In the lead up to the budget which is to be delivered at 2PM today, my BC Green Caucus colleagues and I continued to pressure government during Question Period to crack down on speculation and dubious transactions in our out of control housing market. Sadly, the BC Liberals have been utterly ineffective in Question Period by not using their time to raise key issues like this one facing British Columbians. We only get one question a day to probe what is going on and being done.
Today it was Sonia Furstenau’s turn. Tomorrow it will be my turn.
Sonia picked up on the very serious allegations identified in Kathy Tomlinson’s excellent story in the Globe and Mail this past weekend. In particular, she quizzed Minister Eby as to “how deep does this rot go?”. She further ask the Minister why he claimed it could take up to four years to fix the mess that has been created.
Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange. The Minister’s responses were very thoughtful and quite damaging to the BC Liberal’s under whose watch things got out of control. The exchange is very much worth viewing and reading.
S. Furstenau: While this may seem to be, to some, less urgent than a dinner on Bowen Island, this last weekend we saw stunning revelations in the Globe and Mail about money laundering in B.C. and its connections to drug trafficking and real estate in Metro Vancouver. The investigation revealed that drug traffickers have laundered tens of millions of dollars through Vancouver real estate, and this is only a fraction of the problem. To say this is astonishing is an understatement.
This mess got out of control under the B.C. Liberals, but this government has now been in power for over six months and has yet to take bold action. Government has more information about what’s truly going on in B.C. than even the best reporters, with access to intelligence and data inaccessible to anyone else. And yet, we are relying on the media to reveal these shocking practices.
My question is to the Attorney General. One of the key journalists on this issue, Sam Cooper of Postmedia, says that the rot goes even deeper than we now know. The minister has the information. Exactly how deep does this rot go? Don’t British Columbians deserve to know the full extent of this problem?
Hon. D. Eby: I certainly thank the member for the question on this very important issue.
I think it’s important to recognize how we got here. In 2009, there was an integrated casino investigation team, police officers that were dedicated to investigating what happened in casinos.
They produced a report for the then minister responsible for gaming, the member for Langley East, that said…. This is a summary that was in the Sun. Sam Cooper wrote this: “The 2009 threat report said that known gangsters were gambling in B.C. casinos, and Asian organized crime groups, Italian crime groups and Hell’s Angels operate illegal casinos in B.C. Some of these underground operations are linked to crimes including prostitution, extortion, loansharking and kidnapping, the report said.” The main issue concerning unlicensed gambling “is the protection of the public.”
So the minister got that report, and in April 2009, he took decisive action. He defunded the integrated casino investigation team. So fast forward….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. D. Eby: I know he’s upset about the news, but he did this. He did this.
Fast forward seven years. The then Finance Minister, the member for Abbotsford West, got a memo on his desk, March 2016: “There has been a significant increase in the use of illegal gaming houses in the province and the legitimization of proceeds of crime through B.C.’s gaming facilities.” The decisive action taken by that minister, hon. Speaker? I wish I could tell you what it was because I have no idea what he did. It appears he did nothing. So, on receiving a briefing that this type of activity was taking place….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. D. Eby: I realize it’s not as important as a dinner on Bowen Island, but it is important.
On being briefed as the new minister, I brought in a person of remarkable reputation — Peter German, a former deputy in the RCMP, the author of Canada’s anti-money laundering law textbook — to get to the bottom of this and make recommendations for reform, which include other areas of our economy like real estate.
I’m so glad the member asked the question. I hope she asks another.
S. Furstenau: Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear all the minister’s response. However, I would like to ask a further question.
Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall hear the question.
S. Furstenau: I appreciate the minister speaking to some of the systemic inaction that we’ve seen on this file. The investigation over the weekend made the scope and the urgency of this problem crystal clear. People are profiting off the deaths of fellow British Columbians, and this illicit money is being parked in our real estate, contributing to our housing crisis.
My concern is that the Attorney General, in response to this in an article, said it could take up to four years to take action. Journalists who have been reporting on the scandal for years say there’s no need for the delay. The case, as the minister points out, was proven long ago.
We have a commitment to take action on money laundering in our housing crisis. The minister has said this a priority, but we can’t afford four more years. We need immediate bold steps to fix this mess. My question is for the Attorney General: how does taking four years make this a priority?
