Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


July 17, 2013

Questions during Minstry of Mines and Energy Estimates: Core Review

S. Simpson: We're going to spend a little bit of time talking about the other significant project, other than energy, that rests in the minister's portfolio, and that is the core review process.

The first question I'd like to ask relates to the timing around the terms of reference, and then we'll talk a little bit more about some of the scope of that in a little more detail and then move from there into some specific questions. I understand, though, that it's very early in the process, and I'm sure that the work is being done now, heading up to getting a terms of reference that will be approved through the cabinet process.

My first question relates to the terms of reference. It's my understanding that the terms of reference, from the mandate letter, are to be developed in a plan to the priorities and planning committee by the 30th of August of 2013.

Could the minister tell us: is there any intention of making a draft of any of those public prior to that? If not, the core review plan, as it's called in the mandate letter to the minister — will it be released following, presumably, approval by the priorities and planning committee of cabinet? Is it the intention to make it a public document after cabinet has approved it through that committee?

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S. Simpson: The other question around the timing is…. If I look at point 4 around the core review, it says: "Complete the core review process by December 31, 2014." I believe I heard the minister in the media say it was his hope that maybe that work would be completed earlier than that date, that he was totally confident it would be completed by that date. And that's great.

Could the minister, though, tell the House: is it his expectation that…? We're going to have another budget year in between there, coming next February-March. Is it the minister's expectation that there are aspects of the core review that will be implemented prior to December 31, 2014, or is it that there will be a complete plan at that place that will then be implemented?

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S. Simpson: Just to follow up on that a little bit. I understand that these things work differently. It's the minister's hope that after August 30 or so…. The minister will present sometime, by August 30, a plan to the priorities and planning committee of cabinet. We'll get some sign-off from those folks who have to sign off on this, and then we'll begin action on that plan, presumably.

We should expect, then, or it's the minister's hope…. I won't say we should expect. Is it the minister's hope that we may see some of those changes, the things that will come from the core review, reflected in the budget of 2014-2015, next February-March — whenever that budget's introduced? Is that fair?

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S. Simpson: I'm sure the minister has looked at this. I was back taking a look at the last core review, which was 2001, the documentation around that, the guidelines for the core services review and the letter that was sent, I believe, at that point to the people responsible — I think it was a deputy who was responsible for leading that; Ms. Eaton, I believe — that laid out the objectives of the review.

Is the expectation of the minister that the kind of plan we might see might be — not in terms of specific content but in terms of how the guideline for core services review, which I'm sure the minister has looked at and probably knows much better than I do…? Is that what we should be looking for, something that looks kind of like this, when we look at a plan post–August 30th? Is that what we should be looking for in a plan?

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S. Simpson: Hon. Chair, I agree with the minister. We're not going to get into a debate here so much about budget, so I'm not going to talk about the current budget that we're in the process of and whether it's balanced or not. We don't have an agreement on that.

The minister will know that the reality is, you know, the government has had fiscal challenges. When I look back over the last four years, the government has run about $5 billion in deficit, a cumulative deficit for the last four years — about $5 billion in that period. Obviously, there's significant deficit there, and I would agree with the minister that probably the cuts that were made in '01 with the core review then and with the things that have happened since then, there's not a heck of a lot of low- [ Page 570 ]   hanging fruit. I would agree with that.

That raises some questions about where these savings might actually come from. With that question, the minister talked about saying, "Well, we won't find $1 billion," and I think he's probably right. But he also said, and as I understand from the budget, the intention or the desire is $30 million this year, $50 million and $50 million, for a total of about $130 million, give or take.

Could the minister tell us: is that amount the floor, the minimum that the minister's mandate is to find? That's the minimum? Or has he been told: "If you find that, then the objective is met and we can move on"?

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S. Simpson: So the $50 million and $50 million for the next two fiscal years — the minister, as he said, the identification…. The minister has received the direction, which the minister has received from the Premier, to find $50 million and $50 million.

Again, is that the floor? Is the minister telling us that "if I find $50 million, I'm finding $50 million; if I find $100 million, well, then I'm finding $100 million"?

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S. Simpson: I want to follow up on that particular conversation. Because the reality is — and I think the minister has made comment about this when he's talked about low-hanging fruit in the past — sometimes finding money is an easier thing to do than determining whether there's a better way to do something.

