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Justifying my support for discontinuation of International Business Activity Program

As noted earlier, today in the Legislature we were in Committee Stage for Bill 2: Budget Measures Implementation Act 2017. This is a bill that implements the various initiatives discussed in the BC government’s most recent budget update.

One of the sections in the Bill dealt with shutting down the International Business Activity Program. I took this issue very seriously as I was concerned about the unforeseen or unintended consequences of cutting this program. Prior to speaking to the amendment I sought two briefings on this particular section of the bill from staff within the Finance ministry. The evidence I gathered informed the decision I ultimately made.

Below I provide the rationale for my support in eliminating this program.

I also append in the text below an exchange I had with Shirley Bond, the MLA for Prince George-Valemont. In it you will see that I support her statement that the partisan BC NDP Caucus claim that AdvantageBC was a BC Liberal corporate giveaway scheme was not supported by the evidence (the program started under the Social Credit government in 1988).


Video of Justification



Text of Justification & Followup


A. Weaver: I thank the member for Prince George–Valemount for putting forward the amendment. I also wish to thank her sincerely for providing me with information, including a copy of the MMK Consulting report Building B.C.’s Brand and Assessment of the International Business Activity Program.

I have sought two briefings on this particular section of the bill out of concern, as expressed by the member for Prince George–Valemount and others on the opposition side, with respect to: what are the unforeseen or unintended consequences perhaps of cutting this program?

I will say also that I do commend the present CEO of the program, who has clearly taken steps since a previous review to get it on its right track. But if we come, in speaking to the amendment, back to the history of this program, the international business activity program was actually brought forth in 1988 at a time when the corporate tax rate — combined province and federally here in British Columbia — was over 50 percent.

At the time, the rationale for bringing it in was that in British Columbia we were not competitive with other jurisdictions in terms of the corporate tax rate.

Now, as of January 2018, the corporate Canada-plus-B.C. tax rate will be 23 percent. Corporate tax rate has come down 23 percent since the introduction of this program.

If we look, very recently, in terms of what this program is being used at, I have, in the briefings that I’ve sought to get to the full details here…. I understand that, in terms of what’s using it, factoring contributes about 29 percent; dealing in securities, about 28 percent; foreign exchange, about 33 percent; and other issues, such as with the film industry, etc., 10 percent of the usage.

Now, the issue of factoring is an interesting one. What it allows to occur, for example, is British Columbia…. It’s done in a non-arm’s-length fashion. You can set up, in a non-arm’s-length fashion, businesses in other jurisdictions. For example, if I’m a business, I can trade amongst myself by setting up a corporation in America, say, and have a company in Canada. I can go back and forth between myself and take advantage of the tax credits in this program, when really all I’m doing is taking advantage of something that is finding a means and ways of taking advantage of a specific tax break.

Where it gets particularly egregious…. This is a 33 percent that comes in with foreign exchange. I’d like to give a specific example. Let’s suppose that I would like to loan you $100 million U.S., and in order of doing that, I’m going to not loan you but find you $100 million U.S. as capital, so you’re going to get access to it. There may be, say, a 5 percent or a 3 percent commission attached with that. Now, if I’m registered in this, I can go and get the B.C. taxpayer to give me a 12 percent tax credit on that 3 percent commission.

The problem here is that that’s just not right. Why should the B.C. taxpayer…? This is 33 percent of the business model within this international business activity program. One-third of all the activity involves foreign exchange. Any service fee associated with getting money from somewhere…. And it just has to be the money. It doesn’t have to come from another jurisdiction. If it’s another foreign currency, it’s eligible for the money.

One-third of the business model, and you get a 12 percent tax credit. The B.C. taxpayer is subsidizing those who don’t need a subsidy just for the commission. It’s just wrong. I can’t see any justification for that.

You know, I’ve looked at this in detail. I understand that this report is a thoughtful report by MMK Consulting. Unfortunately, it only relied upon interviews, and pre-audited fees were looked at — that is the information that was used. That’s my understanding. The claim of 7,800 jobs that was embedded in this report is actually based on a large number of assumptions that I think could be challenged by the civil service and government if the actual income tax reporting data were available.

I’m not saying that this isn’t a thorough report, but I’m saying the analysis in this report did not have the actual data, the income tax data, that would allow it to make exact or precise assessments of jobs and income.

I took this very seriously. I took the suggestion of the member for Prince George–Valemount very, very seriously. It was not until the second extensive briefing from the civil service…. I’m very grateful to the minister and the staff of the civil service who have provided me with this briefing. It is only after extensive briefing that I must say now that I support the rationale here in recognition of the good work done by the present CEO, and I cannot support this amendment.

S. Bond: I appreciate the comments that have been made. I go back to the fact that the quote that I…. You know, this is a reasoned amendment. It’s not saying that eventually this program needs to be tweaked, modified, changed, but the minister has moved on this issue more quickly than anything else that she’s undertaken. I go back to the words in the NDP government caucus release that “there is a lack of evidence and this is a B.C. Liberal giveaway scheme.”

The request is a simple one. Take a look. Extend the time frame. The program has shown benefit, and I think our job in this House is actually to ask those questions. While there may be some amusement about that on the other side, the fact of the matter is that this has made a difference in British Columbia.

The question is simply: why so quickly? Why not give it the opportunity?

And to the minister: “I’m not interested in referring it to the task force.” That’s exactly what a task force is created for. It’s simply the opportunity to take a look at a program that’s existed, look at its merits and its weaknesses, and take the opportunity to take some due process here. In fact, in our view…. That’s why the amendment has been tabled. There was a significant lack of due process. Quick action. We’re simply asking for reconsideration and allowing there to be some time before the decision moves forward.

A. Weaver: I wanted to stand and support the member for Prince George–Valemount’s comments, with respect to this being a Liberal giveaway. Clearly, this is not a B.C. Liberal giveaway. It’s a program that was established under the Social Credit government in 1988. It was developed and continued through the NDP governments of the 1990s and continued through the 2000s under a B.C. Liberal government.

I think it’s very unfortunate wording that it’s been phrased that way, but it doesn’t change my views with respect to the actual amendment itself. I do respect the fact that it was brought forward. I think it’s a very reasoned amendment. But in light of the briefings that I’ve had with Finance staff, I remain still committed in opposition to this amendment

On the need for more engineers to be trained in BC

At every level — undergraduate, master’s, and PhD, B.C. lags behind other provinces in terms of the number of engineers it graduates per capita.

