Right after question period on Thursday of this week, the MLA for Abbotsford West (and the former House Leader when the BC Liberals were in Government) rose, pursuant to Standing Order 35, to seek leave from the Speaker to “make a motion for the adjournment of the House … for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance … “.
In his statement, the MLA for Abbotsford West argued that it was urgent to discuss:
“the necessity, advisability, and consequences of referring to the Court of Appeal the question of British Columbia’s ability to regulate or limit the transportation of energy products on federally approved and regulated pipelines and rail lines“.
During the 40th Parliament (prior to the May 2017 election) I stood three times pursuant to Standing Order 35 seeking to debate a matter of urgent public importance (all of them occurred in 2015).
The first sought a debate on whether or not in light of a preponderance of recent weather extremes, and in the lead up to an upcoming United Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Paris, we, as legislators, were acting with sufficient urgency and demonstrating the appropriate leadership on preparing for and mitigating the escalating impacts of climate change in British Columbia.
The second sought a debate on the recent failure of the contaminated soil site stormwater containment and clarification system at the South Island Aggregates — Cobble Hill Holdings — South Island Resource Management operations near Shawnigan Lake.
The third sought a debate on an economic backup plan for British Columbia given the collapse of this government’s strategy on LNG and the urgent need to transition to a low-carbon economy.
In all cases the Government House Leader (now the MLA for Abbotsford West) spoke against the need for such debates. As he pointed out,
“It is the urgency of debate, not the urgency of the matter itself”
that is important.
Both the Government House Leader (Mike Farnworth) and I spoke against the need for the present emergency debate. The reason of course is that the issue had been extensively canvassed in Question Period and Budget Estimate debates. Below I reproduce the video and text of my rationale.
A. Weaver: I rise to speak to the application for Standing Order 35. We were informed of this about a minute ago when this was put on our desk, so we’ve had a quick caucus meeting here.
I will suggest that I do have a lot of sympathy for the arguments brought forward by the Government House Leader.
I will also remind you of precedent. In the previous government, I rose pursuant to Standing Order 35 and I pointed out that it was critical at that juncture for the House here to have a debate on the issue of climate change in the lead-up to the Paris agreement, because government was deliberating on what it was going to do there. And both sides of the House, at that time, suggested that the urgency test had not been met.
I have been talking about the issue of Kinder Morgan for five, six years now. I would argue that the urgency test is not met either, in light of the fact that I listened to estimates, in light of the fact that I’ve been here in this chamber for the last number of weeks and there has been time after time after time where this has been debated. Some of the motions in private members’ time, some of the statements, are on this topic. We’ve had ample opportunity to discuss this.
Again, I come back to the precedent. I come back to the application of Standing Order 35 in the last parliament, when I rose precisely on an issue similar to this and the Speaker at the time ruled that it was not a matter of urgency. I would argue that the parallels are very similar. The argument at the time was that the issue of climate challenge had been debated in question period, it had been debated in estimates, and it had been debated in statements on Monday morning.
The analogy is direct. So our advice, hon. Speaker, as you make your decision, is that we find it difficult to see how this test of urgency is met.
Today in the legislature I had the opportunity to rise once more in Question Period to question government further about the dubious economic justifications underpinning Alberta and Federal rhetoric supporting the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Below I reproduce the video and text of my exchange with the Minister of the Environment.
A. Weaver: Yesterday, I asked the government whether they share the concerns being raised by many experts about the economics of the Trans Mountain pipeline. I’d like to pick up on that here.
Earlier this year and for the very first time, a new class of tanker — a very large crude carrier, or VLCC — left the newly refurbished Louisiana Offshore Oil Port destined for Asia. These tankers can load over two million barrels of oil, and the LOOP facility can fill them at a whopping rate of 100,000 barrels an hour.
The Aframax-class tankers that would leave the terminus at the end of the Trans Mountain pipeline can only take 555,000 barrels of diluted bitumen out of Burrard Inlet. That means that any Asian buyer would need to contract four Aframax tankers from the Trans Mountain terminus versus only one VLCC from the LOOP facility.
Based on this obvious economic reality that any Asian buyers would be serviced by the VLCCs out of the U.S. and not out of the terminus of Trans Mountain, my question is this, to the either the Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance or the Premier, if he’s here: is her government or his government and her ministry or the Premier’s office taking a hard look at the financial case for the Kinder Morgan pipeline?
Hon. G. Heyman: Thank you to the Leader of the Third Party for the question. I and other members of the government are certainly aware of the controversy around the economics, the different studies, the changes in conditions and different alternatives. I thank the Leader of the Third Party for reading these into the record.
But with respect to the Leader of the Third Party, it is the job of proponents to determine the economics. It is the job of other governments backing the project to determine the merits of the economics. I think all Canadian taxpayers would want other governments to take a long, hard look at the economics of a project in which they’re considering investing billions of dollars.
But our job, as the government of British Columbia, is to look at the interests of our environment and our economy, and that’s what we’re doing. That’s why we are considering every measure, every inch of our constitutional jurisdiction — to protect against a catastrophe that’s possible, that could have significant and awful economic interests on British Columbia. Tourism alone — 19,000 tourism businesses in British Columbia, employing 133,000 people in every corner of this province, in every constituency represented by members in this chamber.
It’s our duty, it’s our responsibility, to look out for those people. It’s not our responsibility to ignore them because a large project comes along. Our job is to ensure that if there are large projects, they don’t impact and take away the livelihood of those people or the $17 billion in revenue that the tourism industry generates every year in British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Third Party on a supplemental.
A. Weaver: I do thank the minister for his answer and his commitment to protecting British Columbia. But I respectfully disagree, because I believe it is the government’s responsibility to inform British Columbians about the economics of this proposal.
Why? Because the previous government claimed that the economic benefits for British Columbia were very large and, in fact, claimed that the government’s fifth condition was apparently met. Now unfortunately, the fifth condition was based on assertions that were put towards the 2012 National Energy Board in the submission. It’s now six years old, and many of the fundamental assumptions of that submission, of that economic case, on which the government claimed its fifth condition was met, are no longer valid.
Keystone XL and line 3 have been approved. That means that we have more than a million barrels a day of export capacity, which was unaccounted for. We’ve got North America now having the ability to ship through VCCs — that was never able. And we know that you can’t get bigger ships in Burrard Inlet. This government, I would argue, has a responsibility to review those numbers, so that British Columbians are given correct, accurate and up-to-date information about the economics of this project.
My question, Hon. Speaker, is to the Minister of Environment — through you and then through the Minister of Finance, who still has laryngitis. The previous provincial government made claims about the economic benefits to B.C. from this pipeline, that have been cast into serious doubt. Why isn’t this government examining the economic case more closely?
Hon. G. Heyman: Again, I thank the Leader of The Third Party. As he respectfully disagrees with me about the role of our government in this regard, I respectfully assert again to him that this is not a project that this government thinks is good for British Columbia. We’ve made that clear. We think the risk is so great, and far outweighs the reward.
What we are doing is ensuring that within our jurisdiction, within our ability to regulate and place conditions on a project that is federally decided upon — subject to an appeal to the federal court — we ensure that conditions and regulations are in place to protect our economy.
It’s important up and down our coast. We have a fisheries and seafood industry that contributes more than $660 million every year to our gross domestic product, and it employs 14,000 people, paying almost $400 million in wages.
Just yesterday, 450 businesses understood why we were taking this position; 450 B.C. businesses signed a joint letter calling on the government to continue to stand up for our coast and the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on protecting our coastline and our environment from a spill.
Yesterday in environment estimate debates I asked a number of questions concerning several species at risk. One of the purposes of my line of questioning was to attempt to unravel systemic inter-ministry jurisdictional red tape.
I am pleased that the Minister reiterated his commitment to bringing in Species at Risk Legislation.
Below I reproduce the text and video of the four question/answer exchanges I had with the Minister.
A. Weaver: Two years ago, the previous government invested $200,000 in the creation of a so-called toad road tunnel to allow western toads to migrate safely across Highway 6 to their upland habitat. Following this investment to help the toads, the Nakusp and Area Community Forest — that’s NACFOR — logging company slated 30 hectares of this upland territory for clearcut.
In response to this, two years ago I urged the B.C. government to protect the western toad habitat around Summit Lake before it is too late for the endangered western toads. My question to the minister is this. Does the minister think that the habitat protection and restoration for the western toad has been achieved, and if not, is there money in this budget to actually achieve it?