If the intention of the core review is to look at practices — how ministries and how others do their work — and say: "Is there another way for you to do this that might be as effective but more efficient in terms of resource requirements…?"

The question that I have for the minister around that is: how does the minister envision that that moves forward? Is it value-for-money audits within ministries? Is it requiring ministries to set up internal committees that, in fact, will do some kind of internal audit process, which will then provide that information back to the minister and his team so that they can then make an assessment? What's the process in a ministry to take that look for value for money?

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S. Simpson: Just to continue with that conversation for a little bit there.

So ministry X is going to take a look. They're obviously going to do some work and provide some advice to the minister and his team and the committee about where they think they might find some saving or whatever, or how they might be more efficient in doing what they do in terms of their practice.

Is it the expectation, then, that those ministries will make a determination about how they expend money internally to do that assessment? We know these assessments aren't free; they cost money. Sometimes you've got to spend some money to save some money.

Is it going to be the expectation that every ministry will have to create its own line item or budget to do the review, the internal reviews that they do, in order to be able to report out to the minister and his committee on core review matters?

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S. Simpson: I appreciate that. I appreciate it's early in the process. The t's have not all been crossed, and the i's haven't all been dotted, and clearly cabinet hasn't signed off on the minister's plan yet, so it's still very much a work in progress. I respect that, and I respect the fact that some of these answers can't be as definitive as I might like. I understand that they haven't been properly formulated yet. They still have some work to be done.

Maybe just to get to the basic question, though. There's going to be a cost related to the minister's work in the core review. What is the expectation about where the budgetary costs of the work of the core review are going to come from? I didn't see a line item — now, maybe I missed it — in the budget for core review that says the core review has X budget for this year. What is the projected cost for the next year in this budget, and how is it getting paid?

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S. Simpson: Thanks to the minister. That was helpful. That does provide a little bit more insight. I understand it's not complete at this time.

So Finance is essentially underwriting the project, with support from the Premier's office, as he's pointed out. Ms. Henderson is playing a key role as the deputy with a responsibility for this. Other than the deputy…. I believe, when I read the minister's mandate letter, it says to "work with my office and the Minister of Finance to identify a core team to undertake the core review work." Has that team been identified, and if so, who are those people?

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S. Simpson: The minister talked about the understanding. Clearly, I would agree, it was my understanding that in terms of the costs of any given entity of government — ministry, Crown or whatever — if they have costs, those costs will be expected to be absorbed by that entity itself. That really raises the next question.

We know that the review looks to include all of the ministries, presumably, and I'll wait for the minister to confirm that — all the ministries, the Crowns. Could the minister tell us, just give a sense here, of who all is captured under this umbrella? The ministries, the Crowns. Who else might be captured by the core review?

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S. Simpson: One of the reasons I ask is, and I'll follow this up a little bit…. The minister had spoken about his parliamentary secretary, the member for Penticton, who's had some experience. I read a comment that may or may not have been accurate, a media comment, where he spoke about looking at regional parts of government as well. I have no sense as to what that meant, and I'm good with that.

My question, then, is: in the consideration of the scope here, are things like health authorities a consideration? Are school districts a consideration?

Other entities that might be broader than ministries — are they all on the table, at least for consideration until, obviously, the minister finalizes these terms of reference?

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S. Simpson: I will continue. I respect the Chair's position. I don't know if it's speculative until he tells me it's speculative. I'm fishing, but it's the minister who'll come up and say: "I can't answer on speculation, so I'm not answering." But I don't know what's speculative and what's not at the moment, so we'll give it a try and try not to breach the rules of the House.

The minister talks about it not being just about costs. I appreciate that, and I'm glad to hear that. I know I heard the minister talking in the media, saying — and I also appreciate this — that he has no mandate, has no job, is in no position to be suggesting additional spending in any particular area of this. His job is to create efficiencies.

He's clarified that some today, about it not necessarily being about money but about how you do business and looking for savings there. I very much appreciate that, and I appreciate that he's not in a position to be saying ministry X or ministry Y maybe could actually use a little more money for program X or Y after what we've learned.

As this work gets done and the ministries, or whatever, do the work that the minister requires in order to be able to make an assessment and then move forward and make some recommendations to his colleagues on executive council about what should or shouldn't be done, does the minister anticipate that what he's going to get here is a set of recommendations from a ministry about how they might improve efficiencies? And then his team will need to make a determination about whether that makes sense or not and make recommendations from that?

