Thursday, May 10, 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.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Brewster: I would like to introduce the Legislature to some guests from Kluane Lake School. We have the teacher, Ms. Ev Pasichnyk and escorts Leona Braun and Ernie Martin. The students are Jim Sias, Shelbree Vander Veen, Ryan Wirth, T.J. Grantham and Pauly Sias. These children have come from Burwash, Destruction Bay, the south end of Kluane Lake and the middle of Kluane Lake.
In our area, they are taught that MLAs are very nice people. I hope when they leave here they do not have a different impression.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for Tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have for tabling the Green Paper on Constitutional Development as well as a number of legislative returns.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion?
NOTICE OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to give notice of the following motion:
THAT a select committee on constitutional development be established;
THAT the committee be comprised of two Members of the Legislative Assembly, one to be appointed by the Premier and one by the Leader of the Official Opposition;
THAT the green paper on constitutional development be referred to the committee;
THAT the committee receive the view and opinions of Yukon citizens on the green paper and present a record and interpretation of such views and opinions to this assembly;
THAT the committee hold public hearings on the green paper in Whitehorse and at least one community in each of the electoral districts outside of Whitehorse;
THAT the committee invite oral and written representations on the green paper from residents of the Yukon and where appropriate, from individuals and groups from outside the Yukon;
THAT the committee report to the Legislative Assembly no later than the 1991 spring sitting of the 27th Legislature and;
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the committee.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to give notice of the following motion
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 16 of the Human Rights Act, appoints George Henry and Tor Forsberg to be members of the Human Rights Commission effective May 14, 1990, and Debra Fendrick to be a member of the Human Rights Commission effective July 1, 1990; and
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 21 of the Human Rights Act, appoints Sylvia Neschokat, Sandy Secord, Tony Ravensdale, Art Pearson, Louise Profeit-Leblanc, Rosemary Trehearne, Clive Boyd, Betty Toews, Carol Geddes, Percy Henry and Lona Hobbs to be members of the panel of the ajudicators with Sylvia Neschokat designated Chief Adjudicator; and
THAT all appointments to the panel of adjudicators shall take effect July 1, 1990.
Speaker: are there any Statements by Ministers?
Release of green paper on constitutional development
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am pleased to announce today the public release of the Yukon Governments green paper on constitutional development. I would like to point out to the hon. Members that it is a green paper; that is, it presents background information and a range of options; it is not a government position paper. We wish to inform Yukon citizens and then to consult carefully and completely with them before making the historic choices we now face.
The green paper describes the history of responsible government in the Yukon. It also points out its origins in parliamentary traditions in Britain and Canada. The paper goes on to describe the history of Canadian Confederation, how and on what terms provinces have been admitted in the past.
The Constitution Act of 1982 and the Meech Lake Accord of 1987 are explored in more detail as they have more immediate impact on our future. For most of the 1980s. The Yukoners and their elected representatives have been protesting the unfairness of these two documents: the new rights granted to all Canadian except Northerners and the new rules blocking our participation in Confederation.
I am mindful today of the unified support of all Members of this House in protesting this unfair treatment. I am also aware of more hopeful prospects for the 1990s. The proposal of Premier McKenna of New Brunswick has enabled us to speak positively about Constitutional change for the first time in a decade. This is our preferred role: to work with other Canadians for positive changes.
Another positive step is the recent signing of our land claim umbrella agreement. We expect this to lead to successful settlements with individual First Nations. While this is not directly related to the territorys constitutional development, it removes what could have otherwise been a contentious obstacle.
Our green paper outlines three main avenues for the Yukons future:
1. Remaining a territory, perhaps with more local powers;
2. Continuing to seek provincehood, whether equal to the other provinces or not;
3. Building a unique form of government for our region with different powers and a different relationship with Canada.
In each case, citizens will need to consider our internal arrangements with each other and our external relations with the rest of Canada and perhaps our northern neighbours.
We are embarking today on an examination of our most fundamental institutions, and I believe it can be a positive and an exciting exercise in building our Yukon community. I look forward to it with great enthusiasm.
If the Legislature approves, public hearings will be held on this green paper between now and the next few months. This will allow time for Yukoners to read and reflect, and for Canadian leaders to work their way out of the constitutional dilemma they have brought upon us. The task we are setting for ourselves is a difficult one, but its importance and urgency cannot be underestimated.
Two thousand years ago, Isocrates wrote, The soul of the state is its constitution. We must be sure that our Constitution - our soul - is a true reflection of the Yukon people, their diversity, their fairness and their generosity.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Lawsuit against Member
Mr. Phelps: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Executive Council with regard to the court case that his favoured deputy minister, the Deputy Minister of Education, is threatening to bring against me. Yesterday, the Minister agreed to make inquiries to see if instructions were given to the government lawyer to phone the media and ask them to save their tapes of the news conferences given by me and the Member for Riverdale South.
Can the Minister answer that question today?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I can say to the Member that, unfortunately, I have not obtained for him the reply in writing laying out the specific circumstances that led to the telephone calls that he is inquiring about. I do understand that the enquiries made by Justice officials resulted from calls within the government from specific departments that the Member has identified for certain advice. Those calls were made as a result of that.
The question the Member asked yesterday as to whether we were pursuing this as a matter of public business or whether it is the view of the ministry a private matter, I think has been clarified satisfactorily for the Member. The matter coming to our attention and discussions ensuing: our statement on that question, I think, has been made perfectly clear.
Mr. Phelps: I am concerned about the involvement of a senior lawyer from the Department of Justice in this matter, I would like to know who called the lawyer and asked him to make these calls.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have not established who called whom. As the Member well knows, there is a chain of command in the government. I know there was not a request for formal action. As the Member is a lawyer, he knows that sometimes prudent officials take steps based on inquiries or requests from client departments. Until I know the details, I cannot provide the Member with exactly who called whom when. I just have a general understanding that it resulted from an inquiry from a department to the Department of Justice.
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps the Minister of Justice can shed some light on this. Can she advise us whether she or anybody in her department instructed this senior official to make phone calls to the media?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I did not instruct anyone in my department to make any of those calls. Further to that, the Premier has asked for that information.
Question re: Lawsuit against Member
Mr. Phelps: Since it was another department that apparently initiated this, perhaps the Minister of Education can shed some light on this. Can he tell us whether it was he or someone in his department who issued instructions to the government lawyer to phone the media about preserving the evidence from the news conference?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I did not issue any such instructions. As the Premier indicated, he will be responding to the Member with the particulars the Member has put to him.
Mr. Phelps: It is going to be interesting once the court case is upon us and we hear sworn testimony of all those who will be called as witnesses, including the front bench, and the government official who made the phone calls.
I would like to know whether or not the Minister of Education has discussed this threatened lawsuit with the deputy minister.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not going to indicate to the Member the content of discussions I have with the Deputy Minister of Education about this or other matters.
Mr. Phelps: I am interested in the reason for that. Is it because he was encouraging this action to threaten the media and me?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know that at all. The reason I do not divulge discussions between Ministers and DMs is because it is a bad precedent. I have not done that. I know that the Members opposite have exposed at least one communication between a Minister and a DM. I have expressed concern to the department, generally, that the line of questioning in the Legislature by the Member for Hootalinqua has been quite unfounded and unsubstantiated. I have expressed concern about the morale generally in the department as a result of the line of questioning, but I have not gone further than that.
Question re: Contract tendering, South Highway school
Mrs. Firth: There has been controversy with the tendering of the South Highway school since the project began. First of all, only three companies were invited for proposals for the $1.4 million project, instead of it going to public tender for a construction project.
After complaints from local contractors, the government opened up the process for proposals from other contractors and extended the dates. One of the local contractors submitted a bid lower by $8,444 than Atco, which has been announced as the successful contractor. Why was the low bidder bypassed? Was there a Management Board decision to do so?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like the Member, and the guests in the gallery, to know I am a very nice MLA, and I would be more than pleased to answer this question.
The contract that was awarded to Atco was the result of a contract-tendering process for the acquisition of goods. In other words, it was a purchase contract versus a construction contract. The tenders that were received were judged on the basis of criteria used for the acquisition of the required goods, which was a prefabricated unit for the school on the South Highway.
I should note for the Member that it is not totally accurate to say the low tender was bypassed, because a condition, placed by the contractor in question the Member refers to, required that contractor to do the site work for the preparation of the school. In essence, that cast an additional $128,000 into the contract.
Considering the additional site work that the contractor required to be included in the contract, the bid was no longer the low one. In addition, it did not conform to the specifications of the purchase contract.
Mrs. Firth: I guess there was no Management Board decision to do this. What was the original request for, which came from the client department, the Department of Education, when they originally requested Government Services to take this on? Did they request trailers, or did they request a stick-built structure?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The request that came from the client department, namely, Education, was for a prefabricated modular unit. That was a decision, as I understand, achieved through consultation with the community at large, the parents involved and with the department officials involved.
So the request that came to Government Services was for the acquisition of units that could be placed on site in time for the school to be ready for September use. The short answer is that that was the request; it was a purchase; it was treated as a purchase contract and it did not require any Management Board authority.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask who made the request.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure how specific the Member expects me to be. The Department of Education made the request to the Department of Government Services. Specifically who made the phone call, who wrote the letter or signed it - from past experience last week, I refuse to commit myself as to exactly whom that may have been.
Question re: Contracts, South Highway school
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister if the contract has been awarded either verbally or in writing yet.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I suspect that it has been. I would have to check on whether or not it has been formally confirmed in writing through the appropriate authority. I know the decision has been made; in essence the contract has been awarded and should any formality be required that has not already been given, it soon will be.
Mrs. Firth: The answers become more interesting all the time.
I would like to know whether or not Atco has been advised that they were the successful contractor and how that was done. Were they notified by phone? Have they signed a written contract? Who advised them?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am working from memory, but I believe that a tender award has been signed off. That would have been to Atco, so they would have been notified in writing by now, as well as the unsuccessful bidders.