Hon. D. Eby: I thank the member for her question. The new allegations in the Globe and Mail raised two separate pieces that require a response.
One is they’re very specific allegations involving individuals, and addresses raising questions about the conduct of professionals who are regulated in the province by independent bodies. So, in terms of those individual allegations that were in the Globe and Mail story, we are currently preparing correspondence with professional regulators and making sure that police, Revenue Canada, FINTRAC and FICOM have the information they need about those specific allegations and that they are aware of them and are pursuing them.
The second is that these are…. Although it’s the same genus, essentially — it’s money laundering — it’s a different species. These are new allegations, as far as I’m aware, around builders, liens and loans being used in this way, registered at the land title registry, which raises systemic issues that we need to address.
It does take time, and one of the things that we have to do is build up the capacity that was so degraded under the previous government to detect, prosecute and ensure the province is actually able to stop this activity. We have to rebuild that. Peter German is helping us do that in a way that’s thoughtful and, most importantly, that is effective.
In the legislature today Mike Farnworth, the government house leader, rose to deliver a Ministerial Statement on the tragic loss of Constable John Davidson. Constable Davidson was killed in the line of duty yesterday in Abbotsford. As Leader of the Third Party in the Legislature, I rose to respond.
Below I reproduce the video and text.
A. Weaver: I rise to join the Government House Leader and the Leader of the Official Opposition in expressing our most sincere condolences to the loved ones of Const. John Davidson, the police officer who tragically lost his life yesterday.
We stand with the community of Abbotsford while they mourn his terrible loss.
Police officers put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. We must never forget the risks our police officers and first responders face, nor the sacrifices they are called on to make in the line of duty.
Police officers are the heroes of our communities. They work tirelessly every day to respond to multiple crises and emergencies that, many times, each constitute the worst days of a citizen’s life. We can honour them by ensuring that they have the support they need to do their vital work in keeping us safe.
As we remember the bravery, honour and dedication of our first responders, we remember what makes this country great — our generosity, strong sense of community and willingness to look out for one another. Let us all strive to do all we can to support our communities so that they can be safe for our families and for all citizens of this province.
Today in the legislature we debated Bill 14: Sheriff Amendment Act at second reading.
Bill 14 amends the Sheriff Act to provide authority for sheriff services to conduct threat and risk assessments. Sheriffs in some specialized units already conduct threat and risk assessments, but they currently do not have the legislative authority to do so – a gap that this bill closes. In addition, this bill will provide sheriffs with the legislative authority required to continue to maintain access to the Canadian Police Information Centre database for the purpose of conducting their threat and risk assessments.
Below I reproduce the text and video of my brief speech in support of this bill.
A. Weaver: I, too, rise in support of this bill, Bill 14, Sheriff Amendment Act. This bill makes one significant change to the Sheriff Act, and it provides authority for sheriff services to conduct threat and risk assessments. Sheriffs in some specialized units already conduct threat and risk assessments, but they currently do not have the legislative authority to do so — a gap that this bill closes.
In addition, this bill will provide sheriffs with the legislative authority required to continue to maintain access to the Canadian Police Information Centre database for the purpose of conducting their threat and risk assessments.
It’s really a very short bill. It’s one of four today that I think we’re going to see supported strongly by both sides of the House in all cases.
Section 1 of this bill creates the additional powers for the sheriffs, and if authorized by the director of sheriff services, sheriffs will be able to identify and assess threats or risks to a person, facility, building or property in relation to which they have a power, duty or responsibility.
It moves on to say if authorized by the director, sheriffs may also identify and assess threats or risks to an employee of the government if the employee may be exposed to a threat or risk at the employee’s workplace or in relation to the employee’s work.
And of course, it also allows, for the purpose of conducting a threat or risk assessments, sheriffs to collect personal information and other information, including things like personal information on the Canadian Police Information Centre database — or any other law enforcement database, for that matter— personal information in the custody or control of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which I understand the member for Prince George–Mackenzie used to be working with, or any other law enforcement agency.
I, as other members, am very pleased to speak in support of this bill.