Is he looking, is he expecting to get some kind of report from each ministry or Crown or entity, after it's determined who is in play here, and then make a determination about what he gets told by them before he makes his recommendations to his colleagues on executive council? Is that the thinking about how this might work? Maybe we're not that far along.

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S. Simpson: That was helpful. So the expectation here of the minister is that somewhere through this process there is…. I don't know. I don't want to call it a workbook — whatever. There's some kind of piece of work here. The preparation by the minister, what his committee will do that will give to whatever ministry: "Here are the 20 things or the 30 things that we want to know about. Here are some questions to drive you to analysis, and we're expecting some kind of response back that deals with these questions that we're looking at."

Is that what the minister is getting at when he says that there will be questions to ask? I understand that this might not be locked down, and I wouldn't expect it to be. But there's going to be some kind of workbook or set of questions or something that the ministries are all going to be asked — or the Crowns, if its Crowns are included — and then given back to the minister with supporting documentation so that he can make an assessment.

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S. Simpson: There was nothing speculative about that at all. It was all good. Thank you. I'm glad I didn't have to speculate.

The minister spoke earlier about wanting to engage broader than the government itself. The minister talked about stakeholders, about others who presumably engage with government, have interests in what government does, whether it's the business community or other stakeholders, I'm assuming. Could the minister speak a little bit about what his thinking is on what that stakeholder group looks like and how they're going to play a role in this process?

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S. Simpson: I understand that the minister doesn't know what that process looks like yet, and that it's not locked down. I'm good with that. I understand there's still a little bit more work to do, to get there on that.

The minister now has talked about ministries and maybe Crowns or other entities included. It's still to be determined as to who is under the umbrella of the review.

He's talked about the requirement for those ministries to come back and respond to a number of questions and, hopefully, provide back a body of information that the minister and his colleagues can look at to make a determination about where efficiencies might exist there; or certainly, to open up that discussion about efficiencies in any given ministry, presumably with his colleagues, who are the ministers responsible for those areas; and while not exactly clear about what the process for outside input is, the desire to have broader input than simply this place and the public service.

If that's the case, I guess the question is…. I know the minister said he's hoping to release terms of reference before the 30th of August and get that out there for everybody to see. Is it the minister's expectation that the documentation from these ministries, this input from outside sources and that, will become part of the public realm so that we'll all be able to see what kind of advice the ministry received or the minister and his colleagues received that drove their determination?

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S. Simpson: I understand cabinet documents. I guess what I would encourage the minister…. This is a process that, I think, there's a fair amount of uncertainty about. As we know, there's uncertainty on the part of the minister right now about what it looks like. I'm sure that uncertainty will start to get cleared up when he has a set of terms of reference that has been signed off on.

As we have heard in this conversation, we know that there's a level of uncertainty there now, and that uncertainty, I think, is shared by people in the public. I don't think there are a heck of a lot of them yet, but it's shared by people who are looking at the core review and not entirely certain what to expect from it.

The only touchstone that some of them have…. Some of them might have been involved in municipal core reviews, but that's a little bit different. I've talked to people around municipal core reviews. They are somewhat different, but they are what they are.

Of course, the only other touchstone people would have for a core review in this province would probably be 2001. If they were around then, they would have seen what happened then.

The minister has assured people, as has the Premier, that the expectation is that this review is going to be different than that. It has different objectives. It doesn't anticipate being as radical, if I can use that word, in terms of the depth of the cuts that occurred. It is more about efficiencies than that.

I do hope, that being the case, the minister will try to get as much information out there to people who are outside of this place — although we'll be happy to have it on this side, too, to the extent that we can get it — and have information available to people that allows them to understand better what it is that the minister wants to achieve here and what advice he's getting around this.

I look at the Core Review committee — which is the minister, obviously, and the parliamentary secretary, and then, I guess, the ministers of the three largest ministries in terms of spending. I think it's Health, Education and Social Development. Children and Families? I can't remember which one, but the big ministries there. I have some understanding that that committee will do its work, and they'll all be part of this conversation moving on.

My question to the minister is…. Maybe this is not clear at all yet either, and that's fine. What's the role of the relationship with other ministries? Is the minister going to be in a position to direct ministry A to remove $2 million from whatever after this finding? Or is it, "Here's my best advice," and at some point Treasury Board or somebody will say: "Okay, this is all going to get dealt with through Treasury Board"?