I would only qualify this answer by saying that I would like to seek confirmation from the department, but it is my recollection that the contract has been signed off.
Mrs. Firth: I would strongly recommend to the Minister that he consult with his department. When I read the contract regulations, I do not feel, according to the regulations, the department has the ability to put a contract out. It was a proposal, not a tender. According to the regulations, a contract cannot be put out for a purchase or construction project. I would strongly recommend the Minister check into that.
Is the Minister saying that it is too late to reverse the decision because the commitment has been given to Atco and something has been signed?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me be perfectly clear. Bids were received. They were reviewed. I was consulted with respect to the decision. In fact, I engaged in at least one or two meetings about the bids of contractors who were expressing some concerns. The decision was upheld. It has been awarded and it is final.
Question re: Contracts, South Highway school
Mrs. Firth: I want to be perfectly clear here too. The issue is this: we had a local business that was the low bidder - despite what the Minister says, they were the low bidder - that offered a better product and that could get the school built by the August 15 deadline. The company was going to create 30 jobs for a three-month period. They were going to award four other local businesses subcontracts. This government has made a decision to give the contract to an Atco trailer company outside of the Yukon Territory. That is completely contrary to all government policy. It is completely contrary to the argument the Minister put forward last week with respect to the fuel contracts going to local businesses.
How is the Minister going to be able to justify this contract going outside and the loss of these jobs to the people of the Yukon, when the government is professing that its position is local hire and local products?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The government policy is to encourage local hire and local materials. With respect to this particular contract, it was a purchase contract for specific goods. It was a request based on community input, based on decisions made from that community in conjunction with departmental expertise, and a tender was awarded on the strength of the bids received.
It is inaccurate to suggest that a bid was turned down that may have been better because it went through an evaluation process with a number of criteria that clearly put Atcos bid out front.
On a purchase contract, that is the basis on which decisions are made. The net result of this is that an award was made on the basis of a purchase tender that had specific criteria that had to be met. The bid that met the criteria was awarded the contract, and that is the long and the short of it. It is not a case of attempting to circumvent local materials or local purchase. It is a case of a contract being awarded on the basis of criteria set by a community for a project.
Mrs. Firth: I am not going to let the Minister get away with that. This whole contract has been messed up from the very beginning. I am not going to let the Minister get away with putting the responsibility on the shoulders of the community. The people in the community did not even have all the information, or they would not have disagreed with the low bidder getting it, or a local contractor getting it ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary?
Mrs. Firth: ... and the jobs going to local people and the subcontracts going to local businesses.
I would like the Minister to stand up and tell us something. When those people made the decision at the community level, were they given all the information the stick-built modular facility could be built on time by local people, and go to a local contractor, as opposed to the Atco trailer bidder? Did they have all that information?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member has to make up her mind which position she is going to be taking today. Last week, she was chastising me for allegedly tampering with the tendering process. This week, she is asking me to change a tendering process. Let me be perfectly clear.
A purchase contract was let. Contractors who did not meet the specifications or the requirements of that criteria were not selected. The selection was made on the basis of criteria requested in the tender. It was based on the input of the school committee, people from the community and departmental expertise. The contracts not awarded did not meet the criteria for the purchase contract. In other words, there was a breach of the purchase contract criteria.
The bid the Member is alluding to was a construction contract submitted as if it were a purchase contract, and there is a difference. The Member is suggesting I should change ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is suggesting I should change the terms of a contract of a bid that was let to allow another contractor to get the job. That is tampering with the tendering process. I will not do it.
Mrs. Firth: Well, talk about tampering with the tendering process.
The Minister could not today table the purchase contract for this contract because there is not one. The Minister does not know that, but I do. The issue here is that...
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Member please get to the supplementary.
Mrs. Firth: ...there is a local business that could comply with all of the requirements, and the local business is not getting the job. It is going to Atco Trailers in Alberta. That is the issue.
I would like to ask the Minister: will he provide for me this afternoon the contract that has been signed with Atco?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to correct the Member. She is wrong on a number of counts. The local contractor did not meet the requirements of the purchase contract. That contractor required the site work to be included in the bid, which was not part of the criteria. That is a separate construction contract, so there was a violation of the tender specifications right there. The contractor was unable to meet the timing specifications for September that the school committee called for. That was another inadequacy.
Additionally, I would be clearly called to task, and possibly taken to court, for changing terms of reference of a contract by awarding it to a contractor that did not meet the original terms and conditions. That is tampering with a contract award. I said I will not do that. The Member is wrong when she suggests the local contractor met all the specifications of the tender call for the purchase of these goods. That is not correct.
Question re: Contracts, South Highway school
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is the one who is wrong on this issue. The contractor has been to see the Minister. He has gone through all the rationale the Ministers department provided to him as to why they were not eligible for this contract.
The local contractor could comply with the August 15 deadline. They were going to build modular units. They had taken into account the site preparation. They had complied completely with what the requests of the school committee in the community were. They were denied the contract. The local business was denied the contract. It was given to Atco Trailers. I would like to ask the Minister again if he will table in the House this afternoon the contract that has been signed with Atco for the purchase of this specific service or goods?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me repeat this for the Member so that it is perfectly clear. The local contractor did not meet the requirements of the bid. The Member is telling me that I should arbitrarily, upon an award, change the terms of that bid and award it for different reasons.
The Members opposite have been chastising this government about a business incentive policy for the past year. We have achieved a business incentive policy for this government that has met the approval of the contracting and business community in the Yukon. They have asked me to follow those rules so we have a level playing field. We created a level playing field. The Member opposite is asking me to change the rules in an award because it favours a particular party. I will not do that.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister knows very well that is not what I am asking. The whole issue of contracts has come to the light because of the political interference and manipulating of the contracts by this government. Why does the Minister not just answer this question: will he table this contract? He has not answered it in three questions. Will he table the purchase contract with Atco for the purchase of these goods? Will he table it here this afternoon?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would be delighted to table it. If the Member would not continually state on the record so many incorrect facts and figures, I would not have to speak to tabling the contract. I am quite prepared to table the contract. I am quite prepared to tell the Member that I will not politically interfere in this contract, as she is suggesting I do.
Question re: Yukon Housing CDorporation, tendering prodedures
Mr. Nordling: My question is to the Minister in charge of the Yukon Housing Corporation with respect to tendering procedures.
We have discussed the merits of the government jobs being broken down into several small contracts to allow smaller businesses to bid on the jobs rather than only the larger firms. I would like to know if this philosophy or approach also applies to the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would stand to be corrected on this, because I am not perfectly certain, but on principle we do apply the reduction of contracts into smaller components for easier access to the contracting and business community. I know that happens as a regular occurrence with Yukon Housing, whether in the rural communities or in Whitehorse. So the policy is definitely applied with Yukon Housing. Whether or not they have a formal policy within their directives or bylaws, I would have to take notice on that.
It comes to mind that in fairly large projects such as the turn-key projects with the construction of 12, 15 or 20 units, they are tendered as a single project. I do not know how you can break them up smaller. It is my understanding that Yukon Housing does indeed follow the policy of reducing contracts to the smallest size possible.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Mr. Nordling: Perhaps I can clarify this a little for the Minister, because he was answering my question. The project I am thinking of is the one Yukon Housing has recently tendered, or is tendering, for housing in Carmacks consisting of two duplexes and a single family dwelling as one package, rather than three separate contracts, which would allow smaller bidders to bid. As it is, the contract will probably be around $500,000, and it makes it difficult for the small residential contractors to put up the cash security, bid bonds and whatever else is needed. Is the Minister aware of that particular tender?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the Members information is accurate, then I am concerned. I am not aware that in a small community three units would be tendered in one package. I would like to take notice, investigate it, and report back to the Member. He is correct in this: it is a far better arrangement in a small rural community to have individual units constructed on an individual basis, with an opportunity for individual contractors to bid on each. I respect that point, and I will check on it.
Mr. Nordling: Could the Minister also check on the tendering in Teslin? I believe there are two duplexes being tendered in Teslin as a package, rather than individually.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to compliment the Member on being well informed. I appreciate the notice, and I will respond at the same time on Teslin, as well as anywhere else we may be tendering single detached units as packages.
Question re: Litter
Ms. Hayden: I have had concerns raised to me by residents of Whitehorse about the amount of litter present in YTG compounds and yards around the city. Given that this is clean-up month and the City of Whitehorse is encouraging property owners to clean up their premises, can the Minister of Community and Transportation Services tell me what action is being taken by the government to clean up government yards?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have directed each of my departments, on a government-wide scale, to be mindful of government assets throughout the territory, their state and condition, particularly with respect to orderliness, upkeep, maintenance, repair, litter and so on.
I can only say to the Member that direction has been given, and it is up to the administration to ensure it is followed and the staff is aware of this. If the Member is still receiving concerns, because I have also received them, I will check to see that these directions are being followed.
Ms. Hayden: Can the Minister tell me if those directions are to be carried out on an ongoing basis throughout the summer, and will kick in next spring, when garbage surfaces as the snow goes?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can tell the Member that in the case of where we are responsible for various facilities, compounds and yards, their upkeep is to be a year-round affair. Because this government is conscious of the various environmental concerns facing our society, we want to be the model employer and a good example, so the directions that have been given to respective departments are that it be a year-round concern to maintain our facilities.
Question re: Robinson subdivision access road
Mr. Phelps: I have a question for the same Minister in regards to the Robinson subdivision access road. As was the case of the Mendenhall subdivision, the access road from the highway was not built to the minimum standard with the result that there is no drainage in places. In the spring, two lakes form, which are known to the residents as Surprise Lake and Byblow Lake. They form on the road making it virtually impossible to get from the highway to the lots or vice versa.
I met with the Minister April 17 and asked that his department do something about Surprise Lake and Byblow Lake and I am wondering if his department has done anything to correct the situation.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can tell the Member that my officials went out and drained Surprise Lake and are attempting to keep up the level of Byblow Lake - and stock it with trout. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to stock it with red herring.
