Wednesday, May 1, 1991 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Eulogy for Richard Hatfield
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I rise on a question of privilege to ask the House to note the passing of the former Premier and Senator from New Brunswick, Richard Hatfield, and to join others in this country who will, this day, be recognizing the contribution made by Mr. Hatfield both in the Senate and as Premier of his province, and to note here that he has from to time been helpful and supportive of Yukons initiatives on the national constitutional scene. I would ask Mr. Speaker and Members of the House to note that there will be a family memorial service held today in Hartland, New Brunswick, and a public memorial service will be held on Friday, May 3. I note that in case any Members of the House may wish to send either condolences or messages to Premier Hatfields family.
Speaker: We will proceed to the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers.
Government Purchase of waterfront property in Whitehorse
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that as of this morning the Yukon Government has agreed to purchase waterfront property from the White Pass & Yukon Corporation Limited.
The property stretches along first avenue from approximately Elliot Street to the lot commonly known as the 20/20 property. The purchase includes the White Pass Depot - the train station - and all the buildings, tracks, ramps, and other structures that are located on the land. White Pass will also be undertaking to cancel its railroad easement on the waterfront lands currently owned by the government beside this building, running from approximately the site of this building through to Elliot Street.
This acquisition means that waterfront property, from the S.S. Klondike to the 20/20 site, is now secure for public benefit and use.
The purchase price will be $3,450,000. The total area of the property is approximately 198,000 square feet, and this works out to a cost of $17.42 per square foot, all inclusive of structures on the property. The $17.42 cost compares favorably to the Taylor Chev property, which was purchased at a cost of $14.77 per square foot.
The cost of the White Pass purchase reflects the desirability of water front property and of course the higher historical value, which includes the train depot.
The possession and closing date of the agreement is targeted for June 27 of this year, as a six to eight week turnaround is expected for White Pass to process an application for rail abandonment to the National Transportation Agency. This application, which this government will fully support, is for the relocation of their terminal railhead and to designate a new railhead - that is, the end of the line - to approximately a point on this side of Rotary Park.
White Pass will thus be vacating the railroad right-of-way along the waterfront although the actual tracks and switches will not be removed. These railroad features will become the property of the Yukon government, along with the land, on behalf of all Yukon people.
To ensure that the waterfront area is open to the public for the 1992 season, the Yukon Government will take immediate steps to perform some basic clean-up and landscaping on the property. Only nominal development work is anticipated this year, however the Government plans to ultimately develop this property in partnership with the City of Whitehorse.
As all Members are aware, the future of the waterfront land has been a matter of considerable public interest and earlier led to the establishment of a tripartite planning group that consisted of the Yukon government, the City of Whitehorse and White Pass.
That group was unable to reach a consensus largely because of White Pass preference for maximum commercial use of the land. With this purchase today, we have removed a major impediment to that consensus. For that reason we will now be examining the structure of the proposed Capital City Commission in order to determine the best way to allow waterfront development to proceed as quickly as possible. This new planning process will incorporate the best ideas that we have heard so far and will allow for full public input.
I cannot tell you emphatically enough how glad I am that the Yukon government is now the owner of this property, simply because it means that we can move forward on the development of this area to the benefit of Yukon people and all who visit the City of Whitehorse. I would also like to note that this acquisition was undertaken with the direct participation and knowledge of the City of Whitehorse, and I would like to thank Mayor Don Branigan, personally for his assistance in reaching the agreement.
In closing, the acquisition of this valuable waterfront property will provide the Yukon government and the City of Whitehorse with a substantial portion of downtown Whitehorse waterfront land that can be developed for the public benefit and use of all Yukon residents.
Mr. Phillips: We, on this side of the House are pleased to see that the waterfront development has been pushed to the forefront and some consideration has been given to it; however, we do have some concerns about the announcement the Minister made in the House today.
Waterfront development talks started some three years ago with the City of Whitehorse, the Government of Yukon and White Pass. What we have today is several scrapped plans, no Capital City Commission in place and an expenditure of over $4.5 million, if you include the Taylor Chevrolet Oldsmobile property.
What we are going to end up with in the summer of 1992, when we have a massive influx of tourists here, is a partially landscaped area that will be free from litter. That is a far cry from what people envisioned three years ago when the waterfront development plan started and all the announcements came from the other side that work was going to start almost immediately.
Instead, we have spent over $4 million. We have had no development. We have not even seen the development plan. We have some serious questions about how much it is going to cost Yukoners now that we will not be sharing the development costs with White Pass. We also want to know when the new Capital City Commission will be established and how soon it will get to work and how much commercial involvement there will be in the new waterfront development. Will the commercial development help offset some of the costs to the Yukon taxpayer? Most importantly, we want to know when we will see the new waterfront development plan and the strategy for developing and implementing that plan.
The Whitehorse waterfront development has the potential for becoming the focal point for Whitehorse tourism in the future. We, on this side, look forward to seeing that final plan. One can only hope that this move by the Government of Yukon will not cost taxpayers more than they can afford.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe the Member and I can agree on two points: that this acquisition is a good idea and that the waterfront has tremendous potential.
On the other points we separate in agreement. The Member raises the issue of the planning process that began nearly three years ago. That planning process has not been wasted. The planning process that took place, up to the point where White Pass opted to walk out of those discussions, is still useful as information, useful public input and planning documents are available for all Members to see. We have a fundamental planning scheme from which to work. It is incorrect and I disagree with the Member when he suggests that all plans are now scrapped, because the plans that were developed to the point where White Pass no longer felt it could participate in that process are still available.
The concept of a Capital City Commission, is still very much alive. The proposal for a Capital City Commission is still before this government and the City of Whitehorse. Recognizing the collapse of the planning exercise that took place up until last summer, there was a need to reassess the role that the commission would play in developing, in some measure of urgency, the waterfront.
The public, the city and Members in this House have made their positions quite clear; they want to see action on the waterfront. This is action. Members cannot, on the one hand, call for action and then criticize it for not going fast enough. We can anticipate from here on that we are going to see real development on the waterfront, not just a partial landscaping and a cleaning up, but some real substantial work on the waterfront.
We will see that this summer. I anticipate that we will see considerable landscaping done and improvements made to the property and that we will perhaps see some paths and grassed areas replacing those tracks. We may well see a boardwalk for people to walk along the waterfront - all this in this year. In the meantime, we are going to be moving forward to set up a structure between us and the City of Whitehorse to ensure that the long-term phased development of the waterfront does, indeed, take place.
New teacher education program
Hon. Mr. McDonald: For some time now, the Department of Education has been investigating the feasibility of offering a teacher education program in the Yukon designed for the many people who already possess a degree or a significant number of post secondary credits - people who now wish to pursue a teaching career in the Yukon.
Last month, the department conducted a survey, which found that more than 200 people would be interested in such a program if it were offered. This huge response was not expected but it was very welcome.
I am very pleased to announce that the Department of Education plans to offer a new teacher education program, a decision based on both future needs and the very positive response to our original proposal.
This action reflects the commitment of this government to education in the Yukon, having as it does both short- and long-term benefits for students, teachers, the education system and the public.
The commitment to proceed with a new teacher education program is a significant one. The next step will be to select a particular university program. If all goes well in our negotiations with the University of British Columbia, it is our hope that a 12-month course of studies toward certification as elementary school teachers will begin this September at Yukon College. Students would have to already possess a four-year degree and meet the admission requirements set by the university.
Information sessions are scheduled for next week with a member of the UBC Faculty of Education. These will provide an opportunity for interested applicants to discuss admission standards, curriculum and the profession in general.
Each of the 210 people who contacted the department earlier to express their interest in this program have been sent a letter outlining the progress to date and an invitation to attend one of these information sessions.
Following these sessions, the Department of Education, in consultation with UBC, will decide whether to pursue that universitys teacher education program or to find another that better suits Yukons needs.
When the new teacher education program goes ahead, it is this governments intention to ensure that it will benefit the education system as a whole, particularly rural Yukon, that experiences a higher teacher turnover. The Department of Education is looking at different incentives for would-be teachers from rural Yukon or who intend to work in rural Yukon.
The new teacher education program will complement the work already undertaken by the Yukon native teacher education program, a similar venture designed for students with no post-secondary background and who are of native ancestry. It will be part of the larger framework of professional development and professional support offered by the Department of Education - programs like the principals certification program and special education certificate programs and training for community education liaison coordinators.
With the ever-increasing shortage of teachers across Canada, it makes good sense to invest in Yukon people so they can teach in the Yukon. While it may be necessary to bring in teachers from beyond our borders, it would be foolish to overlook the many talented, experienced and knowledgeable people here who, but for the want of certification, would be excellent teachers.
Mr. Devries: We on this side of the House agree with the new teacher education program, in that it does allow people to pursue a career in education without having to leave the Yukon. As a rural Member, I am also pleased to see any initiative that will encourage teachers to stay in the rural communities, although we have been very fortunate in that regard in Watson Lake.
The only concern I would voice regarding this proposed program is one of logistics. Can Yukon College handle this program and have it set up and running smoothly by September, 1991?
Has the Department of Education consulted with the college and its Board of Governors to verify the timetable laid out in this statement?
This program is a good idea, and I would hate to see this concept go down the drain due to poor planning.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can agree entirely on the assertion that it would be an awful thing to have the program die for lack of proper planning. Clearly, discussions have taken place with the college administration, and I am confident that when an already-existing program is purchased from a sponsoring University we will be well established to conduct the course work at the beginning of September.
I want to stress that the program we are intending to provide this year is an interim step until such a time as we can develop approved course work that will permit students graduating from our public schools to pass through university programs in the Yukon and ultimately into teacher education studies, without having to leave the Yukon. We would also like, as a medium-term objective, to allow such a program to introduce those who possess some post-secondary education credits, who may wish to possess a teaching certificate, to also enter the program and pass through successfully into teaching jobs in the Yukon.
We are most pleased that we have been able to find potential partners through a sponsoring university, in this case, the University of British Columbia. We do feel that, despite the fact that we are an attractive location for teachers who wish to pursue a teaching career, it is in our best interests to cultivate Yukoners who wish to engage in the teaching profession. It is also to our benefit to try and encourage a lower teacher turnover in many rural communities. The turnover rate is presently unacceptable.
I thank the Member for his comments. We will work diligently and quickly to ensure that the program is put on properly.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation again today. I am sure he will be relieved to know that the subject will not be the Yukon Energy Corporation but rather it will be the Watson Lake sawmill, which I am sure he thinks of in the past tense.
I am concerned about the lack of public information regarding the actual operations of Yukon Pacific Forest Products. We do know it was managed by T.F. Properties in Vancouver, and T.F. Properties received the millions of dollars that was paid for lumber that was shipped from Watson Lake. We know very little of the handling of the money in Vancouver.
Can the Minister tell us whether the Yukon Development Corporation has the complete accounting from T.F. Properties regarding the money received by it and also how that money was spent.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member has raised this matter through correspondence recently. I am in the process of drafting a response to supply information for the time period when T.F. Properties was managing the mill. The short answer to the Members question is, yes, the Yukon Development Corporation has detailed information relative to operations of that period. In the correspondence that I will be providing to the Member, I am proposing to provide that information.
Mr. Phelps: Unlike his predecessor, when asked about the management contract, the Minister is telling us now that he will be able to provide us with the terms and conditions of the management contract between Yukon Pacific on one hand and the T.F. Properties on the other.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: On that specific point I would have to take notice to ensure that we have the contract available to release.
For a better understanding of the issue, the contract may not be releasable. I have to take notice of the question. In respect to the operational activities relating to the financial matters of that period, there is no problem with providing the information that we have.
I would point out that, when the Member raised the matter with me previously, he called for a full-fledged audit, which could be quite expensive. My proposal to him, which he has not received yet, is a down-scaled version of a formal audit, whereby we would have the information we have reviewed by a professional accountant.
Mr. Phelps: Will the Minister be in a position shortly to advise this House how much money was kept out of the total monies received by T.F. Properties for management fees and disbursements?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not have that information available to me on my feet, but I am sure that information will be part of what I am proposing to provide to the Member.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: During the brief lifespan of Yukon Pacific, the management company that put the deal together, T.F. Properties, was, among other things, purchasing used parts of sawmills in Alberta and B.C., and shipping them to Watson Lake to be incorporated into the brand new mill there.
Can the Minister tell us whether he has complete information with regard to any profit T.F. Properties, or its shareholders, made in purchasing these assets in the south and selling them to Yukon Pacific in Watson Lake?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe that information is available and constitutes part of my response to the Member in writing.
Mr. Phelps: We also have information that the trucking company, which was the company that transported the product from the Watson Lake mill to the market - I understand the companys name was Goldstream - was probably owned by either T.F. Properties or one of their major shareholders. Would the Minister be able to tell us whether or not this is true and, if that is the case, what kind of a profit they made on the trucking operations?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is into an area of detail about which I cannot respond with accuracy. I will take notice of the question.
Mr. Phelps: I am just trying to get a feeling for the Ministers position on this. Is he comfortable with the idea that the management of T.F. Properties would withstand careful scrutiny by an audit team?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It would be ill-advised of me to make a judgment as to the degree of the scrutiny that could be made on those books and whether or not they would pass any particular test. What I am telling the Member is that I am quite prepared to open up known information relating to that period.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: We read in the paper that the sawmill case between Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Pacific is about to be settled out of court. We have a situation where Yukon taxpayers have lost more than $11 million on the sawmill operation. Small businesses throughout the Yukon - Watson Lake, Whitehorse and elsewhere - have suffered millions of dollars in losses. I feel very strongly that the people have a right to answers about what happened to the money.
I know that the RCMP will not investigate unless they have some prior investigative work by auditors, and I would like to know whether or not the Minister would entertain spending some money to get enough material together so that one can make a sound judgment on exactly what occurred with regard to the management by T.F. Properties of the assets of Yukon Pacific Forest Products.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is associating the period of management by T.F. Properties with the period during which the Yukon government was involved with the mill and he is, by association, drawing in the $11 million figure. The Member knows that the matter of the operation of the sawmill from the period of acquisition through to its sale was the subject of a motion of this House, that it was a subject of detailed examination by the Public Accounts Committee and was the subject of numerous questions by the Leader of the Opposition in the past. So that matter is adequately addressed. If the Member is suggesting that we spend additional money for that period, then I would have to question the wisdom of further expenditure for that period.
The period of management by T.F. Properties is another matter and I have indicated to the Member that I am quite willing to be most cooperative with known information and I am responding in detail to his written request, details of which I do not have here with me and should not be expected to have.
Mr. Phelps: I want to make the issue quite clear that, before the trail gets cold, a thorough investigation should be made into the money received, and the management of that money by T.F. Properties, in Vancouver, a related company by virtue of its management duties with control of Yukon Pacific.
There are various ways in which the government can approach this issue, for example, under the Business Corporations Act...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: Yes, I want to know if the Minister is prepared to do everything, within reason, to ensure that a thorough investigation is carried out with regard to the management of T.F. properties and account for every dollar received by it.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The undertaking that I have given to the Member still stands. He has sought from me a request for a full-fledged audit of the period of management by T.F. Properties.
The response that I have given to the Member is clearly positive, cooperative and forthright. The extent to which I am prepared to commit massive amounts of money for such a review is one that I am not prepared to give at this time. A full-fledged audit could be well in excess of $100,000 and I am not sure that the Member is really asking for that to happen.
Question re: Contracts
Mr. Lang: I want to go into another issue of some importance to the general public, and that is the government contracts that were tabled in this House yesterday. A total of $55 million is explained in this book. Of that, approximately $15 million is for consultants.
I recognize that there is a need at times to get outside expertise, but I really question why the taxpayer is paying over $15 million in total for the purpose of engaging outside expertise, namely consultants.
It is no hidden fact that we have very highly paid civil servants in this government to the point that a Deputy Minister can earn $105,000 per year. My question to the Government Leader is: in view of the fact that the government has grown, primarily in the area of management, over the past four years, why are we having to hire consultants to the tune of up to $15 million per year?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member knows, this government has a large agenda of commitments we have made and things we have to get done, with policy development in a large number of areas. We have a very challenging capital program. There are many initiatives toward our objective of everything from settling claims, healthy communities, sustainable development to work in the environment. All this massive amount of work involves professionals of one kind or another. A fundamental choice for every government is whether they can have the work done in house, which would inevitably involve much larger growth in the public service, or whether you contract with professionals outside the public service to do certain work for a certain period of time, or do certain work on a certain project, and not have to bring these people into the workforce.
I know it is the case with every single government in the country, whether it is federal, provincial or municipal, that most governments have a mix of both. There are areas - for example, engineering consultants and other kinds of consultants, policy development and legal work - where the government is never going to have enough people on staff to do all the things required. That is why you go to consulting contracts.
Mr. Lang: It all sounds very nice. If you take a look at this document, which represents $15 million for outside consultants, over and above the work that is required of the civil service, one has to question why. We not only have Deputy Ministers being paid as high as $105,000, but we also, at the top management, have Assistant Deputy Ministers, whose salaries range from $60,000 to $80,000 a year.
The Minister knows that the management ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: I want to know why the civil service has grown to the extent that it has when, simultaneously, the government has spent $15 million a year to hire outside expertise.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The $15 million that the Member speaks about represents something less than five percent of our total budget. I suspect that the five percent range being spent on consultants and that kind of expertise, is not that different from what it is in other governments, and perhaps I will check to see if it is that much different from the days when the Member was in office.
The Member asks why we are using consultants when we also have public servants. This government is trying to do an awful lot of things. We are doing much more than the previous government. We are accomplishing much more than the previous government, and that work has to be done by real human beings who have to be paid.
I do not know what the Member remembers about the duties of the Deputy Minister and Assistant Deputy Minister, but it is rare anywhere in the country for a Deputy Minister and an Assistant Deputy Minister to do legal research; to do engineering drawings of buildings or to do a financial analysis of some project. In relative terms, the management duties of Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers, most of whom in this government work very hard and very long hours, are no better paid now than they were under the days of the previous government. Their duties and their mandate does not involve them having the time or the scope, or in many cases, the precise professional skills, to do the kind of work that we often have to contract for.
Mr. Lang: The Minister should note that I am talking about $15 million for consultants, not the total $55 million. I am not asking a Deputy Minister to give us some design plans for the visitor reception centre. Why are we going out and hiring $15 million worth of consultants when we have so many positions in government, at the management level, that are being well paid - some of them in the neighbourhood of $105,000? Why is the Minister allowing this to happen?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: With respect, I do believe I already answered the question. We have a very challenging agenda. We are trying to get a lot accomplished. It is not possible to do all that we have set ourselves to do with the Public Service Commission. The alternative is to either not do the work - which, I take it would be the preference of the Member opposite - or if we do do the work - and it is our choice to do so - then we have options. We can either do it in the public service, which would inevitably involve expanding the public service further. This would be something, I take it from the Members comments, that the Member is not in favour of doing. We also have the option of retaining people from the private sector who have particular skills we may require from time to time for certain projects.
We are supporters of the public service. We believe in it. We believe in the integrity, ability and efficiency of the public services in this country. We disagree with the Conservatives on that question. We also recognize that we cannot have, within the public service, all the skills that the public business will require all the time.
