Wednesday, December 13, 1989 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have two legislative returns for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Mr. Brewster: I have another 20 pages with 300 signatures for Save the Gold Panners. There is a total of 600 now in.
Petition No. 1
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. Members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 1 of the First Session of the 27th Legislative Assembly, as presented by the hon. Member for Kluane on December 12, 1989. Pursuant to Standing Order 66 of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, it is my responsibility to present a report upon any petition presented to the Assembly.
Petition No. 1 does not contain matter which is in breach of the privileges of the Assembly, and according to the Standing Orders and practice of the Assembly, it can be received.
Members should be aware that the conclusion that this petition can be received is subject to the following considerations:
1) This petition addresses a matter which has been delegated by the Legislative Assembly to the Commissioner in Executive Council. In this respect, Annotation 1030(2) in Beauchesne (sixth edition) states: A petition cannot be considered if it concerns a matter delegated by Parliament to another body. The Yukon Legislative Assembly does, however, have a precedent for accepting a petition which addressed a matter delegated by the Assembly to another body. This precedent may be found on page 63 of the Journals for the Fourth Session of the 26th Legislative Assembly. It is my assessment that it is the desire of the House that I should rely on this precedent rather than on the direction found in the practices of the House of Commons and I have, therefore, concluded Petition No. 1 is not deficient on this point.
2) This petition is not dated which appears, from Appendix 2 of the Standing Orders of this Assembly, to be a requirement. Again, in recognition of the apparent desires of the House respecting petitions and their acceptability, I have decided not to identify the lack of a date as a deficiency.
Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order 66, Petition No. 1 is deemed to have been read and received.
Speaker: Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Yukon College to Host Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies Conference
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is with great pleasure that I rise today to announce that Yukon College will have the honour of hosting the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies Annual Conference this coming April.
The Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies has a general mandate to promote the advancement of northern scholarship through education, professional and scientific training, and research. This mandate coincides with this governments policy to support and encourage academic forums about the north, in the north, as exemplified by the establishment of the Northern Studies Program at Yukon College. In recognition of the impetus the Government of Yukon and Yukon College have made for promoting northern educational programming, the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies granted the 1990 Annual General Meeting and Conference to Yukon College.
Up to 100 northern specialists and government officials from across Canada are expected to attend the associations conference from April 26th through 29th. This represents an unprecedented opportunity for Yukon scholars, Yukon College students, and the public at large to both contribute to and gain from the proceedings. For example, discussions are now taking place on arranging in-class visits by visiting experts so that students at all levels may learn about the latest developments in energy policy, construction technology, our changing climate and energy conservation.
The theme of the conference, Global Change, is one that affects all of us in the Yukon. The academic sessions will look at energy, evaluating the options available as well as reviewing their technological and environmental implications. This will be done in the context of northern climate and environmental change. Of interest to many Yukon people will be the focus on both the environmental and economic consequences of shifting energy options. An important goal of the conference is to generate recommendations concerning energy generation methods, with particular attention paid to their effect on the norths fragile environment.
While this is the third time the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies has met in the north, the Yukon College conference will mark the first occasion a northern post-secondary institution is used as the site. This is a significant step in the colleges development and recognition as an academic institution.
Yukon College was admitted to the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies in 1988. This was not easily achieved. Extensive lobbying by Yukon College, the Yukon government and Arctic College of the Northwest Territories prompted the 32 member universities to admit the two colleges. Since then, both Yukon College and the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies have benefited from that decision.
The Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies, for example, sponsors several scholarship programs for northerners and aboriginal Canadians. The Northern Scientific Training Program alone supports some 300 students engaged in northern fieldwork.
Together, Yukon College and the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies are exploring plans for student exchanges, collaborative research and cooperative programming. As these areas are implemented, the people of the Yukon will benefit, either directly or indirectly, as students or as citizens whose daily lives are improved by the developments that arise out of this innovative approach to learning.
I hope you will all join me in recognizing this honour conferred upon Yukon College by the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Hunting restrictions
Mr. Phelps: I will have to talk twice as fast to get all my questions in today.
I have a question regarding the restriction of hunting in game zones 7 and 9. The government has imposed severe restrictions on hunters in these areas. This fall, many Yukon residents could not hunt for moose in the area where they reside.
Could the Minister of Renewable Resources tell us how long this deplorable situation is going to continue?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The condition as described by the Member will continue until the recovery plan for the moose in that area indicates that there are enough moose in there to improve hunting conditions.
Mr. Phelps: These restrictions have been ongoing for some time with moose for the past four seasons. When will the restrictions be lifted?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I just indicated to the Member that when the populations of the moose in there indicate they can be hunted, the restrictions will be lifted.
Mr. Phelps: Has the Minister consulted with the residents in the area, who are now restricted from hunting and do not know what is happening with the management of game in the area?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, there has been a great deal of consultation, particularly with the members of the Champagne-Aishihik Indian Band. Based on those consultations, the plan was reviewed by the Wildlife Management Board. It recommended that certain restrictions on hunters should be in place, and that is what has been done.
Question re: Hunting restrictions
Mr. Phelps: There are more people who live in the area encompassed by game zones 7 and 9 than just the Champagne-Aishihik Band. There are a lot of people who are restricted and have not been consulted.
When this government took office in 1985, a balanced predator control program had been commenced in this area of Yukon. Dave Porter, Minister for the government at that time, stopped the program, and the restrictions on hunting have been more severe ever since.
Is this government going to do an about-face and institute a predator control program in the area?
Hon. Mr. Webster: There are no plans at this time for a predator control program to be implemented in that area. The Wildlife Management Board will be consulting with hunters who use that area over the winter to see if hunting restrictions presently in place will apply again for next season.
Mr. Phelps: Is this government telling the residents in game zones 7 and 9 that the moose and caribou populations will improve without a predator control program in place?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The result of surveys conducted in that area for the last few years, and that study, indicate that reductions in the moose population could not be attributed to the predators in that area.
Mr. Phelps: Does the Minister think it is fair to arbitrarily restrict the hunting of some residents in the area without having consulted with them, and without having an effective management plan in place?
Hon. Mr. Webster: In developing the game management plan for game zones 7 and 9, people were consulted. As I have already indicated, members of the Champagne-Aishihik Indian Band were. People are aware of the reasons for the restriction being put in place.
Question re: Hunting restrictions
Mr. Phelps: Let us review what has happened here. First of all, the hunting rights of many residents in the area are restricted. Secondly, or prior to that, the predator control program was stopped by the predecessor of this Minister. Then we get a copy of recommendations about a new plan for the area dated November 1989, after four years of this restriction being in place on moose, for people who live there. Does the Minister really think that is fair?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think it is fair to impose hunting restrictions as necessary, to improve moose populations in an area. As I mentioned earlier, the plan is under review now. The Wildlife Management Advisory Board will be consulting with people who hunt in that area to determine if there will be a change in those restrictions for the next hunting season.
Mr. Phelps: What assurances can you give residents in the area that the moose population and the caribou population is going to get better and grow back to where it was a few years ago in the absence of a predator control program? What kinds of assurances can you give those people that the picture is going to change?
Hon. Mr. Webster: At this time I cannot give them any assurances that the moose populations will improve without the predator control program.
Mr. Phelps: Does the Minister not have any misgivings, whatsoever, about the impact on the lifestyle of the people who live in those areas? Does he not realize just how frustrated they are becoming when they cannot hunt in the area and nothing has been done to assure them that the game situation is going to improve?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we realize there is a hardship on the people who traditionally hunt in that area.
Question re: Hunting restrictions
Mr. Lang: I just want to have one further question on this and this has to do with the report that the Minister has received and the general public has received, entitled Recommendations Toward Recovery of Moose and Caribou Populations in the Whitehorse-Southern Lakes Areas, and that area includes the Carcross area and all the way up to Champagne Aishihik, so it is a large area. Now, many of my constituents have to go to other parts of the Yukon to hunt and are putting pressure on other areas of the Yukon because of the fact that there is no recovery plan in place. Recommendation 3 of that report goes as follows: Reduced predator populations after the total hunter harvest: Both Indian and non-Indian have been significantly reduced. The non-Indian and the Indian harvest have been reduced.
Will the Minister support the principle of the predator control program, in view of the recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have been saying all along that hunting restrictions is the first option. We have had that in place. We are now assessing the moose population in that area to see if it has improved. We are consulting people who are affected in that direct area, and, if it is determined that the populations have not improved, they will be going to the next step, which does include predator control measures.
Question re: Mobile home lots
Mr. Lang: New question, Mr. Speaker. I would like to direct a question to the Minister for Community and Transportation Services. Over a year ago, this House debated at great length the need for mobile home lots in Whitehorse, which we all agreed would provide a type of housing in Whitehorse that would be affordable, as well as provide a good standard of living. Last spring, the Minister presented to us, in the budget, $900,000, which this side agreed to, for the construction of a mobile home subdivision in Granger. Yesterday, we learned that nothing had been done on the subdivision.
Could the Minister tell this House why YTG and the City of Whitehorse did not resolve the impasse on the question of the underground electrical wiring versus overhead wiring this past summer, so that construction could have proceeded?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is indeed correct that the matter was raised in budget debate yesterday, and I provided some information to the Member with respect to the mobile home subdivision in Granger. Resolution of the matter has not concluded. In short, the reasoning behind why the subdivision has not proceeded is that there is disagreement between the city and ourselves over the level of services. The level of services reflects on the cost, and it is our contention that the suggested level of service being proposed by the city exceeds the amount we are prepared to put into the subdivision, which would make the cost of the lots prohibitive. That is the long and the short of it.
Mr. Lang: Meanwhile, there are no lots available for people looking for this type of lot. Why did the Minister not proceed with the installation of water and sewer this summer and try to resolve the electrical installation question, so that at least the water and sewer could be in place and these lots could have been put on the market in the spring?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To have proceeded with the water and sewer installation and not the rest of the development is not a wise expenditure of funds. The government would be spending a considerable amount of money in land development that was not being sold. The decision was made to hold off until we reach resolution.
Mr. Lang: The unfortunate aspect of this is the public suffers for this.
Yesterday the Minister indicated to us that the government was projecting an added inflationary cost to the construction of water and sewer projects this coming year. How much more is this particular development projected to cost this coming year over last year?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not have that information at this time. I indicated there would be a natural inflationary increase in the cost of construction. I cannot tell him precisely what those figures are at this instant. I am meeting with the city on Friday morning. The item is on the agenda and we could very well have a resolution.
Question re: Mobile home lots
Mr. Lang: Is it the position of the government that the lots will not be developed if the city and the government do not come to a compromise on the installation of the electrical?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The position is that we cannot proceed with land development that would cost so much as to prohibit those lots from selling. I do not expect that to be a permanently irrevocable position. We have proposed a number of options to the city to address this. One of the options was to consider another portion of Granger subdivision for mobile home lots where it could be cheaper to bring those lots onstream and provide a regularized price for the trailer lots.
Question re: Licence plates
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services regarding his licence plate damage-control program.
Can the Minister report to the House what the three questions are on the questionnaire he is sending out?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure I entirely picked up the question. The Member is seeking information on what questions are asked on the questionnaire? I believe that information is available. I will take some time and provide the precise information to the Member in writing.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us whether or not he will be enclosing stamped, self-addressed envelopes along with the questionnaire so that people will be able to return the questionnaire to the government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The answer to that is no. Stamped, self-addressed envelopes are not being provided. As I previously indicated to the Member, the questionnaire is very brief. In the first instance, it seeks an opinion about the proposed licence plate. It seeks a response on whether the gold panner should or should not be removed. I believe there is another question or two, but I do not have them with me. There is also a short space for open comment.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us whether or not people with multiple vehicle registrations will be receiving multiple questionnaires?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The questionnaire will be included in the regular mailing of information about the staggered system. On that basis, every motor vehicle registrant will receive a copy of the questionnaire. In the case of where an owner has several vehicles, yes, they would be receiving several questionnaires.
Question re: Licence plates
Mrs. Firth: With respect to the statistical validity of the Ministers questionnaire, what percentage of accuracy is it going to have?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member must realize that the questionnaire being sent out is not a structured scientific study on the opinion of Yukon people about how they consider the licence plate. I would additionally suggest that neither is a petition a highly scientific study of the opinions of Yukoners on the point. Nevertheless, to respond to the Members question, it is my intention to receive the input from these questionnaires, review the petitions I see are being tabled, to fully consider the opinion of Yukon people that has been generated through other sources, and address the question at that time.
Mrs. Firth: With all due respect, there will be no statistical validity to his questionnaire. I am sure the Minister recognizes that. Some people think it is really quite silly that you would expect people to respond at Christmas time through the mail, and you are not even enclosing envelopes.
How many of these questionnaires, pictures and explanations about the changes in the motor vehicle registration are going to be mailed out? What is the total number?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe I answered that in response to the previous question: 30,000. The number of registered motor vehicles in the territory is 30,000, and that is the number of information packages about the licence change that are being mailed out.
Mrs. Firth: When will they be mailed out? How much money is it going to cost for this damage control program?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is erroneously suggesting this is a damage-control program, and that there is some massive additional cost associated with it. The intended mailing has not changed; it is an anticipated cost in the calculation of costs for the licence plates. The numbers are contained and predicted in the budget. There is no actual cost to the mailing. Stamps would have been provided for the information. We are simply attaching a one page questionnaire and a reprint of the plate.
Question re: Licence plates
Mrs. Firth: With all due respect. you are enclosing more documentation in the package. How much is it for the questionnaire to be printed, for the licence plate facsimile to be printed - and I know laser copies are about $4 each? How much is it costing?
People object that this Minister is using tax dollars to push this project down their throats. They really object to that. That is the ultimate offence with this licence plate issue. I want figures on what this is going to cost, as do the people out there.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is attempting to state that there is a massive cost increase associated with this. If there is an increase to the mailing cost because of the addition of two sheets of paper, that is a pro-rated cost that would be attached to each package in the increase of mailing rate; say, from a 38-cent stamp to a 46-cent stamp. I will undertake to seek out that information.
I can find out an estimated cost of photocopying the 30,000 questionnaire sheets being stuffed. The reproduction of the plate being enclosed cost 10 cents apiece.
Mrs. Firth: You can sure tell the Minister is not spending his own money. I would like a commitment that the Minister will bring those costs to the House tomorrow. We are finished sitting in the Legislature tomorrow and the Minister is going to make this decision when the House is adjourned. It is only fair that the taxpayers have a full understanding of what this government is doing.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The other day the Members attempted to put on record that there was a massive increase in cost related to a five-colour reprint. I pointed out that there is a 23-cent per plate cost difference. Here again, the Member is attempting to suggest that there is a massive cost relating to the addition of two sheets of paper to a pre-arranged mailing. I simply submit that the cost is minimal and I have identified precisely what the reprint of the plate is costing. I will seek out what additional cost to the mailing may be involved by the addition of two sheets.
In conclusion, I have no problem providing detailed costs relating to the decision made to the Member. I do not think it is an inappropriate decision, considering that a licence plate has been suggested, people have indicated in some measure an objection to it, and I am providing an opportunity to make a decision based on information provided to them.
Question re: Licence plates
Mr. Phillips: I would like to follow up on some of the questions from the Member for Riverdale South. I would like to ask the Minister responsible for the new licence plate if he will not only consider just the results of this high-profile, high-cost damage-control campaign to sell his new licence plate idea but, as well, if he will consider the many letters that appeared in the local newspapers that object to this move, the 30 to nine score against this proposal on a CBC phone-in program, and the literally hundreds and hundreds of signatures on the petitions that are asking if the Government of the Yukon will retain the gold panner and the Klondike theme?
Will the Minister consider all these other representations that have been made by people of the Yukon when he makes the decision on whether to proceed with the new plate?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am really pleased that Members opposite at least support one policy and initiative of this government, and that is recycling. If the Member had been listening, he would realize I have already committed, publicly and in this House, to review documentation that is tabled here in the form of petitions, information that is circulated in public by way of other forms of media, by way of the response I am seeking out and have stimulated. I have already given that commitment, and I will gladly recycle my answer and say yes, I will take all that fully into account. By January 15, or shortly thereafter, I will be making a final decision.
Mr. Phillips: I think the Minister responsible for the new licence plate should recycle the whole idea in his mind. The new licence plates are not acceptable to the Yukon public. There is no need to go to any extra cost to ask Yukoners whether they like or dislike the plates. The facts are known. Hundreds of Yukoners ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Hundreds of Yukoners have spoken out against the new licence plate. Will the Minister scrap the whole idea of this propaganda and damage-control campaign and go back to the old gold panner licence plate with the Klondike theme on it? Will the Minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is seeking a decision from me that would reverse decision that was made, which was not an inappropriate decision: the introduction of a new plate, which, I should point out to Members opposite, is receiving some acceptance in the community.
The Members may smile and jeer about the support for the plate, but I have received it. I have received phone calls of support. I meet people on the street who say, do not change your mind. I realize I am faced with a tough situation, and I am going to deal with it in the method I have laid out. I am going to receive the input that is being generated by the Members opposite. I am going to review the information that is being generated in the media. I am going to take into full consideration the input from private citizens. I am going to review ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Mr. Speaker, I am telling the Members what my position is. I will review the results of the questionnaire that I have sent out. The Members can make every effort they wish before January 15. I am not doing anything until then.
Mr. Phillips: What is wrong with the government admitting it made a mistake? What is wrong with the Minister realizing he has made a mistake with this licence plate at this time, and to change his mind and admit to the public that it was not such a good idea after all, and that he wants to go back to the old licence plate? What is wrong with that? Ask the Minister why he will not consider that.
It is going to be interesting to see when he gets the results of the questionnaire what he does then. I am convinced the questionnaire will come in against the new licence plate. It will be interesting to see what the Minister does then.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I have indicated to Members previously, the decision was made to introduce a new plate to reflect and represent a broad depth to the Yukon. We have more than just the Klondike history that is associated with the Yukon, and that is not said with any disrespect or disregard for the Klondike theme. Two years ago the tourism strategy introduced, on the basis of statistic data, the position and the...
Some Member: (inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Members do not seem to want to hear an answer. Am I entitled to continue?
The new licence plate was generated with considerable thought and planning. It represents the broad depth of culture and history in this territory. I do not think that it was wrong. I do not think it was a mistake. I think it truly represents what Yukon stands for, in terms of environment, in terms of history...
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member please conclude this answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: ... and on, or shortly after, January 15, I will advise Members accordingly of what the results of the public input has been to the suggestion.
Question re: Hootalinqua North Plan
Mr. Phelps: I was worried about the filibuster that we were getting into, by the Minister, on the magical mystery tour that we embarked upon.