I'm trying to figure out how a decision gets made here that, in fact, might be an obligation of one of his colleagues in a ministry. How does that work?

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S. Simpson: Okay, let me try this one. It's my understanding — and the minister can correct me on this — that when ministries are coming forward with budget items or things they want to do, they take that through the Treasury Board process. Somewhere at the Treasury Board process a determination is made about yea or nay around those expenditures within the broader context of the government mandate.

As somebody said to me on this process, how's this process different than what Treasury Board probably does all the time when they assess the value of programs? So that's how that process works. Presumably, the Finance Minister, the chair of Treasury Board and the Treasury Board members make decisions about things that are brought forward by their colleagues, which may or may not be programs, to go forward or say to their colleagues, "You've got to bring forward some savings, and we're going to make determinations," and it gets decided there.

How does what the minister will do in the core review process differ from that? Or is it the minister and his committee, the Core Review committee of his colleagues and that…? Is there going to be an exercise where that committee starts reviewing things, maybe not in a duplication of Treasury Board but in a similar kind of fashion to Treasury Board?

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S. Simpson: Thanks for the answer. Where we are in this process — I think that's pretty good clarity for what the minister is and isn't doing here.

Is it the expectation that individual ministries will be given an amount that is an objective for them to look at saving? Or will it be more of an open page, for them to say, "Okay, we're looking for efficiencies wherever you are. Come and tell us what you can and can't do and explain why when you answer the 20 questions" or whatever it is? Or is it: "We expect $2 million here or $5 million there. Come back and tell us whether you can do it and how you're going to do it, or if you can't, explain that to us"?

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S. Simpson: One of the things, when I look, again, at the minister's mandate letter…. Point 3: "Provide core review updates to cabinet on a monthly basis identifying opportunities for savings or redeployment and their associated cost benefits." So there will be an ongoing process that presumably will start some time after they sign off on the terms of reference and the practical work begins on this.

Is there any expectation that there will be any public reporting or interim reporting through this process by the minister as he moves forward with this? There will be the monthly reporting to cabinet. I understand those are cabinet conversations. But is the expectation that there will be some kind of public reporting about how this is all going?

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S. Simpson: One of the other…. It falls under the area of the responsibility for the core review, and it's in the mandate letter, point 5, which is: "Make recommendations to cabinet on how to improve our regulatory reform and red-tape-reduction initiatives."

As part of that process, could the minister maybe tell us a little bit about what the expectation is on what work he will need to do here to be able to fulfil that part of the mandate letter and get back to cabinet on that?

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S. Simpson: Following on those discussions around that piece so that I can be clear, is the minister, then, essentially the hub providing the coordination, the oversight for regulatory review, red-tape review, that's going on in government? Is that all now going to flow back through the minister as the cornerstone of that?

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S. Simpson: I read the mandate letter, and it says: "Make recommendations to cabinet on how to improve our regulatory reform and red-tape-reduction initiatives." Again, I guess I'm going to ask the minister. The minister says that the other minister, the minister responsible for jobs, is the minister who actually applies that, particularly when it comes to economic investment opportunities and that. It's the Jobs Minister's job to do that.

Fair enough. Could the minister tell us what exactly he is to do here, around recommendations to cabinet on how to improve those things, that is different and distinct from the minister who actually has the file to reduce red tape and regulatory issues.

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S. Simpson: Not having been involved directly in that process, I have some perceptions about how that might work, and that. To understand better how that works, could the minister give us an example of the kind of recommendations for improvement that he might see his committee doing? That would then, presumably, if it goes to cabinet…. There's a recommendation to cabinet, and then cabinet maybe directs the Jobs Minister to take a different approach on things, following on the good advice of this minister when he makes a recommendation.

Could the minister give us some kind of idea of what that looks like, in practical terms, to do the job the minister says the committee has to do?

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S. Simpson: That's an interesting comment. I was going to ask about that, because it does come back to concerns that have been raised. When the Premier announced the core review intention and the plan to move forward with this, I know at that point there was a bit of public discussion around that. You had folks like the Children and Youth Representative saying: "I hope the review will also look at where there are challenges." She identified services to children and identified some challenges. I know the minister has said that he's not about new money but that he is about efficiencies. Maybe he's going to be able to find some there that will support some of her concerns.