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Contracts
Mrs. Firth: My question is also with respect to the contract and is directed to the Premier.
Our payroll is in excess of $117 million for public servants in general. As my colleague has mentioned, the Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers are making extremely high salaries. Those salaries are going to be increased over the next three years by the 19 percent increase that the rest of the public service got. I think that emphasizes the point that we do have a lot of well paid help in the government.
I would like to ask the Minister a question specifically about the contracts that were tabled yesterday. It is with respect to the press secretary who is working for the cabinet offices. According to the information that was tabled yesterday, this person is making $75,000 over nine months. I know this individual used to work for CBC and made $45,000, or maybe a little bit more.
Just to counter the tirade the Minister usually delivers when I ask a question like this, I would like to say that I am sure this fellow is a fine person. I am not making any personal attacks, as the Premier will, I am sure, jump up and say. I simply want to use this as an example to make things clear to the public. I want to ask the Minister why we have to pay this person so much to do this job when the work is no different than when he did a former job in the same type of capacity
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to thank the Member for the question. She will not, unless she is deliberately provocative, evoke a tirade from me. I will agree with one part of her preamble: the gentlemen involved is a fine fellow and, to be more relevant, a competent professional. The fact is that the contract information provided to the House indicates the value of the contracts awarded to the gentlemen, not the amount actually earned from the contracts.
He was under contract to the Land Claims Secretariat but did not complete that work as he changed his position. As the Member may know, he came in to temporarily fill a position of communications advisor in my office on contract. The permanent incumbent in the office has since become ill and Mr. Crump has continued to fill that position.
It might be helpful to the Member if I filed a legislative return describing what the person actually earned rather than the total amount of the contracts, because I suspect there is a discrepancy between the two.
Mrs. Firth: This information was tabled in the House by the Minister responsible for Government Services. This information is sent to the departments for verification. That is why we have to wait so long to get it. This information indicates that there were three contracts for a certain period of time and there have been no negative amounts or deletions indicated.
I would like to ask the Government Leader to tell us exactly how much this individual did make?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The question was unnecessary. I have previously given an undertaking that I would come back with the legislative return. The Member is huffing and puffing about something that has been explained every year since we have been tabling contracts. It is quite common for contracts to be entered into for a certain amount with an individual but their actual billings, and therefore their actual earnings, would be less than that amount. That is very common and the contract book lists the amounts of the contracts. It would be both physically and mentally impossible, even for an extremely intelligent person, to memorize the amount of every single contract - assuming the Ministers know, and they usually do not. The only possible way a Minister could answer a question like that is if firstly they were given notice or secondly they do what I am doing now, which is to offer to return with a written reply.
Mrs. Firth: I find it quite challenging that the Government Leader is so controlled about this particular question but still cannot tell us how much money the person made. He knows it was not this amount; obviously they have checked into it, and I know that as a fact; and I find it quite incredible...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: Yes, I will. I find it quite incredible that he cannot give us an accurate amount of money or an hourly wage or whatever that this individual earned on a contract basis.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member finds it incredible. I have news for her. I do not know the exact amount that anybody makes - anybody in this government. I do not know the exact amount she makes; I do not even know the exact amount I make, even though I filled out my income tax return yesterday. I do not carry that information around in my head because it is not the kind of essential detail I need to carry out my tasks. If I need that information, I know where to go to ask for it. The Member has asked for it; I have said I will give a written reply. But if she and I want to play a little test, I will find out how much information she has about people she knows and whether she carries around in her head the amount of their salaries. There are many hundreds of people working for this government and I certainly do not know what each of them earn. I do not even know the exact amounts that the people in my office earned last year, mainly because I regard that as their personal business, and I do not even know exactly what I earned last year. If the Member asked me, I would find out and table it in this House.
Question re: Contracts
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up with another question about the contracts. I would like to ask a question with respect to the consulting company Drummond Fyfe. This particular company is owned by Mr. Barry Stuart, who was the former land claims negotiator/judge and is presently on a holiday/sabbatical that we are paying $60-65,000 for. I see his name here in the contract book for $31,550 for two months, and I would like to ask the Government Leader why we are paying this person twice; he is already on a sabbatical and getting paid. Why are we paying him again in the form of a contract?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are not paying the person twice. As I believe I may have indicated before now, the actual legal drafting and finalization of the work on the umbrella final agreement, reached in the early morning hours of April 1, 1990, went on for some weeks after that event. As general knowledge, the person who had been principally responsible for negotiating that agreement, and who has considerable legal expertise, was involved on our behalf for some weeks following that to complete the legal drafting of that work, and did not begin his sabbatical until after that.
The Member regards this as hilarious. I take the view that this is the most important work that this government has been engaged in, and I have nothing but admiration for the intelligence, integrity and energy that that particular individual devoted to the task. The people of the Yukon owe him thanks, not vilification on the floor of this House.
Mrs. Firth: He did not get paid twice; he just got paid his sabbatical, then he got this contract, as well as the $700,000-some he made as the land claims negotiator.
I have a question about another contract. It is about a contract to an old political friend of the Government Leaders, his former chief of staff, Mr. John Walsh, which we had some trouble finding. We finally tracked it down. This gentleman does not even live here anymore, yet he is still working for the government. He got a contract for $22,500.
Why is this person still on the payroll? Can we find no one locally to do it? We should be putting people here in the Yukon to work, not old political friends of the Government Leader.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I knew the Member would try and personalize and turn nasty if we gave her the opportunity. It is what she does all the time. I could go through the contracts list, if I wanted to, and find plenty of her personal friends and subject them to public attention and unpleasantness, such as she is wont to do, but I will not do that.
The Member asked if there was no one around here to do the work that Mr. Walsh did and has completed. The answer is no. It was not my judgment or recommendation that he be retained to do the work. Once the suggestion was made, I did think it was a good one.
Mr. Walsh was engaged in reaching an agreement with the hospital workers in terms of their personnel arrangements upon coming to work for us. Mr. Walsh normally has considerable experience and considerable skill in labour relations and negotiating matters and in dealing with industrial relations questions. He demonstrated those skills admirably in this work and helped us reach an agreement with the potential employees of this government and I think the work was...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The work was done well and I am absolutely certain the people of the Yukon got value for money.
Question re: Contracts
Mr. Lang: I want to go back to what the Minister just explained to this House about the Drummond Fyfe consulting fee of $31,500. It would have to be the very controversial judge, Mr. Stuart, who has been paid extremely well by the general public. Over $700,000 for negotiating on behalf of the people of the territory, was paid directly to him as wages, with no expenses out of that - $700,000 plus expenses.
At last sitting, we were informed, that because things were really tough and he had to get his head together we were going to pay $65,000 for the judge to go down to Australia and take a year off. Now we are told that there is an additional $31,000, as identified by the Government Leader, for a couple of weeks work after April 1.
I want to ask the Minister, how much time was put in to earn $31,000 over and above the $65,000 that the taxpayer is paying for Mr. Stuart to be in Australia?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member of course has a careless disregard for the facts or for the truth in the situation. That he has demonstrated time and time again. He keeps referring to the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He does not care to remind the House that there are other negotiators, close colleagues of his, who earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in land claims and did not even get an agreement.
The work done by the gentleman in question was well done. On the precise question as to how many days work were involved in the actual technical and legal drafting around the umbrella final agreement, I will take that question as notice.
I remind the Member opposite that the gentleman that he delights in abusing on the floor of this House, is not in a position to respond. I am sure that he is too much of a gentleman to respond in kind to the Member opposite, who is earning less than his predecessor as land claims negotiator, on a per-diem basis, and I am reasonably certain, earning less than all the other negotiators at the table. I am sure that is irrelevant for the political purposes of the Member opposite.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre, employee training
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Yesterday, when I asked about the qualifications of youth workers at Na Dli, the Minister said the statements of qualifications were worked out to specifically eliminate artificial barriers that inhibited the recruitment of people from our First Nations. I would like to know from the Minister what those artificial barriers were, and how they inhibited recruitment.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I do not have that specific information before me. I would be pleased to bring that back to the Member in a legislative return. He is asking for specific information from the past that I am sure I can find.
Mr. Nordling: I thank the Minister. I assume these qualifications were worked out between the Public Service Commission and Health and Human Resources under the former Minister. I would also like to ask if the Minister would provide us with the statements of qualifications that would have been used originally, had they not been changed or altered by the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Public Service Commission.
What I would like to see from the Minister is what the qualifications would have been originally and then what they were after Health and Human Resources got together with the Public Service Commission to do away with artificial barriers. I would like to see what difference in qualifications those employees have now as opposed to what they would have had before these barriers that inhibited recruitment were removed.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: If I understand the Member correctly, what he wants is the old job descriptions and the current job descriptions or the specifications that are currently used.
I am prepared to bring that back in a legislative return.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to say to the Minister that I agree we should be recruiting from First Nations to work at the facility, as a lot of the youths are from First Nations. However, I see a lot of problems at present. The Minister has admitted that there are areas in which she would like to make changes. Can she tell us now what those areas are?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The last time I was asked questions on this topic, I invited the Member to accompany me to Na Dli and to hear some of the plans and programs the workers and managers at the facility are looking at. It is their program. I would be quite happy to have them tell you their program and any changes they have made.
Question re: Rendezvous Canada
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism regarding the upcoming travel show to be held in Calgary next week. I believe it is called Rendezvous Canada.
In the past, the Department of Tourism has sent YTG marketing officials to provide information in the Yukon display. TIA and some Yukon private sector businesses have also attended this particular show. This year, as I understand it, the Yukon Department of Tourism is not sending an official from the department but is, instead, contracting a consultant from outside Yukon to represent its interests. I would like to ask the Minister why the Department of Tourism is not sending an official from the marketing branch of the Department of Tourism to a show that is so important to tourism in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member for his question. I think it is obvious that, with the staff shortage in the marketing branch of the Department of Tourism we have at this busy time of the year, we do not have enough people to attend all the functions that we could.
This is not unusual. There are a number of special conferences and special events that occur over the winter, and quite often we have had to use TIA or others who run their own private business, to represent us.
Mr. Phillips: Rendezvous Canada is a very important show to tourism in the Yukon. It is one of the more significant shows of the year. I think it is important that we have representatives from the Department of Tourism there.
There are several positions now vacant in the Department of Tourism, as the Minister has said. The Minister says the shortage of marketing people is the real reason why we are not attending the show.
I would like to ask the Minister when does he hope to fill these marketing positions? With 1992 and 1996 coming up, marketing is of the utmost importance right now and those positions should be filled immediately; they have been vacant for quite some time.
Hon. Mr. Webster: We plan to fill the one position as quickly as possible. I want to make it very clear to the Member that, following the Calgary show, the Department of Tourism will be hosting a very significant marketing event here in the Yukon, and that is Rendezvous Yukon, at which a number of distinguished buyers of tourism products will come to meet Yukon sellers of products in a one-week workshop session. We feel it is much more important that we are adequately prepared to meet those individuals who will be arriving here right after that Calgary show.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister did not answer the question about when we are going to fill all these positions. He said one would be filled shortly but he did not say anything about the others. I wonder if the Minister could tell us how much it is going to cost the Government of Yukon to contract with this consultant, who I believe is from Vancouver, to represent Yukon interests at Rendezvous Canada?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I cannot provide that information at this time, but I will provide it for the Member in the form of a legislative return.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Clerk: Item No. 1 standing in the name of Mr. Phelps.
Speaker: Is the Hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 1?
Mr. Phelps: Let it stand, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: So ordered.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Item No. 1 standing in the name of Mr. Lang.
Speaker: Is the Hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 1?
Mr. Lang: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East
THAT it is the opinion of the House that the current foster home rates should be changed to reflect the 1991-1992 costs of living and that such changes should be put into effect no later than May 30, 1991.
Mr. Lang: I bring this motion forward, because I think it is an area that has been overlooked by the government, whether intentional or not, I will not comment on. It is a sad day when I, as an Opposition Member, have to bring forward a request to upgrade and amend a schedule that is in place, knowing that costs for everybody have gone up. No matter what working stage of our life we are in, we all realize that, with inflation, the buying power of our dollar has become considerably less.
I specifically refer to the question of the payment to foster parents, and the per diem they are paid for taking in children who need this type of care. We all know how difficult it is to find people who are prepared to become foster parents. It is not an easy task. In the past number of years, it has become more difficult, and not just from a financial point of view. In some cases, the children who are taken into care may be more disturbed with more problems and, subsequently, are more work for the people who are prepared to dedicate their lives to helping those who are in need.
I find it ironic that, in Question Period, we were discussing the question of those contracts that are paid to consultants. It is a public fact that, for example, within the top positions of the civil service, salaries can go as high as $105,000. The Government Leader stood in his place and felt that was a fair value for those positions. Yet, at the same time, we are dealing with an issue through this motion where, presently, in general terms, for a child who is taken into a family, the taxpayer pays $16.55 per day.
Anybody here in this House who has children, and who is in the process of raising children, knows how much it is costing them. It is not an inexpensive cost to incur.
I know of what I am speaking, and I know that, in at least a number of cases across the floor, they also know that the cost of raising children has gone up. It has very much escalated over the course of the past number of years. I go back to the buying power we have as consumers. Just for an example, if you buy your young lad running shoes, you can consider yourself very fortunate if you can get them for $30 to $40, because they are of sale. You feel really good as you walk away from the store, thinking that you saved yourself $20 to $30. I am talking about a young teenager who is involved in sports, and that type of thing, and you obviously have to provide them with good running gear, if they are going to last for any length of time.
I just use that as an example. Yet, at the same time, we have the basic maintenance rate, if you like, being presently paid by the government, which does not seem to take into account any of the real costs associated with 1991-92.
It was interesting that, in questioning the Minister of Health and Social Services during Question Period, she had to take a number of my questions as notice. One of the questions I put to her was whether she was aware that this particular problem had come to the attention of the government last year. There had been a draft done as early as October 1990, and now it is May 1, 1991, and nothing has been done other than to talk about a review process, with indications by the government that they may consider some increases for the forthcoming budget year.
I realize it is a paltry amount, and of not much consequence, but the government stood in its place today and spoke about a $3.5 million land acquisition. At the same time, we do not seem to think there is enough of a priority to meet the demands placed upon foster home parents. I do not think that is fair or just, and I think the government has unnecessarily delayed bringing forward changes in this particular area.
It seems kind of an anomaly that we should try to keep the per diem rates to foster parents down at the level I spoke of earlier. I should just correct the record: it is $11.55 for children from ages six to 12, not $16.55. We are keeping the costs down and, I guess, trying to save money and economize within this part of this government.
Every department has a few boards that they have to answer to and, if you have a child, you are eligible for the YTG child-care allowance. It is really interesting, this is only for six to eight hours a day; this is not for 24 hours and in these cases, we will pay $26 per day. The interesting observation is that it was approved in 1986, the same year in which the government said that, to keep a child for seven days a week, 24 hours a day, all it was worth was $11.55.
The other point that I want to make as a kind of comparison and to try to bring the government into some sense of fair play, is the average family day home rate varies from $20 to $30 per day. Yet, the government is only prepared to pay a per diem of $11.55 to foster parents.
Another interesting avenue that one can refer to and I use for comparison is that any young person who babysits today receives between $2.50 to $3.00 an hour. For an example, for eight hours it is $24 dollars, in ball park terms, depending on the amount being paid.
The point that I am making is that the government has to show some rationale. That rationale has to be done quickly in order to try to have those foster parents, who presently have children in care, continue to carry on their responsibility. Just as importantly, there is an obvious need for more people who are prepared to volunteer to take on this responsibility.
It is by no means an easy task for any parent who is prepared to take these young people into their homes. I think there has to be fair compensation, at least in part, and that their costs be covered.
I am looking forward to the government supporting the motion before us, and I feel that it is a well intentioned motion that will expedite the decision making that must take place in government in this regard.
One point that I have not raised is the question of the schedule that is before the government and how it should be amended. Not only should it be looked at from the 1991-1992 perspective, but it should be looked at from the perspective of future years.
How can the government try to keep up with inflation and all the costs associated with it as they do, for example, when they pay their employees? I did not include it in the motion, but I feel that perhaps some indexing of the per diem rate on an annual basis should be considered. That way, we would not have to raise an issue of this kind in the House.
I would like to think this issue is a non-partisan issue. I think most of us would agree that we have to keep our rates up to some rationale relating to costs or we will not be able to attract people to provide this service, which is needed within our communities - not just Whitehorse or Dawson City, but throughout the territory.
I hope the Minister does not cry poverty. The indications from the other side over the last couple of days would indicate anything but poverty. The government appears to be in good financial condition. We will not go into the reasons why. The money will be provided, for the most part, by the Government of Canada, and it is just a question of priorities regarding where it will be spent.
I would like to close by saying that I, as an MLA who has been in this House for some time, would like to say that I appreciate the time, effort and commitment that these people make to these children on behalf of the public. In many cases, there are personal sacrifices made by these people to ensure the children live in a comfortable environment. I think it is important to do everything we can, in this Legislature and as government, in trying to make it as easy as possible for those people who are prepared to take on this responsibility.
I will be looking forward to what the Minister of Health and Social Services has to say. I hope it will be affirmative and that we can find a common cause in the motion that is being presented to the House.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I thank the Member for bringing forward the motion at this time.
A strong foster care program is an essential component of our child welfare services. There are too few skilled foster parents. I can assure this House that not only are we striving to keep the foster parents we have, but we are working to find more.
In an ideal world, there would not be a need for foster homes. All families would be strong and healthy and children would move through the stages of life under the direction of their parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles.
In this less than ideal world we need other forms of care. Some time ago, we established a foster care review committee. This committee, working with the Foster Parents Association, is developing a set of standards to improve not only the wages or rates of foster parents, but also the support network available to them.
Recruitment activities have been implemented by the department, and there has been an increase in the number of foster homes.
Many other initiatives are being considered in the area of support services and training. We are committed to providing quality, culturally appropriate, community-based homes for children who must be placed outside their own homes.
There is no single component that is more important than another in the area of child welfare. Each piece of the network interlocks with another. Right now we are working to knit those pieces together into a whole picture.
Part of the problem is that foster parents are underpaid. There is no one here today who is going to say that a basic rate of support of $11.55 a day is enough.
Foster parents also receive a clothing allowance for the children. There are special rates for the care of children with special needs. There are also transportation allowances and a variety of other support mechanisms. This is only part of the picture. This is only one of those interlocking pieces.
The shortage of foster parents is combined with a child-in-care population that is more needy and more damaged than children-in-care of the past. The challenge before us is to find a cooperative way to assess problems and to develop solutions for foster care that meet the needs of the foster parents, children, natural parents and the government that inevitably pays for and coordinates the delivery of the service.
Our society has changed dramatically since foster parents first became part of our care network. Gone are the days of extended families living under the same roof. We just do not have any Father Knows Best picture-perfect families, but I wonder if we ever did.
So, we look at ways of adapting by looking at the needs of families in the context of today. We will continue to have some difficulty with today if we do not address the wounds of the past.
We heard yesterday from my colleague, the Minister of Justice, speaking about the aboriginal justice conference that will be held here in the fall. For First Nations people, aboriginal justice is part of the circle. It is part of the healing of communities. We have lifeskills training, child care, elder support, a school program for young mothers, family violence support programs for victims and for abusers, and home care. In partnership with individual Yukoners, groups and whole communities, we have literacy programs, crime prevention programs and language options in our schools.
