Yesterday in the Legislature we debated Bill 9: The Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2018 at Committee Stage and at third reading.
It was a sad day in the BC Legislature as the BC Liberals played yet more petty games. Committee stage of the Bill began in the morning shortly before lunch. The member from Chilliwack was the critic for the bill and I was the BC Green critic for the bill.
Committee stage is when members get the opportunity to rise and ask questions of the minister pertaining to specific sections of the bill. The bill is debated and approved section by section.
To avoid confusion for the speaker with multiple MLAs standing all at once and he or she having to pick and choose who is to speak next, the tradition and longstanding practice is that the MLAs arrange to slot in when they will speak with the official opposition critic.
The BC Green Caucus respect this tradition and have worked to ensure we respect the process in the legislature. As such, the critic and I chatted before lunch and he was to let me know when he was finished with his questions on Section 1 (he told me that his questions were all on section 1). In addition, shortly before lunch, I had a conversation with the BC Liberal member from Prince George Valemont about the amendments that I had prepared and I outlined to her the sequence of these amendments. I let her know that it was possible that Amendments 1 and 2 would be ruled out of order as they might be perceived to have additional cost implications for the province that were not included in the provincial budget. I was unsure about amendment 3. All three amendments had been given to the BC Liberal critic last week and the first one was published on the order papers for all to see.
My first Amendment would have granted the presumptive clause for work related mental health disorders to all workers covered under Workers Compensation. This would bring us up to the standards already in place in Alberta and in Saskatchewan. Given that all provincial employees would have been covered, it is likely that this would have been ruled out of order. But in speaking to it, government could have signaled on the record a direction it was going and the BC Liberals could have indicated whether or not they support this direction.
If this Amendment was ruled out of order, I had a second amendment that I would have put forward. This Amendment would have only extended the presumptive clause to Nurses, Social Workers and 911 call receivers and dispatchers. Again, this would likely have been ruled out of order as there may be a perceived cost to the province which funds social workers and nurses. Once more, in speaking to the amendment, the minister would have signaled on the record any intention he had with these professions and the BC Liberals could have indicated whether or not they support his approach.
If this second Amendment was ruled out of order, I had a third amendment ready to go. That amendment would only have applied to 911 call receivers and dispatchers. I am unsure whether or not this would have been ruled out of order. Some of these workers would already be covered (as they are already police officers or paramedics), many others would not (as they are paid by local governments). I am unsure whether or not a very small potential cost to local governments would have been ruled out of order.
Both the BC Liberal critic and the BC Liberal member from Prince George Valemont never got back to me about whether or not they supported the amendment or wanted changes. What’s worse, the BC Liberal critic was to inform me when he had concluded his questions on section 1 so that I could proceed. He didn’t. As such, it was clear that he had at least one more question to go.
Over lunch, I had arranged several meetings including one with a number of very experienced developers who are profoundly troubled about the uncertainty created by the speculation tax. I arrived in the house 23 seconds after the Committee had been called to order (in the text and video below I say 3 minutes, but from closer inspection of the Hansard video I know it was 23 seconds as I came in just as the Title was approved). It was impossible for the BC Liberal critic (the MLA from Chilliwack) to stand and ask a single question that had to be answered by the minister in 23 seconds. Instead, he sat in place and let it pass.
A number of the BC Liberal MLAs thought this was hilarious. I understand that for many of them, this is all a big game. But the reality is that what happened was sad since once more, rather than having a substantive debate about the issues, the BC Liberals opted for cynical political games over trying to advance good public policy.
Most of the BC Liberal MLAs clearly don’t know the rules of the legislature and they were surprised when immediately thereafter I rose to speak at third reading (I have never heard a BC Liberal MLA rise at third reading before). I hadn’t intended to but in the end, I spent over an hour outlining why I felt the bill didn’t go far enough and why British Columbians should view the behaviour of the the BC Liberals as objectionable.
Politics and BC Liberal games aside, I also had extensive conversations with the Minister of Labour about the amendments. I feel very confident that 911 call dispatchers and receivers, as well as a couple of other professions, will be added imminently through regulation (Order in Council) as we work to protect all workers in British Columbia.Yesterday, the BC Liberals made it clear that they will be irrelevant in this further debate.
Going forward, this incident has indicated to the BC Green Caucus that the BC Liberals have no interest in cooperation with anyone. As such, we will no longer coordinate our intent to stand and be recognized with them in estimates or in committee stage debates. We’ll let the speaker decide.
In advance, I apologize to the speaker’s office for any uncertainty that this creates but unfortunately, we cannot trust the BC Liberals to follow through with their commitments.
Below I reproduce the text and video of my third reading speech.
The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 9; L. Reid in the chair.
The committee met at 1:35 p.m.
Sections 1 to 5 inclusive approved.
Hon. H. Bains: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.
The committee rose at 1:36 p.m.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Report and Third Reading of Bills
A. Weaver: I rise to take my place in third reading to address the bill before the House at this particular juncture. I do rise with a great deal of dismay, knowing that this bill went through committee stage in but five minutes at a time….
A. Weaver: I’ll wait for the Clerk to pass the message on.
As it’s known, I had motions on the order paper. I had given notice to the minister. I gave notice to opposition. The opposition informed me that they had numerous questions to raise on this bill. I was in a meeting downstairs. I’m three minutes late for the start. Now, I understand parliamentary rules. I understand parliamentary rules are such that I missed approval of the title. But at third reading, I’d like to provide more reasons why I have profound troubles with this bill as put forward to us now.
Those troubles are the fact that this bill does not include 911 dispatchers. Hon. Speaker, I tell you, after the member from Vancouver, the minister now from Vancouver-Hastings, rose and spoke yesterday, I received an email from one of the people he mentioned, who he had consulted in developing his private member’s bill. That person had a panic attack when he thanked her for input. The government ignored, in this legislation, 911 dispatchers, despite the fact that they’ve actually included the 911 dispatchers in the private member’s bill that the member for Vancouver-Hastings, now minister, brought to this in 2016 and in 2017 as well.
Now, I get the B.C. Liberals are playing games. I get the fact that they don’t actually want to have this debated. I get the fact that they say one thing and do an absolute other. I get the fact that the member from Chilliwack, the critic for this file, who had told me that he had a number of questions to ask, would but ask five minutes of questions while I’m meeting with developers — who are profoundly troubled about the direction this government is taking on the speculation tax.
If opposition opposite did their job, we’d still be debating this bill, and the B.C. Greens who have spent many, many hours consulting with stakeholders from north to south and east to west of this province about what’s not in this bill, we would actually have a debate of substance on this bill on the issues contained. But members opposite abdicated their responsibility as elected members to the B.C. Legislature to raise issues and bring these issues forward for debate. That is unacceptable.
It is unacceptable for members of that party opposite to not stand in this House and take to task the minister for a bill that he has introduced, which they had had time to explore when it was a private member’s bill introduced earlier — and after being told that they were going to do this. That’s shameful.
I get that they can play games. But the message I want people to take home here today is that in this place, it’s not about doing what’s right for the people of British Columbia; it’s about doing what’s right for petty, political game, for the B.C. Liberals, and frankly, I think the B.C. NDP owes some responsibility here, too, because they knew I had these amendments on the order paper.
I struggle right now with whether or not I’m going to support this bill, whether or not I’m going to support this bill and call division to have a standing vote on this bill because of the fact of what’s not included, because what just transpired in this House is reprehensible — reprehensible to nurses in the province of British Columbia, nurses struggling with PTSD, nurses struggling with systemic mental health issues from their job.
What’s wrong with this legislation is we’re not talking about teachers in this province of British Columbia — teachers who work in environments of bullying and harassment with unsupportive administrators, who struggle and take leave but are not covered by WCB, because they have to prove that their mental illness or disorder directly came from their workplace. They have to go to the WCB and actually argue their case. What can be more profoundly troubling to an individual than to have to stand and recant the stories and relive their experiences because the presumptive clause doesn’t apply to them?
Shame on the members of the B.C. Liberal Party. How you can go back to your constituents — 911 responders, nurses, teachers, factory workers, construction workers — and say that you played political games in this House today so that we’re not debating amendments to actually put their interests first…. Hon. Speaker, this is a very sad day in politics in British Columbia, when once again the B.C. Liberals put their political interests, their desire not to have debate because of their quest for power, ahead of the interests and their responsibility to the rights of British Columbians.
There were a number of things that I had put on the order paper. I put two orders. One is to have a presumptive clause for all workers. Now, I fortunately am here to say to those listening that I’ve had very, very good conversations and follow-up with the minister about the importance of this issue, and I truly believe that the minister understands this issue. I truly believe that we will see action in a timely fashion, particularly with the 911 responders. That, to me, is critical.
Again, what we need to recognize is what’s happening in other jurisdictions. Let’s look at the case of Florida, for example. There is not a person in this place who does not recall what happened tragically in the Parkland high school in Florida — not a member in this place. What do they have in Florida? They’ve introduced presumptive clauses for PTSD for 911 responders, because they are the front-line responders. They are the first people to take the call. They’re the person talking to a child huddled under a desk while someone is going by and shooting their friends to death in the hallway.
These are the people that have to deal with PTSD, and this government — and opposition through their silly, petty games — have actually put them, thrown them under the bus.
You can tell I’m passionate about this, Hon. Speaker, because this is wrong. This is not right. This is not how this place should function. Frankly, I think the member from Chilliwack should resign as the critic, resign his chair, as he did not put the people of British Columbia front and centre here.
A. Weaver: They think that this is funny, Hon. Speaker, and that’s what’s wrong with that party. This isn’t a game. This is about good policy for people. This is about when you say something to someone…. This place only functions if you can trust your colleagues, that when they say they’re going to do something, they will actually do something. But no, no. That’s not the case for the B.C. Liberals.
Let’s go to the province of Nova Scotia, which, on September 27 of this last year, passed a bill to expand presumptive PTSD to 911 operators and continuing-care workers — two different groups. Why? I come back to the story, the compelling story that I read yesterday about a first responder.
I get that some first responders, the 911 dispatchers, are already paramedics or already police officers and so will be covered under the presumptive clauses. So not only have we got a problem here; we have an equity problem. If you happen to be an RCMP dispatcher, you’re likely covered. But if you’re in a local government, you’re not.
If you’re the dispatcher who actually is dealing with the Parkland shooter, in Florida you’d be covered but not in the province of British Columbia, for two reasons. This government forgot, frankly, in my view, to put it in the legislation, but more importantly, is the fact that the members opposite, the B.C. Liberals, who should be hanging their heads in shame today, saw fit to end debate on this because of the fact that I’m about three minutes late, despite the fact I’m told that there were many questions to come.
That’s clever. That’s clever politics. Got to give it to the B.C. Liberals. That’s what they’re good at. It’s all about politics for them. It was all about politics in the election, the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the five conditions — all about politics. They have no credibility.
And hon. Speaker, I must say, I used the word “honourable,” and I mean that dearly and sincerely when I say hon. Speaker here, because I see a man of honour in the Speaker’s chair, and I don’t know how he ever could have sat on that side of the House with those members opposite.
Coming back to the bill, we have a problem. We have a problem with the fact that right now this bill is oiling the squeaky wheel. It’s oiling the squeaky wheel of those who lobby the best. There’s no question we need to have presumptive clauses for police, firefighters, corrections officers, sheriffs. But there’s also no question in my mind that we need to include emergency dispatchers. We need to include teachers, include nurses and include workers on the construction sites.
You know what? If a worker on a construction site falls and breaks his or her arm, they’re covered under WCB. They don’t have to go through the presumptive clause when they show up in a cast and say: “This happened at work.” But let’s suppose somebody falls from a high crane and lands, sadly, and gets splattered across the ground directly in front of a worker on a construction site, and that worker struggles with some mental disorder after that. Right now, there’s no presumption clause. That worker has to prove that the PTSD that they saw was a direct consequence of that incident. That’s wrong.
Saskatchewan understands that that’s wrong. Alberta understands that that’s wrong. In both of those provinces, as defined under the acts, their respective workers compensation acts, all workers are covered under the presumptive clause.
I understand that there was a possibility that one or two of my amendments would have been ruled out of order, because there might have been fiscal consequences associated with it. I understand that. The minister has missed an opportunity, though, to be able to put onto the record what his views are on this issue. It’s a very good opportunity that he’s missed.
The members opposite have missed an opportunity to actually let British Columbians know what they think. Their actions have told British Columbians what they think about this bill. Their actions have said they’re not willing to do their job as opposition.
For heaven’s sake. Why don’t half of you guys quit? Let’s have an election. Let’s get some more B.C. Greens down here, and we’ll do their job for them if they’re not willing to do it themselves — to actually hold government to account, not to ask stupid questions about stuff to try to score political gain but actually hold government to account for their actions as seen in the bill, not act as apologists but actually hold government to account.
It’s shameful — what we just witnessed there, from the B.C. Liberals today.
I come back to the teachers in British Columbia, none of whom now are either afforded the opportunity, who haven’t been able to hear the minister’s response, the debate, members opposite discuss what they thought about their views.
Given that you’ve missed the opportunity to hear what the B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP believe to be their views, I’ll tell you what the B.C. Green views are. The B.C. Green views are this. No teacher should have to stand in front of the Workmen’s Compensation Board and argue that the fact that they have depression and anxiety issues from working in an intolerant workplace, where their school administrator doesn’t support them, and their school board, school administration and district administration doesn’t support them.
No person should have to relive that experience in front of the Workmen’s Compensation Board. Instead, just like in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the presumptive clause should be applied to them.
I don’t know how many teachers I know who have had to deal with this. In fact, if you look at statistics in British Columbia, something is pushing…. Almost 50 percent of new teachers actually quit the teaching profession in the first five years. Why do they do that? Because of the situation they’ve been put in. In many cases, it’s overwhelming, but they have no place to go now.
They can go on LTD and get a fraction of their wage, but if they actually had a presumptive clause within their contracts, it would force school districts’ administration to actually ensure that the working environment that these teachers participate in is one that’s conducive, friendly, safe, free of bullying, free of harassment. But that’s not going to happen here in the province of British Columbia, because members opposite saw so fit as to play silly political games to try to avoid discussion on the amendments before us.
Again, let’s move beyond the teachers. Let’s talk about nurses. I’m sure many of the members here…. I can’t be the only member…. Well, I’m probably the only member in opposition who actually reads their emails. I’m pretty sure none of them do. They probably have their staff read them, and they don’t respond themselves. Frankly, I know that to be the case, because I get so many people from their ridings email our office pointing out that they get no response from the B.C. Liberals, and will we please help them out. I will put the member for Prince George–Valemount…. I’ll say that that is not the case with her, but I’ve got it from so many others sitting there right now.
Let’s go to nurses. I can take a particular…. I don’t know how half the nurses do their job, but let me tell you a story about my daughter. Let me tell you a story that, to me, tells me the type of environment nurses have to work in.
My daughter had a very, very serious heart issue, and she was misdiagnosed by the pediatrician — a young pediatrician, straight out of med school, who had diagnosed it as something different. The nurse was there. The nurse says: “I know what this is. I’ve worked here for 30 years. This doctor is not listening to me. He won’t do anything, but this is what it is.”
Fortunately, I have some experience in research. So I went down to the medical library, and I started researching this disease. I went down, and I phoned one of my colleagues who happened to be in Scripps Institute in California. They are one of the leading research areas on this disease. I was able to find out about this disease. I was able to find out about the cure for this disease.
With the help of that nurse, I was able to follow as I was told — to advocate on behalf of my child and demand a second opinion in the hospital. Because the treatment that was being offered was not going to help her and, actually, was going to make her worse.
That ended up in a happy place. My daughter got better. But I can imagine that nurse having to go through that day in, day out with other patients — watching children suffer because a doctor, who happens to think that they know everything and the nurse knows nothing, won’t listen to them.
This isn’t dissing doctors in general, but it’s symptomatic of human behaviour. In all our society, there are people who are not willing to listen. There are people who know better than everyone. There are people who do not respect their staff’s opinions, and people sometimes have to work in that.
The whole purpose of having these nurses included was to ensure that when systemic issues like that are in play, which can lead clearly to long-term mental disorders, clearly they should not have to relive these experiences before the WCB to prove that this is a direct consequence of this.
Now, I suspect that the member opposite….
Are you hoping to introduce? I don’t believe that that is allowed under rules, because one side….
A. Weaver: Well, what I can ask, hon. Speaker, is to seek leave to pause briefly to allow the member to introduce the guests, and then let’s continue.
Mr. Speaker: Yes, if we may. Thank you.
Introductions by Members
M. Hunt: It’s just an opportunity to give the hon. member a moment to catch his breath as I introduce one of three classes that are coming today from a school in my district. They are from Surrey Christian School, grade 5 students with their parents and teacher. I ask that the House would please make them feel welcome here as they enjoy the debate.
A. Weaver: We’ve got a full two hours to work with on this bill. I’m looking forward to using as much of that as possible as I try to…. Yes, at third reading, I believe I get, as the designated speaker, a full two hours to address this. I would seek clarification from the Clerk, with reference to standing orders please, to actually ensure and let me know how much time I actually have.
We talked about nurses. Let me talk about some others. Can you imagine the tragedy that happened at Burns Lake — the explosion of a mill. I’m pretty sure that there are a number of workers at this mill who, after the mill exploded and living in the community, actually are suffering from issues, with respect to PTSD, mental health issues, depression and anxiety, as a direct consequence of that mill explosion. But what they have to do….
Two? What does the two mean? Exactly. I have two hours. Take your seat, Liberals opposite. You had the opportunity to have a short debate. I’d love to inform you of this issue in much more detail, seeing as you’re willing to abdicate your responsibility to serve as opposition and quiz government on a critical bill that’s before us here in the House today, one that adds a presumptive clause for mental health issues to all workers in the province. Sorry, to firefighters, paramedics, police officers, correction officers and sheriffs but not all workers in the province. I’m laying the case as to why that has to happen.
I will tell people listening on TV now or checking the Hansard later that, again, I come back to this, and I’ll come back to this periodically over the next two hours as we enjoy this debate — that I have had good discussions with the minister, good discussions with the minister about the fact that this is only a beginning. I wish he’d had the opportunity to say that to himself. This is only the beginning of moving this bill forward.
Rest assured, people reading this, I’m not going to give this one up. I’m going to be like a dog with a bone, more like a pit bull with a bone, on this issue, because it is wrong. It is wrong not to have emergency dispatchers included. It is wrong not to have other workers included. It is wrong not to follow the leadership of Alberta and Saskatchewan and actually have a presumptive clause for all workers.
Let’s go back to the issue in Nova Scotia, or Florida. Again, these issues are front and centre in their legislation, recent legislation. Most provinces in the country have the same thing for 911 dispatchers. It makes no sense to me, when you talk about emergency responders…. This is what I find remarkable. I’m going to focus on the 911 dispatchers exclusively right now.
What I find remarkable about their omission is that when you say first responder, government and opposition, for years, have included 911 dispatchers in their understanding of what first responders are, so much so that the member for Vancouver-Hastings had them included in his private member’s bill, brought in in 2016 as well as in February of 2017. Two times. But they’re missing. There’s no reason for it.
Can you imagine, now, if you’re a local government first responder and you’re sitting next to somebody from the RCMP who’s a dispatcher, who happens to be covered because they’re a police officer, or an ambulance dispatcher who happens to be a paramedic? They’re covered under this. But that community, local person sitting right beside them, in the same room, the call-receiver, for heaven’s sake, getting that distress call….
Remember the story. I do apologize to the children in the crowd here about the story that I’m about to tell, the story I told yesterday about a man who phoned in a 911 as he had tried to commit suicide, as his entrails were hanging out. And this woman had to keep him alive, yet she wasn’t covered. But her colleague, sitting next to her, in the RCMP would be covered. It’s just wrong. It’s just wrong at a very fundamental level.
We talked about office workers. What about office workers? The whole purpose of including office workers, bank tellers, employees in universities, in colleges, in schools, custodians, whatever…. The whole point of including them is there are many, many environments in the province of British Columbia that are not safe places to work, not safe places because of systemic workplace bullying, workplace harassment. It’s systemic issues with dysfunctional governance, dysfunctional administration, power over, conflicts….
I could go on and on, and the litany of examples would make most people’s faces drop over here. Unfortunately, half of the members opposite spent their entire time in politics, and they probably don’t actually have any experience other than politics.
I could actually provide members, from their own staff who came to me because they’ve experienced this in their MLA offices…. This is a problem. But those staff, if they were covered under workmen’s compensation, would actually be able to go and make a claim without having to prove it. They’d still have to go to a psychiatrist or a qualified psychologist. They still have to get the medical evidence, but they’d have benefits right on the get-go.
Now let’s suppose you’re working…. I come back to an example that I alluded to at second reading. You’re a single mother. You could be a single father, but let’s just suppose, for clarity, you’re a single mother.
You’re a single mother living in, say, Kamloops–South Thompson riding. You’re a single mother living there, and you’re working in an office. You’re a receptionist in an office. You’ve got two kids at home. You had a deadbeat dad involved. Deadbeat dad got in a car and took off, ran away somewhere. You’re stuck paying the bills. You’ve got two children. You don’t want to go on welfare, because you’re a worker. You’re somebody who actually believes in the importance of actually working hard, earning a living.
[L. Reid in the chair.]
Then you go and you realize that your skills are limited. You’ve got a job that gives you the right number of hours with the appropriate wage. There are very few of these jobs. You might be working and have developed expertise, in terms of as a receptionist, in, let’s say, an auto mechanic shop, for lack of a better example. There are probably a lot of those in Kamloops. Let’s think of something that’s not…. Maybe a college department where you need specific skills. Thompson Rivers University — I love the university. Let’s just find a department there where they need your skills.
Now you get into an environment where you need this job, you’ve got kids at home, and the environment is abusive. You’ve got a boss who’s abusive. You’ve got a boss who’s demeaning. You’ve got a boss with unrealistic expectations. You’ve got a boss who basically has an insecurity complex because they know they shouldn’t actually be in their position of authority, but they’re your boss. And they try to exert their power, because bad bosses lack self-confidence and feel the appropriate way to overcome that is to belittle their employees or harass their employees or put unnecessary expectations or demands on their employees.
But you need this job, hon. Speaker. You need this job because there is no other job that you can have. You are a single mom. You’ve got two children at home. You’re working that job to provide food for your children, and you don’t want to go on welfare and the stigma of that. If we had basic income, it would be different, but you don’t want to go on welfare.
What do you do? Well, right now, what you do is you can go on disability leave if you happen to be a unionized employee that has a long-term disability plan negotiated with your employer. That’s fine. You’ll get some reduced salary. Typically, there’s a short period of time. Typically there’s an approach to getting you back to work.
But if you wanted to go to workmen’s compensation — as you’re not even a union employee, and you don’t have LTD — you have to take the risk, when you expose yourself to make a claim, that they will agree, even if you have professionals. You have to prove that that is happening in the workforce. You have to relive everything, with all the risk of you recounting that story as to whether or not your boss will actually be worse than he or she was before. You take on that risk with no certainty as to what the outcome will be.
We had an opportunity here to actually have a presumptive clause which would give certainty to allow that person to have coverage while they went to make a claim. If WCB…. No one has taken away their rights to challenge a claim. That’s what the amendment, which I didn’t get a chance to put…. We’ve all had a chance to read it on the order papers, because it’s been there two days. Members opposite knew full well that I was going to raise it.
Members opposite actually told me — the member from Chilliwack — that he had a couple more questions to go and he’ll be going for a while. That’s good leadership from the B.C. Liberals.
We had an opportunity to help that person. I don’t know how many examples I’ve heard from professions across British Columbia, not only firefighters and police officers. There’s no question about them requiring presumptive clauses. There’s just no question.
What about tow truck drivers? You know, prior to getting elected, I had a couple hangover — last term…. I’m done now. But I’ve done a lot of expert witnessing in forensic meteorology, which is an area where we use meteorological conditions to reconstruct weather conditions, road conditions, at the time of the accident.
Now, in that time — some of these go to court; some don’t — I get to see a lot of pictures. Let me tell you, most people in this room would not want to see those pictures. What you see in these pictures are bits of people splayed across the street, entrails hanging here, decapitation hanging there, missing limb over there. These are not pleasant pictures to see, but I just see pictures. They’re not real to me.
Now, imagine you’re a tow truck driver, and you’ve been called because they’ve blocked the main highway on the Coquihalla. You’ve been called to move some cars, but because they’re doing an investigation, you’ve still got some body parts on the scene and you show up there. What is the difference between that tow truck driver going there and a first responder who goes there? They see the same thing.
In the one case, we’re going to give presumptive clause. In the other, we say: “No. No, we’re not consider you,” because you didn’t have a lobby group come to the Legislature and actually push this forward. You didn’t have a lobby group to do that.
This is a lack of courage in leadership, where we could have followed the lead of both Saskatchewan and Alberta and done what they have done and introduced presumptive clauses for all workers covered under the workmen compensation act.
But, no, we didn’t do that. Games were played in the Legislature here today. Games were played in a desperate attempt…. Even after I was asked by one member opposite — a member opposite who I actually have a lot of respect for…. That member was going to contemplate the merits of one of the amendments and get back to me, but never got back to me because the member from Chilliwack — their critic — decided to shut down debate, despite the fact of saying he had a number of questions.
I was five minutes late — not even five minutes. I was three minutes late, because I had developers in my office who are at wit’s end because the B.C. Liberals, for years, ignored the crisis in affordability and the B.C. NDP have brought in issues with respect to taxation that have led to a crisis that they have to deal with. They see us as the only opportunity.
