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Reintroducing Right to Roam Legislation in British Columbia

Today in the legislature I reintroduced the Right to Roam Act, a private members bill that I first introduced on February 27, 2017.

This bill was drafted in response to a number of conflicts in which people trying to hike or walk to rivers and lakes in the backcountry were met with new fences, gates, and threatened with arrest. When leased crown land or uncultivated private lands are blocking British Columbian’s ability to reach public lands and waterways, what are their rights in accessing those spaces?

The bill is a combination of B.C.’s existing Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act and Nova Scotia’s Angling Act and seeks to protect and clarify British Columbian’s right to access to crown and cross uncultivated wild lands. It does not increase access for any motorized vehicles, as this would be pose a significant risk to the landscape, wildlife populations, and historic First Nations sites. It does not amend any wildlife legislation or hunting regulations, nor does it limit the rights of property owners.

After its initial introduction, my office has received an endless stream of emails and phone calls from British Columbians who are struggling with this issue in their communities.

It’s clear that this right to access wilderness, especially on leased Crown land, is a debate that we need to have in British Columbia and that is precisely the reason why I felt it was important to reintroduce the bill. While I recognize that the government will unlikely call this bill for second reading, and while I also recognize that there are important amendments that would make it more effective, it’s critical that we keep this issue in the public realm.

I encourage all readers to contact their local MLA to emphasize the importance of bringing Right to Roam legislation to British Columbia.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the Bill’s introduction as well as the accompanying media release.


Video of Introduction



Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Right to Roam Act, 2017 of which notice has been given in my name on the order paper be introduced and now read a first time.

The ability to access and experience nature is a right for all British Columbians, and we must protect it. Spending time outside is vital to our well-being, as well as the protection of our environment. The more time people spend in their local ecosystem, the more they will care about protecting it.

Increasingly, however, British Columbians are finding themselves fenced out of wild areas that have been enjoyed by the public for generations. Fences, gates and signs are blocking people from accessing Crown land.

Since the introduction of this bill for the first time last year, my office has literally received an endless stream of hundreds upon hundreds of emails and phone calls from British Columbians who are struggling with this issue in their communities.

It’s clear that this right to access wilderness, especially on leased Crown land, is a debate that we need to have in British Columbia.

At the recent UBCM conference, I also had delegations come to meet with me on this very topic, as well as local organizations and First Nations across British Columbia. It’s a pressing issue that’s effecting British Columbians from north to south to east to west.

This bill, which is built on a combination of B.C.’s existing Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act and Nova Scotia’s Angling Act would re-establish the rights of British Columbians to access public lands, rivers, streams and lakes and to use these spaces to fish, hike and enjoy outdoor recreation in accordance with the law.

Mr. Speaker: You have heard the question.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: 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 M209, Right to Roam Act, 2017, 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.


Media Release


Weaver re-introduces bill to increase British Columbian’s access to nature
For immediate release
November 8, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, introduced a Private Member’s Bill that would increase the ability of British Columbians to access public lands. Weaver first introduced the bill, the Right to Roam Act, 2017, in February 2017 under the previous B.C. Liberal government.

“The ability to access and experience nature is a right for all British Columbians, and we must protect it,” said Weaver.

“Spending time outside is vital to our wellbeing, as well as the protection of our environment. The more time people spend in their local ecosystem, the more they will care about protecting it.
“Increasingly, however, British Columbians are finding themselves fenced out of wild areas that have been enjoyed by the public for generations. Fences, gates and signs are blocking people from accessing crown land.

“Since the introduction of this bill for the first time last year, my office has received an endless stream of emails and phone calls from British Columbians who are struggling with this issue in their communities. It is clear that the right to access wilderness, especially on leased crown land, is a debate we need to have in B.C.”

This Bill, which is built on a combination of B.C.’s existing Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act and Nova Scotia’s Angling Act, would re-establish the rights of British Columbians to access public lands, rivers, streams, and lakes, and to use these spaces to fish, hike and enjoy outdoor recreation in accordance with the law.”