All this is part of the continuing initiative toward supporting healthy communities and families.
This government has made commitments to heritage protection, sustainable development, and education. We have supported communities, including the largest community of all, the City of Whitehorse, in developing their own plans for the future. These initiatives are also part of the larger circle of strength, as we build healthier communities.
Over the past decade, a series of interrelated problems have developed within most Canadian foster care systems. It has become difficult to recruit and keep foster homes. Most foster parents now have to deal with children with special needs. Seriously wounded children demand serious attention and foster parents.
Foster parents, being the human beings they are, get tired - not tired of the children, but just plain bone tired. Fewer women, the traditional care givers in our societies, are at home all day now and therefore are unable to extend their domestic roles to foster parenting. The picture of a mother at home as someone who can take on another child or two is a rare picture indeed in this day and age.
People who used to volunteer their services as foster parents in earlier decades can no longer afford to do so. Furthermore, money is not the only issue. Foster parents want and need support in dealing with the special needs of the children in their care. They want more than comfort. They want to have the opportunity to develop the skills they need to really make a difference in the lives of the children they are fostering.
They are often more than surrogate parents. They are the front line in dealing with deeply wounded children. Yes, this is part of the role of a foster parent today. Foster parents work not only with children but also with their natural family. Foster parents help children prepare for returning home, either for a visit or permanently. The role is often one of bridge maker - more transitional than in the past, because foster children often had very little contact with their natural families.
Foster parents also take on a more active role in implementing case plans. They are really part of the team of professionals and yet they are, as the parents, separate from the professionals in dealing with the children on a 24 hour basis, seven days a week.
Foster parents deal with deep-rooted problems of self-esteem. Foster parents are mom and dad, social worker, psychologist, guidance counsellor and friend all rolled into one. This is an incredible burden, and these are some of the issues that will influence our review. We are working closely with First Nations to encourage the development of homes for the placement of children in their own extended family or home community. We are continuing to recruit foster families. We are looking at options for the care of children who require specialized services.
We recognize the need to provide training and support to families willing to provide the fostering service. We have received feedback on foster home standards from community agencies and foster parents. This departmental review of foster care is the beginning of change. As budget permits, there will be change.
The shift is away from the old image of foster parents as volunteers, and more toward regarding them as part of the care team, who provide a valued parenting service. Our challenge is to fit all the pieces together. We are developing new ways to respond.
The current review process deals with the changing needs of children in care: respite care, rates, administration, insurance, training and support services for foster families. We are also reviewing the role of foster parents as members of the care team and the provision of culturally-specific care.
We are planning for the future, looking at changes we can make to provide incentives for people to become foster parents, estimating how many homes it is reasonable to expect to be able to recruit in the Yukon. We are examining how to change the public image of fostering, assessing the turnover rate of foster homes and looking at measures to address the causes.
I believe that some foster parents may feel that they are a forgotten part of the equation. In all honesty, it may have appeared so. I also believe, however, that is changing. As we develop stronger partnerships between First Nations, foster parents associations, government and individual foster parents, our goal of providing a safe, caring, supervised and understanding home for children in need of care will be met.
I am sure that, with cooperation and support, we can nurture our partnerships in the same way, and revitalize our foster care system here in the Yukon. That is why I am proposing what I hope the Member will consider a friendly amendment to his motion.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I move
THAT Motion No. 48 be amended by deleting all the words after the word changed and replacing them with the following:
with consideration given to the current cost of living; and
THAT other aspects of the foster care program be reviewed to take into account the care of aboriginal children, the care of special needs children, and training and support for foster parents."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services
THAT Motion No. 48 be amended by deleting all the words after the word changed and substituting it with the following:
with consideration given to the current cost of living; and
THAT other aspects of the foster care program be reviewed to take into account the care of aboriginal children, the care of special needs children, and training and support for foster parents."
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I rise to speak to the amended motion. I believe this amendment more realistically speaks to the very real needs of foster parents in this territory. Training and support services, the needs of First Nations families, the hard reality of looking after special needs children, respite care and, of course, rates.
The cost of living is rising. The Goods and Services Tax is also part of this picture. All these cost additions - GST is added on to the price of a childs clothing, furniture needed for children, recreational activities like swimming lessons and skiing, books and travel - are something that parents have to face every day, and foster parents are no exception.
There is no doubt that it is difficult to make ends meet. That is really not an issue that needs to be debated. The question is what else we can do besides matching the cost of living to support foster parents.
It is those questions that will be addressed in the foster care review being conducted by the Department of Health and Social Services. The Foster Care Review Committee will develop standards as part of this review. Foster care rates are under scrutiny, as are specific initiatives in the area of recruitment, support services and training.
The department is working closely with First Nations and communities to encourage the development of band homes for children who need to come into care. As we move away from the image of foster parents who volunteer their services and toward a profile of foster parents as people who are part of the care team, we will continue to work toward providing culturally specific care for First Nations children.
The review that is under way at the present time is only the beginning. We will, as a department and in partnership with individuals and groups, establish priorities for implementing that change. We do recognize the need to provide adequate compensation to foster parents and we also recognize that we cannot continue to ensure quality foster care if we do not move with the times. We also recognize the need to supply support and training to foster parents and their families.
The review will provide direction for the change necessary and for new initiatives that are well planned. This will mean that the children of the Yukon who need care in the foster system will, in fact be able to get that care.
I would also like to add that we have received feedback from community agencies on foster home standards. This input will also be considered as we draft our review. We are reviewing existing rates and comparing them to rates across Canada. The specific needs of Yukon foster parents are being looked at and necessary financial supports, in addition to basic maintenance are being reviewed. The review committee is making its recommendations and we will proceed from there.
I want to stress that we have been paying foster parents who care for special needs children at a rate well above the basic maintenance rate. There is also a transportation allowance if it is needed. I believe it is conceivable that a foster family with three foster children can bring in over $20,000 per year if they receive the special rate, the transportation allowance and the various top-up programs that there are.
Not all of our foster parents, unfortunately - or fortunately, perhaps, as they do not have special needs children - qualify for that. That is on top of the basic maintenance rate for several children.
Besides our basic rates, our special rates are under review. We expect all of the components of improvement and change will fit together to complete the interlocking picture I spoke of earlier.
I urge the Members in this House to support this motion as amended.
Mr. Lang: I wonder who prepared that speech. It sounds exactly like something a civil servant would write in respect to their direct responsibility within a program.
The point of the motion for the House, was that the per diem rates had not been changed since 1986, and that the government has a responsibility to increase those rates to an acceptable level in 1991/92. The Minister said in her speech that the rates presently in place for foster parents was not adequate. She admitted that. All of a sudden, the Minister starts bringing in all these other variables in relationship to the foster parents and the various problems they are confronted with.
I will be the first to admit that foster parents are faced with major problems and major variables. I agree with the Minister that it is becoming more difficult to convince people to take on the responsibility of foster parenting. One of the reasons is that we are not meeting the costs being incurred by a foster parent. In some cases, it is becoming a financial sacrifice on the part of the foster parent.
We are more than prepared to stand in this House, and increase employee wages to meet the cost of living - we have done it on a consistent basis as a Legislature and as a government. I would suspect that this should be the case here.
The Minister has brought forward an amendment that is very broad and gives the government all the time in the world, saying that we will look at it during the next budget process. Well I say, Mr. Speaker, that is not good enough - nor should it be acceptable to her, us, or anyone else in this House.
How can the Minister stand in her place and say she cares so much for these people and the fact that they are not being compensated to meet 1991-92 costs, then bring forward an amendment like this? Quite frankly, I felt the motion was very straightforward; it was meant to be a prompting motion more than anything else, knowing that the review process that the Minister is hanging her hat on produced a draft of the first proposed rate changes in October of 1990. Yet the Minister stands in her place, talking about a great review process, but we are going to have to go all the way to Sweden to find the answer. We have been there - some of us at least. I do not think it is necessary to go back again.
All I am asking the Minister to do is give a time line in which the government will consider the per diem rates. I am not saying that, if you have two or three kids, there should not be a sliding scale. That is something the government will have to discuss in concert with those people who are taking a number of children in. I did not like the insinuation, quite frankly, by the Minister that some people are possibly making money out of this and that she was indirectly going to take steps to stop that. That is not the purpose of this motion. This Minister is shaking her head. She talked about someone taking in three children would possibly bring in $20,000 a year from the government with which to raise those three children. That may be the case. All I can say is that, how it is prorated for the number of children you take in obviously has to be taken into account.
All I am asking - and in the general context of the motion before us - was that it be done no later than May 30, 1991 because these people have incurred costs since 1986 with no increase in their per diems. We even give increased per diems for people who travel to government conferences, for gas mileage, because we think it is important enough. That has already been done, but we have not met the per diem rates.
All I am asking is for the Minister to come back and say that this is what the Minister has done, indicate the increases to be scheduled and when they will take effect.
It cannot be that difficult. In the first draft of October, 1990 - six months ago - it was noted that they were looking at the Manitoba draft schedule, and I quote; The Manitoba draft schedule was felt to be the most reasonable guide. So what is recommended in the components and costs of the basic rate is similar to Manitobas guide, but with some changes to recognize differences in Yukon. Has the Minister ever seen this? I hope she has. We do not have to re-invent the wheel. All we are making are some modifications.
I would like to further amend the amendment.
Mr. Lang: I move
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 48 be amended by adding after the phrase cost of living the following:
THAT the increase be put into effect no later than May 30, 1991; and
Speaker: It has been moved
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 48 be amended by adding after the phrase cost of living the following:
THAT the increase be put into effect no later than May 30, 1991; and
Mr. Lang: I just want to say that I am prepared to accept the friendly amendment by the Minister. At the same time, however, I feel it is important that in the context of what we are discussing, the present review of the schedule be completed and the changes be made no later than May 30, 1991. I do not think that is too much to ask.
In the spirit of cooperation the Minister has brought forward to this House with respect to this motion, I am proposing the subamendment to the amendment in order that those people who have made representations to me and committed themselves to taking on the responsibility of foster children should have an answer from the government by the end of May. That is 30 days.
Just before I sit down, I would like to re-emphasize that this is not a new issue. Government has been dealing with this issue since October 1990, with the first draft. I do not have a copy of the final draft as I understand that is not available to the general public.
This proposed draft was done in October 1990 and there is no reason that the Minister and her staff cannot make it a priority and get something into the Cabinet for consideration in the next 30 days. I will even go so far as to make a deal with the Minister. If she is prepared to accept this amendment if it does happen that it goes as late as June 15, I will understand if there is a two week delay.
What I am saying to the government side is that it is absolutely essential that these people have an idea of what the government is prepared to provide for them.
The other aspect is that this side would be in agreement that if there was a decision taken - which there is going to have to be of some increase - perhaps it could be considered to be retroactive to those people who have dedicated themselves to these children who need this care.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I rise to speak against the subamendment.
Let me begin by saying that I am grateful for the information that the new Minister of Health and Social Services has provided me on this topic. I know enough from my time in the department to know that it is a question of far greater complexity than the Member opposite seems to realize. In fact, I fear that the Member for Porter Creek East was not listening carefully to the address of the Minister of Health and Social Services, because she explained - I think very well - that this is not a simple issue but is indeed a complex one.
If I can quote the Member of Porter Creek East, he said one of the reasons that we were having trouble attracting foster parents was the per diem rates. He immediately conceded that it was not a major reason. Well, let me talk about the other reasons and suggest to him why the budgetary process that he is proposing that the deadline to establish a new budget when we are less than one month into the new budget year would change the allocations for one vote or another without regard to means or the availability of funds or any of those questions. The fact of the matter is that there is a proper process that the government will have to go through on this. The deadline dictated to us by the Member for Porter Creek East is not one that any responsible Minister can submit to.
The fact is, as the Minister said, that most Canadian jurisdictions, whatever their foster parent rates, are experiencing a crisis in the foster care system. Everywhere there is a serious shortage of capable foster parents. The nature of the population of the child care population - the children coming into care - has changed. The Minister of Health and Social Services described this in some detail. I wish to go into more detail as I think it is essential to the understanding of the issue. It is not simply a matter of money.
I cannot speak for other Members of this House but I grew up reading a lot of childrens literature that led me to believe most orphans or parentless children were perfect, idealic, cherubic children whose parents had died tragically in a car accident or through some other misfortune. Later on, I had one of the great formative experiences of my life, which was reading Charles Dickens and encountering that writers descriptions of orphanages and child care as it was experienced in the Victorian age. I got to know the darker side of the lives of children who come into care.
It was true a generation ago, and I suspect it is no less true now, that the question of quality of care and the nature of the problems of children in care is a very difficult one. There is a very high correlation between children who spend a large amount of time in care and those who end up becoming institutionalized in other ways, either in the young offenders or in the prison populations.
They are for the most part not children who come from families where the parents died tragically in auto accidents or met an early death through illness. They are children of dysfunctional families.
It is more true nowadays that the kids coming into care have a complex of mental and physical health problems, as well as problems of social adjusting. This makes it a real challenge and especially difficult to find foster parents.
The Minister mentioned how difficult it was to retain and recruit foster homes. A number of problems contribute to that difficulty. The two that I think are worth talking about in some detail are the changing nature of the problem children in care, as well as the changing nature of the Canadian family.
As the cost of living has risen and the expectations of living standards have increased, more and more couples in our society have become reliant on two incomes. There are far fewer women nowadays, who are available or willing to spend their lives working in the home and to extending their home and domestic environment to foster parenting.
Foster parents rates, here, under the previous Conservative government, and under governments of most stripes in most provinces in this country, were originally based and conceived on the concept of volunteerism and not out of the concept that foster parenting was a profession or a paid occupation. That notion of volunteerism and peoples attitude toward volunteerism has changed considerably.
There are fewer people who are willing to volunteer their time and their homes for this purpose, especially for difficult children, in this day and age when there are, particularly for women, other employment opportunities and other enriching experiences in life available to them.
It is also true that there have been changing attitudes to parenting and the family. Large families of the size, perhaps, of my colleagues, the Member for Faro, are somewhat unusual now. Families are less inclined now than they once were to add to their household in the kind of numbers that was once very common. Plenty of research exists to show that in northern jurisdictions like ours, there are special barriers that exist to discourage potential applicants - barriers of language, overcrowded conditions and housing shortages in many cases.
It is unhappily the case that many of the children coming into care these days are seriously disturbed children; they require special skills and extraordinary energy on behalf of the foster parents who are looking after them. It is usually the case nowadays that they not only require training, as was mentioned by the Minister of Social Services, but also ongoing staff support to keep up with the increased demands. Even at that, they often get burned out and this adds a new difficulty to the lives of already troubled children.
I would agree with the Member for Porter Creek East in this one respect, but I think it is true that foster parenting has not been shown the kind of respect or admiration that it warrants. It is also true in this country that, as a group, foster parents are getting older and that adds to the problem. It has also become a matter of some sensitivity recently that most of the people offering themselves as foster parents are from the majority Caucasian population of Canada and, in most jurisdictions of the country, the majority of children coming into care are from minorities.
That, too, has become an issue and a source of some sensitivity.
I talked about foster parents. I would like to talk a bit more about them. It is true that as preventive programs have been developed, we have a smaller amount of the population coming into care. There are fewer children coming into care now, but the ones who do have been more seriously damaged than in the past.
Everywhere in Canada, there is a large number of children coming into care who, by the time they come to the attention of the department and to foster parents, have already had some very unpleasant experiences, such as crime, prostitution and substance abuse. It is true that we have had children come into care in the Yukon who have been touched by these same kinds of problems. Many of the children have special needs resulting from sexual and physical abuse and victimization. They have behavioral difficulties. They have problems with hyperactivity and acting out. In some cases, they have retardation and learning disabilities. It is now common for professionals to describe the fact that 75 percent of the children coming into care in Canadian jurisdictions have experienced one or more of these problems.
There is also a change in the kind of law the kind of orders handed down by the courts in Canada. I am sure even the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Member for Porter Creek West know that permanent wardship orders are now less common in Canada than they once were. Most children who come into care now maintain some connection with their natural family. That complicates life for the foster parents. I know foster parents who have experienced this difficulty say that sometimes this can put real strains on the home relationships.
Professional practices have changed. As I have mentioned, there is the question of natural family contact for children in care, where the department and departmental officials are often intermediaries. Professionals now realize the need for foster parents to receive support and ongoing assistance, and to provide that assistance to the natural families, if they can.
The question of culture and rights has become a very sensitive issue in the matter of placement. The development of specific permanent plans for children in care have changed. There are some trends. I might mention that it used to be assumed that there was some support for fostering, and that adoption did not involve ongoing support from the department, but even that has changed. I will mention that in a minute.
There has a been growth of preventive services in most jurisdictions, and that is the case here. It has also changed some of the nature in fostering. Because of all of the reasons that I have mentioned, fostering is going to become increasingly transitional and short-term in nature.
Foster parents will have both the difficulty of working with the child in their home, as well as with the natural family. Foster parents will often have to play a role that, in some cases, is supervised with respect to case orders and implementation plans for case orders. Foster parents will require skills in looking after children, especially children with special needs that, perhaps, were not asked for a generation ago. As I mentioned, foster parents will be responding to a client group whose needs have changed quite a lot.
We have to involve ourselves in training programs for foster parents. We have to help improve the public image of foster parents. The home selection process is one that has been controversial here. I will say something about that, from my own experience.
One of the standard features of the home selection process is a home inspection, where a professional goes into the home to interview the parents as to their suitability, and to look at the home - which is quite a nerve-racking experience, having gone through it - I presume to see whether your home is clean, whether there is some standard of hygiene in the home, and whether there is evidence that meals are prepared on a regular basis. Then, there are interviews of the children in the home to see whether they understand the difference between right and wrong, and what kind of behaviour takes place in the home.
These experiences have been particularly intimidating for First Nations families, especially when they have been done by someone who is perceived to be of a middle class, non-native professional background. In this territory, where a large proportion of children coming into care have been aboriginal, we have had good reason to think about the problem of trying to find First Nations foster homes, as that is the preference of the aboriginal community. I suspect we will have to look at our home selection processes when dealing with that. I want to emphasize to the Member, because I have been told this by people, that it is not simply a question of money: it is a question of sensitivity and culture.
The payment systems are probably going to have to be improved, admittedly, and no one on this side of the House is disputing the central proposition of the Member opposite, but it is not a simple matter. For reasons described by the Minister of Social Services, the basic per diem rate is not all there is to it. We are already involved in transportation and special payments.
In developing the new rates, one needs to look at standards and norms, and the justification for the different levels of payment, because we have to recognize that there was a time, when you adopted a child, it was assumed that you accrued all responsibilities for them. It is not unheard of in Canada now for departments to continue to involve themselves in providing financial support for families, even in the case of adopted children.
It is important to understand that the difficulty of attracting and retaining foster parents is not simply a question of money. It is important to note that the population of children coming into care has changed dramatically in the last few years. It is true, as the Member opposite has said, that the payments need improving, and there is no dispute about that on this side of the House.