Hon. G. Heyman: Thank you to the member for the question. There may be more information that we may be able to gather for the member, but the area to which the member refers is also an area designated as goal 2 in the 1990s, as part of land use planning around Summit Lake. Goal 2 has not been realized. It is still under active discussion in terms of whether to include the area in question in Summit Lake Park.
Responsibility for the road itself is with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Management of critical habitat, with respect to toad protection and the logging impacts on that habitat, rests with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
I’m not really in position to say to the member whether it’s adequate or not because this ministry isn’t managing that aspect of logging. That could change in the future, when we have different legislation in place, but not currently.
A. Weaver: That brings me to a general point I had in quite a number of questions, if I will ask them. It’s the issue of species at risk. Right now, of course, there are numerous species at risk in the province of British Columbia. These species at risk are distributed…. Jurisdiction for them is in various ministries, whether it be FLNRO; Transportation, if you have a road; Environment, in some cases; or Agriculture, in some cases. It’s quite complex, and there seems to be no overall strategy here.
One of the species — at least a subspecies, or a herd within a species — is the southern Selkirk caribou. According to an article in the Vancouver Sun yesterday, the grey ghost herd in the southern Selkirk Mountains has become functionally extinct. My understanding is that there are three females left in this herd. The herd was a grand total of 14 last year and has dramatically dropped over the last 16 years.
This has been despite B.C.’s attempt to save them. B.C., for example, did protect 2.2 million acres of old-growth forest. They restricted snowmobile access to some core habitat areas. Hunting of caribou was restricted decades ago in the area. Some of the hunters in the region are actually some of the most conservation-minded, the most concerned as to seeing what’s going on, recognizing that they are not to blame.
What is to blame is natural habitat degradation. I recognize that in most aspects, that falls within FLNRO. However, the Environmental Law Centre legal director, Calvin Sandborn, stated that the province has failed to curtail logging and to fully implement snowmobile bans and that the province, in fact, has granted the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation $2 million to create a caribou habitat restoration fund.
Now, which jurisdiction this falls to, I’m not quite sure. Habitat Conservation Trust Fund has got “Habitat,” which I would suggest would fall into FLNRO, but “Conservation,” I would suggest, is probably Environment, because it’s a species at risk.
My question to the minister is this. If the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund is not within the Ministry of Environment, does the minister intend to get involved and address the shortcomings of the efforts to protect the caribou? I think we can all agree that that herd is on its way to extirpation. Does the minister intend to take more substantial enforcement action, within his mandate, from other jurisdictions in addition to granting the restoration fund to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation?
Hon. G. Heyman: Thank you to the member for the question. The Habitat Conservation Trust Fund used to be under Forests, Lands and National Resource Operations. It’s now entirely separate from government, essentially private.
In terms of the overlap of interest and jurisdiction, with FLNRO, the answer that we’ve come up with so far is that the staff of both ministries work closely together on issues where FLNRO has authority, where the ministry is contemplating authority through species-at-risk legislation and where, obviously, we have an interest in terms of species at risk. We have been doing that on caribou, for instance.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and National Resource Operations is producing and is about to distribute a discussion paper on caribou. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy is finalizing a public discussion paper on species-at-risk legislation. We’ll have further announcements on a consultation.
It doesn’t make sense to consult on species at risk without simultaneously consulting on land use planning so we will coordinate our activities on the two. FLNRO is the lead on recovery activities, and Environment is the lead on policy development through species-at-risk legislation.
We are the lead on discussions with the federal government with respect to actions that can be taken in areas where it is not too late to recover and enhance caribou populations, and we’re the lead with the federal government on consultations to the species-at-risk legislation.
Chair, I believe the member has a number of more questions. If it’s a question, then I’d be happy to take it. If it’s a number, perhaps we could take a short recess.
A. Weaver: I have one pressing question. I think we canvassed parking lots in a very detailed fashion over the last week or so. I have a number of questions that I feel we need to explore with respect to species at risk and areas that have not been canvassed.
This particular one, again — it’s just the one, and I understand you need a break — points to the quagmire of jurisdictional responsibilities. This one is with respect to abandoned aquarium pets. People may not think that’s a problem, but in fact, abandoned aquarium pets are threatening the survival of the endangered western painted turtle population of Vancouver Island. Given that the western painted turtle hatchlings are just beginning to emerge from their nests with promising numbers — the endangered population is up 20 percent, in terms of the nest numbers, from the summer of 2017 — it’s more important than ever to protect the survival of western painted turtles.
Now, again, what jurisdiction does this fall within? Certainly, the species-at-risk legislation — which, I understand, the government is consulting on — would presumably kick in at some point, but right now we have an issue of an invasive species being brought in. Those are the abandoned aquarium pets. At the other time, we have a species that’s at risk.
The question is this. Does the minister intend to take steps to mitigate the release of abandoned aquarium pets? Is it in his jurisdiction? Or is it in some other jurisdiction? Or does the minister have other plans in place to ensure the continued growth of the endangered western painted turtle?
Hon. G. Heyman: First of all, I’d like to recognize that this is a complicated and intricate web of regulations and overlapping jurisdiction — the member’s quite right — and the more we can sort that out, the better it is for everyone.
For instance, I had a meeting the other day with members of the Invasive Species Council. They asked if we were intending to bring in an invasive species act and raised some very good points, which we are considering. There are 17 pieces of legislation currently that address this issue, which is not, in my view, a very effective way to figure out who’s got responsibility for what.
In the case of abandoned aquarium pets, that would be addressed under the controlled alien species regulation, which is pursuant to the Wildlife Act, but enforcement of that regulation — obviously, it’s illegal to dump — is with the conservation officer service, and they’re very aware of the need. Where the public is aware of an illegal release of an invasive species, they can phone the RAPP line, which is the report all poachers and polluters line, and that’s how people get information.
We have also added additional conservation officers in this year’s budget — 12 new positions. All in all, there’ll be 20, because there were some existing positions on paper that weren’t funded, so they weren’t filled. That, we hope, will make a difference. In addition, we are, as I mentioned, developing species-at-risk legislation. We will put out an intentions paper in the fall, and we hope to simplify the province’s ability to protect species like the western painted turtle.
I think the other point the member made, although not directly, is that we need to ensure the public knows more about the threat of simply…. They may think it’s fine to dump a species that they’ve had as a pet that they no longer wish to have as a pet. In some cases it’s illegal to possess those animals in the first place. In other cases, it’s certainly illegal to release them into the wild.
We need to do more public education, and I’d be happy to discuss that further with the member and my staff, around what people’s responsibilities are, as well as the responsibility of the public to report violations, because these aren’t violations without impact. They’re violations with consequence for other species. Thank you to the member again for raising the point.
If it’s now appropriate to take a recess, it would be welcome.
A. Weaver: I’ve got a number of questions. I do have a meeting at five, so I’ll ask one now, and if the estimates are still going when I get back, I’ve got a number more.
There have been, as you know, 16 years of watching species go extinct in this province, and some care has not been given to these species. One of the key ones that’s happening, with a project that’s in a Liberal riding…. Again, I’ve gone to a number of questions in these Liberal ridings that seem not to have been canvassed, other than parking lots.
In this particular one, it’s with respect to a project that was proposed by the previous government: Highway 97 Stickle Road project. Now, why this is an important project is that there are four protected species that are affected in the marsh at Stickle Road. These four protected species are the screech owl, the western skink, the western grebe and the American badger.
My question, then, is…. Again, this is in a jurisdictional nightmare. The reason why this is a jurisdictional nightmare is because the Ministry of Transportation is the one that approves the plan, on the one hand. On the other hand, we’ve got FLNRO involved. We’ve got species involved.
My question to the minister is with respect to how, if any, plans…. Or if there is any money in the budget to actually work to protect these four species in this critical area — which are protected, because they’re special concern species — with respect to this Stickle Road project. In particular, to what extent does his ministry work with the Ministry of Transportation to ensure that species like this are actually accounted for in decision-making processes?
Hon. G. Heyman: I recognize that the member isn’t here, but he’s correct — Hansard will show the answer to this question — that the Stickle Road project is being undertaken to address matters of public safety.
We are, as is the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, aware of the wetlands in the area. The permitting process is under Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, engaged with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. The decisions on mitigation measures would be made at the local level.