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Media contact
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | jillian.oliver@leg.bc.ca

Mourning the loss of Constable John Davidson

In the legislature today Mike Farnworth, the government house leader, rose to deliver a Ministerial Statement on the tragic loss of Constable John Davidson. Constable  Davidson was killed in the line of duty yesterday in Abbotsford. As Leader of the Third Party in the Legislature, I rose to respond.

Below I reproduce the video and text.


Video



Text


A. Weaver: I rise to join the Government House Leader and the Leader of the Official Opposition in expressing our most sincere condolences to the loved ones of Const. John Davidson, the police officer who tragically lost his life yesterday.

We stand with the community of Abbotsford while they mourn his terrible loss.

Police officers put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. We must never forget the risks our police officers and first responders face, nor the sacrifices they are called on to make in the line of duty.

Police officers are the heroes of our communities. They work tirelessly every day to respond to multiple crises and emergencies that, many times, each constitute the worst days of a citizen’s life. We can honour them by ensuring that they have the support they need to do their vital work in keeping us safe.

As we remember the bravery, honour and dedication of our first responders, we remember what makes this country great — our generosity, strong sense of community and willingness to look out for one another. Let us all strive to do all we can to support our communities so that they can be safe for our families and for all citizens of this province.

Bill 16: Tenancy Statutes Amendment Act

Today in the Legislature we initiated second reading debate of Bill 16: Tenancy Statutes Amendment Act, 2017. The bill makes a number of changes to the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act and the Residential Tenancy Act designed to:

  1. restrict the ability for landlords to use of a vacate clause with fixed term leases, except in specific circumstances that will be provided for by regulation;
  2. limit rent increases between fixed-term tenancy agreements with the same tenant to the maximum annual allowable amount;
  3. enable the residential tenancy branch to take stronger action to enforce tenancy laws with repeat violators.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my speech.


Text of Speech


A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in the debates at second reading on Bill 16, Tenancy Statutes Amendment Act.

As we’ve heard, this bill has three main goals. It makes amendments to the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act and the Residential Tenancy Act. The bill makes the following changes. First, it restricts the ability for landlords to use a vacate clause with fixed-term leases except in special circumstances that will be provided for by regulation. Two, it limits rent increases between fixed-term tenancies with the same tenant to the maximum annual allowable amount. Three, it enables the residential tenancy branch to take stronger actions to enforce laws and repeat violators, and also it streamlines the dispute resolution process for the return of security and pet deposits.

I rise to speak to this bill as someone who historically has both been a renter and a landlord — a landlord since 1986 in one form or another. I rise to say that I approach this bill very cautiously.

I recognize that there is a crisis facing affordability in Metro Vancouver and in metro Victoria, where vacancy rates are below half a percent or 0.6 percent.

And I recognize that there are a number of bad apples out there — I come back to the Leader of the Opposition’s term “bad apples” — who have created a crisis, in terms of fixed-term leases being used as a means of avoiding the law, the law which limits rent increases for people who are there.

Now, I approach this also from the sides of those who are landlords to recognize that the fixed-term lease often is one of the only means to actually get a tenant out of a property if the tenant is actually not responsibly taking care of that property.

I understand that there is the rental tenancy agency and the agreement. I’m concerned that without an injection of substantial funds — something I’ll explore in the committee stage, and I understand these will be forthcoming —the intent will be lost of this one tool that landlords have to ensure that they can evict a tenant in a timely fashion without having to drag through the RTA process.

Because we do know that there are some cases where we have irresponsible landlords, but we also have irresponsible renters. So I respect the need for this legislation in a basically zero-vacancy market.

We have a crisis on our hands. We need to deal with that crisis to ensure that renters, the most vulnerable in the society, are not being taken advantage of by those exploiting it. But at the same time, in the longer term, I think we need to look very carefully at how we actually move the whole Residential Tenancy Act forward to ensure that we protect good landlords.

