Tuesday, April 23, 1991 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Petition No. 5
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and Hon. Members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 5, of the Second Session of the Twenty-seventh Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South, on April 22, 1991. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Pursuant to Standing Order 66, Petition No. 5 is deemed to be read and received.
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
1991 Western Premiers Conference: elected leaders of north invited to participate
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am pleased to inform the House that as Premier of the Yukon, I have accepted an invitation to partcipate in the 1991 Western Premiers Conference on May 13 and 14 in Saskatchewan.
This is a first for the Yukon; when the elected leaders of the four western provinces sit down in Nipawin next month to discuss their mutual concerns, they will be joined for the first time by the elected leaders of the northern territories. The invitation to me and Mr. Patterson of the Northwest Territories comes in recognition of the norths increasing political maturity and importance.
As you know, the Yukon Government has fought long and hard for a place at the negotiating tables of the nation. We see this invitation as evidence that the struggle is bearing fruit.
In the past, our government, elected by the citizens of the Yukon to represent them, has been virtually excluded from meetings and conferences of Canadas First Ministers.
Usually, we have been given observer status and allowed to make only one statement on behalf of the thousands of people we represent. Often, we have had to sit with our ear to the door, hoping to catch the drift of the dialogue between the various governments.
Those days must come to an end. The time has arrived for us to play a full role, and, may I say, a proper role in the discussions that, over the next months and years, will determine Canadas future.
We certainly intend to play a full role next month in the Western Premiers Conference. The preliminary agenda, as outlined by the host Premier, Mr. Devine, includes topics of profound interest to the Yukon, among them national unity, international competitiveness and the financing of social programs. As a participant in the meeting, we will also be signing the Western Accord on Environmental Cooperation and Protection.
In addition, we in the north particularly in the Yukon share a number of common interests and concerns with the western provinces.
We have a joint border with British Columbia and many of us have traditional, cultural and family ties that transcend that border.
The Alaska Highway, our most vital transportation link, connects us closely with both British Columbia and Alberta.
We share the problems of isolation, high costs and a small population base with the northern parts of all the provinces.
And with all four western provinces we share the boom and bust history of resource-based economies and the frustrations of dealing with a distant senior government. Perhaps we can also share ideas and solutions.
We certainly intend to go to next months conference with sharing in mind. The Yukon has plenty to gain from participating fully in such meetings, but we also have plenty to offer. We can bring a new perspective and a fresh voice to the councils of the nation and, given this chance to speak, we hope to show that ours is a voice worth listening to.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, contract with Curragh
Mr. Phelps: I have a question for the new Minister of Yukon Development Corporation, which arises out of yesterdays Question Period.
First, there is the important issue of when Yukon Energy Corporation was first made aware that Curragh would need up to 30 percent more power for its expansion needs at Faro. Clifford Frame has been saying that Yukon Energy Corporation knew two or three years ago about this increase in demand. I would like to know if the Minister would agree with that statement.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am aware of the statements made by Mr. Frame with respect to energy forecasts made some two or three years ago. I inquired of corporation officials about that and they have no evidence that such forecasts were indicated at that time. In fact, in documents filed with the corporation that spoke to the forecasted needs for Curraugh Resources, there were projections made that in 1991-92 there would in fact be a reduction in the energy requirements of the mine. Corporation officials have not been able to find any evidence that there were forecasts made that suggested an increase in demand for 1991-92 until late last summer.
Mr. Phelps: Then, the position of the Minister and of the corporation would coincide with what Jack Cable, the new president, said, mainly that Curragh indicated last August that it would need the extra power. Is that the position?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That appears to be the most accurate information we have. The president of the corporation made such a statement based on the full and best knowledge available to the corporation. That was our first indication that Curragh would require additional power within six months.
Mr. Phelps: If that is the case, that the Yukon Development Corporation knew about the tremendous change in demand last August, why did they proceed to hold information meetings in September and October of last year, when the information they were giving Yukoners about demand forecast was clearly false?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I beg to differ with the Member. To my knowledge, there was no withholding of information with respect to the forecasts made by Curragh late last year. In fact, the energy supply options document that was tabled by the previous Minister drew reference to the fact that, only recently, Curragh had indicated a requirement for additional power. That was referenced in the document.
In my understanding, there was no withholding of information. Also, during that time corporation officials were in full communication with Curragh officials respecting the nature and timing of the extra demand. That has been ongoing since last August.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, contract with Curragh
Mr. Phelps: I am quite concerned about the way matters have developed with regard to this important issue. We are talking about an increase in demand that would be more than double the assumptions upon which the so-called strategic plan was based.
On November 29, 1990, the previous Minister tabled the strategic plan in this House and gave a ministerial statement with regard to the strategic plan. There was no mention at that time about this tremendous change in the demand forecast. Why were these documents tabled, and that ministerial statement made, when it was based on such obviously faulty assumptions?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not think the Members logic is correct. The documents that were filed with this Legislature late last year referenced the increased requirements by Curragh. The documents also spoke to the expectations and achievements of the corporation, in terms of bringing on additional power supply options.
Surprise Lake is such an example of a concerted effort to bring on additional power supplies. That example would be more than adequate for Curraghs additional needs, not to mention the Dawson-Mayo transmission line, which would also lead to improvements in the system elsewhere in the territory.
Mr. Phelps: I may just be the barefoot boy from Carcross, but if the Minister can show me how building a line from Mayo to Dawson is going to alleviate the demand for electricity in Faro, then he is going to surprise me. Could he tell us how that is going to alleviate that problem?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: There was no such statement made that alleged that the Mayo-Dawson transmission line would alleviate the problem in Faro. The example was being drawn with respect to the corporations efforts to improve the efficiency of the system, and to reduce the dependence on diesel generation, something I believe that the Member disagrees with.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister seems to be hanging his coat on the peg of Surprise Lake, as coming forward with some more much needed hydro electricity. Could the Minister tell us when this project was first made public and first came to the attention of Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot tell the Member precisely when it came to the attention of the corporation, but it certainly was uppermost in the corporations activities when I became Minister in February.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, contract with Curragh
Mr. Phelps: Well, it certainly was a surprise, because it was not mentioned in the strategic plans that were tabled in this House on November 29 of last year.
The current grid the Whitehorse/Faro/Aishihik grid has a capacity of something like a little over 100 megawatts. Almost half of that is used by Curragh. An increase in Curragh means a significant increase in the generation of power that is required for that grid.
Can he tell us how, if Surprise Lake were to become feasible and were to come on stream, it would meet the increase required by Curragh, which is 30 percent of their current usage?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would suggest to the Member that technical specifics relating to energy demands, energy capacities and energy consumption would probably be better dealt with by a full briefing of the Member by corporation officials.
It is one thing to talk about capacity and it is another thing to talk about consumption. It is another thing to talk about megawatts in terms of capacity, and it is another thing to talk about megawatt-hours. Surprise Lake will clearly bring on at least seven megawatts and distribute it through the Whitehorse/Aishihik/Faro system. It will be more than adequate for Curraghs increased requirements.
I should correct the Member also, that with respect to the WAF system that generates 104 megawatts. In terms of energy, Curragh uses only 40 percent of that. That 40 percent is on a distribution scale relating to hours of consumption, so it gets to be a fairly technical exercise to try to defend the statement that the WAF system is used up by at least one-half through Curragh.
Mr. Phelps: It is going to take me a long time to understand how seven megawatts is one-third of more than the 40 megawatts required by Curragh.
Question re: Haines Junction power generation
Mr. Brewster: My question is for the Minister of Yukon Development Corporation.
After reading Hansard April 22, page 699, and the Ministers response to the questions on power generation for Haines Junction, I can only conclude that, with due respect, the Minister probably does not know what he is talking about.
My question is: does the Minister know that Haines Junction is on the Whitehorse-Aishihik grid and has been for a number of years?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Of course I know it is on the WAF system. The Member had a totally convoluted set of questions yesterday that I am not sure anybody understood. I was simply inquiring of the Member whether he was talking about diesel-generating capacity or whether he was talking about inadequacies of the grid system. The facts of the matter are that, if he has a specific question relating to Haines Junction, I can answer it. I have done so with respect to todays question because it was quite clear.
Mr. Brewster: I, too, have read over Hansard and I thought the questions I asked were quite clear in Hansard. It is rather puzzling if they can figure it out and the Minister cannot.
Did the Minister not receive copies of letters sent to him March 19 and March 28 regarding this matter in Haines Junction?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot confirm the dates of correspondence while on my feet in the House, but I can tell the Member that I had seen a piece of correspondence signed by quite a number of individuals and businesses in Haines Junction with respect to the proposal to install a backup diesel generating unit in Haines Junction. I have also inquired into the matter. I understand that at a meeting last night with the council in Haines Junction, the backup diesel unit was objected to by council. Yukon Electrical, which is in charge of the generating facility at Haines Junction, will be reconsidering the installation of that unit.
Mr. Brewster: Why do we have to put a diesel plant there in the first place?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe I answered that in the context of the Members last question. The diesel unit that was being proposed to be installed in Haines Junction was for a back-up system to the grid hydro system that currently exists. This was a request by the community and in particular it was a request by the tourism business community of Haines Junction. They did not want to be caught in tourist season with power going down and no back-up should something happen to the transmission line. Yukon Electrical was simply responding to that request and the concern of the community and proposed to install a back-up unit at the current sub station. The community is objecting to its location. Yukon Electrical is reconsidering, firstly, the installation and, secondly, whether it ought to go elsewhere. That is occurring, and I think that is democracy as it should be.
Mr. Brewster: Is it not true that Yukon Electrical told the people that it will supplement the shortage of power when there is not enough power for Haines Junction because it is being put into Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot confirm that, but I will certainly check on it.
It is my understanding that the backup unit was not going to be used to provide any base load to the system. If anything, it would be sparingly used first, to provide backup in the event of hydro failure and, second, in any mechanical operation, it has to be cranked up to be kept operational. My understanding is that it was a backup unit requested by the community and was not intended to provide support to the base load.
I suppose, should that need arise, it could be done.
Question re: Environment act
Mr. Lang: I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Renewable Resources, who is responsible for the environment act. I have some concerns about the process being employed for the purposes of a select few reviewing the second revised draft of the environment act.
Yesterday, the Minister stated that people made oral submissions at public meetings and the people chairing those meetings took notes. Those notes have been incorporated into the changes that were made to the draft act.
I gather the act has been revised and the present act, according to the Minister, incorporates the changes recommended by those who made verbal presentations as well as those who made written presentations.
The Minister still has not answered my question. Why is that revised act being kept secret and not being made available to the general public so they can see whether or not their points of view have been incorporated in the new revised act?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As I mentioned yesterday on three separate occasions, the public consultation process is over. It ended April 5. I am now sitting down with a few organizations who have taken the time to write their concerns, so I can meet with them and show them how we have addressed their concerns in the revised copy of the act.
Mr. Lang: That is very interesting. Can the Minister confirm that the reason the second draft act is not being made public is because it is so poorly drafted and is going to require many more changes, as opposed to the one that was previously made public?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, that is not true at all. The three organizations we have sat down with to review their concerns, as listed in their written submissions, are quite pleased with the revisions that have been made in the revised act. They have conceded that this process has resulted in a much better act for the benefit of all Yukoners.
Mr. Lang: I guess it is a question of perception. Can the Minister confirm to this House that, in meeting with representatives of the mining community, an additional 100 changes have been agreed to in the second revised act, over and above the initial recommendations made by those organizations in the first draft?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I cannot confirm the number of changes that were made to the revised edition, however I want to point out quite emphatically that many of those additions were very minor in nature, involving, in some cases, one word or a few words or a phrase. You have to appreciate the fact that when three environmental lawyers are meeting, there could be a lot of changes recommended to improve the overall quality of the bill, especially how it reads for the public.