Let’s get back to this bill, which we should have canvassed much more extensively at committee stage, but the member from Chilliwack abdicated his responsibility to do his due diligence. Frankly, British Columbians should be quite upset about that.
Coming back to the bill, I’ve talked about Florida — PTSD responders there. I’ve talked about Nova Scotia. I’ve talked about other provinces — like Ontario, like Manitoba, like the maritime provinces — that all have presumptive clauses. But we somehow think that in B.C., we’re not going to actually consider 911 responders as emergency responders, as first responders, as those that this legislation should be brought to.
I’ve given examples of nurses. I’ve given examples of teachers. I’ve given examples of office workers. I’ve given examples of construction workers. Let’s find other examples. What about a manufacturer?
I used to work — one of my first jobs that I had as a youngster — in Edinburgh, on the Leith docks. Now, any of you who know Edinburgh and the Leith docks there will know that that is the roughest part of Edinburgh. My first day to work, I showed up and a guy had his arm covered in stitches because his wife had stabbed him with an umbrella. The other guy I had to work with had scars around his face, because he recently had a beer glass put in his face.
I know that there was a student in that environment that was working there. I was a big guy. I played rugby. I got on with these guys. But there was a student there who they didn’t like. They didn’t like this guy because he was nippy. Then two things could have happened. I’ll tell you what did happen, and I’ll tell you what could have happened.
What did happen for this guy is that he had his door slammed…. I worked this ice factory. We ground ice and put it on fishing boat trawlers and trucks that came to get it. It was minimum wage, etc. So what happened here is they slammed his arm in a door, and they broke it. They broke his arm. That young man lived in terror when he came to work, but he needed the money. He wasn’t from an uppity side of Edinburgh. He was from the north side of Edinburgh. He needed that money, so he came to work every day and lived in terror as he tried to make a small living.
In B.C., we had the opportunity to protect someone like that, a factory worker like that. Heaven forbid someone in that ice factory — we had ice grinders there — slipped into an ice grinder. Can you imagine if you’d seen someone fall in that ice grinder and come out into the ice bags that we were holding — in bits and pieces, blocks of cubed ice? Can you imagine the PTSD that would have arisen from that?
In B.C., now we had an opportunity — as Alberta and Saskatchewan have done — to include a presumptive clause that would have said that rather than you having to relive this and go and argue before the WCB that your PTSD or your systemic issues of anxiety and depression have arisen from that incident…. Despite the fact you have psychiatric and psychological assessments saying it did, you have to argue your case to the WCB, and you get no benefits until that case is approved.
We had an opportunity to do something different here, to recognize that it’s pretty clear that that kid, who’s living in an abusive environment…. There’s no way that guy would want to risk his life and go and challenge a ruling about where he is. It literally would have been risking his life. Or in the other case, to have to relive going through that ice shredder — I can’t imagine it.
There’s another example from another one of my jobs in Edinburgh. I worked flipping burgers, again on the north side of Edinburgh. That’s a tough side of Edinburgh. There was a young guy there who was a cook. Management didn’t like the cook, so they were a very abusive to the cook. The cook took a lot of grief there.
He was a short-order cook trying to make ends meet. If that short-order cook leaned on the stove and burnt his hand, we don’t need to worry about presumption there. He burnt his hand in work. But there’s a stigma in our society that this government promised that they would take steps to mitigate. It’s a stigma about mental disorders, anxiety, depression.
For the first time in history we have a ministry here dedicated to this — dedicated to mental health and addictions. Yet why we are not actually standing up and standing for what we believe in when we’ve put in place the mechanisms, the support, and campaigned in elections on destigmatizing mental health illness and treating it as a disease like any physical disease….
We come back to that cook who would get presumption for a burn, but presumption for an abusive, bullying workplace? No way. He’d have to prove it. Good luck trying to prove it in the north side of Edinburgh. If the word gets out that you’re trying to prove it, publicly, that’s not going to be a good situation. I could go on with other examples, but I did want to come back to the reason why this is critical to have it to all clauses.
I come back to the last government and the Premier, at the time, who actually saw an opportunity to do something different here. That was with respect to sexualized violence in post-secondary institutions. What she recognized was that the right thing to do was to force public institutions to develop policies to actually ensure that they had sexualized violence policies to deal with it. The reason why — as I introduced the bill when the last government was in, and what passed eventually in a slightly different form — of course, is that public institutions have a vested interest in trying to ensure that actually they are deemed to be safe places for students to come.
What was happening, as I was getting told story after story from institution after institution…. There was no one that was particularly bad over another. They all had the problems, and it was systemic. The issues were kept below the surface, and nothing was done. But by forcing policy measures and a process to be in place, these issues now must be dealt with.
That comes to the issue of WCB and the presumptive clause for mental illness. If you are in an abusive work environment and you actually now report it and go on LTD, nothing gets done because there’s no incentive for the institution to do anything. There’s a fear that there might be: “Oh, if we react here, they might get mad at us” or “Oh, we might do this.” But if we had a presumptive clause for mental health disorders, their WCB rates would start to go up for that institution if they started to see an awful lot of claims emerging from it.
I would have thought these supposed free marketers on the other side would have liked to see this financial measure to ensure that you are creating a process that actually incentivizes safe workplaces. I would have thought that members here, the so-called labour party, would have seen the importance of doing this — the importance of creating a stick and a carrot, the stick being in the workmen’s compensation board premiums that every employer has to pay for covered workers.
Those go up in an unhealthy work environment. If you start to have a lot of accidents, a lot of people tripping and falling, breaking legs, on a lumber mill site, you know your premiums are going to go up. So there’s an incentive to make that workplace safe.
Again, there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding in government — I don’t even have to talk about opposition, who’s abdicated their responsibility on this bill — to recognize that mental disorders are no different from physical disorders. You can say what you like in an election campaign. “We’re going to create a ministry of mental health and addictions.” That’s just lip service. It’s kind of like saying to my friend from Saanich North and the Islands beside me: “We’re going to do truth and reconciliation with Indigenous people.”
Indigenous communities are sick and tired…. Hon. Speaker, there’s a direct parallel between this analogy….
Deputy Speaker: Relevance to the bill, Member?
A. Weaver: There is. There’s a direct parallel between politicians saying they want to do truth and reconciliation and their actions, or not thereof. In fact, Indigenous people are sick and tired of words. They want to see action. And it’s exactly the same — and therein lies the analogy — with mental health and addiction.
It’s really easy to say we’re destigmatizing mental health and addictions. So where’s the beef? Where’s the Alberta beef? Why aren’t you actually doing it? You have a ministry to do this. You have an opportunity to do it. You issued a private member’s bill, for heaven’s sake, in 2016 and 2017 that included 911 dispatchers. But we didn’t do it. We didn’t do this opportunity because of petty games by the B.C. Liberals, which actually didn’t follow through with what they said.
You know, this place doesn’t work. This place doesn’t work if we can’t trust that when we say we’re going to be up on something, that we will be up on something.
I took the opportunity immediately before lunch to show the member for Chilliwack, who actually had the amendments. He knew exactly what I was going to do. I told him the three amendments, the three phases. I was going to start with the “include all workers.” The second phase…. I mean I could read it in, because this is what I had planned to do, and this is relevant to the bill.
The second thing I was going to do, assuming that there was some objection for including all workers…. I would have given the opportunity for the minister to actually outline the direction he was going to take this legislation in the months ahead. I would have then talked about: “Okay, we’ll understand that. Let’s include nurses, social workers and 911 dispatchers right off the bat.” We know we’ve got so many examples. You’ve all received emails. Let’s put them in with the other first responders.
Then I would have seen how that debate goes. If that didn’t work, I would have come back with the 911 dispatchers, because there is no reason why this bill does not include 911 dispatchers — or, more formally, 911 emergency communications operators and dispatchers — today. There’s no reason why it’s not there today. But they didn’t want to have a vote, because they are just playing politics.
Unfortunately, they don’t realize — again, with greatest respect — that I get two hours to outline my case at third reading. And I’m taking every minute of the two hours to outline why we should have done this, knowing that I probably wouldn’t have had members’ opposite support. They’ve had my amendments for three days, and the member from Chilliwack never got back to me about any views on anything about this. So, clearly, it was a game — B.C. Liberals once more playing games at the expense of British Columbians.
I do see another school group here. I’d like to look to the member, my friend, here. I will understand that…. I’ll just pause briefly, with leave, to allow him to introduce them.
Introductions by Members
M. Hunt: It’s my pleasure to give the member a break in the midst of his two-hour speech that he is giving. Again, it’s my pleasure to introduce to you the second of three classes that are here today from Surrey Christian School. They’re here with their teachers, their parents, who are chaperones, and others. I would ask the House to please make these wonderful students from Surrey Christian School very welcome to the House.
A. Weaver: I will proceed. I believe there’s a third class coming. I look forward to the value provided to the introduction, at the start of the introduction, as well. Perhaps the member might want to tone that down; otherwise, leave may not be granted him a third time.
I do continue. I was talking about the importance of having a carrot and a stick, knowing full well that there are organizations where nothing is done. Nothing is done because there’s no incentive to do anything about abusive work environments with systemic harassment, system bullying.
I see another few teachers in the audience. Let me talk to them who are here and talk to the relevance of this case, so the children in the audience and their parents know what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about here — to the gallery — is the bill that’s called Bill 9, Workers Compensation Amendment Act . We’re now at third reading of that bill. We went from first reading, where it’s introduced, to second reading, where we made our points known.
Then the controversy which has led me to try to explains what’s been going on here was that at committee stage, where we go line by line, we had had an agreement that there would be a number of questions coming from the Liberals opposite. Then the member from Chilliwack, who knew all the amendments I was going to bring forward, decided to play some political games and stand down when I was three minutes late into the chamber so I couldn’t bring forward the amendments to the bill and have the discussion there.
The thing is, obviously, the member didn’t realize that at third reading, I get a full two hours to explain these amendments and what I was hoping to do and why this bill is on dodgy grounds for approval without these other bills.
One of the things I’ve been putting forward here is that in this bill is a presumptive clause. Right now if you suffer mental illness as a direct consequence of your workplace and you are covered under workers compensation, you must go to Workers Compensation and prove that your mental disorder is a direct consequence of your work.
You can imagine a firefighter has to see some horrific things or a police officer has to see some horrific things. This bill is actually giving firefighters and police officers the right to not have to prove to Workers Compensation that their mental disorder is a direct consequence of their workplace. Rather, if they have the psychiatric or psychological assessments, the medical assessments, that suggest it to be so, they will start getting benefits immediately that are better than long-term disability benefits. But Workers Compensation still has the ability to challenge it. It’s called a presumptive clause. It’s really important.
What is done in Alberta and Saskatchewan — to the gallery there — is that they have presumptive clauses for all workers. The examples I’ve been giving here…. I’ll give one that’s relevant to teachers. Teachers, for example…. The Speaker….
I don’t think you heard my example. You weren’t in the chair at the time.
My wife’s a teacher. Most of my family are teachers. Teachers have an amazing job. They get to instil knowledge in youth, particularly at that age when you guys are sponges for knowledge and it’s so exciting to actually try to get you to talk about what inspires you and to ask questions. You’re all scientists. Kids are born scientists. They always ask why, why, why? They’re always asking questions.
Not all teachers have the best working environment. I know some who work in environments that one might argue are actually abusive. I know some who feel that they don’t get the support they need. In fact, I know some very specifically where duties to report under the act are such that when they report inappropriate issues that they must report, it falls upon the deaf ears of the administrators, the senior administration and the school boards. In one particular case, they start to get attacked for having the gall to raise this issue.
Can you imagine being a teacher when you know something wrong is happening to a child, or you know that a child is in a abusive family, and you’ve reported it, and nobody’s listening. You have to go into that classroom every day, every day, every day. You know as a teacher that you’re the first responder, because you’re the only voice that that child has — the only safe voice that that child has. But you feel powerless as a teacher to do anything because nobody’s listening to you. These are true stories, true stories I know about.
I’m sure other teachers know teachers like that, too. What happens? Systemic — time after time after time…. You develop anxiety and depression issues. There’s no doubt. If you had broken your hand in the workplace because there was something inappropriate or there was some slippery soap on the floor, and you broke it on the job, you’d be covered by workers compensation. But if you happen to suffer depression and anxiety as a direct consequence of your workforce, you would have to stand before the workers compensation and prove it. You would have to prove it, even if you had psychological assessments and doctors notes saying it was. You’d have to relive these stories. You’d have to argue. You’d have to argue against the tribunal.
As the minister knows, that’s not the easiest thing to do, even with a broken arm, if there’s a challenge, because there’s no presumptive clause. Were there a presumptive clause, you’d be covered. You’d be covered and presumed that your illness was from your work, assuming you had the appropriate medical backup. But WCB could still challenge it down the road.