We would be happy to pass on to the ministries in question that the member has an interest in specific measures to address the four species at risk that were identified and are certainly willing to just sit in and monitor the conversation, because it may be helpful to us, as well, as we frame species-at-risk legislation and plan how we’re going to make the different jurisdictional regimes work together effectively.
Yesterday in the Legislature we debated Bill 9: The Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2018 at Committee Stage and at third reading.
It was a sad day in the BC Legislature as the BC Liberals played yet more petty games. Committee stage of the Bill began in the morning shortly before lunch. The member from Chilliwack was the critic for the bill and I was the BC Green critic for the bill.
Committee stage is when members get the opportunity to rise and ask questions of the minister pertaining to specific sections of the bill. The bill is debated and approved section by section.
To avoid confusion for the speaker with multiple MLAs standing all at once and he or she having to pick and choose who is to speak next, the tradition and longstanding practice is that the MLAs arrange to slot in when they will speak with the official opposition critic.
The BC Green Caucus respect this tradition and have worked to ensure we respect the process in the legislature. As such, the critic and I chatted before lunch and he was to let me know when he was finished with his questions on Section 1 (he told me that his questions were all on section 1). In addition, shortly before lunch, I had a conversation with the BC Liberal member from Prince George Valemont about the amendments that I had prepared and I outlined to her the sequence of these amendments. I let her know that it was possible that Amendments 1 and 2 would be ruled out of order as they might be perceived to have additional cost implications for the province that were not included in the provincial budget. I was unsure about amendment 3. All three amendments had been given to the BC Liberal critic last week and the first one was published on the order papers for all to see.
My first Amendment would have granted the presumptive clause for work related mental health disorders to all workers covered under Workers Compensation. This would bring us up to the standards already in place in Alberta and in Saskatchewan. Given that all provincial employees would have been covered, it is likely that this would have been ruled out of order. But in speaking to it, government could have signaled on the record a direction it was going and the BC Liberals could have indicated whether or not they support this direction.
If this Amendment was ruled out of order, I had a second amendment that I would have put forward. This Amendment would have only extended the presumptive clause to Nurses, Social Workers and 911 call receivers and dispatchers. Again, this would likely have been ruled out of order as there may be a perceived cost to the province which funds social workers and nurses. Once more, in speaking to the amendment, the minister would have signaled on the record any intention he had with these professions and the BC Liberals could have indicated whether or not they support his approach.
If this second Amendment was ruled out of order, I had a third amendment ready to go. That amendment would only have applied to 911 call receivers and dispatchers. I am unsure whether or not this would have been ruled out of order. Some of these workers would already be covered (as they are already police officers or paramedics), many others would not (as they are paid by local governments). I am unsure whether or not a very small potential cost to local governments would have been ruled out of order.
Both the BC Liberal critic and the BC Liberal member from Prince George Valemont never got back to me about whether or not they supported the amendment or wanted changes. What’s worse, the BC Liberal critic was to inform me when he had concluded his questions on section 1 so that I could proceed. He didn’t. As such, it was clear that he had at least one more question to go.
Over lunch, I had arranged several meetings including one with a number of very experienced developers who are profoundly troubled about the uncertainty created by the speculation tax. I arrived in the house 23 seconds after the Committee had been called to order (in the text and video below I say 3 minutes, but from closer inspection of the Hansard video I know it was 23 seconds as I came in just as the Title was approved). It was impossible for the BC Liberal critic (the MLA from Chilliwack) to stand and ask a single question that had to be answered by the minister in 23 seconds. Instead, he sat in place and let it pass.
A number of the BC Liberal MLAs thought this was hilarious. I understand that for many of them, this is all a big game. But the reality is that what happened was sad since once more, rather than having a substantive debate about the issues, the BC Liberals opted for cynical political games over trying to advance good public policy.
Most of the BC Liberal MLAs clearly don’t know the rules of the legislature and they were surprised when immediately thereafter I rose to speak at third reading (I have never heard a BC Liberal MLA rise at third reading before). I hadn’t intended to but in the end, I spent over an hour outlining why I felt the bill didn’t go far enough and why British Columbians should view the behaviour of the the BC Liberals as objectionable.
Politics and BC Liberal games aside, I also had extensive conversations with the Minister of Labour about the amendments. I feel very confident that 911 call dispatchers and receivers, as well as a couple of other professions, will be added imminently through regulation (Order in Council) as we work to protect all workers in British Columbia.Yesterday, the BC Liberals made it clear that they will be irrelevant in this further debate.
Going forward, this incident has indicated to the BC Green Caucus that the BC Liberals have no interest in cooperation with anyone. As such, we will no longer coordinate our intent to stand and be recognized with them in estimates or in committee stage debates. We’ll let the speaker decide.
In advance, I apologize to the speaker’s office for any uncertainty that this creates but unfortunately, we cannot trust the BC Liberals to follow through with their commitments.
Below I reproduce the text and video of my third reading speech.
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 9; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 1:35 p.m.
Sections 1 to 5 inclusive approved.
Hon. H. Bains: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 1:36 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Report and Third Reading of Bills
A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in third reading to address the bill before the House at this particular juncture. I do rise with a great deal of dismay, knowing that this bill went through committee stage in but five minutes at a time….
A. Weaver: I’ll wait for the Clerk to pass the message on.
As it’s known, I had motions on the order paper. I had given notice to the minister. I gave notice to opposition. The opposition informed me that they had numerous questions to raise on this bill. I was in a meeting downstairs. I’m three minutes late for the start. Now, I understand parliamentary rules. I understand parliamentary rules are such that I missed approval of the title. But at third reading, I’d like to provide more reasons why I have profound troubles with this bill as put forward to us now.
Those troubles are the fact that this bill does not include 911 dispatchers. Hon. Speaker, I tell you, after the member from Vancouver, the minister now from Vancouver-Hastings, rose and spoke yesterday, I received an email from one of the people he mentioned, who he had consulted in developing his private member’s bill. That person had a panic attack when he thanked her for input. The government ignored, in this legislation, 911 dispatchers, despite the fact that they’ve actually included the 911 dispatchers in the private member’s bill that the member for Vancouver-Hastings, now minister, brought to this in 2016 and in 2017 as well.
Now, I get the B.C. Liberals are playing games. I get the fact that they don’t actually want to have this debated. I get the fact that they say one thing and do an absolute other. I get the fact that the member from Chilliwack, the critic for this file, who had told me that he had a number of questions to ask, would but ask five minutes of questions while I’m meeting with developers — who are profoundly troubled about the direction this government is taking on the speculation tax.
If opposition opposite did their job, we’d still be debating this bill, and the B.C. Greens who have spent many, many hours consulting with stakeholders from north to south and east to west of this province about what’s not in this bill, we would actually have a debate of substance on this bill on the issues contained. But members opposite abdicated their responsibility as elected members to the B.C. Legislature to raise issues and bring these issues forward for debate. That is unacceptable.
It is unacceptable for members of that party opposite to not stand in this House and take to task the minister for a bill that he has introduced, which they had had time to explore when it was a private member’s bill introduced earlier — and after being told that they were going to do this. That’s shameful.
I get that they can play games. But the message I want people to take home here today is that in this place, it’s not about doing what’s right for the people of British Columbia; it’s about doing what’s right for petty, political game, for the B.C. Liberals, and frankly, I think the B.C. NDP owes some responsibility here, too, because they knew I had these amendments on the order paper.
I struggle right now with whether or not I’m going to support this bill, whether or not I’m going to support this bill and call division to have a standing vote on this bill because of the fact of what’s not included, because what just transpired in this House is reprehensible — reprehensible to nurses in the province of British Columbia, nurses struggling with PTSD, nurses struggling with systemic mental health issues from their job.
What’s wrong with this legislation is we’re not talking about teachers in this province of British Columbia — teachers who work in environments of bullying and harassment with unsupportive administrators, who struggle and take leave but are not covered by WCB, because they have to prove that their mental illness or disorder directly came from their workplace. They have to go to the WCB and actually argue their case. What can be more profoundly troubling to an individual than to have to stand and recant the stories and relive their experiences because the presumptive clause doesn’t apply to them?
Shame on the members of the B.C. Liberal Party. How you can go back to your constituents — 911 responders, nurses, teachers, factory workers, construction workers — and say that you played political games in this House today so that we’re not debating amendments to actually put their interests first…. Hon. Speaker, this is a very sad day in politics in British Columbia, when once again the B.C. Liberals put their political interests, their desire not to have debate because of their quest for power, ahead of the interests and their responsibility to the rights of British Columbians.