Mr. Lang: It is amazing that in one meeting of 15 hours you can have recommended and agreed to one-hundred changes and probably more forthcoming in the week, and that does not count the select few organizations that get to see the secret draft. Can the Minister confirm that he and his department have refused to consider any submissions past April 5, 1991?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Dealing with the preamble first, it is not unusual at all with an act this size with so many clauses, to receive a hundred recommendations. Mainly, a great many of them deal with minor amendments.
To those organizations, or even individuals, who wanted to make a written submission but notified us prior to the April 5 deadline that they would be a few days late, we have received those late submissions and we will be dealing with them individually with each organization.
Mr. Lang: Can he confirm that the Canadian Bar Association requested an extension of time for the purposes of putting a brief forward to comment on the environment act, and his department told them that they would not be prepared to consider such a submission, and subsequently, they were denied the right to put in a submission to his office?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is not confirmed at this time that the Canadian Bar Association requested a late submission date prior to the deadline, but I will seek that information for the Member opposite.
Mr. Lang: In view of the fact that the Ministers office refused to entertain a submission brought forward by the Canadian Bar Association, and in view of the fact that the Department of Indian Affairs is in the process of doing a review of the public draft act and has not submitted its final observations on the act, is it the position of the government that they are not going to consider the Department of Indian Affairs submission as far as the act is concerned?
Hon. Mr. Webster: There is a deadline on every process. April 5 was the deadline for this process. I want to reiterate that I do not know if the Canadian Bar Association made a special request to us prior to the April 5 deadline. I do not know the status of the submission by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. It has to be made clear that there is a time for every process to end and get on with the task. That was April 5.
Question re: Environment act
Mr. Lang: With this open government and the public process that the Minister is so committed to, are there different rules for different folks? He has denied the Canadian Bar Association the right to put a submission in to his office for his consideration. Is the Minister going to entertain the memorandum that is being prepared by the Department of Indian Affairs and has not been submitted to his office as of yet?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is not a case of different rules for different folks. It has very plainly been stated that people had until April 5 to submit a written submission. If people called us in advance of April 5 and said they are very earnest about making a submission and would like an extension of the deadline, I said fine. That is a government that is responding to some legitimate concerns out there. We want to hear some concerns expressed about the draft act so we can get on with the process. That was my commitment.
Question re: Formula Financing Agreement
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Finance. The Minister has told us that a new Formula Financing Agreement has not been signed yet and that, in essence, we are waiting for the federal government to impose an arrangement on us. Yesterday, I asked for assurances with respect to existing jobs and capital projects. I did not get that assurance.
I know the Minister of Finance, who is also the Government Leader, is sincere in not wanting to see the kind of layoffs and cutbacks that have been experienced in other jurisdictions. I am afraid that the governments philosophy may be frustrated by reality and cost Yukoners jobs.
I would like to know what assurances the Minister can give us today that this will not happen. What contingency plan is in place to prevent that from happening?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have to tell the Member that his question is hypothetical.
First, we are not waiting for the federal government to impose arrangements. We believe that we know what those arrangements are.
The Member was correct yesterday in the implication of his question that, until the federal Minister of Finance actually signs the agreement, we cannot be sure that it will not be changed at the last minute.
I am reasonably confident that that will not be the case, but we cannot be perfectly confident until we actually have the signed agreement.
The Member suggests that reality may impose cutbacks to the contracting out, layoffs and the kinds of downsizing we have seen in other jurisdictions. I do not think those are expressions of reality; they are expressions of public policy policy to which we do not agree.
Mr. Nordling: I may be missing something, but with the uncertainty over the federal funding and the position of the federal government on spending, I would have thought this was a time for caution, not for largesse. I would like to know if the Minister was concerned about this when the government negotiated the 19 percent for government employees and the 18 percent for teachers? There has also been an increase for college staff.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I take it the Member opposite is opposed to the arrangements and the settlement we made with public employees in the Yukon Territory.
I have to tell you that this government takes a different view: that the settlement for the employees is within the range of the rate of inflation, and that to reward our employees for the valuable public service they provide is the appropriate thing to do. I believe the settlement we have arrived at is within our means and we have no reason to believe that any draconian measures should necessarily follow from the fact that we have not, as yet, to our knowledge, had a federal signature on the new formula agreement.
Mr. Nordling: I am not opposed at all to the settlement. I think it is great if we can afford it. What we seem to be seeing is that already this government is having trouble coming through and delivering on its commitments, and I refer specifically to the commitment to assist day care workers. I would just like to ask the Government Leader, the Minister of Finance, who is going to pay for all of this?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would apologise to no one for the level of assistance that this government has provided to child care. I believe that the improvements in reform in child care funding and assistance by this government in the last several years are unmatched by any government in this country. That is not to say that the child care workers and other people in the system would not like to see us do more, as would people who are in the education system, people in the health system and people who live in the communities, the municipalities and people who depend on the roads. Everyone wants more. I rarely encounter a constituent in this territory who wants us to spent less on something that affects them. That is the reality of governing in the 1990s. We have a budget that has been approved by this House for the year we are in and we intend to meet the commitments that we have made in the budget. We believe that the budget we have before us is within the financial means made available to us.
Question re: Visitor reception centre
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism regarding the new visitor reception centre that is to go in by the airport. The Minister told us last week in his press conference, where he unveiled this unusual and interesting facility, that it would cost $1.3 million. We have now learned that the actual cost is $2.7 million and that, I believe, is the amount that was put in the budget. People were confused last week when they heard the announcement of $1.3 million. That is $1.4 million more than the Minister led us to believe at that news conference last week. That is only a 100 percent difference; it is not much of a miscalculation, I guess.
The extra $1.4 million is for landscaping, water, roads and a parking lot. It seems very high to me for those types of things. Could the Minister tell us why only last week, when he announced this new visitor reception facility, he informed the public that the cost would only be $1.3 million and failed to tell us the whole total cost of the facility? What was the reason for that?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member started off on the right foot stating that we have already approved the $2.65 million budget for this project. That is true. That is the total cost of it, as proposed in last years budget. The news release cited a figure of $1.3 million for the centre itself. That is for the actual structure that the contractors will be bidding on.
Mr. Phillips: Surely to goodness when the Minister unveils a visitor reception centre, it will include the parking lot, the other facilities and the landscaping around it, not just the building. I am wondering why last week the Minister only told us it would cost $1.3 million, when the real cost is going to be $2.7 million, for a very expensive parking lot and landscaping project that is going to go on around that building?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think everyone is aware of the fact that when you build a building you have to do some other things to the building, like have access to it. The access alone is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000. We have to provide an infrastructure for the water and sewer; that is going to cost another $300,000 - 350,000. There are some fees. Architects do not work for free; their fees are approximately $350,000. Some landscaping will be done. Yes, I did mention at that press conference that there will be $250,000 in exhibits, but the structure itself, what the contractor will be bidding on, is in that range.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to move on to another area of the visitor reception centre that is also confusing. A lot of people are left wondering what the real figure is. The Minister told us at the press conference, when he was asked how much the operation and maintenance costs would be, that it would be in the neighbourhood of $600,000. One of his officials hollered from the back that no, it was $60,000, and we never did get a real figure for the O&M costs. The Minister said he did not know if any studies had been done to determine that.
Could he tell us today if there is an actual operation and maintenance cost for operating this new visitor reception centre, and how much is it going to be?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The annual cost to run the visitor reception centre in the summer, as we do other visitor reception centres throughout the territory, is in the neighbourhood of $60,000. That was the original estimate. I may have said $600,000 at the reception, I do not know.
That figure has been revised. It will now be in the neighbourhood of $80,000 to take into consideration increases in wages for staff at that facility and all other facilities in the territory.
Question re: Contractor preference policy
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the new Minister of Government Services. In my possession, I have a bulletin from the Edmonton Construction Association. It is a bulletin giving information to the association about the governments intentions with respect to the construction contracts they are going to be putting out. It essentially says that the government recently eliminated their local contractor preference policy, replaced it with a business incentive policy, and they are going to tender some $25 million worth of projects in 1991, and $85 million worth of projects over the next three years.
The construction market here in the Yukon is competitive, and all the projects the government is putting out are being bid on. The bids are coming in close to the cost estimates, and the quality of work is good that the contractors are doing.
Why did the Minister of Government Services feel it was necessary to make this policy change and then advertise to outside contracting associations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I hate to break the news to the Member about the preamble to her question being wrong, but I am afraid I must do that.
The Member has stated that there is a policy change to now advertise bids outside the Yukon, whereas, I guess the assumption is that we had never done that prior to this. That is a wrong assumption. We have advertised our tenders outside for a very long time. The actions that took place earlier this spring are simply that staff from the Department of Government Services visited various contractors associations in the western provinces to indicate that there was now a new business incentive policy in place and encourage them that, if they do choose to bid on Yukon projects, there are incentives in place to encourage the use of locally produced construction-related products and also the use of local labour.
That was the action that took place. It entailed no change in policy.
Mrs. Firth: The bulletin states quite specifically that the Yukon governments intention is to seek bidders from outside Yukon on all future government construction contracts.
I would like to ask the Minister of Government Services what exactly he is saying. We never used to do it on all government contracts before; now he is saying they are going to advertise all of the construction contracts. I would like to ask him if there is some concern about the competency of the local contracting industry to make him feel that the government has to take this initiative.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, the assumption the Member is making is entirely wrong not unlike the presumptions made in the question in the first place.
The policy in the past, as I understand it and I am new, I admit that is that tender documents for major projects have been sent to contracting associations in the south in the western provinces. We are going to continue to do that. I am not going to speak for any editorializing that the Edmonton contractors association may put on our message. Our message was simply that we will continue to advertise our tenders in the provinces in the same way we did before. The only difference this time around is that we went out to explain to them the new business incentive policy.
I do not have any lack of faith in the competitive nature of the local contracting association, largely because I know that there is competition and there will continue to be competition. Competition does mean that there is the opportunity. We are still members of Canada, at least for the time being I am told, and there will still be an opportunity for bidders outside the Yukon to bid on major projects, or any project if they wish, in the future.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could just tell us what the need is to do this. Are we not getting enough bidders? There is competition, he has agreed to that. Are the prices too high? Why does the government feel that it has to do this?
Just as the Minister stated, major projects that were in very large amounts of dollars, used to be advertised outside and the local contracting industry agreed to that, because they did not have the abilities to handle those and their preference was that they be broken down into smaller contracts that they could handle. Now the government is saying that all of them are going to be advertised outside. Perhaps the Minister could tell us what the reasoning is and why they feel they have to do that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, I did not say at any time that we are changing our policy with respect to advertising contracts outside the Yukon. I did not say that we had changed our policy. The Member is assuming that we are changing our policy to include small contracts. I did not say that. That is her assumption, not mine.
Secondly, the reason why I am convinced that there is good competition taking place in the Yukon is that there is a competitive environment. A competitive environment does mean that there is a potential for outside contractors to bid competitively on local projects.
What we have been doing is to explain to any contractor and all contractors that there is a business incentive policy that is designed to provide incentives for the use of local labour and local materials. At the same time, my predecessor has designed a business incentive policy that ensures that the competitive process in bidding is maintained. We do have faith in the competitive nature of the industry because there is competition. We will continue to allow that competition to take place. We will tell all persons that there is a business incentive policy that will encourage local labour and local materials.
