It was a very busy day for me in the Legislature today. I was one of only two opposition members who spoke at 2nd reading to Bill 24 – 2016: Profits of Criminal Notoriety Act. I was one of only five opposition members who spoke at 2nd reading to Bill 23: Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy Act, 2016. And I was one of only two opposition members who spoke at 2nd reading to Bill 25 – 2016: Miscellaneous Statutes (General) Amendment Act, 2016.
Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Acts are omnibus acts that propose numerous minor changes to a number of existing pieces of legislation. Bill 25 is the third such act we are debating in this session alone.
Bill 25 proposes amendments to ten existing acts: the Agricultural Land Commission Act; the Assessment Act; the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act; the Environmental Management Act, the Income Tax Act, the Insurance Act, the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, the Local Government Act, the Mutual Fire Insurance Companies Act and the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing Act.
While many of the proposed changes are minor, as you will see from the text and video of my speech that I reproduce below, I have serious reservations about two critical amendments. I also have a number of questions on other amendments that I will defer to committee stage.
A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in the debate on Bill 25, Miscellaneous Statutes (General) Amendment Act, 2016. Like so many of these other miscellaneous statutes amendment acts, this act is a potpourri of changes to a variety of acts, with some additional transitional provisions attached to them, as need arises.
The act amends ten acts: the Agricultural Land Commission Act, which I’m sure the member for Saanich South will have some comments on; the Assessment Act; the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act; the Environmental Management Act, the Income Tax Act, the Insurance Act, the Liquor Control and Licensing Act, the Local Government Act, the Mutual Fire Insurance Companies Act and the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing Act.
Under the ALC, there are two amendments to the ALC Act. The first is an amendment that will require the ALC to obtain the owner’s consent before excluding land for the reserve. This is mostly applicable in boundary reviews.
The second, as the minister mentioned, adds a regulation-making authority so that the commission can provide clarity to farmers about agritourism activities — for example, a wedding on a farm. Regulations on these are expected this spring.
However, there is a clause that does raise some concern, and that’s clause 1.3 in this bill, which I’m sure we can explore further at committee stage. This seems to allow the commission to have a loophole so that the consent by owners is not actually required to remove land from the ALR. I’d be interested in exploring what the government has in mind with respect to the inclusion of section 1.3 further at committee stage.
In terms of the Assessment Act, the amendment for this will give the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council the ability to prescribe assessed values for certain restricted use properties. The change is designed to ensure that Crown corporations, either provincial or federal, on Crown land are paying their fair share of property taxes. On this, I think there will be a broad agreement as these are fine changes.
Similar with the Local Government Act on page 5 of this bill, the amendment there fixes a mistake that was done in 2015 under the Statute Revision Act. It removes a contraction that exists presently.
Under the Environmental Management Act, there is an amendment which gives the flexibility to the minister to be able to update area-based management plans and improve permitting certainty within those areas. Specifically, a director is given the power to amend the permit after consultation with the minister. I, again, see no problems in support in this aspect.
Then we come to the Protected Areas of B.C. Act, page 7, which is troubling. The amendment here reduces the size of Finn Creek, of the park there, so that the Kinder Morgan expansion can continue planning its route. The proposed boundary adjustment will not be brought into force unless the NEB, of course, approves the project, the five conditions are met, and the province has issued an environmental assessment certificate, as the minister pointed out.
The park is reduced by a couple of hectares, but this reduction will cut a line directly through the northern section of the park. This follows Trans Mountain’s request to the province to amend various parks for its proposed route in 2014.
Obviously, I will be opposing this particular amendment. This is precluding…. Despite the fact that the minister is giving us the assurance of the government that this will not be brought into force unless the NEB and the five conditions are met, the reality is that we are putting it in place now, and frankly, that sends a signal that government is moving forwards to get to yes on a project that the majority of British Columbians realize is simply not reconcilable with their values.
To turn the port in Vancouver, through the Burnaby facility, into one of the largest shippers of heavy oil in the world. It’s simply not consistent with the values of British Columbians. This particular amendment is troubling in that it’s sending a green-light signal — that in its desperation to get to yes no matter what the question is, government is already starting to introduce legislation to amend parks.
Under the Income Tax Act, I find this very troubling as well. Here, there’s going to be provisions for a transitional period that will allow the film and television industry to adapt to the changes in tax credits recently announced. The amendments reduces the digital animation, visual effects and post production tax credit from 17 to 11 percent of the amount determined by the taxation formula.
In my view, this is troubling, because in doing this, what government is sending is a signal to an up-and-coming vibrant sector that: “You know what? You’re not as welcome as you used to be.” It’s early. It’s too early to be clawing back credits to an industry that is beginning to blossom. A 21st century economy industry in this province of British Columbia that we are known for internationally, beginning to emerge, and this government is now cutting out its heels, taking out its legs in the process.
A. Weaver: The Minister of Health doesn’t think so, but I would like it hear the input that I’ve…. Rather, I’d be delighted to share the input I received from the industry with respect to this particular cut. It is troubling. It is troubling when we are doing whatever we can to literally give away our natural gas resources to foreign entities, who otherwise would not be here and still are probably not going to be here, even though we’ve given away the farm.
Here we have an industry — a home-grown industry, jobs in B.C. industry, distributed jobs in B.C. industry — and we’re saying: “You know what? Your time is over. We’re going to continue to double-down on the falling stock of liquefied natural gas.” Despite the fact that Australia is years ahead of us. Despite the fact that China is now a seller on the international marketplace. Despite the fact that not a single LNG facility has been approved. Despite the fact that each and every one of the promises made by this government leading to the 2013 election has been broken. Every one of them.
Instead of saying: “Plan B. We need to move towards a 21st-century economy that builds on the strength of what we are good at here in B.C. — innovation, creativity, tech, bringing tech together with resource sector….” No, no, no. What we’re going to do is actually is chop them down at the knees just as they’re getting going.
To the Insurance Act — there are some changes there as well and, also, to the Mutual Fire Insurance Companies Act, neither of which I found to be particularly troubling. Just a few minor amendments there.
We’ve got the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing Act here. The amendments clarify B.C. Housing authority to provide support services and manage multipurpose developments that include housing and non-housing components. It allows the ministry to include land development related to housing. It also expands the powers and duties of the British Columbia Housing Management Commission to include social and other housing services.
There’ll be some questions at committee stage. But because these amendments came under a natural gas development amendment section, they may be worthy of exploring in a little more detail. I’m wondering whether or not this is actually something to do with housing specifically for the natural gas industry, as part of our, frankly, continuing generational sellout as we try to do whatever we can, whatever it takes, to get to yes, no matter what the question.
Liquor Control and Licensing Act, page 15. This amendment is, again, one that I see no major concerns in. It gives the general manager of the liquor control and licensing branch the ability to reconsider liquor enforcement decisions. The grounds, of course, for reconsideration are to be set out in regulations like much of what we’re debating.
This amendment means that the enforcement decisions will be reconsidered without the necessity of having to apply to the court for a judicial review. There are a number of guidelines and prescribed grounds that are to be established by the general manager for these amendments to work. Another piece of legislation there, an amendment, that I think will work well.
Taken together, there are a couple of troubling sections — notably, two in this overall bill. Obviously, I’ll be supporting the bill at second reading so that we can actually vote upon the individual sections at committee stage and vote them down accordingly.