Wednesday, May 2, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Speaker: We will now turn to the Order Paper.
Are there any Introduction of Visitors?
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Reports of Committees?
Are there any Introduction of Bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 9: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move the Bill No. 9, entitled An Act to Amend the Animal Protection Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 9, entitled An Act to Amend the Animal Protection Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion?
Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Education department staff turnover
Mr. Phelps: I have a question for the Minister of Education with regard to the issue of morale in the Department of Education. I wonder if the Minister could tell us how many employees have come to see him personally in the last three months in regard to abuse of authority or workplace harassment by senior officials in his department.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I have indicated before: one group of about five or six employees and one employee alone.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us if these complaints were about abuse of authority and workplace harassment, including swearing, threats and unwarranted criticisms, all emanating from one senior official in the department?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not going to divulge the nature or character of the conversations I have had with the employees. The employees discussed, as I indicate before, general morale within the department and I indicated to them I would be more than prepared to work at helping resolve their concerns and boost morale in that particular section.
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister consider supporting an initiative that was raised by the Member for Riverdale South last week, an initiative to bring in some legal protection for employees from workplace harassment and abuse of authority?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I understand it, and I am not the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, but as I understand it, there is not only a grievance procedure, there is also a group or a new initiative that is being worked out with respect to harassment in the workplace, for which people can also air their concerns. I am presuming that if there is a problem, it will be dealt with through the appropriate channels.
Question re: Education department staff turnover
Mr. Phelps: There is a problem and, in my view, given the number of people who have approached me and phoned me and written me, it is a serious problem. It does involve one senior official in the department and I can say, and I am wondering if the Minister knows, that at a public meeting held at the fire hall at the Golden Horn subdivision on June 7, 1989, the senior official, in the presence of myself and the Member for Watson Lake, referred to officials in the department as a bunch of deadwood, with certain adjectives that I would not want to raise in these Chambers?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have no idea whether or not the allegation that the Member is making is true. The department officials within the Department of Education are not deadwood, and I am not sure what the context was in which the comment may or may not have been made. Certainly, if the Member wants to give me more information later, I will be more than happy to investigate that.
Mr. Phelps: I can tell the Minister that it was in reference to a letter sent to that official by the MLA for Watson Lake, and it was a meeting at which the Minister was present but, I am sure, was too far away to overhear the conversation, although a lot of parents did, who were in the immediate vicinity.
I would like to know if the Minister would consider appointing an independent person of some stature as an ad hoc ombudsman, to hear the complaints in confidence and make recommendations about the deplorable situation in the department.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will not entertain that possibility. As I have indicated, there are procedures to deal with grievances between employees and their supervisors. There is also the harrassment policy I referred to, which will be the basic structure of the grievance procedure, where the issue can be fairly heard within proper procedures. I have also indicated that, with respect to the matters that have been brought to my attenion, I have been dealing with them expeditiously and thoroughly. Those are the appropriate procedures for dealing with the matter. I do not believe other action is warranted.
Some elements of the situation within the advanced education branch are something I have been dealing with for a couple of months now.
Question re: B-24 bomber recovery
Mr. Phillips: With respect to the proposed recovery of a vintage B-24 bomber from the bottom of a Yukon lake, a Yukon business person has offered to recover the aircraft and donate it to the new Transportation Museum, with very little or no cost to the Government of Yukon. This aircraft was abandoned by the U.S. Air Force during the war, and the recovery of it would tie in perfectly with the celebration in 1992 of the Alaska Highway.
Has the Minister of Tourism considered this request?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, I have considered this request. To this end, I am assisting by way of the organization of the meeting of all the principals involved to consider this proposal.
Mr. Phillips: When will that meeting take place? This sounds like a very interesting project. This B-24 bomber is a very large, four-engine bomber that appears to be in very good condition at the bottom of the lake. It may even be able to fly, if restored properly.
Would the Minister consider fast-tracking this project so it could come online for 1992 and the bicentennial celebrations?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Again, I want to emphasize that the heritage branch in the Department of Tourism has offered to assist in arranging for a meeting of all the stakeholders involved in this project. We hope to have a meeting some time this month to get things going.
Mr. Phillips: Does the Minister feel this particular project would qualify as a Celebration 92 project under the guidelines that are set out?
This particular bomber was flown up during the Second World War, and that is the reason why the Alaska Highway was built.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Government of Yukon does not have a specific program for such projects for 1992; however, it could be a project undertaken by one of the communities who could make application to the Yukon Anniversaries Commission for this purpose.
Question re: Chilkoot National Historic Park, vehicle access
Mr. Lang: I would like to refer a question to the Minister of Tourism as well as Renewable Resources. It has to do with the petition filed here last week with some 850 names requesting the Government of Canada to open up the management plan for the Chilkoot National Historic Park for further public discussion. Yesterday the Minister tabled the response of the government in 1987 on that particular park proposal. The government took a very short, terse position at that time. I have read through the alternatives provided by the Government of Canada, which never really referred to winter recreation in any of them.
When the position was put forward by the Government of Yukon, was the government aware that strict restrictions limiting winter recreation use in that area were contemplated?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The position the Government of Yukon put forward three years ago, less one month, was one in support of alternative three of the three options that were offered by the federal government.
I want to point out that alternative three very clearly states that winter use of the proposed park would be encouraged. They cite that a warming shelter would be located at Log Cabin, and public shelters at Bennett City and Lindeman City would also be available for day use. They go on to say these trails would be designated to accommodate cross country skiing. This is the trail that connects Log Cabin, Bennett City and Lindeman City. So winter activity was a consideration in alternative three.
Mr. Lang: Other than four, what was contained in alternative three? Was the Minister aware that there was a possibility that there would be curtailment of other winter recreational uses of the area, such as snowmobiling and things of that type, when the position was put forward by YTG?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Consistent with all three positions was one philosophy dealing with this matter of activities permitted in a park. At that time, they indicated that only non motorized uses would be permitted in the proposed park. In other words, motorized access to the park would not be allowed on a controlled basis. That was clearly spelled out in the three options presented by the federal government.
Mr. Lang: The Minister is giving me the impression he is defending the Government of Canada and the management plan and guidelines that have been brought forward. As far as motorized use in the area, it was clear that, if it was used, it would be private motorized use. The Minister did not clarify the record on the very selective use of the alternatives provided here.
It seems the Minister appears to be agreeing with the management plan. Is he telling this House he does not agree that the management plan should be made available to the public for further discussion, prior to finalizing the guidelines?
Hon. Mr. Webster: First of all, before I answer the Members question, I have a point of clarification. The principal component of all three alternatives to this plan limited access by private motorized vehicles on an uncontrolled basis.
With respect to the Members question, I plan to meet with one member of the snowmobile club tomorrow afternoon to learn more of their reasons for urging the Government of Yukon to request the federal government to reopen the public review process and, also, to get some further indication whether the snowmobile association is looking for a change in the federal parks programs policy on motorized access or is looking for an exception to the policy for this particular park.
Question re: Social worker position, Watson Lake
Mr. Devries: As the Minister of Health and Human Resources is aware, in an effort to decentralize the social services workers, there was a south regional social service supervisor position established in Watson Lake about a year ago. The person who was in that position resigned, and it has been vacant over a month now.
Has this important position been posted or advertised yet?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am aware that the incumbent in the position had left, I understand, to become a consultant. The process of recruiting and advertising for a replacement has not been brought to my attention or discussed with me at all. I suspect that a month is not an unusual length of time for a position to be vacant in this government. I will have to take as notice the request for further information about advertising dates and competition dates, but I will be pleased to do so.
Mr. Devries: A large amount of money went into renovating a building to house this social service branch, partly because they were overcrowded as it was and, with this additional member, the building had to be enlarged. There was a rumour around that the Minister was possibly contemplating not continuing that position. Basically the Minister is saying that the position will be filled?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not sure if there was a question there. I do not know who starts these rumours about what I am thinking, but I wish they would stop. The Minister, I have to tell you, has not given a moments thought to that question, but now that the Member opposite has asked me what will happen, I will obviously be making inquiries in order to answer his question and be seeking assurances that money spent to improve the offices for our workers there in Watson Lake was well spent.
Question re: Robinson subdivision, naming of
Mr. Brewster: My question is to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The historic community of Robinson was established many years ago and is approximately two miles away from the subdivision that is currently bearing its name, thus causing considerable confusion. Can the Minister advise the House why the subdivision was named after the Robinson community?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot tell the Member precisely why the naming of the subdivision was Robinson. I can only speculate that it is because it is adjacent to the area known as Robinson. I can undertake, for the Member, to check the records and seek from departmental officials what created the rationale and justification for calling it Robinson. There may well be a history that I am not aware of and the Member is not aware of. I can certainly undertake to indeed do more than speculate why it is called Robinson.
Mr. Brewster: Were the people of Robinson and the people in the subdivision ever consulted about the historic name of Robinson being used for the subdivision?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The creation of the Robinson subdivision was done some two or three years ago. It is my recollection that there was discussion and consultation with people in the area. The Member should recognize that the Robinson subdivision itself was essentially vacant land and had no residents on it. If the Member is asking me why the people within the subdivision were not consulted, he must realize there were no people there.
People within the area were consulted. There were meetings with departmental officials. I believe the previous Minister, in fact, met with people in the area in discussions leading up to the establishment of that subdivision. While I will undertake to check the extent of consultations, it is distinctly my recollection that there were discussions with the people from the area.
Mr. Brewster: Would the Minister, after appropriate consultation with the people concerned, be prepared to entertain a new name for the subdivision if the residents so desire?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take the Members question as notice and would like to give him a generally positive response. It is my recollection that the people in the Robinson subdivision area did have public meetings. There were meetings with departmental officials, discussions and consultations and it seems to me that Robinson was the expressed choice for a name for the subdivision. The Member says the residents now in the subdivision prefer a different name. I would be more than pleased to accept representation from them for another name if that is what the Member is seeking. In short, I can tell the Member I am positively disposed to receiving representation for the renaming of a community. We believe that people within communities have the right to exercise decision making and judgments about affairs in their communities. This would be consistent with that belief.
Question re: Audiology assessments
Mr. Nordling: I have a couple of followup questions for the Minister of Health and Human Resources.
In February both the Member for Porter Creek East and I asked about the waiting list for audiology assessments. The Minister said he was aware of the problem and would establish what the waiting list is and report back to the House. I have been recently asked about the waiting period for follow-up after assessment.
Can the Minister today tell us what the waiting list is for audiology assessments?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for notice of the question. Currently, the waiting list for adults is 18 months and for school-age children approximately three months. We are taking steps to reduce the waiting list through the purchase of new equipment. We think this will reduce the need for repeat visits and for reassessments. The addition of an on-call auxiliary clinical aid will reduce the time devoted by the audiologist to certain routine follow-up responsibilities.
It is the forecast of the department that within the next several months the waiting period will be reduced for all clients to approximately three months.
Mr. Nordling: With respect to the chronic disease and disability program, in February the Minister said that a review of the program would be complete before April 1, 1990.
Has the review been completed? When will changes to the program be announced?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The review is not finally complete. I am currently waiting for a submission from the department that looks at policy options to deal with the cost problem in that program. We have had representations from a number of professions, including medical professionals, on the question. I hope to be in fairly short order taking some proposals to my colleagues in Cabinet and Management Board. Until then I cannot make any announcements.
Mr. Nordling: The other area I am interested in is the extended care facility. On February 26, 1990, the Minister gave us a diagram outlining the time frame for completion. I would like to know if we are on schedule and if we have received proposals from architects and will be reviewing them in short order?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Work has been progressing on this project and in the next couple of weeks I hope to make some announcements that will give comfort to people who have been waiting for this facility for a long time.
Question re: Report on safety in the workplace
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. It is with respect to the reducing risk in the workplace report that I believe the Minister received sometime in mid-March. This report was completed by Occupational Health and Safety and the Workers Compensation Board. In light of the 36 recommendations that have been made and the executive summary, comments and hard work that has gone on to complete the report, it is presently in her office waiting for her governments response.
Could she bring us up to date on what the status of the report is?
Hon. Ms. Joe: Is the Member talking about the risk reduction program?
Yes. We have all had an opportunity to go through the report. We have spent time discussing it. The plan now will be to go through the recommendations, as they are stated in the report, and find out from the department what kind of recommendations we can implement immediately. The plan is being put together right now. I will be receiving information from the department in regard to how we would go about achieving some of the recommendations in the report.
Mrs. Firth: I understand the report was done for the government, and we are only waiting to see whether the government adopts the report or not. I understand the consultation process was with employers and work representatives. It is not going to cost the government any more money and there will be no increase in the assessment rate.
From what the Minister is saying, is there some possibility the government will not be accepting this report and adopting it, that it is going to go through the recommendations and say yea or nay to them?
Hon. Ms. Joe: No, that is not the case. The report was done in anticipation of improving the risk reduction in the workplace in the Yukon. It is our intention to make sure that, if there is some way of reducing injury in a workplace, we would work toward that. That is what that report is doing.
We are trying to develop a program that would allow us to go into the workplace to create some training or workshops, or whatever it is that comes out of the plan, to work with the employer to try and work toward risk reduction in the workplace.
Mrs. Firth: My impression of the report was they were looking for the government to adopt the report. There is some immediacy for it going into effect so we do not fall a year behind and people do not miss out on their rebates.
When does the government anticipate making a decision to go ahead with it, so we do not have people missing out on the rebates and having the whole process fall a year behind?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Cabinet Ministers and a number of other individuals in the Yukon have had an opportunity to look at this report. It is not a confidential report or an internal working document. There has been a lot of consultation done in regard to people who have been involved in trying to put this together.
The Cabinet Ministers have agreed that it is a good report. It looks like a fine plan. If the Member is asking whether or not we have agreed to every single recommendation, I cannot tell her that at this time. The intention is to work toward a risk reduction program within occupational health and safety.
Question re: Report on safety in the workplace
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on this particular issue. I remember the ministerial statement the Minister brought into the House in respect to this report. At the time, as far as the occupational health and safety branch and the Workers Compensation Board and I, as a Member of the Legislature, were concerned, the intention was that this report was to be done to provide the recommendations that were to be implemented.
At no time did I think the recommendations had to have approval of all the Cabinet Members. I say again that there is going to be no additional cost to general revenue, as the executive summary states. There is no increase in the assessment rates. The consultative process with employers and work representatives was extremely expensive.
I guess my question to the Minister is: when will the decision be made with respect to the report so that it can be proceeded with: in the next month or two months?
Hon. Ms. Joe: As I mentioned previously, we are already working toward the kind of things that are being recommended in that report. The occupational health and safety branch is working toward a plan to try and implement a program. We are not sure if it will create other person years to take some action on that into the workplace. It is a little bit more than just looking at the recommendations and saying they are good ones. It is a plan toward more safety measures in the workplace.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister still has not answered my question. I am trying to get an idea about when the government is going to finish with this report so that it can be implemented so that people do not miss out a year on the intentions and effects of the report and miss out on their merit rebates. When will this report be approved by the government?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The report has been approved, not by Cabinet, but by individuals. There has not been formal approval like the Minister is asking about by Cabinet decision but we have agreed that it is a very important program to work toward and that is what we are doing. If she is asking for a time frame, the plans are already in the works and we hope to be able to work toward the recommendations very shortly, within the next couple of months.
Mrs. Firth: I understand all the merits of the report and all the worthwhile attributes of it. I simply want to know if there is a deadline that has to be met so that people do not lose out on certain things such as the merit rebates and fall behind a year. I think two months is too long. Could the Minister give us an idea of when the Minister is going to tell the Yukon occupational health and safety branch and the Workers Compensation Board to proceed with the report?
Hon. Ms. Joe: If she is asking for a definite date, I cannot give one at this very minute. I would have to check back with the department to find out how far along they are with the plan. When I find that out I could certainly come back and tell the Member when we hope to have all the things we would like to do in place and operating by a certain time, but I cannot give her an exact date at this very minute.
Question re: Marsh and Tagish Lake water quality
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services with regard to the water quality of Marsh Lake and Tagish Lake. Last spring I suggested that his department start taking water samples from these lakes at various places on a regular basis during the summer, in order to obtain background information that could be used with regard to determining whether any pollution problems might be occurring in the future. I would like to know, as my first question, whether his department has initiated such a problem and did they take water samples from these lakes last year?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the Member is aware, the lands branch works with Health and Welfare Canada in regard to testing water supply systems throughout the territory. In the case of the Marsh Lake area, that I believe the Member referred to, we have undertaken some detailed work in the area and as the Member is aware, we have entertained expanded lease arrangements for lots where septic fields were required. I guess the short answer to the Member is yes, we are working with Health and Welfare Canada, the environmental branch, monitoring the water purity, if you will, of the areas in question.
Mr. Phelps: With the greatest respect for the Minister, I suspect the short answer is no. The issue really has to do with taking samples out in the lakes involved in various place. The complaint, as he may recall, was that the samples that are being done are being done by people wading into the water up to their knees and taking a sample of water. This simply does not give a true picture of what the water quality in the entire area is. There have been numerous complaints by people who own property in the area; there are a lot of people who own property there. There is a great deal of concern by other residents of the territory who take their water supply from these lakes. I would like to know whether or not they will enter into a fairly extensive program that involves taking water samples from out in both lake systems, some distance from shore, at regular intervals, in terms of time, so that we do have some background information about where we are at this time and what might be happening in the future.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: When the Member raised the issue with me, I believe approximately last fall, I had discussions with the department and I received the assurance that monitoring would continue. What I cannot tell the Member is the extent of that monitoring or the results of any tests that may have been made or samples that may have been taken during the course of the winter in the various lakes in the Members riding. I do know that, clearly, in the area of Tagish, there has been considerable work in monitoring the water in the lake. In the Members own community, at Carcross, we are in fact engaged in preparing for a major water intake from the lake, ensuring that no contaminated water is being used by the community - that may be the case on the just-offshore areas. What I have to tell the Member is that I would like to go back to the department and determine the extent and results of testing that I know was being done since the matter was raised, and even prior to that.
Mr. Phelps: I want the Minister to understand that many residents will not be satisfied until tests are done on a regular basis on the water bodies in question. I have asked the Minister to consider the fact that it is important that the residents affected have confidence in the sampling system in order to have cooperation from them.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I accept the suggestion and request for assurance of adequacy and accuracy on the quality of testing. That kind of assurance can easily be provided because it is a technical process that sampling goes through. Again, I would provide to the Member an appropriate update on that monitoring very shortly, as soon as I can determine the results of that work.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed to the Order Paper.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the House Leaders I would like to request unanimous consent to have Motions Other Than Government Motions called in the following order: Motion No. 95, Motion No. 91, Motion No. 7, Motion No. 93, Motion No. 52.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Item No. 19, standing in the name of Mr. Phelps.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 19?
Mr. Phelps: Yes, I am, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 95
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT it is the opinion of the Yukon Legislature Assembly that the proposed companion resolution to the Meech Lake Accord addresses the major concerns that Yukoners have with the 1987 Constitutional Accord in relation to the creation of new provinces, territorial representation in the Senate, appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada and territorial participation in First Ministers Conferences on aboriginal rights;
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly urges the Parliament of Canada and the Legislatures of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland to ratify The 1987 Constitutional Accord provided that the members of Parliament and of each of the Legislative Assemblies have sufficient assurances from the discussions and negotiations between the First Ministers to firmly believe that the companion resolution will become law; and
THAT the Speaker forward a copy of this Resolution to the Prime Minister of Canada, the 10 provincial Premiers and the Government Leader of the Northwest Territories.
