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Legislation

Bill 8 — Lobbyists Registration Amendment Act, 2017

Today in the Legislature we commenced second reading debate of Bill 8 — Lobbyists Registration Amendment Act, 2017. This is an important piece of legislation that fulfills yet another promise contained within the Confidence and Supply Agreement that the BC Greens signed with the BC NDP.

As I was the last speaker on Thursday afternoon, I moved adjournment of the debate at the end of my initial comments. I will conclude my remarks when debate resumes next week.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my speech. I will update this post when I complete my remarks next week.


Text of Speech


A. Weaver: Thank you to the member for Vancouver-Kensington for the eloquent words speaking in favour of this bill, a bill that obviously, I’m rising to speak in support to, with recognition that perhaps there are some things that we might expand upon as we have this debate go forward. Some interesting ideas have been raised by members opposite.

I’m sure, in the spirit of trying to develop the best possible Legislature, and with the new access that members opposite have…. Actually, the government deserves a lot of credit for this. It’s quite remarkable that they have given us access to legislative drafters to allow us to actually provide amendments to legislation, government legislation, on a trial basis this fall, that could actually meet the issues that we raise, but at the same time, do so in a manner that we know has spanned across the legislative framework.

So when we put forward amendments — if there are any such amendments — we know that government could make a decision knowing that it has gone through legislative drafters as opposed to — even if it’s an amazing piece of amendment — having to say no because they’re concerned that maybe legislative drafters haven’t seen it.

So I think the government deserve an awful lot of credit for providing access to both the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP MLAs. I hope we, collectively, don’t abuse that so that we get to have the access withdrawn. But I think it’s a good step forward for our democracy and, perhaps, members opposite will be standing forth with some legislative drafter approved or assisted-upon amendments.

This bill that I’m standing to speak to — Bill 8 — Lobbyists Registration Amendment Act, 2017, takes steps forwards in British Columbia for much-needed lobbying reforms. But, of course, it doesn’t include all the reforms that everybody would want, perhaps, but it does make an important step forward. It reforms…. Just because reforming lobbying is fundamental. It’s essential to rebuilding public trust in our democracy, in government and ensuring that special interests do not exercise undue influence on this or any other future governments.

The office of the registrar of lobbyists has issued a number of recommendations to reform lobbying in British Columbia. And our priorities for reform were drawn from and in line with these recommendations. The B.C. Greens were the only party that formally campaigned on introducing lobbying reform legislation, and we’re absolutely delighted that government has seen fit to bring forward a bill here to take steps towards improving the Lobbyist Registration Act by the amendments that are brought forward.

In particular, the bill before us acts on one of the recommendations from the office of the registrar of lobbyists, and that recommendation was instituting a prohibition on lobbying for former senior public office holders for a period of two years since leaving office. What does it mean now to say former senior and public officers?

Well, we’re delighted with the definition here in section 2 of the bill, where it says, “‘former public office holder’ means,” and therein lies a definition: “(a) a former member of the Executive Council and any individual formerly employed in the former member’s former office, other than administrative support staff.” Why that’s important is, ministerial staff have access to information, and ministers have access to information that most members here do not have access to. It’s information on how this government is operating at a very fundamental level. So we support this inclusion of those within the minister’s offices.

It also says, “a former parliamentary secretary,” — again, access to information that most members here will not have, as well as, including members in government, who were not in cabinet. Cabinet confidentiality is something that is respected not only with member’s opposition, but also member’s in government do not have access to the information unless they are in cabinet. That’s important that that be kept that way.

I fully support this ban because going out into now lobbying, a cabinet or a government where you have inside information, potentially puts people into awkward situation. I think we should try to avoid that.

The definition further continues saying, “any individual who formerly occupied (i) a senior executive position in a ministry, whether by the title of deputy minister, chief executive officer or another title, (ii) the position of associate deputy minister, assistant deputy minister or a position of comparable rank in a ministry, (iii) or a prescribed position in a Provincial entity” — the famous prescribed position done through regulation.

Again, senior members of government have access to privileged information — information that, in many cases, is subject to cabinet confidentiality. It’s information that is not available to the general public, and therein lies an important point. Sure, we want people with expertise to lobby in their area of expertise, but having inside information gives undue influence to various individuals — kind of like insider trading. If I know, for example, that a company is about to go bankrupt and I’ve been told by the chief financial officer of a company that the company is going bankrupt, and I act upon that by shorting that stock, that’s illegal, and the reason why is because the public does not tolerate the use of inside knowledge to undermine general public interest, which happens in that case. That’s the intent of this, and I applaud government for bringing forward legislation that’s true to that intent.

What’s important…. I’ve heard a number of members opposite speak about the fact that some staff may have moved off into positions now and they have to resign. I think that a case could be made, based on section 2.3 of this bill, which is entitled “Exemption from prohibitions….” It says here: “If the registrar is satisfied that it is in the public interest, the registrar may, on request and on any terms or conditions that the registrar considers advisable, exempt a person from a prohibition set out in section 2.1 or 2.2.” And, again, there are more details that the registrar has to do.