I know the minister himself has, in the past, talked about permitting. I believe the minister at one point was quoted in the media as saying that he thought that permitting was a challenge and that it did have to improve — that there was missed opportunity out there because of the amount of time of permitting. I see that the minister has been working on that in his ministry, and he's just talked about that as it relates to mining and doing that.

Is it the expectation, then, that there will be a particular set of objectives that the minister will have that he'll be looking at how to make recommendations for change in terms of regulation and red tape? I know he's keen about improving investment opportunity by shortening that regulatory time or that red-tape time. What might those objectives look like that the minister sees as being important to be able to add value to the questions of regulatory reform and red-tape reduction? What are the things the minister thinks will add value to that?

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S. Simpson: So I understand that, this process is…. The regulatory review and red-tape-reduction initiatives are an integral part of the core review. To be fair, I think the minister is now clearing that up for me. I viewed it a little bit as an additional piece of work on top of the fundamentals of the core review around efficiencies and dollars and better ways to do things — as a bit of an add-on to that. But I'm now starting to appreciate — and the minister can correct me — that I shouldn't view it that way. I should view them as integral parts of the same process.

If that's the case, maybe the minister could give me a sense here, because we've already said that this core review process is to be complete by December 31, 2014. The minister has indicated previously that he hopes to be able to fulfil the mandate prior to that. This says there'll be a set of recommendations to cabinet on approving regulatory reform and red-tape-reduction initiatives.

Is it the expectation of the minister that that set of recommendations may come quite a bit sooner than the end of 2014? I understand it's up to the cabinet to decide what they do and don't release. Would the minister be hoping to make that public, whatever the recommendations were — after, of course, they've been addressed by cabinet and cabinet has done whatever work it needs to do on this? Would the result of the recommendations to cabinet and cabinet's determination around that become a public document, and if so, would it happen before the end of 2014?

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S. Simpson: Going back a little bit here on a question now, when we talked about the scope of the review in terms of who is captured by the review, the minister had said, obviously, that the ministries are in play here, and maybe Crowns, maybe others. That wasn't entirely clear. Is the deliberation that's going on about who's in…? We have entities out there which are not direct parts of the [ Page 578 ]   provincial government. An example would be school districts, which receive the bulk of their money from the provincial government. Essentially, the bills are paid by the provincial government.

Is there any thought whether those groups that are quite different than a health authority, which is much closer linked to government, for sure…? As you start to get farther afield there, is that even a contemplation?

I don't want to have the minister speculate on that. I'm just trying to get an idea of how broad the consideration is about who might be captured here, without trying to tie the minister down. I understand he cannot be tied done right now on who's in and who's out.

Those groups are getting pretty far afield, and they've got their own elected representation. They're structured quite differently. Are they in play? Are people who might be that far afield in play? The non-profit sector, some who've received significant resources to deliver public services from government — they're out there. Could they be asked to provide efficiencies as well — those who are out there but might get the bulk of their money from the provincial government through fee-for-service, if not through other sources? I'm trying to get a sense of how far out this net might cast.

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S. Simpson: I won't ask the minister to speculate any more on that.

My question, then, is this. Is it the minister's intention that the terms of reference — which we will see soon, as the minister has told us — will include the scope of who is in so that, at that point, folks will be able to look at the terms of reference, when they are released, and say: "Okay, I know whether I'm in or I'm out"?

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S. Simpson: That was great.

I want to come back a little bit. I'm going to bounce a little bit here, because we're not going to be at this for much longer, so just a little bit around the red tape and reviews and recommendations. The minister spoke earlier, when we talked about the core review piece, about his desire to make sure that those who were outside government — outside this place and outside the public service — have a way to be part of that conversation around the core review in some way and to have their input fed into the process and considered by the process.

Is it also the intention of the minister that on any discussions around red tape or regulatory review, those same kinds of entities are going to be asked to provide their input on questions of regulatory review and red tape?

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S. Simpson: I certainly wasn't expecting any detail about how that would work, but I'm glad to hear that that process will work.

My sense of the response of the minister to the questions…. He'll correct me, I'm sure, if I have got this wrong.