The question I believe is just about Robinson, and not Mendenhall, so I will respond to that. The Robinson roads, contrary to what the Member says, were not constructed to a minimum standard. They were constructed to a very specific standard that far exceeded the minimum standard of Mendenhall. As the Member knows, there were some deficiencies noted in the road last year. We repaired them. The deficiencies that were flagged this year were looked at. The Member will be pleased to know that both lakes have dried up now. The road base is still fairly solid. When the break-up period is completely past, I have asked my officials to look the roads over again to see if some repair is required.
Mr. Phelps: Can the residents take it that steps will be taken to ensure that these two lakes will not form in the middle of the road next spring?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If this Member is still Minister, there should be no surprises next year. I cannot provide a guarantee that there will not be any formation of water on the edge or near the road. I will certainly make the commitment that we will look at it this summer to see if minimal drainage can be put in place to eliminate the lakes from forming next year. We cannot do that until it gets a little dryer. The good news is that it has not damaged the road to any great extent. The roadbed is still solid, and it was simply surface water that accumulated.
Question re: Litter
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services concerning the litter problem in the Yukon. The Minister of Renewable Resources brought an amendment into this House that raised the fines for littering on Yukon right-of-ways some time ago. Unfortunately, it now appears that this law is unenforceable. The RCMP and government officials agree the definition of a highway right-of-way is not clear. In fact, a government official had to withdraw charges last year when they used the 150 feet from the centre line of the highway as the right-of-way. They were challenged by the person they were charging. These officials were unable to find a clear definition of the highway right-of-way in the act. This problem has to be cleared up immediately.
Will the Minister of Transportation Services amend the Highways Act as soon as possible so the litter problem on Yukon highways can be addressed?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to tell the Member that I am a little tired today and will not be doing it this day anyway.
We are contemplating revisions to the Highways Act. They are in a drafting stage now. I can speculate that this matter of identification and legal description for highway right-of-way will be contained in that. Whether or not that legislation will come forward this fall or next spring, I cannot be sure. It is something that is being addressed in revisions that had been contemplated and are being done to the Highways Act now.
Mr. Phillips: I hope the Minister will act on that immediately. It is important to get that into proper legislation.
In the past 10 days or so, many volunteers and groups have taken advantage of the Department of Highways program of litter pickup. This is an excellent program, and I commend the Minister for his initiative in this area. The problem is that the litter on the highways is widespread, and one month a year does not address the problem. An anti-littering program should be ongoing, as the Member for South Centre has said, with the government people. I would agree it should be ongoing.
Would the Minister consider changing the program he has in place for this month and extending it to volunteer groups throughout the whole summer?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That is not an unreasonable suggestion. We contemplated that when we were developing the program a few months ago. One of the obvious problems that was facing us was how much it would cost to carry the program on beyond the month we had assigned.
As the Member recalls, under this specific program, we did identify $23,000, which is more than double what was previously allowed in the program. We would like to run through the course of the month, see how popular the program is, find out how much it has cost us, and take it from there to determine whether or not we should apply that kind of a program throughout the summer. We might be able to extend the program another month or two from the existing funds.
It has been a very popular program. Many groups of six around the territory have taken advantage of picking up the $250 for that particular component of the program.
In short, we will look at that as soon as we complete our commitment to this program. It may be possible.
Mr. Phillips: I hope the Minister will treat that representation seriously. I think having these groups pick up the litter is going to be a lot less expensive than having the highway crews do it through the rest of the summer.
This is anti-litter week. Litter is a very serious problem in Yukon. We have an anti-litter law for our highways that is unenforceable, and we have no law respecting other areas of the Yukon.
We have a commitment from the Minister of Renewable Resources that he will address the litter issue in the environmental protection act, but we have been waiting for this act for over four years
I would like to ask the Minister of Renewable Resources if he would consider bringing in some kind of amendment or interim measure that would look at the litter problem in Yukon prior to the environmental protection act, which may take forever.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to assure the Member opposite that it will not take forever to introduce the environmental protection act. I will consider his suggestion.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 9: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 9, standing in the name of Mr. Webster.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that Bill No. 9, entitled An Act to Amend the Animal Protection Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 9, entitled An Act to Amend the Animal Protection Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The existing Animal Protection Act allows humane societies to capture and care for animals in distress, and to recover expenses for these services from the animal owner or to sell the animal. This government has not been empowered to take such action. The Yukon Humane Society has not had the resources to capture or care for many of these animals and has requested government to become an active participant in arranging for the capture and care of the animals, as well as to recover costs for doing so. Amendments to the act are designed to include government participation, while not excluding any humane society that still wishes to participate in this process.
The definition of official animal keeper in the bill and the subsequent replacement of the term for humane society in a number of paragraphs and subsections broadens the scope to include, in addition to a humane society, government agents or officials so appointed by government.
These minor amendments in no way alter the meaning of the present legislation and will ensure action will be taken in the case where an animal is found to be in distress.
The government has taken the position that all animals found in distress must be cared for and costs associated therewith be claimed from its owner. Where a humane society does not exist, or is unable to act for whatever reason, we will, by these amendments, ensure that all such animals are cared for.
Mr. Nordling: I agree with the Minister that what he is proposing is a minor amendment. We have all agreed we need a complete new animal protection act. I asked the Minister about it in Question Period one day. Unfortunately, he was so startled by the Member behind him he was unable to completely answer my question.
I would like to take this opportunity to ask my question again in order to get a little more detail from him. There has been an ad hoc committee made up of the RCMP, the Humane Society and members of his department reviewing the Animal Protection Act. Does he plan to make this a more structured committee so there will not be time limits and time lines to draft a new act? As is, the committee does not seem to be making very substantial progress.
In closing debate, I would like to hear comment from the Minister on the new act and whether there will be a structured committee to help draft it.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is my understanding that the committee did work together, and met a few times earlier this year, to come up with some suggestions to be put forward in overhauling this act. The Department of Justice is now reviewing those suggestions and will be drafting a new act in the near future. I suspect that draft act will then be passed to the ad hoc committee, which may become better structured, as the Member puts it, to review that draft piece of legislation and make further changes before introducing a final one in this House.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Bill No. 6: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 6, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 6, entitled Banking Agency Guarantee Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Finance that Bill No. 6, entitled Banking Agency Guarantee Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: While this bill is short and simple, it is very important to the continued expansion of banking services to smaller communities in rural Yukon. We are all aware of the availability of these services being needed for the economic well-being of rural Yukon. The banking operations that we are funding at the present time are insured in the normal matter, and we cover the cost to the bank of the insurance premiums.
Obtaining insurance for the existing agency operations has proven to be quite difficult. In fact, only one insurance company in North America has been found that is willing to provide the necessary coverage.
The problem we are now facing, which has led to the need for this bill, relates to the potential that agencies will be located on band lands.
It is apparent that our bank - the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, in this particular case - will not operate an agency without some form of insurance to cover the risks specified in the bill before us this afternoon. The insurance companies absolutely refuse to issue coverage for these risks on band lands. The refusal is one that rests upon legal opinions the bank has received regarding the rights of redress they might have in the event of one of the specified losses actually occurring on those lands.
In communities such as Old Crow, it is almost inevitable the agency we would hope to establish in the near future will be conducting its business on band lands. If communities like this are to receive banking services, we would have to be in the position to guarantee the bank for losses that would otherwise be covered by an insurance policy.
The experience so far with our existing agency operations - in particular Ross River, which has been running for a year and a half - would indicate the risk of loss actually occurring is quite remote.
In conclusion, the intent of the bill is to cover the bank for any losses for which they cannot obtain the standard insurance coverage.
Mr. Phelps: We on this side support the concept of providing banking services to rural communities that do not presently have those services. Our main concern is the cost to the taxpayer of this service, particularly when it is provided by a bank that enjoys considerable profit from doing all the business of government and handling all the money that comes to this government from Ottawa and whatnot.
We will certainly be supporting this act, but we are going to be very interested in seeing the details of the agency agreements between this government and the bank, in order to evaluate those agreements. This act will allow only part of such agreements to be signed.
I would ask the Minister if he foresees any difficulty in tabling these agency agreements in the future?
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would have to take notice of the question. I am presuming that it is all right. If I am wrong, I will be the first person to tell the Member - likely in the very near future. It is quite desirable of course not to have to pay for any banking services anywhere in the territory. Unfortunately, asI am sure the Member is aware, the banks in the country have been absenting themselves from the small communities. I believe the saw-off population has been in the neighborhood of about 5,000 people. This makes it very difficult for our communities to qualify for banking services, and an innovative approach has been sought to replace the traditional full-banking services. The innovative approach has been worked out between ourselves and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is the agency system, and it has proven to be quite successful in those communities for which it has been established.
Again, I say that it is desirable that we do not pay, but unfortunately under the circumstances, it is a service for which payment must be made. We do engage in these agency agreements largely because of the importance that banking provides to the economic life of rural communities and the difficulties these communities have in banking by long distance. It is a necessary arrangement, in our view, that we continue, and I will be more than happy to do what I can to provide more information for the Member during Committee debate.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee on the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
At this time we will have a break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are dealing with Bill No. 4, entitled Income Tax Act.
Bill No. 4 - An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have already spoken to the reasons for the bill in second reading. Again, under the income tax collective agreement we have with the federal government, our act has to parallel the federal act. The amendments before us this afternoon in Bill No. 4 bring Yukons law into line with recent changes in the federal statute.
As Members know, I am sure, if we wish to continue to be a part of the tax collection agreement, we have little choice but to make these amendments. The alternative for us is obviously to collect our own income tax. This is a very expensive proposition, especially for a jurisdiction the size of ours. There is only one province that collects its own personal income tax and that is Quebec.
The amendments here are clearly administrative in the nature. They range from such things as tax liability in the case of death of a taxpayer to the calculation of interest on taxes owing. The matters in the act are obviously quite complex so I have asked none other than the august Ray Hayes to be present to give us a hand.
