Thursday, May 3, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 6: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 6, entitled Banking Agency Guarantee Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Finance that Bill No. 6, entitled Banking Agency Guarantee Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 6 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Television Northern Canada Network
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am pleased to advise the House of the Yukon governments commitment to the Television Northern Canada Network.
Television Northern Canada, or TVNC as it is called, is a satellite delivered northern television network made up of northern native broadcasters in the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Arctic Quebec and Labrador, the National Aboriginal Communications Society and the Governments of Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The network will receive assistance from the federal government over four (4) years to cover equipment and installation costs, network and operational costs and the costs of leasing a satellite channel dedicated to the north.
As part of the hardware installation process, I am pleased to report that a local communications company was the successful bidder to TVNC for the supply and installation of the ground facilities necessary to receive and rebroadcast the TVNC signal throughout Yukon communities.
This project will result in the creation of additional job opportunities for the local industry.
Satellite uplink facilities will be available in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqaluit, making possible direct links to the satellite from these northern centres for live and taped broadcasts. TVNC is expected to be on the air in November, 1991, and will broadcast relevant programming for northern and native audiences, including distance education and general information programming of the two territorial governments.
With respect to representing Yukons interests within TVNC, it would be our intention to establish an arms-length broadcasting committee through Yukon College. This body would have the mandate to manage and coordinate the programming to be offered by the Yukon government, Yukon College and other local producers for broadcast over the TVNC network. This will ensure that balanced programming, representative of the diversity of educational and cultural groups and interests in the Yukon, is provided.
Our participation responds to concerns raised by Yukon people during consultation on the development of our communications policy for more Yukon content in northern television programming and for an educational channel. I am confident that TVNC will provide an important vehicle for the future delivery of distance education and general programming to help meet the learning needs of our communities. We are very pleased to participate in this northern consortium of broadcasters and believe that TVNC will help in expanding broadcasting services for the north.
Speaker: This, then, brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, electrical energy
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation with regard to the issue of electrical energy. I would like to know whether electrical energy needs are being met by hydro in those areas serviced by the grid, or whether we need to use diesel generators to meet some of the demand at this time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member may know, when we inherited the system from the federal government, there was surplus hydro capacity in the system. That is no longer the case. When we discussed the estimates of the corporation some weeks ago, we indicated the corporation is now involved in a strategic planning exercise to identify new energy sources and the preferred options for developing new sources of electricity in order to meet the growing demand in the Yukon.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister give us any idea to what extent we are using diesel power to generate electrical energy that goes on the grid system?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot give him a precise number off the top of my head and I want to say that one of the economic options for meeting the demand of energy, given the current prices, is adding to the diesel capacity. However, by policy of this government, it is our wish, to the extent we can, to decrease the use of fossil fuels. Therefore, we are concerned about a short-term solution, which we feel adding diesel capacity would be, because there are long-term economic and environmental questions that have to be concerned. The obvious alternative of hydro capacity, which is now providing 96 percent of all the power in the Yukon Territory, should now be fully examined.
Mr. Phelps: So it is safe to say that at present any increase in electrical energy must be provided by diesel-generated power.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member knows, you do not add hydro capacity instantly and diesel capacity is something that can be added to the system fairly easily at a fairly low capital cost.
As I indicated to the Member when we were discussing the estimates for the utility some time ago, there are several potential hydro sites under active consideration and the corporation is at this point of preparing the short list of viable sites. For some time, engineering work and other assessments have been going on with the view of increasing the capacity in the system. That cannot be done overnight. In fact, given the environmental reviews to which major projects are subject nowadays, it takes longer now to put hydro capacity in place than it did, perhaps, only one generation ago.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, electrical energy
Mr. Phelps: The Government Leader understands why I am asking these questions. We share the concern about not only the cost of diesel, but the environmental impact of burning diesel in order to generate electricity. Why is it taking so long for the government, through the Yukon Development Corporation, to come forward with alternate sources of hydro and means of generating power. Why is it taking so long? Why have we not been given more information, and something concrete established before now?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would argue that it is not taking an undue length of time. I appreciate the impatience of the Member on this question. The Energy Corporation Board has devoted a fair amount of time, as have our managers and consultants, to these questions in the last couple of years, including the decisions they made in respect to the Mayo Dam and the construction work that was completed there. A complete examination of the North Fork option, which, as the Member knows was preceding until we reached a decision point and the conclusion was made that it was not economic at this point. A thorough examination system-wide is now going on of all the options including hydro options, grid extension options, demand management options, as well as the other options that we have previously talked about.
In the coming period ahead of us, the Energy Corporation will be presenting to our Cabinet a strategic plan dealing with the supply question. Once Cabinet has made some decisions, I expect they will be subject to some review by the Public Utilities Board. In the course of that, the plans and proposals of the Energy Corporation will be made public, and we will begin the process of public discussion around the proposals.
Mr. Phelps: I am not very pleased with the answer, and I will tell say why. It is going to be years before we are going to be in a position to generate hydroelectricity and feed it into the grid. The government, on the one hand, wants everybody to think they are environmentally conscious; on the other hand, they have not given this issue any priority: the issue of alternate energy to diesel power.
I am wondering just how long it is going to be before the public can get an idea of the first number of priorities this government has with regard to hydro sites in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Leader of the Opposition has stated his opinion on the subject of whether we are moving with appropriate dispatch; I would disagree with the Member. The Member somehow suggests that we want to have it both ways on the environmental question. One of the most important questions faced by every utility in this country nowadays is the difficulty of putting new supply online, and that is because of the new public consciousness about environmental questions: a very strong sense in many quarters nowadays that the true cost accounting does make some of the kind of hydro projects that were built just a few years ago economic and a great new appreciation of the possibilities of energy conservation strategies, including demand management strategies.
I want the House to know, and I want the public to know, that not only are we looking at the supply question in terms of adding to our hydro capacity, our generating capacity in this territory, but we are also looking at the possibilities of appropriate economic, environmentally sound energy decisions, in terms of the new thinking, the work being done by most utilities in this country in the area of demand management.
Mr. Phelps: It is wonderful to talk in platitudes.
When are we going to have some idea of the top two or three sites, in order of priority, that this government, through the Yukon Development Corporation, is going to be presenting? After that, we have to go through all the environmental review processes that are mandatory.
How far off is the day when we are actually going to get some idea of the priorizing this corporation and government have done with regard to alternate energy supplies to the diesel energy we are using now and will be using more and more, as demand increases?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is an excellent question. I thought it was an excellent question when the Member asked it back in February, and it is still an excellent question, but I cannot add anything more to the information I gave him then, which is that the Energy Corporation is at this moment concluding its work on a strategic plan that is shortly coming to Cabinet. Once Cabinet has reviewed it and made its own conclusions about the decisions that are contemplated there, including hydro sites and the kind of capital that will be required for such projects, and some discussions about financing, as well as the range of alternatives, in the next few months those decisions will be made public. As the Member says, it will be subject to formal public review, as well as much public discussion.
Question re: Yukon Housing Corporation electrical use
Mr. Devries: In light of the question the Member for Hootalinqua just asked, has the Minister responsible for Yukon Housing any policies in place to decrease the amount of electrical consumption in the Yukon Housing operations in an effort to keep electrical consumption within hydro generation capacity?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is quite fair to say that Yukon Housing has been looking at the matter of energy consumption and efficiency in those communities where we are on the main electrical grid. There are at least half a dozen of them. We have been using the electric baseboard heating method, largely because of the hydro supply. As the Member knows, on the main grid, diesel generation is very minimal; it is perhaps as low as two percent.
At the same time, we are doing some testing of alternate methods. There are two houses in which we installed propane water heating. We are also near completion of construction of a 17-unit apartment block utilizing propane hot water heat.
We are aware, conscious and testing, and we are trying to be good managers about it.
Mr. Devries: As the Minister just mentioned, the Yukon government, through Yukon Housing, is on a fairly intensive building spree with, I believe three apartment complexes. My understanding is that two of these apartment complexes are still using electric baseboard heating, although they do have a heat recovery ventilation system in them.
Is the Minister, through the policies in tendering and purchasing regarding contractors, discouraging the installation of electrical heating at this point. At peak periods, Whitehorse is using diesel-generated power. It is expensive power that we use from this point on during the peak period.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I indicated to the Member, the seven communities on the hydro grid only use a couple of percentage points of quantity in terms of diesel versus hydro generation. But I should point out to the Member that, as Yukon Housing Corporation and as Government Services, we take extensive steps in the design and construction to ensure that we have energy-efficient homes. The Member just mentioned the heat recovery system. At the same time, we are in an ongoing program of retrofit for energy consumption and efficiency.
I guess in response to the Members question, we are extremely conscious of energy demands. We are extremely conscious of its environmental impacts and are attempting to minimize, through our efforts, any negative consequence on that.
Mr. Devries: Basically, I was wondering if there was any written policy. Does the government have any vehicles that presently operate on propane? If not, do they have any plans to convert vehicles over to that more environmentally friendly fuel?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To some extent, I have to take notice in terms of providing details on that question. We certainly have taken steps to move in that direction but how far we have come, I do not know. I cannot tell the Member if we have any propane-fired vehicles or not. Certainly, from a policy point of view, we are moving that way. I understand also, from my colleagues Department of Economic Development and the Yukon Development Corporation, that a number of incentive programs are being developed to reduce and minimize electrical heating. In summary, I will take notice on the extent to which we are moving to alternate sources of fuel supply in our vehicles and get back to him.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, electrical energy
Mr. Phelps: I do not get it. Here we have a government uttering unctuous phrases about being conscious about the environment and worrying about CO2 emissions, we have the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation saying we are using diesel now because of the demand for electricity and that there is no hydro generation in sight. We heard all kinds of phrases about curtailing demand, and they are looking into that. At the same time we have the Yukon Housing Corporation using electrical heat in all their new buildings.
Just how serious is this government? I ask the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation how many units built this year and last year are heated by electricity?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot provide precise numbers of unit construction that may be using electric heat. I am not sure if I recall answering the Member for Watson Lake, but it certainly is not our intention to continue the use of baseboard heating. We are moving away from that and are encouraging contractors submitting bids not to use baseboard heating. It is certainly not the policy of Yukon Housing to continue with that heat source.
