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Social Development

Reintroducing a bill to protect RDSPs and RESPs from creditors

Inspired by the discussion on Monday with Stephanie Cadieux, the MLA for Surrey South, during Private Members statements, I reintroduced a Private Members’ bill to protect Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs) and Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) from creditors.

Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) were first introduced federally in 1957. Legislation enabling Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) was subsequently brought forward in the late 1970’s thereby permitting seniors to withdraw their RRSP funds over time instead of all at once or through purchase of an annuity. Since that time, most provinces, including British Columbia, have recognized the importance of protecting RRSPs and RRIFs from creditors in the event of personal bankruptcy. They have passed legislation to protect RRSPs and RRIFs from being seized during bankruptcy. This provides a bankrupt individual a glimmer of hope that they will not be destitute in their old age. Here in British Columbia, such seizures are governed by the 1996 Court Order Enforcement Act.

In 2008 the Federal Government passed legislation to allow for the creation of Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs). The RDSP is a federal, tax-deferred, long-term savings plan for people with disabilities who want to save for the future. Unfortunately, under the Court Order Enforcement ActRDSPs  are not listed as a registered plan in BC’s legislation and are therefore not exempt from creditor protection. Therefore, should an individual with an RDSP go into debt, their savings in the RDSP will not be protected from seizure.

The province of Alberta has already taken such measures and amended their Civil Enforcement Act to include RDSPs under Section 92.1(I): Exemption of registered plans and registered disability savings plans. Legislation has also passed in Alberta protecting RESPs from creditors.

By ensuring the financial security and well-being of those living with disabilities, we are not only providing the individuals and their loved ones with a sense of security, we are also reducing the strain on social services that incurs when individuals are unable to care for themselves. By also including RESPs in section 71.3 of the Court Order Enforcement Act, we are protecting children who, through no fault of their own, might see their education investment seized by creditors.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my introduction, as well as the accompanying media release.


Text of Introduction


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

I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Court Order Enforcement Amendment Act, 2017. Inspired by a discussion on Monday, I’m reintroducing this for the second time.

Registered retirement savings plans are protected in this province from creditors in the case of personal bankruptcy. Protecting these funds provides a small safeguard that individuals undergoing bankruptcy will not be completely destitute in their old age. It’s good law that most provinces in Canada have adopted.

However, there is no protection for funds that are part of a registered education savings plan or a registered disability savings plan. These are important funds that need equal protection. Recognizing that a child should not have their education investment seized due to misfortune that befalls their parents, the Alberta government passed legislation a number of years ago protecting RESPs. It’s with this in mind that I bring this bill forward today.

This bill amends the Court Order Enforcement Act to ensure that RESPs and RDSPs are protected by law from creditors.

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

Motion approved.

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


Video of Introduction



Media Release


Andrew Weaver introduces bill to protect RDSPs and RESPs from creditors
For immediate release
November 1, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, today introduced a bill to protect Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs) and Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) from creditors. The bill, the Court Order Enforcement Amendment Act, 2017, was first introduced by Weaver in March 2016 and would provide RDSPs and RESPs with the same legal protection as Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIFs).

“A child should not have their education investment seized due to misfortune that befalls their parents,” said Weaver

“RDSPs and RESPs are important funds that British Columbians use to save for their futures. It is only fair that they have the same protection as RRSPs and RRIFs. This protection provides a glimmer of hope to those facing bankruptcy that they will not be destitute in their old age. There is no reason why British Columbians who are eligible for the disability tax credit and contribute it into RDSPs shouldn’t have that same glimmer of hope should they ever face a dire financial situation.

“I have been raising this issue in the house for three years now. Government has had plenty of time to consider it. It is time that government acts to finally give British Columbians’ RDSPs and RESPs the equal protection they deserve.”

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

On the importance of protecting RDSPs from creditors

In the legislature today during Private Members statements Stephanie Cadieux, the MLA for Surrey South, and I had a productive exchange on the topic of Registered Disability Savings Plans.

Ms. Cadiuex spoke for five minutes discussing the history and emphasizing benefits of the RDSP program. I followed up on the importance of protecting RDSPs from creditors, an issue I first raised in Question Period on March 13, 2014, provided more context to on June 26, 2014 and culminated in my bringing forward private members bills on both March 15, 2016 and again on February 28, 2017.

I plan to reintroduce the bill again shortly and hope that it will be put on the order papers to be debated in the legislature.

 

Below I reproduce the video and text of the entire exchange.