Of the 9 provinces that offer engineering undergraduate degrees, BC ranks a dismal 8th. It ranks 7th in Masters and 6th in PhDs (see graphs below using data from Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow Share: Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded 2011-2015).

Quebec and Ontario graduated 40% more undergraduate engineers per capita in 2015 than BC. They graduated 280% and 300%, respectively, more Masters Degrees per capita while Nova Scotia graduated 500% more per capita. And Quebec also graduates more than twice the number of PhDs per capita than BC.

In fact, BC is one of the lowest ranked jurisdictions in the world in terms of engineering PhDs awarded per capita. To compound this discrepancy further, BC has the strongest projected employment growth for engineers in Canada.

This is an unacceptable situation for a jurisdiction attempting to position itself as an innovator in the emerging 21st century economy. It’s particularly troubling as universities in BC are chomping at the bit to expand their offerings. For example, an exciting opportunity exists in Squamish to create a innovative centre for clean energy research, training and industry partnership. UNBC is also hoping to establish an engineering program to meet the demand for professional engineers in northern communities.

To pick up on this theme I asked the Minister of Advanced Education how her ministry was going to facilitate the development of these programs and increase the number of engineering graduates in British Columbia, and in particular, UNBC. As you will see from the video and text below, the BC Liberals were quite unruly during question period and had to be reprimanded by the Speaker a number of times.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: At every level — undergraduate, master’s, and PhD, B.C. lags behind other provinces in the number of engineers it graduates per capita. Of the nine provinces that offer engineering undergraduate degrees, B.C. ranks a dismal eighth. It ranks seventh in master’s and sixth in PhDs. Quebec and Ontario graduated 40 percent more undergraduate engineers per capita in 2015 than B.C. They graduated 280 and 300 percent, respectively, more master’s degrees than B.C., while Nova Scotia graduated 500 percent more master’s degrees than B.C. Quebec has more than twice the number of PhD graduates. In fact, B.C. is one of the lowest-ranked jurisdictions in the world in terms of engineering PhDs per capita.

To compound this discrepancy further, B.C. has the strongest projected growth, for engineers in Canada. There are post-secondary institutions eager to fill the need. UNBC has been trying to get an undergraduate engineering program…

Mr. Speaker: Member, your question.

A. Weaver: …for years. The engineering department at UBC wants to build a tech campus in Squamish.

To the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, how is her ministry going to facilitate the development of these programs and increase the number of engineering grads in British Columbia?

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.


Answer


Interjection.

Hon. M. Mark: Sorry, what was that?

Interjection.

Hon. M. Mark: Yeah, exactly. It’s not you asking the question. I’m the one answering the question, through the Speaker.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. M. Mark: No, it’s okay. I’m used to this. I’m used to this circus on the other side. It has only been a week, but it’s been fun.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. M. Mark: I thank the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head for the question.

Interjection.

Hon. M. Mark: Well, of course I do. I like to stand in this House as an advocate for post-secondary education. For the last 16 years…. In the first 21 days on the job, I had a chance to travel the province and hear from students and get to see STEM in action — science, technology, engineering and math.

We’re going to do something about this on this side of the House to send a message to students that we’re on their side, that we’re going to invest in their education. We’re going to invest in the tech sector.

We know that the tech sector is a $26 billion industry. Our friends on the other side of the House remind us that we’re not interested in jobs, but we need to make sure that we’re training people up. We’re going to make sure that those 100,000 people that are contributing to the economy are trained up in engineering. So we’re going to increase co-op placements. We’re going to increase apprenticeship placements. We’re going to make sure that the trade seats are relevant all across the province, not just select regions in the province.

I look forward to working with the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head on increasing the seats in engineering in B.C.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: If ever there was any doubt why this boisterous bunch needed to be put in a time-out, today is the justification for that.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: In mathematics, hon. Speaker, “QED” is often used to demonstrate exactly what I was just saying.

UNBC has proven that if we train people in the north, they stay in the north. In fact, more than half of their 13,000 alumni live in the north, contributing to the society, culture and employment base. Engineering should be offered at UNBC. It would add to those figures.

I recognize that 16 years of rule by the Luddites opposite, who do not understand the importance of the new economy, abandoned rural B.C. and left them on the hook. They abandoned development in rural B.C….

Interjections.

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

Members, we are reminded that when someone is speaking, we will listen with good manners.

A. Weaver: My question to the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training is: what is your ministry doing to ensure vibrant educational opportunities are available across all disciplines in our northern communities, in order to allow these communities to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in the 21st century economy that have been left out because of 16 years of incompetent rule by the B.C. Liberals?


Answer


Hon. M. Mark: I’m so pleased to hear a question about post-secondary advocacy in this House, because it’s about time that we have a government that’s going to advocate for the students all across British Columbia and make sure that we have those seats available. It is unacceptable that that government brought us to eighth place, in this province….

Interjections.

Hon. M. Mark: Pardon me? It’s exciting in here. I love the excitement. It’s about time that people are standing up for post-secondary education instead of standing in the way.

We’re going to get to increasing those seats across B.C., up in UNBC. We’re going to make sure that we’re investing in jobs in the 21st century. We’re going to make sure that we’re not standing the way by increasing debt and tripling tuition, like what was done under the last government in 16 years.

We are going to stand beside the students in British Columbia, and we made those measures, in the first 60 days of forming government, by reducing student debt, by making sure that we increase seats for students in the trade sector and the engineering sectors. We’re standing beside students in this province, and we’re sending a message that we are going to invest in them, not stand in their way.

The Debate Continues on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

The debate on the cynical BC Liberal motion continued again today. The motion stated:

Be it resolved that this House, acknowledging the importance of diversifying trade to create jobs for British Columbians, supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership because: the Trans-Pacific Partnership removes trade barriers and provides preferential market access for B.C. goods and services from all sectors including forest products, agrifoods, technology, fish and seafood, minerals and industrial goods, and through the transition support will be available to our supply-managed industries; the Trans-Pacific Partnership provides more access for service providers in professional, environmental, and research and development fields; and, ultimately, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will increase investment and create new jobs and opportunities for many British Columbians.

