Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


October 29, 2014

Bill 5, the Container Trucking Act

S. Simpson: I’m pleased to get the opportunity to stand and to speak in debate on Bill 5, the Container Trucking Act.

This is an important piece of legislation. It’s certainly important to me. A large portion of Port Metro Vancouver, of the working port, is in my constituency. Many, many of my constituents work in the port, or they work in services that are supportive of the port. The ILWU, the longshore union, is housed in my constituency. It’s where their main headquarters are. I know, growing up in the community — many, many of my friends growing up — the best opportunities often were to be able to go to the hall and be able to get casual work on the waterfront.

I have many friends who I grew up with who continued that work and built their careers working on the waterfront. When I’ve spoken to them, and I’ve spoken to longshore…. They know that their work on the port is part of a partnership with the railways, with the trucking industry — everything that makes the port as successful as it is and makes it the key economic driver, certainly, in Vancouver and in the Lower Mainland.

We know that there are tens of thousands of people who rely on the port for their livelihood — many, many tens of thousands of others who indirectly are supported by the port. That includes a couple of thousand truckers. We know that. We know that the port is a complex place and a complex operation. We know that that complexity also can be challenging. We know that it’s been challenging for the trucking industry and particularly for the drivers.

We saw that frustration when it blew up back in the spring, when we had a protracted dispute. That dispute was about fairness, about drivers being treated fairly and about how they could have a dependable system that they could rely on to ensure that their livelihoods would be protected and they would have the kinds of incomes from their work that would be necessary to support their families. We saw a lot of that.

We know in that dispute that there was an effort made — and the province was part of that effort, along with the federal government and the port and others — to try to resolve that matter back in the spring. It looked for a moment like maybe resolution had been achieved. But we also know that it went sideways again, because while there was a lot of discussion, I believe, about some good ideas, about how to get there, there was not the infrastructure and the framework put in place to actually accomplish those objectives. That was a problem. We saw that.

We know that the fallout of that was the need to go further. I think that a big piece of that was, of course, the work that Ready and Bell did — you know, two very accomplished negotiators, mediators, who were able to help frame a package that they believed, from their consultation with all the parties involved, would lead to a resolution that would bring more peace to the port, particularly in terms of its relationship to the trucking industry and to how truckers are paid and compensated for the work that they do in helping to drive our economy, through their efforts.

What we saw with that was the result of the announcements that were made earlier by the Minister of Transportation and his counterpart at the federal level. The result of that in terms of British Columbia, of course, is Bill 5, the Container Trucking Act. When looking at the act, you see that there are a half a dozen key components to this act.

The first is the establishment of the trucking commissioner. The commissioner — it’s a good idea. It’s an important idea. It’s an idea that has value. They will hopefully — whoever the commissioner is at the time that the appointment is made — have the skill set, the experience, the wherewithal and the gravitas to be able to do the work they need to do to ensure that they stay on top of this industry; that they ensure fairness is established in the foundations of the industry, moving forward, and that those are upheld moving forward; and that they have the capacity and the authority to be able to resolve issues when they do and will inevitably arise.

I know some of the concerns or the issues. These are issues when I talk to people in the industry, when I talk to the union, when I talk to the non-union drivers, who all have support and are hopeful for this legislation to be successful. But there are questions that aren’t answered in the legislation, and I know they’re going to want those answers. They’re going to ask us to ensure that we put those questions forward in committee stage. I’m sure that in their own consultations and discussions with the government, they will also broach those issues in an attempt to get answers on some of the questions, because this, again, is like many things: the devil will be in the details on lots of this.

What we have, though…. You have the trucking commissioner. The questions, really, around the commissioner will be: what’s their authority going to be? What’s their independence going to be? When cabinet, through regulation, sets some of the rules for that commissioner, are they going to set and establish those rules in a way that ensures that the commissioner has that capacity to be able to do the job that needs to be done? Not an easy job. They’re going to need the tools to do that and the authority to do that. It’s not clear whether that will be there.

Questions have been raised previously that there are other regulatory bodies in this province where government has made the decision that they know best, and they have changed the rules around those regulatory bodies in ways that have impeded or hampered their ability to do their job. The one that jumps out at me most clearly is the role of the Utilities Commission. Clearly, that’s a problem, and we don’t want to see that replicated with this trucking commissioner.

Issues around money. Money is a big part of this discussion. Pay rates are a big part of this discussion. There are questions both about the minimum pay rates and how those get established and put in place and how those move forward, and a lot of concern about what the pay rates will look like on wait times. That’s a big piece — whether people are waiting in the port, waiting outside the port. I know, from the drivers I’ve spoken to, that they have a number of questions about how that will work because, unfortunately, drivers spend a fair amount of time sitting and waiting, and that’s a problem.