There were a number of things that I had put on the order paper. I put two orders. One is to have a presumptive clause for all workers. Now, I fortunately am here to say to those listening that I’ve had very, very good conversations and follow-up with the minister about the importance of this issue, and I truly believe that the minister understands this issue. I truly believe that we will see action in a timely fashion, particularly with the 911 responders. That, to me, is critical.
Again, what we need to recognize is what’s happening in other jurisdictions. Let’s look at the case of Florida, for example. There is not a person in this place who does not recall what happened tragically in the Parkland high school in Florida — not a member in this place. What do they have in Florida? They’ve introduced presumptive clauses for PTSD for 911 responders, because they are the front-line responders. They are the first people to take the call. They’re the person talking to a child huddled under a desk while someone is going by and shooting their friends to death in the hallway.
These are the people that have to deal with PTSD, and this government — and opposition through their silly, petty games — have actually put them, thrown them under the bus.
You can tell I’m passionate about this, Hon. Speaker, because this is wrong. This is not right. This is not how this place should function. Frankly, I think the member from Chilliwack should resign as the critic, resign his chair, as he did not put the people of British Columbia front and centre here.
A. Weaver: They think that this is funny, Hon. Speaker, and that’s what’s wrong with that party. This isn’t a game. This is about good policy for people. This is about when you say something to someone…. This place only functions if you can trust your colleagues, that when they say they’re going to do something, they will actually do something. But no, no. That’s not the case for the B.C. Liberals.
Let’s go to the province of Nova Scotia, which, on September 27 of this last year, passed a bill to expand presumptive PTSD to 911 operators and continuing-care workers — two different groups. Why? I come back to the story, the compelling story that I read yesterday about a first responder.
I get that some first responders, the 911 dispatchers, are already paramedics or already police officers and so will be covered under the presumptive clauses. So not only have we got a problem here; we have an equity problem. If you happen to be an RCMP dispatcher, you’re likely covered. But if you’re in a local government, you’re not.
If you’re the dispatcher who actually is dealing with the Parkland shooter, in Florida you’d be covered but not in the province of British Columbia, for two reasons. This government forgot, frankly, in my view, to put it in the legislation, but more importantly, is the fact that the members opposite, the B.C. Liberals, who should be hanging their heads in shame today, saw fit to end debate on this because of the fact that I’m about three minutes late, despite the fact I’m told that there were many questions to come.
That’s clever. That’s clever politics. Got to give it to the B.C. Liberals. That’s what they’re good at. It’s all about politics for them. It was all about politics in the election, the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the five conditions — all about politics. They have no credibility.
And hon. Speaker, I must say, I used the word “honourable,” and I mean that dearly and sincerely when I say hon. Speaker here, because I see a man of honour in the Speaker’s chair, and I don’t know how he ever could have sat on that side of the House with those members opposite.
Coming back to the bill, we have a problem. We have a problem with the fact that right now this bill is oiling the squeaky wheel. It’s oiling the squeaky wheel of those who lobby the best. There’s no question we need to have presumptive clauses for police, firefighters, corrections officers, sheriffs. But there’s also no question in my mind that we need to include emergency dispatchers. We need to include teachers, include nurses and include workers on the construction sites.
You know what? If a worker on a construction site falls and breaks his or her arm, they’re covered under WCB. They don’t have to go through the presumptive clause when they show up in a cast and say: “This happened at work.” But let’s suppose somebody falls from a high crane and lands, sadly, and gets splattered across the ground directly in front of a worker on a construction site, and that worker struggles with some mental disorder after that. Right now, there’s no presumption clause. That worker has to prove that the PTSD that they saw was a direct consequence of that incident. That’s wrong.
Saskatchewan understands that that’s wrong. Alberta understands that that’s wrong. In both of those provinces, as defined under the acts, their respective workers compensation acts, all workers are covered under the presumptive clause.
I understand that there was a possibility that one or two of my amendments would have been ruled out of order, because there might have been fiscal consequences associated with it. I understand that. The minister has missed an opportunity, though, to be able to put onto the record what his views are on this issue. It’s a very good opportunity that he’s missed.
The members opposite have missed an opportunity to actually let British Columbians know what they think. Their actions have told British Columbians what they think about this bill. Their actions have said they’re not willing to do their job as opposition.
For heaven’s sake. Why don’t half of you guys quit? Let’s have an election. Let’s get some more B.C. Greens down here, and we’ll do their job for them if they’re not willing to do it themselves — to actually hold government to account, not to ask stupid questions about stuff to try to score political gain but actually hold government to account for their actions as seen in the bill, not act as apologists but actually hold government to account.
It’s shameful — what we just witnessed there, from the B.C. Liberals today.
I come back to the teachers in British Columbia, none of whom now are either afforded the opportunity, who haven’t been able to hear the minister’s response, the debate, members opposite discuss what they thought about their views.
Given that you’ve missed the opportunity to hear what the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP believe to be their views, I’ll tell you what the B.C. Green views are. The B.C. Green views are this. No teacher should have to stand in front of the Workmen’s Compensation Board and argue that the fact that they have depression and anxiety issues from working in an intolerant workplace, where their school administrator doesn’t support them, and their school board, school administration and district administration doesn’t support them.
No person should have to relive that experience in front of the Workmen’s Compensation Board. Instead, just like in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the presumptive clause should be applied to them.
I don’t know how many teachers I know who have had to deal with this. In fact, if you look at statistics in British Columbia, something is pushing…. Almost 50 percent of new teachers actually quit the teaching profession in the first five years. Why do they do that? Because of the situation they’ve been put in. In many cases, it’s overwhelming, but they have no place to go now.
They can go on LTD and get a fraction of their wage, but if they actually had a presumptive clause within their contracts, it would force school districts’ administration to actually ensure that the working environment that these teachers participate in is one that’s conducive, friendly, safe, free of bullying, free of harassment. But that’s not going to happen here in the province of British Columbia, because members opposite saw so fit as to play silly political games to try to avoid discussion on the amendments before us.
Again, let’s move beyond the teachers. Let’s talk about nurses. I’m sure many of the members here…. I can’t be the only member…. Well, I’m probably the only member in opposition who actually reads their emails. I’m pretty sure none of them do. They probably have their staff read them, and they don’t respond themselves. Frankly, I know that to be the case, because I get so many people from their ridings email our office pointing out that they get no response from the B.C. Liberals, and will we please help them out. I will put the member for Prince George–Valemount…. I’ll say that that is not the case with her, but I’ve got it from so many others sitting there right now.
Let’s go to nurses. I can take a particular…. I don’t know how half the nurses do their job, but let me tell you a story about my daughter. Let me tell you a story that, to me, tells me the type of environment nurses have to work in.
My daughter had a very, very serious heart issue, and she was misdiagnosed by the pediatrician — a young pediatrician, straight out of med school, who had diagnosed it as something different. The nurse was there. The nurse says: “I know what this is. I’ve worked here for 30 years. This doctor is not listening to me. He won’t do anything, but this is what it is.”
Fortunately, I have some experience in research. So I went down to the medical library, and I started researching this disease. I went down, and I phoned one of my colleagues who happened to be in Scripps Institute in California. They are one of the leading research areas on this disease. I was able to find out about this disease. I was able to find out about the cure for this disease.
With the help of that nurse, I was able to follow as I was told — to advocate on behalf of my child and demand a second opinion in the hospital. Because the treatment that was being offered was not going to help her and, actually, was going to make her worse.
That ended up in a happy place. My daughter got better. But I can imagine that nurse having to go through that day in, day out with other patients — watching children suffer because a doctor, who happens to think that they know everything and the nurse knows nothing, won’t listen to them.
This isn’t dissing doctors in general, but it’s symptomatic of human behaviour. In all our society, there are people who are not willing to listen. There are people who know better than everyone. There are people who do not respect their staff’s opinions, and people sometimes have to work in that.
The whole purpose of having these nurses included was to ensure that when systemic issues like that are in play, which can lead clearly to long-term mental disorders, clearly they should not have to relive these experiences before the WCB to prove that this is a direct consequence of this.
Now, I suspect that the member opposite….
Are you hoping to introduce? I don’t believe that that is allowed under rules, because one side….
A. Weaver: Well, what I can ask, hon. Speaker, is to seek leave to pause briefly to allow the member to introduce the guests, and then let’s continue.