Notice of Business
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Pursuant to Standing Order No. 14(5), and based on agreement between the House Leaders, I would request unanimous consent for Motions Other than Government Motions, to be called in the following order, on Wednesday afternoon: Motion No. 41, Motion No. 45, Motion No. 39 and Motion No. 20. I would also request unanimous consent for Bills Other than Government Bills not to be called on Wednesday afternoon.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 58: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 58, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Byblow.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I move that Bill No. 58, entitled Building Standards Act be now introduced and read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 58, entitled Building Standards Act be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would be quite pleased to outline the principal points enshrined here and deliver them to the House for approval.
The amendments that are being proposed in this bill will eventually result in a standardization of the building code throughout the Yukon. The amendments will provide for an improvement in the safety conditions in buildings. They will streamline the inspection process for the purpose of providing a more efficient service to Yukon contractors and home owners.
This legislation, which is quite similar to the soon to be tabled electrical legislation changes, is the result of very comprehensive consultation with the public. It involved professionals, industry groups and the industry.
In 1988, the public safety branch of my department published a series of discussion papers as a result of an independent review that outlined a number of concerns that had previously been raised by contractors, municipalities and the public. I provided those discussion papers at an annual general meeting of the Association of Yukon Communities in Dawson and the process was underway.
The discussion papers were subsequently tabled in the House and they have formed the substance of very extensive consultation throughout the Yukon over the past couple of years.
There were informational meetings with the public, with contractors, First Nations, municipal councils and interest groups. A review committee was established to guide that process. It met with interested parties. The committee collected public comments and, in the end, it made a number of recommendations on the proposed amendments that the discussion paper suggested.
The committee that was established was comprised of quite a diverse membership. It included contractors, the Yukon Home Builders Association, the Yukon Housing Corporation, representation from the Council for Yukon Indians, the Association of Yukon Communities, the Association of Professional Engineers and from rural Yukon, and it included a representative of disabled persons and a representative from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
It was a most successful exercise of consultation by quite a diverse group of individuals. I must commend them for the very extensive devotion of their time and effort over the past couple of years to this initiative in the review process.
The committee was most enthusiastic. It gave a very strong commitment to the process, and they carried out a responsibility for improving public safety in a manner that was remarkable, in my opinion. I would want to honour their hard work by dealing with the legislation that has been the product of their efforts.
As a result of the committees recommendations, a number of things are being suggested in this legislation. In the first instance, the National Building Code of Canada will be formally adopted to ensure the uniformity of minimum standards for the design and construction of buildings throughout the territory. Additionally, municipalities and First Nations will be able to take administrative responsibility for the administration of the National Building Code, if they so wish.
As well, the difficulties associated with remote rural construction will be acknowledged and exemption from permit and inspection will be allowed in certain cases. However, at the same time, home owners will certainly be able to request inspections of buildings that may be exempted under this clause, if they so choose.
In addition, the legislation will provide overall inspection procedures that are streamlined and use a new inspection system. This is referred to as the call-out inspection system. Under this system, builders or owners requesting an inspection will be required to give a 72-hour notice to the branch for a required inspection at any stage of construction, whether it is to do with the foundation, the framing or insulation or the occupancy or any other construction stage that may be necessary by the inspector to ensure that standards are met.
At the same time, the legislation provides for a five-person building standards board to hear appeals to the interpretation of the code and, of course, to provide advice on the use of new and/or local products. I am actually quite pleased with this particular feature of the bill because it will provide a mechanism and opportunity for us to apply building materials or building standards unique to the Yukon into an acceptable code and, at the same time be approved by appropriate authorities and tested to the required standards.
In this legislation, we are also increasing permit fees. These fees will reflect a cost recovery of 60 percent of the cost of administering the building inspection program. As well, the legislation will ensure that barrier-free access to buildings is conducted in accordance with the National Building Code and human rights legislation.
Those are the principal policy issues addressed in this legislation. I believe that the result of these amendments will enhance our standing objectives to ensure good government and healthy communities.
Mr. Brewster: I am not going to say very much on this now. I prefer to get into the line-by-line items. However, there is one thing that I have a great concern about, as well as about everything that comes into government. We are now creating another bureaucracy. The government is going to stand up and say we are not, but we are. If every one of these municipalities and First Nations all decide to have their own inspectors, we have another whole group of people going out. There are only 30,000 of us in the Yukon. Every time we turn around, we have another bureaucracy with a bunch more inspectors.
The price is going to go up 60 percent. For the poor, young married couple just trying to build a home, adding another 60 percent on their permits to even get started is not good. Whether we like it or not, whether the municipalities put these inspectors in or whether this government does, it is the taxpayer and the poor man on the street who has to foot the bill for this whole bureaucracy.
The only good thing I will say about it is the 72-hour notice for them to come to inspect. This I have to see, because it usually takes weeks and sometimes months before they come to rural Yukon. Perhaps with this bureaucracy and so many more inspectors running around the country, the 72 hours will be met. I am quite sure, when we get into line-by-line debate, my colleagues will have other things to say about this.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will respond briefly to the Members comments because I want the record to be clear that this particular legislation does anything but create bureaucracy or complicate matters. In fact, this legislation has gone a fair distance toward reducing the amount of government, if you will, in the inspection, licensing and standards associated with construction. If the current Building Standards Act were applied, it is much more severe and onerous on home builders than the act that we are proposing.
In response to the Members comments about people wanting to build their home and wanting to get away from government, this act actually provides for such an opportunity.
As will be explained in the line-by-line clause review of the bill, we actually reduce the amount of government inspection, particularly in remote areas. We are creating exemptions to individuals who wish to build a home in a remote area. We are creating exemptions for people wishing to build farm homes. We are creating exemptions for the construction of a shed in remote Yukon. Under the current legislation this is not permitted. In fact, there is a reduction of the amount of government and bureaucracy, if you will, in the enforcement of the construction standards in the Yukon.
With respect to the fees, the fees are increasing but it must be recognized that the fees have not increased since 1970. Our fees currently cover approximately 10 percent of the cost of the administration for administering the required standards. Throughout the rest of the country, the fees range from anywhere in the 60 to 100 percent range of recovery of the amount of administration. We are moving simply from 10 percent to 60 percent, albeit a fairly substantial increase, but nevertheless, it is bringing us into the bottom end of what the rest of the country is doing.
I, too, will look forward to clause-by-clause debate and try to provide Members with sufficient information for them to feel comfortable with the legislation.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 58 agreed to
Bill No. 6: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 6, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Joe.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 6, entitled An Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 6, entitled An Act to Amend the Jury Act be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Joe: This bill contains an amendment that will allow French-speaking juries to be used in Yukon courts. In 1988, the Languages Act was passed to allow for improvement in the level of services provided in French throughout the public service. The act before us today will, when proclaimed, allow trials with juries to be held in French. The Criminal Code of Canada has required trials to be held in French for some time now, at the request of the accused. The amendment to this act will allow the sheriffs to summon a French-speaking jury when such a request is made. This act will also eliminate a 20-mile limitation on the distance in which jurors may be called to serve. It may be necessary in some of our smaller communities to bring in French-speaking jurors from another nearby community in order to fill a jury panel.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 6 agreed to
Bill No. 66: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 66, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Byblow.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I move that Bill No. 66, entitled An Act to Amend the Home Owners Grant Act, be now read a second time. It has already been introduced.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 66, entitled An Act to Amend the Home Owners Grant Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, I am pleased to speak to the second reading of An Act to Amend the Home Owners Grant Act. The amendments suggested in this bill will permit property taxpayers, who pay their own taxes, to receive the home owners grant as a credit at the time they pay their taxes. This will mean significant cashflow relief for many Yukon people.
The amendments are being brought forward partly in response to requests made by the Association of Yukon Communities. It is also a response, in part, to a motion that was passed in this House in December 1989. Of course, it is also in response to many requests this government has had from individual Yukon taxpayers.
By way of brief background, the original home owners grant program was first introduced in 1976; however, it has grown considerably since that time. The intent of the grant was originally to relieve the high cost of home ownership in the Yukon for those people who own and live in their own homes through allowing a refund on a portion of their property tax.
The initial grant in 1976 was 50 percent of property tax to a maximum of $250.
In 1981 that grant was increased to $350. In 1989 the maximum grant was set at $450, and $500 for seniors. In the past, persons had to own and live in their own home for a minimum of 184 days in the year before they became eligible for the grant. To receive the grant they then had to submit an application form along with proof of their tax payment to the Yukon Government. Then they were required to wait several weeks for a refund cheque. Under the amendments that we are proposing, those people who have owned and occupied their homes since January 1, who use their property for single family residential purpose, and who pay their own taxes will be eligible to receive the grant as a credit at the time they pay their taxes.
There are about 50 percent of Whitehorse home owners and 75 percent of other Yukon home owners who will qualify under the change. Those taxpayers who have their taxes paid by mortgage companys and those taxpayers who use their property for more than single family residential purposes will continue to apply for the grant as they have done in the past. Also, taxpayers who do not occupy their homes until after January 1 will continue to have to wait the 184 days before they can apply for the grant refund for that year.
The possibility of including home owners who have their taxes paid by the mortgage company as eligible to receive the grant as a credit was explored but it was found unworkable. The mortgage company has no way of knowing if the mortgagor occupied the residence and therefore could not certify that the property was used only for the owner-occupied residence.
Those persons with a mortgage who would like to take advantage of the grant as a credit can simply make arrangements with their mortgage company to pay their own taxes. All eligible residents will benefit from this credit system. They will no longer have to make their full tax payment to the municipality or government only to have it refunded in part several weeks later.
In particular, seniors and those who own their homes outright will find this grant credit attractive as they will have a much smaller amount to come up with in order to pay their taxes in full.
I am also happy to report that the administration of this new credit system has been kept as simple as possible. Since municipalities are the major tax collectors in the Yukon, an administrative partnership has been established so that the grants will be credited to home owners by the municipalities at the time taxes are paid. The municipalities in turn will be paid as rapidly as possible by the Yukon government so that the program operates quickly and smoothly.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to begin by saying I am very pleased to see this bill coming forward. As has been mentioned, this proposed change has been the subject of several resolutions from the Association of Yukon Communities in the past. Our party passed a resolution several years ago supporting this kind of change to the act. I put forward a motion in this House over a year ago calling for the change.
It is a change that is quite important to senior citizens and to people living in rural areas in Yukon, to whom the property taxes seem to be, in many cases, such a burden. This will alleviate many situations where, under the present system, the people have had to pay the full tax and then have had to wait many months before getting the grant paid back to them, so that the government had the free use of their money for many months and, of course, in many cases it created quite a lot of hardship on families who are living a rural lifestyle. I am going to be proposing several amendments to the bill that I will send over to my friend, the Minister. These amendments are really directed at the situation where a person might not necessarily have continuously occupied the residence from January 1 in the year the tax was paid. The amendments are designed to meet the situation where people who have been away and return to the Yukon after January 1 would still be able to avail themselves of the provisions of the amendment itself, without undue hardship. I will send them over to my friend, and ask that he and his officials give them due consideration.
Aside from these proposed amendments, which are minor in nature, I look forward and we look forward on this side to supporting this bill.
Speaker: The Hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate the Members general support of the amendments in this bill. I will also look forward to his proposed amendments. Not having had an opportunity to review the intent of the amendments I would be reluctant to comment at great length. I do hope, however, that the amendments do not suggest a reduced residency eligibility from what exists in the current act. Having said that, I will perhaps have a discussion with the Member prior to a full discussion of the amendments. I will look forward to further discussion in clause-by-clause debate.