The Minister of Health and Social Services has indicated that her review will be complete relatively soon and, on receipt of that review, she will no doubt properly want to consider it and make some recommendations. Those recommendations may involve some Management Board and Cabinet decisions. It is not simply a question of adjusting a single rate. I suspect there will be differential rates. This will be a matter of some discussion within the department and within the government.
For that reason, I support the Ministers friendly amendment that regards the Member opposites attempt to impose a deadline as being unhelpful. I do not think it would help us address and resolve what is a difficult question. I think it will be the case that we will still have difficulties dealing with the problems I have identified, including the recruitment of foster parents, even after we have addressed the question of rates, because of all the reasons I have described.
Thank you for your indulgence in hearing me. I will be voting against the Members subamendment, but supporting my colleagues amendment to the main motion. I hope that my intervention in this regard is constructive and helpful on all sides.
Mr. Nordling: It is hard to believe that anyone would think that the Government Leaders intervention has been constructive and helpful. I think it was a pitiful attempt to avoid the issue. Perhaps he thought if he made a long, rambling speech that went in circles and said the same thing three or four times the issue would go away. It did not. The issue is still money. The issue is still adequate compensation for people giving foster care.
We all recognize the tremendous problems surrounding children in care. The Ministers friendly amendment spoke to that and that is acceptable. Other aspects of foster care should be reviewed. What we are seeing here is the Government Leader objecting to the subamendment because he does not want to be dictated to. No, we do not want the government to be seen doing something the Opposition wants. On that basis, the time limit is not going to be supported by the government - a time limit which is reasonable in all the circumstances. The area of adequate compensation has been ignored and it has been ignored too long. If we wait before adjusting the rates that are paid to foster parents, if we wait until all the problems facing society are solved, then the rates will never be adjusted.
I will not get into the Government Leaders speech on orphans because we have heard that several times before in this House. I am supporting the subamendment, the amendment and the motion, as I have been contacted by a number of people concerned about this issue, concerned about children in care and foster parenting. The biggest concern was financial.
These parents just cannot afford to help this government. Last week, in Question Period, I asked the Minister of Finance about the wage increase for the public service. The Government Leader, the Minister of Finance, got up and said not to worry, they had lots of money; these people work hard for us and they deserve a decent wage. I agree, and the people providing foster care for children who have been taken into care provide a good and valuable service for us, too, and they should be paid for it. They should be paid for it now, not some time in the future when the Government Leader has solved all the problems of society.
The money is obviously available, so what we are talking about is a time limit within which to do this. As the Member for Porter Creek East has said, a preliminary report was done in October; I would like to know where the former Minister was - the great guru who came to save Health and Human Resources, he and his Deputy Minister who have both abandoned the ship and left the new Minister to take the flak and the heat in handling what is a very difficult department. There is no question about that. Then to stand up and say that we are not going to set any time limits or listen to the Oppositions concerns - well, it is time the Government Leader and the Minister took the initiative, made a commitment and did something in this area. There are a lot of other areas that have become priorities for this government, a lot of money being spent - millions and millions of dollars. These people provide care for children in need - and, as the Government Leader said, they are in need; some of them are real problem children.
There is no question at all. I think that we should hear the Minister stand up and support the subamendment and say that she will make every effort to put in place some financial guidelines to compensate those people who are looking after foster children, and that it be done right away. After that, we can look at other aspects - that we take into account the care of aboriginal children, the care of special needs children, the training and support for foster parents - all that can be done. We do not have to wait for all that to be done before we pay decent and adequate compensation to the people who are giving the foster care.
We need the time line. We cannot trust this government. This can go on for years and years, like so many other things, while they look after their friends with millions of dollars worth of consulting contracts that we do not know, and cannot see, the result of. We can see the result when we have foster parents looking after children and when they are paid adequately enough to do the job. That is all we are asking.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the subamendment?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you kindly poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Disagree.
Ms. Kassi: Disagree.
Mr. Joe: Disagree.
Mr. Phelps: Agree.
Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mrs. Firth: Agree.
Mr. Devries: Agree.
Mr. Brewster: Agree.
Mr. Nordling: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are seven yea, eight nay.
Speaker: I declare that the nays have it.
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the amendment?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I rise in support of the amendment by the Minister for Health and Social Services. It would be an ideal situation if all our children could be cared for in their own homes by their own families. Unfortunately, the reality is that, for whatever the reason, this is not always possible.
We have a foster care system in place where children who are in crisis can be placed in a stable and loving environment. We are very fortunate to have people willing to open up their homes to provide warmth, understanding and love to children who are strangers to them.
Foster parents provide a valuable service to the community. It is difficult to open up your home to a child who may come from an unstable background and who may not always want to be with a foster family. To be a foster parent, you require tolerance, patience and a desire to help these children and their families when they need help the most.
I have a lot of admiration for people like Betty Lou Linville, who has been a foster parent for many years, has fostered many children, and is a personal friend of mine, as well as the many others like her who have opened their homes to take children in who are in a crisis situation.
It is not an easy task. Sometimes, their own families have to make major adjustments to accommodate a child arriving at their home with perhaps only a few hours notice. As well, some of these children are only in care for a few days, while others may be in care for months, or even years.
The ability for these foster parents and their families to be flexible enough and generous enough to adapt quickly to new situations is an admirable trait. Foster parents provide a service not only to the children they care for, but as well to the families of those children who may not be able to cope at the present time, and to the community as a whole.
It is becoming more and more difficult to get people to agree to become foster parents. I do not think it is strictly a money issue because, as we all know, providing foster care is not a money-making proposition, nor should it be. I am in agreement with my colleague, the Minister for Health and Social Services, that a review has to look at all aspects of the foster care program, not just the rate aspect.
There are many questions that have to be asked and answered. Are fewer people becoming foster parents because, in most families, both parents are working full-time, or is it because fewer couples are choosing to have and parent large families, or is it because many single people are not aware that they can become foster parents? All these things have to be looked at.
A review must also take place to account for the needs of the aboriginal children in care and the desires of the First Nations. This is something you cannot do without. This has to be taken into consideration in any review that is made.
The cultural and traditional lifestyles must be taken into account. The availability of foster homes in the community should be reviewed to ensure that children who are already traumatized do not have to face the possibility of leaving their school friends or extended family members because there are no aboriginal foster parents available to take care of them. Aboriginal foster parents for children of Indian ancestry are essential to our foster care program in the Yukon and that whole area must be reviewed.
There are special needs children who may have emotional or physical problems and will therefore need more specialized home care. Foster parents may need special training in order to better handle the special needs children so that that whole area has to be assessed as well.
The foster parent program is an essential and valuable service and people who provide foster care to our children are dedicated and committed to providing the best care they can. That is why all aspects of the program should be reviewed in order to provide the best program that we can to support our foster parents and our children who are in need of foster care.
As a former Minister of Health and Human Resources - now Health and Social Services - I had the opportunity to meet a number of those foster parents and I know the care that they give those children and I know the problems that they have. It is not new to us. The Member for Porter Creek East has brought this motion to the floor today and it is the first time that they have ever spoken about foster care in this House.
We know the problems. I was a foster parent myself once. I fostered children in my home and I know the difficulties and the problems that they have. I know the amount of care and the time that has to go into fostering those children.
In debate on this bill today, it has been suggested that we are ignoring the situation as it is right now. We are not. We are not waiting for problems to be solved before we make a decision, and as I mentioned already, there are many things that have to be taken into consideration, not just the rate for foster care, but many other things.
I think it will take a lot longer than May 31, or whatever date the Member wanted it to be done in. There are many other aspects that have to be taken into consideration. There is a great deal of work that would have to be done in regard to any kind of preparation for a large change like this. We are not against the raise in foster rates, nor have we ever been, but it is a bigger issue. If you are going to be dealing with a big issue with the kind of problems that are included in it, then the time has to be taken to deal with it properly. I do support the amendment to the motion.
Speaker: The Hon. Member for Riverdale South, on the amendment.
Mrs. Firth: I am sorry to be so slow getting to my feet; my colleague says I am in shock.
I think some things have to be said on this issue. I agree with some of the comments that some Members from this side of the House have made.
We are talking about money here and whether or not this government is prepared to make the commitment to a service and a program that is provided here in the Yukon.
I always find it entertaining when the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health and Social Services stand up and say they agree with this and that increase of money, yet it has never been done. They have never done it. I have just been making a short list of areas in which this government has been increasing money and has identified money to go toward different things. Perhaps the Minister of Health and Social Services will take the comments as they are intended: to assist her when she has to fight the masses to get her share of the money for her department.
We went through an exercise with the Minister of Justice last night. She put a lawyer to work going through an old, cobwebbed piece of legislation in order to change every him and his to him or her and his or hers when this legislation is going to be rewritten in two or three years anyway. That was a huge expenditure of funds.
Today, we just had another announcement that the government has spent in excess of $4 million to purchase another piece of property. They purchased a piece of property previously for $1 million and we still do not know what they are going to use it for. We just had the contracts tabled. There are $55 million worth of contracts, $15 million of which are consulting contracts. We raised a few of the consulting contracts let to friends of the government who have left the Yukon. They are a top-up of paltry wages for people used to making big, fat salaries and are not making them now.
There is also the issue we raised about the percentage increase to all government employees - the college, the teachers, the management staff, the YGEU employees, everybody. I did not notice any big announcements when the government changed the classification of all the Cabinet Ministers secretaries from secretaries to administrative assistants. There was another $5,000 or $6,000 increase for those people, and they will still get their 19 percent increase over three years on top of that. It is a matter of priorities.
Then, I hear the Ministers come in with these patronizing, bleeding heart, bloody speeches. That is not what the people out there want to hear. I do not want to hear all this stuff these people keep coming in with, telling us about how they care about people and these programs, and how wonderful everybody is. If they want to show these people that they really care, they would put their money where their mouth is. That is all we are asking.
I think it is very important that we have a time set for it. I recall coming in here and debating a motion with the Minister for Community and Transportation Services about the 911 number. That is another measure and good program that is going to help save peoples lives, that this government did not have enough money for. It is another program that they cannot afford. We put a time line on it, and the Minister ignored it, anyway. That particular program has still not been implemented, either.
I do not understand what the point of the Members opposite is. We have all these people here making all these big fat salaries. We have two classes of citizens out there now: the haves and the have-nots. We are paying for horses to be shipped across the country, and blatantly throwing that in the taxpayers face. We paid for that, and we are proud of it, says the Minister for Government Services.
All we are asking is that the government take a look at some of their priorities and start identifying the money and the priorities to go to the programs and the people where it belongs.
They are sort of lining their friends pockets and rewarding the public servants excessively with big pay increases and even bigger pay increases for the bigger salaried management staff and Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers. Those initiatives taken by this government are going to cost millions and millions and millions of dollars. We, on this side, are saying put the money where all Yukoners are going to benefit from it. Put it toward increasing the foster parent per diems; put it toward a 911 number; put it toward a transition home; put it toward the sewage treatment facility. That is what we are saying; we are just asking very simply for them to do that. We are not asking them for a bunch of patronizing speeches about how great they are - oh yes, that is another area where these guys are good at spending money. Look at all the communications people in the government now. About half a million dollars worth of propaganda machine, if I ever saw one.
We have communications coordinators in five departments now, and now Government Services is going to be asking one; and they have just advertised for the public affairs bureau director, at a $77,000 a year salary. That is a position that has to be filled. We are seeing what the Cabinet press secretary is making. The government has a whole bevy of apologists wandering around trying to improve their images and make them look better; but for that half a million dollars, they do not look any better and they do not sound any better. Half a million dollars would go a long way toward providing an enhanced per diem for the foster parents, instead of having a bunch of people running around after the Ministers trying to make them look good.
Perhaps this government should sit down and take a look at where its priorities lie. Do its priorities lie with the people or with themselves and their friends and people in high paid places? All this side of the House is saying is that our priorities are with the people and the support of the programs and the people involved in those programs that we have already established here.
Amendment to Motion No. 48 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended? The Hon. Member will close debate if he speaks now.
Mr. Lang: I did not think that this motion would be so controversial, and I did not think that it would give the side opposite reason to filibuster the afternoon away. The reality of the situation is that foster parents are facing a financial dilemma along with other problems. There is a common consensus that it should be resolved.
I want to express my extreme disappointment with the attitude brought forward by the Government Leader in that he feels that no Member in this House should have the right to try to put forward a deadline for government to respond to any initiative. I think the attitude that was exhibited shows the disrespect that the Member opposite has for the Legislature, and for the rights and privileges of elected Members. I think he has forgotten that his responsibility is first to the people of the territory, and not strictly to himself and his colleagues. I want to make that observation, Mr. Speaker, as a fellow parliamentarian, and make that observation from the point of view of the time that I have spent in this House along with the Government Leader. It is amazing how power changes people; I think we are seeing a fine example of it right there.
The other point that I want to make is that I find it hard to understand why the government cannot respond quickly and adequately to the needed increase for the foster parents.
It seems kind of ironic that they seem to be able to respond to things that perhaps affect them or their friends directly. When it comes to their own pay packet for example, the cost for travelling to and from conferences, the increase of travel allowances that the well-travelled Members across the way experience: they manage to increase that from $38 per day to $52 per day and of course, that is strictly just to meet the cost of living. Yet, we have the foster parents who are being denied, at least at this point, an increase in their per diem to meet their every day costs of living. I think that in itself speaks volumes when you see how quickly the government can respond when things directly affect them personally.
It is interesting that now we are paying for horses to travel across the country. That exemplifies and personifies the priorities of this government. I think it shows just where this government has gone and at what stage this government is at, in respect to what their priorities are, and the disrespect that they hold the general public in.
I have had numerous members of the public talk about the well paid horse that has arrived here in the Yukon. We are going to be really interested to see the amount of money it did cost the Government Leader to pay for this horse to travel first class from Ottawa to Whitehorse. I hope that it was by truck and by train; I hope that we did not fly it, but it would not surprise me if we did. Yet, the Minister of Government Services or the Government Leader can stand up and pull up their pants, pontificate and tell us how justifiable this expense is because it met the weight classification, and yet, in the same breath, the side opposite can stand and say to the general public and to those foster parents: hold it, hold it, you do not deserve an increase now; we are going to review the whole policy area.
The Member for Porter Creek West was correct, they are going to wait a long time, a long, long time, if the per diem rates are not going to be increased until such time as all of these other policy areas have been reviewed.
Of course, the other thing is that we will have these areas reviewed by consultants because we could not do it in-house, because there are not enough people within the department to make observations in respect to this situation. That will be thousands of dollars - hundreds of thousands of dollars - and probably it will be just some consequence that those who have been hired to review the policy area happen to be good friends of friends.
We could justify that, because that is a responsible way of spending the taxpayers money.
I just want to close by saying that all we have asked for in this motion is a deadline for reviewing the rates. The Minister intentionally took the debate into a much broader scope to try to give herself some defence about why she could not put herself in a position, with her colleagues, of having a deadline for the purposes of reviewing the per diem rate charge.
It is ironic, as I pointed out before, that the first draft of a per diem rate change was made available in October 1990. The all-powerful economic guru of the Yukon, at that time, was in charge of the department. He is the man who would be king; the man who calls himself Premier. Of course, nothing was done. As my colleague, the Member for Porter Creek West said, he abandoned the show, along with his Deputy Minister, and went on to bigger and better things, divesting himself of almost all portfolio responsibilities, so that he could pass the buck to someone else.
I just want to conclude by saying that, as Opposition critic in this area, I will continue to pursue this issue. I want to provide notice to the Minister of Health and Social Services that these foster parents are serious. If they continue to play politics with this issue, the unfortunate end is that there will be fewer foster parents prepared to take children into care. Perhaps that is what they want. The government is getting into everything, so I guess we will soon have a government group home. If that is their ultimate end, they are well on their way to achieving that.
Motion No. 48 agreed to as amended.
Clerk: Item No. 2, standing in the name of Mr. Devries
Speaker: Is the Hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 2?
Mr. Devries: I am, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 8
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Watson Lake
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the transfer of control of the forestry resource in Yukon from the federal government to the territorial government has been held in abeyance since April of 1987 because the Government of Yukon has not treated this transfer as a matter of priority; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to work cooperatively with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to reach an agreement on the transfer of this important resource so that the people of Yukon will have control over forests in the territory in relation to forestry management, timber harvesting, silviculture, economic development proposals and environmental protection.
Mr. Devries: It is with pleasure that I rise to seek support for this motion that we have before us today. As everyone, I am sure, is aware, I have a great deal of personal interest in the forest industry as it has been my bread and butter for most of my time spent in the Watson Lake area. As well, I am an avid outdoorsman and become very concerned when I see a resource abused the way it has been in the Yukon.
Let us take a look at past resource management in the Yukon. Here in Whitehorse a substantial quantity of quality timber was wasted when Acorn Forest Products went broke way back in the 1970s. Most of this timber came from the Pelly-Macmillan area, where the Member for Tatchun is from. The Liard Indian Band attempted to start an operation and, both times, quality wood was allowed to deteriorate, although later much of it was used as firewood. The Cattermole Timber operation was much the same story: huge amounts of quality wood-fibre burned in the burner. This loss was mostly due to under-utilization and using out-of-date equipment; however, a small portion of it was used in the steam plant for energy production. Prophet River Forest Products in Watson Lake, after 10 years of good management, was sold and, after a major fire, one years supply of logs became beetle infested. The majority of it was cut up for firewood during the next three years. Prophet River Forest Products attempted to relocate in the Beaver-La Biche area of southern Yukon and, again, bad management resulted in thousands of trees being wasted.
We still have the Hyland fiasco fresh in our minds when more than half of the wood-fibre harvested there went up in smoke, although a small portion was used to produce power and some was sold as firewood. Canus Forest Products, in conjunction with the Liard Indian Band, shipped thousands of quality unprocessed logs to Japan and many of the lower quality logs are only now being used. The quality is low as most of the logs are stained or bug infested.
Ottawa has not been a good guardian of our forests.
They have not implemented maximum utilization policies. Up until the Liard timber harvesting agreement, Ottawa had not legislated silviculture. There is presently an awkward, biased method of getting timber outside of the Liard timber harvesting permit. Approval must go through up to 17 different agencies, one of which is the local Indian band that, in the past, also had an operating sawmill through affiliation with Canus Forest Products.
It was perceived by many that there was a conflict of interest with the application procedure, as it would be to the First Nations advantage to save the best, and most accessible, for themselves.
Native land claims have also hindered the development of the forestry industry. The most recent example is Carrier Lumbers interest in the mill and the timber harvesting agreement which, at this time, is considered non-negotiable as a third party interest. This was being challenged by the Kaska Nation, as they felt they also had propriety rights to this timber. The friction surrounding that issue does not make Watson Lake a nice place to live for those who are involved in the forestry industry.
I find it ironic that this situation exists. In the past, the majority of the employees have been of aboriginal descent and have done much better than the owners and the contractors. In most cases, the employees have always been paid.
We only have to look at Cattermole, flying into Watson Lake in a Citation jet and leaving on the bus a few years later. There are no huge profits in the forestry industry. It will take some very intensive and knowledgeable management to create a successful and profitable venture. Much the same story happened during the governments ownership. It was like a ship without a captain, destined to list to one side and sink. We do not even want to talk about the last ownership, for fear of getting into political issues.