I come to my own personal circumstance as somebody who has been a landlord for many, many years and, also, from a family of people who worked in the restaurant business, who did not have a pension. They had no pension other than by the fact that they squirrelled their savings into real estate to ensure that their pension would be the rent from this real estate in their retirement.

Now again, the single most important thing a landlord can do is get a good tenant who lives in the same place for a long time. A good tenant is more valuable than $100 a month, because you know a good tenant is one that will take care of the property and is one you do not price out of the market.

One of the means and ways that landlords use this fixed-term clause is you’ll sign a one-year agreement but not automatically go to the month-to-month, because automatically going to the month-to-month will start to invoke the RTA process.

And you view it both for protection of the landlord and the renter. This one-year period is a period to see whether the relationship…. In a tenant or renter case, for most small business landlords — not the multinationals or the big property owners but the small business ones who are really trying to get the best tenant — this is a good check to ensure that you’re a match.

In my personal case, I viewed it as a way to give back. We, for years and years, have given below-market rent in a house or two houses because we could give someone a leg-up. We could give them a chance, and we’d know that they’d be there and they’d take care of the property for a long, long time.

I mean, some members here would think it kind of odd if I said that we rented a four-bedroom house for a $1,000 a month. That is what we did here, because it covered our costs, it gave people a break, and it allowed us to protect ourselves for the future and our children in this escalating real estate market.

With that said, we can look to those bad apples. Those bad apples have taken this and made it into a crisis, and I have no sympathy for that.

People taking advantage of other people because of a difficult time in affordability is wrong at a fundamental level, which is why ultimately I support this bill, with the caveat that I’ll explore at committee stage some of the attempts that government will take to actually ensure that the rental tenancy office is resourced properly, so that delays are not there for the sake of delays, that people can get responses for concerns in a timely fashion, that landlords and renters are protected. Because ultimately, I think the collective view here is we want to make this system better.

As we know, there’s a small minority of these landlords who’ve been engaged in this business. And again, for those out there, other landlords, we really need to turn to those irresponsible landlords and say: “You know what? This is your fault.” Government has responded, as it must respond, to a crisis that was created by irresponsible landlords taking advantage of a system. For that, again, I come back to the reason why ultimately I think this is an important bill to support.

In terms of the enforcement laws, this too is important. The amendments that are being proposed will allow the branch to more strongly enforce the tenancy laws. Again, this is important because they will be able to compel the production of documents as part of penalty investigations, publish penalty decisions, refuse to accept an application for dispute resolution if an administrative penalty is owed and pursue prosecution where penalties have been levied but there is still no compliance.

This largely protects the renter, but there are clauses in here that do also protect the landlord with respect to administrative penalties if they have not been paid as well. Again, this is a good component of the legislation, which I’m very pleased to support.

Finally, when it comes to streamlining pet and damage deposits, again, this legislation…. I understand the need for doing it, but ultimately it comes back to the fact that those few bad apples out there have required such legislation be put in place.

The overwhelming majority of landlords take the return of pet and damage deposits very seriously. They follow due process. They ensure that they’re not retained for inappropriate means. To be blunt, the process, if the renter knows — going through the rental tenancy branch and the whole adjudication process — is very, very cumbersome, and nobody wants to do that. So the majority of landlords have been following process appropriately. But again, those bad apples have made this necessary.

I come to the compelling arguments put forward by the member for Vancouver–West End, who is in an area of Metro Vancouver with a very low vacancy rate, very high rental accommodations — frankly, a whole bunch of vacant places as well — and I hear his concerns. I hear his concerns, and I support the amendments, as we’ve seen fit to ensure that the retention of security deposits is not done inappropriately.

In conclusion, I support the intent of this bill to end the abuse of the current act by a small number of landlords who skirt rent controls and evict people from their homes if they won’t agree to large rent increases. I look forward to discussing the bill in committee stage and, in particular, exploring the means and ways the tenancy branch will actually be funded and the means and ways that will allow disputes to be dealt with in a timely fashion, and I look forward to listening to others in this second reading debate.


Video of Speech


Bill 12: Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act

Today in the legislature we debated Bill 12: Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act at second reading. This non-controversial bill makes two changes:

1) It amends the Offence Act to allow for e-ticketing of drivers;

2) It amends the Motor Vehicle Act to require a peace officer to impound the car a person was driving at the time that person was given a notice of a 30-day or 90-day driving prohibition as a result of a roadside alcohol test.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my brief speech in support of this bill.


Text of Speech


A. Weaver: I too rise to take my place in the debates on Bill 12 — 2017 Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act. I too rise to speak in support of this bill.

This is the fourth of four bills receiving unanimous support today in the House. It’s too bad the school children that were just here left — to see yet another bill to be agreed upon, so that people could actually see when this Legislature works instead of the fights that often occur in question period.

This bill, as was mentioned by the former RCMP officer and the member for Prince George–Mackenzie, makes two substantive changes. It amends the Offence Act to allow for e-ticketing of drivers. As was mentioned, current legislation restricts police officers to issuing paper tickets in a prescribed form. This bill will allow for the issuing of e-tickets as well as paper tickets.

I can only imagine the multiple translations of a ticket that was written in my handwriting, and I do understand, as mentioned by the member for Prince George–Mackenzie, that there must be many an occasion — and as personal experience, it was many occasions — where illegible handwriting led to tickets that would otherwise be issued not being issued. It does concern me that this will be a money grab by the province. I’m hoping that the public listening to this, riveted to this on their TV screens, will recognize that no longer will illegible handwriting let them away from tickets.

I also do support the introduction of the ability to pay the tickets on-line. I mean, literally the government is pretty much, or this in particular, one of the last things in our society that allows you to pay on-line, so it’s very timely that this is brought forward. Or timely is the wrong word. It’s about time that this was brought forward.

The three broad changes in this bill in the first section, changes to the Offence Act, allow officers, as I mentioned, to issue e-tickets and make copies of e-tickets, allows officers to create e-certificates of service and also allows for the transport of electronic records to ICBC. It will be piloted in the select regions as a part of a road safety initiative prior to rolling them out provincewide. These regions include the CRD, Vancouver, Delta and Prince George. As part of the road safety initiative, but separate from the legislation, as I mentioned, government will be rolling out a modern new innovative ability to pay your fines on-line.

The second substantive change in this act is to amend the Motor Vehicle Act to require a peace officer to impound a car that a person was driving at the time that person was given a notice of 30- or 90-day driving prohibition as a result of a roadside alcohol test.

A review of this act by astute legislative reviewers and lawyers found that immediate roadside prohibitions for alcohol-affected drivers didn’t sufficiently cover the immediate impoundment of cars. That is, there was a loophole in the act that was not providing immediate coverage for the immediate impoundment of cars. This has been regular practice since 2010, that cars would be impounded, but there actually wasn’t legislation supporting this to occur.

Roughly, there’s been something like 10,000 impoundments that have occurred since 2010, that relate to this change. The change to enable this to occur will now obviously be retroactive to 2010. So anyone out there thinking that they’re going to get some kind of reimbursement for having their car impounded is out of luck, as we quickly make this retroactive to 2010.

As I mentioned, there’s no current or previous legal challenges relating to this amendment as we bring it forward, which is a good thing. I’m not sure if something is going to happen in the next 24 hours, but at least that’s what we were told. And it’s simply a gap that government identified, or at least lawyers identified, and they felt it was prudent to actually close this gap.

As mentioned by the member from Prince George–Mackenzie, this is an uncontroversial bill, something we’re pleased to support, and, frankly, I would have thought something that we could have brought in along with an earlier bill we discussed on Red Tape Reduction Day, because we’ve made great steps in the province of British Columbia in reducing red tape without actually naming a day after the reduction.


Video of Speech


When will the BC Government start dealing with our housing crisis?

Today in the Legislature I was up in Question Period. I took the opportunity to continue pressuring the government to commit to demand-side housing reforms.

Housing affordability is the single most pressing issue facing British Columbians. As mentioned in the exchange below, I’ve sat through question period for the last two months and have yet to hear any questions of substance from the BC Liberals on this topic.

I’m not entirely happy with the response to my supplemental question and will continue to pressure government to deal with speculation in our real estate sector.

Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: The single biggest issue facing British Columbians today is the issue of housing affordability. I’ve now sat in this question period for a full two months, and I’ve yet to hear anything of substance in question period from members opposite. As a consequence….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: As a consequence, please let me pick up the file.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Member, if you could please be seated for a moment.

Members, I’m not sure this is a productive use of the time in the House here.

Member, please continue.

A. Weaver: As a consequence, I’ll pick up the file.

The B.C. Liberals introduced the B.C. home owner mortgage and equity partnership in early 2017. The then opposition housing critic and now Attorney General called the program “completely bizarre,” and he said: “It’s an incredibly poorly thought-out policy.” And he further noted our provincial government’s — that’s the previous government — response is to encourage people to take on more debt and subsidize the debt. It’s bizarre, he said.

I agree, and so does Evan Siddall, the president and CEO of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, who said this: “Programs that support demand in supply-constrained markets like Vancouver serve primarily to increase prices and make the affordability problem worse.”

In reference to the stated goal of the program and the program and making houses more affordable, he stated: “I’m joined by loud chorus of economists in insisting that it will do the exact opposite.”

My question is this. When will this government eliminate the program, which nothing more than incentivize British Columbians to take on more debt than they can afford, a reckless incentive particularly when the interest rates are rising, as they have twice already this year?


Answer


Hon. C. James: Thank you to the member for the question. I think, as the member pointed out, after 16 years of ignoring the housing crisis in British Columbia, there’s a lot of work that has to be done.

I’m very proud of the first steps we took — in less than two months after being sworn in, in government — in our budget update by announcing funding for 1,700 affordable housing units and 2,000 modular housing units.

We’ve also added resources to the residential tenancy branch to support good landlords and good tenants in the work that they do.

We’ve also improved information sharing with the homeowner grant and the Income Tax Act to look at speculation and how we address the speculation.

On the member’s specific question around the B.C. partnership program. It is being looked at as part of the budget. The member will know from the budget update that the amount of money has been reduced in that program, because the previous government predicted about $700 million over three years as usage. We have reduced that by $500 million because the program has been underutilized because of the concerns that the member has raised. So this is being looked at as part of the budget process.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: The members opposite seem to think that if I don’t hurl a character assassination at government, it’s a softball question, as opposed to a question dealing with real issues facing British Columbians.

Yesterday, Global News noted New Zealand’s approach to tackle their housing crisis and clamp down on offshore ownership and speculation. The story included a very disturbing comment attributed to government: “Foreign ownership of homes is not being considered as part of the budget 2018 planning.”

There’s a lot of foreign capital out there looking for a safe place to park money in these tumultuous times. Foreign investors have turned to our real estate sector, thereby turning our houses and land into commodities for investing in speculation, not living in or working on. Our residents are paying a social cost, as they can’t afford to live in the places that they work.

Yesterday I also received an email from a rural farm and ranch realtor who had been approached on behalf of a limited company based in Hong Kong looking to purchase 35,000 acres of farmland in British Columbia. The stories are never ending.

This government continues to focus on the supply side of housing. When will this government step in to clamp down on foreign money flooding into our real estate sector and agricultural markets like other jurisdictions have done internationally?


Answer


Hon. C. James: Thanks to the member for the questions and the ideas and the solutions to take a look at speculation and closing loopholes. Stay tuned for more information this afternoon around one piece of that.

I’m working with the Minister of Housing. We’re working together on both the demand and supply side. It is critical, as the member has pointed out, that we look at both pieces.

The member will know that tax measures are not talked about before the budget comes out so that we ensure that people don’t utilize tax information to their own personal benefit. That will come out as part of the February budget.

I can assure the member that speculative issues are being looked at — how we close the loopholes. It’s all part of a comprehensive housing strategy that we are going to be proud to table and proud to implement in this province.