His committee, the core review committee, is going to look, over some period of time, at a whole bunch of questions around regulatory review and red tape — obviously in consultation with his colleague the Minister of Jobs, who has responsibility to actually apply some of this work maybe in a more hands-on way — and then, based on all of that, get some recommendations back or evolve some recommendations that he and his committee will take to cabinet that may provide some guidance for cabinet to consider about ways to improve the system of regulatory review and red tape.

Does the minister envision…? There are those out there who will say that part of the challenge with the processes around regulatory review and red tape is that in those review processes, they haven't been quite as transparent as we might always like all the time. The minister has expressed his own desire to have them be transparent, believing that the best way to have a conversation with people is to engage people in the conversation and that you're better off at the end of the day if you do that. That's what I think I heard the minister say, and I would agree with him on that.

Is it his hope to be able to make recommendations that might also enhance that question? Or is that the kind of matter that might go forward as a recommendation to cabinet around the process of engaging the broader public in a discussion around regulatory review and red tape?

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S. Simpson: I appreciate the invitation. You never know, I might take the minister up on it.

The minister has talked about people who have skin in the game, and I agree with that. I know, over my few years in this place, that I've periodically heard from people who would suggest they have some skin in the game, and they're not sure that they got consulted as well as they might.

There are some First Nations who might say they didn't get consulted as well as they might over things that may or may not have happened in their territories. There are probably some environmental interests who would say the same thing, probably some others. And then there are people who probably were consulted. I guess the point I would make is that not everybody necessarily gets consulted in the same way, and that may be just the way it is.

If the minister is looking at this, to get some idea of the scope of what this might look like, does the minister have a number on the number of regulatory reviews or red-tape reviews that are currently in progress in government?

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S. Simpson: The question was: as he's ramping up his work around regulatory review and red-tape review as the head of the core review process, could the minister tell us how many processes are currently in play around regulatory review or red-tape review through the government?

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S. Simpson: Is it the expectation of the minister that at some point here — as this process unfolds, as it becomes a little clearer — the minister is going to need to get that list of all of these things and actually make some determination about what he thinks is and isn't going on and make that part of the body of recommendations?

Is it the intention that the core review committee is, at some point, going to get a list of these reviews that are going on and make some assessment about their effectiveness or non-effectiveness and then make that part of the body of moving forward?

I'm trying to get a sense here. What I've heard from the minister so far is that there is another minister, the Minister of Jobs, who's actually doing the regulatory and red-tape reviews. So be it. That's all good. There are some recommendations from his committee around this. That wasn't exactly clear. I understand there's more work to be done on that.

But I'm still trying to figure out here a little bit about what it is exactly, then, that the minister is going to do around regulatory and red-tape review. Is it going to be to actually do an assessment of existing or ongoing reviews to see how they're going? Is it going to be to set a new standard? I'm just trying to figure out what exactly you're doing.

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S. Simpson: The plan…. I guess I'd still have to say here that I appreciate the one-sentence mandate the minister has been given. The minister may think it's clear, but I'm sure he would agree that as you dig down, it raises a lot of questions.

Obviously, the key question here is how you get around that and how this ministry and this Minister for Core  Review is going to interact with the minister who actually does the reviews, which is the Minister of Jobs, and how that relationship is going to work or not work. I assume we're going to have to wait to see how that plays itself out over time.

I just want to come back a little bit to the money again, for the cost of this — just so I'm clear. The Ministry of Finance is going to pay. Well, they will cover the costs of the staffing, with the exception of the deputy, who's coming from the Premier's office. They'll cover the cost of the staffing component of the core review.

Clearly, some of the leadership, in terms of the deputy, is coming out of the Premier's office, and presumably the bill is paid by the Premier's office. Individual ministries or other entities will pay their own expenses as they relate to the core review, in any work they need to do on the core review.

The minister has talked about wanting to engage more broadly than that. Can the minister tell us: has he thought about how those bills get paid? Do they get paid by the ministries, by Finance, maybe by his ministry, which has a couple of bucks squirreled away that he hasn't talked about yet? How are you going to pay for that broader discussion with folks about the core review, broadly?

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S. Simpson: Well, I guess part of the reason for this is that when I read the Premier's comments made on June 18 when she was in Kamloops and talking about this, it suggested a fairly big plan. She said:

"We're going to go through, line by line, every ministry of government and think about the things that are essential to providing good service to people in a society that's fair, where we care about each other, and then think about the things that we don't need to do anymore.