We had the opportunity in this bill to have a debate at committee stage about the amendments that these members opposite knew I was going to bring forward because I gave it to them. I was told: “We’re going to actually get back to you about them.” They never got back.
I was told that the member opposite had quite a number of questions on section 1 and that he knew I was going to come up. I was three minutes late. What an opportunity for him to play games, to shut down debate. That’s shameful. That’s shameful because it’s not doing what this place is supposed to do.
We here in British Columbia are supposed to debate the issues brought to us. We’re supposed to put our constituents front and centre. We’re supposed to challenge government when we see a bill, such an important bill, like this. When you’ve sat for three days with amendments before you, and you know what they’re going to be, we have a duty and responsibility to debate these, not to play games.
It’s a sad day. I don’t know what professions the parents are up there, but I suspect…. Maybe there’s an office worker up there. Maybe they know somebody in another job that works in an abusive environment, where the boss has no accountability to upper management and creates an environment purely out of insecurity that is abusive or harassing to an employee. But that employee can’t leave because they need the job. Here we had an opportunity in this bill to not only include police and fire and correction officers and sheriffs, but also to include, as did the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, all workers covered under the act.
Again, if the government truly believed in its commitment to dealing with the issues of mental health and addiction through the creation of a separate ministry, it would stop stigmatizing the difference between physical illness and mental illness, which is exactly what’s done here. It is only the physical response that we think is creating the mental illness. It is only the case of first responders who might have to respond to a car accident or police officers who might have to go into a home and see some horrific scene. Those senses are your eyes. This is only responding to those people who are actually experiencing things through their eyes — not through their ears, but only their eyes. Only horrific sights. But we know that mental health disorders in the workplace come far beyond just the traumatic events.
In fact, our own workers compensation legislation recognizes that there are two types of mental health disorders that can occur in the workplace. Some are traumatic, leading often to PTSD, and others are systemic, like harassment and bullying. It has recognized it right there. We’re saying that, okay, we recognize that there are two types. We recognize that. We recognize also that police officers and firefighters and paramedics — I can’t imagine what they have to go through — see a lot of the first type, the traumatic event. I’ll say it again. They see a lot of the first type, but there are others who experience the other first type daily.
The only reason I can think of why 911 dispatchers are not included is because a 911 dispatcher can’t see what is there; they only hear it. I would argue that if members in the government had recognized or read the literature — the master’s thesis that I brought forward yesterday, as an example — the statistics, they would see that in fact it’s very clear that sometimes the most profound mental health disorders and consequences come not so much from seeing something happen but by your inability to actually prevent something from happening, even though you wish you could.
I read the compassionate and compelling story by one emergency call receiver who had on the phone a young man — I don’t know if he was young — a man who had committed hara-kiri and whose entrails were hanging out. He phoned her, and she developed a rapport with that individual. Because he had a knife, she had to call in the emergency response team — or the dispatcher did. They wouldn’t go in until a spud gun was produced. The man was all distraught, and she was reprimanded initially for actually not getting off the phone.
Her PTSD was so profound that when the minister, the member for Vancouver-Hastings, in his speech yesterday thanked her…. He thanked her for informing him over the years about this issue of presumptive clause, that she wasn’t covered by a 911 dispatcher. She had a panic attack last night, watching this, because she was pleased to hear that the government was potentially going forward.
You know, it’s good to see that we’re going to get some more debate from other members here. We can get a rip-roaring third reading debate here. I see some other members will be joining me, coming up in the debate. I look forward to my friend from Peace River South. He might be able to do the job that the member from Chilliwack never did, which is to actually raise issues and challenge government on this particular…. The member for Peace River South, a member who….
The Chair: Relevance to the bill, Member.
A. Weaver: Right. The member for Peace River South, as you know, hon. Speaker, is from the city of Dawson Creek, a wonderful part of town right in the centre of gas country. The question I hope he will address, in raising this, is those gas field workers. You can get physical accidents in the gas field. It happens all the time. You can get physical…. We have, you know, accidents on the construction site. If you break an arm, you’re covered. There are no presumptive issues, because it’s a physical injury.
What about if you’re the person who’s standing by as your co-worker gets run over by a truck? Your best friend’s daughter gets run over by a truck on the field. Or your best friend or your partner falls down and has a horrible accident on the other site. There’s no presumptive clause.
You have to prove…. Even though this could have happened…. This physically debilitating, if not fatal, injury that happened on the workplace would be covered if that person survived. You would be covered if you broke your arm trying to help them, but you wouldn’t be covered unless you could prove that your subsequent PTSD or mental disorder was a direct consequence of your workplace.
That’s wrong, hon. Speaker. That’s completely wrong. The province of Alberta recognized it was wrong. The province of Saskatchewan recognized it was wrong. In the case of 911 dispatchers, other provinces, including very recently the province of Nova Scotia, recognized it was wrong.
It was wrong to actually only have a presumptive clause for professions that are first responders that see, as opposed to also hear or witness as bystanders or second responders.
I hope…. Again, I do have some confidence, with that said — and I come back to it again. The Minister of Labour — it is Labour, I believe. I’ve had many discussions with him about this issue. I do understand, particularly from his union background, that he recognizes the issue is far broader than just police, fire, paramedics, first responders. I recognize that he realizes that emergency dispatchers are critical, and I’m hoping he will rise at third reading and afford me the opportunity of the words I was hoping to extract from him during committee stage to outline a pathway that he sees forward in terms of this bill.
I would like to give him that opportunity, and I’d like to give him that opportunity while I sit here and listen. With that, I hope that the minister is able to stand next, and I will sit and take my place at third reading and listen to the other debates.
Protection for workers suffering mental disorders should be extended: Weaver
For immediate release
April 17, 2018
VICTORIA, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, says the government’s proposed amendments to the Workers Compensation Act should be extended to all workers. The government’s amendment, which was introduced last week, further extends workers compensation benefits to first responders, sheriffs and correctional officers who suffer from job-related mental disorders by presuming the mental trauma was caused by the nature of an individual’s work, rather than having to prove it was work related.
“While I’m glad that B.C. is extending these protections to some workers, I am concerned that other British Columbians who suffer mental disorders on the job are being left out,” said Weaver.
Weaver has been contacted by representatives from other professions, such as nurses and 911 emergency communications officers and dispatchers, who experience high rates of job-related trauma. Furthermore, he noted that any worker is at risk from suffering psychological trauma at work due to issues like workplace bullying and harassment.
Weaver rose at Third Reading of the bill to highlight the gaps in the government’s legislation, noting that extending the changes to all workers would bring British Columbia in line with standards already in place in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Mental disorders incurred from job-related trauma are serious injuries that can be incredibly debilitating. I am glad that the government has recognized this and taken this important step towards supporting British Columbians who suffer from such incidents. I hope they will be willing to engage in a debate in the legislature so that we can determine the best way forward to ensure all British Columbians are receiving adequate protection and support.”
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Today in the Legislature I rose to speak to the first BC NDP Speech from the Throne. As I noted in my brief media statement following the Throne Speech, I am encouraged to see our shared values represented in the speech.
Below I reproduce the text and video of my nearly two hour long response.
A. Weaver: Please let me start by saying congratulating the new Leader of the Official Opposition, who just spoke to the throne speech a few minutes ago. I recognize that it’s a lot of work going through a leadership campaign, particularly one that was, frankly, quite interesting and quite well contested. So congratulations to the leader. I look forward to months and years of working collectively, particularly on this day, Valentine’s Day.
I’d like to start my response to the Speech from the Throne also thanking my family, my constituents and, particularly, the hard-working staff who I am blessed to be able to work with on a day-to-day basis.
Like the Leader of the Official Opposition, I wish to congratulate now publicly whoever wins the by-election today in Kelowna West, an interesting riding made up of both West Kelowna and Westbank Nation and large parts of downtown Kelowna.
You know, I spent ten days in Kelowna this last little while knocking on doors and getting to know the Kelowna residents and the issues there. One of my first tasks was to actually go to Ben Stewart’s office and say to him: “Good luck, Ben. We’re going to make you work for this one.” So I’m excited to see what actually happens today. We know that the turnout is low. For whatever happens, I’m sure everyone on both sides of this House will welcome the new MLA with open arms and look forward to working with him or her as well in the days ahead.
I found this throne speech to be quite refreshing. I used the words “cautiously optimistic” to describe my initial response to this. There’s a number of areas covered in the throne speech — many, many areas — some of which are gone into in detail, some of which are in less such detail.
There’s no question, in my view, that people are, front and centre, the focus of this throne speech. I did particularly applaud the throne speech commemorating the good work of David Barrett, who, frankly, is one of my heroes, a man who stood for principle when he ran for politics, a man who made decisions based on evidence. Sometimes they weren’t popular decisions. But the test of time is such that meant much of his legacy still remains with us today, whether it be the agricultural land reserve, whether it be quite a number of our environmental programs and positions here in British Columbia or whether it be our public auto insurance, which, admittedly, is under some financial stress as we speak.
The throne speech outlines a number of areas in terms of affordability and housing; child care; economic opportunity; services for people, including health care; education; public safety; infrastructure; mental health; and, of course, a section towards the end on climate change.
Now, hon. Speaker, as you will know, the results of the last election were such that there was no clear majority of MLAs in this House. As such, the B.C. Green caucus went into negotiations with both the Liberals and the NDP to see if we could come to an agreement that would allow for confidence in supply to be given in throne speech and budget measures while retaining our autonomy in terms of a minority, as opposed to a coalition, government.
The key issue that our agreement ultimately came down upon was the issue of climate change, an issue where we felt that ultimately, the previous government was not really willing to take the steps necessary to deliver on the promises made, both at the time and previously, by the government led by Gordon Campbell — a government that, as you know, hon. Speaker, I supported and worked with to try to develop policy measures that were systematically dismantled year after year once leadership changed at that level.
I didn’t think it’d be easy. The last election campaign was not an easy one to be a B.C. Green. It was very personal, a lot of very partisan attacks. I honestly didn’t think it would be possible that the B.C. Greens would be able to set up a confidence and supply agreement with the B.C. NDP. There it is, in all honesty. It was a personal campaign.
But ultimately, in sitting at that table in those days in the lead-up to our final decision, it became apparent to me and to my colleague Sonia, who was at the table, that both the Premier and the now Finance Minister were people that we felt we could relate to, people who we believed ultimately wanted to put the best interests of British Colombians front and centre in decision-making — not the backroom crowd but British Columbians.
Again, people watching the media in the lead-up to the actual agreement would notice that there was some public tension between the Leader of the Official Opposition and myself in terms of some disagreements that typically got amplified far beyond what they actually were. But in those discussions, it became very clear to me that the Premier cared. He was a person who cared about the best wishes of not just his constituents but all British Colombians. And ultimately it was clear to me that we were going to go into an agreement with the B.C. NDP. I haven’t regretted it that since that day. The proof has been in what has been delivered in our discussions, our deliberations and where we have come to today.
Now, I recognize there’s a lack of substance in some of these issues brought forward in the throne speech, and I’m the first one to call out the fact that there’s a lot of rhetoric and, at times, little substance in some key areas. But my experience, our experience, over these last six or seven months has been one of collaboration, of actually being listened to, of actually trying to do what’s right as opposed to what’s populist.
You know, we see it now in what’s going on in British Columbia, where a government essentially says, “You know what? We recognize that the product that is in a pipe, diluted bitumen….” There had never been an environmental assessment process when that product switched from synthetic crude, which used to be shipped, and where diluted bitumen started getting packed in with that. There was never any assessment, and even in the NEB process, there were clear recommendations that came out and conditions that had to be met — a number of which are British Columbia conditions.
So when the government says that it’s going to do what it must do, which is look out for the interests of British Colombians by trying to develop an understanding of the science of diluted bitumen, if spilled over our streams and lakes as this product comes across this province — simply doing what’s right — we get a knee-jerk response, not only a petty response, from Alberta. But it saddens me most the way that the B.C. Liberals are playing politics over this.
The Leader of the Official Opposition just said that British Columbia will be an embarrassing jurisdiction. British Columbia will never be an embarrassing jurisdiction. He argued that if we don’t cave in to the demands of Alberta, we will become an embarrassing jurisdiction. What sort of jurisdiction is embarrassing, when we are the most beautiful place in the world to live, where we have some of the best and brightest minds in the world come here because of the quality of life we can offer?
Our education system worldwide is second to none. Industry is thriving, and we’re a destination of choice for people all over the world. I’m not embarrassed about that. I’ll never be embarrassed about that. Frankly, I’m proud to say that we support the decision of the Environment Minister and the Premier in terms of doing what’s right, in terms of listening to the Royal Society of Canada expert panel report, the National Academy of Sciences in the United States expert panel report. The former says we don’t know what’s going to happen with a spill of diluted bitumen; the latter says we simply can’t clean it up.