Video of Exchange



Text of Exchange


S. Cadieux: On December 1, 2008, the late Jim Flaherty, the then-Minister of Finance for the federal government, did a remarkable thing — a forward-thinking, first-in-the-world thing. He responded to the advocacy originating from South Surrey from Al Etmansky and the Planned Lifetime Advocacy folks, and he introduced the registered disability savings plan, or RDSP.

The first of its kind in the world, this new tax-deferred savings vehicle was designed specifically to assist people with disabilities and their families for planning for the long term for financial security.

I won’t need to tell members of this House about the reality that people with disabilities have higher rates of poverty and unemployment than their temporarily able-bodied counterparts. I hope I don’t also need to educate this House on the reality that living with a disability can add significant costs and expenses not faced by those who don’t have a disability.

While there are many social programs designed and provided by governments to assist, some of those programs are only available to individuals whose sole source of income is government benefits. Another less-known reality is that there are far more people with disabilities that are not dependent on — or even eligible for — government benefits than those who are.

That’s why the RDSP vehicle is so important. An RDSP allows you to save money for the future without paying tax on the earnings. The federal government will contribute as much as $90,000 to an individual’s account. It’s estimated that 500,000 people across Canada are eligible for the benefit.

The future impacts of the RDSP go well beyond a simple planning tool. They provide a path for security, for choice — for individual choice.

So far, since first becoming available in 2008, over 100,000 RDSPs have been opened. I’d like to read for you the Plan Institute’s top ten list — the top ten reasons why people with disabilities or their carers should open an RDSP:

(1) You choose where to invest your money. All of the major Canadian banks are offering RDSPs.

(2) The government contributes generously. For every dollar saved, they will match up to $3.

(3) If you have a low income and can’t invest yourself, the government will still save for you.

(4) An RDSP will not affect your disability benefits.

(5) It’s an easy way to save for big items like mortgage down payments, home renovations or cars.

(6) There are no restrictions. You can spend the money on anything you choose.

(7) When you close an RDSP, your contributions and investments gained are yours.

(8) With savings tucked away, the future becomes yours to imagine.

(9) You become more powerful economically. Decision-makers need to take you more seriously.

(10) The whole world is watching. What happens here in Canada may determine the future of people with disabilities in other countries.

As of December 2015, the total value of RDSPs in B.C. is over $460 million. British Columbians have personally contributed $163 million to their RSDPs, leveraging an additional $297 million in federal grants and bonds. I know, with talking with financial advisers and having financial planning education myself, there’s no better deal out there. People have nothing to lose and so very, very much to gain.

In 2015, British Columbians held 18 percent of all RSPDs in Canada, yet made up only 14 percent of eligible Canadians. Currently, 12 percent of all people with disabilities under 50, or 22,500 people, in B.C. have an RDSP, higher than any other province, which is great. But another 60,000 people in this age group could benefit, and they should.

Like most financial products, the rules are complicated, but there are plenty of experts available to help. It doesn’t need to be overwhelming. People should not be afraid to ask for help. There is too much to gain, especially if you have a low or modest income.

As an example, also from the Plan RDSP website…. An individual with an annual net income of $26,000. If they contribute $900 per year, they will earn $2,300 in federal RDSP grants and another $1,000 in a bond every year. So over your lifetime, you could receive $250,966 from your RDSP by contributing $18,000 in contributions, garnering $20,000 in federal bonds, $46,000 in federal grants and $166,000 in earned interest at 3 percent a year.

Understanding that even coming up with an initial contribution could be a challenge for some people, there are grants available through the endowment 150, which offers eligible people with disabilities a one-time savings grant of $150 to help get their RDSP, or registered disability savings plan, started and growing.

There’s no better time than now. October is RDSP Awareness Month, and the government of British Columbia has been a leader across the country in supporting the efforts of the advocates and the federal government in ensuring that British Columbians were first and most apt to take up this challenge. B.C. was first to exempt the income and earnings from an RDSP from affecting disability benefits, and on so many fronts, B.C. has been leading the country when it comes to providing supports to people with disabilities and looking to find ways to ensure that people with disabilities can claim their economic position, as well, in our society.

I think it’s tremendous. There’s a tremendous amount of work that has gone on. The RDSP action group, made up of advocates and groups that support people with disabilities, is doing a tremendous job making sure that British Columbians with disabilities stay at the forefront of this program so that B.C. continues to have the biggest uptake of RDSPs in the country. But there are so many people that still haven’t taken advantage of this vehicle and should, because they only have everything to gain.