Mr. Phelps: I am very pleased to bring forward this motion, which is about a subject that is very dear to the hearts of all Members in this Assembly. Perhaps dear to the heart is the wrong expression, but it is at least of grave concern to each Member in this Assembly. I would like to thank the side opposite for giving me the opportunity for putting this motion forward in a cooperative manner, with some give and take on the precise wording.
As many Yukoners are aware, I thought I was scheduled to make a presentation to the special committee on the proposed companion resolution to the Meech Lake Accord. I was shut out at the last minute, even though, some days prior to making that decision, they had received a precis of what our position is with regard to the companion resolution to the Meech Lake Accord.
I have expressed my displeasure to the committee and to the leaders of the three major political parties at the federal level. I was somewhat surprised with the decision taken by the all-party committee, particularly in view of the fact our position on this matter is extremely similar to that of the government. I would have thought a committee, such as the one that came to the Yukon to hear the views of northerners, would have heard me out after hearing the government position, just for the novelty of watching us and listening to us agree on a subject of importance to all Yukoners.
It is an awful waste to go through the process of preparing a brief without using it. It is not the kind of brief I would normally read to meetings I hold throughout Hootalinqua, although there are undoubtedly many residents there who are concerned about the issues involved. It is not the kind of brief I would read at our semi-annual conventions, or many other places. So, I am very pleased to have a chance to use and read from the brief that at least has been delivered to the committee.
It is no secret that the PC Yukon caucus is opposed to the Meech Lake Accord itself, as it presently stands. We made our views known to most Yukoners at the Special Joint Committee on the 1987 Constitutional Accord in August 31, 1987, and to the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the Accord on October 25, 1987.
On November 16, 1987, we drafted a resolution that was presented in the Legislative Assembly by the Government Leader, the hon. Tony Penikett, and that motion passed unanimously. I made a presentation stating our position during the Twelfth Canadian Regional Parliamentary Seminar, and appeared on February 23, 1988, before the Select Committee on Constitutional Reform on the 1987 Constitutional Accord that was established by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. In addition, I personally wrote letters to the Prime Minister of Canada, to the Premiers in every province, as well as to the Leader of the Official Opposition in Ottawa and the Leaders of the Official Opposition in every jurisdiction.
Yukoners felt betrayed by the Meech Lake Accord when they first learned they had effectively been locked out of Confederation. Rather than dwelling on the sense of outrage itself, our caucus asked ourselves the question, How might the Accord be refined to accommodate Yukon concerns without impairing the constitutional consensus that had been achieved. In answering that question, we proposed six amendments that maintained the integrity of the Meech Lake Accord yet met Yukon concerns.
Our proposed amendments were designed to: firstly, ensure the territories, like the provinces, respect the fundamental characteristics of Canada - section 2(2); secondly, allow the Yukon and Northwest Territories to be sovereign in their own right as well as existing provinces - that references section 41(i); thirdly, to clarify territorial rights to representation in the Senate - section 25; fourthly, provide equal opportunity to qualify territorial residents in relation to appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada - section 101(c); fifthly, ensure that northern Canadians have a say in matters that affect them by allowing territorial government leaders participation in First Ministers Conferences - section 148 and 50(1).
If the Members in this House compare our proposed amendments to the provisions of Premier McKennas proposed companion resolution to the Meech Lake Accord, it will be evident that, to a greater or lesser degree, our major concerns have all been met. The clauses 2 and 3 in the McKenna Accord would meet territorial concerns regarding the nomination of persons and appointment to the Senate and for possible appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada. Clause 6 and 7 of the resolution propose changes to the Meech Lake unanimity formula, which would permit the establishment of new provinces in the territories by proclamation of the Governor General, only after public hearing by the House of Commons and only where so authorized by resolutions of the Senate and House of Commons.
This approach is broadly similar to the process under the Constitution Act of 1871, except that public hearings are required and a resolution, rather than statutory procedure, would be used. The approach is also similar in result to that suggested by the Province of Newfoundland at the November 9 and 10, 1989, First Ministers Conference. Newfoundland recommended the abolition of the unanimity requirement for entry of new provinces, and preferred a less restrictive procedure than the 1982 seven and 50 percent rule.
It required the matter come under section 43 of the Constitution Act of 1982, with appropriate adjustment for the approval of the territories.
The McKenna resolution goes further on this issue than either the Manitoba task force or the New Brunswick task force, both of which recommended that the seven and 50 percent rule of 1982 be retained. In August 1987, our caucus recommended the wording of the proposed section 41(i) in the Meech Lake Accord be changed to read, the conferral of equalization payments under section 36(2) and by amending powers under this part on new provinces.
We suggested this amendment as a compromise in response to federal and provincial concerns. In a letter dated June 1, 1987, from the Prime Minister to me, two reasons were put forward to justify the provincial veto over the creation of a new province. These reasons were that a new province would alter the numerical operation of the amendment procedure, and alter fiscal relations among governments.
These same reasons were later given by the federal/provincial relations Minister in subsequent hearings, and by several Premiers and correspondents to us. The objective of our proposed amendment to section 41(i) was to take Yukon back to its pre-1982 constitutional position and ensure that only bilateral agreements between the Yukon government and the federal government would be required for the maturation of Yukon into a province.
It would acknowledge the concerns of some of the provinces regarding the constitutional amending formula and fiscal relations. From our perspective, clauses 6 and 7 of the McKenna resolution are superior to our proposed change, in that they are more in keeping with Canadian constitutional history. If the provinces can accept the creation of new provinces on the same basis as they themselves entered Confederation, so much the better.
Provincial concerns over the amending formula and fiscal relations among government should not prove to be insurmountable obstacles to creating new provinces. Our concern about territorial government involvement in conferences, in addition to those concerning aboriginal rights, such as conferences on the Constitution and the economy, or other matters, has not been addressed by the McKenna resolution. We believe, as per our proposed amendment to section 8 of the schedule, regarding proposed section 148 of the Meech Lake Accord, that the territorial government should be entitled to attend conferences on the economy and other matters, in their own right, and to make statements to such conferences, but have no vote. The fact that the McKenna resolution does not specifically refer to territorial government attendance at conferences other than those involving aboriginal rights, should not preclude territorial participation in these other conferences. The fact that clause 9 specifically refers to territorial government attendance at aboriginal rights conferences is interpreted as a guarantee of territorial participation in an issue of special interest to the territories, because of their high proportions of aboriginal citizens.
Over all, the McKenna resolution addresses and accommodates the major concerns that the PC Yukon caucus has with the Meech Lake Accord. We therefore support the companion resolution but have concerns about the lack of certainty with regard to the companion resolution being implemented, once the Meech Lake Accord has been ratified.
The McKenna resolution cannot become law until at least one year after the first provincial resolution supporting it, and it could be as long as three years before the resolution has sufficient support to be proclaimed. If the first supporting resolution was passed in May 1990, the McKenna resolution could not become law until May 1991, at the earliest. Its fate might still be undecided as late as May 1993. Between 1990 and 1991, 1992 or 1993, public opinion might well influence elected leaders to change their minds or governments can change and subsequently change the positions of provinces in respect to the companion accord, as we have witnessed with the Meech Lake Accord itself. Notwithstanding this concern about implementation, we are supportive of the companion resolution initiative. We applaud Premier McKenna for his sensitivity to the concerns of northerners.
For these reasons, then, we have put forward the resolution, which we hope will receive unanimous support and will be conveyed as suggested within the language of the motion.
I would like to say that this is an issue that Yukoners have united to struggle with, and it has given me a great deal of comfort to know that we can unite on issues that are of common concern and ought to be of common concern. Once again, I thank the side opposite for this opportunity.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Leader of the Official Opposition for presenting the motion before us today. He will understand when I say I share his regret that he was not able to present his views to the Commons committee that was recently in Whitehorse to hear representations about the New Brunswick companion resolution. I understand he was not alone in being discriminated against. In my private conversations with the Chair of the committee, Mr. Jean Charest, he did confirm that the committee had passed a blanket ban on opposition leaders. I do not know what the constitutional foundation of such a view was, that somehow opposition leaders have a lower status with House of Common committees than do ordinary citizens, beyond observing that it seemed to me to be a peculiar decision. It was one that was at least applied without prejudice to opposition leaders, whatever their political stripe, everywhere in the country.
I understand that in Manitoba, where there is generally a three-party agreement on the position on the question of the Meech Lake Accord, the problem was resolved by having the academic gentleman, Mr. Fox, descend from the Chair of the Task Force to present the views of their government and all the parties of the Legislature.
I am pleased, notwithstanding the ban on the opposition leader from the recent hearing, that he has now been given a chance to present his brief in a public forum. I hope that, consistent with this occasion, he will forgive me for recycling much of my brief before the committee. I have not had an occasion to rewrite very much of what we said on that occasion, but more properly, we have not had reason, as a result of anything we heard at the committee or since, to substantially change our views.
When we were before the committee, I did indicate that the country is at a crossroads. I think this is a decisive moment in our history. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is a potentially dangerous time. I am not one of those people who are so alarmist as to believe that the country will necessarily fall apart if we do not solve the impasse around Meech Lake, but I do believe that if we do not make good use of the time available to us between now and June 23, 1990, we shall certainly be in for some troubling and difficult times in our nation. We are doomed to a period of constitutional uncertainty, probably, I suspect, for a period of years, if we do not bend our backs and concentrate our minds on the problem that is before us.
As the Leader of the Official Opposition has said, it would be the simplest thing in the world to take a purely regional point of view in this Legislature, condemn the Meech Lake Accord to hell and offer no constructive suggestions as to how the problem of reconciling Quebec to the Canadian Constitution would be solved.
The motion of the Leader of the Official Opposition comes not only at a decisive moment for Canada, but also Yukon history. all As Members know, the Council for Yukon Indians, the Yukon Government and the Government of Canada achieved an umbrella final land claims settlement, which will provide a foundation in constitutional law for aboriginal and non aboriginal citizens to govern our communities together in this territory on the basis of trust and, I think, true equality.
This is happening at the same time as the nation and its leaders are trying to decide, not only whether Quebec will be reconciled to our Constitution, but also whether Yukons colonial status will be perpetuated.
The Leader of the Official Opposition has described the situation in which we would find ourselves if the Meech Lake Accord was ratified unchanged. He has, as well, described the situation we have found ourselves in since 1982, with the adoption of the Constitution Act, and compared that with the situation that prevailed prior to that time and operated for the most of the provinces in Canada in terms of the possibility of their joining Confederation.
It is, of course, historically accurate to state that none of the western Canadian provinces joined Confederation without some difficulty. In fact the difficulties in the case of Manitoba included some violent disputes between the settler and aboriginal population, particularly the Metis, but one interesting result of those battles was the creation of that province at a time when that provinces population was less than the Yukons is today. It is also a matter of historical record that the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan did not decide that those two places should be separate entities, but in fact, Premier Haultain, the Conservative leader of that old territorial government, who was, of course, known as Premier, did petition, I think consistently, for the creation of a province between British Columbia and the Manitoba borders that would essentially be a single political unit. It was the machinations of the Laurier government that sought to not only ensure that there would not be a large western Canadian unit that would challenge the power of the central Canadian provinces, but also wished to conspire or create an arrangement that would guarantee that there would be two Liberal administrations in western Canada rather than one Conservative one. History shows that, in that respect, he was successful, though only for a very short period of time.
The point I want to make is that there are good reasons why a frontier area, a young community with a large aboriginal population, has reason to be apprehensive about constitutional arrangements made for them by Canadians elsewhere in the country.
I believe the experience of Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and, most recently, the people of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, do not lead us to be paranoid, but do give us reason to be concerned.
Since 1985, I have attended Premiers and First Ministers Conferences on behalf of our government. Our role in Premiers conferences has been gradually enhanced to the point we no longer sit like loose nails at the aperture of the horseshoe table, which is the Premiers preferred arrangement, but now actually sit at the table and participate not just with a single speech, but on more than one occasion, if that is appropriate. We have begun to be included in private meetings of the Premiers. At the last First Ministers Conference, our status changed for the first time since Mr. Pearson was first admitted, on behalf of our government, in order to make a statement. From now on, we no longer sit as part of the federal delegation and, when we make our statement, we are not invited to appear at the Prime Ministers side, but we appear at the place that is assigned to us in First Ministers Conferences and other interprovincial conferences, our proper place in Confederation, next to Alberta at the far end of the table. At least we are at the table, and with a voice independent of the federal government, in recognition of our separate status.
I do not want to overstate the changes that have happened in this Accord, but they have been incremental and are generally movements in the right direction.
What is significant about all this is that, while we have attended Premiers and First Ministers Conferences, and while we have participated in the lunches, dinners, social occasions and televised formal proceedings, we have not had access to the meetings that really matter to us. It is interesting that, whenever the Premiers get together, as a paranoid northerner would say, to talk about us, we are excluded from the meetings. At the Edmonton conference of Premiers, it was significant in that it was the first time the territorial leaders were included in the official portrait of the conference. This is a small thing, but a symbolic enhancement of our status. It was also the occasion when the essentials of the Meech Lake Accord were forged.
We were consciously, and very deliberately, left out of those discussions. That is a problem wthat I wish to return later in my remarks.
I would also like to remind Members that for several years leading up to March 1987, the former Government Leader and I attended, on behalf of the Yukon, First Ministers Conferences dealing with aboriginal rights. We sat at the table, we had a voice and I believe we participated constructively and well in those discussions.
That process ended in March 1987. On the agenda for that conference, Item No. 4, was the question of creation of new provinces. On the agenda of that conference, Item No. 4, was an item called Creation of new provinces; repeal of the 1982 rules, as I recall it. The federal background papers to that conference talked about a return to what they called the 1871 rules for the admission of new provinces.
In other words, we had a right, according to the 1983 Constitutional Accord, to sit at the table and have a voice on this fundamental question of our future participation in Confederation. That process went on for several years and ended in March 1987.
In April of 1987, the same question was addressed by the First Ministers, without our being present, and decided. For several years, we tried to get past Item No. 1 on the agenda for the aboriginal rights conferences and get to Item No. 4. We had voice. We sat there patiently waiting to get to Item No. 4 and we never did get to it, but when we were out of the room, at a meeting we did not know about in Meech Lake, the issue was decided without any consultation with the people most affected.
All Members in this House will recall, as the Leader of the Official Opposition has done, the shock and dismay that they felt when, on the morning of - I am trying to remember the exact date but it was on the cusp of the month; it may have been about now actually, the end of April or the beginning of May - we heard on the morning news that this deal had been struck that created new rights for all Canadians except northerners, and that the door of Confederation was being slammed in our face.
The Leader of the Opposition has talked about communications from the Prime Minister and letters from the Premiers that indicated that the amending formula and the fiscal arrangements were what precipitated these arrangements on our behalf. I want to say, on my part, that we found it incredibly frustrating that for months and months and months, nobody - none of the Premiers, nobody in the federal Cabinet - would look us in the eye and tell us why this was done. Although we had participated, as I said, in the First Ministers Conference on aboriginal rights, only a month before Meech Lake, we were not invited to the Meech Lake conference to deal with an identical issue, to deal with a question where our rights were also at stake. When we did raise our northern concerns, when the Government Leader of the Northwest Territories and I travelled to Ottawa in order to be able to be present, we were specifically barred from the Langevin Block block meeting in June of 1987, and we received only a letter from the Prime Minister indicating that our needs would be looked after, or that we would be cared for.
I do not want to dwell on this, but it is a matter of record that for two years after that, our telephone calls, our letters and our representations on this question were largely ignored.
The Meech Lake Accord is of course supposed to address Quebecs concerns and, from that point of view, we think that is right and proper, so we had reason to question throughout the time since the Meech Lake Accord was adopted why all these assaults on the north developed. In the two and one-half year silence that followed Meech Lake, we were often left to consider some very dark suspicions about the intentions of other jurisdictions. We have rhetorically asked, on a number of occasions: do some provinces have designs on our constitutional future; is someone planning a northern land grab?
It was interesting that Jean Cretien, on his recent visit here, suggested that Alberta has some longstanding interest in the Mackenzie Valley. We do know, much to the shame and horror of all Members of this House, that a former Clerk of this Assembly moved to British Columbia, became a Premier, and then sponsored a land grab, or a constitutional grab, of the Yukon - a gentleman by the name of Duff Pattullo, someone who will cause us to scrutinize, very carefully in future, the credentials of any applicants for the position of Clerk in this Legislature, for fear they are some sort of fifth column or have some unsavoury intentions.
Every now and again I have this horrible nightmare that perhaps it was the debates in the Yukon Territorial Council that caused Mr. Pattullo to want to, in the final act of a Clerks revenge, snuff out the institution, but I am pretty sure, having actually gone back and checked the record, that the intervention of people like the Opposition Leaders grandfather were not so appalling or as offensive as to warrant that kind of revenge of the Clerks, or whatever we might want to call it.
We have heard from time to time that Quebec has some unrealized claims in the Arctic islands or in the Hudson Bay area but none of these interests, if they are harboured, have been articulated or presented to us in a way that would allow us to deal with them. I think there has not been any evidence since W.A.C. Bennetts musings one generation ago to indicate that anyone is actively contemplating moving their borders north. Nonetheless, such a proposition found its way into the Constitution Act of 1982, and the Constitution of Canada does now say that, with the approval of seven provinces with 50 percent of the population, it could happen.
What is, of course, important, as I said to the House of Commons committee, is that it is the very opposite of self-determination. It resembles much more Gorbachevs relationship with Lithuania than it does with the aspirations of the people of Lithuania. We, in this territory, are quite right in believing that the question of our future in Confederation and our status in this country and our constitutional development should be ours, in the first place, to determine - not for everyone else. What I call the blackball rule is entirely improper as an organizing principle of Confederation. It is something appropriate perhaps to a college fraternity or a 19th century English gentlemans club. It is not something that I think a modern progressive Premier of Quebec should be promoting.
It is a matter of record that we protested, in every forum available to us: the courts, the media, parliamentary hearings, provincial hearings and here in this Legislature where a resolution demanding fairness for northerners received unanimous, all-party support. This principle of fairness led us to all our concerns about the particulars affecting the north, our aspirations for provincehood someday, possible encroachment on our borders in the meantime, nominations to the Senate and Supreme Court, fair representation in future First Ministers Conferences where our fate as Canadians is being decided - in fact, most of the issues that were addressed by the Leader of the Official Opposition.
We remain committed to the fundamental principle of fair treatment for northerners as citizens of Canada, and we think it is fortunate that that principle has begun to be recognized.
There is evidence we are now being heard. Although our position has not changed, I think the situation has changed somewhat. As I have had occasion to report in this House, I have had meetings with a number of federal Ministers, the Prime Minister and, most particularly, the Minister of State for Federal-Provincial Relations, Senator Murray, who, some short months ago, agreed to a very formal meeting to discuss our concerns. As I have reported to the House, Senator Murray was accompanied on that occasion by Mr. Norman Spector, the Cabinet secretary for Federal-Provincial Relations, and a number of senior officials of Justice. We did have a very frank discussion about our concerns about the Meech Lake Accord and its possible resolution.
The most important new development is that New Brunswick has come forward with a thoughtful set of proposals that respond to many of the concerns about Meech Lake, including our own. The Leader of the Official Opposition is quite right that Mr. McKenna has not responded to every one of our concerns, but he has dealt with most of the main ones well enough that we can feel quite positive about his proposal. It has enabled us to feel more positive about the Meech Lake Accord. That is a preferable position.
We have a problem that, until a few days ago, the Prime Minister seemed very unbending on the question of Meech Lake and suggested that it could not be touched. In a recent speech, which I heard and which has been commended by a number of people, he sounded much more accommodating than he has in the past. I think it was a speech to the Council on Canadian Unity.
Even Premier Wells recent speech to the Commons committee was seen by some observers as leaving some room and giving him a more flexible posture than he had previously been ascribed.
There is still a dilemma in the sense that there is a significant gap between the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland, between the Government of Quebec and the Government of Manitoba. In some way, we are all charged with the responsibility of trying to find answers to that problem, and with trying to find a resolution to that situation. As northerners, we can and are making a contribution to that process.
We have to be especially concerned because the difference between northerners and other concerned Canadiansis that after June 23, they will either enjoy the status quo, or the benefits, of Meech Lake, while we could effectively be frozen out of Confederation, out of the Senate, out of the Supreme Court, out of First Ministers Conferences. We hope that will not be the case, but it is a very real possibility for us.
That is why we see the McKenna proposal in a positive light. At this late stage, I think that we are entitled to believe that Mr. McKennas proposals are probably the last best chance to resolve the nations constitutional impasse and, at the same time, recognize the needs of the north.
I want to put on the record the governments views on four main points.
In doing so I want to indicate what I believe is the case, namely, that these are positions that are generally shared by the Opposition in this House and can be stated as something on which there is broad agreement.
The first is our general position on the content of the Meech Lake Accord and the proposed companion resolution. The second is our responses to the sections of the companion resolution that affect the north. The third is our concerns about some other constitutional issues, including the rights of woman and aboriginal people, and the need for Senate reform. The fourth is our conditions for supporting the companion resolution.
I would like to describe briefly our views on each of these points: firstly, the Meech Lake Accord. As Canadians we recognize the need for national reconciliation and constitutional accommodation. These fundamental issues cannot be avoided. We support the goal to bring Quebec into the constitutional family, we applaud the First Ministers efforts to resolve the differences that have haunted Canada for decades, we support Quebec in its quest to be part of Canada in a way that recognizes the uniqueness of its people, its culture, its language, its legal status, and its legal system and heritage.
In broad terms, we support the five basic principles outlined by Quebec, including the recognition of Quebec as a distinct society. We think Yukoners have a special sympathy and empathy for Quebeckers because we, too, are struggling with our own cultural differences, our own unique situation in this country, and a society that is made up of two fundamentally different peoples from different cultures. We are in a community in which the founding groups are not English and French, but the aboriginal people and non aboriginal people have made real progress toward an accommodation, or social contract, in the land claim agreements that have been recently reached after 17 years of negotiations.
In essence, it allows us to say, as we have from the beginning, that we supported the main intentions of the Meech Lake Accord. Our critical concerns with the specific sections that affect the north are sections that, so far as we can see, are in no way essential to the constitutional recognition of Quebec.
La clause du lentente du Lac Meech la plus troublante pour les gens du Nord est celle qui stipule la formule damendement des institutions politiques canadiennes, qui inclue la creation de nouvelles provinces.
En accordant un droit de veto a chacune des dix provinces en ce qui a trait a ces amendements, lentente elimine en pratique et pour toujours la possibilite que les territoires deviennent un jour des provinces.
Je regret que lentente di Lac Meech condamne les habitants du Nord a etre pour toujours des citoyens de deuxieme classe au Canada.
Mr. Speaker, shaw da hannee aye hut.
Our concerns seem to be almost completely resolved in the New Brunswick companion resolution in ways I will now describe in some detail.
Our concern is not with the rights granted to Quebec and the other provinces, but with having the rights denied to us, in some cases the same rights. It is not so much as what Meech giveth as what Meech taketh away.
The Yukon government would support a parallel or companion resolution that resolves our fundamental concerns with northern rights: to require the approval of the provinces for admission to Confederation; to be represented at all national conferences; to submit nominations to the Senate; to nominate appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Accordingly, we support the proposed companion accord put forward by Premier Buchanan as it not only removes the necessity of unanimous consent to the creation of new provinces to the territory, but it also removes the very real impediment created by the 1982 constitutional amendment, requiring the consent of seven provinces with 50 percent of the population. It places Yukon on an equal footing with all of the jurisdictions that sought to join Confederation.
Another is that it includes the territories in the right to nominate candidates to the Senate and also includes the territories in the right to nominate members of the Yukon and Northwest Territories bars for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The first of these amendments is extremely important to northerners. We argue that: where else in the western world is a state required to obtain the unanimous consent of all the existing states to enter into the union? That is not the case in the United States or in Australia or anywhere else we know of. As has been pointed out in this House before, Alaska, our nearest northern neighbor, was admitted to the union by an act of Congress. It did not require the consent of Rhode Island or any other of the 47 states.
It matters not whether we seek that status today, a year from now, or 50 years from now. We believe that we should be treated fairly and equally and Premier McKennas proposal grants us that right. It does so without detracting from the fundamental concern about requiring unanimous consent for changes in the federal institutions, including the powers and composition of the Senate.
Our final concern about representation, section 9 of the McKenna proposal, grants Yukon a limited role at constitutional conferences. The Leader of the Official Opposition was quite correct to address this point because it is, in some respect, a problem with the McKenna proposal for us. It is our position that we should be granted the right to participate in such forums wherever the rights of all citizens of the Yukon are at issue, as they were in the 1987 Accord. We should not be limited only to the forums where the rights of aboriginal people in the Yukon are concerned, as was the case with the 1983 Accord.
The Yukon government seeks the right to participate in all First Ministers Conferences and in all constitutional conferences where the people of the Yukon are directly affected. As the Leader of the Official Opposition has argued in the past, our government is a duly elected, responsible government, charged by the citizens of the Yukon with representing their best interests. We suggest this should permit and sanction our participation in such forums. We readily acknowledge that, at the moment, we do not participate in all issues on an equal footing with the provinces. That should only be a factor in any decision making and should not affect our right to participate in any discussions that directly affect our peoples. In short, we are seeking a voice, not a vote, at this time.
Our right to intervene in discussions on all topics affecting the lives of Canadians and of Yukoners should not be curtailed because the final powers of provincehood have not been sought by us, as of yet, nor conferred upon us.
I have a word about other constitutional issues. While the Yukon applauds the efforts of Premier McKenna to resolve the current impasse, we join those who believe that there are a number of issues yet unresolved. We welcome Premier McKennas recognition and support of the aboriginal people of the north. Section 9 of his proposals would allow aboriginal peoples the right to participate in constitutional decisions that directly affect them. This could be strengthened by directly addressing the one big outstanding issue of most concern to aboriginal people: the constitutional entrenchment of their rights. It is a matter of record: the Yukon governments position in the land claims negotiations has been to support the constitutional entrenchment of self-government agreements, and we remain committed to that end.
The federal Cabinet has so far decided that the protection of aboriginal self-government can only be decided by First Ministers, not through bilateral negotiations. If this continues to be the case, we would agree with Premier McKenna that the people affected should not only be consulted, but should have their concerns on the First Ministers agenda and a place at the table ensured.
I have a word on the question of the rights of women. Mr. McKennas companion resolution addresses the concerns of those who feel womens rights are at risk. It takes a step to shield gender equality from possible erosion through the constitutional amendments proposed in the Meech Lake Accord. Premier McKenna has indicated that his proposals are open to change, and we support this openness and flexibility - something that was missing from the Meech Lake Accord. None of us, as yet, are in a position to say whether the resolution he proposes will satisfy the demands of Canadian women, but we think it is a step in the right direction.
Our government believes the Commons committee and the federal and provincial governments should seek out the views of Canadian women through the appropriate organizations, to determine what changes, if any, are needed in the McKenna proposal to adequately protect and promote gender equality.
Premier McKennas resolution leaves the door open for Senate reform, a major concern in western Canada. We are aware of the discussions by the western Premiers to find ways to build on this initiative. Any reforms that would make our Senate more democratic would be an improvement. I hope the western Premiers will have something constructive to offer in this matter in the very near future.
As I have described, the Yukons history with the Meech Lake Accord has given us cause to be skeptical and to be skittish. Still, as I told the Commons committee, as Canadians we want to contribute to the building of the nation, not just in the Yukon but throughout Canada.
The last few weeks have given hope to the citizens of the territory. In January I was at last able to meet with the Minister of Federal-Provincial Relations to express our concerns and get answers to some of our questions. Also, it has become increasingly apparent that the Meech Lake Accord will not be approved until the concerns of northerners, aboriginal people, women, minorities and others are recognized and addressed. This has led us to the constitutional proposals that Mr. McKenna has now put before us. Many northerners understandably believe our interests would be best served, or at least our losses reduced, by simply letting the Meech Lake Accord die on June 23, 1990.
I believe it was Mr. Erasmus of the Dene nation in his appearance before the Commons committee in the Northwest Territories who articulated that view, a view that has been heard on the streets of Whitehorse, and I am sure in Dawson, Watson Lake and Faro as well.
After two and one-half years of silence and neglect, this position has some compelling emotional and regional appeal. However, we believe that would be the easy way out. We think it is our duty to advance our long-term interests and those of Canada, and in this spirit we are prepared to support the substance of the proposals of the Premier of New Brunswick so far as they address most of our concerns as northerners.
We also welcome his effort to address many of the concerns of other regions in Canada, the concerns of other elements of society, and the concerns of Canada as a whole. We also support the approach of Premier McKenna to determine whether there is adequate support for the companion resolution to let Meech Lake proceed by June 23. He has stated his government must judge on behalf of the people of New Brunswick whether the First Ministers are sufficiently committed to his recommendations, whether they are committed enough to ensure the recommendations will be enacted.
The Yukon Government has taken the same position. Ideally, of course, we would like iron-clad guarantees for the changes we seek. We can support the language contained in the amendment of the Leader of the Official Opposition, which talks about assurances and talk about giving us reason to firmly believe these changes will take place.
Over the next two months there will undoubtedly be a lot of activity, a lot of communication and a lot of new ideas, positions and promises. It is impossible to predict the future or what will happen. Obviously Canada has some choices: to accept Meech; to change Meech; to add to the Meech Lake Accord, which is what Premier McKenna proposes to do; or to adopt Meech and promise to add to it after June 23.
The acid test of the fate of the McKenna proposal is whether his companion resolution will be entrenched along with the Meech Lake Accord and become effective, or whether it will be considered later.
Obviously, as I told the Commons committee, we prefer the former option.
We are pleased with the initiative of Mr. McKenna. We would like to see it work. We are especially enthusiastic about its northern provisions. We believe these can and must be part of the Canadian Constitution because we are, after all, Canadians first and foremost. We hope that Canada recognizes this before June 23.
I apologize for being so long but I think there is probably no more topic, perhaps other than the land claims question, which is as important to us, and I did want an opportunity to put on record the view of the government.
It is our sincere hope that the north can see itself as fully part of Canada by the end of this year.
I want to compliment the Leader of the Official Opposition on this motion and enthusiastically pledge the support of this side of the House for the proposition he has put before us. Merci. Mahsi-cho.
Mr. Lang: I rise also in support of the motion. I think it is very clear why we, as a Legislature, must support the McKenna companion resolution that has been brought forward. I think the province of New Brunswick has to be commended for the obviously constructive position it has brought to the Canadian people as perhaps a compromise to the present impasse on the constitutional discussions.
I want to say, as a Canadian, that it troubles me a great deal when I read international newspapers and magazines. There are various articles now appearing on a regular basis that talk about the division of Canada. It is very ironic when you think of us living, whether in Newfoundland, Quebec, Northwest Territories or Yukon or any of the other provinces in Canada, in one of probably the nicest areas in the world. We also have one of the highest standards of living never experienced before in history. It is so high it is safe to say that most Canadians lead a lifestyle Louis 14th would envy. When you compare what we have today - our technology, our social programs and, for example, our health programs - with anywhere in the world, we are very fortunate. Yet, here we Canadians are fighting amongst ourselves about what our country will look like in the next century.
I think it is very important that people realize the importance of what Canada is facing. The Government Leader touched on the importance of the decision we are facing as Canadians and the great effect it will have on our country if we do not reach a compromise on the present constitutional impasse.
It is becoming said more often in the money markets and internationally that Canada is becoming less and less stable for investment. When that sort of discussion starts to be believed by the money markets throughout the world, as a country we are in a lot of trouble.
The other aspect is that, in conjunction with the constitutional impasse we are facing, we are looking at a pending GST being implemented, and this is going to cause some inflationary pressures in Canada. We are experiencing a very high deficit, which is having some profound effects on us as a country. At the same time, we are suffering from what is called constitutional instability.
As a legislator and a Canadian, I feel it is absolutely critical the actors come together for the purpose of reaching a compromise, as far as the present impasse is concerned. If we do not, we do not fully realize the ramifications of what will happen toward the end of June, as far as our country is concerned.
I hope the steps taken here by the Leader of the Official Opposition, in conjunction with all Members of the House, will contribute in a positive way as one small step forward to bringing the various parties together to reach a decision all Canada can live with.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Leader of the Official Opposition for bringing forward this motion at this critical time, and I express my support for it.
As the clock ticks toward the June 23 deadline for ratification of the Meech Lake Accord, it is important that Canadas First Ministers receive a strong and united message of the Yukon position on the Accord and the remedying features of Premier McKennas proposed companion resolution.
If there is a national will to salvage the Meech Lake Accord, it is essential a number of errors, omissions or oversights in the Accord are also addressed, or Canadians will forever be saddled with a Constitution that does injustice to the north, to aboriginal people, and to women, wherever they live in this country.
From the outset, I want to make clear my support for the intent of Meech Lake Accord, which was to make Quebec a full partner in Canadas Constitution and in the Canadian Confederation. However, as Members of this House know, the Meech Lake Accord has more than addressed the concerns of Quebec. It also proposes constitutional changes that would dramatically affect the Yukons prospects of ever becoming a full partner in the Canadian Confederation, and it has extended rights to the provinces that are denied to the territories.
I believe many Yukoners are now aware of how we were dealt out of the Meech Lake Accord. In the Accord, other jurisdictions of Canada would have more say than us in deciding our constitutional future. We would need their unanimous support to become a province - our neighbours could redraw the physical map of Yukon in collusion with other provinces and without our approval.
We would continue to be denied full representation at national conferences, including First Ministers Conferences, and finally, we would not, through the Accord, acquire new provincial rights to nominate Senators, or Supreme Court justices, or to veto future constitutional amendments.
These features of the Accord directly affect the interest of the north. That is not to say they are the only problematic aspects of the Accord. The Meech Lake Accord will also deny Canadas First Nations seats at the very discussions that would affect their constitutional rights.
Women could see their rights eroded by the constitutional amendments proposed by the Meech Lake Accord.
All these limitations to the Accord are well-defined reasons for the Yukons long, articulate, and I must say, unified opposition to ratification of the Accord.
Premier McKennas proposal of a companion resolution appears to address the major concerns of the Yukon about the Accord. For this reason I applaud his initiative and his efforts and I support his proposal.
However, while the companion resolution has breathed new life, in some ways, into the Accord itself, if has further emphasized inefficiencies of the Accord. It is now very clear that if an appropriate constitutional process had been followed, rather than the undemocratic, time-pressured, closed-door negotiations that gave birth to the Meech Lake Accord, its poorly conceived features would not have seen the light of day.
Similarly, the country would not be embroiled in the constitutional crisis we are now experiencing. Now, even with the thoughtful proposals of Mr. McKenna before the eyes of the nation, proposals that would appear to address many of our concerns, there exists the real risk that further mistakes will be made by Canadas First Ministers in attempting to come to terms prior to the June 23 ratification deadline.
The deficiencies of an Accord negotiated by 11 men in a pressure cooker have been clearly revealed by an airing of the Accord in public hearings held in several jurisdictions. It worries me that a similar situation is brewing again. While expressing my support for Mr. McKennas resolution and the manner in which it addresses the concerns of the Yukon, I believe the process would be much more legitimate, more democratic, and provide us with a more sound Constitution, if there was an opportunity for all Canadians to review any compromise that might be negotiated as a result of Mr. McKennaa proposals before the changes are entrenched in our Constitution.
Mr. Phillips: I rise to speak in favor of the motion as presented by the Leader of the Official Opposition. The whole Meech Lake process, in my view, has been flawed from the very beginning. Ten Premiers and our Prime Minister met and decided on the future of the whole country. It turned out to be terribly flawed. No wonder the general public is skeptical about politicians. I have spoken to literally hundreds of people about this issue and no one can believe that these political leaders could have walked out of that room at Meech Lake and felt they had solved all the problems of the country when so many other Canadians were left out.
It is very important for Canada to be united and for Quebec to be part of Confederation, but I submit to you that it is equally as important for northerners, native groups, women and others to be afforded the same opportunities as other Canadians. I was extremely puzzled when I read the agreement about why northerners were going to be treated differently than other Canadians. I wondered if there was a hidden agenda of some southern Premiers or we were just an afterthought.
Meech Lake is not written in stone. Political leaders in this country have had time to reflect on that decision and some have had second thoughts about what they signed and are now talking about making changes to the agreement.
It is time for compromise on all sides. Quebec wants to be an equal partner in Confederation, so surely it should not be so short sighted as to see others left out in its haste to include itself.
The Government of Canada has heard from thousands of Canadians, most of whom are talking about very similar problems with the Meech Lake Accord. It is time to listen and to fix a bad deal. There is no question in my mind that, if all Canadians are to be equal under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Yukoners should be allowed one day to become a province on the same basis as all others before. Yukoners, like their fellow Canadians in the south, should be entitled to representation in the Senate and qualified Yukoners should be allowed to become Supreme Court judges. That is not really a lot to ask. All we are asking for are the same rights and privileges all other Canadians have been afforded.
The proposed companion accord is a more common sense approach to the shortcomings of Meech Lake. It addresses our major concerns with the 1987 Constitutional Accord. It is time for all 10 Premiers and the Prime Minister to right a wrong. Northerners deserve to be treated fairly and this companion agreement goes a long way towards achieving this fairness.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to thank the Opposition for bringing this motion forward at this time, particularly since the special Commons committee to study the proposed companion resolution to the Meech Lake Accord is wrapping up its hearings.
I would like to address my comments to the concerns I have with the Constitutional Accord, as it is presently proposed by the Prime Minister.
I would like to think that, as a Yukoner, I am just as important to my country as a person residing in downtown Ottawa. If the federal government thought they were giving us some kind of a break by not including us as full citizens of Canada, they have not indicated that same consideration in the proposed GST. That the residents of Yukon cannot have a say in their future and, further, that they are not guaranteed a seat at First Ministers Conferences, that we are not able to nominate Senators or Supreme Court justices, is not only unfair but extremely offensive to the citizens of the Yukon.
There was a time not so long ago when aboriginal people were not allowed to vote, but were welcomed into the armed forces to fight and die for this country. We look upon those days with disbelief that inequality of that degree actually ever existed. I do not consider the proposed Accord to be a lot different.
This country is built on principles of multiculturalism and equality for every single individual. Has the present Conservative government forgotten these principles? It would seem so. Every single Canadian should have equal rights. Nowhere in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms does it exempt individuals living in the north. We have a right to decide the future of our jurisdiction. We have a duly elected body that functions as a legislature. It is through this body, and only this body, that the future of our territory is decided, in the same manner as any province in this country. Whether I vote in Ontario or the Yukon for a Member of the Legislative Assembly to represent my views, the important point is that my views are represented and respected.
I do not expect a Member from Alberta, Manitoba or Ontario to represent me as a Yukoner. The protection of my rights as a fellow Canadian as equal in all representations or decisions must be entrenched in any constitutional agreement in this country.
This then brings me to the companion resolution. It is somewhat encouraging that, somewhere in this country, there is someone with a sense of fairness and vision. We need to thank Premier McKenna for his proposal. I am encouraged that his proposals specifically address the concerns of the north, as well as the concerns of the aboriginal people and the rights of women. It is only right that any discussions directly concerning aboriginal people and the Constitution include the participation of these people.
The aboriginal people of this country are well informed. They understand political processes. The idea that they need these great white fathers in Ottawa to look out for their concerns is archaic thinking. It is important to realize that the aboriginal people in the north are not going anywhere. This is their home.
Many other people in the north move around the country, retire to warmer climates, or move on to better challenges or opportunities, but the aboriginal people stay here. They retire here. They will never leave the north.
This by itself is a consideration for their right to participation in constitutional discussions that directly affect their concerns.
More important is the question of entrenchment of self-government agreements. I agree with the concept of constitutional entrenchment of the rights of aboriginal people. This is of fundamental importance to the native people and they have been saying for years that they have a right to decide their future as well. This government is committed to this and we must be absolutely assured that this is not just another promise waiting to be broken. We must be secure in our minds that through inclusion in the companion resolution that this same resolution must go hand-in-hand with the Meech Lake Accord.
It has been interesting to see the attitudes of the federal government developing toward aboriginal concerns and womens rights. First we see the Meech Lake Accord and then we see Jerry Weiners budget slashing of womens centres and native communications. There is a strong message here. There is no way I will rest assured that any concerns of the rights of these individuals and groups are of the least interest to representatives of the federal government.
For these reasons I must insist that my support to the Accord and to the companion resolution rests on the proposal that they are entrenched together.
Ms. Kassi: Firstly I would like to thank the Member for Hootalinqua for bringing forth this motion. No doubt there has been substantial discussion and legitimate concerns raised by citizens of this country about the Meech Lake Accord as it stands: by the aboriginal peoples, by northerners, by women and by certain provinces.
These concerns cannot be ignored. They just cannot be. Canada will not ever be a peaceful country if this Accord were to pass as it stands now. Although I, too, do not believe that the proposal of New Brunswick goes far enough, though I support it, I would like to congratulate Premier McKenna on his attempt to salvage the assets of the Accord, while at the same time addressing many of the most pressing concerns it has raised.
Presently, as we speak, the Assembly of First Nations is holding its annual conference here in Whitehorse. Our respective elders, representing many First Nations across this land, are speaking out and setting the agenda for, not only the Assembly, but for the future of the aboriginal people of this country.
This morning I had the opportunity to listen to the elders speak. Elder after elder spoke at length about this country and what its national leaders are doing to us.
Many of the elders spoke about the Meech Lake Accord and how it must be ratified. The Meech Lake Accord will certainly become a priority agenda item at the conference this week. Why? Because, once again, we are being pushed aside.
This is the 1990s, and we still have to fight to be recognized. I well understand the position of the French Canadians; I support them, and I wish them luck in their endeavours to be recognized in the Constitution, the Confederacy of Canada. I understand because we, the aboriginal people of this country, continue this long, drawn-out, unnecessary battle to be recognized as a distinct society.
The text of the Accord needs to meet the rights of aboriginal people of this nation, as well as those of women. It should also address the important issues of the north, including the process for gaining provincehood, nominating Senators, and having a say in appointments to the Supreme Court.
The New Brunswick resolution addresses these concerns, some to a lesser and some to a greater degree. The New Brunswick resolution requires that all matters directly affecting aboriginal peoples in Canada be included in future constitutional agendas. It also recommends that representatives of aboriginal peoples and the territories be invited to take part in these discussions.
The Yukon government has consistently supported the constitutional entrenchment of self-government agreements during our land claims negotiations. Premier McKenna has also recognized and supported aboriginal people. I agree with the Premier of the Yukon, however, that section 9 of his proposal could be strengthened by directly addressing constitutional entrenchment of aboriginal rights.
I also agree that the McKenna proposal pays significant notice to the question of provincial status for the territories. The same rules should apply now as they applied to the present provinces when they joined Confederation. We support McKennas proposal of removing not only the requirement for unanimous consent to the creation of new provinces, but also the seven to 50 percent requirement of the 1982 constitutional amendment.
I would like to conclude my comments with a couple of questions that many aboriginal people across this country share.
Since the Accord recognizes the distinct society of the French Canadians, and gives protection to their culture and language, do we, the First Nations, the indigenous people, the first people, not have our own distinct languages and cultural identity? Were we not also here as vital participants when this country was founded? Why do these particular Ministers, and the Prime Minister of Canada, demand that Canada approve the Meech Lake Accord and, at the same time, continue to deny the same rights to the aboriginal people of Canada?
I need some answers.
In closing, I would like to read into the record the conclusion of the Council for Yukon Indians statement to the committee dealing with the Meech Lake Accord.
The Yukon First Nations endorse Premier McKennas proposals regarding the creation of new provinces and the appointment of northerners to the Senate and Supreme Court. We recommend that the proposed companion resolution be amended to provide for express recognition of aboriginal peoples of Canada as distinct societies and a fundamental part of Canada. As well, we urge this committee to report to Parliament regarding those policies of the Government of Canada, which require northern aboriginal peoples to pursue unnecessary constitutional amendments and recommend that Parliament direct the government to cease this practice.
Finally, we recommend that Premier McKennas proposals calling for the inclusion of aboriginal issues in the First Ministers Conferences be amended to provide for a series of First Ministers Conferences dedicated exclusively to the resolution of outstanding matters relating to the constitutional protection of the rights of aboriginal peoples of Canada.
Also, on behalf of my colleague, the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, who is unable to be with us, I would like to emphasize that our hope is that womens rights to equality is firmly protected in whatever deal is finally concluded. The companion resolution proposed by Premier McKenna adds a section stating that the rights and freedoms guaranteed equally to men and women will not be affected by the interpretive clauses. This kind of guarantee is a positive step. Gender equality must be protected from possible erosion through constitutional amendments proposed in the Meech Lake Accord. Mahsi-cho.
Mr. Joe: It is only right when something is being talked about that people who are affected should be allowed to join in the discussion.
In the New Brunswick position on the Accord it is very clear that aboriginal representatives be invited to take part in discussions on matters that directly affect us. This is a step forward in making all people equal. The next step would be the entrenchment of aboriginal rights in the Constitution.
I am proud to be a Member of the government that has so strongly supported a constitutional entrenchment of self-government agreement in the land claims negotiations. The New Democrats remain committed to this goal that is reflected to some degree in Premier McKennas proposal.
I support this motion.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I, too, would like to add my support to others of the House to the resolution on Meech Lake. While, like others, I respect and would like to see Quebec as a full partner in Confederation, I believe it is imperative that the Yukon have the same constitutional footing that was afforded to other jurisdictions in the course of our history. Like speakers before me, I believe also that the proposed companion resolution to the Meech Lake Accord, if enshrined in law, will restore most of that constitutional footing that is being placed in jeopardy.
I think that we have good reason to be disappointed - and I say disappointed because the shock has passed - that the Yukon has been through the events of the last decade and then effectively shut out of Confederation.
I was a Member in this Legislature in 1982 when the Constitution Act of that year changed the admission formula to require the approval of the federal government and two-thirds of the provinces having 50 percent of the population of the country. I remember the outcry, not because Yukon necessarily wanted to be a province, but because the rules changed from those that existed prior to that for the earlier-formed provinces. Up until 1982, the addition of new provinces was achieved by negotiation with the federal government. I believe six provinces entered Confederation under those rules and those rules had existed since 1871, where at that time the sole authority of Parliament was required to admit new provinces.
I remember also the debate of the issue in the early 1980s, and then in 1983 the Constitutional Accord on aboriginal rights, which actually recognized that the entry provisions were unfair. I believe the Member of Parliament of the time spoke at some length on the unfairness of the 1982 Accord and spoke out at length on the discrimination it created for the Yukon.
In spite of the 1983 Accord on aboriginal rights being signed by all the participating provinces, the 1987 Meech Lake Accord made entry provisions even more onerous than what were suggested in 1982. As indicated by Members and speakers before me, essentially every province in the country would have a veto.
I believe we have heard some excellent debate on how the second round of discrimination in 1987 produced an outcry. It produced an outcry to all signatories of that 1987 Accord and the outcry was especially vocal and vociferous from the north, both in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
I say that if there was anyone more outspoken on the issue than our Premier, I am not sure who it could have been. It would certainly be an understatement to suggest that there were meetings, lobbies, letters, phone calls and quite a multitude of representations made throughout the country that followed the announcement in June of 1987. Suffice it to say, no other single action since perhaps the gold rush could have had as much of an impact on the Yukon and many of its people - in some cases, quite severe.
It appears that Mr. McKennas proposal could change all that. It appears, as noted by the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Premier and others, that the Yukon would again be placed under the same entry provisions that were granted to other provinces. Effectively, the McKenna proposal would not only eliminate the unanimous consent requirement of the 1987 Accord, but would erase the seven province/50 percent population rule established in 1982.
As spoken so well by the speaker before me, the McKenna proposal would also redress the issues of Senate appointments and Supreme Court appointments, and, to some extent, our participation at First Ministers Conferences and constitutional forums, as well as addressing our concerns surrounding aboriginal and womens rights.
I submit that we are perhaps only a territory at this time, but we do have the democratic structures of other jurisdictions; we do have an elected Legislature here; we have a Cabinet; we do represent our constituents; we deliver most of our own programs; we run our own affairs; and we are assuming more and more authority in that area all the time. We have the same aspirations as other Canadians do. We have the same desire to participate and make decisions about our future as other Canadians. We should be entitled to those rights, those privileges, and those decision-making opportunities that have been afforded to, and are still being granted to, the rest of the country.
I submit that we should unanimously support this resolution and ensure that it is delivered to appropriate authorities who can help make a difference.
I think it is nevertheless important that Members do speak at this occasion, largely because this will be one of the few debates, I am sure, that future generations will look to to see how Yukon legislators dealt with constitutional assaults on its future and to see whether or not, way back in 1990, there really was any drive or ambition in the Legislature to become full constitutional partners in Confederation.
I do believe that the times we have now in this country are, in many respects, dangerous times, as the Premier mentioned. While I would not want to be seen as an alarmist, as that now is seen as counterproductive by some Premiers during this period of great potential change, I think that the brinksmanship that is going on in the political world of Canada may lead to a very different Canada in the months and years to come.
Every night we watch on television the latest person or group that has been enlisted to comment on Meech Lake. We listen to television commentators refer to Meech Lake itself in the same context as the changes that are taking place in Eastern Europe, where countries are being fractured almost every month and new political entities arise. The climate for change there, of course, is substantial, and clearly there is a view, at least within certain elements of the media, that the changes that are taking place in Eastern Europe could easily happen in Yukon and, for better or worse, we should perhaps accept the reality of those changes.
Consequently, it causes all of us to think of our vision of Canada and reflect on the fact that if we come out of the Meech Lake discussions and the future discussions that emanate from them with no resolution, we may not have a country that we can recognize as Canada. Perhaps we may be a stronger and more resolute nation. We are obviously having difficulty getting unanimity about getting unanimity.
Yukon, for its part, developed along with the other western provinces right up until the 1900s at the same rate. If it had not been for a slipping into almost semi-permanent colonial status that occurred after the early 1900s, we may well have been in the same position as other western provinces are today.
Yukon is now in a bit of another world. At times, it is a territory; at times, it is a mini-province. To those people who resist federal control, there are other people who consider Yukon to be a bit of a vassal state.
Yukon does have aspirations to join Confederation as an equal partner. Whether the time will come in the near or in the distant future, it may be tempered at times by economic and financial circumstances. Nevertheless, there is a desire by Yukoners and by legislators in this Legislature now to take a full partnership in Confederation in a manner that suits Yukoners interests.
These are interesting times. We have concluded a land claims agreement, which does have constitutional implications, as well as implications for the future internal constitutional development for the Yukon. We are living during a period where the federal fiscal agenda is not particularly friendly to the north. It is a time when Yukoners feel somewhat beleaguered about their vision of themselves within Canada.
Consequently, as all Members have mentioned, the introduction of Meech Lake to the Yukons political agenda has been quite unsettling.
While most Yukoners support the basic principles of Meech Lake and want Quebec in Confederation as a full signatory to the Constitution, they also want Yukon to ultimately play a role within Confederation and do not want the options to be closed off.
As Members have pointed out with respect to Yukons constitutional future, it appears that, under Meech Lake, everyone with the exception of Yukoners will have a say as to whether or not Yukon enters Confederation, and under what circumstances and conditions. It is not overstating the case, despite some commentators opinions, that we are effectively frozen out of Confederation with a unanimity clause that is not entrenched within the Meech Lake Accord.
It is not appropriate to ask Yukoners to be patient and wait for their concerns to be met, as it is unlikely in the future under a situation where the unanimity clause is in effect that Yukon will enter Confederation on its terms, patient or not. It is important to note the ratification process for the Meech Lake Accord is a useful object lesson for any of those who feel that unanimity will be easily achieved in future for constitutional amendments.
We obviously do have concerns, as the Member have pointed out, with respect to the future of the process for nominations to the Supreme Court and ultimately to the Senate of Canada - the Senate, of course, perhaps being more of an important institution as time goes on, with perhaps the potential that the Senate will provide greater representation for regions and will perhaps in the future be, appropriately, an elected body.
The role that Ministers in the Yukon government play at First Ministers Conferences is something that ought to be of particular concern to all Yukoners. We obviously need to be heard. We need to be heard as a full partner. Decisions are made at these conferences that will affect Yukoners future. I cite, for example, the Finance Ministers conferences that do take place now, where the Yukoner is asked to sit as part of the federal delegation. There is no chance that a Finance Minister of the Yukon can be seen as being part of a federal delegation when it comes to federal fiscal policies. When it comes to enunciating those policies at a federal conference, while I would obviously take the opportunity to be present, one will never find me sitting in the federal delegation.
The McKenna proposal is, in my view, a useful compromise that should be considered in future deliberations about Meech Lake. It does offer to the Yukon the hope that in the future Yukon can enter Confederation on terms that are acceptable to Yukoners. It does offer the hope that Yukon can participate within Canada and each Yukoner can be proud of the fact that they are full Canadians and not semi-Canadians within the constitutional framework. At the same time, it will afford aboriginal people the right to participate in constitutional conferences that affect their interests: a fundamental principle that simply must be incorporated into changes at this stage in our constitutional development.
There are many other useful elements of the potential companion resolution, respecting the protection of gender equality and the potential for Senate reform in the future but I will leave the record to show that others have commented appropriately on those points.
I would like to again, along with other Members, thank the Member for Hootalinqua for having brought forward this motion this afternoon. It is a useful motion and it is also in many respects a historic motion. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I think, will be proud to have heard that the Yukon Legislature was sufficiently concerned, sufficiently aware and sufficiently vocal to protect the interests of Yukoners, way back in 1990.
Mr. Nordling: As a Member of the Yukon Legislature Assembly, I have no hesitation in agreeing that the proposed companion resolution to the 1987 Constitutional Accord addresses the major concerns of Yukoners. It addresses those concerns and maintains the integrity of the Meech Lake Accord.
Constitutions are not made in a day and we cannot expect perfection. The Constitution Act of 1982 was a great achievement, but nowhere near perfect; it left Quebec out. The 1987 Constitutional Accord was also a great achievement, but it is also by no means perfect.
The problem is that constitutions are very difficult to change unless there is a very strong political will. This motion is asking that a very strong political will be expressed so that the process of constitutional development and reform will be continued immediately so that we do not wait years and years before constitutional reform takes place.
The Meech Lake Accord, although not perfect, should be accepted because it is important to Canada; however, we in Yukon, have major concerns with the Accord as it stands - concerns that have been expressed very well by the previous speakers. Many of the concerns are dealt with in the McKenna proposal.
The building of a nation is an ongoing process. The building of a constitution is an ongoing process. The McKenna proposal, along with the Meech Lake Accord, will go a long way in building our nation by including Quebec, and not shutting out the north.
Speaker: The hon. Member will now close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Phelps: I would like to begin by thanking all those who spoke to this important motion. I feel it is important that we send out the message loud and clear. Part of that message is that, despite the injustice done to Yukoners as a result of Meech Lake and despite the fact that our pleas for justice were largely ignored for more than two years by southern politicians, we nevertheless continue to be concerned about Canadas future and concerned that Quebec be brought into the Constitution and that we want to resolve our difficulties in a constructive fashion. We do, to some extent, take a bit of a risk in supporting the motion. The motion itself contains an element of uncertainty that we hope will shrink in size as the discussions continue. I want to say that I am very pleased with the attitudes of, not only those in this Legislature, but also the vast majority of Yukoners who do believe in the future of our country.
I want to say a few words about the rights of women in the Constitution. We also want to be assured that equal rights will be preserved once the Accord and companion resolution are completed. We also share concerns about resolving the aboriginal rights question and getting those rights enshrined in the Constitution. Of course, prior to 1985-86, it was expected that the self government provisions of the Yukon land claims negotiations would be enshrined in the Constitution. I want to make it very clear that it has always been the position of the Yukon government, the previous government as well as the present one, that those portions of the land claims agreement should be entrenched in the Constitution.
We continue to support that demand being made by CYI and the First Nations of Yukon. I wanted to make that position clear.
Once again, I thank everyone for this opportunity, and I am very proud of the fact we have joined together in a positive way, despite the harm we saw when Meech Lake was first announced to us early one morning, two years ago in April.
Motion No. 95 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 15, standing in the name of Mr. Lang.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 15?
Mr. Lang: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 91
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should establish a residential care facility for Yukon residents with mental problems.
Mr. Lang: I brought the motion before the House because I felt it was important that this particular issue not get sidetracked and ignored primarily by Members of the government. It is important to realize that this is a recognized need within the community that has been identified as far back as 1983. Since that time, there has been one complete study done, as far as what could be done to accommodate the people who could make use of such a facility.
It is unfortunate, in some respects. As I said in Question Period a number of times, it is an issue that is not going to land anybody political votes, or make or break the government. We are dealing with people in our society who are the most defenceless, who have no place to go, in many cases, who are in a situation not of their own making, yet we have very little service to provide for them.
We have gone through a period of time over the last five years where we have had a transfer of dollars from the Government of Canada that has never been experienced before in Yukon history. The argument put forward by the side opposite has been strictly from a monetary point of view. There is no question that there is agreement on all sides of the House. A facility of this kind could be worked out with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division, and is badly needed. It would be of benefit to those people who are in the unfortunate situation where they would have to make use of such a facility. At the same time, it would speak well of our society.
The situation facing these people is a very isolated one. You seldom see them, because they are generally very quiet, whatever social circles they are in. It is difficult to know who they are within Whitehorse.
What we do know is that we may be talking about five or 10 people at any given time who would require such a service. I mentioned the other day I had a situation occur where I had to deal with an individual with problems. Upon contacting those from whom services are available, the people moved very quickly and were very accommodating to see what they could do to assist the individual in question. I recognized at that time that there was not much available to the administration to take necessary steps to help address the problem.