Mr. Phelps: There is a fine answer. They are not going to encourage baseboard heat. That is true. The new units are using forced air heat and the source is electricity. This is ridiculous. Yukon Housing is still using electrical heat - not baseboard, oh no - but is it not true that many of the new units are using forced air electric heat?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can only take further notice on the question to determine more accurately the extent to which Yukon Housing may be engaged in acquiring units that use electricity as a source of heat. I have to tell the Member I do not know the extent. I know we have one apartment block that is using propane hot water heat. I know from results of cost testing that it is certainly a cheaper way to go and is something we have done in the last year and this year. Every indication is that it is an energy alternative that is wise and good.
Speaker: Order please, would the Minister complete his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To put the answer succinctly, we will be moving in that direction in future turnkey-contracting requests.
Mr. Phelps: When is this government going to stop talking about problems and start doing something about them? Will the Minister responsible for Yukon Housing make a commitment that, starting now, the government will not be allowing contractors to build, on behalf of the corporation, or to sell to the corporation, any units that are heated with electricity, whether it is forced air, whether it is hot water, or baseboard?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe I have already given that indication to the Member. I have already told him that we have in fact constructed houses with propane hot water heat, which, in our preliminary review of testing those results in terms of costs, is a cheaper way to go. From an environmentally-friendly point of view it is also a better way to go. It is the clearly the direction in which we are going to move. The Member is aware that, in terms of our construction, we have used a new initiative in this past year, where we are calling for proposals. What we will simply have to do in the calling of those proposals is insist that that heat source, albeit cheaper to install, will not be allowed. So if the Member is seeking the commitment, he has got it.
Question re: Workplace harassment
Mrs. Firth: My question if for the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Last week I asked the Minister questions about the working environment for public servants, particularly with respect for workplace harassment and abuse of authority. At that time the Minister acknowledged that these were two areas of grievance that were not covered by any process in the government and she made reference to a committee that was looking at the shortfalls within the grievance process. I noticed yesterday that the Minister of Education made reference made to that same committee. Could the Minister tell us just what committee she is referring to?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I responded to the Member in regard to that question last week. We do have a committee in place that was established last year by recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Employee Assistance and Health Promotion that identified a problem that they were not able to deal with through any kind of existing procedure. The committee has been established with representation from the YGEU and the Yukon Teachers Association. The PSC has also appointed representatives to that working committee and the women in government group has recommended a management employee to also be a part of that committee. They have identified certain things that they would like to deal with in regard to discrimination, personal harassment, sexual harassment and abuse of authority. There is a policy position that they will be putting together in a draft form for acceptance. It is hoped to be in place some time in the future.
Mrs. Firth: Everything is coming some time in the future. Could the Minister give us a list of who is on the committee along with the area they represent? Could she also tell us how often the committee has been meeting over the past year?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I cannot give her that information. I do not know how many times they have met. I do know they have been very active. I will find out those individuals who have been appointed or named to that committee and let her know.
Mrs. Firth: Who does the committee report to? Is it to her, as the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, or someone else within the front bench?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Public Service Commission recognized that there was a problem within the system, after dealing with complaints over the years, and that there were certain things they were not able to deal with. It is not a recent thing. It is something that has happened over the years. There were certain concerns that came to my attention back in 1985 that were not being dealt with satisfactorily.
Right now, the committee is a working group of people who are reporting to the Advisory Committee on Employee Assistance and Health Promotion, which includes many things. When they have a draft policy in place, I will be made aware of it and will see it.
Question re: Workplace harrassment
Mrs. Firth: I do not want to be picky, but I would like to follow up with the Minister. If this committee reports to this Advisory Committee on Employee Assistance and Health Promotion, does that come under the Ministers jurisdiction? One of the Ministers must be responsible for this committee and must receive the minutes of the meetings and written the mandate, and so on. Which Minister do I communicate with in respect to this committee?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I will be the Minister responsible for that committee. I have not received the minutes, but I have received the reasons why and the history of the committee and what it is doing. I will be the person who is responsible.
Mrs. Firth: Now, I can ask the questions with respect to reports of the committee. I have the right Minister. When is the Minister expecting a report from the committee, specifically with respect to workplace harassment and abuse of authority? When is that report due?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I do not have a date when it is due. It is something that takes a great deal of consideration and work. If we want something to work, we have to spend a lot of time doing research and anything else that may be necessary in order to put such a policy in place.
I will find out what the time lines are and how often these individuals meet, and I will bring that information back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what the relationship is between this committee and the negotiations that are presently going on with respect to the employees at YTG? Does the committee have any communication with them or are they going to be in any way advising the government with respect to the negotiations?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member knows that negotiations presently going on are confidential. There are certain things that are being discussed that cannot be brought to the floor of this House. I would have to be very careful about the kind of things I tell the House at this point.
Question re: Animal Protection Act
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources with respect to the Animal Protection Act. There are serious gaps in the present Animal Protection Act, as became obvious to everyone during the investigation and handling of the starving horses problem. The amendment tabled yesterday addresses only one issue. I would like to know if the Minister plans further amendments to the act or if he plans to draft a completely new one - which I think would make the most sense.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I intend to introduce a new act, but it is going to take some time to overhaul. In the meantime, our department will be working with the RCMP and Humane Society to rework that act. In the meantime, the amendment that has been brought forward will enable the Government of Yukon to recover some of the costs incurred in taking care of the animals.
Mr. Nordling: There has been an ad hoc committee made up of the RCMP, the Humane Society and representatives from Renewable Resources, but it does not seem to be making much progress. I would like to know if the Minister could make any commitments as to a time frame for the new act to be introduced?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would suggest to the Member opposite that we would like to get on with the work of amending this act as early as possible. To that end, officials from our department have come forward with proposals to get working on it. I would suggest that it would not take a great deal of time to rework the act. Following that, a lot of time will be taken up with the Department of Justice to draft the final version for introduction and consideration.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: Order, please. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to the House a friend and neighbour, the Hon. Richard Nerysoo, Speaker of the Northwest Territories Legislature. I would ask all hon. Members to welcome him to our Legislative Chambers.
QUESTION PERIOD - continued
Mr. Nordling: I would like to ask the Minister if he plans to make this a more structured committee or if he plans to have his department draft a new act, send it to the legal department and then have these other interested bodies or parties comment on a draft of the act.
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is my hope that these two or three different organizations could get together to draft an act to bring forward to Justice.
Question re: Press gallery no-smoking policy
Ms. Kassi: I was so anxious to ask this question I was going to jump up before the Minister answered the last one.
I have a question for the Premier. Since all areas of this building have been designated as non-smoking for the benefit of a healthy environment for the working people in this building, do these regulations apply to the press gallery as well as the washrooms adjacent to the press gallery?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot tell the Member how grateful I am that she has given me an opportunity to answer this extremely important question; an opportunity that could easily have been made available to the Minister of the Public Service Commission, or the Minister responsible for Government Services, who is in charge of this building.
As Members will know, government policy applies to almost all parts of this building, save and except the legislative precincts where the traditional rights of private Members operate, and there may be some argument about the rights of the fourth estate in something we call the press gallery. However, I do not know the particular terms of the landlord and tenant agreement, or the lease between the Minister of Government Services and the press gallery. I do not know if they have sought or obtained an exemption from the rules operating in this building or not, so I would have to take that part of the question as notice. I am absolutely certain that all members of the press gallery, being modern, progressive, intelligent and environmentally conscious people, share absolutely the commitment to clean air and good working conditions that all Members in this House subscribe to.
Question re: Roads report
Mr. Lang: I do not know if he answered the question or not. I will leave that for the press to figure out, I guess. I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources and it has to do with a report within his department that was developed in July of, I believe, 1988. I believe it was entitled Access-Related Impacts of Back Country Roads to Wildlife Management and Approaches to Mitigate Them. I would like to know from the Minister whether that report has been made public and whether it has been made available to the various groups that it would affect.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As far as I am aware, that paper has been made public; it has been discussed in public and of course it will be one item for discussion when we review the Wildlife Act.
Mr. Lang: The report that I referred to earlier calls for the Department of Renewable Resources to submit vehicle control proposals to the Wildlife Management Board for consideration. I would like to ask the Minister if any proposals of this kind, referred to as vehicle control proposals, have been submitted to the board.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Any proposals on vehicle control are part of the access policy in general, which, as I mentioned earlier, will be part of the Wildlife Act, to be considered in its review, a review that will be undertaken by the Wildlife Management Board.
Mr. Lang: Could I ask the Minister this: concerning the vehicle control policy that he has referred to, has it been developed? If it has been developed, is it going to be made public prior to the board or the government making any decisions with respect to this area?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The access policy, again being part of the Wildlife Act, will be tabled at the same time that the White Paper on the Wildlife Act is tabled for public review.
Question re: MV Anna Maria
Mr. Brewster: My question is to the Minister of Economic Development. What is the present status of the MV Anna Maria, at present in drydock in Carmacks?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The MV Anna Maria is in drydock at Carmacks and is for sale.
Mr. Brewster: Was any vandalism done to the MV Anna Maria during the winter months?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not aware of any vandalism being done to the MV Anna Maria. The company that is controlling the MV Anna Maria, the Pan Pacific Corporation, is responsible for the boat and it will ultimately be responsible for ensuring its safety until it is sold.
Mr. Brewster: Is it not true that the Economic Development department asked forestry to check to see what vandalism had been done to the boat during the winter in the government compound?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know whether it is true or not. I thought one might have deduced that from the answer I gave to the second question. As I indicated, the company that is responsible for the MV Anna Maria is based in Toronto. They are also responsible for its sale. The boat is now in drydock in Carmacks in the government compound, but that does not mean the government is liable for the boats safety. It only means the government, through the good offices of Community and Transportation Services, made a space available for the boat during the period it was going to overwinter. It was put in Carmacks in the first place because the operators felt it would have a greater chance of having a longer season, given the water levels in the river, if it were based in Carmacks.