Mr. Speaker: Yes, if we may. Thank you.
Introductions by Members
M. Hunt: It’s just an opportunity to give the hon. member a moment to catch his breath as I introduce one of three classes that are coming today from a school in my district. They are from Surrey Christian School, grade 5 students with their parents and teacher. I ask that the House would please make them feel welcome here as they enjoy the debate.
A. Weaver: We’ve got a full two hours to work with on this bill. I’m looking forward to using as much of that as possible as I try to…. Yes, at third reading, I believe I get, as the designated speaker, a full two hours to address this. I would seek clarification from the Clerk, with reference to standing orders please, to actually ensure and let me know how much time I actually have.
We talked about nurses. Let me talk about some others. Can you imagine the tragedy that happened at Burns Lake — the explosion of a mill. I’m pretty sure that there are a number of workers at this mill who, after the mill exploded and living in the community, actually are suffering from issues, with respect to PTSD, mental health issues, depression and anxiety, as a direct consequence of that mill explosion. But what they have to do….
Two? What does the two mean? Exactly. I have two hours. Take your seat, Liberals opposite. You had the opportunity to have a short debate. I’d love to inform you of this issue in much more detail, seeing as you’re willing to abdicate your responsibility to serve as opposition and quiz government on a critical bill that’s before us here in the House today, one that adds a presumptive clause for mental health issues to all workers in the province. Sorry, to firefighters, paramedics, police officers, correction officers and sheriffs but not all workers in the province. I’m laying the case as to why that has to happen.
I will tell people listening on TV now or checking the Hansard later that, again, I come back to this, and I’ll come back to this periodically over the next two hours as we enjoy this debate — that I have had good discussions with the minister, good discussions with the minister about the fact that this is only a beginning. I wish he’d had the opportunity to say that to himself. This is only the beginning of moving this bill forward.
Rest assured, people reading this, I’m not going to give this one up. I’m going to be like a dog with a bone, more like a pit bull with a bone, on this issue, because it is wrong. It is wrong not to have emergency dispatchers included. It is wrong not to have other workers included. It is wrong not to follow the leadership of Alberta and Saskatchewan and actually have a presumptive clause for all workers.
Let’s go back to the issue in Nova Scotia, or Florida. Again, these issues are front and centre in their legislation, recent legislation. Most provinces in the country have the same thing for 911 dispatchers. It makes no sense to me, when you talk about emergency responders…. This is what I find remarkable. I’m going to focus on the 911 dispatchers exclusively right now.
What I find remarkable about their omission is that when you say first responder, government and opposition, for years, have included 911 dispatchers in their understanding of what first responders are, so much so that the member for Vancouver-Hastings had them included in his private member’s bill, brought in in 2016 as well as in February of 2017. Two times. But they’re missing. There’s no reason for it.
Can you imagine, now, if you’re a local government first responder and you’re sitting next to somebody from the RCMP who’s a dispatcher, who happens to be covered because they’re a police officer, or an ambulance dispatcher who happens to be a paramedic? They’re covered under this. But that community, local person sitting right beside them, in the same room, the call-receiver, for heaven’s sake, getting that distress call….
Remember the story. I do apologize to the children in the crowd here about the story that I’m about to tell, the story I told yesterday about a man who phoned in a 911 as he had tried to commit suicide, as his entrails were hanging out. And this woman had to keep him alive, yet she wasn’t covered. But her colleague, sitting next to her, in the RCMP would be covered. It’s just wrong. It’s just wrong at a very fundamental level.
We talked about office workers. What about office workers? The whole purpose of including office workers, bank tellers, employees in universities, in colleges, in schools, custodians, whatever…. The whole point of including them is there are many, many environments in the province of British Columbia that are not safe places to work, not safe places because of systemic workplace bullying, workplace harassment. It’s systemic issues with dysfunctional governance, dysfunctional administration, power over, conflicts….
I could go on and on, and the litany of examples would make most people’s faces drop over here. Unfortunately, half of the members opposite spent their entire time in politics, and they probably don’t actually have any experience other than politics.
I could actually provide members, from their own staff who came to me because they’ve experienced this in their MLA offices…. This is a problem. But those staff, if they were covered under workmen’s compensation, would actually be able to go and make a claim without having to prove it. They’d still have to go to a psychiatrist or a qualified psychologist. They still have to get the medical evidence, but they’d have benefits right on the get-go.
Now let’s suppose you’re working…. I come back to an example that I alluded to at second reading. You’re a single mother. You could be a single father, but let’s just suppose, for clarity, you’re a single mother.
You’re a single mother living in, say, Kamloops–South Thompson riding. You’re a single mother living there, and you’re working in an office. You’re a receptionist in an office. You’ve got two kids at home. You had a deadbeat dad involved. Deadbeat dad got in a car and took off, ran away somewhere. You’re stuck paying the bills. You’ve got two children. You don’t want to go on welfare, because you’re a worker. You’re somebody who actually believes in the importance of actually working hard, earning a living.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Then you go and you realize that your skills are limited. You’ve got a job that gives you the right number of hours with the appropriate wage. There are very few of these jobs. You might be working and have developed expertise, in terms of as a receptionist, in, let’s say, an auto mechanic shop, for lack of a better example. There are probably a lot of those in Kamloops. Let’s think of something that’s not…. Maybe a college department where you need specific skills. Thompson Rivers University — I love the university. Let’s just find a department there where they need your skills.
Now you get into an environment where you need this job, you’ve got kids at home, and the environment is abusive. You’ve got a boss who’s abusive. You’ve got a boss who’s demeaning. You’ve got a boss with unrealistic expectations. You’ve got a boss who basically has an insecurity complex because they know they shouldn’t actually be in their position of authority, but they’re your boss. And they try to exert their power, because bad bosses lack self-confidence and feel the appropriate way to overcome that is to belittle their employees or harass their employees or put unnecessary expectations or demands on their employees.
But you need this job, hon. Speaker. You need this job because there is no other job that you can have. You are a single mom. You’ve got two children at home. You’re working that job to provide food for your children, and you don’t want to go on welfare and the stigma of that. If we had basic income, it would be different, but you don’t want to go on welfare.
What do you do? Well, right now, what you do is you can go on disability leave if you happen to be a unionized employee that has a long-term disability plan negotiated with your employer. That’s fine. You’ll get some reduced salary. Typically, there’s a short period of time. Typically there’s an approach to getting you back to work.
But if you wanted to go to workmen’s compensation — as you’re not even a union employee, and you don’t have LTD — you have to take the risk, when you expose yourself to make a claim, that they will agree, even if you have professionals. You have to prove that that is happening in the workforce. You have to relive everything, with all the risk of you recounting that story as to whether or not your boss will actually be worse than he or she was before. You take on that risk with no certainty as to what the outcome will be.
We had an opportunity here to actually have a presumptive clause which would give certainty to allow that person to have coverage while they went to make a claim. If WCB…. No one has taken away their rights to challenge a claim. That’s what the amendment, which I didn’t get a chance to put…. We’ve all had a chance to read it on the order papers, because it’s been there two days. Members opposite knew full well that I was going to raise it.
Members opposite actually told me — the member from Chilliwack — that he had a couple more questions to go and he’ll be going for a while. That’s good leadership from the B.C. Liberals.
We had an opportunity to help that person. I don’t know how many examples I’ve heard from professions across British Columbia, not only firefighters and police officers. There’s no question about them requiring presumptive clauses. There’s just no question.
What about tow truck drivers? You know, prior to getting elected, I had a couple hangover — last term…. I’m done now. But I’ve done a lot of expert witnessing in forensic meteorology, which is an area where we use meteorological conditions to reconstruct weather conditions, road conditions, at the time of the accident.
Now, in that time — some of these go to court; some don’t — I get to see a lot of pictures. Let me tell you, most people in this room would not want to see those pictures. What you see in these pictures are bits of people splayed across the street, entrails hanging here, decapitation hanging there, missing limb over there. These are not pleasant pictures to see, but I just see pictures. They’re not real to me.
Now, imagine you’re a tow truck driver, and you’ve been called because they’ve blocked the main highway on the Coquihalla. You’ve been called to move some cars, but because they’re doing an investigation, you’ve still got some body parts on the scene and you show up there. What is the difference between that tow truck driver going there and a first responder who goes there? They see the same thing.
In the one case, we’re going to give presumptive clause. In the other, we say: “No. No, we’re not consider you,” because you didn’t have a lobby group come to the Legislature and actually push this forward. You didn’t have a lobby group to do that.
