From the Journal of MLA Pat Pimm
April 25, 2012
I have been fielding lots of calls in my office over the past few weeks in regards to permits and how they don't appear to be getting processed in a very timely matter. For the last month I have been working on this particular issue and I have found out a lot about this matter and would like to pass along some of this information to you.
The Constitution of Canada tells us that we must consult and accommodate where required with our First Nations people and our Federal and Provincial courts have also ruled many times on different cases involving the consultation process. Our Government has taken the position that we do want to work within the laws of our Country and do what's right to allow for proper consultation so that our resource sector can continue to develop in an expedient and environmentally friendly way.
Our Government has signed Economic Benefits Agreements with Treaty 8 First Nations and along with these agreements we also have other protocol agreements that address Crown Land applications, Strategic Land and Resource planning, Forests and Range, Heritage Conservation, Long Term Oil and Gas, Parks and Wildlife. The first of these agreements were signed in December of 2009, with the final agreements signed May 2010.
The Treaty 8 First Nations also have Consultation Protocol Agreements that they have signed and are presently in the process of re-negotiating with the Oil and Gas Commission. The agreements with the Oil and Gas Commission deal with all authorizations that directly involve the Oil and Gas operations and construction in the Peace River and Northern Rockies area, except tenuring which falls under the EBA.
These agreements have been negotiated and signed in good faith by the Government and the First Nations.
These agreements will be beneficial to all of us in our area but they don't come without a bit of growing pains, both on the Government side and also on the First Nations side. The Oil and Gas agreements have been in place for many years and all of the parties have figured out how to get the permits processed in the best and most efficient way possible and the OGC model is a very good model that actually has timelines built into the agreements and they also have certain authorizations that only require notification and this is very critical for the process to work properly for all of the parties.
The Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations is the Ministry that deals with all of the permits that are not associated with the Oil and Gas Industry, and as you are probably aware this is also a relatively new Ministry that basically combined most of the dirt Ministry's into one larger Ministry. To say that there have been some growing pains in this area would be a bit of an under statement but I do want to say that both the First Nations and the FLNRO staff have been doing an excellent job in dealing with the consultations getting permits processed in the best way possible. I do believe though that we have established agreements that are going to be extremely difficult for any of the processes to work as efficiently as we had hoped would be the case.
Two weeks ago I was made aware of the fact that none of our guide and Outfitters in the area had been issued their Outfitters licenses for the year and without these licenses they cannot carry out their business at all. When I was made aware of this fact I started digging into why these permits had not been issued and I found out many issues that were part of the problem and I have been working extremely hard with the Minister of Aboriginal Relations, the Minister of FLNRO, our Caucus members and the Staff at FLNRO to get this process to the same high level as our OGC process.
Some of the things that I found were that there are an awful lot of authorizations (approximately 4000 from OGC and 2000 more from FLNRO) that get sent to the First Nations for their input and I don't believe that we have enough capacity either on the First Nations or the Government side to deal with all of these authorizations in an expedient fashion. I also found out that there are several differences between the OGC process and the FLNRO process and a couple of the major ones include the fact that the OGC have a one project one permit process while the FLNRO system does not have that built in at this point, another difference is that the OGC are able to send notifications only on about half of their authorizations and FLNRO is still trying to get to that point. The last point that is very significant is that the OGC process has a guaranteed timeline built into their process while the FLNRO process does not have that yet.
I started off by saying that we have some problems and I do know that our Guide and Outfitters had a very positive meeting with our Treaty 8 First Nations this past week and I believe there is going to be a real commitment on both the First Nations side and the Government side to get these permits processed immediately. I know that this will help us on the short term but this issue is much larger than that and so I am working very closely with both Ministers involved and I have the support of my Caucus to do what we have to in order to get this process more closely aligned with the OGC process that has worked very well for over ten years.
What I want to finish with is that we all live in this community and we have laws that are in place, we know we need to get along as good neighbors and I commit to you that I will continue pushing this process until it is satisfactory for Treaty 8 First Nations, our FLNRO staff and most importantly you!
Pat Pimm - MLA Peace River North
In light of the recent debate of Bill 22, I would like to clarify some key facts surrounding the legislation. I would like to update our general public and give you some facts and figures. First, let me express my support for the students, families and teachers affected by this dispute. I know without a doubt that the majority of our teachers in BC are sincere people who genuinely love their jobs and the students that they teach.
Unfortunately, while our teachers are well-respected and hard-working, they are not well represented by their union, the BC Teachers’ Federation.
Over the past 20 years, the BCTF has only been able to reach one negotiated agreement with government. While legislation is not the preferred option, it is the unfortunate norm, for all political parties, when it comes to the BCTF.
What is Bill 22 and what does it do? Bill 22 does the following:
It provides certainty for students and parents by
1. Suspending the teachers strike action
2. Setting a cooling off period
3. And imposing financial consequences for illegal strike action
It does more than that, the Bill also appoints a mediator to facilitate bargaining with the goal of reaching a mediated settlement within the net zero mandate.
The mediator will have until the end of June to issue a non binding report with recommendations.