The Premier wants to simply explore the science behind that to ensure that we are protected here in British Columbia, that our natural beauty and the risk that we’re taking is actually mitigated, that someone’s willing to clean up. The response we get is that this is petty, and British Columbia will be an embarrassing jurisdiction if we don’t cave. Shame on the Leader of the Official Opposition for that.
To actually have the audacity to claim that somehow Alberta is right to take it out on the B.C. wine industry just is mind-boggling. We should be united together in this Legislature — united together, standing up for the B.C. wine industry, telling all of Canada that it is not okay to put the rights of a multinational based in Texas and its shareholders against small business owners in the Okanagan. Putting small business owners, putting family business, protecting the rights of British Columbians — that’s what we were elected to do. We’re not elected to ensure profits are maximized in a multinational. We’re elected to ensure that externalities are internalized and that if there’s going to be a spill, there’s money there available to clean up that spill. But nobody talks about that.
Then just yesterday we heard Mr. Trudeau say that in fact it was a horse trade. All of this was really just a horse trade, because we wanted Notley to bring in her climate plan, and the only way we’d get her to do that was if we gave her something. But we’re not going to give her the Energy East, because the mayor of Montreal was quite upset, and there are an awful lot of Liberal seats in Quebec that we might lose, and who cares about B.C. anyway? Who cares about B.C.? There’s only a few Liberal seats, and we might gain as many in Alberta and Saskatchewan as we lose in B.C.
This is the way the decision was made. It was not made because of what’s in the best interests of Canada or British Columbians.
Again, I was the only MLA in this Legislature who participated in that NEB process. I participated in two different ways. I was qualified twice: first as an expert, with background in ocean physics, and second as an MLA representing an affected area. In both those cases, we examined these documents very, very carefully.
Now, while I know members opposite and the government was very, very free and easy with approving, did they actually know that the entire oil spill response in that process was predicated on the existence of calm conditions, with no waves, winds blowing offshore, if any, and 20 hours of sunlight? Now, there is not a latitude south of Tuktoyaktuk that has 20 hours of sunlight on any day of the year. So you would think, as a participant asking for a more realistic scenario, that I’d get a response. But no, the response I get is: “The NEB has enough information on which to make a decision.”
I could outline a litany of these. The model that was used for the ocean circulation in the region — do you know how that’s validated? How do you think a model was validated? Now, these are complex numerical models that have thousands of lines of code, that are essentially discretizing very complex physics. The way it was validated, was a guy fell off a B.C. ferry who drifted. The model said: kind of drifted the right way. You can’t make this stuff up.
The boundary conditions for the model were validated using tides. Well, you don’t need a complex model, looking at the mixing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca or Georgia Strait, talk about tides. Tides we’ve known about for decades. The model was incorrect. It was not the appropriate tool to be used.
It was not only me who said it. It was David Farmer — Royal Society of London, distinguished scholar, who was also at the Institute of Ocean Sciences. He said the same thing, as did others who participated.
I applaud government, and I’m glad that they’re actually standing up. I’m glad that today, just moments ago, the government announced it would take steps to promote B.C. wines. My very first response was to go out and buy three bottles of B.C. wine: one from Thornhill Creek, ironically and quite appropriately Canada’s first carbon-neutral winery; one somewhat humorously from Dirty Laundry, based in Summerland — you know, joking NDP Alberta and NDP B.C., I thought it was appropriate; and the third one from Mission Hill, of course symbolic of the race that was there.
That was my response. What was the B.C. Liberal response? It was blaming government. It wasn’t standing up for industry. And what’s worse…. In those ten days I spent in Kelowna, I consulted wine industry expert after wine industry expert after restaurateur.
Let me tell you: the wine industry in B.C. is very, very upset at the B.C. Liberals right now. I’ll tell you why.
Let me tell you, the wine industry in B.C. is very, very upset at the B.C. Liberals right now, and I’ll tell you why. Because despite my protestations sitting opposite, pointing out that I did not believe that those specialty wine licences would stand up to a NAFTA challenge, and despite my saying, “Don’t do this. I’m not sure you’ve got the appropriate legal advice,” government went ahead and created six new specialty wine store licences for grocery stores to sell wines in B.C.
We’re not talking about the 50 or 60 — I forget the number — that were grandfathered in prior to these trade agreements, that are owned by the wine institute. These are six new ones that the government decided to create. Well, we now have a WTO trade complaint launched by Australia against British Columbia wines because of these six. We have a NAFTA challenge launched by the U.S. over these six licences.
That’s the B.C. Liberal response. They have the gall and the audacity to say that we’re not protecting B.C. wine — as the government announces measures today to actually promote B.C. wine — yet their direct policy measurements have led to WTO and NAFTA challenges directly against B.C. on the international scene.
You know, you should take a look at your own house before you start throwing stones at other people’s houses, to be honest. And that’s what is so refreshing about this throne speech. I truly believe it steps back and makes us reflect upon what’s important in British Columbia.
I’m going to go through the throne speech and give credit to now members of the opposition for some of the ideas in it that clearly were put forward by them and that have been adopted by the B.C. NDP.
For example, when we talk about the actions of affordability. In the throne speech, the B.C. NDP outline the number of actions that have happened, one of which was to cut MSP premiums in half.
Now, we recognize the B.C. Liberals had already promised that. They’d already promised to do that. Again, this is an issue that we felt we could have done much more aggressively, and we campaigned on eliminating them through bringing it into a progressive health care premium much akin to what’s done in Ontario, but we recognize that this has been done. We applaud this, and we congratulate the B.C. Liberals on making sure this happened.
Another thing that happened in there is they talk about affordability measures with respect to the removal of tolls. Now I recognize that the B.C. NDP campaigned on this. I recognize the B.C. Liberals were a little more subtle in their campaigning, and, rather than eliminating the tolls, they were going to put a cap on, which, frankly, was a little more clever because it would not have allowed for the transfer of debt onto provincial debt to be taxpayer-supported.
But in the throne speech that happened this summer, the Liberals were also going to eliminate the tolls. So we really were standing alone in saying we don’t support it. We continue not to support it, but that’s the nature of a democracy. We don’t believe that’s correct, but we understand that it’s moving forward, and the B.C. NDP — and, frankly, the B.C. Liberals — will have to explain that to the voters.
We’ve told you why we don’t like it. We don’t like it because we think it’s fiscally irresponsible policy. It’s a form of vote-buying, in our view, and it actually transfers onto provincial debt — taxpayer-supported debt — $4.7 billion. It puts us in a position where we can’t deal with some of the things that we might otherwise do, like stop Site C, which honestly is something that I still don’t understand to this day, based on the fiscal outlook of what that’s going to cost.
Also, in the case of the Golden Ears and Mann bridges, outlined as a success to date, we know that that was not done in consultation with local mayors who opposed it. The concern over this is there is a discussion right now happening in Metro Vancouver on mobility pricing. Whether that comes to fruition or not is not the issue. The issue is, once you pull away tolls, it’s very difficult to put them on. And there are unforeseen consequences, like people who wanted to pay those tolls because they wanted to have access in a more timely fashion to the Vancouver region.
Another action on affordability that was highlighted: cutting student loan interest by 2.5 percent so that graduates can get out of debt more quickly on their path to a chosen career. Obviously, we wholeheartedly support that. Again, this is something that the B.C. Liberals had promised to do.
I’m pleased that we have an example where the B.C. NDP have adopted something the B.C. Liberals have done that we agreed to as well. Let’s focus on our successes. We have all agreement in the House that this is a good thing to do. That’s what we’re elected to do — to put forward good public policy.
We hear about making adult education and language learning tuition-free, so that tens of thousands of British Columbians can prepare for a degree and upgrade their skills, work. Great public policy, something we supported — glad to see that that’s a success — and something that we started to see emerge in the Liberals’ throne speech in the summer as well.
On the topics of affordability in the throne speech, the government points to its attempt to keep hydro rates affordable. They’ve asked B.C.’s commission to freeze hydro rates for the next year.
Now, I appreciate the softening in that language, because obviously, you cannot have your cake and eat it too in this area, in light of the fact that you cannot campaign on freezing B.C. Hydro rates and also campaign on the autonomy of the BCUC, because they’re mutually inconsistent. Either you agree to the autonomy of the BCUC and make a suggestion that you’d like to see it frozen, or you freeze it through order-in-council, which, historically, had been done by the B.C. Liberals.
The reality is I’m not sure BCUC will approve that. Frankly, B.C. Hydro looks pretty foolish, after having a 4 percent increase approved by the BCUC as part of a long-term plan. They look pretty foolish going to the BCUC now and saying: “We don’t really want an increase.” If I were on the BCUC, I’d be asking: “So what’s changed with your accounting?” Frankly, it does not instill confidence in B.C. Hydro if they can actually suddenly justify, through different accounting, the lack of an increase.
You know, if BCUC rejects a freeze, so be it. I think the electorate are the ones who the government have to be accountable to. We did not campaign on freezing B.C. Hydro rates, nor did the B.C. Liberals, because frankly, I don’t think it’s fiscally responsible. And honestly, it doesn’t actually deal with the issue of affordability.
Let’s take a look at a simply example that would. Right now we have tier 1 and tier 2 rates. Now, if there were six people living in a small house, they are almost certainly going to be having six showers. They’re going to have six bedrooms that are heated. They might have an electric car that they share. But their fixed tier 1 rate is the same as somebody in a 10,000-foot mansion with one person.
The electricity usage is not normalized by the number of people it’s being applied to. It’s basically tier 1 based on your actual meter. That’s not right. That doesn’t actually address the issue. The issue would be addressed with by dealing with the rates — the rate of that tier 1, tier 2 — and focusing on providing assistance, like as has been done in other provinces, particularly in cold provinces where heating bills can be outrageous in the winter.
I’m getting a $750 electricity bill. It’s kind of high for two months, but there are four people in my house. I don’t know how somebody on a low income could afford 750 bucks, particularly if they live in Dawson Creek, particularly if they’re heating their homes with electricity instead of gas. How could they afford this?
These are the measures and means and ways we deal with the affordability issue, by targeting those who need the leg up, rather than blanket hydro rate freezes for one and all.
A. Weaver: Well, again — I’m not — I’ve never been opposed to…. Natural gas right now is a premium for heating. It’s actually quite cheap. It’s $2 and change at Chetwynd, I understand — $2.50 or something like that. Really, really cheap. You’re basically losing money taking it out of the ground in northern B.C. But the way you make money…. The reason why Fort Nelson has dried up is because there are dry gas fields, obviously. But we’ve got the liquids in the Montney, which we can actually sell.
On this topic that was so astutely brought up by my friend from Peace River South, I met in Kelowna West a fellow in a coffee shop who had just left Fort Nelson. He’d sold his natural gas company. The reason why he left is he felt the long-term economics of natural gas is not good in light of the fact that there is a global oversupply.
What’s his focus? Where has he moved into? He’s moved into the petrochemical and value-added industry in the carbon sector. There is a future. We are going to need plastics. We can actually extract hydrogen from the methane. We can actually create hydrogen, which a storage fuel. There is a lot of innovation potential that can and will happen in our natural gas sector, but it means we have to think differently from what we are doing.
In the throne speech, another success that was mentioned was ICBC. Or rather, the throne speech states: “Years of apparent neglect and inaction have led to big problems at B.C.’s public auto insurer. This government has rejected the double-digit increase in rates for drivers and has taken decisive action to keep rates down.” That’s a success outlined in response to the escalating financial crisis in ICBC.
Again, we were somewhat critical of government when, after the initial report was made public, things were taken off the table prior to standing back and reflecting upon that which was actually contained and what the solutions were, but we do support a number of the measures. We do believe that the red-light cameras being enabled is a good thing. They were just turned off. We do believe that we need to take a close look at some of the soft-tissue claims. We also like the focus where we’re focusing on the patient and the care rather than on the actual litigative aspects of ICBC.
There’s an awful lot that needs to be done. In other jurisdictions that have public insurance, there’s a form of no-fault. I know that trial lawyers will be very upset about this, but it’s a discussion we need to have, about keeping prices down. Other provinces that don’t have public insurance have a form of private insurance. With private insurance, you start to get rules and regulations as to why someone would actually offer you insurance, for example. They put limits on claims or they will limit the amount that they’ll pay off in claims. Again, we believe that that’s a discussion we should have.
Obviously, our preference is to fix ICBC. As I said at the very beginning, it is a legacy — frankly, a good legacy — of Dave Barrett, who was mentioned in the beginning of the throne speech as a leader in British Columbia. We continue to look forward to see how the Attorney General, who I see has joined us here…. I do apologize, hon. Speaker; I’m not supposed to mention about the presence or absence of any member in the House. We do look forward to seeing the measures that he will continue to outline as we move forward with respect to revitalizing ICBC.