Motion for Second Reading of Bill No. 66 agreed to
Bill No. 11: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 11, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 11, entitled Electoral District Boundaries Commission Act be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 11, entitled Electoral District Boundaries Commission Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is my great pleasure to bring before the Legislature today this very important measure: Bill No. 11. By setting up a new electoral boundaries district commission, with the authority to review the existing electoral districts and to make recommendations as to any appropriate changes, this government is taking an active role in ensuring that the right of Yukoners to vote is as meaningful a right as possible.
Universal suffrage, the right to vote, is a concrete affirmation of freedom, equality and democracy. It is the means by which our citizens exercise their portion of the sovereign power of the state. The right to vote is of such fundamental importance that, in our country, it is recognized and protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This government recognizes that the electoral district boundaries in the Yukon must confirm and enhance the right to universal suffrage. For that reason, in the last Throne Speech, delivered on October 25, 1990, we promised to bring a proposal before the Assembly to review the existing boundaries of Yukon constituencies.
The legislation before you today makes good on that commitment.
I am sure that everyone in this House will agree that the time for re-examination of the existing electoral boundaries has arrived. The last electoral district boundaries commission was struck in 1984 and, at that time, it recommended only very minor changes to the existing boundaries.
This means that the Yukons electoral district boundaries have not been substantially redrawn since 1977. A lot has happened in this territory in the intervening 14 years.
Happily, our economy and our population have grown, not shrunk, although it has not been a uniformly smooth ride. Some communities, once prospering, have now practically disappeared, while others, previously moribund, are now thriving.
Our electoral districts must reflect as it now is and not as it once was.
The tradition of reviewing the electoral boundaries after every second election, as pointed out by former Government Leader Chris Pearson in 1984, is also one which we should honour. We live in a different legal climate than existed at the time the Yukons electoral district boundaries were last examined.
Although the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was in effect in 1984, jurisprudence had not yet given real meaning to many of the rights it enshrined. Over the last two years, decisions by the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal have begun to show us what section 3 of the Charter, the right to vote, implies and what standards must be met to give it real meaning.
The reference to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, which struck down the electoral boundaries of that province, is now under appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada. The Yukon has applied for, and been granted, intervener status when the case is heard on April 29 and 30.
All across Canada, litigation on this issue has been launched. Until the Supreme Court issues its decision on the Saskatchewan case, these legal actions suggest the kinds of arguments that may be considered by the Supreme Court.
The makeup of an electoral district boundaries commission calls for a good deal of consideration. After reviewing the difficulties other jurisdictions have had with charges of partisanship and accommodating representative interests while maintaining a commission of workable size, this government has decided that this commission will consist of only a single electoral district boundaries commissioner, Mr. Justice Kenneth Lysyk of the Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory.
As I think many of the senior Members of this House know, Mr. Justice Lysyk is a respected academic and jurist. He served as the dean of the law school at the University of British Columbia from 1976 to 1982; he was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1983 and, as stated, is also a member of the bench in the Yukon. Mr. Justice Lysyk is a recognized expert in constitutional law and has written extensively on that subject.
Mr. Justice Lysyk is also familiar with the Yukon and its people. I am sure many of you remember he chaired the Alaska Highway Pipeline Enquiry in 1977, of which the Leader of the Opposition was also a member. At that time, Judge Lysyk had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the territory and meet with Yukoners from all walks of life. We are confident that, in terms of integrity, non-partisanship, intellectual competence and sensitivity to all the circumstances of the Yukon and Yukoners, Mr. Justice Lysyk is admirably suited to serve as the electoral district boundaries commissioner.
To emphasize the independence of this position, Mr. Justice Lysyk shall have the full authority to appoint the staff he feels is necessary to assist in carrying out the commissions mandate. Previous electoral district boundaries commissions have had their staff appointed by the government. In acting as the electoral district boundaries commissioner, Mr. Justice Lysyk shall have all the powers of a board of inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act, as well as the authority to make rules regulating the manner in which the commission will proceed and its business be conducted.
The electoral district boundaries commission will have the resources to travel across the territory and hold hearings in all Yukon communities. We anticipate that there will be some advance work done by commission staff in these communities so that Yukoners are aware of the issues involved and the importance of their input into the process. Translation services may well have to be provided so that as many Yukoners as possible are able to make their views known to the commission.
In addition to holding hearings and accepting briefs from interested individuals and organizations, the commission will have the ability to hire research staff to give it up-to-date information on the historical, geographic and demographic realities of the Yukon.
Such expert evidence will be necessary to enable the commission to identify electoral district boundaries that are appropriate to the Yukon. Unlike previous electoral district boundaries commissions, this one will not be given specific instructions as to maintaining or altering any of the existing electoral districts.
In 1984, the government of the day instructed the commission to maintain the existing rural/urban distribution of seats that favoured rural representation and to give specific consideration to the electoral district of Old Crow and to make recommendations which would protect that electoral district from significant demographic change.
In the Saskatchewan reference, the Court of Appeal found that the imperative given to that provinces electoral district boundaries commission to create 29 urban, 35 rural and two northern seats robbed it of its ability to make independent and unshackled recommendations.
Instead of specific instructions, the legislation now before the House directs that the electoral district boundaries commission take into account certain guiding principles that we believe to be self-evident but, also, approved of in British Columbia and Saskatchewan court decisions.
The first such instruction is that the commission consider the principle of equality of voting power among electoral districts. This principle is of fundamental importance if the right to vote is to mean anything. It should be noted that Madam Justice McLachlin, formerly Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and now Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, found that the notion of equality is inherent in the Canadian concept of voting rights.
It should further be recognized that, when the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal rendered its decision, it described the principle of equality of voting power as fundamental.
It is certainly the starting point for any review and analysis of electoral district boundaries in the Yukon. Although one person, one vote is a guiding ideal, it is not the only factor to be considered when determining the appropriateness of electoral district boundaries. In the Dixon case, the British Columbia matter dealing with the electoral district boundaries, Madam Justice McLachlin found that the equal population norm could be deviated from when to do so would contribute to better government of the populace as a whole, giving due weight to regional issues within the populace and geographic features within the territory governed.
To determine electoral districts solely on the basis of population would, in the case of Yukon, result in a vast increase in members for Whitehorse and, correspondingly, a great loss of rural representation. It should be noted that Whitehorse is already, and has been for some time, the dominant economic community in the Yukon. It is also the seat of government. While it is agreed by all that the Yukons electoral district boundaries should result in fair representation, I do not know that anyone would argue that, considering Whitehorses already dominant role in the territory, a strict representation by population approach would achieve that end.
With the end goal of better government of the populace as a whole, the present legislation also mandates the commission to take other factors into account. The commission must consider the limitations imposed by Section 9(2) of the Yukon Act, which states that the Legislature of the Yukon Territory may consist of no more than 20 and no less than 12 Members. As the Yukon Act is federal legislation, we are not able to amend it so as to provide more flexibility for the commission.
The commission is further directed to consider the geographic and demographic considerations that are present in the Yukon, as well as the accessibility, size or physical configuration of any part of the territory.
Such geographic and demographic considerations were also recognized in the Electoral District Boundaries Act of 1984, and are explicitly recognized as valid considerations by both the B.C. Supreme Court and the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. I believe there is common sense appeal in this direction to the commission. There are geographic realities that make the representation of two regions particularly difficult and sometimes impossible. The political interests of these regions may be mutually exclusive. The physical demands on a representative may be such that the quality of representation suffers, and the supposedly simple solution of adding more seats would probably do little to ameliorate the difficulty of representing rural ridings.
More probably, it would result in urban ridings becoming physically smaller, while rural ridings would remain geographically large and demographically small. Indeed, the relative size would be even greater in comparison to adjusted urban areas.
It is also recognized that populations do not stay static after electoral boundary districts are created. If the relative rate of growth or diminishment of population in any one area is high, and factors indicate that this will continue to be the case, it makes little sense to ignore the trend in order to fix electoral district boundaries that are valid for only the instant of creation.
The Court of Appeal of Saskatchewan took a relatively absolutist approach in its interpretation of the right to vote in considering the northern seats created in that province. It stated that the exigencies of geography, very sparse population, transportation and communication warrant a deviation from the ideal. This thinking found earlier expression in the 1984 Yukon legislation that directed the then electoral district boundaries commission to consider the availability and means of communication and transportation between various parts of Yukon. This government believes that such consideration is still very valid in the Yukon in 1991, and has repeated the instruction to the commission.
The legislation before us today also advises the commission to take into account, ...any community or diversity of interests of the residents of any part of the Yukon, including the traditional territory of Yukon First Nations and aboriginal communities, as identified in the Yukon land claims negotiations.
The concept of considering special communities of interest, when determining the appropriate electoral district boundaries, is an old one in this country. When the first redistribution in the relatively new nation of Canada was introduced in 1872, Sir John A. Macdonald stated, ...while the principle of population was considered to a very great extent, other considerations were also held to have weight so that different classes and localities should be fairly represented and that the principle of number should not be the only one.
The population of Canada is not homogeneous. Its interests and communities are many. And any redistribution should not blur that fact. While the concept of one person, one vote has been held in some cases to be almost absolute in the United States, other commonwealth countries, like Canada, have recognized, when delineating electoral district boundaries, that community interests must be taken into account.
In Australia, for example, community of interest is a mandated consideration when drawing electoral district boundaries. In the United Kingdom it has been said that the apportionment principle of population equality has never taken precedence over either partisan or community interests.
It should be pointed out that if the federal Parliament of Canada insisted on representation on a one-person/one-vote basis, the Yukon Territory itself would probably find itself without a voice in the House of Commons. For a tiny jurisdiction such as ours, many of our MPs have been extraordinarily prominent and influential. Examples are Martha Louise Black, Erik Nielsen, George Black and, of course, Audrey McLaughlin.
If the fact that the Yukon, a distinct region, represents a valid community of interest was not recognized, and representation was strictly by virtue of population, the Yukon would be waiting well into the next century to have some input into the federal political system.
This government believes that, along with historic communities of interest, what Macdonald called class and locality, the traditional territories of the Yukons First Nations and of aboriginal communities should also be recognized. This is not a factor recognized by electoral district commissions in the past, but it is certainly one that is representative of a distinct, recognizable community of interest. Communities that may have existed in the same area of the Yukon for thousands of years, and communities, the population of which is stable and, to an extent, unequaled in this otherwise remarkably transient territory.
Not to take these traditional territories into account would be to ignore the historical development of our territory and the demographic reality of the Yukons people.
The previous government recognized this factor in some degree when it advised the electoral district boundaries commission in 1984 to consider any special community or diversity of interest of the inhabitants of various regions of the Yukon, and further instructed it to give special consideration to the electoral district of Old Crow.
The legislation today also directs the commission to consider the special circumstances of the Yukon, including but not limited to the right of members of Yukon First Nations to have an effective voice in the Legislative Assembly. While the commission should consider all valid circumstances in the Yukon, it cannot be denied that the historical presence of First Nations people is most striking.
Although aboriginal people make up only about 25 percent of the Yukons population at present, they make up a far larger percent of the territorys permanent population. Almost 30 percent of Yukons non-aboriginal people has moved to the territory within the last five years.
Perhaps this is why there has long been an understanding in this territory that members of Yukon First Nations must be given an opportunity to be represented in our Legislature.
A strict one-person/one-vote principle would probably rule otherwise.