Consequently, it was requested the boat be drydocked in the government compound. The government acquiesced to that request, but it takes no liability for providing space for the boat.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills.
Bill No. 20: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 20, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 20, entitled Mental Health Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Human Resources that Bill No. 20, entitled Mental Health Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Mr. Lang: I want to indicate to the Members that this side is giving cautious consent to the bill before us. As explained during the course of debate in Committee of the Whole, we did have some concerns about such things as substitute consent, and things of this nature. I understand the dilemma the government is in when writing such a bill. I think the government has made every effort to write a bill that is very clear in delineating the responsibilities of the court, as well as protecting the rights of the patient.
We did have problems with respect to brain operations on patients and how that would come about. It is of some concern to this side, and I am sure it is to the other side as well. The Minister has given some comfort to our concerns through the legislative return he tabled.
With that, I want to let the side opposite know we will support the bill, although cautiously.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the comments from the Member opposite. We are dealing with an extremely difficult and sensitive area in the provisions of this act. We are dealing with the question of the rights of patients and the needs of the same patients. We were the last jurisdiction in Canada, and perhaps in the Commonwealth, to have a court-based system of deciding questions of commitment to mental health institutions. I believe the system we have brought in, the Mental Health Review Board, is a preferable arrangement. We believe the protections and guarantees of the civil and human rights of patients are now brought into line with Canadian standards. We believe also that the use of involuntary mental health services has been limited to those cases where people are in danger to themselves or others, and we think that is as it should be.
We appreciate the expeditious passage of this measure. We still have negotiations to complete with the federal government for the transfer of these and other health services to our domain. Once that is complete I think we will see the full and proper implementation of this legislation in our jurisdiction.
Mr. Nordling: I want to say a few words at the third reading of the Mental Health Act because I have been asking for this act for a long time. I am pleased to see it finally come to third reading. I think the act we are agreeing to pass today goes a long way toward solving the problems of the old act. It is progressive, and we will learn as we go along just how good it is. It certainly is much better, and I am pleased to be standing here today speaking to the third reading of a new Mental Health Act for the territory.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 20 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 20 has cleared the House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a break.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 77 - Child Care Act - continued
On Clause 7 - continued
Chair: Is there any more discussion on the amendment proposed by Mr. Lang?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to continue with the observations I was making last night.
Clearly, the child/care giver relationship is the most crucial issue in child care. It is our view that the proposed act balances the need for the personal, individualized care required by young children and infants, with the flexibility requested by many of the people who appeared before the panel in the consultation process and the family day home operators and parents who have addressed this issue.
It is our concern that the proposed amendment, which would allow a 12 children to one care giver ratio, where up to six of the children could be infants - two perhaps full time and two perhaps part time - is an unsatisfactory ratio. Even if part-time children were not an influence, the child/staff ratio of 12 to one, where some are infants, some are preschool and some are school age, is not an acceptable standard.
The problem is that one person cannot, no matter how capable they are, meet the needs of all those individual children of all those different ages at the same time. It is possible that, under the amendment proposed, you could in fact have a maximum of 16 children in the family day home. We think that stretches the idea of family care beyond recognition. If you have 16 children in a home, you are really talking about a child care centre, not a family day home. Indeed, the family day homes that have wanted to take that number of children, and there have been several, have had to go through a process to qualify as and convert to child care centres.
I see the Member looking skeptical when I raised the number of 16, but after studying the amendment further last night and this morning, it seems to me that, under the proposal of the Members opposite, the full-time formula could have two infants and six preschoolers and under the part-time provision there could be eight infants part time. The potential then is for as many as two care givers looking after 10 infants and six preschoolers.
If the individual care givers want to offer this type of service to a large number of children, we think the best route is to become licensed as a child care centre. But, of course, we have to say that they would then have to comply with more stringent regulations as child care centres because, I think the Members opposite realize, the standards for child care centres are much tighter and much more rigorous than they are for family day homes.
It is worth noting that, over the past three years, there have been five operations that have licensed as child care centres, while still offering a service from their homes. So five have gone through the process of converting from a family day home to a child care centre, while still operating out of a home.
We believe the flexibility Members opposite and some panelists who appeared before us last week have talked about is achieved by developing options and services in child care, as provided for in the child care strategy, and not by compromising standards.
We genuinely believe if the suggested amendment was made, the care giver ratio becomes unenforceable, because the loophole of part-time children continues to exist, as in the present act. Under the present act, we have no control over the number of part-time children and, therefore, no control over the maximum number of children being cared for by one care giver.
It should be noted that the present act, the one that is now in operation, originally intended that family day homes be restricted to a person caring for a maximum of six children. This is a standard close to ones that operate in most other jurisdictions in Canada. The idea was that no more than six children would be in a family day home and that any group of more than six children would require licensing as a child care centre.
The only reason licensed facilities have been able to broaden those numbers is because there has been a loophole in the present law, which is for the part-time or after-school care. It is common knowledge that a few day homes did use this loophole to care for larger numbers than the intended maximum of six. There are some family care givers who were reported to be caring for as many as 18 to 20 preschool children at one time in a home. That was a great concern to the department, to a lot of parents and to the Day Care Services Board.
It has been suggested that parental consent would be the recommended way to override acceptable child care giver ratios. I want to say to the Members that we are not dealing with this in a cavalier way. I have talked about this extensively with my caucus and Cabinet colleagues, and it is our very considered view that this amendment is unacceptable as it is not seen as a situation of free consent. Even if it were a situation of free consent, it would, in essence, create a double standard. We believe there are plenty of cases where parents could easily be coerced into consenting to larger numbers to avoid having to move their child. In the same way that tenants who are marginally attached to the economy could, if the law allowed it, contract out with the landlord to have exemptions from the Landlord and Tenant Act by simply signing an agreement that the Landlord and Tenant Act would not be enforced, you could have the same situation here. I doubt if there is any precedent in Canadian law for allowing that kind of situation, to say if the tenants would perhaps suffer by not having their landlord live under the terms of the act, but if they agreed to that arrangement, they should do so. I do not think society or a government anywhere in the country would concede to that.
We think it is even more problematic if we are asking parents, who may be subject to economic pressure, to sign consent to this kind of arrangement on behalf of their children, an arrangement which every professional opinion would indicate it is an unsatisfactory arrangement in terms of the safety of the child and the quality of care of the child because the ratio of children to care giver is one that is far below national standards and even the standards recommended in this act.
We have had a chance to take a look again at what Mr. Kobayashi said in his representation before the Committee. An exact quote is, A situation 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. Yes, as a parent, I have a concern with respect to written consent, and I do not want to be pressured if I do not want another child or two there.
I am not suggesting that Mr. Kobayashi is particularly vulnerable to that kind of economic pressure. I suspect he is a self-confident enough citizen that that would not be the case. I believe his own description before this panel of the care with which he chose a facility for his own children is commendable, but I think Mr. Kobayashi did concede in his observation before the Committee the problematic notion of the parental consent as a way of contracting out of the provisions of a law.
In the end, if parental consent is sufficient to override acceptable child/staff ratios, it could be argued it should also be sufficient to override any other provision of this or any other law, including safety regulations; for example, the number of exits or any other provision.
Even as it is proposed here, it would make the enforcement of any standards very difficult. It would create a double standard. The family day home that is functioning economically on the basis of a care giver/child ratio of one to eight would have a serious disadvantage against the family day home that is operating at a more economically advantageous ratio, perhaps one to 12. From our point of view, this would be a situation in which the safety and security of the child would be compromised, and the quality of the care diminished.
In the last few hours, we have seriously thought about the proposal put by the Member and cannot support it for the reasons I have just stated.
Mr. Phelps: I wanted to say a few words about this. I hoped to get my submission in before judgment was pronounced.
I wanted to speak to this amendment and the surrounding issues with regard to clause 7. As the Minister and all Members will recall, I suggested that we would be coming forward with this amendment in debate several days ago.
I want to make a few points in support of some flexibility or perhaps a change in the proposed numbers.
First of all, we have to talk about the real world, as it exists in Yukon. We have to recognize there is a very small number of licensed family day homes in operation at this time.
I guess one of the things about living in the Yukon is that it is pretty easy to have a handle on what is going on. If there is some flexibility that is abused, I have no problem with coming back in and amending the clause 7 provisions for that reason.
The problem that we have, firstly, is that we have no evidence that there is any abuse of the present situation, upon which there is no cap for the part-time children. Of course, the part-time children in most cases includes the child that spent his or her formative years at the family day home and after school returns because there are siblings there and the parents have great confidence in the care giver. I am advised that of the licensed family day homes, there are some that take no after-school kids, there are two or three that take one, and one or two would take two, and some would take three, but I am told that of the licensed homes, four after-school kids is a very uncommon occurrence indeed.
I want to talk a little bit about the issue as I see it. I am not, of course, speaking as a professional, but I think all of us would agree that there is a vast difference between individuals when it comes to being good parents. There are all kinds of individuals that I know who have a terrible time handling one, two or three children. I know of others who just seem to be naturally suited to looking after kids. I have seen this many times in my life. I know one or two of the licensed family day home operators. I have known them for years and in each case, they just seem to have that extraordinary ability to discipline, look after and be creative with kids. I remember in school, and the teachers have all kinds of training in elementary, junior high and high school, but I can remember time and time again some of them did not have a hope of maintaining discipline in the classroom. They were hopeless.
Many of these same people, with all the degrees in the world, are very poor teachers, poor communicators, and not good at getting the interest of the children and motivating them to learn. I can remember a teacher, Mrs. Thompson, when I was a kid. She was about five feet high and you could hear a whisper anytime in her classroom. That same class would go next door to another teacher who had much more in the way of formal education and training, and it was always utter chaos in that class. It is our thesis that there is a vast difference in ability with regard to caring for young children and with regard to teaching. We do not feel that a rule allowing X number really acknowledges that fact.
It is my concern that there are families now who are using certain care givers, and in each case they have taken a lot of pains to first of all find the one they want to use, and now they are facing situations that are rather sad because there is no flexibility, and some of them are going to suffer as a result.