To the issue of housing. We know that the issue of affordability is fundamentally coupled with the issue of housing availability and affordability. It’s not only reducing tolls. It’s not only eliminating MSP or reducing them. It’s actually being able to find a place to live and a house to live in that you can afford. Now, the B.C. NDP, during the last election campaign, campaigned vigorously on the fact that they would take be taking steps to deal with both supply and demand. I tend to agree with the Leader of the Official Opposition that the 114,000-new-unit number is wishful. I’m not so sure I understand where that number comes from, and I do resonate with the analysis that was presented.
On the other hand, I do recall — and I commend it, and continue to — the good work of the now Attorney General who was raising so many issues with respect to the demand side. We see, mentioned in the throne speech: “Government’s first step must be to address demand and stabilize B.C.’s out-of-control real estate and rental market.”
I’m very pleased to see those words there. We know that this is not a supply problem. It is a demand problem. We know that there are 7½ billion people in the world. We know that around the world there are tumultuous times. We know that real estate is a safe haven, particularly when it’s British Columbia real estate. A lot of capital is coming into B.C. That capital is being parked here as an investment, as a bank account to ensure that money is protected because of our stable democracy, our quality of life, our attractiveness and the fact that real estate, particularly in some regions, was affordable.
Hon. Speaker, I will be designate on this particular speech.
The issue of affordability is not only a Metro Vancouver issue nowadays. Perceived value is not there, to the extent that it was, in Vancouver. But perceived value is there in Victoria, in Kelowna, in Nanaimo, in Parksville and many other places in British Columbia where we’re now seeing prices dramatically increased as people leave Vancouver and say: “I’ll sell my $300,000 bungalow, which I bought 15 years ago, for millions. Then I’ll come and drop a million bucks in Victoria — what’s that? — and I’ll pocket $2 million and do very well, as a retirement fund.”
The problem here is that the disparity between income and rent, as well as housing, has grown so much that we have a crisis. Crises require dramatic steps. Tinkering around the edges will not deal with the problem.
My own property assessment value, its paper increase, went up 25 percent in one year. All that tells me is we need a 25 percent correction in the market where I live, because that’s a completely artificial gain. It doesn’t reflect the value of my home. It reflects speculation in my part of the riding of Oak Bay–Gordon Head, which has seen out-of-control real estate prices.
We called for bold steps, mirroring what was done in New Zealand, mirroring what was done in Australia. Bold steps to say we have a crisis now, and when you have a crisis, you need to deal with this in a very, very firm way. We called for a ban on offshore capital being allowed to buy property and land in British Columbia.
The stories we got — whether it be the thousands of hectares in northern B.C. that were bought up by offshore corporations to grow hay that is bubble wrapped and shipped abroad, creating an externality of rising hay prices in the region and lack of availability. This isn’t right. We’ve heard stories about one constituent who came into my office — well two of them, actually — how they had two friends, or friends of friends, come here on a tourist visa, and each of these business people bought five houses and then got on a plane and went home, and those five houses lie vacant.
We’ve got story after story after story flooding our in-box. And let me tell you, I have never seen so much for support for an issue as I have seen for support to take immediate steps to clamp down on the ability of offshore capital to come into British Columbia to purchase our real estate.
A number of years ago — I think it’s three years ago now — after senior homes and the issue of MSP premiums and the affordability issue that was raised, I raise it in this House. We started a campaign, a petition campaign. We started a public relations campaign to gauge public support. I think it was overwhelming that people felt it was a regressive tax, and they wanted to see it dealt with in a progressive fashion. We received thousands and thousands of emails. Our petition had tens of thousands of names on it. But that pales in comparison as to the support for taking steps now.
The most outspoken, the most passionate people speaking out are actually first-generation immigrants to British Columbia. People who came to British Columbia, with their families in many cases, for a better life. They came to this country because of what we could offer in terms of opportunities — for jobs, for places to live and for the beautiful environment.
Now they see that their children are no longer afforded the same opportunities that they were. These are the people speaking out. These are the people who are begging government to take steps. So while I asked it again today in question period, I got the same answer that we must wait for the budget.
Let me tell government that there is pent-up anxiety here on this issue, and we hope that government delivers on its promises. We certainly hope that government delivers on its promises.
We were somewhat disappointed with the response that is being done with respect to Airbnb. We recognize that it was a good first step from a taxation point of view. But Airbnb got the best advertising they could possibly have wanted here in British Columbia.
Unless you couple that with an aggressive ability to allow municipalities to actually limit, to have business licences or to tax though vacancy rates across the province, this will do little other than incentivize a particular company, a winner. The government has in essence chosen a winner. What about vrbo, vacation rentals by owner, another organization? What about the people who list on Craigslist? It’s a dangerous precedent to set when you are picking winners and losers, particularly when we’re in a close to 0 percent vacancy rate.
The throne speech says that government will introduce legislation to crack down on tax fraud, tax evasion and money laundering in B.C.’s real estate market. We are very excited about that. We welcome that, and again we look forward to the details that will be outlined, hopefully, in the budget coming up next week.
Again in the throne speech, the budget talks about, “the government will begin to make the largest investment in affordable housing in B.C. history, including social housing, student housing, seniors housing, Indigenous housing and affordable rentals for middle-income families,” and so on, so forth.
We welcome investment in affordable housing, and we look forward to seeing what the specifics are in this regard. We were very concerned about some of the language emanating out with respect to how the rental agreements will be changed, because we must protect renters and the rights of renters. But we also must protect the rights of landlords, particularly those people who didn’t have any pension — those people who put real estate as the source of their pension. If we start to clamp down on their ability to make ends meet, we don’t actually deal with the problem of affordability. We create an additional problem.
The throne speech talks about enabling local governments to plan for affordable rental housing by zoning areas of their communities for that. Again, we’re excited to see that this is coming through. It’s been asked for by both UBCM as well as the city of Vancouver. One of the things we campaigned on, which we’re pleased to see in there, is that the government plans, through the throne speech, to work with local governments to help plan for and build housing near transit corridors. It makes sense. It reduces congestion, and it maximally utilizes space.
We’re interested to learn more — details were scant — about what the government’s thoughts are on this new housing hub that’s being proposed as a division of B.C. Housing. We are unsure of what this goal is, but it seems essential that a new supply would meet the needs of the communities that are seeking new supply. We assume the housing hub will actually work to ensure government investment matches community needs in some way or another. Again, looking forward to the details coming up with that.
Coming to where we’re a little concerned, and what we’re again looking for information for, is the issue of security and safety for renters. Where it says: “government will introduce stronger protections for renters and owners of manufactured homes, and protections for renters facing eviction due to renovation or demolition.” Now again, clearly, there are some very high-profile cases where seniors or others are being evicted for so-called renovictions for a simple paint and shuffle so that rents can be jacked up.
Clearly, we share the concern of government in that regard. However, again, one has to be very careful in introducing legislation that one doesn’t hurt the good landlords and, actually, doesn’t stop them from being able to continue to rent. As we know, if you start to put more and more regulations on housing rentals, we may start to drive that stock out of the rental market — unless it’s done carefully.
There comes a point when someone says: “It’s just not worth the hassle. I’ll hold this, but I’m not going to rent it, because if I rent it, my rent is so controlled that it’s going to cost me $10K when the tenant moves out, and now I can’t reap that.” One has to be very, very, very careful with this.
At the same time, we do have forms of renovictions going on now. We have demovictions going on now in the heart of Burnaby, near the Kingsgate Mall, where low-lying three-story apartment buildings are being condemned left, right and centre. It’s going on now as we speak — right now — in downtown Kelowna as land assemblies are being made in downtown Kelowna. Along Cambie Street in Vancouver, it’s one big land assembly.
This sounds like, “Okay, we’re going to end up building rental accommodation or condos or whatever,” but when you displace these people and you just hold these properties for land assembly, you are creating affordability issues.
The city of Burnaby is in crisis from a rental perspective. High-end condos are replacing low-lying affordable rental units with no plan in place to actually deal with the displaced people. This is a crisis.
Sure, it brings in lots of money through development fees, etc., and through taxes to municipal coffers, but it creates a social problem that we have to get a handle on. So we’re looking forward to seeing what, as the government talks about introducing the housing measures, how it’s going to deal with issues like this — with issues like presales of condominiums and others offshore.
One of the things that we’re delighted to see in this throne speech is a very positive step forward. It’s a positive step forward that we tried to pressure, as did the now government of the former government, to take steps to remedy.
That is the inability, at present, of colleges and universities across British Columbia to build student housing on their campuses without incurring public debt. There are so many potential…. There are people waiting across British Columbia, whether it be Camosun College in my riding, University of Victoria in my riding, UBC, Simon Fraser, Kwantlen College…. Capilano has no housing. The ability for these institutions to build housing on campus will take students out of the market in larger communities onto campuses, thereby easing pressure, as well, in the larger communities.
We have a captive audience on campuses. We know that if there are creative means of allowing these institutions access to capital, that capital has a clientele that will service it in perpetuity. Those are the students in the institution, and they can do so in a very effective means. So we are pleased to see this.
The government also talks, in the throne speech, about making the largest investment in retrofits and renovation of social housing in B.C. in more than 20 years. Talking about…. These upgrades will reserve much-needed housing stock, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce home heating bills.
Now again, cautiously optimistic. But I get a little worried about the amount of money being spent and where that money is going to be coming from. This is why we’re quite excited, as the throne speech mentions the emerging economy task force and the innovation commission, that there is a very real move to invigorate the B.C. economy in areas where we’re leaders not only today but also tomorrow.
But with that, we also recognize that retrofitting creates cottage industries of renewable energy companies, building designers and so forth. We know the previous Premier, prior to the last government, recognized that too through the programs that he and his government introduced that actually spurred growth in a diverse array of the building sector — the clean, green building growth.
It’s a matter of saving money. If you can actually spend 15 percent to build a little bit more, to build a building right now, you’ll amortize that in a few years based on today’s technology. It’s about giving people the ability to do that, and we look forward to seeing how that’s going to come down in weeks ahead.
To the issue of child care. Much has been made about the lack of the word “$10-a-day” in the throne speech. To be honest, that’s a slogan. The actual $10-a day plan was a community plan. That’s what it used to be called. Didn’t have as catchy a slogan. We recognize that child care is an important component both of our platform, the NDP platform and also the Liberal throne speech. That we need investments in this. But the investments must come strategically, not through a slogan but ensuring that we have quality access not only to child care but early childhood education and educators for our next generation, the future of our society.
We see a lot in the throne speech about child care. We’re a little troubled by the lack of discussion in there about early childhood education. Child care is not about building spaces. Child care is also about ensuring that we treat the profession of early childhood educators and child care providers as a valued, high-paying profession in our society.
One of the barriers to actual access to child care is the barrier of actual trade ECEs, because as a society, we seem to think it’s okay to pay slightly above minimum wage to people who are looking after our next generation in the most critical years of their development. We really need to give our head a shake, as a society, if we think and expect a child care provider to earn $15 an hour, and we’re going to get people, the best and brightest, in this profession.
They’ve got to make ends meet. They have to afford bus fare. They have to afford to eat, and it’s tough. So we’re hoping we see not only the creation of spaces but incentive programs that will actually supplement the wages of our early childhood…. Such programs did exist in B.C., and they probably still exist in some, but not to the scale that they’re needed.
We have to recognize that we need to ensure that ECEs, child care providers, are viewed, like teachers, as the most important profession in our society. What sort of society are we if we don’t view as our number one priority the education of our next generation, who are the next generation that will take care of us as we age, the next generation that will discover the cure for cancer, the next generation that will find the innovation to ensure that B.C.’s economy is competitive internationally. That is why in the last election we campaigned on investing more than $4 billion over four years into both public education as well as early childhood education and child care.
You know, we have a present system in child care whereby access is a problem. Let’s suppose I’m a low-income person and I want to get access to a child care space. I have to pay up front, and at the end of the year when I file my tax return, I get my child care tax credit back. I don’t need the money then. I needed it to pay my fees up front.
That is why one of the innovative ways that we put in our platform was actually to change the child care tax credit into a child care taxable benefit. That is, money up front isn’t a barrier, but if you earn below a certain amount and you access that child care, it’s viewed as a taxable benefit. Let those who pay and those who want to pay and have the ability to pay, pay.
As Karen Isaac, executive director of B.C. Aboriginal Child Care Society, said:
“Given the long history of Aboriginal children being forcibly removed from their families and communities to residential schools and current high numbers of Aboriginal children being taken into government care, it is no wonder that some poverty-stricken families may be ambivalent about government child care programs and see it as another type of policing over children and their families.”
We must be particularly careful as to how we implement and roll out our child care strategies in Indigenous communities in British Columbia. Our view of what appropriate child care is — when I say “our,” the majority of members in this House — is not the same view as many, many Indigenous communities across British Columbia.
Indigenous communities have a rich history…. Frankly, rich is the wrong word. They have a sordid history of having their children taken from their families, of being forced to have their children taken to schools that they did not intend to go to. So we look forward to seeing how this will play out in the days and weeks ahead.