The question before the House is basically one of responsibility. The Government Leader in his magnanimous manner has said he is prepared to cost share with the Government of Canada on this particular issue because it is not our responsibility, but in this situation we will be prepared to take on at least a portion of the responsibility. It was very interesting. I pointed out to Member that back in 1983 there was a document that very clearly identified that at that time YTG had accepted the principle that the responsibilities for this type of social service was the responsibility of the Yukon government, as in any province. I am surprised that the government has taken a position contrary to that and is absolving itself of responsibility, at least in part, in saying it is the responsibility of the Government of Canada.
Personally, I think with the transfer of dollars to the YTG the service required is not all that great, in terms of dollars.
The government is prepared to put the capital dollars toward the facility. It was very interesting when the announcement was made that they never said that 75 percent of those dollars were federal dollars. It was probably an oversight because I am sure they did not want to infer it was strictly YTG money.
If we are talking about 50/50 cost sharing, if they have gone to 75 percent on the capital we should go 75 percent YTG on the O&M and 25 percent federal, if you accept the premise that the feds must cost share.
The reality of the situation is that while we have this bickering between the two levels of government, we have a very serious situation out there on the street. We are faced with people who have very little family to take care of them, very few friends and in many cases are ostracized because of their situation. What are we doing as people, as a society, and as a government to try to help them adjust to a very complex world?
The motion before us is urging the government to take the necessary steps to work with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division, and see what you can do to come up with a solution or at least some service to be provided to these individuals.
I do not see the costs as being all that great. It is funny; we are at this situation where, all of a sudden, everything is on hold. The government paid for a study in respect to what could be done to provide a service for these people. There were discussions and something like 30-odd meetings held with the Canadian Mental Association, Yukon Division and one of the reasons the issue is before the House is that, quite frankly, the people who really felt strongly about the issue felt it was time that the public become aware of the situation surrounding people with mental health needs. The public should be aware of it. Secondly, this motion will also give notice to the government, primarily to YTG, that people will not longer be meeting just for the sake of meeting; people have other things to do with their time.
I am sure that it was very very frustrating for them when, after 30-odd meetings, there was no resolution. At the same time, you go to a meeting where two representatives of the government tell you they are all very sympathetic and they think it is a worthwhile project but there should be more studies on it. Well, I think it is time for action. I think it is time for some definitive decision to be made. I have a proposal for the Minister who, quite rightly so, is questioning the financial side of any project or program that we are doing. A study of this program was completed in 1989 - that is some time ago. That is over a year ago now.
This particular report recommends that the initial O&M costs for the home will be in the neighbourhood of $73,000. I had the opportunity to speak to those who should know, and by that I mean members of the executive of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division. They indicated to me that they felt that, to get things going, to get things moving, they could do with considerably less. What they are saying is that instead of having two personnel, they could probably make do with one, so we are talking in the neighbourhood of $50,000 in O&M costs. If we had to accept the premise given by the Government Leader in Question Period, and if we can cost by 25 percent, or $25,000, then it would naturally follow that the federal government would not have to put their funds in. Obviously then YTG could put the dollars in.
The Minister of Community and Transportation said they never put the funds in. It is very clear that the Government of Canada does not feel it is their mandate or their responsibility. I am saying I do not think it is their responsibility. I think it is a YTG responsibility.
I know we get monies from the federal government. We can set our own priorities through both the EPF and CAP transfers. Over and above that we have a very lucrative financial agreement with the Government of Canada to provide services of this kind, similar to what the government has decided to do in day care. That was a home-grown decision.
I find it very disconcerting that the government, which claims to hold the social conscience for us all in Yukon, has not met its obligations in this area. I do not think anyone is going to win any votes on this. It will not make or break a government. We are talking about a situation where people are suffering some very severe disabilities, five or 10 at the most, who could use such a facility. I say to the side opposite that surely if we cannot meet our obligations in this area, we cannot hold our heads high.
The Minister talks about costs. We see $62,000 given to somebody, after they have earned three quarters of a million dollars, to go on a years sabbatical. The side opposite justifies it in this House by saying that is the way it is. Sixty-two thousand dollars is $12,000 more than the figures quoted to me by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division to run such a facility for 365 days a year. These people who will be coming into this facilities will never have earned probably $20,000, let along three quarters of a million dollars in less than four years.
It is a question of setting priorities. There is a social need that has to be met and how long can the government sit there fighting with the federal government telling the other the ball is in its court while each is saying it is very sympathetic to the problem. It is time to bite the bullet. It is time for them to meet their obligations. I find it a very lame excuse for the Government Leader to blame Mr. Wilson and the Government of Canada for not having such a facility. I think that is totally unacceptable when we are talking about an annual budget in this government of $340 million.
Why we cannot take these necessary steps with a very hard working organization, such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division, is beyond me. They have tried to work in conjunction with the government. They have taken all the proper steps to see what they could do with the government to work out a program. Frankly, I wish it had not come to this, where we are standing and debating this in a resolution of the floor. I would rather the side opposite had taken the necessary steps when they saw the obviously hard position the Government of Canada was taking, and one I cannot see them changing in the near future. The Government of Canada is running out of money.
Some Hon. Member: So are we.
Mr. Lang: If you keep giving $62,000 away to a guy to go on a junket to Australia, it is no wonder you are running out of money. You should not have been given the money in the first place if that is the way you are going to hand it out. Do not tell me it is Mr. Wilson, as the Minister of Finance, talking about how you are spending money.
I work for the people of the territory. There is a need out there for people you may not care about. The Minister of Finance may not care about those people.
Speaker: Order please. Let the Member continue.
Mr. Lang: There is a number of people out there in desperate need of assistance and help. There is a common concurrence among all Members in this House. We agree that there is a need that has not been fulfilled over many years.
In view of the fact the Government of Canada has taken the position it has, rightly or wrongly, and in view of the reality we are facing that it is very unlikely that that position is going to change, it says it is your responsibility as the Government of the Yukon. Similarly, it says this to the Province of Alberta or Quebec.
I strongly believe it is up to us to say there is a priority here and a need here. Let us look at this need and work with these people and fulfill that need. It may not be on a scale as large as first proposed. There are ways we can remedy it. I believe we can find the resources within what the government is already spending. The government is spending money sending Yukoners outside for some services; there is money spent in the hospital where people are going to the hospital for such a service, at $450 a day. This would no longer have to be spent. There are unfortunately some who go to jail because there is no place to go.
There are also those who are perhaps using social housing or other government programs. When I talk about an expenditure of $50,000, it could well be that the government may well be already spending $25,000 to $30,000. It may be a redirection of those dollars.
I feel the motion is timely. I feel the government has a responsibility to meet the obligations, similar to the provinces. I leave it to the conscience of all good Members as to how they vote on this motion I have put forward in good faith. I hope it will be given very serious consideration.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member opposite for a chance to once again, for the seventh or eighth time debating this, put our position on the record.
At the conclusion of my remarks, I am going to take the Member at his word and see if he is a caring person of good faith and not just playing political games, as he is sometimes inclined to do in this House.
I apologize for my own inability to communicate successfully on this score, because once again he has misrepresented our position, and given an entirely inaccurate statement of the constitutional responsibility in that area, and disappointed us considerably in that he seems to be making arguments for his party, whose government is in Ottawa, rather than arguments that are appropriate to the point of view to the Yukon.
The Member opposite claims that this is strictly a matter of money. Nothing could be more wrong. If it were strictly a matter of money, this government would not have made the offers it has made, notwithstanding the federal responsibility in this field. I believe people who have had an opportunity to review previous versions of this debate, whether in Question Period or during the time in Committee when we were discussing the Mental Health Act, will understand and know well our point of view. If, indeed, we were intransigent on this question, as the Member charges, we would have simply said that this is a federal responsibility and we are not paying a penny.
If we had been as hard-headed as the Member opposite, if we had been as inflexible, as anal-retentive as the Member opposite, we would have simply have said...
Mr. Lang: Ahh, come on, Tony. Lets get a little bit above the bowels, eh?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: ...if we had been as rigid...I do not believe I could ever get as low as the Member opposite has been upon occasion in this House, but I am saying that if we - now I am being accused by the Member opposite of having a sick mind, by that Member who has displayed the most emotionally labile personality of anybody in this House.
If we were as rigid or as inflexible as the Member opposite on this question, whatever side we are taking, we would have simply said that this is a federal responsibility: we are not paying a penny. That has not been our position. We have said this is a federal responsibility and notwithstanding the fact that it is a federal responsibility and notwithstanding the fact that, if you pick up the phone book and you look in the Blue Pages to where mental health services are, you will find them under the federal government. You do not find them under the Yukon government.
Since 1954 in this territory, all the time that the Member opposite has been in this House, all the time that he has had a passing acquaintance of the responsibilities of this government, it has been the responsibility of the federal government. Never, in all his years in this Legislature, since 1974, has he ever, prior to going into Opposition, articulated the view that this kind of service was a responsibility of the territorial government.
As evidence of that, let me cite the fact that this Member, who has been a Member of Cabinet for more years than anybody here, never offered one penny of expenditure in this area. I am absolutely certain, because of his caring commitment to this issue, which he has demonstrated today, that if he really did care, he would have put his money where his mouth is and between 1983 and 1985, when this need was identified - citing his own words - they would have contributed something, because he said they did not have any money. He has just told us, however, that it is such a small amount of money that it should be of no consequence - no consequence at all.
The Member talks about money that is spent for other purposes. During the time he has been in this Legislature he has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars himself. I do not see him making an offer of a contribution from his own salary for this purpose. A lot of people would think that money is not being well spent.
Mr. Lang: Give me a break.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member says give him a break. We do that every day. Every day we give the Member a break. We listen to him patiently but now, when someone else gets up to speak, he does not want to listen; he wants to talk at the same time.
He will have two chances to speak in this debate; I will have one. But that is not enough for him. He wants to talk while I am talking. The Member opposite has such great respect, as he was claiming yesterday, for our parliamentary institutions.
As I was saying, if we were as stringent, rigid and hard headed as the Member opposite, we would have said that this is a federal responsibility and there is no money. I have been around here long enough to have listened to the anti-Ottawa speeches from the Member opposite. We have not taken that position. We have said there is a real need here. We have said that even though we do not have the responsibility or jurisdiction here we have made an offer to contribute toward the successful operation of this necessary facility.
I do not know what the Member is talking about when he mentions 30 meetings. In the very first meeting I ever had in my capacity as Minister of Health and Human Resources with this group, I articulated and defined the kind of proposition we were prepared to make in addition to the arrangements that the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation had made.
I want to take a minute more to talk about our responsibilities because we are negotiating the health transfer. I still hope that if we can get a successful arrangement, and these services are transferred to us, I am absolutely certain these services will be provided. That is a long-standing commitment from the government. I made it because it illustrates the difference in perspective between the two governments.
The point of view of the federal government, which still has responsibility and management of these kinds of services, is that they are not prepared at this moment to expand mental health services, any more than they are prepared to expand other health services, because they have a financial problem. The Member opposite has said they have a financial problem. We agree. But they have already passed on that financial problem to us. They have passed on more than our share of that problem to us because they are cutting our transfers and our budget more than they are the provinces. They have already passed the buck in that sense. It is ludicrous for us to accept another pass-the-buck situation.
The Member says that the dollars are not great and we should ignore the question of responsibility and jurisdiction, that the territorial government should pay the federal governments bills. I am disappointed that the Member would support such a proposition, would essentially support the federal governments position in negotiations with the territorial government, would essentially provide comfort to those in the federal government who would like to abandon their responsibility in this area, drop programs, off-load programs and have us pick up the slack, have the territorial taxpayer, a small number of people in this large area, absorb the costs of programs that the federal government has dropped, abandoned or will not deliver in areas that are its responsibility.
I am extremely disappointed that the Member opposite has not been, so far, prepared to support what we think is a reasonable position for the people of the Yukon; instead, he is taking the position of the federal government, which is that not only should it not contribute a penny, but that it is not its responsibility.
I do not believe his motion in any way helps toward the resolution of this problem. I fear it is not intended to help. It is not a proposition that is expressed in any term of conciliation or accommodation, as he has suggested. It is a blanket statement that the opinion of this House, according to the Member opposite, should be that the Government of Yukon do something we believe is a federal responsibility. There is no recognition that the territorial government has made a financial offer, unlike the federal government. There is no recognition that the territorial government has offered to share in the cost. He would have us abdicate our duties to protect the treasury, protect our responsibilities, and have a proper regard for the fiscal relations between our two governments, and a respect for the negotiations that are now going on about transferring these very services. He says we should complicate those transfers by immediately picking up services that are within the federal domain and adopt them ourselves.
Let us think about what would happen if we did that. The Member cites the case of child care. We made financial commitments to child care; we made offers in child care; we campaigned on that basis; we were elected on that basis; we made commitments. Let us take a look at what happened to child care.
We premised our commitment to child care funding based on a promise from the federal government, from Mr. Jake Epp, that the federal government, in a promise made prior to the last federal election, would pick up 50 percent of the costs of such programs. What happened? After the election, the federal government put that on hold and decided the promise was inoperable, the Minister did not mean what he said and, besides, he was not the Minister of that department anymore.
The implications of that decision alone, for this territory and the treasury of this territory, are considerable. It would have been very easy for the federal government, as it would have been for us or for other jurisdictions, to simply say, We are not going to keep our promises in this area. What happens then? The territorial or provincial government either picks up the slack or says they cannot do it anymore because the federal government will not pay their share. Guess who gets blamed? The ordinary citizen does not make nice distinctions between federal jurisdiction and territorial jurisdiction, or even the municipal jurisdiction. They blame the most successful government, and that is the provincial or territorial government. I know the federal government can get quite cynical on this score, because they happen to have polling information that shows that that is what happens. It is not the federal government that gets the blame; it is the territorial or provincial government.
If we set the model of what happened in day care, if we set the proposition that we be careless about our jurisdiction, that we accept the federal point of view on what is our jurisdiction, what is not, what are our responsibilities and what are not - we do not bargain about that, just accede to their demands - if we simply say we will pick up the slack, that we will fill any gap in programming for the federal government, we would be playing extremely fast and loose with the treasury and would be behaving extremely irresponsibly toward the taxpayers of this territory.
Imagine how farcical and ridiculous the negotiations around devolution discussions would be if the federal government were to quote the speeches from the Member for Porter Creek East and say, Clearly there is someone in your House and a significant body of opinion in the territory that believes this is a territorial government responsibility. When you come to negotiate for this, we are not going to give you any money because, according to Mr. Lang, it is already your responsibility. That would be very helpful to have the federal government quoting him in the negotiations with the Government of Yukon, the Government of Yukon that is trying to provide the much needed services in the Yukon Territory within the financial resources available to us, and having a Member of this House make the case for Mr. Wilson.
I want to say this clearly. If we allow the federal government to cop out of its responsibilities here, it will never stop. It will go on and on, and they will nibble away at our resources until the taxpayers of the Yukon cry out.
Yukoners have legitimate claims for services. They would like to have the kind of services available here that are available for Canadians elsewhere, especially in communities of a similar size to ours. I believe our position has been eminently reasonable. Given our view that this is a federal responsibility, and given the resources available to us, I believe our position has been generous.
I believe the offer made by the Housing Corporation, and the offer made by the Department of Health and Human Resources, have gone a long way toward seeing this facility established and seeing it a reality, but we have not seen any kind of commitment from the federal government.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I want to move an amendment to the Members motion. I will move a proposition that should be agreeable to all Members in this House. If it is the wish of all Members in this House to see such a facility, and the wish of Members of this House that we should be reasonable and that the government should get together to solve this problem, then I am sure this amendment will find favour.
THAT Motion No. 91 be amended by deleting all the words after the expression THAT it is the opinion of this House and substituting for them the following:
that the federal government should join the Government of Yukon in funding a residential care facility for Yukoners who are mentally ill, and that the Government of Yukon, upon confirmation that the federal government will contribute a fair share of the cost, should establish such a residential care facility.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier
THAT Motion No. 91 be amended by deleting all the words after the expression THAT it is the opinion of this House and substituting for them the following:
that the federal government should join the Government of Yukon in funding a residential care facility for Yukoners who are mentally ill, and that the Government of Yukon, upon confirmation that the federal government will contribute a fair share of the cost, should establish such a residential care facility.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I shall speak briefly to the amendment.
There can be no doubt that a federal obligation exists in this area as a matter of precedent. It is a fact that all spending in mental health services, whether it is for a psychiatrist who has, from time to time, been an employee of the federal government, mental health nurses, psychologists or other services, are an obligation of the federal government by precedent.
It is a matter of fact that the Yukon Housing Corporation has twice approved funding for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division. That happened in 1987. It is a matter of fact that one application was for assistance in the development of a housing project. It is a matter of fact that the second facility was for people coming out of treatment. It is also a matter of fact that the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division having made the application, did not respond to either offer from the Housing Corporation.
It is a matter of policy that the assistance available from the Housing Corporation would have been the first step in a three-step process that would have culminated in the establishment of a residential facility for the mentally ill. It is a fact that this assistance is still available.
It is the stated policy of this government that, in addition, the Department of Health and Human Resources is prepared to pay 50 percent of the operating costs of such a facility, and the federal government has said it is not prepared to expand its mental health services at this time. This government has made an offer we think was dictated by humanity and, as I have said in the House before, by concern for people with these needs rather than by a strict regard for our responsibilities in the mental health services field.
Notwithstanding the federal responsibility we have recognized the need and we have offered to match a federal contribution. It is a matter of fact that through a program with this government, the local employment opportunities program, that furniture for some facilities has been acquired for the Canadian Mental Health Association. It is a fact that the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division owns that furniture and that YTG has helped store it so that it is not damaged and can be used in facilities that may be established.
There is one reason, and one reason alone, why this project is delayed. That is because the federal government - the national Conservative government position at this time - does not want to see mental health services expanded in this territory.
We believe that an agreement can be worked out between the governments. I previously indicated to the House that some analysis of the costs of services in this area is being carried out, and that the governments are going to meet following that analysis. That may provide a solution to this problem. It certainly would not be helpful to approach these discussions with an opinion of the House that the federal government had no responsibility in this field. That is why we have the mandate before us.
Before I resume my place, let me also say that the health transfer negotiations are continuing and are moving into fairly intense discussion at this moment. The mental health services are as much a part of those discussions as are any other health service. It would be extremely counterproductive and destructive to this governments bargaining position, extremely counterproductive in the defence of our treasury and our protection of not only the health of Yukoners, but also the protection of Yukon taxpayers, to have a proposition pass this House that suggests that any part of the federal health service is a financial obligation of the Yukon Government - or any part not now covered by agreement with another government.
I have already said that if we reach agreement with the federal government about the sharing of costs of this facility now, or if we reach agreement with the federal government in the very near future about the transfer of health services, this facility can be established. That is the sentiment expressed in the amendment I have proposed today.
Rather than hosing the Members motion, the strict text of which I have some problems with, we are proposing an amendment we hope will be agreeable to the other side. We believe it is a much more prudent and appropriate statement of what should be the Yukon governments position in this matter, a position governed by compassion for those in need, as well as prudence on behalf of the taxpayer.
This amendment would be a far better statement for this House to make than the one proposed by the Member opposite, which I believe would be extremely unhelpful in the negotiations we are now joined in with the federal government.
