Hansard — Wednesday, May 19, 2010 p.m. — Volume 18, Number 3 (HTML) (2024)

2010 Legislative Session: Second Session, 39th Parliament
HANSARD

The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.

The printed version remains the official version.


official report of

Debates of the Legislative Assembly

(hansard)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Afternoon Sitting

Volume 18, Number 3

CONTENTS

Page

Routine Business

Introductions by Members

5539

Introduction and First Reading of Bills

5539

Bill M204 — Campaign Finance Reform Act, 2010

C. James

Bill M205 — First Nations Heritage Protection and Conservation Act, 2010

M. Karagianis

Statements (Standing Order 25B)

5540

Cancer prevention and treatment

N. Letnick

100th anniversary of George Jay Elementary School

R. Fleming

Rodeo and Kenny McLean

J. Slater

Lyme disease awareness

L. Popham

Trade Export Awards and international trade dinner in Surrey

D. Hayer

Tenth anniversary of Nisga’a treaty

R. Austin

Oral Questions

5543

Equipment and assistive technology initiative for people with disabilities

C. James

Hon. R. Coleman

S. Simpson

B. Ralston

Conservation officer service in Bella Coola area

G. Coons

Hon. B. Penner

Marmot recovery program and species-at-risk legislation

R. Fleming

Hon. B. Penner

Silviculture activities

N. Macdonald

Hon. P. Bell

B. Simpson

Summer school spaces

R. Austin

Hon. M. MacDiarmid

Petitions

5548

V. Huntington

M. Sather

Orders of the Day

Committee of the Whole House

5548

Bill 13 — Forests and Range (First Nations Woodland Licence) Statutes Amendment Act, 2010 (continued)

B. Simpson

Hon. P. Bell

Report and Third Reading of Bills

5561

Bill 13 — Forests and Range (First Nations Woodland Licence) Statutes Amendment Act, 2010

Committee of the Whole House

5561

Bill 15 — Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2010

M. Farnworth

M. Sather

Hon. B. Penner

N. Macdonald

D. Donaldson

Report and Third Reading of Bills

5573

Bill 15 — Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2010

Proceedings in the Douglas Fir Room

Committee of Supply

5573

Estimates: Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Hon. B. Lekstrom

J. Horgan

K. Corrigan

S. Chandra Herbert

B. Ralston


[ Page 5539 ]

WEDNESDAY, MAY 19, 2010

The House met at 1:34 p.m.

[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]

Routine Business

Prayers.

[1335]

Introductions by Members

L. Popham: I have some very special guests to introduce today. First of all, I would like to welcome back into the House former MLA of Saanich South, David Cubberley. I also have Nicole Bottles here with us today. She is an 18-year-old constituent of mine who is suffering with Lyme disease. Nicole is joined by her mother, Chris Powell. I also have Daya Moss, who is doing her social work practicum in my constituency office. I would like to make all of them feel very welcome.

R. Lee: Visiting in the House today is the Holy Cross Elementary School, from my riding of Burnaby North, led by two teachers, Ms. Sabina McCloskey and Ms. Lianna Ranallo, with 25 grade 5 students and 15 adults. Would the House please join me to give them the warmest welcome.

M. Karagianis: I'm very pleased today to have a number of guests here in the gallery. I would like to introduce to the House from the Tseycum Nation, Chief Jacks and Coun. Joe Bill; and from the Tsartlip, William Morris. I also know that expected shortly is Ron Sam from the Songhees Nation and from the Esquimalt Nation, Cheryl Bryce. I'm not sure if she's here in the gallery yet, but I would like to give all of these guests a very warm welcome.

R. Austin: I have two sets of introductions to make today, so if you'll bear with me. The first is a group of adult learners who have driven 20 hours in a bus from Kincolith, or Gingolx, at the mouth of the Nass River. They came here this morning. It's their first time in Victoria. They came and actually toured the chamber here. They were very thrilled to be here. But don't worry, hon. Speaker, they didn't sit in your chair.

They are Amanda Smythe, Chasity Stevens, Darcie Peters, Donna Nelson, Emerald Azak, Julia Stevens, Kayla Barton, Sam Peal, Shanna Nelson, Sylvia Stewart, Tessa Venn, Tyler Stevens and Dion Barton. They are joined by their instructors Kathy Mueller and Don Stevenson as well as Kathy's husband, Erich Mueller, as well as the education administrator for the community of Kincolith, Neal Barton. Would the House please join me in making them feel welcome.

Secondly, I have a couple of visitors visiting from the United Kingdom. They are Dr. Graham Lomas and Tova Lamb. They are here visiting some friends and family. They've been to Victoria before but never to the Legislature, so please give them a warm Victoria welcome.

E. Foster: In the House today we have a very good friend of mine visiting from Lumby, Mr. John Ringness. John is one of those people you value in your community. He's past president of the Lions Club. He led the cancer cause in Lumby over the last number of years, raising money for that worthwhile organization. John and his wife Wanda will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in two weeks.

John, welcome to the House.

M. Elmore: In the House visiting today are a number of students from St. Andrews School. They are grade 5 students — 60 of them with five adults. They are accompanied by their very dedicated teacher, Ms. Monica Low. I'd like to ask the Legislature and everyone here to please give them a very warm welcome.

Hon. I. Black: There are some great high schools in the Tri-Cities area, and one of them is going to be visiting the precinct later this afternoon. They are the students of Port Moody Secondary School, accompanied by their teacher-supervisor, Mr. Troy Cunningham, and five parents who were good enough to give a little time to help students experience what it is we do around here a little bit. I would ask the House to make them feel welcome.

S. Fraser: I have two introductions to make today. I don't know if they're in the audience already, but there's a group from my constituency, Alberni–Pacific Rim, called the Corcan-Meadowood Residents Association. They are here this afternoon to, hopefully, see question period and also to visit with the Minister of Transportation. I'd like the House to make them feel very welcome, please.

[1340]

I know the member for Skeena made the larger introduction, but Don Stevenson is from Port Alberni. He's a good friend of mine. Please, again, make him feel very welcome.

Introduction and
First Reading of Bills

Bill M204 — Campaign Finance
Reform Act, 2010

C. James presented a bill intituled Campaign Finance Reform Act, 2010.
[ Page 5540 ]

C. James: I move that the bill intituled Campaign Finance Reform Act, 2010, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

C. James: I'm pleased to introduce the Campaign Finance Reform Act, one of several bills introduced by the official opposition to renew B.C.'s democratic system. The time has come in British Columbia to review the financing of political parties, to examine the public interest in terms of how we fund elections and to move towards greater citizen involvement in our political process.

We have the opportunity to revitalize our democracy in British Columbia, to make B.C. a leader in democratic reform, to rebuild public faith in our institutions of government. While other provinces and the federal government have passed strict guidelines regarding the role of big money in politics, B.C. has moved in the opposite direction. It's time to restore balance to our political system.

This bill levels the playing field for political and campaign financing. Under this bill individual British Columbians will contribute to political parties. Institutions will not. This bill also allows a review of B.C. campaign financing by the Chief Electoral Officer, including recommendations for further reform.

The opposition has put forward similar legislation in the past. However, given recent events, it seemed timely to reintroduce it. It is my hope that government will finally take action to reform campaign financing and put citizens back at the centre of our democratic system.

I move that the bill be placed on the order paper for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M204, Campaign Finance Reform Act, 2010, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M205 — First Nations
Heritage Protection and
Conservation Act, 2010

M. Karagianis presented a bill intituled First Nations Heritage Protection and Conservation Act, 2010.

M. Karagianis: I move introduction of the First Nations Heritage Protection and Conservation Act, 2010, for first reading.

Motion approved.

M. Karagianis: I am honoured today to present the First Nations Heritage Protection and Conservation Act. This bill will better protect First Nations heritage objects, sacred areas, gravesites and burial grounds.

The bill amends the Heritage Conservation Act to include a process by which First Nations can trigger real protective measures when heritage sites, burial areas, objects or remains are discovered. I believe that the bill amends the heritage act to provide a better set of guidelines and tools for First Nations, local government, the public and the province in order to implement protection, stewardship and conservation of First Nations heritage and culturally significant areas, their artifacts and their sacred history.

I am particularly honoured today to do this with my guests in the House who have all worked very hard to protect their own sacred sites and burial grounds. I would ask that all members please review the bill, and I hope that they will support it.

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

Bill M205, First Nations Heritage Protection and Conservation Act, 2010, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Statements
(Standing Order 25B)

CANCER PREVENTION AND TREATMENT

N. Letnick: With approximately one in three British Columbians developing some form of cancer in their lifetime, it is very likely that everyone in this chamber and across our province knows the devastating impact that those three words, "You've got cancer," can have on individuals and families.

When my wife Helene and I first heard those words a few years back — "You've got uterine cancer" — we took comfort in the knowledge that we lived in a province with outstanding cancer health outcomes made possible by health professionals who care and a health system that is one of the best in the world, even with its challenges.

The support received from health care providers in the southern Interior was phenomenal. Having gone through that experience, it is easy to see why B.C. women have the lowest overall mortality rate for cancer and the lowest incidence of mortality rates of any province for breast and colorectal cancer.

B.C. men also have the lowest overall mortality rate for all cancer. We are tied with Quebec for the lowest rates of any province for lung, colorectal and prostate cancer. Incidence rates for all cancers combined are lower in B.C. than in any other province.

[1345]
[ Page 5541 ]

According to the cancer advocacy council, B.C. has the best-funded and most timely access to cancer drugs in Canada. We are investing in the fight against cancer by providing a comprehensive screening mammography program, free for all B.C. women aged 40 to 79. We have cancer centres throughout the province, with construction underway for a new B.C. Cancer Agency centre for the north in Prince George, as part of a strategy to ensure that northern British Columbians receive the best possible cancer care.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society's 2010 cancer statistics report released today, B.C. continues to lead Canada in having the lowest rates of cancer. This is a record that British Columbians can be proud of, and you can be certain we will continue to lead the country in cancer prevention and treatment.

100th ANNIVERSARY OF
GEORGE JAY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

R. Fleming: Earlier this month a significant anniversary in Victoria was celebrated that thousands of people here felt personally connected to. It was an anniversary celebrating a century of excellence in teaching and learning in my community. George Jay turned 100 years old this year, and on May 1 students and former students of all ages turned out to mark the occasion. I even met a woman who was there from the class of 1925.

George Jay officially opened on December 9, 1910, built on the rural fields of a dairy farm. Today school district 61 refers to this fine building as an inner-city school in the heart of the Fernwood neighbourhood. Changes to the School Act expanding compulsory education for children between seven and 14 necessitated the building of George Jay. In the late 1960s George Jay was actually British Columbia's largest elementary school, with over 1,200 students.

As working-class and immigrant children gained greater access to education, the growing student population required several additions to the school, beginning with a two-room annex added in 1919 and a wing of two floors of classrooms added in 1972, which was the same year that the school, for its first time, had a gymnasium.

Historian and Times Colonist writer Dave Obee noted in a recent article that George Jay kids had two things to celebrate in the early 1970s: their new gym and the Barrett government and Minister Eileen Dailly outlawing the strap in B.C. schools.

The school was named after an ardent supporter of public education, a magistrate, George Jay, who served on the school board for 35 years, serving as board chair for 28 years. The first principal of the school was Mr. H.B. MacLean, who later became the infamous, and quite wealthy, proprietor and promoter of the MacLean method of handwriting and penmanship.

As a school, George Jay has changed with the times. It continues to be a bright light in my community, providing children with a nurturing, uniquely diverse and respectful learning environment. I've had the pleasure to visit the school on a number of occasions, and I've seen firsthand the creative and interactive ways the teachers engage their students. May the House join me in celebrating a hundred years for George Jay.

RODEO AND KENNY McLEAN

J. Slater: May is the time when cowboys polish their spurs, brush the dust off their chaps, load up their horse and head for their first, favourite rodeo. In the Boundary-Similkameen and surrounding areas, where there are several longtime, traditional rodeos — such as the Princeton Rodeo, which was held this past weekend, and the upcoming Keremeos Rodeo, being held on the May long weekend — rodeos traditionally give the cowboy and his horse the opportunity to compete against their neighbour for the coveted blue ribbon.

On Saturday, May 8, I had the honour, along with my colleague the Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, of attending the unveiling of a life-sized bronze sculpture of the late Kenny McLean. This sculpture will grace Centennial Park in Okanagan Falls for the rest of time to honour this local legend.

Kenny McLean was well known for his life as a rodeo rider who went from Rookie of the Year in 1961 to Canadian all-round champion and the PRCA Saddle Bronc World Champion. He also won 14 Canadian championships. He was inducted into the Canadian Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame. He's the only cowboy to ever receive the Order of Canada and the only cowboy to be inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

The ceremony followed the cowboy tradition of having bales of hay to sit on, along with country music and a roping demonstration. The only things missing were the cattle. Organizers of this great event were Bill Schwarz and his dedicated committee, and they should be congratulated for initiating this and raising thousands of dollars to honour one of their own, Kenny McLean.

[1350]

LYME DISEASE AWARENESS

L. Popham: May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Lyme disease is North America's fastest-rising infectious disease. It's utterly debilitating if not detected and treated quickly with antibiotics, which rarely happens in British Columbia.

People get Lyme disease from ticks. Ticks are sneaky. They anaesthetize their bites so they can feed in peace. Western black-legged ticks abound here, and up to 10 percent now carry Lyme in endemic areas like the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and southern Vancouver Island.
[ Page 5542 ]

May is awareness month because it starts a fresh tick season, the time when nymphal ticks, no larger than a speck of pepper, lurk on the tips of long spring grasses, waiting for a blood meal to pass by. Risk of infection can be greatly reduced if we know what precautions to take and what places and actions to avoid, like playing in tall grass while wearing shorts.

Being Lyme-aware is vital for children in suburban schools next to wooded areas frequented by deer. There are many such schools in B.C.

Today our public health officials are silent on the rising risk of Lyme disease. However, there are signs that our local schools are taking the risks to children more seriously. At Rogers Elementary in Saanich South, the May newsletter has a tick alert that's informative, non-alarmist and tells parents what to avoid, what to look for and what to do if a tick is discovered. That's prevention as it should be practised.

It inspires me today, in Lyme Disease Awareness Month, to urge our public health agencies to get serious about reducing public exposure to this preventable, debilitating and largely untreated illness.

TRADE EXPORT AWARDS AND
INTERNATIONAL TRADE DINNER IN SURREY

D. Hayer: International trade and the powerful export market will drive the future economy of this province. Today I'd like to talk about recognition of this vibrant part of our province's business.

Last Thursday I attended, with the members for Surrey-Panorama and Surrey-Whalley, the fourth annual International Trade and Surrey Export Awards dinner, presented by the Surrey Board of Trade and sponsored by Export Development Canada, Meyers Norris Penny and RBC Financial Group.

Held at the Sheraton Guilford Hotel in my riding of Surrey-Tynehead, this awards ceremony recognized six leading companies who specialize in international trade and exports. Garaventa Canada Ltd. was the award winner. Other nominees were: 4 Refuel Ltd., SOFTAC Systems Ltd., Labtest Certification Inc., ROE Logistics Inc. and Stantech.

This evening began with an international trade show, followed by formal ceremonies emceed by Dawn Chubai of Citytv.

In addition to the presentation by the event sponsor, the packed ballroom also heard from Tatyana Domilovskaya, representing Russia and regional director of the Canada-Eurasia Russian Business Association; Andre Nudelman, representing Brazil, chairman of the Canadian Council of the Americas; and the consul general of Brazil, Ambassador Fernando Jacques.

We also heard from Mukesh Gupta, representing India and director of strategic relations for the Tata Group, one of the world's largest companies — he noted that the company's founder, Jamsetji Tata, visited Vancouver in 1903 from India — and the keynote speaker, our own Minister of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development.

I ask all the members of the House to congratulate the Surrey Board of Trade for the fourth annual recognition of international trade leaders, businesses — all those outstanding speakers, volunteers, sponsors, staff members who made the evening such a success.

TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF NISGA’A TREATY

R. Austin: Simgigat, Sigidimhaanak, K'uba Wilksihlkw — these words, when translated from Nisga'a, mean chiefs, matriarchs, community members and are the usual respectful way in which the Nisga'a address people on ceremonial occasions.

Last week on May 11 these words were used many times as dignitaries from all over B.C. joined the Nisga'a nation in their capital, New Aiyansh, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Nisga'a treaty. I was privileged to witness that celebration along with the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and my colleagues from the North Coast and Powell River–Sunshine Coast.

The starring guest was the Lieutenant-Governor of B.C., His Honour Steven Point, who congratulated the Nisga'a nation for the success of the last ten years since the treaty was signed.

[1355]

So much has changed in the last ten years, from the public deliberations of this, the first modern-day treaty in over a hundred years that brought settlement to over 300 years of subjugation under a colonial regime, to a time when we now have a First Nations person as the Queen's representative, the highest office in the province.

The irony was not lost on all those who were in attendance. Instead of fearing the inclusion of First Nations as equal citizens of this province, instead of thinking that self-determination for aboriginal people meant another level of government that was not constitutional, the Nisga'a treaty has demonstrated that reconciliation is possible.

We can all live together in this province and share resources and decision-making in a way that encourages inclusion and that finally permits First Nations to improve their social and economic conditions while celebrating the diversity of their cultures in the same way that all new immigrants from all over the world have done once arriving in this great province.

The new president of the Nisga'a Nation, Mitchell Stevens, did not gloss over the challenges that the Nisga'a still face. It is early days, and there is much catching up to do for the Nisga'a. But the treaty has given a sense of hope for his people and a sense of pride in being Nisga'a. When people feel pride and regain their confidence, all things are possible.
[ Page 5543 ]

As the Nisga'a have a very young population, let us all hope that the future is bright as increased education and economic opportunities renew their communities. I ask all members of this House to join me in congratulating the many Nisga'a leaders for pursuing their dream for 113 years.

Oral Questions

EQUIPMENT AND ASSISTIVE
TECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE
FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

C. James: Two months ago the B.C. Liberals made a $25 million cut to nutrition supplements, medical supplies and shelter allowances for people with disabilities and on income assistance. Now we've learned that they've cut funding for employment programs for the disabled. The equipment and assistive technology initiative gives people with disabilities the opportunity to work and to volunteer in their communities. It provides wheelchairs, hearing and vision aids, computer access, enhancements and other equipment.

The government committed to providing $16 million over four years, and now they've broken their word. They've slashed the funding by 60 percent without notice and without any consultation. My question is to the Minister of Housing and Social Development. How can he and his government possibly justify these cuts?

Mr. Speaker: Minister of Housing.

Hon. R. Coleman: Thank you, Madam…. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm sure I will pay for that for some time to come.

Mr. Speaker: You will. [Laughter.]

Hon. R. Coleman: The member should do a little bit more research. What we've done this year is we are funding to the level that was last year's uptake with regards to the program. The money is also located within government should there be an increase in uptake this year. The funds would be available to fund additional services if required.

Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Opposition has a supplemental.

C. James: When I listen to the minister, I have to say I'll trust the organization before I trust this minister and this government on any funding cuts that have come. This community worked with the government to create this opportunity for people with disabilities to assist people who wanted to work, who wanted to volunteer and who needed some equipment to be able to do so.

The government promised them the funding. They committed to that funding, and now seven months after that promise, they broke their word. This organization is losing $10 million over four years. My question again is to the minister. Why is he breaking trust with the community groups and people with disabilities?

Hon. R. Coleman: What I stated is correct. There was $4 million in the program annually that is notionally allocated. But as we allocate our budget this year for the actual delivery of the program, we based it on last year's usage. That's where we're at. We are in a position, if our usage goes up, to be able to accommodate it within our budget for additional services for disabled people within this program.

Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Opposition has a further supplemental.

C. James: It's no wonder the community groups are frustrated when they get that kind of answer from this minister and this government. It's no surprise.

[1400]

The groups weren't told that the money was notionally allocated. The group was given the money by the government. The group received the money. The B.C. personal supports network, the organization that coordinates this initiative, is facing a $2.5 million cut this year. This isn't a notional cut. This is a cut the organization is facing.

The funding will run out in less than two months. That means…

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

C. James: …people with disabilities who want to work, who want to go out to the community, who need assistance to be able to do that will go without.

Again my question is to the minister. Will he admit today that his cuts are creating barriers to employment for people with disabilities?

Hon. R. Coleman: I'll repeat it for the member. There's $1.5 million for equipment and assisted technologies in the 2010-11 budget, because that was basically what was used last year. There still remains another $21 million in the budget to be available for people in programs for people with disabilities.

As we've always done with people with disabilities, we work with them. We've been in contact with this community. They understand what we're trying to accomplish. If there is a need for more, there'll be more.

Sorry, Member. If you don't like it, it's too bad.

What you guys never had was a plan for people with disabilities at all in the province of British Columbia.
[ Page 5544 ]
We are the ones that invested. We're the ones that have invested more money in job creation for people with disabilities, technology for people with disabilities. Communication devices are still funded for people with disabilities.

All you ever do is look at the sky and pretend it's falling and refuse to understand. We fund the usage rather than just putting money in a pot. We actually have a business plan with regards to people with disabilities, and we're delivering on it, hon. Members.

S. Simpson: This funding goes directly to individuals. It allows them to purchase the equipment and the aids that will improve their lives. It goes for wheelchairs, visual and hearing aids, computer enhancements and more. Yet less than two months after British Columbians cheered on the Paralympics, this government and this minister are prepared to hurt the ability of people to move, to speak, to see and hear and access information. That's what this minister's doing.

These organizations. The network has said they will run out of money in July 2010. Will this minister commit the $4 million a year to that equipment today?

Hon. R. Coleman: That's, of course, regardless of how much the usage would be. You just want to spend the $4 million. So $1.5 million is what the usage was last year. We're seeing a slight uptick in the usage this year. We have the funds to take care of it this year. That's how we're going to do it. We're going to pay for the services to 135 clients and any more that come on, if needed, because that's how this program should be run.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

S. Simpson: The way this program should be run is to meet the needs of the disabled, not to make excuses for an incompetent minister.

This group was told in May, six months after the money, after they thought they had a deal, that they didn't have a deal. So $4 million is gone. A million and a half is on the table. That's what they were told by this minister's officials — no consultation, no discussion, just a 60 percent cut.

My question to the minister again: how does this minister justify turning his back on the disabled, turning his back on vulnerable British Columbians, when he claims to care? What a sham.

Hon. R. Coleman: You wouldn't know. You've never seen somebody in iron lung at G.F. Strong. When I worked with the Kinsmen Rehabilitation Foundation….

Mr. Speaker: Through the Chair, please, Minister.

Hon. R. Coleman: To the member opposite — through you, Mr. Speaker: for you to even think for one second that I don't have the interests of disabled people at risk…. You're wrong.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. R. Coleman: The only thing phony over there is the member opposite asking the question.

Interjections.

[1405]

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Minister, take your seat.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Continue, Minister.

Hon. R. Coleman: I was actually personally involved in projects for quadriplegics and ventilated quadriplegics long before I entered politics. For the member opposite to take a shot like that at me I found somewhat offensive, and I apologize for going back at him that way.

I'll tell you what, Mr. Speaker. We will deliver the services as are needed for the individuals on the basis that they're needed. That's all we're doing here. We're funding according to the previous usage, and if there's an increase in requirements for more usage, we will fund that.

B. Ralston: It might be helpful to hear what Christine Gordon, who is the chair of the B.C. personal supports network, had to say in a letter to the assistant deputy minister of the minister's employment and labour market services division.

"This fiscal year is our startup year for the networked approach, and like any startup, it has posed a number of implementational challenges to everyone involved. We have successfully met all of these challenges, and the program became fully operational in November 2009.

"This has meant that the expected 12 months of disbursem*nts for equipment and assistive technology have been shrunk to five months, and consequently, the yearly budget is in surplus. It has been our expectation, given the agreement-in-principle, that this surplus would be carried over into the next fiscal year."

Clearly, the minister is not exactly expressing the full picture here. This organization had some understandable startup challenges. The numbers that the minister speaks of are confidently expected to expand in the next year, yet the budget has been shrunk. Can the minister explain why he's doing that, contrary to what Christine Gordon's expectation reasonably was?

Hon. R. Coleman: I'm familiar with the letter, and my staff are working with this organization to explain what the member has asked. I can tell the member opposite
[ Page 5545 ]
right now on this particular thing that there are about 135 people that receive technical assistance for disabilities that allows them to get back into the workforce.

We've said to the organization and I've said to my staff, because we've looked at our budget, that if there's an increase this year in the uptake of that, we will fund that. But we've based — prudently, I think — our fiscal expectations on what the uptake is to date. We will work through that with the organization. We've already indicated that. I'm indicating that to the members opposite, and we know that we have the ability to do that if there are more people requiring the assistance in the future.

CONSERVATION OFFICER SERVICE
IN BELLA COOLA AREA

G. Coons: For the last two years the Bella Coola Valley has been without a conservation officer. The nearest conservation officer is posted in Williams Lake more than 450 kilometres away along Highway 20, along the infamous hill.

My question is to the Environment Minister. The community of Hope is in his constituency. It's closer to Williams Lake than Bella Coola is. Does he really think it's reasonable for a conservation officer to offer reasonable services across that wide of an area?

Hon. B. Penner: We've had a chance to discuss this matter during my ministry's budget estimates. We covered this at some length.

It is a challenge across the province of British Columbia to manage our wildlife, but we have good news to report when it comes to managing human-bear conflicts. Over the last number of years we've seen a decreasing trend of human-bear conflicts across the province, and that's a tribute not just to the work of the conservation officer service but to communities that are working with us through a program known as Bear Aware and Bear Smart. It takes a collaborative approach to reduce the incidence of human-bear conflicts, and we're seeing success.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

[1410]

G. Coons: Besides the minister decimating the conservation service, he quoted in estimates: "…a conservation officer assigned to patrol the area but based in Williams Lake, so regular patrols will be scheduled." Some 450 kilometres apart — regular patrols.

All the people want in Bella Coola is for this minister to do his job. The frequency of controlled kills in the Bella Coola valley is an embarrassment. This threatens their burgeoning bear-viewing industry. Here's a quote from a wildlife photographer: "I have no intention of visiting the Bella Coola Valley again, and neither do any of my photographer friends, until this is resolved."

Again, my question is to the Environment minister. Will he help protect grizzly bears and the tourism industry that depends on them at least by posting a conservation officer position in the Bella Coola Valley?

Hon. B. Penner: As I noted, we are seeing significant progress in reducing the number of human-bear conflicts. We're doing that in partnership with local communities by educating the public about how they can reduce the number of attractants that they leave outside their property that unfortunately bring bears into town and near the residences. Ultimately, we all know that a fed bear becomes a dead bear.

In the last three years of our government, the number of problem bears that have had to be put down has dropped by half compared to the last three years of the NDP government.

MARMOT RECOVERY PROGRAM
AND SPECIES-AT-RISK LEGISLATION

R. Fleming: The Minister of Environment personally intervened in the fate of a yellow-bellied marmot at the Empress Hotel this week.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Take your seat for a second, Member.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Continue, Member.