Just recently, DIAND has completed an inventory study of the timber in southeast Yukon. From the numbers, it is obvious that we do have the potential for a viable forestry industry. There is no doubt that the harvestable stands are not in large blocks, and it will be expensive to develop access roads from one stand to the next.
No doubt we will be needing strict regulations to limit access once logging is completed to protect wildlife populations from hunters, both native and non-native.
Getting back to silviculture, there is no doubt that YTG and DIAND have missed the mark in this area because they were both involved in the study. It is going to cost us down the road.
In the silviculture report that was released two years ago, which was funded by the Economic Development Department and the federal governments forestry unit, it clearly indicated some urgency to do some of the work on previously harvested blocks in both the Liard and Hyland River areas.
One concern regarding this urgency is the thinning of some areas when regeneration was coming in too thick. If left much longer we will injure the remaining trees as the roots are intertwined and interruption by thinning could damage the remaining trees to where they would develop abnormalities, making them inadequate for harvest for future generations.
If left in the thick state that they are in they will be susceptible to uncontrollable forest fires, stunted growth and create poor game habitat. In other areas, the willows have taken over and choked out the small coniferous seedlings. With all of the environmental concerns being raised lately, in my opinion, it is on the verge of criminal behaviour not to address the situation immediately.
The cost to do much of this work would be minimal if we utilized the stand-by fire crew, unemployed individuals and perhaps the Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates. To do this we must be in control of the resource. If this government does not make a major announcement on the movement of the forest resources transfer prior to implementation of the environment act, I feel that the credibility of the whole Department of Renewable Resources and this government will be put into question.
Less than a year ago I was asked by an Ottawa official if YTG had revealed any plans to pursue devolution, because the last time that Ottawa had heard from them regarding this matter was in 1988. The next move, he said, was up to YTG.
I would be interested in what the Minister meant on Monday by his response to a question in Question Period, when he said, ...we do have the forest program transfer unit in place, as per our policy and planning branch. Perhaps the Minister could elaborate on that particular quote. At this point, according to the phone book, there are no person years dedicated to this process presently.
In the past, the Minister has mentioned that a consultation process regarding resource management would be established prior to the transfer, and yet, even in the new draft environment act there is not a great deal of emphasis on forestry specifically.
I have been following the work of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, but do not see anything constructive developing in regard to management of our forest resources.
I am not saying that what they are doing is not a start. Even now in Watson Lake with the Mt. Hundere project, the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation has declared us a one-horse, high-risk town, making it difficult for new families moving in to get mortgages for new homes. Perhaps if this government had given the federal transfer the priority it deserved, we would not find ourselves in this dilemma. Of course, by this statement, I am assuming that the headquarters would be in the Watson Lake area.
We have to develop policies to ensure maximum utilization, penalties and safeguards for non-performance. One recent recommendation that was put forward to the B.C. Forest Service, was a credible auctioning system, where blocks of timber are sold, where the monies are put up front, and a certain time restriction is put on harvesting the block. This would put the forestry department in a position where they do the silviculture themselves, and if there is non-performance by the company that purchased the block, it can be put up for auction again.
The forestry department now has the money from the previous sale to do the clean up and silviculture work where needed. It gives everyone equal access and maximizes the returns from stumpage rates. With the spruce budworm ravaging the southeast, we need more research on the extent of damage they do to our trees in this harsh northern environment.
Damage seems to be minimal in southern regions, but I would question if anyone knows the true impact of the spruce budworm on the north. My understanding is that they eat the little fresh green buds of the ends of the spruce boughs and it stunts the trees growth considerably. There are still questions about whether there could be graver consequences here for the forest than in the south.
The environmentalists have condemned clear-cutting. We have to prove to them that, with our shallow soils and shallow root systems, clear-cutting is still possibly the most environmentally safe and sustainable method of harvesting forests in the north.
We have to educate the public on the way Mother Nature has regulated our forests for years through burns. The majority of trees in a particular block are the same age. By harvesting only the mature stands, selectively, we would be leaving genetically inferior trees to drop their cones and establish new growth of a lower quality forest.
Most people who work in the forest industry in the Yukon love the forest and respect it. They wish to see it managed well and regret what has happened in the past. It does no good to dwell on the past. We must look ahead. That means we need to be in control of this resource.
I do not enjoy accusing the government of not giving the forest transfer priority, but I have seen very little happen. Perhaps, today, the Minister will prove otherwise. If the Minister disagrees with me, I can prove otherwise. I can only say that he is guilty of not keeping this House up to date and informed. So far, all I have received are three obsolete studies.
The forest industry is presently going nowhere due to indecision by all levels of government. Let us work together and support this motion to ensure that Yukoners and our wildlife will have the forests for both work and enjoyment for generations to come.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member opposite for the speech he made, in which he made a number of good points very strongly - particularly bringing home the point that this resource has been badly managed in the past. We all recognize that and are working to correct it through our negotiations with the federal government to devolve the responsibility to our government.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak today to the motion that the Member for Watson Lake has brought forward and to speak a bit on our work toward the forestry devolution.
As I indicated to Members earlier this week in response to a question raised by the Member for Watson Lake, work to secure the federal transfer control of forest resources to the Department of Renewable Resources is underway and is ongoing. By way of background, I can tell the House that efforts to resume negotiations for the transfer were initiated in 1989, following an exchange of letters between senior officials of the Department of Renewable Resources and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In that same year, we began the groundwork to develop the forest management policies that we want to put in place before we accept the forestry transfer.
Last November, I tabled in this House four documents relating to the transfer and management of forests in the Yukon. These included a revised policy paper entitled Forest Resources Policy Options for the Yukon, on which we are seeking public comments this year. This is the first step toward bringing Yukon economic strategy commitment to develop, in consultation with industry, model forest management regulations in advance of devolution.
The environment act, which will soon be introduced in this Legislature, is a framework within which the forestry will be managed: first on Commissioners land, for which we now have responsibility, and eventually on Crown lands following the forestry transfer.
We are confident such discussions with Yukoners on the policy document will lead to consensus on the appropriate policies to govern forest management practices in the territory.
We have all learned from the experience under federal management that much more attention must be paid to sound environmental principles if we are to have a sustainable forest industry in the Yukon. The Member for Watson Lake today, in his speech, cited many examples of the poor record of past forest management practices.
Once a formal policy framework is adopted, detailed work on developing forestry regulations can begin. Under the rule-making provisions of the environment act, stakeholders and the public at large will be guaranteed participation in the regulation development process. Policy and regulations need to be put in place before a transfer of management responsibility can be completed.
It is not only policy and legislative work that is under way, there are many practical matters to be addressed. In 1990, as part of discussions with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the staff of our department visited and conducted evaluations of all DIAND facilities that might be involved in the forest transfer. Detailed equipment inventories were conducted. An analysis of operational plans and staffing arrangements, not to mention budget data, were also undertaken in conjunction with the governments devolution coordinator, the Public Service Commission and the Departments of Finance and Government Services.
The transfer poses some significant, logistical challenges since many federal employees who do forestry work also have responsibilities for water and land management. Since transfer of these responsibilities is not contemplated immediately - that of land and water - careful consideration must be given to how field offices would function following the transfer.
Since Renewable Resources already has personnel and facilities in many communities, thought must also be given to the extent to which wildlife and forestry management responsibilities will be integrated.
Of course, overshadowing these questions is the question of financial resources needed to fulfill the responsibilities that will come with the transfer.
It is no secret that one element of the federal governments devolution agenda is to rid itself of long-term fiscal obligations. We saw what took place in the Northwest Territories - I want to remind the Member of that - where the responsibility for both forest fire suppression and forestry management were handed over to the government of the Northwest Territories from Ottawa. I think that it was a very hasty move; I do not think that it was very well considered by the government of the Northwest Territories. I see the Member for Watson Lake shaking his head agreeing with me. Consequently, they are having a lot of problems right now, particularly financial ones. Although, in addition they do have some serious problems with the arrangement they have with their staff trying to get that integration of land, water and forest management.
I think that the Northwest Territories learned from their mistake of having acted too quickly on that transfer. They are now paying the consequences. We want to avoid that and learn from their example.
We must proceed cautiously to ensure that the terms of the transfer will provide the Government of the Yukon with the human and fiscal resources to manage forestry adequately. I want to emphasize very strongly that adequate management should not be defined by historical federal standards of Yukon forest management but, rather, by policies and a regulatory framework developed through public consultation that the Yukon government will adopt. The standard that has been set is a poor one, as the Member for Watson Lake has cited in the examples from his speech today.
We believe that we have now put in place the basic elements we need to seek a formal, detailed negotiating mandate for a forestry management transfer.
Speaker: Order, please. The time being 4:30 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order No. 11(7), we will now proceed to Bills Other than Government Bills.
BILLS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT BILLS.
Bill No. 101: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 101, standing in the name of Mrs. Firth.
Mrs. Firth: I move
THAT Bill No. 101, entitled An Act To Amend The College Act, be read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South
THAT Bill No. 101, entitled An Act To Amend The College Act, be now read a second time.
Mrs. Firth: I will be very brief with my comments as I realize I will be given an opportunity to speak again and I would like to hear what some of the other Members would like to say. I am going to be addressing the principle of the bill in my comments.
The purpose of this bill is to allow the board members of Yukon College to choose their own chairperson from the appointed members, instead of the Minister choosing who will be the chairperson, as stated in the present legislation. It allows for the chair designated by the Minister to remain as chair until the act comes into force and the board first meets to choose a new chairperson. The intention of this change to the College Act does have the support of many of the staff, board members and students at Yukon College.
There is recognition given to the unique and special circumstances here in the Yukon with our small population and close circumstances of everyone knowing everyone else. In order to preserve the independence of the board, many people feel that this action is necessary to remove any appearance or allegation of political interference because the chair of the board has been appointed by the Minister.
I raised it as a concern at the time of the debate on the College Act and was told by the Minister at that time that because of the large expenditure of funds at Yukon College he wanted to maintain a certain measure of control - over the board, I guess; he really did not specify it. I think it is fair to say now, after some time has passed and we have had an opportunity to test how the board functions with the chair being appointed by the Minister, the political arm of government. It is perhaps time for a change and we could look at having the Members of the board choose their own chair. We would likely find that it would operate in a much more independent fashion.
I understand that members of the board have expressed that it is a political decision to be made, that they could operate just as easily with the chair being chosen by the membership of the board.
As a matter of fact I think that if the government supports this initiative, it would show that they are really sincere in their intentions to allow the board its independence. I am looking forward to the Minister of Education supporting this initiative wholeheartedly and making an announcement very soon that he will be supporting it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member very much for allowing me an opportunity to stand up this afternoon. It is a difficult task for those of us who are not slated to speak during debate of motions, especially you, Mr. Speaker, to sit for two, three or four hours at a stretch and listen to the entertainment that is provided for us.
The Member knows very well my position on the bill. Her remarks with respect to her expectation that the government will wholeheartedly support this measure are quite facetious.
I was hoping that the Member, in her arguments in Second Reading, would actually provide some argument to support this measure coming forward at this time. Instead, what I have been able to determine from the Members remarks is that she feels that the Yukon is unique; she feels that everybody knows everybody else; she feels that it is time for a change; and she feels that the independence of the board should be secured, although she does not say how much independence is warranted or for what reasons that measure of independence is warranted.
She did not, for example, suggest that all members of the board should be elected from the general public, which would absolutely secure its independence from the government all together. She merely stated that the board chair should be elected from the board because some people - and she always refers to some people - gave me a call, or some people told me this one day - have popped onto her left shoulder to tell her that this is what they believe should be the case. There is not one shred of argument; there is not one shred of support for this measure coming forward.
I am going to provide some reasons why I believe it should not proceed and should not be passed, and I hope that, in the Members wrap-up remarks, she will take the opportunity to provide us with some real reasons. Presumably, it was simply a debating tactic, because the Member does not want me to hear what she regards as being real reasons, for fear that her argumentation will be dismissed successfully in debate, and she simply wants the last word.
I understand the reason for this bill. It is a measure designed to take up one hour of legislative time on May 1, 1991, and there is no expectation by the Member that it should be passed. Had the Member provided some reasons why it should be passed, then I would be more inclined to believe she was sincere in her initiative.
As I mentioned in second reading, in Committee debate on this bill, it is recognized that the devolution of Yukon College to board governance is a new feature in the life of education in the territory. It is still relatively new. I did mention that the devolution of the college would probably take a few years and, in terms of determining the final arrangements, it is proving to take a few years to secure.
We got the impression from other jurisdictions that had gone through college devolution measures that this length of time would be appropriate, and their experience has proven true. The various administrative arrangements that are required to be put in place for a full transfer do take time and careful deliberation.
I did mention during the debate on the act that this college is being devolved to a point where it is one of the most independent post-secondary education institutions in the country.
It is interesting to note the people who have come and joined the organization over time. Some who have left but some who have joined say they are surprised at the degree of independence that this college enjoys from the government and, ultimately, from the public, who financially support it.
We did that for a reason. It was primarily because the public was interested in having a college that was more responsive to various public requests for training initiatives and more responsive to a variety of people in the Yukon in its day-to-day operations. We did it because we felt the college board, for its part, as a board, would be able to provide more detailed direction to college administration than a Minister was previously able to do.
We felt the college should be significantly independent from the government. We did not feel, and still do not feel, it should be entirely independent from the government. There are many times I will stand in this Legislature to answer questions about the college. There are many times that Members opposite will ask questions about college programming. They expect an answer. I expect to be able to answer them.
A move now to sever the relationship even further between government and board is, I think, a move in the wrong direction. It disrupts the balance of responsibility between the public and board for the operations of the college.
The Member for Porter Creek East is suggesting that the continuity of administration at the college is something that is, perhaps, wanting. I can only tell the Member that, in the last three years, there have been but two college presidents. The first college president was hired by the government; the second college president was hired by the college board.
In any case, the decisions with respect to the status of college presidents are the purview of the board. From the amendment being proposed today, I take it that, as far as the Members opposite are concerned, that decision is to remain with the board, unless the Member for Porter Creek East wants to amend the amendment.
In any case, I am presuming from the Members amendment that it is proposed that the chain of accountability from the Legislature to the college is to be severed, and that the delicate relationship that exists between government and a very independent college should be disturbed substantially. I cannot agree with that proposition.
As I said, the act calls for a very independent institution, but there should remain some accountability to the government and, ultimately, to this Legislature. As I have indicated in our legislation, it is one of the most independent institutions in the country, if not the most independent institution. The act does not prescribe such things as a specific reporting relationship to the Minister. It does not prescribe that the Ministers should have the power to approve additions or discontinuances of courses, which is common throughout this country, because there is a recognition that the public purse does provide substantial financial support to those institutions.
It is conceived that the board, for its part, shall be responsible for the detailed programing of the college, as well as the rules that are specific to the college and, for most institutions, the Minister should have overall policy responsibility for the general direction that the college institutions take in the country.
It is interesting to note, in terms of comparisons with other colleges and universities in western Canada, that the Ministers of advanced education for Alberta and B.C. appoint the chair at most institutions in their provinces.
In situations where the board elects the chair - and I have been able to discover a couple where this is done - it remains a case of the government appointing all the members of the board. It does not seek nominations, nor is it bound by any responsibility to select a certain number from a certain group of nominations. In those cases where the chair is elected by the board, the government Minister appoints all the members of the board, and is bound by no restrictions with respect to nominations.
In the Yukon, we have a situation where we have an appointment process that invites participation from various sectors in our community. We currently have an appointment process that demands that the Minister seek one-quarter of the nominations from First Nations, and obligates the Minister to select appointments from that list of nominations. It demands that the Minister seek one-quarter of the nominations from community campuses, and that the Minister appoint only from that list of nominations. It demands that the Minister seek nominations from representatives of the students, and one from the staff, and appoint those representatives to the board. It demands that the president of the college be selected by the board and appointed to the board. This leaves the discretionary appointments to a total of three for the government, to ensure that the board represents a balance of interests and a full representation of public interest.
That is a rather unique provision in Yukon legislation for college education in the north.
Consequently, it should be noted that right now there clearly is a tremendous amount of accountability to the various public sectors on the board. There must remain, given the limitations that the Minister must respect with regard to the appointment process, the need for the Minister to be able to respond to the public need through his or her relationship with the board through the chair.
As a matter of practical necessity, it is the case that the chairperson of the board is the primary interactive position with the government. That is obvious. It is common practice and it is essential that there is a positive relationship between the chair and the Minister. I think it would be obvious that poor interrelations could cause serious difficulties in allowing the Minister to be able to respond to public needs and requirements that may be expressed through this Legislature. It may cause a serious impairment in regard to the need for advanced planning and the ongoing interrelationship between the Department of Advanced Education and the college. Consequently, there must be a trust relationship developed between the chair and the Minister.
As I have indicated, without being too long-winded about this, the current College Act provides for a system of checks and balances that are necessary to ensure that the institution remains autonomous but that the government is permitted the opportunity to help share in the general overall direction of the college and advanced education programming.
In speaking to a respectable college administrator, whom I met some time ago just after the college was devolved, he remarked how odd it was that the college in the Yukon was a very independent institution, given that it was the only vehicle for institutional training available to the public in the Yukon and is the only institution available to the government to ensure that the public policy objectives in training of advanced education could be realized.
He suggested that this was a rather daring move for the government to make, which I agreed with, and suggested that the relationship between the Minister and the board - and particularly the chair - would have to continue to be very good in order to ensure that general public policy objectives by elected people are respected. Again, I agreed.
Given the fact that the Member has not even tried to make a case, given the fact that the measure before us would disrupt the balance of responsibilities, given the fact that it does not respect the fact that the college is already substantially independent - and perhaps more independent than most other institutions in the country - and given the fact that this is the only post-secondary training institute in the Yukon, I cannot possibly support this measure.
I am certain that the Member will be so good as to provide some thoughts as to the real reasons for bringing this measure forward. So far it has been a secret, and I am sure that given the time we have for the balance of the afternoon, we will hear more from her.
In closing, I would only like to say that the college board over the course of the past couple of years has worked in good faith to support the objectives of the college that have come together in developing a strategic plan that I think will be the envy of the country. I think that they have provided careful deliberation and direction through sincere deliberations. I think that they have, in the short time they have been members of the board, managed to provide clear direction to the college and steer it through some difficult times.
I would like to simply state that I respect the work that they have done. I respect the work that the college has done during this transition process. Transitions of this sort are sometimes very difficult to maneuver, but nevertheless, I think that the people who have put their minds to it, over the course of the last couple of years have done a marvelous job and I would like to thank them and wish them well in their future deliberations. Certainly, the eyes of the territory will be watching.
Mr. Devries: I do not have an awful lot to say about the motion. I was slightly surprised that the Minister does not support it. I would think he would be happy to wash his hands of the accusations that were going around about the situation that happened last spring.
I also feel that, judging from the various individuals I have spoken with across the territory - including board members and staff - the impression that exists is that all is not well with operations at the college. The perception of the public is that there is a lot of political interference.
I realize that this would be difficult to do without the cooperation of the Department of Education, but many of the programs the college runs on behalf of the Department of Education seem to include a steady stream of traffic. The Deputy Minister and Assistant Deputy Minister are constantly travelling back and forth between this building and the college. The publics perception of this is that there is definitely some political interference going on.