What I am looking for is some mechanism that would give the parents, if they are all consenting, some voice in bending the rules to some extent. If four part-time children are too much, how about two? We are talking about after-school kids - not going to an institution or a large day care centre where they can be a problem - going to a family or quasi-family situation. For the life of me, I cannot understand why we have to be in every way similar to other jurisdictions. We can acknowledge a concern over quality of care giving. I do not think the ratio of 12 to one is an appropriate way to view the maximum we are attempting to put forward in this amendment. I just do not think the situation of kids going to a home after school until 5:00 is that disruptive, or all-important as it is with the kids who are being looked after for the bulk of the day. We are talking about a practical problem faced by a good many concerned parents, many of whom have come forward to officials and people like me.
We are dealing with a practical situation. I would like the government to ponder the situation, even if it means coming back and saying, we will go for two or four part-time, or we do not want to see the possible 16, so we will change that a bit, so there will be a possibility of some flexibility of a couple of extra kids after school. That is what we are talking about. We are talking about alleviating some pretty emotional hardships that are foreseen by a number of families in Yukon.
The Minister has just talked about the abuse of the power of contracting out, and so on. I have a few answers for that. Again, it is a small jurisdiction. We talked in terms of a very small number of licensed family day homes. If there is a problem, we will find out, and we will come back and close the loophole. It will not take long, and it would not be a big fight. There will be some evidence upon which the flexibility will be changed. I am prepared to commit right now: show me the evidence, and I am prepared to endorse an amendment after the fact. That has to be made very clear to all concerned, in considering this type of amendment.
I cannot buy the thesis that all care givers are somehow rather equivalent. There are vast differences, particularly in the family day home situation. I cannot buy the argument about 12 to one being what you are getting at, when you have kids coming after school and staying until they are picked up by their parents. In my mind, I do not see that as being entirely disruptive or suddenly changing the standard of care that has been given to the other children. In fact, it seems to be a very heartfelt view and a determined representation of parents that, where you have siblings and the older ones come back, they are brought up to assist in caring and joining in quasi-educational activities with their younger siblings.
There is a difference, and that difference is cherished by a significant number of parents who are using the limited number of family day homes that are now licensed. Surely, we can put in some flexibility, on the understanding that, if there is evidence of abuse that comes forward, we are all determined to close the loophole.
If you want to talk about peer pressure, and parental pressure, that kind of pressure among the limited number of licensed holders would speak volumes the other way.
So, my remarks are based on these points. I do not pretend to be an expert but I think the parents we have heard from are sincere and have some good points.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, I would like to say to Mr. Phelps, the Leader of the Official Opposition, that no one is disputing the fact that not all parents are created equal and not all care givers are created equal. Some are better than others. That is a point I made in rebuttal to another point.
The Member cited his own experiences as a child, wherein the teacher who perhaps was the most learned was not necessarily the best teacher. I will not dispute that either. But just as I would accept that some great scholars I encountered in my university days were terrible teachers, this did not diminish their capacity as a scholar and did not detract in any way from their knowledge of the subject.
I wanted to argue his point that there is no evidence, expertise, research or literature on this question, because there is. Every jurisdiction in the country has reached some conclusions on this, not as a basis of a rushed conformity, but, in most jurisdictions, on very careful study of the questions we are now debating.
We are not talking about maximum standards or ideal standards. We are talking about minimum standards. These minimum standards are designed to ensure the safety of the child. In the same way that the Leader of the Official Opposition talked about his learning experiences as a child, I hope he will also concede what we were talking about yesterday in that the ideal is one to one. A desirable situation, but difficult to achieve, is one to two. A good situation is one to four. We think an acceptably safe situation is one to eight. But a one to 12 situation goes far beyond the acceptable limits in any jurisdiction in the country, far beyond the acceptable limits recommended by any professional in the field and far beyond the limits recommended by the vast majority of people who talked to us in our consultation process.
The Member says there is no flexibility. I dispute that. If we were inflexible, we would be proposing here nationally-accepted standards which are probably closer to one to six, and suggest that as an absolute ceiling. We have not.
We have listened to what parents have said. We have listened to the arguments about the unique Yukon situation and the needs here and decided that even though it is not ideal and a poorer standard than operates in most jurisdictions, we can agree to a minimum standard of one to eight. If there are family day homes that offer better standards than that, and there are some that do voluntarily, then that is good.
When we are talking about flexibility, it is also inappropriate because we are talking about the business of care giving. We are not talking about benevolent charities, we are talking about businesses. It would be extremely unusual for us in regulating businesses to suggest that we have one rule for one business operating in a field and a different rule for a second business, that in the family day home business we should have one rule for one family day home that says it is a one to eight rule, a flexible standard in national terms, but a much more flexible or loose standard for a second business.
The Member talks about having to have flexibility to provide for the extra couple of kids after school. I respectfully submit that in terms of the range of programs, and in terms of the financial support for those programs, and in terms of the standards, we are providing for those extra couple of kids after school and have a standard which, while it does not meet every persons needs, nor does it meet the requirement of every family day home, it is a standard that serves the public interest, if not every private situation.
When I heard Ms. Thompson speak to us last week she said she could hire a part-time person to take extra after-school kids but she was not sure if she wanted to. The parents who would like her to take after-school kids and want her to be flexible, instead of petitioning her to hire that part-time person in order to have the after-school kids - which she can do profitably, because I went through the arithmetic last night - are instead petitioning us to change a proposed law to have a standard that we already, after careful consideration, believe is a minimum standard, and asked us to reduce that standard even further.
I suggest that even with all the arguments of flexibility, and we have been flexible, to argue that because of some situations that are difficult - and the Member said emotionally damaging or emotionally difficult or painful - that the remedy to the particular problem being addressed by the families we heard from who are asking for more flexibility was for Ms. Thompson to hire a part-time care giver, I submit is a far better solution to the problem those parents are having is, rather than put into law standards that are not a little below national standards, not a little more flexible than national standards, but far more flexible.
The Leader of the Official Opposition suggests there has been no complaint or concern expressed about the operation of family day homes. I heard that remark being made a couple of times recently. I asked officials of the department to have a look at their files on that score. I am advised today that we have received quite a considerable number of complaints. The complaints regarding safety and health issues in family day homes have included: no telephones in working order, poor hygiene standards, physical discipline, harsh verbal discipline, lack of adequate supervision, number of children cared in the home too high, lack of individualized care for infants, fire drills not held.
I cannot give the Member the specific number of total complaints that have come into the department, but we do know that we have received 16 formal complaints. Concerns have been raised by fire inspectors and environmental health inspectors on a few occasions concerning smoke detectors not being operational, hygienic conditions and practices, children playing in dangerous yards, children playing in backyards with dog excrement, unsafe materials left accessible to children, fire extinguishers inoperable.
Concerns have also been raised by the Day Care Services Board inspectors during inspections, which include all the above issues I mentioned, as well as lack of adequate stimulation for children, lack of adequate play materials, children not getting outdoors enough, first aid kits not being available.
The suggestion was also made yesterday that there has been no requests for loosening of physical standards. The record of the consultation shows that that statement is not strictly correct because the Family Day Home Society, which Ms. Thompson had identified herself as president of, in its submission to the child care consultation panel, recommended that the regulations prohibiting the propping up of bottles for young babies should be overridden if parents consented to this practice.
The Canadian Standards Association and every health authority in the country regards the propping up of baby bottles as an extremely unsafe practice that endangers the lives of children. Every government in the country believes it is its responsibility to enforce standards and regulations on that score, but we have had a proposal from the Family Day Home Society that parents, if they consented, should be allowed to contract out of that safety standard.
The group also suggested that the regulation prohibiting child care services from accepting children with communicable diseases should be deleted as not applicable to family day homes. In other words, it was suggested that family day homes should be exempted from a standard of public health that would operate for child care services even though the public health standards are there for very good reasons, as I am sure Members understand.
We have had the suggestion, we have had the proposal made that parents should be allowed to contract out of these regulations, that family day homes should be exempt from public health and safety standards. It is not a frivolous concern of ours that parents with fewer financial resources or those who require scarce services, such as night care or infant care, would be most affected by pressure to consent, possibly to a variety of compromises in appropriate care. If any operator is allowed to override standards by obtaining parental consent, the act and its regulations could become impossible to enforce.
I went through this yesterday about why it would be impossible to enforce, and I will go through it again for the Member if he wishes me to. How is the department to monitor a situation where you set a law but you say people are allowed to contract out of the law by consent? How are we to monitor that situation? How are we to monitor acceptable standards? When parents have consented to a situation that we think is unsafe, are we not obliged to act, out of the public interest for the health and safety of children, or out of regard for standards set in law?
The provisions for overriding consent would make standards unclear to parents and to operators, and I think that would probably result in inadvertent offences to the regulations by well-meaning people, but people who would have difficulty understanding a rule for which there were exemptions.
We submit, seriously, that the amendment proposed in clause 7(6) of this act would in fact be inconsistent with other clauses of this act already passed.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to respond to a number of the comments made by the Minister. He talks about different standards for different situations and so on. Our law is riddled with double standards and different standards for different situations. There is the whole doctrine of volenti in the law, the doctrine of voluntarily assuming risks, the doctrine that applies to different standards of law applying to fights in a hockey game, for example, and assaults in a hockey game, or negligence during a sport that a parent allowed his or her child to partake of. There are all kinds of examples.
There are different standards in different circumstances. Largely, they are based on the assumption that the parents, guardian or individual who does consent, and plays sports and rides in cars under certain circumstances and so on, has, by his or her very action and implied consent, changed the standards required for negligence or determining there has been an assault or whatever.
It is our view that we have a situation that requires some flexibility. We do not for a minute think that the parents who came forward did so because they were pressured. We do feel that recommendations made by the family day homes or Day Care Association during hearings about changing other standards are really relevant to this discussion, with respect.
It is my view, and I am sure one held by many parents in the area, that the unwillingness to look at any flexibility is a move by this government to take away parental responsibility. I do not view the rationale behind these moves as properly resting on any kind of documented case for safety. I must say that, in terms of numbers, there has to be a maximum standard. I guess we are just disagreeing about how the numbers can be limited and under what circumstances.