R. Fleming: He said in quite strong terms that this individual marmot from the Interior could put local Vancouver Island marmots at risk, but his government has not confirmed funding for the marmot recovery program for Vancouver Island marmots, which are still among Canada's most endangered mammals.

My question to the minister is this. If he's truly concerned about the precarious state of Vancouver Island marmots, why won't he commit to fully fund the breeding program and Marmot Recovery Foundation?

Hon. B. Penner: One of my colleagues wondered if the member wrote the question himself or cut and pasted it from a website. But I think what's important to note is that we are seeing significant progress in the recovery of the Vancouver Island marmot. Shortly after our government took office, the population of Vancouver Island marmots in the wild was less than 30. Today that number exceeds 250. To help the member with his math, that represents an 800 percent increase in about the last eight years.
[ Page 5546 ]

There's more work to be done. We are partnering with that foundation and will continue to do so.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

The member has a supplemental.

R. Fleming: I think it's very fortunate that the marmot in question was not between the minister and the camera when he went to the Empress on the weekend. By all accounts, he's in good shape. But the minister….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Continue, Member.

[1415]

R. Fleming: The minister knows that part of what will help Vancouver Island marmots to have a sustainable future over the long term is the protection of their habitat. British Columbia remains one of the only provinces in Canada without species-at-risk legislation. This government promised to convene a task force to examine the issue. They promised to report back to the House by the end of June, but the task force hasn't even been named yet and has therefore been unable to meet.

My question is to the minister. Why doesn't he get to work introducing species-at-risk legislation that protects critical habitat of endangered species in British Columbia?

Hon. B. Penner: Just yesterday, the House passed second reading of a bill that expands B.C.'s protected areas network even more — to be the largest in Canada — so that by the time this bill is passed, which I expect it to be shortly, more than 14.25 percent of B.C.'s total land base will be protected. That's called habitat protection, and I think it's one reason why you're seeing recovery for the Vancouver Island marmot.

We are working with that foundation. There are many good people contributing in voluntary donations and time and effort, but the province of British Columbia has also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few years, and we're going to continue to work with that organization to do the good work of recovering the Vancouver Island marmot.

SILVICULTURE ACTIVITIES

N. Macdonald: The B.C. Liberals claim that one of their four forestry priorities is advanced silviculture, yet this week, the Western Silviculture Contractors Association started an on-line petition to try and force this government to do even the bare minimum silviculture.

My question is to the Minister of Forests. How does he reconcile B.C. Liberal claims with the reality that next year we will see the fewest number of trees planted in the province in the last 40 years?

Hon. P. Bell: The member is incorrect. In fact, silviculture follows harvesting. As the member well knows, a few years ago we were harvesting 70 million cubic metres of timber per year in the province. Last year we were down to 41 million cubic metres, and we would expect silviculture to drop in relation to that.

That said, we have our Forests for Tomorrow program this year that will be planting over 20 million trees across this province as a result of this government's funding.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

The member has a supplemental.

N. Macdonald: B.C. Liberal forest policies have devastated harvesting as they have the forest industry as a whole, with 30,000 jobs lost and 72 mills shut down. That's a fact. But there are — listen to the number — 14 million hectares of public forest that have been devastated by the pine beetle. There have been over a million hectares that have been damaged by fire. There is a massive replanting shortfall.

We are back to the crisis situation that we last saw in the 1980s, and B.C. Liberals are replanting less than ever. B.C. Liberals have destroyed the B.C. forest industry, and they are abandoning their responsibility to replant. So the question is: will the minister commit today to listen to silviculture professionals and increase the government's investment in our public lands?

Hon. P. Bell: The opposition seems to struggle with positions on a variety of initiatives. The member opposite, the critic, actually was quite complimentary of another one of the initiatives that this government has gone forward with recently, which is our efforts into China, and in fact, is on record in a number of different areas.

What I find interesting is that the previous critic just earlier this week was saying that our efforts in China are a waste of time. So now I know that the member for Cariboo North really would still like to be the critic for Forests. I'm sorry that he had a bit of a hiccup during the election and was displaced from that role. But it would be nice if the members opposite would get on the same page on their policy positions on things like China.

[1420]

B. Simpson: Without healthy public forests, there is no forest industry — period. This minister knows that there's a difference between legal obligations for
[ Page 5547 ]
replanting after harvesting and this government's obligation for areas of the forest that have been disturbed and that this government is responsible for tree planting and for forest health. This minister knows that.

The Western Silvicultural Contractors on their webpage and webpage petition have pointed out that 15 million hectares have been hit by the mountain pine beetle. Of that, between three million and six million hectares need planting to regrow those forests. That's between three billion and six billion trees, not a few million trees.

When is the minister going to stop talking about advanced silviculture and tree planting and start doing it and fund an accelerated program?

Hon. P. Bell: Obviously, the member opposite isn't listening. During the period from 2002 to 2008 this government planted one billion trees.

You know, Mr. Speaker, I'm still having trouble reconciling the member for Cariboo North's comments against the critic's comments around China. I'm just confused. I'd like for the member for Cariboo North to either support the comments that he made on the Meisner show late last week, when he said that what we were doing in China was a complete waste of time and that I shouldn't go over and market into the Chinese marketplace, or the critic's perspective from just a few weeks before that, when he said that we were doing exactly the right thing.

I would appreciate it if the member would reconcile those differences.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

B. Simpson: Here's what the Western Silvicultural Contractors have to say about the government's response just to the mountain pine beetle. This is right off their webpage: the B.C. government's plan to address the mountain pine beetle problem "will only deal with an insignificant fraction of the area which requires tree planting, and it will take 20 years to complete." This minister knows that every year this government does not do an accelerated program delays forest health from coming back for a forest-healthy industry for 30 years. Every year delayed is 30 years.

This minister is deflecting because he doesn't have an answer to the question. That's what he's doing. Not only is the minister putting the forest at risk; he's putting an entire industry at risk. The planting capacity, the seedling capacity is 350 million seedlings, and 150 trees planted puts a $700 million industry at risk.

Stick to the question. Will the minister commit today to do an advanced silviculture response to the mountain pine beetle?

Hon. P. Bell: The reason why I'm deflecting is I'm having far too much fun pointing out the fact that the member for Cariboo North really wishes that he was the Forest critic still and seems to be making policy on behalf of the NDP.

In 2009-10 there was over $250 million spent on silviculture in this province and 330,000 hectares treated. That's a record this government is proud of.

SUMMER SCHOOL SPACES

R. Austin: Recently, at 5 a.m. in the morning, hundreds of parents began lining up outside the Vancouver school board building, hoping to enrol their children in summer classes. Obviously, parents are worried that there is more demand for spaces than the district can accommodate.

[1425]

My question to the Education Minister is this: what is this government doing to help districts manage the increased demand for summer school spaces?

Hon. M. MacDiarmid: We certainly understand that summer school is one of the valuable programs, and that's why our government is supporting it. We continue to invest in public education. We continue to increase our investigation of public education. This is at a time when districts are expecting fewer students, but these are popular programs. We provided $15 million for summer school programs last year in the province. This year we are committing another $15 million, and that allowed last year 44,000 students to take summer learning courses.

Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental.

R. Austin: Well, cash-strapped school districts are slashing the number of summer school spaces they offer to students needing extra help or looking to improve their averages for entrance into university. The Richmond school district cut the number of summer school spaces by almost 20 percent at a time when demand for summer school spaces has never been higher. Again to the Education Minister: why can't districts afford to meet the demand for summer school spaces?

Hon. M. MacDiarmid: As the member is well aware, our government is absolutely committed to education. At a time when jurisdictions around North America are reducing their investment, this government has continued to increase our investments in education.

It's interesting to hear the member opposite be critical. What we know is that the NDP's platform contained 60 percent less investment in public education than we have put in terms of increases over the last two years. So again, these are valuable programs. We invested $15 million last year, and we put that amount in again this year for students across B.C.
[ Page 5548 ]

[End of question period.]

Petitions

V. Huntington: I have the honour to present a petition from constituents in Delta South in opposition to the HST.

M. Sather: I seek leave to make an introduction.

Mr. Speaker: Proceed.

Introductions by Members

M. Sather: Joining us today in the precincts is Alexandra Morton. She's here to discuss the issue of sea lice and fish farms with the minister's office, the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

D. Routley: I'd like the House to help me welcome my CA from the Ladysmith office. Patty McNamara has joined us. Patty is a great assistant to me, and I owe her such a debt of gratitude for her many hours of service.

S. Hammell: It looks like I may have just missed her, but my daughter, Sage Aaron, was in the gallery, and I'd like the House to please make her welcome.

Orders of the Day

Hon. M. de Jong: In Committee A, I call Committee of Supply — for the information of members, the estimates of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources — and, in this chamber, continued committee stage debate on Bill 13.

[1430-1435]

Committee of the Whole House

BIll 13 — Forests and Range
(First Nations Woodland Licence)
Statutes Amendment Act, 2010

(continued)

The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 13; L. Reid in the chair.

The committee met at 2:36 p.m.

The Chair: Hon. Members, with your indulgence, I'd like to ask you to join me in recognizing 43 students visiting from Richmond Christian School in my riding. Their teachers are Christy Simpson and Sigfried Ong. I'd ask the House to please make them welcome.

On section 4 (continued).

The Chair: Recognizing the member for Cariboo South — Cariboo North, rather.

B. Simpson: Correct. I miss the representative from Cariboo South. Charlie is missed in here.

Anyway, having said that, let's get on with the job. We were in the middle of this section 4. The section has to do with the minister specifying a portion of the annual allowable cut, and it has to do with the fact that this will now be an area-based tenure, so there are some adjustments there.

I had asked the minister the question about whether or not the work had been done in the various timber supply areas to make sure that these areas could be designated quickly and that the volume was actually going to be there. It's not just lines on a map. You can put lines on a map around a dead mountain pine beetle stand, and there's no volume to commercialize or turn into a commercial enterprise. The minister had indicated a quick answer, and then we recessed.

I'd like the minister to give me a more fulsome answer. Has the work actually been done? If so, does that work exist in some form with respect to all of the TSAs? Some of the TSAs? What's the status of the preparatory work to make sure these licences can actually be realized?

Hon. P. Bell: Just in quickly reviewing my response from yesterday, I confirmed that while this work is ongoing, some areas are further along than others. There were some First Nations that expressed interest in early adoption, and we have been working specifically with those First Nations to try and identify land bases that are available to them.

I've also been very clear in my public comments, and I'm happy to put on the record here as well, that I expect that in some circ*mstances this will take quite some time. I'm not expecting we'll be able to move all 168 or so forest and range opportunities and agreements to area-based tenures quickly. I have expressed that, as well, in any of the meetings I've had with First Nations.

I've also said that in areas where there is greater availability of resource, the land is not as constrained — I often use Fort Nelson as the example for no particular reason other than it is an area that there is some flexibility — and that it would be easier for us to move quickly. In some areas, like portions of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, it will be far more challenging where the timber is constrained.

So the work has been ongoing — early days in some cases and more advanced in other cases. I do not want to create an expectation that we will be able to fully accommodate all 168 forest and range opportunities or agreements within the next year or two. That would not be realistic.

[1440]
[ Page 5549 ]

B. Simpson: Well, this is against a backdrop of a government that has been chastised for the state of the forest inventory by the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals, against a backdrop of a government that is in the process of effectively gutting the Ministry of Forests and taking bodies out of the Ministry of Forests, and against a backdrop of a government that had attempted to double the woodlot program and expand the community forest program, announced in 2003 and just barely begun to be realized now that we're into 2010.

There's a good reason for some cynicism out there that this would happen quickly at all. So it's heartening to hear the minister indicate that there are some issues here, but it's more than just volume constraints or licence constraints on the land base. There are a whole bunch of other issues there.

The minister mentioned that there are 168 forest and range agreements. I wonder if the minister could, for the public record, indicate how many of those have already expired and how many will expire within the next year.

Hon. P. Bell: There are 45 agreements that have expired in the last short period of time this year. There are 22 more that are due to expire this year. We've contacted the 45 that have expired and advised them that we will be entering into discussions with them in the coming weeks about renewing those agreements on an interim basis until we're able to move forward on the area-based tenures. That will be the case with all of the agreements as we go forward.

B. Simpson: For once, I have to say that the minister's presumption of where I was going with this was bang on, and I appreciate the answer that he gave.

The question that's being asked, of course, is: what happens in the interim? The forest and range agreements and forest and range opportunities were difficult enough to get going. There were only five years, so they were a short duration. They were volume-based. Now you have a whole bunch of First Nations that are looking at an unknown time period before they can again get access to the land base to create economic activity from forests.

I would hope, again, that the minister has the resources to accelerate that, because that's certainly what I'm hearing, especially given that we're in whatever the nature of this market bump is. Nobody really knows how long it is. It's unfortunate that many of those First Nations are losing their ability to get to the land base at a time when there are actually some prices there that they could make some money off of. Hopefully, that goes on.

A second question related to this section, because the section has to do with the fact that the minister has to make arrangements for an area-based tenure and apportionment of the annual allowable cut. In speaking with some of the First Nations, they have indicated to me that they're concerned that their only opportunity might be an area-based tenure, simply because they may not be able to find an area in their traditional territories that actually has a viable, healthy forest that they can extract resources from, especially timber resources.

One of the questions that's being asked is: with this tenure coming into existence, with it being area-based, will it be the only vehicle? With forest and range agreements going, with this tenure coming into existence, the question is: will it be the only vehicle that First Nations will be able to get access to, or will volume-based tenures still be available to First Nations?

Hon. P. Bell: Both forms of tenure will be available.

B. Simpson: The final line of questioning around this is that part of the difficulty in the woodlot program and expansion of the woodlot program, expansion of the community forest program, and the forest and range agreements, etc., is the role that B.C. Timber Sales plays both as a licensee with their lines on the map and as an agent of the Crown. That is often confusing for First Nations, as to how they're talking to B.C. Timber Sales. Are they talking to them as an agent of the Crown, or are they talking to them as another licensee, in which they're trying to get some volume or an area on the land?

One of the questions around the defining of the area is the role that B.C. Timber Sales will play in either constraining that or enabling that. That's a fair comment from First Nations, because the woodlots experienced it, and community forests experienced it.

[1445]

I guess the question is: what role will B.C. Timber Sales play in this? Will they be treated just as another licensee? The work will be done, the line on the map will be done, and then B.C. Timber Sales will simply have to take their lumps like every other licensee. Or will they be a player as an agent of the Crown in determining what the First Nations get?

Hon. P. Bell: B.C. Timber Sales has a number of functions. Probably the most important one from our perspective is to help us create a market pricing system, which requires the auctioning of 20 percent of the timber across the province.

That said, we believe there are innovative partnerships that we can create with First Nations to advance both this type of tenure, this tenure opportunity, and the need to have sufficient data in the market pricing system to fulfil our responsibilities to the United States and the softwood lumber agreement.

We have entered into discussions with First Nations — the Haida is a good example of one of the ones that is a bit more advanced at this point in time — to consider our options of how we can achieve those dual mandates
[ Page 5550 ]
with the timber resource that's currently allocated to B.C. Timber Sales.

I think the member also asked the question: what role will B.C. Timber Sales play? Certainly, they are a licensee and will continue to be a licensee. But finding ways of creating partnerships, we think, will advance this agenda and help us move more quickly in creating area-based tenures for First Nations.

B. Simpson: I appreciate the minister's answer. I know my question was a bit convoluted, so let me try and fine-tune it a little bit.

In the case of trying to determine woodlot expansion, for example, there's a different relationship between Ministry of Forests and B.C. Timber Sales when it comes to trying to draw the lines on the map as to where you would put a woodlot. There's an intimate relationship there because B.C. Timber Sales is still part of the Crown. It's much easier, as some people would argue, for B.C. Timber Sales to say, "Uh-uh, I don't think so," than it is, necessarily, for other licensees to say that because of that relationship.

The second issue is that often First Nations are sitting with B.C. Timber Sales as an agent of the Crown. The question that I'm merely trying to get at here is: in the drawing of the lines on the map, will that be clearly Ministry of Forests line staff or agents of the minister's office and First Nations? The lines then get drawn. Everybody agrees that that's where it is, and then B.C. Timber Sales is simply told, like the other licences, where those lines are. Otherwise, as the First Nations indicate, B.C. Timber Sales has a special place at the table, which often means they don't get access to their areas.

Hon. P. Bell: The member's incorrect. The only role that B.C. Timber Sales has in working with First Nations, other than as a licensee, would be on a consultation basis when they're advancing their forest development plans and cutting permits. Other than that, they don't play any role that any normal licensee would not play.

The model that the member asks about in terms of how these areas will be determined. We will treat B.C. Timber Sales like we would any other licensee. They won't be engaged initially, but once the early discussions with the First Nations take place, B.C. Timber Sales, as well as any of the other operating licensees in the area, would be brought into the discussion to determine the appropriate lines on the map to be drawn and how this new tenure might be put into place.

Sections 4 and 5 approved.

On section 6.

B. Simpson: Again, the minister's clarity in his answer was what I was after, but I just want to correct the record. I was saying that there was confusion on part of First Nations woodlots — others — about the role that B.C. Timber Sales plays, because they see them as an agent of the Crown. That's where the confusion comes from, not the delineation of functions or the legislation or whatever but the relationship that occurs because B.C. Timber Sales is an agent of the Crown as well as a licensee.

On section 6. I need some clarification here, because it's one of those changes that seems to be changing, potentially, the content of a licence. I wonder if the minister can just give an explanatory note.

[1450]

For folks who do pay attention to this stuff, as opposition we just get these little section notes, and all it says is that section 6 provides consistency with the addition of another section. But often I find that sometimes changing a little word here and a little word there is actually making a broader change. So what's the nature of this section change?

Hon. P. Bell: In section 14(g.1) the existing language allows for…. When a First Nation enters into an interim measures agreement that results in a forest licence, if the First Nation does not comply with some of the elements of the agreement, then the licence can be cancelled. That exists currently in 14(g.1). The amendment simply harmonizes the language with the award of the First Nations woodland licence. So it just allows for that same provision to exist with a First Nations woodland licence.

Sections 6 and 7 approved.

On section 8.

B. Simpson: I don't want to get into the debate on delegated authority, because that's what I understand that we're actually doing here — the continuation of some changes in section 8 to be consistent with what we saw in Bill 7. But the (c) portion of this does say "by striking out 'the person who evaluated the applications'" and substituting that with "the minister may."

In this case, one of the questions — and it's similar to community forests and woodlots — is the whole application process. I wonder if the minister could just give an indication of what the process is that he foresees will occur in the application for these new licences. How does he see the application process unfolding?

Hon. P. Bell: The process will mirror the application process for a community forest where the minister will invite the community to apply. The community will then go through that process, apply, and then the final decision would be made by the minister.

B. Simpson: I want to be clear, because the invitation to apply is actually often as a result of the community
[ Page 5551 ]
doing some work and kind of putting a case together, making sure that other people — in the case of community forests, often making sure that other entities — are supportive of the initiative.

My understanding of how that process works, then, is there's a bit of a lobby done to the minister saying: "We've got some of our ducks in a row. We kind of know what we want to do here. We've got people signed off on it." Then they get a formal letter, which is the formal letter of an invitation to apply. Does the minister see that same kind of preliminary process having to unfold first before the formal invitation to apply occurs?

Hon. P. Bell: The member's correct.

B. Simpson: But in this case, I guess, you have, as the minister indicated, a number of First Nations that are in forest and range agreements already, and the minister has indicated that the intent is over time to get as many of these licences out to First Nations as possible.

[1455]

The minister indicated that 45 of the forest and range agreements have already expired, and 22 are about to expire. Of course, for all of them, the clock is ticking down.

Is the intent for the minister to just simply initiate invitations to some of these to apply right away? Especially for ones — as we had a dialogue yesterday — that have been successful with forest and range agreements and want to continue, would there not be some kind of automatic: "Let's get on with it, send out an invitation to apply, and let's get the ball rolling"?

Or is there going to be some kind of requirement on First Nations…? It's more a question of clarity for people as to how this will unfold. Would there be some expectation that "no, some additional work is going to have to be done before you get the invitation to actually start the process"?

Hon. P. Bell: I think the answer to the member's question is probably yes. Communities that clearly have demonstrated some success and want to move quickly and will have demonstrated their ability are ones that we would invite very quickly.

One of the additional elements that I think is important to keep in mind here is that we don't want to create unrealistic expectations. Prior to the invitation we would at least be looking to determine if there is an available land base to put this tenure on in the area that had been identified by the First Nation. That would be one of the early things, rather than issuing an invitation not knowing whether or not there is land base available to put this tenure on.

B. Simpson: Which in many cases is the rub — whether or not that can be achieved.

My question to the minister on this, then, is: given the backdrop of the ministry losing bodies…. We're expecting another round of announcements for job losses within the Ministry of Forests and Range. How is the minister going to staff — actually getting the work done to make the determinations on the ground, given that he's got a diminishing workforce?

Hon. P. Bell: The majority of the reductions that are being made in the Forest Service right now are administrative in nature. We certainly have a group of qualified individuals in our tenures branch that are more than capable of dealing with this work.

But again, I just want to step back and make sure that I don't create unrealistic expectations. This will be a very complex project. If all 168 First Nations that currently have some form of tenure or forest and range opportunities or agreements wanted to move to the new First Nations woodland licence, it would be a very complex project, and it would take quite some time.

I know that the member opposite follows along the interests of the woodlot associations, community forests. These tenures will be equally as complex as the tenures that we issue under woodlots and community forests. So I don't want to create unrealistic expectations. It will be complex, but we certainly have qualified staff ready to take on this role.

B. Simpson: The minister has said a number of times that he doesn't want to set unrealistic expectations. But the minister also indicated in the line of questioning before that one of the bottlenecks will be the identification of the possible areas on the land base.

That bottleneck is only a bottleneck because of a lack of resources from the Ministry of Forests assigned to go and get that work done. That work could be accelerated if a sufficient number of bodies and resources were put to it. It's the only bottleneck that the minister has articulated so far.

My question to the minister is: is it possible, if the minister assigned additional staff, to address that very issue and shorten the time frame that it's going to take to get the first one or half-dozen of these done?

[1500]

Hon. P. Bell: I know we're creating lots of leeway in this debate, and I'm not sure that discussing the staffing levels of the Ministry of Forests and Range fits within this particular bill. However, I will endeavour to answer the question at this point anyway.

The holdup frequently in issuing some form of tenure.... I'll use the Ucluelet example. The Ucluelet community forest is really not a function of the number of staff that are available. It's finding an agreement amongst the licensees and the community, in the case of Ucluelet, on what that tenure might look like and how you put it on
[ Page 5552 ]
the land base. That is a very constrained timber supply area, a very challenged timber supply area. Eventually we were able to come to an agreement that did not reflect what Ucluelet originally was looking for but did present a reasonable outcome.

I'm not concerned about staffing levels. I think we will have sufficient staff to implement this particular program. But again, I just need to be cautious in not creating undue expectations — not a function of staffing, a function of how complex the challenge will be.

The member actually, I know, is aware of it. I've often heard him speak in the House on the number of different types of tenures, the number of different users on the land base. He well knows how challenging it is to manage this province that we live in. So I think I'll just leave it at that at this point.

B. Simpson: I don't think it's latitude we're getting; I think we're getting to the heart of the issue. This is a new licence. In order to realize that licence, there have to be appropriate resources put to realizing a licence. One of those resources is the human resources.

Given the minister's comments…. I take the complexity on the ground; I take that it takes time. But it also takes people-hours to walk through the process. It takes people-hours on the part of the ministry to mediate the process, to take it through all of the hoops that have to be done. I guess we'll agree to disagree with respect to whether the minister has sufficient resources to do that or not.

My final question on this point. The minister again has said that he doesn't want to set unrealistic expectations. But what are his expectations of the duration for maybe the first one of these or first couple of these to actually be realized?

Hon. P. Bell: We're hopeful that we would get four or five invitations out this year and have those licences in place next year.

Sections 8 to 10 inclusive approved.

On section 11.

B. Simpson: This section is where the bill seems to set out the requirements for getting one of these licences. Before I get into it in more detail, I note that subsection (1) that's going to be inserted into 43.51 of the Forest Act states: "The minister may enter into a community forest agreement (a) with a first nation or its representative…." Why is the term "community forest agreement" used there and not the new term, which is the "First Nations woodland licence"?

Hon. P. Bell: We used the opportunity, as we were in this particular piece of legislation, to perform a housekeeping amendment to the community forest regulation. This doesn't impact the new First Nations woodland licence.

B. Simpson: Does this suggest, then, that by tidying up the language and retaining it, a First Nation can get a community forest licence? I know there's other language in here so the First Nations can get a woodlot licence. Would one preclude getting the other? Is there a relationship between the two?

[1505]

Hon. P. Bell: This amendment allows First Nations to hold either a community forest licence, a woodlot licence, a new First Nations woodland licence or any combination of those.

B. Simpson: I guess I'm not clear, then, if a community forest…. Let me ask this question. Can they hold more than one of these licences?

All three are area-based licences. I guess the confusion is if you've got this new First Nations licence but they can access a community forest licence or access a woodlot licence, both area-based. What's the point of going through the whole rigmarole of establishing a new licence? Why not stop this? As the minister has indicated, the difficulties, etc…. Why not start flipping over some of these forest and range agreements to community forest licences as quickly as possible? That already exists.

Hon. P. Bell: While First Nations could hold any individual one of those three forms of tenure or a combination of those tenures or more than one — two woodlots, as an example — the First Nations woodland licences are exclusively for First Nations and not available to communities or non–First Nations communities.

There are First Nations that currently hold community forests in partnerships with communities. An example of that would be the McLeod Lake Indian band in the district of Mackenzie. It's necessary to have this wording in here in order to allow any combination or any individual of those tenures to be held.

In addition, we heard clearly from First Nations that they were looking for a stand-alone form of tenure in the new First Nations woodland licence. We did our best to reflect the different options that they were considering or that were important in this piece of legislation. So that's the importance of actually having this here as opposed to simply asking First Nations to adopt existing forms of tenure.

B. Simpson: I appreciate the clarification. The other thing, of course, is that the woodland licence has other commercial — the botanical, etc…. They've got the unique aspects to it.

We'll get into the stumpage question later on in here, because one of the things, of course, is that community
[ Page 5553 ]
forest stumpage is different than what's being assigned to these licences. That's become a bit of a bone of contention, as the minister is well aware. So I take the minister's point on community forest agreements, etc.

There are other sections in here about converting community forest agreements or woodlot agreements. We're going to get into the private land component. But am I correct that if a community forest is held by a First Nations…? Would that First Nations then be able to just convert that into one of these new licences?

Hon. P. Bell: That's correct.

B. Simpson: We'll get into substance of stumpage shortly. But in the conversion of that licence, since we're dealing with it under this clause, would they then convert it to all of the stumpage, the rent, the constraints on this licence and lose the community forest stumpage in that conversion?

Hon. P. Bell: The member should understand that there are three different forms of tenure here. The First Nation could choose any one of those three forms of tenure depending on what's offered.

Certainly, it's our intent to move forward with the new First Nations woodland licence. We've tried to craft that in a way that meets the spirit of what we heard in the process of discussing this with First Nations. But you wouldn't be able to pick an element of the community forest licence, an element of a woodlot and an element of a First Nations woodland licence and create a new form of tenure that would combine the three. It would be choosing one of those three forms of tenure.

B. Simpson: Again, for clarity, why wouldn't First Nations then just simply apply for community forest licences and not go for these because of the stumpage question and the tabular rate stumpage for community forests?

[1510]

Would the minister take that? If First Nations say, "Okay, on balance, we like some aspects of this new licence, but the reality is that the economics of a community forest licence are a lot better," and you get a whole bunch of applications for community forests…. Will the minister just settle and go with First Nations on their desire for a community forest in lieu of one of these?

Hon. P. Bell: I believe I've already answered that question. This type of tenure is a stand-alone tenure. There are three forms of tenure here that may be eligible. There are many other forms of tenure that would be available to First Nations as well. But this particular tenure doesn't allow you — nor do any of the others — to pick and choose what elements of other tenures you might be able to incorporate in this.

This tenure was built on the principle of the discussions that we had with the 23 First Nations and also the hundred or more First Nations that I visited with and talked to during both the round-table work and the other community meetings that I do on a regular basis.

Sections 11 and 12 approved.

On section 13.

B. Simpson: This is a very large section with a number of components to it. What I'll do in the interests of time is try and do some general questions to get to the heart of some of this.

A concern that's been raised with me about getting access to one of these new licences is the issue of having to be involved in an interim agreement or the treaty process or some kind of agreement with the government of which this new licence forms a part of that agreement. Some First Nations have indicated to me that they just want to be able to apply for the licence. They don't want to be involved in any other business with the government.

I wonder if the minister can clarify: if you've got a First Nation that is not in the treaty process, isn't involved in interim agreements with the government, isn't involved in broader partnership agreements with the government and just wants one of these, will they be able to get one?

The Chair: Recognizing the member for Nanaimo–North Cowichan seeking leave to make an introduction.

Leave granted.

Introductions by Members

D. Routley: I would like to make welcome a group of students from Ecole Pauline Haarer School in Nanaimo. They are accompanied by Ms. Virginia Lofeudo. They are 25 grade 6 students with ten adults accompanying them, who have come to take a look at how our parliament works.

I could tell them now that they're watching debate on a bill, committee stage of a bill, where the critic is asking the minister specific questions about that bill. If they'd been here earlier for question period, they would have seen a much more heated exchange. Mr. MacMinn, who is one of the Clerks in the House, tells students that there's anger and heat in our chamber so that there isn't blood on our streets. That's how we contain ourselves in a democracy.

I would like those of us in the House to help make them welcome to their House.

Hon. P. Bell: I, too, would like to welcome all the students and teachers and parents. I should tell you that there's a reason for the width of the desks being away from us. You may have heard this outside already, but
[ Page 5554 ]
it's actually 2½ sword lengths. Some hundred or so years ago, when I guess people used to maybe bring swords in here, it would prevent us from actually gouging — doing all that kind of stuff.

Anyway, we're having a great debate right now. We're having a great debate on First Nations woodland licences, which is a new form of tenure that we're working with First Nations in the Ministry of Forests and Range.

Debate Continued

Hon. P. Bell: The answer to the question is that interim measure agreements will be required to enter into new First Nations woodland licences, but one should not presuppose what an interim measures agreement contains. It does not require being involved in the treaty process, and it may be some other form of agreement.

Each interim measures agreement is crafted to reflect the desires, needs and wants of both the First Nation and the province of British Columbia. So I don't think First Nations will see that as an impediment going forward. It is to be crafted specific to the needs of each of the individual communities.

[1515]

B. Simpson: Welcome, to the students. One of the things I would say to the students is that this is how your laws are made, your helmet laws and all of that fun stuff. This one happens to be with respect to how First Nations in the province can get access to our forests.

With that, I would beg to politely differ with the minister's impression of First Nations sense of this. I have been told categorically — and it is one of the reasons why there will be a joint First Nations Forestry Council and energy council meeting come June — that this is problematic, that First Nations believe these licences should be unencumbered from having to be involved in any kind of interim measures, treaty or not treaty.

If I look back at the section around community forests, for First Nations accessing a community forest in section 11, there's a clause (b) that says "under prescribed circ*mstances or with a holder that meets prescribed requirements." I'm wondering why there wasn't an additional clause put in here — where if a First Nation comes forward that can meet the test, for example, of being able to viably have one of these licences but is not involved in interim measures with the government in any way, shape or form — that would allow the minister to say: "Okay, that makes sense, and we will issue one of these licences even though you're not involved in an interim measure."

Hon. P. Bell: Again, just stepping back, the member opposite….

I should tell the folks up in the gallery that these two fine young gentlemen as well as the gentleman behind me are all government staff members to me as the Minister of Forests. They provide me with advice on the well-reasoned and thought-through questions from the member of the opposition. He unfortunately does not have that same opportunity, which puts him at a disadvantage. It's in order to ensure that we provide full answers to his questions, and it's the only time that staff members are allowed in the House. Otherwise, it's only MLAs, elected officials, that are allowed in here.

To answer the member's question, using a woodlot as an example, a woodlot to be awarded to a First Nation would require an interim measures agreement. Otherwise it would be competitively awarded. As I know, the member opposite understands woodlots are competitively awarded under normal circ*mstances.

If it is a community forest, although there isn't the direct competitive process, there is an application process that the community goes through that awards the tenure. So the interim measures agreement is appropriate, and we think it will provide enough flexibility to meet the needs of First Nations across the province. There may be a misunderstanding.

The member earlier pointed to a misunderstanding generally on the part of people publicly that B.C. Timber Sales has responsibilities from government's perspective other than its role as licensee and that he was aware of its official role but that others misunderstood it. I think that probably is the same for this particular issue.

[1520]

An interim measures agreement can be many different things. Our desire will be to create interim measures agreements that make sense for each individual First Nation, and we think they will likely vary depending on that First Nation's interests.

B. Simpson: Again, from the perspective of First Nations, maybe that's a communications issue from the minister's office to First Nations. The reality is that the constraint put on First Nations appears to be: "You've got to be playing in our sandbox in order to get one of these."

That's how it's been articulated to me that it feels like for First Nations: "There's a bigger sandbox here. We want to be moving on other things. Here's your sucker for the day if you come in and play in our sandbox." That's their impression. If that's not the case, then I think there is a communications issue in the minister's office, in the ministry, with First Nations.

The minister raises…. His answer to the question is an interesting one, in referencing the "may be" related to the issue of not wanting to put in language to direct-award these, because woodlots are competitive. Community forests have a consultation process in a broader process.

Yet in this same bill, later on in section 17, there's the ability to direct-award grazing licences and various things for First Nations. I recall, when I was the Forests critic, an amendment act that gave district managers the
[ Page 5555 ]
ability to direct-award licences to First Nations as well. If the issue is direct-award, then I think that everybody understands this is a different relationship, a different legal relationship and so on.

Again, I would ask the minister: would he consider repealing this section and coming up with language that allows First Nations, or adding a section that allows First Nations, to access these without being involved in an interim measure? That's what I'm hearing is a real request on the part of First Nations.

Hon. P. Bell: No.

B. Simpson: That's about as clear an answer as you can get.

We're constrained, as the minister has indicated, in resources that we have to put forward reasoned amendments. But if we had the ability, we would have tried to figure out a reasoned amendment to this. I take the minister's point about the direct-award issue, but I think it is unfair to First Nations to have to have an interim agreement in place to get one of these.

Let's move on to another section in this section. It's the whole issue of the management plan approval. I wonder if the minister could just simply clarify what the nature of the management plan is that's referenced here. Is it a forest stewardship plan, or does that come afterwards?

This management plan must be put in place prior to approval by the minister, and I would just like some clarification of what the process is. You get a letter of invitation. Does the management plan have to come in after the letter of invitation and before the approval? Where does it fit in the sequence of events?

Hon. P. Bell: We expect that this will largely mirror the type of work that goes on with community forests or tree farm licences. That said, it will be implemented by regulation, and we will consult with First Nations as we develop these forms of tenures to ensure that the management plan reflects the spirit of the objectives of the First Nations. This will be something that'll be done by regulation if this piece of legislation is approved by the House and as we enter into those agreements.

B. Simpson: I was just going to explain to the folks, if they had been here, that with a majority, it's pretty much a given that you actually get it through.

The minister has indicated that this management plan has yet to be determined. One of the questions with respect to this particular licence and communities that will get one of these licences….

[1525]

Of course, the resources required to meet the government's obligations…. In the process of trying to get one of these licences, will there be resources made available to First Nations — and in what form, if they are — to be able to actually meet whatever the regulatory requirements are to submit a management plan to get one? It becomes a chicken and an egg for First Nations to be able to do these things.

Hon. P. Bell: The resources that may be made available to a First Nation to do this sort of work quite conceivably could be included as part of an interim measures agreement, which might give a First Nation a very good reason to want to be part of an interim measures agreement. That's why I had indicated earlier to the member that I don't think we should have preconceived notions of what an interim measures agreement might look like.

B. Simpson: It is on the public record, and I will allow First Nations to respond to the minister's statement of: "You come into our sandbox, and we'll give you some resources to be able to get another incremental benefit from playing the game our way." It's on the public record, and First Nations can respond to the way that the minister has couched it.

One of the questions that's raised here with respect to putting constraints on a management plan and all of that stuff is related to that, where the Crown says to First Nations…. There's a presumption in this that the areas that are going to be defined, as much as possible, will be in the traditional territories of the First Nations. My understanding is that the minister has indicated that's going to be one of the things that the government is going to attempt to do. It's why some First Nations, as I indicated earlier, are concerned a bit about whether that volume actually exists to get operating areas in their traditional territories.

But in the Tsilhqot'in Nation v. British Columbia, the Judge Vickers case, there was a statement made in the finding of that case, and I'll quote it. The quotation is: "The present provisions of the Forest Act do not apply to those areas that meet the test for aboriginal title."

I said in some of my opening comments that what the government is doing here may be open to legal challenge. One of the questions then is: if the government is using a presumption that the area being defined is in the traditional territory of the First Nation — there's a tacit assumption by the Crown that recognizes that the area that's defined is in the traditional territory of the First Nations — is it not, according to the Vickers case, inappropriate for the Crown to then apply the provincial regulatory requirements in order to achieve economic benefit from that same area?

Just in terms of the legal advice to the minister and the ministry, are we not setting ourselves up for a legal challenge where a First Nation can say: "You've given us recognition that this is in our traditional territory, you've drawn a line on the map in our traditional territory, and now you're telling us what to do in our traditional territory"?
[ Page 5556 ]

Judge Vickers, in the Tsilhqot'in case, says that the Forest Act provisions ought not to apply. Has that been canvassed and discussed with the minister?

Hon. P. Bell: There's a couple of things about the Vickers case that the member opposite may have neglected to mention. The first is that it is currently being appealed, and the second is that the passages that I believe the member has read were an opinion by Justice Vickers and not a decision.

The legal advice that I've received is that this particular element of the legislation will meet the test of the courts here in the province of British Columbia.

[1530]

B. Simpson: Fair enough. It's one of those things, I guess, that will remain to be seen. I take it…. I mean, judges' decisions and judges' advice are not necessarily discriminated against when other judges then take those into consideration. The advice is often taken into consideration just as much as the judgment is. If the government is appealing, which is a whole question in and of itself, under the new relationship agreement, it doesn't mean that the government is going to win, and this judgment may stand — and the advice that goes with the judgment as well.

With respect to the management plan and it going into regulation, one of the questions is: what, then, is the process for determining what the nature of that management plan is going to be? How does the minister foresee sitting down with First Nations to decide what the nature of the management plan might be that would then be required in order to get one of these licences?

Hon. P. Bell: We believe that starting with a template of the community forest agreement management plans would be a good place to start. We then will sit down and discuss that, particularly with the early adopters but also other First Nations that are interested in talking about the management plan. It's possible that the First Nations Forestry Council will want to play a role in that, although I don't want to presuppose that.

The other thing that I think is important to point out, though, is that the management plan may be different from one agreement to another. So it wouldn't necessarily require exactly the same management plan for two First Nations. I think eventually what you would see is the development, as I said, of a template, and then that template may be modified to meet the individual needs of a particular First Nation. We're flexible on this, and we want to make sure that it works.

These tenures are not intended in any way of trying to be prescriptive. We want to try and meet the needs of the First Nations so that they can best reflect the values that they are trying to extract from the land base, whether they be cultural, social or economic values.

B. Simpson: I think the flexibility — because there's flexibility in community forests as well — is important.

Could the minister just clarify? In section (b) of that same subsection it says: "if required under the agreement between the first nation and the government referred to in subsection (2) of this" — which is the one that establishes this new licence — "…one or more agreements referred to in section 12 are surrendered." What's the nature of that section, and what would have to be surrendered — or may?

Hon. P. Bell: Subsection (4)(b) allows First Nations to convert other forms of tenure to a new First Nations woodland licence. That might be, as an example, taking a forest and range opportunity or agreement, a non-replaceable forest licence, a woodlot, perhaps a community forest — there are a few of those out there as well — and converting them to the new First Nations woodland licence. This just simply allows that.

[1535]

Up until now the challenge has actually been that you need to surrender the tenure prior to another tenure being issued, so there isn't that seamless transition. We've tried to make it that way by issuing the new tenure at the same time that the previous tenure is surrendered, but this is a much cleaner, simpler process. It will be administratively more efficient and allow us to move the new tenures into First Nations woodland licences in a much more efficient manner.

B. Simpson: Moving on, then, into changes. The section in the bill is 43.55: "A first nations woodland licence (a) must be for a term of not less than 25 years and not more than 99 years." What's the thinking, I wonder if the minister could tell us, behind this 25 to 99, because my understanding…. For example, tree farm licences are 25-years renewable. You've got 15-year renewable. You have five-year non-renewable. So this 25 to 99 years, as I understand it, would be unique to these. Why use that term "25 to 99"?

Hon. P. Bell: This language replicates the language in the community forest licence. The plan is to start out with licences that are 25 years and then review it from there. But these licences are renewable licences as well, so similar to a tree farm licence in that sense. The language in terms of 25 to 99 years simply replicates the community forest language.

B. Simpson: See, it shows my lack of a staff member sitting beside me to let me know that it exists somewhere else.

In clarification, then, to the minister. One of the questions I had is a bit later on, right at the end of this section where there is an explicit clause. It's on page 6 of the bill. The numbering is a bit confusing in this section —
[ Page 5557 ]
page 6 of the bill that I have in front of me. It's under "Replacement of first nations woodland licences" — because I think the minister may have different kinds of bills — and a subsection (6) at the top above "Change in area or boundary." It says: "A first nations woodland licence is not renewable."

Hon. P. Bell: This is one of those idiosyncrasies of the Forest Act. The term actually is "replaceable," not "renewable." That's why this term is in here. It is a replaceable tenure, as opposed to renewable. I'm not sure who made that decision or when it was made, but it has been around for some time, and that's why that term exists.

B. Simpson: Yeah, I've always called them replaceable licences. Okay, fair enough.

Next, back on page 4, section (b) under 43.55, in the description of the content of a First Nations woodland licence, it says that the woodland licence "must describe a woodland licence area."

The fundamental question that's being raised to me is: what will be the determining factors for determining the licence area, the actual area that's ascribed? As the minister must be well aware, the formula-driven process for forest range agreements, forest range opportunities, was a major concern among First Nations. It was actually challenged in the court system, and the First Nations that challenged it won a ruling that that formula approach was inappropriate.

What is the thinking about how the government is going to address that formula-based approach in the issuance of these new licences? What would be the process? What would be the metrics? What would be the criteria for determining how large an area would be circ*mscribed for one of these licences?

[1540]

Hon. P. Bell: As I was listening to the member's comments, I thought to myself…. He asked the question…. He first stated that First Nations are generally opposed to a formula-driven model or a model that relates a specific amount of timber on a per-capita basis. Then he asked how we are going to develop the metrics around how much timber is issued. I thought it was kind of ironic because it suggests a formula when you use the term "metrics." I don't think the member intended necessarily to do that, but it just shows that oftentimes in this place, in government generally, we try and come up with a standard answer that articulates kind of how you allocate timber or other resources that are public resources.

I think what I would like the member to be aware of is that we do not have a specific formula based on population or anything of the sort. What we will be looking at is the availability of the land base, the volume of timber available, the age class distribution, the species mix, all of those sorts of issues.

I think, also, what I'm finding is there are some First Nations that are very keen on being part of a forest industry. There are others that have very limited interest in the forest industry and largely ended up in a forest and range opportunity agreement for the revenue-share portion of the agreement as opposed to the tenure.

I see this as probably being a variety of answers. I think some First Nations who have a keen interest in being a dominant player in the forest industry will likely end up with larger tenures. Others that have other interests may have a smaller tenure or other forms of agreement. So I don't think there's a preconceived notion, and I'm unable to answer the question: what would the metrics be in terms of determining the amount of volume?

Simply, I'd respond with the notion that there in fact will not be a formula, that we'll try and meet the needs of individual First Nations and that the decisions will be made based on the availability of land base and timber, age classifications, species mix and the like.

B. Simpson: See, there is the math teacher coming out in the minister again, where metrics are associated with numbers. As someone who is trained in biology and history, I look at the system, and metrics in the system are more to do with the health of the system.

So the minister's comments about other kinds of criteria — community-based criteria, community needs, commercial viability, the intent of the community for job creation or whatever the case may be — seems to me to be…. What I'm certainly hearing is that if you look on balance at a whole bunch of things that the community is desirous of achieving and then go to the land base and say how best to achieve that, it would satisfy certainly the concerns that I'm hearing. So that's good that that possibility exists.

In that same section it goes on to say: "…woodland licence area, determined by the minister, comprising Crown land…." We've talked about the Crown land. Then there's the statement: "…and, if the area so determined includes land that is (i) in a reserve…or (ii) private land."

First off, I want to make sure that the "if" there means only if the First Nations are initiating bringing private land or, potentially, reserve land in because, as the minister knows, private land component is a requirement in woodlots, etc., and has been historically.

So is this just if the First Nations want to somehow incorporate either private or reserve land into it, then it becomes part of the licence?

Hon. P. Bell: The member is correct.

[1545]

B. Simpson: One question, and I do have…. There are some substantive questions in here, just so the minister knows. The other aspect of that, then — so it's voluntary — that questions have been raised about, again, is the
[ Page 5558 ]
constitutionality or the legality of Indian Act lands or federal lands coming under the auspices of the Crown, whether voluntary or not. Is there a legal constraint? Has this been done before? Is it possible to actually have Indian Act lands come under provincial regulation, Ministry of Forests regulation?

Hon. P. Bell: Both woodlots and tree farm licences allow for the inclusion of schedule C lands, which are reserve lands.

B. Simpson: Continuing on in this section, there is the exclusive right given to harvest timber on Crown land, and then the botanical forest products is a separate section. I just want the minister to clarify for the record. The language around the botanical products is "(ii) may give its holder the right to harvest, manage and charge fees for botanical forest products and other prescribed products."

Would the First Nations, then, accrue the full value of whatever fees they charge, or would there be an accounting to the province of what it is they're deriving off Crown land and in a chargeback of some kind? On the timber side, we're going to get into the stumpage question. There already exists annualized rent, stumpage, various other things. There are ways of figuring that out.

The question is that the government's now giving the right to get financial benefit from other products in that area. Would there be a chargeback from the Crown for whatever economic value they get from it?

Hon. P. Bell: This is one of the unique features of the First Nations woodland licence and doesn't appear in any other form of licence that I'm aware of. The intent of this is to allow the First Nations to capture the full value of whatever they choose to charge for botanical products, but I need to be careful that I can't predict what a future government or future minister might consider.

I'm not contemplating taking a share of the revenue stream that the First Nation would acquire as a result of this, but I suppose that that may be the case sometime in the future. Another minister, another government, I suppose, could choose that, but certainly that isn't our intent.

B. Simpson: I'll do two questions here. One is: would that then be just simply done by regulation — that a future minister could then do by regulation — or would it have to come back into the Legislature? So that's one.

The second, on the same clause. The word "exclusive" is used with respect to harvesting timber, but the word "exclusive" is not used with respect to these other values that are being used. Is it a deliberate choice on the part of the government to not make it exclusive rights over these other values?

Hon. P. Bell: To answer the first question, this act does not allow for regulatory-making power to take a portion of the fees that the First Nation may charge for those botanical products.

[1550]

That said, a government could acquire the right to a portion of that fee outside the Forest Act. It wouldn't necessarily have to be inside the Forest Act, either by regulation or legislation. As I said, I am not contemplating taking any portion of that. I just need to point out for the purposes of full disclosure that another government may choose to do that at some point in time.

The answer to the second question is that while our interest is in providing the full opportunity for First Nations to take advantage of botanical products, they are not well-defined by law or in this legislation. It's really unclear what all of those products might be. So we thought it appropriate to leave the words "exclusive use" out of the botanical products component of this opportunity.

B. Simpson: I appreciate that clarification. So with respect to this clause in terms of rights to harvest, manage, charge fees for botanical forest products, it also states "and other prescribed products." Now, in the two most recent reconciliation agreements, carbon was put in as an innovative potential economic activity, and First Nations rights over carbon were recognized in those reconciliation agreements. I noted as I was reading through this that carbon isn't explicitly stated as a potential activity. I know the minister is working on looking at carbon, carbon exchanges, etc., for potential silviculture activity, etc.

Was it deliberate that carbon was not named in here, and is it possible that carbon, which I presume prescribed, would end up in regulation, or whatever, using that term "prescribed"? Could it be possible that carbon ends up in there, and why not just name it?

Hon. P. Bell: It's unlikely that carbon would be included under this section of the bill. We are looking at how those carbon rights might be awarded. The two reconciliation agreements that the member referred to both speak to the notion of a future potential carbon market and what that might look like.

One of the reasons why you might not want to include carbon specifically in this act is that it is unclear at this point whether carbon is a revenue stream or a cost. It could conceivably be a cost. The member lives in the mountain pine beetle region and well knows that many of those forests are net emitters, not net sequesterers, at this point.

That would likely end up in either another piece of legislation or perhaps an amendment, but I suspect another piece of legislation, once that becomes clear.

What the member does point out, which I think has real value, is the fact that we would not have considered carbon. Certainly, ten years ago we weren't thinking about carbon, I don't think, at all. Perhaps a few people
[ Page 5559 ]
were, but very few. Even four or five years ago people were not viewing carbon as a key opportunity, yet we are today.

What I don't know is what the next carbon will be, and we want to have the flexibility here to prescribe other products to allow the First Nations to take advantage of those, because I don't think we clearly understand what all those values will be in the coming decades. So that flexibility makes sense.

B. Simpson: Thank you for that clarity.

Let's move on to the stumpage issue, which is the next section here, and for the record, if the minister could clarify two things: (1) that this is normative stumpage, that it's the market pricing stumpage; and (2) since these are modelled somewhat on community forests, why the tabular rate stumpage that community forests enjoy was not the stumpage assigned to these licences.

[1555]

Hon. P. Bell: The member opposite will know that the stumpage rate prescribed for community forests is not in legislation. It's in the stumpage manual. This piece of legislation reflects similar language to that of the community forest legislation and does not prescribe any specific stumpage model. That's one that we will be discussing with each of the First Nations as we enter into those agreements and consider the needs of the individual First Nation.

B. Simpson: Just so I'm clear then, is it possible that some First Nations can get what community forests have got in terms of the tabular rate and the stumpage that they enjoy, and some will be in the market pricing system — that it will be dependent on one First Nation to another? Just so that I'm clear before I go into some other questions I have for this.

Hon. P. Bell: Again, this act does not prescribe the type of stumpage that would be charged. The type of stumpage could vary. There are, I think, about seven or eight different models that we use, from tabular rates to different market rates. The stumpage system for these new woodlands licences would have to be consistent across the Interior or across the coast, as there are two stumpage manuals — the Interior and the coastal manuals — and that holds true for community forests.

So you wouldn't have one First Nations woodland licence with one type of stumpage and another First Nations woodland licence with another type of stumpage. It would be consistent across all First Nations woodland licences in the Interior or on the coast.

B. Simpson: I'm aware of sensitivities around this with respect to the market that we work in, so I'm cautious about some of the questions around this. But I want to be clear what the minister is saying, because it's been articulated to me that a decision has already been made — that the MPS system will apply, that it is felt to disadvantage these licences right out of the gate relative to community forests and that some dialogue has been undertaken to talk about revenue-sharing back, which of course does not exist in the licence language.

So maybe let me ask the question this way. What is the process that the minister is going to engage in to lend clarity for First Nations? I get the Interior versus the coast. What's the process the minister is going to engage in to lend clarity to this issue? This is a sticking point, as far as I'm being told, for First Nations because, quite frankly, what First Nations have said is, you know: "Don't be charging."

They would prefer a stumpage-free licence of some kind. "Don't charge us a stumpage, because we end up getting it back in a revenue-sharing model, or we end up getting it back in some way. Let us go out there, realize commercial value from the land base and then use that money to get on with other things."

In order to cut through this, what process is the minister going to engage in to engage First Nations in resolving this issue of stumpage and revenue from timber on the First Nations licence?

[C. Trevena in the chair.]

Hon. P. Bell: The member opposite earlier on identified a First Nations Summit meeting on June 8 and 9. We have been invited to attend the meeting on the 8th, at which point we'll be presenting information to the First Nations Summit on some of the options that we're thinking about in this area.

[1600]

I think it is important for the member opposite to know that there are a variety of opinions in First Nations communities. Certainly, I've heard them where some First Nations describe what the member opposite describes as a stumpage-free type of regime. Others suggest that it would be more appropriate to charge full stumpage and then have some form of revenue-sharing back with that stumpage. They think that that may give them the ability to acquire a fair price for the timber resource with the licensees knowing they have to pay that stumpage.

I've had a variety of opinions in this area and will be presenting some things to the First Nations Summit on the 8th of June.

B. Simpson: That's a helpful answer, and I hope this issue does get resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

With respect to continuing on this, on page 5 of the bill — the act section 43.56, which is "Replacement…" — it says: "Unless a first nations woodland licence provides that a replacement for the first nations woodland licence must not be offered…."
[ Page 5560 ]

I'm wondering if the minister…. Is this just legalese, where sometimes you might do one that's not going to be replaceable? Elsewhere it says that it is replaceable. I just want clarification. Is this the normative practice that on the ninth-year anniversary you then do the rollover or you assess kind of where the First Nation is and determine whether you're going to replace it or not?

Hon. P. Bell: The member is correct. This is standard language. It does, I suppose, give the ability to offer a non-replaceable licence. That's not what's anticipated here. They are anticipated to be replaceable.

Also, the model the member described with the tenures is the model that replicates the community forest model for renewals.

Sections 13 to 19 inclusive approved.

On section 20.

B. Simpson: Again, it's just one of these clarifications so that I understand what's the intention here. This is with respect to other deletions of Crown land. I wonder if the minister could indicate what the nature of this amendment is and why it's necessary.