Mr. Phelps: This is an extremely complex act. We would feel rather remiss if we were to go through it without examining the details and ensuring that we understand every aspect of it. I am hoping there is some way we can shorten the time necessary to go through the act. For that reason, I would like to recommend a brief adjournment so that we can speak on the issue of this act and then come back in order to facilitate House business.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the Member would like to explain.
Perhaps we could take an adjournment for one minute. I am having difficulty understanding the cryptic remarks by the Members opposite. If we were to take a one minute break, I will be able to get a clear understanding of what it is they are taking about.
Chair: Is the Committee agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will have a one minute recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It will be necessary for me to discuss a few matters with my caucus regarding the Income Tax Act. I will need a slightly longer break to discuss this matter, and perhaps we could come back together in 15 minutes.
Chair: We will take a short recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
We are on general debate.
Mr. Lang: One of the major complaints we all hear is about the Income Tax Act and how it applies to us individually. It seems to be getting more and more complicated all the time, to the point where a lot of citizens who have straightforward revenues coming in feel obligated to hire accountants in order to ensure their books are done properly at some expense to themselves.
Has the Minister or his department put forward some ideas that could be incorporated by the federal government to make the Income Tax Act simpler for the general public to understand, so they can make their own returns out, as opposed to going to the expense of hiring so-called experts?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member raises an interesting, if not particularly relevant, point. As I understand it, the federal government is the government that passes the federal legislation. We do meet with them at the officials level to discuss potential changes, but it is their final decision to make, with respect to simplification of rules or any particular matter that comes before us.
The federal Minister, Mr. Wilson, has attempted to simplify tax reform and to undertake tax reform with the primary goal of simplifying the taxation system.
Obviously he is not doing it for the satisfaction of the Member for Porter Creek East or anyone else, but nevertheless it is their decision to make. We are but one very small voice in the wilderness when it comes to having any kind of income tax amendments.
Mr. Lang: I guess my question is to the Minister of Finance, who has attended a number of these meetings along with his top officials. Have there been further discussions and formal requests made by the Government of Yukon that the Government of Canada re-examine the Income Tax Act and see if it can be made any simpler? Has that ever been put in writing or has a formal representation ever been made to the Government of Canada?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have made just verbal representations - nothing in writing.
Mr. Lang: Would the Minister then be prepared to put something in writing? From what he said earlier, he obviously agrees with me that representation should be made to the Government of Canada to see if it can re-examine some of these aspects of the act.
Everyone has done their income taxes this past year. If that was supposed to be simple, I guess I am a very simple man, because it seemed a lot more complicated to me than in past years. I see the Minister of Renewable Resources indicating that he would like to say something.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would have to agree with the Member opposite that it is very difficult to follow at times and it takes a considerable amount of time to do an income tax return.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Also, I would agree with the Member that he is a simple man. As well, I would agree that the income tax form is complicated. Would the Member like to indicate those areas where he thinks the income tax system could be simplified? I would be more than happy to take those into consideration.
Mr. Lang: Getting to the specifics of the act here, what happens if this bill is not passed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am still interested to know where the Member feels the income tax form should be simplified. It would be useful to know so that perhaps we could incorporate some of his views on the matter in any correspondence or communication we might have with the federal Minister.
If we do not pass this act, of course, we will be in breach of the agreement, as I indicated in general debate and second reading speeches. If we were in breach of agreement, we may be called upon to collect taxes ourselves.
Mr. Phelps: I had a number of questions about income tax and the role this government plays in trying to simplify the act, and make changes that will complement and enhance investment in the territory and the efforts of various industries that are struggling to survive in the present climate they face. The dollar has been going up in value against foreign currencies, making it very difficult for placer miners and the agricultural industry to compete on the international market. It makes it very difficult, indeed, for those who not only struggle to start up business in the territory, but for those who make investments from time to time in the territory as well.
I have quite a few questions with regard to the understanding of the Minister and his support for various industries with regard to income tax, and whether or not changes to this Income Tax Act might facilitate the desperate needs of some of these industries if they cannot manage to find methods with which to facilitate the industry through additional changes, amendments to the Income Tax Act or changes to the bill before us today. I am very interested in having a thorough understanding of the kind of lobby effort that might take place and the various steps, both bureaucratic and intergovernmental, with regard to the regulations that might be at hand. It would be an unfortunate thing if, through some oversight here today, we were to mistakenly lose the opportunity to facilitate the industries involved, to make life easier for those trying to raise capital right now in a desperate period of time for the industries involved.
I have had recent meetings with accountants. I have a letter here from Dunwoody & Co., for example, which is concerned about the placer industry. They have been engaged by the Klondike Placer Miners Association and have been doing a lot of work on behalf of that association: good work, I might add, because through their lobbying, both of this government, as I understand it, and their counterparts in Ottawa, a lot of amendments to regulations and to federal acts over the course of the past number of years have occurred. These, I think, are of benefit to the industry and show the good will, in my view, of politicians from various departments and various levels of government.
Dunwoody & Co. people always like to travel to the Yukon at this time of year. They send a representative, a Mr. Hirtle, who is a chartered accountant and has been with the firm for a considerable period of time. He has been to the Yukon on various occasions, lending his expertise to the efforts of the placers miners in this continuing struggle to be treated fairly by all of the various branches in the federal government that seem to not have a clear picture of what is needed in order to assist the unique financial environment surrounding the placing mining industry, as well as the hard rock industry in British Columbia.
In my recent meetings with Mr. Taylor and correspondence with Dunwoody & Co., it would appear that they are having a lot of difficulty getting through to the federal government, which is something that all of us have experienced, from time to time, over the years. Of course, I guess that is the problem of big government. I always hoped that this government would not get so big that it would not be responsive to the needs of important industries in the north. I think that it is something that we all ought to bear in mind when we look at bills such as the one before us and all the recent legislative initiatives that we are trying to facilitate in this Legislature.
Being people of goodwill, we have to examine each and every important issue as they arrive. For example, the Watson Lake Forest Products closure and sale is going to have a social impact on all those people in Watson Lake who have jobs, either directly or indirectly associated with the forestry industry there. It is going to have a devastating impact on all those small businesses that were encouraged to provide goods and services to the Watson Lake sawmill on a credit basis, rather than a cash basis.
We are going to see various kinds of write-offs as a result of that sad situation. It seems one of the ways relief can be provided to these unfortunate businesses might be through an appropriate restructuring of the federal Income Tax Act, as well as the territorial Income Tax Act. Many of the problems we speak of were a concern to us previously, but they have been brought home in the recent court decision this afternoon, handed down locally, ordering the sale of the assets of Yukon Pacific Forest Products by the receiver on terms and conditions that will have to be sanctioned by the court.
In the view of the Minister, will any of the amendments to the Income Tax Act before us today provide relief of any sort to the various people who are being threatened by large losses, write-offs and cashflow problems? Will any of the present amendments prove to be of some assistance and, if so, in what way does he see them operating?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No.
Mr. Phelps: I did not catch what the Minister had to say. If his answer is no, I would be very pleased to know why.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The answer is no because the answer is no.
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps the philosophy of the side opposite is such that they do not think taxes are very important. This is income tax and is applied to those who earn income. Perhaps they have a philosophical difference between people who work and earn income. Is that the problem?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No.
Mr. Phelps: I am rather concerned because I understood that things such as interest provisions, as contemplated in this act would have some bearing on the earning capacity and the taxes paid by individuals and businesses earning income in the Yukon Territory. The answer from the Minister, as I understand it, is that those provisions will not have any impact at all on those unfortunate owners of companies or workers who are so traumatically affected by the recent events as announced in court this afternoon.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The answer is: there is nothing in particular in this act that would impact on any of those extraneous examples that the Member cited. Nothing in particular will have an impact on it. It is being administered as if it were passed and has been administered that way for some time.
Mr. Lang: Take a look at clause 22. I understand that Yukon Pacific Forest Products did not remit some of their income tax. If that is the case, what bearing is section 22 going to have on those members of the board who obviously went against the law?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We receive the money whether the federal government collects it or not.
Mr. Lang: That is not the point. Perhaps the Member has not read the bill. Clause 42.(1) on page 12 states: Where a corporation has failed to deduct or withhold an amount .... My understanding is that the corporation the Minister has 15 percent interest in - at least we are led to believe that - did not remit some of its income tax. If they did not, obviously it is going to be in contravention of this particular section of the bill. I want to know if the Minister is going to enforce this section of the bill.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: According to the agreement, we received the income tax as if it was collected by the federal government. If the income tax is not being received by the federal government then that, in fact, is its account receivable; it takes the responsibility.
Mr. Lang: Does the Minister know whether or not the income tax for that particular company was paid to the federal government so that the government in all honesty could get that money to spend?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We would not be in a position to discuss the matter as it would be confidential. It is not a subject for the floor of the House as to whether or not a company or an individual remits its income tax.
Mr. Lang: If that is confidential, we have a section in here that tells me that if the amount is not paid, they are breaking the law and are liable - the directors are personally liable.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If they are charged it becomes public. Until such time, peoples income tax information is considered private and confidential.
Mr. Lang: I do not pretend to be an expert on this legislation, unlike my colleague the Minister of Finance. I would like to ask the Minister: what section is in place now where, if there is failure to remit income tax to the federal government, the directors are liable?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, there is a section that makes the board of directors liable if they fail to remit taxes.
Mr. Lang: Is there a penalty? If so, what is it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will take notice on the question.
Mr. Lang: Does he know whether or not there is a penalty?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will take notice of that question.
Mr. Phelps: That is an interesting issue, of course, because according to documents filed in the Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory, that was one of the problems that lead to a receiver being appointed for the Watson Lake sawmill in the first place.