I certainly do not feel we are talking about double standards. It seems to me it would be very simple in the regulations to ensure that all written consents were delivered to the department in a situation where the flexibility was being exercised. I guess we are rapidly coming to a fork in the road where we agree to disagree and carry on.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am naturally sorry that we will not find agreement on this. I think it would be good if we could. I do not want to press the issue. If the Member would like to debate it for whatever length is required to satisfy his conviction on this issue, that is fine with me. I am not asking for us to rush to a judgment on the question. I am saying, again, that we believe we have demonstrated our flexibility in that we are proposing, in law, standards that are more liberal than most jurisdictions in this country.
We have already demonstrated that principle. The nature of the programs that we offer and the support for parents and for family day homes and for child care centres provides a wide range of options, options that I doubt are available in many communities of this size in the country, and that do constitute flexibility.
I want to say to the Member with respect to the legal doctrine he quoted: he knows very well that I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that it is quite one thing to voluntarily assume risks for yourself but it is quite another thing to assume risks for someone else or for someone elses children. That is an entirely different proposition. Whether we are talking about the laws we provide under the Childrens Act, which was brought in by the previous government, or by an Education Act, or any others, society in all sorts of ways sets standards, minimums and rules in terms of the treatment and protection of children. One of the oldest ideas of liberal democracy or 19th century liberal reformers was the idea that the state had some responsibility to protect children. We have had a whole body of law that has been developed in the last hundred years for that purpose: law that parents could not contract out of or get exemptions from because it was designed for the health and safety of the children.
The point we are trying to make here is that the child/care giver relationship is the most crucial issue in child care. The amendments proposed by the Member refers to a maximum full-time group size of eight, including two infants, with parental consent.
If we could focus on the infant child/staff ratio in this situation. The child/staff ratios within the group size were reported in the Katie Cook report, which was delivered to the Secretary of State, Mr. Walter McLean, in 1985, I think, a report commissioned and reported by the national government, and a report that consulted public opinion everywhere in the country and also expert opinion across the country. Child/staff ratios, when in a group size reported in Katie Cook, recommend a one to four ratio with infants when the group size is eight. The amendment that is being proposed by the Members would result in a standard of one to eight for infants.
If you have infants in the group, you would have one care giver per eight children. For the effective ratio for the infants they would be part of a group of eight. The evidence from the witnesses on the second panel, in particular Ms. Trujillo, the person with most of the professional expertise and training in the field - the Member for Riverdale North says Dr. Spock was wrong - well, there are people who would dispute that but I would be extremely surprised....
I do not know if it is relevant, but Marx once said he was not a Marxist, and I do not know what that proved.
If the Members opposite are arguing that experts are idiots who know nothing, and that you should automatically discount their views, that is an anti-intellectual view that I reject. I am not arguing that experts know everything, but I argue that they have something to contribute in debate. There is a body of opinion in this country and this continent that profoundly disagrees with the proposition being put by the Members opposite. They cannot cite any expert opinion whatsoever to bolster their point of view. In fact, they are not even arguing that it is a defensible point of view, from the point of view of experts. They are arguing that it is an acceptable proposition for some parents. They are not arguing that the majority of parents go for this, because they did not. They are arguing that some parents believe the ratios they are advocating are acceptable for the safety and health of their children.
I would like to continue with what I was saying about the infant care. Ms. Trujillo told this House that the younger the child, the more critical the child/staff ratio and group size are. We also heard from other witnesses, and we, who have been parents, all know from our own personal experience, that infants thrive on adult interaction. That adult interaction does not take place if that child is having only one-eighth, one-tenth, or one-twelfth of the care givers time.
We seriously question whether or not one individual can give two infants the kind of constant attention they need in an environment where a large number of other preschool children need and demand attention. As many as six is being proposed in the amendment.
Conversely, if the six other children require the attention, is it not likely that the infants are not getting enough attention?
I submit to the Leader of the Official Opposition, who is a serious and intelligent person, and who responds well to logical arguments, that parental consent is not the real issue. If this amendment is allowed, and if the government permits parents to consent to arrangements that are below the standards we think are acceptable, it is not the parents who are consenting, but the government is consenting, or supporting child/staff ratios that we, the public and all available expertise believe is below acceptable standards for infant care.
We, the Legislature, would be sanctioning or agreeing to standards that are unacceptable, even though there appears to be universal agreement in this country. The Member throws his papers around, but look at what Conservative governments, look at what Liberal governments, look at what every government that has studied this question has concluded. They have concluded that the kind of numbers recommended by the Member are not safe, are not good for children - not that they are not good for parents or good for people operating businesses of child care, but they are not good for children.
Under the new act, infant care is provided for under clause 7(2)(a) and clause 7(2)(b) and there are options open under the family day homes in the present Day Care Act. The Member opposite, the Leader of the Official Opposition, and the Member for Porter Creek East have suggested that if the amendment were made, the provisions would be enforceable. We have said they are not and I want to explain why we say they are not and why the care giver ratio becomes essentially unenforceable. It is because the loophole of part-time children would continue to exist, as it does in the present act. Let me give an example or two. A family day home could have four part-time children in the morning and four in the afternoon, so all day long they would be at a 12-to-one ratio. These part-time children could be infants, for a total of 12 children, six of whom could be infants with one care giver. It would be very hard - very, very hard - for either the parents or a government official to tell if a child is there for two hours or all day. This is a purely practical proposition.
Under the present act we have no control over the number of part-time children and therefore no control over the maximum number of children being cared for by one care giver in a family day home. The present act, the act that was passed by the previous government, the act that is now in place, clearly intended that family day homes would be restricted to persons caring for a maximum of six children in their home. I have said that before. Any groups of more than six children, in the present act, it is assumed would require licensing as a family child care centre. The Member for Porter Creek East is quite correct in pointing out the difference between whether ones own children were included in the count or not. That was a subject of much discussion in the consultation and the majority opinion on that question was that the children, whether they were your own or whether they were children who were there as clients, were children nonetheless and still made demands on the care giver and therefore should be included in the numbers.
I say again that it is not parental consent that is the question; it is the issue of whether we, as a Legislature, are going to in some circumstances sanction standards that we believe are unacceptable.
Mr. Lang: The Leader of the Official Opposition has made it clear that we are looking for a compromise. We hope the government is not taking the position that they are the government and they know better than the parents or anyone else and that they should make the choice for everyone. I thought the debate was constructive yesterday and, for a good part of today, there seemed to be a lot of give and take. I was hoping there was a compromise that could be reached where we would feel we had met the concerns of the parents yet had a ceiling with respect to the ratio of care giver to children.
Our concern is the after-school children. If we go with the numbers that the Minister says are so much more liberal than anywhere else in Canada, we are changing our numbers quite dramatically from what people are accustomed to in the family day homes.
I am very disappointed that all we have really discussed in this act is how bad the family day homes are, as if there are no other programs. I feel like the defender of the minority. I feel there is an animosity here that the administration is having a hard time concealing. It is almost like waving at windmills.
On the question of affordability, the Minister outlined how much profit - that dirty word profit - an individual could make if they had four after-school children. I think it is important to note that, when we put the amendment forward, the Leader of the Official Opposition made it clear that very few, to our knowledge, would have this maximum of four and they would primarily be siblings who are in that age group. He gave a scenario of the day home taking the maximum of four and the money he or she could make. He said that the hourly rate would be $6.00. Well, the costs would be considerably more than that, because if one were doing it legitimately and going through the process of formally hiring someone and paying them the minimum basic wage, by the time you have the CPP and UIC and so on, you are at $7.50 an hour. This would be for two, maybe three hours a day, depending on the situation. That is assuming you can get someone to do it. The reality of the situation is that if you only have one after-school sibling, in conjunction with the quota that has been established by the government, obviously it is going to cost the day home operator money.
Therefore, we have two options. The day home operator will charge three dollars for the sibling or there will be $7.50 or $8.00 for the cost of hiring the second individual. It is a misnomer to talk about how this would be so profitable. We are trying to find a way of getting some flexibility for an extra couple of children to stay at that day home as opposed to going somewhere else.
I want to make a comment on parental choice and coercion into signing for the extension of a maximum of 12 children. First of all, the government said that with their day care strategy this is going to open up all kinds of spaces and make all sorts of programs and choices available to parents. If that is true, and if the Minister really believes that, then his thesis that people will be coerced to sign for an extension of the numbers is false because the parents will be able to choose.
You cannot have it both ways. If you want us to believe more spaces will be made available and more people will provide this type of service, then the market place will dictate the choice people will make. They will obviously go for as much quality as they can. That aspect of the argument is flawed just on the basis of the government position prior and during this debate.
One other area I would refer to: it is said they would not be subject to the act and the flexibility would be contrary to the act, and they would not be able to enforce it. The Minister outlined 16 complaints they have had. Most of those had to do with the physical plant. He talked about telephone, smoke detectors, the lack of a first aid kit, and this type of thing. That is all physical and is part of the requirements under the regulations, and it should be done. There is no question about it. Whether we have eight, 10 or 12 children, if a formal complaint is lodged and it is found there is no first aid kit, then an instruction will be made to that family day home operator to provide a first aid kit, or ensure a telephone is hooked up and is working. That side of it does not apply. It is a red herring to start bringing this into what we are talking about here in trying to provide some flexibility in the law for the provision of services.
I understand the Minister is going to have a meeting with a number of concerned people specifically about this section and how it is going to affect them as parents, as well as the family day home operators. The Minister has said he is not pressured and can debate this all day.
In view of the fact he has a meeting tomorrow, would he be prepared to stand this section aside? We could carry on with the rest of the bill, which will probably take most of the day in any event, then come back to the House on Monday to see if there is some ability for compromise on this section.
We are more than prepared to compromise. For example, the Minister has talked about the infants. If the government is willing to go with the principle of parents being able to call for an extension in the numbers, maybe then the requirement is that there be no infants at that particular family day home. We are prepared to entertain that.
This side is only trying to get something that will work in the legislation. It would probably be to our political advantage to try and force the maximum and possibly push the government, and then say, That big, bad government did not do what you wanted them to do. However, we also appreciate the position the government is in.