Hon. P. Bell: This relates to the provisions of the compensation part of the Forest Act. If it was necessary for the Crown to take back a portion of a First Nations woodland licence, it would provide for the compensation provisions that replicate the other compensation provisions for other forms of licences.

Sections 20 to 36 inclusive approved.

On section 37.

B. Simpson: Again, just a clarification from the minister. This is about annual rent payable for these licences. Is this consistent with the community forest licence that this is based on?

Hon. P. Bell: That's correct.

Sections 37 to 43 inclusive approved.

On section 44.

B. Simpson: This is the section that I was referring to yesterday. I was confused about which model was going to be used for the licence because the bill note for section 44 says it "specifies that first nations woodland licences are to be treated either like community forest agreements or woodlot licences, depending on the size and location of Crown land in the first nations woodland licence area."

When I canvassed this with the minister yesterday, he said that, really, that's not the case. They're going to be modelled on community forest agreements. I wonder if I can get clarification, because this section indicates that it really is predicated on size, which of the two licences it is going to be modelled on.

[1605]

Hon. P. Bell: The difference between the functions primarily centre around a forest stewardship plan. Woodlots do a woodlot licence plan versus a forest stewardship plan, which has a different set of requirements. If the First Nations woodland licence were to be the size of a woodlot — if it was that size — then the requirement…. The licensee could choose to do a forest stewardship plan if they wanted to, or they could do a woodlot licence plan.

Sections 44 to 55 inclusive approved.

On section 56.

B. Simpson: This one is just simply what we were referring to before, with respect to direct-award abilities. Again, if the minister can just explain what the intent is here to allow direct awards of grazing or hay-cutting permits. Has this been asked for? What's the nature of the amendment?

Hon. P. Bell: Yes, we have had interest specifically from First Nations in the interior part of the province to acquire direct-award tenures of this nature.

B. Simpson: This has, if I understand it correctly, the same constraint in section 2(a) of the interim measures. So again, it looks like it's another attractor or benefit of getting involved in an interim measure. But part (b) of this says: "a grazing or hay cutting permit with a person to mitigate the effects on that person of (i) a treaty, or (ii) an agreement between a first nation and the government respecting treaty-related measures…."

I wonder if the minister could clarify in that sense the legal sense of person. Is it related back to the definition in "representative," which is another First Nations person? Or is it a person as defined under the law, which is anybody who has been impacted by a treaty or whatever, and the government can direct award as a mitigation for treaty?

Hon. P. Bell: A person as described here is the broad-ranging sense of any individual. It would be used to compensate someone for being displaced from an existing tenure.

B. Simpson: Is this a new measure on the part of the government, or is it just tidying up an already existing measure? Is it a new tool that government is giving itself?
[ Page 5561 ]

Hon. P. Bell: We've had this for permits in the past. This just extends that provision to licences.

Sections 56 to 60 inclusive approved.

Title approved.

Hon. P. Bell: I move the committee rise, report completion without amendment.

Motion approved.

The committee rose at 4:10 p.m.

The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.

Report and
Third Reading of Bills

Bill 13 — Forests and Range
(First Nations Woodland Licence)
Statutes Amendment Act, 2010

Bill 13, Forests and Range (First Nations Woodland Licence) Statutes Amendment Act, 2010, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.

Hon. B. Penner: At this point I'd like to call committee stage debate on Bill 15, Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2010.

Committee of the Whole House

Bill 15 — Protected Areas of
British Columbia
Amendment Act, 2010

The House in Committee of the Whole (Section B) on Bill 15; C. Trevena in the chair.

The committee met at 4:12 p.m.

M. Farnworth: Just for the Minister of Environment's benefit, it's my understanding that the member for Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows will be leading off the questions on this particular bill.

On section 1.

M. Sather: Hon. Chair, I had to rush from another meeting, so just give me half a minute to grab my papers.

Section 1 is schedule A, and there are amendments to two ecological reserves. Looking at this, I wasn't too clear. We could deal with them separately, I guess. The first one is Meridian Road (Vanderhoof) Ecological Reserve, and this was established by order-in-council previously. I wonder if the minister could start by telling me when that OIC took place.

[1615]

Hon. B. Penner: We've had to just peel our way through the mists of time here, and it appears that this ecological reserve was first established by order-in-council in the year 1977.

M. Sather: Well, that is some time ago. So it's now enacted in schedule A — or will be, as a result of this legislation. Can the minister just explain what the purpose is, then, of enacting it into schedule A?

Hon. B. Penner: We're not substantively changing the boundaries, but by moving it from schedule B to schedule A, it's reflective of the fact that we have a more accurate legal description of those boundaries than was the case in 1977 when the original order-in-council was passed.

Ecological reserves that are referred to in schedule B refer back to the original order-in-council establishing those ecological reserves and rely on the legal description that was contained within the original order-in-council — in this case, again, back in 1977. We are now at the point where we have a more accurate description, and therefore, it's appropriate to move it into schedule A of the act.

M. Sather: I think, as I read through the bill, there are some similar points, probably, that are going to come up with a number of these parks and ecological reserves — the metes and bounds and the land description. Maybe I could get, then, the minister to explain to me what…. I mean, I understand that it's more accurate, he said, but could he be a little bit more specific? Why is it more accurate? How is it more accurate? Yeah, we'll leave it at that.

[1620]

Hon. B. Penner: This is part of the ongoing process of being more precise about our description of boundaries for protected areas generally — and in this case, in particular, an ecological reserve.

The original order-in-council quite likely referred to an attached map upon which would have been drawn a red boundary, which would then become the legal boundary for the purposes of the order-in-council. As the member could appreciate, some of those lines drawn on maps may not have been 100 percent accurate as to location.

It's being replaced, as you read in section 1, by reference to a plan which has been submitted in the Crown land registry in the "Coast District and Cariboo District," known as "Plan 12 Tube 1979." I'm not sure if the tube looks like this, but I expect it has some maps that have more detailed descriptions. I'll leave it at that.

M. Sather: I can appreciate that the lines on some of those maps back in the '70s were probably not that accurate.
[ Page 5562 ]

Could the minister just then tell me a little bit about — because I don't see it in the backgrounder — this particular ecological reserve? What's the purpose of it?

[1625]

Hon. B. Penner: As the member will be aware, ecological reserves are areas of British Columbia selected to preserve certain representative features and natural ecosystems. They're not designed to encourage recreation. In fact, the ministry doesn't in all cases extol too widely their particular attributes, lest we inadvertently encourage more people to travel to those locations and perhaps cause some ecological damage.

There are also set aside times for research purposes, and people are able to apply to the ministry for permits if they want to conduct various scientific research. They are the highest level of protection within our protected areas network because they represent some very unique attributes.

In this particular case, as I recall, the Meridian Road Ecological Reserve contains a representative sample of Englishman fir that is located in the Nechako Plateau. It's, I think, relatively high elevation.

M. Sather: I imagine that's Engelmann fir, but anyway.

Yeah, I'm a big fan of ecological reserves, and I'm sure the minister is too. As he said, they do set aside some specific ecological attributes of our province. Some of them are rather small, and I think some of them are quite a bit larger. We have one in my constituency, Pine Mountain Ecological Reserve, and as he said, they're not often known by the public because recreation is not encouraged in them, which is a good thing because not everywhere that we have nature should we have a heavy footprint of humankind.

I know in our reserve there are issues with people entering into the Pine Mountain Ecological Reserve. I'm glad to say…. I think it would be the ministry that would have not long ago made some changes so that people couldn't cross the ditch and get in there. But I digress on that.

It does say Vanderhoof, so I assume, then, it is in the Vanderhoof area. Could the minister be more specific in terms of where in the Vanderhoof area it is?

Hon. B. Penner: Just to clarify my previous answer, the type of tree that's particularly distinctive in this ecological reserve is the Engelmann spruce, and subalpine fir as well. I'm advised this particular ecological reserve is approximately 40 kilometres south of Vanderhoof.

M. Sather: I appreciate that definition from the minister, that description.

The other ecological reserve that's mentioned under section 1 is the Stoyoma Creek Ecological Reserve, which is in the Yale district, which I think would be somewhere in the Hope area. These districts are very large.

[1630]

I'm assuming that the primary reason that it's here is the same reason as the previous one discussed with regard to the boundaries not being as accurate in the day when this was formed. But maybe I'll ask three questions in one here. When was it? Did it come in by order-in-council? Where, specifically, is the ecological reserve, and what are its attributes?

Hon. B. Penner: To summarize, I think the member's questions here were: when, where and what. The question of when: it was first established in 1990 by way of order-in-council. In the year 2000 it was added to the protected areas legislation, schedule B, and then year 2010 we're proposing to move it to schedule A. So with this particular ecological reserve, it looks like something significant happens about every ten years.

As to where, it sounds like this particular ecological reserve may be in or very near my constituency of Chilliwack-Hope. It's approximately four kilometres north-northeast of Boston Bar in the Fraser Canyon.

As for what, in particular it protects a diverse forest site, which is in a transitional climatic zone. As you move north through the Fraser Canyon, you'll notice you're going from a typical coastal and wet climatic zone to something much drier. So this is in the transitional area.

[1635]

M. Sather: I appreciate the description. I've got the idea of where it is now, north of Boston Bar. I travel that area quite frequently, and I know exactly of what the minister speaks with regard to the transition zone. I just was up there recently. There was a beautiful bloom of balsam root, bright yellow flowers that you can see right from the highway in that area.

It's good to have, I think, a representation of the transition zone, because without going into a lot of detail, there are a lot of reasons to conserve transition zones in nature. So that's well-received.

With that, that's all the questions I have on section 1.

Section 1 approved.

On section 2.

M. Sather: This one looks to me like it's strictly a consequential amendment in that it strikes out Meridian Road Ecological Reserve. Schedule B is amended to strike out Meridian Road and to strike out Stoyoma Creek Ecological Reserve. I assume I'm correct in that it's consequential.

Hon. B. Penner: It is consequential to section 1.

Section 2 approved.

On section 3.
[ Page 5563 ]

M. Sather: Section 3 is a much larger section in this bill, encompassing a good part of the bill, anyway. We're starting on section 3(a). This section says that schedule C — we've talked about A and B, and we're now on C — is amended "by repealing the descriptions of Brandywine Falls Park, Buccaneer Bay Park, Sasquatch Park, Skihist Park and Valhalla Park and substituting the following descriptions." I'll take them in order on the bill.

The first one is Brandywine Falls Park, which is located along the Brandywine river 14 kilometres south of Whistler. It's being expanded by 270 hectares — that's a fairly healthy expansion — to protect critical habitat for the blue-listed red-legged frog and other amphibians.

The red-legged frog is a species that I know is found in my constituency as well, although it's somewhat questionable. And it is a blue-listed species, so it's at risk. Since that is part of the reason for this park as described, I'm wondering if the minister can tell me a little bit about the distribution of that threatened species, the red-legged frog, in British Columbia and how significant in the continuance, I guess you could say, of that species this particular park is.

[1640]

Hon. B. Penner: If I remember correctly, the red-legged frog species in British Columbia is a member of the Ranidae family of frogs — they're true frogs — and based on recent surveys they indicate that they prefer cool temperatures, moist forests and wetlands with trees. They prefer to breed in shallow ponds or well-shaded, slow-moving streams. That tends to describe quite a number of coastal areas in British Columbia.

Just what their full extent of range is I don't have here with me, but suffice to say that this measure in this section that we're talking about for Brandywine Falls has a significant component of that type of habitat that I just described.

M. Sather: I appreciate that description. As the minister will know and as people all over our country and North America realize, amphibians are at risk and are declining, and we don't seem to know exactly why. It may be, as some have suggested, that it has to do with climate change. If it is, in fact, then the drying trend that we are experiencing is going to put these amphibians at further risk.

Parks like this are maybe the only thing that saves some of these species from at least local extirpation. I can't say about extinction because I, too, don't know specifically about the range of that frog. Suffice it to say that these are important parks in our system, and we can only be glad that we have them. Brandywine Falls, as many people in this area will know, is not far from Vancouver, up the coast.

[1645]

The second park on the list here is Buccaneer Bay Park. This park is situated on North Thormanby Island on the Sunshine Coast. It's being expanded to include 44.5 hectares of intertidal marine foreshore. The thing, in reading this, that interested me was that it says: "This addition protects seagrass meadows and sand shoals, which provide habitat for a rich variety of marine life, including shorebirds, salmon, rockfish, sand lance and Dungeness crab."

If the minister or his assistants can tell me just a little bit more. I did study marine biology a bit when I took my degree in zoology, but I came out of Alberta, so we didn't get out to the coast that much. I'm just curious. What in fact are seagrass meadows and sand shoals?

Hon. B. Penner: With respect to the question regarding Buccaneer Bay Park and some of the attributes there, the seagrass meadows, I'm advised, are meadows of a grass that grows in the salt water. It can be up to several metres deep, but from a distance it might look like a terrestrial meadow rather than one that's actually growing out of the salt water.

I believe the member also questioned sand shoals. My understanding is that that would be an area just off the shore comprised mostly of a sandy surface but under the water.

A bit more information on our mutual friend the red-legged frog. In particular, the red-legged frog is found all the way along the west coast of North America from Baja California to southern British Columbia.

[1650]

The subtype that frequents certain parts of British Columbia — including, apparently, some of the Gulf Islands, including Galiano Island, but also the Sea to Sky corridor and parts of the Fraser Valley — exists as well in Washington State, Oregon and northern California. Then the broader type goes all the way to southern California, including Baja California — but on the west coast.

R. Chouhan: May I have leave to make an introduction, please?

Leave granted.

Introductions by Members

R. Chouhan: It gives me great pleasure to introduce about 40 students from one of the best secondary schools in the province of British Columbia, Burnaby South Secondary School. They're all here visiting us today and learning about the legislative procedures. They're also visiting our capital, going around and learning about the historical places. They are joined by their teachers Sabha Ghani, Romina Simian and Hana Kikawa. Please join me to welcome them all.
[ Page 5564 ]

Debate Continued

N. Macdonald: Just a quick question about Dry Gulch Park. I see it's within section 3, and I just want to thank the co-critic for giving me the opportunity to step up quickly and ask this question. There are changes to Dry Gulch. I wonder if the minister could just describe the scope of the changes, what exactly is taking place and then the reasons for the changes.

Hon. B. Penner: This particular park, I'm advised, was established in 1956 and I believe has a number of campsites — perhaps 26 is the total I've heard — for people's camping pleasure. It has been found that when the park was initially established, there was a road that was inappropriately included inside the park boundary. This amendment will correct the error that had been made a long time ago. It will be corrected by removing 25⁄1000 of a hectare or, stated differently, just over 2⁄100 of a hectare to correct this. So the park remains at about 29 hectares in total size.

N. Macdonald: Just one quick question then. Is it in any way tied to any development that is going to happen above the park that for some reason the road needs to be identified in a different way? Or is this simply and completely just a housekeeping measure and that fundamentally the park is not going to be impacted, or any territory in near proximity?

[1655]

Hon. B. Penner: We're not aware of any proposed change of use, but it has been a longstanding issue, apparently.

There's something known as Dry Gulch Road, which passes through a corner of Dry Gulch Provincial Park and provides access to a property, a block A, district lot 8996 in the Kootenay district. The office of the surveyor general was requested to research the status of the road within the park.

After a detailed review of the historic records for the original Crown grant — so we're going back a ways — the office of the surveyor general has concluded that Dry Gulch Road is and has been a road under the Transportation Act, and it has a 20-metre right-of-way. When the boundaries of the park were established in 1956, the road right-of-way was included in error within the park.

M. Sather: Thanks to the minister for that response. I wanted to go back to Brandywine Falls Park. With regard to roads and rights-of-way, is there a B.C. Hydro right-of-way in Brandywine Park?

Hon. B. Penner: We will have to check and get back to the member on this one. We don't have…. Oh, maybe we do have a detailed map. One moment, please.

[1700]

After consulting a map that we have of Brandywine Falls Park, it appears that there might be more than one B.C. Hydro transmission corridor. We believe that the transmission lines were established prior to the park boundaries being established in legislation.

There is some interesting history associated with this particular provincial park. Some people have asked: "Where does the name Brandywine come from?" Some people believe that the name is attributable to a couple of explorers or brave souls that were working for the Howe Sound and Northern Railway many years ago. Two fellows — one by the name of Jack Nelson and another by the name of Bob Mollison — were out surveying the area, presumably for the purpose of constructing a railway, and came across the falls and had a friendly wager as to whose estimate as to the height of the falls might be more accurate.

As you might guess, the wager apparently was that the successful guesser would be entitled to a bottle of brandy at the other person's expense. I'm told that the successful person was Mr. Mollison — his guess coming closest to the correct height of that particular waterfall of 70 metres. It's quite an impressive waterfall to go and see.

M. Sather: That's fascinating, and I presume the loser got the wine — or how does that work? Anyway, interesting story. Thanks to the minister. The history of our province is truly magnificent, and that is a beautiful falls. Anyone going up to Squamish-Whistler is well advised to stop in and check them out.

I think before I continue with my list, I have a colleague that wants to ask a question on Ningunsaw, I believe.

D. Donaldson: I would like to ask the minister…. Under this section 3 there is a reference to a park in Stikine, in the constituency I represent. It's Ningunsaw Park. It's an important ecosystem that the park covers — grizzly bear habitat, some valley bottom up to alpine — and the section is to reduce a number of hectares in the park. I would like to ask the minister what the intent is behind this amendment.

[1705]

Hon. B. Penner: This park was established in 2001. At the time the legal description referred to one of the boundaries as being 50 metres from the centre line of Highway 37, but the actual boundary wasn't surveyed. Instead, the legal description relied on a description of it being 50 metres from the centre line of Highway 37.

In 2008 Highway 37 was surveyed, and a more accurate park boundary has been established. It does result in the total area of the park being reduced by approximately 3⁄100 of a percentage point, going from 15,708 hectares to about 15,703.6 hectares.
[ Page 5565 ]

D. Donaldson: Thank you for that answer and that clarification. From what I heard, it was to do with a surveying issue, and that's what I heard from the minister.

I appreciate, in reference to the overall size of the park, that it's only four hectares, according to the section, if I'm reading it correctly. However, it's what those four hectares could be used for. For instance, you know, would this mean that any other kind of development on Crown land could then proceed within those four hectares, and would that impact, potentially, the actual park in any way?

We know that we put lines on maps — right? As people, we put lines on maps, and sometimes those lines on maps don't follow the natural watershed or the natural ecological systems. By moving that centre line boundary over, does it open up, for instance, corridors for development that would be proximate to the park that could then impact the park?

[1710]

Hon. B. Penner: I think I can put the member's mind at ease. It's not one contiguous block of land. Rather, it's a combination or summation of multiple slivers along the highway right-of-way that are being adjusted by way of the survey that was done in 2008. In that area it includes a dike, which obviously will continue to be there, hopefully, for flood protection purposes, and a number of areas that I believe are used on the side of the road by the Ministry of Transportation for road maintenance activities.

D. Donaldson: Thank you to the minister for that answer. Of course, once I read the bill, I got out my maps and started trying to collate between the ministry's website maps of where the park is and the maps that I have. I love maps, so I have lots in my office of my constituency.

One thing I couldn't quite determine, and maybe the minister could advise. Is this the route that the northern transmission line, if it is given approval and proceeds, will be covering? Is that part of this area where the park is, as talked about in this amendment?

Hon. B. Penner: We're not aware of this being the corridor for the proposed northwest transmission line, but in any event, this is not the reason for these amendments.

D. Donaldson: Would the minister be able to provide to our constituency office or to my office a map of this area indicating where the pieces of land that are going to be withdrawn from the park are going to be located?

[1715]

Hon. B. Penner: We'll work to do that. I'm just looking at a map that's been reduced in size from about six feet to letter size, and it's impossible to determine where those various slivers are. We'll try to get a larger scale than that for the member and for myself.

D. Donaldson: Thank you for that. And finally…. As I said, I was looking at the maps I have and determining traditional territories, and from what I can gather on the maps I have, that area is part of the Tahltan First Nation's traditional territories. The minister can correct me if I couldn't figure out the lines and the boundaries properly on that.

Could he describe the consultation that has occurred with the Tahltan over this change on their traditional territories of Crown designation?

Hon. B. Penner: I can advise the member that just about a year ago, July 17, 2009, B.C. Parks sent a consultation letter to the Tahltan First Nations seeking identification of any concerns and requested a response by September 2009. I'm not aware of us receiving any expression of concern about this proposed amendment.

D. Donaldson: Thank you for that information. In the minister's purview, does he consider sending a letter — the extent of consultation around aboriginal title issues when his ministry's involved?

Hon. B. Penner: Prior to B.C. Parks communicating with the Tahltan First Nation, I am advised, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure also were engaged in consultation and also did not receive any communication of concern about the proposed alignment or boundary adjustment.

M. Sather: Returning to Brandywine Falls Park, again, the reason I asked about the B.C. Hydro rights-of-way, and the minister confirmed there were at least a couple…. It got me thinking. I don't know if exactly at that area but in that general area there are some independent power production projects for run-of-the-river power, and I just wonder if the minister can confirm whether or not there are any of those projects in the area that he might anticipate them wanting to put another power line through — in this case, Brandywine Falls Park.

[1720]

Hon. B. Penner: We're not aware of any proposals for additional transmission corridors within Brandywine Provincial Park. I am familiar with the project that the member refers to. That's an existing and operating project built above and outside the park boundaries. It's a seven-megawatt run-of-river project which has been in operation now since, I think, 2003 or 2004 and does not in any way interface with the provincial park boundary. It's built outside the park boundary.
[ Page 5566 ]

M. Sather: I think I've seen it. I'm sure I have. Is it Furry Creek or something like that? Anyway, moving on to Sasquatch Park, I have kind of a process question. The ministry provides the lovely backgrounder, which I appreciate, on a lot of these parks and protected areas, but some are in the backgrounder and some aren't. This one isn't. I just don't know what the rationale is. Why are some in the backgrounder and some, like Sasquatch Park, not in it?

Hon. B. Penner: I, too, was wondering why this particular provincial park was not highlighted in the backgrounder, given that it's fully within my constituency that I have the honour to represent. It's a provincial park that I have an opportunity to visit from time to time, most recently on a fishing trip with my father, my wife and a friend of ours from Thailand.

I can confirm to members here that we caught a grand total of one fish. Nevertheless, I think it was a memorable experience for our young friend from Thailand. His parents had sent him here as an exchange student, and I think the opportunity to go out fishing on the lake was a wonderful opportunity.

The explanation I've just been given is that the backgrounder is used to highlight new parks, conservancies, ecological reserves or additions to those forms of protected areas, not for administrative changes. What's happened with Sasquatch Park is administrative in nature, although it appears that the park is expanding in size in terms of the total number of hectares reported. I'm told that it doesn't really represent an increase in actual lands being added to the park. It's the result of more accurate surveying that has led to this change.

M. Sather: I'm glad the minister has had a positive experience there. I haven't had the pleasure of going to that park. It's not far from where I live, either, so one of these days I intend to make it out there.

The next park listed in the bill is Skihist Park. That is one that I am quite familiar with — stopped and camped there not infrequently. It's just beyond Lytton on the Thompson River not far from where the Thompson meets the Fraser. It's a great park for birding, which I love doing. The Nashville warbler — if anyone wants to know a good place to see the Nashville warbler, go to Skihist Park.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides with Skihist — and the minister probably knows this or knows of similar situations — is that the pine beetle has moved from the lodgepole pine into the ponderosa pine in that park. So a lot of them have been removed right around the campground, which is a sorry thing to see.

[1725]

But what I love about this part of the bill is that Skihist is being expanded by 353 hectares. The description talks about: "The area…includes a portion of the historic Cariboo Wagon Road" — which I've walked on many times; it's very interesting — "and offers new opportunities for natural and cultural history interpretation." That's a great thing.

As I say, there is a campground there. There was, the last time I was there anyway, a layperson who stayed there during the season, but the natural and cultural history interpretation…. I'm just wondering if the minister can explain: through what mechanism would that interpretation be done at Skihist Park?

M. Elmore: I seek leave to make an introduction.

Leave granted.

Introductions by Members

M. Elmore: I'd like to welcome here to the Legislature a grade 4 and grade 5 class from St. Andrews School in Vancouver-Kensington. Accompanying them today we have the principal, Ms. Mary Mayley. We have the grade 5 teacher, Ms. Monica Low. We have the grade 4 teacher, Mr. Adam Kwan; the kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Scally; and accompanied by many parents — Mr. Obayo, Mr. Solis, Mrs. Chu, Mr. Ray, Mrs. Rivera, Mrs. Ti, Mrs. Makarayan and Mrs. Vincent.

Great students. I met with them earlier. I hope they really enjoyed their tour of the Legislature. I certainly enjoyed meeting them and all the parents. I'd just like everyone to please extend them a warm welcome.

Debate Continued

Hon. B. Penner: It's my understanding that this area would have some interpretive signage. In addition, there's information available on the Ministry of Environment website. As the member notes, this existing park is being significantly increased in size from an existing 33 hectares to about 386 hectares.

M. Sather: Could the minister just tell me what side of the park is being extended?

[1730]

Hon. B. Penner: This park is being expanded uphill from the highway and also along the highway, but mostly uphill from the original park boundary. I'm advised that the park was initially established in the year 1956. Oh, and there are also 56 campsites available for your camping pleasure.

M. Sather: The next park on the list is Valhalla Park, which is a very significant park in the Kootenays that the minister, of course, will be aware of. It's being expanded by 62.7 hectares. I'll ask first of all what part of that park is being expanded.

[1735]
[ Page 5567 ]

Hon. B. Penner: In answer to the member's question, this property is located on the west side of Slocan Lake. As I mentioned in my second reading remarks, the province worked with a number of other partners to secure the funding in order to acquire this private stretch of land right along the lake, including the foreshore. Apparently, this had been a piece of property of interest to a number of environmental groups for a considerable period of time.

It had been known as the Valhalla Mile because it represents a strip of land alongside the roadway and the lake. It was a piece that was missing in terms of shoreline protection in the park. I suppose the correct way to describe it would be the Valhalla 1.6 kilometre.

It has now been acquired with the assistance of Burkhard Franz, who is the landowner; the Land Conservancy of B.C.; the Valhalla Foundation for Social Justice; the Columbia Basin Trust; the B.C. Hydro fish and wildlife compensation fund; the B.C. Trust for Public Lands; the regional district of Central Kootenay; the Toronto-Dominion Friends of the Environment Foundation; and many other donations from members of the public.

As well, $700,000 was made available from the Ministry of Environment's land acquisition capital account, and all of the contributions from the other individuals are certainly appreciated. That helped us acquire the 62.7 hectares of privately owned land. In addition, we have moved, with this amendment, to include in the park boundary 18.3 hectares of foreshore on the west side of Slocan Lake. This added land and foreshore will increase the size of Valhalla Park, which was first established in 1983 and has been 49,893 hectares in size until this amendment.