A. Weaver: Thank you to the member opposite for her compelling narrative about the importance of the registered disability savings plan.

Unlike some other provinces, the province of British Columbia does not actually protect RDSPs from creditors. It’s something that…. I think we could expand upon the leadership that British Columbia has shown. Twice over the last couple of years, I brought in a bill to ensure that RDSPs, like RESPs and RRSPs and RIFs are protected from creditors. In the case where, through no fault of their own, somebody who is relying upon an RDSP — once perhaps their parents pass away —can have that taken from them because it can be accessed by creditors.

Now, the reason why that occurs is nothing more than for historical reasons. The RDSP a relatively new tool and was predated before that by the RESP and the RRSP. While we have no problem in British Columbia and Canada, that’s why protecting RRSPs and RESPs in some provinces — certainly RRSPs and RIFs…. The RSDP is not protected. There’s a national organization, whose name slips me at this moment, who have been pushing for this provincewide. Some jurisdictions, like Alberta, are taking a proactive response here.

I completely agree with the member opposite about the importance of RDSPs, allowing people to put aside some resources in case they need to be accessed sometime in the future. Fundamentally, those resources should be used for the purposes that they’re used, and they should not be used in terms of creditors potentially having access to them.

The analogy with our RESPs is direct. A child may have an RESP. Through no fault of their own, they might get into financial difficulty. In B.C., RESPs are not protected either. What can happen, then, is creditors can go after those — go after those designed specifically for the education of a child down the road. In the case of a disability plan, it’s analogous.

As we move forward, in light of the presence of the new government here, I hope that we can actually work across party lines to build the support for RDSPs that we’ve just heard, in terms of why they’re so important, to build support from all parties to bring credit protection for those in British Columbia blessed to have an RDSP so that they are protected, not only for today but also for tomorrow. They’re there for a specific reason.

With that, I thank the member opposite for her comments. I agree wholeheartedly with her comments, and I hope that we can take that to the next level and protect RDSPs for present and future and generations.

S. Cadieux: Thank you to the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head for his comments. There are probably, I would say, few things that we have been in agreement on in the recent days, and yet, like the member’s desire to see us work towards basic income pilots, which I agree with him on, and I certainly agree with him on the need to look to expand creditor protection for RDSPs. These are, in my mind, no-brainers, as we look to modernize and ensure that all of our citizens engage fully in their economic citizenship as well as their social citizenship.

The reality is that the RDSP is such a significant tool for long-term financial security. Someone saving $1,500 a year over 30 years could find their RDSP worth nearly half a million dollars. An RDSP allows you to save money for the future without paying tax on the earnings, and I can think of no other program where the federal government will contribute as much as $90,000 to an individual’s account.

It’s true for many people with disabilities, who rely on government benefits, saving even a small amount can be too challenging, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have an RDSP and benefit from the tax-free savings vehicle and the government’s contributions and the compounding interest. And compounding interest is just a beautiful thing.

In fact, the reality is that this vehicle is extra beneficial, in that anyone can contribute to an individual’s RDSP. Family, friends, neighbours, charities, foundations and organizations can all contribute dollars to an individual’s RDSP. The federal government encourages these contributions by matching each dollar contributed with up to $3 depending on the RDSP owner’s annual income.

This is an opportunity for us, as elected members, to use our platforms — the platforms provided to us — to amplify the message, to use our voices and our collective non-partisan voices to do our best to ensure that people with disabilities in our communities are aware of the RDSP; and for those who need it, that they’re aware of the grants available through endowment 150.

In case there’s any doubt from members in this House who is eligible for an RDSP, it’s people who are eligible for the disability tax credit federally, who are under the age of 60 and who are Canadian residents with a social insurance number. So it’s relatively easy for a person with a disability to qualify.

If people have any questions at all, in October, 2014, the provincial government created the RDSP action group. Their goal is to maintain B.C.’s position as the province with the highest per-capita uptake of RDSPs. They have a toll-free hotline, step-by-step guides to help people plan and even a dedicated website.

This will truly be a step forward in the journey to full inclusion for financial security for people with disabilities. It’s now up to people with disabilities and their allies to take the fullest advantage.

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


Statement on the Fair Wage Commission

Today the BC Government officially launched the Fair Wages Commission. Below is the statement that we released in support of the government’s announcement.