In 1977, the size of the Legislature was increased from 12 to 16 Members. One of the aims of this increase and the accompanying redistribution was to increase the likelihood of aboriginal participation in the legislative process. In the first report of the 1977 Standing Committee on Constitutional Development, Walt Lengerke, the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale and the committee chair, made it clear that the increase in the numbers of ridings would increase the possibility of Indian MLAs. Jack Hibberd, the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, stated that, MLAs recognize their responsibility to try and have more native representation in the House and that more electoral districts would give Indians a better opportunity to become MLAs. Don Taylor from Watson Lake, the long-time Speaker of this Assembly, felt that the electoral district boundaries commission would no doubt take into account the desire for more native participation, which would be heralded throughout the territory. And the present Member for Porter Creek East, who was even then a Member of this Assembly, stated that it was imperative that Indians be given greater opportunity to participate in the Legislature. It is rare that this Member and I agree but, as this statement shows, there are those occasions and, in this case, it was an important one.
The importance of aboriginal participation in our Legislative Assembly has been recognized as vital over and over again, and I believe that any electoral boundaries commission must take that recognition, and what it has meant historically in this territory, into account. The commission is also instructed to take into account any other similar factors it considers relevant.
You will note that the legislation presented today does not mandate any mathematical formula to be used in reaching the perfect population for an electoral district; nor does it set out any maximum deviation from the equal population norm.
This government believes that, to introduce such a formula and thus tie the commissions hands, would be a foundation for failure.
As Madam Justice McLachlin wrote, The process of adjusting for factors other than population is not capable of precise mathematical definition. People will necessarily disagree on how important a regional grouping is to the boundary of this riding, on how significant problems of serving constituents are to that electoral district. It is for the Legislature to make decisions on these matters... In other words, departure from the ideal of absolute equality may not constitute a breach of the Charter so long as the departure can be objectively justified as contributing to better government.
Similarly, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, in striking down the electoral boundaries that allowed for deviation of not more than 25 percent, rejected the notion that absolute equality was inherent in Section 3 of the charter, and went on to say, We are not dealing here with a form of direct democracy, but of representative democracy, and of representative democracy in a parliamentary system. Each of these concepts has inherent limitations, making mathematical precision impossible. Both courts specifically declined to fix the minimum voter population deviations.
This government has taken the approach suggested by the courts of B.C. and Saskatchewan. We are leaving the questions of how many and what size ridings to the commission. We are confident that, guided by the directions set out in the legislation, and with the assistance of the people of Yukon, Mr. Justice Lysyk will be able to carry out his task and will be able to define appropriate electoral boundaries for the territory.
After the commission has carried out its research and held hearings in each of Yukons communities, it shall prepare a report for presentation to the Legislative Assembly. Because we are cognizant of the length of time it may take to put new boundaries into effect, we are asking Justice Lysyk that their report be ready by December 31, 1991.
The redefinition of electoral boundaries can be an exercise in political self-serving, or it can be a service to the people. This government is determined that the Yukon shall be the latter. The legislation before you balances the Charter of Rights of all Yukoners with the unique circumstances of our territory. We believe that the new electoral district boundaries that will result from this legislation will assist all Yukoners in exercising their franchise in a meaningful way.
Mr. Phelps: I thank the Minister for his comprehensive speech in second reading. I want to say that we are very pleased to see this bill come forward, and we are basically in support of the principles set out in the bill.
Further, we are very pleased with the choice of commissioner: Mr. Ken Lysyk, who is well known in the Yukon and has a good knowledge about the Yukon and its people, as has been said.
In reviewing the bill, we had some concern prior to hearing the comments of the Minister with regard to the meaning of Section 3(2)(a), the principle of equality of voting power among electoral districts. We were not clear whether or not that spoke to the principle of representation by population. I will probably be introducing an amendment to make it clear that that principle be considered by the commission. I sent over a draft amendment to the Minister, which I may introduce when we get to the clause-by-clause in Committee of the Whole.
As most Yukoners are aware, we raised the issue of the need for an electoral district boundaries commission over a year ago in a speech to the Association of Yukon Communities, wherein we noted the problem with regard to the constitutional imperative brought about by Section 3 of the Charter and the new meaning brought to Section 3 by the then fairly recent judgment in the Dixon case in British Columbia.
Certainly there is a plethora of court cases abroad in the land and it may be that Justice McLachlins comments and judgment may be refined somewhat as these various cases go through the courts and to the Supreme Court of Canada.
It is interesting to note the issue of electoral boundaries is one that ought not to be partisan, but there seem to be some, in the case of the Yukon, who think it is.
I was somewhat amused by a constituency survey in 1991 that was sent out by the NDP caucus under their leader, Mr. Penikett. When it came to rural ridings such as Hootalinqua, the question in the constituency survey asked about the electoral boundaries. The question in the survey stated, No. 5: Some Conservatives say they favour change in territorial riding boundaries. Their change would effectively do away with the rural majority in the Yukon Legislature. Do you agree?
In Whitehorse, in the constituencies to which the leader of the New Democratic caucus sent the constituency survey, the tone of the question asked was somewhat different. In the one sent to Porter Creek East, question No. 5 reads: Some people favour changing the territorial riding boundaries to give Whitehorse a majority in the Yukon Legislature over rural communities. Do you agree? Circle one. The message to rural ridings seemed to be somewhat different from the message to the urban ridings within Whitehorse.
We will be supporting this bill. We are pleased with the draft. There is the one point that may need some clarification, which hopefully an amendment such as the one I have sent over to the Minister may clear up. Aside from that, we look forward to supporting this bill.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Leader of the Official Opposition for his constructive comments. I hope that he and I will have the opportunity for some informal discussion on the intent behind his amendment before we deal with the matter in Committee.
I do appreciate the support indicated to the identity of the commissioner and the general approach laid out in this legislation. I think that that recommends the mandate very well.
The Leader of the Official Opposition was kind enough to quote communications from me to different parts of the territory, and you will forgive the perceptions that have arisen as a result of the identity of certain local litigants on this matter, but I think we can probably both agree that, whatever the wording of those statements, the proposition stated in these terms is that some people are Conservatives. I think he and I could agree on that proposition and happily end the debate.
This is a very important piece of legislation. I do want to say that the hearings that will be held by Justice Lysyk will, I am sure, be designed to maximize the opportunity for individuals throughout the Yukon to make their views known on these important questions. I look forward to those hearings and the conclusions of the commissioner.
Motion for Second Reading of Bill No. 11 agreed to
Bill No. 31: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 31, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Byblow.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I move that Bill No. 31, An Act to Amend the Municipal Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 31, entitled An Act to Amend the Municipal Act be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to speak at the second reading on this very short bill. The intent of this act is to amend the Municipal Act in order to make it impossible for a person to be simultaneously a mayor or a municipal councillor and a Member of the Legislative Assembly. As Members are aware, under the existing legislation, a mayor or municipal councillor may hold a seat at both the territorial and municipal levels of government. In 1988, during territorial elections, three municipal mayors and one councillor sought seats in the legislature, although none was successful.
Following the election, the Association of Yukon Communities passed a resolution that urged the Yukon government to amend the Municipal Act in order to disallow a member of a municipal council from holding a seat in the Legislature. The Assocation of Yukon Communities said that there would be a conflict of interest should a councillor or mayor be elected to the Yukon Legislature and still hold municipal office.
In response to the resolution from the Assocation of Yukon Communities, I indicated that I would be quite prepared to recommend an amendment to the Municipal Act for tabling in the Legislature as soon as it was possible to do so.
The municipality was quite insistent that it be done before the next set of municipal elections. With municipal elections slated for November of 1991, this fall, I am introducing this amendment now.
During the period leading to the amendment as tabled, we investigated the possibility of the amendment being in contravention of the Charter of Rights. We also reviewed other jurisdictions legislation to see how they dealt with the situation. We are advised by the Department of Justice that there is no conflict with the Charter of Rights and, in reviewing the issue with other jurisdictions, we actually found quite a variance from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in respect of this particular matter.
Some provinces do have a prohibition clause in one of their municipal or other provincial pieces of legislation that disallows people from holding both offices at one time. Other jurisdictions are silent on the matter. Some jurisdictions only speak to it in their Legislative Assembly bills, where the bill prohibits a Member of the Legislative Assembly from being a member of a municipal council at the same time. There was no consistent pattern, but there was certainly a precedent for what we are doing.
The short bill before you clearly disallows a person from being a mayor or a councillor of the municipality and a Member of the Legislative Assembly at the same time. It does this by disqualifying a person who is a Member of the Legislative Assembly from being eligible for nomination to become a mayor or councillor. It states that, should a mayor or councillor be elected to the Legislative Assembly, they cease to be mayor or councillor immediately upon election to that higher office. That is the approach we have taken. It seems to be the most reasonable one, and I invite comments either now or in Committee stage.
Mr. Brewster: I am glad that the Association of Yukon Communities at least caught on to a few things. I guess when you get older, like me, you wonder what we are doing. Of course you cannot sit in both places, and I do not realize how anyone ever thought they could without a conflict of interest. I know of some who have done it. As an older man, I have a real problem with what we are doing now, which is legislating common sense, and that there is nobody with any common sense who would expect to be able to sit in both and not have a conflict of interest. It just amazes me what this modern world is about when we have to legislate the simple thing of common sense that you cannot sit on both without a conflict of interest. No wonder that politicians are down and have the worst rating they could ever get in the world, when they turn around and have to legislate things like this. They cannot use common sense that you cannot fairly sit in both places.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I interpret the Members statements as genuine support for the bill, albeit with a reservation for the purpose it is here.
In the last territorial election, we did have three people running for membership of the Legislative Assembly who were currently holding municipal offices, and there is no current requirement for them to have resigned from the municipal office when and if they had been successfully elected. I agree with the Member that, in todays day and age, with the active affairs that go on at a territorial level, the similar active affairs that go on at a municipal level, and the relationship that exists between the two levels of government, that a conflict could clearly exist, and one ought not to sit at both levels of office. I agree with the Member.
An interesting point of history may be worth noting. When I was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1978, at the time I was a member of the Faro municipal council, and I held both offices for approximately eight, nine or ten months, just short of a year. At that time, it was by the appeal of the Faro council to remain in office and not force a by-election.
It was not without careful thought and decision. I do not believe that today one could effectively hold both positions, and especially so if you were elected to the side of the government.
I appreciate the Members support. I expect we will just be able to nod this through.
Motion on the Second Reading of Bill No. 31 agreed to
Bill No. 50: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 50, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Bill No. 50, entitled Financial Administration Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Education that Bill No. 50, entitled Financial Administration Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The purpose of this bill is quite simple and straightforward. Section 31(1) of the Financial Administration Act requires the Department of Finance to examine every requisition prepared within the government to ensure that the requirements of all the acts in the Legislature have been complied with. It is a massive task, considering approximately 141,000 invoices and 86,000 payroll payments go through our systems every year.
These submissions are prepared in the departments. The work done by the Department of Finance to satisfy the requirements of section 31 of the Financial Administration Act is, in some respects, a duplication of the work done in the departments.
This is not a cause for concern because all check and review work is, by its very nature, a duplication. The question has to be asked, however, as to whether this check is cost effective in its current form, for, in theory, every aspect of every requisition is verified in the Department of Finance. We have come to the conclusion that the government will be better served by not having the Department of Finance duplicate, in its entirety, the cheque requisitioning process. Instead, we feel the resources currently devoted to the function would be better utilized in review of systems and processes. That is monitoring transactions at a higher level than is currently the case.