M. Sather: Well, that's a very good-news story. I think it sounds like a wonderful addition to one of our landmark parks in the province. That concludes subsection 3(a).

I wanted to talk for a minute about 3(b), (c), (d) and (e), two of which have already been mentioned, so I won't delve into them in any great detail. They are Dry Gulch Park, which the member from Columbia River talked about; Ellison Park; Eskers Park; and Johnstone Creek Park — all of which, my understanding is, have some deletions from them.

The thing I want to ask the minister about is that there are…. At least, prior to today — I didn't go to the Clerk's office today, but I've been there two or three times — these maps were not provided to the Clerk's office. I know that our research department had asked for them as well. I wonder if the minister could explain why they weren't provided.

Hon. B. Penner: I'm advised by staff that the maps were in fact delivered the day that the bill was introduced in the House.

M. Sather: Sorry, could the minister repeat that? I didn't hear what he said.

Hon. B. Penner: I'm advised by staff that the maps were in fact provided to the Clerk's office on the day that the bill was introduced in the House.

M. Sather: Well, that's curious. As I say, I was there three times, at least, asking every time where these parks are, and the Clerk's office said they would inquire of the minister's office as to where they were. That would have been yesterday or the day before. Did the minister's office get an inquiry from the Clerk's office saying that they didn't have these maps?

[1740]

Hon. B. Penner: Not sure why there would be a communication mishap. I'm advised that maps that looked pretty much like these ones were in fact taken by the gentleman seated to my right to the Clerk's office the very day that the bill was introduced here in the Legislative Assembly. I can't speak to where they went after they were delivered there, but the gentleman seated next to me tells me he personally took them to the Office of the Clerk.

M. Sather: Yes, I'm familiar with the appearance of the maps. I've perused them a fair bit. I'll have to follow it up with the Clerk's office. They should be there. In fact, in a previous discussion of protected areas, the minister chastised me for not consulting maps at the Clerk's office, and rightfully so. I didn't know they were there at the time, and he was right to point out that I should peruse those maps.

When you're talking about protected areas and parks and other things, you need to look at those maps. I hope the minister will ensure that in future they are there. One of the Clerks told me that I was the first person to ever look at them, which really shocked me, because we should look at them. It's part of our due diligence, and we certainly can learn a lot from that.

I wanted to talk about the two parks that haven't been mentioned. One of them is Ellison Park. Can the minister explain just where Ellison Park is?

[1745]

Hon. B. Penner: This provincial park with this particular spelling of Ellison is located west of Vernon. The reason I say this particular spelling is that there are other provincial parks, or at least one that I'm aware of, by the name of Allison. But that's spelled with an "A" as opposed to an "E."

This Ellison, with an "E," is west of Vernon. We received a request from the city of Vernon looking for some changes to the existing road right-of-way through the park, in particular to address four pressure points on
[ Page 5568 ]
the alignment. The net result is a deletion of just under 1⁄10 of one hectare from this particular provincial park, which is 220 hectares in size.

M. Sather: So there is a request from the city to delete some land. I didn't quite get that. I'm not sure what the minister said. What was the reason for the request?

Hon. B. Penner: A combination of safety issues and the need to provide some utility services.

M. Sather: I'll move on to subsection (d). This is Eskers Park. Again, I haven't seen the map or any description of it. So could the minister begin by telling me where the park is?

Hon. B. Penner: Eskers Provincial Park is approximately 40 kilometres northwest of Prince George.

M. Sather: That's exciting. It is in fact very interesting country up there. Eskers are beautiful land forms, for those who don't know what they are. They're like a long tunnel that's sort of shaped like this. They're a glacial artifact, and they're pointed on each end — a lot of fun to hike on.

The other one…. Sorry, that's the last one. No, there is one other one, Johnstone Creek Park, but just one last question about Eskers. It's increasing in size slightly from 3,979 hectares to 4,044 hectares. Can the minister just explain how that came about or why it's increased in size?

[1750]

Hon. B. Penner: This property was purchased by the Ministry of Environment at a price of approximately $168,000. It was considered important to ensure that the park could be managed as one contiguous unit and includes a meadow, wetland and pine forest habitat.

M. Sather: That's great. The other one is Johnstone Creek Park, and I'll ask the questions together then. First, the minister can tell me where it is. Also, it appears to have a deletion of property. Can the minister also tell me where that deletion is, if I'm reading it right, and what the reason for it was?

Hon. B. Penner: Hon. Chair, 1956 was a busy year for park establishment in British Columbia. Like the other park we were talking about in the Fraser Canyon a few minutes ago, this park was also established in 1956. It's located east of Osoyoos on Highway 3, features 16 campsites and is 38 hectares in size.

This particular boundary amendment has been requested by the Ministry of Transportation to help them meet safety standards and also to provide access to aggregate located outside of the park for highway maintenance or construction purposes. In order to access that, they needed this amendment. This amendment would result in the removal of 2⁄10 of one hectare of land from the 38-hectare park.

M. Sather: What I understood the minister to say is that by this legislation, there's a road that will go through the park to access aggregate outside the park. Is that correct?

[1755]

Hon. B. Penner: That's not quite correct. There is an existing road. This is to clarify that that road is not within the park boundary.

M. Sather: I think the minister is going to have to draw a little bit more of a mental picture for me. So there was a road going through the park to the aggregate site, and this is to clarify that the road is not in the park. It's deleted, then, from the park. It was considered part of the park, and now it's not. Is that it?

Hon. B. Penner: This is one case where a mental picture would be better facilitated by looking at a map than by trying to describe this in words. What I'm looking at here is a plan showing that the existing access into the park comes off of Highway 3 and then curves slightly. At the point where it curves, I presume to the east, and stays just barely within the park boundary, there's also a T-intersection or junction going off into an adjoining parcel of land that is not in the park.

It appears to me that that junction leads to this source of aggregate that the Ministry of Transportation already controls, but this amendment would help clear up the fact that that spur or junction and any alignment change would not be within the park.

It's right on the fringe of the existing boundary, and the road just kind of trundles along that. Presumably, there's a piece of it, and it's 2⁄10 of a hectare.

M. Sather: I think this is important to understand because if it's a new road, a spur through the park, that's of interest. I think what the minister is saying is it's alongside the park on the boundary of the park, but it must be, I'm assuming, incurring part of the park thus requiring this legislation. Is that correct?

Hon. B. Penner: It's an existing road that has an existing spur, and this amendment will make clear that the spur that's leading outside of the park to the Ministry of Transportation gravel or quarry area is outside the park.

M. Sather: The reason I'm carrying on this discussion…. I think it's an important issue whether we're creating…. I think there is a precedent in Manning Park, if I'm not mistaken, of roads severing parts of parks.
[ Page 5569 ]

Again, my understanding is that the spur, the minister said, was an existing road. If it was an existing road and was next to the park or through the park, I'm trying to understand why it would necessitate any legislation. Why not just leave it the way it was?

[1800]

Hon. B. Penner: As I said, a map would be helpful. If the member had that, I'd be happy to provide it to him. As indicated, the existing road is within the park, but the roadbed itself is defined as not being in a park. On either side of the road right-of-way or roadbed is provincial park. Ministry of Transportation has deemed that for safety purposes they need to change the location of the roadbed and move it over a little bit in one direction or the other of this existing road. That necessitates the 2⁄10 of one hectare change.

M. Sather: Well, we could go on about the map and why I don't have it, but that would sound like the parrot story from Monty Python, so we won't go there. So they moved the road, and we'll leave it at that.

Subsection (f) is regarding one Juniper Beach Park. The explanatory notes say that it "enacts in schedule C a class A park, Juniper Beach Park, that was previously established by order-in-council." Again, I think this is one that sounds very similar to some of the other descriptions that we've had, so I don't believe that it's necessary for me to ask the minister a question on that.

Subsection (g) repeals the description of Marble Canyon Park, and subsection (h) is Ningunsaw Park, which was covered.

Subsection (i) is with regard to Tyhee Lake Park. I see that it's in the Telkwa area near Smithers, and it's being expanded by 5.6 hectares as a result of a private land acquisition. It actually sounds like a very productive area. It protects a large cattail and reed complex that hosts a high concentration of breeding loon pairs, grebes, other waterfowl and songbirds.

It sounds like an excellent addition to our parks system. I don't think the minister can add too much more to that for me, but if he chooses to at any time, he's certainly welcome to do so.

Subsection (j) is Upper Lillooet Park. This one strikes out a mineral claim, a Ministry of Forests cutting permit — actually three mineral claims, as I understand it. Could the minister just explain why those claims and a forest-cutting permit are struck out by this legislation?

[1805]

Hon. B. Penner: I think the member is a little bit confused in his question, but I'll try my best here to explain. The changes being made here represent less than 1⁄10 of a hectare being removed from the park. It has something to do with a mineral claim that was overlapped by the park boundary. This is correcting that. There's no change in the area figure for the park stated, given the small amount of land being removed. The total area remains at 19,996 hectares.

Then there's a comment that one of my staff made — something to do with a cutting permit. As a result of improved mapping, we have confirmed that, in fact, the cutting permit is outside of the park and does not need to be excepted from the description of the park because it's already outside of the park.

Just to go back to this curious question about what became of the maps, I've been advised by staff in my office that they did receive a call from the MLA's office about a different set of maps, which the member's constituents apparently brought to a meeting with the Minister of Forests and Range. The constituents apparently wanted to get those maps back from the Minister of Forests and Range. For some reason, people were calling my office about that. We did not have those maps.

I'm advised also by the Clerk-at-the-Table that the member spent some time in the Clerk's office looking at the Bill 15 maps that we're talking about right now. At no time would the Clerk's office have had the maps that were left at the Minister of Forests and Range's office. I'm not sure where that particular set of maps went. That was pertaining to something other than Bill 15, which is the legislation we're discussing here today.

[1810]

M. Sather: Well, the minister opened up the map box again. Just simply to say that those four maps that are referred to are not there, and they are the subject of this bill.

That's all I have on section 3.

Section 3 approved.

On section 4.

M. Sather: Section 4 is with regard to Otter Lake Park, and it amends the description of Otter Lake Park to remove two existing roads. Can the minister explain why these roads are being removed?

[L. Reid in the chair.]

Hon. B. Penner: It's been said that the wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly. In this case the wheels of legislative amendments sometimes turn slowly.

[1815]

Apparently, there was an agreement reached about a quarter of a century ago that this change would be made, after discussions between an individual and the government of the day in the early 1980s. Better late than never. This change is being made to except a portion of an existing roadbed from the description of the provincial park. By virtue of this legislation we're discussing
[ Page 5570 ]
today, though, that roadbed will be deemed a protected area, which will allow B.C. Parks to continue to control access on that roadway.

The total area involved here is about, I think, a quarter or a third of a hectare. But it apparently goes back to some direction that Tony Brummet, then Minister of Environment and Parks, gave to staff several decades ago. I'm pleased to report that we're getting around to it now.

Section 4 approved.

On section 5.

M. Sather: Section 5 amends the description of Cariboo River Park to remove an existing road similarly. Can the minister explain the removal of that road?

Hon. B. Penner: This amendment also is not dissimilar to some of the other ones we've already discussed, as it also pertains to an existing roadbed or road right-of-way.

I'm told that the Cariboo-Chilcotin land use plan made recommendations about establishing a park or protected area in this region of British Columbia. Their advice was that this road should be excepted or exempted from the park boundary description. For some reason it wasn't, and here we are, about 15 years later, fixing it up. This was initially established, I think, in 1995 in legislation. So 15 years on we're correcting that error.

M. Sather: Thanks to the minister.

Schedule B. Now we get to an area that I think is of particular interest to the minister. It's indeed a beautiful area and park. That's Skaha Bluffs Park. I believe that in second reading the minister mentioned — and I recall this too — that the park, in fact, was just brought in last year. We're already adding to it, which is wonderful.

I just want to make reference to the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that the minister referred to at length in second reading. Truly, it's a beautiful sight to come across. I agree with him wholeheartedly on that.

I have been to Skaha Bluffs, and my recollection is that it is near a provincial highway there. I wonder if the minister can confirm for me whether or not the bighorn sheep inhabit the area near the highway or on the highway. I know that at Spences Bridge, for example, the bighorn sheep there come down to the highway quite a lot.

[1820]

Hon. B. Penner: I appreciate the member's questions about Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park. His recollection is correct that we did bring forward legislation last fall that initially established Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park. At that time the parcels of land that we designated as class A provincial park were Crown land parcels that encompassed the areas most commonly frequented by the rock climbers.

This amendment is adding a parcel of previously privately owned land known in the local area as sublot 18. I think that's how it's been referred to. It does a couple of things. It provides secure access, as I noted in my second reading remarks yesterday, so that there's continued access for mountain climbers and other people.

I want to underscore here that this area is not just for hard-core rock climbers, but it's entirely suitable for families and children to go and take a stroll. There are many rolling hills, and it's a very leisurely, pleasant area to go for a walk. So it's really multifaceted. True, there is some hard-core rock climbing available at the northern end of the park, and if people want to do that, good on them. I think most people, though, would prefer to enjoy the trails just to the south of that, many of which are through sublot 18, which is this parcel of land that we're discussing today.

Acquisition of sublot 18 helped secure the public access as well as the right to walk on that land and enjoy it as a trail. But just as importantly, or in some people's view more importantly, the eastern portions of sublot 18 stretch up and over some bluffs and into another area that is considered very important habitat for the bighorn sheep.

The last time I was there with Mr. Speaker, the bighorn sheep that greeted us came up from the western side of the property, just above the highway. I've never seen them on the highway myself, but they came up towards us from below where we were standing, and below where we were standing is the highway. So they were somewhere in between, and they made their way past us and up some bluffs — not the completely vertical ones — but they moved their way up to some clearings and presumably then carried on to this area known as the eastern side of sublot 18.

This is all a long way of saying that this is a multiple win. It's good for public enjoyment, it's good for families, it's good for people who enjoy hard-core rock climbing, and it's good for the bighorn sheep because this area is now protected from potential development.

There had been some concerns expressed locally that subdivision development or even perhaps big-box stores might be considering locating on sublot 18, which is a benchland on the western side. So it would be relatively easy to build on, if that's what somebody wanted to do.

I'm pleased that we had the assistance of a number of partners, and I just want to recognize them here again today: the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Land Conservancy of B.C., the B.C. Trust for Public Lands. Also, the Mountain Equipment Co-op helped raise some money through their membership because many of their members enjoy rock climbing there.

I think with this addition and the new access route that we've been able to secure — with the cooperation, by the way, of one of B.C.'s fine new wineries, Painted Rock
[ Page 5571 ]
Estate Winery, which is right adjacent to the park — this area will now be more frequently visited by families.

I have given instructions to staff to see if we can establish some basic campsites there, which would be an affordable option for young families visiting the Okanagan. Combined with the stunning vistas, the beautiful hiking trails and the next-door winery, I think this park will get quite a few visits in the future.

Just a cautionary note, though, that in addition to bighorn sheep, I'm told that there are western rattlesnakes present throughout the area. I've hiked there a few times now — mostly in the summer, once in the winter — but I have not yet come across any snakes. But you could see how it might be a good habitat for them, and good for them. I don't think we need to be as concerned about rattlesnakes as some people would have you believe. Obviously, you want to respect them, but some people maybe overestimate the concern.

[1825]

Then there is the western screech owl, which also enjoys that habitat, and again, when you go there you can see why.

M. Sather: Yes, it indeed is a beautiful place. I've birded up there. You can see Cassin's finch, you can see western bluebirds, and if you're standing right over the bluffs, the swifts are just whipping by there at a huge rate of speed. It's a great place.

Now I want to move on to the South Chilcotin Mountains Park. For listeners, there's a history to this park. It was formed by the previous NDP government in 2001.

When the current government was elected that year…. In the subsequent years — 2004, to be exact, I believe — the government decided that…. In my understanding, it was triggered by pressure from mining interests that wanted to have access to the park for the mining interests. The government of the day changed the park, at the same time indicating their intentions to move the boundaries. They changed the park. It became known as the Spruce Lake protected area.

After that…. I'm not familiar with the specifics of the land use planning process, but I understand there was quite a lengthy process that occurred. Now we're seeing, I guess you would say, the end point of it, with what I would call the recreation of the South Chilcotin Mountains Park.

I wanted to ask the minister about some of the zoning adjacent to the park. There are some zones there that are referred to as mining tourism zones, and I'd just like to ask the minister if he could explain what a mining tourism zone is.

[1830]

Hon. B. Penner: As I understand it, the member is asking about mining and tourism zones. Those will be officially designated — this is the government's intention — through an order-in-council that would be led by the Minister and Ministry of Forests and Range, responsible for the integrated land management bureau. My understanding of the mining and tourism zones is that they do not permit or will not permit commercial timber-harvesting activities to take place but would permit tourism development as well as exploration and development of minerals.

M. Sather: Well, it seems like a classic description of an oxymoron to me. I can't imagine tourism going well with mining at all. But hey, maybe if the mines are successful in those areas, there will be some tours of them.

I wanted to ask the minister about one of these tourism zones at Paradise Creek, which is on the northeast side of the park. Can the minister tell me: that zone — was part of it in the previous Spruce Lake protected area?

Hon. B. Penner: I've just been flipping back and forth looking at various maps, and I believe the answer to the member's question is yes.

M. Sather: Can the minister then give me…? It doesn't sound like he'd have the exact amount, but can he give me an approximation of how much land has been moved from the former Spruce Lake Protected Area to now the mining/tourism zone?

[1835]

Hon. B. Penner: There are, as the member knows, three proposed mining and tourism zones. They total, the three of them, 14,550 hectares.

M. Sather: Yes, indeed, there are three tourism zones: Taylor Creek, Paradise Creek and Slim Creek. In total, those mining/tourism zones are 14,550 hectares, I believe the minister said. What I'm trying to get a sense of is how much land was lost, though, from the previous Spruce Lake Protected Area to now become mining/tourism zones — an approximation at least.

Hon. B. Penner: The three areas combined amount to 14,550 hectares.

M. Sather: So I'm understanding, then, that 14,550 hectares of the previous protected area were lost to mining and tourism areas. That's a concern for me. It certainly is a good thing that we have the park. My particular feeling from my perspective is that there has been a considerable cost to that.

I wanted to ask the minister also…. Spruce Lake is the primary destination in that area, and there are a couple of exclusions, small ones, by Spruce Lake. Was the purpose of those exclusions that they're private property? Is that the reason?
[ Page 5572 ]

Hon. B. Penner: I believe there are two private inholdings — private pieces of land.

Section 5 approved.

On section 6.

M. Sather: This section 6 is schedule D, and there are several amendments and establishments of new parks. I see that the time is moving on. I wanted to finish up today, so I'm not going to have the opportunity to talk about all of these lovely parks, although it excites me greatly to talk about parks at any time.

I did want to ask or make mention, anyway, of Fred Antoine Park, which is also in the Lillooet district. There are a number of these parks that are in the Lillooet district. This one is 8,230 hectares. My understanding is that environmental groups are quite pleased about the formation of this one. I wonder if the minister could say a few words about the attributes of that park.

[1840]

Hon. B. Penner: Subject to what Members of the Legislative Assembly decide in the next little while and subject to the Lieutenant-Governor's approval, if passed, this bill will establish Fred Antoine Park. At 8,230 hectares in size, this new class A park is proposed to be established as a result of the Lillooet land and resource management plan.

I'm told that it includes a complete and undisturbed watershed known as Antoine Creek and the upper elevations of Fred Creek. I'm not sure who Fred is, though. The park protects a unique range of dry forest types and provides critical wildlife winter and spring range. It offers a wilderness recreation experience and contains numerous signs and artifacts of First Nations traditional use.

Fred Antoine Park is located approximately 25 kilometres northwest of Lillooet and is in the asserted traditional territory of three different First Nations.

M. Sather: One of the other parks, Marble Canyon Park on the Sea to Sky Highway, I'm quite interested in as well, reading about it. The park protects internationally significant coral-like stromatolite formations in the lake and globally significant fossil occurrences. I'm just wondering if the minister's staff have any knowledge about the fossil occurrences. Is that something that's known to the public or researchers? Is it being accessed and used, as it were?

Hon. B. Penner: We don't have all the details here, but we believe that there are significant examples of fossils occurring within this proposed provincial park. Marble Canyon Park is being expanded by 1,994 hectares by virtue of this legislation. It is also a follow-up to the Lillooet land and resource management plan.

It protects natural scenic and recreational values in Marble Canyon and Marble Lake; highly significant First Nation cultural values; and important provincial recreation opportunities such as rock climbing — which we talked about earlier — hiking, fishing and camping. As well, the park protects internationally significant coral-like stromatolite formations in the lake. I understand there's been some research done about that, and apparently it's a topic that we can discuss at a future date.

M. Sather: Yeah, it sounds very interesting about the formations in the lake. I've never seen anything like that. I'd like to talk to the minister about that at some future occasion.

Oregana Creek Park is being formed as a result of the Kamloops land and resource management plan. It protects a small area of ancient forest containing representative examples of old-growth cedar-hemlock forest and associated vegetation communities. It's along the upper reaches of the Adams River. Is this park beyond the area where the famous salmon run is, the sockeye run? The minister is indicating it is, I believe.

[1845]

Hon. B. Penner: I'm not 100 percent certain, but I believe that this park will be located above the reaches of the spawning beds. Nevertheless, ministry staff advise me that it will serve an important purpose by protecting riparian areas along the upper reaches of the Adams River and will serve as a valuable seasonal habitat for mountain caribou.

The park itself will be located approximately 150 kilometres north of Salmon Arm. So that puts it a considerable distance beyond the mouth of the Adams River and Shuswap Lake, where most people associate the sockeye spawning activity as taking place.

M. Sather: Subsection (f) mentions the description of Mount Robson Park. There's a change there, I guess, with regard to that famous park, and I'm just wondering if the minister could explain what that change is.

Hon. B. Penner: The member may recall that a number of years ago we brought an amendment, through a piece of legislation similar to this one, that had all kinds of variations to existing and new park boundaries. At that time, 478 hectares were removed from the park boundaries to facilitate the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project. I think that was two years ago, if my memory serves correctly — perhaps three years ago. But at that time I indicated that it was the government's intention to find additional lands as compensation for the park.

This amendment that the member is referring to would add 911 hectares of what we call compensatory lands to the existing Mount Robson Park, which is pretty large, as the member will know.
[ Page 5573 ]

It will now go from 224,374 hectares in size to 225,285 hectares in size, but I think it'll probably grow a bit more because of the 478 hectares that the Legislature removed from the park for the pipeline project. We expect that a considerable portion of that will be able to be returned to class A park status in due course. So stay tuned. Perhaps next year we'll be in a position to add some of that land back.

Sections 6 and 7 approved.

On section 8.

M. Sather: This section amends the description of a conservancy that I can't really pronounce, I don't think. We'll call it the Nekite Estuary Conservancy. It does remove land as well. Could the minister just explain why land is being removed and where?

[1850]

Hon. B. Penner: This amendment proposes to correct an error. When two hectares of foreshore and two hectares of upland area were included in the original conservancy boundary, that apparently was not the intention. The lands in question were a former forestry camp and, again, were included in the conservancy in error. This corrects that mistake and reflects the original intention of the land use agreement that was reached a number of years ago respecting the mid- and north coast.

Sections 8 to 11 inclusive approved.

Title approved.

Hon. B. Penner: I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete without amendment.

Motion approved.

The committee rose at 6:51 p.m.

The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.

Report and
Third Reading of Bills

Bill 15 — Protected Areas of
British Columbia
Amendment Act, 2010

Bill 15, Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act, 2010, reported complete without amendment, read a third time and passed.

Committee of Supply (Section A), having reported progress, was granted leave to sit again.

Hon. B. Penner moved adjournment of the House.

Motion approved.

Mr. Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

The House adjourned at 6:53 p.m.


PROCEEDINGS IN THE
DOUGLAS FIR ROOM

Committee of Supply

ESTIMATES: MINISTRY OF ENERGY,
MINES AND PETROLEUM RESOURCES

The House in Committee of Supply (Section A); H. Bloy in the chair.

The committee met at 2:34 p.m.

On Vote 28: ministry operations, $54,450,000.

The Chair: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the Douglas Fir Room. We're doing the budget estimates on the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

Minister, if you'd like to make introductions and opening remarks.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Just before we begin the estimates of the ministry, I would like to introduce, to my right, my deputy, Mr. Greg Reimer. As well, joining us we have Alex Ferguson, who is the CEO and commissioner of the Oil and Gas Commission; Mr. Randall Smith, the executive financial officer; as well as Steve Simons, who is the leader of performance and planning.

[1435]

J. Horgan: It's refreshing. The former minister often spent half of the time talking about the wonders of wondrous things. I'm appreciative of the minister keeping it to a bare minimum so that we can get right to the root of the issue.

I'd like the minister to comment, if he could, on the reduction in operating expenses year over year in the ministry and what impact that's going to have on delivering services to British Columbians.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I think the member's aware that these are difficult economic times. We have definitely faced some cutbacks within the ministry as far as the operational budget goes, but we have protected our core
[ Page 5574 ]
business. We are confident that we will deliver the highest standard.

Just previously…. Looking at the letter that we had talked about, if we're going to go down this line of questioning, I'll have to get other staff here, Member — if that's okay. Presently I have the Oil and Gas Commission with us, as well as others, as per the letter that was sent earlier.

J. Horgan: Well, I apologize to the minister. I assumed, with his deputy and spartan staff here, that basic questions, as a preliminary discussion before we get into the substance of the issues that we're going to canvass in detail…. The minister…. Again, as I said, his predecessor went to great lengths to have discussions, so I thought we would touch on some of these issues.

There has been a significant reduction overall in the operating budget of the ministry. If the minister isn't able to answer that, beyond saying that we're in difficult economic times, then I'll move to what the impact of those reductions would be, in particular an announcement of 52 full-time-equivalents reduced in April. Did that reduction have an impact on the Oil and Gas Commission and, in particular, on its ability to interact with organizations such as NEEMAC?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: No, not at all. There was no impact whatsoever to the Oil and Gas Commission.

J. Horgan: Then, to the specific. Have these staffing level reductions that I referred to…? Am I correct? Is it 52 positions? And did any of those positions have a consultative or a communications relationship with NEEMAC, which I believe is integral to the operation of the Oil and Gas Commission, at least peripherally.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Within those 52 positions that were impacted, there were people that had interaction through NEEMAC, the Northeast Energy and Mines Advisory Committee.

We have made a commitment to NEEMAC — which is, again, the Northeast Energy and Mines Advisory Committee — that we will maintain its full operation. It is a valuable part of the northeast part of this province. It allows us to work together with different community organizations, different people within the region to bring issues forward regarding the development of oil and gas — from industry, from the ranchers, from all sectors up there.

[1440]

Our commitment is that we will maintain NEEMAC. We will maintain the operation of the Northeast Energy and Mines Advisory Committee. That will continue.

J. Horgan: I'm certain it will continue, but I'm assuming it will continue in…. Certainly there will be reduced activity from the government side. Is that going to have an impact on the ability of NEEMAC to meet the objectives that the minister has set out for them? Is it going to have an impact on how NEEMAC interacts with the Oil and Gas Commission, how it interacts with the ministry and how it interacts with the government?