Media Statement


Weaver statement on the Fair Wages Commission
For immediate release
October 5, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party and spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour, responded to the launch of the Fair Wages Commission today. The Fair Wages Commission was a B.C. Green platform commitment, and was negotiated into the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the B.C. NDP.

“I welcome the creation of a Fair Wages Commission that takes politics out of discussion around the minimum wage by establishing an arms-length body tasked with addressing the discrepancy between minimum and living wages,” Weaver said.

“Our economy is changing rapidly, creating new challenges for workers and businesses. It is imperative that we have this commission that will take into broader economic trends such as the rise of the gig economy, automation and the increasing prevalence of part-time and contract work. This commission will consult with business, labour and other experts and stakeholders to advise strategies so that we can work towards the ultimate goal of achieving liveable incomes for all British Columbians.”

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

Speech at the Union of BC Municipalities 2017 Convention

Today I had the honour of addressing the delegates to the 2017 Convention of the Union of BC Municipalities as Leader of the BC Green Party. Below I reproduce the essential elements of the speech. You will see in the text a number of sections where I spoke freely. I tried to link to articles on my website that give the essence of what I was referring to in my speech.


Video of my UBCM Speech


Join us for Andrew Weaver’s 2017 address to the BC local government convention in Vancouver.

Posted by BC Green Party on Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Text of my Speech


Please let me start by thanking the Union of BC Municipalities for providing me with this opportunity to speak to you today.

Last year I stood before you as the Leader and lone elected MLA of the BC Green Party. This year so much has changed. I’m thrilled to be now joined by my two caucus colleagues: Adam Olsen, the MLA for Saanich North & the Islands and Sonia Furstenau, the MLA for Cowichan Valley.

Both Sonia and Adam come to the BC Legislature with experience at the local government level. Adam was a former Central Saanich Councillor and Sonia was a Regional Director in the Cowichan Valley Regional District. While our caucus is small, it is certainly mighty.

The world is changing there is a growing agitation for change borne out of an overall dissatisfaction with the status quo, career politicians, and conventional economic assumptions.

Simultaneously, we are experiencing major disruptive threats due to the mounting effects of climate change and technological advancement.

Many of these trends are present in the sociopolitical landscape of B.C.

The affordability crisis, caused by a combination of runaway real estate prices due to speculation and the desirability of B.C. as a place to live, and incomes that have failed to keep pace, in particular for young people, have left many people feeling hopeless and anxious about their future.

British Columbians are also simultaneously environmentally conscious, as well as cognizant of our province’s historical dependence on resource development for economic growth.

We are not afraid to acknowledge that there are many challenges, such as climate change and technological disruption, facing the world.

But with every challenge, comes an opportunity. If we make smart choices based on a long-term vision for the province, we can seize the exciting opportunities arising and build a dynamic province where British Columbians enjoy a high quality of life for generations to come.

In that, the provincial government, needs to recognize the crucial leadership role for municipalities and empower your members to pursue solutions that work for your unique communities. Your knowledge and expertise are needed now more than ever.

Rather than hanging onto, or trying to go back to, the economy of the last century we should be positioning ourselves as leaders in the 21st century economy and that may look different for every community.

We have a unique opportunity in British Columbia because of three strategic advantages that we have over virtually every other region in the world.

  1. The quality of life and natural environment allows us to attract and retain some of the best and brightest from around the globe —we are a destination of choice.
  2. We have a highly skilled and educated work force. Our high school students are consistently top ranked — with the OECD specifying BC as one of the smartest academic jurisdictions in the world.
  3. We have access to renewable resources — energy, water, and wood — like no other jurisdiction. We have incredible potential to create a clean, renewable energy sector to sustain our growing economy.

But for British Columbia to actually capitalize on our strategic advantages, we must ensure we protect them.

A quality public education is not the luxury of a strong economy. A quality education is what builds a strong economy.

And we must start thinking about the long-term consequences of our decisions, decisions that put people, rather than vested corporate or union interests or re-election goals first and foremost.

Last year in my UBCM speech I spoke about the need for leadership that placed the interests of the people of British Columbia — not organized union or corporate interests— first and foremost in decision-making. In that speech I announced for the first time that the BC Green Party would no long be accepting corporate or union donations.

“Leadership means leading by example,” I said. “And the BC Greens commit to doing just that.”

One year to the day later, I’m proud to say that we have had our last provincial election under corporate and union rule. I hope that in the weeks or months ahead, we will see the same corrosive influence removed from municipal politics as well.

If we are going to make BC a more prosperous place for ordinary people, we must:

  • Work to provide everyone with economic security,
  • Ensure our province’s resources are managed sustainably, and
  • Make equity a fundamental value of a government that operates in the best interests of this generation – and future generations.

During the election the BC Green platform set out a bold plan to achieve this vision. It was grounded in economic security and sustainability in their full and truest sense. And it provided clear steps – based on evidence – to move us towards greater wellbeing for all British Columbians.

This is what we ran on. The NDP ran on something different. As did the Liberals. All parties presented ideas that resonated with certain people and communities.

But none of us got it perfectly right, as the election results indicate.

The BC NDP didn’t win a majority. The BC Liberals didn’t win a majority. And the BC Greens didn’t win a majority. Instead, we have a minority government. And I truly believe it has the potential to become far more than simply the sum of its parts – if parties choose to work together.

All parties have something to offer on behalf of the British Columbians that voted for our vision for the province. We have many shared priorities, goals, and values.

The interim budget presented two weeks ago is a wonderful starting point. It is a budget that includes initiatives from all three parties:

It was built on the foundation of the BC Liberals’ February budget and retained a number of positive initiatives started by their government.

It includes some important new NDP priorities. And it featured some BC Green led initiatives, such as the Innovation Commissioner, Emerging Economy Task Force, and Fair Wage Commission.

The BC government is working towards a new more collaborative form of governance and I am feeling very optimistic that this shift will lead to the creation of stronger public policy.

On child care, for instance, there are multiple proposals on the table. The Confidence and Supply Agreement our caucus signed with the BC NDP caucus set up structures for consultation so that we can collaborate to develop sound, evidence-based policies that will put people first.

In a minority government, we have an opportunity to collaborate to deliver the best public policy outcomes for British Columbians.

Childcare should be accessible, affordable and include a strong focus on early childhood education. We agreed with the BC NDP on these values, but had had slightly different ideas in terms of how to implement them.

Going forward, I believe we can develop a child care policy that features the best aspects of each proposal. Both proposals are a starting point upon which we can further improve.

We are not going back on this commitment – we are taking it further.

Our cooperative mindset can’t be confined to the legislative chamber, though, it must extend to each of your communities.

Given the challenges our province is facing – climate change, the opioid crisis, housing prices, homelessness, poverty, the automation of jobs, the decarbonization of our energy systems – we need your leadership.

Each community will have different challenges and opportunities in addressing these problems, no one knows this better than you.

The province needs to support your work.

Throughout my time in the legislature I have heard from countless communities who have innovative and ambitious plans in their jurisdiction. They’ve gone the distance, but the provincial government won’t step in to take it any further.

And, as we all know too well, the development of resources without proper engagement, consultation and consent has been a major source of conflict in communities across BC.

This approach is disrespectful, damaging to the environment, First Nation communities, municipalities and damaging to cross-governmental relationships.

My colleagues and I believe that we need a different approach to resource development: one that is inclusive, truly collaborative, and does not come with a pre-determined outcome.

One that respects the principle of free, prior and informed consent.

One that is bottom-up rather than top-down.

My favourite example of this concerns the ski resort proposals at Jumbo and Valemont.

Talk about Jumbo vs Valemont process

Another pressing, cross jurisdictional issue is, of course, housing.

We currently have an endless supply of demand. British Columbia is a beautiful province and wonderful place to live. Understandably, people want to move here to retire, study, work, and raise families. In many communities, the housing available is bursting at the seams.

Thanks to inadequate provincial policies and a lack of leadership on the housing file, municipalities have been forced to do more with less.

As we head into this new governance chapter my Green caucus colleagues and I stand with your communities and hope to amplify the solutions you are calling for.

We must protect the values of houses and apartments as homes first, not investment commodities.

Despite the barriers that have been blocking innovation and adaptation in BC, I have heard incredible success stories from companies and municipalities:

Talk about Penticton, Structurlam

Talk about Prince Rupert, container port

Talk about Terrace/Burns Lake, manufacturing

Talk about Prince George, broadband

To close I’ll end my speech much the same way as I did last year when I announced the BC Greens were going to stop accepting corporate and union donations on the eve of an election year:

Real leadership doesn’t come from doing what is easy. It is built on doing what is right.

In the year ahead this sentiment will continue to guide our work. Thank you again for having me.