This doesn’t mean…. You know, this is what I would like to see through further discussion. The exemption is there, and if a compelling case can be made that somebody…. Well, honestly, I knew a couple of people who moved here from afar. They weren’t political, per se. They were very talented individuals who have since, because of the downsize of government, lost their positions. You know, one could make a case that they are impartial. They happened to work in the positions they worked because of an opportunity for their career advancement, particularly young people.

But we have the exemption here where the registrar could be approached with a compelling case. So I don’t see this legislation, as some members have pointed out, as being particularly unfair to those who have worked in a ministry’s office.

As I said, the B.C. Greens — soon to be officially recognized in this House, I should say, so I should say right now: the three independent members who ran under the B.C. Green banner…. It was the banner of the only party to actually campaign on lobbying reform. Frankly, it was one of our central pillars of our governance reform platform, and our confidence and supply agreement included a discussion of this.

You know, as in any agreement, it’s not — you bring your baseball bat and your ball to the game and then you stand up and walk and stomp out if you don’t get your way. Clearly, if…. This is not 100 percent what we would have written, but on the other hand, we understand the importance of collaboration, the importance of listening to other views, the importance of actually reflecting upon your position and being willing to change or expand upon it, based on new information that is brought forward. And again, we commend the government on bringing this forward, recognizing that it is a first step.

When we did our campaigning on reforming lobbying in B.C., we wanted to see first and foremost an increase in the transparency of how lobbying takes place in British Columbia and an increase in the accountability of lobbyists and public office holders. So one of the things, again…. To expand upon that, we wanted to see a requirement to disclose who one actually intends to lobby removed from the act and replaced with the requirement to disclose who one actually lobbies within ten days of lobbying.

Let me tell you why we thought that was important. We recognize, of course, that lobbying is a natural part, an important part of political life. It’s an important part for us to gather information as legislators on what the issues are facing various groups. It’s critical lobbying within the democratic system. But the public needs to know who is lobbying whom. By making it more transparent, then, decision-makers are more accountable for their actions, but also, the public trusts them when they make the actions. They’ve done so in an open and transparent manner.

It’s quite common for a lobbyist to say that they’re going to lobby 87 members of the B.C. Legislature — well, 86, because one member has since stepped down. Well, that’s not very helpful to anyone.

Let me suppose I’m from the Deep Earth coal mining company of Kansas. Well, let’s see. Who is a member here? Saanich South — the Deep Earth coal mining company from Saanich South. It’s very unlikely that that person would be lobbying the member from Cariboo-Chilcotin or elsewhere, but if they listed with the lobbyist registrar that they’re lobbying all 87 members, nobody really knows who they’re lobbying.

But if they were to lobby the member for Saanich South, the Minister of Agriculture now, or the Minister of Energy, we’d want to know that. The public would want to know that. They wouldn’t want to know that they intended to lobby everyone, because they’re not. They’re obviously going to lobby whoever. This is done with the greatest respect for the member for Saanich South. I just happened to look to see if there was someone in the audience here.

The purpose here is to register who you are lobbying to, and so we recognize that this is a first step. We would hope that, at some point in the future and in this Legislature, we’ll be able to list who is lobbying who, as opposed to “we’re lobbying everybody.”

One of the second goals that we had, in including lobbying reform in our platform, was to reduce the undue influence of special interests on government decisions. I don’t want to rehash all of the last four years I’ve been here or the last 16 years in total — or even the 1990s. We don’t need to rehash all of that. The reality is the public wants government to work in the interests of the people of British Columbia, not in the interests of vested interests. One of the ways of getting that is reforming lobbying to get to transparency and to reduce undue influence.

One of the things with doing the two-year prohibition is it does just that. It gives, in some sense, a cooling-off period for those who’ve had that insider knowledge, so to speak, a cooling-off period that allows them to, you know, figure out what they want to do. Frankly, if it’s an MLA, it’s going to be tough when moving from an MLA. You’re going from 24-7 a day to suddenly having time on your hands.

Going back to university …. I’ll tell you, hon. Speaker, as you would know from the University of the Fraser Valley, that’s a cushy job compared to what we’ve got here, having to work — and B.C. Greens having to sit on five committees. But they’ll have time to reflect upon what they want to do and maybe they won’t become a lobbyist — and good on them; power to them — and build upon the expertise that got them here in the first place.

Public office holders have, as I mentioned, special privileged relationships and access to privileged information that would give them outsized influence if they become a lobbyist immediately upon leaving. As I said, two years is a sufficient time for these lobbyists to, in some sense, get a sense of what they want to do. We don’t want government and the senior civil service to be a revolving door. Once government, then lobbyists. That’s not good for democracy.