Now, we do know that the decision, the recommendations here to reduce the fleet, the number of trucks, significantly, by about 25 percent or so — down to about 1,500 from 2,000 — will maybe help to resolve some of that, and I think we can hope that it will resolve and shorten some of those wait times simply because of the turnaround ability for the truckers.

People that I talk to in the industry recognize…. The people who drive those trucks recognize that there are more trucks on the road than are necessary for the body of work that’s there today. But, as I know the minister knows, and I know that my colleagues on both sides who have engaged in this issue know, there is some concern about how the decision is made about which of those 2,000 trucks go off the road — which ones aren’t driving anymore, which ones aren’t in this business of working the port anymore. There are suggestions around seniority approaches and other approaches to be taken.

What I’m hearing from the drivers is an acceptance and an acknowledgement that we need to reduce the number of drivers who are there, the number of trucks that are on the road, but there is a significant concern about how that choice is made. There obviously are people who worry about whether there’s cherry-picking going on to decide who does and who doesn’t drive.

The process has to be clear for that selection, and it has to be transparent. It has to be a process that everybody understands. It has to be a process where people can fully appreciate how the decision is made that driver A and truck A have a permit to go into the port and driver B and truck B don’t have a permit to go into the port. It needs to be clear, understandable and balanced for everybody.

That’s going to be a challenge. Maybe that’s the challenge for the commissioner. Not entirely certain. Hopefully, we’ll determine that and that will become clearer as we move forward.

The other piece that clearly is here is the question of this advisory committee. That’s not necessarily covered here, but it’s a key piece. Again, much like the powers of the commissioner, much like questions around how the selection and the culling out of who’s not going to be on the road are in play, people want to know more about this committee, more about its authority and about its composition.

Clearly, representatives of the drivers, whether it’s the union drivers or the non-union drivers, want a voice on that advisory committee. They want a role on that committee, and they want the ability to be sure that they are being heard in the discussions that frame that work and, presumably, the advice that will go from that committee, both to the commissioner and ultimately to government, since we know that a significant piece of what’s going to happen moving forward is going to be done through regulation.

As we’ve said on other pieces of legislation — we talked about it with Bill 2; we’ve talked about it with other sets of legislation — it is one of the areas of some concern.

Whenever you put things into the regulatory regime and not as a legislative initiative that comes here, gets to be spoken about here, gets to be voted on…. For anybody who has an interest, they have the ability to see everything, to hear everything and to decide what they think about that, but when it becomes regulatory, it goes into that cabinet room. Decisions are made in that room. The debate, the discussion that goes on, is unknown to any of us who are not at that table, and we just read the decision at the end of the day.

That’s a concern, and it’s particularly a concern around areas like this, where it so directly affects people’s livelihoods. So it is important that there be as much clarity as there can be about how these critical decisions, the four or five critical decisions, are going to be made.

How does the commissioner get selected? What’s their authority and their power? How are pay rates, whether it’s for time on the road or wait times, established? How are they determined, and how are they guaranteed?

How is the selection on the reduction of numbers of drivers and trucks on the road going to be made? How are those choices going to be made? Is it going to be clear, transparent and above reproach, in terms of that process? Is the group that’s going to provide advice here to governments and to the commissioner going to be totally inclusive and include people who represent drivers, among others?

I think that all of those things — again, as I’ve said, the devil is often in the details — are important questions. I know they’re questions that my colleague the spokesperson for Transportation on our side will be talking about in committee stage.

Others of us will be engaging in committee stage to try to draw out answers or some clarity on these matters. I’m hopeful that the minister is going to be enthusiastic about wanting to provide that clarity. I think the minister wants this bill to succeed. He wants the result of it to be successful. He wants the result that, as he has said, is labour peace at the port.

That’s something that we’re all striving for. It’s not something that necessarily is achieved by the legislation unless the pieces are done right. If they’re done right, then I think you can go a long way. You know, nothing’s perfect, but you can go a long way. But it’s going to be how those pieces get put together and how people feel included.

As the minister will know, after the resolution, back through March, when in fact the government played a role in coming to what was hoped to have been a conclusion at that time…. When it went sideways, it was because people didn’t have any sense of that. They were frustrated by it. They didn’t know what was going on. That was a big challenge. That, I think, has to be one of the things that we deal with moving forward.

I’m looking forward to this. I’m looking forward to voting for this bill here at second reading, and I’m looking forward to the discussion that will unfold after that as we move forward.

I know there are a number of other people who have different aspects of this that they want to speak to. I’m sure we’ll get to that committee stage that we’re all looking forward to in due course.

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