I talked to some of the faculty members and board members, and they seem to feel that some of these programs done on behalf of the Department of Education would be better done under some sort of a contractual basis, where they do not have people driving back and forth.
I am astonished at the amount of work the board of governors gets done in that they have such a diverse range of interest groups represented on the board. I am not saying there is anything wrong with that, but I would agree that it takes some pretty good chairmanship to accomplish anything among a broad range of interest groups. When one wants something, a consensus has to be reached and it is difficult with the limited budget available.
As for the argument as to why the chair should not be appointed by the Minister, personally, I feel that if the existing chair had not been appointed by the Minister he would probably still be the chair. In that respect, it would possibly be a bad argument but, by the same token, I feel that if the chair was appointed from within the board of governors, it would be much easier for him to work without having the cloud hanging over his head that he is a political appointee of the government and that he is there with the blessing of the board. I think a lot of it may be just public perception and that is very important in government.
My number one goal as Education critic is not to try and politicize the college. Whenever I make comments about the college, I try to be very careful that I do not politicize it. I think it is very important that the education system in the Yukon not be politicized.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to take a very few minutes in this debate. I appreciate the points made by my colleague, the Minister of Education, that we are debating Bill 101 at second reading without having heard an argument for the principle behind the proposal for force.
The Member for Watson Lake just made some observations why he believed it was a good idea and from his knowledge of the chair, he believes the chair would have been in the post whether they were elected or appointed. I do not know what that really tells us, one way or the other, about the argument for election because I am not sure it would be true in all circumstances and all potential future boards.
I think it is important to understand something about the structure of this board as it was approved by the Legislature and to understand that the only place I know of where the chair is elected by the board is either in the case of private institutions or where the entire board are personal appointees of the Minister. In other words, there are no groups with guaranteed representation. The power of the government or the Minister to appoint boards is severely limited - far more limited than it is in any other jurisdiction. The authority of the Minister has already been limited by the wishes of this Legislature.
It is important to remember - if you look at the board - there are 12 members on the board. Among those board members are three people from the college community. One member of the board is the president - someone who has enormous powers since they are the chief administrative officer, and have the day-to-day knowledge. Knowledge is power. The president may be a person of such influence and such sway, have a personality of such power and persuasiveness, that a group of citizens nominated by various interests and appointed to the board, might well decide that the ideal arrangement would be to have a president who is also chair of the board.
The problem for government in that case is that there may be moments when the interests of the administration and the interests of the government, which has a broader public interest to serve, might diverge. They might have some real difficulties in terms of the conflict and role of the chair as it is contemplated by the Minister here and contemplated by the legislation and the duties of the president as they are laid out.
The staff have the right to nominate someone to the board, and do. It might well be that the staff person who is nominated is such an able, persuasive and charismatic person that the board chose to elect them as chair. You could well have a circumstance where that might pose real difficulties. Let me suggest one.
Take a case where the staff of the college are in negotiations with the college management for a new collective agreement - a collective agreement that might ultimately have to be funded by this government. In Europe, I am sure that the Member opposite knows that, through policy of co-determination, it is quite common to have employee representatives on the boards. It is not common in the private sector in this country, but it is very common in Europe and a number of countries. I think Germany does, as well as Sweden, which the Member for Porter Creek East indicated, again a distaste for this afternoon.
In a number of Nordic countries, it is quite common to require companies and institutions of a certain size to have employee representatives by law. In those cases, it is always the case that the employee representative must absent themselves from discussion about collective bargaining issues or wage policy issues. This applies except in the context of a larger discussion that may, and often does, take place among government, business and labour about overall wage policy. As a union or staff representative, they may participate in that context. Within the board, and in the dealings of the board about matters of wage policy, they will exempt themselves.
Let us consider the situation of the staff person on the college board being elected chair by the members of the college board. In the capacity as the chair, that person would have to play the role of dealing with the Minister and the president - who is responsible for management - during a time of collective bargaining about very sensitive matters such as budgeting, pay and personnel. I think there are all sorts of reasons why that person might be the wrong person to be the chair of the board. It would be unlikely that any government - not just this government, but any government-of-the-day - would appoint them as chair of the board, no matter how able and wonderful the person may be.
It seems to me that it would be illogical for legislation to talk about the board electing its own chair, but saying that it cannot be the president or the staff person.
There is another option. It is someone who is very knowledgeable about the college community, and this is the student representative. It seems to me that this person can play a very valuable role on the board but, as one of the 12 members of the board, might, for all sorts of reasons, have great difficulty functioning as the chair.
The chair of the board will have to be the principal point of contact between the government and the Minister.
As the Minister explained, a student representative - who is first and foremost a student, and who secondarily volunteers some of their time to represent the student interest on that board - would have real difficulty carrying out the job of representing the interests of the whole board, as well as being the principal responsible for the dealings with the government, especially when there might well be a conflict between the roles of student, student representative, and chair.
Three-quarters of the members of the board are nominated from certain interests. They are community campus representatives, First Nations representatives, or they are community college representatives. For different reasons, similar to the ones I have already given, all nine of those people may have difficulty accommodating the notion that they should be the chair of the board when they were specifically nominated by a certain interest in the hope that they would represent the interests of that group, as well as considering the wider interests of the board. I am not saying it would be impossible, but they might well have difficulties.
It so happens that the present chair was nominated to the board not as chair, but as a community campus representative. He has experience as an instructor and, therefore logically, experience as a student. He also brings a perspective of the rural community, which I think is valuable.
As the Minister explained at the time of the motion, it is quite likely that the three other positions - which the Minister has some latitude to appoint, or can recommend to Cabinet, and which may be there to help us achieve gender balance, or certain geographical balances, or a balance of other interests on the board - may also provide a talent pool to be the chair.
It is important to understand the excellent point made by the Minister of Education, in that Yukon College is an instrument of government policy.
It is created by an act of this Legislature. The vast majority of its funding comes from a vote of this Legislature. In addition to the complex accountability with board members, various interests and the public, there is a chain of accountability to this Legislature. The link in that chain between the government and the Legislature is between the chair and the Minister of Education of the day. It is a complex relationship, and it is a very important one. As the Minister of Education explained, this institution has more independence than almost any of its counterparts identifiable in the western Canada. The powers of the Minister to appoint the board are severely constrained by the legislation. Nonetheless, almost all its money comes from the territorial government.
We have seen an evolution going from a situation where the college had no independence under the previous arrangements, where it was essentially part of the Department of Education, to where it now has a great deal of independence. As the Minister for Education has explained, in some respects, the transition has been difficult. It is not surprising that this new institution, this new campus, would have some growing pains but, because this is the funding agency, and because this is the government and the Legislature with such a broad policy in adult education and advanced education, and because this college is the only instrument really available to us, we are delivering that policy. It is the only post-secondary institution in the territory, so it is important that there be a close link.
It is also important that the college be able to deliver on a mandate given to it by the government and the Legislature. It is important that it be accountable, in a broad sense, for the funding, but it is also important to have what we have there now: that the day-to-day decision-making there can be made by the administration, and the internal policy of the college can be made by the board. That is the situation we have.
Consider the possibility of a breakdown in the relationship. Let us assume a worst case scenario for the purposes of this debate.
Even more radical surgery was done on the relationship between the government and the board. It seems to me that having a $50 million institution with a huge annual budget cut adrift with no accountability or link with the government would be a very serious situation.
Because the Ministers power to appoint the chair is limited by the numbers of people who will be nominated by the various interest groups, let us consider the situation in which the education interests identified in the act nominate a group of citizens who all may be able, but have, perhaps on some issue of board policy a fundamental difference of opinion with the Minister or the government of the day, then that body choses a chair of their own who was, perhaps, a political opponent and may even have run against the Minister in the previous election. That person may have campaigned on entirely different policies, offered an education platform that was fundamentally different than the Ministers and perhaps even ran in the Ministers own riding but was defeated. The Minister had offered one platform and one program to the public. The Minister had been elected by the people and appointed to the cabinet, assuming his or her party had been elected. Then the person who was appointed by the board has a fundamentally different point of view.
I may be drawing too elaborate a picture. Let us assume that the Minister and the chair were at odds. What is the solution for the Minister to this fundamental breakdown if it were to occur? The solution for the Minister is one which is totally unnecessary and excessive, and that is to replace the whole board. The Minister would essentially be expressing non-confidence in the entire board. I think that would be an inappropriate response. The point is that there absolutely has to be a trust relationship between the chair and the board.
The chair not only has to have the confidence of the board or some feeling of confidence with the fellow board members but also the confidence of the Minister of the day. I know, because we saw the board appointments of the Members opposite. I do not think there was ever a political opponent ever appointed to any board by the previous administration. Certainly, there was a feeling by the previous administration that they wanted people they could trust and could deal with, not that there was a dynasty of views but whom they felt they had a good working relationship with. It so happens this government has appointed a number of people to a number of important boards who are not political supporters of ours. Among them are the former principle secretary to the Leader of the Official Opposition. Mr. Holt, I understand, is not a political supporter of ours. That does not matter. The question is that the Minister of the day has a trust relationship, has confidence in the person, feels he can work and deal frankly and directly with him and speak to him about board issues. The chair of that board will report completely to the Minister on the feelings of the board about the question and the Minister, through the chair, can convey the views of the government about some question of educational policy.
That trust relationship is very important for all the reasons that I have described, in that this is the only institution we have for the delivery of advanced education in the territory. We are not a jurisdiction like Nova Scotia, which has half a dozen universities and probably many community colleges, but I am pretty sure in that province the government effectively has the say in the appointment of most of the chairs. In an institution like the University of Toronto, the government has a very big say in the appointment of the chair even though it in very many ways receives lots of private funding and even funding from sources other than the provincial government. The Minister has already explained the norm in Western Canada, in which the Minister not only appoints the entire board, without any of the limitations we have placed on ourselves in legislation, but also appoints the chair.
The trust relationship is very very important. I do not discount the notion that in some of our bodies, on some occasions, there are cases where people would choose their own chair to carry out the work.
I want to say to the mover of the motion that I am not a fundamentalist on this question; I am not rigidly opposed to this idea. This institution has marvelous new facilities, many new programs and many exciting opportunities available to it. There must be a good working relationship between the Department of Education and the college board. It is essential and that relationship depends very much upon the working relationship between the chair of the college board and the minister-of-the-day. I think that it is important for all of the reasons that I have given that the minister-of-the-day have confidence in the chair and have someone with whom they have a trust relationship.
The Member for Watson Lake, I think made some observation about the traffic.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: To my knowledge, this is the first time I have ever spoken on this particular subject. The Member has not been here as long as I have. No doubt he has a good memory and he has indicated that he is a careful reader of Hansard. I appreciate that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I sat patiently through his rather nauseous speech earlier this afternoon; I think that I should be entitled to give my own.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe I was talking about the college and the college chair before I was heckled. I was responding to the comment - I understand that is what you are supposed to do in debate; Members make a point and you try to respond. The Member for Watson Lake made a point that the Assistant Deputy Minister of Education, the person responsible for advanced education, made a lot of trips to the college. He seemed, I think from his remarks, to indicate that he regarded that as unsatisfactory, inadvisable or wrong or bad in some way.
Given that this is the only institution we have, and given that our government has some broad and general responsibilities and mandate in this area, I would be extremely surprised if the Assistant Deputy Minister of Education, who is responsible in this area, did not have the kind of working relationship with the college administration that required him to be there quite often. I would be extremely surprised if they were not in communication about all sorts of things. Even if the relationship between the government and the college were so perfectly simple that all we did was vote money once a year and did not ever debate it again, we would be required to have contact with them fairly frequently, but the relationship is not that simple.
Just today the Minister of Education announced a new program, which the Member for Watson Lake complimented - a program we will be required to support, fund and help get off the ground. In his comments on that program today he expressed the hope - or perhaps it was a criticism - that there would be coordination and consultation and that we would be working with the college to give that program a happy start, get underway and be properly and successfully launched.
Although I have never been the Minister of Education and do not know the details, I assume that one of the people who would be responsible for helping to make sure the program was properly initiated would be the Assistant Deputy Minister of Education in this area. I also expect the ADM of Schools would be involved. It would be exactly that kind of traffic and communication that would be necessary to achieve what the Member opposite earlier today said he wanted, although, in his most recent speech, he indicated it was undesirable to have this kind of communication.
The point I am making is that I think it is essential, for a good working relationship between the college and the government, that a trust relationship exist, and that the trust relationship exists between the chair and the Minister in the same way that there is a good professional working relationship between the professional educators at the college and the professionals in the Department of Education. The relationship is much more complex than the single vote would indicate, but I do completely support and endorse the views of the Minister of Education, who said we have to respect the independence of the college, as well as having a degree of accountability. We have to have a blending of those two principles; we have to achieve a balance between them, and I think we have. We may have reason to judge otherwise, as the college institution evolves, or perhaps as there is more than one institution in the territory in time to come.
There will be an opportunity to debate that further. I do not think the Member for Riverdale South has persuaded me of the timeliness or the worthiness of the proposal she has made today.
Mr. Nordling: I cannot believe that I am going to get to speak on this and stand in the beautiful sunshine at the same time.
I will only be one minute. I think we should vote on this in the next five minutes.
The Minister of Education said that this bill would disrupt the balance, that the college is substantially independent and that it is more independent than most others in the country. That is only an illusion. We know the reality and what happens in this tiny jurisdiction of the Yukon. We know what happens when the Minister appoints a chair, and we know what is happening with the chair of the Yukon College.
The chair is chosen by the Minister. The terms that I have heard are that the chair has been bought and paid for by the Minister, and that the chair is in the pocket of the Minister. That is what we suffer from being such a small jurisdiction. The Minister stands up and says that he respects the work done by the board and, by implication, the chair. That is what we expect, because the Minister has directed that work.
I think the bill is necessary to make the illusion of independence into a reality. Then, the Government Leader can get up and lecture us on principle, and set up strawmen and knock them down. Then, he can play what-if games for 20 minutes, while we all sit and speculate and try and imagine how that is possible.
We can play what-if games, too. We can say: what if the Minister appoints one of his friends? What if the Minister directs every move? Where is the independence there? We certainly would not want to see that.
The Government Leader can stand up and pretend that he is a premier, and demand equal status with Bob Rae of Ontario, but that just is not reality. We are a small community here in a territory of 30,000 people. There is a lot of overlap and conflict. People know real independence from the illusion of independence.
As I have said, and I will only take a minute, the bill is necessary. We discussed this very topic when the College Act was originally debated, and we expressed concern about it. It is obvious our concerns have come true and, as I have said, the bill is necessary to make the illusion of independence into the reality of an independent college here in the territory.
Speaker: The Hon. Member will now close debate if she now speaks.
Mrs. Firth: I will be very brief.
I do not have to present any of the arguments the Minister of Education was asking for. I knew that I could count on the government to be completely consistent and present the argument for me.
The issue here is the autonomy of the board. The government has been consistent because, as far as they are concerned, the only time the chair of the board is going to be the right one is when the Minister picks the person. That is essentially what they have said with all their what-if stories. No one else can pick the right chair. That is what the whole debate has been this afternoon.
Motion on Second Reading of Bill No. 101 negatived
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order and declare a recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will be continuing will Bill No. 82, No. 40, No. 64 and No. 3.
Bill No. 82 - Yukon Development Corporation Loan Guarantee Act - continued
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I had tabled, at adjournment yesterday, for the information of Members, an amendment that I intend to introduce at clause 1, which I had the opportunity to discuss previously with the Leader of the Official Opposition.
It may help matters if I fill in the time before his arrival by recapping the purpose of the legislation by way of my introduction in general debate in Committee, if I may.
Members will know from my second reading remarks that the purpose of the bill is to permit the government to make explicit the implicit government guarantee of borrowings of the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. As I explained at second reading, there is no difference in law between the two types of guarantees. Any of the corporations borrowings are guaranteed by the government with or without this bill.
He had mentioned that the Yukon Development Corporation and its wholly owned subsidiary, the Yukon Energy Corporation, are soon to be undertaking, we hope, the construction of the Mayo-Dawson inter-tie. As with any business venture, funds will have to be borrowed to finance the capital expenditures required for this project. As I was saying in second reading, the money markets like explicit guarantees, rather than implicit ones that would exist without this measure.
The point I made, in second reading, was that such a guarantee may make the borrowing of funds easier and may also permit the borrowing to be accomplished on better terms. That is the purpose of the bill.
During second reading the Leader of the Opposition made two points in his critique of the bill, one of which I think was persuasive. He was concerned about the guarantee being approved in the House now for both of the major projects contemplated by the corporation, even though the second of the two projects mentioned by me, the Surprise Lake hydro initiative, is not yet firm, and no investment decision has been made as yet by the Yukon Development Corporation Board, even though decisions will be made this calendar year.
I concede completely the point made by the Leader of the Opposition that there is time for us to come back for a guarantee for that project, if it is necessary, later this year.
The project we do hope to see commence before the next sitting of the Legislature - which will require us to go to market soon if it has all the proper approvals - is the Mayo-Dawson inter-tie. As I indicated by way of the tabling of the text of my proposed amendment yesterday, I will be asking the House to approve an amendment to this measure to do two things: (1) to reduce the total amount of the guarantee requested and (2) to specify exactly and precisely the project for which the guarantee is requested.
As I indicated to the Leader of the Opposition, in private conversation, the amount requested in the guarantee is based on the latest information we have about the cost of the initiative.
I will include now those opening remarks at general debate on this bill.
Mr. Phelps: In responding to the Minister, let me say that I am very pleased that the side opposite has considered the arguments I made in second reading, and came back with this amendment. Certainly, I am pleased they did pay heed to my concern about the effect of the original bill being that of, in effect, the government signing a blank cheque to guarantee funds being borrowed by Yukon Development Corporation in the future.
The general way in which the amendment is worded is fine with us on this side. Actually, I would be remiss in saying that. There is one Member in the Chamber that does not see the need for the amendment, that being the Member for Porter Creek West, who did not really buy my arguments in second reading. However, I am sure that the rest of the individuals here would support, in principle, what this amendment will bring with regard to the bill at hand.
Mr. Lang: I am just wondering specifically about the project we are dealing with and if the Minister could table in this House the work that has been done that indicates that the costs are going to be $22.7 million, I believe. Perhaps I am wrong. The Minister is nodding his head that I am wrong, so that is fine. Maybe it is $21 million. Perhaps he could give us the study that the Yukon Development Corporation has done to justify the total of $21 million for such a project.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot do that. As I indicated to the Leader of the Official Opposition, the precise cost of this project will not be known until we tender it and get the successful bids in. Before that, we have to go through an environmental process, which is federally mandated.
The question that was asked last week of my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, who is responsible for the corporation, by the Leader of the Official Opposition was what was the latest and the most accurate estimate. The estimate given by the Minister at that time, which came from the corporation, was $20.5 million. That is based on very preliminary engineering estimates. It is up from the previous estimated cost of $18.5 million. Following discussions with the Leader of the Official Opposition, and after following advice from the Department of Finance, we were advised to round the number up and put a cap on it, which is the maximum of the guarantee we are asked for. Even if the project comes in at $22 million, just hypothetically, the guarantee would still only be for the amount specified in the bill. This is the $21 million we are asking for.