This is a lack of courage in leadership, where we could have followed the lead of both Saskatchewan and Alberta and done what they have done and introduced presumptive clauses for all workers covered under the workmen compensation act.
But, no, we didn’t do that. Games were played in the Legislature here today. Games were played in a desperate attempt…. Even after I was asked by one member opposite — a member opposite who I actually have a lot of respect for…. That member was going to contemplate the merits of one of the amendments and get back to me, but never got back to me because the member from Chilliwack — their critic — decided to shut down debate, despite the fact of saying he had a number of questions.
I was five minutes late — not even five minutes. I was three minutes late, because I had developers in my office who are at wit’s end because the B.C. Liberals, for years, ignored the crisis in affordability and the B.C. NDP have brought in issues with respect to taxation that have led to a crisis that they have to deal with. They see us as the only opportunity.
Let’s get back to this bill, which we should have canvassed much more extensively at committee stage, but the member from Chilliwack abdicated his responsibility to do his due diligence. Frankly, British Columbians should be quite upset about that.
Coming back to the bill, I’ve talked about Florida — PTSD responders there. I’ve talked about Nova Scotia. I’ve talked about other provinces — like Ontario, like Manitoba, like the maritime provinces — that all have presumptive clauses. But we somehow think that in B.C., we’re not going to actually consider 911 responders as emergency responders, as first responders, as those that this legislation should be brought to.
I’ve given examples of nurses. I’ve given examples of teachers. I’ve given examples of office workers. I’ve given examples of construction workers. Let’s find other examples. What about a manufacturer?
I used to work — one of my first jobs that I had as a youngster — in Edinburgh, on the Leith docks. Now, any of you who know Edinburgh and the Leith docks there will know that that is the roughest part of Edinburgh. My first day to work, I showed up and a guy had his arm covered in stitches because his wife had stabbed him with an umbrella. The other guy I had to work with had scars around his face, because he recently had a beer glass put in his face.
I know that there was a student in that environment that was working there. I was a big guy. I played rugby. I got on with these guys. But there was a student there who they didn’t like. They didn’t like this guy because he was nippy. Then two things could have happened. I’ll tell you what did happen, and I’ll tell you what could have happened.
What did happen for this guy is that he had his door slammed…. I worked this ice factory. We ground ice and put it on fishing boat trawlers and trucks that came to get it. It was minimum wage, etc. So what happened here is they slammed his arm in a door, and they broke it. They broke his arm. That young man lived in terror when he came to work, but he needed the money. He wasn’t from an uppity side of Edinburgh. He was from the north side of Edinburgh. He needed that money, so he came to work every day and lived in terror as he tried to make a small living.
In B.C., we had the opportunity to protect someone like that, a factory worker like that. Heaven forbid someone in that ice factory — we had ice grinders there — slipped into an ice grinder. Can you imagine if you’d seen someone fall in that ice grinder and come out into the ice bags that we were holding — in bits and pieces, blocks of cubed ice? Can you imagine the PTSD that would have arisen from that?
In B.C., now we had an opportunity — as Alberta and Saskatchewan have done — to include a presumptive clause that would have said that rather than you having to relive this and go and argue before the WCB that your PTSD or your systemic issues of anxiety and depression have arisen from that incident…. Despite the fact you have psychiatric and psychological assessments saying it did, you have to argue your case to the WCB, and you get no benefits until that case is approved.
We had an opportunity to do something different here, to recognize that it’s pretty clear that that kid, who’s living in an abusive environment…. There’s no way that guy would want to risk his life and go and challenge a ruling about where he is. It literally would have been risking his life. Or in the other case, to have to relive going through that ice shredder — I can’t imagine it.
There’s another example from another one of my jobs in Edinburgh. I worked flipping burgers, again on the north side of Edinburgh. That’s a tough side of Edinburgh. There was a young guy there who was a cook. Management didn’t like the cook, so they were a very abusive to the cook. The cook took a lot of grief there.
He was a short-order cook trying to make ends meet. If that short-order cook leaned on the stove and burnt his hand, we don’t need to worry about presumption there. He burnt his hand in work. But there’s a stigma in our society that this government promised that they would take steps to mitigate. It’s a stigma about mental disorders, anxiety, depression.
For the first time in history we have a ministry here dedicated to this — dedicated to mental health and addictions. Yet why we are not actually standing up and standing for what we believe in when we’ve put in place the mechanisms, the support, and campaigned in elections on destigmatizing mental health illness and treating it as a disease like any physical disease….
We come back to that cook who would get presumption for a burn, but presumption for an abusive, bullying workplace? No way. He’d have to prove it. Good luck trying to prove it in the north side of Edinburgh. If the word gets out that you’re trying to prove it, publicly, that’s not going to be a good situation. I could go on with other examples, but I did want to come back to the reason why this is critical to have it to all clauses.
I come back to the last government and the Premier, at the time, who actually saw an opportunity to do something different here. That was with respect to sexualized violence in post-secondary institutions. What she recognized was that the right thing to do was to force public institutions to develop policies to actually ensure that they had sexualized violence policies to deal with it. The reason why — as I introduced the bill when the last government was in, and what passed eventually in a slightly different form — of course, is that public institutions have a vested interest in trying to ensure that actually they are deemed to be safe places for students to come.
What was happening, as I was getting told story after story from institution after institution…. There was no one that was particularly bad over another. They all had the problems, and it was systemic. The issues were kept below the surface, and nothing was done. But by forcing policy measures and a process to be in place, these issues now must be dealt with.
That comes to the issue of WCB and the presumptive clause for mental illness. If you are in an abusive work environment and you actually now report it and go on LTD, nothing gets done because there’s no incentive for the institution to do anything. There’s a fear that there might be: “Oh, if we react here, they might get mad at us” or “Oh, we might do this.” But if we had a presumptive clause for mental health disorders, their WCB rates would start to go up for that institution if they started to see an awful lot of claims emerging from it.
I would have thought these supposed free marketers on the other side would have liked to see this financial measure to ensure that you are creating a process that actually incentivizes safe workplaces. I would have thought that members here, the so-called labour party, would have seen the importance of doing this — the importance of creating a stick and a carrot, the stick being in the workmen’s compensation board premiums that every employer has to pay for covered workers.
Those go up in an unhealthy work environment. If you start to have a lot of accidents, a lot of people tripping and falling, breaking legs, on a lumber mill site, you know your premiums are going to go up. So there’s an incentive to make that workplace safe.
Again, there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding in government — I don’t even have to talk about opposition, who’s abdicated their responsibility on this bill — to recognize that mental disorders are no different from physical disorders. You can say what you like in an election campaign. “We’re going to create a ministry of mental health and addictions.” That’s just lip service. It’s kind of like saying to my friend from Saanich North and the Islands beside me: “We’re going to do truth and reconciliation with Indigenous people.”
Indigenous communities are sick and tired…. Hon. Speaker, there’s a direct parallel between this analogy….
Deputy Speaker: Relevance to the bill, Member?
A. Weaver: There is. There’s a direct parallel between politicians saying they want to do truth and reconciliation and their actions, or not thereof. In fact, Indigenous people are sick and tired of words. They want to see action. And it’s exactly the same — and therein lies the analogy — with mental health and addiction.
It’s really easy to say we’re destigmatizing mental health and addictions. So where’s the beef? Where’s the Alberta beef? Why aren’t you actually doing it? You have a ministry to do this. You have an opportunity to do it. You issued a private member’s bill, for heaven’s sake, in 2016 and 2017 that included 911 dispatchers. But we didn’t do it. We didn’t do this opportunity because of petty games by the B.C. Liberals, which actually didn’t follow through with what they said.
You know, this place doesn’t work. This place doesn’t work if we can’t trust that when we say we’re going to be up on something, that we will be up on something.
I took the opportunity immediately before lunch to show the member for Chilliwack, who actually had the amendments. He knew exactly what I was going to do. I told him the three amendments, the three phases. I was going to start with the “include all workers.” The second phase…. I mean I could read it in, because this is what I had planned to do, and this is relevant to the bill.
The second thing I was going to do, assuming that there was some objection for including all workers…. I would have given the opportunity for the minister to actually outline the direction he was going to take this legislation in the months ahead. I would have then talked about: “Okay, we’ll understand that. Let’s include nurses, social workers and 911 dispatchers right off the bat.” We know we’ve got so many examples. You’ve all received emails. Let’s put them in with the other first responders.