We are trying to be reasonable and put a proposition forward that we feel has some substance.
I harken back to my knowledge of the Province of Alberta. The numbers there are six to one, but there are two types of licences. The terminologies are licensed and approved. For those that are approved outside of centres where they do not have agencies, six children are allowed, plus as many after-school children as wanted, which is similar to the law we have in place now.
I use that as an observation. With the bringing in of our siblings, we are tightening up. In many cases, we know the family day home operators have children of their own. One of the reasons they go into this business is to be able to stay home with their children and supplement their income by bringing in other children. It is obviously going to affect those who are already operating.
Would the Minister be prepared to stand this clause aside, carry on with the rest of the bill, have his meeting tomorrow, then see if there is a possibility of some compromise?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, the reason we have spent most of the time talking about family day homes is not my choice. It is the choice of the Members of the House who have asked questions. I have not been asked very many questions, or been invited to debate many other dimensions of the bill. I have been focused on that because I have been responding to the wishes of Members in the House.
I do not accept the argument of the Member opposite that, just because we are trying to increase the number of choices for parents, there will always be a satisfactory array of choices for them. If you are a parent on shiftwork, and you are trying to find child care for your son or daughter, you may have great difficulty. You may not have many choices and you might well be in a situation where you have to agree to something that is not your preferred option.
Likewise, even though there were few child care facilities in rural Yukon a few short years ago, they are improving. However, the situation in most communities in rural Yukon is there is only one family day home or one child care centre. Your choices in rural Yukon are not as great as they are here in Whitehorse.
I want to point out that the Member said the complaints were mostly about physical standards but that is not strictly correct; about half of them were about physical standards, but the rest of them were about things that I talked about: physical discipline, harsh verbal discipline, lack of adequate supervision, number of children cared for in the home being too high, lack of individualized care for children, a lack of fire drills, unhygienic conditions and practices, children playing in dangerous yard, children playing in yards with dog excrement, lack of adequate stimulation, lack of adequate play materials, children not getting outdoors. Most of the things on those lists, I must say to the Member, were not complaints about a facility. It is a collection of complaints about a number of facilities, over time.
I want to deal, if I can, before I come to the Members question, to his charge, which he has repeated again, that there is some kind of official antipathy from the administration toward family day homes.
Let us be quite clear that the present act contemplated that family day homes would be restricted to a maximum of six children. That is the act passed by the previous administration. It was a loophole that was clearly not intended, that after-school kids or part-time care would not be capped. It was intended in the act, clearly, the way it is written, that a facility that was caring for a number of children above six would be licensed as a child care centre and would be subject to their rules and standards. I invite Members to look at the standards that their government set for those facilities.
What we are talking about here is a standard maximum that is above the national standard and above the standard that was previously in the act, leaving aside the question of the loophole.
The Member has said again today that the Department of Health and Human Resources has antipathy toward the family day homes: an official antipathy, some kind of hostility. I want to say for the record that nothing could be further from the truth. The department and the government are totally committed to a broad range of child care services to ensure parents have choices. Child care strategy clearly outlines the governments commitment to support and assist in the development of a wider range of options in the area of child care. Funding programs to establish them and assistance startup of family day homes, preschool programs, after-school programs, Child Development Centre programs, et cetera, were all provided for and the proposed Child Care Act includes all of these additional services, instead of just child care centres and family day homes, as in the present act, as well as optional licensing for family day homes caring for fewer than four children.
In our view, this is the real expression of the government and the departments position toward family day homes and our belief that they are essential, valuable and an important part of the child care services continuum. The departments administration does not treat family day homes any differently than child care centres, on any issue. We believe that we have tried to promote and maintain a good working relationship with all the services: child care centres and family day homes. I say with respect that I believe that Mr. Langs perception on this question is wrong.
The Member said the other day that he was surprised that we relied on a family day home operators perception of the effect on the legislation. We have relied on that family day home operator as we have relied on other family day home operators perspectives. There are licensed family day home operators who support the standards we are talking about and support the initiatives in this act. I think the majority of them do.
I would say to the Member, when he is complaining to us about the position we are taking on the Oppositions amendment, that the majority voice of the consultation, something like 78 percent, was clearly in support of the standards we are talking about here. We are doing what the public in the consultation said they wanted.
I will stay as long as the Member wants to debate this particular clause, but I will say that the onus of proof is on the other side. We have stated the view about standards for the Yukon in the presentation here, which is based on consultation, not on some personal subjective view, with consideration of expert opinion and careful listening to public opinion.
If the Member believes that it would be helpful, prior to my meeting with the people he mentioned, for us to stand aside clause 7 and proceed with the rest of the act, I am agreeable to do that. I do not want to display any inflexibility on that point. What I do want to make clear is that we are talking about a question of fundamental principle in this act. The Members, in moving the amendment, have stated a different principle. I am happy to debate it for as long as the Members want. I say to the Leader of the Official Opposition, who was looking at me curiously a few minutes ago, that it really is the Oppositions brief to argue. We will listen to it carefully and debate it with him and I hope from that debate will come a better understanding for all us of the issue. But if it would help to set aside the remainder of clause 7 and continue with the rest of the bill, I would be happy to do that.
Mr. Lang: I think in deference to the people who are going to make arrangements to see you in your office, I think they should be listened to with care, I hope. If we are to pass the clause now, there would obviously be little point in the meeting. The Minister should say now whether he wants the meeting tomorrow. If he does not think it is worthwhile, I think he should not waste their time and we should vote on the amendment we have here. I leave it to the Minister. He has been asked to meet and he said he would do it. If the answer now is that he is totally inflexible on clause 7, I do not think there is much point in wasting the parents and concerned citizens time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member has an unfortunate way of describing the situation. Once again, we have stated our views based on months and years of consultation and after careful consideration of this issue. We believe we have taken a flexible position and made a proposal. The Member is representing a contrary position, a view that we have every reason to believe, after consultation, is a minority view. I have listened to a whole range of people including getting letters and telephone calls from a large number of people who believe passionately in the standard we are advocating here, and are very angry at the possibility that we would loosen it.
In response to the suggestion we are not listening to people, we are listening to people when we are doing what we propose here. The Member is proposing that we listen to only some people. I am going to have a meeting tomorrow and am quite happy to set aside clause 7 to the conclusion of that meeting, but there is more than one point of view on this question, and I hope the Member understands that. The final determination of the government on this question is what is in the public interest: how the safety of children is served. I would suggest that if it will expedite and facilitate constructive debate I would be quite happy to set aside the remainder of clause 7 and proceed with the rest of the bill.
Mr. Nordling: Before we set it aside and go on I would like to ask a couple of questions and make a couple of comments on clause 7 and the issues surrounding it.
I am concerned, as a Member of the Legislature, about what is in the public interest. My questions may be from a different approach than the discussion has been on in the last few minutes.
In coming to the conclusion that these are the numbers and this is the way a family day home program should be run, and the only way, and that it is so certain that it should be enshrined in legislation, were any representations made to the Minister or did he or his department consider any other methods of taking care of these staff ratios? I am referring to am example of using a points system that may bring in another definition of toddlers into the act. The suggestion I heard was a 12-point system where an infant was three points, so the maximum would be four infants. A toddler would be two points so the maximum of toddlers from 18 to 36 months would be six, giving you 12 points. The older pre schoolers would be 1.5 points, so you could have a maximum of eight, giving you 12 points. If you had an infant you would have to deduct two of the older kids so you could have one infant and six older kids.
Did the government consider these sorts of things in deciding those types of things were out of the question or that it should be this way and in legislation rather than regulations? I will carry on so that the Minister can answer both of my questions.
With respect to the complaints the Minister cited, for me as a Member of the Legislature, nothing the Minister cited with respect to those 16 complaints gave me any indication of what the child/staff ratio in family day homes should be. Nothing in those statistics told me that nine children was absolutely too many, or seven children was too few to have in a day home. I still have not heard from the Minister that, with respect to safety, eight is the right number and should be carved in stone, rather than put into regulations where it could be reconsidered, along with different possibilities for family day home programs and different ages, as to what is acceptable.
That brings me back to the same question the Minister asked. Are we, as legislators, being asked, with this clause, to sanction standards that we, and several experts - in fact, the most expert witness called - feel are not safe or acceptable, or that we have concerns about?
I do not know what these numbers should be. As a legislator, I am afraid of putting children at risk, based on the evidence I heard from the Minister and the expert witnesses. Again, when the Minister goes away for the weekend, I would like to ask him to reconsider the whole of clause 7, and consider putting the numbers into regulation, rather than having us enshrine them in the act.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: With respect, the House has already decided the last question the Member put and, according to parliamentary traditions, it cannot reconsider it except by way of unanimous consent or extraordinary motion. The House has resolved that matter.
With respect to the question about safety, I would be fair in saying that the Member was misquoting the witnesses on the panel. None of them said one to eight was unsafe. Ms. Trujillo said, and Ms. Paddon agreed, that one to six would be a more ideal standard from their point of view. I know they do not regard it as unsafe, although it is less than ideal. Again, I talked about what I spoke to the Leader of the Official Opposition about, which is minimally acceptable standards, not ideal arrangements.
The Member talked about the complaints not being arguments for standards. They were not intended to be arguments for standards, or even that I was making a causal link between the receipt of these complaints and the necessity of certain standards.
What I was doing was responding to the charge from Members opposite, and I forget who, that there had been no complaints. In fact, there have been complaints - and again I have to use this number carefully - 16 formal complaints - many more complaints than that; many many more complaints than that. The nature of the complaints are: many of them are about physical standards; many of them are about program standards or issues of quality and care; some of them are complaints about excessive numbers of children.
Finally, I would like to respond to the first question that the Member put, the question of points. That question was considered by departmental officials, but point formulas were much more applicable to situations in child care centres, where there are more than a number of care givers, than they are in family day homes, where there is only one. However one devises the point formula, you, in the end, come down to a fundamental question of the essential ratio of care giver to numbers of children, and since there is only usually one care giver in a family day home situation, it was decided that it would be simpler and more clear to express the definition of a family day home or express the standards for a family day home in the form of care giver/child ratio. When you are talking about child care centres, it is possible to devise point formulas that do what the Member indicated.