Bill 22 injects 165 million dollars into a Learning Improvement Fund to address class composition issues.
Bill 22 protects class size. Class size limits for grades K-3 remain exactly the same as they were and cannot be exceeded. Those numbers are 22 students for kindergarten and 24 students for grades 1-3.
For grades 4 to 12 we are setting a class maximum of 30 students - there was no maximum before.
For grades 4 to 12, classes may exceed the maximum of 30 students but only if the Principal considers the learning conditions appropriate and the Superintendent approves that decision.
In these cases, the teacher is entitled to additional compensation, additional prep time, professional development funding or a combination.
The following is a short summary of what has happened with the negotiations to date.
1. The parties have had 78 face to face bargaining sessions
2. We have had 7 months of job action
3. We have seen next to no movement during these negotiations
4. We haven't had one formal report card issued to any of our students. (Some excellent teachers have kept parents up-to-date on how their students are doing).
5. Our children and families are suffering the consequences and we cannot allow this to continue much longer.
One point that must be made very clearly from the Government side of this equation is the fact that during these tough economical times we do not have the additional revenue to add two billion dollars of taxpayer money to pay for the BCTF union demands.
Another important fact is that if government were to deviate from net-zero for the BCTF, that would open up the 138 union contracts that have already been negotiated under the net zero mandate. This would add an additional 9.1 billion more dollars to our bottom line over three years.
I do hear from time to time that the BCTF have not had an increase for a long period of time and I would like to address that point. The BCTF negotiated a 16 percent increase in salary in their last contract while most other public sector unions received an increase of about 8 per cent over the same period.
And what are they looking for this time,
- $ 2 billion over the next three years
- and to put that into perspective for the average person
Right now the government currently spends $2.9 billion in total for teachers’ salaries and benefits.
Bill 22 will ensure our children can be back in school while putting a mediator in place to help the parties come to an agreement. I believe this will bring a responsible conclusion to this dispute
February 1, 2012 Column
Helping Make a House a Home
Nothing is perhaps as important as having a place to call home. It is a sanctuary; a place to welcome friends, and a space to bring families together. But for many, a clean, comfortable, accessible home is something that is out of reach. Financial circumstances often stand in the way of making a house or apartment anything more than just a space for living.
Thankfully, a new program has just been announced that can help people in need turn a house into a home.
The Home Adaptations for Independence (HAFI) program is designed to help eligible homeowners and landlords pay for modifications which improve access to existing parts of a home and make getting around a little easier.
HAFI provides up to $20,000 in the form of a forgivable loan to low-income seniors and people with disabilities, and can be used towards renovations and retrofits that include handrails, ramps, lifts and bathroom grab bars. In short, it will help them create a home that is more comfortable, safer, and more accessible. Perhaps most importantly, it does so while allowing them to retain their independence and improve their quality of life.
The HAFI program represents an investment of $15 million over the next three years, with all funding shared equally by the provincial and federal governments. Eligible applicants will not have to pay back the loan if they adhere to program requirements, which include continuing to live in the home and limiting rent increases for tenants.
This is a great investment. Now people who might be having a tough time moving around the house can make modifications so they can stay in their own home. Think of the difference that will make: rather than moving to a care facility, they’ll be able to remain in their community, close to friends and family, and maintain their independent lifestyle.
To be eligible for a loan, you must be a low-income senior or person with a disability living in your own home or rental accommodations. You must be a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant, and you must permanently reside in British Columbia. In addition, you or any member of your household must have a permanent disability or a loss of ability which causes difficulty with daily living activities. Finally, the assessed value of your home must be less than the limit established for our area. Tenants in rental accommodations can apply for assistance with the help of their landlord.
The modifications must be permanent and fixed to your home. Exceptions can be made for equipment designed to improve access to existing facilities, such as bath lifts. While every case is different, the most common types of adaptations will be handrails, access ramps and walk-in showers with safety bars. As this program is designed to help make accessibility improvements within a home, portable aids such as walkers or scooters—as well as household appliances—are not eligible for the program. Emergency repairs to roofs and furnaces, as well as regular household maintenance work are also not covered.
Our government is working hard to improve the lives of seniors and people with disabilities, and this program is a direct result of our commitment to them. HAFI is a great step forward in promoting safe and independent living, and provides real solutions for accessibility issues.
This is a wonderful program, and I urge everyone who is eligible to apply for a loan. For more information on the program and how to apply for assistance visit the HAFI website at: www.bchousing.org/HAFI.
For any further information please contact my office.
Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm
Finance Committee Recommendations
I’ve been very busy the last few months travelling the province with the Finance Committee. Our committee report was tabled in the legislature on November 15, 2011. I am very proud of the work that was done and the recommendations that have been submitted. The committee was made up of government and opposition MLAs and we agreed on about 80 per cent of the 75 recommendations put forward. The report took a slightly different focus this year and identified the Northeast and Northwest as becoming even more important in the years ahead and therefore, a lot of recommendations came in that regard. Some of the highlights for our area are as follow:
Develop and implement an effective, efficient, and transparent permitting review process, and ensure that government agencies have sufficient resources.