Mr. Lang: I have to make some observations on the speech given by the Minister. It has to be one of the most vicious and vindictive speeches this House has heard for a long time. I do not recall being personally attacked as a Member by the Minister to this extent. I wish the general electorate had the opportunity to watch the real Tony Penikett in action, because the final decision would be made, and with just cause.
The Minister referred to my tenure as part of the government, and it is correct. I had no direct dealings with the area of mental health because, during the period of my term in office, I was never in charge of that department.
That is not to say that some action should not have been taken when we were the government. As I said in Question Period, this is an area that is generally hidden from the public. It is not one you see every day. You may become acquainted with it, like I did six months ago. That was the first time in 16 years I had ever been directly exposed directly to a situation where you really see the problems that these people are really faced with. For the Minister to indicate to Members of the House that if they are fighting for a cause, they have to give up their salary toward that cause, I find that a ludicrous argument. It would naturally follow that if the Minister is prepared to pay the land claim negotiator the $62,000 handshake, then I would give consideration from my portion of the salary to the issue at hand. I realize when I raise the golden handshake, it does irk the Minister and put him in a less-than-happy frame of mind.
I can understand why, because there is no defence when it comes to that kind of an expenditure.
The Ministers argument is that he has gone the country mile, because he has assumed part of the federal responsibility and, therefore, it is the federal government that is wrong. I think the government has good intentions on this issue, but the reason the Minister has come forward with this proposal is, in part, because he recognizes, and the general public recognizes, that this is, at least in part if not totally, a YTG responsibility.
He has taken the other position that he is taking on a federal responsibility. What we are saying is that it is a YTG responsibility. The Minister is muddling the issue when he refers to the health transfer and the responsibility for mental health that the present federal government holds. We are not asking that the federal government remove itself from that area. We support the government in that the area; the federal government is responsible for that area and should continue to be until it is transferred under acceptable terms to the Government of Yukon. But what we are talking about here is a new program for YTG - a program that is seen across Canada as being under provincial jurisdiction. The Government of Canada is taking the position, I think with a lot of credence, that since the provinces do it, YTG must do it, because it is seen as a provincial or territorial responsibility. That is the way it has been explained to me. The argument of the federal government is that there is money through CAP, EPF and the financing formula. You have all these other vehicles through which to set your priorities and the rest is up to you.
I want to go further on what the Minister has said after he finished his vindictive personal attack on me. He said there is no way the Government of Yukon should get involved in any way in health services, but there was an issue raised in this House recently that was strictly a health issue. That was the mammography unit. If you take the position of the government on the health issue, then the government obviously should not have acted on the mammography unit that was called for by many Yukoners.
It seems that the principle that has to be used in any issue is political convenience. From my perspective, I feel quite strongly we have to take a hard look at this issue. If we vote for the amendment we are ultimately voting for no type of treatment or facility whatsoever. The Minister is saying we are going to take the position that if the federal government does not pay at least half or more we are not going to provide the service. That is basically what the amendment says. If I thought the government was going to be successful in this I would say fine, but we have not been successful. We have documentation where those in the federal administration have very clearly stated they do not see that as their mandate.
I did not bring this motion forward for the idea of a personal attack on any one particular individual or to be vindictive. It is an outstanding issue that needs more public awareness. There is a small number of individuals in our community in the described circumstances put forward by us and by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division. I think it is great some public awareness is happening through a forum such as this.
In conclusion, I cannot support the amendment. We are asking for a delay. The Government Leader wants the full backing of the Legislature not to do anything in this field. I feel we should be doing something. Every day that passes puts these people in a situation that is less than desirable. I cannot, therefore, support the amendment as presented.
Mr. Nordling: To justify his amendment, the Minister says that mental health or this facility is a federal responsibility as a matter of precedent. As a matter of precedent, it can also be argued that the federal government has not provided this type of facility or operated residential facilities for psychiatric patients.
It is not that simple. Constitutional responsibility is a very complex question. The Blue Pages in the telephone book do not answer the question of constitutional responsibility. A legal analysis of the mandate from 1954 may answer this question or it may not. I suspect that there could be varying legal opinions on whose responsibility it is.
We could spend hours in this House debating formula financing and whether the latest negotiations have cut us back more than our share, as compared to the provinces, or we could argue that in 1985 we were given more than our share, as compared to the provinces, or whether extended care is our responsibility, and whether this comes under extended care rather than mental health, or whether the formula financing transfer payments with respect to health are on the same footing as the provinces and, therefore, it is our responsibility.
The issue here is there is a need, recognized by all, that is not being met. In the words of the Minister of Health and Human Resources, such a facility would contribute to breaking the vicious cycle of hospitalization, discharge without adequate follow-up, and subsequent readmission to hospital. My concern is that the Minister is using this issue as a negotiating tool for resolution of the health transfer or holding out as a matter of principle.
He has said that if we allow the feds to cop out here, it will never stop. I do not believe that statement. I believe that a transfer of health services will take place and that the funding of this facility by the territorial government will not cause extreme prejudice to that negotiation. I see the Minister of Health and Human Resources sacrificing these people who are in need for political purposes, and I disagree with that approach. For those reasons, I cannot support this amendment.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am drawn into the debate because of the amount of inaccurate information being perpetrated by the Member for Porter Creek East. I find it impossible to accept that the Member would try to describe a housing program that existed in the early 1980s, and no longer is in place, as being a program that exists today. I will explain that.
If I understand what the Member was describing in his argument, he was describing that the federal government has historically provided capital funding for social housing programs, which would include the kinds of needs identified by the Mental Health Association.
The Member fails to recognize that in 1986, through a global agreement that was signed by all jurisdictions and the federal department responsible for Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, that structure was changed for all social housing programs sponsored today through CMHC and the Yukon Housing Corporation. There is no capital fronting of money. The motion calls for a residential care facility for Yukon residents with mental problems.
The Premier outlined how two offers for the construction of that facility were made by the Yukon Housing Corporation, which would have hooked into CMHC, were rejected by the Mental Health Association and not followed up on, where a facility could have been established.
I submit to you the issue of housing is very critical to the principle underlying the motion. The Member for Porter Creek East suggests I am talking about operation and maintenance. I am talking about that to try and clarify his thinking of how financing is done today between CMHC and the Yukon Housing Corporation, to establish housing programs for people in social need, as identified in this motion.
As I tabled in the Legislature approximately a week ago, the Yukon government, through the Yukon Housing Corporation, was involved with an offer of assistance to provide for a residential care facility for the association. That funding paved the way for the incorporation of the association, which would have in turn paved the way for additional funding to flow. That funding would have been 100 percent financed on the capital side by CMHC and YHC.
When I say 100 percent capital financed, it is under the procedure that has been used since 1986 when the new agreement was put in place. Essentially, by a guarantee of CMHC and YHC, you go to the bank, you borrow the money that is needed and, on the basis of a mortgage, you repay that loan after you construct a facility. In the case of this particular program that would have applied for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division 25 percent of income would have been charged to residents. If there was no income, it would have been 25 percent of nothing, which is nothing.
The mortgage would be repaid through a subsidized program. In other words, the operational costs of the residence would be subsidized to the extent necessary to carry the mortgage costs and all other operational costs. The long and short of all that is that a program existed two years ago when the applications were turned down. A program exists today for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Yukon Division to construct a facility. That program is 100 percent financing of capital construction, repaid through the operations side by subsidy.
Financing is available, both for the capital side and the operational side, under existing programs by the federal government and our Housing Corporation. The long and short is that this amendment is most appropriate because it endorses the use of an available program that is in place today for the association to use. It endorses and supports the commitment of this government to social needs as identified through the original motion, whereas the original motion does nothing.
The original motion says we will swap the program that is available through CMHC with YHC; we will ignore available funding. The original motion says we should establish a residential care facility for Yukon residents with mental health problems. What the Member was saying is that this government should pick up the entire cost as if the federal government, firstly, had no responsibility or as if the federal government does not have a program. I am simply saying that we have an existing program that would allow the facility to be constructed, we have program monies that would allow the facility to be operated and we have made the offer to the association on at least two occasions.
I want to clarify that point and I want to tell the Member for Porter Creek East I do not understand his sense of capitalizing a project through the current CMHC/YHC programs by fronting money from either government. It is a guarantee that is provided to go to the bank and get the funds to which you attach a mortgage and subsidize on the operational side. Surely the Member, as a real estate person, would understand how that would work. It does not require up front capital dollars by either government.
I simply want to clarify for the record what has been offered in the past and is still available today. It essentially amounts to a 100 percent financing ability for construction of such a facility and, if necessary, a 100 percent operational subsidy to maintain it. I wanted to clarify those points and conclude by simply pointing out that the amendment is most in order because it endorses a continuation of that available funding and correctly and properly places the responsibility for that jointly between the governments, which is where it ought to be.
Mrs. Firth: This is a timely motion that the Member for Porter Creek East has brought forward today, because I believe it is Mental Health Week this week, May 1-7. I would prefer to make my comments more in the context of the people who we are dealing with here as opposed to whose jurisdiction it is or is not. I do not want to haggle over what the government has or has not done and I do not want to get into any personal attacks or other presentations of that kind.
I was reading the information and research I have accumulated on this particular issue and I found a very interesting article. It was well written and, I think, expresses how many people feel about this particular issue. It is from the Whitehorse Star. It is a short article I want to read, by a reporter by the name of Jill Rutherford. The title of the article is Absence of a Home for Mentally Ill Called a Shame. I think the journalist was very perceptive in her interpretation of how society reacts and how people react to the mentally ill. I quote, You walk by them every day. You feel awkward when they mutter to themselves and you avoid eye contact lest they approach you. It is better that way, you think, if you think about them at all. They are street people, people suffering from a variety of mental illnesses, which prevent them from holding a steady job and keep them adrift from one social services agency to another.
They are the dispossessed, the disenfranchised, the shame of a society that fervently wishes they would just go away and leave the rest of us alone, but they cant go away; they cant; they have no place to go.
The whole issue we are talking about today is a facility so these people have somewhere to go. It is our responsibility. Because the people are Yukon people; they are our own people. To get into a jurisdictional battle over who is responsible for these people does not seem to make any sense.
I recognize and appreciate the governments financial position and what it sees as its responsibilities, and what the senior government sees as its responsibilities. In that battle, though, we forget about those people who are walking around in the streets; we forget about those people who have mental illnesses, from which none of us are immune. None of us in this Assembly is immune to mental illness. That does not say that, someday, someone who is presently sitting in this Legislature, either in the capacity of an elected official or otherwise, may be afflicted with this kind of illness.
We have a responsibility as Yukon representatives to examine what kind of lives these people live and how we can help them. That is our job.
This government is already spending a great deal of money looking after people with mental disabilities. We pay the bills for the hospital services we provide. The federal government runs the hospital. We provide those services, and a lot of people with mental illness end up spending weekends in the hospital because it is one of the worst times for them to be alone. They may be living in a small hotel room, and it becomes an unbearable environment for them to live in.
With respect to the justice system, we have evidence of one individual who has been in and out of jail 29 times. Surely, that has incurred some costs the Yukon government has had to pay. People with mental disabilities are welfare recipients of this government, and the Government of the Yukon Territory is paying those costs.
When the government brings an amendment forward proposing the federal and Yukon governments fund it jointly, has it examined, reflected and analyzed how much money it is presently spending to provide safety nets and support services for people with mental disabilities?
If the Minister could get back on track and stop thinking about his tremendous responsibilities as Government Leader, Premier, and all the difficult tasks he has ahead of him in negotiating transfers, and jurisdictional wars - if he could get his head in the correct space long enough to realize we have to do something for these people now - if he would ask his officials to examine how much money is being spent to provide support services, I think he would find it was not going to cost as much to provide this service to these people as he would like us all to believe.
A government has to look at what their priorities are going to be, who the people are, and what issues they are going to care about, address and do something about.
I was so disappointed when the Minister talked about the child care issue. In essence, he said that the federal government made a promise that it was going to give the provincial and territorial governments this money for child care services, so he went to the polls and made a promise that there was going to be funding available for child care services based on what the federal government said. Now, because the federal government has reneged on its promise, he is standing on his bandwagon saying that the federal government still has to fulfill that commitment, and it is all the fault of the federal government that he made an election promise to Yukoners to spend that amount of money. It does not make sense. The Government Leader, the Minister, has the ability to move the money around, to make choices, to set priorities and to put the money where this government feels it is going to best serve Yukoners.
I feel this government has lost touch and sight of where the money will best serve Yukoners. This is a perfect example of it. A perfect example.
From my recollection and my term working for the federal government at the hospital, I was always under the understanding and opinion that the mental health responsibilities at the regional offices were to provide counselling services to Whitehorse clients and to try to provide some counselling services for the communities. A lot of that counselling service is provided by lay counselors or volunteers.
It is not an approved mandate of the medical services branch program. I have just recently checked that and confirmed it. It is fine for the Minister to come in with his new Mental Health Act, claiming that this is going to serve Yukoners better when he has people with mental disabilities out there walking the streets, having nowhere to go, and all the while the government is continuing to support these people and fund them in other ways.
All we are asking the Minister to do is to be reasonable and examine monies that are already being spent. I feel very strongly that I do not think he would find it would be as expensive or cumbersome as he is trying to say it will be.
The government across the way has more money to spend than it has ever had. We have just spent over a billion dollars in the last three or four years. That is a tremendous amount of money. Surely it is a matter of making choices and setting priorities and deciding whether or not these people are going to be helped. These people are pawns in the big jurisdictional battle. What recourse do they have? They get to walk the streets and stay in hotels. In the evenings and night it is lonely for these people in a hotel. On weekends, things get unbearable and often they are admitted to the Whitehorse General Hospital where a bed must cost about $600 a day now. They get to spend the weekend in the hospital so that they do not have a relapse, or some of them are taken up in the justice system and end up in jail, and we sit here and quibble about jurisdiction and money.
I do not think this is fair to those people. I think that is the expression of frustration that the Mental Health Association is bringing forward when they talk about the embarrassing situation of their clients who are presently out there and requiring this kind of service.
The government bought a facility for the Human Rights Commission. They were able to make a $80,000 capital purchase for that kind of facility, plus another $20,000 in renovations.
There is a tremendous amount of money being spent on child care services: over $9 million in the next four years. There is money going for consulting contracts. We have a book here that contains millions of dollars worth of consulting contracts for everything from counting hare pellets to doing surveys and opinions for the government. There are some contracts in here to hire someone to do legislative returns for the Ministers to present to the House.
Where are our priorities as legislators?
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., I will now leave the Chair until 7:30 this evening.
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 that the hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I call Committee to order.
Bill No. 77, Child Care Act - continued
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yesterday I took as notice a number of questions about the conversion of Carols Playcare Centre from a profit to a non profit operation. I had hoped, by the time the House sat this evening, to have proper and complete legislative returns for the House; unfortunately, that is not the case. What I have just been provided with and I can offer the House are two documents right now, not in legislative return form but in original form. The first is the advertisement for the position of child care coordinator, a term position in which Ms. Christian is now the incumbent. I could either table this for the Chair and ask for copies to be made or I could just provide these - and save some trees - to the Member or Members of the House. The second is a document that is similar in terms of the number of pages. Again, it is not a legislative return but is a photocopy of something from a departmental document, which is the Carols Playcare inventory list, which was the list in support of the items named yesterday in the $48,600 grant. I could make this available to Members and Madam Chair. If it is not necessary to copy it, I will just have it passed around.
I am sorry I do not have this in a form that can be tabled - they are just hand written notes here - but they are some items that have received funding from the Yukon government in previous years and, it has been checked, are not on the list that are included on the list that has just been made available. I have sought comfort and satisfaction in the fact that there is no duplicate in the list on the items purchase price. What I hope I will be able to do is provide, by way of a legislative return tomorrow, a separation of the two lists; items for which there have been some previous government support, which included a washer, a dryer, some new flooring, basement exits, storage space, fireproof ceiling tiles, sleeping mats and a stove, and so on. This is a separate list of items previously subsidized from the items covered in the list which I have just not tabled, but made available to Members.
There are a couple of other questions that I hope to be able provide answers to by a legislative return but I do not think I will be able to get that information in tableable form until tomorrow.
Mr. Lang: I do not want to hold up debate but in the document that was tabled here there was an item of $32,279. Was the other $16,000 for equipment and toys that were purchased? There is $16,000 missing. If the Minister does not have this information, I would be more than happy to wait for it until tomorrow.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will provide this legislative return. But the Member is correct that toys and equipment represent that $32,600. I am told that the rest of the $48,600 was made up in working capital of $14,000 and a provision for legal fees of $2,000. That is the balance of that $48,600, which was provided as capital to provide the conversion from profit to non profit facility.
Mr. Lang: Did that $14,000 then constitute a down payment for the purchase of the building? When you talk about working capital, what exactly would that money be used for?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It was provided by the department to the Play Care Society to permit it to pay operating expenses in its initial period of operation until payments for services rendered were received to provide some cash flow input.
They have no capital assets, no cash flow, and no income in order to provide a non profit service. In essence, their revenues are always going to only cover their costs, if that.
Mr. Lang: In going through the Hansard of yesterday, I am not clear in my mind what was purchased. Was the business purchased, or was the building and the business purchased by the non profit organization?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will provide this answer in a legislative return. My understanding is the business was purchased, not the property.
Mr. Lang: The building and property are still owned by the previous owners. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It may be at the moment, but, as I understand it, it is not the intention for that situation to remain.
Mr. Lang: Is there a lease arrangement with the previous owner for the building?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I assume there is, at this moment. I do not have actual documents in front of me, and I would prefer to deal with that matter in the legislative return so I can be absolutely confident of the facts. I do not have them all here.
Mr. Lang: Will those facts be presented by tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is my intention.
Mr. Lang: I am ready to go into clause-by-clause debate.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to make a few comments before we go into clause-by-clause debate. Most of my concerns will come up again in clause-by-clause debate when we get to clause 7. I have listened carefully to the Ministers arguments and to the witnesses called by the Minister with respect to quality of child care and the number of children that should be allowed in family day homes. I am not convinced that he or the witnesses or, for that matter, Katie Cook, has sufficient information on family day homes, or sufficient evidence or confidence available, to be able to say that these are the right numbers and these numbers should be enshrined in legislation where they will be very difficult to change.
I never had a chance to ask the witnesses called by the Minister, but I am sure they would have said a lot more information and statistics exist on staff ratios and safety when it comes to day care centres.
Those ratios are not included in the act. Perhaps the Minister did not have enough confidence in the child/staff ratios for day care centres to stand up and say that they should be enshrined in the legislation.
My position is that there is a lot more information with respect to day cares, and it would be more acceptable to have those numbers enshrined in the legislation and the numbers for family day homes included in the regulations.
For all the substantial evidence that was presented by the Minister on that issue, he might as well have stood up and said, This is the way I want it, and this is the way it is going to be. So there. For the Minister to use Rosemary Zenovitchs poll as definitive of the effect this legislation will have on family day homes undermines the credibility of the Minister. It was clutching at straws.
I have a document, which was mentioned by the Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East, that purports to have questioned 12 licensed family day homes where eight of them said they would be affected by the legislation, so it really depends upon who is doing the questioning. If the Minister will recall, when I asked the witnesses whom he had called whether they would prefer the family day home numbers to be in regulations as opposed to the act, three of them, including the expert witness, thought that they should be in the regulations, because they may be too high and we should be able to lower those ratios if necessary and if children are found to be in danger.