Apparently, Madam Chair - I know you are interested in the subject - the corporation, Yukon Pacific, because of actions done or not done by its manager - the managing corporation, I believe, is T.F. Properties. They are located in Vancouver, of course, and there could be some difficulty with communications because of the great distances between the two centres, Watson Lake and Howe Street in Vancouver. It would appear that, in perusing some of the documents and not having had the opportunity to listen to the evidence in court, viva voce, but at first blush, there is a sworn statement, by virtue of an affidavit filed in the court, that Yukon Pacific Corporation did not deduct and pay the income tax that it was supposed to deduct and withheld the employees contribution to the federal government. Of course, that is extremely interesting to us because of the issue of whether a penalty would ensue, over and above liability, and the issue of to whom liability could be attributed.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I doubt that anything spoken by the Member was relevant - perhaps only very vaguely relevant to this particular act before us. The section with respect to the officers of corporations can be found - if Members will just pull out their copy of the federal act - on page 37933. It is section 242.
Mr. Phelps: In the interest of brevity - because I know that everybody is in a hurry to get through this legislation, no matter how complicated it may be - perhaps we could have the section read and explained.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is the only section I will read, and only because I enjoy the game: Where a corporation is guilty of an offence under this act an officer, director or agent of the corporation who directed, authorized, assented to, acquiesced in or participated in the commission of the offence is party to and guilty of the offence, and is liable on conviction to the punishment provided for the offence whether or not the corporation has been prosecuted or convicted.
Mr. Phelps: I am sure all present, not only those of us who are here in an elected capacity, but the officials as well, and the people listening in Hansard, will agree that that is a very profound section when it is applied to the issue of what is alleged to have occurred with regard to the deductions from the employees wages at Yukon Pacific.
In the opinion of the Minister, who would be liable under that section? Is there some concern to his knowledge that the principles of T.F. Properties, who were managing the company, might come within the scope of that section?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am quite flattered that the Member thinks I can provide a legal opinion. Of course, the rules of the House would not obligate me to, and the rules of the press would not permit me to speak untruths, which I might be prone to do on matters of such complexity, I will have to decline the kind invitation of the Member.
Mr. Phelps: It was very kind of the Minister to even entertain the hypothetical proposition that I laid before him. I am honoured by that generous act.
A lot of this language is rather foreign to me because I am not a chartered accountant and never intended to specialize in income tax law when I was a student of law. I was very fortunate, of course, to have escaped the need to know much about income tax law once I graduated, articled and started a practice in the law profession. I am sure many here are many interested in the legal profession and how it operates. In the profession, the issues that relate to income tax problems are generally referred to firms that specialize in the area of income tax.
There are two or three very well known firms in Vancouver that are utilized by being employed on an agency basis by firms locally. When I was in practice, we used two or three of them. The firm of Florenstine was one of the best known. A lot of these lawyers often take a chartered accountant, as well as a law degree, and spend a fair amount of time working for the Department of Finance and Department of Revenue of the federal government. I do not want to go on any more than I have to about that, and I am sure a lot of people are bored by technical things. After all, though, it is rather a technical and boring act. On the face of it, that is not the kind of act one would take on a cruise, unless one had trouble sleeping at night because of the pangs of guilt or remorse over such things as the pending sale, by court order, of the assets of Yukon Pacific Forest Products, and the very real problems that entails with regard to the entire social fabric of Watson Lake and many of the businesses there.
Does this act have any impact on those who supplied, or might supply, goods in future to Yukon Pacific Forest Products?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is nothing particular in this act that would apply to Watson Lake Forest Products, other than to the extent that it would have taxable income. I do not think I have heard quite enough yet about the Members childhood, and about how that childhood relates to the Members aspirations to become a lawyer, and why the Member was turned off income tax law.
I found the Members points about the career paths of lawyers quite fascinating, but I did not quite understand the Members point with respect to the Members own career and what caused his childhood in Carcross to turn him away from tax law toward some other particular field of law. Perhaps the Member could elaborate.
Mr. Phelps: I am quite honoured. I professed my lack of knowledge with regard to income tax and made it clear that I did not pretend to be any sort of expert. When most people present a bill in the House, they like to have a clear understanding of what each provision in the bill presented to the Assembly means. Therefore, I am rather taken aback, given the disclaimer I provided openly and honestly a short while ago, that the Minister has decided to ask me questions about the bill rather than the other way around.
Mr. Lang: I would like to question further on Watson Lake and the Yukon Pacific Forest Products, which used to be known as Hyland Forest Products. I know all Members have a great deal of interest on it and look forward to debating it at a later time.
How does this bill relate to the incident that has taken place there in the past while where local people have received letters from Revenue Canada telling them that if they have outstanding bills with Yukon Pacific Forest Products, they are directed to send the money, post haste, to Revenue Canada as opposed to Yukon Pacific Forest Products that has been so well managed and has had so much public exposure in the last little while.
Is there any section in this act that requires people to pay Revenue Canada forthwith as opposed to that struggling industry in the community?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member missed his calling. If the Member were standing in the House of Commons, he would be asking that collection question of the national Minister of Revenue and presumably the Minister would be answering that question as he would be responsible. Unfortunately, he has asked the wrong Minister in the wrong government. I know he would want to be set straight.
Mr. Lang: It is a local issue that is affecting local people. I understand there has been an incident with this type of collection method being employed by Revenue Canada through, I would imagine, the Income Tax Act or through the regulations. I do not know which section would apply.
For example, an individual owed Yukon Pacific Forest Products $25. That was quite a bit of money for that individual. He was really taken aback when he received a bill for $250,000 from Revenue Canada and was asked to pay the bill forthwith. Fortunately, it was found to be a computer error. The poor fellow who did get the bill was under such stress he went to one of the local establishments and spent quite a bit of time there mulling over how he was going to find this $250,000.
I will just point out for the record the implications of the Income Tax Act and how it can affect people, especially when you get a situation like the one that interests the Members on the other side, Yukon Pacific Forest Products. That situation has really, really affected so many people, people who pay income tax and who would like to pay income tax and who obviously are not now in that situation. Probably this bill would not apply to a lot of these people, in many ways. Instead of being in a situation where they want to be able to contribute to the general well being of the community and the GNP, we have a situation where these people are unemployed. Families are being torn apart in many cases because of the social stress and things that happen in respect to a situation that has been brought upon them - not by themselves - but obviously by powers greater than themselves that live outside the boundaries of the fair community of Watson Lake.
I just have to say that an act of this kind applies not just to the City of Whitehorse but it applies to the communities such as Watson Lake and the good people in Watson Lake who, if they could get a full 12 month benefit of working in the forest industry, would be contributing to the GNP of not only the Yukon, but of Canada. I am surprised that the Minister is taking it so lightly and passing the buck, literally, saying that he has no responsibility whatsoever even to pass the message on to Revenue Canada. Perhaps they should be looking at what is happening in cases such as this where you have a situation where people are being required to pay Revenue Canada directly, because of the mismanagement of the one of the major corporations in a particular community.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Obviously we are not the collection agents for income tax in the Yukon and it is a collection agent issue. As tragic that I am sure it is for those people in Watson Lake who face the problems expressed by the Member, the question is best put to the federal government, and I would urge the Member to do so.
Mr. Phelps: I am concerned about this issue, particularly in regard to the occurrences that were brought to the light by the Yukon Pacific experience: the Watson Lake sawmill situation, which I am sure many of you know about. Yukon Pacific, of course, was the company created in order to facilitate the sale of Hyland Forest Products assets, a little over a year ago. It was over the course of the last election, which was in 1989. They, as I am sure most Members are aware, were managed by agreement, I guess, by an outfit in some way affiliated with Shieldings, which is a large corporation with banking interests that always live up to their agreements. They were affiliated with a group, T.F. Properties from Vancouver, which apparently put the whole deal together.
They were a little short of money, from time to time. Apparently, the Yukon Pacific sawmill operation did not have quite the cashflow that had been forecast by those involved in the sale. They found themselves short of cash. This unfortunate incident occurred almost daily in the course of the operation of Yukon Pacific. They had to find ways of keeping the sawmill going and, yet, not declare bankruptcy.
There were various ways this was done. There was a large inventory, as a part of the sale to Yukon Pacific, which was in the yard in Watson Lake. There was $1,650,000 worth of stock. They were able to use that without paying for it: sell it, and keep a cashflow going.
There were a number of people who supplied goods and services to the mill, and they found that they were not getting their bills paid, either, and this helped alleviate the cashflow situation for Yukon Pacific.
It struggled on, noble of heart, keen of sight, with all the survival instincts one would expect from a hardy sawmill entrepreneur, such as we saw in this episode in the life of the Watson Lake Forest Products sawmill.
It struggled on. As I understand it, one of the creditors having difficulty collecting monies owed was the Department of Revenue of the federal government. That leads us back into the very interesting observations made by my good friend, the Member for Porter Creek East, which is the issue of the collection of overdue taxes, and the issue of monies being collected that are rightfully owed to governments.
Am I correct in my understanding of the Income Tax Act, and the arrangements between our government and the federal government, that we do not receive our share of the revenues under the Income Tax Act until those revenues have actually been collected and received by the federal government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No.
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps I could be told in what respect I am wrong.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated to the Member for Porter Creek East, we get the money as if it were collected anyway, and the collection liabilities are the responsibility of the federal government.
Mr. Lang: That may be on the initial year, but is it not true that after three years, or whatever time frame is in the agreement, that once it is reviewed, and if the taxes are not collected, do we not have to pay a penalty at that stage?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No.
Mr. Lang: Do I take it from the Minister that he does not really care whether or not they are collected?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am a good Canadian. Of course I do.
Mr. Lang: In view of the information that has come to light, did the Minister make any representation to Revenue Canada when it was found that the monies that had been set aside for the purposes of offsetting the government coffers to the Government of Canada, and thus would be transferred to the Government of Yukon, were not being paid but obviously being held for some other purpose? Did he make any representation that perhaps there was something wrong or illegal in that action? If so, to whom did he make those representations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: He did not. If the Member is suggesting that I should encourage Revenue Canada to become much more aggressive in its collection procedures on Yukoners, I will take his representation seriously and certainly give him all due credit when and if we do make such representations to the federal government.
Mr. Lang: There goes the Minister again, threatening us. Am I supposed to be afraid? Am I to stand in my place and bow to the Minister and ask the Minister for redemption? The Minister just twisted around my words to the extent that the question I asked is not even recognizable.