One of the third things we wanted to do is…. We felt it was very important — and again, we’re very grateful to government for moving down this path — to bring B.C. standards in line with other jurisdictions in Canada. As has been pointed out, we’ve been called the Wild West here in British Columbia. And I would argue in lobbying reform, we lag behind other jurisdictions across other provinces and at the federal level.

In 2008, the federal government imposed a multi-year prohibition on lobbying. Now, kudos go to the Harper government at the time for doing just that — a multi-year prohibition on lobbying was in recognition of the undue influences that could have, the special interests of somebody with inside knowledge lobbying as soon as they left.

We know that Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia all have so-called “cooling-off periods” as well for former public office holders and a variety of lengths. Here we’ve got two years proposed, and they also have more stringent requirements for reporting codes of conduct and so on and so forth.

You know, this bill goes a long way towards reducing some of the problems that we face here with lobbying in British Columbia. Coming back to what this bill does, this bill, as I’ve said, takes steps forward for much-needed lobbying reform. It does not include all of the things that we felt were necessary, but it does make a good step forward. The two-year prohibition — wonderful.

What’s also really important — and frankly, give government credit for this — is that they’ve committed to undertaking a review of lobbying. Government has said that they’re committed to undertake a review of lobbying. I think that it’s a good step forward, and I hope that we get a multi-party agreement that this is something that we could….

This is not a partisan issue. I recognize that there are a few individuals who this legislation might actually cause some difficulty for right now. But we do have that exemption in section 2.3 that they could seek to apply for and make the compelling case why it’s important that they continue as lobbyists.

By committing to undertaking lobbying, I think we all will have collectively a chance and an opportunity to actually bring our views to this.

I do note that the Chair of the committee has entered. I do note the hour, and I reserve my right to speak on this matter further on Monday and do so move adjournment of debate just now.


Video of Speech


Bill 9 — Miscellaneous Statutes (Minor Corrections) Amendment Act, 2017

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.


Text of Speech


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.

Interjection.

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.

Interjection.

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….

Interjection.

A. Weaver: The member for Cariboo-Chilcotin is taking such an aggrieved point of view about this bill. Oh, my goodness.

Interjections.

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.


Video of Speech


Bill 2 – Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2017

Today in the Legislature I rose to speak in support of Bill 2 – Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2017. Bill 2 introduces the legislation needed to implement the government’s budget.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my speech.

For those who read to the end, you will see that a BC Liberal MLA heckled me and claimed that the Massey Bridge cost was $2.6 billion instead of the $4.5 billion I stated. A simple Google search indicates I was correct. However, there appears to new information to suggest it would cost much, much more.


Text of Speech


A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in this debate on Bill 2, Budget Measures Implementation Act, 2017.

As we know, this bill before us is a bill that sets the stage — the measures put forward in the budget, in the required legislative changes — to implement those promises in the budget.

Now, there is some precedent here for there to be unanimity in supporting a budget measures implementation act. I take you to March 24, 2015, when the member for Abbotsford West said, after division was called: “In glorious unanimity, we move to Committee of the Whole House.” That was after the Budget Implementation Act was supported unanimously by members of opposition at the time and members of government at the time.

So there is precedent, even though a budget was voted against, to vote in support of a budget measures implementation act. I’m not so sure, actually, that the official opposition at the time meant to do that, but the reality is that there is precedent. I am interpreting that as a sign of good faith. I look forward to this government, who had the bold claim, the audacity to state, speaker after speaker after speaker, that the B.C. NDP budget is largely based on what the Liberals had already. So if they truly believe that, then I look forward to hearing them stand and speak in support of each and every one of the measures that they had in their original budget.

But as we’ve seen yesterday, as we’ve seen here in the House, it’s a game for the official opposition. This is not about the formation of good public policy. It’s about a game. It’s about the quest for power and the game of politics, not about doing what’s right for British Columbians.

This is a budget, as reflected in this Budget Measures Implementation Act, that is people-focused. It’s one that recognized that after 16 years, it’s time to take a look at what is happening to everyday British Columbians. We had — and I admit, and I support — a strong economy in British Columbia. There was a strong economy in British Columbia. Things went awry in about 2010.

It was in 2010 that members opposite, those of them who were here, decided that they would take this province down a direction and a quest for the impossible. With promises of, as I’ve said before, unicorns in each and every one of our backyards, they began the quest and journey to the unimaginable, of bringing to B.C. a $100 billion prosperity fund.

A $1 trillion increase in GDP, 100,000 jobs, elimination of the PST, debt-free B.C., thriving schools and hospitals because of an LNG industry that was going to bring wealth and prosperity to all.