"I really believe we've got to focus your resources. We only have so much money from the public. I'm determined not to go back and ask for more, so we'd better figure out how we can focus our resources and do things better, which means we need to probably start doing fewer things."

Those are the Premier's comments on June 18 in Kamloops.

The Premier has said there are things that we're not going to do anymore in government. That's pretty significant, because presumably, there are people who rely on those things, wherever they are. So it is a pretty grand plan, or these comments maybe aren't going to bear themselves out over time. I don't know.

If you're going to do, as the Premier has said, a line-by-line review of every ministry in government — and those are the Premier's words — that's a significant piece of work.

I'm trying to get an idea about how that happens when the Premier has made that commitment publicly. How does that happen, and is it going to happen through a questionnaire that the minister has talked about, or is there something more substantive here that's going to occur in order to fulfil the Premier's comments in Kamloops?

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S. Simpson: That is part of the question about who will get hurt in this. As the Premier said at the same time: "I do think we're doing too much with the number  of people that we have, so let's do less. Let's take the same number of people and get them doing things we need to do better, but let's do less."

The Premier has said that we're going to go line by line, and there are going to be things that we don't need to do anymore. That does raise anxieties for folks, and I do hope that the minister is correct when he says people who are vulnerable or people who have issues will not be hurt by this process.

Quite frankly, we will see at the end of the day what, in fact, the recommendations are and what the results of those recommendations are in terms of what programs are cut and what doesn't exist anymore.

If I'm to believe the Premier, she has said that this is a pretty detailed, expansive analysis that's going to be done line by line, ministry by ministry and presumably line by line, Crown by Crown, should they be in. So it is a pretty big deal for those people. Things that the minister or I may or may not think are substantive — there are people who may well think that they're important things for them to be cut or not cut. I do think that there still is a fair amount there.

I do hope that as this process plays out — and we'll get the chance to come back and remind the minister again and again of his comments about not hurting anyone…. The minister has said that nobody will get hurt. We'll see. The minister talked about how ruthless the last process was and that that's not going to happen again. We'll get to see that as this thing plays out over time.

Unfortunately, and as the minister has said…. I appreciate that it's early in the process. We're a ways away from having the kind of detail that it will take to actually tell us what the intentions are. I'm looking forward to the terms of reference that the minister is going to, hopefully, as he has said, be able to release soon. I'm assuming, then, that they're well on their way, and we'll be able to see what those look like as we move forward.

With that, I think I'm going to leave this conversation for now. I had hoped that we would get farther in this, but I do appreciate that the reality is the ministry hasn't come far enough to really be able to deal with substantive questions in this process yet. We'll need to be doing that as we move forward.

I'm going to ask just one last question before I move on, just so we know where we're at.

One of the things that happened when the last review was done back in 2001 — I'm looking at the release that was made at that time — was that there were some specific tests that were identified at that time around the public interest, around affordability, around effectiveness and the role of government, around efficiency and around accountability.

Is it the expectation of the minister that he will be developing similar tests for all of the people who will be in play in this process?

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S. Simpson: Just one question that's been brought to my attention, and maybe the minister can just deal with this. The member for Delta North on June 26, in an interview on the CBC, said:

"Well, I think Minister" — and he names the minister — "should be taking a look at provincial government, of course, but I think maybe his mandate might essentially extend to regional government as well. They are a creature of the province, and I think there are savings and opportunities to be realized at many different levels. You know, government back in 2001, you may recall, was cut somewhat to the bone."

Now, we have the municipal auditor, who's been named by the government, but that's a different job. So I just wonder whether the minister could clarify for us whether his colleague from Delta North is getting somewhere when he talks about regional government or whether the minister might want to set regional and local governments aside as potentially being captured by this. Or are they possibly within that umbrella that hasn't yet been determined?

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S. Simpson: That's all good. I'll ask again. When we talk about local and regional government, we are talking about another level of government. We're not talking about Crown corporations or ministries or government authorities, including things like health authorities. We're talking about another level of government.

So is the minister saying that at this point he is not prepared to exclude that other level of government — local government and regional government — from the core review process that he's undertaking — that he will not exclude them at this point

 Full transcript at http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th1st/20130716pm-Hansard-v3n4.htm

 

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Saturday, November 16, 2019 - 12:00pm - 4:30pm