The Minister worried me when he stood up and said that the reason that these numbers are being enshrined in legislation for family day homes, without mentioning numbers for day care centres, was because maybe someone in the future might be able change them; a subsequent government may loosen up these numbers, and that is why he was putting them in the act. I cannot believe that the Minister can stand in this House and say, I am so right that I am going to put this in the act and no one should ever be able to change it.
Then he stands up and says that these numbers are higher than anywhere else in Canada. He talked about safety - a little about safety - and what the Minister said was that if you have 12 kids in the house and one care giver, how would you get them all out if there was a fire? He said It would be difficult enough with eight and that is why we are concerned, even about the standard we are proposing. So this Minister is concerned about the staff ratio that he is proposing. He is concerned that it is too high, so what he is telling this House is that he, for his own reasons, whatever they are, is going to enshrine numbers in legislation that even he is concerned about. We need child/staff ratios for day care centres, and the Minister has not enshrined them in legislation.
The only thing I can conclude is that the Minister has some philosophical reason or he perhaps has something against care being given in family day homes, or some lack of trust in parents, that would cause him to risk putting children in danger by allowing these high ratios to be enshrined in an act. We know how difficult it is to change.
I think that the approach of the Minister in this regard is arrogant and if his own experts are right, he may even be putting children in danger by enshrining these numbers in the act.
He spent considerable time quoting the numbers that are used in provinces, numbers where there are a lot more statistics, a lot more evidence with respect to family day homes, than here, and then said that his numbers are right and should be enshrined in legislation. I think the Minister is making a mistake. I think that as for day care centres, the numbers for family day homes should be put in regulations where they may be lowered if necessary, if our children are in danger while being cared for in family day homes.
I do not know how his officials are letting him get away with this. I do not know whether he specified this himself or where the idea came from, that family day homes should be in the act and not staff ratios for day care centres. I would expect a lot more from the Minister when he asks me, as a legislator in the Yukon Legislative Assembly, to pass an act enshrining numbers in an act that he himself if concerned about.
Chair: Clear. Shall we proceed clause by clause?
On Clause 1
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The preamble provides a broad statement of intent and emphasizes the link between child care services, families, communities and the economy. The objects that appear as part of this act are just a broad statement of the objectives.
Mr. Lang: When the Minister refers to support the aspirations of the Yukon First Nations, what is the intention? Will they be under this law, as far as the general laws of application are concerned?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, although because there is concern about the First Nations, it is contemplated we will be moving an amendment that the self-government agreements may supersede sections of this act, in terms of the administration. The Member will note that, later in the act, we do provide for the devolution of the administration of this act to First Nations and municipalities. They may be negotiated in First Nations, the same as is provided for in the Education Act arrangements, which will allow them to exercise their powers in this field.
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This begins what we are calling the interpretation section of the act. This provides for definitions. This clause describes how the new board will replace the Day Care Services Board in the Day Care Act. It expands the notion of child care and the coverage of children from the age of six in the day care to 12.
The reason for 12 is that it is consistent with other Yukon legislation, such as the Young Offenders Act. The clause does not compel parents to purchase child care for children under 12, but that is the definition of a child, as provided in the Childrens Act. It does provide for special needs kids of up to age 16, and that is the age when the vocational rehabilitation starts to provide services.
Mrs. Firth: Under the definition of child care, it means a program for the care and supervision of a child for under 24 consecutive hours. To me, that could mean babysitting. Yet, the clause refers to a program for the care of a child. There is no definition for the term program. What are we talking about here? You could interpret it so loosely that a babysitting service could be considered a program for child care.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This act is not intended by its definition to cover babysitting where the Member might look after my children when I go bowling. Although there may be some fee or consideration for that it is not intended to cover that kind of situation. We are talking about licensed businesses providing a service.
The reason for the 24 hour provision is that under the Childrens Act, which the Member may remember, by definition the act provides services for care of children for periods of time longer than 24 hours. So, if you like, the boundary line between this act and the Childrens Act is that 24 hour period. This provides for the professional care for periods less than 24 hours. The Childrens Act covers where children may be in care for longer periods of time.
Mr. Lang: I have a question regarding the 12 years of age issue. I think that is a cause for some concern. The Minister referred to the Young Offenders Act. I believe we are not dealing with young offenders here. I find it difficult to accept the premise that because it is in the Young Offenders Act it has to be in this bill.
I noticed, for example, that 10 years of age is the limit in the Alberta legislation. The reason why I raise it and pointed it out in general debate is that it seems to me kind of ridiculous that, at the age of 10, the government is providing children with babysitting courses with the understanding that they will be by themselves with no one in attendance taking care of children obviously younger than themselves. At the same time, we are saying it has to be 12 years of age in this legislation. I am wondering if the Minister would entertain an amendment to this section to change the age from 12 to 10. I believe this would, to some degree, alleviate the situation in clause 7, as far as the number of who would be after-school children and what the quota would be. Perhaps the Minister has a comment on this. He must be aware that is the situation, for example, in the Province of Alberta.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am aware that the prevailing standard in this country that children are, by definition, 12 and under. That is the case in the Young Offenders Act, though of course, things are different there. We are not talking about young offenders.
Even in the babysitting course that the Member talks about, it is not recommended that 10 year olds be put in charge of other children. It is a fact that they can take the course, but the course itself does not recommend that 10 year olds be put in charge of other children.
The 12 year old that may be taking advantage of this after-school care would be of the age that not only finds itself in law, but a lot of other standards as well. It is widely believed, for example, by people in the Yukon Territory that the Childrens Act prohibits kids younger than 12 being left alone, unattended by an adult. In fact, as I understand it, that is not technically correct, but people believe it as I think it may have at one time been a provision of the law.
The age of 12, with the exception of special needs children, is used as the definition here, as it is elsewhere, but also it is used here because that is consistent with a number of other pieces of legislation we have.
Mrs. Firth: I just want to follow up on the child care definition. The Minister says that babysitting is exempt from this, but babysitting is exactly what this definition of child care says. If I were a babysitter, I could take 15 kids after school. I could say I was babysitting them; they could come to my house and each be there for under 24 hours. I could do this and not be licensed or abide by any child-care legislation.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The language here says child care means a program for the care and supervision of the child. If I retain a babysitter for an evening or even a weekend that is not a program being offered by the government or sanctioned by this Legislature.
Chair: Order please. I would just like to go through the definitions one by one. We will discuss them as we go.
Mrs. Firth: On the definition child care, that was exactly my concern. The Minister just said it has to be a program, but there is no definition for the term program. That could include babysitting. That is the point I was making when I originally raised it.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I take it that in the Interpretation Act, and by common understanding of the House, we know what we refer to as programs; programs are what funding is provided for or in our budgets.
I am sorry. I missed the comment by the Member. The point about a babysitting service: no matter whether it is for an evening or a weekend, it is not a program in that sense.
Mr. Lang: Regarding infant, there is a just a point I would like to make. I have had representation made to me and it seemed to be a reasonable observation: why the 18 months? The point that was made to me was that there is a great difference between up to 12 months and older. Up to 12 months the child is classed, basically, as a toddler, and can be in a situation where they are walking and it is obviously a whole change as far as life is concerned. The point was made to me that maybe the infant definition should mean a child under the age of 12 months, as opposed to 18 months. Does the Minister want to comment on that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Again, this was an issue on which there was some difference of opinion during the consultation, ranging from Ms. Thompsons view that an infant should be defined as up to 12 months, to the existing Day Care Services Board, which believed it should be up to two years, to another group that believed that it should three and one-half years. Most jurisdictions set the infant age as under two years. The representation from some child care operators was that the 18 month upper limit was the right benchmark because that is a critical point for a child; that is the point at which they usually become mobile. In early childhood education courses, by definition, they talk about an infant being someone 18 months and under and toddler being someone over 18 months and up to three years, usually. I would concede there was not anything like unanimous agreement on this definition but this definition is a very common and accepted one.
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Part 2, clause 4 deals with the new board, which is to be known as the Yukon Child Care Board and is to have not less than seven members. We have previously debated in the House the kind of range of interest that should be represented on the board. The present board has five members. This will have a minimum of seven to better accommodate regional interests. In compliance with Motion No. 23, passed on March 29, 1989, appointments to the board will include representatives of parents, child care professionals, licensed services and, in compliance with government policy, there will be representation from Yukon First Nations.
There was a very strong agreement in the consultation that, on the present board, the care givers were too predominant in their representation on the board, and that parent interests should be better represented, in terms of giving a balance. Consistent with Motion No. 23, we will want to make sure there is enough regional balance on the board.
Mr. Lang: I am concerned about the board with respect to what is happening as far as the family day homes are concerned. I want to seek some assurance from the Minister. In the appointments of people to this board, would the Minister do everything he can to ensure someone from the family day homes is appointed to such a board who, perhaps, during the course of this debate, has been critical of some aspects of the bill?
I want to make it clear that I feel this absolutely essential that we have somebody who is from the family day homes perspective to be objective, who can put a point of view forward on the board to ensure that family day homes are not seen to be picked on, for whatever reason, as I explained earlier in debate.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I hear the Members representation. I am interested in his definition of the term objective, i.e., that is someone who is critical.
I am obliged by this act to have nominations taken to Cabinet for approval. I should tell the Member that I am keenly interested in having family day home interests represented. Whether I could commit myself to the Members view that we should have a critic of this act covering that position, I am not sure I can give an absolute assurance on that part. I want to give this Member this assurance: we will invite nominations; we will write to every licensed family day home and invite nominations. We will be looking for nominations from a broad range of opinions. I think that is only prudent. I am not interested in people who are going to provide an echo chamber for one particular set of views on this legislation, because I think if we are going to have a balance of interest, the balance of interest will obviously have to include the views of family day homes as well.
Mr. Lang: One way to ensure that representation is made is by asking the Minister if he would give consideration to whatever nominees are brought forward by the Yukon Family Day Home Society, although it has not been active. It it does represent an opinion out there, which I think has to receive serious consideration as far as the board is concerned.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would, though I hope the Member has taken note that there is a view by a large number of the family day home operators who were contacted that they were not represented by the association, and it had existed only briefly. It may well be reconstituted shortly, for whatever reason. If there is an organization, and if the organization presents a couple of names toward this board, then the government would have an obligation to look seriously at a short list from such a unified group.
Mr. Lang: Clause 4(11) concerns me. I would like to hear the Ministers comment. For example, this year when we rise, we will probably not be going back into session until maybe as late as November. That leaves a period of almost four months. A report that is handed in will not be of much value, unless you want to read it from an historical perspective.
I am wondering if the Minister would be prepared to set this clause aside with the idea that an amendment be put in to the effect that if we are not in session that a copy also be forwarded to all Members.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Rather than setting the clause aside, I hope the Member would have enough regard for my honour to allow me to give an undertaking, that as soon as the report is available - since I would intend that this be a public document - that we communicate it or transmit it to Members, just as the Public Accounts Committee report is, when we are out of session.
Mr. Lang: We do have it in Hansard, and we will take the Minister at his word. I guess I will make this point: we will be waiting for July 1 of any given year, with bated breath.
On clause 4(12), could the Minister just give a brief idea of how many people we are talking of now within the administration and what numbers he sees as necessary to administer this act?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are four people in the child care services unit. I do not believe I have entertained any requests recently for additional people.
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Mr. Nordling: I would like to ask the Minister why, under clause 5, child care centre programs, we do not have child/staff ratios enshrined in the act here to protect our children.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I have explained before, the child care programs could be of any combination and permutation of arrangements - an infinite number of arrangements. The reason why the numbers are provided for for family day homes in clause 7 - and I do not want to anticipate that clause - is partly to provide the definition of a family day home. We could not do the same, I think, for child care centre programs.
There are a wide range of programs now, and in years to come, there likely will be a greater range of programs, including programs that will be increasingly available for shift workers, programs that will be available in places of employment. There are not many yet, but we know of several cases where groups of employees are now talking about negotiating arrangements in their collective agreement for child care services and at least a couple of unions have approached us on that score. The idea is that the way to provide the standards on child care associations is in regulation. The standards that are provided for in the act for day homes is because that is part of a definition of a family day home.
Mr. Nordling: I guess we will talk a little more about family day homes when we get to clause 7, but the Minister has muddied the waters a bit here by saying that, with respect to child care centre programs, there could be a infinite number of them, so we cannot put them in the act. Well, if there is an infinite number of programs, I do not see how the Minister is going to get that number into the regulations either.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I hope I will be able to agree to regulations that deal with the finite probabilities as they are. By definition, a child care centre program is one that provides care to four or more children, and it does exclude the family day home, preschool and school-age programs, as part of the defined framework provided in this act. The Member will forgive me my use of the word infinite, but I hope he will agree there is a possibility for a great variety of programs in the child care field.
Mr. Nordling: I understand that. When we get to clause 7 I will be asking a question about the flexibility that is not allowed family day home programs.
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Mr. Lang: I would like to take this opportunity to put forward an amendment. The Leader of the Official Opposition gave notice last night of an amendment to this section to, at least in part, meet concerns raised by the family day home operators and, most importantly, those raised by the parents.
We have discussed this at some length. We have changed our amendment from what was initially tabled in this House after listening to the statements made by the Minister and other Members of the side opposite. We have decided to bring in an amendment that would permit eight children and four part-time children with written permission of all the parents involved. This would meet the concern and principle that was stressed by the Member for Klondike, for example, when he said he strongly believed in parental choice. We are putting the onus on the parents with respect to the quota provided by clause 7 being revised upward by our amendment.
The basic premise we are working on is the right of the parents to choose, on behalf of their children, an individual they feel is competent, capable and can provide the necessary service. This also gives the protection the government was seeking to ensure that someone who is not as capable should not have the maximum number as outlined in our amendment.
In part, this would alleviate the situation we foresee happening, where we are going to get more latchkey children because the family day homes will not be taking after-school children. This would permit some of these operators to continue doing that, again depending on the parents.
The other point is that this would come into the area of affordability. We have not discussed this at great length but it is an area of concern because the indications are from the letters we have received that if the bill passes in its present form without some revision and flexibility, obviously there is going to be in some cases an increase in rates. That will affect parents as well. It makes sense. If you are going to have fewer children you are going to increase rates or provide less service.
We would like to propose what we would like to term a friendly amendment, getting through all the debate we have had so far. We feel it is a legitimate amendment and one we feel the government should be able to live with. We would like to put it forward for debate.
Chair: We have to clear clauses 7(1) to (5) first. We will go through them first.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to propose an amendment to clause 7. My amendment is simple. I have only one copy here and I think my arguments apply to clause 7, subsections (2),(3),(4) and (5).
My amendment is
THAT Bill No. 77, entitled Child Care Act, be amended in Clause 7, page 4 by deleting subsections 7(2), (3), (4) and (5).
Chair: It has been moved by the Hon. Mr. Nordling, Member for Porter Creek West, that Bill No. 77, entitled Child Care Act be amended at clause 7, page 4 by deleting subsections 7(2), (3), (4) and (5).
Is there any debate on the amendment?
Mr. Nordling: As I said in general debate, I am worried about the numbers that have been put into the act. I do not think that we need these sections for a definition of a family day home. I think that can be taken care of in the regulations.
By accepting this amendment and deleting these subsections, we have left the provisions virtually the same for the child care centre programs in clause 5. What this would do is allow for the maximum flexibility for programming in family day homes.
As I have said, and I will not repeat the argument in detail, from the evidence that has been presented by the Minister and his witnesses, these numbers are somewhat speculative and are more proper in regulations, where they can be changed. As our expert witness agreed, even expert opinions do change from time to time, and I suspect that even the opinion and position of the Minister of Health and Human Resources are subject to change from time to time.
Putting these provisions in the regulations would allow for changes such as were mentioned as possibilities in the definition section. We asked about the possibility of the definition of a toddler, as opposed to an infant. We may, sometime down the road or in the near future, find that these provisions in the numbers and staff ratios for family day homes can be accommodated safely for the children with quality child care by adding another age group; for example, from 12 to 18 months or a toddler group from 18 to 36 months, separate from preschoolers. By including these provisions in the act that I have asked be deleted, there is not that flexibility, and as has been pointed out by the Minister himself, acts are very difficult to change. Again, my strongest argument has been made for me by the Minister of Health and Human Resources himself and the witnesses that he brought forward: they all said that these child/staff ratios are higher than anywhere else in Canada. The Minister is standing up and saying he is concerned about them. If the Minister of Health and Human Resources is concerned about these numbers, then they should not be in the act; they should be in regulations where there can be an ongoing review. If children are in danger while being cared for in these numbers, then the Minister and the Cabinet, in regulations, can very shortly change them.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have to say that I do not agree with the Member, and I believe that he has somewhat misrepresented the previous arguments that I have made on this point. The Member was trying to create the impression that I did not support the standards that we are proposing. I believe that I made the argument that, in my view, the calls for tighter standards were at least as persuasive - perhaps moreso - than ones for lessening or loosening the standards, and that I was not persuaded that much poorer standards should prevail in the Yukon Territory than operate elsewhere in the country. I believe that, contrary to the argument being made by the Member that somehow we are being arbitrary or autocratic - I think he also used the word arrogant - that rather the contrary: what we are doing is representing a consensual point from the consultation. There were people who were arguing for tighter standards; there were people who were arguing for looser standards. We were arguing that the safe standard could be articulated in law.
The Member quotes me as saying that legislation is harder to change than regulation. That is of course correct.
Technically, a regulation could be changed in any week by Cabinet. If we had the regulatory power, this Cabinet could change the standard from one to eight to one to six any day, without any public consultation process. I take it that would cause a great concern to the family day homes, who are arguing so strenuously against the one to eight standard.
The fact that the standard is in law ought to provide some comfort to all concerned as to what the rule is. A future government could change the standard in a way that loosens it considerably. They could be tightened or loosened if they were in regulations.
If we did that, you might wonder about the process of consultation and debate we are going through now, because the debate we are now having about this clause is strenuous. Feelings are sincerely felt on both sides. There are differences of opinion in the public. That is not surprising and is to be expected. We had a range of opinions throughout the consultation.
There was a feeling that was very articulately represented about setting these standards in law, and putting them into regulation provides no certainty or no clear definition for family day homes. That is the reason why we put it in law and why we cannot accept the Members amendment.
Mr. Lang: I want to go on the record with respect to what is being proposed here. I would use the converse argument as we used it in debate earlier, that the day care centre numbers should also be in the law, as opposed to saying the day care centre numbers and the family day home numbers should be in regulations. It is important that, if there are going to be changes, there be some public debate in this forum for justification of the changes.
If we put it in regulations, Cabinet can meet on Thursday, change it, not tell anybody so nobody knows anything about it. Then it comes into effect, and it could be a period of two or three months before the public is aware of the implications of the decision, as opposed to having to have it changed in the House.
I am concerned that the day care centre numbers are not in the law. If we allow this particular section to go and we do not push for the day care centre numbers to be put in the legislation, we are in a situation where we might just as well have a day care act and one section where the Commissioner in Council can do anything.