When it came to light that the good managers the Minister went into partnership with forgot to pay Revenue Canada the income tax that was forthcoming and had been taken from the employees and put aside, did he make representation? If not, why not?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not aware of the situation the Member expresses. Perhaps he can take a half an hour or so and explain it.
Mr. Phelps: I do not want to have to be placed in the situation of being accused of dallying too long over a very complicated bill that the Minister, by his own words in this House, has a great deal of difficulty with. We, in the Opposition, not having expertise available to us on the same basis as the sponsoring Minister will obviously have to struggle a bit to understand the ramifications of this important act.
I quote from Hansard at page 1270 on February 22, 1990, when the Minister said the income tax collection agreement between the Yukon and the Government of Canada requires that the taxation acts both be identical, up to and including the point at which basic federal tax is calculated.
Stopping there for a minute: does that mean in the absence of all these very technical provisions being passed in this House that this government is in breach of our obligations as a government with regard to the income tax collection agreement between the Yukon and the Government of Canada?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: A short answer would be: yes, and we would be forced to administer our own taxes.
Mr. Phelps: I would certainly hope the breach does not become such that it is insurmountable and for that reason we are going to get as clear an understanding as we possibly can in the shortest time as we can because my colleagues and I, each and every one, view the breach of signed agreements between governments and other parties as something that is very serious indeed.
Not to go off on a tangent, but by way of illustration, when we learned, much to our dismay, that the agreements between the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Pacific were being breached by Yukon Pacific, I want you to know that we took it very seriously indeed. We felt that the proper thing was to ensure that the enforceable provisions of the agreements, which were heralded and trumpeted by the Minister responsible back in February or March 1989 as being such a good agreement, would come to bear and that the Yukon taxpayer and those entirely innocent people who were owed money in Watson Lake would be protected and would see their money.
We want to expedite this bill through Committee and show, by example, that we support people living up to their commitments and not breaking agreements. We feel failure to live up to obligations under agreements entered into is reprehensible.
In the speech of the Minister, back in February of this year, on page 1270, it went on to say that this is the same arrangement that most other provincial and territorial governments have with the federal government, with the exception of Quebec. Why is Quebec excepted?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for the question. I think he, too, has missed his calling. If the Member had been elected as an MNA in the Quebec Legislative Assembly, and if the Member asked the Quebec Minister of Finance or Revenue that same question, I am sure the Member would have received an appropriate answer.
Unfortunately, this Member has captured the wrong Minister, the wrong Legislature, and the wrong time.
Mr. Phelps: I view with alarm the proposition that, somehow or other, when we are entering into agreements, some provinces might be treated in a different fashion, applying the test of fairness to others. In Meech Lake, when we are trying to ensure Canada comes together and stays together, I would like to allay any fears that Yukoners and other Canadians might have that, somehow or other, we are not being treated fairly, along with the other provinces and the Northwest Territories, because Quebec is being treated differently.
Could the Minister give us words of assurance on that score, given the very critical dates that are looming before us - Meech Lake next month - and the kinds of tensions that are building in the nation? A few words of assurance from the Minister might go a long way in easing tensions in this region.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Let me allow Mr. Phelps the opportunity to have a sip of his water before I sit down again. We do have the opportunity, of course, to collect our own taxes. If the Member advocates that then I am sure the Member will give me all of his support when I come in looking for a supplementary of between seven and nine million dollars to do so. I know I can count on his support in the interest of doing what Quebec does. In the interim, if I do have an opportunity to pass on the good word from the Member to the Minister of Revenue in Quebec, if I do happen to run across him in a shopping mall or wherever, I will definitely do it.
Mr. Phelps: I think that may be a very courageous and worthwhile task for the Minister to perform and that he would do it on the behalf of myself and this side fills me with gratitude. I would, however, caution him that if he feels that in any way we are undermining the constitutional process nationally, by perhaps pointing out that the Province of Quebec has been treated unfairly because it has to pay to collect their taxes - because that was the inference of his comments in his response to my last question - I would certainly want to encourage him to have second thoughts and perhaps not bring that message to the Minister in Quebec, of whom he so fondly speaks, because I would not want him to feel that they were getting treated in a manner that was less than fair, given that everybody else has a different arrangement and given that their arrangement is extremely expensive.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With respect to the fairness of the issue that the Member mentions in respect to Quebecs position in Confederation and its ability to collect taxes and spend, I believe one-half a billion dollars doing so, it is certainly something that is their choice to make. We can, if the Member wishes, spent seven to nine million dollars to be equal to Quebec and to collect our own taxes. If I do bring forward a provision of that nature, I know I can count on the Members support.
Mr. Phelps: I think these are judgments that would have to be made once we saw the language brought before us because of course, as we all know, in this Chamber we do have a lot of constitutional issues on our minds. In fact, I believe there was a ministerial statement today on the very issue of constitutional development in this territory, that I have before me, that announced a green paper, which I also have before me and which addresses issues that we take very seriously.
There was a quote that can be attributed to the Minister who did stand in his place and give this ministerial statement. I think he said, The task we are setting for ourselves is a difficult one, but its importance and urgency cannot be underestimated.
Two thousand years ago, Isocrates wrote, The soul of the state is its constitution. We must ensure that our Constitution - our soul - is a true reflection of the Yukon people, their diversity, their fairness and their generosity.
It is this quote that perhaps set me off a few moments ago about the issue of fairness and generosity, because had we not had this ministerial statement today, I would perhaps not be in quite the same mood as I find myself in now. Sometimes it takes an eloquent phrase or two in the House to make a person really concentrate on certain values that all Yukoners and Canadians share. Perhaps it was that quote I just entered into the record that encouraged me to focus on the issue of fairness with respect to Quebec and it being treated differently in terms of the arrangements between that province and the federal government.
Getting back to general debate and back to the words of the Minister. On February 22, he stated that the federal act is constantly changing as administrative modifications are made to change or clarify, and sometimes even to obscure, the meaning and interpretation of the income tax legislation.
I am not clear on what what he meant that day by sometimes even obscure. Was it his position that the federal act was being changed for the purpose of obscuring the meeting and the interpretation of the income tax legislation, or is this somehow incidental? Perhaps he could explain that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I was following up diplomatically on the comments made by the Member for Porter Creek East on the complexity of the tax system and some of the assumptions. He is so eloquent and so insightful, I will probably do that now and again. The point that was being made, I believe, on February 22, was probably interpreted then the same way I would interpret it on May 10.
Mr. Phelps: Am I to take it then that the proposition in the second reading speech was that the federal government, at times, deliberately makes modifications to the act to deliberately obscure the meaning of the act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: One suspects so from time to time.
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps that kind of suspicion is thoroughly unfounded, as I am sure ours is about the obscure and complex nature of the bill before us. We would certainly not deliberately want to lead the public to believe that somehow or other this was being written in this way to deliberately make obscure the meaning of modifications to our act, our act being the Income Tax Act of the Yukon Territory.
I would like to finish going through the second reading speech of the Minister because I did not, and I regret this very much, avail myself of the opportunity to wax eloquent on this subject that is so very dear to the hearts of all of us in the Chamber back on February 22. I feel I am duty bound to make up for that today and humbly stand here before you in an attempt to do that.
The Minister went on to say, The amendments contained in the bill reflect the most recent changes and incorporate federal bills C-64, C-72 and C-139. Does the Minister have copies of those bills with him today?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, we do not. I do thank the Member for finally picking up on the fact that he had neglected to debate this bill at all in second reading. I am sure he is making up for it now.
Mr. Phelps: I thank the Minister for his kind remarks. They are totally unexpected, but I am always thankful to receive them.
When were bills C-64, C-72 and C-139 passed, and when were they promulgated - something like that elephant?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It would last two to three years.
Mr. Phelps: I am concerned about that answer. We had tried to make it very clear to others in the House that we are concerned about governments living up to their agreements. Because some of these bills came into law as many as three years ago, does this mean we are somehow in breach of the income tax collection agreement between the Yukon and the Government of Canada that this bill is intended to enhance?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am sure the Member did not mean to condemn the Conservative administration of 1978-85 in the Yukon, who were also a couple of years behind the times with respect to catching up to the fast-paced torrent of activity while the federal Parliament constantly changed the federal act. He can take comfort in the fact that all jurisdictions are behind a couple of years. He does not have to be too harsh on the Conservative administration.
Mr. Phelps: Thank heavens for that. I am to presume we are speaking of something like a precedent or practice that has been built up between various jurisdictions and Canada over the years. This is something we had quite a debate on yesterday, when it came to an amendment proposed by the Member for Watson Lake about treating teachers with respect. We got into that before, and I would not want to get into that argument again in any depth again, because I thought we had thoroughly canvassed the area before the amendment was finally voted on and defeated.
In his speech, the Member went on to say, As I have mentioned, these are administrative amendments that deal at great length with the merger provisions contained in the act, and there is little point at this stage to go into any detail about them.
Why was there little point at that stage to go into any detail? Perhaps he could explain what he meant at that time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It was largely because we would not have had the opportunity to hear about the Members childhood or Meech Lake if we had tried to monopolize the time of the House in February with the details.
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased that he was attempting at that time to hear about my childhood. I have not had a chance this afternoon to speak of it. I spoke, of course, about when I went to law school; I was not just a child - a prodigy, perhaps, but not just a child. I do want, in the interests of time, to continue with the meat of the matter and ensure that we can chew on all the muscles, fat and tissue before us on the plate so they can be digested easily by not only ourselves, but also the public, such as the unfortunate people who live in Watson Lake and are now out of work and are owed all kinds of money, so that they can understand fully the impact of this important piece of legislation.
The Minister went on to say that the bill is very complex and difficult for everyone, even experts in the field, to understand and that he would be prepared to attempt to answer any questions the Members may have in Committee debate. That was a promise made on February 22. As we are fond of saying in the Yukon, a promise made is a debt unpaid. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to see the Minister paying his debts in the House and doing his best to answer the very difficult and complex questions about this very difficult and complex bill that we have before us. I want to say that before I go on to get into some of the more pressing and relevant issues that face Yukoners and are related extremely closely to this act.