I wish I had written down the quotes of the then Minister of Natural Gas. When I stood in this Legislature and questioned the logic, questioned the facts, questioned what earth they were living on to think that this was going to happen, I was told, in essence, and I paraphrase: “The member opposite doesn’t know what he’s saying. He needs to do his research. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. I meet with the companies, I know what’s going on, and I’m looking forward to the member opposite eating his words.” Well, two years later…. It’s almost three years now. I think it’s the former minister of hot air — sorry, Natural Gas — that should be eating his words.

The danger of this, which was created by going down this quest, is it sent a signal to the market — now, I’m going to use good free enterprise language — that if you want to do business in B.C., it’s LNG or nothing. I’ve had tech leader after tech leader after tech leader after tech leader after developer after business leader after CEO tell me that they were frustrated since 2010. They were frustrated because in B.C., it was all about LNG. University presidents, schools — re-engineering our education system, all for LNG.

For the members opposite, it was a big game. They knew they had no chance of winning the 2013 election, so they had to throw a Hail Mary pass, a Hail Mary pass of hope that British Columbians would hang their hats on, one they failed to deliver.

They have the gall to stand here and suggest that our economy is thriving because of their fiscal mismanagement. The reason why our economy is thriving is single. No, it’s not because of a burgeoning resource sector. Frankly, it’s ironic that members opposite suggest that they support rural B.C. Communities in rural B.C. are hurting right now precisely because of their fiscal mismanagement, because they seem to think that, in British Columbia, we’re going to compete with Indonesia in just digging dirt out of the ground. No, we’re not. We compete by being innovative, by bringing broadband to these communities, by bringing the tech sector to the resource communities, by working on the value-added — precisely the measures that are reflected in the Budget Measures Implementation Act.

It’s ironic. I say to rural British Columbia: “Take a look at what you’re doing voting in the B.C. Liberals, who have put you in precisely the position you so want to get out of because of their fiscal mismanagement.” This is an opportunity we have here today to reinvigorate rural B.C., whether it be the Cariboo, the Kootenays, the northwest, the northeast, central B.C., southeastern B.C. or southwestern B.C.

We get it over here. Resource industries are precious, but we have to compete in a modern economy. That means we have to bring together the tech and the resource sectors and work and support the value-added, which this government seemed to think didn’t need to be done. It’s all about LNG.

Hon. Speaker, you wonder why they’re sitting in a time-out. You wonder why they’re sitting in a time-out, and so many British Columbians are so delighted by the arrangement we have now. It’s because of their reckless fiscal management. They have the gall, as I say, to try to paint themselves as good managers of this economy.

Our economy is booming. We have strong GDP growth. The reason why is simple. It’s not resource. It’s because of an out-of-control speculative housing market, largely driven in Metro Vancouver, and the construction market associated with that. The members opposite bemoan the loss of construction jobs. We can’t meet construction job demand right now because of the irresponsible policies or the lack of stepping in to deal with an out-of-control real estate market. Condos being built and presold to offshore buyers before they’re even built so that…. When they’re built, they remain empty because people across the world recognize, in today’s turbulent times, that they need to find a safe haven for their capital.

There are 7½ billion people on this planet and under five million in the province of British Columbia, 7½ people of which…. If we talk about the 1 percent, it’s still an awful lot of millions of people, hundreds of millions of people.

When you’re looking for a safe haven in tumultuous times, and you see a jurisdiction, the Wild West, that has no rules, you look to park your capital in this jurisdiction. You park your capital in one of the safest investments a person could ever make — real estate, land, agricultural land.

What is the consequence of this? That British Columbians who have lived here, were born here, can’t even afford to live and work in the place where they were born. That’s not good economic management. That’s reckless mismanagement that many jurisdictions around the world have dealt with, years ago, through the introduction of policy measures to deal with foreign speculation in a market.

Today I introduced another bill. I can’t speak about it here, but today, before the House…. As we know, measures have been proposed by the B.C. Green party and by the government when they were in official opposition.

The now official opposition are sitting there in a well-earned timeout, are going to do so for a long time, because they look at this problem like deer stuck a headlight and refused to take the necessary steps. Even when they did, introducing the so-called foreign buyer tax, they botched it. They botched it by essentially taxing you if you own a passport. But agricultural land was excluded, so you could actually move speculation into the ALR.

A foreign entity wasn’t actually described as a partnership. So, in fact, you could find a loophole to get away from it there. A foreign corporation isn’t going to invest. A foreign individual can’t invest. But if a foreigner gets together with a Canadian or a British Columbian and forms a partnership, that’s exempt from the foreign buyer tax.

You can’t make this stuff up, except under a B.C. Liberal government that has no idea about managing the economy, despite the fact that they have excellent communications staff — or they did; they used to — who are able to try to convince, or frankly, con British Columbians that they are good managers of the economy.

They tried to paint the opposition, here, as fiscally reckless, based on the tired narrative of what happened in the 1990s. We talk about the fast ferry scandal, but instead we should be talking about Site C.

Just today we hear — as, again, predictable, and we’ve been saying for a long time — there will be cost overruns on Site C because the river diversion is delayed by a year because if the fissure on the north bank and the geotechnical instability there. Was that foreseeable? Yes. It’s $8.8 billion now? No way. We’re pushing over $10 billion now, and it’s going to end up closer to $15 billion. A number — $13 to $15 billion — that I’ve been saying, again, for four years.

The people of British Columbia need to take a hard look at this government’s record. A government that’s investing their money, taxpayer’s money, to build a project that’s going to produce power at something like 13 cents a kilowatt hour, which they have to do to deliver into contracts to LNG industries that don’t exist. So they’re going to have to sell it on the U.S. spot market for four cents a kilowatt hour.

What sort of business model is it, other than a B.C. Liberal business model, to invest capital — your capital, taxpayer — to develop a business plan that’s going to lose 10 cents for every kilowatt hour of energy produced.

At the same time, what are the lost opportunities? The lost opportunities involve things like the collapse of the clean energy sector in British Columbia, the partnerships with local First Nations across B.C. that wanted to get going. We’ve got Borealis wanting to get going near Valemount. We’ve got solar projects in the Kootenays. We’ve got wind projects on Vancouver Island. We’ve got a Prince Rupert wing project. But they can’t get going.

This is foreign capital, industry capital, private capital, that wants to be invested in B.C. now, where the industry takes the risk, not the taxpayer. But again, this is B.C. Liberal economics — use taxpayers’ money, put the taxpayer at risk to subsidize corporations that, in the case of LNG, don’t even exist. It’s remarkable that they have the gall to suggest that they’re good managers of the economy.

If we go through the Budget Measures Implementation Act, there are a few transitional provisions. There are a few changes that need to be made with the cancelling of tolls. And there is a fundamental change.

I must admit that there is sense of irony here. An irony that I’m delighted with is that, again, we’re going to hear speaker after speaker on the other side raie against the opposition, or the now government — it’s hard to get used to; it’s very refreshing to say, I might add, but it’s hard to get used to — about the leadership being shown on the carbon pricing.

Leadership. That’s what this budget shows. Ironically, members opposite used to have that leadership. It was their government, under a leader, somebody who had a vision, that understood the direction and the opportunity that climate change had, a leader who recognized that by putting in a carbon price, it was sending a signal to the market — there’s that free-market, free-enterprise language again — that was telling business that we want to be clean and green here and we want to show the world that we’re leaders, and it blossomed.

Again, we’re going to hear this. I’ve already heard one person say it: “Oh, the carbon tax. Oh, it’s going to kill rural communities.” Again, fear, fear, fear, when, in fact, it is precisely those rural communities that are going to benefit from the carbon tax, as they did when it was introduced the first time by the B.C. Liberals. How do I know that? Because I served on the climate action team with the B.C. Liberals then. I don’t know how many times I went to communities across the province and listened to B.C. Liberals talk about the importance of the carbon tax and how it was not going to hurt rural communities and how it was going to incentivize innovation in these communities and how First Nations across the province are going to see the opportunity with clean energy. And they did.

But now they switch their tone, because there are zero principles over there. Zero principles. It’s all about the game of politics and the quest for power. So we’re going to hear them rail about the carbon — fear to the taxpayer — when in fact what’s happening here is British Columbia is once again recognizing that mitigation of climate change is the world’s greatest economic opportunity, just like other jurisdictions in Taiwan, in China, in India, in Quebec, in Europe, across the world are recognizing. They’re not chasing LNG. They’re chasing the new economy, and this budget sends a signal to market that it’s time to do that again in B.C.

I can’t tell you the number of people who have been so excited about this development. I have a never-ending stream of clean energy folk coming to my office, dismayed with what they’ve had to deal with since 2010 and excited about the potential now. I’m sure they’re opening champagne bottles tonight as we find out that the fissure on Site C is going to create cost overruns. With 70 percent of the contingency already used up — and we’ve just got the project going — this is going to be a very, very expensive project, and the evidence we need to stop it is coming in right now. So to the clean energy industry, I’m excited that you are going to get the opportunity to actually see your projects start to move forward again.

I’m going to come to the tolls again. Now, I spoke against the tolls. We were the only party in the election to say we would not remove tolls because we thought it was bad policy. We thought it was bad policy because it sent a message that we’re not willing to toll transportation. No future infrastructure projects will be built with tolling. The Pattullo Bridge, which was supposed to be built as a toll bridge, will now have to be built by other means.

We didn’t think that was good public policy, but we understand that we were in the minority there because both the B.C. Liberals in the throne speech — the clone speech, I think it’s being called — and the B.C. NDP in this throne speech and in their election platform were consistent in promising it. So we understand what’s going on. We understand, though, and we’re pleased about the recognition that mobility pricing in British Columbia at least is going to have a conversation. The mayors in Vancouver are commissioning reports on this. The government has said they’re interested in exploring and working with the mayors.