Once more I rose to speak strongly against the motion. As I noted yesterday when I spoke against the proposed BC NDP Amendment, the TPP will have dire consequences for our technology sector – one of British Columbians greatest economic opportunities. Today I continued on that theme and also took the opportunity to rebut some of the more outlandish claims from cheerleaders of the motion within the Liberal caucus. The most egregious of these was from the Minister of Agriculture who said this:

As history has shown us through the decades, through the millennia, at some point in the future, mankind will find some way of causing another world war, or some pestilence will hit us or something will happen where we’ll see our borders close. We want to make sure that we continue to grow agrifoods right here in B.C. so that if ever — and I hope it never comes — that day comes, we’ll be able to be even stronger in feeding ourselves.”

You literally cannot make this stuff up. The Minister of Agriculture is using a food security argument to justify the TPP in case of world war or a global pestilence outbreak. As I argue between the 2:00 and 3:00 minute mark, the Minister has it entirely backwards.

Below I reproduce both the text and video of my speech. The motion passed because of the Liberal majority.


Text of Speech


A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to rise not to speak in support but to speak in opposition to the motion we have before us.

As I mentioned yesterday, the TPP is fundamentally bad for British Columbians. The TPP was signed by 12 Pacific nations — Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, United States, Singapore and Vietnam — in New Zealand on February 3, 2016.

We heard a lot about trade agreements with China and South Korea yesterday from members opposite, but this has nothing to do with trade agreements with China, South Korea, India or others, despite what members opposite might think.

That takes us to the point — the point that this motion was brought to us and the Legislature before the text of the TPP was even available. How cynical is that? How cynical is it for a government to make its mind up on an agreement that it has not even got the text of to determine whether or not they support the agreement? It’s very cynical.

We know, in this Legislature, the singular reason that they’re bringing the motion forward now is because they’re trying to make hay on the fact the federal NDP passed support for looking at the Leap Manifesto. It was rather an odd decision, mind you, but they passed support to go forward with that and study it for two years.

This is a good opportunity the government can take to actually make hay by trying to make the official opposition look bad in a substanceless debate — a debate that stoops to such levels as discussing what will happen to food security when we have outbreaks of disease and pestilence and world war.

Can you believe this — that the Minister of Agriculture is arguing for TPP; that we need to enter into free trade agreements, which have indemnity clauses in there that protect the rights of multi-national corporations over the rights of the British Columbians and Canadians; that we, somehow, should sign this agreement in case world war breaks out?

You can’t make this stuff up. Not only does it not make sense, but if this agreement were signed and war broke out, according to the agreement, we’d be liable to ensure that food still went elsewhere. It’s exactly the opposite, which shows me, clearly, how intently and intensely members of government have actually looked at the agreement. I don’t think they have. Well, I know that they haven’t.

I’m willing to wager that if there is one person in this Legislature, in this House, who has actually read the agreement, it is the member for Surrey-Whalley. Nobody else, including me, has read all 6,000 pages. I’ve read a bunch of the pages, but not 6,000.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: Again, identified just there in the heckle is someone, or two, from members opposite who said: “Are you sure you read 6,000?” That’s after I just said: “I didn’t read all 6,000.” This shows exactly the level of understanding this government has of the actual document before us.

The TPP, as I outlined, contains investor-state provisions that give foreign corporations — an investor, so-called — the ability to sue Canadian government — the so-called state — in secret tribunals over any legislation which would hurt their profits further, such as regulations defending human health, labour safety or the environment. So in case we have world war breaking out, and we want to protect our agrifood industry for local consumption, in fact we can’t, despite what the Minister of Agriculture might say.

We have some high-profile cases under NAFTA, an agreement where rulings have gone against Canada because of unfair restrictions. I could, for example, talk about the arbitration panel ruling against Canada after a U.S. company argued a joint federal-provincial environmental review board decision to disallow a quarry in the small fishing community of Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, imposed unfair trade sanctions. The U.S. company is now seeking $300 million in damages.

We’ve got another. A NAFTA panel recently ordered Canada to pay Exxon Mobile Corporation and Murphy Oil $17.3 million after Newfoundland and Labrador required offshore oil producers to have money allocated to research. We’ve got TransCanada, a Canadian example, behind Keystone XL, launching a $15 billion lawsuit against the U.S. under NAFTA.

In and of itself, these are examples, but what we have under NAFTA, of course, is the ability as a nation to withdraw from NAFTA, with appropriate notice. With TPP, we’re signing away our life and future generations, as the substance of exit clauses is unknown

I come back to the Tufts University report that I cited yesterday. Why I thought that was important to come back to is I want to touch upon the conclusions of this report, which fundamentally underline why this is a bad agreement for British Columbia. It says as follows: “In the main existing assessments, the TPP is projected to generate small gains in GDP in most participating economies. However, these projections are based on an economic model that assumes full employment and invariant income distribution, thereby excluding, from the outset, some of the most serious risks of trade liberalization.”

As I mentioned, yesterday I gave an example of the assumption using cars. The fact that this model that was used to make one or two…. The models that the government is relying on assumes full employment. Full employment is a poor assumption in a trade deal that’s talking about the creation of jobs. In fact, when more realistic assumptions are used, the TPP is projected to cost 58,000 job losses in Canada — not job gains, job losses. Full employment is not guaranteed, because the company will not just pay workers lower and lower amounts, they’ll move elsewhere and shut the factory down.

The article’s concluding remarks continue. “Projecting the effects of the TPP with a different economic model, based on the realistic assumptions about economic adjustment and income distribution, leads to different results. We project that the TPP will lead to contraction of the GDP in the United States and in Japan and negligible income gains in other countries.” It’s one of the reasons why the U.S. is actually talking about not ratifying this agreement. They’re talking about not ratifying this agreement because the agreement actually will lead to a contraction in U.S. GDP.

“We also project job losses,” it says, “and higher inequality in all participating economies.” That includes B.C. “In the fact of negligible or negative income gains, the costs of the TPP are projected to fall asymmetrically on labour.”

“Furthermore,” it says, “when analyzed with a model that recognizes the risks of trade liberalization, the TPP appears to only marginally change competitiveness among participating countries. Most gains are therefore obtained at the expense of non-TPP countries.”

It says, finally: “Globally, the TPP favours competition on labour costs and remuneration of capital.” Let me reiterate that, please. The “TPP favours competition on labour costs.”

How do we translate that into the Canadian economy? How do we reconcile with that with the projected 58,000 job losses in Canada? It’s quite simple. As I said again, TPP favours competition on labour costs. Declining labour costs is not going to benefit British Columbians. It’s not going to benefit Canadians, and the reason why is clear. We have a certain standard of living here in British Columbia that we ensure with minimum wages, benefits, etc., that people who work here enjoy.