I know Cabinet likes to have that authority. It is very easy to exercise. I agree with the Minister that it is important that if there are to be changes, and the changes are important enough, they should come to this forum and whomever is sitting here at that time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I find the Member eloquent on this point. Once we have dealt with the amendment of the clause that is before us now, on behalf of our government I would be happy to give serious consideration to an amendment to let the day care centre numbers stand in law, as well.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister says there have been good arguments on both sides for stricter numbers for family day homes and a loosening of numbers for family day homes. That is all the more reason these numbers should be in regulations where they would be more flexible. The Minister has not convinced me, as a Member of the Legislature, what makes his numbers so right, when he has presented no statistics on safety in family day homes in the Yukon in relation to the number of kids cared for. He has not provided those statistics with respect to any other part of Canada, except to stand up and say most other provinces limit family day homes to five preschool children, where we decided that eight was the limit. Why does the Minister think there should be no flexibility with respect to family day home programming? Why does he feel he has covered every possibility and option here, when he admits there are, to use the word loosely, an infinite number of programs that can be applied to child care centres?
The other argument the Minister made was that Cabinet could easily change these regulations with no debate in a public forum such as this. He is going to be able to do that with respect to child care programming.
It was interesting when the Member for Porter Creek East got up and talked about how easy it would be now for the Minister to change the child/staff ratios for day cares without anyone knowing it. The Minister of Education was sitting there shaking his head no, as if it could not be done that easily.
We have here a stubborn Minister of Health and Human Resources who is going to do what he wants, who has not presented good evidence, who has called expert witnesses who have said his numbers put Yukon children in danger and, yet, he is going ahead and saying they should be enshrined in the act.
I called it arrogant. Now I will call it irresponsible.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am sure the Member will want to consult his dictionary to find some more adjectives for the Minister, but none of his ineffectual invective will change the situation. I am not representing a personal philosophy or even a rigid world view when I propose the standards in this law. What they are is a product of extensive consultation leavened with some expert advice from across the country. The suggestion from the Member that one should be able to show accident statistics or fatality rates to justify the numbers is, of course, not a serious proposition at all.
There are many people in this country who have made a life time study of early childhood education and the needs of children. There are not a great number of them in the Yukon Territory, but we had the opportunity to hear from one of them last week.
What the government is doing in presenting these numbers is not taking an arrogant or irresponsible position or representing a stubborn personal view, but representing a distillation of the opinions we heard in the consultation. In other words, we believe, and we may be proven wrong in time, we are representing the views of the people on this question. These are people who had a chance, repeatedly in a two year time frame, to make their views known on this question. The government always has the difficult chore in the end of sifting through the opinions that it hears and making a judgment about what it has heard. The government may be criticized. There may be Members of the Legislature who disagree and, no doubt, there will be citizens who disagree. It is common in consultations, even after one has listened carefully to people, that if the report that ensues does not exactly fit the views of some of the people who were consulted, one is sometimes criticized for not having listened well or carefully enough.
We believe that we have listened very carefully. We have studied what people have had to say with great care. We have thought about it and considered the recommendations and sought the best advice we could get and made a recommendation. We have not been inflexible. We have proposed a standard that we feel is a standard that is sufficient to provide safety for children and a good measure of quality care and is a standard we believe should not be more liberal than it is.
We believe these standards should be in law, since that is the amendment the Member is proposing, rather than in regulations.
Mr. Lang: We welcome the statement made by the Minister that he would be prepared to bring forward an amendment in respect to the day care centre numbers, as they are enumerated in the regulations. That has been part of the argument that has been put forward since the debate began: all we have been dealing with is family day home centres, as opposed to day care centres, as far as the numbers are concerned. I, for one, appreciate the Ministers offer and we look forward to the amendment, because I think both should be in the law.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I apologize. I thought the Member opposite was going to be moving the amendment and we were going to be considering it, but if he is inviting me to propose one, then I will accept the invitation and take it up with my colleagues and our drafters.
The Members may have to understand that I am anticipating a problem here. There are some combinations of a variety of child care that we have not yet anticipated and I am almost certain that we will have to provide some regulatory room for Cabinet to contemplate situations and arrangements that do not yet exist. If we could deal with the amendment that is now before us, then we may have an opportunity to get to the point that the Member is making.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister has said that the government has listened and studied the view and presentations of the people, and that the government is representing the views of the people, and that the government has imposed a standard that it feels is correct and proper.
I do not disagree with that. I accept all of those things. I accept that the government has listened. I accept that it has studied the evidence and the briefs and the submissions presented, and I accept that it is representing the views of the people in drafting the numbers for family day homes. These may be the correct standards but I do not believe the people who made the presentations, that the government listened to and is representing, demanded that these specific numbers be enshrined in legislation. My submission is that virtually every one of them would accept these numbers being in regulation, where they can be reviewed on a timely basis and changed if necessary.
Three of the four expert witnesses that the Minister called agreed or would accept these numbers being in regulation; the fourth I do not really think understood the difference between the act and the regulations. I think that most people generally are not clear about the difference between the act and the regulations, as evidenced by the CBC report calling these very numbers that we are discussing new regulations proposed by the government. Well, they are not new regulations; they are new provisions in an act.
It is very difficult to change. The Minister is misrepresenting the views of the public if he stands up and says they are demanding, or it is their wish, these numbers be enshrined in legislation, as opposed to being in regulation.
Mr. Lang: I propose an amendment that has been circulated. Notice was given yesterday of the amendment. Does the Chair want to read it into the record, then I will speak to it?
Do you want me to read it into the record?
Chair: Yes, read it.
Mr. Lang: I move
THAT Bill No. 77, entitled Child Care Act, be amended in clause 7 at page 4 by adding the following:
7(6) Where the person providing or offering a licensed family day home operation has the written consent of all the parents using that program, that person can provide or offer a licensed family day home program to not more than eight preschool children where not more than two are infants, and
(a) part-time care to not more than four children; or
(b) part-time care to not more than eight children where the licensed family day home has an additional staff member for supervision.
7(7) For the purposes of this section, part-time children" means children who are being provided child care at a family day home for three consecutive hours or less."
We talked about this and the implications in the beginning of clause 7, and as I explained when I initially introduced the amendment at the beginning of the clause, this would provide, with the written consent of all the parents, for more flexibility as far as the family day homes are concerned. This would primarily ensure that the spaces that are now available for after school children are there.
I found it a little discouraging when I heard the Minister say that their review indicated a minimum of seven spaces in family day homes would be eliminated because of this act. This particular section would leave some flexibility in the section. At the same time, it would ensure that only those operators who are seen by the parents as being able to handle a situation like that would get their consent.
I can think of at least two family day homes that are operating now. They are people who have been here a long time and whom I would have no problem sending my children to and giving written consent to take care of this number of children. I know one who raised 12 children of her own.
I have no reason to believe that those parents who send their children there would not be prepared to give their written consent under such a section. I would like to hear the Ministers comments on this.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not know if you were contemplating a break, but we have not seen the text of this amendment before now, although the sense of it has come before. The standards that are proposed in this amendment, as I understand it, are essentially the same as those previously tabled in the House, if not moved.
There is, I believe, a typo in the second last word of the proposed amendment. It should be or instead of of. I am sorry Madam Chair if I did not catch that before.
I would like to ask the movers of the amendment some questions, if I could. I understand that that is not a strictly kosher procedure, but the amendment is being proposed by the other side. As I understand it, the amendment proposes that, with the consent of all the parents using a program, the numbers could be expanded to accommodate sibling groups - brothers and sisters of kids already in care. Now, the concern one has even at first reading about this is that it sets up two standards of care for family day homes, with different standards and different child/staff ratios providing exceptions to accommodate specific case-by-case situations. In other words, one could have a smorgasbord of standards, depending on what kind of parental consent is provided. It does not, I think, address the fundamental question of how many children can be adequately cared for by a care giver.
The Member for Porter Creek East said in his speech that someone who was not as capable could care for fewer kids. The problem I have with that is who decides that? Are we saying that some parents or the majority of parents in a family day home decide that for all parents? What if the people who are on the Child Care Board believe that there is an unsafe situation? Should parents, essentially by signing the consent form, be able to contract out completely from the standards and regulations in law?
What about the children in this case? The situation the Member is trying to provide for might well suit both the parents and the care giver for economic or other reasons, but all the other children in the family day home could be affected by this situation. The quality of their care could go down because the care giver/child ratio is changed.
The amount of time that each child will receive attention from the care giver will be reduced. The quality of their care will suffer. I wonder, what about the protection and the safety of the children, which in that case this act is supposed to provide for?
The second question I want to ask the Member is: as I recall it, Mr. Kobayashi, in his representation to the Committee, said, and I hope this is an accurate statement of what he said, A situation that we want to avoid is the requirement of written consent and have one parent who does not agree but feels pressured to sign the consent because they want to protect their space, and that sort of thing. I think he went on to say, Yes, as a parent I have to have a concern with respect to written consent, and I do not want to be pressured if I do want another child or two there. He was talking about the pressure that a parent may feel in that situation, especially a parent who may be economically on the margins, who is having trouble managing and feeling all sorts of pressure anyway. That parent might feel really unfairly put upon there, and instead of having the protection of law for standards for their child and the security that government standards will provide, instead there is a situation where some parents in the centre may decide that they want to have the rules loosened to the extent that the Member provides here, to let in siblings, and they are feeling pressured to sign, or pressure to consent.
I want to ask the Member if he does not share a concern that the potential to pressure parents into consenting is a real concern, and if that pressure existed, would that not be unacceptable?
Those are two general questions. Let me ask one other, if I can, of the Member. Where do we draw the line? Let us say there are six parents in the family day home and all have other children and they all want their children accommodated and all of them consent. Do we not then have a totally reasonable situation, where the numbers have expanded well beyond any acceptable limits?
Mr. Lang: Before we take a break, I have a couple of points to make. The Minister went on at great length about safety, and it is in the regulations what is required in the home with regard to safety standards and that type of thing. That has to be met. If it is not, it is going to be closed down, whether there are eight children or eight plus four after-school children. There is a cap on the legislation as far as the numbers are concerned.
I want to clearly stress that this would be parental choice. Mr. Kobayashi did make that statement when the question was posed to him. I have also spoken to a number of other parents who said to me, if this is the way the flexibility could be built in the legislation, then this is a compromise that could be met. Regarding the Ministers concern about parents being pressured, I do not concur. You are dealing with the most important thing in anybodys family, and that is the children. Before they sign something, the parent is going to be cautious.
Basically, this amendment is before us to accommodate those homes that can take in siblings, up to a maximum of four children, prior to having to hire additional staff. That is where the problem lies, in getting people in for help. If you talk to family day home operators, they say the costs are going to go up, and the important aspect is who you are going to get.
We are trying to accommodate the situation so those after-school children have a place to go. In the numbers the Minister is putting forward to us and which we discussed earlier, we are now taking into account the children within the family, and that is very clearly stated.
I do not want to see family day homes closed down. There are people out there capable of taking care of a cap of 12 without any help, as long as four of them are there for three or fewer hours.
I hope that meets the Members questions. I strongly feel this reflects what the parents were talking about, as well as the people who came to listen to the initial debate. That is the right of parental choice, and this reinforces it.
If this amendment is accepted, it will be interesting to review it in one or two years and see how often it has been used. It would have to be a consent form and worked out with the department. The department would have to have the necessary paperwork and all those things being done, so there would be a check and balance in the system.
Deputy Chair: We will now have a break.
Chair: I will call Committee back to order.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Before we had a break, Mr. Lang addressed in part some of my concerns about the amendment which he has proposed, but I would like to explore if I could a bit more deeply the question I put to him about standards.
As I said, he indicated that there would be different ideas about how capable a care giver or different family home operators were and that some would easily be able to handle a large number and others would not. He suggested that that was a decision that would be made by parents. You may have a family home operator who decides for their own reasons that they want to establish a situation where they have a one to 12 ratio and they may seek parents who will consent to that arrangement and will end the service to parents who do not consent. In effect, you could have a situation where the market power of the home owner, especially in a situation where spaces are scarce, which is a concern of the Member, allows the care giver to create or design a situation where the care giver to child ratio is one to 12.
That is troubling and the Member has responded to that by saying that he knows people who can just do an excellent job of looking after 12 very young children. I think that would be regarded, certainly among professionals - and I think even among parents - as a minority view that someone could safely look after 12 kids. Even if you look at the amendment the Member offers, which begins talking about parental consent, in the end it moves fairly quickly back to the proposition contained in the amendments previously presented that would allow there to be simultaneously eight full-time children plus four part-time children, a situation where there could be one care giver to 12 children.
I would like to hear more discussion by Members on that point. I do think there is a problem that the market power of the family day home could very easily, over a short period of time, create a situation where you could get a group of parents who would consent to a situation that the department and professionals and the Child Care Board thought was unsafe, who might even believe that this was a care giver who was not capable of doing it, but the care giver, responding to the needs of working families who were desperate for care for their children, might accede.
The Member questions the number of spaces that would be lost. I want to talk about the economics of the family day home from that point as we understand them, and I would ask the Member to comment. I think it is now agreed in the House that the funding programs that are available to family day homes include operating and maintenance grants, wage enhancements, capital development grants and that we do, by providing these programs, increase the stability and viability of family day homes.
I think Members will admit that family day homes receive tax benefits as small businesses operated in the home, and there are good tax provisions for that kind of business. I think Members are not disagreeing that a line must be drawn between a family day home and child care centre, and if a family day home wishes to expand to meet regulations to the point where it takes in more kids, it can become a licensed child care centre. It can do that, and that has happened.
We understand, because the Member mentions the after-school care and the part-time kids we are talking about in these numbers, that the usual rate for after-school care is about $3.00 an hour. If an operator provides care for four children after school, then that operator would receive an additional $12.00 an hour for the time that the kids were in care. Those facilities that have hired an assistant, whether it is a neighbour or a high school student, or some other assistant, will often pay them $6.00 an hour, or perhaps a bit more.
The net increase in income to the operator, with four kids and a part-time care giver, would be $6.00 an hour. That could mean an increase of up to $1,800 in fees for the operator. That is not an inconsequential sum, when one is talking about a small family day home. One could go through the arithmetic with any number of infants or preschoolers, but I will not do that now; it would take too long.
In addition to the problem of what I would call the market power of the operator and the potential to put parents under pressure or over a barrel to consent to arrangements, in this amendment the problem lies as to whether Members believe a situation of one care giver to 12 kids, versus the standard that is proposed in the law here, can be sanctioned, how ever it is done, with parental consent or not.
The Member is saying he knows some people who could do it. We cannot have a law that applies to some people and not to others. We should have a law that applies evenly to the same class of people. It would not be fair to some family day homes to be operating under a government standard that said one to 12, while other family day homes had to abide by a standard of one to eight. The economics of the two homes would be very different. I am not talking about fire exits, fire-retardant walls or tripping hazards for kids; I am talking about the safety that is the function of the care giver to child ratio that would be compromised.
Can the Members, even making the point about parental consent, be seriously happy with a situation where we would have those two classes? We would have family day homes that have to operate on a one-to-eight rule and another class of family day homes where we would allow a situation of one care giver to 12 kids. It is a double standard. Why is that acceptable? How is it enforceable? How do we make sure that parents are not consenting to the arrangement because they need their kids in the space and are being pressured into accepting a situation which is unacceptable to them?
Mr. Lang: I think the Minister is trying to paint a worst-case scenario. My understanding is that family day homes are already dealing with these kinds of numbers under the present legislation and are having no problems. I have not had the side opposite come forward with any good reason to change the numbers in the old act from the point of view of either safety or unacceptable past situations. That was never presented.
The Minister is talking about professionals. It really bothers me that many of the so-called experts on child care do not even have any children, but they are experts on children. It is like some people who like to say they are experts on heavy equipment but they have never driven a piece of heavy equipment. Just because they have gone to school, we are supposed to listen to them and assume their words are gospel. I just think we had better start listening to the people who have actually raised children. I can speak of one who has raised 12 children herself and has a wealth of experience. I think it is a shame that we are going to say that some of these people cannot carry on as they have in the past, yet the parents have been very happy with the service being provided and the children have been happy. Most importantly, it was the parents who made the choice.
That is where we go back to parental choice. I am proposing an amendment to permit this to occur if all the parents consent.
The Minister says we may have two classes of family day homes yet, at the same time, the Minister says he wants to have a regulatory power to create different types of ratios, as far as day care centres are concerned, if it happens in the future. I am asking for the same thing for family day homes.
There were two arguments put forward, both by the witnesses: one by the parent representative, and one by the day home operator. I will deal with the day home operator, who said yes, there is a difference of capabilities among day home operators.
We know it is not a perfect world out there. Not everybody is the same. This allows the flexibility in the legislation to permit the individual who feels they do have the ability and the confidence of the parents to take four after-school children.
As far as the four after-school children are concerned, the other point was raised by the witnesses. It pointed out very clearly that, when the siblings get home from school and are working with the kids, there is a real interrelationship, as far as the extended family is concerned. They do take care. There is peer pressure. The older kids help take care of the smaller kids. It is just like your family.
I do not see anything wrong with that flexibility, as long as the parents agree. There can be a process set up, maybe through regulation, that if they ask for the extra four children they have to formally apply to the government, and the government goes through the exercise of interviewing the parents. There is that safeguard to meet the concerns of the Minister. I throw that out as a possibility that can be built into the regulations. Therefore, you know nobody has been coerced into saying, yes, we can have eight children and the four after schoolers.
I think there are only one or two cases where people will be applying for this. I do not think they should be dissuaded if the capabilities are there and the parents agree. Earlier, we talked about the children and their ability. You saw the parents who were here, and they were no different than other parents who take their children to family day homes or day care centres. They are concerned about their children, and they are watching what is going on. Surely, we can leave some responsibility and some confidence in the parents to ensure they are trying to get the best family day home service they possibly can.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not going to argue the point or disagree with the Member that most parents want what is best for their children. I believe the parents who have petitioned for the amendment the Member has proposed are sincere and do care about their children and the kind of attention they are getting, and are concerned about the standards in the family day homes in which they have placed their children.
I hope the Member would also agree with two things. One is that all parents are not necessarily expert parents; there are good parents as well as bad parents. The very existence of a department called Health and Human Resources is witness to the fact that not all families are functional and not all parents are good parents.
I would equally argue, and I hope the Member would agree, because he is arguing in the case of parents versus experts, that while not all parents are experts or good parents, there is a body of expertise in the world on the questions of early childhood education, child psychology and child rearing.
The Member argues it goes in trends, that there are fashions and disputes. A Member spoke admiringly of Dr. Spock the other day. There are different fashions and different notions about nurturing.
It is generally and intellectually a solid approach if one is looking to study a subject, whether it is history or child psychology, to refer to the most recent works.
Notwithstanding the fashionable ideas about child rearing, which may change from time to time, there are some well-established ideas of long standing. I would argue these are both historic and contemporary, and that is that the best situation for a child is the one in which they have a devoted care giver. The situation where there is the one child and one devoted care giver is the ideal situation, which was the view presented by Ms. Trujillo, and I believe it is the situation most people would sanction. The next best situation is one to two, and the next best would be one to three, and so on. The more children you have per care giver, the less desirable the situation is for the child. If you get to the point of one care giver for 12 children, you have a potentially undesirable situation.
Let me go through the effect of the numbers of this amendment, if I can. As I see it, the amendment proposes that the maximum full-time group size of eight will remain the same, and a staff ratio of eight to one be maintained for the full-time group. However, with the amendment, there could be some part-time or siblings added, which could give us a maximum ratio of 12 to one.
I am now talking about recognized expertise. The National Association for the Education of Young Children - and this was confirmed in the Katie Cook report, which was done for and tabled with the national Conservative government - recommends a ratio of one to four for infants, when the group size is about eight.
In view of the hour, I move you report progress on Bill No. 77.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 77, entitled Child Care Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. 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 9:25 p.m.