This does not mean there will no longer be a review of individual cheque requisitions. This function will continue to be performed by Finance, but it will be on a test or audit basis. Because it will be a test review as opposed to a complete review, the act must be modified so as not to require the Department of Finance to examine every transaction. This bill achieves that purpose by permitting the treasurer, who is the Deputy Minister of Finance, to delegate his or her functions under section 31(1) of the Financial Administration Act to individuals in other departments. The end result will, we believe, be an emphasis on systems and procedures rather than on a rote and mechanical process of checking the detail of all work previously done by the departments.
Motion for Second Reading of Bill No. 50 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will have a fifteen minute recess.
Chair: I will call Committee back to order. We will proceed with Bill No. 58.
Bill No. 58: Building Standards Act
Chair: Is there debate on Bill No. 58?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Perhaps while I make a few statements, Bryant Yeomans could join me on the floor of the Committee to assist with the technical matters that may come up in relation to the bill.
I believe during second reading we addressed the principal issues surrounding the bill. I gave a quick history of its development to the stage of legislation through the review committee. There was fairly extensive public consultation and a set of recommendations with subsequent amendments introduced here in the house. I have indicated also that the bill is intended, for the most part, to streamline the process of dealing with standards for construction, inspections and for setting up an appeal board. In short, it will put in place the kinds of safety provisions for construction that are enforceable.
I guess that I should make the point that the existing Building Standards Act is a very abbreviated piece of legislation; it is less than one page long. It is, at the same time, quite comprehensive and requires, if you applied the letter of the law, quite an onerous series of steps to be followed in the issuance of permits, in the inspection of construction, in the standards that are to be maintained territory wide. In short, if we were to try to apply the full letter of the law to the existing act, we could not do it. It would be just humanly impossible to achieve all of the requirements under the existing act with the personnel that we have.
Instead, this act sets up another system to allow us to meet safety standards, address the requirements for permits, hear appeals and ensure that National Safety Code standards are uniformly applied throughout the territory. As the individual clauses will indicate, it will give special provisions to municipalities to undertake that administration on their own.
I think the issue of the fees was raised by Members. There is no question the fees are increasing in harmony with, or in line with, the lower end of fees across the country.
The fees have not changed since 1973 and in the fee structure that will be introduced through the regulations of this bill, they will attempt to recover approximately 60 percent of the cost of administration. At the same time, in this bill we are planning to ensure that municipalities have a choice of assuming the administration, through by-law, or permitting us to assume that administration.
At second reading, I also spoke briefly to the exemptions that will be permitted, in fact, what amounts to a relaxing of enforcement provisions that exist in the current act. In single dwelling units that is single detached homes outside municipalities, outside local improvement districts, and essentially in what we refer to as remote Yukon, there is no requirement to procure a permit and inspection. However, this can be done by request. In fact, that reduces the emphasis on meeting the government requirements of regulation, but it does not take away from the standards that have to be met.
I suppose, by those few comments, I would be pleased to entertain any general debate.
Mr. Brewster: I would like the Minister to explain to me I agree, he is probably trying to streamline this by permitting municipalities to have their own inspectors why that is not increasing your bureaucracy terrifically. For instance, if all our municipalities took their own inspectors and the First Nation take theirs, we would probably then have a bureaucracy of 15 or 20 more people. The Minister states it is not going to increase the bureaucracy. But it is going to increase it because you are going to have that plus you are going to have the staff to help administer it. How can the Minister stand there and tell me he is not increasing the bureaucracy?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot speak for municipalities that may choose to administer provisions of this act. That is their business. We look at the current situation. There is only one municipality, that of Whitehorse, which has its own inspections branch. In other words, within the municipality of Whitehorse the Yukon government does not administer provisions of the Building Standards Act. It does not issue the permits; it does not do the building inspections.
We are not just dealing with municipalities; we are dealing with unorganized communities, we are dealing with local improvement districts and we are dealing with remote areas of the Yukon. For all of those areas the Yukon government is responsible, until such time and there are provisions built into this until such time as those areas choose to assume responsibility for the administration of the act.
In terms of bureaucracy, what I am saying is that to properly administer the existing Building Standards Act and properly look after the required inspections, permitting, reviews, advice and support to the construction industry, cannot be done according to the letter of the law right now. With the existing staff, we will now be able to administer the law as we should be but are now simply incapable of doing because we do not have the personnel to be able to do the work.
In terms of bureaucracy, there will be no increase to the Yukon Government staff load and should a municipality choose to administer its own building standards, where it would require its own inspectors, the Member is correct if he is assuming that would have some impact on the numbers required. That is a judgment we will have to deal with at that time if there is to be a reduction or reduced workload. It would have to be dealt with at that time, but there is no increase of the YTG bureaucracy.
Mr. Brewster: I am not going to carry this on with the Minister, but I am sick and tired of coming into this Legislature and hearing, Oh, well, it is not us; it is the municipalities doing that. That money comes out of our pocket. I do not care whether it is municipality or not. You create these laws and you force them to do it. Of course, the municipalities are going to get their own inspectors because they do a better job, because they are closer to the people, which is what we have all been trying to do get people back closer to the people.
They are going to hire inspectors, so we have increased it. They turn around and say that it is not the territorial government doing it; it is the municipality. That still comes out of my pocket and every person in that municipality has to pay for it. It is the same thing with the school tax. The government is not going to charge it here, but they are going to turn around and force the municipalities to put it on. I am sick and tired of the continually increasing bureaucracy. We have 30,000 people and we have more bureaucracy, percentage wise, than anywhere in Canada, and now we are increasing it again.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not want to get into the emotional exercise with the Member, because this issue does not deserve that kind of passion. I am telling the Member that there is no increase in bureaucracy. What the Member has to understand is that we currently have the law; we are not creating new laws and creating new person years to enforce those laws. We are attempting to rewrite the existing law in a manner that is enforceable. In the process, we are reducing the amount of enforcement. We are now getting off the backs of people, while at the same time ensuring that standards are met; that there is more uniformity, and more streamlined activity in the business of construction and work related to construction.
I do not think that there is a municipality in the Yukon, besides Whitehorse, that would opt to have their own inspectors. It just does not make sense. We expect that we will be the agent to provide inspection services not just to municipalities, but to all those other regions I cited.
With the existing personnel, we are going to be covering the same general area for a long time to come with no increase to the staff, and finally we are able to meet our obligation and live by the laws that had been created. So the long and the short of it is that there is no creation of extra bodies. There is no increase in legislation; there is a reduction in the amount of legislation, but now it is within the capability of the government to do its job. That is the long and the short of all of this.
In the process, yes, we are streamlining things; we are creating inspection obligations that are going to support the industry. The Member referred to the 72 hour call-out provision. We talked about the called-out inspection system. In other words, a contractor has to give notice that he requires an inspection by a certain time; the government will respond. There is no reduction in standards or in obligations to meet those standards in all public construction and all construction in residenial areas. Where the reduction falls away is outside the residential areas, outside the local improvement districts, outside the municipalities, outside the unorganized communities in the remote Yukon. That is where there is the relaxation of enforcement, but the provision is still there that it can be done.
In conclusion, we are simply addressing in my opinion, sensibly and responsibly our obligation to ensure that adequate standards are met in the construction of homes, dwellings and all public facilities.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to ask the Minister how many inspectors they had a year ago compared to what they have today?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I want to give the Member accurate and complete information. There have been no increases to the inspections branch in the last year and a half. Prior to that, for the purpose of decentralization there was one person year created about a year before. A year previous to that, there was an additional person added to the inspection branch. In the past four years there were two positions, approximately two and three years ago respectively. So not in the last year and a half. There is no intention to enhance. The two additional persons who were added to the inspections branch I believe went respectively to Dawson City and Watson Lake. Those two communities received decentralized, regionalized inspection services.
Mr. Brewster: I am not going to argue the point any longer. It is now on record and years from now we will count and see how many there are.
With the increase of the fee by 60 percent, if I remember rightly, in the throne speech there was to be no more taxes or any other increases. Our fishing licenses, truck licenses and car licenses went up. Now this is going up. The electrical inspections are going up. The school tax was rightly given to the municipalities and they are going to have to increase it to look after the schools. That is one promise that is good.
I would like to ask: on top of the 60 percent, is there seven percent GST?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me answer the preamble first. I think the point should be made, as I already have, that the fees for services related to permits and inspections have not been increased since 1973. It is 18 years ago that the fees were set. I do not think it is unreasonable, after 18 years, to adjust those fees to the lower end of the national averages or to the lower end of those levels elsewhere in the country.
The Member alluded to tax increases. I think the record should be clear. This is not a tax increase. This is an increase for a service provided by government for which the government originally charged a fee, which probably, 18 years ago, was closely aligned to what the service cost to administer.
We are not moving up to full cost of administration, because we recognize that that would be quite onerous. It would be a lot. In fact, I think this is a lot, but we have to recover at least a part of the cost of the permit and the fees related to inspection services under this act.
The Member had a question relating to GST. No, there is no GST either included in that, nor on top of that. Governments do not charge GST for this type of service.
Mr. Brewster: Well, I am not going to carry this on any further either, but when someone tells me that 60 percent is not much of a raise I do not know. I do not care if it is 18 years or whether it is one year; when you all of a sudden slap someone with 60 percent, it is a little bit wild. I think some of my other colleagues would like to say a few things while I simmer down here.
Some Hon. Member: The 60 percent is from last year to this year, not 18 years.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I had concerns about that rate of increase and we examined it in considerable depth. Using the current fees for permits and inspections and so on as a percentage, it is now .02 of the cost of construction. Point zero two percent. The increase moves that cost of construction, if you will, to .08. So, in terms of a percentage of the cost of construction, it is very marginal. People have, over 18 years, quite dramatically had an increase in cost to construction. Part of the reason why it is 60 percent is because the fees have been so low for so long and nowhere in relation to the cost of doing business, the increasing cost of goods, and by no means at all related to the cost of construction.
I will put it another way: if we related the fee schedule to the increase of construction over those 18 years, then we would require well in excess of a couple of thousand percent increase, but that is not the case.
Mr. Lang: I overheard somebody talk about the requirement for an inspection within 72 hours. Can the Minister further explain that section and where we would find it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The specific reference to 72 hours was a recommendation from the review committee of what time requirement the industry expects from government for inspections. We have accepted that. I am telling the Member, on the record, that we are going to achieve that and put it into regulation. It is not spelled out in the act.
Mr. Lang: That leads to my next question, which is on regulations. The Minister has been working on this for over a year. Does he have in his possession a draft copy of the proposed regulations? If he does, would he please table them so we can go through them with the understanding that there may be some future changes? It will at least give us an indication of exactly what the government intends, as far as legislation is concerned?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Very specifically, we do not have a draft of the regulations completely assembled. The act is fairly clear about what will be formed into regulations. This bill takes what used to be about three-quarters of a page of a building standards act and converts it into a fairly detailed set of commitments, requirements and steps.
We expect the regulations will be relatively short following this, and they will follow the policy procedures that have been established within the inspections branch. They will also follow the recommendations of the Building Standards Review Committee. I do not know if the Member has a copy of the recommendations that came from the review committee, but I released these some time ago. I believe I may have tabled them in the House. They speak to some of the things that will be expected in regulation.
Regulations will tie down some very specific things like the 72-hour inspection period, the required time frames relating to permitting, and the required expectations in respect of specific routines that will be necessary. This lays out the framework for it.
Mr. Lang: The Minister did not answer my question. I asked if draft regulations had been assembled by the department for his consideration.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That is being worked on. The short answer is no.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister telling this House that no draft regulations have been assembled to accompany this act?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Not yet.