Provide more certainty to business applicants about what is expected from them with regard to
First Nations consultations and clarify what government takes responsibility for.
Consider synchronizing Albertaand BC trucking regulations to permit wide and heavier loads (e.g. axle weights) and improve wait times for issuing permits.
Work with all sectors and the Industry Training Authority to enhance and target apprenticeship opportunities.
Negotiate with the federal government to expand the Provincial Nominee Program to meet the province’s labour market demands.
Review ALR boundaries and give consideration to removing land that is not fit for agriculture, particularly in rural regions of the province.*
Develop an industry-supported Centre Line Roadthat would reduce the time to travel into the center of the HornRiverdevelopment by 1.5 hours, therefore eliminating the need for operating some live-in construction camps.
Remove an appropriate amount of land from the Agricultural Land Reserve so that Fort Nelson can expand its residential land base to accommodate the growth pressure demands of developing the Horn River, Liard, and Cordova shale gas basins.*
Initiate a Fair Share program in the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality equivalent to the existing Fair Share program in the Peace River Regional District.*
In collaboration with industry, First Nations, and the regional municipality, develop a regional economic strategy and implementation plan with ongoing monitoring for the NorthernRockiesRegionalMunicipality.
In recognition of the pressures on public services from a rapidly expanding economy, support the development of a strategy for meeting public service needs in Fort Nelson, such as health, education and safety.
Lower student loan interest rates to the same national ranking as BC tuition fees – i.e. middle of the pack.
Establish a provincial system of upfront needs-based grants to ensure success for students at all socioeconomic levels.
Expedite the review of Community Living BC and be prepared to invest as appropriate; and continue to improve planning and services for youth and adults with special needs who are in transition or whose families are in transition.
Examine funding options for the province’s 60 restorative justice programs, including the Albertamodel, as these programs result in significant cost savings.
Cap the carbon tax at the rate as of July 2, 2012.
Address the inequity for BC cement producers arising from imported cement not being subject to a carbon tax.
Review the impacts of the carbon tax on all business sectors and develop a strategy to keep BC businesses competitive with other jurisdictions.*
Consider immediate carbon tax exclusions for agriculture, including the greenhouse sector, and public institutions.*
Stop further expenditures on the development of cap and trade until the province has sufficient trading partners to trade with.*
These are only the items that I felt were extremely important to our region, to read the entire report please go to the Ministry of Finance website. Again, I want to point out that our report was agreed upon – however, the recommendations followed by * signify ones that opposition members did not support.
Pat Pimm, MLA Peace River North
What is "DriveABLE?"
Medical conditions can make even the best motorists unsafe to drive and a danger to themselves and others. It is important the general public does not confuse aging with medical impairments; it is in fact drivers of any age with impaired medical conditions that are of concern. In an average year our province will assess about 130,000 drivers of all ages and about 44,000 of those are senior drivers over the age of 80. Of that number about 1,000 seniors over the age of 80 are referred to the Driveable program for further evaluation.
In years past your doctor was the one person who had the responsibility of removing your driving privileges when you got into those magical years, but today we have improved the system to the point that it is now a series of events that happen before your driving privileges can be removed.
When you turn 80 years old, and every two years thereafter, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles sends you a notice to complete a Drivers Medical Examination Report. You must take the notice to your doctor in order to see if you still have all of the necessary skills and abilities to continue to drive safely. This is a general medical assessment that examines a person’s medical fitness to drive safely.. It assesses vision, physical abilities, and medical conditions that may affect driving. If the doctor completes the test and thinks you are starting to show signs of cognitive issues, he will make note of the problem on the report and send notice to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles to further assess your situation. Be very clear, this process starts with your doctor’s input and then the DriveABLE assessment follows after that process.
Once you have been identified as requiring the DriveABLE assessment you will receive notice from the Superintendent’s office. You will receive a letter which will indicate where you will have to go to have your assessment completed. We are currently working very hard on keeping folks in our region from having to travel to a major centre to have their assessment done.
DriveABLE is a tool that is used across North America to help licensing authorities determine an individuals cognitive medical fitness to drive. The DriveABLE in-office assessment measures your cognitive functions needed for safe driving. The DriveABLE program was introduced in British Columbia in 2005 and has been further expanded in 2010. All DriveABLE in-office assessments are administered by a trained healthcare professional. You have practice time before you start your actual assessment. Although the in-office assessment is presented on a touch screen monitor, computer knowledge is not required and has no bearing on assessment results. The results of your assessment are compared to a person of equal age to yourself with no cognitive issues. If you score less than 30 per cent you will have your licence suspended. If you score between 30 and 70 per cent you will be asked to take the road test portion of the assessment. If you score over 70 per cent you will receive an automatic pass and will not have to take the road test. The cost of the in office test is $185 and the cost for the road test is $170. However, these costs are covered by the government for your first assessment and the only time you would be charged is if you decided to appeal the process and try to re-take the assessment.
Hopefully this will help clear up some of the confusion around the DriveABLE program. If you or your family member gets a notice that they must take a Driveable assessment, please contact my office. We will help you arrange to have your assessment taken in a facility as close to our region as possible.
Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm