Wednesday, February 28, 1990 - 1:30 p.m
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: Will will proceed with the Order Paper.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under Tabling Returns and Documents I have for tabling an unaudited financial statement for the Yukon Human Rights Commission as at January 31, 1990, and the Internal Auditors Report on the Commission, dated January, 1990.
Speaker: Are there any further Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of Reports of Committee?
Introduction of Bills.
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Minister?
Environmental Initiatives by the Department of Education
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I rise today to advise you of the initiatives taken by the Department of Education in teaching Yukon students about the environment, and particularly of a special environmental education event the department is sponsoring. It is this governments policy to actively promote awareness of environmental issues, particularly among the Yukons young people.
These activities are geared, not only to enlightening students about the nature of the Yukons wilderness, but also to giving them encouragement and the means to act. The theme of this years science fair, for example, is the environment. Hundreds of Yukon students will be working on projects that illuminate problems and solutions to our local, regional and global environment.
Recently, new programs and curriculum have been developed and implemented that ensure the environment is an integral part of the Yukons education system. I would like to briefly outline these for you before telling you about the special event that will highlight the environment-related work with which Yukon young people are involved.
At the elementary level, the salmonid in the classroom program will be starting up in our schools by the end of this month. This program was developed by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in conjunction with the Department of Education, and it involves the students in actively learning about one of the Yukons most valuable resources.
Students in Grades 5 and 6, and their teachers, will soon be working on environmentally related projects with the help of the Yukon Conservation Societys Small Winter Life Book, and those in grades 4 through 7 will develop awareness, knowledge, skills and commitment to the management of the Porcupine caribou herd through the new caribou management curriculum.
Students in grades 5 through 9 will also have an outdoor education resource book which is full of activities and projects that promote strong links between classroom environmental studies and outdoor activities.
For the senior students various environmental education teaching units, courses and books have been developed such as the biology supplement unit by science teacher Lee Kubica, on northern population ecology, that allows students to study the principles of population ecology in a Yukon context.
The second semester of the Yukon wilderness program has just begun. A key component of this innovative program is the direct experience by the students with a variety of environmental issues.
Environmental Studies 10, one of the courses in the wilderness program, is dedicated to developing knowledge and understanding about the environment. It provides secondary students with the opportunity to conduct in-depth studies and analyses of the Yukon and world environment.
Environmental education does not stop at grade 12. Yukon College is developing a northern outdoor and environmental studies program that is expected to be ready for September 1991. As well, the northern studies program now offers a course on northern environment, one on environmental geology and another on winter outdoor pursuits.
The college is also developing, in conjunction with the Department of Renewable Resources, a new geography course that teaches land use and resource management in the north.
I would now like to take this opportunity to tell you of a special event that will be held in conjunction with the environment science fair, that complements all the education initiatives I have told you about and as well, draws in those of us who are no longer at school or college.
The Department of Education has invited Jay Ingram, the host of CBC Radios Quirks and Quarks, to be our special guest at the Yukon Regional Science Fair on April 7th and 8th. Mr. Ingram is well known to Canadians as a public advocate of science education.
Mr. Ingram will demonstrate everyday science at the science fair.
He will also be the keynote speaker of the evening science series being held in conjunction with the science fair.
In addition to sponsoring Mr. Ingram, the Department of Education is further supporting the students involved in the science fair with the establishment of a special prize. This prize will recognize the science fair project that best articulates or represents environmental concerns, whether through content, application of environmental parameters or just plain ingenuity.
The environment award itself is unusual, yet quite appropriate. Each winner will receive a book about the environment or environmental issues and a one-day outdoor experience. This could be river rafting, or horse back riding or a special hike, for example. There will be an environment award for each of the three age groups participating in the science fair, with an activity chosen that is appropriate for the age level.
Several students have been asked what they think about the environment prize. Not surprisingly, they are very enthusiastic at the prospect of a one-day outdoor adventure. I personally like the idea that the winners - those students who show an outstanding interest in, or understanding of, environmental issues - will have a special opportunity to enjoy and explore the Yukons wilderness environment. I would hope the experience strengthens their commitment to the environment, as well as spur on students for next years science fair.
The environment is a subject that we ignore at our peril. This governments initiatives in environmental education will go a long way to ensuring it is a subject every Yukon person is aware of, and committed to enhancing and preserving.
Mr. Devries: I am very pleased to see the Department of Education developing some environmental initiatives at this time. There is no doubt that the salmonid unit in the classroom program will be of great interest to the students educationally. It will give them the opportunity to participate in a project.
We can thank Tom Siddon, our new Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, for this fine program. Many of the other initiatives being taken will reach out and catch the interest of all the students, and especially the interest of those not normally interested in environmental affairs.
I am sure that the wilderness trip incentive will encourage the students to go beyond their normal intellect and come up with some truly unique projects for the science fair.
However, I am disappointed in the governments own track record in putting into action what they preach. Just from observing the action around Watson Lake during the governments ownership of Hyland Forest Products, mill trees were left in the yard to rot; 50 percent of the logs were being utilized; much of the balance was wasted with nothing done to rectify the situation.
A project to use waste heat at the high school and community centre was either postponed or abandoned. A silviculture study that stressed the timeliness of implementation of tree planting last summer was neglected. Now, it has been mentioned again in this years mains. I realize it is a federal responsibility, but it will save us money in the long run if we get going on this. There are still styrofoam cups in the cafeteria. Yukon Colleges waste heating system is still inactive. Proposals for waste heating downtown have been turned down. Where is the long-awaited environmental protection act? I question that environment is this governments priority, and until it is, it will be difficult to catch the students imagination. We have to take the lead and be an example.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for his, perhaps halfhearted, endorsement of the Department of Educations initiatives in this particular area. We do owe thanks, with respect to one program of the many I have just announced, to the federal Department of Fisheries pertaining to the salmonid in the classroom program. I guess it would be a bit early to be thanking Tom Siddon at this point; probably, we will have more opportunity to speak to him in person after his new appointment, but it would have perhaps been even better for that particular program had he also agreed to the community advisor, which we debated ever so briefly in this House very recently.
The Members remarks tended to give the impression that the government, outside of the Department of Educations initiatives, which are extensive and thorough, has neglected the issues of the environment. I think that impression is quite mistaken. The very clear initiatives that have been taken by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services with respect to special wastes, the support the government has provided to initiatives such as the waste heat plant downtown, the initiatives the government has taken to ensure that the Yukon College, and now the Granger school, will have heating plants capable of burning wastes other than fossil fuels are, I think, tantamount to expressing the very clear position of the government in its support for environmental initiatives.
The Member will have to do, I think, a bit better homework, in terms of his criticism. I understand that he would probably never want to, at any time, provide the government with unqualified support. Consequently, I am sure that this statement that was prepared for him kept that in mind. I think the Member should take a little better care in the future, in terms of criticizing initiatives that the government has clearly taken to protect the environment. I think we all owe special thanks to the Department of Education for its clear leadership in this area, leadership that was asked for by the Yukon 2000 review last November but started by the Department of Education much before that. Thank you.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, regarding the Watson Lake sawmill. I understand that the court-appointed receiver has had trouble obtaining the financial records from T.F. Properties in Vancouver and I am wondering whether the Minister can tell us if the financial records have been received by the receiver as of this date?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and welcome to the Tony Penikett hour. The Member may know - I suspect he does, it being his rule not to ask a question that he does not know the answer to already - that an application has gone before the court to obtain from the manager the documents referred to in the Members question about the receiver. I understand that that matter is being dealt with in the court now.
Mr. Phelps: I am sorry, there is not a court case on the matter being heard today, is there?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not think it is initiated today. I think it may have been initiated before today. I was advised this morning that it is being heard and that was in the present tense. I can advise the Member privately what I know but that is what I can tell him for the record.
Mr. Phelps: I understand the court action had been once again been adjourned.
Can the Government Leader tell us whether or not the receiver has been able to obtain working capital by way of borrowing money? Apparently he has the right to borrow up to $1 million, and we understood he was having trouble raising any money because of the limited assets at the mill. Has he been able to raise working capital?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It would be for the receiver/manager to make a statement on that question, not I. I am aware discussions between the receiver/manager and the investors have been proceeding. I am sure conclusion of those discussions will become public if an agreement is reached and the receiver obtains capital from outside sources or private lenders. I assume he will make interested parties aware of that.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: Surely the Yukon Development Corporation officials are watching the situation with some apprehension and keen interest, given the receiver is there to protect assets that belonged to the Yukon Development Corporation and taxpayers of the Yukon. Does the Yukon Development Corporation have any idea how long the sawmill can continue to operate without an injection of working capital?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member used the words apprehension and keen interest. We are watching the situation very carefully. Let me assure the Member that I am regularly briefed on exactly the questions he is asking, but I am also under instructions, until such time as agreements are reached about discussions, not to make the facts or knowledge that comes to my attention on these negotiations public.
Mr. Phelps: I am not asking questions about negotiations regarding the injection of money. I am concerned about - and I know the workers at the Watson Lake mill are extremely concerned about it - just how long the ship will stay afloat without working capital being provided to the operation.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We understand the concern, perhaps better than the Leader of the Official Opposition. The officials of the corporation are doing everything they can. They are fully apprised of what is going on and are continuing to work toward the stated objectives of the Development Corporation and this government in respect to this operation.
Mr. Phelps: Does that mean that the Yukon Development Corporation officials have a good idea of just how long the operation can continue without an injection of working capital?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In putting the question in exactly those terms, I am sure they have a pretty good idea, but I am also pretty sure they would not, for all sorts of reasons, be making a statement predicting a date by which certain injections had to take place. I do know that discussions to satisfy concerns addressed by the Member are going on and will continue. I am sure, should they reach a happy result, the public will be aware of them very soon.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: Does that mean the Yukon Development Corporation is working toward a happy result by trying to assist the receiver in obtaining some working capital funds?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The relationship between the Yukon Development Corporation and the receiver is a very proper one. As the most interested party, we are playing an active and proper role in all these matters.
Question re: Art gallery in Whitehorse Public Library
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism regarding the future of the Whitehorse art gallery, currently situated in the Whitehorse library. The centrally located gallery is used extensively by local artists and for touring displays. I understand there is a waiting period of over a year now if a Yukoner wants to display their works in this gallery.
The arts community welcomed the announcement of the new public gallery in the proposed art centre, because there is a much-demonstrated need for more space. It appears that, when they approved the new gallery in the arts centre, no one told them they would have to forfeit the centrally located gallery in the library.
Would the Minister confirm or deny the art gallery in the Whitehorse library will close when the new gallery in the arts centre is complete?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: All along, the plan of action has been to provide for a single gallery space in the City of Whitehorse that would be publicly funded. This was a request also made by the Arts Canada North board in correspondence with me. Consequently, in designing a new arts centre, much care was taken to ensure the new gallery space was much better and much larger than the existing gallery space at the public library.
The short answer to the Members question is that the publicly funded art gallery space will be at the arts centre. The space that is currently housing some collections in the public library will now be dedicated to the public library, which is also in critical need of space.
Mr. Phillips: As I said earlier, the arts community is pleased about the new gallery, but their concern is about having a centrally located gallery in the downtown area. When they talked to the Government of the Yukon, they had no idea they were going to lose this small gallery they had there.
In light of the growing backlog of Yukoners who wish to display their art, and the need for a centrally located public gallery, would the Minister reconsider the plans to turn the old gallery into more government office space?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is the first time I have ever heard that the old gallery, that is planned to be turned into public library space, would be considered office space. There are many people in the City of Whitehorse who are insistent that there ought to be more space for the public library. We are keen to not only resolve their request for more public library space, but also to resolve the requests for more public gallery space for artists.
I would like to point out that the space in the current gallery in the Whitehorse Public Library is 500 square feet. The space for the new gallery in the arts centre is over 4,000 square feet. The collection storage area and the work areas in the new gallery separately, in terms of space, are more than what currently exists in the Whitehorse Public Library.
Consequently the government, through the construction of the arts centre, is providing for a very strong vote of confidence in our artists in the territory by providing them with much more space than they currently have. We are also resolving the requests by many users of the public library that they, too, after 16 years, will get more space.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister is missing the point. The point is that in all of the talks that they had with the people in the arts groups, the arts groups never thought for a minute that they were losing this gallery down here. They thought they were gaining an extra display area up the hill but thought that they would be maintaining this centrally located area here.
We know now that the new arts centre has been postponed several times, and it is supposed to come up to tender very shortly, but we are not sure whether it will go ahead, as yet.
When does the Minister anticipate the opening of the arts centre and the new gallery and the arts centre? What will these artists do in the meantime to display their work if we are going to renovate the art gallery that is down here sometime early in this year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member has got all of his facts, both in the preamble and the question, wrong. First of all, he is saying that the artists never knew that the space that was to be provided in the arts centre would be the only space funded by the government, when I just indicated to the Member that the Arts Canada North board, through the chairperson, sent a letter last summer confirming that the only publicly funded space should be in the arts centre and not in the Whitehorse Public Library. Clearly, the artists did know, exactly, because they made a request of me to confirm the fact that this would be the only publicly funded space in the City of Whitehorse; that is a fact. I wish the Member would consider that.
With respect to the arts centre, the government has a very clear commitment, a commitment that has been stated many times, both in the Legislature and in the public, to build the arts centre. We also have a commitment to fiscal responsibility. We would like to marry the two. We would like to provide for an arts centre that meets the artists requirements. We would like to provide for a space for the many users of the public library, and we would also like to show some respect for the publics budget. I think that our arrangement will accomplish all of those tasks, and we have done so with very thorough consultation with the arts community. We have kept very close contact with them throughout this entire process.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: I just received a note that says that there is no court proceeding on the docket for today in the Territorial Court of the Yukon. I wanted to put that on the record and ask one final question: namely, could the Minister confirm that T.F. Properties is using, as a reason for not surrendering the books to the receiver, a claim of a lien for management fees or something like management fees, of something like $200,000?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have to be careful of what I say, according to legal instructions, but that assertion by the Member squares with a report I have. What I was also told is that there was a contempt proceeding contemplated, and it may have been before a court in Vancouver, rather than in Whitehorse. In any case, I will seek confirmation of that fact, which is information I received this morning.
Question re: Office space
Mr. Lang: I would to direct a question to the Minister of Government Services, and it has to do with government space and the renting of new space by the government. The government came out with their strategy for acquiring further space to house the civil service, and the Minister indicated to us that the next step was the renovating of the old Yukon College and the moving of various departments to that particular area. Since that time, it has come to my attention that there may be some other moves contemplated, and I would like to ask the Minister if it is true that Government Services is moving out of the justice building, known as the Andrew Philipsen Law Centre.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member did indeed raise a question about space allocation and about intended major moves. At the time in the budget when he raised the question, I did indicate to him that the first major move contemplated would be the Department of Education relocating to the old Yukon College. At the same time, there are a number of other minor moves that will take place and that are being contemplated as demands and needs and space arise.
The specific answer to the Members question is: yes, indeed, it is contemplated that the Government Services administration unit will move from its location in the Law Centre to the building known as the M&R Building across the street.
Mr. Lang: My understanding is that it is not contemplated; I understand the decision has been made to move that particular department. Can the Minister report to this House the cost of the move and could he also tell us who is moving into the space that is being vacated by Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will take those questions as notice. They are specifics on which I do not have detailed familiarity at this time.
Mr. Lang: I have to express my surprise that he would not have that information in view of the fact that he, in conjunction with Management Board, has to authorize the moves and expenditures.
I would also like to ask the Minister this: in view of his answer to the first question, could he tell us what other moves are being contemplated in the interim before the major move to the Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That would be difficult while on my feet during Question Period, but I certainly will make every effort to provide the Member with the anticipated moves that are contemplated in the overall space plan and strategy of the government. One of the anticipated moves that comes to mind is the intention to do some adjustments to the legislative precincts, with which the Member is familiar - the need to provide better space for Hansard and the need to accommodate more desirable space for legislative staff. A number of other moves are contemplated during the next three year period. I believe there are a total of 31 relocations and I would be quite pleased to provide to the Member the majority of those relocations.
Question re: Office space
Mr. Lang: I just ask an innocent question, and all of a sudden I got notice of 31 moves out of it. I would ask the Minister this: could he provide us with details of what those 31 moves are and a breakdown of the costs of those moves? He must have it in some document of some kind, because no one was of the impression that there were going to be that many moves contemplated in the strategy the Minister announced just a few weeks ago.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To clarify for the Member, the space strategy that was announced a couple of weeks ago was built upon a number of principles that are going to govern the governments decision making in relation to its needs for space.
Over the course of the next three years, a number of moves are contemplated for the consolidation of various departments, for the anticipated devolution growth and for meeting occupational and safety standards for employees. The number of moves that may take place are also flexible, in that they are based upon those principles and will reflect current and anticipated needs.
To specifically answer the Members question, I can assure him that the space strategy follows those principles that were tabled and the anticipated number of moves that will occur could well change but there are anticipated to be, over the next three years, some 30 minor and major moves.
Mr. Lang: I enjoyed the response to the question, but the Minister did not answer the question. Could he provide us with the 31 proposed moves and the projected costs? This is the first we have heard of the moves.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have no problem providing that to the Member. I would caution that they are based on the anticipated relocations, consolidations and growth factors that are contemplated at this time. Members should not raise false expectations that all of these will happen. Circumstances do change and so do available dollars. I can also provide the anticipated costs within the next week.
Question re: Watson Lake extended care facility
Mr. Devries: During the Committee of the Whole debate a few days ago, I asked the Minister of Health and Human Resources for a status report on the Watson Lake extended care facility proposal. I was advised that the director of the Health branch had been to Watson Lake to meet with people to discuss the proposed facility.
Can the Minister advise the House who his officials talked to in Watson Lake about the facility because I cannot find anyone who seems to know anything about a meeting that took place.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would be happy to do that. Unfortunately, the director of the Health branch is presently on holidays. I will have to wait until his return to find out who he actually talked to. It may be that someone in his office has access to his files and he has some record of the people to whom he talked. I will take the question under advisement and get back to the Member.
Mr. Devries: There is only one month left to stay within the intent of the motion that was passed unanimously in the House. Will the Minister be instructing his officials to consult with the people of Watson Lake further as to what option they prefer? Will he report back to this House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sure that we will be consulting further with the people of Watson Lake on the question. We will also be consulting with the federal government because they have a significant interest in this question as well.
We have not provided any money in this budget for that facility. Consultations will continue over the course of the next fiscal year.
Question re: Challenge 90 program
Mrs. Firth: The Government of Canada and the Yukon government announced last week the Canada/Yukon Challenge 90 program for summer jobs for students and youth. Through this program, over one-half million dollars is available to groups and employers to create some 360 jobs for students.
Groups and employers are advised to submit applications to this program in the next two weeks. The deadline is March 16. An increase in the minimum wage will have an impact on the numbers of jobs made available for the students.
Since the Minister of Justice announced almost a month ago that the minimum wage was going to be increased, will she tell us now when her government plans to announce this increase?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I mentioned in response to a previous question that a decision had to be made by Cabinet. I mentioned that it was not something that I could do by myself. It was in the process of being done the last time I spoke in the House.
I am not sure where it is right now, but it could be on the agenda this week. As soon as it has reached Cabinet and a decision has been made, I will announce it. I will check to see where it is now.
Mrs. Firth: I gather by that answer it has not even gone to Cabinet yet.
The tourism industry employers are making plans for the numbers of employees they will be hiring for summer, and wage costs are being predicted. Would the Minister agree it is too late to increase the minimum wage and just leave it as it is at $5.39 an hour, which is already the highest in Canada?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would not agree with that. There are certain things that have to be taken into consideration. As I said, the decision is not mine alone to make. It has to be taken into consideration and will have Cabinet approval or disapproval. I will report back to the House as to what happens.
Mrs. Firth: When I last asked this question, the Minister said she would make an announcement in the House and for me to rest assured that I would know prior to leaving. This week is almost over. Obviously, the Minister is not going to make the announcement tomorrow. I do not know when Cabinet is next week, but it is later on in the week. The announcement will not be made. The deadline for the challenge program is two weeks away. The tourism industry is already making plans. Surely, the Minister can give us a commitment she will consider not raising the minimum wage in light of the lateness of the timing and the potential impact it is going to have on both the students and the tourism industry.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I cannot make that commitment. I have already explained, it is a very important decision that has to be made and I am not about to make any commitments in this House one way or the other right now.
Question re: Crestview access roads
Mr. Nordling: For several years, I have been expressing my concern over the safety of the access roads to Crestview from the Alaska Highway at Azure and Kathleen Roads. The intersections continue to be very dangerous, to the extent that the Alaska Highway corridor study has proposed the option that one or, possibly both, of these intersections should be moved.
Can the Minister of Community and Transportation Services tell me when the study will be complete? What is the earliest possible date work will actually begin on the corridor to improve safety and traffic flows?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not believe I can give the Member any firm commitment at this time. I am still awaiting the final results of the public consultation on the corridor study. I am aware of the access routes he identifies. I am also aware of the general cost implications for improving those access points. They are in the magnitude of a few hundred thousand dollars in each case.
I will undertake to ensure the maintenance level is kept to the absolute best state possible and await the final recommendations from the corridor study and keep the Member apprised.
Mr. Nordling: The reason I am concerned is that constituents have come to me because an implementation plan was to be ready by the end of the year. That was announced in the August news release. Earlier this month, the Minister said the plan would not be ready until March or April. There is concern as to how far behind we are on this.
Does the Minister have a more accurate date when this implementation plan will be considered by the three levels of government and, after that, a date for actually starting the work? Is there a time when the three levels of government are going to get together?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The best information I can give the Member is the same information I provided a couple of weeks ago. In March, I anticipate receiving final recommendations from the corridor study. I anticipate that immediately following that, the decision making and budget processing will begin. I do not anticipate that any work will be taking place this year.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to direct my supplementary to the Minister of Justice.
The danger is extreme at peak times when the number of vehicles entering and exiting Crestview is very high and, to a slightly lesser extent, the intersections at Wann Road and 15th Avenue are also dangerous. Part of the danger is due to the vehicles speeding along the highway, and the vehicles entering the highway not stopping at the stop signs. I believe the Minister of Justice is aware of this problem and I would like to ask if she has made any representations to the RCMP to enforce traffic regulations along that stretch of the Alaska Highway?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have not made representations to the RCMP with regard to this specific matter. Other areas of concern have been identified that do require that personnel be in certain areas at that time. I will take the question as notice and make sure the RCMP are aware of the situation. That is all I can do.
Question re: Licence plates
Mr. Brewster: My question is to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
In view of the fact that Yukon motor vehicles currently have two licence plates instead of one, and the law enforcement agencies support the retention of two plates rather than one because the back licence plate is often obscured by mud or snow, can the Minister advise the House if it is still the intention of the government to issue only one licence plate when the new plates are finally released?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is still the intention to issue the one plate. That was announced and that is the current plan. I should point out that it was on the advice of RCMP authorities during the consultation period prior to the development of the staggered licencing system.
I suppose I can tell the Member that there has been some additional information on the subject. We are currently in discussion with the RCMP on whether or not that second plate is required. It is a matter of some discussion between the department and the RCMP now. We are examining what other jurisdictions are doing because we looked at other jurisdictions when we made the decision on the single plate. It is fair to say, our discussions have not concluded. We may reconsider the issue of the single plate.
Mr. Brewster: It is quite apparent that recent negotiations were between bureaucrats and did not get down to the poor patrol officers that have to work the highway.
Other than concern for splitting two plates between two vehicles, can the Minister advise the House if there is any other reason for having only one plate?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The concept of a single plate is a practice that is followed in other jurisdictions. Certainly there are some cost implications to the production of two plates. The Member recognizes that it is cheaper to provide one plate than it is to provide two. The problem has occurred in the past, which governed our decision to go with a single plate, that people put the plates on two separate vehicles and drove two separate vehicles without registering one of them.
That is a practice that may be more common in southern jurisdictions but was anticipated that may be happening here. On the advice of the RCMP, we made that decision. As I indicated in response to the Members first question, we are now reviewing that decision and contemplating whether or not it ought to be changed. I guess once we have enough information and have concluded those discussions, that will help make our decision and we will decide.
Mr. Brewster: Would the Minister consider a motion in the House to go back to two licence plates?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Well, the Member is entitled to bring forward any motion he chooses and I cannot say, today, whether or not I would support that. I have already made the decision to go with the one plate and I am reconsidering that decision on the strength of new discussions with the RCMP. The fact still remains that a single-plate production was intended, partly for cost reasons and partly for the plate-splitting reason. In addition to that, other jurisdictions do have a single-plate issue, and clearly, we saw the rationale of going with the single plate. The Member is entitled to bring forward a motion. I cannot say whether I would support it or not, but we will be making the decision shortly, and that should indicate it.
Question re: Licence plates
Mr. Brewster: Due to the fact that most of his arguments do not stand up, I would like to know if the Minister would consider a petition to solve this issue?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member knows that I am very respectful and sensitive toward petitions, and if the Member is contemplating generating petitions to ensure two plates on vehicles, that is his choice. I would only say to him that I am not convinced at this point that two plates are necessary, that two plates would be a wise expenditure or that two plates would be a useful licensing method for vehicles; but I am reconsidering that decision and I have indicated that already.
Question re: Licence plates
Mr. Lang: I would like to follow up a little further on this, if I could, because I find the responses that the Minister is giving to the Member for Kluanes questions are interesting. I recall the very long and torturous debate on the gold panner versus the magic and the mystery, which I am sure the Member for Klondike will recall. The Minister said that one of the reasons a decision had to made in January was so that he could order the necessary plates. In view of the fact that the Minister is reviewing the decision of one plate versus two, has he ordered enough plates in order to provide each and every vehicle in the Yukon with two plates, if that was the final decision?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: When the previous exciting debate took place on the goldpanner versus the fireweed, I advised the Member that a decision had to be made by the end of January so that the period of February could be spent preparing the tendering documents. If the Member recalls, we anticipate running out of the current series of plates in approximately July, and we need a three-month lead time for the manufacturers to produce the plates. If you back up three months from July, you have to go to tender by March. We are currently in the final stages of preparing the tender documents and the documents have not been issued; therefore, we have not issued a tender and we do not have production started.
Mr. Lang: I would like to make a representation to the Minister, from a tourism point of view, that I think it is also advantageous to have the two plates for travelling through Canada and through the Lower 48. I think it is a method of advertising that goes a long way and costs us very little.
I would like to ask the Minister when he expects to make a decision in respect of the question of the two plates versus one?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I indicated to the Member from Kluane, the decision is being reviewed now; I expect tenders to be issued in the month of March, which would require the decision to be made by then. Again, I want to caution the Member that the decision to go to two plates may not be a necessary one, from an enforcement point of view, a practical point of view and a financial point of view. The decision to review the two-plate issue is taking place currently. I expect within the next week or so to conclude it so we can issue the tenders for production.
Mr. Lang: I think the question of the financial aspect has been taken care of in view of the fact that, during the exciting debate as the Minister described it, he forgot that he had doubled the rates for the cost of the plates for this coming year, so that should be more than taken care of.
My question is to the Minister of Tourism, then - a supplementary - in view of the fact that quite a number of tour operators and people in the tourism industry have made representation that they feel two plates are better than one plate for the purposes of advertising in southern Canada and the Lower 48, could the Minister of Tourism tell us what his position is: whether or not there should be two plates per vehicle or one?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I cannot honestly say that there has been a lot of opinion from people in the tourism industry about the benefits of having a plate on ones vehicle in front and back. As a matter of fact, I have heard the exact opposite view - that it might be good for tourism having just one plate - as it frees up one end of the vehicle to put on ones own plate to promote whatever event or special activity a person would want to promote, such as the 1992 Alaska Highway 50th Anniversary celebrations.
Chair: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Introduction of visitors
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to draw the Members attention to the gallery and the presence of very capable teacher, Bill Bennett and his students from F.H. Collins High School. Welcome to the Legislature today.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On behalf of the House Leaders, I 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 76, which is Item No. 1; Motion 71, which is Item No. 9; Motion 25, which is Item No. 2; Motion 69, which is Item No. 7.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 76
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Ms. Kassi; debate adjourned; Ms. Joe.
Chair: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Old Crow
THAT it is the opinion of this House:
(1) THAT throughout the Western World there is a growing recognition that the existing adversarial criminal justice system is failing to resolve social and criminal problems;
(2) THAT the costs of the existing justice system are rapidly increasing without significantly improving the wellbeing of individuals or communities;
(3) THAT, in the Yukon, lay people and professionals recognize the need for significant changes in the justice system to enhance opportunities for communities to play a much greater role in maintaining peace and harmony within a community;
(4) THAT vital initiatives such as tribal justice, mediation and diversion in the Yukon have begun to enable communities to assume responsibilities for community problems;
(5) THAT there is a need for a change in our justice system from primary reliance upon professionals to a partnership between communities and professionals and, in many areas, to a primary reliance upon everyone in the community to participate in promoting the well-being of their community; and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly recognizes and supports the initiative of the Yukon aboriginal people to assume greater responsibility over social problems within their communities through the development of aboriginal justices.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Two weeks ago during debate, I ended by mentioning some things about tribal justice. Those are all on record. I have some comments to make to that motion.
People tend to interpret what they see and hear through their cultural eyes and ears. The judicial system of this country deals with people from other cultures: its native people.
By interpreting their words and acts through its non-aboriginal eyes and ears, these interpretations are frequently wrong. What this system finds may be very different from what aboriginal people know to be the truth.
The Canadian system of justice is far too insensitive to the needs and aspirations of its aboriginal people.
The Chief Judge of the Territorial Court made a presentation to the Canadian Bar Association that sort of opened the eyes of many people. I would like to quote from that speech. He said, Significant cultural differences exist between the native people in northern communities and the personnel who are charged with administering the criminal justice system: lawyers, probation officers, police, court staff and judges. These differences are primarily found in the value systems of the two cultures and are reflected in the observable attitudes, demeanour and actions of individuals appearing in the courts. A misinterpretation of these observable characteristics can result in inappropriate assessment of the individual and in the inappropriate response to the courts.
So, it has already been recognized by the Chief Judge in the territory that there are some problems regarding the cultural differences. They appear to understand that it is a part of the problems that do exist in the courts, not only here in the Yukon but right across the country.
Perhaps the key to understanding the differences between aboriginal people and other Canadians and the Canadian criminal justice system is to understand that this system stresses confrontation and the establishment of blame. On the other hand, aboriginal traditions stress the restoration of harmony in the community and between its individual members.
Aboriginal people believe that any system of justice applicable to them should reflect this value. The aboriginal people of Canada consider Canadas criminal justice system a failure. I have said that over and over again. It has been said by people time and time again.
It is not surprising, therefore, that we are hearing more and more suggestions of independent systems of justice for aboriginal people. These should be systems that would be sensitive to the cultural needs and aspirations of the various aboriginal first nations.
I know that many obstacles will have to be overcome before any comprehensive system of tribal justice can be accomplished. I know that the federal government has jurisdiction over criminal matters.
I know the former federal Minister of Justice did not look with favour upon separate justice systems for aboriginal people. I remember when he made that statement. It was when he was very newly appointed. At that time, I felt he was not well enough informed of the problems faced by aboriginal people in the courts right across the country. He did say it more than a year later, so there is apparently still a problem there. It may be the case that aboriginal people are not looking for a separate system. They may be looking for a different way of doing things, but not a separate system. What comes out of many jurisdictions remains to be seen.
I know there may be problems with the application of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These and other issues will have to be addressed and resolved. Those have been mentioned by the Member for Old Crow, but we have to look at many other serious things.
Traditionally, we have a system that is so complex we need highly trained professionals to understand it. How can people with a completely different set of values be expected to understand the system? The concerns go on and on. I do not think we could ever talk enough about the kind of injustices that aboriginal people have seen over the years.
Time and again, I have mentioned that, back in 1974 when I was very involved with Yukon Indians and the law, we became very involved in what was happening in the justice system in the Yukon, and right across Canada when we attended a nation-wide conference. Now, 15 years later, we are still seeing the same kind of things we were seeing then. There have been programs introduced in the correctional centre. Some of those have been a little more successful than the others.
Programs have been introduced in our own centre through the former Minister of Justice, some of which have been very effective. They have not always been consistent with what they are doing, but the opportunity is there for people to try and deal with some of the problems they have. That would include a number of things, such as the sweat lodge that has a spiritual and traditional value to it. We are starting to listen to what the inmates and people who are working in those centres are saying. We are looking at what is happening across Canada in regard to the injustices in the past.
I cited one very good example of the Donald Marshall case in Nova Scotia, and the many things that went wrong, things that you would not believe, in this day and age. We found out there were many people who were completely ignoring facts as they were given to them at that time. A lot of work has to be done. As has been mentioned by the Member for Riverdale South, the side opposite will be supporting this motion, and that is very encouraging.
A year from now, I hope we will have made certain constructive changes. In my department, the Department of Justice, we are looking at a more coordinated effort in trying to deal with the system. We are not trying to tell the aboriginal people of the Yukon what to do, but we are listening to them, and we have offered them assistance by way of funding to do a program. The recent tribal justice conference they held was very successful. From that, I hope we will learn a great deal more about what the communities want.
I would expect there will be further support of this motion.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I, too, would like to rise in support of the motion.
I do so out of a fundamental belief in and support for a community that is driven to initiatives that are beneficial to itself. This motion supports such a principle. I readily admit that my knowledge and familiarity with a functioning tribal justice system is limited. I do recognize the general thrust.
I see it as a cooperative, community-based approach to crime prevention founded on tradition and custom. This motion speaks to the recognition and to the support for a community to assume a greater say in affairs that affect their community.
I hear aboriginal people asking to develop a workable tribal justice system. I hear the Yukon government contributing to an agreement between bands that is intended to lead the development of a tribal justice system within the Yukon, and I hear from Members on this side and the side opposite that they support communities playing a part in affairs that have a direct consequence within their communities.
It would seem to me the obvious course should be to support the initiative of the first nations, as the motion states, to assume greater responsibility over the social problems within their communities through the development of a tribal justice system.
I do not agree that insurmountable problems exist on the issue of the two systems of justice in our society. My legal knowledge is not vast, but I see basic similarities between what is being sought and the system we currently have in place.
Tribal justice is based on tradition and custom, and in a comparative fashion our legal system is based on precedent and common law. I do not see tribal justice as an alien form of justice. I see, however, the need for some work to ensure there is compatibility between the regular justice system and the tribal justice system where overlapping jurisdictions are invariably going to occur.
I have heard Members speak about, and am familiar with, Judge Heino Lilles report on the problems in the administration of justice in remote communities. Suffice it to say that Judge Lilles raises the staggering consequences for native people in their dealings with our current legal system. One of the more profound statements Judge Lilles makes in the conclusion of his report is when he speaks to the point that traditional non-native solutions have been tried for the better part of the century with little, if any, success. He suggests it is perhaps time to abandon them, to take a chance, to be risk takers, and develop a new, cooperative approach to the administration of justice in our northern communities.
I say that our motion supports that position, and I can certainly endorse that initiative. I believe we should give our unanimous support to the initiative demonstrated in this motion.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I want to say a few things about this motion today. I shall not speak at length, but I believe it is an important question and I believe it is appropriate that all Members of the House express themselves on this issue because it is fundamental from the point of view of the people in many of our communities.
I want to begin my remarks by pointing out that, in western civilization, the notion of justice is fundamental to the whole development of our political life and political culture. It is the Judaeo-Christian tradition that we look to thinkers like Plato and Aristotle and their definition of justice for the framework for much of our thinking about the correct ways to deal with our citizens, for dealings between citizens, and for the appropriate ways for the state or government to behave.
These ideas are deeply embedded in our culture. They have been central to political debates in my lifetime. I recall a person campaigning for prime minister in his first election, Pierre Trudeau, and he was campaigning for a just society. This was 20 years ago and during the time the Leader of the Official Opposition was still a prominent Liberal in this community. He would have been very much aware of the just society that was being proposed by Mr. Trudeau. It was an admirable enough notion, but one that was culturally biased. It was a notion of justice that was dictated or formed by the education of that particular person, by the socialization of that particular person, who was uniquely blessed to grow up a bilingual and bicultural Canadian in this great country.
It was a perspective on justice that ignored, or was ignorant of, some other notions of justice that exist in other cultures, not just foreign lands and exotic cultures, but cultures of the first citizens of this land.
I want to approach the debate today from the perspective of someone who grew up and was raised in one kind of cultural environment, but who recognizes that if this Yukon community is to thrive it has to recognize and understand the two cultural solitudes of this place, and deal respectfully and equitably with the other cultural tradition here, which is important, and that is the cultural tradition of the aboriginal people.
I want, therefore, to continue my formal remarks by drawing attention again to the motion you read out to us, which calls for the support of Yukons aboriginal people as they assume greater responsibility over social problems in their communities, through instruments like an aboriginal justice system - a system over which they feel some ownership; a system for which they feel some responsibility; a system which need not be in fundamental conflict with ours; a system which can be compatible, but is as fair and as just as the one of which we are so proud when it works well.
What this motion is saying is that there is a recognition, and a necessary recognition, that the social problems in the aboriginal community cannot be addressed by a criminal justice system that is imposed on it from above, or from outside - a system that is different from and foreign to the community it purports to represent.
To have legitimacy, a justice system must be a representation of the best will of the community.
I do not think any Member of this Legislature will try to argue that aboriginal people all across Canada, and certainly in the Yukon Territory, are not over represented as offenders in the justice system. What we have heard from the aboriginal justice inquiry in Manitoba and the Marshall inquiry in Nova Scotia demonstrates that this over representation is not an accident. It is not an historical anomaly. It is probably, unfortunately, not a temporary aberration. Clearly, there is a systemic bias in the justice system as it now operates in Canada - a bias that continues despite the very best intentions of many of the people who work within that system. This bias, I suspect, begins at the very start of the system and goes on throughout the whole of it.
I want to stress that I am not throwing stones at the very many people in the justice system who are committed to assisting their brothers and sisters, their neighbours, their fellow citizens; but I think all the evidence, this bias, seems to begin at the very start of the system - when decisions are made as to where to police and what to prosecute, who to arrest, who to charge. Once caught up in the system, aboriginal people are often faced with situations to which they do not know the expected response. They suffer a cross-cultural communication problem - one to which the dominant society is often extraordinarily insensitive. They do not always perhaps understand the expectations of this institution in our culture.
That is a problem that is not always unique to native people. It is a problem that is experienced by many poorer, less advantaged people in our system. That is also true of their dealings with other institutions. It is true, and we have heard this said time and time again by commentators on the justice system, that native people caught up in the conflict with the law often, when they are trying to respond to questions, do not know the proper answers to the questions - at least, they do not know the proper answer according to the dominant cultures point of view.
Their reaction to detention, to court proceedings and to incarceration are not those designed to elicit the most beneficial response from the system. In the north, this systemic bias may be aggravated by the relative transients, the people who enforce the law.
As his honour, Chief Territorial Court Judge Lillies said of people he calls decision makers at a recent tribal justice conference, For a number of very understandable reasons, they often remain in the community for relatively short periods and leave before they are fully in tune with it and the culture of its residents.
While this problem may be ameliorating, as our non-aboriginal population becomes less transient and as the understanding between our two communities improves - as we all hope that it will - we still have to face the facts as they are now. From the point of view of Yukon Indian people, the system is not fair as it now operates.
Obviously, I am a person of British descent. I was schooled at home and in the classroom in English notions of justice. Our common law justice system represents part of my personal heritage. As it has been evident, I am sure, on the floor of this House, the adversarial system, as appalling as it sometimes is, makes sense to me. It is a part of my acculturation. It is something with which I feel comfortable, whether it is in parliamentary context or in a judicial context. I understand the reasonings behind its procedures.
I also recognize and respect the fact that the Athabaskan people of northern Canada have different traditions. They have a consensual political tradition that is often very different in its manifestations from the one under which we operate.
Aboriginal people are often appalled by the kind of adversarial, aggressive, confrontational behaviour displayed by people in our parliaments. As well, they find the court system, as it operates, a strange one.
It is obvious that the justice system that we now use in the Yukon territory is almost exclusively the product of one cultural condition, and in almost no respect represents the tradition of the older cultures in this territory.
Even I can see, as someone coming from that very background, that when we attempt to graft our common-law system wholesale on to a culture to which it has little relation, the results are often counterproductive. We have all heard the statistics during the debate on this motion. The Minister of Justice described some of the proceedings around the Marshall inquiry, which is the most painful and revealing process of its kind we have seen in our generation.
We know aboriginal people make up four percent of the general population and 10 percent of the federal prison population and 14 percent of the population of provincial institutions. We know aboriginal people have a young offender crime rate three times higher than their percentage of the national population in the relevant age group. These statistics are a matter of public record. They are plain facts.
I am in the same cultural position as all people in this House of European ancestry in that I do not have a perfect comprehension of what tribal justice is or what it might be. That is understandable. It arises from a culture to which I have only become acquainted in my youth and the years since. It is one of which I have learned much through my family connections and of which I continue to learn. I do know that tribal justice, in whatever form it takes - whether it be a council of elders, a quasi judicial court system, such as is used in the southern United States, or some other manifestation - is an attempt by the community to enforce its community values, and an attempt to force individuals to recognize the significance of their acts and the effect those acts have on the community. That is an important element of any working justice system.
The first nations of the Yukon recognize their people are hurting in the system that now operates. They recognize that, although many of the values of our cultures are shared, the way of reinforcing those values may not be common in all situations, so they look to tribal justice systems.
I believe the aboriginal people of the Yukon deserve our respect and admiration for the way in which they are attempting to deal with their own problems, and the way in which they are examining their traditions for their applicability in a modern world.
I want to end with two quotations that I think are relevant in this debate. I know my colleague from Mayo who is, to my knowledge, the only other person who, like myself, is a student of the Spanish Civil War, knows of the work of the great Jose Garcia Oliver, who said, Justice, I firmly believe, is so subtle a thing that to interpret it one has only need of a heart.
That is a statement that, while it is true for me, is one that seems particularly apt in a Spanish-speaking culture.
I believe the hearts of the aboriginal people of the Yukon are as sensitive to the finer ideals of justice as those of non-aboriginal people. I think the British system of justice, and the British notion of justice, are fine things. They are among the finest achievements of our civilization, not just of the English-speaking world but of the western world, but that is not to say they are perfect or that they are necessarily transportable to all corners of the world, or to all cultures.
I want to close with one other quote, which I know will be familiar to all Tories and to all lawyers, and especially those Tories who are also lawyers. It is a statement by Lord Hewart, who wrote, It is not merely of some importance, but it is of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. That statement has so entered our consciousness, so entered the common knowledge of the people of our civilization, in Canada, the United States and Britain, it has now acquired a certain kind of idiomatic or short hand form of justice having to be seen to be done as well as being done.
In working for a tribal justice system, the aboriginal people are wanting to ensure that justice is being done for all Yukoners, aboriginal and non-aboriginal.
In closing, I would note that Mr. David Joe, who is known to all in this House, was asked a question in the recent conference referred to by others in this debate about whether a tribal justice system would apply on aboriginal lands to non-Indian people. He replied, Yes.
I know going around in the communities a year ago, describing the arrangements made in the framework agreement on lands claims, that this was a source of some concern to people, to nonaboriginal people. There were apprehensions that somehow they might be dealt with unfairly in some tribal justice system, that there might be some bias in the other direction.
Given our instinctive understanding of the bias against aboriginal people in the present system, perhaps that is not a totally unreasonable fear. Perhaps it has to be said, and was said in those meetings by people who were lawyers, that the general public, the majority in this community, should be assured that any system of tribal justice we are talking about would operate in the context of the Canadian legal system, not outside it.
I am reasonably certain that there would always be an appeal to the conventional system for anyone who was unhappy with the arrangements or with the decision of an aboriginal court.
You, Mr. Speaker, have shared with me some information about the system operating in your home community: the tribal justice system being experimented with by the Tlingit people in Teslin, the reference of issues to the elders of the clans among your people.
I was impressed with the solidity of the concepts at the base of that system and their obvious relevance to your people and your traditions of its proceedings. I was also impressed with, if I may put it this way, the soundness and the justice of the results of the proceedings as you described them.
Mr. Speaker, you have helped in my understanding of this issue and I want to say that if the systems of tribal justice operate in every community in a manner similar to the one in your community, I am sure there is no reason for the non-native citizen of the Yukon to be concerned. Indeed, I believe there is every reason for them to be optimistic and hopeful about this development, and I would therefore urge all Members to endorse the motion before us.
Mr. Phelps: I, too, wish to say a few brief words in support of the motion before us and I would like, once again, to thank the Member for Old Crow for bringing this motion before the House so that we could discuss this very fundamental and important issue that is facing all Yukoners in this day.
I want to say at the outset that I, in supporting this motion, recognize that some aspects of the current legal system are certainly not perfect and that, from time to time, there is evidence of cultural bias that does creep in. I am sure there is not a practising lawyer in the Commonwealth who would say that the adversarial system is perfect in every respect for all people, even for those of the Anglo-Saxon or British traditions.
I read with great interest the remarks of the Chief Judge with regard to some of the shortcomings in our system in northern Canada, as he sees the shortcomings. I read the statistics, which of course most of us were somewhat aware of, and it does seem to me that one area that can be developed is that of more involvement of people at the community level - not just in the case, as stated in this motion, of the Yukon aboriginal people, but in mixed communities by all citizens, because the gap that exists between residents in small communities - in rural communities particularly - and their understanding of the system is one that I think is serious.
It is serious that quite often there is a concern and some agitation in the minds of many when lawyers, judges and court workers travel to the small rural communities from Whitehorse, which in many ways has very little in common with the lifestyle in those communities, whether they be aboriginal or mixed communities, when the sentence, or even the fact that the case has gone to prosecution, is seen as unsatisfactory and as a miscarriage of justice by those who live their daily lives in the community.
There are some broad issues of concern, such as the Charter of Rights, and Freedoms that have to be addressed as some of these new systems are developed by communities and by bands as is occurring in Teslin. There are issues relating to equality under the law, which is fundamental to any democratic society.
These issues must be addressed with sensitivity. They may present obstacles, but not insurmountable obstacles, to the intent of a solution being sought, such as those being put forward in this motion.
I do want to make a number of points, however. I recognize the facts as they are set forward in statistical studies such as those relied upon by Chief Judge Heino Lilles in his presentation. I recognize the findings that were made in the Marshall inquiry. These cause me great concern, as they cause concern to any sensitive citizen, and particularly to anybody who has any kind of involvement in the administration of justice in Canada.
We have to be careful when we look at these statistics and not get swept away with a false logic of cause and effect. The system itself is not the sole cause or the only cause for many of these deplorable statistics. It is very dangerous for people to jump to that conclusion simply by saying that in this system certain people, in this case Indian people, are before the courts in far larger numbers than those in the white society.
I can recall that when I first starting practising here in 1970. At that time, most of my work was in criminal law and I travelled to every community in the territory on a regular basis doing defence work. At that time, I was struck with the fact that, if you talked to people of a certain age in the Indian community, those elders would have no record at all. Yet, their children would have pages and pages of criminal records. There seemed to be a period in time during which more and more of the aboriginal people suddenly started to get in trouble with the criminal laws of the territory.
I noticed, as did others at the time, that one could place the time this malaise or aberration started to occur as some time in the early 1950s in the Yukon. The increase in crime was not just in the one race; it was occurring throughout society in the Yukon. I am sure all of us know oldtimers who can talk about the days when you never needed to have a lock on your door in Whitehorse, or wherever you lived. I knew lots of people who never locked their doors when I was a child growing up, but that period passed in time.
I think there are more reasons than just the justice system that account for the large increase in criminal activity in our society. There are problems relating to other things: alcohol and drug abuse. If one watches Nedaa and listens to the elders speaking to young people, their lament is the elders are not being listened to anymore. That is one of the problems they see with regard to their community and their people.
A lot of the problems may have to do with rapid change, with the fact that back in the late 1940s there were some devastating occurrences and impacts on the culture. It was not so much the Alaska Highway as the drastic drop in furs, the change in lifestyle, the practically-forced movement of people from where they traditionally resided to new communities. There was a tremendous upheaval that took place in that time frame.
I can recall, for example, during the pipeline hearings, when we went to all the communities and heard from large numbers of the elders in most of the rural communities. I can vividly recall the feelings of elders in Haines Junction about being moved from their homeland, their village site, at Aishihik. It was rather heart-rending to hear how helpless they felt and how unhappy they were in their new surroundings at Haines Junction.
At that time, some tremendous social upheaval took place within their culture. I am sure those upheavals had an impact that translates into some of the statistics that we see.
There are all kinds of changes that could be made to the system. Many things have been tried in other jurisdictions. I feel that part of the success, or at least anticipated success, of the kind of justice system that is being started and developed in your community, Mr. Speaker, stems from the fact that authority is being given back to the elders. That authority was traditionally theirs, and ought to be theirs culturally now.
Part of the success is bringing the community together to try to solve the problems and not relying on strangers from the big city of Whitehorse, which is so vastly different in lifestyle from the small communities. That very involvement in itself will have a beneficial impact. That involvement is not just in sentencing or determining whether or not a person ought to be tried for an offence that may or may not be viewed as serious from a cultural perspective, but is also involvement in the sentencing and the rehabilitation process.
Part of the problem in any society is that people do not tend to fulfill their responsibilities to each other. In itself, that neglect can exacerbate a problem such as criminal activity in a smaller community. It is important that communities develop moral and spiritual leaders. It is important that those leaders play a role for their people. I do not think that is exclusive to any culture; it is important in every small town that Yukoners live in. It is important in a place like Whitehorse as well, although Whitehorse has some problems in terms of its size and the turnover of population.
I enjoyed the speech given this afternoon by the Member for Whitehorse West. In introducing one of his famous quotations, he stated that not all Members of the Legislature are lawyers, and not all lawyers are Tories. I think that points to a certain shortfall in the educational and developmental process for lawyers, something I hope will be remedied in the future. Tory 200.
It is important, and I salute the new interest and desire to be involved expressed by aboriginal people at their recent meetings here. I salute the work being done by leaders in many of our communities. I support that work and hope it will lead to a better society.
For all those reasons I very strongly support the motion.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if she now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Ms. Kassi: I am pleased that there is some support for this motion in this Legislature. It will take many people and a strong political will and a lot of work here in the Yukon to make tribal justice work. This means that the leaders in the mainstream justice field, the aboriginal leaders and the politicians will all have to share a common vision of what justice is and how it can be delivered for the health of our people and our communities, and that the resources are made available for the communities to do this.
True justice reflects the very nature of our society. True justice is balanced and addresses the rights of all citizens. It is not only Donald Marshall Jr. who did not get a fair shake from the justice system. Many people did not get a fair shake from the justice system and these injustices continue. Perhaps the introduction of a tribal justice system will benefit not only aboriginal people but also show others that there is another way to look at justice, a way that will work.
Once again I say that this motion is a beginning, is a way to say yes, we can look after ourselves, we can restore the foundation of our society and act in a way that serves us best. I look forward to the day when our plans become action and tribal justice is firmly part of all justice here in the Yukon. Thank you.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Are you agreed?
Motion No. 76 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 9, standing in the name of Mr. Joe.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 9?
Mr. Joe: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 71
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Tatchun:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to increase the Northern Residents Tax deduction to compensate for the anticipated higher cost of living which will result from the implementation of the federal goods and services tax.
Mr. Joe: I am worried about what the GST, the Conservatives sales tax, will do to people of fixed incomes, like pensioners and those on social assistance. Also, I am worried how the GST will affect housing costs. This motion deals with the need to find a way to increase the northern residents tax deductions so that it will truly help people in the north who will be hurt by the GST.
I am worried about what the tax will do to the income of many people in the Yukon, who rely on trapping as a way of life.
The Conservative sales tax will mean higher bills for repairs to vehicles. It will cost more to run a trap line.
The Yukon government has worked hard to develop programs like the trap exchange program to help trappers, and now the federal government wants to have a tax that will hurt trappers. In a good year, a trapper will earn maybe $15,000 to $20,000. This is in a good year. Most years are not good. So, trappers can earn maybe $20,000 in a country where the low income cut-off set by Statistics Canada for a family of five people is just over $17,000.
Low income people cannot afford to pay this tax.
Besides hurting the people who trap for a living, the GST will also hurt outfitters and people who work in the tourism industry. The Yukon is a good place for visitors. The Yukon government has done a lot of work to make sure people from around the world know about our territory. The GST will only mean that fewer people will be willing to pay the price to get here.
As I have said, everyone in the Yukon will be affected with increased prices. The cost of living is already high here. We must do what we can so that it will not go higher. The Government of Canada could at least increase the northern residents tax deduction to help out.
Ms. Hayden: I want to support this motion. All of us in this House need to do what we can to ease the effects of the goods and services tax, or the GST, on the people of the Yukon. An increase in the northern benefits deduction seems like the very least the federal government can do to assist northerners. For my part, I am particularly concerned about the single-parent families, mostly woman-led, who are living at the poverty line. I am concerned about parents who, in buying necessities like snowsuits for their children, are faced with prices that are often nearly double those found in the southern parts of this country. I am concerned about seniors who are living on fixed incomes and who are faced with a claw-back of their pensions. I am concerned about the bank tellers who pay taxes that are proportionally higher than the banks that employ them. And I am concerned about people like the gas station attendants who are taxed at higher rates than the large oil companies.
Now, especially since the budget cuts announced just last week by the federal government, I am more concerned than ever. Those cuts are aimed at the very members of our society who have struggled against monumental odds to gain the respect they deserve. I am talking about the aboriginal peoples who have been ostracized in their own land and I am talking about women who have fought for years for equality of citizenship. Social housing, the mainstay of so many women who are single parents who are struggling to keep their families together, has been cut by some $51 million over two years. Advocacy group funding has been cut by $70 million over two years, including $46 million out of Secretary of State and $24 million in cuts to Health and Welfare programs and grants.
This funding is the backbone of self-help groups, and legal aid funding has been frozen at current levels. Some Canadians will no longer have the right to expect that they will be able to retain legal counsel to represent them. Justice may become the prerogative of the wealthy.
This federal budget has done nothing for child care, nothing for the environment and, in the face of anticipated unemployment on a national scale, this budget has done nothing for job creation programs.
At a time when we, here in Yukon, are striving to build up our social services, the federal government seems intent on destroying Canadas social programs. On one hand, they are bringing in legislation to disqualify Canadians from federal benefits such as unemployment insurance, and on the other hand they are limiting the resources of the territories and provinces for coping with increased demands on social services.
New Democrats have in Yukon, and throughout this country, supported social welfare and help/advocacy groups. Support for these groups should increase, not decrease. We have supported social housing programs and opposed cuts to cooperative housing. New Democrats refuse to accept the contention that the reduction of services and funding to aboriginal people and organizations is necessary for the well being of the country. We firmly believe in the principle of equality and opportunity for all people.
The budget will hit especially hard in the north where cuts to health care and post-secondary education funding will mean a loss of $10.7 million right here in the Yukon between 1990 to 1991 and 1994 to 1995.
We have already heard that Dan Sha is gravely affected by the cuts. In a time when communication is vital to the quality of life, we must support, not destroy, our media. Cuts to the CBC budget could affect the availability of Canadian signals in remote areas. As northerners, we know how important this link is to our people.
Not that long ago, speaking to a motion dealing specifically with the goods and services tax, I pointed out that since the Conservatives took office in 1984, personal taxes have increased by 46 percent. Our corporate taxes have risen by only 21 percent. In 1989 to 1990 alone, personal income tax has increased 16 percent and corporte income taxes in that same period saw a modest increase of only seven percent. Where is the equality of a system that punishes the people living at the lower end of the economic scale, and in the most isolated part of this country, to the benefit of the large corporations and the wealthy? Rather than spend millions of dollars in taxpayers money to promote what is really a sales tax, the money might be better spent to enhance social programs, not undermine them. We have been told that child care services will not be affected by the GST, for example, but will the people who run the child care operations? When people who do not make great financial gains from their work are faced with more expenses for equipment and supplies, they cannot help but pass on these costs to the parents whose children are in their care.
There are thousands of Canadians, Canadians on fixed incomes, Canadians with disabilities, Canadians living in remote regions of this country including the Yukon and Northwest Territories, working Canadians living on minimum wage, who will suffer when this tax is implemented.
The equation reads like this: those who earn less will pay more, and this lesson has hit home even harder with the new Conservative budget. I am concerned about the low-income people who just cannot afford to wait for the promised rebates, and I am concerned about first-time home buyers, who have been diligent about saving to buy a house and who will be held back once again. We are faced with a tax system that will soon see individuals paying $4 in personal income tax for every $1.00 in tax paid by big business. I ask you, Mr. Speaker: is that fair? And still the government wants more. The federal government seems to have lost its perspective. Greed is being put before the best interests of the people.
The Victoria Faulkner Womens Centre is threatened by cuts in Secretary of State money; it will be closing, no doubt. What is the point of charging those who can least afford to pay?
When I spoke on the GST motion before us in December, I quoted national statistics that showed that a basket of food that cost $104 in Vancouver will come to $141 in Whitehorse. In Ottawa, the birthplace of the GST, that same food basket costs just $103. Compare it. We pay $38 more food in Whitehorse than Mr. Wilson pays in Ottawa and that is without counting in the addition of a GST on transportation to Whitehorse.
The Nightmare on Main Street, referred to by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, in its presentation to the Finance Committee of the House of Commons, will not go away. This massive tax, along with its administrative tangle, will be imposed by a government that either is not listening or just does not care about the regions of this country, especially the north. This motion before us today is one way for us to at least salvage something from a bad situation. The northern resident deduction must be increased and so must the sales tax credit under the GSTs rebate scheme. The GST is taking on a life of its own and will, I suspect, be with us.
I support the motion before us in the hope that we can encourage the Government of Canada to finally act in a way to compensate northerners for this hardship tax and hardship budget. We have a responsibility, as representatives of the people of the Yukon, to push and push hard for whatever can be done to ease the burden on northerners.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I, too, would like to add my support to this motion. There is no question in my mind that a strong and unified message should be sent from this Legislature to the federal government about the severe impact the GST will have on northern people. Previous speakers have indicated some specifics of that impact, and I would like to discuss the general impact.
When you combine the numerous other cutbacks that are being imposed on northerners by the federal government, the real seriousness of the GST will be felt - not only by a taxation on all goods and services, but by having less money with which to meet those increased costs.
In other words, if you have not only a taxation regime imposed on you but you have less money available for the society at large with which to operate, you in effect compound things and create a double imposition of hardship. It is the contention of many people, and I agree, that Canadians in the north have to pay a greater price to live here than southern Canadians pay to live there. I do not suggest that is simply a figurative description; I think across the broad range of all the goods and services we provide and that are provided for us, the costs are simply higher for us in the north. That is an accepted fact of life to live here. Whether we are talking about utilities, whether we are talking about food costs, whether we are talking about transportation costs, whether we are talking about housing, whether we are even talking about communications, we pay more to have these services here and it becomes no argument that it simply is a higher cost to live here and be here and do business here.
The recognition of that higher cost has been acknowledged, albeit I do not think adequately, by the northern residents tax benefit that is permitted in our income tax. I do not believe that deduction is either adequate for compensating the increased cost of living here, nor do I believe that it compensates adequately for the higher tax contribution that northern people make to Canada in comparison to southern people.
In the first instance, I submit that northerners already pay more income tax, for example, on average than people in the south. This is on the basis of a higher income that is often the situation in the north, but it is a higher income that is necessitated by the higher cost of living and the higher cost to be here. What happens is that people in the north are now being asked to pay an across the board seven percent tax on their already higher income and their already higher cost of goods and services. That is not, in comparison to what southern Canadians pay, a fair tax. It is a compounding effect, in my opinion, because northerners are not being asked to only pay the seven percent, like the rest of Canada is, but they are being asked to pay it on higher-cost items. The tax consequence, I submit, is more than the average southern Canadian has to pay, and that certainly is not fair.
In previous debates, I have indicated how a number of areas create a compounding cost impact on northern people. Certainly, one of those areas is air travel. By virtue of where we are located in the north, we have to travel further to get anywhere, whether we are visiting rural communities in the Yukon or whether we are visiting other communities in Canada.
It already costs us substantially more to travel than it costs the average Canadian. In the past, I have cited Statistics Canada figures where the average Yukon family spends just under $700 per year on air travel. The average Canadian family spends an average of just over $200. Already what we have is not only a wide variance in the cost of an item, but we also have a tax imposition that is going to be taxing a greater amount. That invariably means a greater tax to be paid. That is altogether unfair.
The same thing is true for transportation in general. By virtue of where we are located, we already pay an increased cost for the transportation of many goods that come to us from southern suppliers or manufacturers. We pay an increased cost on that transportation to get the goods here. When you tax that, you are taxing a far greater amount than any person would pay in a southern jurisdiction. Someone who pays a tax on goods that are manufactured in Delta and moved to downtown Vancouver has only a few kilometres of distance and does not pay the corresponding tax we must pay for the transportation of similar goods.
The situation has been of some concern in meetings I have attended in my ministerial capacity. The municipalities are particularly concerned about the imposition of a GST. They are concerned about the complexity of it, about having to upfront the costs before a rebate is paid, and the same is true for the whole housing industry and building community. Builders will have to do the same thing: front the cost and then produce the paperwork to get the rebate.
The issue of the unfairness of the tax system on the north, combined with the excessive cost of those basic goods and the compounding effect of this, is a harsh measure. In the area of housing, I also believe we are going to be particularly hard hit. Granted, there is going to be a 4.5 percent rebate on new homes, but that will still mean a $4,500 increase in cost on the average $100,000 home to the purchaser. It spirals through the system. The compounding effect is extremely impacting. You not only have your materials for a home taxed at the supplier end, they are also taxed at the transportation end, the purchase end and, invariably, you end up paying that tax two or three times along the way before the finished product that is ready for you to live in.
It is of some concern to me and to all Yukon people that our costs are going to be increased by the imposition of the GST. I find it strangely ironic that our own territorial Conservative party campaigned in the last several elections on the premise that to elect an NDP government meant there would be a sales tax.
The fact is that the NDP is now in its second term, and it has not introduced any sales tax or raised taxes. It has upgraded and introduced new services at a pace far beyond what previous administrations have been able to do.
The Members seem to want to argue with the facts. I submit that the only sales tax that we have is the one that was imposed by the federal Conservatives. Some people are calling it the Conservative sales tax. That is probably more appropriate.
There will a compounding effect on people in the north by the imposition of this tax. In the first instance, it is a very unfair tax because it forces everyone to pay, whether a person is of middle-income status, a high-income status or a low-income status.
The previous speaker articulated very well the unfairness of the tax because of its impositional nature on everyone. It forces more of the tax burden to lower-income people simply because there are more of them, and they all require the goods and services that are being taxed. In a proportionate sense, lower-income people pay more than their fair share of that tax.
They spend more of their disposable income, more of their earnings, on the necessities of life than do people who are better off. That is unfair. It contradicts a fundamental principle of taxation that is based upon our ability to pay.
Given that we are going to have this tax imposed on us anyway, unless it can be stopped, some of the impact can be offset by an increase of the northern resident taxation benefit. It should be increased. The threshold should be changed. There should be some mitigating offset for people who have to pay this tax under the conditions that we face in the north where the costs are already significantly higher than anywhere in the south.
At the same time that we have the imposition of the GST, it concerns me that we have a host of other financial cutbacks going on that severely impact our ability to maintain a reasonable quality of life and level of service to Yukon people.
The most recent announcement of cuts in grants to aboriginal groups and womens organizations are examples of this. It is not only an increased burden on northern people, it demonstrates an abandonment by the federal government of essential support for the north.
I took the opportunity earlier this week to write to Mr. Siddon expressing my concern over the cutback relating to the native citizens directorate. The action of cutting back in this area will have a severe negative impact. It will affect all native populations, not the least of which will be jobs within the service provided.
It will affect production of northern newspapers. It will affect the production of the native radio broadcasting. It will be a severe blow to native television production.
I would say these newspapers and broadcasting productions have received national and international acclaim for their quality and cultural relevance. This is at a time when northern native communications are directly engaged in establishing a northern television network. It seems to me this move will serve to severely cripple native broadcasting, television and radio capability in the north for some time. It is a matter of considerable concern.
When we think back to the reduction of our formula financing arrangements, we seem to have some evidence that northern people are being punished. For what, I do not know. When we look at the vacating of federal responsibility in many essential services and financial support, combined with the GST, I think we have what amounts to a horrendous treatment that makes northern people second-class citizens. Just look around. We have increased taxation on communications. We have increased postal fees. We have a higher air travel tax, not to mention the GST on top of that. MOT parking fees have been imposed. All these things will cost more and invariably be taxed more. On top of this, the GST is added to the cost of all these things.
To increase the northern residents tax benefit is barely enough. A strong message has to be sent to the federal government about the multitude of harsh measures being imposed on the north, about the crippling effect this increased taxation will have on us, and we should make a strong statement about how unacceptable it is that the the federal government is abrogating its responsibility for various services. We should make a strong statement about the disincentives being foisted on us for being here.
Mr. Lang: The motion is obviously going to be carried unanimously.
I agree with many things the Member opposite said. I caution this to some degree in being too critical of the Government of Canada. I say that because the present government in office is the reason we have the northern tax credit to begin with. It is important to realize the principle behind it was to recognize our remoteness and that our cost of living is higher than in other parts of Canada. It is because of this that the particular section of the Income Tax Act came into being.
I would also point out the principle behind it is that individuals should have more disposable income than the government.
That is one principle I do subscribe to. No matter what level of government, there always seems to be a fair misexpenditure of dollars. Later on today, we are going to be voting on a motion to delete $62,300 for the land claim negotiator to go on a 12-month sabbatical to the French Riviera. It is ludicrous that we would even be discussing a topic of that kind in a Legislature that is supposed to represent responsible government. Yet, we are, and there is going to be a serious vote taken on it later today.
It may be better for the people to have more disposable income than all the combined wise minds in this room coming together to spend it on their behalf. At times, I would say there were mistakes made as far as how money should be expended.
The Minister who just spoke made some observations that are true. We are going to see some degree of inflationary pressure on everybodys pocketbook in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, even more so than what we have experienced in the past year. Some cutbacks are going to seriously affect us. For example, if one lives in Old Crow, the changes to the post office subsidy for the purpose of freight is going to have some effect on those people.
With the tightening of federal money, there is going to be less disposable income for many of our citizenry.
If viewed positively and taken positively to the Government of Canada, this is an area where we can say there have to be some amends made to us living in the north, in view of the effects some of the federal policies are going to have. The GST that was spoken of earlier is fortunately not going to apply to food, and fortunately is not going to apply to real estate, but it is going to apply to considerable aspects of our economy.
With that in mind, the one aspect where we have a legitimate cause for concern is our remoteness. For the same commodity in Edmonton, landed here in Whitehorse, we are going to pay for the cost plus transportation. We do get an initial significant increase on any goods shipped to the Yukon and bought here.
The representation made by our side to the federal committee that was studying the GST made a firm recommendation that we should be looking at other alternatives. Because of our regional situation in Canada, what amends can the Government of Canada make, in view of the fact they also have a national responsibility. There is good logical, as well as political, reasoning to provide this alternative to the Government of Canada.
I want to conclude by strongly recommending this particular motion be sent to: the Prime Minister; the new Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Mr. Siddon; and Mr. Wilson, the Minister of Finance. Something could be done with the opposition sides, so a letter should be sent to the Leader of the Liberal party and to Ms. Audrey McLaughlin.
This is a positive motion that gives a positive alternative to the Government of Canada. It is not going to cost the Government of Canada a lot of money.
Hon. Ms. Joe: It has long been a concern of Yukoners that the high cost of living and doing business in the Yukon needs better recognition by the federal government. Since the federal government proposed the goods and services tax, this concern has become a very serious issue. This tax will not only be a substantial increase to the already high cost of living but will force Yukon people to pay a proportionally larger amount of the tax since costs are already higher here than in the rest of the country.
If the plans of the Conservative government in Ottawa are to decrease our government grant, we can expect the Yukon population to be paying more than its fair share. This, combined with the federal governments interest in offloading programs in the recent federal revenue-generating initiatives, will all work toward creating extreme hardships for the Yukon.
I challenge all Members in the House to realize that the people of the Yukon cannot be expected to bear this inequity and be expected to develop a healthy economy. Small business being an important part of the Yukon economy, it is foreseeable that, with the Conservative sales tax and the hardships of our economy, small businesses will be affected the most.
Because small business will receive such a negative impact, this impact will most certainly be extended to employees. We know we can estimate that an average Whitehorse family will be expected to pay nearly $400 more per year than the average Canadian family under the proposed sales tax. I would expect that we can safely say that this will at least double for those outlying community residents, and I believe this to be extremely unfair.
The cost of living in Whitehorse is approximately 25 percent higher than the rest of Canada. The communities cost will be even higher than this - sometimes as much as 50 percent higher. The impact of the increased tax will be very severe. Many of the members of the communities are considered-low income households by definition.
My question to the federal government is: how do they expect these communities to survive? Even with those items that are tax exempt, they will not be truly tax exempt. For example, day cares, while tax exempt, may have to eventually increase their fees if they are to survive because their costs will increase. This will create a very serious hardship for single parents. Yukon has a higher proportion of single-parent families than all of the other provinces and territories. Single-parent families make up 50 percent of Yukon families and 75 percent of those are headed by women. Any increases in day care for these families will surely be a serious matter.
With an increase in taxes as proposed in the Conservative sales tax for such things as clothing, shoes and books, as well as anticipated increased day care, the cost of raising a family in the Yukon will be more than the average person can afford.
Knowing that the lower income person will bear the brunt of this proposed goods and services tax, it is our responsibility as Members of this House to demand that the federal government increase the deductions allowed for northern residents, in order to offset the huge increase in the cost of living for Yukoners during the last three years as well as the future.
If the present northern tax deduction policy is to encourage people to live and work in remote areas, then it is the responsibility of the federal government to make northern benefits attractive enough to ensure that we can develop a good economy and a stable labour force. Not only do we need an increase in our northern resident deductions, but the federal government also needs to look at ways to adjust the sales tax credit that will fairly - and I stress fairly - reflect the cost of living in the north, and in particular, the isolated communities.
I am concerned about our economy and I am concerned about our communities. It is our corporate responsibility as Members of this House to do all that we can to ensure that the federal government recognizes our needs and prepares a system of tax benefits that will provide for the equity that all other Canadians enjoy.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I welcome the opportunity to speak to this motion this afternoon.
All of us who live in the north are aware that the price we pay for our goods and services are much higher than those faced by most Canadians who live in larger urban centres. Those of us who have been here for awhile have learned to cope with the cost, to budget for them. Union members have been able to negotiate slightly better contracts than some of their colleagues in the south. Employers have recognized that turnover is high if they do not adjust their wage scales to recognize the high cost of living that they, and their employees, must pay.
This, together with the high cost of bringing goods into the territory, means that business operation costs are higher here than in southern Canada. All of us who live in the north pay something for the privilege. These costs and the unfairness of taxing northern incomes without some adjustment for the higher cost of living paid by northerners, have been recognized in several successive northern benefits taxation regimes.
The need for some form of northern taxation benefit that offsets the cost associated with living in the north, was reconfirmed recently in the report of the task force on tax benefits for northern and isolated areas. That task force recognized that a tax system applied uniformly on the basis of income alone imposes a greater burden in real terms on individuals living in regions with higher costs of living and higher wages.
Unfortunately, the gross effects of the GST on the cost of living in northern Canada were not considered by the task force when it made its recommendations. Everyone knows that the GST will, without a doubt, increase the cost of living in Canada. The GST, also referred to by Yukoners as the CST or the Conservative sales tax, will pyramid the cost of living for people in the northern and remote parts of the country.
I do not know if Yukoners calling the GST the CST is corny or not. We are one of the few jurisdictions in the country without a sales tax, and the reason we will be paying extra for a sales tax, another seven percent on every dollar we spend, will be because of this tax imposed by the Conservative government in Ottawa. Consequently, it is known by Yukoners as the Conservative sales tax.
As I was saying, this Conservative sales tax will pyramid the cost of living for people in the northern and remote parts of the country. The GST is not fair to low and middle income earners wherever they live in Canada. It is especially not fair to low and middle income earners who live in the Yukon or elsewhere in the north, in the Maritimes, or anywhere distant from the major manufacturing and populated centres of the country. We already pay more for our daily needs. A seven percent consumption tax on top of our inflated cost of living means we will pay proportionately more than our friends and relatives living in the south.
Similarly, my constituents living in Dawson City will pay more because of the Conservative sales tax than people here in Whitehorse simply because they are a little further yet from the shipping centres that send us our household furnishings, groceries and many other things we need in order to live.
Transportation services will be taxed, not to mention most products being shipped.
A northern tax benefits tax break, which does not recognize the cumulative effect of the Conservatives sales tax, contributes to the further erosion to Canada as a nation. There was a time in this country when citizens, regardless of where they lived in Canada, felt that they were members of a national family. However, in the years that the Conservative government has been in power, Canadians in the north and in other remote parts of the country have come to feel that we are being dealt out of the federal family. I often hear this complaint expressed by people from the Maritime provinces when I am fortunate enough to attend ministerial meetings in filling my responsibilities as a Minister of Renewable Resources and Tourism.
They claim that the network of federal policies that offered most Canadians equal benefits within Confederation over decades has been systematically dismantled for reasons of running the country as a business - a bottom-line philosophy. Fairness, as a result, has been sacrificed in the name of efficiency.
For example, airline deregulation may have made travel cheaper on the more heavily-travelled Canadian routes. However, it has meant higher costs and less service between remote parts of the country. A couple of years ago, we saw the introduction of a communications tax that saw an increase for most northerners of another 10 percent on their bills. There was no cap on the extra tax.
That is unfair to people living in remote regions. Maritimers claim that the Via Rail cuts will affect the Toronto-Montreal corridor a lot less than it will the smaller centres.
In general, the federal/territorial and the federal/provincial funding and the equalization programs have been unilaterally cut in many cases by the federal government, to the misfortune of many Canadians, and to those specifically who live outside of central Canada.
The latest example of this hit home just last week when the introduction of the federal budget funding for most aboriginal communications across the country was drastically cut. We know that most of the aboriginal people live in the remote and northern regions of our country.
I agree with the Member for Porter Creek East that the federal government has not pursued these policies out of malice. They just have not given enough consideration to their effects. They are detrimental effects to the Yukon, the north and remote areas in general.
I would like to encourage the federal government to give some consideration to implementing some measures that will offset the negative effects of their policies on the north. I would like to encourage the federal government to give some consideration to increasing our northern tax benefit.
Mr. Phillips: I rise today to support this motion. I support the motion on behalf of the people of the Yukon who will be severely impacted by this proposed goods and services tax.
Even though the tax has been reduced from nine percent to seven percent, it will adversely affect Yukoners of all walks of life. I hoped that the earlier motion of December 6, 1989, opposing the GST, which was subsequently passed as amended by the Members of this House, would have been sufficient.
Obviously the Government of Canada does not want to be aware of the Yukons high cost of living and the other disadvantages that we face compared to other jurisdictions. That was obvious several weeks ago when an interview was conducted with the Minister of Finance. He was asked the very question about this affecting the north differently than other areas.
He made the suggestion that the proposed GST would help the north and that it would see a 1.6 percent growth in the north. He at the same time said that it would help the manufacturing industry.
I suggest to the Minister of Finance that that may very well be, that it may help the manufacturing industry, but not in our lifetime. He is perhaps a little confused by the fact we have a very small manufacturing industry. The problem is that it has to receive most of its products, goods and services from the south, so will be adversely affected by the goods and services tax.
Initially, manufacturing will be harmed by this tax. Down the road, if we ever become like southern Ontario - heaven forbid - where we have lots of manufacturing, that is when the Ministers prediction of it helping the north might be accurate. Right now, the Minister is wrong. It could well be a deterrent to manufacturing development in the north, rather than promoting it.
Unfortunately, the first message we gave to the Minister when we passed a motion in the House on December 6 did not get through. That is the reason we are dealing with this motion today.
We have to be persistent. We have to impress on the Government of Canada that the current tax proposal will only serve to increase regional disparity in this country, especially in the north. Everyone who lives north of 60 knows that our cost of living is 20 percent to 30 percent higher than that of our neighbours to the south. In any and every way possible, we have to make the Government of Canada aware of these facts, even if we have to repeat them time and again.
If we are persistent, I believe we will prevail, as we have in the past. As the Member for Porter Creek East said, the federal government recognized our high cost of living when it allowed the northern resident deduction in filing income tax. We should give this Conservative government in Ottawa credit for doing that. No other government has ever made that kind of a move.
As well, rather than slamming the government in Ottawa, and although they have cut back our formula financing, we have never had it so good with money the Yukon government is receiving. I believe it currently works out to $10,000 for every man, woman and child in the territory that we are receiving in transfer payments from Ottawa. The provinces receive less than $1,000 for man, woman and child, I think.
It is perhaps not right for us to jump up and down and scream at Ottawa for these cutbacks. Although we are getting cut back, we are not getting treated the same as other Canadians. If some of the other Members who spoke earlier want to be treated as fairly as other Canadians, are they suggesting that we should be under the same type of transfer payments other Canadians are? If that were the case, we would be in big trouble. That is not what anyone here is suggesting.
We should realize that it is the Conservative government in Ottawa that gave us a fairly healthy formula financing deal for the past five years, although not quite as healthy for the next several years. There is some concern over the structure of the financing, and I sympathize with Members who have spoken out in that respect. I would caution us not to fed-bash over the amount of money the federal government gives us. Overall, the federal government has treated northerners reasonably well.
This proposal that has been brought forth by the Member for Tatchun is not the perfect solution, as it only offers relief to those Yukoners who file an income tax return. The tax Yukoners will have to pay on goods and services will apply to everybody. Many lower income Yukoners do not file tax returns, and they are the ones who are going to be the hardest hit.
Similarly, it would do little to make the Yukon manufacturers more competitive and reduce our transportation costs or, as others have said, to promote our tourism industry.
The motion could be called a mitigative measure, rather than an answer to all the problems that will be created by the imposition on Yukoners of the seven percent goods and services tax. We have to take whatever relief we can get. There is a good chance the Government of Canada will look upon this request favourably, as did Mr. Don Blenkarn of the standing committee on finance, who looked at the goods and services tax and actually suggested a measure such as this to address the inequities the north might face.
Accordingly, I think we should make the best of a bad situation, and I would like to call on all our Members to support this motion put forward by the Member for Tatchun.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a few remarks I would like to make this afternoon with respect to this motion. I am somewhat disappointed by some of the comments put forward by some Members in the House with respect to the approach we ought to take with the federal government in this matter, given the history of financial relations between governments. I will talk about that just for a moment, after I talk about the motion itself.
The motion, it can be argued, is a timely one given the fact that we have now been subjected to a series of restraint measures inflicted by federal authorities, the most recent being a federal budget, which was tabled this last week and which indicated that further cuts, particularly relating to native people and women, ought to be inflicted. Of course, given the demographics of the Yukon, these cuts will hurt northerners again, more than others. I think it is a timely motion because we have to indicate, as a Legislature, our strong, forceful concern about the understanding or lack of understanding the federal authorities and federal politicians have shown to the north by causing greater hardship to the north through their uniform fiscal measures - uniform across the country but, because the cost of living in the north is higher, of greater consequence to northerners.
We heard a chorus from the opposite side that we ought to be thankful - that we ought to perhaps take a down-on-bended-knee approach with the federal government so as not to alienate them while we are asking for fair treatment for northerners. Without being confrontational, I would like to express a sincere regret that Members would advocate such a posture.
The Yukon government has historically had a very professional relationship with its federal counterparts. It has not been an approach that has been repaid in kind and I feel that, in the end, given the litany, this long list of federal fiscal measures that have impacted negatively on the north, I would think our approach ought perhaps to be more one of forceful indignation than one of cowering respect for federal authorities.
One Member mentioned that the formula financing arrangement we had was given to us by the federal Conservative government and that we should be thanking our lucky stars for what was referred to as $10,000 per person. It is not $10,000 per person; it is probably more in the neighbourhood of $6,000, but nevertheless it is correct to say that, on a per capita basis, the transfer to the Yukon is larger than the transfer to the provinces. The reason for that is that there is a very small population who are acting as caretakers for a very large territory, for which there are very significant responsibilities being undertaken by this population to meet national interests.
We maintain roads to such far flung communities as Inuvik at great expense to Yukon, for which there are no measurable benefits to Yukon taxpayers. We do that in the national interest. That is calculated into the transfer that we do receive from the federal government. It would not be right, especially for this Legislature, to draw comparisons between what the Yukon government receives on a per capita basis and what the provinces receive on a per capita basis. Certainly we receive much less than the Northwest Territories who receive in the neighbourhood of $13,000 per capita. Then again, their costs of doing business are extremely high with a small population in a very large territory. Consequently, it is appropriate they receive a large transfer payment per capita. It is quite justified that the Yukon receive a similar payment. Never once have I heard in any discussions between the federal and territorial government that the size of the transfer, per se, is something that really must be drawn down to provincial levels, or even a provincial average, or a high provincial level. Clearly, there is an understanding that the governments cost of doing business in the north and the role that Yukoners play in meeting national objectives is quite significant and, consequently, requires more funds from the Canadian taxpayers.
It is necessary to point out once again that the formula agreement that was struck in 1984-85 has been reduced in its effectiveness by a number of things to a point where I would call into question the assertion that we remain the beneficiaries of riding the crest of a wave of wealth. This is not true. It has never been expressed as being true by federal officials, largely because inflation has eaten away substantially at the grants, and because the growth in population has eaten away the effectiveness of the grant, given we want to provide a standard of service comparable to that available in the provinces. That was the reason for the formula transfer in the first place and the large sum of money from the federal government, both Liberal and Conservative, to the Yukon.
It is necessary to be cautious in our remarks about the need to be careful and kind to federal authorities because the situation in the past few years has shown that there is serious reason for concern on this matter.
As a matter of note for the Member who indicated we should be thankful to the federal Conservatives because they are responsible for bringing in the northern tax allowance in 1986, it is important to remind Members I was part of the northern benefits committee in the Yukon back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, that it was a Conservative administration that announced there would no longer be a remission order for northern tax allowances. Clearly, that was the event of the late 1970s that caused northerners to mobilize and fight for fairness.
Having said that, we have to keep in mind the need to be fair ourselves about what the federal government has done. We have to be cognizant of some of the concerns that the federal government has about its deficit.
The federal government has done some things in the north that are good. It has done something about resolving a problem, even though it is partly of its own creation, with the northern tax allowance creation in 1986. That was good. The support that the Yukon received on the opening of Curragh was good. Other acts were good.
We have to be aware, too, that the federal government has a deficit. That is a deficit for Canadians, not just a deficit for some artificial government that has no relationship with people. It is their deficit; it is our deficit. Consequently, it is of some concern. It should also be of some concern to us.
We must promote a situation at all levels of government where expenditures match revenues. I expressed that sympathy for that problem to Mr. Wilson personally on the occasion that I met with him some months ago. It has been reiterated in writing to him on a number of occasions.
The question is not whether or not Canadians, and Yukoners in particular, should participate in deficit reduction. That ought to be a fact accepted by all Canadians; Yukoners are Canadians too.
The issue is whether or not Yukoners, as northerners and as Canadians, are being treated fairly. The issue is whether or not we are fighting a deficit to the same extent as other Canadians. The issue is whether or not we are bearing our fair share of this tax, which seems to have dominated all federal policy thinking over the last few years, and we project that it will over the next few years, as well.
We have indicated to the federal government that our cost of living is higher than the rest of Canada. It is substantially higher. We have a situation that is rather unique in the northern regions because of the small populations and large districts that we administer. It is also because the cost of living, the cost of transportation and the cost of goods and services are substantially higher than they are in the urban areas of the provinces.
Consequently, we must point this out at any time when the federal government attempts to impose uniform rules for all people in the country, quite often under the guise of being fair to all.
There is a substantial difference between treating people equally and treating people fairly. The impact of uniform rules across the country is quite often felt differently by different jurisdictions. In this case, when there are federal fiscal measures being applied uniformly across the country, such as the percentage tax, those jurisdictions that have a higher cost of living will proportionately pay more to meet the taxation measure.
For example, if the goods and services tax is applied at a straight seven percent rate across all regions, the cost of goods and services in Toronto will be taxed at seven percent, as will the cost of goods and services in the Yukon. If the cost of the good or service is 30, 40 or 50 percent higher in the Yukon than in Toronto, the effect of that taxation measure is to proportionately secure more funding from the taxpayer in the Yukon than one would from the taxpayer in Toronto. That is a point that has to be forcefully delivered in this debate and to the federal government.
In this House, we have expressed concern about the general sales tax and its regressive nature. Members have called it a Conservative sales tax. I am the first to acknowledge that some effort has been made by federal authorities and the federal Minister to provide some relief for low-income Canadians.
However, as we have indicated in the past, the relief measures are also uniformly applied across the country. Any tax credit is the same for a person living in Toronto as it is for a person living in the Yukon. However, the purchasing power for the person in Toronto is much greater than for the person in the Yukon. Consequently, the tax credit is worth less in the Yukon than in Toronto. Again, that is a point that has to be forcefully made in this or any future debate.
It is not only a national problem, but the measures taken to ameliorate the effect of the regressive nature of that tax unfortunately have less benefit for low-income Yukoners than they do for urban dwellers in the rest of Canada.
The other point that has been made out by the mover of the motion is there are many low-income earners in the Yukon who do not file tax returns because they live a subsistence lifestyle. Again, even though they will be paying the tax, they will not be receiving the tax credit.
We have talked about the administrative burden of the general sales tax in the last weeks and the concern of small business on the costs and complications of applying this tax. Unfortunately, we cannot relate any relief for these people from the federal government. Nevertheless, in the Yukon, because there is no sales tax, this will be a brand new cost of doing business here. Because we are one of the few jurisidictions without a sales tax, this will have a greater impact on Yukon businesses than on others in the country, with the exception of Alberta. We will more or less be in the same position as Alberta.
The cost of the tax to Yukon will be approximately $400 per family. Of itself, that sounds startling. It will not be felt in one lump sum, but will be taken out of Yukoners income as they purchase goods and services in the territory.
Another point that has been made before and, I think, made quite well by others is the impact on the tourism sector and the service sector of the territory. The old manufacturers sales tax applied only marginally to the service sector and, consequently, its removal - and much-welcomed removal - from the Canadian political scene will not be as much a boon to the tourism/service sector as it might be for the manufacturing sector or the goods processing sector of the territory.
So, the tourism sector, in all likelihood, is going to feel much of the full brunt of the seven percent, in an area that is highly competitive and high cost in nature. In that competitive environment, tour operators and the individual with their RV will be thinking very carefully about the costs of coming to Yukon versus the costs of going to Alaska if the costs of tourism experience in the Yukon are seven percent more than they were before. This will be a factor in number crunching for tourist operators and it should be remembered.
These points have all been made and there are many other elements I could relate at this time, but I think the point has been clearly stated that the goods and services tax will have a disproportionate effect on the Yukon, compared to other Canadians.
When the standing committee on finance came to the territory, the Blenkarn Committee, they did indicate that they were overly surprised that the submissions coming from a small territory were as well researched and as convincing as they in fact were; they complimented the hearings in Whitehorse as being some of the best they had ever had - and this is after the committee had already participated in hearings where some of the most sophisticated financial minds in the country had already put their two cents worth forward.
Unfortunately, the committee did not recommend any changes to the sales tax. Unfortunately they did not, for all their enthusiasm about the submissions they received, feel that it justified any change in taxation policy with respect to the sales tax. Again, consequently, Mr. Wilson did not provide any specific relief for the north. Clearly, the disproportionate effect of this tax on the north will remain and Yukoners will bear the result.
There have been other incidences. We should not strictly single out the goods and services tax as the only example of a disproportionate effect from a taxation measure, because that may not be enough to justify an increase in the northern benefit allowance. There are other things one should consider in making the argument that the housing allowance should be increased. The telecommunications tax was something levied in the last couple of years on all persons using long distance. We, I believe, passed a motion expressing concern about the telecommunications tax. It was 10 percent, and now 11 percent on all long-distance calls. Clearly, the concern was expressed by everyone that this, again, would have a disproportionate effect on the north.
In the case of the tax itself, it was obvious that northerners use long distance more than do others. It was also a fact that any uniform taxation measure, any flat percentage tax applied across the country, would have a greater effect on the high cost of living areas in the country, and the north certainly qualifies as that. There was no relief for that.
Canadian postal rates are increasing, as it was pointed out by some Members. This will cause those people who are more dependent upon the mails than are others, for even such basics as the provision of food supplies, to pay more. It is not simply something that we can intellectualize here and say this is just another tug at the pocketbook. This becomes a very significant tug at the pocketbook for those people who must have food flown in.
Again, there are a number of other things, everything from things as important or significant, in terms of their revenue-generating capability as the air-travel tax, which of course will affect those who travel a lot by air, such as northerners, right through to the MOT parking fees, which is a rather trivial example of a revenue-generating measure. If there is any attempt at providing for a flat or a uniform tax across the country - a set percentage tax - across the country, it may be equal, but it is not fair. It is not fair when the cost of living in some areas is much greater, substantially higher, than in others.
We have experienced, in the last while, as well, other budgetary pressures that one ought to consider, which would cause one to believe that perhaps there ought to be some special relief through the increase in the northern allowance. Some of the measures, as Members have mentioned, are everything from such things as the program offloading, with respect to unemployment insurance - which will cause an increased burden on the Yukon government, in terms of social welfare payments, which will of course mean that, presumably, the Yukon government will be expected to provide for the shortfall, which will again affect the Yukon taxpayer even further - to such things as employment training and backing off on significant commitments through the Canadian job strategy.
In that particular case, the reduction in activity in training for regions such as ours, which have come to count on a better-trained work force to pull us out of some very significant economic difficulties, will not be able to look as much to the federal government for employment training funds as they have in the past. There is a lot to say about the Canadian job strategy that I am more than willing to express at some future time but I think that is an example of something that illustrates our concern about program offloading, whether we are talking about changes in cost-sharing agreements with jurisdictions that require greater percentage contributions by northern governments, and consequently northern taxpayers, such as the Economic Development Agreement or Police Services Agreement, or whether we are talking about the elimination of flow-through shares.
I was referring to the concern that certain programs will have a disproportionate effect on the northern taxpayers and northern residents than they will have on other parts of the country. That is the theme we must pursue in order to justify an increase in the northern housing allowance, which is a benefit exclusive to high cost-of-living areas in the country.
I referred to the formula arrangement at the beginning of my remarks and my concern about the defence by some Members of this House of the formula financing cuts on northern governments. The point to be made here - and I will not belabour it, because there will be other opportunities to discuss this thoroughly later - is the cuts in federal spending in December, in this most recent budget, amount to $116 per Canadian citizen including the Yukon. The cuts to the formula agreement and the Yukon government amount to $312 per person. Clearly, there is a signal there. It may not be a signal that federal officials see, but it certainly is something we take note of. It is something of great consequence to us that the feeling is that the cuts to Yukon in the formula financing arrangements are much more significant on a per capita basis than the cuts to provinces.
We heard provincial finance Ministers complaining bitterly about cuts to EPF, cuts to the transfers to the provinces after the last budget speech. We heard Mr. Couvelier, from British Columbia, complaining bitterly about a $110 million cut on a budget that is probably in the neighbourhood of between $13 billion and $14 billion.
Yet the Yukon, on a budget of $340 million, with a very small population, is going to be facing cuts of $9 million, $12 million and $20 million successively over the first three years of the agreement.
I watched, on the CTV news, concerns expressed by the finance Minister in Prince Edward Island - a small province, yet having well over 100,000 people. He expressed serious concern about the future of provincial health and education programs because they have to suffer a $4 million cut from the federal government, over what they expected they would receive in a given year.
We are expected to receive better than twice that amount in the first year of this agreement, three times that amount in the second year of the agreement, and five times that amount in the third year of that arrangement with the federal government. Clearly, the taxation measures being applied to the north, the goods and services tax, whether we are talking about the taxes applied from telecommunications, to air travel, to Canada Post rates, are going to have a disproportionate effect. This is not futuristic talk; this is now. This is happening now.
The formula cut is something we will be bearing now in this coming fiscal year. The hardships being imposed in terms of the comparison of the northern jurisdictions, both the N.W.T. and the Yukon, and our southern neighbours, are going to be rather substantial.
While there ought to be a higher income tax credit threshold for northerners who see the tax credit, which is a flat rate $24,800 across the country, we believe that it should be higher than that in the north because of the purchasing power of the northern dollar versus the southern dollar. It is also important that we put in a plug for the small trader threshold that is applied right now at $30,000 across Canada. It should be higher in the Yukon given the cost of living here.
I was part of a committee that was struck in the early 1980s, after having worked for approximately four and one-half years before 1981, by interested business and labour groups. Government also participated. The group was formed to express concern about the removal of the remission order on payment of northern tax allowance.
We expressed a very firm and well-researched view that the cost of doing business in the north is substantially higher than it is in the south. That was a major accomplishment given the fact that the federal politicians, to their credit, received literally hundreds of submissions from Canadians pleading a special case.
Everyone believes that they live in unique circumstances. Everyone believes that if there is what they consider to be a punitive measure, that they should somehow be exempt from that measure. As a labour/business group, we were able to statistically prove, to the satisfaction of everyone, that the cost of doing business in northern and remote locations, was substantially higher than in urban and semi-urban areas.
We not only provided sound statistical analysis of the northern resident versus the southern resident cost of living. We were also able to put it in human terms with respect to the need for special care and attention being made to northern and remote residents in any fiscal taxation measure.
We pointed out, for example, that air travel is extremely expensive to get to the first large urban centre where services are provided. We showed the federal finance officials that northerners were particularly dependent upon air travel. We showed them that northerners must use air travel more often than southern Canadians in order to conduct daily business.
Consequently, the move to provide some relief to the high cost of air travel was forthcoming. We also demonstrated that everything from the cost of health care in the north to the cost of goods and services was substantially higher. The costs of living in a remote location, particularly out of Whitehorse, were such that there ought to be some recognition through tax breaks for those residents.
The effort was successful, and I am proud to have been a small part of that issue.
As I pointed out, the action came in 1986 in the form of the new tax regime to be applied across the board and not simply to those people receiving benefits. It was heralded by such persons as me as being a substantial benefit for northern regions in comparison to what was previously felt.
Since that time, there have been no changes in the benefit. When the task force for northern isolated areas reported in October, 1988, they noted that fact and hinted that the allowance should go up to reflect the higher cost of living. Given my remarks this afternoon, I would advocate that it should not only go up as a result of the higher cost of living since 1986, but also because the uniform tax policies applied across this country have not taken into account the higher cost of doing business.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind the Member he has three minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is really unfortunate.
I will conclude by saying the argument has been well and truly made by others beside myself that an increase in the northern benefits allowance is warranted. It is a measure that is not new to federal finance authorities. It does not require thorough policy analysis to come to the conclusion that there should be a northern housing allowance, because we currently have one.
The argument has well and truly been made that the application of uniform taxation policies across the country has had a disproportionate effect on the north. The argument has been well and truly made that a recent formula arrangement between Canada and the Northwest Territories and the Yukon has inflicted more of the deficit-fighting burden on northern residents. Consequently, I would indicate my full support for a motion that would alleviate the effects of these measures on the north in some way, and would hope all people who might need to know about this motion will understand our situation and move to provide the assistance and fairness that Yukoners and all northerners deserve.
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to rise to say a few words in support of this motion. We have discussed the GST at some length today and at other times. There is no question that many Yukoners made the case that the GST will prove to be unfair to people living in Yukon, people who already suffer from a higher cost of living than experienced in the south.
Certainly, this party has spoken out against the GST and will continue to do so.
When part of the finance subcommittee travelled to Yukon to hear some of the briefs prepared by Yukoners, they expressed a great deal of surprise at the number of people who were interested and intervening and appearing before them. More Yukoners wrote to the committee notifying the committee of their intent to intervene than residents of such provinces as Prince Edward Island. I concur with the previous speaker in that the quality of the submissions was extremely good; we who listened to some of them and read the submissions were quite proud of the quality and determination expressed by those who felt this tax would prove to be unfair.
The solution put forward in this motion is not a perfect solution, as has been said. I know that many of us in the House supported the northern residents tax deduction and, of course, it has been part of the platform of our party for a considerable number of years. I think it is a position that has been taken from time to time by each of the three major parties in Yukon, so I am sure Yukoners are of one mind when it comes to the deduction itself and, regarding the fairness in these circumstances, of seeing an increase in that deduction.
Many of the previous speakers spoke about the high cost of living and the fact that consumers here pay more than their share of tax because they are paying on the product once it has arrived in the Yukon, with the transportation costs attached.
Some lip service was paid to the problem that the sales tax will bring to the tourism industry; that is certainly a point worth making and one that we have made on several occasions. It is also going to prove to be a problem with regard to the other industry - some say the major industry of Yukon - mining, because its costs will increase and this will prove to be, in future, a minor disincentive to exploration taking place in this territory.
Little has been said about what I consider to be a main argument against the tax in its present form, as it is proposed, and that is that the tax itself is one that will increase regional disparity, which will swim against the current of other federal programs that are directed at decreasing regional disparity. It is a tax that will make it difficult for us to ever develop a secondary industry that can compete in the markets of the south because, not only will we face higher costs of deduction for those articles and services we must import in order to manufacture, but there will also be a penalty placed on the cost of exporting the finished product to market, and the main market, of course, in Canada is the south, particularly central Canada - a long, expensive journey for many manufactured articles.
The Member for Klondike kept saying that many Yukoners consider this to be a Conservative sales tax. I noted that he did not really dwell on the problems that the tax would bring to mining or the problems that would lead to regional disparities and perhaps that is because many in the Yukon consider the NDP to stand for the No Development Party. In any event, the lack of concern...
Some Hon. Members: (inaudible)
Mr. Phelps: The Member for Mayo was awake during his long speech, and I am glad to that the rest over there have awakened because we did get some heckling from the other side and it is good to know that they are listening, and listening carefully, to what we have to say.
In any event, we at times disagree with labels and side with the No Development Party on matters that are of concern to all Yukoners and the GST is of concern to all of us, perhaps placing priorities on some reasons over others. We are pleased to stand up and be counted, to fight against these kinds of measures, which we see as unfair. We spoke out against the communications tax on telephone communications particularly, because of the obvious evidence and facts that state that Yukoners are more reliant on long distance telephone communications than are subscribers in other parts of Canada. We spoke out and did everything we could to assist in the battle against Meech Lake. We speak out and do everything we can to assist in trying to convince the federal government about the error of its ways with regard to the GST. We have no trouble at all in strongly supporting the motion that was brought before this House by the Member for Pelly, my good friend Mr. Joe, and I commend him for bringing forward the motion and give it my wholehearted support. Thank you.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Joe: I want to say strongly that if we do not help ourselves, there is no one else who is going to help us. The federal government has shown with its new budget that it is uncaring and greedy; it always wants more from the people. We need an increase in the northern residents tax deduction to balance the budget cuts and the new taxes. The GST has been talked about for a long time, but it is a new tax that will hit Canadians very hard. We want an increase in the northern residents tax deduction because so many cuts in budget areas.
The cuts in funding for aboriginal organizations are unthinking. The cuts in funding for womens organizations are short sighted. The cuts to health care and social programs will mean bigger problems in our communities in years to come.
And so we know that there is little support from the federal government. We will in the days to come hear even more about cuts and how they will affect the Yukon people.
Right now, this motion is a way for us to let the government in Ottawa know that we must not be left out in the cold. The needs of the people in the Yukon must be considered.
An increase in the northern tax benefit will help out.
Motion No. 71 agreed to
Speaker: Order please. I would like to inform the House that Motion No. 74, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North, will be removed from the Order Paper as it is very similar in intent and subject matter to Motion No. 71, which was debated and decided on by the House this afternoon.
Clerk: Item No. 2, standing in the name of Ms. Kassi.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 2?
Ms. Kassi: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 25
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Old Crow
THAT, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Canada should direct Canada Post Corporation to re-establish full public postal services in the Yukons capital city, Whitehorse.
Ms. Kassi: Whitehorse was the first capital city in Canada to lose its full-service post office service. It is an insult to the Yukon and a neglect to its duty to serve the public that Canada Post was allowed to close its counters in Whitehorse.
The Government of Canada must be encouraged to instruct Canada Post to re-establish full public postal service in the Yukon capital.
When Canada Post made the decision to close the Whitehorse post office, it did so without consulting government representatives in the Yukon. This was yet another display of the federal governments total disregard for the needs of northern communities. Time and again, it is driven home to us that we are the most isolated people in the country, and isolation is not just the result of geography. The isolation that affects us the most is the result of attitude.
The southern attitude is that we are not important. They can drill oil wells, test armaments, develop shipping lanes, mess up the postal service, introduce hardship sales taxes: it does not really matter, it is only the north. That is the southern attitude, but it does matter to the people who live here.
The post office in Whitehorse was not just a place to buy stamps and mail letters. It was a meeting place for people coming in from the rural areas to collect their mail and for Whitehorse residents, too. It was a public place that cannot be replaced by smaller outlets.
People have said they do not feel the security measures at contract postal outlets are adequate, and there is a strange arrangement of big, green boxes that are little more than an eyesore in the neighbourhoods around town.
Most of the problems in Old Crow are very different than the problems in Whitehorse when it comes to the post office.
Still, some things are not so different. It often happens that mail for people in Old Crow is damaged. Sometimes packages that are expected never arrive at all. Service in Old Crow is supposed to be on a regular basis, but we have to put up with situations that would test the most patient postal user anywhere in this country.
We have slow service at the best of times, and no service at the worst of times. There is always a reason. Sometimes the bridge is closed at Arctic Red, sometimes the plane cannot leave Inuvik because of the weather, sometimes the Dempster is closed. Canada Post officials cannot help the weather, but they can help solve other problems with the mail service in Old Crow.
We cannot buy money orders, we cannot receive COD. parcels, and often there are not enough stamps in town. Magazines, papers, parcels and other fourth-class mail arrives late in the afternoon on Friday. If you are late getting to the postal station in the coop, and it usually opens about 4:30, you have to wait until Monday to get your mail.
We do not have postal boxes. We do not even have one in town. We do not have delivery services. It is even difficult to mail letters because there are no mail boxes in Old Crow. We have to wait until the postal station is open. At this point, the problems in Old Crow and the problems I have heard about in Whitehorse start to look alike again.
The postal station in Old Crow is in front of the coop store and is a very tiny place. People often have to line up for a long time, disrupting the service of the coop store itself. The lack of access for Yukoners with disabilities is nothing short of discrimination.
Old Crow residents have other problems with the postal service, or lack of service, provided by Canada Post in our community. For instance, if the eye doctor comes to Old Crow and says a person needs eye glasses, the glasses are ordered. When they come in, they go to Whitehorse to the optometrist office. Then the optometrist office sends the patient a card saying the glasses are ready. We have no COD service, and the patient must send cash in the mail for the glasses. There are no banks in Old Crow, so it is hard to get the cash. Even when the patient does get the cash, it has to be sent in the mail. This goes against what Canada Post itself says. We cannot buy money orders and we have no COD service, so what do we do?
To make matters even worse, we are facing increases in shipping costs to get food to our communities here in the north, increases in the 32 percent range.
This is an area where the cost of living is already significantly higher than it is in most other parts of Canada. We, the people of the north, have not been well served by Canada Post over the years. It appears that a southern attitude will continue to prevail until we speak up. We want full postal services. We want fair shipping rates. We want to be treated like the rest of Canada.
I urge the hon. Members to support this motion to re-establish full postal services in Whitehorse. It would be a positive gesture on the part of Canada Post to show that there is at least some recognition that the Yukon is indeed a part of this country.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I welcome this opportunity to state my position on this very important question.
The Member for Old Crow has talked about the perspective of the postal service from her community. I fear what is happening is that the disgraceful situation that exists there may indeed become the model, as awful as it sounds, for the rest of the country.
Whitehorse is now the only capital city in Canada not to have a public post office. Consider that: why? We have never been given a reason for the closure of the public post office. We have the privatization of the postal system, which is going to continue, I predict, until this present government has dismantled the whole thing.
What we have is a triumph of Poujadist ideology over common sense. We still do not know why the public post office was closed. We now have a system in Whitehorse where it is impossible to get from one location the full range of postal services that Canadians everywhere in the country have access to.
The situation in Whitehorse in the post office was pretty bad. There were lineups. It was an unpleasant place. Why was it like that? It was like that because Canada Post - the Government of Canada - as a deliberate strategy, kept the post office under staffed.
There were lineups, and the staff had very difficult and angry customers to deal with, so the staff were unhappy in their jobs, so they had very bad customer relations.
What did they do about it? There were a lot of public complaints. Did they improve the system as some countries have done, by improving the decor or adding staff? I have recently been in a pleasant post office in another country.
Sweden had a wonderful post office system: you go to a post office in a little town there, get a number, wait on a comfortable couch with a television to watch. When your number comes up, you are called to a counter. There is a full range of services, and you can do everything from buying lottery tickets to filling out your tax returns.
What is the direction Canada has chosen to go? It is not an improvement of the service, but the privatization of it.
As the Member for Old Crow said, the federal building was a community centre. People came from all over town to pick up their mail; they talked to each other. They came from all over the territory and met at the post office, and people appreciated that was the centre of the community. There were all sorts of alternatives to the situation we were complaining about. Instead of choosing a practical, commonsense one, the Government of Canada made an ideological decision, and I think they made the wrong one.
I think the privatization is wrong. I agree with the Tory candidate in Dawson City who is opposed to privatization there, just as I agree with the Tory candidate from Whitehorse South Centre who, in the last territorial election, objected to that ugly tin can at the top of Two Mile Hill that we did not build; the federal government did.
The most important intersection in our town, and they did not put up an attractive building; they put up a tin can at the top of Two Mile Hill.
We no longer have a downtown post office where people can receive and send their mail to get a full range of postal services. We no longer have an outlet. We had an outlet that would stay closed for days at a time and finally close without notice - putting out of pocket all those Yukoners who paid for a mail delivery box or had that service. We do not have an outlet downtown that disabled people can have reliable access to.
We do not have an outlet downtown where francophones in this community can have guaranteed services in their own language. That is what a federal Crown corporation or federal institution exists to do. When they set the standards to give service, it is to provide that service to all Canadians. Small businesses - and I do not blame the small businesses at all - may not be able to, for one reason or another, but the federal Crown corporation has an obligation to do that and they do not.
Instead of standing in long lineups in the post office, we now stand in equally long lineups, in stores, dodging customers, with customers moving about so that they can browse through travel literature. What was done was done by the federal government without any consultation with this government or with the people. This was done without consultation.
Canada Post, by its own admission, surveyed six people on the street in order to satisfy itself that Yukoners really did not care about a quality post office. It did not publicize its intentions; in fact, it refused to comment on what it was going to do and whether there was going to be a new post office when they announced the changes to the new federal building. At the same time, it was carrying on discussions with private contractors. There was no public tendering of the new postal service. People complained about the postal service and they complained to the government, but now it is going to be privatized and there is going to be nobody to complain to.
Two weeks ago, one of my constituents had some materials sent to him by priority post from Edmonton. When they had not arrived on the promised morning, he telephoned the post office to inquire. He was advised by the plant superintendent that the private contractor delivering the mail had come to his door and reported that there was a sign indicating that he had moved. My constituent pointed out that he had a change-of-address form in the post office and was then told that the contractors do not have access to change-of-address information. When my constituent further advised that his new address was printed clearly on the notice that he had moved, he was told that the contractor had not mentioned that to the post office when he told them he was unable to deliver the material. When my constituent then asked where the package he was waiting for was, the post office manager replied that they did not know, that the contractor had not checked back to them and they could not say whether the package had been sent back to Edmonton.
Remember, Mr. Speaker, this is priority post.
He was told to call back around 4 p.m. My constituent asked for the name of the contractor so that he could contact the person directly. He was given the name and telephoned the office. He then found that the contractor was out of town and had delegated a driver to do the delivery.
No one in the office knew where the driver was or when he could be expected back. My constituent went back up to the post office at 4:00 p.m. to see if the package might make its way back. He waited an hour. It did not come. He was told to phone back around 7:00 p.m., which he did. There was still no parcel, still no contractor.
The next morning at 11:00 a.m., a full 24 hours after the package had come to Whitehorse, he had persuaded the post office manager to give him the address of the driver. He went to the drivers house and pounded on the door until a young man answered. He admitted that he was the driver. He found the package, which he was keeping in his own house. This is the new improved service that the privatized post office brags about. There is no security, no privacy, no guaranteed delivery.
The U.S. post office service has a moto. It is a quote from Horodotus: neither snow, nor rain, nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. The post office used to be a public service, a public service available to all citizens.
Now, we have the triumph of looney-tune ideology over common sense and practicality. We now have the private profit principle. The post office is to be privatized. I predict that when the post office is privatized there will be no unionized workers getting fair wages or decent benefits. They will all be low-wage workers. They will be unorganized. They will be part time.
That is what will happen. Customers will also suffer. I predict that a privatized post office will not deliver a letter from Toronto to Old Crow for 39 cents, or from P.E.I. to Pelly Crossing for 39 cents. It will be user pay. It will be whatever the freight will bear.
We will see the final end for post office service, a service that is absolutely essential for the communications from one end of this country to the other, or one corner of our community to the other, as something that was a proud public service.
It will be totally dismantled, simply for the benefit of the friends of the national government party.
Speaker: Order please. The time 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
Bill No. 19, - First Appropriation Act, 1990-91 - continued
Department of Justice - continued
Court Services - continued
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. There is an amendment on the floor that was moved by Mrs. Firth THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 19, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1990-91 be amended in Vote 8, Department of Justice, Program Court Services, by reducing the line item Territorial Court on page 242 by $62,300, and that the clauses and schedules of the bill be changed accordingly.
Is there further debate on this amendment?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I was just in the middle of a response last night when we adjourned. I would like to say, for the record, that I oppose the amendment. I do not think that at this point of time that we have to go through the process of amending budgets.
We believe that such a move would not be the proper thing to do at this time. I cited reasons for that. Members on the side opposite have cited many reasons why they felt that that amendment should be approved. There was a question about the money being spent for a sabbatical.
The other side also made a representation about the kinds of things that we are not sensitive to, to which this government always has been. An improvement has been made in many other areas in regard to single mothers. This government has a good record for supporting the improvement of the quality of life for single parents. That was cited by the Member for Porter Creek East. It started with the improvements in the child care program. That was very significant.
We continued to look at the many opportunities that we can improve upon, so the record is very good and speaks for itself. I, of course, am opposing this proposed amendment.
Chair: Division has been called. All those in favour, please rise.
All those opposed please rise.
The count reads seven yeas, eight nays.
Chair: Order please. Is there any further debate on the line item, Territorial Court?
Mrs. Firth: Now that we have that over with, we will just wait for the next opportunity.
I would like to ask the Minister a question that is related to this particular issue. When we sat last and discussed the amount of money that the department was requesting for deputy judges, the Minister said they were going to be asking for $17,000 this year to spend on deputy judges. Last year, we spent $127,000 on deputy judges, and I am calculating that some of the salaries of the third judge position was used to cover off duty judges. This year it is obviously going to be used to pay for the sabbatical leave of the third judge, the land claims negotiator.
I expect that the department will need more financial resources available to it if it spends in the neighbourhood of $127,000 for deputy judges. I realize the second judge position is filled, so there will be less of a requirement to bring in deputy judges. Does that $17,000 really represent an accurate figure in lieu of the fact they have spent so much in previous years on deputy judges?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The $17,200 that I had mentioned last night is the additional amount we will anticipate needing for the next fiscal year.
Mrs. Firth: I am not quite sure what the Minister just said. Last night she said we needed $17,000 for deputy judges. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Joe: That is what I said.
Mrs. Firth: The concern this side has is since that 70 percent of the extra salary dollars, the $89,000 that has usually been spent on deputy judges, is going to be used up for the sabbatical salary for the third judge - is that an accurate estimate of the $17,000? - the department will not have the resources of that full salary to spend for deputy judges.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The figure is $17,000 plus 30 percent of that $89,000.
Mr. Lang: Is it safe to say we would not need deputy judges if we had the third judge? Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The time judges are away in communities or on holidays would require us to have deputy judges from time to time. That was done when we had a full complement of judges. I remember it occurring when I was a justice of the peace.
Mr. Lang: The Minister had better correct the record. If the Minister recalls, during her tenure as a justice of the peace, we had three judges.
We have one public servant going to the French Riviera for $62,300. Then, in order to be able to cover for him because he is gone - and he is really going to be contributing to the general well-being of the public of the territory during that year, I am sure - we have to spend an additional $17,000, plus 30 percent of the balance of his salary that would be left. In other words, you have $17,000 left in his salary, and an additional $17,000 over and above that.
Hon. Ms. Joe: We are estimating we will be spending 30 percent of the salary of the judge for deputy judges, plus an additional $17,000.
Mr. Lang: Let us get this in the proper perspective so the taxpayers know what they are doing here. In view of the trip the taxpayer is paying for for this one particular judge, we are not only going to be paying $62,500 plus the $17,000, which is already incorporated in his salary that will go to deputy judges who will cover for him, but also an additional $17,000 will be spent because of the expenses and other things that are over and above.
As far as the golden handshake is concerned, it will be costing the judicial system $34,000 over and above this $62,500 that is going to be spent to help cover for the fact that we do not have a third judge.
We should have been increasing that amount of money instead of deleting it from the budget. We made a mistake, so we are going to have to introduce another motion.
Can the Minister comment on that? How much is this golden handshake going to cost us?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member keeps referring to this and making snide remarks and that is his prerogative. I think that the taxpayers have recognized that he is the spokesperson for money in the whole of the Yukon and talks about a golden handshake.
The figures that I mentioned - and I am not sure whether he has quoted them right - were 30 percent of the salary of the judge, plus an additional $17,000 to pay for deputy judges. The $17,000 has always been in the budget. There was no increase in that.
Mrs. Firth: The point that the Member for Porter Creek East is making is this: if this judge was not on a sabbatical, we probably would not need deputy judges, because we would have the full complement of judges, the three full-time judges in the Yukon. He would be getting his salary of $89,000. The Minister is saying that he is going to take his sabbatical. We are going to pay him for that holiday that he is taking: $62,300. The remainder of that salary of $89,00 is $16,700, say $17,000. That is going to be used for deputy judges, plus the $17,000 additional that the Minister is asking in the budget, for deputy judges. So when you add up his whole salary of $89,000, plus the additional $17,000 that the Minister is asking for for deputy judges, it comes to $106,000. So, one would not be unfair in saying that because this individual is going to be away for a year on a sabbatical - and will be paid by the government to be away on that holiday - it is actually costing the taxpayer $106,000, because that person is not here and sitting on the bench.
Hon. Ms. Joe: We required this amount of money in last years budget; we are requiring it again in this years budget. I understand what the Members opposite are saying; I understand where they are coming from. What I am saying is that we are not adding any additional money to this budget for this purpose.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister can pass the line, but I do not agree with it.
Territorial Court in the amount of $1,298,000 agreed to
Chair: Once the line item has been carried, the Committee then goes to Human Rights Commission, is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Joe: That is correct, and we have already asked that they appear as witnesses. They will be appearing. We have Sylvia Neschokat and Violet Greenway and Reggie Newkirk.
Mrs. Firth: We could finish these line items while they are on their way down. I do not have any questions about the line items.
Chair: Is that agreed with the Committee?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Sheriff in the amount of $277,000 agreed to
On Native Courtworkers
Native Courtworkers in the amount of $248,000 agreed to
On Maintenance Enforcement
Maintenance Enforcement in the amount of $67,000 agreed to
On Victim/Witness Administration
Victim/Witness Administration in the amount of $105,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $2,804,000 agreed to
Mrs. Firth: If we could, I would like to ask some questions about the security, so I would like to leave that item.
Capital stood over
Chair: We will leave that. The Chair has received a certificate from the Hon. Ms. Joe requesting that Sylvia Neschokat, chair of the Human Rights Commission, Violet Greenway, a commissioner, and Reggie Newkirk, executive director, appear before the Committee to discuss the estimates of the Yukon Human Rights Commission. Is the Committee agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Human Rights Commission witnesses introduced
Chair: I would like to welcome the witnesses to the House. We are on page 272 in the Justice Department - Human Rights, and I would like to remind the Members and witnesses to address their remarks to the Chair.
On Human Rights
Hon. Ms. Joe: In my opening address to the House in regard to this budget, I mentioned human rights very briefly and I would like to repeat them.
This program continues to provide block funding to the Human Rights Commission and funds for the Human Rights Adjudication Board. The grant to the Commission is $253,000, which recognizes an increase over last year to allow for increased public education and training. Adjudication costs continue to be funded at $42,000.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to welcome the members of the Human Rights Commission, particularly the executive director who, I understand, is new to the Yukon Territory; I hope he enjoys his term here as executive director of the Human Rights Commission.
It is a small town that the individual comes from, which I understand is New York City. I hope he can make a smooth adjustment to the change in his environment.
I understand the Commission was operating in a deficit position and had made a commitment to the Legislature last year to find the funds to pay off that deficit within its budget. Can the chair give us an accounting of how they managed to cover that almost $15,000, and also explain the request for the $10,000 that we were told in the budget-briefing session was in the form of a supplementary to the Human Rights Commission? The Minister indicated this was actually transferred from the funds for the adjudication process of $42,000. Can we have an explanation of how that deficit was cleared and what the $10,000 was for?
Ms. Neschokat: The deficit was reduced by a series of reductions throughout the entire program of the Commission. There was a $2,000 reduction with respect to commission travel, a $1,500 reduction in professional development, a $1,500 in employee benefits, a $2,000 reduction in employee travel, and three areas in public education were reduced. The equality pay project was deleted altogether, accounting for $4,000. The International Human Rights Day activities of the commission were reduced by $1,500. At that time the quality of education project planned by the commission was reduced by $2,750. This totals $15,250. I should also mention that deficit has been dealt with.
The $10,000 was a request made by the Commission during the summer of 1989 for funds to coordinate the CASHRA conference, the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies. That request for additional funding was granted by the government.
Mrs. Firth: Is that all the money the Commission will be requesting for the conference: a flat $10,000?
Ms. Neschokat: Yes. Those are the only additional resources that have been requested of the Government of Yukon with respect to the CASHRA conference. The Commission had also requested at that time that the Government of Yukon cohost a banquet with us. They have agreed to do so. All remaining funds for the CASHRA conference will either come from the operating and maintenance budget for the Commission or from conference registration and membership fees of CASHRA as an organization, or from other sources of funding.
Mrs. Firth: How much are they predicting the whole conference will cost?
Ms. Neschokat: The entire budget for CASHRA, including the monies to be expended during this fiscal year, will be $55,875.
We are currently anticipating that the conference registration fees and membership fees will generate revenue in the amount of $13,600, and out of operation and maintenance, the commission will cover a total of $42,275.
Mrs. Firth: I know some of my colleagues want to ask questions about the specific financial management of the Commission. Is the Commission prepared to make any comment with respect to the internal auditors report that we were provided with late this afternoon?
Would the chair be prepared to make some comments on that report?
Ms Neschokat: Yes. I would like the opportunity to make some preliminary remarks. This audit was one that was voluntarily requested by the Yukon Human Rights Commission, which requested the services of an auditor from the Government of Yukons internal audit branch.
After two years of operation - and going into a third year - the Commission felt that there would be some positive benefits for the Commission executive and management to have an independent review of its activities.
We were most pleased to cooperate with the auditor. We agreed with most of the recommendations made by the auditor. In particular, we would like to point to the initial conclusion that was drawn by the auditor on the substantial efforts made by the Yukon Human Rights Commission in fulfilling the objectives or goals of the legislation.
Mrs. Firth: It is not surprising that my interpretation of the report is somewhat different than the chair of the Commissions. To be constructive and brief on the many comments of the report, it is less than a glowing report of the performance of the Human Rights Commission over the last two and one-half years.
I was particularly discouraged by some of the comments respecting the performance of the Commission dealing strictly with setting its priorities when it was first established as a commission.
It was given a very generous budget. It was given personnel to manage that budget. Two and one-half years later, when an internal auditor does a report, it had not yet developed any policy or procedure manuals to deal with handling complaints or its own internal structures. I found that very disappointing.
We had an executive director who was paid a very generous salary in the neighbourhood of $60,000 a year. I would have thought that that would have been one of the first priorities of the Commission. Issues were raised here in the Legislature by all Members of the Legislature about how complaints were going to be dealt with, if there were to be some common procedure to deal with complaints, if the complaints would be dealt with on a consistent basis.
We were reassured that that would happen. We now find that that is one of the concerns that has been raised in the report. To sum up the report, the comments that were made were in respect to the perception of the independence of the Commission. A comment was made that the Commission was independent, in my opinion, in areas where it wanted to be independent. Yet, when it came time to ask the government for things - for example, for Government Services to do extra operational and maintenance procedures for them, provide equipment, et cetera - the Commission had no hesitation in asking government for that kind of service.
On the one hand, it cannot maintain an independence, and then go to government to ask for additional services - in a way, asking for additional monies.
Another thing was the concluding comment left the impression that the Commission was somewhat disorganized with respect to the management of its resources, the measurement of its effectiveness and its monitoring systems.
I again say there should be procedural guidelines. There should have been a manual on how to deal with the complaints. The Commission was remiss in not addressing that issue immediately.
I know of what I am speaking, because I have had jobs before in large organizations where you have been given a new job, something that might not have been there before. The first thing you do is sit down and write a policy and procedure manual, so there is some direction being given to the employees as well as to people who are coming to the Commission with complaints, so there is a feeling of security and confidence given to the public when they are bringing complaints forward and that they are all being dealt with under the same guidelines. The Commission has been very remiss in not having this in place.
I understand from their comments that the Commission has agreed that it will start working on that immediately. In saying it will do that, it is asking for a person year to help assist with that. I know it is going to have to cover that additional expense in its budget, or I would hope it is going to have to cover that additional expense in its budget. As a legislator, I am not prepared to approve more person years for the Commission, or more dollars.
The executive director of the Human Rights Commission makes a generous salary. I would have expected that that was part of this job description. I am talking about the new executive director two and a half years ago, when the Commission was first established. When I checked the job descriptions, through the regulations and the job description that the Commission has given me, that was part of his function. That has not happened. That is something that has to be put on the record and noted.
Specifically with regard to the monitoring of the Commissions expenditures, there has been some comment made by the audit that the Commission would have to implement a system where it could keep track of its resources and evaluate whether its resources were being used in an efficient manner.
When the Commission appeared before us in the Legislature the last time, I remember asking the chair a question about the expenditure of funds, and when did the Commission first find out it was in a deficit position and how long it had been going on. We were reassured there was some kind of computerized system where it could be checked on a monthly basis.
In response to this audit, I notice the Commission is saying that it is going to get the appropriate computer hardware in order to do that. I was extremely disappointed, although not surprised, to see that the Commission did not receive a better report card from the internal audit system.
I appreciate the chairs comment that it did it willingly. I know we had asked questions for accountability in this Legislature. That was probably part of the reason the Commission willingly pursued this direction.
There was also comment made about the continuity of the Commission and the terms of the three commissioners who are presently sitting expire in June of 1990. We are then looking at three new commissioners, or some options that are recommended in the report, which is the appointment of two additional commissioners, or so on.
I would like to be quite candid with my suggestions. I would be quite prepared to have the three commissioners terms expire in June of 1990 and have a new commission appointed. We have a new executive director; I would hope that new executive directors first priority is going to be for him to sit down in conjunction with the commissioners and, as soon as he can, develop a policy manual and a procedure manual so that there is some consistency.
When the terms expire, we should appoint three new commissioners so that they can carry on with the functions of the Human Rights Commission and operate within the confines of their finances, because the budget this year is extremely generous with the Commission, we on this side feel.
That is my suggestion. I do not want to see two more commissioners appointed. I do not think it is critical right now that we have continuity but I think that is something that the executive director and the new chair and new commissioners should look at - perhaps making the appointments in a staggered fashion, if we have to amend regulations or legislation to do so.
I would like to ask some specific questions about the document, particularly when there is mention of contracting people to do certain tasks or time lines. Specifically, there are two individuals who they are going to be looking at to give assistance with the recommendations that have been made in this internal auditors report. One is for an individual on contract to help with an action plan to be developed by April 1, 1990, which will identify corrective procedures required and appropriate time frames.
The Commission is hiring an employee on a short-term basis, so this is a person we are looking at hiring. That is going to be an expenditure. They are talking about having a six-month progress report and then there is also a comment made about facilitating a long-range plan. Once the action plan has been implemented, the Commission will undertake the development of a three-year business plan, beginning in 1991-92, containing multi-year goals and strategic planning objectives, et cetera.
I think that is something that should be looked at in the distant future; I think what needs to be addressed immediately are the manuals and the action plan and what the Commission is going to do to get its operation in order so that we can have some expression of confidence that the money is not just being spent day by day, that there are some stated objectives, that everyone who is working in the Commission is operating according to those stated objectives, and particularly, and of a major concern, that the people of the public who are coming to the Commission with complaints, have a feeling that their complaints are being dealt with in an equal and fair way and in a consistent way. If the public ever gets the feeling that one person took a complaint and because there was no policy manual or procedure manual for dealing with that complaint, it was done according to the Province of Saskatchewan, and then the next person who came in was dealt with according to another province or some other jurisdiction, which is, I understand from the auditors report, how the complaints have been dealt with, then I think there may be some cause for concern among the public.
I make these comments in a constructive way. I would appreciate any reassurances the chair of the Commission can give us with respect to the comments that I have made. I will, of course, have some further follow-up comments.
Ms. Neschokat: I must confess it is difficult for me to know where to begin. I could not disagree more strongly with the Member with respect to the meaning that she assigns to this particular report, and to the value she assigns to this particular report. This is a standard management exercise that has generated positive comments from the auditor with respect to the management of the Commission. The implication of the Members remarks is that the Commission has not managed its funds appropriately. The discussion this evening has indicated that the Commission has dealt with its deficit situation, it is in a healthy financial situation, and it is still in a healthy management situation. There are areas of improvement and we have indicated in our management response what kind of action we intend to take with respect to those matters.
There are slight errors of fact in some of what the Member has said with respect to the recommendation on continuity of terms of commissioners, for example. The Commission is not recommending that five members be appointed, but that two additional members be appointed temporarily until June 30, when the terms of the current Commission expire.
There are other interpretations that the Member has made with respect to strategic planning and financial planning within the Commission that are not correct. In fact, the Commission does have a variance reporting system in place. However, as the auditor has pointed out, the variance reporting system will become aligned with that of our accountant and with standard accounting procedures.
These are areas of improvement; they are not areas that have significantly effected the operation or financial management of the Commission.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to read into the record some of the comments at the conclusion of the report of the internal auditor. I do this for the benefit of my colleagues on both sides of the House. I know all Members have had an opportunity to read this document. It is 22 pages long and we just received it this afternoon. If the Committee will bear with me.
The conclusion of the report stated, That the Commission and its staff have made substantial efforts to fulfill the objectives assigned by the legislation, some of which involve changing human attitudes and/or the expenditure of substantial resources and therefore can only be achieved over a longer period of time than the two and one-half years the Commission has existed.
It talks about it progressing through the formative stages, and, where deficiencies in administrative practices or problems beyond the control of the Commissioners can be assessed and remedied. It then summarizes them.
The first one deals with a need to deal more clearly and consistently with the concept that the Commission is independent from the government. That observation is explained in the report. I think I reflected that observation in an accurate way. If we do not want to call it a criticism, if we want to be positive and constructive, then the comment that was made in the report was that it had received conflicting interpretations of the legislation as to whether the Commission is a separate legal entity from the government or whether it was an agency of the government. They found that from various government departments. When I made the comment about requests for repairs, and so on, that caused the confusion.
If the Commission is to be independent, it is to pay out of its financial resources for its repairs or services required from other government departments. That way it would be considered to be independent, as opposed to having additional finances going to the Commission in that manner.
The second comment was, Planning, budgeting and achievement measurement on an integrated systematic basis as necessary. I think we would all agree with that.
The third conclusion was, Improved financial management reports will provide more positive financial control. The next was, Consideration of soliciting, encouraging or creating inducements for the donation of resources from non-government sources has not been pursued. The next was, Three-year terms of the members of the Commission have not been staggered to ensure continuity. Are they not recommending five members? Well, they are really recommending five for a short period of time. It is still that there would be five commissioners to ensure continuity.
The next was, Lack of documentation of policies, procedures and work done reduces operational effectiveness, particularly during absences of experienced staff. We have had just those difficulties at the Commission because we have now had three executive directors in two and one-half years, so if there are not established policies, procedures and records of the work that has been done, there is bound to be some inefficiencies within the organization. Inefficiencies usually result in inefficiencies financially as well.
The last is, The Commission members are obligated to undertake work intended to be delegated to the director owing to an unanticipated interpretation of the legislation. My additional comment to that would be with respect to the regulations as well; I think there needs to be some review of the regulations and legislation.
The report suggests that the Commission sit down with the government and do a review as to exactly where it stands. I would agree with that recommendation. I notice the chair of the Commission shaking her head. I was sure that I had read in here, at least twice, that there was a recommendation that it sit with the government and review not only the legislation but also the question of the independence of the Commission. I believe I am reflecting the report accurately. Perhaps I will allow the Commission chair to make a comment while I find the specific areas where that is recommended.
Ms. Neschokat: The Member is referring to the management response. Those are recommendations that were made by the Commission. The Commission has suggested, with respect to both the matter of independence and also with respect to the review of the legislation, that a joint consultation process be undertaken between the Human Rights Commission and the Government of Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: I believe, as a result of the comments in the recommendation from the auditor, that management agreed it would be in its best interests to discuss particularly its independence from government; that has been a prime management consideration and this matter has been raised with the Government of Yukon on a number of occasions. The Commission agrees with the auditors recommendations and is pleased that the audit has drawn that to its attention.
So, to correct this situation, the Commission would welcome an opportunity to discuss these issues with government. The Commission is of the view that it is timely for government to consult with the Commission in order to set the parameters for a comprehensive review of both the Human Rights Act and the Human Rights Regulations.
I appreciate what the chair of the Commission is saying - that the recommendations of the audit have been taken in a positive context and that they, as the Commission, feel that it is appropriate for them to sit with government and discuss particularly those two issues. Is that correct?
Ms. Neschokat: The audit report, as we at the Commission understand it, has identified those two particular issues as prime management issues for our Commission. This is as a result of our discussions with the auditor, in which we indicated that these issues have formed a basis of ongoing discussions with the government since 1987. So, the auditors themselves do not suggest a process of joint consultation. This is a process the Commission has suggested in order that these issues might be discussed more fully and might begin to be dealt with.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the chair of the Commission could explain to us what is going to happen in the future. What is going to happen, starting tomorrow? In light of this report, can she tell us about the action plan, about the six-month progress report?
When does the Commission plan to start working on the policy and procedures manuals? Perhaps she could outline some of the objectives for the next year and if the issues that were raised by this report are going to be addressed within the next six or eight months or a year?
Ms. Neschokat: Perhaps I could do that by drawing the attention of the Members to the management response of the Commission on each particular item, beginning with the first recommendation with respect to the independence of the Commission.
This was, and still is, a prime management consideration for our Commission. The auditor has recognized, in a remark that is made on page six of the report, for instance, The requests, which were made by the Commission for specific services of the government were made in order to avoid restriction of activities due to resource limitations.
It is important to recognize that the Commissions actions were motivated, not by a desire to subvert the independence of the Commission, but to carry out the legislative mandate, which is deriving it from the Yukon Human Rights Act.
The reason we think that this issue is important is that the Commission must be seen and must be independent from the Government of Yukon in order to have public credibility. We indicated that we were very pleased that the audit report has drawn attention to this issue. As well, we indicated in our management response that we would welcome the opportunity to undertake a joint process of consultation with the Government of Yukon to clarify what independence means with respect to financial, administrative and legal matters.
The Commission agreed with the second recommendation on strategic and operational planning.
Mrs. Firth: May we have an opportunity to question the chair after each one? There are several recommendations. I notice that my colleague would like to ask some questions, and I would as well.
Mr. Nordling: Could the chair of the Commission clarify when this would be done and if any contact has been made with the government to set up meetings? It is fine to say that we recognize that we should meet with the government. We are two and one-half years into the Commission already, and it has not been done yet.
I do not want to be here two or three years from now with the new chair of the Commission saying the same thing, that it would like to meet with the government about its independence.
Ms. Neschokat: I have discussed, in a very preliminary fashion, the results of the management audit with the Minister of Justice and also with the Premier. I have also requested that a meeting be held to further discuss the results and recommendations of the report take place.
It is my understanding that the government is in the process of reviewing the report. I suggest that any questions regarding the process of consultation be directed to them.
Mr. Nordling: Has the Commission made any decision that when it has Government Services work on its building, that it will be invoiced for that to give the appearance of independence? Will any concrete decision or action be taken within the next month or two?
Ms. Neschokat: I should clarify the timing of the report. This audit report was prepared in January. The Commission completed its management response to it about three weeks ago. We are now beginning the process of the implementation of our action, or the measures, we have outlined with respect to the management responses that are contained for each of the recommendations.
Mr. Nordling: Did the commissioners, or either of the previous two executive directors, not recognize the Commission must not only be independent from the government, but also must be seen to be independent? Did they not think two and a half years ago that, instead of Government Services buying it a photocopier, it should request additional money or be invoiced and ask that its grant be increased, or when work is done on the building, that government employees should not just come over and do it, but that the Commission be invoiced for it and pay for it from its own funds?
I am surprised that the commissioners who have been there for the last three years and the past two executive directors find that, all of a sudden, it is news to the Commission.
Ms. Neschokat: I think that is a misinterpretation of what I have said. As the report indicates, the Human Rights Commission has discussed this matter with the Government of Yukon on an ongoing basis since 1987. It has requested additions to its grant in order to properly carry out the statutory requirements of the Human Rights Act, and it has raised the matter of the legislative independence of the Commission from government with both the previous Minister of Justice and the current Minister of Justice.
Mr. Nordling: Before I sit down and let my colleague take over, I have one other comment. If these discussions have been going on since 1987, we are talking about almost three years. The Commission has asked for increases in the grants to meet its objectives. What has been the response from the government? Has the government said, We think it would be difficult to give you a bigger grant, so we will just give you a $10,000 photocopier instead?
I do not know what the relationship has been between the Commission and the government over the last two and a half years. There has obviously been something going on. Instead of declaring its independence and fighting for more grant money, the Commission has been taking gifts from the government, in a sense. There is no accurate reflection of what it has cost the taxpayer for the Human Rights Commission.
Ms. Neschokat: Is there a question for me in that?
Mr. Nordling: What has the relationship been with the government over the last two and a half years when the Commission needed a new photocopier, for example? The chair of the Commission has said, We have been in talks with the government over the last two and a half years and requested an increase in our grant. There have obviously been increases in the grants, but there has also been other money given to the Commission. There must be some sort of relationship or agreement between the Commission and the government, because government employees do not go to just anybodys house and fix the plumbing.
Ms. Neschokat: The relationship between the Government of Yukon and the Human Rights Commission is one in which when the Commission has required a service that it was not able to fulfill in respect to operational funding, it has directed to the Government of Yukon for certain items. That happened with respect to a photocopier two years ago and with respect to several of the other items that are mentioned in the auditors report.
However, as I have indicated to you, in every fiscal year since it was established, the Commission has requested additional funding. Earlier this spring, the Commission indicated, in its estimation, an adequate amount of funding would be somewhere in the neighbourhood of $400,000 to $450,000.
We have indicated and lobbied the government every year for additional funding. We have, in this report, identified a pressing need, which is the provision of adequate resources to the Commission in order that it can carry out its responsibilities as it should, which is to say, independent from the government-of-the-day and reporting directly to the Legislature of the Yukon.
Chair: It is normally the practice that we have a break at 8:30 p.m., so I am going to call a 15-minute break.
Chair: We will continue with general debate on the Human Rights Commission.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Commission some specifics about a comment in the auditors report. There is a comment made that the Commission made certain requests of the government and one specifically with respect to complimentary airline tickets. Can the Commission tell us how many times they made that request and how many tickets they received?
Ms. Neschokat: Once and one.
Mrs. Firth: Could they tell us what it was for, specifically?
Ms. Neschokat: It was used to attend an organizing meeting for CASHRA, the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Commission chair tell us who attended the meeting?
Ms. Neschokat: Catherine Read, Mr. Porter and I.
Mrs. Firth: Specifically, in the report, it also says that an action plan will be developed by April 1, 1990. Is that action plan going to be ready by that date?
Ms. Neschokat: This item refers to the second recommendation of the audit report, which is in the area of strategic and operational planning, and this is a recommendation made by the auditor, which requests that a more formalized planning process be undertaken by the Commission.
It should be noted that on page 9 of the report, the auditor has indicated that while the Commission has been clear in establishing its goals and in deciding on courses of action aimed at achieving them, it has not yet done this is an organized manner, with the result that some elements of the process are incomplete. It should be therefore be noted that, with respect to this recommendation, the auditor is not saying that the Commission has not undertaken planning; however, that certain parts of this process are incomplete. To address that aspect of the auditors report, the Commission has indicated three courses of action that it will take. The first of these is the development of an action plan and the purpose of this plan, which we have said we will prepare by April 1, 1990, is to identify the corrective procedures that are required and the appropriate time frames within which they can be achieved.
The second course of action ties into this. That is the identification of a three-year business plan beginning in the fiscal year 1991-92, which will identify and lay out some long-term strategic planning objectives for the Commission.
It is a two-step process. The first is already underway and is designed to help us get a handle on what we need to do and when it needs to be done. The second will be the actual development of a long-range planning process. It should be noted that this is a sophisticated planning process we are talking about. After two and a half years, the Commission is now in the position of being able to embark on such an endeavour. The third course of action the Commission identified was that it would, and has already, hired an individual to assist in the development of that action plan. That is on a short-term basis and is not an additional person year. It is a short-term employment contract which, at this point in time, will extend to March 31 of this year.
Mrs. Firth: Has the Commission taken steps to employ someone to assist in developing the new organization system that is referred to in the report?
Ms. Neschokat: You are referring to recommendation number six that talks about the documentation of policies, procedures and work done. No. We have not yet hired an individual to undertake that work. We have indicated, however, that what we will be developing is a draft manual system in 1990-91 to identify the managerial requirements, the administrative procedures and the case investigation and management procedures that are required. It should also be noted with this particular item and with respect to comments made earlier that the development of procedures in the human rights field is not one that is done as a result of the development of policy manuals; however, it is developed or comes about as a result of jurisprudence: that is to say case law and decisions of administrative tribunals in the area of human rights law. It is not a matter of taking policy from Saskatchewan and revising it to fit the Yukon situation. It is a matter of reviewing, on an ongoing basis, the jurisprudence in the area of human rights law across the country.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask if the six-month progress report that is going to be done will be provided to Members of the Legislature? We will not be in session, but I would like to know if the Commission would make the report available to us when it is complete.
Ms. Neschokat: The Commission indicated that it would be undertaking a six-months progress review. At this stage, I do not know in what form that review will take place. It may consist of a series of meetings between the Commission and its staff at the six-month points. If the Member wishes, and if a report is not the outcome of this process, I would be pleased to advise her of the general summary of where things stand.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate the chair communicating that to us.
We will not have the Commissions annual report for the year ended 1990 until after March 31. I wonder if the chair is prepared to give us some of the details of the report so far, such as the numbers of complaints that the Commission has dealt with this year?
Ms. Neschokat: The annual report is in the process of being drafted at the present time but I will ask Mr. Newkirk to speak to the complaints and investigations side of the Commissions activities over the past year.
Mr. Newkirk: To date, from April 1, 1989 to February 22, 1990, the Commission has received six formal complaints and it carried 14 over from 1988-89, so there is a total of 20 formal complaints. The disposition with respect to those complaints is as follows: one has been settled, one has been dismissed, two have been withdrawn, one has gone to a board of adjudication and is now in the process of being appealed by the respondent, four have dispositions pending, and eleven are still under active investigation.
Mrs. Firth: Could the executive director tell us how long complaints are there before they are dealt with? Is there a procedure that they be dealt with at a specific time? Could we have some information on that?
Mr. Newkirk: I have only been with this Commission for just over a week. I have been reviewing the 20 cases on hand. I cannot give the House a definitive report on that yet.
I will describe the process. A call comes into the office, a person walks in off the street or a letter is received. The letter or the conversation with the individual is documented in a memorandum, which is considered to be an intake memorandum.
In that process, an attempt is made to identify whether or not the complaint is within jurisdiction, namely, whether or not it is timely, whether or not it is one that is frivolous, vexatious or trivial. If it passes that test, we determine whether or not there is a specific ground covered by the act and whether or not the issue involves one of the social areas in which discrimination is prohibited by the legislation, namely employment, services to public, tenancy, and the like.
If, after that initial screening process, the complaint is found to be within jurisdiction and is not screened out by any of the other factors that I just mentioned, a complaint form is developed. The individual either comes in or it is mailed to them, and they sign it.
Once that happens, the respondent person, either company or individual, is notified that the complaint is registered, usually by mail. They are told that a representative of the Commission, a human rights officer or the executive director, will be contacting them to ascertain their evidence vis-a-vis the complaint.
Once all the evidence pertaining to a complaint is in hand, the investigator makes an analysis of that evidence and weighs the balance of probability, whether or not the evidence weighs in favour of the respondent or in favour of the complainant.
If it weighs in favour of the complainant, a settlement process is initiated. If it weighs in favour of the respondent, the complaint is dismissed. That is the recommendation that goes to the Commission. If a settlement process is unsuccessful, the Commission reviews it and decides if the matter will go before a board of adjudication.
The difficulty is that different cases under different aspects of the act require different investigative techniques. Some may be more complicated. There is no set time frame for any one given kind of case. If a complaint involves equal pay for work of equal value, it can involve months of analysis, review, data collection and so on.
If the complaint involves tenancy discrimination, and a person has been denied an apartment because of their race or sex, that may be something that we want to get onto very quickly, because the apartment may disappear rather quickly. Some cases can be dealt with in a matter of a day or two, depending upon the availability of the claimant, the respondent, et cetera.
These cases may take months. I have not found a Commission yet that has been successful at establishing rigorous time frames for the handling of various complaints they have. There are ball-park figures that can be developed that are reasonable, and we will be doing that, because I have the experience with doing that.
Mrs. Firth: I thank the executive director for that explanation.
I would like to ask the chair of the Commission if she could tell us how many contracts the Commission has dealt with this year and if she has a specific list of them.
Ms. Neschokat: I could read a list of contracts into the record, if the Member wishes.
Mrs. Firth: If it is a lengthy list, we would appreciate just having a copy of it as opposed to the chair having to read it into the record. Perhaps it could be provided for us afterward.
Ms. Neschokat: Let me just clarify that the Member is looking for the name of the contractor and the amount of the contract.
Mrs. Firth: That is correct, as well as a short description of what the contract was for.
Ms. Neschokat: Yes, that can be provided.
Mr. Lang: I would like to pursue the conference that is coming up. I was a little taken aback at the amount of $55,000 for a conference. I gather the actual cost to the Government of the Yukon, in conjunction with the Commission, is going to be $42,000 or $43,000. Is that correct?
Ms. Neschokat: The actual cost to the Yukon Human Rights Commission is $42,275.
Mr. Lang: I stand to be corrected. The total amount is $55,000, is that not correct?
Ms. Neschokat: The total amount is $55,875.
Mr. Lang: How many people are we hosting? This is a lot of money.
Ms. Neschokat: At the current time, we anticipate that between 100 and 150 people will be participating in this conference. With your leave, I should indicate some background information on what the conference is about.
It is the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies, which is a national organization of human rights agencies from all jurisdictions, including the Government of Canada. Each year, in conjunction with its annual meeting, a conference is held. This year, it will be hosted in the Yukon and will be open to the public, as well as to members of the organization. We anticipate people will be coming from outside the Yukon, across the country, representing commissions, nongovernmental organizations and aboriginal organizations, as well as participation from every community in the Yukon.
The conference theme is human rights and aboriginal peoples, can Canada truly be a model? In our view, as the hosting commission, this is a very important opportunity for the Yukon to participate in an ongoing national discussion about aboriginal rights issues that are taking place all across the country. I am sure the Members are familiar with the outcomes of other native justice inquiries and the Donald Marshall case, and the significance of aboriginal rights issues all across the country.
This conference will be hosted here. The keynote speaker will be Mr. George Erasmus, who is the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. We think this is a very positive opportunity for the Yukon to receive national recognition and be part of an ongoing national debate.
Mr. Lang: To pursue this a little further, with respect to the amount of money that is being spent, could she give us a breakdown of how that money is going to be spent?
Ms. Neschokat: Not in any short length, because there are a significant number of items but, in essence, the types of costs that will be incurred relate to the travel costs for panelists and for some Yukon delegates; some costs relating to the banquet and reception that are planned for two evenings - I am trying to summarize these for you - and administrative costs relating to rental of facilities, telephone fees, printing costs and that sort of expenditure; mailing costs, and then some small amount for transportation costs for delegates to and from the various sites that are being considered.
If I might just make one other comment, I forgot to mention the dates - these are June 3 to June 7 of this year.
Mr. Lang: I want to pursue this a little further, if I may. I would appreciate it if the chairperson could provide me at a later date with a total breakdown of the dollars and how they are going to be distributed. Could the chairperson tell us if we are paying Yukon delegates to come in to this and, if we are, how is this Yukon delegation determined?
Ms. Neschokat: Yes, we will be paying for some panelists who have been invited to be guest speakers. With respect to the Yukon participation, the Commission is currently discussing the matter, but it is our intention to ensure that there will be participation from every Yukon community.
Mr. Nordling: I would ask for an explanation of the statement of income that was handed out to us. I am not sure how it is set up - one column is headed 1990", the other column is headed 1989". At the top it says, for the 10 months ended January 31, 1990". Is the 1989 column of figures the 12 months ended March 31, 1989, or what do they represent?
Ms. Neschokat: They represent the 10 months of the preceding period. They are indicated on the report in order to provide some comparison for the Members with respect to expenditures at the same time in the previous fiscal year. So, the 10 months, which ended January 31, 1989, is what is referred to with respect to the 1989 column.
Mr. Nordling: So, then, the 1989 column is for the 10 months from March 31, 1989 to - well, we are now into January 31, 1990, so I do not know how -- let me try and clarify my misunderstanding: the 1990 YTG grant revenue is $207,000; I thought that was the total grant, not ten-twelfths of the total grant.
Ms. Neschokat: You are correct, but with the revenue items there would be no change because they would be the same at the beginning of the fiscal year as they were at the end. If you take my point, the changes occur with respect to the expenditure items where a running total occurs. With respect to the 1989 column, we are talking about April 1, 1988, to January 31, 1989; it refers to the previous fiscal year.
Mr. Nordling: It is probably not worth getting into this in detail for comparison. I was looking at the annual report ended March 31, 1989. The government grant for operations was $200,000 to the year ended March 31, 1989. The previous year, 1988, was $195,962. In this computer printout we have 1989 and the chair has said this is the period April 1, 1988 to January 31, 1989 or it would go to the end of the year. She said the revenues carry through for the full 12 months, so I read the figure in the annual report as $200,000 and on the printed sheet of $201,128.
Ms. Neschokat: I will clarify the specific items. The $201,128.65 incorporates the surplus that came from the preceding fiscal year, 1987-88. Secondly, you are right, the total revenue for 1989 was $206,796. You will notice in the unaudited financial statement prepared by our accountant it reads $204,011. The difference will be in interest income, I suspect, generated in the remaining months of February and March of that fiscal year.
Is that a satisfactory explanation?
Mr. Nordling: Yes, it is. I understand what has been done now with the comparison that is being made for us.
Mrs. Firth: I have no further financial questions.
The medical testing policy has been delayed. Can the chair tell us when they are anticipating pursuing the medical testing policy?
Ms. Neschokat: I will ask Mr. Newkirk to speak about the process the Commission is undertaking with respect to the development of this policy.
Mr. Newkirk: What was interesting to me when I first came here was looking at that particular policy. It is touching on a very sensitive area in many regards. Nonetheless, the Commission asked for submissions from the public some months ago. More recently, it asked again for submissions and I think there is somewhere in the neighbourhood of a total of 20 written submissions and tapes.
Now, what the Commission has is quite a bit of information and no way of organizing that information so it becomes digestible or intelligible. So, what the Commission is considering doing now is hiring someone on contract to go through that material to put it into an analytical framework so that the Commission can look at it, read it, digest it, and take into consideration the submissions made, along with the existing policy, and then, in a second stage, develop more fully the employment medical testing policy so that it more fully reflects the submissions that have been made, as well as what could be implications for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly under Section 15. I want to make sure that policy does not offend that particular document in any way.
It is a two-phased step, and I hate to put myself on the line, but I hope we will be able to complete that process within six months.
Mrs. Firth: I have no further questions for the Commission. Some of my colleagues may.
Mr. Nordling: I just have one more clarification that I would like on the statement of income.
Under the 1990 column, we have the Government of Yukon cash for coordination grant of $10,000. Will that be expended? I do not see an expense that offsets the $10,000. I assume that the other $42,000 that the Commission will be spending will be in the fiscal 1990-91, or will some of it be spent before March 31 of this year?
Ms. Neschekat: The $42,000, which was identified, includes the $10,000 that is identified here. There will be $10,000 spent in this fiscal year, and $32,000 will be spent in 1990-91.
Yes, the funds will be expended this fiscal year. I anticipate that all of the funds currently identified as surplus will be expended at the end of this fiscal year, with the exception of $3,500, which will be deferred revenue. That is being allocated to legal fees for the Madeline Gould complaint.
The funds for cash for coordination contract will be expended in this fiscal year. There is $5,500 that will be paid in consultants fees and the remainder on other expenses associated with the conference.
Mr. Nordling: I understand the total of $42,000. The only thing that I am not clear on right now is which line the $10,000 appears in under expenses in the fiscal year that will end March 31, 1990.
Ms Neschekat: When the Members receive the audited financial statement, which will be included in the annual report, the same level of detail will be there as there has been in preceding years.
There will be a line item under Public Education. That will say Cash for Coordination. The expenditure in this fiscal year will be reflected there. They are currently reflected under the 1990-91 Puclic Education column.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to thank the chair, her commissioner and the executive director of the Human Rights Commission for appearing before the Legislature to provide answers to our questions.
Chair: The witnesses will be excused. We will continue with Human Rights in the Department of Justice. Shall we proceed with Human Rights, or would the Members like to go back? What is the wish of the Committee.
Mrs. Firth: I suggest that we stay on Human Rights if that is all right with the House.
On Human Rights Commission Grant
Mr. Nordling: I would like to follow up with the Minister of Justice. Obviously, there is concern that the Human Rights Commission does not appear to be completely independent of government. I would like to know what has been going on in the past and the Ministers plans for the future with respect to assisting the Commission financially or in goods and services over and above the line item that we are being asked to approve in the budget.
Hon. Ms. Joe: It has always been our position that the Human Rights Commission is an independent body. There have been circumstances in the past where requests have been made in regard to certain things. The Member mentioned an airline ticket. The position is they are an independent body. We have treated them as such. We continue to meet with them from time to time to talk about additional funding and whatever matters they may want to discuss with us. I met briefly with them this morning in regard to the audit report. We assumed that position when they were established, and that is still our position.
Mr. Nordling: Is there an understanding with the Commission that it can call upon Government Services to do work they need done? Does Government Services record that and charge it out to a department? How does Government Services record it in its books?
Things have happened in the past that the Minister could perhaps explain. For example, I know plumbing was fixed over there, this airline ticket was requested, and a photocopier was purchased.
Hon. Ms. Joe: As I understand it, the photocopier was purchased quite a while ago. I was not familiar with it until this evening.
In regard to any requests that have come to this government in regard to any other department, I am not aware of the circumstances. As I said, we try to keep a very independent position. Maybe the Minister of Government Services could respond to those questions.
Mrs. Firth: If I may follow up, in the internal audit report, there are comments made the Commission has also added to the confusion by requesting the Department of Government Services assistance without charge for renovations, building maintenance, poster reproduction, printing of the Human Rights Act and regulations in booklet form and complimentary air tickets.
So, we have established the one air ticket.
The concern I have is the same as my colleague for Porter Creek West. The Commission is coming in here asking for a budget of $295,000. The government is obviously agreeing with that, because they have come forward with it. I do not think that is an accurate reflection of how much money is actually being spent within the Human Rights Commission. As legislators, how are we supposed to know how much money is actually being spent to support the Human Rights Commission, if they are getting poster reproduction and building maintenance and renovations and things like that done, for which we do not have a proper accounting? Even though it is her department, is the Minister saying she does not know how much additional money is being spent on the Commission?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am aware of the money the Department of Justice has allocated for the Human Rights Commission. It is established in all the budget books.
In regard to services that have been provided by another department, if any, that is information I am not aware of. I understood there was a request and I did not know what the response was. As I mentioned, I do not know whether or not the Minister responsible for Government Services is prepared to give that information.
I am aware of the money that Justice has allocated.
Mr. Nordling: Is the Minister unaware of any agreement between the Commission and the government, of whether there is a written agreement that the government will provide these services on request, or an informal understanding? When the Commission phones up and says, our pipes are frozen up, can you come and thaw them, how do government employees know it is permissible for them to go over and work on the Commission building?
Hon. Ms. Joe: Any requests such as those the Member has mentioned, and as have been mentioned in the audit report, have not been done through myself as the Minister of Justice. I have been aware there have been some concerns in regard to some work that was needed, but I do not have an accounting from the Human Rights Commission as to what those circumstances are.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister to get a list from the Minister of Government Services of what they have provided to the Human Rights Commission and what any other departments have provided in the form of services. Then we could get a better reflection of just how much money is being spent there.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would be prepared to do that.
Mr. Nordling: We can wait for that and ask questions later. If the Minister of Government Services can help us, I would invite him to do that.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will try to help Members. I am aware of a couple of requests from the Commission to Government Services staff for assistance on an emergency basis. The Member is probably referring to a particular case of a broken window causing some freezing in part of the building. I believe on an emergency basis, the Department of Government Services went over and repaired that. I am not aware of any tickets or other extensive services.
We recognize and respect the independence of the Commission and certainly treat the Commission on that basis. I think the Minister has indicated an undertaking to examine any specific services that may have been provided by my department, because I do not know in any detail to what extent services may have been provided. I, too, would like to double check that and get back to Members.
I know that because of the independence of the Commission we have abstained from providing typical services that we would ordinarily provide to other government departments. It comes to mind we may have printed some legislation for the Commission. That is a standing expectation of the department by agencies that report to this House.
I am not aware of any standing agreement to provide services. We do not, but I would like to check in detail to what extent we may have helped on rare, emergency occasions.
Mrs. Firth: In the report, it also cites something the Minister of Government Services just mentioned. The Commission was treated like other agencies. One of the concerns raised in the report was that departments treated the Commission as if it were a government agency by recording the real estate premises owned by the Commission in the government assets records, including these premises in the list of properties covered by governments general liability insurance, and providing the building maintenance and internal audit services without charge.
Does the Department of Government Services ever charge back to the Commission for those services, as I think they would to other agencies?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To clarify my reference to agency, I meant agency of the Legislature, not agency of the government. There is a responsibility that can be undertaken by Government Services to an independent body like the Commission to print its legislation. We have the Queens Printer, and that would not be interpreted to be interference, in any form.
With respect to whether we charge back for the odd occasion we may have provided a service, I would have to check that. I do not know if there is a charge-back method, or if it was just done as a courtesy, because of the emergency situation. I would have to check that.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that we report progress on Bill No. 19.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 19, First Appropriation Act, 1990-91, and has directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader 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 9:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled February 28, 1990:
Yukon Human Rights Commission, Balance Sheet, January 31, 1990 (Unaudited) (Speaker, Johnston)
Yukon Human Rights Commission, Internal Auditors Report, January 31, 1990 (Speaker, Johnston)