Mr. Lang: I want to ask the Minister why. It seems to me that there is a number of outstanding issues here for which the Minister is asking certain authorities to do, yet at the same time, he is basically asking us for a blank cheque and asking us to trust him in respect to the implementation of the act. What I do not understand is that if there has been so much work done on this piece of legislation, why have the regulations not been developed simultaneously.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Part of the answer is that the time was spent to try and put the act in place, which spells out many of the things that have never been spelled out before in legislation. This act, in essence, encompasses the majority of what ordinarily would be in regulation. The Member can go through the bill. He can take a look at section 2(2), and he can see that the regulations will apply to very specific things. There will be areas where a standard other than the National Building Code will apply. The Dawson historical facade requirements of the municipality are a case where the National Building Code would not apply. That would be a regulation that would apply to Dawson. In section 3, there is a series of areas that would apply to regulations, including fees.
Mr. Brewster: With respect to regulations, the act is fairly clear what regulations will be addressed. They have not been drafted.
Mr. Lang: The concern I have here is that the Minister is quite correct. If you take a look at section 3 about proscribing fees to be paid, it is basically saying we are going to have taxation by regulation. We are not going to come up front in the House and say this is what is going to have to be paid by a user or builder applying for a building permit. My point is that, more and more, we are getting general sections in acts saying trust us, give us the general principles and we will enforce it the way we want, when we want and how we want.
This act is so loosely presented to the House at the present time that it allows the government to do anything by regulation. For example, giving a far-fetched illustration, we could allow the Minister to build his house in a certain place with no regulations and no requirements, yet turn around and have the Member for Kluane required to meet all the building codes. It is very loose, as far as the legislation is concerned. If one does not see the regulations, it leaves itself open, in some cases, to favouritism or a situation where some people may not want the type of looseness that is being provided for and which the Minister is asking this House to give approbation to. The concern to myself, as an MLA of the House, is that we are allowing that to happen without the regulations to accompany it.
I understand that you do need regulations. I understand how it works, but I think that, as we go on year by year, there is more and more legislation coming forward basically asking the Commissioner in Executive Council to do it all on behalf of the Legislature. It is making this House more and more redundant, as far as public debate is concerned.
I can tell you from experience that it is very easy to be in a Cabinet room and increase the fees to somebody. It is a little bit more difficult to come to the House and justify it to the general public when you do it.
That is basically taxation without the public being aware of it, or only being made aware of it well after it has happened when nothing can be done about it.
As legislators, we had better take a hard look at that principle. We are being continuously asked to surrender our rights and responsibilities to that of the Cabinet. Then we wonder why there is no accountability or responsibility. If you do not have to come to the public arena to account and be responsible, it is very easy to make that decision.
The Minister has informed this House that there is going to be a 60 percent increase in fees. Can the Minister tell us what the fees are right now for a building permit? What it is going to go up to in actual dollars, and when?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have listened carefully to what the Member is saying with respect to regulation. While I understand his apprehension, he has to recognize what has gone on leading up to this bill. This bill has had two years of public consultation.
Mr. Lang: Then where are the regulations?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: This bill began with a discussion paper that proposed all the things we are talking about today. The discussion paper proposed a number of things as a result of many meetings by the review committee with interest and industry groups, and with representation from the industry and interest groups. It came forward with a series of recommendations, which the Member must also have, that outline the adoption of these very things relating to fees, time lines for inspections, and relating to routines that are desirable and expected by government.
One of the things I appeal to the Member to understand is that this bill has been the result of a long participation by the public in the development of this new regime to address inspections, permitting and the maintaining of standards.
It is impossible, as alleged by the Member, that a regulation would be introduced that would not have been supported by a recommendation of the review committee, or that would not have had the approval of the review committee, not to mention that this also creates a building standards board that will address matters of interpretation and appeal. I am trying to explain to the Member that, in spite of the absence of regulations being finalized, this is the detail, in many pages and specific description, from a current three-quarters of a page act.
With respect to the fees in particular, the documents that have been publicly circulated speak to the fee structure, and I am sure they can be provided to the Member again. They have charts in here of the proposed fee structure. In anticipation of the Members question, I pulled together a page I would like to put into circulation. This speaks to the very fees that will be implemented.
On one hand, they indicate a comparison between other jurisdictions and the Yukon and, in particular, a comparison of Whitehorse to other jurisdictions and the rest of the Yukon. It does indicate in some comparative terms. I would like to point out that this is just an excerpt from the detailed material provided through the discussion papers and from the recommendations of the review committee.
This committee had recommended that the amended fee schedule should consider a user-pay philosophy, realizing that 100 percent cost recovery would not be feasible.
They went on in their recommendations to state that the fee schedule should be based on the actual value of the service provided, including a minimum fee that reflects the ratio of the inspectors time and the actual value of work done on the property. The recommendations go on for another page. In conclusion they say that 60 percent of recovery of actual costs would be appropriate and we are adopting that.
Mr. Lang: I am still not clear on the information that has been provided. I just want to go on before I get into the cost of fee structure.
The Minister has indicated to the House this has been a two year process, and it is beyond me why you would not have regulations drafted to accompany this bill that would be given consideration before the implementation of it. The Minister went on at great lengths about how it took two years and all this extensive consultation to develop 11 pages of legislation actually 10, Madam Chair, because on the eleventh page there are only two sections.
I should point out that half of the legislation is in French so if it was in one language, it would be only four pages.
Now the Minister has told us this has taken two years, and it is a good thing, Madam Chair, that it was not really complicated because we probably would have 20 pages of legislation, probably taking two decades to develop. All I want to know from the Minister is why, in two years, over the course of the consultation, why was there no draft legislation to accompany this act, or regulations to accompany this act? Because there are significant aspects to those regulations that I think we should be privy to prior to the passage of the bill. Namely, what areas are going to be exempt from the National Building Code. That is a very important principle.
This is one that we should be aware of prior to passing the bill. In two years, under the Ministers guidance, why were there no instructions to draft the regulations? Surely, in the last six months the Minister had to know what was coming into this bill in general principle and, therefore, the regulations could have been drafted accordingly.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have answered the Members question already. The act was a major preoccupation in the effort to revise the Building Standards Act to a workable form where we could deliver the requirements of law. Regulations are simultaneously now being developed. We do not have a working draft that can be tabled. It was originally my intention to have that draft to table. It was originally committed to be available with the legislation. It is in a draft stage that is not ready for distribution. I am told it will take another week or two, and I would then be more than pleased to provide it to the Member.
Mr. Lang: In view of the fact that it is only going to be seven days from now when the draft regulations are going to be available and he has indicated from the start of our conversation to now that we initially did not have regulations, but now we do have some draft of regulations that are going to be available in the next week it would be my recommendation that perhaps after general debate we should delay going through it clause by clause until we get the regulations, so we can have an indication of exactly how this bill is going to be implemented across the territory.
It would be common courtesy to all Members to have that made available.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let us be perfectly clear. I indicated that there was not a draft ready for tabling. There is a draft being worked on, and I have not seen it. It is my understanding that it will be available in the next week or two not necessarily in seven days. Certainly, the original intention was to have regulations to table simultaneously with the act. I do not know what is detracted by the absence of the regulations from the act. It would seem to me that we could proceed through the act. I can advise the Member, as per the discussion paper outlines and from the committee recommendations, what the specific recommendations will be in specific areas. Certainly, it would appear to me that we can proceed with the bill and I can explain the changes that have been suggested.
Mrs. Firth: I think the Minister is having difficulty with this new seating arrangement in the Legislature. He is in that high altitude on the upper bench where the air is much thinner.
I would like to ask the Minister some questions about the act that we are discussing, Building Standards Act. I listened to the Ministers explanation about how they had examined it in considerable depth, and I guess what I would like to get an example of is exactly how it is going to affect people. The Minister has explained that the rate increase is going from .02 percent to .08 percent for the permits. There is also other legislation that is supposed to be coming Electrical Protection Act. I would like to ask the Minister if they have done any reviews or examples in this deep examination and could he cite examples here in the House of how it would affect a couple who are wanting to build their first home. Say the home was valued at $100,000. What would it cost for them to build that now as compared to what it is going to cost when the new code comes into place. Will it go up in areas, or down?
I would just like to get some information from the Minister with respect to that, to show us how he has examined it and how the legislation is actually going to affect the real people out there who are wanting to build houses and the business community who are wanting to build business facilities, and so on.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can attempt to provide the requested explanation. In the first instance, in a municipality like the City of Whitehorse there would essentially be no changes, simply because the City of Whitehorse has assumed the administration of building inspection and it provides the permits and the inspections. The costs are not impacted because the City of Whitehorse has its rates now, and as the chart indicates in the sheet I circulated, the example for a three-bedroom, $100,000 home in Whitehorse would be $596 today, yesterday and tomorrow. That same line in the chart indicates what the same permits and fees would be if the existing YTG rates applied: $205. The proposed changes would make it $500. Now there is a hypothetical situation here, because I am saying that as if YTGs rates applied, but they do not in the City of Whitehorse.
In all other municipalities the administration would be assumed by the Yukon government and the new rates would apply. The chart indicates the application of those rates in municipalities, in unorganized communities, as well as in designated local improvement districts. Where the exemptions would apply are in remote Yukon, assuming a person wanted to build a house in a remote point in the Yukon where they had property. It would clearly be outside a local improvement district and would be clearly designated as remote. It would then be exempt from the requirement for permits and fees but would still require the standards to be met. The National Building Code would still apply equally under this act to all parts of the Yukon. Today it does not. An example is the municipality of the town of Faro. Its application of the National Building Code is the 1980 version. There have been two upgrades since, in 1985 and again in 1990, I believe.
In fact, in 1990, the National Building Code actually relaxed some of the strict requirements for certain standards. One could argue, in the case of Faro, that they are actually applying a building code that is more stringent than is permitted today. That is a side issue, though.
What we are proposing in the act is to apply the National Building Code territory wide and to include remote areas. In other words, there is still the onus on the builder to meet National Building Code standards in remote Yukon, even though he is not required to get the permits and pay for them or to pay for an inspection unless he wanted it. If he wanted an inspection, he could seek it, get it and pay for it. That is still permitted.
I think that generally speaks to how it would affect the average person. There is no change or exemptions permitted in public buildings. They will still, because of the public use of the building, require the necessary permitting and inspections at the various stages. There is the call-out system for the inspection with the 72 hours notice. That is a streamlining on the commercial side.
The residential home owner, within a prescribed area development region, municipality or community, would have the application of the new fee structure.
Mrs. Firth: Maybe I am not making the point clearly enough. Our concern is what kind of impact this is going to have on people, wherever they are going to be in remote areas, rural areas, or here and what these new laws will do that will affect peoples lives. I am looking for some indication that the officials have examined that and that they have some examples or ideas; otherwise it just simply reinforces our request for the regulations so that we can make that determination ourselves. It is very difficult to assess the impact that new laws are going to have on people if the Minister cannot either give us some examples or give us the regulations so that we can make the determinations for ourselves. That is what we are interested in and what we are concerned about, and that is what the people I represent want to know when new laws come into the Legislature: how is it going to affect me personally, what extra costs am I going to have, and can I have some examples?
That is what I am looking for from the Minister, and perhaps he can provide me with some of that detail or tell us whether they even examined that aspect of it and have some idea of how it is going to impact on peoples lives.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To a large extent, I think some of the questions the Member is asking indirectly would be covered in a line-by-line examination. When we get into talking about the opportunity for a municipality to opt in or opt out, that will clarify what change that particular municipality or community will feel. I will try to use an example. Let us assume we are talking about Dawson City only because it has a certain uniqueness to it in terms of this bill.
