happens is that the review of the case goes through Justice to draw out any implications, and then, from those implications, it gets forwarded on to each of our ministries. That process just hasn't…. We're currently in that review process.

[1755]

S. Robinson: Now that my colleagues are done, I just want to come back to more around mandate and service plan.

I'm wondering if the minister can outline the steps that she's taken to balance her ministerial budget and to control spending as dictated by the Premier.

Hon. C. Oakes: Thank you for the question. The steps that we take to ensure that our budget is balanced are that we work incredibly closely with the deputy ministers and the assistant deputy ministers, who meet regularly to review spending; we have to report quarterly, provide quarterly updates to the Ministry of Finance; and finally, we — my staff team — meet very often to ensure that our budgets are on task and are balanced.

S. Robinson: What follows that is: what decisions has the ministry made over the last year, from the last budget to this budget, in order to keep the budget in line?

[1800]

Hon. C. Oakes: The decisions to keep our budget really in line…. Our budget really is one that is very static from year to year. Our programs are very consistent, and there's a significant historical practice in each of the divisions that monitor the programs, so they have developed a really good ability to have extreme, accurate forecast.

We don't have a very dynamic ministry. It's pretty consistent over the years, and we're able to rely on that historical corporate memory that really provides us the ability to help move towards balancing our budget.

S. Robinson: As part of the core review, it's my understanding that each minister was tasked with identifying which programs and services under their ministry should be reviewed. If I recall, back in July the minister said that she was expecting instructions in September. Did the minister make this determination about which programs and services would be reviewed?

Hon. C. Oakes: Our ministry was one of the first ministries through the core review process, and out of that came the work to dissolve the Provincial Capital Commission. That has now gone through the House, and that has been dissolved. We're ensuring the efforts to have an extremely smooth transition and supporting those programs, going forward.

S. Robinson: I thank the minister for sharing that. I'm assuming that that was the only change. I want to know how that has resulted in a reduction in the budget. How much money did the ministry save as a result of that decision?

Hon. C. Oakes: As part of the core review, the Provincial Capital Commission process has saved British Columbia taxpayers approximately $1.5 million per year on an ongoing operational savings without diminishing the services currently provided to the public, and our budget remains status quo.

S. Robinson: If the budget remains status quo, does that mean that the $1.5 million is used for something else, or has the budget been reduced by $1.5 million?

Hon. C. Oakes: The $1.5 million is just a savings to the government's bottom line.

S. Robinson: I just want to make sure I understand the
[ Page 2332 ]
distinction. When the minister talks about the government's bottom line, does that mean that the budget for this ministry has dropped by $1.5 million?

[1805]

If the Capital Commission was the responsibility of this ministry, I'm assuming that was in this ministry's budget. So therefore, the budget has been reduced by $1.5 million, or did that money come from a different budget?

Hon. C. Oakes: Again, our budget does remain the same. But to clarify the question, the Provincial Capital Commission had a separate budget with separate revenues attached.

S. Robinson: I thank the minister for that clarification. That certainly helps clear some of that up.

I have a couple of questions now about contracts and contractual obligations. I'm curious about what services this ministry outsources to contractors and how the ministry reviews the performance and cost-effectiveness of these contracts.

Hon. C. Oakes: Our ministry doesn't outsource works, but we do have service contracts to do specific work. For example, we have a Rissling Services Ltd. They did a project for us that was emergency repairs for their storm and sanitary sewers and water mains in the UEL lands. That's kind of…. We don't outsource, but we do have service projects.

Noting the hour, hon. Chair, I move that the committee rise and report progress and ask leave to sit again.

Motion approved.

The committee rose at 6:09 p.m.

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Hansard — Monday, March 24, 2014 p.m. — Volume 8, Number 7 (HTML) (2024)

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