Yesterday I was into a brief line of questioning when the timer went off so I want to get back to that before it goes off again in Question Period. The same Minister may recall that I was asking him some questions about the infamous draft Hootalinqua North Plan and about the letter that was sent to him with copies to others, including me, by the Yukon Livestock and Agricultural Association. Yesterday the Minister intimated that he would consider forming a working group, which would fairly represent the areas involved and affected by the plan. When will he come to that decision?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I indicated to the Member yesterday, the original intention was to come forward with a response to the Hootalinqua North Plan by the fall. I had to delay that decision to year-end, which of course would put it in the immediate next two weeks. The problems associated with coming forward with a specific plan have been numerous, as the Member is aware. I spent considerable time in his riding - in public meetings and visitations to the riding. I have reviewed the plan in some detail. I have analyzed the responses of people in considerable depth and it just requires more time than I had anticipated to come forward with a final position.
Mr. Phelps: I am very pleased that the Minister did spend considerable time in the riding that I represent because I am sure he has come to understand the uniqueness of the characters who do live there. The Yukon Livestock and Agricultural Association is worried, and say so in the letter, that the government may be working from a hidden agenda. I am concerned about that very issue myself because in reviewing the requested funding by department, by project, that we were given with regard to the upcoming budget, which was handed in some time ago, before the plan was finalized, we see that...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: ...the lands department has all kinds of requests for money to plan and build subdivisions in Hootalinqua North. Why have they got these requests in to the department if they do not have a hidden agenda for Hootalinqua North?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I want to assure the Member that there is no hidden agenda relating to Hootalinqua North. I do not have my budget figures with me, but I do recall the $275,000 that was earmarked for the Hootalinqua North area that did not get spent this past year because the final plan was not in place.
I anticipate I will be able to come forward with a proposal for dealing with the continued planning of the area very shortly. The suggestion put forward by the livestock association is not unreasonable. It is in line with several options I am looking at now to address the more detailed planning for regions of that area.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us why the lands branch requested $150,000 for development of an extensive subdivision in Hootalinqua North if it did not have a hidden agenda?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is not a hidden agenda to identify funds for development purposes that are going to be contingent upon the adoption of a plan involving residents of the area. The intention was to have a plan adopted. We will require funds for the detailed planning that will follow.
I do not want to mislead the Member by suggesting precisely what approach we will take because it is not finalized. Clearly, we will require some committee work, further research work, further detailed information on portions of the area, and monies will be required. The Member is aware of what the plan does propose.
Speaker: Order please. Will the Member conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is aware of what the plan does propose and has to recognize that aspects of that plan are good and could very well be adopted and pursued.
Question re: Hootalinqua North Plan
Mr. Phelps: It is very strange that these requests come in prior to the draft plan being amended at all in accordance with desires expressed to the Minister at public meetings.
In addition to the last $150,000 item requested by the lands branch is a request to develop Whitehorse Hootalinqua North for $400,000. Why was that request for money put in if the lands branch is not operating from a hidden agenda?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is citing budget figures. I would have appreciated it if he had brought them up during the debate yesterday when I had my information. I cannot respond precisely to the specific amounts of money identified for specific development exercises. Certainly a number of long-term proposals come to mind, but I certainly cannot speak to them without the detailed budget information.
Mr. Phelps: That is two items. There is an item from lands branch to develop Hootalinqua North Intensive Plan for $25,000. There is an item to develop Lake Laberge site - $20,000. There is an item to develop Flat Creek Whitehorse - $100,000.
Why is all this money being requested before a plan has been accepted by the Minister and before modifications have been made to the draft plan in accordance with the expressed desire of residents at public meetings? Why is lands branch proceeding this way?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is acutely aware of budget processes. We are talking about money identified in a budget that is going to conclude 18 months from now. It is not unreasonable to project anticipated expenditures for lot expansion, or some geotechnical or engineering work. It is not unreasonable that the department would identify some growth elements to existing situations in the area over an 18-month prediction. That is not unreasonable, and the Member is aware of that.
If he were to raise those kinds of questions during budget debate, I would give him very specific detail as to what it is intended for.
Mr. Phelps: What is unreasonable is that the lands branch seems hell-bent on spending money and developing subdivisions in Hootalinqua North when residents do not want subdivisions in the area at all. That is what is unreasonable.
Will the Minister not agree this can only make people more dubious about the process?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The dubious nature of the questioning is what is at fault here. We are talking about a budget process that is speaking to an intended time frame 18 months from now. We are speaking to a branch that is required to plan activity for an 18-month period. There is nothing unreasonable about identifying costs related to development. The Member knows full well, we will not move on any development without the approval of the area residents affected. That has not ever been the case in the history of this government. We have taken any development to the community and received the appropriate approvals before proceeding. I am not sure what kinds of fears the Member is attempting to raise here. There is nothing dubious; there is nothing hidden. It is all up-front and above-board, and that is where it is at.
The only regrettable aspect is...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: ... I do not have the final plan in place yet, and that is coming very shortly.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On behalf of the House Leaders, I would request unanimous consent to proceed directly to Motions Other than Government Motions, rather than calling for Motions for the Production of Papers, and for the motions to be called in the following order: Motion No. 48, Motion No. 47 and Motion No. 25.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motions other than Government Motions.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Item No. 4, standing in the name of Mr. Joe.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 4?
Mr. Joe: Yes.
Motion No. 48
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Tatchun
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of the Yukon should consider establishing a law for the mandatory use of seatbelts for drivers and passengers on public roads in the Yukon.
Mr. Joe: I am pleased to present this motion to this House.
I believe that seatbelts do save lives. I am also troubled because there are many people in the Yukon who, for one reason or other, might not be able to always use seatbelts.
As we debate this motion we should think about life in the Yukon and the importance of vehicles in our lives.
Many families in the Yukon have pickup trucks for travelling.
When a whole family travels in a truck, and there are only three seatbelts, someone will not be buckled up.
Mr. Speaker, I repeat that I believe that seatbelts do their job. Seatbelts do save lives. Seatbelts help prevent serious injury. Still, if a family can afford only one vehicle and that vehicle does not have enough seatbelts, what is the solution?
Many old cars do not have seatbelts at all.
We must look closely at how to put together fair seatbelt legislation but we must also remember how important it is for seatbelts to be used.
I believe we must have a well planned seatbelt law. I hope all Members in this House will support this motion. Thank you.
Mr. Phelps: This is a motion that I find quite difficult to deal with. On the one hand, I personally firmly believe that seatbelts save lives and reduce injuries in automobile accidents. I am quite certain that in my own case my life has been saved on one or two occasions when I was in bad accidents and was wearing a seatbelt.
I have had quite a number of friends and acquaintances, over the years, who have died in automobile accidents in the Yukon and elsewhere. I am quite certain that many of them would be here today had they been wearing seatbelts when the accident occurred. I also believe that seatbelts can help avoid accidents, can help avoid them by holding the driver behind the wheel when a car is temporarily out of control and slides into a ditch, or whatever.
Again, I have had friends, on at least two occasions, who lost control of the vehicle they were driving and ended up in an accident where they would have been held behind the wheel, had they been wearing seatbelts on the occasion in question. I have had the occasion to review all kinds of statistics on the issue of seatbelts and safety.
I have had the opportunity in years gone by to review videos that are available on the issue of seatbelt safety; they were quite instructive, so I do not have to be sold on that one issue: that people should wear seatbelts.
When I have passengers in my vehicle I insist as strongly, as vociferously as I can that all passengers wear seatbelts.
I could say that on very few occasions are my requests ignored. I do recall one such occasion. I was driving to Beaver Creek from Haines Junction and my passenger was the very hon. - and sometimes ornery - Member for Kluane, and I asked him to buckle up, and he told me where I should go. It was quite impossible and impractical for me to go there at that particular time, although I may get that chance in the years to come.
We were going up to visit with constituents in the Beaver Creek area and the Member was making a point he has raised on occasion here and with various Yukoners about the deplorable condition of the Alaska Highway from White River to Beaver Creek. I was travelling along that stretch at a fairly good clip when I hit one of the infamous frost heaves on the Alaska Highway and the hon. Member for Kluane had a collision with the roof of the cab of the pick-up truck. Not one, not twice, but three times in rapid succession. So I stopped and checked for damage and fortunately there was none, despite his hard-headed attitude from time-to-time, and there were no dents in the roof of the cab. One thing that came from all that was that, from then on when he travelled with me, he always buckled up. I digress.
I personally have no problem with the concept that people should buckle up. On the other hand, I have, and I am sure I share this with a lot of Yukoners and other people across Canada, a great deal of difficulty with the concept that Big Brother always has to step in and force people to help themselves. It makes me very uneasy. Mandatory seatbelt legislation is a commentary on our thinking about personal rights and freedoms.
As most Members know, there was a case heard in Alberta when the Charter was raised in defence of a person who was charged under the mandatory seatbelt legislation in that province. The trial was successful. Two days ago, it was overturned at the Court of Appeal level. I understand there is a good chance it will proceed to the Supreme Court of Canada for final hearing on that issue.
Now, because of the way the law stands, Alberta does have an enforceable mandatory seatbelt provision, as do the other jurisdictions in Canada. Simply because other people have such laws does not completely convince me that it is absolutely right to bring such a piece of legislation in here. I feel I am in a dilemma when dealing with this issue, as do some Members on this side of the House. For that reason I want to make it very clear that Members on this side will be voting according to their conscience, and we will not be bringing any party line to the vote on the issue. It is not a minor issue at all. It is an issue of conscience and an issue that each individual certainly, in our caucus, will have to struggle with, and balance his or her principles and enter into the discussion having made the agonizing decision of whether or not to support this motion.
I have thought about it fairly carefully since the motion was introduced. I personally will not be supporting the motion and want to give a few reasons in addition to what I have said as to why.
First of all, I cannot understand why we have a motion about considering seatbelt legislation in the House at this time. If the government feels strongly about imposing mandatory seatbelt legislation, and it would not be unexpected on the part of most Yukoners, I do not understand why it did not introduce legislation so we could scrutinize it and see if we felt it was fair.
Second, and more important, I personally feel that other steps should have been taken prior to the introduction of this motion or the introduction of legislation. It seems to me that if there is a sincere belief in the value of using seatbelts, or buckling up - if there is a true and deeply felt concern on the part of any Yukoner about the value of using seatbelts, and that people should be jolted and made to get into the habit of using them - the first step would be to educate the public about wearing seatbelts.
There is a lot of material available that could be utilized in the school systems, could be made available through the libraries: videos, statistics and articles. Most of these are extremely convincing. At least, the ones I have had occasion to view in my lifetime were convincing enough to convince courts of law that not wearing seatbelts amounts to at least contributory negligence on the part of the person who was not wearing the belt, when it comes to ascertaining damages. It is enough to have insurance companies statistically agree that wearing seatbelts will reduce the damages incurred by accidents, and the accidents themselves.
I feel this government ought to have at least attempted other means of persuasion, other than Big Brother and fines, to get people to agree or understand why seatbelts are so important and ought to be worn by people.
Therefore, I feel this motion is premature, as would be legislation.
However, if such an education program is undertaken, and there is some time and effort put into it, and if it appears people still will not buckle up, and if the other side then introduces legislation with regard to mandatory seatbelts, not just a motion, and if the legislation is reasonable, then I may support it, and probably will, if those conditions are met. I feel those caveats have to be made.
Without dismissing this motion out-of-hand, I want to thank the Member for Tatchun for introducing the motion and forcing us to speak to it. Without being frivolous or attempting to be political on the issue, at this point in time I cannot support the motion.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the Minister who would be responsible for any introduction of mandatory seatbelt legislation, I have a particular interest in this motion and in the debate.
The Member outlined his first-hand experiences relating to the value of seatbelt use and I, too, have had occasion to enjoy those experiences where seatbelts have been used and have reduced injury and provided extreme benefit.
At the same time I have had occasion to witness tragic results where seatbelts were not being used. It was my hope that this motion would receive unanimous support. The Leader of the Official Opposition has indicated that he does not intend to support the motion and that Members are going to be voting their conscience. Perhaps during the course of this debate Members would be persuaded to the view that this is the first step of a discussion, education, and the testing of waters, to determine whether seatbelt legislation is appropriate in the Yukon.
I believe the unanimous support of this motion would provide the necessary signal to the public to prepare for appropriate steps to be taken to introduce legislation.
Personally, I support the motion. I support the introduction of mandatory seatbelt use. I use them. I encourage their use. I have no problem with a broader application of their use by the general public.
We, as leaders, must take seriously all matters of public health and safety. I believe that we ought to be unanimously responding in the public interest in any matters relating to safer driving practices. As the Leader of the Official Opposition indicated, there is no question that statistics are overwhelmingly in favour of seatbelt use, and that the public benefit from their use is quite compelling.
As Members may be aware, Yukon is the only jurisdiction in the country without comprehensive seatbelt legislation. The Member who just spoke indicated there ought to be other steps first before legislation. I submit that this is one of those steps. There are others. Seatbelt use is encouraged, both by this government through departmental initiatives, by the RCMP and by various organizations.
This government has already taken some initiative and has previously provided the necessary legislation to ensure that children under six years of age have restraint in vehicles. That is already regulated and is already law. By policy this government has introduced measures whereby government employees must use seatbelts while in government vehicles and while on the job. I have every reason to believe that many people do use seatbelts in the ordinary course of driving. It cannot be justified that we should leave seatbelt use to discretion when we look at what I see as a number of alarming Yukoner statistics.
In preparation for this motion, I was able to review some statistics in the Yukon, and particularly the number of fatalities over the last two and one-half years. It was shown that of the 25 total fatalities in the Yukon in the past two and one-half years only four were wearing seatbelts; twenty-one were not.
It is a fairly well-established national and international statistic that the risk of fatality is four times greater for drivers who are thrown from their vehicles, than for drivers who stay inside. That statistic is extended for passengers to indicate that risk of death from ejection is two and one-half times greater than for non-ejected passengers.
I recall seeing a video on the subject and one of the police officers portrayed in the video has stuck with me forever. His words were, I have never had to unbuckle a corpse. The validity of the statistics to support seatbelt use become much more meaningful in the context of that statement.
The Member has raised the issue about whether mandatory seatbelt use infringes on the rights of individuals. Well, I respect those rights, Mr. Speaker, but the mandatory use of seatbelts, I believe, is for the good of the public. I suggest that driving is a privilege and regulation is appropriate. It seems to me that, as a society, we undertake a horrendous cost to care for an individual who is injured, and as a society, we have the right to take responsible steps to prevent that injury. I am sure that the legal experts could extend that argument for days in a courtroom but, in short, I submit that individual rights are not infringed upon when we take steps to improve the public expenditures related to safe driving.
As the Member also indicated, there are statistics fully supporting the position. There is no question of the massive health costs to our system resulting from needless injury. I certainly do not propose to detail any related agony and suffering from needless injury relating to traffic accidents. As I indicated, the Yukon is the only jurisdiction that does not have comprehensive seatbelt legislation. All other jurisdictions have it and they have been putting it in place since 1977. In all of those jurisdictions there has been a resultant decrease in accident fatalities and injury.
The Member raised the situation in Alberta, where the constitutionality of the seatbelt use was challenged, and that we may well see this progress to the Supreme Court. That is the case, and something similar happened in Prince Edward Island in July, where, in an appeal, the ruling of unconstitutionality was overturned. In my research, I was also able to determine that, in the United States, 28 states have mandatory seatbelt usage.
I should also tell Members that at a recent transportation ministers meeting in Calgary, the Yukon was mildly chided for not having mandatory seatbelt legislation in place. In fact, at that conference, a motion was adopted by all ministers to encourage programs that were aimed at increasing seatbelt use by travellers to 95 percent. Currently, in national driving habits, 75 percent of the driving public use seatbelts; that is not the case in the Yukon.
It was rather interesting what led to the motion. It was the result of a study that was done nationally by the federal Transport ministry. The results showed that in five provinces where there is seatbelt use, 80 percent or more of the people use them. Alberta came out on top of those statistics. In other words, on a pro-rated basis, Alberta uses seatbelts the most. The Yukon was at the bottom.
What I am particularly interested in in this debate is to hear from Members about exemptions from seatbelt use. In all jurisdictions where there is seatbelt jurisdiction - that is in all the jurisdictions, because we are the only ones who do not have it - there are a number of exemptions that apply. They vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
For example, in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario, firefighters are not required to wear seatbelts in any type of vehicle travelling. In a number of provinces, you do not have to be strapped if you happen to be driving in reverse, not that you may be doing it often, but those are a couple of examples where exemptions are applied.
If we are contemplating legislation in the Yukon and are in the process of educating the public about the value of seatbelt legislation, we would want to hear precisely what exemptions we are going to be considering. We are a unique corner of Canada, and there may well be quite a number of situations where seatbelt use could legitimately be exempted. Those are the issues I would like to hear Members thoughts about.
I will not continue the discussion much more at this point. I have stated my position. I am quite amenable to the support of the motion. I am interested in the debate, particularly in matters relating to exemptions. Members are correct when they suggest that public education is required. Members are correct in recognizing the value of seatbelt usage, both to our health-care cost and to personal agony and injury. All arguments support seatbelt usage, and I would like to hear more discussion on the matter and, particularly, in relation to exemptions.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to start out by informing you that my hon. Leader did not inform you of everything; I just do not drive with him anymore. I would also like to point out to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that I am going to have a hard time driving backward between here and Haines Junction.
In speaking to this motion, I thought very carefully about my decision on whether to vote for it or against it. To look at this as a simple but very important motion, and having done some reading of experts, and reading of statistics and polls on the subject, I suppose a smart politician would vote yes and just forget about it. There is no doubt in my mind that seatbelts save lives, and the majority appears to want legislation.
However, I am very amazed at so many of these people. In one poll, I saw 80 percent voted for seatbelt legislation and yet, we are not wearing seatbelts. Why not? We are waiting for the government to make us.
Our society is getting to the position where to save your own life the government has to get involved to make you do these things. It is not just I who have said that. If you watched television last night after the decision was made in the court in Alberta, the people they interviewed said the same thing, that they wanted seatbelt legislation but, until they were made to do it, they would not buckle up.
That bothered me very much. It amazes me that so many people want the government to control every aspect of their lives. Although it may be something they want, they will not do it until the government tells them to.
That is a big problem with me. I do not believe that the government should be telling you to do everything you do. I do not believe government should be moving into every area. We have two motions on the Order Paper today that take rights away from the citizens of Canada. It is not a way Canada should operate, and is not the way Canada was made the great nation it is now. As I recall as a young man the government had very little to say and we made a great Canada. We are losing that now. We are losing our respect because we continually let government interfere and we do not back off.
We have another motion coming up that calls for taking things away. Every time we turn around they are doing it. It is not just this government. We have to look at the government in Ottawa, too. They are doing a good job of helping this government control our lives. Just look in your wallet and see how many numbers you have. Coming from a family that worked with cattle and horses, I am beginning to wonder when they are going to put a tattoo in our ear so they can look after us that way. It is becoming more and more this way. It is not funny. Take a look in your wallets and see how many numbers you have. This is a public building and at 5:30 p.m. you cannot go out those doors. You have to go out through a controlled door with security guards. The people cannot come in here at night and listen to this Legislature unless they sign with the security guards. They voted us in here and they cannot come down to watch unless they go through the security guard. What kind of a democracy are we getting into? You may say that this has nothing to do with seatbelts, but, yes, it does. Every time you give up some of your rights - you are losing them. I can cite many more examples of government doing these things.
I am going to vote against this motion. I realize it will probably have no effect, but it is a tiny little bit of me that is standing up and saying no. No more government interference with my private life. I do not want it, and I am going to continue to do that for the rest of my time in this building.
In closing, let me make it very plain that on April 2, 1986, I voted for seatbelts for children up to age six. I believe it is the responsibility of every one of us here, every family and every parent to look after children who are not old enough to look after themselves. I have no problem with that. After six years when they start to grow up and are able to think then I have a problem that we are taking away the rights of our people.
Ms. Kassi: I know all the reasons for legislation for the mandatory use of seatbelts is necessary, but I must speak to this House on behalf of my constituents in Old Crow. If we are to pass legislation we must make special provisions for communities where vehicles are used for work purposes and many people must be transported to do a job. In Old Crow, we use our vehicles, and there are about four of them, to carry sometimes 10 to 15 people to hunt on the mountain, or to go to the river to pick up our meat. Sometimes we have to carry many people on one vehicle for hauling wood or for transporting people to or from the airport. Even for sewage or garbage pick up three or four people work out of the back of a truck. We are also looking at getting a van to transport children to school from the new subdivision. We must consider special circumstances like this when we make our laws.
I want to stress, however, that I am in full support of legislation requiring seatbelt use on highways and in the larger cities in the Yukon. I, too, believe that many people killed in traffic accidents would be alive if they had used their seatbelts. I also agree that injuries would be less serious if passengers, as well as drivers, would use seatbelts.
It of course would mean lower medical costs all the way around. I still feel, however, that survival means different things to different people. If we take away the ability of the community to feed itself and keep its home warm, this is not survival, and Old Crow is not the only community that hunts for food. We must consider many sides of the issue before we produce legislation. I repeat: there must be some sort of a law covering the use of seatbelts in the Yukon. In the final analysis, despite the considerations I have outlined, I support the motion put forward by the Member for Tatchun.
Mr. Devries: I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this motion and I also feel that if the government had done a better job and a better advertising campaign to convince people to wear their seatbelts, possibly this motion would not be necessary. By bringing a motion like this forward, in a way the government is saying that it has failed in an awareness campaign, and that many of us are so irresponsible that we have to be forced, by legislation, to do something that most responsible, aware citizens would do voluntarily in the first place.
I recently visited Ontario and they have seatbelt legislation, yet within 10 miles of where I stayed, there were three fatal accidents, all involving people obviously not wearing their seatbelts who were thrown from vehicles.
Mandatory seatbelt legislation alone will not make everyone strap up. An extensive education program, of which I have seen little in the last 15 years, could perhaps be more effective; a program that contains certain statistics that prove the facts as they have been mentioned here, that seatbelts do save lives, that your seatbelts improve your odds of walking away from an accident, that seatbelts could help you and your lawyer in damage-claim awards.
I would ask the Minister if he knows how many of the 21 people whom he mentioned were impaired?
It has been illegal to drive when impaired for years and yet a high percentage of these fatal accidents are caused by impaired drivers. Do you think an impaired person would hop into a car and buckle up, when they can barely get the key in the ignition in the first place? Perhaps cars could be designed so that they would not start unless you are buckled in. It could easily be done because now many of them have idiot lights and buzzers. Perhaps the ignition switch could be made slightly more awkward, as a deterrent for a drunk to get the vehicle started.
There are a lot of possibilities without legislation. Perhaps we should consider ways of helping some Yukoners become more responsible for their own well-being.
I will support the motion as it does state consider establishing a law, but I assure the Member for Tatchun that it will not work without a more effective awareness campaign aimed toward a public with a more responsible attitude toward their own well-being.
Hon. Ms. Joe: As I rise in support of this motion I recall speaking to a similar motion some years ago in this House, where I expressed my concern and support for mandatory child restraints at that time. Since then, I have become more aware of the increasing evidence that proves that seatbelts do save lives. Though there is always an exception to the rule, nevertheless, statistics have proven that seatbelts increase the chances of surviving, or at least decreasing injuries in an automobile accident. I am convinced that the majority of injuries in accidents, and the severity of these injuries, can be greatly reduced by seatbelts.
Here in the Yukon, as everywhere else, we suffer from the tragedies of a number of car accidents and the accidents that we do experience touch us all because we know our fellow Yukoners well and fatalities concern ourselves. Statistics have shown that a number of fatalities could have been avoided if in fact seatbelts had been worn. There is evidence enough to show that lives might have been saved if seatbelts had been worn and our friends and our neighbours deserve the care and attention that this issue has brought, namely some form of seatbelt legislation.
In August of this year I was able to present to this government a policy of mandatory use of seatbelts for government vehicles. This policy was jointly developed by the Public Service Commission and the Department of Justice. While this policy has developed an awareness among government employees, it also served to spark a great deal of interest from the public at large. We, as Members of this House, need to respond to the public concerns for their safety and well-being.
However, while it would be satisfying to think that everyone who was transported by vehicle would be safer with seatbelts, this is unrealistic and there are exceptions to the rule. One area that might be adversely affected by seatbelt legislation is at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
The centre has one 12-passenger security van that is used to transport inmates. This van presently does not have seatbelts, and there are two potential difficulties that could arise with mandatory seatbelts. Firstly, the seatbelts could be used as a mechanism by an inmate to escape custody but, more important, in the case of an accident it may be difficult for a handcuffed inmate to release the belt, which could result in a potentially dangerous situation for the inmate. I would request some consideration in regard to that.
While there may be other exceptions to be reviewed and considered, I feel there should be a genuine effort to develop seatbelt legislation that will affect the needs of the public at large.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity of sharing with my caucus colleagues a short filmstrip on the argument for seatbelts. This video, entitled Theres Room to Live, can be obtained from the RCMP. I would encourage every Member in this House to take the time to view this video.
It did not convince me of the need for seatbelt legislation, because I needed no convincing. However, it did relay a message to me as to the fact that there is room in a car to live in any accident. Without a seatbelt, the chances of being thrown out of a vehicle increases greatly.
I have worn seatbelts for a number of years, and I insist, as other Members do, that everybody who travels in my car wears a seatbelt. I think that kind of protection to my family and friends is very important to me and to them.
I do concern myself about other people who are not entirely convinced that seatbelts are an important part of driving or riding in a car. I worry about my family and my friends who travel in other cars, especially the younger ones, who are not required by the driver to wear seatbelts.
I understand from Members who have already spoken that there will be a great deal of opposition to seatbelt legislation. The Member for Kluane has stated that case very well. I, myself, have been subject to many people coming up to me and telling me that seatbelt legislation stinks, in no uncertain terms.
However, I do believe seatbelt legislation is important and that we have to seriously consider the introduction of seatbelt legislation in this House. I would seriously consider asking everybody in this House to support this motion.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As my colleagues have indicated, as well as Members on the side opposite, there is now more than enough evidence available to the general public that the wearing of seatbelts significantly reduces the likelihood and severity of injuries to individuals involved in motor vehicle accidents.
I find it interesting to note that, although I am not aware of any legal obligation to wear seatbelts in airplanes, we all instinctively buckle up, even though air travel is statistically one of the safest forms of travel. Strangely, some of us find it oppressive to perform the same simple function when we step into an automobile which, we can all agree, is the least safest form of mass transport.
In my view, the overwhelming weight of evidence argues convincingly for the mandatory use of seatbelts in motor vehicles. It is my understanding that we are the last jurisdiction in the United States and Canada to consider such a law.
I know Members of the side opposite have just argued that the first step should be one of education. I do not disagree with that but, obviously, if all jurisdictions in the United States and Canada have also tried that route and found it to fail and, consequently, have introduced legislation, I think it is a pretty convincing argument that it is about time for seatbelt legislation.
Even the Member for Kluane mentions the poll he cited last night where 80 percent of Albertans said they were all in favour of seatbelts, that it was a good idea, but they would not buckle up until there was seatbelt legislation. They were just waiting for government to enforce it. That is a good point. It emphasizes the old saying that common sense is not very common.
Having stated my support for mandatory use of seatbelts, there should be consideration given to specific exemptions to seatbelt legislations. In jurisdictions all across North America exemptions exist. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, mandatory seatbelt laws do not apply on Indian lands, although in Saskatchewan, bands can pass their own bylaws regarding seatbelts if they want seatbelt laws in force.
In recognition of the Yukon situation, and particularly the community of Old Crow, which has few vehicles and not many kilometers of road, perhaps an exemption such as this would make sense. I know the Member for Old Crow would appreciate that suggestion.
Many Yukoners in our big territory enjoy a rural life style that necessitates the use of a pickup truck as a primary family vehicle. For a variety of reasons and situations Yukon pickup trucks are often called upon to carry more than two or three people. In these situations one or more of the passengers is likely to be without access to a seatbelt. Practically speaking, it is really not possible to install four or five seatbelts in a pickup truck. I believe that a seatbelt law that fails to recognize the facts of Yukon life would be a failure. I would like to draw the Members attention to the fact that in at least two jurisdictions in Canada they have legislation of this sort.
Both Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island exempt passengers without seatbelts if none wre available to them and all seatbelts in the vehicle are being used. British Columbia recognizes this to some extent and allows three people to sit in the front of a vehicle even if there are only two seatbelts. Similarly, rear-seat passengers are exempt if there are not enough seatbelts to go around.
I believe it is important that the laws of this Legislative Assembly do not impact unfairly on those in our territory who must, as a matter of daily economic necessity, drive with more people in a vehicle than there are seatbelts. It would be worthwhile to study the examples offered by Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia before enacting Yukon seatbelt legislation.
I was pleased to note in my review of seatbelt situations in other jurisdictions that several provinces exempt drivers of older vehicles. In Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in particular, vehicles built before 1971 are exempt from seatbelt provisions. As an owner of a stock 1956 Chevrolet, I would support a legislative amendment that recognizes the classic character of my car and did not require me to install seatbelts that were not original equipment.
Having cited a few examples that could be used as possible exemptions for seatbelt legislation, I want to make the Leader of the Official Opposition aware that, in response to his position that we should not be dealing with this motion at this time, we should be dealing with the legislation, I think it is more proper to deal with this first. The motion gives an opportunity for all Members to express their views on this matter, because there are a number of situations that warrant exemptions to a blanket mandatory seatbelt legislation. I think they should be given a fair hearing before we go to the expense, trouble and time to draft such legislation.
In conclusion, I support the motion brought forward by my colleague, the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, and this governments active consideration to seek seatbelt legislation, which has not yet been drafted, for the information of the Member for Porter Creek East.
I believe there are valid grounds for providing some exemptions to seatbelt law, as I have already stated on at least two occasions. Those I outlined are exemptions that I believe deserve consideration. I am sure there are others and look forward to Members views on these matters.
Mr. Phillips: Before I get into the statements I would like to make about this issue, I would like to take a few minutes and comment on some of the views that have been raised by other speakers.
I found it interesting that the Minister of Transportation Services was responding to the Leader of the Official Oppositions comments. He started out his speech by saying this was just the first step in mandatory seatbelt legislation. He indicated in his speech that one of the first steps would be education and helping people understand the need to wear seatbelts.
Then, he finished his speech by talking about exemptions there could be in the law - not whether there would not be a law, but that there would be a law and there would be exemptions. Then, two of the other Members rose - the Member for Old Crow and the Member for Dawson City - and started out on an everybody-but-me speech, talking about the exemptions.
I understand the Member for Old Crows concerns. I have been to Old Crow many times, and I see how the village operates up there and the need to use the trucks for hunting, gathering wood and that type of thing. I would ask the Member for Old Crow, or the Minister, if they see that same type of exemption being allowed to all other people in the territory, native and non-native, who go out to hunt, fish, gather wood and use their vehicles for those kinds of purposes, where several people climb into the back of a pickup. If there is a group of people at a party somewhere and they take a truck to drive down the road from one persons house to another, are they going to also be exempt?
If we bring in mandatory seatbelt legislation, it should be just that. After all, as the Members on the other side have said, the reason for bringing in a mandatory seatbelt legislation is to protect the people from themselves, almost. If you are going to protect the people, why would you bring in all kinds of exemptions? Are you saying these people are capable of thinking for themselves, and the rest of us are not?
If we bring in legislation here, we should bring in legislation that covers everybody, with no exemptions, except in the cases of senior citizens or certain handicapped people who have to use other methods to secure themselves in vehicles.
I listened closely to the statements made by the Members who have already spoken, and it is clear there are strong feelings on all sides of this issue. I, too, share some of the strong feelings expressed here today against the idea the government should be legislating all aspects of our lives. One has to ask: where will it all stop? What about common sense? I cannot recall his exact statement, but the Member for Dawson said the only thing missing out of common sense is that common people do not use it, or something to that effect - common sense is not very common. I think common sense is fairly common. I would not say that about most people.
What about a persons responsibility to ones family and oneself? Do we legislate all those parts of our lives, as well? This issue is not as black and white as one might hope.
I took the opportunity to talk to several of my constituents over the past couple of weeks, and I found a very divided cross-section of opinion. Some felt the government has no business interfering in their lives on this issue, and many of these people also told me they wore their seatbelts all the time, but they insisted that it was their decision to do so, and that is how they wanted it to remain. Others felt we were behind the times on this issue and are probably the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not have mandatory seatbelt legislation. This group urges me to support this motion.
The final group were individuals who were fundamentally opposed to government legislation on the issue, but on the other hand felt that possiblly, and reluctantly, its time had come. They made the point that whenever Yukoners travel outside to other jurisdictions they were, in most cases, forced to buckle up. In fact, most of these individuals told me they continue the practice here in the Yukon today.
They also stated that medical statistics support such a law and even mentioned several accidents that happened in Yukon. The imposition of this law could have saved lives or prevented serious injury. It is not a simple, cut and dried issue.
I do not believe government should be legislating common sense, but I find that personally I lean more toward the thoughts of the third group I mentioned today. I can understand the strong feelings expressed by many of my colleagues.
This motion asks the Government of the Yukon to consider establishing a law for the mandatory use of seatbelts. I will not be voting against this motion, as it is worded, but I will be looking forward to closely examining any legislation that will be brought forward to carry out this motions intent.
Ms. Hayden: I rise in support of this motion put forward by my colleague, the Member for Tatchun. Seatbelts do save lives. In this day and age, when we are faced with escalating health care costs, we must do everything we can to prevent injuries.
We have legislation requiring the restraint of children under the age of six when they are riding in a vehicle. We have legislation requiring government employees to use seatbelts. The motion proposing legislation covering the general public is the next logical step.
When we have statistics that show that 21 of 25 motor vehicle fatality victims on Yukon roads were not wearing seatbelts, then we have a responsibility to do something to protect the lives of Yukoners.
There will be exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking there are few instances where seatbelts cannot be worn. More people are killed or maimed from injuries sustained after being thrown out of vehicles during an accident than are injured or killed if held in the vehicle by a seatbelt.
We really are creatures of habit. It takes five to 10 seconds at best to buckle up, and yet we forget. We must make putting on a seatbelt as much a habit as closing a car door or turning on the ignition.
Many of us have witnessed the aftermath of a vehicle accident. Some of us have been involved in one. Too many of our children, friends, neighbours, parents and other loved ones have been affected by road accidents.
We can learn from the statistics here in the Yukon. We can learn from statistics in other jurisdictions, but we are human beings and as soon as we learn, we forget. We forget when we climb behind the wheel that we should buckle up, or forget to strap in our children, or forget to ask our passengers to do so.
How could we ever forget the terror of a child regaining consciousness after a car accident only to find out that her parents are dead. They had had the good sense to remind her to do up her seatbelt, but had not bothered to do up their own.
How can we ever forget parents answering the door in the small hours of the morning - and this happens too often in our community - only to be told that their child is comatose as a result of a head injury that could have been prevented if that child had been wearing a seatbelt.
Personally, I know of a group of young people who were travelling down the highway heading toward Fort St. John with half a dozen of them in a car. They had an accident. One of them was thrown out of the vehicle. She was not wearing a seatbelt. She was 16 years old and she was dead. Her life was ended then. That would not have happened if she was wearing a seatbelt.
Seatbelts do work. Fatal accidents and accidents that cripple happen on city streets, they happen on highways and they happen on back roads. I do not think anyone in this House will deny that we have a dilemma before us.
On one hand, we have a responsibility to pass legislation that will benefit Yukoners. It will have a positive effect on our rising health-care costs. On the other hand, we have to consider circumstances in the different communities. We can all check out the statistics, but it is the human dimension that brings home the importance of wearing seatbelts. Let us not forget that human dimension as we consider this motion.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I want to take the opportunity today to put a few thoughts on the record with respect to the motion, a motion which I will end up supporting, believe it or not, by the end of my remarks.
The remarks I would first like to make are in context of my life as an MLA in this Legislature, and the opportunities I have had to consider this question before and to see what constituents do and what constituents have said and to share some of those experiences with other Members.
Members may remember that in 1982, an acquaintance of mine from Mayo, who ran in the territorial election in the Tatchun riding and lost, was driving with his daughter from Mayo to Stewart Crossing. On the way to Stewart Crossing, close to the Mayo campground, he experenced a shimmy in his tires - or at least that is how it came out later - and felt himself going over the edge of the road. His last words to his daughter were that she should put on her seatbelt because they were about to go over the edge. His daughter did manage to put the seatbelt on; they did go over the edge. He was killed, and she survived. He was killed because he had been thrown out of the car and died instantly.
I was quite shocked by that incident, because I knew this fellow very well. I did not believe he could die in a car accident, let alone die at all at that time. I was quite taken by that. It got me thinking about the fundamental issue that every Member has mentioned here, which is essentially free choice versus public safety.
In listening to the comments made by everyone today, you can see just how difficult this issue is for every single Member. In many respects, Members know the politics of this issue in the Yukon; I think they are pretty obvious, but Members also know what the facts are and what the moral arguments are behind either supporting or not supporting the motion.
There is a philosophical underpinning to many of the Members remarks that lean on the side of free choice. There are others who note the issue of free choice but talk about the need for public safety. The issue today is which side we are going to lean toward in the coming months and years.
This issue is of some concern to me because I was the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for three and one-half years and I had the opportunity to bring in seatbelt legislation during that time. I am sure that the equation would have been much changed in terms of peoples comments, but I did not take the opportunity to do so. That was not because there were so many other things to do that this could not be added to the list. It was because I had some fundamental difficulty in moving a motion or presenting a piece of legislation in favour of this measure at that particular time.