Currently, Dawson City does not have inspectors under its building by-law, but they have a building by-law that requires certain standards be met in the construction of homes and buildings in certain core areas of Dawson City. That does not necessarily meet the National Building Code of the current variety.
What changes will this bill do to that whole scenario? In the first instance, for the ordinary resident in Dawson there will be no changes other than an improved and streamlined inspection process. So, if a home builder or a contractor is constructing a home in Dawson City, there will be an improved system to obtain inspections.
The municipality of the City of Dawson will be able to use provisions under this act to revise its building by-law, in conformity with the rest of the territory. An exemption they may have in relation to historical facades would be specified so that, basically, across the Territory you have a uniform National Building Code standard of 1990, and in the special case of Dawson you may have an exclusion for historical facades. That is an example of a change.
For another example, in remote Yukon, which is essentially to mean that there is no highway access and it is not easy to get there, or you may have to fly into a lake to look at it, that person can construct the building without permit and without inspection, but still with the applicability of the National Building Code, except that we are not going to run out there to inspect it without a request from the owner. That is a major change, in that there is less restriction on remote construction. However, that does not apply for commercial construction.
If it is a lodge in remote Yukon, then it does require that the standards be met and permits be issued, as well as the fees being paid.
With respect to cabins, if cabins are intended for commercial and public use, then the National Building Code automatically applies, as it applies to everything. If it is an enterprise, then it would also require the necessary permitting and inspection. A private residence would not need to apply. They still have to build it according to the Code, and that is understandable. We do not want to legislate something that is not safe or secure, or would cause problems for the owner down the road. So, the building still has to meet required standards of safety.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying then that if somebody wants to go and build a little cabin out on a lake somewhere on some property that they have it has to be built according to the National Building Code except that nobody is going to go and check to see whether it is, unless they ask to have an inspector flown in there to check and see if they are conforming with some code? That seems to me to be excessive. If somebody is going to go out and build a wall tent and call that their cabin I am sure that is not going to meet the National Building Code. Or, if they put up a cabin that is half cabin, half canvass, or something, is that taking away peoples options to just build whatever kind of dwelling they want to build on their lake property?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In general terms what the Member has described is relatively accurate. In the case of remote, private-dwelling construction there will be no requirement for a permit or inspection. The National Building Code will apply across the territory. That person is required to meet National Building Code standards, but there is not going to be an enforcement of that in remote Yukon.
That was a very strong point made by the review committee. They said, look, it does not make sense for an inspector to have to fly out to a remote lake, inspect a building at several stages, meaning several trips, requiring the builder to essentially pay for that cost, and require them to have permits. It is just all cost prohibitive.
The alternative would be for us to exempt the National Building Code from regions of the Yukon. I am not prepared to do that either. I still feel that I, as a Minister and we, as a Legislature, have an obligation to protect standards necessary for the safety and health of people.
Persons building their private residence at a remote lake inaccessible by road and accessible only by air should be expected to achieve standards that would meet minimum requirements for safe occupancy. That is all there is to it. That is the provision that would be permitted in this bill and through the exemptions in the regulations.
I repeat: it was an emphatic point from the review committee that this was an impossible thing to administer, so why try? Why place an impossible task on the builder and inspections branch? If someone wanted to build a cabin, a private dwelling at a remote lake and live there it is not commercial surely we have the faith in people that they will look after themselves adequately.
Where that does not apply is in an area where you have many residences. In downtown Dawson, to exempt adequate standards being met would not be acceptable as you place other people at risk who are living next door.
Mrs. Firth: I understand that
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In any event, I am trying to provide an explanation of remote exclusions.
Mrs. Firth: I understand the last point the minister just made but what this bill will be doing is to tell people what kind of structure or facility they have to build in remote areas because there are no recreational exemptions, for example. We do not have the regulations so we cannot see if there are recreational exemptions.
The way to make the point is to ask the Minister: what if an inspector flew in for some other reason than an inspection and found a building or a dwelling that people were living in? Would that inspector be able to say that he did not feel that those people were taking good enough care of themselves? Does that inspector then have any ability to say that there is a cabin on this lake and another over there, a wall tent there again, where people are living year round but do not meet safe conditions and therefore we should do something about it because they are not meeting the National Building Code?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In the description the Member gave, she suggested that if by chance an inspector happened upon a remote structure that was unsafe or dangerous or potentially hazardous to the occupants, what would the inspector do? Would he be obligated to enforce?
Well, this is my understanding of the law we are planning to put in place: there essentially would be no legal requirement under this act for the enforcement of any standards provisions in that remote location. However, given the way this has developed over a couple of years of intense debate among a broad diverse group of people and believe me, some of those sessions were not tame, as you put building inspectors in with contractors, in with consumer groups, in with industry, in with organizations representing various components of the industry there was a wide-ranging, free debate about what ought to be done.
To get back to the Members explanation, the consensus the committee came up with, and which I support, is that there would be no enforcement requirement in that remote location.
However, given that we are all human and given that a healthy debate is taking place here, there would be a moral obligation on the part of the inspector to attempt to assist in the upgrading of a hazardous dwelling in that remote area, but there would not be a legal requirement for him to do so. We could reduce it into further refinement. We do not know precisely the conditions that the Member expects the inspector to come upon. The inspector would have a moral obligation to help if there was ill health. The inspector would have a moral obligation to assist with some measure of support if the people were destitute, and the inspector would be obligated morally, I believe, to provide advice toward a safer dwelling. But, on the legal side of it, the enforcement provision is not being put in here. An inspector will not fly into a remote lake and force someone to rebuild their house, even if it is a wall tent.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the next question that comes up after you talk about moral responsibility and the law being that the dwelling and accommodations have to comply with the National Building Code, is: does that mean that the government assumes liability in the event of something happening? For example, if the dwelling did not meet the national code, that it burned down or people were injured and the government was aware it was not up to code and an inspector has a moral obligation to tell the owners they should have it up to code not that they were invited in, but just came upon this who is liable?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think we all share in that liability, in a generic sort of way, but in the event of a tragic circumstance the Member describes, the ultimate result would be a legal judgment. There is no liability on the government unless there is a suit. If there is a suit, a judge would have to ultimately determine liability. The provisions of the bill do not require enforcement. They permit, upon request, enforcement.
On the other hand, that person could ask to have the building inspected. Perhaps they were getting some special financing that required CMHC standards that, in turn, required National Building Code application. A person in that remote area could ask the inspector to provide inspection. That is another matter. That is a provision where, by request, in a remote area, you would have that inspection done and full liability accordingly.
I do not believe that there is any liability being assumed by the government through that exemption. That is a free-choice situation being provided for the remote Yukon.
Mrs. Firth: The concern is that what the Minister is saying is all speculative. He is telling us what the intentions are, but we all know that if there is a question of whether the government is going to be held liable for something, you can bet your life that the inspectors will be out checking out substandard dwellings.
I know people who live in town who probably have substandard dwellings, as well as out on the highway, and so on, to say nothing of the remote areas. A concern people are going to have if this new law comes in is that inspectors are going to be knocking on their door wanting to inspect their dwellings.
I raise the concern because of the study that was done some years ago by this government about inadequate housing facilities in the Yukon. Some consultant was hired to do the study and talked about the numbers of houses in the Yukon that did not have the proper plumbing, or flush toilets, or this and that.
I guess I have a concern about just how heavily involved the government is going to get into enforcing it. The Minister says the inspector has to be invited out there, but if they come across a dwelling they may have a moral obligation to do something about it, and the government may be liable because the court might rule that way.
I think we have to see the regulations; we have to know what the exemptions are going to be. I would like some indication of how other areas of Canada deal with this specific issue. I would like to know if the Minister can provide us with further information about that. We never did get cleared up whether or not the regulations were going to come within the next seven days. Perhaps the Minister could address that issue, too.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: On the question of liability, I believe that what the committee attempted to relay certainly to me was that in remote areas of the Yukon, government should not be interfering with an individuals right to build a home and especially so if achieving the full intent of the law was going to be onerous and costly.
As they explained to me, they wanted to see the onus of responsibility, and therefore the liability, if you will, on the owner in remote Yukon. In other words, their presentation essentially stressed the individuals right to do his own construction of his own home in remote Yukon. By extension, the government would not be liable in that circumstance. Similarly, by exemption, that would not be a liability of the government. The contradiction that I think the Member is trying to signal is that, how can you say that the National Building Code shall apply territory wide when it is not going to be enforced in all areas of the territory. I do not think that is necessarily a contradiction. I believe that simply creates a uniformity across the territory to ensure that what may go on in remote Yukon should meet a standard for safety reasons, for health reasons and for assurances that people are not injuring themselves with bad construction. The standard is there for the people to follow in order to have a safe dwelling, but the simple fact that we will not interfere, or enforce, or insist upon them to meet the same kind of rigid standards we do at other residential areas of Yukon, does not place a liability by omission on the government.
I am not sure how much further I can pursue it; certainly, I can try to get a legal opinion on short notice, perhaps by tomorrow. With respect to the regulations, I have been assured during break that they would be ready within a weeks time. By next Monday or Tuesday I should be able to provide Members with a draft; recognize that it would be a draft.
The Member also raised a matter of other jurisdictions. Perhaps she could repeat the question, because I am not sure what it was about?
Mrs. Firth: It was with respect to how they address the issue of the National Building Code applying to, say, recreational dwellings. Are there any exemptions? How do other jurisdictions deal with it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: We are not proposing anything terribly different here. Well, there is nothing different, period. We are proposing nothing different here that does not already exist in other parts of the country. The same provisions apply in other provinces where municipalities do assume the full administration of building standards. There are jurisdictions where a central authority will look after surrounding areas.
Some jurisdictions, like Ontario and British Columbia, have the same remote provisions that we are proposing. It is not a case of us introducing something radically new. There are exclusions like we are proposing in remote areas for B.C. and Ontario. I do not know about the other provinces.
The short answer is, we are not proposing anything new here. If anything, it is an improvement on other jurisdictions, and very much an improvement on the loose situation now. Now, the situation is an ad hoc one.
Under the existing law, we are required to go out to the remote cabin and inspect it, shut it down or put a stop-work on construction if it is not up to standard. That is what our law currently says. Firstly, that is non-enforceable. Secondly, it is ad hoc. Thirdly, we do not have the staff to meet all the obligations under the inspection system and Building Standards Act now.
Here, we have attempted to set up provisions so we can do the job under a reasonable approach of standards and law.
Mrs. Firth: Are the regulations that the Minister is bringing forward the ones that were drafted here in the Yukon, borrowed from other jurisdictions, or a combination of some sort?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I indicated to another Member earlier, I have not seen the draft. It is being worked on between the municipal inspections branch and Justice. I am assured they will be ready early next week in a draft form that can be provided to Members.
Mr. Devries: I am just looking at the rate structure. If I understand the Minister correctly, he originally said that, presently, the fee structure represents .02 percent of the cost of the dwelling, and it is going up to .08 percent. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will check, but I believe those are the numbers that I gave the Member and the numbers that were given to me. Just let me double check.
Mr. Devries: If $205 represents .02, then $500 represents .05, so that $500 should possibly be $800.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will double check the figures and provide some computation in writing for the Member. The figures that we used were average figures that were calculated on the basis of a territory-wide average and application, and in terms of an average throughout the country. If you look at the top part of the chart, there is quite a range of fees. I will have to double check where they established the average and how they got the calculation of .02 percent to .08 percent of construction. I will double check the figures.
Given the lateness of the hour and the excitement of debate, I move that you report progress.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 58, Building Standards Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.