Clause 7 stood over
On Clause 8
Mr. Lang: I have a question to do with the after-school program that the Minister indicated was being run in two areas of the city. What happens after school closes on June 25? Are these places going to be made into all-day day care centres? Where do these children go?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand the situation is that, come the end of the school year - and we are in the first year for both of these programs - with the consent of the school, if the demand is there for an all-day facility, that program may continue on that basis, but I do not think that issue has been faced or decided in the one program that is school-based, so far.
Mr. Lang: It is obvious, in view of what we are doing in clause 7, if there is no flexibility for the after-school children, these children will not have any place to go.
I want verification, but I was told that in the after-school program, there is a child/staff ratio of 10 to one. Can the Minister verify that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand it is 12 to one.
Mr. Phelps: In Ontario, the ratio of children of ages six to nine goes up to a ratio of 15 to one. Is the Minister aware of that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is interesting in that I think that is close to the ratio we have of teachers to students in classrooms, something that Ontario could only dream about. I do not think I can offer any more comment on the Ontario standard.
Mr. Lang: I just want to explore this after-school program in one more question. If it does go to an all-day child-care centre, will the government be going to be providing financial assistance? Will they be running it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Exactly what regulations would apply under the new act in terms of the access of school-based program funding has not been established. The point made by the Member is that an after-school program that has been given the use of school property is obviously in a very different situation than one that has to pay rent in some other facility. That fact will obviously have some bearing on what access or limitations we put on the availability of funding to such a program.
Mr. Lang: When will we know the decision of the government? Once that decision is made, will the Minister communicate in writing to me exactly what the terms and conditions of such a program are going to be?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is under consideration right now. The end of the school year is close upon us and I would hope that by the end of this month we will have a decision. I would mention that what we have already is an obligation to consult about such regulations. In this case, there is only one program like it at the moment. That will not necessarily be a complicated process.
Mr. Lang: I just asked if the Minister would communicate to me directly in writing once a decision has been made.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: To make sure the commitment is not forgotten I will ask the department now to make note of the commitment and make sure, on my behalf, that the actual arrangements are communicated. I could do it to all Members and that will satisfy everybodys interest.
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Mr. Lang: It says a licence is not transferable by the person named in the licence to any other person. What does that mean if a person does have a day care centre and decides to sell it? Does that mean a whole new application has to go forward?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Essentially yes, because the new operator might not offer the same programs or even have the same staff or equipment as the old operator. We do not see a large delay here. The new operator would have to be licensed in the same way the old one was.
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Mr. Lang: Once the passage of this bill is taken into account, will all present operators have a grace of three months before the bill comes into effect?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In the three-month period following passage of this act, we will attempt to begin the process of relicensing each of the existing people under the new law. The transition for that is contemplated to be about three months.
Mr. Lang: I do not understand. The clause allows you up to 12 months. If I just got my licence, why would I have to go through the exercise of buying another one two months from now? I do not think the Minister is correct on that as far as the licensing is concerned.
Under the current licence one has, when will the act actually come into effect? When will the act be proclaimed for the purpose of whatever new child/staff ratios are accepted by the House?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The act will come into effect when it is proclaimed. The operators will operate under their present licences and their present numbers and ratios until such time as they have a new licence under this act. The process of licensing under this act is different from the old one. Each facility will require a new licence. The process is laid out in this act.
Mr. Lang: Why do we have a period of not more than 12 months if he intends to make the change in three months?
The way I read clause 16, if I have a current day care licence I can operate under that licence for the next 12 months.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is the provision under this new law. With the new act coming into place, there are new licensing provisions that all facilities would have to be licensed. There is a period following the proclamation of this act in which we would want to see that process underway.
Mr. Lang: We are missing something here in terms of the writing of this clause. I read it that if I have a current licence I have up to 12 months to get a new licence.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If you are a child care centre, that is correct. If you are a family day home, it may not, depending on the numbers you have.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister tell us if the day care centres will not have to get a licence for 12 months and the family day homes will?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The main point is that everybody within a year will be relicensed under this new act. There may be unlicensed facilities that will want to apply for licensing right away. The child care centres will not change their numbers, so their licences will continue until their expiry date. But within a year, everybody who is now operating will have gone through the licensing procedure under this new act.
For those not licensed now, an effort will be made immediately following the proclamation of this act, in that three-month period, to try to begin the process of licensing.
Mr. Lang: My concern is that if I am operating a family day home operation, the Minister is saying I would have three months to comply with this legislation. I do not understand how, as soon as we proclaim it in this House, it is law, unless there is a grandfather clause here. I see no grandfather clause here that says three months. Is it made by order-in-council that you are going to exempt people for three months from certain sections of the bill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are not going to proclaim this the day after this is passed. What I am contemplating is allowing a three-month period, and that may be the legal advice we will get on what we should do, for a transition period to allow people to comply and go through the licensing procedure.
Mr. Lang: I think the Minister is going to find he is going to have to take three months to put it into effect.
Clause 16 agreed to
Chair: We will now take a short recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with debate on Bill No. 77.
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Mr. Lang: In historical terms, have we ever turned down anybody who has applied for a licence?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No.
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Mr. Lang: I have some questions with respect to inspections. Is the day care coordinator position classified as an inspector? What kind of inspection process is going to be undertaken in the rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, to the first question. With respect to the second question, there will be periodic tours, much like inspectors in other fields would do, of rural communities. There will be visits to Dawson, Watson Lake and Faro. Carmacks and other communities that have facilities will also be inspected, probably on at least an annual basis.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister said there will be visits to the communities. The section allows any person employed in the Yukon public service to be appointed as an inspector. Can anyone in the communities be appointed as an inspector? How easy does the Minister see the process being? Can the director phone a government employee in a community and say, You are now an inspector, please go and check on this facility for me?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think it is more likely at this stage that in those communities where we have sufficient staff in Human Resources, perhaps a social worker supervisor or someone for whom we would consider providing sufficient training or inservice on this act to enable them, as part of their duties, to do inspections.
Dawson City, as I am sure the Member knows, has two functioning child care centres right now, and it is quite possible in a town of that size, like Watson Lake or Faro where there may be two or three, and we have sufficient staff to carry out the tasks, that that could happen, yes. We have not made any decisions to do that yet, but it could happen.
Mr. Nordling: Is there any reason that the government decided to include persons employed in the Yukon public service rather than any person employed in the ministry of Health and Human Resources?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: None, except that it is the standard language in our act. It is possible, in the same way that a social worker in Health and Human Resources, for example, might be a probation officer for the Department of Justice in rural Yukon. It does not happen in Whitehorse.
Mr. Lang: On clause 20(5), have we ever had a situation where we have had to call on the JP for the ability to investigate a day home or a day care centre?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Fortunately, not yet.
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Mr. Lang: This is an area of concern because it is a change from the previous procedure, where the board made the ultimate decision whether or not there should be a revocation of a licence. I heard the comments of the Minister when we were speaking to the principle of the bill in Committee. I find a difficulty in pulling a licence and waiting for a 21-day period, or more like 25 or 30, depending on the mail and everything, while a family day home is no longer functioning. Obviously, the people who have been sending their children there are in a situation where they have to find other accommodation. I want that concern registered. It is an awesome amount of power to be given.
I probably would not rise on this except for the experience we had in the past. I am very concerned about the administration and what I see as a situation where you have people less than happy to having that type of home functioning. If you go by all the rules we will have in the regulations we could shut down any establishment if we wanted to. My concern is the one individual, and this is not a personal attack, who was a spokesman and is now going to be an inspector, and who at one time was very much against family day homes. It is going to be a tough situation to have the perception of fairness and justice. I want this concern on this section raised. I think the Minister is hard and fast in his position on it. I know it is a concern to a number of people as well and once again I want to caution the administration.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the concern of the Member. I hope he understand, there was very strong agreement. Something like 90 percent of the people consulted believed that power of revocation was necessary in the act, even though it was conceded it would be extraordinarily-rarely used. We would have to have a very bad situation before it was used. The right of appeal to the board is provided for. Even though the Member quite correctly points out that it is a maximum of 21 days, we are assuming that, in Whitehorse especially, the appeal could be heard much more expeditiously than that. I think a much more likely situation than the one provided for in this act, if there is a problem, is there could be conditions attached to a licence and they would become published. Even those would be appealable and discussable with the board.
I think the revocation of a licence would be for a very serious situation, the like of which there have been some discussions about in the media in southern Canada, where I think there is reason to be alarmed, if I can use that term, about the safety of children.
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Mr. Lang: I am just wondering if we should be putting in law the words as soon as possible, as the Minister has indicated he would like it as soon as possible. For example, it could read; Where notice of appeal under this act is filed with the board, the chair shall arrange a date as soon as possible, but not more than 21 days after receipt... to note the urgency of the appeal procedure.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There may be all sorts of reasons why even the appellant may wish to prepare for an appeal. One of the things we have done in clause 25(2) is to allow the appeals to be heard by panels of three. Let us say the appeal was concerning a child care centre in a rural community. If there is some regional balance in the board, we might allow the appeal to be heard by the most accessible board members. The panel of three idea is in consideration of that.
You can imagine that the department has absolutely no interest whatsoever in shutting down a child care centre and seeing the kids out and the parents inconvenienced. They would most certainly be on our doorstep and we would obviously want the matter dealt with expeditiously. I think it would be extremely unusual to have a shutdown happen without warning. What you may have, more likely, is a situation where an inspection is done and some condition is set down on the licence, such as a second fire exit must be installed within a certain amount of time; the operator for economic reasons appeals that it is not enough time; the appeal will be heard and in that kind of situation we would not see kids out in the street. That would be a very unusual situation.
Mr. Nordling: With respect to clause 25(2), The chair may determine that the appeal will be heard either by the full board or by a panel of at least three board members.
In considering this clause, was there any reason for whether or not at least one of those three board members that can hear an appeal should be the chair or the vice chair?