If I'm correct that 52 positions were reduced — this was, I assume, across the ministry — can the minister identify how many of those positions were specifically in the region and working on issues — or if not from the region, working on issues in the region?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Out of the 52 positions that were affected within the ministry, there were 51 positions in Victoria, one position in Kamloops. There was a half-time position that supported NEEMAC. We will continue to ensure that NEEMAC receives the support that they need.

I think we are going into some very exciting times in the northeast part of this province with the changes we have seen through the Oil and Gas Activities Act, which the member and I discussed on the floor of the Legislature through the amendments to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act, through the new air quality–monitoring system that we're initiating up there and the new flaring options that we're working on with industry and the people that live there. So NEEMAC will continue in its capacity and will only continue to do the good work that it does.

J. Horgan: Of the 51 positions terminated in Victoria, how many of those positions were involved in the oil and gas sector? Just the half-time position you referred to?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Out of the 52 positions that were affected, 18 were from the oil and gas division.

[1445]

J. Horgan: Well, again, with increased activity, one assumes that you need increased oversight. Last year…. Well, last September, or October, November — whenever we were dealing with last year's budget the second time — we had a discussion about the deficit position that the Oil and Gas Commission was in. We talked about a slowdown, briefly, in the sector and a decline in the commodity price.

That has rebounded somewhat. I assume that the activity is going to continue apace. Has a reduction of 18 staff in the ministry had an impact on our ability — "our" being the government corporate — to manage and monitor activities in the sector?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Actually, the oversight of the industry is through the Oil and Gas Commission. They have increased staff, so the oversight actually is growing
[ Page 5575 ]
in the northeast part of this province through a great deal of hard work by the men and women that work in the Oil and Gas Commission.

As I touched on earlier, there are a great many new initiatives that we have implemented, whether it be through flaring or whether it be through the air monitoring that we have just recently launched up there. I know that the Oil and Gas Commission is looking at a permanent solution for the entire northeast on that.

The oversight of the industry, and I want to reiterate this…. Actually, the people that do the oversight as the Oil and Gas Commission — those numbers are growing, which is very positive for the northeast.

J. Horgan: When the minister says "those numbers," is he meaning bodies on the ground, or revenues? That wasn't clear to me.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Men and women doing the work on the ground, Member.

J. Horgan: Can the minister advise me of the increase in staffing at the Oil and Gas Commission this year over last year?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We're actually up a total of 20 people that work at the Oil and Gas Commission — ten in 2008, as well as an additional ten in 2009 we're at.

J. Horgan: Again, last year we were discussing the deficit position in the operating expenses of the Oil and Gas Commission. Can the minister advise what steps were taken to rectify that situation?

[1450]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Actually, the balance sheet of the Oil and Gas Commission is very healthy at this time. As the member pointed out, there was a deficit situation earlier. It was corrected through the increase of fees, which are paid by industry themselves.

J. Horgan: That, again, is a result of increased activity?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Actually no, that was increased fees themselves — not an increase in the existing fees that were paid but an increase in the fee schedule.

J. Horgan: Could the minister direct me to that fee schedule, or could he table the documents that led to the increase?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We will provide the member the document.

J. Horgan: I'd like to move to the EnCana sour gas leak for a moment and see if the minister…. We have talked about this privately. We've debated indirectly on radio, in the region. This is an opportunity. I'd like to lob up a softball — I'm hopeful — and have the Oil and Gas Commission demonstrate to the committee and to the public that every effort is being made to ensure that this sort of incident doesn't happen again.

In our discussions of the Oil and Gas Activities Act, the minister and I both agreed — and all members, I'm sure, would agree — that safety has to be of paramount concern in this sector. Again, the corrosion issues that we talked about indirectly during the debate of the bill I think are better canvassed here, so I'll ask the minister with his staff present if he can advise what steps the commission is taking to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: A number of things have happened since that unfortunate incident. I think it is fair to say — and we all concur — that safety is the highest priority for the men and women and the families that live in the northeast and the men and women that work in this industry, as well, many of whom reside in the northeast.

There is under development an emergency response, a regulation dedicated specifically to that. We held public meetings up there. They were, I think, well attended, and a great dialogue took place with the Oil and Gas Commission.

Under the preliminary report…. The investigation is just drawing to a conclusion now, the full investigation. There were preliminary recommendations that are all either acted upon or under development right now, dealing with the emergency shutdown valves, dealing with a list of things.

[1455]

I could read them in, if the member would so choose, but they are on the website. It is lengthy. I think that great progress has been made.

I think, although there was an unfortunate incident — and we're certainly thankful that nobody lost their life in this incident — that with the ability to learn from the people that live in the region, from the Oil and Gas Commission doing their job in industry, we have improved the safety for the men and women and families there in that industry tremendously, and we continue to do that each and every day.

J. Horgan: Are there proposals for guideline changes with respect to operators such as EnCana, the RCMP and the Oil and Gas Commission, in terms of monitoring and managing potential circ*mstances such as these?

I know that every time there's a catastrophic event, you change operating practices, you change guidelines to ensure that cooperation and coordination between bodies — whether it be law enforcement, the regulator, the operator, as well as the broader community.
[ Page 5576 ]

Can the minister point to any changes in procedure that government has initiated since the leak, or does the government anticipate any changes as a result of investigations ongoing or completed?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: As I said earlier, there is still work ongoing on this, so there is still future work to come. I do want to read two of the 12 preliminary recommendations that I think will address the member's questions.

"EnCana shall modify all public communication documents to clearly identify the commission's 24-hour emergency and complaint contact information." — I think that became very evident from the people up there that that was needed.

"Such documents shall encourage residents to call PEP" — which is provincial emergency — "immediately if they suspect a leak."

As well, "EnCana will review their public information program and shall make modifications as necessary to improve public understanding of the contents. In addition, EnCana shall develop a methodology for the assessment of the effectiveness of their public information program and shall evaluate the effectiveness of the program on an annual basis. The results of the annual evaluation shall be shared with the commission."

These are just two, but it's ongoing. I think one of the key factors — having been there and lived there and in talking to the people who were affected — is that there seemed to be a lack of understanding over the issue of what could take place. The public meeting was held. I think that the Oil and Gas Commission, it's fair to say, learned a great deal on what could take place to improve that, and I think a great deal of work has been done to date. It has been implemented, also, right throughout the industry.

Although this was an EnCana well site, we want to be very clear that the preliminary recommendations we're talking about here are not dealing just with EnCana but with the entire industry and are being implemented throughout. As well, the final report will be implemented across industry and not just one-company-specific.

[1500]

J. Horgan: I thank the minister for that. I'm wondering if he can advise the committee if the Oil and Gas Commission has a mandate to look into health and safety issues with respect to operators in the region.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The Oil and Gas Commission ensures the safety of the public — that is what they work towards — though they have a working relationship, obviously, with Northern Health when it comes to public health issues. Worker safety is dealt with under WorkSafe B.C.

J. Horgan: I was referring specifically to the reviews that were underway as a result of the incident with the EnCana rupture. Concern from the region was expressed to me — and, I'm sure, to the minister and to staff — that there was no mandate in that review to burrow down into health and safety issues and concerns generally with respect to the oil and gas activities, particularly sour gas activities in and around residential areas.

Of course, when we talk about residential areas as southerners, I defer to the minister — and I'm sure the Chair will, as well — to talk to me about what a neighbourhood is in Peace River South, as opposed to Juan de Fuca. But again, although public agencies rallied quickly after the incident was resolved, to start looking at apportioning blame and finding solutions, concerns were raised that the commission doesn't have an overall responsibility for health and safety in the region. It has a responsibility to expedite activity.

That's simplistic, but it's a concern that's been raised with me. I'm wondering if the minister has any comments on that and whether or not, as a result of the investigation or the fallout from the incident, there are any proposals within government to look at adding health and safety concerns to the mandate of the Oil and Gas Commission.

[1505]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Just a couple of points. I want to point out that public safety is the first and primary focus of the Oil and Gas Commission, without question. The OGC is not there to expedite the development of oil and gas in British Columbia or the northeast part, primarily where we focus on, but it is rather there as a regulator, and they do a tremendous job.

J. Horgan: That may well be, but for most people the Oil and Gas Commission — certainly, for the industry — is a welcome consolidation of a whole host of regulatory practices and processes in one place, and it has served the province and the region well with respect to expediting development.

Now we can quibble over the speed with which that's happened, whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, but the end result has been that there's more activity today than before the Oil and Gas Commission was established in the '90s.

By and large, that's been a net positive to the province, but in the region — and the minister knows this better than I — there are concerns that the pace with which this sector is growing is not keeping pace with the social contract.

One of the issues that is starkly identified from the EnCana rupture is that some citizens have concern that the compliance rates, for example, over time have been declining. How is the Oil and Gas Commission keeping pace with growth? There has been a net increase in FTEs this year over last year. We seem to have addressed the fiscal challenge of '08-09. But again, for those in the region, at what point is there too much activity for the staff on the ground managing and regulating, as you ably say, the sector?
[ Page 5577 ]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We do want to go back and just address…. I think we're probably going to agree to disagree on this. I think the reason that we have more activity is not because the Oil and Gas Commission has expedited what takes place there. I think it is more a result of the positive climate we've created for investment in this province.

I do want to talk about a number of things that we have done. As well, a very important note is that compliance has not declined, Member. I want to make that clear. That's a very important statement. When we look at the compliance in the oil and gas industry, going forward, we're actually even projecting an increase in compliance into the high 90s — 98 percent, I believe — if we look at that.

[1510]

We have a done a number of good things. The member and I have had the opportunity to discuss this in the Legislature during the debate of Bill 8, which was amendments to the Oil and Gas Activities Act and as well the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act.

We have also dealt with things such as flaring, something that was very important to the people in the northeast part of this province. I think we have come up with some of the most proactive approaches to the reduction of flaring virtually anywhere.

I know some people have said: "Well, there are jurisdictions that actually have no flaring." What I do want to point out is that those jurisdictions actually vent direct to the atmosphere. That is far worse than flaring when it comes to health and environment.

As well, noise has been an issue for the rural areas. That is being dealt with.

The road issue. We work cooperatively with the industry if they're moving a rig, for instance. Dust, as well — things that I know we don't talk a lot about down here in the southern part. We have a vast area in the northeast. Much of that area is serviced by our rural road infrastructure, which is gravel, many of which were not built to withstand the weights, whether it be the oil and gas equipment or even the new farm and agricultural equipment that travels out there.

Industry is working cooperatively with us on that to ensure, as we move forward, that people can continue to enjoy the quality of life in the northeast part of this province as well as enjoy their homes without being forced out or dusted out.

I think we've made great progress, but I think the member would agree that all of us are here each and every day to try and make sure that we do something a little better today than we did yesterday.

J. Horgan: Could the minister table the documents that he referred to in terms of projection of compliance? Could he provide reports for fiscal years '07-08, '08-09, '09-10?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: It is in our annual report and service plan. We can get that if you don't have it, Member, but it is there, and we'll make sure that you have that.

J. Horgan: Well, I'm sure that the service plan speaks projections and anticipated compliance that the minister talked about in his answer. Or was that wishful thinking? What was that?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Actually, on the Oil and Gas Commission's website there is the compliance and enforcement annual report, which is posted every year. The numbers that we've referred to — far be it from wishful thinking — are actually there, with the detailed numbers.

J. Horgan: In the service plan for the Oil and Gas Commission it sets out five goals. I'll read the goals for the record:

"(1) The commission protects the interests of the people of British Columbia."

"(2) The commission makes quality decisions in a timely manner." Some might interpret it as expediting; it's a tomato/tomato thing, I suppose.

"(3) The commission is recognized as a service-oriented organization." Again, if you're an applicant, service quite often means expedited, so we are agreeing to disagree, but it's all about how you interpret it, I suppose.

"(4) The commission works with government to continually improve the regulatory environment."

"(5) The commission is a great place to work." I'm hopeful that is the case.

In the performance goals, speaking to goal 1, the document reads: "This also includes resource conservation activities which ensure oil and gas resources are extracted in the most efficient way possible and environmental management activities which ensure environmental standards are achieved."

[1515]

Can the minister, in terms of this goal, identify how the Oil and Gas Commission is assisting government in achieving its greenhouse gas reduction targets of 33 percent by 2020?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We talk about the environment and what we have done to help meet that goal, or what the Oil and Gas Commission has done. A number of things, and I want to take a few moments to talk about that, because it is very important to the people of the northeast.

Flaring reduction. We made a commitment to reduce flaring in producing wells by 50 percent by 2011. We are over halfway there on that, for instance. We've actually even built upon that.

Flaring has been an issue for the families that live in the rural area, particularly, those that see it. We just
[ Page 5578 ]
recently made a commitment that if a well is within 1.25 kilometres of a home and three kilometres of a gathering system, which we talk about, they would have to use in-line flow tests on that, which means the only flaring would be a cleanup flare, which will take the sand out, which reduces the flaring significantly. It depends on what type of well we're looking at, but in some cases, it's 90 percent less.

Actually, another one that we have is what are called multi-well pads. The member, when he was up…. We went out and looked. Traditionally, in years gone by, the companies would develop a lease. On that lease they would drill a well, then move on and develop another what we call lease, and then drill a well on that. We now see what are called multi-well pads, so the footprint on the land base is shrinking — again, something very positive.

You can have a number of wells, whether it be ten wells off of one pad and, in some cases, even more. A little larger pad, but certainly not ten times the size of the pad needed to drill one.

Another one I want to touch on is that when we talk about the environment, what we're doing to meet those goals, I won't miss the opportunity to talk about what Dawson Creek is doing. Water is a major issue. I'm sure the member recognizes that. When it comes to what we do with fracking and the amount of water used, it was a concern. The people began talking and wondering what we could do to find solutions versus using potable water.

Dawson Creek has entered into an agreement with one of the companies to treat the effluent out of the third cell of the sewer lagoon that would bring it up to a standard that could be used in the fracking.

Just things like that have really come a long way, I think. Even a few short years ago the innovation that was taking place then was different than what we're seeing today, and it's a very positive development.

The Chair: For new members joining us, we're on Vote 28.

I recognize the member for Juan de Fuca.

J. Horgan: Thanks for recognizing me. You've seen me before. I'm not surprised that you did recognize me when I stood up. Thank you, Chair.

[1520]

I thank the minister for his answer. Regrettably, we don't have a lot of time this year for estimates. I would have wanted to probe a little bit deeper into the water issues. I think that a huge issue — and the minister knows this better than I — in the region is the amount of water used with shale gas, in particular, and fracking. That Dawson Creek is being innovative is good news, but again, we'll have to save that for another day.

I'd like to go back to greenhouse gas emissions, though, if I could. The flaring reduction is a positive, but I'm wondering if the minister could advise what role, again, the commission plays in achieving the targets that have been set out by legislation. Is there any particular mandate that's been given that I haven't been able to pick up in the materials that I have available, something that the minister could point to?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Just so that I was clear, much of what I talked about before is not what the ministry is doing; it is what the Oil and Gas Commission is doing when it comes to the flaring, venting, incineration guidelines, for example.

When it comes to the new standards that we have put to reduce flaring with in-line flow testing, those are issues that the Oil and Gas Commission is working on to ensure that the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are met, which puts us over halfway to the goal of 50 percent reduction at routine flaring. But again, it is something that the Oil and Gas Commission is working on, and the men and women that do that work up north.

J. Horgan: Perhaps the minister could help me out here and comment on the carbon management at the proposed Cabin gas plant in Fort St. John. As I understand it, that facility, when fully operational, will increase our greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 3 percent across the province. That's a big deal. That's 450,000 cars in my good friend from Vancouver–West End's neighbourhood — just in his neighbourhood alone, much less heading towards the Port Mann bridge, if it's ever completed.

Of that 3 percent, 72 percent of that is going to be venting, with the information that I have at my disposal. So could the minister advise how approving the Cabin gas plant, leading to a 3 percent increase in our overall greenhouse gas emissions — I believe that's to 2010 levels, not 2007 levels — and with 72 percent of that 3 percent increase being venting, how over time we're going to achieve our objectives?

[1525]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Just for clarification, I want to point out that the Cabin gas plant — and I think it was just a mistake — is out of Fort Nelson, not out of Fort St. John. For the record, I wanted to clear that up.

This plant has actually received an environmental assessment certificate with a number of conditions. I do want to point out that this plant is built carbon capture–ready as well. I think the carbon-capture-and-storage work that's going on right now…. There is work ongoing with Spectra Energy. Both the federal and provincial governments are part of that, looking at what we can do as the technology advances.

There's possibility also for enhanced oil recovery. Once you capture this carbon, it can go through pipelines to be utilized to extract oil, which will help.
[ Page 5579 ]

A number of things are going on, but the environmental assessment carries with it a number of conditions on that, all of which have to be met. The Oil and Gas Commission, obviously, follows that extremely closely as well.

J. Horgan: Could the minister, with his staff present, extract for me the assurances that the carbon capture–ready facility will, in fact, at some point capture carbon and what the time frame or the horizon is for that? Is it going to be two years, five years, ten years?

I have been in discussions with Spectra. I visited one of their injector sites — not the plant that has the big investments from the two levels of government — so I'm as encouraged as the minister is that we may get there. But there are cynics among us. I know there are many on that side, and they may not have the same level of confidence that you and I do, and the issuer of the permit, that the Cabin gas plant will be able to be actually capturing and storing carbon.

If not, that's a massive amount of emissions that will certainly compromise all of the good work of my colleague from Vancouver–West End. I'm advised that 70 percent of his constituents don't have cars. So they're doing their good work in Vancouver–West End. What are we going to do about Fort Nelson?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I'm encouraged that the member for Vancouver–West End and his residents are able to do that. I'm not sure the member has been up there himself, but if he comes to the northeast, I think he would see the difference. The reality is, I think, that much of the money that helps deliver the services that we all enjoy, including Vancouver–West End, comes from the northeast and the oil and gas industry, so we're thankful for that.

But the Oil and Gas Commission is not the one that would be responsible for putting in a policy on carbon capture and storage and that. That would be government. We continue to work with Spectra Energy, as I pointed out. We have a tremendous clean tech sector in British Columbia that is working on issues to look at not only the capture…. We can capture carbon now. It's the sequestration that really is the challenge.

I won't put words in the member's mouth. He will be able speak to this issue. But as we extract our resources, I am a big proponent of processing those resources here in British Columbia. Having grown up in the northeast, for many years I watched a great deal of our gas, as it came out of the ground, be processed there, but there was gas that came out that was shipped somewhere else to be processed, out of our province, creating jobs elsewhere.

I don't think that that is what British Columbians want. I think it is for the full utilization and the full benefit of the resources. We developed this primarily natural gas in British Columbia and do it in a very, I think, sound and responsible manner.

[1530]

J. Horgan: Well, I'm hopeful that the minister will take his enthusiasm for not sending our natural resources offshore to the Minister of Forests and talk to him about the raw logs that are leaving my community every day. I was in a truck just last week, in the off week, visiting a site in my constituency, and I assisted loading up a truck and then drove it and dropped the logs in the water to go somewhere else. I share the minister's enthusiasm in that respect.

I also wonder about exporting our electrons as well. We'll get into that later on. I look at my friends from B.C. Hydro.

Again, I don't think that the minister…. I know he's not skirting the issue. The minister signed the EA documents to allow this to proceed in his role as a member of executive council, a government that's committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly in ten years. This facility is increasing significantly our emissions right now, or upon completion.

Can the minister square that circle for me and help me reconcile, not just for the good burghers of the Vancouver West End who work in high-tech, in film, in visual arts and in a whole host of other services that are providing economic activity and benefits for the people of B.C.?

[D. Horne in the chair.]

What about the rest of us? If we are making our contributions with energy conservation, reducing our carbon footprints, when we see a massive plant such as this to service the shale gas plays in the Horn River basin…. Again, I agree with the minister. Let's process that product here; I don't quibble with that. But the impact of doing so is going to make it more difficult for all British Columbians to achieve the targets that his government has set for the people of B.C.

How are we going to reconcile that? What steps is the government, through the minister and the ministry, taking to mitigate the impact of that spike in emissions?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We are looking at a number of things. I think one of the key issues is, without question…. I mean, I will start. This is what the challenge is that we face, not just in British Columbia but as all jurisdictions look at the reduction of greenhouse gases. People try and look to best practices. We won't sidestep that whatsoever.

It's a challenge right across the planet, and we're all doing it. It's one of the major issues. The industry and the government are working together. We have a working group to look at best practices, to look at what is going on out there.
[ Page 5580 ]

I do want to go back to the partnership and the work ongoing with Spectra Energy in the Fort Nelson area on the carbon capture and storage. That is something that I believe has significant potential to be realized. The sequestration is really the significant part of that, as I think the member said. I'm not sure. I believe it was the Cabin gas plant, probably, that you looked at when you were up in the riding. It is very important.

[1535]

Also, electrification of the gas fields is very important — where, rather than burning the fossil fuel, the opportunity will be there. We're looking at the electrification of the Horn River basin. We talk about — and I know the member will ask questions when we get into the electricity side of things — looking at the opportunity to take a line up to Fort Nelson and beyond, into the Horn River, which will help.

In fact, we actually have the Noel field around Dawson Creek. I'll use Dawson as the closest major centre. It has utilized the electrification of that, which has reduced the footprint they have as well when it comes to emissions.

J. Horgan: I thank the minister for that.

As I understand it, the government's target for 2012 is a 6 percent reduction in emissions below 2007 levels. That's my understanding of the targets that the government has set. So if the Cabin plant is up and running without carbon capture and sequestration in place, there will be a 3 percent increase in our greenhouse gas emissions. This makes it, I would argue, very difficult to get to the reductions that are legislated to take place in just two years.

We're a year or 18 months away from full operation of the plant. What's the government's plan to meet that initial target, and what role do the minister and his ministry and the Oil and Gas Commission play in achieving that target?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Member, on the broader question of what the government's plan is to reduce emissions overall, I'm going to direct you to the Minister of Environment on that. But I won't sidestep the question that you've asked directly of us.

The issue, and we've broached this before…. What our ministry is doing is working on the carbon capture and storage, a very significant issue. We have talked about the reduction in flaring — to use in-line flow testing — a very significant issue.

In many cases these flares ran for many days to test volume, to test pressure. We're going to see that cut in some cases, I would expect, by 90 percent. When you're talking a number of wells being drilled each year, that is going to help us get there.

I won't sidestep the challenge. We're hopeful and confident that we can meet those numbers, and we're going to continue to work collaboratively with industry, work together. The Oil and Gas Commission will ensure that whatever their regulatory role is to play in this, they will be met by industry.

J. Horgan: I thank the minister. He may well be right that the Minister of Environment is the appropriate place to pose the question, but the facts are the facts. The sector is the responsibility of the minister. I know you're not skirting the issue. You'd give an honest answer to an honest question.

I'll try and put it in a different way so that the committee and those that may be watching…. Again, we're not yet Ellen or Oprah, so there may be a handful of people that are paying attention to what we're talking about here. If they are concerned about their greenhouse gas emissions and their footprint…. Certainly all British Columbians, all Canadians, most people in the world have been captured by carbon and our desire to reduce emissions. So with the push, the drive from all sides of the House, from all corners of the community, and when you have again….

[1540]

I keep referring to my good friend from Vancouver–West End. But when the good folks of Vancouver are jettisoning their vehicles and embracing rapid transit and reducing their footprint, and they look to the oil and gas sector, which many argue is overly bloated and focused on greed rather than….

These are other people's opinions. I put them on the record for those to determine whether they share that view or not. But there are very few people having tag days for EnCana or the oil and gas sector.

So when individuals, communities, municipalities, boards of education are mandated to reduce their emissions and are taking steps and expending resources to get there, and they read the transcripts from our proceedings today and learn that one facility in the northeast is going to increase our overall emissions by 3 percent at a time when everyone has been talking, at least for the past half-dozen years, about going the other way, that's perplexing to many people.

I'm wondering if the minister…. Is there a plan that he's aware of within government? As a member of executive council, these things come up from time to time at cabinet, I'm sure. I'm not suggesting that he break any confidences, but what plan is he aware of to sell that to the good people of Vancouver–West End who are doing their level best to reduce emissions while the oil and gas sector is doing everything it can to extract the resource, process it and get it to market — and, in the process, increasing our emissions by 3 percent?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Let me start off not only as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources but as a proud British Columbian. I'm thankful we have the oil and gas industry in this province that we do have.
[ Page 5581 ]
That's what is allowing us to deliver health care, education, social programs. It is the single largest resource contributor to the province of British Columbia.

Not only do I thank the industry, but I thank the men and women who work in that industry that drives our economy.

You asked what we're doing, and I want to be very clear that we're going to meet our targets. Will it be a challenge? I think it will be, but we are committed to and we will meet them.

We will meet them through a number of ways, as I said before: through carbon capture and storage, the work that's ongoing through that; through the opportunity to utilize the carbon for enhanced oil recovery, whether that be through the pipelining of the captured gases; through the electrification, something where we have a lot of potential; through reduced flaring, which is extremely important.

I think all of us, whether you live in the west end of Vancouver or in Fort Nelson or in the Kootenays, recognize that we're going to do our part. But I think most people, on a cold day, recognize the fact that they want to turn their furnace on, as well, and stay warm. If we don't have the natural gas to do that, should they be on natural gas, they're going to get pretty cold.

J. Horgan: My baseboard heater would have a dispute with you on that.

Just on the electrification for a moment. As I understand it, 72 percent of the emissions are from venting. How will electrification assist that?

[1545]

That's an "I don't know" question. I'm not supposed to ask those, but I know the minister will be kind with me if I've made a misstep.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: For the Cabin gas plant, 72 percent is correct. We're talking on the broader spectrum of the industry. When I talk about reduced flaring, which will help the overall amount of emissions…. Whether we talk about carbon capture and storage, enhanced oil recovery technologies, utilizing the captured gases, the reduced flaring, as I said, overall for…. Whether it be at producing wells, whether it be flow tests, all of that will help reduce. But the venting is an issue.

Carbon capture and storage. I do want to go back to that as a significant part of this. The plant will be built carbon capture–ready for that fact. But as we continue to see Spectra Energy work in collaboration, as we continue to watch the clean tech sector — not only in British Columbia, but really around the world — look at carbon capture and sequestration, we're confident we're going to meet our numbers and continue down that road. But the broad reduction of greenhouse gases in the industry will apply across the spectrum, not just at any specific plant.

J. Horgan: In the oil and gas stimulus package and the royalty reductions and royalty changes that were made last year, those were designed to stimulate increased activity. I don't want to dispute the minister's view that increased activity is a net benefit, certainly, to his region and to all British Columbians.

But I go back again to the objectives that were set out by the Premier some years ago now to meet the ambitious targets designed to draw attention to a green shift that many people have embraced, but others look to this sector and say: "Why not them?"