As we know, sheriffs provide for the safety and the security of British Columbians in a variety of ways — by protecting the courts of British Columbia and the participants in the judicial system, employees in the justice system and government, the public and public officials.
Sheriffs are responsible for ensuring the safety of the judiciary, legal counsel, court users, and the public and government employees as well. Sheriffs are also responsible for the safe and secure transportation of accused and convicted persons to and from court. That sheriffs do not have the legislative authority to conduct threat or risk assessments has been identified as a legislative gap — a gap that this bill, as I mentioned, closes.
Sheriffs in some specialized units already conduct threat and risk assessments, as I mentioned, and these assessments inform the security plans and staffing levels required to ensure the safety of all users of our justice system. This is an absolutely critical service that they provide for the safety of all of us.
As I’ve mentioned, this is closing some provisions that are already in practice but not supported through legislation. I’m absolutely delighted to support this legislation and would like to thank the sheriffs in British Columbia for all their work — all of the work they do protecting British Columbians and ensuring smooth operation of our justice system. My only hope is that we can find more of them so that cases before court aren’t dismissed because of the lack of sheriffs in our judicial system.
Today in the legislature we debated Bill 12: Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act at second reading. This non-controversial bill makes two changes:
1) It amends the Offence Act to allow for e-ticketing of drivers;
2) It amends the Motor Vehicle Act to require a peace officer to impound the car a person was driving at the time that person was given a notice of a 30-day or 90-day driving prohibition as a result of a roadside alcohol test.
Below I reproduce the text and video of my brief speech in support of this bill.
A. Weaver: I too rise to take my place in the debates on Bill 12 — 2017 Public Safety Statutes Amendment Act. I too rise to speak in support of this bill.
This is the fourth of four bills receiving unanimous support today in the House. It’s too bad the school children that were just here left — to see yet another bill to be agreed upon, so that people could actually see when this Legislature works instead of the fights that often occur in question period.
This bill, as was mentioned by the former RCMP officer and the member for Prince George–Mackenzie, makes two substantive changes. It amends the Offence Act to allow for e-ticketing of drivers. As was mentioned, current legislation restricts police officers to issuing paper tickets in a prescribed form. This bill will allow for the issuing of e-tickets as well as paper tickets.
I can only imagine the multiple translations of a ticket that was written in my handwriting, and I do understand, as mentioned by the member for Prince George–Mackenzie, that there must be many an occasion — and as personal experience, it was many occasions — where illegible handwriting led to tickets that would otherwise be issued not being issued. It does concern me that this will be a money grab by the province. I’m hoping that the public listening to this, riveted to this on their TV screens, will recognize that no longer will illegible handwriting let them away from tickets.
I also do support the introduction of the ability to pay the tickets on-line. I mean, literally the government is pretty much, or this in particular, one of the last things in our society that allows you to pay on-line, so it’s very timely that this is brought forward. Or timely is the wrong word. It’s about time that this was brought forward.
The three broad changes in this bill in the first section, changes to the Offence Act, allow officers, as I mentioned, to issue e-tickets and make copies of e-tickets, allows officers to create e-certificates of service and also allows for the transport of electronic records to ICBC. It will be piloted in the select regions as a part of a road safety initiative prior to rolling them out provincewide. These regions include the CRD, Vancouver, Delta and Prince George. As part of the road safety initiative, but separate from the legislation, as I mentioned, government will be rolling out a modern new innovative ability to pay your fines on-line.
The second substantive change in this act is to amend the Motor Vehicle Act to require a peace officer to impound a car that a person was driving at the time that person was given a notice of 30- or 90-day driving prohibition as a result of a roadside alcohol test.
A review of this act by astute legislative reviewers and lawyers found that immediate roadside prohibitions for alcohol-affected drivers didn’t sufficiently cover the immediate impoundment of cars. That is, there was a loophole in the act that was not providing immediate coverage for the immediate impoundment of cars. This has been regular practice since 2010, that cars would be impounded, but there actually wasn’t legislation supporting this to occur.
Roughly, there’s been something like 10,000 impoundments that have occurred since 2010, that relate to this change. The change to enable this to occur will now obviously be retroactive to 2010. So anyone out there thinking that they’re going to get some kind of reimbursement for having their car impounded is out of luck, as we quickly make this retroactive to 2010.