Mr. Phelps: I just want to put on record a few remarks regarding the project itself, namely the transmission line that is the subject of the amendment. I thought that, since the side opposite has from time to time put words in my mouth, so to speak, with regard to my position on this and other subjects related to energy in Yukon, I might say a few words about our concerns with regard to this transmission line as opposed to a line that, rather than go from the Stewart Crossing area north to Dawson, would go south to link into the Whitehorse/Aishihik/Faro system.
I want to place our concerns clearly on the record at this time. Our first concern is that we understand that there would be excess capacity even if Dawson and points between Mayo and Dawson were to rely on the hydro-produced power from the Mayo dam. The demand, I am told, would not use all the electricity being generated.
Secondly, of course, by tying it into the WAF system there remains the potential of a second plant near the Mayo dam. As I understand it, there are a lot of people in the community of Mayo who would like to see the downstream generation looked at very seriously, with the possibility of it being developed.
That would create more power for the transmission line. That would easily be used, given the present demand, on the WAF system.
Thirdly, should more electricity be required at Mayo, the flow can be reversed, should there be an excess of capacity on the WAF system.
As I understand it, in principle, the argument that has been given to me from the Minister is that a careful analysis of the risk factor, namely, if Curragh were to shut down permanently, would leave the corporation with this transmission line in place and no customers for the extra power.
It seems to me that the Minister and the Yukon Development Corporation cannot have it both ways. On the one hand, they cannot be saying that they urgently need to have the power produced by Surprise Lake tied into the WAF system, yet take the position that it is too risky to tie the other source of power into the grid.
We do not have the analysis that was done by the officials who did the work for the Yukon Development Corporation. We would be pleased to receive it, should the Minister be willing to either table it in this House or deliver it to us. I am told by experts that the preferred route is to expand a main transmission system, such as the Whitehorse/Aishihik/Faro grid, rather than develop a transmission line that leads away from the grid, as would the line to Dawson.
I just put those comments on the record. If I may, I would ask the Minister whether or not there would be serious discussions with the community of Mayo about the possibility of developing the second generator downstream from the Mayo dam.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I take it the Leader of the Official Opposition was, in fact, directing his question to the present Minister, but, since he began with questions on my current responsibilities, perhaps I could answer them for the Member. He has not always been so generous as to observe this, but I do believe I may have some information about my previous responsibilities as well.
I appreciate his concern about people putting words in others mouths, as, on the energy question, I believe I have experienced the same thing.
Let me deal with three or four of the Members points. The first of these concerns his statement that even after tying in Dawson to the Mayo Dam there will be excess capacity. That statement is correct. It is correct because part of the anticipated need for that surplus is for resumption of production by the mine at Elsa. The calculations of the capacity that is available from the Mayo Dam is sufficient to supply both Dawsons needs and the mine at Elsa coming back into production. There is excess capacity there but it is sufficient to see that region return to normalcy, given that there has been silver production there of one kind or another, on and off, for most of this century.
I expect, at some point, that silver prices will return to something closer to their former level to allow the new owners of that mine to go into production. Strange things happen to the world metal market and sometimes there is a whole restructuring of the international economy but, assuming that it will go back into production, it can only do so if there is hydro power available. We have calculated, in planning for this project, that there will be sufficient energy capacity there to supply not only Mayo, but also Elsa and Dawson City.
The Opposition Leader made a number of points about how some experts with whom he consulted felt it was best to tie the supply for Mayo into the WAF system and indeed, the potential for a second dam at Mayo coming on stream would add to the wisdom of that alternative.
I am working from memory here, but I recall that the preliminary indication of Mayo II was that it was quite an expensive project and the economics of it have not been demonstrated, but I think that they may well be demonstrated down the road.
The key point about the two options, about running the line north or south - I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition described it badly - are on risk analysis. We already have an excessive dependency on one industrial customer, not just for the power company but, some might argue, for the whole Yukon economy. Putting all of our eggs in one basket, which I think is how I might in lay terms describe the proposition of the Leader of the Opposition, is, in the view - not my view, but in the view of the people who have been paid to think these things through for us - a bad risk in comparison to the alternative. That alternative is to run the line to Dawson City, to take what has from time-to-time in our history been the second largest community in the territory operating as diesel, a community that naturally has different consumption patterns than some others in the territory and is a vibrant and growing community with an expanding economy.
The point made about Surprise Lake is that of course Surprise Lake is not going to be on stream as soon as this Mayo/Dawson inter-tie is, but the point made by the Leader of the Official Opposition about connections is a valid one. In the long run, it will no doubt make sense for us to tie in the whole system.
Indeed, I would argue that if you took a truly long-term perspective, given that there may be times in our history when British Columbia will be on a different time zone than we are, and Alaska is on a different time zone, if we could link with those two systems in terms of load balancing, some of the economics of that kind of energy management are really attractive. If we are peaking at different times in the system, the ability to move power between the systems is quite attractive. It is now being discussed, not so much on the continent because most of our energy transfers between jurisdictions are north-south, but there is great interest in our country now, given that we have jurisdictions with different time zones, in linking up, for example, Manitoba and Ontario Hydro and Quebec Hydro and so forth; some real economizing can be thereby achieved.
In the long run, then, the Member is quite right. Since we have to finance a project like this and we have to justify it to the Public Utilities Board, ultimately we have to make the case that any project we add can be added to the rate base. We have to be able to look at not only the long-term economics but also the short term, and that is the basis on which this project is being recommended now.
Mr. Phelps: I wish to add one further question as a matter of interest: will the route to be taken by the transmission line between Mayo and Dawson go through and serve Stewart Crossing on the way? I ask that partly because, to some extent, that would place it fairly close to the WAF grid.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Some preliminary costing of connecting from Stewart south has been done, so that is always a potential project down the road. I have to tell the Member that the decisions on the final routing for this project have not been made. We are hoping that the surveying and that kind of work will commence within the very near future, so that decisions can be made.
Mr. Lang: Probably the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation will have to give me this information. I have a number of questions. First of all, we do have a dam in Mayo with the modifications; I think it should be on the record that it was based on the principle that the mine was going to continue operating. The dam had to be fixed - I gather there were some problems with it - and secondly the premise was that the mine was subsequently going to be operating and subsequently could justify the dam. Of course, the mine closed down and we never did use the power from the money that was invested in the project on Mayo Lake.
The project has been completed, I believe, for at least two years. I would like to know how much interest has accrued on the money we invested in it. We have used very little of the power that that particular dam can generate.
I am wondering if the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation could give me that information.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Certainly, I would like to provide the information. I am sure that it is available. I simply do not have it available at this time. Simply taking notice of the Members request and undertaking to provide the information at a later time in the House would be doable, if that is acceptable to the Member.
Mr. Lang: I was just putting the Minister on notice. I realize he would not have that information here.
I would just like to go on to one other aspect of the project that the Leader of the Official Opposition touched on, as well as the previous Minister of the Yukon Development Corporation. Putting a line to Dawson City will not use the total amount of power that is generated through that dam, unless the mine is in operation. That mine could stay out of operation for 10 years. It could start back in operation for three years. I think that gives some credence to the Leader of the Official Oppositions point that, if it was added to the Whitehorse/Aishihik/Faro line, at least the power could be used, and then if the mine were to go back into production, it could be used the other way. Could the Minister tell us how much energy is not going to be used as long as the mine is out of production?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me answer that question, as I happen to have some of those numbers available to me.
In full production, in 1988, United Keno Hill used 26.5 gigawatts. The Member makes the point that we were actually finishing that project at the point when the mine shut down, which if you remember, ironically, is also when NCPC found itself in a position of doing the fourth wheel when Faro was shut down. Even if Elsa was operating, we would still have surplus power there, which would be available to a community like Dawson.
Let me make the point about the mine at Elsa. We did not want that mine to shut down and we would like it to reopen. We certainly do not want the mine at Faro to shut down again and be closed. The point is that they are both mines and the ability to keep them open, no matter how strenuous the efforts we make, is not entirely in our control. The metal markets may change very suddenly, according to some experts some quite strange things were happening to zinc and lead prices during the recent war, contrary to some peoples predictions.
It is possible that Faro could shut down at some point due to circumstances beyond our control. The problem we had when Elsa shut down would be compounded and we would have no customer for the energy at Elsa. That goes back to the risk analysis. Where there is a market in a town, a large community by Yukon standards - Dawson City - that is now on diesel, it would be an opportunity to take it off. That is the basis of the analysis.
Mr. Lang: Perhaps the Minister could provide us with the study he keeps referring to called the risk analysis.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is not a study. The risk analysis is a management process that managers go through in analyzing risks in terms of making investment decisions. I suppose they come in the form of proposals to the board, having considered the risks, opportunities, costs and potential benefits. They then make a recommendation to the board and the government. I think it would be possible to table in the House, if the Member was interested, because I have seen something in this form. It was a short statement or document that summarized the analysis and its conclusions. It is a process that would normally involve a lot of discussion and number crunching, but the essentials can be reduced to a couple of pages. No doubt, the Minister responsible for the corporation could provide something like that for the House.
Mr. Lang: I would like to see it tabled in the House. It should be a public document, so there is something on the record with respect to this project and, in years to come, we can see whether or not the project was warranted, as described to us here today.
With the line going from Mayo to Dawson, assuming all things being equal, are the customers in the Dawson area going to be able to pay for that line, or is it going to be subsidized throughout the system?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The proposal is that, subject to approval of the Yukon Utilities Board, it is something to be added to the Yukon-wide rate base, therefore, borne system wide.
Mr. Lang: When will the formal proposal that is going before the Yukon Utilities Board be ready for public disclosure?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It will be this summer. I cannot give a date at this point, but I could undertake to get back to the Member with that information.
Mr. Lang: I take it that it will probably be the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation who will be in contact with us. I would like to get a copy of it as soon as it is made public.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will note that request for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation.
On Clause 1
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move
THAT Bill No. 82, entitled Yukon Development Corporation Loan Guarantee Act, be amended in clause 1 at page 1 by substituting the following subclause for subclause (1):
(1) The Yukon Development Corporation is hereby authorized to borrow up to $21 million to be used consistently with the Yukon Development Corporation Act for the construction of an electrical transmission line from the Mayo Dam to the City of Dawson.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 1 agreed to as amended
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that you report Bill No. 82 out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 40 - An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act are the legislation for the mandatory use of seatbelts.
I took considerable time during second reading to outline the background to the bill and the details pertaining to the exemptions that will be permitted. I do not propose to go to any great length to repeat those points. It would be adequate to reiterate that we have reached the point where the public will is to enact the mandatory use of seatbelts. The acceptance of seatbelts, which is a sensitive matter in some circles, is nevertheless a wise decision in the interest of saving lives, preventing injury and saving on health care costs.
The exemptions we have permitted are the result of recommendations that came forward from the Seatbelt Advisory Committee, as well as three additional recommendations we felt were necessary.
They are universal across the country at this time and, in my judgment, provide a reasonable balance to the introduction of the use of seatbelts on Yukon highways.
If Members have any general questions or comments, I would be more than happy to address them in clause by clause and I can identify specifically any details pertaining to the exemptions at this time.
Chair: Any further debate on the bill?
Mr. Lang: I have a couple of questions on the bill itself.
First of all, I understand that if you have more than three people in the cab of a pickup and there are only three seatbelts, we are saying that we are permitting the other two people to be in the cab without having to belt up.
It was my understanding, and I want to have it clarified for the record, that you are only allowed, by law, to have so many people in a vehicle and after that you are looking at a situation where either law comes into effect.
Perhaps the Minister could explain to the House exactly why he is legalizing the premise that if there is only room for six people, it is acceptable to squeeze 14 in if they are small enough?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: There are a total of six exemptions: three of the exemptions came from the Seatbelt Advisory Committee, and they are also recommendations that are universal across Canada and are also supported by the Canadian Association of Motor Transport Administrators. That is the umbrella group that speaks to transport safety across the country on behalf of Transport Canada.
Driving in reverse is an exemption. It is deemed that when you are required to travel in reverse you are technically safer without a seatbelt strapping you down. The second exemption is the one that addresses vehicles that did not have seatbelts installed at the time of manufacture - all the old vehicles. The other exemption is the one the Member brings up, where you do not have to be strapped in if you are in a vehicle and all the seatbelts are already in use.
The Member raised the question of his understanding of the law that you perhaps should not have more people in the vehicle than can be strapped down by seatbelts, that beyond that point it is illegal. The fact is, under our Motor Vehicles Act, it is not. You can have many passengers in a vehicle so long as the driver is not hampered in his ability to drive. In other words, you can have five people in the back seat and you can have three in the front seat, so long as the driver is in no way impeded in his ability to drive safely. It could be charged that several people sitting beside him would be a hinderance to the driver. A vehicle moving sideways quickly could jog a person onto the driver. That would be technically unsafe, and it would be technically illegal, but at the moment the law states that you can have as many people in a vehicle as you want so long as the driver is not hampered in his ability to drive. The same holds true for the back of a pickup truck. There is nothing currently in Yukon motor vehicle legislation that prevents people from sitting in the back of a truck.
So, what the third exemption says is that vehicle occupants for whom seatbelts are not available as a result of all the belted seating positions being occupied can be without a belt. In the unique circumstances that often arise in the Yukon, you are required to carry a lot of people in a vehicle - usually for a short distance; not often for a long distance, because that is not common.
Often in Yukon winter conditions, you will pick people up on the highway, and you will be in a crowded position. In a rural community, you may well be travelling out to a wood lot and have a number of people in the vehicle. It is not illegal to have people in excess of available seatbelts, so long as the driver is not in any way impeded in his ability to drive. That is the third recommendation.
Then, there are the other three that we brought in: medical exemptions, ambulance attendants and delivery vehicles. Those are the three additional ones that we brought in over the first three items talked about.
Mr. Lang: I fail to understand the logic of the Minister. The Minister comes into the House and says that it is absolutely essential that we have this law and that people be belted in. Then, he turns around and says, if you have five kids, and you only have a pickup ...
Some Hon. Member: (inaudible)
Mr. Lang: A child. Maybe I stand to be corrected. Five young adults, at the age of 12, 13, 14 and 15 - that has happened before - and it is okay not to have them belted in. This is what the Minister is asking this House to authorize.
For the life of me, I just do not understand why he could stand in his place, as the Minister responsible for motor vehicles, and tell me that having more people in the front seat than the number of seatbelts is safe. Any one of us who has driven in a pickup truck with four or five adults in the front, you know that if there is any size to the individuals involved, it is impeding to some degree the drivers ability to drive. That is only logic. We have probably all been in that circumstance at least once.
It does not make much sense to me that the Minister is asking for an exemption. I guess it is a question of who got to the Minister, by the look of it. Just as an observation, I do not think the Ministers argument is logical, and I cannot see why he would be asking Members of the House to permit this type of thing to happen. Basically, the insurance company will decide whether or not the driver was impeded when he had that many people in a vehicle, if there is a serious car accident.
Subsequently, they could find out that their insurance is void, yet we have agreed in this House that it is going to be up to the individual in question and see what kind of situation they get themselves into. They can sort that out in a court of law. I do not see the logic in it.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I want to share with the Member that the intent of the legislation is to facilitate the widest possible use of seatbelts for the purposes of saving lives, preventing injury and, ultimately, preventing cost and a burden to the rest of society.
The issue of the exemption, where we are allowing people not to belt up if all other belted positions are used, is not radically new, nor is it a particularly unusual recommendation. However, it does speak to many conditions in our communities in the Yukon, and it is supported by the seatbelt advisory committee. It is one of the three recommendations they put forward that we should consider for exemption.
Neither the government nor I is suggesting for an instant that it is safe to have five, six or seven people in a vehicle, half of them strapped in and half not strapped in. I am not suggesting that is safe. We are not promoting unsafe practices.
We are saying that in circumstances where all seatbelts are in use, and there is a need to carry people - which would be a drivers choice, or the persons choice who is choosing not to buckle up, because he cannot or has to sit beside someone who is occupying an available seatbelt - that is an exemption. We are not going to charge people, and we are not going to ask the RCMP to lay charges.
We are not saying it is safe; we are saying it is permissible. That is all it amounts to. We are going to have many instances in the Yukon where that occasion will arise. I have been in that situation many times on my trips around the Yukon, especially between here and Faro, where I met a vehicle full of people stranded on the road. You could argue and ask what policeman in his right mind is going to charge you with a loadful of people who were stranded, getting them to shelter and safety?
I would ask the question, too. What policeman in his right mind would do it?
Nevertheless, the exemption is allowed here simply because it is a reality of our road driving conditions here in the north. It is going to be a choice of individuals who ride in that vehicle where there is no seatbelt available.
All statistics aside about what seatbelts do to prevent injuries and save lives, and so on, that person is making a judgment that they are not going to be penalized if caught by choosing to ride without a seatbelt if all seatbelt positions are occupied. If there is no room inside, he could sit on floorboards or on someones knees, as long as does not impede the ability of the driver to drive safely. He could ride on the box. There is no seatbelt there, but it is perfectly legal.
Those occasions will arise and we are not going to say that you cannot do it.
Mr. Phillips: In the other jurisdictions where this is an exemption as well, are there regulations that limit the number of people who can actually sit in the cab of a pickup truck or vehicle?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not have that kind of statistic at this time. I do know that some jurisdictions do have limits on the number of people you can have in a vehicle. In other words, if there are three seatbelts in the front seat and three in the back, they may be limited to a maximum of eight. Some jurisdictions do that and some do not. We are choosing not to.
Mr. Phillips: That is really inconsistent with what we are trying to do here. We are bringing in seatbelt legislation to help prevent injury and protect people. At the same time, we are allowing exemptions that will not protect people.
I was at the Trade Show this past weekend with the Minister. He rode on the Convincer and so did I. Is the Minister saying today that he would get into the Convincer with two children or two other adults beside him, go down the Convincer and tell everyone it was safe and that they just chose not to wear seatbelts?
That does not make any sense. If we are putting legislation in place, for goodness sake, let us put it in place to protect people. We should not make special exemptions for special cases. Sure there are cases on the highway where you pick someone up and there is no seatbelt for them. That is a case where there has to be some sort of understanding. If it is forty below on the highway and you pick someone up and you do not have a seatbelt for them, you are not going to leave them there.
All the Minister has to do is go over to F.H.Collins at 4:00 p.m. and watch the number of students that are coming out of that parking lot in pickup trucks. There are four, five or six kids in the cab of the pickup trucks, and that is going to be legal. That is not safe. I was always under the understanding since I grew up in this country that the most you could have in a pickup truck was four. I just believed there was a law like that. Now, I find out there is no law; in fact, there is no law because we are going to let some people put as many people as they want in the cab of the pickup.
If we are putting a law in place to protect the lives of people, for goodness sake, let us put one in that protects the lives of all people riding in vehicles and not just some.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not take issue with a lot of what the Member said in terms of defending the desire to ensure that seatbelts are used. I do not feel that I am in a position to legislate something that is not enforceable. To reverse the argument, the Member is saying that we should legislate a limit on the number of people who can fit into the front of a pickup truck. If it should occur, where it would be breaking the law, we should ignore it. I think it will be up to the RCMP to determine if there is any unsafe driving practice taking place by having four or five or six people in a vehicle. Let us be reasonable. If there are six people coming out of F.H. Collins, that is clearly not a necessity or an emergency. The police may well choose to take the position that this is an unsafe driving practice because it is crowding the driver.