That’s how policy is built. You gather information. You build it from the bottom up. You seek support from mayors and communities. And you move forward. That is why the Massey Tunnel cancellation, or on hold for further review, is something that we too are so excited to support. Now, the reason why, of course, is if we just flash back, oh, to 2012 — oh, that magical year, 2012, keeps coming up — we were supposed to be moving forward with a plan to twin the tunnel. But no, no. The Liberals nixed that and had the gall, once more, to tell British Columbians that somehow this government is irresponsible by saying that spending $4½ billion on a 10-lane mega-highway that’s going to put the traffic jam….

An Hon. Member: It’s $2.6.

A. Weaver: It’s $2.6? We can challenge the numbers. A member opposite is saying $2.6. I’ll go check afterwards. The number in my mind was $4.5. I will withdraw it and correct it to $2.6 if that is indeed the case.

The reality is, twinning a tunnel is a fraction of that cost — number one. Number two is it kicks the traffic jams down to the Oak Street Bridge.

Number three. Every mayor in the region said, “Let’s not do this,” except Delta. “Let’s not do this, because we have a transportation plan. This isn’t part of it.”

And the members’ opposite’s response, or at least one of their responses, was to take out some billboards, some billboards in and out of the Massey Tunnel, thinking that, somehow, the picture of my face and the Premier’s face saying…. It’s scary. I admit it’s scary. There are some good smiles there. Have you seen it? It’s pretty impressive.

And they say, “Thanks.” The members opposite have no idea how many people have written, phoned, emailed, Facebook, Twitter, that have thanked us for doing this.

I put out a Facebook post, just quickly, and I would I would look. It’s interesting. I’m glad that I got a reaction now, I’ve got a reaction now. I’m so excited.

In fact, most of them live south of the Fraser if you read the Facebook comments, because they want a twinning of the tunnel, because they’re fiscally responsible.

Interjections.

Deputy Speaker: Members.

A. Weaver: The councillor Harold Steves from Richmond pointed out, through a series of social media posts yesterday, about the plan that was already approved, that was moving forward to twin the tunnel, that the B.C. Liberals nixed, which was supported by the Richmond council, which was supported by the people there because it was cost-effective.

Again, the gall of members opposite to suggest that somehow it’s fiscally irresponsible to be fiscally responsible is unbelievable. It’s unbelievable.

Coming back to the budget measures act. I wish I could look at electronic devices, because then I’d have my Facebook post here, and I could tell you that there are more than 20,000 impressions on the post that I made in 24 hours. There were more than 500 likes. There’s no boosting of posts. It was just all organic. There were more than 100 comments. It was shared I forget how many times. The overwhelming response was, “Thank you,” just like the sign said.

It’s pretty clear that since things have changed, there’s been some suffering in the communications department for the members opposite, because this has got to be one of the most hilarious failed smear campaigns I’ve ever seen. I thank the member from Delta South, I believe it was. I thank him sincerely for, I understand, his role in putting up the billboards, because it has given us enormous support from across Metro Vancouver and, in particular, those people who live in and around Richmond and Delta. Thank you, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart.

Moving forward, there are a couple of other important measures here. You know, it’s hard to actually see…. I’m very grateful to the minister and to the civil service who provided briefing opportunity on this. That’s section 15, on the homeowner grant changes, and coupled to changes later, as well, in terms of the assessment authority ability to allow some exchange of information between these organizations — the province, essentially, and Ottawa, CRA, Canada Revenue Agency — for the purpose of being able to track capital gains.

This is important, because this information was not shared. It was information requested by CRA in order to be able to track to see whether people were paying — based on the assessments, based on the homeowner grants, claiming that as your principal residence — the capital gains when they’re supposed to pay the capital gains under present federal law.

For example, if you claim the homeowner grant under the homeowner grant, and then you sell the property and claim it was suddenly an investment property and you try to write some of that capital gains off in one way or another, or if you didn’t claim the homeowner grant and you claimed that this was your primary residence, and you sell that residence, and you don’t pay any capital gains, now the CRA can get you, because now they have access to that information.

That’s important for putting a clamp on speculation. It’s the same with the assessment authority. These are really good pieces of legislation that are being added in my view.

The small increase in tax for the wealthy and the slight increase in corporate income tax to 12 percent from 11 percent, obviously, are supported by the B.C. Greens. We campaigned on precisely these things.

What it translates to is to asking those who can afford it to pay a little bit more. I’ve talked to thousands of British Columbians over the campaign, over the years, and let me tell you, this neoliberal idea that somehow “if tax, then bad,” is not supported by the vast majority of British Columbians. What they don’t like is a waste of taxpayers’ money. They don’t mind paying taxes, provided taxes are used efficiently, appropriately and for helping the better good. Not for helping your donors but for helping everyone.