Then I would have seen how that debate goes. If that didn’t work, I would have come back with the 911 dispatchers, because there is no reason why this bill does not include 911 dispatchers — or, more formally, 911 emergency communications operators and dispatchers — today. There’s no reason why it’s not there today. But they didn’t want to have a vote, because they are just playing politics.
Unfortunately, they don’t realize — again, with greatest respect — that I get two hours to outline my case at third reading. And I’m taking every minute of the two hours to outline why we should have done this, knowing that I probably wouldn’t have had members’ opposite support. They’ve had my amendments for three days, and the member from Chilliwack never got back to me about any views on anything about this. So, clearly, it was a game — B.C. Liberals once more playing games at the expense of British Columbians.
I do see another school group here. I’d like to look to the member, my friend, here. I will understand that…. I’ll just pause briefly, with leave, to allow him to introduce them.
Introductions by Members
M. Hunt: It’s my pleasure to give the member a break in the midst of his two-hour speech that he is giving. Again, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you the second of three classes that are here today from Surrey Christian School. They’re here with their teachers, their parents, who are chaperones, and others. I would ask the House to please make these wonderful students from Surrey Christian School very welcome to the House.
A. Weaver: I will proceed. I believe there’s a third class coming. I look forward to the value provided to the introduction, at the start of the introduction, as well. Perhaps the member might want to tone that down; otherwise, leave may not be granted him a third time.
I do continue. I was talking about the importance of having a carrot and a stick, knowing full well that there are organizations where nothing is done. Nothing is done because there’s no incentive to do anything about abusive work environments with systemic harassment, system bullying.
I see another few teachers in the audience. Let me talk to them who are here and talk to the relevance of this case, so the children in the audience and their parents know what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about here — to the gallery — is the bill that’s called Bill 9, Workers Compensation Amendment Act . We’re now at third reading of that bill. We went from first reading, where it’s introduced, to second reading, where we made our points known.
Then the controversy which has led me to try to explains what’s been going on here was that at committee stage, where we go line by line, we had had an agreement that there would be a number of questions coming from the Liberals opposite. Then the member from Chilliwack, who knew all the amendments I was going to bring forward, decided to play some political games and stand down when I was three minutes late into the chamber so I couldn’t bring forward the amendments to the bill and have the discussion there.
The thing is, obviously, the member didn’t realize that at third reading, I get a full two hours to explain these amendments and what I was hoping to do and why this bill is on dodgy grounds for approval without these other bills.
One of the things I’ve been putting forward here is that in this bill is a presumptive clause. Right now if you suffer mental illness as a direct consequence of your workplace and you are covered under workers compensation, you must go to Workers Compensation and prove that your mental disorder is a direct consequence of your work.
You can imagine a firefighter has to see some horrific things or a police officer has to see some horrific things. This bill is actually giving firefighters and police officers the right to not have to prove to Workers Compensation that their mental disorder is a direct consequence of their workplace. Rather, if they have the psychiatric or psychological assessments, the medical assessments, that suggest it to be so, they will start getting benefits immediately that are better than long-term disability benefits. But Workers Compensation still has the ability to challenge it. It’s called a presumptive clause. It’s really important.
What is done in Alberta and Saskatchewan — to the gallery there — is that they have presumptive clauses for all workers. The examples I’ve been giving here…. I’ll give one that’s relevant to teachers. Teachers, for example…. The Speaker….
I don’t think you heard my example. You weren’t in the chair at the time.
My wife’s a teacher. Most of my family are teachers. Teachers have an amazing job. They get to instil knowledge in youth, particularly at that age when you guys are sponges for knowledge and it’s so exciting to actually try to get you to talk about what inspires you and to ask questions. You’re all scientists. Kids are born scientists. They always ask why, why, why? They’re always asking questions.
Not all teachers have the best working environment. I know some who work in environments that one might argue are actually abusive. I know some who feel that they don’t get the support they need. In fact, I know some very specifically where duties to report under the act are such that when they report inappropriate issues that they must report, it falls upon the deaf ears of the administrators, the senior administration and the school boards. In one particular case, they start to get attacked for having the gall to raise this issue.
Can you imagine being a teacher when you know something wrong is happening to a child, or you know that a child is in a abusive family, and you’ve reported it, and nobody’s listening. You have to go into that classroom every day, every day, every day. You know as a teacher that you’re the first responder, because you’re the only voice that that child has — the only safe voice that that child has. But you feel powerless as a teacher to do anything because nobody’s listening to you. These are true stories, true stories I know about.
I’m sure other teachers know teachers like that, too. What happens? Systemic — time after time after time…. You develop anxiety and depression issues. There’s no doubt. If you had broken your hand in the workplace because there was something inappropriate or there was some slippery soap on the floor, and you broke it on the job, you’d be covered by workers compensation. But if you happen to suffer depression and anxiety as a direct consequence of your workforce, you would have to stand before the workers compensation and prove it. You would have to prove it, even if you had psychological assessments and doctors notes saying it was. You’d have to relive these stories. You’d have to argue. You’d have to argue against the tribunal.
As the minister knows, that’s not the easiest thing to do, even with a broken arm, if there’s a challenge, because there’s no presumptive clause. Were there a presumptive clause, you’d be covered. You’d be covered and presumed that your illness was from your work, assuming you had the appropriate medical backup. But WCB could still challenge it down the road.
We had the opportunity in this bill to have a debate at committee stage about the amendments that these members opposite knew I was going to bring forward because I gave it to them. I was told: “We’re going to actually get back to you about them.” They never got back.
I was told that the member opposite had quite a number of questions on section 1 and that he knew I was going to come up. I was three minutes late. What an opportunity for him to play games, to shut down debate. That’s shameful. That’s shameful because it’s not doing what this place is supposed to do.
We here in British Columbia are supposed to debate the issues brought to us. We’re supposed to put our constituents front and centre. We’re supposed to challenge government when we see a bill, such an important bill, like this. When you’ve sat for three days with amendments before you, and you know what they’re going to be, we have a duty and responsibility to debate these, not to play games.
It’s a sad day. I don’t know what professions the parents are up there, but I suspect…. Maybe there’s an office worker up there. Maybe they know somebody in another job that works in an abusive environment, where the boss has no accountability to upper management and creates an environment purely out of insecurity that is abusive or harassing to an employee. But that employee can’t leave because they need the job. Here we had an opportunity in this bill to not only include police and fire and correction officers and sheriffs, but also to include, as did the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, all workers covered under the act.
Again, if the government truly believed in its commitment to dealing with the issues of mental health and addiction through the creation of a separate ministry, it would stop stigmatizing the difference between physical illness and mental illness, which is exactly what’s done here. It is only the physical response that we think is creating the mental illness. It is only the case of first responders who might have to respond to a car accident or police officers who might have to go into a home and see some horrific scene. Those senses are your eyes. This is only responding to those people who are actually experiencing things through their eyes — not through their ears, but only their eyes. Only horrific sights. But we know that mental health disorders in the workplace come far beyond just the traumatic events.
In fact, our own workers compensation legislation recognizes that there are two types of mental health disorders that can occur in the workplace. Some are traumatic, leading often to PTSD, and others are systemic, like harassment and bullying. It has recognized it right there. We’re saying that, okay, we recognize that there are two types. We recognize that. We recognize also that police officers and firefighters and paramedics — I can’t imagine what they have to go through — see a lot of the first type, the traumatic event. I’ll say it again. They see a lot of the first type, but there are others who experience the other first type daily.
The only reason I can think of why 911 dispatchers are not included is because a 911 dispatcher can’t see what is there; they only hear it. I would argue that if members in the government had recognized or read the literature — the master’s thesis that I brought forward yesterday, as an example — the statistics, they would see that in fact it’s very clear that sometimes the most profound mental health disorders and consequences come not so much from seeing something happen but by your inability to actually prevent something from happening, even though you wish you could.
I read the compassionate and compelling story by one emergency call receiver who had on the phone a young man — I don’t know if he was young — a man who had committed hara-kiri and whose entrails were hanging out. He phoned her, and she developed a rapport with that individual. Because he had a knife, she had to call in the emergency response team — or the dispatcher did. They wouldn’t go in until a spud gun was produced. The man was all distraught, and she was reprimanded initially for actually not getting off the phone.
