Thursday, May 9, 1991 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to ask Members to join with me in welcoming to the gallery this afternoon some distinguished visitors - Guy Coulombe, of the Secretary of State office in Ottawa; Victor Tetrault of the Council of Ministers of Education; and Bertrand Lacroix of our own Department of Education.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have for tabling responses to questions.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I have for tabling a legislative return.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling two legislative returns.
Mr. Lang: I have for tabling some information with respect to the decision to discontinue the foot clinic, a clinic for senior citizens that has been very successful. It states as follows: We the seniors are bitterly upset by the decision to cut back some of our health care programs. We with poor vision and arthritic problems in our joints and are unable to bend readily do not have special equipment foot care, while receiving foot care...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please table the document.
Mr. Lang: Yes, Mr. Speaker. This is difficult, because it is really a petition, but it is not written in the right format. As the House would reject it, I was going to read it into the record.
I hope that all Members read this once they get a copy of it, because it is very important to these people.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers.
Mines ministers meeting scheduled for the Yukon in 1992
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the Minister responsible for Economic Development: Mines and Small Business, I rise today to announce that the 1992 national mines ministers meeting will be held in Whitehorse in September of next year.
This will be the 49th annual meeting of federal, provincial and territorial mines ministers and it is the first time it will be held in the Yukon.
This national meeting of mines ministers will complement our own northern mines ministers meetings held annually with industry representatives in the Yukon. In conjunction with the Dawson Gold Show this year, Mr. Siddon and I will be meeting with the mining community on May 23,1991 in Whitehorse.
The national gathering next year will provide a forum to review the Canadian mining performance and set new policy direction at a national level. In addition to provincial, territorial and federal Ministers, the meeting will attract the Yukon representatives of major Canadian mining companies and mining industry associations. We expect that over 100 delegates will be attending, which will provide a welcome boost to our economy during the tourist season.
Along with conducting business sessions, the delegates will tour mining operations in the territory. Through these visits, they will become more aware of the vast mineral potential here in the Yukon. They will see infrastructure developed for mining, they will see businesses in place to support mineral development and, at the same time, they will experience the real Yukon and come to know it as more than just a name on a map.
The meeting has been timed to take advantage of the attractions in place for the Alaska Highway anniversary celebrations and to extend the anticipated busy 1992 tourism season into the fall.
Hosting this significant national meeting will raise the Yukons profile on the national stage in the mining sector. Along with providing a forum to highlight Yukon projects and concerns in mining, the 1992 mines ministers meeting will bring other economic benefits as well. It will also contribute the longer term objectives of increasing awareness of the Yukon as a vacation destination, and promote Whitehorse as a convention and conference location.
Over the next year, the Yukon government will be co-chairing, with federal representatives, an inter-governmental working group preparing the agenda for the 1992 mines ministers meeting.
With the signing of the economic development agreement this week, that will see a $9 million mining component, I have every expectation that our increasing support to the mining sector will pay dividends for the health of the mining community in the Yukon. Hosting the 1992 mines ministers meeting will assist us in that endeavor.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Energy policy
Mr. Phelps: As the House knows by now, we on this side are concerned about the issue of how Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation are meeting the energy needs of the territory. We have been asking questions for some time now on this issue.
I would like to ask the Minister responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation whether this government has an energy policy in place right now?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The issue of an energy policy is one that has been under considerable discussion for some time. The statement of our policy is evident in our actions and programs; however, in an effort to articulate a better statement and involve more of a public discussion on energy policy, it is my intention to provide to Members and to the public, very shortly, a draft discussion paper that will propose a long-term energy statement for the Yukon. I will be more than pleased to share this at the earliest opportunity.
Mr. Phelps: The Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation have been in existence now for four or five years, squandering millions and millions of dollars that belong to the taxpayers of Yukon, yet this government does not have an energy policy. This is very clear from the minutes of the Council on the Economy and the Environment, and it is also very clear from other documents we are getting from the government.
When are we going to see an energy policy in place?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In the Members preamble, he alleged that the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Development Corporation are functioning without an energy policy. That is inaccurate. The Member knows that we have tabled an energy statement in the House. We have referred to it as the strategic plan of energy needs for the Yukon. It was put forward as the culmination of a fairly extensive public discussion on the subject. The Energy Corporation is functioning on an articulated energy policy.
With respect to a broader, more comprehensive energy policy for the government, we are working on a clearer policy statement. As I indicated previously, we are planning to table, very shortly, a discussion paper that will set the stage for a comprehensive review of the existing energy policy. Should this paper not be tabled prior to the House adjourning this spring, I will provide all Members with a copy.
Mr. Phelps: I wonder if the Minister can tell us what the existing energy policy is with regard to coal in the territory? What have they done to ascertain the resource and what is the environmental consequence of each deposit? Would this be a more attractive way of generating electricity rather than the use of diesel? The use of diesel results in all kinds of leakages to the south, and is entirely inconsistent with the economic platform of this government.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The issue of thermo-generation by coal is addressed in the corporations strategic plan. Far be it from me to suggest that the Member may not have seen it in there. The Member refers to diesel generation and I can tell the Member that I would be the first one to support any move to get off diesel. That is precisely what was addressed in the Yukon Energy Corporations strategic plan that was released last year.
The strategic plan talks about a number of conservation efforts. It talks about demand-side management and of small-scale hydro projects as top priorities in our energy preparations for the future. Coal is also addressed, and the position in respect to coal is that we are not prepared to develop feasibility studies from the corporation level. We need ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The carbon dioxide emissions from coal generation are not acceptable.
Question re: Energy policy
Mr. Phelps: We have been going through the various consulting and service contracts the government has entered into over the past while for $50 million or so. Some of the studies that have been done are rather interesting in regard to energy.
There is a consulting contract for a discussion paper that was prepared about green taxes. There was a report on energy policy development, and it addresses the issue of carbon dioxide emissions and disincentives for continued use.
What kind of disincentives might the government be considering for the worst abuse of the environment with regard to carbon dioxide emissions, that is, the use by the Yukon Energy Corporation of diesel to generate electricity? What kind of disincentives will the government put in place with regard to that corporation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In his preamble, the Member again articulated an error of fact that has been previously bootlegged into the House as if it were something that this government has done. He referred to $50 million worth of consulting contracts, which is totally inaccurate. Over the last three years, it has been more like $27 million worth of consulting contracts. The repeated suggestion that it is $50 million is inaccurate.
Nevertheless, with respect to his question on the matter of a consulting contract on green taxes, the matter was raised in Committee debate a couple of days ago and information was provided to the Member who raised the question - the general information surrounding an examination of carbon dioxide emmission disincentives. It is my intention at this time to have that report concluded and put forward as part of an energy discussion package.
Mr. Phelps: Then I gather we can take it that what the government wants to do is tax the hell out of everybody else who burns diesel and emits carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, but when it comes to the governments corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation, that they will not tax that corporation because that would be passed on to the consumer, I presume. Is that the position?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is making a broad fear mongering assumption. There is no suggestion whatsoever that the government is contemplating disincentives for the use of energy systems that emit carbon dioxide. The fact is that we are addressing a more articulate energy policy. The fact is that we are examining our current energy supply options, and we have an energy policy in place that we believe needs clarification and public discussion and public input to make it more articulate. We are in the process of coming forward with it for public discussion.
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps the Minister can tell me if he considers it fearmongering for this government to preach the evil of burning fossil products unnecessarily and releasing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere when, at the same time, we know that the government is the worst abuser of the atmosphere in this regard.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have already indicated to the Member, and I think we agree on this point, that we certainly do rely too much on diesel for energy generation, but I do not think that anyone could have predicted, even a short two, three or four years ago, how quickly consumer demands for electricity would increase.
We also did not predict the massive increase that has been put forward as a need by Curragh Resources. Our policy is to develop small scale hydro projects. The Members policy would be to develop massive hydro-electric generation. He is on record as supporting that. The environmental damage from that pursuit, coupled with the crippling economic costs, would not be in the best interests of the territory.
We have a plan, and that plan is to develop small scale hydro. Our plan includes demand-side management and energy conservation. We are putting that into practice. We are asking the public to make comment on it. I will be releasing those discussion papers very shortly.