People realize that we need to have people go to schools. People realize that without education, what sort of society are we? People realize that taxes going to hospitals are important. They believe in transportation. They don’t think that we should be using public money to subsidize corporate donors, though. That is why I am so very thrilled with the budget, as illustrated in some of these measures. It actually focuses on people in terms of helping them get the help they need at the stage they need.

The one thing that I caution on, but we do support, of course…. Caution not because it’s not that good policy. Caution because of what’s happening as we increase corporate and reduce small business tax. We are beginning to create a disincentive for growth. Why I say that is that we now have a step function tax change when you go from small business to corporate. I believe it’s $500,000 net earnings — correct me if I’m wrong, someone — and that jump now, from 2 percent to 12 percent, is a 10 percent increase in tax.

We have to be careful, because that says to corporations that are earning just under the threshold that you don’t necessarily want to get above the threshold — you don’t want to earn more — because then you’re going to be taxed more. So this is a caution that I think we need to start exploring. We need to start exploring about making, perhaps, a more graduated change so that we don’t disincentivize small businesses becoming bigger businesses, at the same time recognizing that something like 98 percent of businesses in British Columbia are small businesses and they need a break, as they are the engine of our economy.

Coming to some of these bizarre boutique tax credits: the child fitness tax credit, the B.C. back-to-school tax credit. Now the B.C. Liberals laud the praise of these tax credits. Let me tell what you they actually are. The back-to-school B.C. tax credit, if you claim it, is $12.65 a year per child — $12.65. You’re going back to school on $12.65. You know, with the cuts to education, you might have to take the bus, and this $12.65 might get you three round trips on the bus. That’s a great tax credit. How much was it to administer a tax credit of $12.65? I bet if you look at the numbers, it’s probably costing more to administer than you’re bringing in.

What about the B.C. children’s fitness equipment tax credit? Guess how much that was. I’ll see if anyone can guess how much a year you’d get on the B.C. children’s fitness tax credit. It’s $12.65. The member for Vancouver–West End has got incredible insight. It’s $12.65. If you buy a hockey stick, you get $12.65 back.

Now, first off, most people don’t even know that you can do this, unless you have an accountant. But the government has to actually budget as if every child is claiming it, so what we create is bizarre systems where the government’s budget is basically budgeting in a known surplus. They know that a large number of people aren’t going to collect it, but they have to have it in the budget, and you have to administer…. It’s just silly. It’s just silly, and this money could be better used elsewhere. So, obviously, I support those.

Also with the B.C. children’s fitness credit and B.C. children’s arts credit. Now, I know that those were much more than the $12.65 tax credit. They were $25.30 a year more. Those are being eliminated because they’re being eliminated federally. Again this legislation is consistent with federal legislation.

What’s interesting about the Budget Measures Implementation Act is the means and ways this is being done. They actually have it entered into legislation, so the legislation before us brings these credits into place and then removes them, because they’ve already been claimed in last year’s tax submissions.

I see that we’re winding down in time here, but please let me say that I’m absolutely thrilled with this budget. I think British Columbians are thrilled. I’ve seen it in emails. I’ve seen it on social media. I’ve seen it in phone calls. Everywhere I go across British Columbia, people come up and say thank you: “Thank you for putting us first. Thank you for working with the government to ensure that these people opposite are put in a time-out.”

They have forgotten what it means to be a hard-working person in British Columbia. They’ve forgotten what it means to try to make ends meet. They’ve lost touch with the people. They lost vision. They lost ideas. They didn’t know their direction, and here they stand in opposition, trying to suggest that somehow they were good stewards of the economy.

I think there needs to be some hard soul-searching over there. I look forward to when their true colours emerge, when we see the new leader, Ms. Watts, emerge as the new leader of the B.C. conservative party opposite. Honestly, there’s nothing liberal about the B.C. Liberals.


Video of Speech


Reintroducing a Bill to Protect British Columbia’s Farmland

Today in the legislature I introduced Bill M202 – Property Law Amendment Act, 2017. I had previously introduced this Bill in February, 2017 during the 6th sesison of the 40th parliament. Its purpose is to ensure that farmland in British Columbia is safeguarded from real estate speculation using foreign capital. In addition, it is important to ensure that British Columbia’s future food security is protected.

Below I reproduce the text and video of the introduction along with our accompanying media release.


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Property Law Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given, be introduced and read a first time now.

Mr. Speaker: Please proceed.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to introduce a bill intituled the Property Law Amendment Act, 2017. This bill amends the existing Property Law Act to ensure that land held within the agricultural land reserve is protected from international real estate speculation. If passed, this bill would prohibit foreign entities from purchasing ALR land over five acres without prior permission from the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council.

At UBCM last week, I met with communities in northern British Columbia. They emphasized the impact that the foreign purchase of ALR lands is having on local farmers, their local economies and our food security. For example, in Cariboo North, 42,000 acres have been bought by two foreign entities, with a total of 22,239 acres being removed from local agricultural production. This is affecting the local price of hay and pricing farmers out of the market.