Her PTSD was so profound that when the minister, the member for Vancouver-Hastings, in his speech yesterday thanked her…. He thanked her for informing him over the years about this issue of presumptive clause, that she wasn’t covered by a 911 dispatcher. She had a panic attack last night, watching this, because she was pleased to hear that the government was potentially going forward.
You know, it’s good to see that we’re going to get some more debate from other members here. We can get a rip-roaring third reading debate here. I see some other members will be joining me, coming up in the debate. I look forward to my friend from Peace River South. He might be able to do the job that the member from Chilliwack never did, which is to actually raise issues and challenge government on this particular…. The member for Peace River South, a member who….
The Chair: Relevance to the bill, Member.
A. Weaver: Right. The member for Peace River South, as you know, hon. Speaker, is from the city of Dawson Creek, a wonderful part of town right in the centre of gas country. The question I hope he will address, in raising this, is those gas field workers. You can get physical accidents in the gas field. It happens all the time. You can get physical…. We have, you know, accidents on the construction site. If you break an arm, you’re covered. There are no presumptive issues, because it’s a physical injury.
What about if you’re the person who’s standing by as your co-worker gets run over by a truck? Your best friend’s daughter gets run over by a truck on the field. Or your best friend or your partner falls down and has a horrible accident on the other site. There’s no presumptive clause.
You have to prove…. Even though this could have happened…. This physically debilitating, if not fatal, injury that happened on the workplace would be covered if that person survived. You would be covered if you broke your arm trying to help them, but you wouldn’t be covered unless you could prove that your subsequent PTSD or mental disorder was a direct consequence of your workplace.
That’s wrong, hon. Speaker. That’s completely wrong. The province of Alberta recognized it was wrong. The province of Saskatchewan recognized it was wrong. In the case of 911 dispatchers, other provinces, including very recently the province of Nova Scotia, recognized it was wrong.
It was wrong to actually only have a presumptive clause for professions that are first responders that see, as opposed to also hear or witness as bystanders or second responders.
I hope…. Again, I do have some confidence, with that said — and I come back to it again. The Minister of Labour — it is Labour, I believe. I’ve had many discussions with him about this issue. I do understand, particularly from his union background, that he recognizes the issue is far broader than just police, fire, paramedics, first responders. I recognize that he realizes that emergency dispatchers are critical, and I’m hoping he will rise at third reading and afford me the opportunity of the words I was hoping to extract from him during committee stage to outline a pathway that he sees forward in terms of this bill.
I would like to give him that opportunity, and I’d like to give him that opportunity while I sit here and listen. With that, I hope that the minister is able to stand next, and I will sit and take my place at third reading and listen to the other debates.
Protection for workers suffering mental disorders should be extended: Weaver
For immediate release
April 17, 2018
VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, says the government’s proposed amendments to the Workers Compensation Act should be extended to all workers. The government’s amendment, which was introduced last week, further extends workers compensation benefits to first responders, sheriffs and correctional officers who suffer from job-related mental disorders by presuming the mental trauma was caused by the nature of an individual’s work, rather than having to prove it was work related.
“While I’m glad that B.C. is extending these protections to some workers, I am concerned that other British Columbians who suffer mental disorders on the job are being left out,” said Weaver.
Weaver has been contacted by representatives from other professions, such as nurses and 911 emergency communications officers and dispatchers, who experience high rates of job-related trauma. Furthermore, he noted that any worker is at risk from suffering psychological trauma at work due to issues like workplace bullying and harassment.
Weaver rose at Third Reading of the bill to highlight the gaps in the government’s legislation, noting that extending the changes to all workers would bring British Columbia in line with standards already in place in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Mental disorders incurred from job-related trauma are serious injuries that can be incredibly debilitating. I am glad that the government has recognized this and taken this important step towards supporting British Columbians who suffer from such incidents. I hope they will be willing to engage in a debate in the legislature so that we can determine the best way forward to ensure all British Columbians are receiving adequate protection and support.”
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Today in the legislature the entire question period was once more focused on the Trans Mountain pipeline project. I was up third again sandwiched between several BC Liberal MLAs asking about the same topic.
I took the opportunity to further question the Attorney General and the Premier as to what actions they plan to take regarding Alberta’s recently introduced outrageous legislation in light of the Premier of Alberta’s remarks suggesting that it was intended to give them the tools to target B.C.?
I was delighted with the strong answers I received to both questions.
Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchanges.
A. Weaver: I find it remarkable that I sit here and listen to the official opposition defend the interests of Alberta over the interests of British Columbia.
Yesterday we saw the Alberta government, as was mentioned, introduce legislation intended to directly punish British Columbia for trying to protect our country’s coastline and coastal communities from a threat of a diluted bitumen spill.
If that was used — and members opposite should know this — it would be illegal if used to raise the price of gas. Constitutional lawyers have ruled on this. It would be illegal for them to do this, and the liability that Alberta taxpayers would take upon that would be unbelievable.
Frankly, the same Albertans should realize…. Where do they get their natural gas from to actually power the oil fields? They get it from northeastern British Columbia. They should know better than to do this.
This latest move was precipitated by Kinder Morgan’s imposition of a May 31 deadline to achieve certainty before going ahead with the Trans Mountain expansion.
In response to the legislation, the Attorney General said yesterday….
A. Weaver: If you let me actually ask it, I would. Thank you very much, Members opposite.
This is what the Attorney General said: “If there is anything in this legislation that even suggests the possibility of discrimination against British Columbians, we will take every step necessary” to protect the interests of British Columbians.
My question is to the Attorney General. Given the Premier of Alberta’s previous remarks suggesting that this legislation was intended to give them the tools to target B.C., can you please specify what specific actions you’re planning to take in response?
Hon. D. Eby: I thank the member for his question and for his commitment to British Columbians.
We’ve reviewed the bill. We believe it’s unconstitutional and illegal, on its face. It’s especially so — if that’s possible — given the context of the comments of members of the government of Alberta about the purpose for which the bill was introduced.
There are three options available to our….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. D. Eby: There are three options available to our government in terms of responding to this. One is, before the bill passes, we could refer it to our courts. After the bill passes and receives royal assent, we could challenge it in court as unconstitutional. And in the incredibly unlikely event that the government of Alberta actually thought that they had the authority under the law to use this act, we could be in court on an injunction to stop them from doing so and to challenge it and to sue the government of Alberta.
So we think that they are very unlikely to use this, given the analysis, and we think they know it. It is a bill for political purposes only.
A. Weaver: I want to build upon this in light of the fact that members opposite are putting at risk our natural gas production in northeastern British Columbia that goes to Alberta. I’d like to pick up on that.
In addition to the development and discovery of new shale oil deposits, we’ve seen profound technological shifts and the rise of renewable energy in markets around the world, not least in Asia. And what are the supposed targeted markets for this pipeline?
Kinder Morgan is playing one jurisdiction off against another. I reiterate: our natural gas producers in northeast British Columbia have the single-largest buyer of their natural gas being Alberta. And members opposite are putting that at risk with their rhetoric supporting Alberta’s illegal behaviour.
One week since they issued their ultimatum, they’ve managed to secure taxpayers to prop up their government. Commitment….
Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall hear the question.
A. Weaver: One week since they’ve issued their ultimatum, they’ve managed to secure taxpayer dollars to prop up their project, commitments that the federal government will steamroll community and First Nations opposition and further punitive legislation that sets a dangerous precedent for interprovincial trade. Canada needs a leader right now who is not going to let Kinder Morgan play one jurisdiction against another.
To the Premier: despite Alberta’s posturing, will you assure this House that you won’t get dragged into a tit for tat with Alberta where nobody wins?
Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the member for his question. It is not my intention nor is it the intention of my government to be provocative with other parts of the country. That’s not what I believe how cooperative federalism works. I happily went to Ottawa at the request of the Prime Minister to meet with him, his Finance Minister as well as the Premier and the leader of the government of Alberta. We had a candid discussion and discovered that we had a difference of opinion.
In Canada, that’s okay. It may not be okay to the members on that side of the House to disagree periodically, but the Canadian fabric will not be torn because we don’t have the same points of view from day to day to day.
I believe that the important thing for us all to do is to stop with the yelling, stop with the bluster, and hope that cooler heads will prevail. I believe, also, that the courts are the appropriate place for this action — not political posturing and not grandstanding but making sure that reasonable people can put their points forward and have a determination by a third party, rather than reckless politics like we’re seeing from the other side.