We have discussed in detail how important it is for the government to choose the vice chair and chair of committees? The question was raised, and I agreed that it should be brought to the attention of the Minister for an explanation. It would seem that, with only three board members hearing an appeal, one of those three should be the chair or vice chair.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand what the Member is saying. The problem with what the Member suggests is that all the members of this board are likely to be people with interests, such as operators, parents, family day home operators, or people interested in this field from rural Yukon.
Let us say we have an appeal concerning a matter in the north Yukon. The chair may well want to have people of that region hear it. Let us say there is a member from Mayo and a member from Carmacks. It may be the member from Dawson who is the operator of the facility and who is before the board, and that member could also be the chair, in which case the chair could not properly sit on a matter concerning their own operation.
The idea is that it would expedite the hearing of appeals outside Whitehorse, one would hope. Rather than having to have the whole board move to that community, or to force the people involved in the appeal to come to Whitehorse, we would have a panel of board members either travel there or involve people in the neighbourhood to hear the matter, as long as they did not have conflicts. We are assuming that even the chair of this board is likely to be someone who is involved or interested in this field. We cannot assume that the chair or vice chair would always be available or disinterested.
Mr. Nordling: I see the point of the Minister, although I am not completely and totally convinced that we could not have one of the two, but I certainly see that it may be difficult if we added that requirement on occasion.
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Mr. Nordling: On clause 26(b), I would like to ask the Minister about the director providing the board or panel with reports, records and documents that the director thinks are relevant. A concern was expressed to me that the director makes a decision that is being appealed against and it is the director that decides what material is relevant for the panel to hear in passing judgment on the decision of the director. They thought it may lead to incomplete information, or something being left out by the director not thinking it was relevant. The person taking the appeal may think it is very relevant.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: This creates an obligation on the director to provide the information that is pertinent or germane to the hearing. It does not limit the board from requesting or demanding other information they require as relevant, including the evidence of the other party or parties to the appeal, and the ability of the board to request or demand that evidence is quite fair, I think.
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Mr. Nordling: In clause 27, on the first line, the director is a party to every appeal under this act and may appear or be represented, a representation was made to me that the may should be changed to a shall, that the director shall appear or be represented to present evidence and make submissions on the appeal. I would like the Minister to comment on that.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The reason there is a may here instead of a shall is that we can contemplate circumstances where the board may wish the director not be there for the hearing of some evidence or the consideration of some point. We think it should be up to the appeal board to make that decision. If they do not want the director there for some part of the evidence or to hear some particular, they should be able to say whatever judges or people say, Goodbye and please excuse yourself, or whatever.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister is saying the may is at the discretion of the board. They can call the director at their discretion or leave him at their discretion. It is not up to the director. The director does not say, I do not feel like appearing, and I do not have to if I do not want to.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: For these purposes, the director is a servant of the board.
Clause 27 agreed to
On Clause 28
Clause 28 agreed to
On Clause 29
Clause 29 agreed to
On Clause 30
Clause 30 agreed to
On Clause 31
Clause 31 agreed to
On Clause 32
Clause 32 agreed to
On Clause 33
Clause 33 agreed to
On Clause 34
Mr. Lang: I asked for specific information in respect to converting from profit to non profit, specific to the one transaction that had taken place. Could the Minister provide us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I apologize to the Member. I had it sitting here. I have some legislative returns, which I would have tabled at 1:30 p.m. today but, unfortunately, I did not receive them until 1:40 p.m. I will now table them in Committee and get the original to the Chair, with copies for all Members.
Clause 34 agreed to
On Clause 35
Clause 35 agreed to
On Clause 36
Clause 36 agreed to
On Clause 37
Mr. Lang: When we talk about transferring the administration of the act to either the Yukon First Nations or the municipalities, they must follow that act as it is laid out by the Legislature, must they not?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Understand that the settlement act will take precedence over all of our legislation if it specifically provides for some arrangement - some agreements talk about the laws of general application applying where there is not some other arrangement - and we have to contemplate the possibility that self-government agreements will supersede the provisions of this act. That is to do with the amendment that I will be doing later.
What is contemplated in this section is that a municipality or First Nation would be involved in administering and we would be delegating inspection or administering powers for those purposes.
Mrs. Firth: Just for clarification of the record, all of the legislative returns are in piles of each return; they are not in 16 separate piles, so that is where the confusion is.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I apologize. They arrived during Question Period; I put them on the floor, because I had other things to attend to and I have not had a chance to look at them since.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us how many there are so we know how many we are supposed to have of each? Are there seven or eight?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: About that number. I do not remember how many I signed.
Mr. Lang: It is also transferring the responsibility to the municipality. Is that the long-term objective of the government?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We wanted to leave that possibility open. Nobody has aggressively pursued that point, but we have had recent discussions with a couple of communities that have said that they would like to contemplate the day when they grow to a size that they could take on the administration of certain programs. It is quite common in this country for the administration in this area to be delegated, especially to larger municipalities, not to the smaller ones. If acceptable agreements can be made, we wanted to contemplate that possibility.
Clause 37 agreed to
On Clause 38
Mr. Nordling: There is something that was brought to my attention I would like the Minister to comment on. There were a few people who questioned the necessity for clause 38(1). Their opinion was that clause 38(2) would do the job well enough and prevent any legal action being taken against anyone, rather than having the mandatory reporting provision of clause 38(1).
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The consultation on this point was very clear. It is my understanding that, in the consultation, the manager reporting and the legal protection here is the only issue on which there was 100 percent agreement. I remember when we debated the Childrens Act in this Legislature, and I admit there were a number of us who were concerned about civil libertarian dimensions and false reports. The body of evidence and the weight of public opinion in this area has shifted substantially toward a view that, when there is evidence, report it so a proper investigation can be made.
Mr. Nordling: Maybe opinion changed slightly since the consultation of the Minister, or there were a few who came to the meeting I had to discuss the Child Care Act who did not take part in those consultations, but there were a couple of people who mentioned this section. I told them I would ask the Minister and now we have our answer.
Mr. Lang: It is very difficult to oppose this section, but I want to express my reservations. This probably should be in the Childrens Act. A situation is reported and all of a sudden it becomes front page news. We have seen that happen in this town on at least one occasion. It happens across the country, not only here. The individual is proven guilty prior to going to court. His or her name is put across the front page and subsequently their reputation is changed to the point where it is very hard to recover. There are the emotional and other sides of the situation that affect an individual. I have real concerns where, for example under the Childrens Act, allegations can be made against an individual if he or she is under the age of majority, which is 19 I believe, then their name is put in the newspaper. Those who are making the allegations are kept private. In cases such as this, my feelings are that until it has gone to court and a definitive decision is made, the names of those people should be held confidential. The incident may be reported but the name of the individual being charged should be kept confidential and not exposed.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand the point the Member is making. We should understand clearly the difference between a complaint and an investigation proceeding under the Criminal Code. We do not control that. I can tell the Member that during my time as Minister of the department there are many more complaints than there are investigations. The Member cites one case where a charge was laid, then a trial and an acquittal took place. I understand the point made by the Member. I also know there are many complaints that are investigated and found groundless or based on insufficient evidence. That does go on and the names do not enter into the public record. People are not disgraced by having their names appear in newspapers.
Clause 38 agreed to
On Clause 39
Clause 39 agreed to
On Clause 40
Clause 40 agreed to
On Clause 41
Mr. Lang: I feel the penalty section is very offensive. It has become very severe. I realize you have to have a penalty section, but I would like the Minister to explain to us why we are getting to this point. We are dealing with kids and with parents, who have the choice of where their children go. Perhaps the Minister would like to speak.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not understand the Members concern. We are talking about fines of up to $1,000 each day, which is a maximum. I would point out that we are dealing with children here. We have other laws passed in this Legislature that talked about killing a moose out of season, and the fine is up to $10,000. There are fines provided under the old child care act. Again, we are talking about the maximums provided for in law. The protection of children is a very serious matter, and I think that was the reason for the proposals here.
Could I move the amendment I have for this clause at this point?
Chair: We have to finish this clause first.
Clause 41 agreed to
On Clause 41.1
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would move an amendment to which I have given previous notice to all Members
THAT Bill No. 77, entitled Child Care Act, be amended in clause 41 at page 13 by adding immediately after clause 41 the following:
Land Claims and Self-Government Agreements
41.1 Notwithstanding anything in this act, where there is a conflict between this act and
(a) a Yukon land claim agreement that is in force, or
(b) a self-government agreement between a Yukon First Nation and the Government of Canada or the Government of the Yukon that is in force,
the Yukon land claim agreement or the Yukon First Nation self-government agreement shall prevail to the extent of the conflict."
I have duplicate copies of the amendment. I have already provided copies, but I will provide more if Members do not have copies in front of them.
Mr. Lang: We have not seen the final land claims agreement or the individual self-government agreements, but I just want to say as a Member of the House that it is our hope that the general laws of application will prevail for all people in the territory and we will all be seen equally before the law when the land claims negotiations are finished.
I do not know under what principle the Minister is bringing forward the amendment unless that particular principle is not going to be met. If it is not, and that happens throughout all our legislation, we are going to be in a situation where it will be confusing for all people in the territory, both native and non native, as to what laws they go under. Then we will have to question what exactly is the purpose of the Legislative Chambers when 40 or 50 percent of the population do not fall under the laws that people are duly elected to make.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is nothing in the moment in the land claims agreements that cover child care arrangements, but there may be some self-government agreements that cover it. We do know the hierarchy of law; those laws that have constitutional protection of course will take precedence over our laws. Anything of that kind that affects our jurisdiction will come to the attention of this House ultimately, but it was an important point for the Council of Yukon Indians and the First Nations to have this clarified in this piece of legislation.
Mr. Lang: We are not opposing this section. We are prepared to support it, but I just wanted to point out the general principle of what we are speaking about and the Government of Yukon is there to ensure that the principle I spoke of is paramount as far as negotiations are concerned.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 41.1 agreed to
On Clause 42
Clause 42 agreed to
On Clause 43
Clause 43 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I ask that you report progress on Bill No. 77, entitled the Child Care Act.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Nordling: I move that the 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: The Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 77, the Child Care Act, and I report progress on the same.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.