I got off the very important issues of the placer mining industry, perhaps before I should have, because we only found out today how pressing the Watson Lake sawmill issue is. It has an immediate and sudden impact, whereas the problems faced by placer miners are not of such an emergency nature and are problems that have accumulated over time. What happens with income tax acts is that they are constantly being amended, as was noted by the Minister earlier in answer to one of the questions that I thought was answered very well.
As amendments are made, and if certain industries are neglected, the impacts of these amendments that do not take into account the needs of an industry tend to grow and increase over time. One of the reasons I did not get too involved in income tax law is that I found it very frustrating to be constantly trying to keep abreast of what seemed often to be bureaucratic changes: reactions to moves made by clever accountants and sharp lawyers to avoid the necessity of paying tax. As loopholes are found and used, then of course the federal government comes along, sometimes I presume with the assistance of the good Minister and his good staff, to plug those loopholes that are glaring and unfair.
I know that the federal party of the Minister, the federal NDP, has spoken out eloquently on numerous occasions about their dismay over these very same loopholes that are used by large corporations in a way that would make it appear - and in some cases, in their view, more than an appearance, a reality - that some of them are not shouldering their fair tax burden. It is certainly a passionate view on the part of many of the MPs of his party in the House, shared by a lot of us, that income tax and the Income Tax Act must be fair. It is unfair indeed that the placer mining industry, because of the unique way by which it is operated, has not been treated in a way that is fair or in a way that encourages investment in that industry.
I have here some very interesting observations about that very issue and some correspondence that goes back over the years: correspondence to Mr. Norman Ross, past president of the Klondike Placer Miners Association, for example, back on May 23 of 1989. It was a letter from Michael Wilson, who is quite interested in the subject as well. There is a letter to Mr. Wilson; I guess that was previous to the other, on February 10, 1989.
The gist of their complaints - I will try to get to the nub of it but it is difficult to do in this kind of legislation and can pose problems, especially for someone who does not have a background in income tax law.
I am a person who has always relied on expertise from Vancouver, as I think I mentioned before. The issue has to do essentially with the way in which write-offs impact upon the industry, the way write-offs are handled. The problem is that the placer mining industry is not treated in a similar manner to the quartz mining industry with regard to write-offs, depreciation and that sort of thing.
I am just looking here, and I hope you will bear with me, because I would not want to miss something on this. The placer industry forwarded a paper entitled, Discussion Paper on the Federal Taxation of the Placer Mining Industry in the Yukon, to Revenue Canada stressing their approach and what they wanted to achieve in dealing with the federal government in this important manner. They wanted to assist in the preparation of an equitable approach to the taxation of the placer industry. They talked to various offices of Revenue Canada and determined that there was no one administrative approach under the act to this industry.
In the course of these discussions they discovered that Energy, Mines and Resources had a different understanding of placer mining than the good members of the Klondike Placer Miners Association. The KPMA set up a meeting in November 1985. They thought there was a consensus then, but, unfortunately, as is always the case in matters such as this, they find - regrettably and to their ultimate dismay - they were mistaken.
Subsequent to the November 1985 meeting, a number of placer miners were reassessed, based on a full ration of stripping costs in comparison to the total costs. They understood this reassessment as confirmation of the approach the parties had addressed in the November 1985 meetings. In repeated follow-ups, the writer - that is the chap, Mr. Hirtle from Dunwoody - met with the Minister of National Revenue in May 1987, and again requested a written interpretation of the meeting that took place in November 1985. A response was finally received on August 19, 1987. While the content of the paper included the various items that were raised at the joint meeting, the author of the paper, who was not at the meeting, had a significantly different emphasis than was placed during the meetings and in the subsequent reassessments.
To make an interesting story short, they contacted the Minister of National Revenue in this regard. His December 13, 1988, response was that the August 19, 1987 letter was policy.
In 1988, the Penticton District Office officials of Revenue Canada commenced an audit of a number of placer miners. At this particular time, their approach was to take a very narrow interpretation of the August 19, 1987 letter. The audits were commenced, and proposals of reassessments were issued. Revenue Canadas approach was significantly different from that which we understand to have been previously discussed in Ottawa and assessed on.
Interestingly enough, in March 1989, some of the individuals presently being audited travelled to Ottawa to meet with Energy, Mines and Resources and Revenue Canada officials, who were in attendance at the prior meeting and agreed to be in attendance at the current meeting, while two of the representatives from Energy, Mines and Resources made themselves available for the current meetings. Many of the same issues were reviewed in the 1989 meeting that were reviewed in 1985.
The clients who were being audited had some significant concerns that Revenue Canada had not even considered their previous representations and those of the Klondike Placer Miners Association, in what had been an understanding of what had happened place: We, that being the KPMA, as representatives for a large number of placer miners, have some major concerns at this distinct change in what we believe is Revenue Canadas assessing policy.
We question the change of the rules in midstream as being unfair practice. We can understand if the rules were changed for the future so that placer miners might be able to get their information in order, but disagree totally with the approach that has been taken. We question this change, as the impact of this will be felt by all the placer miners as employers and purchasers of equipment services in the Yukon. This change will definitely affect the growth of placer operations in Yukon.
Perhaps we should take a brief break.
Members were polled
Deputy Chair: We will carry on with debate.
Mr. Phelps: Very well.
The issue, then, has to do with the impact of the tax laws and the assessing methodology applied to placer mining on the industry as a whole. I am wondering whether or not the Minister has been involved in any way in helping the industry lobby its counterpart in Ottawa, Mr. Wilson, with respect to achieving some resolution to this problem.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member was so eloquent, and I love to listen to him speak. If he could just repeat the question, it would make me so very very happy.
Mr. Phelps: I am really not sure if he wants me to go through the summary of the issues as I have outlined them or if he understood the issues and just wanted the question itself. I will assume that he understood the issues, this being his bill and his area. I am just wondering whether or not he has been attempting to assist the placer mining industry by lobbying the Ministers counterpart, Mr. Wilson, in Ottawa, on their behalf.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes and no. We have assisted but through Mr. Epp and not Mr. Wilson.
Mr. Phelps: May I take it that this was with regard to the income tax difficulties of the industry at the meeting of the Ministers of Mines that was held in Whitehorse this spring?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The issue was the exploration and development expenses, on which we were assisting.
Mr. Phelps: I see; that is interesting. What was the resolution? Was it that Mr. Epp was going to lobby the Minister on behalf of this Minister, or was there some understanding that there were to be changes in the assessment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: He might, but who is to say? He did not tell me.
Mr. Phelps: He did not tell the Minister what: what he was going to do on his behalf? Is the Minister going to follow up and try to ascertain what representations were made to the Minister of Finance in Ottawa in order to assist the placer mining industry in this regard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I will.
Mr. Phelps: I certainly thank the Minister for that undertaking. Is there any correspondence the Minister could table with regard to this issue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No.
Mr. Phelps: I am trying to be as brief as possible but this is an interesting and important issue. Has the Minister had any discussions with Mr. Hirtle from Dunwoody & Co.? He is up here quite often. I understand he will be up here this month. Has he had any discussions with Mr. Hirtle on this issue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As a matter of fact, I did have a discussion with one representative from Dunwoody - I cannot recall the name of the gentleman - in Dawson City; I spent half an hour with the person discussing various matters.
Mr. Phelps: The last correspondence we have between the KPMA and Mr. Wilson is the reply, dated May 11, 1989. This was received by the KPMA from Mr. Wilson.
It describes some of the tax changes that will impact on the placer mining industry. Is the Minister aware of any changes in the method of assessment that has taken place in the past month, since June 1, 1989?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No.
Mr. Phelps: Does that mean none have taken place, or that the Minister has not been keeping himself abreast of these important developments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not aware of any.
Mr. Phelps: Getting back to the second reading speech of the Minister on February 22, 1990, does the Minister or his witnesses have any working papers that could show us which of the amendments in this bill relate to which of the federal bills C-64, C-72 and C-139? Is there any way we can tell which of these was made necessary by which federal amendment? Having a handle on how these amendments took place is important, and whether they were sequential, whether they impacted on the same section of the federal act more than once, and to make sure we have our house in order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We definitely want to keep our house in order. That is an excellent point. We do not have any working documents where revisions are broken down by bill number. We could give the Member copies of the federal bill, or we could give the Member an address to write to for copies of the bills.
Mr. Phelps: I am not clear on how this bill was put together. With the greatest respect, was it put together by the Ministers department? If so, when was it put together?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The bill was put together firstly by recommendations from officials in the federal Department of Finance and then it goes through our Justice department for review. Ultimately it comes to this Legislature.
Mrs. Firth: I have a question that relates to the issue the Leader of the Official Opposition has just raised with respect to the bill being put together. I know that the Minister of Justice feels very strongly about this particular issue. I would like to ask the Minister of Finance, who is responsible for this bill, about the drafting style of the bill. When I read it, I was surprised to find that, after the Minister of Justice had made a commitment in this House that all the new legislation that was going to be drafted would be using non-sexist language, I was shocked to find all these hes and hims and hiss in this bill. I know the Minister of Justice was adamant that all new legislation was going to get rid of this sexist language and she was going to see that this was done. We did not disagree with that concept. We did have some difficulty with the concept of going through all the present acts and paying someone to spend a great deal of time circling all the sexist language and substituting it with non-sexist language. But the Minister of Justice was apparently going to be on top of this and all legislation brought before this House was going to remove sexist language.
Just for an example, on page 3, I noticed right off that we are confronted with at least four instances of sexist language.
The non-sexist language has not been adhered to and it is on page three in clause 3(2)(i). There is a him and another him: there are two hims in that clause. Then we move on to subclause (3)(7)(b)(ii), that comes after clause (b) and, much to our horror, we find a couple more hims. Then we move along and read these very complex clauses and the discuss these very complicate issues.