We’re also keen to see that government is looking to create more child care spaces. But there was some worry, again, in the language of the throne speech where we talk about a main focus on changing unlicensed to licensed providers. That’s important. We want our children to be looked after — licensed providers. But that’s not the only thing we need to focus on.
Obviously, this so-called Baby Mac law will be critical in terms of dealing with issues that led to the tragic death of baby Mac in 2017. However, we must remember that it’s not only about creation of space, and it doesn’t just mean converting unlicensed to licensed. It also means attracting new people into the profession by paying them well, by ensuring that societies value this through education and by working with employers to help facilitate employers actually building child care and early childhood education programs in their corporations and places.
There was a lack of focus of early childhood education in the throne speech. To us, our view is that child care is not only about babysitting; it’s about education. When a child is growing from those early years through to puberty and adulthood, they are very much influenced by the surroundings about them. We hope, as we discuss the child care plan moving forward, that we recognize and reflect upon not only the rights of Aboriginal people but also the importance of education in child care.
I’m very pleased that in the throne speech we hear a focus on poverty reduction. The B.C. Liberals have acknowledged that they’ve stopped listening to British Columbians about the importance of poverty reduction; about the importance of the growing disparity between those who have and those who don’t; and about, from a purely fiscal point of view, the fact that it costs society when this disparity grows in terms of the services that have to be provided.
You eliminate poverty, you eliminate the needs for a lot of social services designed to actually deal with poverty. This is why a housing-first strategy is the preferred approach by so many poverty advocates and why it has been so successful in jurisdictions in the United States where it’s been implemented.
You promote a housing-first strategy…. You cannot deal with issues of mental health and substance abuse unless you get someone in a home, a safe, stable place to be. Once they’re there, these other issues can be dealt with.
In doing so, you save from the judicial system, you save in the hospital system, the medical system, you save in the health care system, you save in the welfare system. You give people housing first. We hope that we a move towards that as this government continues to deliver on its throne speech.
We’re thrilled with the discussion of the B.C. Human Rights Commission and the fact that it’ll be rejuvenated. We’re delighted with the report that was recently released by the Fair Wages Commission, alluded to in the throne speech. Again, $15 was a slogan. How do we get there is what matters, and what do we do beyond that?
We strongly support the recommendations of the Fair Wages Commission to become an established entity in perpetuity in this jurisdiction in order to take politics out of this decision-making and setting minimum wage.
We also look forward to seeing what some of these labour code changes are going to look like. We have little detail, again, and much rhetoric in the throne speech. Good words — I’m not criticizing the words. But some of the details we await to see and look forward to exploring those with our colleagues on both sides of this House.
Now, coming to the economy. I am absolutely delighted and our caucus is delighted with the focus in this throne speech on what B.C. can be leaders at or are leaders at.
I take the example of the forest industry. This is one of our strategic strengths. We have, in British Columbia, three things that no one else in the world can compete with us with. Number one, we are the most beautiful place in the world to live. I get nods over there from the members opposite. Number two, we have one of the best education systems in the world. I got nods there from the former Minister of Education. International assessments year after year have B.C. at the top.
I also have nods over here from another minister. There’s a collegiality here. It’s Valentine’s Day. We’ve all got to get on.
It’s a strategic strength. We know that we can offer employers some of the most highly skilled and educated workers in the world. And, because of our environment, we can attract and retain them here because it’s the most beautiful place to live.
But we also have access to boundless forests, wood, energy in renewable forms and water. These are our strategic strengths that it’s recognized within this throne speech that we can build on as we move towards a sustainable, diverse economy of the 21st century.
We can actually race to the bottom and try to play that game, but we will lose that game. If I dig dirt out of the ground in B.C., there’s a cost that we internalize here. We value our social programs. We value the importance of a minimum wage. We value our environment. It costs a little more to dig the dirt out of the ground here compared to, say, some place like Indonesia, where the same environmental and social costs are not internalized as part of the cost of doing business.
We can compete by trying to do a race for the bottom and forget our values. This is what we’ve been doing with LNG — I’ll come back to that in a second — or we can recognize that the way we compete, the way we grow our GDP, is through more efficient means of doing it, by bringing our technology sector together with our resource sector.
We rely on Finnish technology in our forest sector because Finland recognized that bringing its forestry sector together with its technology sector would lead to innovation, in terms of more efficient extraction, as well as the ability to sell the knowledge and the technology associated with that efficiency.
We have, in British Columbia, some world-leading companies. One of my favourites is MineSense. MineSense is a B.C.-based company that is, at the rock face, able to determine whether or not its efficient to ship rock and crush it or lay it aside. This is a means and ways of extracting mining in much more efficient ways, more clean ways, more green ways that allows us to compete not only in the pure mineral extraction but through the technology that we’ve done.
This throne speech recognizes that our strengths are not in racing to the bottom, but in the fact that we are smarter, and we can attract and retain the best and the brightest.
Let me give you another example: Structurlam. Structurlam is an incredible Penticton-based value-added forest company that makes CrossLam and glulam, replacements for steel and concrete. An 18-storey student residence at UBC is being built from 100 percent wood, CrossLam and glulam products.
Portland has a facility being built there from B.C. products — CrossLam and glulam. Alberta. Across B.C. The Harbour Air terminal. These are beautiful value-added products that actually employ hundreds of people and use B.C. wood, family-based wood. They have a partnership with the Kalesnikoff family out in Nelson to provide some of their lumber.
This is where we succeed. Why do we need to ship a raw log to Korea or to China? China and Korea don’t need raw logs. They need lumber. They need value-added products, and if we bring technology together with our resource sector, we can do so more efficiently because the shipping is minimal in terms of the overall cost.
It’s the same, coming back to the pipeline. Why are we shipping diluted bitumen? Why are we even talking about shipping diluted bitumen to Asian markets? Frankly, I don’t even know that there’s an economic case for Kinder Morgan as it stands, because the largest supplier was going to be California, which now is going to get access to its upgraded products from the Keystone XL that’s just been approved.
Nevertheless, why would we ship those jobs offshore? This isn’t good for the Canadian economy. This isn’t good for jobs. Those jobs get shipped offshore, and what’s worse, we are now building a construction facility in Vancouver airport to import jet fuel. So rather than making the jet fuel here in British Columbia or in Alberta, we ship those jobs off and reimport. That’s the race to the bottom that I think we need to move away from.
And coming to LNG, we’ve had four years of this race to the bottom. This race to the bottom where we’ve tried so desperately to land the impossible that we literally gave away the farm. We’re not going to earn any royalties of any value or substance from natural gas for many, many years because of the deep-well credits where there was at least…. It’s more now, but there was $3.2 billion of unclaimed tax credits against future royalties because of the deep-well credits, which were designed back in the day when it was kind of costly to get deep vertical drills going. Since then, everyone’s got horizontal drilling, costs have come down and, what’s worse, is the previous government then jacked up the credits to shallow wells as well. So we’re not going to earn any money on royalties.
Where will we earn this LNG money, which, fortunately, we’re not focusing on in this throne speech? Well, we’d earn it in the LNG income tax. Oh, no. Capital costs are coming in there. The income tax is cut. We offer below-market electricity, ratepayer-funded Site C to deliver electricity into LNG. You know, literally, we give away the farm.
Landed costs of LNG in Asia years from now…. It was four bucks and change a few months back. I don’t know what it is exactly. It’s gone up a bit — probably six bucks and change. It costs us four bucks to get it out of the ground here in B.C. We can sell it for $2.50 at Chetwynd. It costs us about 11 bucks landed to actually sell it in China. How is it going to happen? How is it going to happen? What business case is it that a company is going to make a major investment here in British Columbia to lose money in every Btu of natural gas they produce?
Louisiana already has the infrastructure on the coast down there, and they already are taking up any supply gaps that existed. The Isthmus of Panama was recently widened. Russia has 20 times the total reserves of all of Canada, and it’s conventional gas, not shale gas, and they’ve signed contracts in and around Asia.
China is now a seller of contracts because they’re oversupplied. We’ve got Australia not bringing onshore stuff that was almost ready to go because there’s no demand, and we think that this is going to be the direction for prosperity in British Columbia. What makes me sad are the false promises that were made by this B.C. Liberal government before us to the people of British Columbia. False hope, undelivered hope. And now the continued pressure to try to deliver the impossible, while recognizing that so many other opportunities are there and we’re missing out on them.
I’d like to take us back to March 3 of 2015. March 3 of 2015 was when I sat across, again, saying — I’ve been saying this since 2012 — “LNG is not going to happen because the market is not there for it.”
On March 3, 2015, 2015, the then Minister of Natural Gas said: “You didn’t do your research. You don’t know what you’re talking about. I know the status of discussions. I know when the final investment decisions are coming. I know the way the companies are planning on making those. I will enjoy the meal to watch the member opposite eat his words in the next year or two.” This was 2015. “I will enjoy watching him eat his words as final investment decisions come that are coming down the pike and he sees the construction of LNG.”
A couple of months later he says: “I want to be invited to the dinner when he has to eat those words. It will happen in the not too distant future, I believe.”
It’s 2018, three years now, and still nothing. The fact that the members opposite think that they have any credibility on any aspect of the economy is mind-boggling, especially since…. What Finance Minister errs to the tune of $2.8 billion in a financial outlook? That’s reckless indifference to the actual economy, as opposed to fine stewardship of the economy. We know where that money came from: an out-of-control real estate sector and the construction industry that’s supporting it. But that’s not a healthy economy. That leads to a boom-and-bust economy, which is why it’s so critical that we diversify.
We look at the place of Terrace, British Columbia, for example. Rather than saying we’re going to try to squeeze LNG, like everyone else is doing, we could be asking: “What is it that you have in Terrace that no one else in the world can compete with?” Let me tell you what they have. They have the first three things we talked about: beautiful place, quality of education and access to resources. But they’re also on a railway line between Prince Rupert and Chicago — the gateway to Asia and the gateway to the eastern U.S.
Why is it we always focus on the raw and not the upgrade or manufacture? Terrace has an amazing opportunity, as a jurisdiction, to try to attract manufacturing there. Why did BMW go to Washington? Why did BMW build a factory in Washington to construct carbon fibre components for their i3 electric vehicles? Because they had access to clean, renewable energy, a stable workforce that they could attract and retain. Where was B.C. in these discussions? Chasing the natural gas unicorn or pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that kept moving. That should have been in Terrace.
Prince George. Let’s look at Prince George. What’s its strategic strength? It’s cold in Prince George right now, and they’ve got a ton of snow. I don’t know whether the member for Cariboo North was able to make it here today. But I know that the member…. We had some difficulty in a committee meeting, because he was snowed in up in the region. But that’s a strategic strength, because that means it’s cold. Why is it that data distribution centres are being built in the U.S.? They should be built in Prince George, because we know the single biggest cost to data distribution is cooling. It’s cooling, and when it’s a cooler place, it costs less. What’s the barrier? Not the speed of light, on which information is transferred. The barrier is lack of access to broadband redundancy.
In British Columbia, historically we’ve thought it’s industry’s role to build fibre and broadband capacity into communities. Now, it’s great that industry has made these investments. But it’s very difficult for a company, a strategic global company, to want to move into a community where its only access to broadband is owned through another company. That’s uncertainty. There’s a role for government, and we’re delighted to see this in the throne speech.
There’s a role for government to create highways — not only bridges and roads that we drive trucks and cars on but also highways for information that everyone has access to, and we’re delighted to see some of that appear in the throne speech.
One of the things that the throne speech mentioned with respect to the forest industry — again, very supportive of the issue with respect to upgrading and value added…. This is one of our key areas. I was troubled by some of the statements there about getting the most value out of affected timber, in cooperation with communities, industry and First Nations.
One has to be very, very careful about how you define value. Is it short-term or long-term? The quickest way to desertify, to make into a desert, large parts of the Cariboo region is to cut down all those burnt trees, which are important for rejuvenation of the next generation of forests.
Again, I would urge government to ensure that they consult not only with communities, industry and First Nations but with scientific experts who have an understanding about forest rejuvenation, particularly academics who have done studies on this and can show you examples of where, if you cut down all the burnt trees, all you leave behind is a forest because the nutrients that were there to actually create the next generation of growth are gone. I hope government’s careful with this as it moves forward.
I’m really excited, in the throne speech, not only about the mention of the innovation commissioner and the emerging economy task force, both of which we campaigned on, but about the opportunity this brings.
I’ve met with Alan Winter twice now, the innovation commissioner, and I can say that British Columbia is so absolutely lucky to have a man of his calibre, of his strengths, of his connections, to be our champion for the innovation sector in British Columbia. I look forward to him taking the programs that exist in Ottawa and matching them with B.C. programs to ensure efficiency and delivery of support to our innovation sector.
He’s concerned about the fact that what happens in British Columbia is companies grow and then move to the States. He’s concerned about creating the environment that will allow companies to grow and remain here in British Columbia.