At no time are we saying this legislation supports unsafe driving practices. What this legislation is intended to do is to encourage safe driving practices and many times throughout the Yukon we will be forced to put more people in a vehicle then there are available seatbelts. It is just a reasonable expectation.
Right now, people can crowd into a vehicle, presumably so long as they do not impede the ability of the driver to drive safely and there is nothing illegal about it. What this is saying is that you better have all of the available seatbelts in the vehicle buckled up before you have an extra person.
I agree with the Member that is not a safe practice, but there will be requirements and situations where that is going to be necessary and we are simply saying fine, so long as the driver is not impeded, which is the requirement under the Motor Vehicles Act, that person is exempted from having a seatbelt on while he is in that vehicle. It is not a case where we are encouraging an unsafe practice. I will be the first to tell the Member that is not a safe practice, but it may be required.
The Seatbelt Committee, for example, recommended that people should be exempted who are driving in reverse and in vehicles that did not have seatbelts installed at time of manufacture and this one.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Byblow: They recommended those three. We added three more, one of which applied to ambulance attendants. There is no way that you can give care to a patient in an ambulance and be strapped in.
If you are giving...just a minute, if you are in a life saving exercise...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member has an opportunity to get up and speak. I have the floor now, I would like to finish.
There is no way that an ambulance attendant can be giving life saving, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, for example, strapped in. So it did not make sense to me that we should ignore that and allow it to happen, pretending it is not illegal. You have to state it, so you create the exemption for the ambulance attendant. By the same token, you create the exemption where you have the circumstance that you know is reasonable, that you know is going to happen, that meets special requirements in the Yukon, but is not safe. I would not support it, but it may be necessary. Why should that person who is riding fourth in a vehicle down the highway be liable to a charge?
The Member can tell me why a person travelling from Braeburn, where I picked him up, and I have two other passengers in the vehicle and he cannot get strapped in is liable to be charged? Why should that be a responsibility or liability of the driver? I do not know. Is the Member suggesting to me that he wants to introduce an amendment to make the seatbelt law more restrictive by limiting the number of people in a vehicle? That is his choice, but I will not support it.
Chair: We will now take a break.
Chair: I call Committee back to order.
Mr. Devries: Did the Minister ever confer with the RCMP on what its opinion was of the number of people who would be allowed in a vehicle? Last night, I gave a constable a copy of the seatbelt legislation and today one of the main discussions was that they actually felt that there would finally be something to restrict the number of people in a vehicle. This, they felt was one of the highlights, because they felt it was very dangerous to have two people in a pickup sitting on the laps of possibly three people who are buckled in. If that vehicle was ever involved in an accident, there would be much more serious injuries than if you had three people sitting on the seat and not buckled in. Those two people are much more susceptible to injury.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the Member is supporting the opinion of the RCMP that it is more dangerous to have people sitting on someones lap than strapped in, I too, support that point of view. The fact is, the current Motor Vehicles Act does not have a restriction on the number of persons in a vehicle. For example, if someone is repeatedly driving a vehicle through town with four or five people in the cab and two or three people in the back, there is no question that the RCMP would have grounds to charge the driver for reckless or dangerous driving. If the people are flopping around in the back of the box, back and forth, or they are crowding the driver, than are legitimate, legal grounds for a dangerous driving charge.
The law is that there is no restriction. Yes, maybe we should be putting a restriction in, not in the seatbelt portion, but in the Motor Vehicles Act elsewhere.
The Motor Vehicles Act is under review, and that may well be a recommendation that we will put forward for change. I cannot predict that.
To answer the other question about whether we are in discussion with the RCMP on an ongoing basis, the answer is yes. I have not discussed this specific point directly with the RCMP, but my staff have. They assure me that discussions pertaining to these exemptions and to the Motor Vehicles Act, overall, are ongoing.
In quick summary, I agree with the Member. It is not the safest situation, but is one that the Seatbelt Advisory Committee felt important enough to recommend. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators endorse this recommendation, and it is one we are putting into this act.
One of the colleagues of the Member did point out that other jurisdictions may have different rules. Yes, they do. Some jurisdictions have gone to the restriction of not allowing more people in a vehicle than there are seatbelts. Some jurisdictions have that; some do not. We are introducing this as a jurisdiction that does not. We did it for a very practical reason.
While I do not agree that it is the safest situation, it is a situation we are going to be faced with in the Yukon. It is not my desire, as a member of the government, to put those people who choose to ride in a vehicle where all seatbelts are in use in a position of being liable to be charged. In the example I cited, where someone is recklessly driving around town with a lot of people in the vehicle, and a lot on the back, it is the driver who is going to be charged. That person sitting on the box is not going to be because he does not have a seatbelt.
Mr. Devries: I think the Minister can argue until he is blue in the face on this one and I will not agree with him. I can assure him that with the RCMP, his name will be mud if he puts it through this way just like it was when he put the one licence plate on the back.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure I know what the Member is saying. If the Member is saying that we should be more restrictive in this legislation then I invite him to put forth an amendment. Put on the record the fact that Members opposite want to see this legislation restricted to the point of where you cannot have more people in a vehicle than there are seatbelts. I will debate that and I will encourage my colleagues to defeat it. It is not the intention of the legislation to make the seatbelt law more restrictive, which is for our Yukon situation, on the advice of the committee, the CCMTA, and supported by Transport Canada.
Mr. Brewster: I guess I have finally realized that Ministers can speak out of both sides of their mouthes. If you remember about the licence plate issue, the Motor Association man sat right there. They chose to get rid of it because politically they did not want two licence plates; they wanted one. They had made a little deal for a front plate. Now they are using the Motor Association to defend this one. Wherever it is convenient we will do this.
The other question he was asked was: did he consult the RCMP? I also asked that on the licence plate issue and after two or three months I finally got a letter from the Minister saying they consulted one RCMP member and the next day he changed his mind. That is consultation, I will tell you.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I know what the Member is talking about on the licence plate issue as I recall the communication between us. What the Member fails to recognize is that the licence plate issue involved a two-year period of consultation. It was more than one RCMP member because that member undertook to speak on behalf of the RCMP. I recall this from the correspondence I provided the Minister. Now, whether that physically means he went to consult every RCMP in the territory is not something I check on. When a representative of a body speaks on behalf of a body then that is what is means.
My staff advise me that the RCMP have been consulted in the development of this legislation. Now whether they agree or not is another matter. This is what I believe in the face of the evidence, statistics, public input, advice that we have been given and obviously, my own analysis of the situation. These are the recommendations that I am proposing to the House. I think that they are the best combination of exemptions for the Yukon that we can have, given that we are the last jurisdiction to implement this legislation and the knowledge that we have on seatbelt use across the country, and given that this is 1991. All around us there is no jurisdiction without seatbelt use, many of whom have 12, 14, 15 exemptions. We have six, the best six for our needs. And that is the long and the short of it.
Mr. Lang: I would like clarification on one question. I represent a lot of people in the business of heavy construction. I am referring to the operation of loaders, scrappers, dozers and that type of equipment.
Can the Minister tell me if there was consultation with the industry in that respect, and can he perhaps enlighten us on how the legislation in British Columbia is implemented for the heavy construction industry?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: With respect to the vehicles he made reference to, the Motor Vehicles Act itself would prescribe the guidelines for the application of seatbelt laws. If the vehicle is equipped with a seatbelt then the driver and any passenger would be required to wear them. If there is no seatbelt on the passenger side, then it would be exempted by virtue of not having one installed at the manufacturers, if that is a legitimate passenger side.
No exemption is provided in this bill if those vehicles are on the highway. If they are off the highway, it would appear to me that the Motor Vehicles Act would not apply.
Mr. Lang: Was there any consultation with anyone in the industry with respect to how this legislation would affect them? What do they do in British Columbia?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To my knowledge, there was no direct consultation with the industry. The Motor Vehicles Act would apply in terms of any laws on the highway. The seatbelt legislation will now apply on the highway.
Mr. Lang: I would just ask the Minister if he would take this on notice and get back to me, but I noticed the exemptions include motor vehicles manufactured before 1965". If I am not mistaken, I believe there is heavy equipment, built in the late 1960s and early 1970s that did not have seatbelts. I do not know how this act would cover that. They were built after 1965, but they were not equipped with seatbelts.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In my preparations for this bill, it was my understanding that any vehicle that, during its manufacture, did not have a seatbelt installed would be exempted. Any piece of heavy equipment built prior to 1965, without a seatbelt, is automatically exempted. If it was built after 1965, Transport Canada imposed a regulation on all manufacturers that seatbelts be installed in vehicles. Every vehicle manufactured since 1965 will have a seatbelt. That would apply to heavy equipment.
Automatically, heavy equipment would have been included in that. I can only tell the Member that I would want to check the specific statistic of whether 1965 is the year when heavy equipment was included in the motor transport regulation for installation of seatbelts. I would want to check, but that is my understanding.
Mr. Lang: I think there should be an undertaking to check it because - although I am not clear and would need clarification - I would assume the Minister would have been prepared with his officials for taking this sector of the economy into account when bringing in a law like this. Perhaps, under the exemptions, we could just set it aside while he checks; that is fine by me.
To go to another area: the question of the exemptions themselves. The regulations allow the Commissioner in Executive Council to exempt anybody or any place. We go through all the reasons for the law and then at the end the cabinet, if they so wish, can make further exemptions. I want to refer back to the discussion we had on the motion.
I believe the Member for Klondike indicated that he felt the land that was going to be put under land claims and the First Nations should not have to follow this law. What is the Ministers position on that, in view of the broad exemption of powers under the regulations?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: There are perhaps two aspects of exemptions I should talk about in terms of regulation. Section 12 of this amendment mentions cabinets authority to make regulations to exempt, in part, or all classes of vehicles or classes of drivers. That regulatory power is intended in the event that there is an exemption that may be recognized in the future that we have not thought of. I can tell the Member quite bluntly that there is no intention to have any regulations under section 12 whatsoever. That is the intention.
I cannot predict what exemptions may come about as a result of new technology, new medical evidence or new self-government agreements. I cannot predict any particular kind of exemptions that may be required.
We have left the authority there, but I say to all Members of the House that there is no intention to create any regulation to exempt, in part or whole, any section of this act pertaining to class of drivers or vehicles. That speaks to the regulatory power.
The Member raised a question surrounding First Nations potential exemptions. I cannot answer that. I cannot say whether or not, under self-government, First Nations will have the authority to regulate, on First Nations land, motor vehicle provisions. I cannot predict that; I do not know that.
I can tell the Member that, as far as I know, we do not intend any regulations or exemptions under section 12.
Mrs. Firth: I wanted to ask a question about our other seatbelt legislation. I see a lot of people driving around with kids bouncing up and down in the back of the station wagon, and moms holding their baby on their laps, strapping the seatbelt around themselves and the baby. Has the Minister done any checking into just how rigidly we are enforcing the existing seatbelt legislation we have in the Yukon with respect to infants and children?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can tell the Member that I have had a number of complaints that child restraint legislation is not adequately enforced. I can tell the Member that I have raised that matter, through my staff, with the RCMP, and there has been considerable discussion on the subject.
I can tell the Member that one of the elements of discussion with the RCMP is that, with the provisions in this bill, they may well be in a position to enforce child restraint more rigorously. Perhaps I would just make reference to clause 2 of the bill.
We are raising the reporting ceiling for accidents from $350 to $1,000. The RCMP tell us that, currently, of all the accidents they spend time investigating and preparing reports for, 45 percent is on accidents under $1,000 in damages. Part of our rationale is to raise the ceiling on a reportable accident that would require the involvement of the RCMP to investigate the situation and process paper. This will free up time for the RCMP and provide more opportunity to enforce existing legislation - which would include child restraint and include this legislation.
To summarize for the Member, I have had complaints about inadequate enforcement in child restraint legislation. I have taken that matter to the RCMP. There have been discussions. We believe that through the provisions provided here we will create more time for RCMP to provide a more rigorous enforcement.
Mrs. Firth: Again, the Minister is not being logical. What he just said was that the law is not being adequately enforced for children, because the RCMP do not have enough time. Therefore, we are going to give them another law to enforce, so they are going to have more time to enforce the law. This does not make any sense.
The Minister is shaking his head. That is what he just said. I have a great deal of concern about the enforcement of the child restraint law. I know it must not be adequate, because I see it every day, going and coming from work. I have seen RCMP drive by vehicles where the children have been bouncing up and down, waving at the RCMP. They never stop the driver and ask why the children are not in child restraint seats or seatbelts.
If the RCMP cannot handle the enforcement of the child restraint law, how are they supposed to be able to enforce not only that law, but also the adult seatbelt law, as well?
In those discussions the Minister had with the RCMP, did he get any indication of how many charges there are with respect to children not being restrained in vehicles?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: On the latter question, no I did not inquire and I do not have statistics relating to the degree of enforcement, but I will give this undertaking to provide that to the Member.
On the more general question and issue that the Member spoke of, perhaps I could reiterate a couple of the things that I said.
I do not have a good reason from the RCMP why there is not more rigorous enforcement. I do not know if it is due to the lack of priority, personnel or some other reason. What I do know, and that is what I tried to explain to the Member, is that under clause 2 of this bill we are reducing the workload for the RCMP by reducing, by 45 percent, the number of accidents that they have to spend time investigating and reporting. That is part of what I was trying to tell the Member. That increased time ought to allow the RCMP to provide a more rigorous enforcement of child restraint and this legislation.
I do not know the reason why we do not have the enforcement level that we would like to see, but in the last couple of months - it seems to be only in the last couple of months that I have heard it - I have had complaints about the lack of child restraint enforcement. I have raised this with the RCMP and, in part, I think the bill here, particularly clause 2, allows them a little more time to enforce it if they have a problem with personnel and time.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister not think that would have been an appropriate thing to discuss with the RCMP, prior to bringing another law into the Legislative Assembly? If I were the Minister, I would have asked the RCMP if they were able to enforce the present law - the childrens seatbelt law - ask for some statistics, ask how many charges were being laid, whether the public was responding to the law, if it was helping or doing what it was supposed to do. We have had that law for three or four years, and the Minister cannot even tell us if it is effective or not, or whether there has been a single charge laid. He tells us he thinks the RCMP do not have enough time, but perhaps that is not true, either. He does not really know.
Now, we are bringing this other law in. He is also making this other change he has explained to give the RCMP more time, but he does not know if that is the problem. It does not seem like the Minister has taken any logical steps or can present any logical rationale that we could pass on to the public. I think it is part of our responsibility when we are bringing laws into the House to be able to go back to our constituents and say we did not have a childrens seatbelt law in the Yukon, because we felt it was necessary and would save lives, and so on. We have had that law in effect for so many years, and this is what it has produced. We have had fewer children injured in accidents, we have had so many charges laid by the RCMP of people who were not abiding by the law; we have made some observations that there are more people who are abiding by the law and are keeping their children in restraints. However, the Minister cannot give us any of that kind of information.
He is just coming in and saying we are now going to have a seatbelt law for adults. I do not think we are being unreasonable in the information we have requested, or in the criticism we are leveling at the Minister. I think it only fair that we would ask for that kind of information.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think it is entirely wrong to suggest that there is poor or non-existent communication with the RCMP surrounding this legislation. I have just explained to the Member that we have communicated with the RCMP, we have had a series of meeting, certainly more than one or two. The police have reviewed earlier drafts of this legislation and they have made recommendations and suggested changes to the legislation. One of them was a request to lower the fine provisions from what we at one time had at $500 down to $100. We did that. The RCMP have told us that they were having difficulty enforcing the child restraint law without a seatbelt law, that that was a philosophical contradiction. We have arranged with Transport Canada to come in and provide a special training course for the RCMP on the enforcement of seatbelt legislation. The RCMP are involved with our educational program on the encouragement of seatbelt use. It is entirely inaccurate to suggest that the RCMP are out in the cold on this. They are not; they are involved.
Perhaps I did not provide to the Member the specific details of meetings, reviews of the legislation, participation in the education program and Transport Canada course that is coming in through our branch. Perhaps I did not state all those things, and I apologize for that.
Mr. Nordling: I would like the Minister to clarify the position that he is taking. Minutes ago, he did not know any statistics with respect to enforcement and, now, he says that he consulted with the RCMP. Did the RCMP think it was a philosophic contradiction that there was a child restraint law, but no seatbelt law, so they took it upon themselves not to enforce the child restraint law? Is that what the Minister is saying? Is he saying that, since the child restraint law has come in, there has not been a single charge laid, because the police found a philosophical contradiction?
Mr. Nordling: As we go along, we make it up.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am sure Hansard will support me on this. On the one hand, Members support the principle of the bill; on the other hand, they want it more restrictive; on the other hand, they want a looser set of exemptions. I am not sure the Members have really thought about it.
Let me get back to the Member for Porter Creek West. I did not say that the police said they were not going to enforce child restraint, because they did not accept the philosophical contradiction of the no-seatbelt law, but a child restraint law. I said one of the things the RCMP indicated to us in our meetings - perhaps I should not say our meetings, because I did not meet with the RCMP on this legislation.
If the Members want to nitpick, let us nitpick. I have challenged Members to bring in an amendment and put their position on the record that they want to restrict the number of passengers in a vehicle to the number of seatbelts available. They suddenly became very silent, and they started nitpicking at little phrases and statements, twisting them, and trying to create a debate on nothing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order, please.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member for Porter Creek West misrepresented the statements I made. I indicated that one of the observations made to us by the RCMP is that they saw a philosophical contradiction in enforcement of a child restraint law when there was no mandatory seatbelt law. That was stated by them in open honesty; it was a simple statement of fact. It did not indicate that was the reason they were not enforcing same. It did not even suggest that they were not enforcing. They encouraged us to bring in a seatbelt law. The RCMP had participated in the development of this legislation - perhaps not in as detailed a way as Members opposite would have preferred - but they were certainly part of the program; they are part of the program, and they will continue to be part of the program. They are the enforcement agency and so they should be involved.
Mr. Nordling: With respect to this new law, I would like to know whether the Minister, or anyone, discussed whether there would be a philosophical contradiction, or difficulty, for the police to enforce it. If they come upon a pickup truck with three people in it, and two of them are belted and one is not, then they should be charged; if they come upon a pickup truck, and there are four people in it, three of them are belted and one is not, then they are not charged. To me, I see the same philosophical contradiction as them not being able to charge someone, because a child is not belted in and an adult is or is not.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I challenge the Member to put forward an amendment. Do it. Let us debate the issue. If you want to restrict the number of passengers in a vehicle to the number of seatbelts, put forward an amendment and let us debate the issue, instead of nattering around here about something we have debated for an hour, gotten nowhere, yet I have explained for the umpteenth time and degree why it is here.
I move that you report progress on Bill No. 40.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume his 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: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 82, Yukon Development Corporation Loan Guarantee Act, and directed me to report the same with amendment.
Further, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 40, An Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:27 p.m.