I'd like to know if the minister could point to one or two current success stories on the carbon-capture-and-sequestration front when it comes to natural gas, and what time frame he believes that we're going to build it capture-ready. What's the horizon? Did the environmental assessment certificate give a deadline? If that deadline is not met, is it the function of the Oil and Commission to shut it down?

[1550]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: There are a number of operational plants right here in British Columbia already. The member, I know, pointed out earlier in one of his questions that he had visited one, being the Cabin gas plant. Also, around the world…. Norway, I know, is utilizing this. Weyburn, Saskatchewan, although it comes from coal-fired, is working on that technology as well.

I think — and I'm an optimist; I know the member is as well — that as we move forward on this, it obviously has to be economically feasible as well. That is another one. Although people talk about the environment, they also talk to me sometimes about the expense of their natural gas bills, to be honest with you, Member.

I'm confident we will…. I think we've canvassed this quite extensively. I won't go through the carbon capture and storage, the electrification, the reduced flaring, the opportunity for enhanced oil recovery too many more times, but all of those put together, I think, are going to help us meet that objective, and we will meet it.

J. Horgan: I look forward to talking about electricity bills very, very soon in terms of people being concerned about where they're going.

I just want to stay on this for a moment, because in my request for an example of a success story — certainly, the small plant that I visited is a good local example — the minister spoke about federal and provincial investments in the Spectra plant in Fort Nelson. Can the minister advise what the total investment is from the province and what success has been achieved in that pilot?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We have invested $3.4 million with Spectra. To date the first well has been drilled. The results are encouraging. This is in the Fort Nelson area,
[ Page 5582 ]
for the plant up there. We are negotiating with Spectra on a future partnership as well.

J. Horgan: I appreciate the minister's information.

I'll just go back to a question that I asked and the minister didn't get to. It might have been he wanted to highlight my optimism, and I appreciate that probably more than I will the answer that I get.

I asked: if the technology is prohibitive in terms of cost, if the technology is not achieved, will the minister shut the plants to meet our greenhouse gas emission targets?

[1555]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: To the member: I hope you like this answer as well as the other one. We're working hard to ensure that right across the spectrum of this province, we will meet our targets. We are going to continue to ensure that we look at new technologies to ensure that we can do that.

I pointed out the number of avenues we're using today to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are emitted through this industry. But I want to point out that these are targets across this province and across industries that we have set, and we will meet them.

J. Horgan: Could the minister point to what the benchmark was in 2007 in terms of overall greenhouse gas emissions from the sector and what those emissions are at the most recent assessment of that benchmark? Have we made any progress? Have we reduced our emissions from the commitment in the Legislature to today?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We don't have that information here with us presently. We will endeavour to get you that for your records.

J. Horgan: I thank the minister for that commitment. Just before we wrap up on oil and gas, I wanted to know if the minister could advise the committee if there has been any work done by his ministry or by the Oil and Gas Commission with respect to the issue of peak oil.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We do have staff that follow the peak oil debate, and it really is a debate. There are people that think we have plateaued or peaked, and there are others that don't. So it's an ongoing debate, and our staff do follow that.

That is really what makes it that much more important as we move forward in the development of our new clean energy here in British Columbia with new technologies and new opportunities in clean energy development. When I talk clean energy, I also include natural gas, the cleanest burning fossil fuel we have today.

So we do follow it. Staff are aware of it. It will certainly be of interest, I think, and that topic will be discussed for quite some time to come.

J. Horgan: Is the minister prepared to table any documents, any briefing materials, that have been produced by his ministry on peak oil for this committee and for the public to review so that the debate can be informed by the good work of public servants here in British Columbia?

[1600]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I will point out that we do have a PowerPoint that we will ensure that we get to the member. As well, I would offer, if the member would want, a briefing to the member on the issue of peak oil, through our ministry.

The other one I failed to talk about…. Just briefly, and it will be brief. Oil production in British Columbia is on the decline. We actually are a net importer to meet our demands and have been probably for the better part of our history.

J. Horgan: I will take the minister up on his offer of a briefing and the PowerPoint in advance of that, or concurrent — whatever meets the deputy's and the staff's desires. I think that would be very useful.

I know — certainly in our caucus, as I'm sure it is in the government caucus — that there is concern about this issue. I do also know that we have not been large producers of oil in the past. Natural gas is the dominant commodity.

I wanted to touch on the offshore oil and gas moratorium for a moment. It does pertain to the commission inasmuch as: should the government in its lobbying efforts be successful in encouraging the federal government to lift that moratorium, would that be regulated by the Oil and Gas Commission?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I know we've canvassed this in the House through question period — our position. British Columbia doesn't have the moratorium. It is the federal government that has the moratorium on offshore oil and gas development in British Columbia. We have said from the beginning that the only way that would ever be looked at is if it could be done environmentally soundly and scientifically safely.

I think it is fair to say that what we're seeing with the environmental disaster taking place in the Gulf today brings into question whether that can be done. So we will not pursue the extraction of any resource in this province unless it can be done in a manner as I stated, and we stand by that.

J. Horgan: Does that mean, then, that the ministry is no longer engaged in discussions with the federal government and that there's no direction from this minister to his staff to continue discussions with the federal government to remove that moratorium? That's part one.

Part two, because we're running out of time, or we will…. The question is: should those previous lobby efforts
[ Page 5583 ]
be successful, would the Oil and Gas Commission be the regulator? That was kind of a subset of the first question.

[1605]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Thank you for both of your points. We have no staff in the ministry, in the oil and gas division, working at this time on offshore. The other one is: would the Oil and Gas Commission be the regulator? There is a moratorium in place, and I want to reiterate that.

Should that change — and I think it's fair to say that it is not on anybody's clear agenda right now, as we watch what unfolds in the Gulf — jurisdiction would have to be discussed between the federal government and provincial government.

J. Horgan: I wondered if the minister could just give us an update on the status of the Sierra-Yoyo-Desan road — what that management plan is looking like, what the cost is in terms of annual expenditures by users and how that's broken out, if he has that available. If it's something that has to be dug out of a binder, we can certainly get that at another time.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The Sierra-Yoyo-Desan road is a 188-kilometre road. We're putting a $187 million investment into it, certainly directed at safety for the men and women that travel that road.

We do have the information, Member. I know you're cognizant of the time. We can get you that versus take it up. A great deal of work has gone on. A lot of local work has been put into this already, and the intent is to continue on and get this completed.

J. Horgan: I thank the minister. I look forward to getting that material.

Just one last question before we move on to B.C. Hydro. In reviewing our discussion earlier about the reduction in FTEs, the objective of the Oil and Gas Commission, outlined in the goals, is building and sustaining a relationship of trust and confidence with communities, First Nations, stakeholders.

This comes from the assistant deputy minister of marketing, aboriginal and community relations, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, and it pertains to the provincial forum, which I believe is a quarterly meeting of stakeholders, interested parties, to come together and discuss issues and events within the oil and gas sector. I don't believe it has a direct bearing on the commission. I don't know if the commission sends representatives.

[1610]

I'm advised that the next meeting has been cancelled, and I'm wondering if that cancellation is a result of budget constraints. If so, does the minister or the ministry plan on reviving that forum to meet one of the stated goals of the commission, which is to foster good relations with stakeholders?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Actually, the meeting is proceeding on June 8. I'm not sure about the document, but it is proceeding.

The Chair: The committee will recess for two minutes.

The committee recessed from 4:11 p.m. to 4:14 p.m.

[D. Horne in the chair.]

The Chair: Okay, I'll call the committee to order. We're currently debating the estimates of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Just before we begin dealing with the B.C. Hydro portion of this, I'd like to make some introductions.

[1615]

Joining us is Bev Van Ruyven who is the acting president and chief executive officer of B.C. Hydro. Bev will transition to the role of executive VP and deputy CEO once Dave Cobb begins as the new CEO of B.C. Hydro. As well, Charles Reid, who is the executive vice-president of finance and chief financial officer, and Les MacLaren joins us as well, who is the ADM for electricity and alternative energy.

K. Corrigan: I would like to ask a few questions about the Olympic Games and tickets and hosting and secondment and volunteers. We do have a ticketing report now. My understanding is that the minister attended one event in the Olympic Games — maybe that could be confirmed.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Yes, it was the first medal presentation ceremony where Canada received the first medal, which was a silver medal.

K. Corrigan: I wanted to ask about the volunteer program, wherein employees could volunteer to participate, volunteer their time to assist in the games and would get a certain amount of time paid for to volunteer and then would take some of their vacation time.

I'm wondering if the minister could tell me how many people in Hydro were involved in the volunteer program and what the costs associated with that were.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: There were from B.C. Hydro 61 people that were seconded to the games. I will confirm this number, but in the range of 120 were volunteers. That's out of total employees at B.C. Hydro — out of about 5,700 employees.

K. Corrigan: I'm wondering if the minister could provide — if not today, in the future — the costs associated with that secondment and the volunteers who volunteered for the games.
[ Page 5584 ]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: For the 61 people that were seconded — they were over working with the Olympics on energy issues, so certainly I think it was a great opportunity, not only personally, but for their growth and development — $2.5 million. Then, of course, the volunteer portion was, as it sounded, volunteer. There was no cost.

[1620]

K. Corrigan: I want to get this clear because when I was talking about the volunteer program, I was asking about people who would spend a certain amount of volunteer time, but there was a government program whereby they would then have paid time as well, where they got to work at the Olympics. So there would be a cost associated with that, and I'm wondering if there were people in that category. If so, what were the costs associated with that?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The people from B.C. Hydro who volunteered were strictly volunteer. There were no back wages paid on that, so the secondment of the 61 and the price that was affixed to that is all the cost was.

K. Corrigan: Thank you to the minister for that clarification.

I wanted to turn for a second to tickets that were purchased by B.C. Hydro. There was a freedom-of-information request that indicated that B.C. Hydro had a luxury suite for 33 hockey events — 20 seats, 20 tickets per event — for a total price of $264,000. I wanted to…. My question was: did B.C. Hydro purchase other tickets either for other events or for other hosting events? If so, what were they, and what was the cost associated with them?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The Olympic tickets that were purchased, and the member…. These numbers are available, and I think she has them — $557,315. Other tickets, the Paralympic Games tickets, were $40,330. Those included the boxes as well.

K. Corrigan: I wanted to ask about a freedom-of-information request that was made by a member of the media and the response that he received. That was Bob Mackin of 24 Hours. He was kind enough to share this with me.

The tickets that B.C. Hydro had…. A request was made for the people who were invited. The request came back with B.C. Hydro hosts indicated, but all the guests who had made use of those tickets and were invited to come were blanked out.

I'm wondering if the minister would reconsider providing that information, given that in the ticket report that was done by the provincial government, all the names of the people who were guests were published. I'm wondering why we're having a different response from this minister.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Actually, that has already been completed. It is on B.C. Hydro's website with all of the names.

K. Corrigan: Well, I hadn't seen that, so I appreciate that very much. I have just a couple more questions.

[1625]

I'm wondering if the minister could let me know how much the cost was of the power usage that was provided, if any, for free to the Olympics and Paralympics — what the cost of that was.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Actually, no electricity was provided for free from B.C. Hydro. It was all paid at the tariff rate, which is the going rate.

K. Corrigan: And who paid for it?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: VANOC paid for that.

K. Corrigan: I'm wondering if the minister could let me know how much was spent by B.C. Hydro for security — for example, at substations and so on, things that would be above and beyond the normal security.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The amount was $7.1 million.

There was nothing different, though, and I do want to speak briefly to this. The same process was followed during the 1997 APEC summit here in British Columbia, the 1994 Commonwealth Games, and Expo 86 followed the same criteria and ensured that the security was there.

K. Corrigan: Well, I appreciate that, Minister, and I'm not suggesting that this wasn't important and appropriate. My aim as critic has been — throughout the run-up to the games, during the games and now post-games — to ensure that we get as complete a picture as possible of the actual costs associated with the games. I think it's impossible for us to do a cost-benefit analysis without knowing what the costs are as well as the benefits. That's why I'm asking those questions.

I have only one more question. The main office of B.C. Hydro was essentially a pavilion. It was used as a pavilion — very welcoming — and I appreciate that that was part of the great games that we put on. But I'm wondering if I could find out what the costs were associated with that hosting and any other hosting, as well, that I haven't asked about that B.C. Hydro may have done in the games.

[1630]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I'll start with the other hosting costs. There were no other hosting costs incurred by B.C.
[ Page 5585 ]
Hydro. There were no permanent structures at the facility that we talk about at B.C. Hydro. We used existing Power Smart staff — 60,000 people went through this — so very minimal cost. If the member would like, we can dig up that minimal cost for you. We don't have the dollar figure here.

To use existing staff, to have no permanent structures…. We used tents. The Home of the Future was there. A very successful event, and should the member require further information, let us know, and we can do that for you.

K. Corrigan: I was only going to stand up and say thank you to the minister for his quick and forthright responses. I do appreciate that. With that, I'll pass it over to the member for Vancouver–West End.

S. Chandra Herbert: A quick question. The minister may be aware that during the Olympics there were a number of diesel generators working outside of B.C. Place — drove a number of the neighbours crazy. I'm told they were out there at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., trying to figure out ways to shut them off.

I'm just curious. Was it a capacity problem at B.C. Place that led to this? Was Hydro not able to keep up with the demand?

[P. Pimm in the chair.]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The generators were not ours or B.C. Hydro's. They were required by VANOC through the organizing committee. There is a triple redundancy required when it comes to the Olympics. The first two feeds into the building were supplied by B.C. Hydro and the clean energy they developed, but the other was required by VANOC, so we had no jurisdiction on those, Member.

J. Horgan: I welcome the guests from B.C. Hydro. I want to start today to talk about the independent power producers and the energy purchase agreements that are approved by B.C. Hydro.

I've asked the minister on a number of occasions about that process, and he said, for example, on March 22: "There is a rigorous process that applicants go through to receive EPAs through B.C. Hydro." "…each and every applicant that goes into this process goes through a rigorous process." I'm wondering if the minister could explain to the committee just what the process is and who's involved in it.

[1635]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I will step through this. First, there is a request for proposals put out. B.C. Hydro then goes through a full technical review, dealt with through a third party. AMAC did the independent review of those. There's then a financial review, independent, done by Deloitte.

There is also the adequacy of First Nations that has to be evaluated to ensure that that has been dealt with. Then there is an independent adviser, as well, that oversees the fairness of the entire process. Once that's completed, if there is an EPA put forward, it is then moved over to the B.C. Utilities Commission, which does their due diligence on it.

J. Horgan: Could the minister advise who that independent third party is?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The person that the member is referring to, the independent adviser, was a lawyer by the name of John Singleton. He was selected through an RFP process.

J. Horgan: Could the minister advise when that RFP process took place? How long ago was that? Was it 2006, 2005?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The call went out in 2008. The individual was hired just before that. We don't have the exact date, but as I said, 2008 was the call that the independent adviser was brought on — just prior to that.

[1640]

J. Horgan: Could the minister table the documents that led to the selection of Mr. Singleton?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Yes, we will. We'll get that to the member.

J. Horgan: Is the minister or his staff aware of how many individuals or firms were on the list to be selected from?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Member, I will provide that information, as well, when we give you the last request.

J. Horgan: The minister has used the word "independent" a number of times. In reviewing documents from B.C. Hydro, the law firm of Singleton Urquhart Scott over the past eight years has billed B.C. Hydro $2.4 million. I'm wondering if, in the process of coming to the conclusion that Mr. Singleton could be independent in this regard, staff or the minister considered the impact that $2.4 million in billings might have on his independence.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Well, certainly, I won't bring into question the professionalism of Mr. Singleton. I think that this was dealt with through a request for proposals. The $2.4 million that the member quotes is probably one of the smaller legal contracts in a corporation that runs a
[ Page 5586 ]
multi-billion-dollar corporation in B.C. Hydro. We use a wide, wide number of legal firms in British Columbia. In particular, we're speaking to Vancouver here. So no, there was no conflict, and I certainly have the utmost respect for the work he did.

J. Horgan: Well, the documents reveal that there certainly was a prior relationship between Mr. Singleton, his firm, and B.C. Hydro. Again, I'm not questioning his integrity. I'm just observing that the individual that was selected to be independent had a prior relationship with B.C. Hydro. I'm wondering if the minister could advise the committee, in the course of the $2.4 million in billings, of what other files Mr. Singleton or his firm had worked on.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Whatever relationship Mr. Singleton has with B.C. Hydro is a professional relationship. If we were to rule out every lawyer or law firm that has done work for B.C. Hydro — to think that we would have to call them all not independent because they have worked for B.C. Hydro — we would be very limited, if at all possible, to find a determination of independence under what the member is asking.

[1645]

J. Horgan: I'm just advising the committee that the individual that has been referred to as independent in the selection and approval of energy purchase agreements through independent power producers had a prior arrangement with B.C. Hydro, had an expectation, perhaps, that future billings would be a result of that continued relationship. I believe that's of public interest, and I've put it on the record.

I also believe that it's important to note that Mr. Singleton himself made a donation to the B.C. Liberal Party in April of 2009 of a thousand dollars, and his firm, during the election campaign just completed, made a contribution of $5,000. I appreciate that B.C. Hydro has no interest in the comings and goings of political contributions, but the public does. I think that this is sufficient for the minister, at a minimum, to pause and reflect on the independence of Mr. Singleton and his firm.

I also would like to ask the minister if he could lay out for the committee the role of Deloitte Touche in that independent process.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Deloitte Touche actually was selected through an RFP process. That is how they came to be the people that did the work on that review.

I want to point out that Mr. Singleton had no involvement in the selection of any of the projects. He was the independent adviser that had overseen the fairness of the process, and I'm very confident and comfortable with the work that he has done.

J. Horgan: Well, at or about the time Mr. Singleton was brought on as an independent observer of the clean power call, there was a fairness commissioner that had been retained by B.C. Hydro and that was relieved of his responsibilities in and around these issues. With respect to Mr. Singleton and his role as an independent observer, it's akin to — and I draw the parallel; it's an obvious one — to a special prosecutor.

The public has been reviewing these issues over the past number of weeks. There's an expectation, when you put someone aside as independent and beyond reproach…. You would hope that they're not contributors to the governing party. You would hope that they didn't have a pre-existing financial relationship with the Crown corporation that's retained them.

That's my view. The minister may have a different one. But I want to again ask the minister if it's his view that the process that has been established is separate and independent from political interference.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The answer to the question is a firm yes. It is independent.

J. Horgan: I do also have before me total billings by Deloitte Touche in the time of this government's administration — $21 million. Again, a pre-existing relationship, and other work, as well, with Powerex over that period of time.

I want to know, if the minister could advise me, what work R.W. Beck produced in terms of overseeing the clean power call.

[1650]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: R.W. Beck. In addition to AMAC, we also used R.W. Beck as part of the third-party independent review. B.C. Hydro uses all major accounting firms in Vancouver. They go out for RFPs. They will move their business around, so obviously, there will be involvement by many firms and many people when it comes to the ability to work for B.C. Hydro.

J. Horgan: Could the minister advise how Deloitte Touche was retained to undertake this independent work?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Through an RFP.

J. Horgan: Will the minister table that RFP?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: It would have been posted on B.C. Bid, but we will table the document for the member.

J. Horgan: Of course, the respondents to that RFP would be most welcomed also, not just the document advertising the opportunity.

While we're on the subject of Deloitte Touche, could we have an indication from the minister what tools, what
[ Page 5587 ]
protocols, what measurements were used by Deloitte to determine the financial viability of the projects they were reviewing?

[1655]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Under the RFP there were the terms of reference. Each firm uses different sets of tools, as the member is aware, I'm sure. We will endeavour to get you that information and deliver it when we provide the other information the member has asked for.

J. Horgan: Well, my concerns are: was Deloitte's function to assess the financial viability of the firms that were in the call, and were they there to assess the economic viability of the projects? Were they there to assess what the likelihood of success was in terms of raising capital? A whole host of issues.

If the minister doesn't have it at his disposal, I certainly will welcome more detailed information later, but it strikes me that you have fairly senior people at your disposal.

This is a significant public policy issue. It is a significant driver on hydro rates, which we've talked about earlier today. So can the minister give us some broad parameters on what Deloitte was retained to do and how they did it?

[N. Letnick in the chair.]

[1700]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: First, let me state that the member made a comment at the beginning that this was a significant driver of rates when, in fact, it isn't. The issue that is the significant driver of rates is the investment in our heritage assets in B.C. Hydro. Obviously, we are spending billions of dollars to upgrade the infrastructure that you and I and every British Columbian owns, something we are extremely proud of. So to be clear, it is not a significant driver in the rates.

Deloitte and Touche would look at the firm's capital structure, the projects, the credit worthiness — all of the things that they would do. I will, as I said, get you the detailed information, Member, when we deliver the other information to you.

B. Ralston: Well, the minister's just said that Deloitte and Touche examined the capital structure of the firms that were in the clean power call. On March 11, 2010, Finavera Renewables won four EPAs from B.C. Hydro, as the minister knows. The company intends to build four wind farms near Dawson Creek and Tumbler Ridge, at an estimated capital cost of $800 million.

At the end of its last fiscal year, on December 31, 2009 — that is just ten weeks before it won the four B.C. Hydro EPAs — Finavera had just $6,695 in cash and a mere $536,302 in total assets.

Is the minister satisfied…? Perhaps he could explain how Deloitte and Touche came to the conclusion that Finavera had the financial wherewithal to construct four wind farms costing at least $800 million, given that financial disclosure at that time.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Am I satisfied that this was dealt with properly? This is a great example of why we have an independent firm look at this. They look at the ability…. Are they able to raise the capital? Are they able to secure or do they have the professionalism within their administrative structure and operational structure?

I want to point out that I'm very proud of the fact that small companies in British Columbia can actually come into the process. If they are evaluated, as these have been, and are able to receive an EPA, able to go out and raise the capital to deliver on what they've said, that's tremendous.

That's tremendous for the men and women that work for these companies. That is tremendous, I think — maybe not, but I thought the opposition would be in favour of small business and the opportunity to grow that small business into something larger.

B. Ralston: This is a firm with less than $7,000 cash on hand and less than $600,000 in total assets being asked to build an $800 million series of projects.

Can the minister explain the steps that Deloitte and Touche went through? He mentions ability to raise capital and professionalism with their management. Can he give some more detail about how Deloitte and Touche cleared or approved of this firm, given that financial status, to prospectively build $800 million worth of projects?

[1705]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: That is what we committed to get to the previous member who asked the question. I think this is the same question. I do hope that the member isn't calling into question the professionalism and the conduct of Deloitte Touche. They actually took this on. I think they've done a very good job.

I do want to go back. Many small entrepreneurs have bid in to calls of B.C. Hydro. I stand by that. I'm extremely proud of the ability of companies in British Columbia, whether they be small or large, to be able to have the opportunity to look to grow their business, and it is ensured.

The other thing I'll point out is that although you receive an EPA, should you not be able to deliver on it, the EPA is pulled.

B. Ralston: Well, the minister described in some detail what he described as a rigorous process. That's the minister's choice of words — a rigorous process. He also has called it an independent process. Deloitte Touche
[ Page 5588 ]
apparently cleared this company to enter this call and win $800 million worth of contracts, prospectively.

The minister may say that we'll get that later. Frankly, I don't think that's a satisfactory answer. I think that the minister should answer now. You have very senior people there with B.C. Hydro who should be prepared to answer questions about $800 million worth of public money.

I don't think it's satisfactory just to brush it off and to say, "Someday we'll come back, in the fullness of time, with some answers after the Legislature is not sitting, and we'll release it late on a Friday afternoon" — as sometimes happens.

I think that the minister has an obligation, given that amount of money, to explain why this company was approved by Deloitte Touche.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I will try and do this as respectfully as I can. We said we'd get the information to the previous member, who sits right beside you. It was satisfactory to him. Unfortunately, you don't see it the same. If we had the information here right now, I would give it to you. We said we will get you the information, and we will.

B. Ralston: Well, once again, with all due respect to my colleague, I think that the minister should have been prepared and the staff there should have been prepared to answer this question, given the dollar value and the political interest that there is in this topic. The minister knows that full well and would have included that — reasonably, I would think — in part of his preparations for these estimates.

Given that these estimates are likely to continue until tomorrow morning, will the minister commit to having his staff pull that together and present it here in this estimates process tomorrow morning? I think, given the number of staff at the disposal of the minister and the corporation, that should be a reasonable amount of time to pull that together.

[1710]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We will endeavour to get what information we can on that by tomorrow morning, but I do want to point out that giving an EPA is what allows companies to go out and raise the funds to build these projects. Very few, if any, have the capital on hand to do that, so it seems to me that, really, the question the member is asking is…. He's bringing into question the integrity of one of the largest accounting firms in the world in Deloitte and Touche, and I find that somewhat surprising.

J. Horgan: It is public record that Deloitte and Touche is a significant contributor to the B.C. Liberal Party, so we have the phenomenon of Finavera and other independent power producers — also significant contributors to the B.C. Liberal Party — being vetted and reviewed by other contributors to the B.C. Liberal Party.

Does the minister have any concern with the public optics of shifting public wealth to private hands being vetted by a process that is allegedly independent, housed by Liberals, reviewing projects that are submitted by Liberals?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I will go through this one more time for the members. The line of questioning I find somewhat surprising. To bring into question not only the independence but the professionalism of the people that did this work is very surprising.

I have the utmost confidence that they did their job in a professional manner, in an independent manner. If the implication is that because they donated some funds, they were given special treatment, the answer is absolutely not — not now, not ever.

J. Horgan: Could the minister advise, again going back to R.W. Beck, how they were selected? Was it through public tender or expression of interest?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: It was through a public tender process.

J. Horgan: Now I'm advised that R.W. Beck is a Seattle-based company. I'm certain that B.C. Hydro retains offshore expertise when required. In that process, were there any other firms located in Vancouver or other parts of British Columbia that could have been able to undertake the work that Beck provided to this independent and rigorous process?

[1715]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: As I indicated earlier, I have said that we will endeavour to get you that information as quickly as possible. I know that the member is concerned about the amount of time, but if you keep asking the same question, you'll get the same answer.

J. Horgan: Well, I'm trying to establish, for the committee and the public, pre-existing relationships with firms, whether it be Singleton Urquhart Scott, whether it be Deloitte Touche or whether it be R.W. Beck. Significant amounts of public moneys contracting these services prior to their selection as independent observers of a process that they're dealing with B.C. Hydro on.

That strikes me as an opportunity for us to pause and reflect on the independence and the stand-to-one-side approach that might be taken by these bodies. Can the minister advise, beyond the three firms that have been named here today, what other firms were involved in the independent and rigorous process?
[ Page 5589 ]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: There were no other firms used in this call. There were other firms used in previous calls, obviously, with what we are talking about.

I will point out that this is the most open and transparent process that B.C. Hydro has used. I know there seems to be a lot of implying going on, but the selection process of the EPAs that the member seems to be trying to get to is not done by government. It is not done by the politicians. It is done by the B.C. Hydro management team. It is then taken to the board for their consideration, so government is not involved in the selection process.

Interesting — a report on export trade dated the 30th of June, 2000. I know the previous member was a part of that government, the previous New Democrat government.