Now, if I’m going to dig up a mine somewhere, I’m going to consider one of the following. Should I go into British Columbia and make a mine here, where we have an expectation of environmental standards being met? We have an expectation that we’re going to have to work in partnership with First Nations? We have an expectation that we are going to have to pay union wages? Or, should I open up a mine now in Indonesia, which is well-known for far less stringent environmental concerns, paying far cheaper wages and also geologic formations that match British Columbia and elsewhere?

The choice is quite simple for a multinational corporation that is beholden to shareholders that are not residents of the region that you’re employing but are globally around the world — some of whom have interesting Panama bank accounts. When you are accountable to your shareholders, you are — in essence, without any internalizing of social or environmental costs — trying to race to the bottom. You are looking for the cheapest way of digging that rock out of the ground and bringing it to market.

The cheapest way means the non-B.C. way. The cheapest way means the non-Canadian way. The cheapest way means find the most despotic nation in the world that has zero environmental standards, no labour standards. You build your mine there because your costs of doing it are minimal. That is why the TPP will create job losses in Canada.

I cannot believe that member after member opposite stood up and blindly said: “This is going to create job opportunities for British Columbia.” I don’t think they’ve even read the analysis of the TPP. Frankly, I don’t think they know what the TPP is.

Let me give some more examples. Michael Geist, the Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of British Columbia, took a 50-day analysis of the TPP. Every day he was putting something else out. I’m not going to read all 50 of them because we’d be here all day. They are fascinating. They are insightful. Let me just outline some critiques for members opposite.

The first one was Canada was at a negotiating disadvantage from the start, because Canada was a latecomer to the agreement and had to plead to get in and gave concessions to get in, particularly with copyright and other laws. “Intellectual property rules lack balance,” according to Mr. Geist. “Copyright costs: term extension, criminal liability and digital locks” are of concern. “The TPP copyright provisions,” he said, “will require significant changes to Canadian law and limit Canada’s ability to implement future reforms.”

Does that sound like a benefit for British Columbia? I’m not so confident.

More IP changes — patents, trademarks, trade secrets and geographic indicators — is another area of concern. Here he says: “The concerns with the TPP’s intellectual property chapter extend well beyond copyright.” He talks about patent to term adjustment rules. He talks about protection to the next generation of pharmaceuticals.

This is certainly to the benefit of multinational corporations looking to maximize profits for the wealthy few and, certainly, not in the interest of the workers in the factories producing these products.

He talks about the risk of privacy — privacy risk. I’ll come back to that. He talks about — which I’m going to expand upon for most of the rest of my time here — how this is a step backward for the Internet and technology.

Before I go into that cost, let me just say that there are risks. He argues about risks from investor-state dispute settlement provisions, health costs and regulation risks and restrictions on Canadian cultural policy.

Let’s come back to the tech issue. We all know in British Columbia that nobody thought this government was going to become elected in 2013. Nobody, including government themselves. So they dreamed up an LNG strategy that was selling a bill of goods to Canadians. We’re going to have a $1 trillion increase in GDP, a $100 billion prosperity fund, 100,000 jobs, Debt-free B.C. and thriving schools and hospitals. Wow. Who would not want to vote for that?

But it was nothing more than fiction, a fictional dream offered to British Columbians as a form of a Hail Mary pass of hope that was caught, because British Columbians believed. Shame on them for believing the government. Clearly, the evidence is that we should not believe what the government is saying. They believed them, and they ticked the wrong box. A few too many of them got elected, them being the collective B.C. Liberals.

Here we are in a situation where we have a reckless management of our province, reckless economic trajectory of our province and a government that now realizes it can’t deliver on LNG.

What it’s not saying, while it’s trying to actually pin the NDP as being anti-trade-deals…. What they’re not saying…. It’s really interesting if you go through Hansard and look. They’re not saying another one of the key reasons why they like this agreement. It’s because they’re desperate to deliver on Petronas, a company based in Malaysia, a signatory of TPP. Reducing investment in infrastructure, likely not going to go anywhere in northern British Columbia…. It doesn’t have a supply gap to fill any time soon.

They’re desperate. Give it away some more. Let’s just send them a signal that TPP is actually going to be good for us, because then it’s actually good for Petronas.

Nobody mentioned Petronas yesterday in the speech. They talked about agrifoods. They talked about cattle. They talked about sparkling wine. Okay. It may benefit the sparkling wine industry. But who they didn’t talk about, who it really benefits, are people like Petronas, the multinational based in other jurisdictions that they’re chasing to the bottom to try to develop a resource. The economics don’t even work. But this is them trying to desperately give away a resource, to say: “Look. Listen to us. We’re here. We’ve done what we’ve said we’d do.”

What’s so ironic about this is in their fiscal folly over the last three years, what we have now in British Columbia are not natural gas plays anymore. We have legal plays now. Not natural gas plays, but legal plays. Companies investing in LNG in British Columbia are now seeing legal opportunities for settlements because of the reckless promises of this government and the inability to deliver to a market. So these are now becoming legal plays. At what cost?

The tech sector will be devastated by the TPP. I raise natural gas only because we see from government, as of last August, when they recognized, oops, LNG is going nowhere…. Staff were suddenly told: “You’d better hold a tech conference in Vancouver in January.” They scurried to hold a big tech conference to celebrate tech, a sector they have essentially given up on, let fall by the wayside for years, a clean tech sector that they’ve killed through the construction of Site C and a signal to market that it’s all about LNG or nothing in B.C.

They created this tech conference, but they don’t understand the tech sector. They don’t understand the tech sector, because TPP is bad for the tech sector. Let me give you some examples. More than 250 tech companies signed a letter demanding greater transparency from Congress back last year. They were decrying the broad regulatory language in leaked parts, at the time, of the TPP trade deal, the deal that was signed in secrecy — 250 tech companies in the U.S.

Coming back to Mr. David Wolfe, let me summarize what he said in the Globe and Mail a few weeks back. In fact, the actual date was March 26 of this year, so just a couple of weeks back. He said this.

“Canada’s problems are compounded by the bias against technology-based industries that exists in small, open economies. The barriers to entry associated with technological innovation disadvantage smaller firms to a greater extent than larger ones. At the same time, the domestic market does not provide an ecosystem for them to scale up.

“To the extent that these economies are home to a greater proportion of small, indigenous firms, the entire economy is placed at a disadvantage with respect to competition in high-technology industries. The public incentive to support those firms that compete in technologically intensive sectors is much greater for a small, open economy than for a larger one. Transforming the research and design base of firms in this economy and ensuring protection of their knowledge base is necessary for effective competition in the 21st century.”

Jim Balsillie, co-founder of Research in Motion, producer of BlackBerrys, said something about TPP that expands upon the words that I just read from Mr. David Wolfe. What Mr. Balsillie pointed out is as follows.

“TPP raises the minimum global IP standards of the World Trade Organization by extending and enforcing the U.S. IP regime and interest all TPP countries. Make no mistake,” he says, “This is not your father’s trade agreement. TPP clearly demarks the shift in global value creation from tangible to intangible goods by providing unprecedented advantages to current large holders and producers of IP.”

This fellow should know what he’s talking about because, as I’ll show in a second, his company was one of only a few such 300 top organizations that granted U.S. patents.

How many Amazons are in Canada with central offices? How many eBays? How many of the global multinational corporations are based in B.C? We have Hootsuite struggling along. B.C. has created an environment where companies get so big, and then they move to the U.S. Now, with TPP, it will cripple even that incubator component of the tech sector in British Columbia.

Coming back to what Jim Balsillie said:

“Canada does not have the arsenal of valuable IP to benefit financially from such provisions. The Intellectual Property Owners Association’s most recent ranking of Top 300 Organizations Granted U.S. Patents lists BlackBerry as the only Canadian entry. In their Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents, UBC was the only Canadian university, listed at 78th place, with 29 patents granted, compared with the University of California’s 453.

“Canadians create world-class innovations, he says, but we fail to commercialize them. A recent Conference Board of Canada innovation report ranks Canada second to last on the ability to patent our ideas — a core aspect of ideas commercialization. With so few Canadian companies and universities positioned to benefit from TPP’s IP provisions, we are ill-prepared to compete with countries possessing hundreds of such wealth-generating entities.”

That’s from somebody who should know, Jim Balsillie, former co-founder of RIM, based in Waterloo. It goes on. We have here another quote that says the following from a law professor. The law professor in this particular case is Michael Geist again, an expert on Internet legal issues.

“If things don’t go Canada’s way” he says, in a CBC News piece in August of last year “— and on a lot of issues Canada is playing defence, is in the minority — then it’s going to require a major overhaul of our copyright law.”

He further said, and the article states:

“Geist said a section of the draft text could even require Canadian Internet service providers to block access to websites that contain copyright-infringing material in response to court orders from somewhere else in the world.”

Then he said this:

“It’s something the government has consistently rejected through copyright reform process.”

It goes on and on. He talks about the fact that this is a made-in-America point. He says that when you look at the digital policies — things like copyright, intellectual policy, privacy rules, Internet and Internet governance rules — there’s some real harms that we find in this agreement. This is not good for B.C.’s tech sector.

Finally, on another topic of great concern, is the issue of privacy. Now, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, FIPA, has raised concern, as pointed out in a Business in Vancouver piece, that TPP provisions could override B.C. law governing data storage. It’s not just FIPA that’s pointed it out. It’s others, as well, as I’ll come to.

In quoting this article in Business in Vancouver by Tyler Orton, published back in November of 2015, it says the following: “Victoria enacted laws requiring sensitive data to be kept within Canada after concerns arose in 2004 that B.C. health data could be subject to the U.S Patriot Act if stored outside the country. The TPP, however, states governments cannot require companies to use service within their own borders as a condition of conducting business.”

To be very, very clear on this, article 14.13 of the TPP establishes a restriction on legal requirements to do so. Here is the quote: “No party shall require a covered person to use or locate computing facilities in that party’s territories as a condition for conducting business in that territory.”

We blindly walk into this agreement. We blindly walk into this agreement in a cynical ploy to try to pin the NDP in British Columbia to their federal counterpoints who enacted a study for two years about the Leap Manifesto.

Hon. A. Wilkinson: Counterparts.

A. Weaver: Counterparts. I recognize it’s the same party, but in their defence, there was not a single member of this party in this House on the Sunday on the floor.

Hon. A. Wilkinson: I’m just trying to correct Hansard. You said “counterpoints.”

A. Weaver: Did I say “counterpoints”? The Minister of Advanced Education so dutifully corrects me, and I am so very grateful for being corrected here as to using the word “counterpoint” to “counterpart.”

Thank you, hon. Minister. It’s such the appropriate ministry, too — the Advanced Education.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: I’ve been relegated to an A-minus. I had one A-minus, hon. Minister, when I was an undergraduate — only one in my time as an undergraduate, and now I’ve got my second.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: I’ve got a lot of A-pluses. Not lots of times. I would be happy to share my undergraduate transcript with you. I did graduate with an 8.95 GPA, not a 9. I was crushed. I got that one A-minus, and my GPA was 8.95 — not 9.

Interjections.

A. Weaver: The members opposite…. We’re having an ego battle back and forth, hon. Speaker. But he got the Rhodes Scholarship. I did not. I only got to the interview stage. The member opposite actually got the Rhodes Scholar.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Anyway, I digress. I digress.

So finally, hon. Speaker….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Finally, hon. Speaker….

I’ve just completely had my legs cut out from me from the Minister of Advanced Education in this debate. He wins. Sorry.

In conclusion, this deal is a bad deal for British Columbia. This deal is a bad deal for Canadians. This motion should not pass. This government should be ashamed of itself for bringing this cynical motion forward at a time when they hadn’t even got the agreement to actually explore the details of. Thank you.


The Vote


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Video of Speech


Opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

Today in the Legislature I rose to speak strongly against the cynical motion brought forward by the BC Liberals:

Be it resolved that this House, acknowledging the importance of diversifying trade to create jobs for British Columbians, supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership because: the Trans-Pacific Partnership removes trade barriers and provides preferential market access for B.C. goods and services from all sectors including forest products, agrifoods, technology, fish and seafood, minerals and industrial goods, and through the transition support will be available to our supply-managed industries; the Trans-Pacific Partnership provides more access for service providers in professional, environmental, and research and development fields; and, ultimately, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will increase investment and create new jobs and opportunities for many British Columbians.