During that period, and the Member for Kluane mentioned this, we did discuss the issue of child restraint in the Legislature. It was approved largely because most Members felt that decisions made by young children had a quality about them that people would make a conscious decision as to whether or not they were going to use seatbelts that could not be made by an immature human, that the children had to be protected by our community and were not yet in the position to make the basic philosophical arguments themselves. Consequently, Members did vote in favour of that provision, and it received a fairly positive response from the public. Apart from some concerns about the availability of child seats, I did not detect any concern expressed by the public at large. I think most people understood it and accepted it.
During the time I was the Minister and wrestling with the issue, we also extensively discussed the desire for a public education campaign. This was started and continued for some time. I am sure many Members did not notice it because, like the Yukon, every other jurisdiction in the country, as well as the United States, where we receive much of our television programming, also puts on similar safety campaigns and, after a while, they seem to run through your consciousness without really registering. The only time you really notice a buckle-up campaign, or a do-not-use-alcohol-when-you-are-driving campaign, is during the holiday season when the ads come so often on television, the radio and in the newspaper that you cannot help but notice them.
Nevertheless, a campaign was run during that period and expenditures were made to encourage people to buckle up. There were even discussions in the schools. I took part in one classroom discussion where the issue of the mandatory use of seatbelts was raised in a social studies class in order to discuss the fundamental principle of a free choice versus public safety and the public good. Much of the anxiety many of the Members are expressing today about this measure were expressed by those grade nine students. Those students were just as articulate as we are about this question and just as concerned about the issue, as are we.
We also discussed at some length the reasons why, as Minister, I was not presenting the legislation. I do not know if it would be representative of all classrooms but in this particular classroom the balance of opinion was in favour of mandatory seatbelts. At the time, the reasons I gave were that there ought to be a public safety campaign to encourage people to voluntarily use seatbelts, because the weight of statistical and scientific evidence appeared to be very much in favour of the use of seatbelts.
There was a fascinating discussion, one of the most interesting I have had in settings of that sort. I also had an opportunity to discuss with school officials the degree to which they do talk about the use of seatbelts in the health programs in our schools, and I was satisfied that it is being taught in the health programs. It has been taught for some time in health programs, even before the time I was even sitting in the Legislature, let alone on the government side of the House.
There were a couple of episodes that caused me great personal anxiety during the period I was Minister. The first one was the result of a couple of noteworthy accidents in the territory. This was after I felt quite confident, maybe even a little cocky, that the information campaigns we were conducting were going to have some impact. I remember, over a long period of time, quietly by myself, taking note of all the campaigns other jurisdictions did. I even noted those that came out of the city of Detroit, because we receive Detroit television here, and those that come out of Vancouver and other jurisdictions, as well as the Transport Canada campaigns. I convinced myself that the cumulative effect of these campaigns was going to have a significant impact on how people see the use of seatbelts, and was quite disappointed.
A couple of noteworthy accidents took place on our highways while I was responsible for Community and Transportation Services that both involved vans and a large number of young people, one involved death and the other involved serious injuries, and in both cases there are people who will be living in quite a disabled condition for the rest of their lives. At that time I felt a measure of responsibility for that having happened because there had been an opportunity to try to do something more to prevent it. The bottom line was that I had made the choice to proceed with education campaigns rather than the mandatory seatbelt use.
Nevertheless, that is history. It is my history and the history of the people involved in those accidents. It is a little background on how I am approaching this motion today.
It is a difficult one for Yukon. I did not know what the straw vote of my riding would indicate. I have talked to many people in my riding to see how they felt and I think the results would probably be as unscientific and about the same as the results the Member for Riverdale North indicted he had received. There are some who are strongly in favour and some who are very strongly against it. We know the reasons why both views are being expressed.
The motion tests the principle of whether or not we are in favour of mandatory seatbelts versus the status quo that is free choice by individuals. The detail of any piece of legislation will be an issue if legislation comes forward, or when it comes forward.
Certainly detail does make a difference. There are good and bad pieces of seatbelt legislation, I am sure. Too many exemptions for the sake of political convenience is a bad idea, I agree, and I would not support that.
First of all we have to decide if we, as a Legislature, support the principle. I think that is the issue today. The time has come for serious consideration of seatbelt use in the territory. In coming to that conclusion I have not only taken into consideration what information I have provided you with today on my own history with this issue, but also in balancing the fundamental question of how we should consider free choice versus public safety.
On the free choice side it is important that people have as much opportunity to express themselves as possible. That balanced, of course, the impact it will have on others, if you consider this as an end in itself, as a self-evident truth because there is no statistical weight to it, other than you think it is a good thing.
On the other side is public safety. Does it save lives? Does it save on financial costs associated with serious accidents? Does it save the public considerable grief and suffering? We have to balance these to decide which is of most concern to us now.
In terms of the issue of saving lives, the statistics are securely on the side of wearing seatbelts. People who attend accidents - ambulance attendants and police officers - say it is always better to be inside the vehicle than outside the vehicle. Clearly, most of the Members of this Legislature today would advocate the wearing of seatbelts as a matter of personal choice.
I realize people can do almost anything with statistics, but even a liberal reading of statistical evidence would allow one to be secure enough to believe that wearing a seatbelt increases your chances of surviving in an accident, and decreases the chances of serious injury when you have an accident.
We are long past the time when the old myths about wearing seatbelts are considered to have substantial weight in a debate we are in now. I remember hearing some time ago people saying that if they just put their hands on the dashboard, they could save themselves from an accident, or prevent the accident from happening, or if they were able to brace themselves, or if you are drunk or limp, or whatever it happens to be, it is much better than having a seatbelt in the car. Then, the video the Member for Faro mentioned came to my attention, and I watched it. The person who was explaining the effect of this hands-on-the-dashboard safety device asked the audience whether or not they could do a 6,000 pound pushup. I know that I am pretty well incapable of doing a pushup of that weight. I will not tell you how much I can do, but suffice it to say it is not in the neighbourhood of 6,000 pounds. I realized that saving myself from an accident that has the impact of a 6,000-pound force is a fairy tale and not worth further consideration.
The video tape also debugged a number of other myths, that I hear even today. I hear it in the coffeeshop and talk to people about whether or not they could save themselves if they are in a car, the car goes into a lake, and they are trapped in a seatbelt and cannot unbuckle it because they are unconscious. The obvious question is, if they are unconscious, one would wonder whether or not they could unbuckle a belt or do anything, whether they are in a lake or not. I had never considered that myth to be particularly potent in dissuading me to use my seatbelt.
My favourite is the myth that seatbelts could cut right through you. There have probably been some episodes where people have noted that a person who was in an accident was driving with such force that the seatbelt did happen to cut right through the persons body as the person flew out of the car and into the street in front of the vehicle. I thought to myself that, if there were sufficient force for a body to be cut in half by a seatbelt, I wondered exactly how fast that person would be travelling through the windshield if the person did not have a seatbelt on and what the result of the accident would be if a person were travelling 60, 70 or 80 miles per hour through the air and made contact with the ground hundreds of feet ahead.
I have never been convinced by those arguments. I always thought they were interesting. They are always backed up by some case somebody read about in the newspapers, but they have never been convincing intellectually, nor statistically. They are cases that are expressed as having a real force of effect in debates around seatbelts, and I think it is important we do not get diverted by those.
I think the weight of evidence shows seatbelts do save lives. I do not have statistical evidence with me, but I have been impressed by the costs associated with serious accidents, not only to the individual in terms of grief and suffering but, also, costs to the public through the public health care system. The costs are substantial. It does no good to indicate that those people who do not wear seatbelts should not be able to avail themselves of the public health care system. That would not be right, and I would not advocate that.
I am sure that after an accident we would not try to hold that person to their commitment to not take advantage of the public health care system. I think the cost to society in terms of the grief associated with the loss of somebody and in terms of the costs to the health care system weigh substantially in this debate in favour of mandatory seatbelt use.
As I say, I think the time has come for seatbelts. I think they do save on costs to society. This is a balance; I realize others have taken a different view about this issue. I do not believe that this is a crippling intrusion on free choice. I do not believe that it is a beginning to something even worse that the Members might contemplate. I believe that it is a reasonable provision for a legislature, and this Legislature in particular, to take. I believe that the experience we have had as legislators, as Yukon citizens, weighs heavily in favour of mandatory seatbelts. I do not dispute the fact that it is a difficult decision for every one of us to make. Consequently, I would like to say that I do support it. I will say that I am not straddling any fence; I have considered it carefully. I am not in a position where I have not resolved in my own mind the final question of free choice versus mandatory seatbelt usage. I will say that that question, in my own mind, was unresolved until very recently, but at this point, I have made a decision and I will support the motion.
Mrs. Firth: I will not go on at great length. I will probably talk as long as my voice lasts. I am sure that Members will appreciate my sadness at not being able to speak to this motion for a very long period of time.
I think it is evident from all the comments that Members are making this afternoon that we have all had a great deal of conscience-raising and self-examination in order to deal with the issue of mandatory seatbelt legislation. When I saw the motion, my immediate reaction was to question why the government had brought the motion forward, and particularly why this particular wording was presented. Of course, the magic word in this motion is the word consider. Should the motion have stated that the government should establish law for mandatory seatbelt legislation, I think we would have had debate on the principles of the law and whether that law was going to be acceptable to Yukoners or not.
I, personally, cannot disagree with this motion as it is written. I think the government should consider mandatory seatbelt legislation. I was very interested in the comments of the Member for Faro. They, in a sense, answered my question as to why the motion was brought forward. In a sense, he is asking us all to put our big toe in that tub of water and test the water. Mr. Speaker, it is hot. It is very hot water, and I think all of us here have recognized that today.
I, too, have talked to many of my constituents about this issue. I had a constituency meeting not too long ago and asked for a show of hands of those who were in favour. Of course, half of the hands went up. I asked for those who were not in favour and the other half of the hands went up. I told them this makes it very easy for me to decide what position I am going to take on this issue. I will just have to go home and think about it for awhile.
I am sure I do not have to remind Members of this Legislature or my constituents of my professional background. I know that it is fairly well known I used to be nurse. A lot of new people perhaps may not remember that I used to work at the hospital and I worked there for some time. I have had a great deal of first-hand experience looking after people who were involved in motor vehicle accidents, probably more with individuals who did not wear seat belts. It has been some eight or nine years since I worked at the hospital and it has only been in the last 10 to 15 years that we have talked about seatbelt legislation in the Yukon. It is a long time to talk about it. I would say most of my past medical experience would have been in dealing with individuals who did not wear seatbelts. I do not have to go into graphic details. People have seen movies and videos supporting seatbelt legislation describing the tragedies and devastation that can occur when there is a motor vehicle accident and seatbelts are not worn. I have a very practical understanding of that from my past medical experience.
That would lead me to come to a decision that may interfere with my philosophical beliefs, which have been expressed by the Member for Mayo, the belief in freedom of choice. Some of my other colleagues have raised their objections to having to take people in society by the hand and tell them what to do to protect themselves from themselves. There has to be a line drawn somewhere. This is what people object to when legislators start making laws on their behalf as to their behaviour and how they should be looking after themselves. The proponents of seatbelt legislation criticize society for not being responsible and not looking after themselves, medical costs escalating, and all the other arguments we have heard today.
Those who are proponents of free choice say it is their right to look after themselves. They all say they wear seatbelts. Some do and some do not. The majority say they do wear seatbelts and feel it should be their decision to make. I believe one Member said we should be encouraging people to be more responsible for themselves and to make these decisions for themselves as opposed to the government telling them how they are going to live every day of their lives from the time they wake up until they go to sleep at night.
I will support the motion on the basis that they consider establishing a law. I would like to see that piece of legislation. I want to know if the government is intending to bring that legislation to this Assembly for debate because that is when the final yes or no will be put on the record. It is fine for us to speculate and postulate today. I am sure most people will get a general impression of whether Members are going to support a particular piece of legislation or not.
I have some concerns about some of the issues raised here by Members in the government rank and file.
I agree with the Members for Mayo and Riverdale North, who said that if a law is brought in, a law is a law. You start making all kinds of exemptions and, pretty soon, it becomes half a law, or three-quarters of a law. Everyone has to be seen as being treated equally under that law. Although there may be some rare instances for exemptions, I would be very interested to hear what they are and what the government is proposing. If we are looking at many exemptions, as have been raised in the Legislature this afternoon, I would have a great deal of concern as to what the real effect of the law would be.
To refresh peoples minds, the concern was raised by the sponsor of the motion that pickup trucks can only accommodate so many people in seatbelts, yet you often see more than that number of individuals riding in a pickup truck. I do not agree with the principle of whichever province said that if you have only two seatbelts, it is fine for the third person not to have one on. I do not think that makes sense, because that person is just as susceptible to injury as are the others, and more so if they do not have a seat belt on. I cannot understand that exemption nor the rationale for it.
There was the point raised about having an old vehicle. There are a lot of older vehicles in the Yukon. I know that older vehicles can be outfitted with seatbelts. If that is the law, then why would we create an exemption for that? It is difficult to discuss the motion without having the governments intended legislation before us. As the Leader of the Official Opposition said, Let us see the legislation and see what the government is proposing. I would like some specific questions answered about the legislation. I will be curious to know what the governments definition of public roads is. Will it be the same as what is presently in the Motor Vehicles Act? They are going to have to address the issue of old cars and pickup trucks.
How suitable is seatbelt legislation going to be to rural living? The Member for Old Crow has said, Fine, but it is not for Old Crow, and cited the reason as there being so few vehicles there. I would submit that, if it is a law and seatbelt usage becomes mandatory, those individuals in Old Crow will also have to come under that legislation, unless a special exemption is made. I do not see what legitimate reason the government could give for making that special exemption. If people are in a motor vehicle, and they are driving on a road, they are supposed to be considered to come under the jurisdiction of that law.
I will be interested also in finding out how effectively the mandatory seatbelt legislation for children under six years of age has been enforced. I have a lot of young people and parents coming to me as their MLA and complaining that so many times they see young children unrestrained in vehicles, in pickup trucks, cars and hanging out of the backs of station wagons. When the Minister is considering his legislation, I hope he will come back with some specific details and some specific statistics and documentation as to how effectively that piece of legislation is working before we look at a further step that would make it mandatory for other people to wear seatbelts as well.
I know some time ago we had some discussion in this Legislature. One of the former Members raised an issue, either here in the Legislature or out of the Legislature, about the use of seatbelts in school buses. As a result of that, there was a study done many years ago, perhaps five to eight years ago, saying that, at that time, seatbelts in school buses posed more of a hazard than not to have seatbelts. I believe the reasoning and rationale had something to do with the ability of the children to get out of the vehicle in the event of an accident.
I would be interested to see if the government is going to examine that issue.
There are a lot of outstanding questions. I do not have to tell anybody that I have a very clear understanding of the benefits of seatbelts. I may have been away from my past profession for some time now, but I have memories I will never forget.
I may be called a nag sometimes when I ask people in my car to buckle up. I get a lot of sighs, long looks, and a bit of abuse, but to me it is worth it. I do object to constantly having to remind people they should do this for their own good. I am not here to take people by the hand, protect them, and teach them everything they should be doing for their own good. No matter how hard you try to do that and how good your efforts are, people will still do things the way they want to do it.
I do not think the Member for Mayo should in any way feel responsible for the unfortunate personal incident he related to the House about his determining whether or not they would proceed with seatbelt legislation. Had the seatbelt legislation been in force, that does not mean those people would have worn seatbelts. I do not feel anyone in any way would expect him to assume responsibility for that tragedy.
I do not think that is what we are here to do. We are not here to assume responsibility for every individual or every decision that is made. We should be here to represent the best interests of society. If society needs rules to live by then we should be practical and have common sense when we establish those rules and implement them.
I will be interested in following up on the debate should this piece of legislation come forward. One more speaker from the government bench is due to speak and perhaps he can tell us whether they will be coming forward with this legislation and give us an indication of when it will be coming forward. I look forward to having a more in-depth debate at that time and seeing what the government is actually proposing to make law.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I want to thank other Members who have spoken and also my friend and colleague, the Member for Tatchun, for presenting the motion for consideration today.
The question has been asked: why are we debating a motion rather than a law? There is a very good and practical reason for that that I think can be understood by observing debate today. There are clearly substantial differences of opinion on this issue, not only in every community and in every corner of our community, but also on each side of this House about the use of seatbelts.
The simple proposition before us is easy to respond to: either in the affirmative or in the negative. The minute one begins to suggest exemptions, as Members have today, we get into a lot of very difficult and complex arguments. They are not easy to deal with if one makes a simple amendment to highway legislation, and I would submit that a debate like this, prior to the introduction to any kind of bill of this kind, is very useful for the people who are responsible for drafting it.
There will be an opportunity for whomever is charged with the duty of drafting any such legislation, should the House decide this motion in the affirmative, to read what Members have had to say and to put clearly to Cabinet the question of what exemptions, if any, should be provided for in this legislation. Then, if the government comes forward with legislation, they come to the House having thought through those difficult questions. That is important. As the Member for Klondike said, every jurisdiction in this country that has dealt with the seatbelt legislation, which is every jurisdiction except ours, has in some way or another clearly considered exemptions or variances to the rule. The law is not, in this federal state, identical in every jurisdiction.
I want to enter this debate mainly from my point of view as Minister of Health. I want to do so by pointing out that the statistics on violent death and trauma in this territory are a tragedy. Violent or accidental death is the leading cause of death in the Yukon. In Canada, the leading causes of death are heart disease and cancer. In the Yukon, it is violent death; it is trauma. A very large percentage of those deaths come from highway accidents. It is possible to read the statistics as saying that highway death, accidental death and automobile accidents are the leading causes of death in this territory.
As the Member for Watson Lake and others suggested, one might want to get into the implications or the effect of alcohol on those deaths. I know health-care professionals would argue that alcohol may be a primary, secondary or tertiary cause in a very large percentage of those violent deaths and in the highway accidents. We know that is not the case with all of them. I believe all of us know people who have died or been crippled for life in car accidents, and that most of the people who have suffered that fate have done so because they were not buckled up.
From a health point of view, I am persuaded that dealing with the question of death and injuries caused by highway accidents is a very important matter. The treatment, rehabilitation and long-term care of accident victims constitutes the largest single area of health-care expenditure in this territory. I will not try to break out the numbers today but, if you look at the fact that we are projecting to spend $28 million in our next years budget in health care, which is about $1,000 per capita and $2,000 per taxpayer, and that the largest single part of that expenditure is costs arising from highway accidents, we have to consider that dimension of this problem very seriously.
I will put that in the context of the initiatives we are beginning to take in the area of preventive health. There is no question that mandatory seatbelt legislation reduces death, serious injury and disability associated with motor vehicle accidents. That is a statement of undeniable fact.
Seatbelt use markedly reduces the incidence and severity of head injury. That is a fact. Earlier today, in this debate, the Leader of the Official Opposition argued there was confusing or contradictory evidence on the question of whether seatbelts themselves can be the cause of serious injury or death. I would argue that the evidence is not confusing. Perhaps I misread the Leader of the Official Opposition, and perhaps he was quoting someone else, but the evidence is quite contrary. The evidence is quite the contrary. Indeed the evidence is that there is little evidence to support the view that seatbelts themselves are a cause of serious injury or death.
The Member for Mayo spoke personally about his own thoughts on this issue. I have to tell you that I am someone who is a more recent convert to this view than may be known. This particular legislation has not always been a priority with me. It is a fact that there is a proud and even rather libertarian streak in Yukoners that will resent or resist legislation to require the use of seatbelts.
Let us consider that although the facts about the use of seatbelts are well known to the general public, it is also a well known fact, as the Member for Kluane said, that many people will not consistently use seatbelts unless their use is mandatory. Whether I agree with his analysis of that situation or his analysis of social psychology, or the societal problems that that indicates, he is absolutely right that the mandatory use of seatbelts does increase their use.
I disagree slightly with the Member for Watson Lake on this point, making a connection as he did with the impaired-driving issue - and I do not want to suggest that it is impaired logic - but driving while drinking is against the law and people may make those decisions while they are impaired, but they are still assumed to be making decisions for which they are responsible. Because driving while impaired can have very serious consequences for others I am going to suggest that the failure to use seatbelts can also do the same.
Even though the facts on seatbelt use are well known, the Member for Kluane is absolutely right that the mandatory use of them does increase the utilization of them. It is the case that a number of Canadian and American studies have demonstrated that concerted public-education campaigns promoting seatbelt use increased their usage by about 30 percent of the driving public.
This is an area I perhaps do seriously disagree with the analysis of the Leader of the Official Opposition. There have been public-education campaigns here, in our nation and across the continent. The effect of those campaigns has been to increase the use by only 30 percent.
Studies in Ontario show that legislation increases the use by 70 percent to 80 percent by both drivers and passengers; that is more than doubling the use of seatbelts. There is evidence to confirm the view of the Member for Kluane.
The Member for Riverdale South is quite correct about the problems of enforcement. I have no illusions on that score. Knowing about life in the communities, even though we have more police officers per capita than any other jurisdiction in the country, I believe that police officers will argue that they have many other things to do than to be policing every motorist in the use of seatbelts.
The implementation of a new law on seatbelts will be a problem. The timing of the implementation and public education campaigns around any new law will also be important.
I must say I believe, as Minister of Health, that it is time that a law be established for mandatory use of seatbelts for drivers and passengers on the public roads in the Yukon.
The Yukon is a path finder, is an innovator in a number of areas in this country, but I think that we should not take any pride in the fact that we are the last jurisdiction to deal with this question.
All of us in this debate have talked about the question of rights. All of us have talked about public safety and personal freedoms. Our neighbours to the south and to the west in the United States have a constitutional right to bear firearms. That is not a constitutional right that Canadians have and I suspect there is a relationship between the different kinds of rights enjoyed by our citizens and the incidence of death by firearms in the United States.
On the question of rights, I think it is important to understand that we have a tradition in law that says that driving is a privilege. It is the government - it is the state - that has issued or refused to issue licences for people to drive. That is a concept that goes back to the Queens or Kings highway. We have made conditions on that licence; we have even made some licences conditional. It is not, therefore, an unreasonable infringement on the idea of the freedom of the road to set further conditions on driving that could include the use of seatbelts.
I do not want to repeat things that other people have said in the debate but the Leader of the Opposition was kind enough to mention the position of the Court of Appeal yesterday in Alberta, which was interesting. As Members know, and as was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, the seatbelt law in that province was thrown out by a Court of Queens Bench Justice earlier this year. As the Opposition Leader mentioned, a three-judge panel, lead by Chief Justice James Laycraft, unanimously overturned the earlier ruling. It should be interesting to note that the Court of Queens Bench Justice had overturned an earlier decision by a provincial court judge, Hubert Oliver, who rejected constitutional and factual arguments against the law.
It is worth noting that the Court of Queens Bench judge, Judge Arthur Lutz, said that the law infringed on the Charter of Rights, the security of the person, because the evidence shows that wearing a seatbelt increases the risk of injury or death by a small amount.
Mr. Speaker, as everybody knows, the name Lutz is well-known in Watson Lake, in connection with Watson Lake, and this is not the first time to speak of Judge Lutz. I would want to say that Chief Justice Laycraft, in handing down his decision, said that the evidence shows that seatbelts do reduce the risk of injury and death and generally protect the public and there was overwhelming evidence to support that view, and I do subscribe to that view.
The problem of trying to discuss the question of public safety and personal freedoms is a very difficult one. The Member for Kluane entered into the question of access to this building. There are people who misunderstand that. I remember there was an official from Government Services in 1982 who was trying to tell Members of this Opposition, of this party, when we were in Opposition, who we could bring in to see us in our offices. That official clearly had never heard of Oliver Cromwell and did not understand one of the oldest principles in parliament, about the right of access of Members to the Chamber.
On that point, I just want to say that I think that that official had himself straightened out by someone who knew better. The Member talks about signing in here. The Member knows that for Members of this House, signing in is voluntary, but, again, that is a public safety measure. The people who are the security guards here want to be able to find people in case of a fire or some other problem and get them out. I do not regard that as a terrible infringement on my freedoms; I regard it as necessary to achieve public safety. I do not believe that if I wanted to bring some people in here when the Legislature is sitting, even in the evening, whatever I may think of evening sittings - that I regard them as really being terrible barriers. I just want to say to the Member, in passing, that he should go to Ottawa, where the kinds of restrictions to get into the House of Commons, the kinds of passes and permissions you need are quite onerous. They are not as bad as they are at Westminster, where you have to telephone party headquarters to get an appointment with an MP, and then go through not just the security check but also an X-ray machine and a metal detector, in order to get into Westminster to watch from the gallery. That is because of terrorism.
We have not yet seen an outbreak of terrorism here. I am not arguing for the kind of measures that exist in Westminster, the Mother of Parliaments, to operate here. The point is, we have a continuing struggle to try to balance the appropriate desire of citizens for personal freedoms and the need for public safety. That is what the debate is always about.
I have come to the conclusion, based on the evidence available to us, that the requirements of public safety do require some infringement upon personal freedom when it comes to the use of seatbelts. I would argue that the failure to wear a seatbelt could lead to accident and injury which produces massive costs for society. Therefore, I do not believe, by irresponsible behaviour, an individual has a right to pass on those costs to their fellow citizens. The seatbelt law is an appropriate measure.
I know there will be people who will say Moses introduced us to the Ten Commandments and these were called Gods law and not everybody obeys those. Sin will always be with us. I suspect that is the case, but it is still also true that those laws are a good idea. Even if the law only increases utilization of seatbelts to 70 percent or 80 percent, based on the evidence in Ontario, I would argue that that is better than the effect of a public education campaign that saw the increase of use to only 30 percent. The lives that are saved and the injuries avoided as a result of a seatbelt law, notwithstanding personal objections, are worth taking that initiative. For my part, I believe the introduction of such a law is timely.
The debate today has been extremely useful. The concerns of the Members about the infringement on personal freedoms have been appropriately expressed, and all of us, in our political decisions, have to make a judgment about where the dividing line between those two great principles should fall. Perhaps today we have made a statement in this House about some incremental shift in that boundary. I believe it is for the public good, and that is what we are here to serve.
Mr. Lang: I have a few comments to make with respect to the debate since most of it has been said.
I would like to express some concern with the continued refrain that comes from across the floor about what everybody does in other jurisdictions. It is almost like we are rushing, pell-mell, to be like every other jurisdiction in Canada. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services and the Minister of Health mentioned it. I question that, because Ontario or Newfoundland or British Columbia do a certain thing, we have to do it. We may be able to draw on their experience, but I do not think a Minister should be embarrassed because he goes to a conference and is chided because he has not enacted the law of some other jurisdiction. I do not think the Minister should be embarrassed and should be more than happy to stand up for what our Legislature has done. In this particular case, the Minister had nothing to apologize for. We had already passed restraint legislation for children in this House that was unanimously consented to. That has been spoken to by a number of other Members.
I am beginning to wonder. In one session we have managed to change the name of the Government Leader to that of Premier; we are in the process of getting rid of the gold panner and the Klondike on our licence plates, and now so we can really be like everybody else, we want to discuss mandatory seatbelts.
It is not a party vote, but if we are going to follow an extension of that logic, the side opposite should accept the principle of the 911 number that my colleague, the Member for Riverdale South, has put forward in a motion. That saves lives. It is known to save lives.
The one thing I think should be corrected for the record is that everyone has said seatbelt legislation saves lives. There is a fact that there are a number of people who have lived through very serious accidents because they were not wearing seatbelts. I have two close, personal friends who, if they had been wearing seatbelts in their particular circumstances, would not be with us today. Thus far in the debate, the impression being left in the House is that for every accident where seatbelts were worn, would have negated any major injury of any kind. If all Members reflect on it, they probably know people who have been in accidents and can say that, because of the circumstances and the fact they were not wearing seatbelts, they did not suffer the injuries they may well have.
At the outset, I was one who, for many years, did not wear a seatbelt. I have become convinced over the years that seatbelts should be worn. Like the Member for Hootalinqua, people get into my vehicle, and I ask them to do the seatbelt up. I believe that, overall, it will protect them from the chances of bodily injury, as opposed to not wearing one.
The outstanding question today is whether or not we should have mandatory legislation. The question of education has been raised. There has been some attempt to educate by YTG, but it has not been a concerted public relations campaign for the purpose of wearing seatbelts. There has been the odd newspaper ad, and that is about it. There is very little information or continued reminders to the public that this is a safety feature and should be used. I have to agree with the Leader of the Official Opposition on this. More education is required, and more public relations is required, because I believe people should wear seatbelts.
Similar to some of my other colleagues, I do have a problem with passing mandatory legislation. Once again, it comes down to the right to choose, the freedom of choice, the right of the individual. I do not see this motion in the context it has been spoken of by some that, because of the word consideration, we are not really voting for mandatory legislation. The principle here is whether or not we agree with that principle and whether or not it should come forward to the House.
My position is that I do not believe, and am not persuaded by the arguments presented today, that the people of the territory need mandatory seatbelt legislation. Therefore, I will be going against the motion.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Joe: First I must say that I am disappointed to hear that some very key Members on the other side do not support this motion.
I am pleased with the general support of this House for this motion on seatbelts.
Many of my friends here have noted the need for better safety on Yukon roads. Seatbelts will help make our roads safer. But they will only work if people use them. We must not just make a law that calls for seatbelts, we must also work to teach people about why seatbelts are good. We must tell people about how lives are saved when accident victims are strapped into vehicles. We must make sure people understand that in an accident they are safer inside their car than they are if they are thrown from it.
We cannot afford not to have seatbelt legislation. We must act now and develop laws that reflect the scientific proof we have that seatbelts do save lives.
We must move now and I believe the time for seatbelt legislation has arrived.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Members: Question.
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Mr. Phelps: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Agreed.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Agreed.
Mr. Joe: Agreed.
Ms. Kassi: Agreed.
Ms. Hayden: Agreed.
Mr. Phelps: Disagreed.
Mr. Brewster: Disagreed.
Mr. Phillips: Agreed.
Mr. Lang: Disagreed.
Mr. Devries: Agreed.
Mrs. Firth: Agreed.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 11 yea, three nay.
Speaker: I declare that the yeas have it.
Motion No. 48 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 3, standing in the name of Ms. Kassi.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member for Old Crow prepared to proceed with Item No. 3?
Ms. Kassi: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 47
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Old Crow
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the problem of excessive alcohol consumption in Yukon communities is serious;
THAT alcohol not only destroys individuals, it is also a threat to the survival of these communities;
THAT the Government of Yukon through the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Resources should investigate ways for communities to enact provisions for the prohibition of alcohol within their communities, if they so wish.
Ms. Kassi: First of all, I want to share a story of emerging success with the Members of this House. Within the nation of the Gwichin, we have a couple of small villages in Alaska called Venetie and Arctic Village, where the people have complete control over what goes on within their lands. They exercise their traditional tribal laws. In these villages, five or six honoured men and women are chosen within the community to be community leaders. They are selected on the basis of their stature and leadership skills within the community. These people meet every airplane or boat that comes into the village, and they look for liquor. If anyone has liquor with them, they are asked to leave it behind or get rid of it on the spot. People are very cooperative with the goals of these villages to get rid of alcohol. There is no need for police protection. In fact, they do not have officers on duty in those villages at all.
These villages are very traditional. All the traditional cultural values are practised. They are peaceful places in which to live, and there is very little crime. No one has to lock their doors. The elders and children are not afraid. People leave their belongings outside and nobody takes anything.
I remember my village being that way when I was very young. Many of us have been working to bring this kind of environment back to our community. Recently, with our nations gathering, our elders had directed us to work toward this point. We have done a lot so far. When we formed government in 1985, the Vuntat Gwichin Tribal Council and myself began working on a social strategy leading up to a complete ban of alcohol in our community.
We began by introducing life skills programs. We have developed a wilderness treatment camp located 40 miles up the Porcupine River at Klo-Kut where four-week cultural treatment programs take place. We work on personal, family, and community development through these programs, funded mostly by the national native alcohol and drug abuse program of Canada. Already we are booking clients from other communities who are interested in joining us in this program beginning in February; it is ongoing.
We have also sponsored fetal alcohol syndrome workshops to generate awareness and educate people about the problems of drinking during pregnancy. Now, if a pregnant woman is seen drinking in the village, she goes through an intervention process with the social department in Old Crow and is asked to seek treatment. Also, people continue to use the treatment centres outside, such as Crossroads, Henwood in Alberta, and Poundmakers in Alberta, as well.
Furthermore, we have had workshops on family violence. We are in the process of developing a place for abused women and children to go to and we will develop a support group in this place. To develop support groups for communities that want to go dry or communities that have people who are abstaining from alcohol is very important; we have to have that support group. That support group has been developed.
We also have a national gathering each year, that I mentioned. This is a powerful occasion spiritually, as well as socially. I am also pleased to say that at the present time we have an RCMP staff that is very supportive of our community initiatives and is always ready to help out.
I am also very proud and very pleased to say that as the result of all of the efforts of many people in the community, the majority of the people in my village are abstaining from alcohol abuse at this time.
This brings me to today, when I, on behalf on my people, am asking for the support of this government to give us the tools we need to take the next logical step in our fight against alcohol abuse. It is with great pride that I stand today to present this motion. I say pride, Mr. Speaker, because the very fact that this motion has come to this House is an indication of the degree to which aboriginal people in the Yukon are regaining their strength, moving away from the bad influence that alcohol has had on our lives. This is a motion of strength; this is a motion of pride; and this is a motion of unity and self-determination.
The motion before us in this House today reflects that strength and that determination. We must be determined to take measures to renew the health of our own Yukon family. We have the examples of Arctic Village, Venetie amd Alkali Lake, to name a few, and many in the Northwest Territories. Within our own communities, the RCMP, the special constables and the community leaders should have the right to seize liquor and dispose of it.
Within our schools, alcohol abuse prevents parents from becoming positively involved with school programs, and we have seen that all over. Alcohol abuse is poverty. Children are sent to school without proper clothing when it is very cold. They are tired because they do not sleep at night because of parties and parents fighting or drinking all night. Our focus should be to fight alcohol abuse at the community level as well as at a personal level. If the community is working on or struggling with alcohol abuse, the focus of the government should be to support that particular community.
Many communities in the Northwest Territories and other parts of the country have made strong moves against alcohol for the health of their people. What communities in the Yukon need is a legislative instrument to follow through with the will of these people. People who want to continue selling booze, without due regard for the long-term consequences of alcohol abuse on the lives of our people, will argue that any banning of alcohol infringes on their rights. Or people who continue to use alcohol will continue to say it is an infringement on their rights.
We will also have people who will argue that it is against the Charter. Whose rights are we talking about? What about the rights of the woman who is beaten black and blue every time her husband drinks? What about the rights of the children who are left on their own because their parents are blacked out after yet another night of alcohol? What about the child who goes to school every day tired and hungry? Or not dressed properly? What about the rights of the family slaughtered on the highway by a drunken driver? What about the rights of a community where a whole generation is made up of fetal alcohol syndrome children? What about their future? What about our future? Whose rights are we trying to address?
I sit in this House as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, the representative of the Government of the Yukon. Still I come here daily as a Gwichin. I am strong because of the traditions of my people. I am able to be here today because of my heritage. I cannot exist without my past or without my people. I have seen how alcohol can eat at the very foundations of a community. My feeling is that anyone who profits from alcohol can test his rights in court. We will be facing those. We already get letters from businesses in the community telling us we are infringing on their rights. If the majority of the members of a community vote against alcohol, but the Charter of Rights or any constitution that may be developed says their vote is not valid, what justice is there in that?
My hope is that the courts will see the human side of this issue. We do not want to interfere with the rights of someone to earn a living, but we must establish some mechanism so individual communities can choose what they want for themselves.
I realize we are caught in a dilemma. I realize that many see this as an issue of giving the rights of one individual more weight than the rights of another. I want to stress that my motion urges the government to look into ways for communities to ban alcohol if they so wish. I am not a lawyer, but legal arguments about rights leaves me cold when I see a child with fetal alcohol symdrome. I know of many. I have blood relatives who are fetal alcohol syndrome children.
The legal arguments do not say much to parents whose children are killed or crippled in alcohol-related accidents. We often think about the many brothers and sisters we have lost in accidents because of alcohol use. We think of the suicides, the murders based on alcohol. We think about the people who are lost in the cycle of abuse and recovery. We think about our brothers who live most of their lives in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre in a continuous vicious cycle that breaks our family unit at home because one or two of our brothers, or 20, are in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre most of their lives. The courts are not there when a woman is punched out by her drunken husband.
What we are being asked to do here today is to provide a way for communities to decide on their own what is best for their people, to recognize the self-governing rights of the aboriginal peoples with respect to our health and our survival. We are not asking that the constituency of Kluane go dry. We are asking that aboriginal communities be assisted or supported by the government if they wish to go dry. That is the issue.
In a lot of cases, the very survival of the communities is at stake. This is the choice of the people, and I want to make mention that we have members from the Vuntat Gwichin Tribal Council here. We have key members of the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program with us from the Council for Yukon Indians, as well as Frank Lacosse, who has been working with us, and all the aboriginal people in the Yukon who are patiently waiting here to hear the Members in this House with respect to this motion. I ask for support. I urge the Members of the House to support the motion.
Mrs. Firth: From the comments the previous speaker has just made about her community, I would draw no other conclusion than her community seems to have a problem well in hand that other Yukon communities have not been able to identify, address and move toward solving.
I do not think this particular issue is a question of rights. I think it is a question of identifying problems and looking at solving those problems in what I would see as a cooperative, positive and constructive approach. The Member for Old Crow briefly stated, in reference to the constituency of Kluane, what her intention in the motion is. I am desperately looking for some clarification and for a definition of exactly what the motion means and what the Member is asking for.
When I read the motion, it is very clear in the last paragraph, by my interpretation, that the intention of the motion calls for the provisions for prohibition of alcohol. Perhaps I will just read the final paragraph out: That the Government of the Yukon, through the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Resources, should investigate ways for communities to enact provisions for the prohibition of alcohol within their communities, if they so wish.
The Member for Old Crow has said they do not wish to impose prohibition on the constituency of Kluane but from the terminology of the motion, that is what would happen. If she is asking for something special for Old Crow, I would see that as a different issue, but the way the motion is worded is an all-encompassing motion that involves everyone, including the community of Whitehorse, and the decisions that are to be made by the Legislature here would impact on the municipality of Whitehorse, as well as the other communities in the Yukon that have road access in and out of them.
I agreed with the comments the Member for Old Crow made about what is happening in the community of Old Crow. I believe that when the suicide task force travelled throughout the Yukon and were in Old Crow, some of the notations, comments and observations that were made by the task force were that there seemed to be less alcohol abuse in Old Crow, and the community members had a sense of pride and once again controlling their own lives. Obviously, the Member for Old Crow supports that theory. She has stood up in the House this afternoon and talked about the pride the people in Old Crow had, how they had identified the problem, taken that situation in hand themselves and were doing away with the alcohol that was brought into the community and destroying it. That is how I personally see the resolution of that problem. I see the community addressing its concerns and taking care of its concerns.
I know that the Indian people, for a long time, have been expressing a desire to look after their problems with alcohol - their problems with a lot of things. I agree with that concept; I support the concept that the Indian people should be given the resources to do that. I think that the Member for Old Crow has indicated that that can be done and that it has been done successfully. She cited several examples in the Northwest Territories and the Alkali Lake example. Although I believe in all correctness that in some of the communities in the Northwest Territories there is drinking allowed within certain parameters, either in peoples private homes, or whatever. I do not believe that all communities there are totally dry communities.
I guess I would like to hear what other Members have to say. I will be looking forward to hearing what the Member for Old Crow says in her final comments as to exactly what she wants. Does this motion request something specifically for the community of Old Crow? Does it request some action that will be able to be spread all across the Yukon Territory and will affect all people in the Yukon Territory? I hope she will bear with me in providing us with a clearer definition of exactly what she wants.
It is interesting to hear the Member talk about individuals profiting from the use of alcohol because one of the largest profiteers from the use of the alcohol is, of course, her own government. Government revenues, I think, are very dependent upon the consumption of alcohol - and I see the Government Leader nodding his head. We have had this debate in the Legislature before. I have heard the Government Leader stand up and make those comments himself about how much the government revenues would decline if it were not for the tremendous consumption of alcohol in the Yukon Territory by the population.
That does not mean that we support that and that we would not encourage people to use less alcohol here in the Yukon Territory. I think that we can derive revenues from other sources that perhaps are not as damaging to society as a whole. I think there is becoming a recognition, as we debate issues like family violence, suicide or this particular issue that there is becoming more and more public awareness about the increasing destructiveness of alcohol in general.
I believe that there is probably a decline, from the people that I talk to, in the use of alcohol. Whether they are substituting that with other substances, is something for debate another day. I just want to bring it to the Members attention that when she talks about profits from the use of alcohol, we of course we all recognize that government profits greatly from the consumers of the Yukon using alcohol.
There has been some expression of concern on behalf of some RCMP individuals with whom I have discussed this issue about their ability to seize and search individuals luggage, baggage or vehicles as they come into a community. I would submit that what is happening in the Members community of Old Crow is probably working much more effectively than the RCMP doing it and submitting themselves to challenges of violations of rights, as the Member has said. That seems to be working, from what she has said.
I agree with the Members comments about fetal alcohol syndrome. I recognize that there are some workshops and some intervention programs; however, I feel that I must once again criticize this government - the Members government - for its lack of movement on having a fetal alcohol coordinator in place and I think that that is something that the government - the Minister of Health - is going to have to give some attention to. It is obviously an issue that her own government has not addressed completely and I look forward to her assistance when it comes time to debate this issue in the budget again.
My interpretation of this motion is that it is an extreme action, not necessarily a positive or constructive approach. Perhaps it is because I do not fully understand what exactly the Members intentions are. I realize and recognize that this is a very important issue and important problem that has to be dealt with. It can be dealt with in a positive way by offering positive alternatives, and by helping society to become more aware of what is happening by finding out why people are drinking, identify the problem and approach that problem as opposed to just saying, We will have prohibition. That is the way I interpret the motion. I know some of my colleagues have some very strong representations to make about that very issue.
I do not disagree with the emotional arguments the Member has brought forward. After five years in this Legislature, I am convinced that she represents her people very strongly and very forcefully. However, we cannot look at one situation in the Yukon in isolation. We have to look at what we are doing to the whole Yukon. I would like to propose a friendly amendment to the Member who is sponsoring this motion. This amendment will be justified. If the Member is proposing such an extreme action, I have to question the effectiveness of the present programs we have within, and out of, government at all levels. I have to question the effectiveness of those programs and how they are responding to the problems in a positive way and whether the problems are being reduced or whether the use of alcohol is continuing to grow.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to propose the following amendment: I move
THAT Motion No. 47 be amended by deleting the third paragraph and substituting for it the following:
THAT the Government of Yukon through the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Resources should evaluate existing programs and recommend alternatives for dealing with this important problem.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Riverdale South
THAT Motion No. 47 be amended by deleting the third paragraph and substituting for it the following:
THAT the Government of Yukon through the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Resources should evaluate existing programs and recommend alternatives for dealing with this important problem.
Mrs. Firth: I bring forward this amendment because I think it is extremely important that the support services and programs that are already in place be evaluated to see whether or not they are addressing the concerns the Member has about her community, as well as other communities, when it comes to the consumption of alcohol and how they would wish to deal with it in the community.
Support services are critical to solving this problem. The Member stated that several times in her presentation. I am not just talking about support services within the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Resources. I am talking about support services that exist within the Department of Education at the school level, and services in our educational curriculum. Is the curriculum able to teach the children to have a pride in themselves and their community, as the Member for Old Crow talked about? Is there a healthy spiritual involvement in that community? Are there support services to provide that kind of involvement for people?
Is the counselling support system adequate? Are they counselling the individuals? Are they counselling the whole family?
I get many representations made to me from people, as I am sure the Ministers of Justice and Health and Human Resources do, asking that more services be provided to address this issue. We have to evaluate the existing programs and systems to see if this extreme request the Member has been brought forward is because those systems are failing in some way and are not addressing the needs of her people and those in other communities.
We could recommend other alternatives for dealing with this important problem, as opposed to prohibition itself. I personally feel that the term prohibition is an extremely strong and final solution that is not necessarily the solution to all the problems. I think other Members will support the argument that it may create more problems. There has already been some evidence of that here in Whitehorse with the reduction of the offsales hours. I will leave those comments and arguments for my colleagues to present.
I do not want the Member to receive this amendment as a criticism or a lack of support for her intentions and support of her people. That is not what we are intending to do. We are intending to assist her, as well as other Members of this Legislature who have to deal with like problems in their communities, to look at the problem and approach it in a practical and positive way, to continue evaluating the programs that are presently there. Perhaps some of them need to be changed, or the direction needs to be changed, or we need to move in some new direction.
I would hope it is not something as severe as what the Member has proposed in her motion. I look forward to comments from the other Members. I realize I will not have another opportunity to rise and speak to this motion. I thank the Member for bringing it forward and would reassure her that we would be most cooperative in helping her with any identification of further measures or steps we could take to assist her in her community.
From the beginning of her presentation, it sounded like her people had done a wonderful job of looking after themselves, of taking the situation in hand and getting it under control in Old Crow. The people of Old Crow have to be commended for that. It is a lot of hard work and an ongoing struggle for them.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I listened to the Member for Old Crow speak on her motion. Some of the things she related were very emotional for me. I knew what she was talking about. We have seen the devastation over the years as a result of the abuse of alcohol. The problems she talked about are very real. A lot of us can relate to some of the concerns she had because they are concerns of all people.
She talked about the communities taking the responsibility to do something about a problem faced within the community. Her motion was very important in letting the House know that communities should take that responsibility. It is very encouraging to see she has brought it to this House.
The Member has proposed an amendment to the motion. I believe it completely takes away from what the Member for Old Crow was trying to do in her motion. The Member for Riverdale South has proposed that the Department of Health and Human Resources and Justice evaluate the existing programs. When I was the Minister for Health it became very evident to me at that time, and all other Ministers who have to deal with problems resulting from alcohol abuse, that the programs we have in existence now are not working to the full extent we had hoped. I recommended at that time that there be an evaluation of the alcohol and drugs program because I wanted to know if they were successful.
We all know the recidivism rate in the jails has not gone down; it is probably getting worse. People continue to end up in the correction centre. The detox centre has people who are continually admitted because they have been unable to deal with an alcohol problem.
We all know of children who come into the care of this government because of alcohol problems within the family. We asked ourselves if the services being offered by this government are successful or not. I recommended that an evaluation be done at that time. I am not entirely sure now far along that has come. I think they had started. We recognized that what we offer is not entirely successful, and statistics prove that.
I speak against the amendment to the motion because an evaluation has already started. I believe the amendment to the motion has taken away from what the Member for Old Crow was asking for in her motion.
Mr. Lang: I am quite surprised at the response from the Minister of Justice. I felt that the amendment brought forward by the Member for Riverdale South indicated that there is a major problem out there. That problem has to be looked at and, if necessary, some programs will have to be revised or dropped.
If you vote for the main motion you are saying that the alcohol and drug programs are not working at all.
It is like, for example, if you expel a child from school: the school has failed. The school has failed, with all of its programs, with all of its efforts in attempting to get that child to stay in school.
It is the same with prohibition. The thing that bothers me about this motion is that we had an election eight months ago, and I did not hear anybody on that side of the floor raise the question of prohibition during the course of the election, so that people in the territory could vote on it. It was not raised; it did not cross the lips of any Member across the floor. We never raised it during the course of that election - you know why? Because the then Minister of Justice, the Hon. Mr. Kimmerly, who is no longer with us, thank God, said at that time, on November 24, 1982, I am not a prohibitionist and I do not support prohibition, and yet here we have, from the same party, the same government, a motion advocating prohibition. I guess you would call it consultation.
It is just like the gold panner, Mr. Speaker, another brain wave where all of a sudden we are going to go out and advocate and be leaders in the country on the principle of prohibition, so that we can be like our sister territory, the Northwest Territories.
The Member for Old Crow thinks that some of us were not raised here, that some of us have not lived here for any length of time. We have lived here for a long time. I can remember, as a child, being downtown when bootlegging was the main industry in Whitehorse. That is exactly what this would do, if you were to put it into effect. The Member for Old Crow compares us to the jurisdiction to the east of us. What she fails to tell the public and the Members here is that the reality of the situation is that in most of those communities, there is no road access. In the Yukon there is road access to every community, except to the community of Old Crow.
I recall the Member for Tatchun talking about the situation in Pelly Crossing, which maybe the Member for Tatchun can further elaborate on, when the decision was made to remove the liquor licence from that community when the observation was made regarding the number of traffic accidents between the community of Carmacks and Pelly Crossing. Is that what we want, where we have one community in a situation where, with all good intentions, prohibition is introduced and a community 30 miles down the road, or 40 miles down the road decides that it is not in their best interest. Then what do we have? We are going to have chaos out there.
As the Member for Riverdale South has said, this is the most extreme way to deal with the situation that faces the Yukon. If we are to support it, then I would say to the Members opposite that all of our alcohol and drug programs, all of the money, time and effort that those very sincere people have put into it have failed. We are saying, for all intents and purpose, We failed.
In all sincerity to the Member for Riverdale South, we should be reviewing those programs in conjunction with the community, and with the idea that we can perhaps revise some of those programs to meet the needs of that community. The Member has already said that that has been done, in part, for Old Crow.
If you listened to the opening remarks of the motion that was presented by the Member for Old Crow, you have to question why the motion is here at all. She stood up and said how well the community was doing, and we were very pleased to hear it. Why she would be asking us to pass a motion that could, in effect, bring prohibition to all the communities in the territory is beyond me. I have not seen one resolution from one community asking for this authority.
I would be very surprised to see any duly elected council of any municipality bringing forward such a resolution.
I want to go back to the question of administration. Years ago, the Legislature, in their wisdom, rightly or wrongly, decided the question of public drinking in a community should be the responsibility of the municipality. We all know what happened. It took a course of years but, eventually, one community after the other, when they saw the problems that had been created, felt they had to deal with it and did away with the right to drink in public.
Eventually, there were no communities with it. The point I am making is, from the publics point of view, if you start taking issues like this that will create different laws from community to community, it is going to become so vulcanized and disorganized the person out there going from community to community is going to have no idea what the laws in each community are.
I see the Member for Old Crow grimacing. Have you consulted with the City of Whitehorse about this motion and whether or not they want prohibition? Have you consulted with the community of Watson Lake? You forgot, you were too busy. How about the community of Dawson City? Did the MLA for Klondike consult with the community of Dawson City, or the community of Faro?
In historical terms, look what happened in North America when prohibition was evoked. What happened? What were the consequences of it? First of all, it gave a foundation to the Mafia, which is now one of the largest industries in the United States, but did it solve the problem?
There was a common consensus across the country. All you have to do is read and you will see. The common consensus was that it did not work.
Surely from a historical point of view we should at least examine what has happened to see if it will work here. I think the amendment was well thought out and friendly. It suggested a hard look at these programs. I want the Minister of Health and Human Resources to be able to tell me how many people are going into these programs. How many people are successfully completing these programs and are not going back, so the Legislature can decide if the programs are working. If they are not working we had better look at how we are administering them, what concepts we should change, what the underlying principles are and should they be altered or revised. Sometimes these programs get put into effect and become outdated, through no fault of the people who are administering them, but maybe it is time to fully examine the context of the overall problem we are facing in the Yukon to see what we should do. It cannot be dealt with in isolation.
One of the chronic problems is unemployment, being able to go to work, and the daily routine and pride that comes with that. Where are these people getting the money to be able to do this drinking? The amount of money required to do it is substantial, if that is a full time vocation. Where is that money coming from, and why is that money being put to that use? It is not an isolated situation where you can say to a community that prohibition is the answer.
It is going to complicate things. It is going to add to the problem. All it is going to do is create a situation that none of us want to see: the bootlegger, and the underground industry that formed a good portion of the economy for a period of time in the Yukon. I do not know if the Member for Old Crow remembers that, but the Member for Kluane can sure tell you about it. I am sure the Member for Whitehorse South Centre can tell you as well.
I would ask the Members opposite to take some time and review the amendment without jumping to their feet to oppose it because the Opposition brought it forward. If there is a minor amendment to the amendment we would consider it. To dismiss it right out of hand is totally irresponsible for the Minister of Justice. I am going to ask tomorrow in Question Period to have her table that evaluation. I hope she knows what she was talking about.
I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion No. 47 agreed to
Speaker: The time now being 5:30 p.m., I will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call the Committee to order.
We will continue debate on Bill No. 13.
Bill No. 13 - Second Appropriation Act, 1989-90 - continued
Department of Education
Chair: We will start with the Department of Education on page 29.
Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will be asking Margaret Noble from the department to join us.
The estimates before you are fairly small to augment the funding already voted for the operation and maintenance of the department: a total of $16,000. There are a number of expenditure increases and decreases that we can discuss in a few minutes. The most significant increase is due to the hiring of an additional 7.35 teacher positions this past September. These positions were created because of a higher than anticipated enrollment. They will cost an additional $257,000 in O&M expenditures.
Expenditures associated with Yukon College are reduced by a total of $131,000. This is in large part due to the fact the college will be keeping the fees and revenues it collects from January through March. These are estimated to be approximately $328,000. We anticipate that Yukon College will be converted to a free-standing institution, independent from the Department of Education.
As part of that conversion, the college will collect and retain its own fees in the future. After January the expenditures of the college will not be identified in the departments budget; they will be covered by a grant through advanced education.
In the estimates, the transfer of $197,000 to the college is to cover the cost estimated for the delivery of Yukon Native Teacher Education Program. This offsets the $328,000 in estimated retained fees and revenues, leaving a net reduction in college expenditures of $131,000.
The budget for advanced education was reduced by $542,000. Increased activity by private sector apprenticeship training is responsible for part of this reduction. I will explain that later. The department has increased its funding for the AIM program, an incentive marketing program, by $30,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year.
With respect to capital expenditures, the department is requesting a revote of $7,344,000 to cover capital expenditures incurred during the current fiscal year on projects approved by the House in last years estimates.
Two major projects account for much the funding: the Yukon arts centre, for which a revote of $1.79 million being requested; and, a revote of $1,313,000 for the new student residence. The residence will be built in the Riverdale area of Whitehorse and should accommodate as many as 36 high-school students from the communities.
As Members now know, we do intend to retender the arts centre in January. The St. Elias student residence project will also be tendered in January, with the expectation that it will be ready for use for the 1990-91 school year. A further $652,000 is requested for renovations for the Del Van Gorder School in Faro, which was, as you know, suffering from the effects of permafrost.
Among the other capital projects that were revoted, for which funds are being sought, are: $583,000 for upgrading the extension of the Watson Lake Secondary School; $183,000 for finishing the Robert Service School project in Dawson City; $120,000 for the final portion of the Whitehorse Elementary School; $250,000 to cover the cost of two portable classrooms installed in Takhini Elementary School; $478,000 for new building construction at the Yukon College gymnasium; and $1,456,000 toward the construction of the archives facility at Yukon College. The archives is scheduled to open this summer.
I realize that there will be a number of questions coming so perhaps we can entertain those now and work our way through the general debate.
Mr. Devries: First of all, as I am sure the Minister is quite aware, it seemed like after the election the Department of Education went through quite a transition stage; there seemed to be a mass exodus of possibly 26 personnel in a period of four to six months. I am sure that there have been some problems in maintaining a consistent program there. I would be interested in knowing how many vacancies still exist at the present time. I believe he mentioned there were 7.35 new positions that account for this $257,000.
Also, I would be interested to know, unless we get into it in the mains later, what the anticipation is as to how much it will cost to implement the new education act over, say, the period of the next five to 10 years, which is when I believe it will be reviewed.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are a number of questions to respond to. I will start by working on them one by one.
With respect to the program before and after the election, the general electrification program, there have been some enhancements to the programming in the schools themselves. There has been the introduction of a number of new programs, namely programs such as the wilderness program.
If the Member is asking whether or not the changeovers in staff, the reservation of some staff and the hiring of new, has affected the number of programs, I would have to say the answer is no. I do not believe so. Currently there are 12 vacancies in the department and they include - perhaps I can identify them by branch - an accounts payable clerk, superintendent of schools, some of the Returning to Learning initiatives staff, and a speech language pathologist. Perhaps when we go through each section I can provide the Member with a list of the vacancies. With respect to the programming in the department itself, I would have to say that I do not detect any interruption in programming, to my knowledge.