[1720]

It says in part of this, and I'll just read it for the public so that they can be very clear on this as well: "In early 1997" — under the New Democrat government of the day — "B.C. Hydro engaged the consulting firm of Deloitte and Touche as part of a two-year project to enhance its management capability." Obviously you had respect for the firm back then. We certainly do and respect the work they do today.

B. Ralston: As part of the answers that the minister has promised to give tomorrow morning, or at least attempt to, can he advise whether Mr. Singleton or his law firm were asked whether they had provided any legal services to any of the independent power companies in the clean power call?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We will confirm that and get you the information.

B. Ralston: Can the minister further advise tomorrow morning whether or not Deloitte Touche or any individual member provided auditing, accounting or bookkeeping services to any of the IPPs involved in the same call?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We will endeavour to get the member that information as well. But these are professionals. They have a professional code of conduct that they live by. As I said earlier, I stand by the work that these men and women have done. They are professionals not only today, but this company was obviously well respected in 1997 under the previous New Democrat government.

J. Horgan: The minister just raised the issue of codes of conduct. He made reference to the board's role in approving EPAs. I'm wondering if the minister is familiar with the Director and Employee Code of Conduct at B.C. Hydro. It says, in part:

"There is an apparent conflict of interest when a reasonably well-informed person could perceive that a director's or employee's ability to perform a duty or function of the position was or will be affected by the director's or employee's private interests" — or — "Every director and employee must avoid any situation in which there is an actual or apparent conflict of interest that could interfere with the employee's or director's judgment in making decisions in B.C. Hydro's best interests."

Is the minister aware of that code?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Yes, I am aware of the document and what he has just read out.

J. Horgan: Jonathan Drance is a board member of B.C. Hydro. He was appointed in May 2009. He is a lawyer with the firm Stikeman Elliott. Stikeman Elliott arranged a $580 million bond financing for Cloudworks Energy, an independent power producer for their Harrison Lake project. Cloudworks received three energy purchase agreements for this project in March of 2010. Can the minister advise what role, if any, Mr. Drance played in that approval process?

[1725]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Mr. Drance has had no involvement. He actually declared his conflict and excused himself and received no information or documents on this. Mr. Drance, I think, has served the people of British Columbia extremely well on the board of B.C. Hydro.

Additionally, B.C. Hydro directors are required to meet annually with an independent code-of-conduct adviser and determine where there might be real or perceived conflict of interest. Directors are also required to complete and file a disclosure form and update this disclosure during the year as necessary. So I think that covers it.

J. Horgan: Will the minister table Mr. Drance's disclosure form for the years since his appointment?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We will check the legality of our ability to do that, and if it is proper to do so, we will do that.

J. Horgan: Certainly, the corporate secretary would keep records of any board members who recuse themselves from meetings. These would be documents that should be readily available for the most transparent process in the history of the universe, which is how the minister described the EPA process for independent power producers.

Again, these documents are publicly held by a public company. Will the minister commit to release not just Mr. Drance's statements but the statements of every board member from 2005 to present?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: As I said, we will check into the legality on the full disclosure form and whether that can be released or not — under FOIPPA, for instance. When Mr. Drance excused himself from this as a conflict, it is recorded in the minutes. We will get
[ Page 5590 ]
the members that information as quickly as we can and follow through on the legality of the full disclosure form being disclosed.

J. Horgan: Did Mr. Singleton, operating as an independent observer, review the decision to award three EPAs to Cloudworks in light of the potential involvement of Mr. Drance's law firm with Cloudworks?

[1730]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Mr. Singleton oversaw the fairness of the process. So no, he wouldn't have taken into consideration the issue with Mr. Drance. We have a code of conduct and a very professional board, and that was adhered to.

J. Horgan: Did Mr. Singleton produce a written report on the particular EPAs in question for Cloudworks?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: He did not provide a report on Cloudworks. He was there to look at the fairness of the process, not the individual bids that were into it, such as Cloudworks, the one that the member is referring to.

J. Horgan: So the independent observer gives a nod and a wink, saying that it's all good. There are no documents produced by this observer to verify the integrity of the process.

You've spoken of the openness and the transparency of the process. It's easy to be open and transparent when there's nothing to show. The question is specifically to the Cloudworks proposal, but let me expand it a bit for the minister.

When the EPAs come to the board, do they come in a bunch, a cluster? Do they happen one or two at a time? What is the process going from senior management to the board, and at what point are board members advised of the independent work of the donators to the Liberal Party that are involved in this process?

[1735]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I will go through a couple of the questions and go through the answers.

Mr. Singleton sits through the entire process with the management team — goes through that and ensures that fairness is followed.

The issue of the EPAs and do they go singly or in a bunch. They go together. For instance, when 19 of the last grouping were ready, they went to the board.

Mr. Drance would not have received any of the material. He wouldn't have been at the board meeting because, as we know, board members receive material prior to a meeting. That's known because of the code of conduct and his disclosure earlier of where he could have a potential conflict.

J. Horgan: Again, Mr. Singleton's participation is as an independent observer. He watches the senior officials on the executive reviewing the materials after they've been vetted by Deloitte and Touche and others, and then says yes or no. There's no written record of his participation in this process. He doesn't provide any reports, memoranda or notes to the board.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I will start by ensuring…. I think that the member is aware that Mr. Singleton is an adviser to the management team, not to the board. Since this call, this process, began, he has provided written opinions on specific issues to this team.

The other thing that a fairness adviser does is…. Looking at the process, as we've said, should he or she, whoever is commissioned to do that work, feel that there has been something that does not meet the standards of fairness, they would take that directly to the CEO of the Crown corporation.

[1740]

J. Horgan: Does the report of the…? Now, you've used the term "fairness adviser." I've been using "independent observer." I know that there was a fairness commissioner that was retained and fired. Is this one and the same?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We're talking about the same.

J. Horgan: Okay. Am I correct — with a head nod — that the term is "independent observer," not "fairness adviser"? Thank you.

So the independent observer works with the management team as well as Deloitte Touche and the others that were assembled. Does the report of that team accompany any final recommendations from the management team to the board, or is it just the management team that makes the presentation, excluding the work that's done by those so-called independent parties?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I will start by saying that we don't have a so-called independent adviser. We have an independent adviser. I think we're going to, again on this one, agree to disagree with the line of questioning.

They do not go to the board. They actually do not recommend the projects that are chosen. They are advisers to the management team, Mr. Singleton, on the fairness of the process. The management team then does their work and goes to the board.

J. Horgan: Well, let's go back to Deloitte Touche, then, and leave Mr. Singleton aside. If his function is to observe and ensure that fairness exists in the process and Deloitte's role and function is to determine the financial viability of the proposal — whether it be cost per megawatt hour; whether it be capital; whether it be, in the
[ Page 5591 ]
case of Finavera: if they have ever erected a wind turbine in their life; things like that….

Is that what Deloitte Touche is focusing on? Does that material, I'm assuming, inform senior management, and is it contained in the report to the board?

[1745]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: To step through this, Deloitte and Touche would do the work. Again, they don't work for the board but for the management team. In the last call there were 68 reports that they would have put together.

The management team then takes that information. I know that we have stepped away from Mr. Singleton. We're going to…. We'll use Deloitte and Touche. The management team then takes that information, garners it, goes through it and puts a report forward to the board. Their report goes forward to the board is how that works. Hopefully, I'm answering the member's question.

J. Horgan: Yes, that was part of an answer, and I appreciate that. I was expecting…. Again, the rationale for these questions, and the minister will appreciate this, is that it's an opportunity for the public to better understand where this new phenomenon, for many, of independent power producers came from.

How did they get into the system, and how are they approved? These are questions that may be commonplace for those of us who observe this activity closely and have done so for the past five or six years. But for the uninitiated…. They see their hydro rates going up.

The minister said it was heritage rates. His own staff said that it was the cost of energy that was driving up rates. You know, we can go back and look at Utilities Commission filings to determine those issues, but let's leave that aside for a minute.

On this issue….

Interjection.

J. Horgan: While we can, a good point. While we can. The minister is helping me out here.

The management team reviews the 68 reports prepared by Deloitte and Touche and other participants in the fairness process. The independent observer observes that and gives his assessment to the team. In this instance, for the March 11 announcement 19 of the 68 proposals went forward in a batch to the board for approval. Is that correct?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: That is correct in how that works.

I do want to clarify one thing. This is not a new phenomenon in IPPs. I believe they started in 1988. I know the member is very well aware that there were numerous IPP projects approved by the New Democrat government in the 1990s. With all due respect, I don't think they went through as open and transparent a process as what we're talking about here today.

J. Horgan: Well, in the 1990s Hydro wasn't mandated to exclusively purchase new sources of supply from supporters of the government. That would have been the colossal difference between then and now.

But I'm the good cop, so I'll move again to the 19 reports that did make it through this process. Will the minister table those reports so that we can have complete openness and transparency on the issuing of massive contracts to companies, some of which have expertise and some, apparently, not so much?

[1750]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I, again, will go back, just because I know the public is intently watching our discussion here today. The fact is that B.C. Hydro is not just purchasing power from IPPs. I think the member is well aware of the B.C. Hydro purchase of one-third of the Waneta facility, the upgrades at Mica, the upgrades at Revelstoke. The list is long and one that we should all be proud of.

The management team does not take the report from Deloitte Touche to the board. They actually go through the information that was given. They take, actually, EPAs to the board. In this case they took 19 EPAs forward to the board for consideration. They went through that. The member and I have had this discussion. Once everything is finalized, the range of prices from those EPAs will be released.

J. Horgan: Will the minister table the 19 reports that were provided to the management team by the fairness process? Will he table those?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: That report is obviously a commercially sensitive document. Many of these companies trade on the markets. There would be material in there that would not be able to be released, so no, they will not be.

J. Horgan: Did any other board members recuse themselves from the decision on the 19 EPAs?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I believe it was just Jonathan Drance, but we will confirm that and get back to you with that information.

J. Horgan: There are 68 reports and 19 that made it into EPAs. From that process through senior management, 19 EPAs go to the board. Are they dealt with by the board one at a time? Are they dealt with as a total? Is it the 19, or is it each EPA on its own merits?

[1755]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The full report goes to the board from the management team. In this case what we're talk-
[ Page 5592 ]
ing about is 19 EPAs in that report. The board has the ultimate authority to make the decision on either all 19 or not.

J. Horgan: In this instance, was there a separate motion on each EPA, or were they done — in the case of Finavera, four EPAs approved — as a cluster of companies, geographic areas, wind versus run of river versus biomass?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: There was one resolution at the board.

B. Ralston: The minister has mentioned that there was some management material that accompanied these recommendations. Was there a presentation at the board prior to the vote on the single resolution approving these 19 proposals or not?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Our acting CEO, who is with us today, made that presentation to the board.

B. Ralston: Just in order to help me understand the process, what approximate length was that presentation, and what time was allocated for board discussion or questions?

[H. Bloy in the chair.]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The board is continuously updated by the management team as the process evolves through this clean call. The board members receive their documents and the material for discussion at the board meetings one to two weeks ahead of time, so they have a good deal of time to go through whatever is on the agenda.

In this case we're talking about the report dealing with the 19 EPAs, and then they had a lengthy discussion at the board meeting prior to the resolution being put forward.

B. Ralston: Presumably, the minutes would record this. But can the minister answer the question about the length of the presentation by the acting CEO and the time allocated for discussion?

[1800]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Well, if you included all of the discussions that the CEO had brought on a continuing basis, the work that each individual member did, as I said, once they received their material and then the decision final and the presentation that the CEO brought to the board with the final document, it would be many hours of discussion that would take place.

B. Ralston: Frankly, I'm interested. As the minister said, the board is the body which makes these decisions. Discussions separate from the board meeting don't have the same legal weight that the board, properly convened, does. So I'm interested in the length of time that the CEO presented on this topic and the length of the board discussion. Presumably, the minutes would record at least some of the substance of the discussion. I'm interested in those two things: the length of time the CEO's presentation took on these 19 proposals involving vast sums of public money and the length of the discussion.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: The clean power call was a standing item on every agenda, so there were updates by the CEO. The management team continually works on this. Each member has a fiduciary responsibility, obviously, to do their job as a board member. We will have to get you the time. That would be reflected, obviously, in the minutes of the one particular board meeting. But whether that was five hours or one hour, the reality is that each and every board member at B.C. Hydro, I know, takes their job and responsibilities extremely seriously.

[1805]

They obviously would have to have the utmost trust and respect of their management team. When you're dealing with a multi-billion-dollar corporation and dealing with a small corporation that would have a board and a management team, the two had better work very closely together.

So the work that was done was ongoing. The one meeting that the member is referring to — we will endeavour to collect that and get that information.

The Chair: Committee A will recess for five minutes.

The committee recessed from 6:05 p.m. to 6:09 p.m.

[H. Bloy in the chair.]

B. Ralston: We were speaking earlier of Mr. Drance, who is a Hydro director. As the minister may know, he was employed as a lawyer or a partner in the law firm Stikeman Elliott. One of his partners at the law firm is Mr. Hein Poulus, who is also the chair and a significant shareholder in Finavera Renewables Inc.

[1810]

I understand and appreciate what the minister has said about Mr. Drance recusing himself from any meeting. But can the minister provide the assurance — both through the process of corporate disclosure, the meeting with the adviser that each board member meets with, and through the offices of Mr. Singleton, the independent observer — that there were no representations made by Mr. Poulus to Mr. Drance about the Finavera Renewables application?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: As we canvassed this somewhat earlier, Mr. Drance obviously fully disclosed under
[ Page 5593 ]
that, as his obligation was as a director of B.C. Hydro. I have met Mr. Drance, and I can tell you that he certainly seems to be a man of honesty and integrity, who has served the people of British Columbia very well and continues to do so on behalf of all British Columbians.

Am I confident that Mr. Drance served as a board member of B.C. Hydro with the utmost dignity, honesty and integrity? Yes, I am.

B. Ralston: The minister said earlier that the clean call was a standing item on every board agenda. So given that, did Mr. Drance then recuse himself from every meeting of the board? I'll let the minister answer that question, and then I have a follow-up question.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Yes, Mr. Drance did excuse himself.

B. Ralston: Just let me get this clear. Mr. Drance was appointed to the board in 2009. There's a standing item at every board meeting that there will be a reference to the clean call. So when did Mr. Drance actually attend a board meeting, or did he have to recuse himself from every board meeting from his appointment onward?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Mr. Drance did recuse himself at every discussion that this took place, but he attended the board meetings. The board deals with numerous items on there, but he never once remained to deal with anything to deal with this clean power call.

B. Ralston: Just so that we're clear, because the term "recuse" is somewhat arcane, when this item came up on the agenda, Mr. Drance left the room. Is that what we're being told?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: That is correct.

B. Ralston: He was appointed on May 8, 2009. Given his declaration of interest, is the minister saying that Mr. Drance never received any material relating to the clean call or any of the proponents participating in the clean call? Is that the assurance that the minister is giving here today?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: That is the assurance that I'm giving the members in this room today.

[1815]

J. Horgan: One of the items that we discussed at the last session of estimates, the one before that and the one before that was the government's desire to implement a smart meter program in British Columbia. There has never been, to my knowledge, a smart meter program business plan. There has never been, to my knowledge, any definitive answer on what the cost of this program will be and — more importantly, I suppose — what the value of the program will be to British Columbians.

As a starting point, can the minister advise when he can table for this committee and for the people of British Columbia a business case to move forward with smart meters?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: We continue to work, obviously, on this issue. I think smart meters and smart grids — it's in the service plan — broke down at $660 million for smart meters and $270 million for the smart grid. But I want to point out that the work done to date…. We haven't gone to procurement yet, Member. Once that's completed, we will release, obviously, the final numbers.

It looks as though the net benefit to the ratepayers, through the work we have done to date or B.C. Hydro has done, is in the range of half a billion dollars over 20 years — above and beyond the $930 million expenditure required for the full smart grid and smart meter expenditure.

J. Horgan: Last November in this committee the minister said the following quote: "…there will be a full public document…. That won't be available until the public filing with the BCUC. That's when all the work will culminate in the business plan in what we would like to put forward. Ultimately, as we've talked before, the BCUC will review that and make a determination: is it in the public interest or not?" Does the minister still stand by that statement?

[1820]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Through to the member, it may surprise him, but no, I don't stand by that statement at this time. Things have changed in the last year. I know that we're going to have the opportunity to enter a full discussion under the Clean Energy Act, which really deals with the issue you've raised. But at the time — I can tell you, Member — when I made that statement a year ago, I did stand by it. The world has evolved, and things have changed.

J. Horgan: I'm glad that we're on to evolution now. I know that life in a minister's office is at double time from everyone else. It was six months ago, not a year ago, that you made that assertion. But I'll ask the question: who will be determining if smart meters are in the public interest or not?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Government has set its intentions forward — that we would like to proceed with smart meters and a smart grid. It is in a bill that will be debated on the floor of the Legislature very soon. But I did say that following the procurement…. I have said that we would table the costs and benefits. I do stand by that, and we will.
[ Page 5594 ]

J. Horgan: Has the corporation got to a point in the process where they've created a shortlist of the technologies, or are we still a good distance away from that?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Presently the technology is obviously ever-evolving. There are 150 jurisdictions worldwide installing smart meters today. They are doing that. So over the last two years, as B.C. Hydro or people have looked at smart meters, they have obviously evolved tremendously. We will be going to an RFP, and at that time a determination will be made as to what technology will be chosen.

[1825]

J. Horgan: There have been incidents in other jurisdictions of erratic spikes in billings because of failure in the technology. I'm sure that the staff are looking at that. In an evolving tech sector, what steps is the corporation going to take to ensure that there are not bogus spikes in billing as a result of technology failure?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Well, we are obviously following very closely the 150 jurisdictions that I have spoken about previously, to learn from them.

Prior to the implementation of any of these meters here in British Columbia, there would obviously be rigorous testing done to ensure that at the end of the day…. What we're after is ensuring that the ratepayer sees the benefit of what these units are and certainly does not incur the erratic issues that possibly others have faced due to the emerging technologies. We think we can learn a great deal from the existing people that are working on this now, and as we move forward, we plan being the lead jurisdiction.

J. Horgan: Well, the California example — 23,000 meters installed improperly and 50,000 meters with problems ranging from inadequate storage, hacking…. We talk about grow ops going into poles. Now you can hack right into a smart meter and transfer your costs from your grow op to your neighbours, conceivably.

I play a few video games, but I can't match my 20-year-old, and I'm concerned that the technology may not be at the point that security could be and is now with the existing meter-reading system that we have in place. I'm wondering if the minister can advise what steps the corporation is taking to ensure that hacking is kept to a minimum and that security is in place for homeowners.

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Obviously, security of the information is our top priority. As we watch and we learn from these other jurisdictions, I can assure the member and, I think it's fair to say, all British Columbians watching that we are not going to implement a system unless it can be a secure system.

J. Horgan: I had a delegation in my constituency office last week concerned about wireless technology being imposed upon them and the potential health risks of that technology. This is a significant issue for many people in the community, whether it be cell phone towers, whether it be other wireless technologies intruding on their space without their approval. To the minister and to the corporation: are they taking into consideration the individual views of ratepayers and how they want to be treated, with respect to wireless technologies?

[1830]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: B.C. Hydro is about ready. They're working on this to begin a full stakeholder engagement process on this, to take the issues and concerns of people and, certainly, have a dialogue to talk about what this is, what these meters are and how a smart grid or a smart meter would work.

But I do know the member. Having spent about 17, 18 years working in the communications industry, I don't think it's a surprise that our air is full of wireless communication infrastructure. That takes place each and every day, but I think that the key issue here, to this part of the answer, is that a full stakeholder engagement process will be put forward by B.C. Hydro.

J. Horgan: If that process determines or reveals that there are large groups of ratepayers that do not want to participate in the smart meter program, what's the plan from there?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I'm confident that through the stakeholder engagement the public will gain a broader understanding. I can't predetermine that public engagement. This is a democracy. I think that most people — and the member, I know, is probably going to talk about rates — are very receptive to looking at the ability to reduce their rates or maintain what we have as far as competitive rates in British Columbia — some of the lowest electricity rates in North America when it comes to domestic use.

This is about, really, a number of things: providing a better system, a more reliable electrical system for the people of British Columbia, and providing more cost-effective electricity, because people will be able to realize savings through that. I'm very confident that through the public engagement, people will gain an understanding of this and an acceptance.

J. Horgan: At what point after the installation of the meters will time-of-use pricing be part of the program?

[1835]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: It looks as though, once we have sufficient mass of these meters installed, we would look at time of use to implement that, so we're thinking mid-2011,
[ Page 5595 ]
in that range. Estimates show that the average homeowner in British Columbia would save between $145 and $450.

Time of use. Just for the general public who are watching this — many may not understand what it would be — you have peak and non-peak times, where electricity demand…. Certainly, when everyone goes home after work is one of those peak periods; when everyone gets up in the morning, another peak period.

If you choose to, for instance, run your clothes dryer in the middle of the night…. If you could program it when there are non-peak times, that's where the savings would be able to be had by the homeowners in British Columbia.

I think it's a tremendous way to look at it. Really, the option, though, and the key issue here is that the individual will be able to make that choice themselves.

J. Horgan: Well, I think that many ratepayers will be saying: "So that means I'm cooking my dinner at six o'clock, as I always have. I've paid this tariff to cook my dinner at six o'clock with my family, and with the implementation of smart meters and time-of-use pricing, when I'm cooking my dinner at six o'clock, it's going to cost me more." That's the outcome of time-of-use pricing.

If everybody wants to buy the technology to do their washing and drying at four in the morning, that's spectacular, but most people operate…. That's why we have peak time. That's why we use power at certain times during the day.

This program, as I understand it, may well appear to be a nice gadget to say: "Look at that. This is the cost of a kilowatt hour at six o'clock, when I'm cooking dinner. Maybe I won't eat until seven or eight or nine o'clock." Some people might be able to make that choice. I would argue that not everyone will be able to make that choice.

I know we're going to have an opportunity to have a more detailed discussion about rates in another place at another time, so I want to move to potential job losses or job creation from the implementation of this project.

Does the corporation have a plan for existing meter readers, and do they have any projections on any new job creation as a result of a billion-dollar expenditure?

Hon. B. Lekstrom: I know we will have the opportunity to discuss rates. But the time-of-use issue…. For instance, as I said, I believe that today we're sitting at the second-lowest domestic rates in North America. Just so there's no confusion, this is not about saying: "We want to increase your rates at 6 p.m. at night and then sell you power cheaper in the middle…." We have some of the lowest. We're going to maintain that.

I think most British Columbians would agree with the whole idea. If they have an opportunity through their own choice to save money, most people that I know would take that opportunity.

[1840]

I use a clothes dryer, for an example. Whatever we're going to use electricity for, if we have the ability to use that at even a cheaper rate than what we enjoy today or at a less expensive rate, I think that most British Columbians would enjoy the opportunity to have that decision. So I fully support this. I don't think this is about saying, "If you cook your dinner at six, we're going to try and charge you more" — absolutely not.

Now, you asked about meter readers. There are 250 meter readers today. They are Accenture employees. That would be the worst case, but we believe that we can redeploy those people, not only back within Accenture — that they would have opportunity — but back within B.C. Hydro as well. We're confident that we're going to work to ensure the least impact at all possible on these people.

J. Horgan: I'll read that back to you — one of these "Here's a quote for you" — in a year's time or two years' time, when time-of-use pricing comes into play and people are charged more to cook dinner at six o'clock than they were previously.

As I understood you, Minister, you said it was not the objective of the corporation to charge people more at those times of day. I appreciate that if you're trying to sell something that people don't want, you say that there's a savings to be accrued at four in the morning. But you're missing the important part, which is that there's a cost to be paid at six o'clock at night. As I understand it, the whole point of smart meters is to be able to determine, in a micro way: where is use, and how can we charge for it?

We already know that at six o'clock at night and particularly on December 18 there's a lot of power being sucked from our reservoirs and from other sources to power British Columbia. We know that in a macro way. Smart meters will allow the corporation to burrow down house by house, ratepayer by ratepayer and ding them at the times of high use. That's the whole point.

I appreciate that there will be times during the day when prices will be very low, and choice may well be able to be made. Not everyone will be able to make that choice. I'll leave the minister to respond to that.

We're running short of time, and I want to give the minister an opportunity to respond to a question that was posed to him by the Tyee with respect to a hotel in February. I lay this out for the minister to give an explanation to me and the committee of how it came about that B.C. Hydro paid for a suite at a hotel in Vancouver, rather than that being paid for either by the minister's account or by his MLA account.

As members will know, when we go out on business, we have a card provided by the Legislative Assembly to pay for such things. I'm curious, and I know the minister has an answer. I'm hopeful he'll give it fulsomely here. Why was it that B.C. Hydro paid for those rooms and then had to journal-voucher the ministry to be compensated for that?
[ Page 5596 ]

Hon. B. Lekstrom: Let me first go to the rate issue so that there is no confusion. If a customer is paying seven cents for their power today…. Nothing changes. There are no rate increases that we're talking about due to infrastructure upgrades, so we're talking apples and apples. If there was the ability to use time of use, I suspect — and I want this to be clear — that in the middle of the night, for example, or midday during non-peak times you wouldn't be able to pay seven. You would pay less.

So in two years, when the member reads this back — or five or six, when the member is here talking to me as the minister — he could realize that if rates have gone up because of our investment in our heritage assets…. Those rates would climb, but the intent of time of use is that during non-peak times the benefit goes to the ratepayer.

A net benefit of half a billion dollars is what the estimate is today. That isn't a half-billion-dollar benefit to the province or the government. It is a half-billion-dollar savings to the people of British Columbia — something very good.

Now, moving to the hotel. I stayed in a hotel. It was paid for through my ministry, but I stayed there because during the Olympics, I think the member is aware, hotel rooms were at a premium, very difficult to find. I had a number of meetings. I was there, I believe, a total of five days and dealt with the meetings I had to. We paid for that.

No, I won't sleep outside when I'm on business. I don't believe it was a suite. You know, I'd have to go back and check. It's very rare. I think I'd remember that. I traditionally get a room at a very good rate.

The reason we didn't use the card is that when I was there at the hotel, I went to do that, and they said: "This is a block book of rooms that B.C. Hydro has done. Sir, it's much easier for us to actually maintain this block book in the billing." That was it. I have no problem whether I used the card. It is business I'm on.

[1845]

I've had no problem with my expenses since I was first elected to public office in 1993, and I have no problem…. I'm a little surprised at the Tyee, I must say — at their, I guess, writing capability or their research capability. It was a bit of a surprise. It was a question of my integrity on this, and I take it as that. So am I offended by the Tyee? Yes, I am.

I have never, and never will, abuse an expense account or a credit card. I will utilize it when I'm on business, and I will pay the bills rightfully due. If there are any personal issues out there, I fund those out of my pocket.

J. Horgan: Noting the hour, I move we rise, report progress and ask leave to sit again.

Motion approved.

The committee rose at 6:46 p.m.

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Hansard — Wednesday, May 19, 2010 p.m. — Volume 18, Number 3 (HTML) (2024)

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