Let’s be very clear, this motion was introduced purely for political reasons — political reasons aimed at painting the BC NDP as the “Party of No”. As I pointed out in the fall, the motion to support the Trans Pacific Partnership was put on the order papers before the text of the TPP was even available. The BC Liberals made up their mind before even reading the text. In my mind, that is a reckless approach to governing.

The TPP, especially the investor-state dispute settlement clauses, poses a serious threat to the sovereignty of our province. It places the interests of multinational corporations above the interests of British Columbians.

It is a 20th-century trade strategy applied to a 21st-century economy. Supporting the TPP will have dire consequences for our technology sector – one of British Columbians greatest economic opportunities.

Since the monumental failure of the BC Liberals LNG plans, they have been going out of their way to try to court technology companies, talking about leadership in this sector and how government is there for them. Today we see that was all talk, as they swiftly cut the legs out from under this industry with this motion.

Signing this deal will also undermine our ability to be climate leaders. If we are serious about addressing climate change we will have to implement more aggressive policies to reduce our emissions, under this agreement that would put us at a distinct trade disadvantage if other countries did not follow suit.

The BC NDP proposed that the motion be amended by deleting the text after:

 Be it resolved that this House, acknowledging the importance of diversifying trade to create jobs for British Columbians, supports

and substituting,

referral to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for robust and transparent discussion and public consultation on the long-term job creation and employment impacts for British Columbia of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Formally, my speech below was against the NDP amendment. For the reasons I outline below, and those I will outline further when I speak to the main motion, I am categorically opposed to the TPP as it will deal a devastating blow to BC’s technology sector. Sending this cynical motion to committee will not address this fundamental objection. Besides, the federal government is already undertaking consultation on the TPP which falls within federal jurisdiction.

All in all, today was one of the lowest points as my three years as an MLA. To see the Liberal government stoop to such low levels makes it clearer than ever to me — the BC Liberals need to be voted out of office. They are more interested in the quest for power than they are in actually governing in the best interests of British Columbians.

Below is the vote on the amendment, the text of my speech and the video of my speech. I will be speaking and voting against the main amendment when it next appears on the Order Papers.


The Vote


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Text of my Speech


I rise to speak in opposition to the amendment — not because I don’t understand the direction that the official opposition is heading, but because the TPP is bad for British Columbia. I have heard so much rhetoric coming from the other side, but let’s be very clear. The motion that we are debating today was brought to this Legislature initially in the fall. It was brought to this Legislature before the text of the TPP was even available.

That tells me that members opposite…. Frankly, I would bet a lot of money that not a single member opposite has actually taken the time to read the agreement. Members opposite, honestly, I would argue, are just touting government lines. They talk about this being good for jobs. Well, let me give you some evidence here that I’ve actually got, in studying this.

I’m holding a document called Trading Down: Unemployment, Inequality and Other Risks of the Trans-Pacific Partner Agreement, written by Jeronim Capaldo and Alex Izurieta from Tufts University, as part of the global development and environmental institute. Let’s be clear what they say.

Overall, the TPP is going to be a job loser. How much so for Canada? Canada will lose 58,000 jobs through the passage of the TPP. This isn’t about creating jobs; this is about losing jobs. Net exports in Canada will go down by 6.6 percent of GDP. This is not good for Canada; this is not good for B.C.

The reason why the government is touting job growth numbers is because they’re quoting from economic models that had a fundamental error in them. The fundamental error was that they assumed 100 percent employment, whereas, if I can give you a wonderful example of what it means and how perverse in this context.

Full employment is not a good start for economic analyses to make estimates on job creation. Here’s the example. Let’s say, for example — it’s coming from this Tufts document:

the demand for cars were to drop below producers’ expectations. The economic models that this government is relying on, assuming full employment, assume that car prices will fall, ensuring that all production is sold. Faced with lower-than-expected profits, car producers who want to cut costs may reduce the number of workers employed. However, since labour markets also supposedly enjoy price flexibility, wages will fall, ensuring that all auto workers remain employed, either in the car industry or some other sector.

That’s clearly an incorrect assumption. If prices fall, companies close down plants and workers lose their jobs, which is why, with the more realistic assumption with not full employment, we understand that this agreement will lead to 58,000 job losses in British Columbia.

Coming back, let’s be clear again. This government puts a motion on the table before they have even seen the text of the agreement, because the text is not public. Can you believe this, hon. Speaker? We are not making this up. It’s a reality and a matter of public record. Go to Hansard on the day that this motion was tabled. I tweeted out that day.

The text isn’t even available, yet this government is touting the TPP as good for British Columbia. Why? Because today’s B.C. Liberals are nothing more than yesterday’s Harper Tories. This is a playout of the Harper Tory playbook, which is negotiate deal, come hell or high cost, for the best interests of the corporate entities and the multinationals, not in the best interests of Canadians.

Let me outline some other reasons I disagree with the TPP as being good for Canadians and, hence, why I am not supporting the amendment. I’m opposing the actual motion in the first place, and I do not think we should be discussing these matters further in light of the fact that it is federal jurisdiction, and this is not in British Columbia’s best interests.

The first and most obvious reason to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership is because of the threat it poses to the sovereignty of our province, primarily because of the investor-state dispute settlement clauses found in chapter 9 of this agreement. This government clearly hasn’t even read the document. It’s essentially saying that we’re tying future generations to investor-state dispute clauses that then have provisions that allow for a company to sue our government if that government implements a regulation, law or policy that affects the future profits of the company.

Such claims would be settled in secret, through secret tribunals outside our justice system. This is what this government is putting forward, in a rah-rah, cheerleading fashion. Why? Because Petronas told them to do this; because one of the very few jurisdictions, in the 12 jurisdictions that are part of this, that benefit is Malaysia.

This government is so desperate to deliver on an election promise that they knew had no hope of winning — it was purely an election strategy — that they’re selling out future generations, yet once more, in an irresponsible manner here.

Why would we support a trade deal that limits our sovereignty, that places the interests of multinational corporations above the interests of British Columbians? As legislators, it is our duty to act in the best interests of the electorate, not in the best interests of multinational corporations based elsewhere.

This type of provision is not new. It currently exists under NAFTA as well, but let’s outline that it’s quite different in NAFTA. Under NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, we know we can end NAFTA, as a nation, within six months, but with the TPP, we have little clear indication of how easy or difficult it is to withdraw from the agreement.