With respect to the costs associated with the education act, those have not been detailed and will not be detailed until the education act is tabled in the House, and a full financial accounting of potential costs in the coming years will be presented at that time. We do not anticipate any significant new costs in the first year of operation, but there may be changes in future years.
The draft education act proposes no school move to a council until after the end of the first year. So, even costs associated with the development of a council will not be borne by the department. However, there may well be initial costs associated with this or, at least, a transfer of costs internally from the administration to school councils and authorities in the coming years. We will try to make a best guess with respect to what those costs might be and anticipate them when the budget is brought down.
Mr. Devries: In one of the announcements that was made recently regarding counselors at the schools, I believe there are seven counsellors to be hired. Where will these counsellors be stationed? Will they be through Health and Human Resources?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not aware of seven counsellors being hired for the schools. In total, we do have roughly 16 counselor positions in the territory right now and people who are designated as counsellors. I do not know of seven new counsellors to be hired into the school system at this point. The figure seven does not ring a bell.
Mr. Devries: It was something I had written down in one of my notes, and I was not absolutely certain myself what it referred to.
For instance, I understand the college is not paying the rent for the Teslin community campus. Is that put into a budget for Government Services, or does that eventually show up again in the college budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The budget for the Teslin community campus will be paid for through the Department of Education budget.
Mr. Devries: I am referring to the budget that will be needed when the Teslin campus is moved into the band hall. In the letter the Minister wrote, he indicated it would not be coming out of the college budget. Does that mean it is in a general budget in Education somewhere?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It refers to the fact that the program budget that will be transferred to the college this fiscal year will not include the cost of rental accommodation for any of its facilities associated with the college, because we are anticipating transferring immediately the budget respecting program operations at the college, short of maintenance and facilities.
Maintenance of the facilities comes later because that is not considered the highest priority. The transfer of programs and financial administration are considered the highest priorities. The transfer of buildings and rental agreements will take place later. I do not know when exactly but I am hoping in the coming fiscal year.
Along with that transfer of responsibilities will go the funding that is currently being dedicated to that purpose within the Department of Government Services or the Department of Education for the facility management. When the college assumes responsibility for contracts entered into by the government for the rental facilities, or when the college assumes responsibility for the fiscal plant of even the Whitehorse campus, all necessary funding will be transferred to the college.
Mrs. Firth: Will the whole Department of Education be moving? There was some talk of it moving to the old Yukon College. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am the wrong Minister to ask about the use of space. Discussion has come up on the possibility of transferring the department to the old Yukon College. Of course, there had been an announcement some time ago about the transfer of Renewable Resources, or another department, to the old Yukon College. The suggestion was made that the transfer of Education would make better sense largely because the Child Development Centre was there and the chances for departmental expansion were less for it than for Renewable Resources, given Renewable Resources potential for assuming responsibilities from the federal government. No decision has been made about moving to the College or out of this building. I have heard about the discussion myself.
Mrs. Firth: I will follow up on that with the Minister responsible for Government Services. I would like an opinion from the Minister. If that was offered would he be in agreement for the department to move to the old Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is a heck of a question to ask. If I say yes and the Department of Education does not go, then there is a very public division of opinion respecting the future location of the department.
If the Department of Education were to move to the old Yukon College I do not think it would hinder operations in any way. There would certainly be some potential benefit for bringing all its operations together into one building.
Mr. Devries: I caught a fleeting glimmer of what the Minister said about Renewable Resources. Is he referring to acquiring forestry, possibly?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not want to go too far afield. There is some potential for forestry, as I understand that it is currently in federal hands and, ultimately, it is the aspiration of Yukoners to move it into territorial hands. I am not spokesman for Renewable Resources, and I will leave it to my colleague, the Minister for that department.
Mr. Devries: I will go into line-by-line now.
Mrs. Firth: If I may, I have more questions in general debate. I would like to ask about the college transfer. I would like to go into the college for a little bit before I go back to Public Schools again. The transfer is supposed to take place on January 1, 1990. Presently, there is an acting president of the college. Are all the positions on the board completely filled?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, one of the necessary steps that has to take place is the appointment of the board, as the Member knows. There is an interim board in place at the current time. I believe it has two vacancies on it, one moderately longstanding and one fairly recent. One of the necessary steps to the transfer of full responsibility to the college is the establishment of a permanent board. It has not been appointed yet.
Mrs. Firth: I am sorry, did the Minister say when he was going to appoint the board?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It would be my greatest wish that the board be appointed this month. I am now talking to prospective board members and to the current chair of the interim board about permanent appointments, but they have to go through Cabinet for approval. I am hoping to be nominating candidates for Cabinets consideration this month, I hope.
Mrs. Firth: What is the process the Minister is using to recruit potential board members?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As outlined in the College Act, the nominations are sought from Indian bands and community campus committees, as well as from the staff of the college and the students of the college. One permanent placement is the president of the college, and that is set for us; we simply appoint whomever is the president.
With respect to the other three appointments, we have sent out letters to the Chambers of Commerce and various organizations in the territory to seek nominations and they have been submitting them over the course of the last couple of weeks for consideration.
Mrs. Firth: So, the permanent board will be in place this month, meaning by the end of December. Will it be effective January 1?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: At this point, that is my hope. If all things are completed before the end of the month, the board will be in place before the end of December. If I cannot, then I cannot.
Mrs. Firth: How is the recruiting going for the college president? Who is going to be hiring the president?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is a hiring subcommittee of the board, which includes two members of the board plus the chair. They are conducting interviews on December 20 for a president.
Mrs. Firth: Have there been many applications for the job?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have not been close to the hiring process. I understand that there has been good interest in the presidents position. I believe it has been short-listed down to two candidates. I do not know their names.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister know whether the candidates are local people, or are they from out of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are two candidates from outside the Yukon, and I believe they are interviewing a couple of people from within the territory as well. There are two candidates from the outside. They have been short-listed, and I believe that there is at least one person in the territory whom they will be interviewing as well. There are two from outside and one from inside.
Mrs. Firth: On the employment opportunities bulletin that was issued saying that Yukon College needs a president, there was a sentence in the notice that said an eligibility list may be established from any competition to fill future similar vacancies that may arise. I noticed that that was not on the ad entitled, Yukon College Needs a President, that was published in the newspaper. Could the Minister tell us why that sentence was in the employment opportunities bulletin, and why it was not in the advertisement in the papers and what it means?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, I cannot say what it means. The advertisements were approved by the college board hiring committee. I can ask them what it means and let the Member know.
Mrs. Firth: I would like the Minister to do that and get back to me with an answer, because it sounds like they are going to keep some kind of a list in case they have a high turnover of college presidents, that they are going to keep an eligibility list from any competition to fill future similar vacancies that may arise. I do not know if that was an error in the employment opportunities bulletin, but it did not sound very good. I look forward to what the Minister has to say.
On December 20, the board subcommittee and the chair of the board will be doing the interviews. When does the Minister anticipate that the new president will be filling the job responsibilities? Can he give us any ideas? What is it that they are asking for?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Again, I am not on the hiring committee. That has been completely delegated to the board being as we are so close to the conversion. With respect to the advertisement, I would hope that any eligible candidate would not think that the eligibility list was there just in case that he or she did not perform to peoples liking. That would be counterproductive to the whole hiring process.
As to when the president comes on, I would expect that that would be a matter of negotiation between the hiring committee and the candidate they choose, depending upon the candidates current job situation, and what it will require for that person to leave whatever job they are in to come to Yukon College. Quite often that is, I understand, a matter for negotiation. It would depend upon the applicant. I know they are hoping for a permanent president, as opposed to an acting president, as soon as possible.
Mrs. Firth: The committee has not given any expectations, but the sooner the better would probably be preferable. Is that a correct guess?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is a very accurate guess.
Mrs. Firth: I get the feeling that the Minister is going to keep at arms length from the administration and hiring. What avenue are we going to have, as Members of the Opposition, to question the financial management of the college? Are we going to have to ask the president, with his officials, to appear so we can get a detailed financial accounting of the operations? Perhaps he can enlighten us as to how we will access information regarding budgetary matters.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I anticipate a number of vehicles being available for doing that. The basic one will be the annual report the college will provide to the House as is required under legislation. There will also be an agreement struck on transfer, signed between the board and the government. It will be a general letter of expectation with respect to the operations of the college.
Further, there will be budgets negotiated yearly between the government and college. It will be the responsibility of the Minister to defend that budget in the Legislature. I would see no difficulty whatsoever in telling the board to come before the Legislature to account for activities before the Members, if Members have concerns about the boards activities. That is a fairly realistic and responsible approach given that the act does anticipate a fairly arms length relationship between the government and the college. The college board will be expected to live up to the aspirations of this Legislature, to complement the directions provided in the act. It will certainly be different from the relationship between a Minister and a Crown corporation because the act says so. It is appropriate for the board to come to answer Members questions at budget time whenever we are sitting or whenever the Legislature wants to call them forward to talk about activities and ask questions of them about what the college is doing. The Minister of the day will do what he can to ensure that any information requested is sought from the college expeditiously and responses are given to Members expeditiously. That is also an direction that, whether in writing or verbally, will be issued to the college board.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask about the former college president. Has he left the Yukon yet? I understand he was in discussions, and there was some mystery, I suppose, over his termination. His contract, of course, was terminated earlier than had been expected since he had been specifically hired by the Government Leader and the Minister of Education and the Public Service Commissioner. I wonder if the Minister could fill us in on what has happened and whether this individual is still here and whether he is working at all for the college, or if he is maintaining an office up there with desk and telephone services provided to him.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not have a working knowledge of what Mr. Lynn Ogden is doing currently. I do not know where he is living, and I do not know what he is doing. If he is working for the college at all, in any capacity, I can check. I do know that he, at one point, was anticipating a possibility of providing his services as a part-time instructor for a particular evening course. I do not know if he is fulfilling those obligations or not. I have not been on top of that particular detail. I will try to find out the persons whereabouts if the Member wishes, and let her know.
Mrs. Firth: I wish the Minister would because the circumstances surrounding his leaving the college were that it was for family reasons; he was negotiating a position that he was going back to; he was going to be leaving the college. Then, I understand, he was still up there and utilizing the services of office space and telephone and so on. I would like to know if that is still happening and if he is doing contract work with the college. The sooner the Minister could provide me with that information, the better off I think it would be for all of us.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I have indicated previously, I am certainly not at liberty to divulge the circumstances surrounding Mr. Ogdens departure, any more so than Mr. Ogden was willing to provide when the departure took place. I will attempt to discover where he is and where he lives and if he has any relationship with the college at all.
Mrs. Firth: I find it interesting that the Minister is reluctant to talk about departures, because he did not seem to be too reluctant to write a letter to the newspaper to talk about departures, in the public forum, so surely, I would think it would only be fair exercise for us to question him and him openly respond to our questions in the Legislative Assembly. I do not think we should have any secrets from the public, and the Minister obviously felt the same way when he wrote the letter to the newspaper about the departure. I would like the Minister to take that as fair criticism, and it is hoped that he will be prepared to answer our questions.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The reasons for any comments that I had made in the past with respect to his departure, or anything that has happened in the department, has been to set the record straight with respect to the allegation that there is some sort of subterranean or evil intent involved in any of the personnel matters in this department. However, the fact remains that circumstances surrounding the departure of any individual is a personnel matter and is thus confidential, and I will not divulge any details that I may be aware of with respect to any of those matters because that would not be ethical, as I have repeated, for literally months now. I will repeat that again tonight and whenever I am again asked.
Mr. Lang: There are some open questions here. It happens to be the publics money that is involved here. It is the education system of everyone in the Yukon, not just the Ministers, although he may think it is his and his alone.
Did he quit on his own volition or was he asked to quit?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member and I know very well the responsibilities that I have with respect to the education system. It is a people system and that is what the whole new education act is about. The responsibilities I have with respect to personnel matters are very limited. Information that comes to me on personnel matters has traditionally been, and continues to be a matter of personal confidence and will not be divulged by me at any time. I say that for the record, and I will continue to say that for the record. It has nothing to do with who is responsible for the education system. In the course of many years, and certainly long before I arrived on the scene, the tradition is that personnel matters, particularly personal personnel matters, are not divulged in the Legislature, and I will not do that.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister tell us if there was any compensation package arranged upon the dismissal of the individual? Or is there a compensation package being put together, and if so, how much?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will endeavor to seek information on a compensation package from the Public Service Commission. I will also see if divulgence of such information would breach any agreements we have with respect to confidentiality. If it does, I will not repeat it.
Mr. Lang: Maybe I should put this question this way: is there any money in this supplementary for compensation to any employee who has been dismissed or is leaving, upon mutual agreement?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is a repeat of the question I just answered. I will be seeking the information on compensation. If I am not breaching any agreements, I will divulge the information in as much detail as the Member wants.
Mr. Lang: Is the individual in question still on the payroll? Whether it is by contract, consultant fees or term? Did he work after his dismissal? If so, in what capacity and for how long?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member just asked the question that the Member for Riverdale South asked, and I indicated I would be seeking that information. I indicated I suspected that Mr. Ogden had a commitment with respect to the teaching of one course under the Northern Studies Program. I do not know if he attempted to fulfill any portion of that after leaving the presidency of the college. I do not know, but I will check to see whether or not that was the case.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to know how long this individual was kept on the payroll after the official media announcements about his retirement, dismissal, shifting, looking for another job or negotiating, et cetera. I would like an answer to that question.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Forgive me, I thought I just answered the question. I will say the same thing again. Any relationship whatsoever this person has had with any government agency, department, college, or anything after the person left the employ of the government as president, I will find for the Members and will indicate in detail what financial compensation that person might have had for any services that person may have provided.
I do not know the person provided any service whatsoever, but I will provide the information.
Mrs. Firth: I understand the board at the college was not aware of the dismissal of the individual. Can the Minister tell us why the board was not informed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With respect to the persons departure from the government, the Member has assumed it was a dismissal. I am not willing to share her assumption. At the time the dismissal the Member talks about took place, and the date the Member refers to, the person did leave the employ of the government, and that information was known to the chair of the board.
Mrs. Firth: I thought the board was supposed to be involved in that kind of matter. The board was not aware of it the day it was happening. The chairperson may have been the only member of the board who was aware. As far as I know, the board members became aware of it when the rest of the world became aware of it. The Minister cannot have it both ways. He is either going to involve the board in those kinds of matters, or he is not. Why was the board not consulted about the dismissal of the president and their opinions sought out as to whether he should be dismissed or not? A lot of the members of the board were upset about it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Again, the Member is assuming the past president was dismissed. As I indicated, the president left the employ of the government on a specific date. The chair of the board was aware. The president and all employees of the college are employees of the government until such time as the conversion takes place, and it is the governments responsibility, up until the date of the conversion, for all personnel matters. The deputy minister is still the administrative officer who is responsible for the college and will continue to be so until such time as the conversion takes place, and I believe the board understands that.
Mr. Lang: I want to get this clear in my mind. Is the Minister telling this House that the chairman of the board of governors was in agreement with the actions of the deputy minister, or was the chairman informed of the actions the deputy minister was going to take?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The chairman was informed of the circumstances in respect to the departure of the president at the time it happened. As I indicated, the departure of the president was a matter that was communicated between the deputy of the department and the individual.
Mrs. Firth: Why was this move necessary? There have been a lot of people asking why and I think it is only fair that we get it out on the table here and find out why we needed this shakeup and have had to go through the process of hiring a new president now.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not at liberty to discuss the circumstances surrounding the departure of Mr. Ogden.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister aware of any promotions that were given to individuals who had been fired from the public schools branch and relocated at Yukon College? Were they put in any other capacities other than what the deputy minister wanted, whether or not that could have been a contributing factor to the president of the college losing his position?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are a lot of assumptions in that question. I will not answer them all. I will indicate that the circumstances respecting the departure of the president of the college are those that I am not at liberty to divulge, and I will not.
It is well known there were two individuals transferred to the college. As far as I know they are performing their duties and performing them well.
Mrs. Firth: Just to bring the Minister up to date, one of them has left.
Will the Minister check into that please. There have been memos circulating around the college by the deputy minister expressing a lot of concern over seem-to-be-promotions that were given to one of the individuals who has now left Yukon College. In that memo the concern was expressed that this individual was not going to be responsible for the job that had been designated to him by the president. I would like to have the Minister research that and report back as to whether that was a factor in the dismissal.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will make inquiries with respect to the Members allegations. If the Member knows of the memos it would certainly help my investigation if she gave me a copy. It would certainly speed it up. The Member is quite right; one person has left the territory, and as far as I know he performed his job quite well, and the person who is there now is performing his job quite well.
Mr. Lang: There have been quite a number of dismissals and departures of individuals within the department. Quite a number of people have left the administration, in one manner or another. In my discussions with some, they definitely have not left happily. They have been relieved when they have left because of significant changes in the working environment that came from the top down.
How many people have left the department who have been dismissed, quit or have transferred out of the department? We have heard as many as 26. Is that true? If it is I would like a list of the names and positions of individuals who have left, been reassigned or quit.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will bring the list that the department provided to the media some time ago with respect to the staff turnover at all levels of the department, and transfers within the branch, et cetera. Certainly that information can be supplied with no problem whatsoever.
Mr. Lang: Could you also provide us with any costs for compensation that was assigned to individuals for either salary reimbursement or for the purposes of travel or any costs incurred because of the way they have been dismissed by the department, or anything of that nature?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With respect to dismissals, yes.
Mrs. Firth: I want to go back to the public schools branch for awhile and ask the Minister about the general attitude of his deputy minister. I have had some concerns raised to me about the particular attitude of this individual and the personality of this individual and I would like to ask the Minister if he is completely satisfied with the relationship that his deputy minister has with the department staff and does he see that conducive to the enhancement of the quality of education within the Yukon Territory?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The deputy minister of the Department of Education certainly is a spirited individual. He is a person who demands high performance from personnel. He is responding to a fairly ambitious agenda that the government has provided for the department and has made good contacts with community groups in the territory, and is maintaining those contacts. If the Member is asking me to divulge what I personally might think are personal drawbacks in anybodys character, I will not do that. If the Member is asking me whether or not I think that the deputy minister can provide the necessary service to the government, in terms of his administrative role, I think he can. I think that, together, the government and the department will be able to meet a good part of the agenda that we have set for ourselves.
Mrs. Firth: I know these questions are difficult for the Minister to answer but I think they have to be asked in light of some of the concerns that have been raised with all of us Opposition Members. I am speaking strictly in an administrative sense; I am not asking the Minister to give me any character references or opinions; I am asking him in an administrative sense about the quality of education that has had high standards. I would like to know if the Minister feels that the way the deputy minister is presently dealing with the staff members and the big shakeup that happened in the department, and just the general attitude and approach of that individual to his staff, whether or not he feels the quality of education to Yukon children is going to be in any way enhanced or preserved by that kind of management style.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the Member wants to reduce it to whether or not I feel that the quality of education has been jeopardized or whether it has been enhanced, I can only say that I think that, with respect to that matter alone, the department and the schools branch personnel, from regional superintendents to principals, have been energized in the last while and we are feeling very confident about the future of education in the territory. What portion of that is the new education act, what portion of that is the management style, what portion of that are the policies that are emanating from the government with respect to school-based management now, by letting principals manage the schools, rather than reflecting onerous control measures on them - I do not know which of those factors is the most significant. I do know that together they have produced some very invigorated school staffs and I have witnessed that on numerous occasions over the past number of months.
