Debate in the B.C. Legislature on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 between Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone and Transportation Minister Rob Fleming, and Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth:
T. Stone: In light of last week’s floods, there is a significant amount of major repair work that needs to be done, a lot of which is underway on our roads and highways around the province of British Columbia. This work needs to be done quickly, and it needs to be done as cost effectively as possible for British Columbia’s taxpayers.
My question to the Minister of Transportation is this. Can he confirm whether or not the NDP will impose their discriminatory union-only labour scheme on these major highway repair projects?
Hon. R. Fleming:Thank you to the member for the question, because he’s quite right. Every member of this House, the priority of this House in its entirely, should be the rebuilding of communities that sustained damage in the worst flood we’ve ever had in over a century. The calls that we are getting, the coordination we are doing as a government, from contractors — union, non-union, what have you — to get to work rebuilding British Columbia…. The enthusiasm and the support they have is nothing short of inspirational and overwhelming.
What our job to do, as government, is to procure things as quickly as possible, get roads in working condition. That’s what we’ve done for the past week. That’s what people have done around the clock in horrible weather, under very difficult circumstances and conditions, sacrificing themselves so that other British Columbians who are stranded can get home. That’s what happened last week.
We will work quickly on a procurement model that works to restore British Columbia’s supply lines. That’s what we’re doing. We have a bilateral table with the federal government on exactly that. I’ve given an update to the province just this morning about supply lines that may come back into function and good order, including rail connection to the rest of Canada. That is our number one priority: fixing roads that have sustained heavy, heavy damage in the worst flood episode we have ever had in 100 years.
Mr. Speaker: Member for Kamloops–South Thompson, supplemental.
T. Stone: Certainly, the official opposition concurs. We all want to get these highway projects repaired and open as quickly as possible — safely, of course, and as cost effectively as possible for taxpayers. That is why I’ve asked a very simple and straightforward question. I’m looking for a yes-or-no answer.
To the Minister of Transportation, will he commit here today that community benefit agreements, or discriminatory union-only labour requirements, will not be attached to a single one of the projects to rebuild highways, roads and other damaged infrastructure in British Columbia?
Hon. R. Fleming: You know, Mr. Speaker, if I were being charitable, I’d be saying: “You know, the time for that question isn’t now.” At a time when — union, non-union, what have you — every contractor in the province of British Columbia wants to help rebuild this province, this member goes to…
Mr. Speaker: Order. Order.
Hon. R. Fleming: …that divisive place? Really, Mr. Speaker? Really?
There will be billions of dollars to repair infrastructure in British Columbia.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. R. Fleming: There will be a partnership with the government of Canada to do that. We will work with local governments. We will work with contractors. We will work with workers organizations and the B.C. Road Builders Association, that represents ever aspect of the industry. That’s what we’re working on right now.
SUPPORT FOR FLOODING EVACUEES
J. Tegart: At a time when people are literally watching their lives float away, they need to know their government is on their side. They shouldn’t have to worry about accommodation. They shouldn’t have to worry about navigating a maze of rules so they can afford to feed their families.
Many of the families impacted are not wealthy. They’re renting a hotel room at their own expense, and it is out of their means.
Russell Willie was evacuated with his family, a week ago, out of Merritt. Each day, for three days, his wife went to the evacuation centre to get the reimbursement forms — unsuccessfully. When she went back to the centre, she was informed…. “We would not receive reimbursement for the previous four nights because we did not have our forms. As we are paying for our room and my wife’s parents’ room, this is quite a sum of money.”
First, no warning of the threat. Then no support to deal with the aftermath. This falls completely at this government’s feet.
Can the minister commit today that people who have fallen between the cracks will get the support they need, not just for the first three days but for as long as it takes to bring them home?
Hon. M. Farnworth: I appreciate the question from the member.
I can fully understand the angst and the anxiety that people who have been evacuated would have in this situation. I think all of us want to do everything we can to make sure that they are fully supported.
I can tell the member that there was an issue at the Kamloops centre. It was not there at the Kelowna centre.
I can tell you that I was contacted by the mayor in Merritt. I told her that I would look into it right away, which we did.
I can tell her that those individuals that she was talking about, and others impacted, were, in fact, and have been contacted. Some may still be contacted. I want to tell you that they have been contacted.
I have already publicly announced that those costs will be covered. Going forward, I also expect to have additional announcements on the supports that they will be receiving in the weeks and, in some cases, months ahead.
Source: BC Hansard.