“Sign a blank cheque,” this government says, “and give our British Columbia sovereignty, our Canadian sovereignty to multinational corporations based elsewhere,” in a desperate attempt to land a Petronas deal that they’ve already written an agreement for that, frankly, we should be debating about eliminating because it’s such a giveaway. We’re debating greenhouse gas reduction bills in this Legislature yet once more, to give yet another giveaway. Reckless, reckless economics.

Opposition to this bill comes from across the political spectrum. You have every presidential candidate on both sides in the United States opposing the TPP. By “every,” I mean Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and, bless him, Donald Trump. Now, I couldn’t see people further across the political spectrum than Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. But you know, they’re joined by

But they’re joined by other perhaps more economically savvy — because that’s their background — viewpoints. Let me quote, for example, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. This isn’t some Johnny-come-lately who has taken first-year economics at perhaps some local university and failed it twice, and maybe the third time they passed it.

This is a Nobel Prize–winning economist, and he says this:

I think what Canada should do is use its influence to begin a renegotiation of TPP to make it an agreement that advances the interests of Canadian citizens and not just the large corporations. It used to be the basic principle was polluter-pay,

he says. “If you damage the environment, then you have to pay.”

Now if you pass a regulation that restricts the ability to pollute or does something about climate change, for example, you could be sued. They could be paid billions of dollars. This deal was done in secret with corporate interests at the table,” he said.

And he described this, succinctly, as the “worst trade deal ever.” And that’s not a failed economist; that’s a Nobel Prize–winning economist — Joseph Stigler.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Stiglitz. Sorry. Thank you to the hon. Minister of Advanced Education for correcting me — and from the appropriate ministry as well. The ever-helpful minister.

Honestly, it’s mind-boggling that we’re doing this. Let me quote another person. This is David Wolfe. David Wolfe is a co-director of the innovation policy lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and author of the introduction to the second edition of Trade, Industrial Policy and International Competition.

This is another esteemed academic. He says the following:

As Canada’s negotiation strategy for TPP, the previous government adopted the traditional approach to international trade agreements. They bargained for increased access to international markets in the economic sectors where Canadian trade performance is strongest, while sacrificing some protection in the domestic market, especially in the manufacturing sectors. The trouble with this approach is that it is a 20th-century trade strategy applied to a 21st-century economy. Canada negotiated TPP in the rearview mirror.

The United States,” he said,

did the opposite in the negotiations. They aimed to secure competitive advantage for knowledge-based hydro sectors with the greatest potential for expansion in the 21st century. The 21st-century business world is less and less a material enterprise that builds physical products and more and more a virtual enterprise that is driven by software and technology. Think Google, Monsanto, even Tesla. In the 21st-century economy, it is the algorithms which drive the success of the enterprise and the intellectual property that underlies companies’ business models that are most critical for economic success.

When I hear this government argue that this is good for the tech sector, I’m wondering what they’re taking, because it is very clearly in the worst interest of the tech sector, as highlighted by industry after industry after industry rep.

Why do you think that both the Republicans and the Democrats in the U.S. are opposing this? Why they’re opposing it is because it takes too much power away from the elected governments and it favours international corporations over the interests of the people. We have been elected here in the province by the people of this province to represent their interests, not the interests of corporate donors.

I also wish to raise another concern — that signing this deal will undermine our ability to be climate leaders. This government wants to have it all, and they’ll say anything they can to tell the people just anything. “We are going to sign TPP because it’s going to increase jobs.” They don’t even recognize that their own analysis out there say that we’re going to lose 58,000 jobs in Canada. “We’re going to do TPP because it’s good for the tech sector.” It’s the exact opposite. “We’re going to do this. We’re going to do that.” Say whatever it takes. “We’re going to be leaders in climate, but we’re going to go natural gas expansion.”

It just doesn’t work that way, and it’s about time that this government stands up and be truthful with British Columbians. If we’re serious about being climate leaders, we’ll have to implement more aggressive policies to reduce our emissions, and the Premier has committed to do that.

Whether we believe it or not, that’s another thing, but the Premier has committed to do that.

This deal will put us at a distinct trade disadvantage as follows. If other countries don’t follow suit, we’re in trouble. For example, if we want to reduce the emissions from our farms in order to combat methane, we might require or put incentives in place for farmers engaged in animal husbandry to install some methane-capturing technology. Maybe….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: Innovative technology. I’m giving an example. No, it’s actually…. The Minister of Advanced Education…. I need to educate him. It is the cow burps, not cow others, that cause the methane. It’s from the multiple stomachs in their digestion. It’s coming from the mouth.

Interjection.

A. Weaver: That’s right. Nasal juice.

However, it could make them uncompetitive against farmers, say, in New Zealand. Under TPP, Canada would not be allowed to put up trade barriers to level the playing field. So let’s suppose that New Zealand doesn’t put any innovative measures in place and we are, and then we say: “Hang on. Our farmers are now at an unfair disadvantage, so we’d better put some barrier up. They don’t have a carbon price. We do. We’d better put a carbon price on the boundary.” Well, we can be sued by the corporations involved, even though we’re operating as a Legislature in the best interests of the people.

There are a number of other problems around intellectual property, labour standards, agriculture, food and medicine. And I have, frankly, a huge issue with the fact that the deal was negotiated in secret, and I think there’s ample evidence, as I’ve outlined, that this will cost our economy thousands upon thousands of jobs.

While I stand in opposition to the amendment to the motion, and I will stand in opposition to the motion itself because of these substantive concerns about the TPP, I also question this government’s cynical approach to this issue. At 6,000 pages in length, I seriously doubt that a single member in this House has even read a fraction of the provisions. I doubt a single member in this House — with the exception of the member for Surrey-Whalley, because I know he’s probably read the whole thing — has actually read even a fraction of what’s there.

This is not the type of issue that governments should be swinging wildly at, hoping to score cheap political victories by trying to put the opposition up about the Leap Manifesto, which some people brought from the floor in a conference. Shame on the government. Shame on the government for belittling the importance of the autonomy in B.C. by playing cheap political points.

Madame Speaker: On the amendment.

A. Weaver: Hon. Speaker, on the amendment, the government’s…. As I point out, why I’m not supporting the amendment is that the political posturing that we see on the issue has real consequences for one of British Columbia’s greatest sectors, the technology sector.

This is a sector that this government is trying desperately to bring forward in a desperate hope to find something for the next election campaign. Yet this is the single worst thing that they could do to the tech sector in this province: support this bill. They need to come out unequivocally and say, “We’re opposed to this motion and the amendment,” because if the amendment were to pass, inherent in that is that we’re going to study it some more, but ultimately, the decision we should be making today is that this is a bad motion.

These aren’t just my concerns, nor are they partisan concerns. This is what experts are actually saying. Another one: Jim Balsillie, the former co-CEO of BlackBerry. He said this: “Ten years from now, we’ll call that signature the worst thing in policy that Canada has ever done, and it threatens to make Canada a permanent underclass in the economy of selling ideas.” Hardly supportive of the tech sector. The former CEO of RIM says it threatens to make Canada a permanent underclass in the economy of selling ideas.

What about Michael Geist, the Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa? Well, he said this: “This is a made-in-America approach that’s advanced by the TPP.” In an interview, he said it further: “I think when you look at the digital policies, things like copyright, intellectual property, privacy rules, Internet and Internet governance rules, there’s some real harms that we find in this agreement.”

Real harms to a sector that this government is claiming they’re supporting. Yet they’re throwing that sector collectively together under the bus in one fell swoop by putting this motion forward and even by taking it forward through the amendment to a committee for further discussions. There’s a huge hypocrisy out there.

Government has been going out of their way to try to court technology companies, talking about leadership in the sector and how the government was there for them.

Today we see that was all talk, as they swiftly cut the legs out from under this industry by making this signal to the market that technology is not welcome in B.C. We are speaking daily to Petronas, and Petronas is the one guiding British Columbia policy. Shameful.

I cannot support the amendment because, fundamentally, supporting the amendment implies that I see hope in the original motion as it’s written. As that motion represents a betrayal to B.C.’s technology industry, it’s a betrayal to the creative economy in British Columbia, it’s a betrayal to hundreds of thousands of British Columbians, and it’s a betrayal to the democratic process that this cynical motion brought to us today is being debated here.

The government is saying: “We have no real desire to lead in this area, and we’re willing to use you, the technology sector, for political gain. We’ll take some photo ops with you. We’ll throw a conference, pretend like we’re doing something.” But this motion, even if sent to committee through the amendment, fundamentally throws the technology sector under the bus.

Let’s call it for what it is: a sellout — a sellout to Petronas, a sellout to British Columbians, a sellout to Canadians — and, let’s be honest, 58,000 job losses in Canada if the TPP were to go forward.


Video of Speech


BILL 3 – 2015 Building Act

On Thursday I rose to speak at second reading in support of Bill 3 -2015 Building Act. This is a bill that has been in the works for quite some time. As Minister Richard Coleman (Liberal – Fort Langley-Aldergrove) and Mike Farnworth (NDP – Port Coquitlam), two of the longest serving MLAs in the legislature, noted, the contents within the bill have been discussed and debated since the 1990s.

This bill has three main purposes:

  1. To streamline building requirements and ensure that they are the same throughout BC by establishing the province as the sole authority to create building requirements;
  2. To establish mandatory qualifications for local building officials in order to improve the interpretation, application and enforcement of the BC Building Code;
  3. To expand the province’s ability to review innovative building proposals.

Below is the text of my contribution to the debate.


My contribution to the debate at second reading


I must say, I do agree with the member for Nanaimo about the importance of climate and actually having that reflected in building codes. There have been steps made in the province of British Columbia, without any doubt, in that area. I assume and hope that there will be in the future.

The minister points out that the building code has been greening for the past seven years. I agree that there have been advances in that area. My concern, of course, is whether or not this bill will actually limit the innovation that has occurred and will continue to occur at the municipal level.

There’s a lot of good in this bill. I’ve been in contact with municipalities in the area that I serve, and they’re generally supportive of this bill. There’s strength within the streamlining of the building requirements across the province, particularly in a region like the capital regional district, with our multitude of municipalities and subsequent building codes. There does need to be standardization, and that has certainly been conveyed to me.

The intent, of course, is to reduce costs and improve efficiency, productivity and innovation in the construction sector. It’s hard to argue against attempts to reduce bureaucracy, red tape and costs in the construction sector. Of course, builders and construction associations have been lobbying for a streamlined Building Act for many, many years. As a stakeholder in the building business…. Of course, listening to an important stakeholder is of great importance.

Some of the local governments that we’ve looked into, particularly the ones that I represent, have expressed concerns not so much about what they’ve read in the bill, but the devil is within the details, in some sense. They’re not sure to what extent, at this stage, it will actually affect them or affect their ability to take local concerns into their building practices.

There are some concerns about streamlining. But generally, streamlining the building requirements, especially qualifications for building officials, would certainly help reduce confusion and improve the efficiency for builders.

Some of the concerns and questions that have been expressed to me lie in these finer details. In particular, there have been questions with respect to whether or not this bill actually provides a minimum standard or a maximum standard in some cases, whether it will limit innovation or allow for innovation. Again, this is where the devil is in the details. We’ll hear more about that as we go into committee stage.

One specific and very local example that was brought to my attention — and I think this is shared not only in the region of Oak Bay but across British Columbia — was the issue with respect to local requirements for fire regulations, fire sprinkler regulations. There are areas that are not well served by access for fire trucks, access for fire reduction. These areas do have and are required within local areas to have various sprinkler regulations. We only have to look at what happened on Mount Washington just this past week for some of the ramifications of perhaps not having more aggressive fire regulations in a community that is not well served, that does not have good access to fire services.

There’s also some question and concern about the extent to which this bill will retroactively remove some of the unique bylaws within the municipalities. I look forward to exploring that further. Again, it’s important — as the member for Nanaimo, the member for Port Coquitlam and others have expressed — to actually ensure this bill facilitates innovation rather than limits innovation. I’m sure, again, in committee stage we’ll see more of that.

Finally, the big question municipalities are asking is: who’s going to pay the cost? Is the government going to be repaid? Or is this, in some sense, going to be downloading of costs onto municipalities? Or will it be alleviating municipalities?

There is a very real concern out there that while builders will be saving money, the question is: what about local governments? Will they be picking up the bills, or will they actually be reducing their costs as well?

The rationale for this, of course, is that there are far too many pressing issues, as we try to deal with our infrastructure debt in municipalities across British Columbia that has grown over decades of neglect and is now having to be dealt with through year-after-year increases in municipal housing taxes, property taxes. There is simply no more room for growth in these areas to cover downloading of costs onto municipalities.

Once again, overall, I’m very pleased to support this bill at this stage, and I will look forward to seeing more information in the details as we move to committee stage.