Whether or not the result of any positive or negative impact is coming from any particular individual, I cannot ascertain.
I am acutely aware of much of the discussion that has taken place in the media with respect to the Department of Education staff. I find the criticisms of the department unfortunate and I worked hard to boost morale and encourage people to perform well. I have tried to dispel rumours about people being fired willy-nilly. I have done what I can to ensure that the morale of the department is in good shape. My view about the feelings in the schools I think has been substantiated with the discussions that I have had with literally dozens and dozens of teachers and the teachers association over the course of the last few months, asking them what their general view of the department is and of the system itself. They felt, generally speaking, invigorated by the direction the government was taking.
Mrs. Firth: Maybe I will give the Minister some good advice tonight. For all the Ministers good intentions and his expressions of trying to boost morale and so on, if he has an individual who is managing the personnel of the department that he is responsible for, and that individual is either getting direction from him, or making decisions on his own, and it is causing disruptions within the personnel of that department, it does not matter how good the Ministers intentions are: things will not run smoothly.
I know the Minister likes to say the morale is boosted, and it is because of the spirited and energized approach, but that is not true. The morale is not good in the department. The people in the department do not feel like they are being treated as civilized individuals. I can give an instance which, in a way, involved myself. I was at a going-away luncheon for one of the individuals who is leaving the department. The Government Leader happened to be at the same restaurant, coincidentally, and the message got back to the deputy minister of the department that this party was going on. I did not notice any of the Members of government there, and the deputy minister was not there. The question was put to the Deputy Minister of Education as to why I was there giving speeches and so on, and none of the government Members were there. That immediately prompted quite an outrageous reaction within the department by the deputy minister.
I have had several people come and repeat to me the threats, the words and comments that were made to them in very high voices and in language that I would consider rather abusive.
I want to give the Minister some advice and bring this to his attention, to tell him I do not think any public servants deserve to be treated that way. If that is an issue he has to deal with as a Minister, with his deputy minister, that is fine. I do not say we have to have a public discussion about how he is going to deal with that, but I think it has to be brought to his attention.
The second piece of advice I want to give to the Minister is that I can remember being a minister myself and going around and talking to people. I never got the bad news or the bad comments or the concerns. Everything was always great, as far as they were concerned, until I asked an independent person, or someone heard from another person, one of our secretaries or executive assistants heard that maybe things were not so rosy within the department and that the system was not running as smoothly as I had been led to believe by the comments I had been receiving.
I used to come in the House and have the government Members who, at the time, were Opposition Members, raise these kinds of points with me, and I would take them very seriously. I submit to the Minister that they do not always hear the bad news, but that does not mean that there is no bad news out there.
I would like to leave the Minister with those two pieces of advice and tell him I am going to be keeping a very close eye on the morale within the Department of Education. I have opened my door to anyone there who feels they are being unjustly treated, or spoken to, or treated any less than they think they should be treated as an employee of the government. I am quite prepared to raise this with the Minister. If he will not take my concerns seriously privately, I will definitely raise them with him in the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will take the advice in the spirit it is given. The Member is raising the issue in the Legislature. She is doing it right now, and I do not feel badly about that at all. The Member feels there are legitimate complaints in the department, and it is perfectly within her rights and she is obligated to bring those things forward.
I believe it is important that Ministers do not keep their heads in the sand and only refer to deputy ministers when they want to find out what is going on in the department. I do not do that. Some of the issues the Member has spoken of are familiar to me. When there is a problem I can identify, I try to deal with it.
If she wants to bring them forward in the Legislature, or in any other forum, I will be more than happy to register the concern and, if necessary, answer for the actions of the department and provide any explanation that is necessary with respect to my own actions at any time.
Chair: At this time, the Committee will have a brief recess.
Chair: We will proceed with general debate.
Mr. Lang: I just want to go a little further with the Minister, in respect to the question I asked earlier. I asked about the question of compensation packages for any people who have either left or mutually agreed to leave, or otherwise. It is pretty specific: for anybody who had not been dismissed, he was prepared to provide whatever information, as far as compensation was concerned. I am just asking if anybody has left and if there has been mutual agreement between the two parties, where a compensation package has agreed to, if the Minister could provide us with the total costs incurred by the taxpayer in situations of that kind?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will do my best to secure the information and when I have secured the information I will discuss it with the Member.
Mr. Lang: Just to go on with the observations that were made by the Member for Riverdale South, I share her concerns, quite frankly, with respect to what has taken place with the department over the past year. I agree with the Minister that it is the peoples Department of Education; it is neither the Ministers nor the Oppositions Department of Education; it belongs to the people of the territory.
There were quite a number of very good people who worked in the department - some of them worked for quite some time and dedicated a lot of their time and effort in the best way possible, on behalf of the children of the territory. I am not going to name names but I can think of a number of people and I think it is sad that we have lost a number of these people because I think they proved that they had something to offer to the students, and were dedicated and committed.
It seemed to be a terrible turmoil that took place. Obviously the Minister has stood up - not in this House, incidentally, but after the House sat - and was interviewed a number of times in the media and was very self-satisfied when he told the press that he felt that it was great with all these people leaving. I just want to register my very, very deep concern, not only as a Member of this House but as a parent, at the direction the education department is headed and what the long-term effects will be. Although the Minister has stood in his place and told us what a utopia he is creating, out there when you do talk to people who are knowledgeable in the area of education, there is very significant concern.
That leads me to another concern that I have, which has also been raised by a number of people. It is the question of politicization within the Department of Education, in that people are starting to make the observation that if you do not happen to carry a certain political card then your chances of being employed in any manner, shape or form in top management is very questionable. I think that is going to be very sad if that is going to be the case. Can the Minister assure that there is not a politicization, that some people say there is going on, and assure us that it is not going to happen in the future?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, let me begin by addressing some of the Members preamble. I do not think the Member has read even the media correctly with respect to comments I have made about some of the people leaving the department. When asked to comment, I did not say it was great that some of these people were leaving. Some people who have left for a variety of reasons are good people, and I had the pleasure of working with them for four years. It was unfortunate that some of them did leave. I felt perfectly comfortable with them being in the department. I felt perfectly comfortable with the working relationship they had with me for the period I was Minister before this summer. There are many good people there, and they have been replaced by those whom I regard as good people.
The Member, as a parent, and I, as a parent, should feel very comfortable that these people are good, solid professionals who will do their job.
With respect to the politicization, I think that is absolutely unfounded and unwarranted. I have no knowledge whatsoever, nor do I share the view that there is any kind of politicization of the Department of Education. I am known for working very closely with people of all political stripes, even people who have reported directly to me. I have worked with people in the government, as well as on boards and committees, who are notorious for not sharing my party membership, but we worked on the publics business and worked at it to what I believe was good effect.
I do not share the view the department is being politicized. I would not share the view that it should be politicized, and if I thought that were the case, I would take steps to ensure the department did not become politicized in favour of the government party.
I know there are a number of people in the Department of Education who are good, solid people and who are not members of the New Democratic party, and there are some who, I am sure, are Liberals and others. I do not know what their political affiliation is but, in my view, that is absolutely irrelevant.
I have a lot of working history to prove that in all the time I have been in public business, and I would think that allegation would not hold any water at all.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister give us the service contracts and consultant contracts, or anything else that has gone out from the Department of Education, along with the amounts and the information we normally request? If he has it, could he pass it around?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I only have one copy. It will be in Education tomorrow. I will have copies made and have them passed to Members.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Lang: I see the list from here and I am curious. How many contracts do you have? It looks like quite a list. It is the one the Minister was just looking at.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is not a list of contracts, but the Department of Education has a large number of contracts. I did not separate out the service from other contracts, because that would be some work. I have all the contracts I could find, and I will try to transfer that over. I will try to attach the contracts that the college has let, as well. What I am referring to here is not a list of contracts.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditure
On Finance and Administration
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The single, most significant reason for the over expenditure here is the fact that we have added three more buses to the Whitehorse area - mainly for Takhini, Whitehorse Elementary and F.H. Collins - to accommodate shifts in population. That is for $156,000. In order to offset the $130,000, there was a vacancy in the secretarial position, which has caused a positive variance of $38,000. There are a number of vacancies in the office of the accounts payable clerk for a positive variance of $8,900.
The Circumpolar Conference had expenses higher than anticipated, for $7,500. There were auxiliary positions that were converted to permanent positions, which added $4,900. There was a study respecting the students residence for $3,000. There were increased custodial supplies due to the increased number of students, for $5,400. This led to a total over expenditure of $130,000. From the beginning, the most significant expense was the three extra bus routes added to the Whitehorse area.
Mr. Lang: Could he explain further about the Circumpolar Conference?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Circumpolar Conference was a conference we hosted. I made a ministerial statement about that. I also made mention of it in my speech. I am sure that the Member was hanging onto every word. It was held at the Dalton Trail Lodge on the Haines Highway. It was a conference of ministers of education from circumpolar areas. It had representatives from Alaska; there were others from the Northwest Territories, Quebec, Norway, Sweden and Finland. We had discussions respecting education matters that are very common to all the jurisdictions. When the conference came to a conclusion, we came forward with a number of recommendations that obligated all the jurisdictions to undertake certain studies, one of them being the potential for student and teacher exchanges between jurisdictions.
That particular study was exclusively a Yukon responsibility. We agreed that we would do case studies on native teacher training in all the jurisdictions. In that particular case, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Quebec and Newfoundland agreed to cost-share the study for the purposes of providing our contribution to the next conference.
Thirdly, there was a commitment that we would review the impact of children entering the system in kindergarten or grade one without basic language skills in any language. We were particularly concerned about students coming out of small rural communities, predominately native, who do not have English language skills and are consequently behind with respect to their ability to communicate. This often causes slow development that stays with that child for the time the child is in school. It is believed that that is a significant contributing factor to failure rates among many native children in the school system.
So we agreed that we are going to discuss that at the next conference. We did discuss a whole series of items of this conference, everything from future education to small-core curriculum development in communities. We discussed optional curriculum development. We discussed - I am just thinking about the priority areas of discussion - school-based decision making and small school boards, which was particularly relevant to the Yukon. We discussed distance education and distance education techniques and, all in all, the discussions were, I think, very fruitful.
Mr. Lang: It sounds like it was a fairly significant conference as far as content is concerned. Is the $7500 that the Minister quoted the total amount that was spent on that conference or were there other departments involved as well? If so, what was the total cost?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The total cost for the conference was $32,000, minus the contributions by each jurisdiction of $1,000 per conference. The jurisdictions include Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Newfoundland, Greenland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and maybe next year the Soviet Union.
Mr. Lang: Just so that I get this clear, are we talking about $32,000 minus the contributions, or $32,000 plus the contributions?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Minus.
Finance and Administration in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Public Schools
Hon. Mr. McDonald: A number of things happened. As I indicated, the single most important thing that happened that had extra cost was the addition of 7.35 new teacher person years, and that is an over expenditure. Among the other over expenditures we have nine school secretaries who were converted from auxiliary to permanent, with an associated cost of $48,000. The purchase of library books was transferred out of libraries branch into public schools branch so a transfer of $80,000 came out of Libraries into Public Schools, but there is a reduction of $80,000 in Libraries. The rental of Takhini Recreation Centre was not budgeted. There was $56,000 for overload in Takhini Recreation Centre for Takhini School. The travel costs for interviewing and relocating teachers has been higher than anticipated: $98,000. Work on the education act total was $175,000. Evaluation of the French immersion program was $14,000. Travel for five French monitors is $16,000 and the start-up program costs for the wilderness program were $36,000.
In terms of the expenditures out in order to net this to $518,000, the Native Teacher Education Program salaries were transferred to Yukon College. That is $136,000. The number of teachers aides that were required were less than anticipated in the budget, for $132,000. That should net out to $518,000.
Mrs. Firth: There is an employment opportunity out for a superintendent of schools, assistant superintendent of education, salary range $61,400 to $79,000. Is that a new position within this department?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The superintendent position is new. Separating the ADM position from the superintendent position is new, but the position is a reallocation of a policy position in the policy, planning branch to allow for the creation of the separation.
Mrs. Firth: Is that position filled yet?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The competition closes tomorrow, and it is not filled yet.
Mr. Devries: With respect to the $175,000 on the education act, could the Minister break that down into how much goes for consultant fees and how much for extra interdepartmental person years, or departmental person years?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not have the complete breakdown, but there are a number of contracts we have to date. The $175,000 is an estimated total. It is not what is actually expended. What is actually expended includes, in terms of contract amounts, $29,000 to Lionel Orlikow for research on the education act; $20,000 to WMC Research Associates Ltd. for research and drafting of the first act; $10,900 to Northern Research Group for much of the work around the communications for the act; and there are some smaller amounts. Two small sums of $1,000, totals to $2,200 to the Lakeview Resort and Marina for a conference room accommodation; $385 to the Edgewater Hotel; $380 to the Bahai Institute for conference rooms.
Those are contracts. They will be part of the list I will provide tomorrow.
Mr. Lang: Who is the Northern Research Group for $10,900? Who are we speaking of? Is it local people? Who are they?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will find out tomorrow and include that with the list.
Mr. Lang: It makes it difficult to go through because you have company names. Who are they? Where are they? Where did they come from?
Is the Minister aware of who WMC Research Ltd. is?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will get the names of the principals tomorrow.
Mr. Lang: Was Lionel Orlikow the deputy minister at one time in Manitoba with the previous NDP government there? Is that correct? What was he doing? What was the purpose of the $29,000?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The purpose was to research various provisions and various issues surrounding the education act and present those findings to the department and to the working group developing the act, to provide detailed background with respect to an analysis of other provisions in other acts, to provide issues that had come up in the past with respect to some provisions in acts that had been enacted elsewhere and of which we should be aware when developing our act, to provide research and comment on the acts that we were developing.
Mrs. Firth: What was the period of time that contract was for?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know the precise dates. I believe it was for probably three-quarters of a year at least, but I can have that checked.
Mrs. Firth: Is there a document or report that was done as a result of this contract? Could that be made available to us?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the Member is asking whether or not there was written material, I am sure there was. If the Member is asking whether there was a report, I do not know if there was a formal report. There was lots of comment that I am aware of on various provisions of the act.
Mrs. Firth: Can it be made available?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will take the question as notice. I will have a look and see what the information is and I will have an answer tomorrow.
Mr. Phillips: When the Minister was giving us a statement earlier, he mentioned the wilderness program. I believe he said the total amount there was $36,000. Is that the total amount for that whole program?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, there is an additional cost of a teacher. There is a contract cost, but I cannot remember how much it is. I believe the whole program is $75,000, but if that is out by even a small margin, I will tell the Member.
Mr. Phillips: Where would we find that? We have the wilderness program under Public Schools here. Is the balance of the other $45,000 or $50,000 found somewhere else in the budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is in the main estimates budget. This is a supplementary budget. It is the special programs budget of the Department of Education, public schools branch. The initial cost involved a teacher, who would be dedicated to the program.
Mr. Phillips: Did the Minister say that the total cost of the whole program last year was about $75,000 and it is all found within the main budget and the supplementary budget we are dealing with?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is correct. If I am out on the $75,000 by any thousands of dollars, I will let the Member know.
Mr. Lang: Is that the program that is presently in place at F.H. Collins and, if so, is that the program that is being taught at present? Who is teaching it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Jim Boyd is teaching the program. It has been ostensibly written up in the Whitehorse media. The program is being operated out of F.H. Collins school. The program involves, I believe, 10 students this year and will have an intake next term of 15 students. It combines wilderness experience with normal course programming and is a fully-accredited course. It is part of the grade 10 program. If you take this program in either the first term or the second term - it works on a split-term schedule - it counts as a full credit toward your high school program. It blends social studies courses with the work in the field that is done and the wilderness trips that are taken and the experiences that are had by the students. It blends the outdoors with the classroom, and it was one of the three programs that I announced last year, in a ministerial statement once again, that are part of what was called, I guess affectionately, the returning-to-learning program, which is to try to capture some students who would otherwise drop out of the system, for whatever reasons. It blends the high achievers and what we call modest achievers, so there is good peer support in the program. So far, the program is considered to be highly successful, and I would venture to guess that there is not a teacher in the system who does not think it is a good idea.
Mr. Devries: Could the Minister break down the 7.53 person years and where they are located?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The teachers were allocated in accordance with a formula across the system. I thought I provided - maybe I did not provide student/teacher ratios for the school system, but I will have a copy provided to the Member if he does not have it already. It is pretty impossible to say that they were provided to particular schools because all the teachers are taken as a group and applied to the schools in accordance with the formulas established in concert with the Education Council.
What happens, as the Member knows, is that the principals try to anticipate what their role is going to be and it is on that basis that we staff schools. They do the anticipation in May or June of the year. We staff the schools, do all the hiring, make sure the teachers are in place for September and try to make some arrangements, if we can, to account for increases and reductions in student populations.
We anticipate, in May or June of the year, either an increase or a decrease in the population. In the rural schools it is particularly easy to anticipate how many students are going to come forward because, generally speaking, the principals know who the families are and what kind of student enrollment they get. Quite often they are pretty accurate.
In the Whitehorse schools it is more difficult to anticipate the student enrollment so the stats branch gives some indication of whether or not we can expect a population increase and based on that kind of information we staff our schools.
We did not at any time approve a teacher through the Management Board, for example, in order to accommodate a particular school. We simply took the total number of students we have and the break-out in terms of where they would be in the school system because the formula is different for elementary, intermediate and secondary schools, and basically staff on this total number, where they would be and what schools they would be, based on the information that we have received from the statistics bureau and from the principals themselves.
Mr. Devries: Including the eight percent increase last year in Public Schools and now the addition of $518,000, that puts us up about 14 percent. Is that in line with the increase in population of students, possibly?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think we have a population right now of 5,144 students in the system. One statement says 5,172 and the last time I checked it was 5,144, but we did anticipate roughly 5100 students and we were not too far off. There was some question as to whether we were accurate on the French immersion program but I believe we were accurate there too.
At the beginning of every school year there are wild fluctuations in school populations. People have not come home from holidays and are consequently not here, and people will register and then leave, but we were pretty accurate in our estimation of the student population and we did approve the 7.35 teachers based on the projected student population and on the formula.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Given that it is December 13 and 9:25 p.m., I move that you report progress on Bill No. 13.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 13, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 1989-90, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled December 13, 1989:
Liens against M.V. Anna Maria (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 715
Damage to Carmacks campground when hauling ashore M.V. Anna Maria (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 721