As I mentioned, there’s no current or previous legal challenges relating to this amendment as we bring it forward, which is a good thing. I’m not sure if something is going to happen in the next 24 hours, but at least that’s what we were told. And it’s simply a gap that government identified, or at least lawyers identified, and they felt it was prudent to actually close this gap.
As mentioned by the member from Prince George–Mackenzie, this is an uncontroversial bill, something we’re pleased to support, and, frankly, I would have thought something that we could have brought in along with an earlier bill we discussed on Red Tape Reduction Day, because we’ve made great steps in the province of British Columbia in reducing red tape without actually naming a day after the reduction.
Today in the legislature we debated Bill 9 — Miscellaneous Statutes (Minor Corrections) Amendment Act, 2017. This bill corrects a number of very minor errors in legislation that have been found over the years. Changes include things like the addition of a few commas, correcting spelling mistakes, including an ‘and’, replacing ‘whom’ with ‘who’ and numerous other trivial modifications.
Below are the text and video of my not to be taken too seriously comments on Bill 9.
A. Weaver: I see that the Attorney General was very excited and wanted to close debate on this very important bill that corrects quite a number of small, minor issues over quite a number of statutes that have occurred over many, many years.
I take my place to speak, obviously, in favour. But I’d like to cover this in a little detail, because I think that it’s important that we get to the bottom of some of these changes to see how things are playing out. And I must admit these are not trivial changes in some cases.
As the hon. member for Prince George–Mackenzie was able to point out, this, of course, is…. Other tools of doing this…. We have an incredible legislative counsel working with the Attorney General’s office to keep our bills and statutes updated.
But as I was reading through this and as I was going through the various bills, checking why a comma was changed and so forth, it became clear to me that it’s not as easy to see why the changes occur as one might think.
For example, if we start with the very first change in this bill under Administrative Tribunal Statutes Amendment Act, 2015: “1 Section 70 (b) of the Administrative Tribunals Statutes Amendment Act, 2015, S.B.C. 2015, c. 10, as it amends section 12 (2) (d) of the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 131, is amended by striking out ‘purposes’ and substituting ‘purpose.'” So rather than having purposes, there’s only one purpose.
But this is where it gets confusing. I went to section 10.3, where it said the following. In section 10, for the purposes of section 10.3, we’re directed to the Farm Practices Act. It says: “Stop a person whom the inspector….” I would have thought that the legislative drafters would have caught that it’s not “whom the inspector” but it’s “who the inspector,” because that is grammatically incorrect.
I’m not sure that, in fact, the Farm Practices Protection Act was changed in this. But I will point out that later in this, we do have a change in this act where the word “whom” is changed to “who.”
Just bear with me for a second. It’s a very complex and long bill here. Look in the Animal Health Act, No. 2 of the changes. It said: “Section 23 (1) (a) of the Animal Health Act, S.B.C. 2014, c. 16, is amended by striking out ‘whom’ and substituting ‘who.'” I agree with that — grammatically correct, very important to do.
But what I cannot believe was missed in this bill — and frankly, shame on government for missing this — in the change on section 1, it refers specifically to section 12.2(d) of the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act, which says “stop a person whom the inspector respectfully believes is the person responsible for an animal or an animal product or by-product.” Shocking, reckless indifference to grammar.
I jest, as I’m sure you might imagine. The member Vancouver–West End isn’t sure whether I’m jesting or not, but there will be more of these to come. But it is kind of ironic as I was actually going through these, I did notice in the first reference, the “whom” wasn’t corrected to “who,” where in the very next thing, the “whom” was corrected to “who,” which is kind of interesting. But it gets complex.
When you go to the farm act again, and you’re coming in, it says “For the purpose of Section 10.3, respecting engagement and retention of specialists and consultants by the board,” the problem I’ve got here is that it refers to section 10, which was repealed. So it seems to me, in (1) that we’re correcting something that refers to another act, from “purposes” to “purpose,” which refers to another section that was repealed.
So I’m confused. I’m sure I’ll probe this in thorough detail during committee stage of this bill, as we try to get to the bottom of this critical missing section. I could just be in error.