We have examples of where we’ve tried this. We have a very troubling example right now playing out in B.C. with Bardel Entertainment, one of British Columbia’s top digital media companies, one of the world’s top — a company that set up an office in Kelowna, because of regional and distance tax credits, to try to bring the tech industry out of Vancouver into other parts of British Columbia. When all of a sudden, $5 million was pulled retroactively in the flick of a finger in an amendment that we didn’t debate.
When I tried to raise some issues here, I was told we have to pass it now because the Lieutenant-Governor is coming tomorrow. Five million dollars it cost that industry.
So I hope that we actually start to reflect upon the importance of this sector and the diversity of the sector across British Columbia, so that we nurture and then grow our innovation here in B.C. and don’t ship and export the talent elsewhere as well as the jobs elsewhere.
I’m delighted…. Again, this was a B.C. Liberal commitment in the election campaign, supported and adopted by both the B.C. NDP and by us. The creation of engineering programs across British Columbia.
We know that if you don’t train in an area, you often get sucked into the big metro areas of Vancouver and Victoria. The expansion of the engineering program in Prince George was a great thing for the diversity of our economy across this province. We’re thrilled to see that a total of 2,900 new tech-related spaces at colleges will be created as part of the throne speech over the years to come.
To the issue of reconciliation, the throne speech talks about this government beginning — across ministry framework — to meet our commitments to the United Nations declaration of the rights of Indigenous peoples, the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Tsilhqot’in decision.
Obviously, we support this, and we support the government as we move to reconciliation in partnership with First Nations. But let me tell you, there is suspicion, because Indigenous communities — First Nations across our province — are sick and tired of words. I resonate with that. As a climate scientist who spent 25 years in the area, I am sick and tired of hearing governments promise, “We’ll reduce emissions by some amount sometime in the future,” and then not delivering or taking the steps to do it.
What matters to Indigenous communities is not the words. It’s the action. So let’s start to show real action sooner than later as we move towards, truly, truth and reconciliation in this province.
You know, the throne speech also talks about services to people under the areas of health care, education and so forth. Again, we’re excited about the focus in this throne speech away from corporate donors and large entities but towards people and small business. The focus on bringing together family doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses in a community-based approach is one that we think not only the medical community, but certainly our caucuses across this party, can come to agreement on.
I look at the Oceanside Health Centre in Parksville-Qualicum as a success story. The only problem with Oceanside Health Centre is not the way it’s set up, but the growing demand so that its wait times have increased and increased, because it’s a retirement community in there. But it shows a model of the future. But it requires us to think innovatively about how we have billing in the medical profession.
Doctors — there are shortages, no doubt.
But many of today’s doctors do not want to follow the path, particularly in light of the growing bureaucracy that exists in the health care system of having to run their own small business if they’re a family practitioner.
You know, any doctor who owns a family practice will spend, they’ll tell you, at least one day of the five in a week doing administration. Doctors want to be doctors. Young doctors today value the importance of quality in life, as the whole millennial generation do. So thinking about innovative ways of delivering health care through salaried positions, through allowing nurse practitioners to actually bill through the creation of teams, is something that we strongly support — and, in fact, campaigned on — and look forward to seeing the details of as this is fleshed out in the months and years ahead.
In terms of education, again, we see the commitment to fully fund class size and composition requirements: “more than 3,500 new teachers, librarians and counsellors are in B.C. schools, helping students learn in smaller classes with more individual attention.” We see this statement in the throne speech.
It’s quite unfortunate the way this has rolled out, as we know that we shouldn’t have actually ever been in this place to begin with, frankly. If we had not taken steps to take our teachers representatives to court multiple times, all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, we wouldn’t be in a situation where suddenly we have to hire thousands of teachers in the space of a few months, creating chaos, frankly, in many, many school districts — and within the child care and early childhood education system, where schools are scrambling for spaces and trying to actually meet the legally required commitments.
You know, the throne speech talks about building schools. It talks about removing portables. It talks about seismic upgrades. That’s fine. But let me tell you, what matters in education is not the colour of the wallpaper or the size of the ceilings. What matters is the quality of the teacher and the resources that teacher has in the classroom, as well as the ability for a child to have access to the services they need when they need it.
What we need in British Columbia is enhanced resources in the classroom. Why is it that teachers across British Columbia…? Hon. Speaker, as a former teacher, this must resonate with you too. Why is it that teachers have to spend their own money to provide the actual tools that their children have to use in the classroom? We don’t ever account for that.
Hon. J. Sims: I want to know the answer to that.
A. Weaver: One of the…. I forget which riding you’re….
Hon. J. Sims: Surrey-Panorama.
A. Weaver: Thank you. The member for Surrey-Panorama…. There are all these ridings in Surrey, and they’re all close to each other. They keep changing, because the population’s growing so fast, and I forget who represents which riding.
The member — the minister — pointed out that she wants to know the answer to that. Why is it as a society we don’t recognize what northern European nations recognize, that the single most important profession in our society is education? It’s teachers, early childhood educators, child care providers. These are the people who train the next generation of citizenship. These are the people who create the innovators of tomorrow through providing them skills to actually learn and constructively think.
We seem to think, somehow, that’s it’s okay to pick on our teachers, and that culture needs to change. I’m hoping, with this new government and the direction we’re seeing, that we’ll actually do that. Not only building schools — that’s nice — but actually giving teachers the support they need in the classroom.
Frankly, one of the biggest costs to the education system, and one of the biggest costs to the society, is the fact that something towards 50 percent of teachers don’t continue on after five years, because they’re thrown into situations without the support they need, without the resources they need, to deliver the curriculum that B.C. has, and it’s just unwieldy.
So we have survival of the fittest. We’ll, some of that’s okay, but think of the investment that we have done as a society into training those teachers to get them to the position that they’re delivering in the classroom.
Look at any school district, at the number of people who are on long-term disability because of the unwieldy conditions that they have to work in — the lack of support they’re given. These are costs to society. These are costs that we pay for. If we think of prevention, creating the environment that allows teachers to thrive, we actually save money in the long term.
I’m excited about where we’re heading with teaching. I hope to continue to push the government to ensure that it’s not only about seismic upgrades, but it’s also about giving teachers the resources they need in the classroom to deliver the curriculum.
We’ve done remarkably well in the international PISA assessments, but we also have one of the highest rates of independent schools. Victoria used to have the highest rate of independent schools in the province. We’ve got to value our public education, because that’s our future. Let’s hope we continue down that area.
The throne speech talks about public safety. It talks about important areas in mental health. It talks about a lot of issues in that regard. Again, my concern with the mental health focus in the throne speech is not the importance of harm prevention, but the importance of where we need to invest is not only in stopping people from dying but also to ensure that they’re not there in the first place and that there’s a pathway to recovery at the end.
Anyone who has spoken to firefighters or first responders anywhere in British Columbia will know that it’s not an uncommon story for a first responder to resuscitate the same person multiple times in a day, whether that person be in an emergency room, be a firefighter or a paramedic. That’s a cost.
Providing more access to naloxone…. Sure, it will stop people from dying, but it actually doesn’t deal with the problem. Why is it that people are there in the first place? To what extent are we dealing with the social problems in this province as a direct consequence of our K-to-12 system not having the access and resources that teachers needed in the early, formative years of children to actually ensure that society didn’t have people aging out into these situations? To what extent would we have been avoiding this had we actually given the children the resources they need at the first onsets of diagnosis?
Good luck in British Columbia trying to get a child psychologist in a school district for your child. Those who have will go private, but those who are less fortunate have to wait and wait and wait. In many cases, early intervention would have led to savings in terms of outcomes down the road.
What about recovery? Housing first. It’s good to see the move towards talking about enhanced recovery facilities and also prevention. But it really needs to be our focus, and we continue to hope that government will move down in that regard.
To conclude, I’d like to deal with the issue of climate. In 2012, after being asked four times and finally agreeing to run as an MLA with the B.C. Green Party…. And let me tell you — and to my colleague Robert Stupka, who is running in Kelowna West— it is not the easiest pathway to the B.C. Legislature to run with the B.C. Green Party, particularly when no one had been elected before. You’ve got to work hard.
But when I ran in 2012, I ran because I had spent years in universities teaching. I spent years talking about climate. People and students would ask me: “What can I do?” I’d say: “There are three things you can do. Number one is: you can use your wallet. Each and every one of us has a wallet, and we send a signal to the market by the way we spend. If we buy more efficient products, more locally produced products, that’s the direction the market will head.
We only have to look at the organic food sections in grocery stores. That was a direct response to societal demand. When I was a kid, you would have gone bankrupt if you had an organic food department in your grocery store, because no one would’ve wanted to pay it. Now people are willing to pay a little bit more such that we’re at a stage where the price difference is negligible between organic or non-organic. That’s the power of the pocketbook.
There’s also the power of voting. We live in a democracy, and we have a system in place where we need to put this issue, if it’s important to you, front and centre in decision-making.
That is why, when I talk to students, I also put up the chart showing youth turnout in elections. Historically, in B.C., it was 30 to 40 percent of youth voting and 70 to 80 percent of seniors over the age of 65. Cynically, you can see why people campaign on reducing hip and knee replacement lineups, because you know you’re catering to an audience that will vote, and you can make a very real effect on their lives such that, three years later, you can point to what you’ve done and say: “Look. I listened to you. I reduced those lineups. Vote me back in.” And you know 70 to 80 percent of seniors will vote.
If you’re someone with a vision, like the former Premier of this province, Gordon Campbell, and you bring in place policy measures that you will never reap the benefits of yourself…. We know that socioeconomic inertia is such that the warming we have in store over the next couple of decades is a direct consequence of past decisions, and the decisions we make today will not actually affect those who make the decisions, but it’ll affect the next generation and after. When leaders like Gordon Campbell stand up and make that a priority, they need to be supported, and you need to vote people in who have that vision.
Invariably, these students…. Or in public lectures, people would say: “Oh, these politicians. They’re all the same. All they want to do is line their pockets. They’re in it for power. They’re all corrupt.” Then you can say, and I did: “Well, if you don’t like it, run yourself, because this is the system we’ve got.” It’s a lot better than anarchy, frankly, although some Libertarian candidates may disagree. It’s a lot better than anarchy, and I’d say: “If you don’t like it, run yourself. Find someone to run.”
You can only do that for a few years before you really take a look in the mirror and say: “Really? Am I offering this advice? I’m no different from anyone else. Do as I say and not as I do.” In running with the B.C. Greens — if anyone is interested, you can see it; we had a documentary filmmaker there to follow the campaign — I didn’t think I was going to win. But for me it was a matter of principle, because I could not look my students or, frankly, my family in the face and continue to say one thing and then do another.
When it came to see this throne speech, when it came to our discussions after the last election, you can rest assured that the reason why I was thrilled to actually agree to a confidence and supply agreement with the B.C. NDP, the reason why I am thrilled to see this in the throne speech, is that British Columbia is now repositioning itself to take advantage of not only the challenge but the opportunities that arise from this challenge as we move towards the 21st-century new economy, in terms of diversifying it and moving to the clean, low-carbon economy. But I’m the first to say — and my Indigenous friends have many centuries of this; I have a few decades — that I’m fed up with words. What I want to see is action.
I look forward to working with this government in the months and years ahead as we develop a pathway that actually recognizes that dealing with climate change is the greatest economic opportunity British Columbia has ever had. Because of our strategic strengths, with the most beautiful place in the world to live, one of the best education systems in the world and the ability to access boundless energy, timber, fibre and water, we can position ourselves to move ahead. So bring that in together with the innovation commission and the emerging economy task force. This is a really exciting time for British Columbia.
Now, we can be very cynical here — I get that there are political games, and people want to get in power — or we can recognize this is what it is. It’s a minority government where, I would say, every member in this place ran because they wanted to make British Columbia a better place for all British Columbians. We can actually do that.
My commitment, my caucus’s commitment to both sides of this House, is that we genuinely want to advance good public policy. We want to work with opposition and advance good amendments. We want to be given the courtesy of actually being able to have the time to reflect upon these amendments rather than having them spring upon us on the floor and then sending out tweets and press releases saying: “B.C. Greens Side With MLA.” That’s politics.
People in British Columbia are sick of that. They want us to work together. Whatever happens tonight in Kelowna, I look forward to working with the winner in Kelowna, whether that winner is Ben Stewart, Shelley Cook or Robert Stupka, or — wouldn’t it be interesting? —whether that self-described pit bull is the B.C. Conservative Party candidate in that riding. We’d like to work with all of them, and this place would be much the better for it if we do.
With that, hon. Speaker, I’m delighted to stand in support of the throne speech. I look forward to fulfilling the goals met in the throne speech, and I look forward to seeing, over the weeks ahead, the details emerge as we debate a budget and then the bills that accompany it.
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 Act, RDSPs 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.