Many other provinces regulate and restrict foreign ownership of agricultural land in this way, including Alberta, Saskatchewan Manitoba, Quebec and PEI. Our agricultural land reserve should have the same protection.

Mr. Speaker: The question is the first reading of the bill.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: Now I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Motion approved.


Video of Introduction



Media Release


Andrew Weaver introduces bill to ban foreign ownership on Agricultural Land Reserve land over five acres
For immediate release
October 5, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, reintroduced a bill that would ban foreign ownership on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land over five acres. Weaver first introduced the bill in February 2016.

“B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve is vital for promoting our province’s food security and growing our agricultural sector,” said Weaver.

“Today I am reintroducing a bill that would prohibit foreign entities from purchasing ALR land over five acres.

“B.C. currently imports 70% of its vegetables from the United States, with half of that coming from California. With these regions increasingly experiencing extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, it is more important than ever that B.C. take the future of our food security seriously. Moreover, agriculture presents a significant economic opportunity for B.C. Our thriving wine industry alone has a $2.8 billion economic impact, generating 12,000 jobs throughout the province.

“One of the key reasons why young people are unable to pursue farming is due to the cost of land. By allowing ALR land to be subject to international real estate speculation, we are limiting their opportunities to get into this vital, sustainable industry.

“Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec and PEI have all passed similar legislation to protect their agricultural land. This leaves B.C. as the only western province without such a law. It’s time we took action on this important issue so that we can ensure that ALR land is used as it is intended – to offer opportunities to local communities across the province and to promote the overall food security of our province.”

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

BC Liberals vote against banning big money from BC politics

In what can only be described as a shocking lack of principles, the BC Liberals voted against sending Bill 3 – Election Amendment Act, 2017 to committee stage after it had passed second reading.

I spent most of this week listening to BC Liberal speaker after speaker proclaim how they liked most aspects of the bill but that they had issues with a number of sections. Speaker after speaker talked about potential amendments to the Bill that might help make it better. In fact Rich Coleman, the Leader of the Official Opposition cynically stated:

R. Coleman: Well, we will, actually. It’s interesting you say that. I can tell you what’s not going to happen. There will be an amendment in committee stage, but I can tell you what’s not going to happen when the division call comes. You’re not voting for the amendment. You’re not voting for the amendment because you want the dough. You’re gonna take the dough. That’s what you want.”

After the bill passed second reading, the Liberals then proceeded to vote against sending it to committee thereby saying they just wanted to kill it rather than amend it. I have never seen such a vote in the 4  1/2 years since I got elected.

Needless to say, the BC Liberals have abdicated their responsibility to offer practical solutions to improving the bill. As such, any future amendments to this bill that they might propose will be treated as nothing more than a cynical political ploy.

Below is the media statement my office issued this morning.


Media Release


Weaver statement on B.C. Liberals voting against banning big money
For immediate release
October 5, 2017

 

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver issued the following statement in response to the B.C. Liberal caucus voting against a bill that would ban big money. The Liberals voted against sending the bill to committee stage after it had already passed second reading. Votes on particular aspects of the bill that could be resolved by amendments are done at the committee stage of the bill.

“I am extremely disappointed that the entire Liberal caucus voted against this bill that would finally exorcise the corrosive influence of big money from our political system,” Weaver said.

“With this vote, the Liberals have indicated that they are against the core principle that we need to shift political influence away from special interests towards people. For 16 years the BC Liberals were content to personally profit from maintaining the weakest campaign finance laws in the country. Now with an opportunity to make B.C. a leader in electoral finance and put the public interest first, they choose to side with a system that gives special interests too much influence.

“The Liberals’ actions last night demonstrate precisely what is broken in B.C. politics. Instead of debating the individual aspects of the bill based on substance, the Liberals have chosen yet again to play political games. By voting to not send this bill to committee, the Liberals are saying that they are not willing to consider improving this bill. The broken two-party system in this province has led to divisive, obstructionist politics where the pressing issues facing British Columbians are devolved into sloganeering and reactionary partisan grandstanding.

“The people of British Columbia deserve better from their elected officials. Now, with three parties in the legislature and a minority government, we have an opportunity to deliver a different kind of politics – one that focuses on evidence, principles and substantive debate. It is clear that the official opposition is intent on ensuring that this doesn’t happen.

“They are desperately clinging onto an outdated sort of politics that places party and power above principles and policy. B.C. is at a crossroads – we can go down the path of the United States where big money and an entrenched two-party system has led to chaos and the degradation of democratic norms, or we can join the 33 out of 34 OECD countries in removing the undue influence of big money from our political system. I hope that as this bill moves through committee, all 87 MLAs sincerely consider the type of future we want for our province and make their decisions based on their conscience in this vital matter.”

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