There are many, many such changes here, most of which I’m sure have compelling reasons to actually support…. For example, the third one says…. In the Assessment Act, we’re striking out “sea going” and substituting “sea-going.” Now, that’s important because “sea going” could mean the sea is going, but “sea-going” implies sea-going. There’s a very important difference there, and I’m glad that this is picked out.
Also, in (4), it’s: “under the Canada Pension Plan.” But should you not know that the Canada Pension Plan needs to be highlighted…. We’re changing that to highlight Canada Pension Plan in italics, which is an important change for those who recognize that this needs to be brought forward and illustrated as significantly different from the rest.
We can go forward to the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act. There’s an “and” added here. It’s very important. Of course, I could see that. We’ve got some section issues. There’s a comma that was needed as well.
We’ve got “paragraphs” changing to “paragraph.” Heaven forbid we refer to “paragraphs” instead of just the “paragraph.”
There are many more. One of the more important ones is section 15 of the bill, where we talk about the Forensic Psychiatry Act. It’s critical. This is the Forensic Psychiatry Act. In today’s society, mental health issues are first and foremost in what we’re doing, and heaven forbid that we refer to an “inpatient” rather than “in-patient.” Now, I’m confused about that, and it’s causing me some mental anguish, particularly as it’s in the Forensic Psychiatry Act.
When I look it up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “inpatient” is “inpatient.” I know it sounds like “impatient,” which I’m sure the members are right now, as I’m speaking, but “inpatient” seems to be okay.
A. Weaver: The member for Surrey–White Rock suggests that I do not jest when I say that.
There are many. The Great Bear Rainforest Act, an act brought in very recently. Instead of now saying “new-non GBR, it’s “new non-GBR.” Not sure quite what the change is in that…. Oh, sorry. The hyphen was in the wrong place. It was “new-non GBR,” and now it’s “new non-GBR.” Another important change.
I could go on. I could on with the many, many changes.
A. Weaver: Oh, the member for Chilliwack-Kent would like me to go on.
I want to come to the schedules at the back, where the changes are. There are so many of these commas and others, which are important, obviously. We come to the schedules, and these are some of the most dramatic changes that need to be done.
On page 10 of this bill, it says “in so far” as opposed to “insofar” with no spaces. It’s replacing that in so many places, in 12 different bills. Sloppiness, going back to the 1990s. Heaven forbid we look at the error.
It was made in all the bills. The Arbitration Act, 1996. The Cooperative Association Act, 1999. The Creston Valley Wildlife Act, 1996. The Frustrated Contract Act, 1996. I didn’t know such an act existed. The Interpretation Act, 1996. The labour relations code, 1996. My good friends the NDP here shouldn’t have made the mistake in that one. The Land Title Act, 1996. The Ministry of Provincial Secretary and Government Services Act, 1996. The Offence Act, 1996. The Railway Act, 1996. The Securities Transfer Act, 2007. This error clearly, while originating in the decadent eras of the 1990s, perpetuated through sequential Liberal governments and was not corrected in the 2007 bill, brought in as the Securities Transfer Act. I’m so glad it’s being changed. Grammaticists and spell-checkers around the world are celebrating today.
On Schedule 2. I must admit that I don’t understand this. I guess I do. In 13 — 13 no less — bills, most of which were done by the B.C. Liberals, “mail box” is corrected to “mailbox” with no space. Now, that’s important. It is not “male box.” They’re not saying “male box.” I get why some males should be in a box. They’re saying “mail box,” being replaced by “mailbox,” no space.
Now, I don’t understand that one. I thought “mail box” was pretty clear, that it’s a mail box, but apparently not. So I do appreciate these changes, and I thank government from the bottom of my heart for bringing these changes forward.
We also have, in Schedule 3, “merit based processes” being corrected to “merit-based processes” in many, many places as well. And finally, Schedule 4 on this bill, at the end….
A. Weaver: The member for Cariboo-Chilcotin is taking such an aggrieved point of view about this bill. Oh, my goodness.
A. Weaver: Cariboo North. I’m sorry. I’m looking forward to her standing and speaking passionately in support of this, as I’m about to head to Education estimates in about one minute.
The final change that I think needs to be celebrated here today is “self propelled” being corrected to “self-propelled.”
With that, I will self-propel myself back into my seat.