We move on and we read through these very complex clauses about reassessment and some substitutions. I noticed on page four, clause 14(1)(a)(i) that there is another him - three hims on page four.
We move on to page five and again we proceed with very complex clauses that talk about the applications of federal provisions and payment by corporations. In another section that is substituted for a subsection in the act, we find in clause 14(1) two more hims that again are in violation of the commitment that the Minister of Justice has made to us in this House. She stressed to us that she has had many representations made to her, expressing concern that they would like to see our legislation drafted without the identification of the sexist language.
We progress on through the bill and I noticed that on page six, under Refund for tax credits, it appears that there is another him and also - I do not know if it is a typo or a drafting error - in clause 19(a) there seems to be a sentence that I do not know whether makes sense or not: that allows a taxpayer to deduct an amount format he tax payable under this act;. I do not know if that he should be there or not; it does seem to make sense but if it is supposed to be there, it should be he or she.
We move on down the page and come to clause 20 where there is another complicated issue about the amount on which installments are computed. We find another his in that clause that should be changed to his or her. On the same page, under penalties, we come to clause 21(1)(a) and we find another his, and another his; three sexual references on that page, plus the three identifiable gender errors, plus a drafting error of some type that I would like to ask the Minister about.
Then we turn to page 7. My colleague has pointed out that I should go slower, I was going too fast for the Members in government so I will speak a little slower. Page 7 has clause 21(1)(b) where there is another his, the product obtained when one percent of his tax for the year under this act that was unpaid... It is interesting that they talk about every person, but they only talk about his tax.
We move to clause 2, taking into account liability to a penalty equal to the aggregate of. Again we have two references to 10 percent of his tax or two percent of his tax. So there is at least two more hiss on that page for a total of three that should be changed. I sure hope I am not missing any of them. I know how difficult it is sometimes to do this.
Page 8 is quite an interesting page. I got almost to the bottom of the page and thought the government had done a remarkably responsible job addressing this particular concern on this issue, and then I got to the bottom of the page at clause 22(2)(a) about repeated failures, and in a little cluster there are two hims and two hiss all together right at the bottom of the page.
I would like to bring that to the attention of the Minister and ask him to address that specific issue. I move to page 9, and this is one of the worst pages. I did not even have a chance to get past the second line before there was a his: his tax payable. Then there is a him in that first paragraph, and three more his, all in a cluster at the top of the page. Then we come to the bottom of the page, and there are two more hims: one in the clauses relating to later deficient installments. I would like to point that out to the Minister and ask for corrections to be made to these specific pages.
We move on to two or three relatively clean pages. At first blush, I do not see any hes, hims or hiss. However, when we come to page 14, I have pointed out there is a he, a him and a his, one of each on that page for the Minister to correct.
I hope the Minister is taking this issue very seriously. His colleague and I have had considerable debate in the Legislature about it. I want to reinforce that I do agree with the principle that new legislation coming forward, even though it has to be the same as the federal legislation, should have the principle preserved. If the government is standing by this profound principle it has, it should be consistent.
I find they have not been consistent in this particular instance. In fact, it has been poorly drafted in the context of the concern the Minister of Justice has.
With respect to this particular issue, did the Minister just forget to take that into consideration when drafting the legislation, or does he not agree with the Minister that change should be made? The Minister of Justice should, in some way, reprimand the Minister of Finance. Now, we are going to have someone go through this and do it all over again. Here, the Minister of Finance had a perfect opportunity to do it right in the first place, and he did not.
Perhaps the Minister could stand and tell the Minister of Justice and me why the gender neutrality was not maintained in this bill and whether he intends to continue with that practice, or does he intend to change and conform to the wishes of the Minister of Justice.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member can sing all the hymns she wants. I wish I could tell the Member that Michael Wilson, after cutting funding for womens centres across the country, decided to give women a tax break. I cannot do that. The Interpretation Act interprets him and his as both him and her and his and her, and we are duty-bound to follow the federal legislation, as I indicated at the beginning. Therefore, we must follow exactly the wording that is contained within the federal legislation.
If they were to make a gender neutral, there are only about 40,000 pages there they can work on. I am sure that would be a wonderful task for someone. We would encourage them to do that, because it is important to be gender neutral on legislation. It is unfortunate in this case as we are bound, following Mr. Phelps strictures, to live up to our agreements. This agreement states that our legislation be identical to the federal legislation. I wish I could accommodate the Member, but I cannot.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister raises an interesting point with his response. The Minister mentioned the Interpretation Act as a defence, and that it covered the particular gender concerns. That is exactly the argument I put forward with his colleague, the Minister of Justice. I am sad to say I did not get very far with that argument. I went to great lengths researching it and looking through the legislation to find out if we were covered, as in other provinces. I found we were, and I thought it was a logical argument to present: not to incur the additional expense of having someone make all these changes.
The Minister also raises another interesting point, which is not inconsistent with the hymns he has been singing in this House on a regular basis, and that is to blame the federal government for everything from drafting style for legislation to cutting off money to womens centres and so on. I would like to ask the Minister if he approached the federal government with this issue they feel is extremely important, from what the Minister of Justice has said, and asked if it would be acceptable for them to maintain a gender neutrality in their legislation, since in no way does it change the principles or intent of the bill. Was this request denied?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have been told they are inflexible on the question of wording and they insist that we abide by the terms of the agreement.
Mrs. Firth: I can appreciate the Minister being told they were inflexible on the wording; however, I am sure all of us being reasonable individuals in this Assembly would concur with the federal government that they would be inflexible in the wording were we to change the intent, principle or amendment of the clause. The Minister certainly cannot maintain to us, as reasonably well-informed individuals, that maintaining gender neutrality would in any way change the principles or the intentions of the clauses. I am sure that the federal government, even the federal government, which I know is inflexible and unreasonable at times, would not deny this government to carry on with a principle it feels very strongly about. I cannot imagine it being so inflexible as not to understand the initiatives and directions of the territorial government toward equality and gender neutrality that it would be so inflexible as to deny the Minister such a reasonable, logical and worthwhile request as to maintain gender neutrality in this piece of legislation the Minister has brought forward to the Assembly.
Was the Minister specific with his request? Did he ask about maintaining gender neutrality? Was it that specific request that was denied?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have been told on numerous occasions that there is no hope of changing the wording for any purpose whatsoever. If the Member wishes, I will ask the officials to see if a few him and hers can be changed, or maybe all the him and hers in all 40,000 pages. It is something that must be followed up on, and we must encourage federal officials to buckle right down and capture this serious oversight.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is surely jesting. I am not requesting he change all 40,000 pages. The principle brought forward to this Assembly was that, when government drafted new legislation, gender neutrality was going to be maintained in that legislation. If that was the principle the Minister of Justice was espousing, why did the Minister of Finance bring this new piece of legislation in without any consideration being given to the gender neutrality that had been committed to by the Minister of Justice?
I cannot accept that the federal government would be so rigid and disagreeable that they would say to the Minister, We do not want you to have gender neutrality in this particular bill you are bringing forward. I cannot see the federal government doing that.
How specific was the Minister with his request? I could appreciate that they would not want to change the meaning of the bill in any way, but I cannot imagine the officials and the Minister denying that we maintain a gender neutrality, and that it would be practical that, with new legislation that is drafted, we address that particular issue and conform with the wishes of the Minister of Justice.
Mr. Phelps: I am very pleased that the Member for Riverdale South has very carefully pointed out this serious problem with this bill that renders it so inconsistent with the much espoused policies and philosophies of the side opposite. Of course, in my role as critic for the Womens Directorate, I feel I ought to say a few words about this important issue as well. Most of my concerns have been eloquently expressed by the Member who spoke just before me.
However, I want to be fair to the side opposite and direct the attention of the Minister to page 6 at clause 19(a). I do not want to be too harsh in my observations, and I will quote. In order to put it in context, I should read the full clause 19. In applying subsection 160.1(1) of the federal act for the purposes of this act, refund includes a refund that arises by reason of a provision of this act
(a) that allows a taxpayer to deduct an amount format he tax payable under this act; or. I will stop right there. Is that a gender issue, or is there something I really did not understand? Let me be the first to admit I often find income tax provisions confusing.
I would like a little clarification. It struck me that this was not a deliberate breach of policy of this government on the part of the Minister. Perhaps none of it is. It might just be negligence. A lot of these things do creep in through long usage of particularly a person of the male gender who is used to not using neutral terms. Once one reaches a certain age, it is difficult to change, and I am sure the Minister is rapidly closing in on that age and at times finding it rather difficult to keep his remarks and writing gender neutral. I have sympathy for him there.
All that aside, is there some kind of error that has crept in, and is if this is really exactly the same as the federal act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am sure the Members can appreciate this is not an excuse to sneak another he into the act, to take the point the Member for Riverdale South raised with respect to gender neutrality and the need for it. It is the case that this is a typo. It should read from the and not he and is probably, in my view, the only useful comment or observation that has been made this entire afternoon.
So despite the fact we really wanted to hear more about the pre-law school childhood of the Member, and I am sorely disappointed we did not get an opportunity, we are going to have to wait and capture as much of that history, that fascinating history, when we next meet.
Perhaps I will find another word for progress because I realize it is a standard term under the circumstances, but I cannot say it is particularly relevant or applicable to this particular act at this particular time. For the sake of formality alone, I would move we do report progress on Bill No. 4.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 4, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act and directed me to report very slow progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that you do now be merciful and allow the House to adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled May 10, 1990:
Green Paper on Constitutional Development (Penikett)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 10, 1990:
Yukon Pacific Forest Products re sale of assets, and trial date (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1552
Cost to lodge three young offenders in Prince George (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1698
Funds targeted for startup of school-age programs (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1618
Mental Health Act, and use of term recently (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1496
Yukon Pacific Forest Products - whether assets are up for sale (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1552
Health and Human Resources: South Region Supervisor position (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1622
Possible use of portion of extended care facility for psychiatric patients (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1491
Mental Health Act: excerpts from Ontario, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan acts (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1496