Question re: Energy policy
Mr. Phelps: I suppose it is just a coincidence or poor luck that, while they have a comprehensive policy, they do not even have a draft discussion paper ready for consumption and edification by the public. Is that the situation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure what the question sought. The discussion paper is being prepared to be released. I am finalizing it. I am working with the Yukon Energy Corporation and the energy branch of Economic Development. It is a coordinated exercise for an intelligent, comprehensive view of the subject that will complement the programs, practices and action plan that is already in place.
Question re: Environment Act
Mr. Lang: The energy policy sounds to be in about the same written state as the policy about demonstrating in this building. The Minister seems to be making it up as he goes along. There are a lot of people who wish that we had a practical energy policy in place. A lot of people are paying for the fact that we do not have one.
I would like to turn to another subject, and that is the Environment Act. It was tabled here a number of days ago. A number of organizations, as well as myself, asked the Minister approximately six weeks ago if he could provide us a review of the act from an economic development point of view.
I want to ask the Minister if the Department of Economic Development or any consultants were commissioned to do a review of the principles of the act to see how it would affect the economic climate of the territory in the years to come?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member for his question. Before we can analyse the affect on our economy that the Environment Act may bring, we must have some idea in place of the standards for the protection of the environment that we want, including those standards and conditions regarding how clear we want our water and our air. This will be developed in consultation with the public in the drafting of the regulations.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister telling us that neither Economic Development nor any other body did any economic projections of what the present bill is going to do as far as the economy is concerned? Is that what the Minister is telling the House?
Hon. Mr. Webster: What I am telling the Member opposite is that until we have standards in place that will dictate the standard of protection we want for our Yukon environment, it is impossible to do any such analysis of the economic ramifications.
Mr. Lang: Here we are dealing with a bill that is strictly going to give the Commissioner in Executive Council whatever authority they want, to do whatever they want, when they want and they will deal with the economy at a later date. There are quite a number of people interested in this bill, and rightfully so. They are very concerned at just exactly what the final form of this bill is going to take in the passage through the House. Can the Minister tell us when it is his intention to have second reading on the bill and when we are going to deal with the bill as far as the proceedings of the House are concerned?
Hon. Mr. Webster: In dealing with the Members preamble, in which he stated that Cabinet could do whatever it wants whenever it wants, I want to point out very clearly that that is not the case at all. The Member knows that there is a rule-making section in the Environment Act that clearly spells out the commitment of the government to consult with the public, affected interest groups and business groups when drafting the regulations, which, I have already pointed out, will specify the standards or the conditions that we want to see in place to protect our environment.
With respect to his question of when we can anticipate second reading on the Environment Act in this House, that is a matter for discussion between the House leaders.
Question re: Seniors foot clinic
Mr. Lang: I would like to move on to a pressing issue. Earlier today, I tabled a petition from a number of senior citizens who were petitioning the government about the closure of the foot clinic that is held on a monthly basis. I understand it consists of three to four hours a month when senior citizens can go to the foot clinic and get the service that has been provided over the last number of years. I gather that Public Health have said they do not have the resources or the people to continue this service. Initially, I understand, they went to the Government of Yukon through the home care program, to see if they could perhaps work out some sort of an arrangement to continue the clinic.
Can the Minister confirm that the staff within her department were approached and turned down assistance to continue with the foot clinic, which has been so successful?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: First of all, this has been a federal program; the seniors foot clinic in Whitehorse was run by the federal health centre. Home care has been providing a nurse for the last two months. No notice has been given to us but, when the home care nurse went to the clinic recently she saw signs posted saying that it would be the last foot clinic. I have no further knowledge of this federal program but I am certainly willing to take the question on notice to find out more about it and to bring that information back to this House.
Mr. Lang: On behalf of those senior citizens, I want to say that this has been a very successful clinic and it is one that is valued very highly by them. I personally know a number of these seniors who have commented over the past few years how essential this service has been to them.
In pursuing more information on this subject would the Member be prepared to look at the home care program we are providing? If the federal government does not have the money to carry on the clinic, could we consider at least assisting our home care to continue the program?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I appreciate the fact that the Member is concerned about seniors, as many of them are my constituents. I will be looking at the issue, but I have no plans, at the present time, to begin taking on federal programs wholesale. We will see what we can do for seniors, as always.
Question re: Boards and Committees Handbook
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Executive Council Office. The last publication we have had of the boards and committees handbook was in May 1989. I noticed that almost all the terms expired in 1990, and we have not had a new publication.
The government created a special position, for a salary of about $45,000 to $50,000 a year, specifically for a boards and committees secretariat to look after this. I have repeatedly requested a copy of the manual, but have been unable to get one.
Is there a new manual? If there is not, what is the problem? Why is it taking two years to get a new manual out?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member says she has repeatedly requested one, but I believe this is the first question she has asked me on the subject. I will take the precise question as notice on when the new handbook will be ready. I am pretty certain it has not been two years since the last information became public. I recall a report in the newspapers recently, indicating that this government had achieved a level of 49 percent representation by women on our boards and committees. I believe that was based on our last public list of boards and committees appointments.
I will check into the publication, and see when the next one is due.
Mrs. Firth: To answer the Ministers questions, number one, I was told I did not have to call him to get a copy of the book. I was directed to the secretariat by his staff. Number two, the last publication is the one dated May 1989. I do not know where the statistics came from that the Minister referred to.
Third, if there is a publication, would the Minister provide us with one as soon as possible?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member does not have to call me to get a copy of a public handbook. It is a matter of course that order-in-council appointments are always published as they are made. I will take notice of her question of when exactly the next handbook will be available.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the question has to be asked why we are taking so long to get a book printed when the Minister hired an employee to do this activity? We are paying a great big, fat salary to this person to get this book published and it is taking two years to do it.
I would like to ask the Minister if he will also provide us with a new listing of the honoraria that have been increased as well as a list of the people listed in the handbook who are going to be getting the honoraria?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The duties of the person who handles the boards and committees is not simply to publish that handbook. The person is there to do something of which this government is very proud: to try and help us to achieve not only gender, racial, and regional balance, but also political balance on all our boards and committee appointments. This government is unique in the country on that score.
The honoraria have recently been reviewed by the Cabinet. I would be happy to table information in this House on that question for the information of all Members.
Question re: Interpreter services
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. The government has been advertising for five individuals to provide interpreter and translation services in some of the Yukons various native languages for Government and Community Services, with salaries ranging from $41,000 to $47,000 per annum. Have these five positions been filled?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Those positions are in the Department of the Executive Council Office for which I am responsible. I am fairly certain that the positions have not been filled yet. The competition for these positions has been advertised, as the Member indicated. The filling of the positions in each of the communities was going to depend on interviews in those communities. These interviews would involve local people in those communities from the First Nation who can certify the language skills of the applicants.
So, I am pretty sure that there are no appointments that have been made as yet. Since the Member has taken an interest in the question, I will be pleased to communicate with him directly, if he wishes, as to when the first of these appointments will be made.
Mr. Nordling: Perhaps the Minister in charge of the Executive Council Office is wrong in his terminology in saying when ... these appointments will be made. I suppose he meant when these positions are filled through the Public Service Commission.
I would like to ask the Minister in charge of the Executive Council Office why these positions are needed on a full-time basis, with respect to interpreter and translation services? It would make more sense on the surface to hire these people on a fee-for-service basis rather than as full-time, term positions.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is not the view of the government or the linguistic communities on this score. The people with the language proficiency that we require to carry out these duties are, unfortunately, a smaller and smaller group all of the time. The need, nonetheless, is there, and the need is expressed in many forums and dimensions.
Among the requests that we receive for translation services, and the ones that we have not been able to meet up until now, deal with work in the schools, courts, for people who are sick and the need to communicate between caregivers and patients. Also, the territorial agent function of communicating successfully with all people in our communities about all of our programs and helping people deal with the government in a language that is not their first language is a very complex and demanding job and we think certainly warrants full-time positions.
Mr. Nordling: They are term positions and I doubt that it is the view of the government that on March 31, 1993, all requirements in that area will cease.
I guess I have a dozen questions; perhaps I will express my concerns to the Minister and he may have to bring back a legislative return. I think that you would cut him off before he can answer them all.
In reading the job description, these positions will be based in Whitehorse and these people will be team leaders. I would like to know who the team will be made up of and will we need offices and staff for these people. What sort of accommodation will we need if we are hiring in the outlying areas for people who will be based in Whitehorse. I guess, ultimately, I am asking about the total cost of this program or enterprise.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: These positions are term positions. The funding for these positions comes as a result of the languages agreement between the federal government and the Yukon government. It is a 100 percent federal government funded program.
Secondly, the money for these positions was expressly provided for and approved in this House in the budget that was passed last fall.
Thirdly, the positions will be located both here in Whitehorse and in the communities. The territorial agent interpreters positions are qualitatively different from the positions that will be here in Whitehorse. The positions in Whitehorse will carry out the interpreter and translator functions.
As the Member may know, as there has been some public communication about this, quite often we will have aboriginal elders in hospital who feel the need to communicate more effectively with doctors, nurses or other medical staff. It is important to have people in Whitehorse who can speak the most widely used aboriginal languages to provide that service.
Also, consistent with the languages agreement where we want to provide services to both the francophone community and the aboriginal community, there will be translation functions that will be carried out by the staff in Whitehorse, preparing information material on government programs, whether about health care, education or anything else, to those communities. Of course, for the most part, we are not dealing with written languages. They will have to be, probably, in the form of tape rather than paper.
Perhaps I can satisfy the Members concerns best by offering him a briefing by a fellow Dawsonite - the gentleman who happens to lead the program, Mr. Isaac - who could actually explain in more detail to the Member all the exact details of the dimensions of the program and answer the Members questions.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products, potential sale of
Mr. Devries: When the receiver originally took control of Yukon Pacific Forest Products assets, there was a rush to unload the mill, as there was a question of whether there would be enough money recovered for the receiver to be paid for his services. With $700,000 insurance money in place, it appears the receiver keeps giving extensions for submissions, creating severe hardships for those involved in the forest industry, as they stand around waiting for something to develop.
Can the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation do anything to keep the process moving along?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can appreciate the Members sentiments. However, I believe he recognizes that the matter is in the hands of the receiver, who reports to the Supreme Court. I can undertake to discuss with corporation officials whether any participation is appropriate, but I understand that, in respect to the receivership and the efforts to sell the mill, several offers are currently under review. That process requires the necessary time to ensure the best arrangement possible can be put in place.
Mr. Devries: Is the Yukon Development Corporation kept up to date on the names and proposals put forward by the potential purchasers?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is my understanding that the corporation is apprised, from time to time, of developments relative to actions that involve the receiver. However, it is also my understanding that there is no involvement or interference, which is appropriate and as it should be.
Mr. Devries: Has the Ministers other department been approached for funding by any of the parties that are looking at purchasing Yukon Pacific Forest Products? This would be through either the Yukon Development Corporation or Economic Development financing.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will take notice of the question. I am not aware of any formal application or approach. However, as I have indicated in private discussions with the Member, my department of Economic Development has been involved in some discussions by proponents who were contemplating making an offer to purchase. Whether those discussions precipitated any informal enquiries, I cannot be sure, but certainly there has been no formal request to my knowledge.
Question re: Keno City firehall
Mr. Brewster: My question is to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Keno City has a brand new firehall that was built at the cost of $404,000 and I would like to know how many people are now in Keno who can utilize this service and how many people are on the Keno City fire department?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: With respect to the Member who always poses very tough questions to me, I do not keep a set of community census statistics with me but I will certainly undertake to find out the precise population of the community and the precise numbers of people involved in a volunteer fire department. Then I will get back to the Member - probably this afternoon, if he so wishes.
Mr. Brewster: That is one of the shortest answers I have received; we must be improving. Can the Minister advise the House regarding his departments policy for establishing a firehall in a community?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: No - but I will add a comment. The policy respecting provision of fire protection services to communities is one of which we are quite proud; it has been substantially improved over the past number of years. What is required, in the first instance, is a petition to the government by the people of the respective community indicating that they would like to see fire protection services. At that point our protection services branch will address the matter in detail with the residents of the community and begin to develop a required program, equipment and training for the community.
It is simply a process after that to put in place services that are affordable, that is, funded by the government and services that can be handled by the community, that is, the volunteers who wish to deliver the service.
Mr. Brewster: It is a very, very clear policy. How many people or residents must be in a community before they can apply for a firetruck?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot give the Member the precise number. I will get back to the Member with that information. It comes to mind that in previous debates in this House, that the fire protection services policy was tabled while the Member opposite was sitting here.
Question re: Marsh Lake fire department
Mr. Phelps: I have been following the questions and answers regarding fire protection services with great interest. The Minister will recall that his department broke some very serious promises that were made to the Marsh Lake fire department, namely, that they would ensure that a firehall and appropriate trucks would be available by this October, if the community fire department at Marsh Lake did certain things. That fire department lived up to its obligations several years ago. The Community and Transporation Services people are trying to back out of their obligations now.
I understand that the Minister attended a very hostile meeting at Marsh Lake a few months ago, and I am wondering what the present situation is? Has the Minister or his officials had a change of heart? Are the people who live at Marsh Lake going to have the promises made to them kept?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is amazing how the Leader of the Official Opposition has such a warped view of the realities in his own riding. It seems to me that I got next to a standing ovation from that public meeting I attended in his riding. I do not believe the Leader of the Official Opposition was there.
At the same time, it seems to me that it would be inaccurate to suggest that there are promises being welched on. I believe that the Member and I have discussed the matter quite thoroughly in the past. I have met with residents of the community, and we have undertaken, through the protective services branch, to address the issue of improved fire protection services. We are down to a matter of budgeting for the appropriate upgrade to the system. In the meantime, we have provided improved interim equipment, in the form of a different fire truck.
I believe part of the issue is a firehall, and that is currently in a state of planning, to my understanding. There was an issue surrounding the location of a hall. There was a land question. I trust that officials have resolved that issue. I have every reason to believe that we will see improved fire protection services in that community of the Members riding.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister might realize that, when a large group of people chases him down the road making clapping noises, it is not a standing ovation.
The issue is the provision of a new firehall. The present firehall is on private property, and it is the garage of the marina at Marsh Lake.
When can we expect to see that firehall put in place, if it is not to be within the time frame promised, namely, October of this year?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The timing of the firehall will be totally contingent on funding availability. I believe the understanding I left the residents with on the evening I got the standing ovation, was that the community would be working with my branch to finalize the plans in terms of the type of building and its location. We may do some preparatory work this fall on it if funds could be found. That was the general understanding, but clearly the majority expenditure would require new funding and that is a matter of budgetary process. If foundation work is not begun this fall, we are looking at trying to arrange the necessary funding the next fiscal year.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day and Government Bills.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No.27: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading Bill No. 27, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Joe, Minister of Justice
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 27, entitled An Act to Amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 27, entitled An Act to Amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Joe: In the fall of 1989, the risk reduction program was initiated by the Workers Compensation Board and the occupational health and safety branch of the Department of Justice.
The programs objective is to reduce the trend of increasing accidents and accident costs in the Yukon and to reduce the human and economic losses associated with workplace injuries.
Extensive consultation took place in the planning stage and a report was written containing 36 recommendations. This was presented to the House last spring. Included in the recommendations and discussions were three major areas that required amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and these are: to increase worker participation and risk reduction at the workplace by requiring companies with fewer workers than is currently set out by the act to have health and safety representatives, and to ensure that participating workers be trained for their duties as safety representatives or safety committee co-chairs and to increase the maximum fines by 10 times, double jail terms and to incorporate an administrative penalty system.
The first area deals with increased worker participation by hazard classification and the number of employees in a firm. The amendment will ensure that 75 percent of the employees who work in high-hazard industries, 65 percent of those employees who work in moderate-hazard industries and 50 percent of those who work in low-hazard industries will be represented.
This leads to the second area of amendment and that is to require retraining for the health and safety committee co-chairs and representatives. The degree of effectiveness of the workplace health and safety program will depend, in part, on the training and expertise of key players who are directly controlled in the program, including the management representative, the worker representative and members of the health and safety committee. This is consistent with other jurisdictions, such as Ontario and Manitoba, where training is required.
The third area is to increase penalties substantially. The low probability of prosecution, combined with the low probability of a maximum fine, has very little deterrent effect. Most Canadian jurisdictions have maximum fines exceeding $100,000. The fines are being increased for these reasons. In addition to increasing the fine amount, the amendments include the establishment of an administrative penalty system. In this system, officers could issue tickets with a fine of up to $5,000. This will allow the deterrent of a penalty to be applied immediately without the time lag of prosecution. These penalties can be appealed to the Occupational Health and Safety Board.
The amendments will help to ensure more protection for Yukon workers. They indicate that employers must take necessary safety measures or face penalties and increased fines.
The amendments solidify the fact that informed worker participation and training are crucial to increasing the level of health and safety in the workplace.
Mrs. Firth: I have some specific questions I would like to pose to the Minister at second reading of this bill. As I understand it, the risk reduction study, done jointly by occupational health and safety and the Workers Compensation Board, had made some recommendations. These were that, along with the initiatives that have taken place in this piece of legislation and the amendments that are to come forward to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, there were some other recommendations that were to be made in conjunction with the penalty clauses.
These were to deal specifically with the identification of life-threatening situations, so the business community could get a clear indication of which were the more serious violations. They were to be set out and very accurately defined, and they were to eliminate the lesser infractions.
For example, if a company did not have the correct number of safety pins in their first-aid box, that would be considered something that was not going to get a large violation or penalty. Therefore, the business community wanted some clear direction as to what life-threatening situations were.
I want to read from some of the report, where they talk about enforcement and penalties. On the basis of past experience, there is a recognized need for changes to the current penalty system that would provide: (1) a clearer definition for what violations require prosecutions, and a greater flexibility of the penalty options. I think that we are following through with that. As well, they say a more substantial deterrent for potentially life-threatening situations, and I think the penalty increases the Minister is proposing reflects that.
What happened to the other part of the initiative that goes along with the increase of the penalties? I hope the Minister can bring back the information for our debate in Committee of the Whole. I think it is very important that the act is also amended to limit prosecutions to situations involving the potential for serious injury or serious accidents, as defined in the act. I think the business community needs that direction. If, on the one hand, the penalties are going to be increased by tenfold, as the report recommended, they also have to be given the direction, on the other hand, as to what the life-threatening situations and defenses are going to be, so the penalties can go in conjunction with that. I think it is important that we do remove the potential situations that I addressed earlier about the safety pins in the first-aid kit.
There was supposed to be a list of specific high-risk violations prepared that would be compiled and would receive automatic consideration for prosecution. Has this been done? Some of the suggestions that were made were with respect to hazards that involve risk of imminent danger and potential life-threatening situations.
Some of the examples given were working in proximity to high voltage power lines. We have already had an incident, I believe, at Faro with that kind of situation, which was not only life threatening, but resulted in the loss of a life.
Other examples were: failure to lock out energized equipment for maintenance; failure to maintain proper distance when falling trees; entry into unshored, unsloped excavation; unsafe removal of asbestos; exposure to carcinogens beyond established limits; working at heights without fall protection; and, finally, unsafe transportation, storage or handling of explosives.
The intent of the recommendation was to provide a clear warning to ensure that employers and workers took all the necessary precautions when dealing with work situations that were potentially life-threatening and to give notice that failure to take the necessary precautions will likely result in prosecution.
The large majority of employers and workers will respond by conscientiously meeting all the requirements and by establishing and following safe work procedures.
If the Minister would be good enough to provide me with some information as to whether or not those amendments are going to be forthcoming and why they were not presented with the penalty portion, we could move quite quickly through the proposed amendments, with which I have no disagreement.
Speaker: The Hon. Member will close debate if she now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I will attempt to comply with all of the Members wishes in regard to the kind of information she wants. She has listed a number of things to which she wants answers; some of them are very specific, and I will bring back that information, but in many cases the risk-reduction program and the risk-reduction report she talks about contain many recommendations, and we proceeded on the basis of those recommendations in trying to lessen the health hazard in the workforce. In order to provide her with all the information she wants, I think it would require a more extensive answer than what I can provide right now, but I will attempt to deal with some of the specifics during Committee of the Whole, if that is okay.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 27 agreed to
Bill No. 79: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 79, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Webster.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that Bill No. 79, entitled An Act to Amend the Pounds Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 79, entitled An Act to Amend the Pounds Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Webster: In April 1987, the Department of Renewable Resources initiated amendments to the Brands Act, the Pounds Act and Highways Act in response to public safety concerns caused by free-ranging livestock. These amendments, combined with the reactivation of pounds facilities and the contracting of livestock control officers, resulted in a sharp reduction in numbers of domestic animals on the highway.
A number of free-ranging livestock were impounded and charges were laid. Over time, some minor problems have become obvious. In the interest of administering the livestock control program in a consistent, fair and least-cost manner, improvements can be made.
Poundskeepers have never been authorized to issue summary conviction tickets to Pounds Act offenders. Presently, suspected offenders can only be brought to court through one of two processes. One is by way of an Information sworn before a justice of the peace and the issuance of a summons. The second process is by way of a summary conviction ticket to the accused and confirmation on the tickets appearance notice by a justice of the peace.
The agriculture branch currently rely on the RCMP to assist in the issuance and service of summary conviction tickets, as the process of swearing an Information before a justice of the peace can be time consuming. This is especially true when the poundskeeper must drive to Whitehorse to lay a complaint.
However, RCMP assistance has not always been available when needed, and poundskeepers are not authorized to issue summary conviction tickets. A further advantage of summary conviction tickets is the ability of offenders to pay the prescribed fines without appearing in court, thus saving costs. This amendment to the Pounds Act will authorize poundskeepers to issue summary conviction tickets. This will eliminate the problems currently being experienced with ticket issuance due to a lack of RCMP availability to provide assistance. At the same time, it will also be less expensive and less time consuming, as poundskeepers will not have to travel to Whitehorse to swear Informations. Tickets will also be served without delay. In addition the court time involved in prosecutions will be reduced.
In order to make this change work in practice, enforcement related training for poundskeepers will be improved.
Poundskeepers will not be appointed as peace officers, but will be granted the powers of peace officers for the purpose of issuing tickets.
There has also been a problem with consistency between the Pounds Act and the Highways Act provisions, which should do the same thing. A minor inconsistency in wording exists in the penalties sections of the two acts with respect to livestock offences. Under the Highways Act, the owner of an animal who has been convicted of three or more offences forfeits his impounded animal. Under the Pounds Act, the test is more stringent. The animal is only forfeited if it has been seized and impounded three times.
Thus, it is much more difficult to prove in court, in spite of the requirements built into the pounds regulations.
This act proposes to amend the forfeiture provisions of the Pounds Act to make it consistent with those in the Highways Act. Forfeiture will be more straightforward, since there will no longer be a requirement to determine that the animal had been impounded on previous occasions. Appropriately, it ties the offence to the owner, rather than the animal.
In conclusion, the Pounds Act would be amended to authorize poundskeepers to issue summary conviction tickets and provide consistency in forfeiture provisions under the two acts.
Enforcement of the Pounds Act will be simplified and improved, and forfeiture costs in both time and money will be reduced. This means more efficient administration. This also means that offenders will be dealt with more quickly, and there will be increased pressure on livestock owners to ensure their animals are kept off highways in the Yukon.
If livestock owners are convicted three times, they will forfeit the animal involved on the third offence. Thus, in addition to the fines collected of $100 for the first offence, $300 for the second offence, and $500 for a third offence, the animal will also be sold.
The revenue generated will help defray the costs of the program. It is only fair that the people responsible for causing danger on Yukon highways are also responsible for helping to cover the cost of livestock control in the Yukon.
Mr. Lang: I have a couple of observations on the bill before us. There is a question of the authority being granted to poundskeepers for the purposes of the summary convictions under the act. This is quite logical, and we can see the reason for the amendment and have no problem with that.
Further to that, in section 1, with respect to the question of seizing the animal on the third offence, that will bear some scrutiny in Committee. I want to say to the Minister that we have been hearing some stories. I do not know how valid they are but in some cases people have not been charged because they come to the department over the head of the poundskeeper in question.
I will be questioning the Minister on that to see how valid those allegations are.
I would also like to know, in Committee, if the Minister can provide us with how many charges have been laid over the past two years under the Pounds Act pertaining to animals at large along the highway. I would also like to know how many charges were successful.
I think all Members share a concern with respect to animals at large on the highway and the danger they pose to the travelling public, as well as to the animals themselves.
We look forward to debate in Committee of the Whole. I would ask the Minister to provide us with that information then.
Speaker: The Hon. Member will now close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I just want to say, briefly, that I will provide the information the Member has requested concerning the number of charges that have been laid over the last couple of years. I also want to let the Member know that I, too, would be quite interested to hear if there have been any cases where infractions have been brought to the attention of departmental officials and not dealt with in the proper way.
Motion for the second reading of Bill No. 79 agreed to
Bill No. 3: Third Reading
Clerk: Third Reading, Bill No. 3, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 3, entitled, Third Appropriation Act, 1990-91, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 3, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1990-91, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 3 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 3 has passed this House.
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 Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a brief recess.
Speaker: I call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with Bill No. 44.
Bill No. 44 - Highways Act - continued
On Clause 16 - continued
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Mr. Brewster: It appears that the erection of signs has now come back to this government. Do the municipalities not have the right within their municipality to erect and give permission for the signs, not this government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Nothing has changed by the existence of this clause. Under current policy, municipalities have the right to control signage within municipalities on all roads that are theirs. On the highways that run through municipalities, if they are designated as our highways for maintenance - such as the Klondike Highway in Dawson or the Mitchell Road in Faro or, I believe, Two Mile Hill and South Access in Whitehorse - we retain the control for signage on those designated portions of territorial roads. Nothing has changed. Municipalities have the right to put signage on their roads and, where we pass through a municipality with a road that we maintain, that authority remains with us.
If the municipality wanted to put a sign up on the right-of-way on Front Street, part of the Klondike Highway, they would have to seek a permit from us under our policy, in order to erect the sign.
Mr. Brewster: You could be right but I was almost positive that in Haines Junction the municipality gave permission all along the Alaska Highway to put those signs up.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In the case of Haines Junction, it is my understanding, and it is the advice I am receiving, that the Alaska Highway that runs through the municipality and the Haines Highway that also runs through the municipality are the jurisdiction of the territorial government, even though it is under agreement for maintenance from the federal government. So, the jurisdiction of the Alaska Highway and the Haines Highway through Haines Junction would be the territorial governments. Rights to sign would flow through our policy and any required permit would be sought from us. Even if the municipality wanted to put up a sign it would seek it under our policy.
Mrs. Firth: I am interested in the Ministers use of the term policy. Do not the rules dealing with signs appear in regulations? It is not just a policy within the department.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I stand corrected. The details surrounding signage are contained in regulations, not policies. I do not want to invite a prolonged debate but I have such high regard for the Member for Kluane that I want to share some new information that came in last night that he would be very interested in.
With respect to the Alaska Highway, since he brought up the matter, I was advised late yesterday by the federal Minister of Public Works, Mr. MacKay, that the funding cut has been restored to about a 90 percent level of the approximate one and one-half million dollars. There has been agreement reached on $300,000 of it and how it is going to be paid to us, and $924,000 of the $1.1 million cut has been restored.
In all fairness to the federal Minister, he was not aware that, administratively, between the Vancouver and Whitehorse offices, the money had been cut.
Mr. Brewster: I suppose I should be happy, but I am not. We are still in the same position. The 1992 celebration will be here and we have an awful road. I received a better response from Governor Hickel, in my letters to him, than from this government. He has gone to Congress and sent the Senator to try and do something to get it patched up. Perhaps the Americans will come in and save us again like they save everyone else in the world.
Clause 27 agreed to
On Clause 28
Mr. Brewster: There were some very serious consequences from a fire in Canyon Creek last year. The Department of Highways tried to stop the Champagne-Aishihik Band from taking their Cats across the road because the tracks cause damage. Their houses were burning down. The band, being good Yukoners, went across anyway. There should be something in this act that states that, in emergencies, Cats can cross the road.
It is ridiculous to try to hold them up from crossing the road when their houses are burning down.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Clause 28 permits precisely what the Member is asking for. At the conclusion of the clause, it identifies that vehicles with lugs shall not be moved across a highway without proper steps being taken to do so. If one wanted to cross a highway, the proper steps would be to protect the highway against damage done by the lugs. Whether one used planks or some other protective means, it would be permitted.
The interpretation of clause 28 allows that movement across a highway.
Mr. Brewster: They had a fire there; they evacuated everybody in the area. Everybody took all of their furniture, equipment and everything else. They had forestry people running all over, trying to fight the fire on both sides of the field and they would not let the bulldozers cross the road because they would stir up the road and houses were burning down. That does not say that one can cross if there is proper protection. What are they supposed to do? Run and find some two-by-sixes or something to lay across?
It is about time the bureaucrats grew up. Some of these things should allow the use of common sense, instead of trying to hold a man up when he is trying to save his house from burning down, along with a few other houses.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I agree entirely with the Member when he says that in a case of an emergency you are not going to get yourself hung-up with regulations and laws about proper procedure. I would be extremely disappointed if Highways officials would not permit a Cat to cross the road in the event of an emergency, such as the one that the Member described.
What I was talking about is what was permitted here under ordinary circumstances. Clearly, we are going to have to draft a regulation to this section, because this is a new section to the act. This did not exist in the old one. The Members point is extremely well taken. I have entire sympathy with the point that he makes, and I am placing on record that the regulations shall permit passage in extraordinary circumstances.
Mr. Brewster: I think now, instead of reading the regulations and the legislation, I am going to have to start reading Hansard because I seem to be getting all of my answers put into Hansard and that is good enough for me.
Clause 28 agreed to
On Clause 29
Clause 29 agreed to
On Clause 30
Mr. Brewster: I am going to bring up my friends, the buffalo, that cause all of the problems. I do not know whether the two Ministers were aware of it or not, but there was a court case the other day that the judge threw out. People cannot be charged for horses getting out of the fence, unless it can be proven that they let them out.
This should interest all of you. I should point out that the judges eyebrows really went up when he found out that the buffalo were put there by the government, when our horses were run off. He was quite interested in that situation.
These buffalo are semi-domesticated, and something should be done about them. I say the government is responsible for everything that happens out there, and there is going to be someone killed before this is over. Somebody had better move on this.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The government did put them there. There was an agreement signed back in 1984, with the former Conservative government, to take on this national program to help recover the bison.
As to the allegation that they are semi-domesticated, in a sense, they could be considered as such. Some people feel they can pull their vehicle right up beside them, or drive through them, and when the bison charge them and ruins their vehicle, which is half the size of the bison, which is really a wild animal, they wonder why that has happened, and think that they should be compensated.
The Member also knows we are trying to do something to correct the problem. We are trying to develop another range for the bison away from the Alaska Highway. The Member knows we have been trying to establish a pasture up the Aishihik Road to lure the bison off the Alaska Highway and, therefore, pose less risk to the travelling public.
If the Member for Kluane has some further suggestions to make on how we can reduce this hazard, I would appreciate receiving them.
Mr. Brewster: I presume you will allow me to reply to that. I was dealing with the other Minister, but I have a few things to say about that. He had his say, now I will have mine.
I happen to know the history of how those buffalo got here. They were to stay down on the Nisling. The old ones were to be kept in and never let out of the compound. Only young ones born and raised there were to be let out. Nobody in this House had better try to deny that, because I saw the agreement. When they were ready to let them out, what happened? They put them all in a pen at once, one bull broke its back, another cow got gouged and they had to kill it, so they turned them all loose. Two of them ended up in Tok, and they were going to be shot, so they brought them back and left them in Haines Junction.
The same bull is causing all the trouble at Champagne now. If the department had done what it was originally told to do, which is to keep them there and only let the young ones out of that pen, they would have stayed where they were born.
I was also promised, in this House, that the calves born last year would be moved back to the Nisling last fall. They were never moved.
They will always remain where they are now because that is the instinct of animals.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member may be correct on the last point he made about the animals instinctively sticking around the area where there were born. That is indeed possibly true.
I want to remind the Member that when the previous Conservative government decided to get involved in this national program, it was with some other partners. It was the national Wildlife Service and, locally, the Yukon Fish and Game Association. The department, in its work in continuing this program over the last five years has been involved with those partners in making decisions on this. These decisions have not been made unilaterally by the Department of Renewable Resources.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister involved the Yukon Fish and Game Association in the bison project. That makes it sound like they are involved in the whole project, right to the day that the bison are standing along the edge of the highway. I wish to clarify something for the record. At the time that the deal was made on the bison, I was the president of the Yukon Fish and Game Association. I was part and party of that deal. The deal did not have anything to do with the bison that were turned loose and ended up on the highway. The deal was that the Yukon Fish and Game Association auction off an elk hunt. They raised $8,000. The $8,000 raised was donated to the bison project to pay for fencing of the bison. This donation was intended to keep the bison in, not to let the bison go down along the Alaska Highway. After that time, there has been no involvement from the Yukon Fish and Game Association in the project.
Clause 30 agreed to
On Clause 31
Clause 31 agreed to
On Clause 32
Clause 32 agreed to
On Clause 33
Clause 33 agreed to
On Clause 34
Mr. Brewster: As I understand section 34(3), if the highway is moved and there is a lodge there, has the lodge owner lost everything? If you move a highway five miles away from where a lodge was to straighten the road out, that is the end of that lodge. In other words, there is no help, like there is at the present time, to move them to the new location or give them compensation. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That is a good question. It may not apply to this particular clause, but the Member raises an issue that may well occur. The Member is saying that, if we relocate a highway and, thereby, remove immediate access of a lodge to that highway, we have obviously created a serious problem for the business pursuit of that lodge.
It would seem to me that we would have to deal with that on a case-by-case basis outside the provisions of the Highways Act itself. I would be inclined to think that any reasonable government would advise such a lodge owner of any planned relocation, and that any reasonable government would make available any business development program to assist that lodge owner to either survive where he is located, or to relocate.
It seems to me that, as a reasonable government, we would cooperate with the lodge owner to minimize the disruption, because I can understand that you could virtually shut down a lifelong business by relocating a highway.
I sympathize with the case. The Highways Act is not where the support would lie. It would seem to me that the support would lie in Economic Development support programs.
Mr. Brewster: The only argument I can pose is that he built his business on the road. All of a sudden it had to be moved. There are lots of cases of that. Pink Mountain is one; Trutch, B.C. is another. Cottonwood Park nearly had that happen, if there had not been letters protesting the straightening.
When a mans livelihood has been taken away because the road has been moved, I think that compensation should be paid. Silver Creek is another example. It was moved and the man was left sitting there in the bush with nothing. They had to fight for years before he was moved to where he is now. His business has never come back.
When roads are being moved around like that, the economy in the area should be looked at. I think that should be in legislation.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate the point the Member raises from a business point of view. Could the Member share with me any examples he knows where there was support provided to a lodge in the form of government assistance as a result of a relocated road?
Mr. Brewster: I do not know exactly which department provided it. When Silver Creek was moved to where it is now - and I believe it is called Kluane Lake now - they were assisted. I understand that Pink Mountain was finally compensated for being cut right out. I do not think they rebuilt, but they did receive some compensation. In that case, I think they may have had to go to court to get it.
The engineers do not care about anyone but themselves. They want to straighten the road because it would look prettier. They forget that a man may have been there for 20 years and worked there most of his life. They could not care less, because they would like a pretty road over here. There should be some legislation to protect that man.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I take the Members point in the spirit it is offered. I do not think it is unreasonable for a government to provide some form of assistance, within reason, to help relocate a business activity as a result of a road that has been rerouted.
I do not think though, that the Highways Act is the appropriate place. The Member has raised an excellent point. I will take it up with my officials in Economic Development. It seems to me that we may well have programs now that would assist on that score. It comes to mind that our business development program right now may well provide eligibility for a lodge owner to help relocate on a forgivable-loan basis. We may well have such a program in place and available right now. I want to pursue it further. I just think that it belongs more properly in a different place than the Highways Act. I respect the point the Member makes, it has a powerful impact on me.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to have something in here because that puts a check on surveyors who could not care less. When they see there is something in here saying that the government is going to be responsible for something then they may look twice and say let us leave the road there, improve it there, let us not switch it over, it might not look quite as pretty there but let us leave it there. There is no check and balance, if you do not have checks and balances, the government does what it wants to do. All I want is something to check this.
Mr. Nordling: After all that discussion, I think what would be helpful is if the Minister just stood up and told us why this clause is included in this act and what claims it is made to protect the government against. He talks about economic development programs. Well, economic programs come and go, and when they are gone this clause will still remain in the Highways Act saying there is no entitlement to compensation for property owners beside a highway.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I said to the previous Member, I do not believe it is the place of the Highways Act to ensure that relocated businesses receive support from Highways for rerouted roads.
I would point out to the Member for Porter Creek West that this section is almost identical to section 9 in the existing act. It is also very similar to highways acts across the country. It is not something new or extraordinary.
Members are suggesting that the Highways Act should make it an obligation of government to address the problem, but I would be very loathe to legislatively enshrine a compensation package in the Highways Act. I do not think that is the appropriate place. The presence of available support programs elsewhere in the government would speak to that.
A concession I might agree with is that the impact on a business ought to be part of the consideration for a relocated road. That makes reasonable sense. We build roads to provide ease of access, as well as in response to peoples needs, and a lodge owner is one who meets peoples needs.
Mr. Nordling: I am not asking the Minister, nor do I think the Member for Kluane is asking the Minister, to enshrine a compensation package in the Highways Act. We are asking why this clause is in the act at all.
It is not enough for the Minister to say it was in the old act, so it is in the new act, and that makes it all right. We would like to know what evil there is that this clause is put in our Highways Act to prevent. What evil is it designed to protect against?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I should point out to the Member that it is not just because it is in the old act; it is more so because it is an accepted highways legislative clause across the country. It is similar to other jurisdictions.
In any event, the rationale behind it, according to my understanding, is that we would not want to see government called to task for excessive expenditures by virtue of any kind of road relocation.
You could very well be straightening out a curve and forcing an extended access to the highway, which the highways department would construct, because they are required to restore any existing access roads. If it is a relatively short distance, that is an automatic go and is automatically done.
What the clause essentially says is that, by virtue of any relocation or realignment, the lodge owner or business is not automatically entitled to compensation. Any reasonable-minded government would restore the approach, and any reasonable-minded government and highway construction program would ensure that they still have access.
I think what both Members are talking about is what you would do where you do not restore the access, and where you have relocated the road at such a distance that the access becomes another major road. You can then get into the complicated issue where, by virtue of that relocation, a clause assuring that the person would be compensated could then result in all sorts of court cases to determine that compensation. It would seem to me that it would be more logical and appropriate to address that as a separate issue in economic development terms, or business support programs.
Mr. Phelps: Surely, the issue is why do we have a section like this in the act at all? For centuries, the courts have protected people in such situations, so why are they not continuing to do so? We are not asking for a special compensation package to be dreamed up to place in here. What is wrong with the good old common law? The common law and rights are the ones you are trying to legislate out of existence. I suspect that the old laws are very fair minded and reasonable and enshrined in various cases that go back centuries. If you do not know what they are, why are you trying to wipe them out with one stroke of the pen? Is this another attack on property rights that we are seeing in this House?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: What we are talking about is subsection (2), which is on compensation.
To reiterate, the clause is a standard clause nationally. It is not a new introductory clause that tries to wipe out any special rights.
Subsection (3) states that, by virtue of relocating a road, a person is not automatically entitled to compensation.
Reading the clause, it simply says Where, because of a relocation of a controlled highway, a property that abutted the highway no longer so abuts, the owner of the property is not entitled to any compensation.
Mr. Nordling: It does not say not automatically entitled to compensation. I wonder where the Minister was getting the word automatic? I do not see that in the clause.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The reference to automatic was my paraphrasing of the subsection. The subsection simply says, in my words, that, by virtue of relocating a highway that no longer provides access to a property adjacent - which could be the lodge owner - does not automatically mean that the lodge owner would be entitled to any compensation. That is my interpretation.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister should bring in an amendment, or let us do it, so that the subsection says just that. That is not at all what it says now. What it does now is deny any compensation to a property owner whose property no longer abuts a highway.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think there is a fine line here. The fine line is that simply by virtue of the fact that you are not entitled to compensation through the action of relocation does not mean that you will not get any compensation.
I take reference back to our previous discussion about the various support programs that would be available to such a business for assistance should a relocation of a lodge or business be contemplated. I think any reasonable-minded government would provide continued access, depending on the length of the road. What clearly would govern this is regulations. I do not know where we would draw the line as to the length of an access road you would put in place as a form of compensation for relocating the highway.
Mr. Nordling: The property owner is not entitled to any of that. Is the Minister saying that he is going to put this clause in and if he feels like compensating individuals or businesses he will, but if he does not like them then he will just invoke this clause and will not compensate them? Is that the type of laws that we are making, so that a reasonable and fair-minded government does things all right, but if the government is not quite as reasonable and fair-minded then there will not be compensation? Are we making a law to depend on the personality of the Minister?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: What kind of a changes would the Member consider appropriate to clarify the matter?
The government cannot assume an obligation to incur massive costs of relocating a business or a home dweller who lives adjacent to a highway that gets relocated. There are reasonable points and there are absurd points.
What the subsection is simply intended to do is hold the government harmless against providing compensation for having relocated a road, which is in the public interest. It is in the publics interest to relocate a road. What the subsection simply says is that there is not an automatic requirement for the government to compensate the property owner who may no longer live beside that road.
Now, that does not say that you are not going to be eligible for support, assistance or compensation, either by virtue of access being provided or other support. It simply says by virtue of that access being provided or other support, or that by virtue of that action happening, you are not automatically entitled to compensation. It does not prevent you from getting it.
Mr. Phelps: I really cannot agree with the Ministers comments. Certainly, that person does not automatically have a right to compensation now. He has to make a case in court under his common law rights in order to obtain any compensation.
I am going to move an amendment to clause 34, on page 17, by deleting all of the words after 34(1) A person and replacing them with the following will retain all common law rights regarding access to private property owned by that person.
Chair: The amendment proposed, moved by Mr.Phelps MLA for Hootalingua is:
THAT Bill No. 44, entitled, Highways Act be amended in clause 34 at page 17 by deleting all words after 34(1) A person and replacing them with the following: will retain all common law rights regarding access to private property owned by that person.
Is there debate on this amendment?
Mr. Phelps: The interesting thing here is the recurring theme of the party that does not believe in private property rights and does not want to see them enshrined in the constitution. Now they are nibbling away at those rights with virtually every bill that seems to be emanating.
The issue that is squarely before us is whether or not people should simply have faith in the government programs that may or may not be put in place, to protect them against the engineers and bureaucrats in the highways branch. The common law rights are a result of numerous cases where people had grievances against the state for acting in unreasonable ways with regard to access enjoyed by private property owners. It seems that it is for the Minister to explain to us why these rights that have been developed over the centuries are entirely inappropriate for the protection of Yukon property owners. I have a lot more faith in the court than I do in the Department of Economic Development coming along with some loans if they happen to like you and not providing the loans if they do not like you, forgivable or otherwise.
I would like to know why the Minister feels it is appropriate that these private property rights be taken away by the section we are attempting to amend at this time.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I listened with interest to the Leader of the Official Opposition outlining his belief in the supremacy of property rights over the rights of people. I am not sure that we would ever agree on that score.
The Member has introduced an amendment. It would be my suggestion that I seek further advice from my officials on the implications of the amendment and that we stand over clause 34 to Monday and deal with it at that time.
Clause 34 stood over
On Clause 35
Mr. Devries: I have a question on subsection 35(2). Hopefully, this would never happen, but if a vehicle left the highway while trying to avoid another vehicle or a moose or something if this act were taken to the letter, it would be illegal to put your vehicle back on the highway before first running to town and getting a permit.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Concerning subsection (2), I do not think that any traveller or driver of a vehicle will be penalized because he entered the highway at a non-controlled access after having driven off. The intention under this subsection is to have controlled access points to a highway specified and designated at appropriate junctions. Take, for example, the very common situation where we have a lot of all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles that use areas along highways for their travel. What subsection (2) would do is make it illegal for that snowmobile to come up onto the highway at other than an access point, which essentially would be a junction - a controlled access to the highway. I would go to court in support of the driver who came back up on the highway 10 feet from where he went off it. That is not the intention, and I do not think any RCMP would make a charge under those circumstances nor would any judge let it stand up in court.
I would note again, this is similar to the section in the existing act; it just provides for safe entry onto the highway by all vehicles in normal, ordinary traffic patterns.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to point out, not the example that my colleague from Watson Lake pointed out, but in my area, between my house and Marshall Creek, which is roughly five miles, there are at least six turn-offs made by people in order to haul wood out of there.
I do not know where these people would get on the road; they cannot get on at Marshall Creek, and if they came up this way, they would have to go all the way to Haines Junction to get to a legal turn-off according to that, and there are five in that short distance. I do not know how many there are from there into Whitehorse; I have never bothered to count them, but an awful lot of them have been made in order to bring wood out of there. Are these people hauling wood out of there going to be doing so illegally?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Well, let me say two things about what the Member raises. Subsection 2(c) does grandfather existing accesses that have been used. Subsection 2(d) does permit access by special permit. Subsection (d) permits exemption by regulation.
I do not know if I am understanding the Members example correctly. I think that the provision is well covered in here for that to continue. If the Member thinks that I am wrong, then he will have to help me understand.
Mr. Brewster: Well, number one, the Minister is wrong when he says that they were there before this law, because they are naturally pulled out every year. I imagine in most cases they are pulled out by the Department of Highways, because of the fact they have to clean the ditches before the runoff. The Minister talks about paperwork; these people will have to run around and find some foreman or someone in order to get a permit so they can get their wood back onto the road. There is also logging going on in Marshall Creek, by individuals who do not have the proper turn-offs. They just drop some of the logs and crawl over. These, of course, have to be moved in the spring because if they are not moved, the runoff does not drain down the road and down the ditches properly.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Well, I guess I do not see much of a problem on this, because this is essentially the same as in the existing act and it has not posed a particular problem. If I am understanding the Member correctly, he is talking about accesses that reoccur each year for a specific seasonal time. I do not believe that there have been any prosecutions that the Member would be able to cite, even though this portion of the law exists now.
I gave at least three examples before that would meet the special circumstances: permit, regulation and grandfathering. We seem to be able to live with it now, and we are simply flipping this into the new act from the old act.
Mr. Brewster: I pointed out one example of a bulldozer that they were going to stop when it tried to cross the road. They say these things do not happen and that a reasonable government would not do it. I guess this government was not reasonable, as it was their men who tried to stop the bulldozer.
It does not say this in the law. As far as reasonable government is concerned, I do not think there is a reasonable government in Canada. I am quite frank about that. If you were to go out and ask the average person on the street if there is a reasonable government anywhere in Canada, the answer would be no.
I see the Government Leader looking at me with a frown. You do not have to cry about this. All you have to do is look at the Gallup poll, and that will tell you what the people think about government and politicians.
I do not trust government. I never have trusted government. Someone could turn around and go after one of these people. It would be just as easy as could be. There is no reason to stop it. It is the law.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not have a good enough handle on the specific example that the Member raises. The only repetitive thing that I can say to him is that accesses that are in existence before this law is proclaimed are protected. A special access can be achieved by permit. Additionally, you can have the requirement for an appropriate access exempted. If the Member is raising the point of a seasonal woodlot access, then that is another matter.
Mr. Phillips: For clarification, was the Minister saying that this section was in the old act, and that we have never used that section of the old act, or that it really has not been enforced?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure of the terminology the Member used. The same provisions are in the existing act. The wording is not identical. The wording has been improved and slightly changed. The fact remains that you still have permitting and regulatory provisions in the existing act. I suspect that grandfathering is a new portion to protect against those accesses that existed.
I am looking at the old act and sections 11(5) and (6) address access onto the highway. So, yes, it is similar to the existing act.
Mr. Phillips: Have we enforced it? Have we had to enforce this section, or do we enforce it - with the people who are cutting wood and so on?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am advised that people have come in for permits for access off a road at a designated point that was not a controlled access. Permits are granted, but with full attention to safety. In other words, a permit would not be used to designate an access off a highway just over a hill or in a tight curve or any of those types of situations. So, permits have been issued, I am advised; the existing act is used and I expect that it is enforced, as well. I am sure that checks are done on the appropriate use of the permits.
Mr. Devries: Perhaps we could get a lawyer to comment on this. My concern relates to an accident we had in Watson Lake last year at a yield sign. After the accident, the lawyer used the argument that the town did not have a bylaw to indicate what the yield sign should mean, or something of that nature. The person who ran into the other person was charged, and it was the fault of the person who failed to yield at the sign.
My concern is that if you had a serious accident trying to get onto the highway, you could be charged with driving onto the highway under unsafe conditions and I am wondering whether, if you were charged with driving onto the highway illegally, the charges laid against you could be more or less extreme in that respect. I do not know. It is just a legal argument, I think.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The entire purpose for providing special permits for special accesses is intended to improve safety on the highway.
If there was no allowance for a permitting system, people would be coming from the bush onto the highway at any location at any time. That is not a safe condition. It would be illegal but, for the most part, people would get away with it.
The provision here allows people who have a need for an access to a highway, other than what is available through controlled accesses, to do so not just legally, but safely as well. Safety is the principal feature of any kind of rules relating to a highway.
It seems to me that if a person comes in to ask for a permit to haul wood out of a certain neighborhood, the highways branch will only grant a permit in a location that is safe. In some cases, if it appears that it is an access that could be used over a period of time, I am advised that we actually go in and construct a full-fledged access, complete with culvert, fill and surface. We often go in and build the access requested to improve upon the safety. This would then lead to new signage.
On the specific example cited by the Member with respect to the yield sign, I could not comment on a court case as I am not a lawyer.
If you disobey a highway sign, you automatically fall into the position of having done something unsafely and, therefore, illegally.
Clause 35 agreed to
On Clause 36
Clause 36 agreed to
On Clause 37
Clause 37 agreed to
On Clause 38
Clause 38 agreed to
On Clause 39
Clause 39 agreed to
On Clause 40
Clause 40 agreed to
On Clause 41
Clause 41 agreed to
On Clause 42
Mr. Brewster: Clause 42(1) says, A person who is convicted of an offence under section 24 is liable to a file. That is an l there, and it should be an n.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Excuse me, but I did not follow the Member.
Mr. Brewster: Perhaps I am wrong. All my notes are in the draft copy of the act the Minister gave me, which he said would be exactly the same as the one tabled. Under section 42(1), it says file, and I think it should say fine.
Chair: It says fine in the bill.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The version tabled in the House caught that typo, and the word is fine. I understand the Members point. I did provide an earlier draft of the bill to him, so he would have an opportunity to review it. We did have some typos in it. We removed one clause from the bill he received to the one he sees here, and there were several typos, as I recall.
Mr. Brewster: The Minister, when he brought this down to me, said the only thing that was going to change was to add the French translation; I said I could not read French anyway so it did not matter. Now we find out that he changed the bill after telling me it was going to be exactly the same. I hate to have to read two or three bills; it is hard enough to read one, but then I have to read another one and take all my notes out of the first one. In all fairness, the Minister gave me this document so that we could study it and come in here, and I think we have done a fairly good job, but all of a sudden I find out it is not even the bill that is in the House.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me give every assurance to the Member that there is only one short clause with about ten words in it that has been removed, and when we get to it I will point out to him where the bill on the floor of the House does not have a clause that his copy does have. It is just one clause and several typos.
Clause 42 agreed to
On Clause 43
Mr. Brewster: Perhaps this clause covers another mistake that was caught: the last line of the first paragraph, at the top of page 23, reads the his ... and I do not think that is right. I think the is a mistake. Has that been corrected?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Who does your proof reading? Who does mine? We have a word in that clause that ought not to be there. I have only caught it for the first time. If you treat the word the in clause 43 before the words his or her consent as a typo, we will remove it. I stand in reverent awe of the Member for catching it.
Chair: We will treat it as a typo and remove it.
Mr. Devries: I have one further question on this matter. Can the Minister tell us if it is in the French version, too?
Clause 43 agreed to
Chair: The Committee will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order.
On Clause 44
Mr. Brewster: This will not be an argument, because we will not get anywhere, but in subsection 44(f), would the Minister kindly read that out to me the way it is written?
Some Hon. Member: Are we stalling for time here or something or what?
Mr. Brewster: No, I would just like to see if he can twist his tongue around that.
Okay, I will read it: (f) respecting the design, location, and construction of any class or classes of means of access to or from a controlled highway including a class or classes of means of access exempted from the requirements for a permit. Boy, that is a mouthful and I sure understand that one; it is as simple as can be.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I just made an assumption that people understood what it meant.
Mr. Brewster: I think we should look at this thing sensibly. We sit in here and after a while learn to read bureaucratic red tape; even I can do it after eight years. The average person on the street would take a look at that and say he must have been in the bar, or somewhere. No one could have written a clause like that in English. These laws are made for people on the street and it is absolute stupidity to expect someone to interpret that. If the Minister can interpret it for me I will take it out to the people on the street.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would agreed with the Member that the wording of subsection (1)(f) has clearly too many prepositional phrases. I would agree with the Member that the average person on the street would struggle to understand it. However it does have a meaning that covers all the different rules that would be applied when you make rules or regulations about the different types of approaches you will allow onto a highway. That is essentially what it means, that you would simply make regulations to govern how you control the standards for access onto a highway. Maybe that is a simpler way of putting it.
I will seek advice from my esteemed colleagues in the transportation division.
Clause 44 agreed to
On Clause 45
Clause 45 agreed to
On Clause 46
Clause 46 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 44.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will now turn to Bill No. 27.
Bill No. 27 - An Act to Amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act
Hon. Ms. Joe: The bill before us includes a number of changes that have been made in regard to recommendations that were made to my department. There were a number of suggested recommendations. We accommodated some of those.
The Member for Riverdale South, the critic for Justice, was asking a lot of questions in second reading. One of the major ones included a compilation of serious offenses and why that was not included in the act.
It was our intention to include that in the act and, after dealing with it through the department, and finding out whether or not it could be included in the act, it was suggested to us by the legal people in the department that we should not include it. We intend to make available a list of possible high-risk violations to those employers, in the form of an educational pamphlet, or in whatever form would be the best to get it out to the individuals.
I am not sure whether the Member requires more information than that. I will wait and see.
Mrs. Firth: The question I had for the Minister was, essentially, one question. I did not give her a complicated exercise to undertake. The report had recommended that the identification, or the list of specific high-risk violations, would be compiled and identified so that, as the penalties were increased and put in legislation, that information was also going to be given to the business community, so they knew what the high-risk penalties were going to be. The Minister has told me that that is going to be made into some type of a handout. When is that going to be done? Has any work been done on it?
Hon. Ms. Joe: No work has been started, but we intend to proceed with that. I cannot give a specific time when that work will be done, but they are working on the plan in regard to what will be included.
Any time that new amendments are made to the act, that kind of information has to get out to those individuals who are concernedel with the act. This is to make sure that people are aware of the amendments in the act. We intend to include in some of our pamphlets, a leaflet that explains the different issues, similar to the one that was done with the risk-reduction program. This leaflet would be included in a package and be made available to anyone who wanted the information.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that there is going to be just one special pamphlet made to address this issue? Is it not going to be put anywhere in legislation?
Hon. Ms. Joe: As I said, we have been advised that we should not include it in the legislation. There are other things already in the legislation that would indicate to the workers and employers out there what some of the violations are, and they are very specific. We have a new set of violations here that have been recognized through the risk-reduction program, which is an ongoing process of trying to build up and improve things.
The information I am talking about right now will be included in some form of leaflet that will be available. I cannot say, at this time, whether or not it will be included in a package, or leaflet, that includes other information. As I said, it is still in the discussion and planning stages, and we have to wait until we get this bill through the House and proclaimed before we can give out any more information.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us what the legal advice was and why it should not be put into legislation.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The information was in the form of a very long letter. I will briefly tell her what was in it. It is not the exact words, but I am told the proposed definition of serious offenses in the risk-reduction paper is not practical. Most offenses could result in serious injury or serious accident and that is why the act and regulations are established and their violation made offenses.
The law must be clear about what conduct is an offence. I believe the act and regulations are designed that way. The law also assures that, for most of the offenses, there is a defence of due diligence and honest mistake of facts.
For some, there is the necessity of proving a specific intention. We do not believe that all the concerns of business people of unwarranted prosecutions are well founded. If the defendant has done his or her statutory duty as far as it is reasonably practicable, there will be no offense; therefore, there is no reason to limit the offenses. Those will be prosecuted to a certain list.
I recognize that all of this is in legal terms. The lawyers may very well understand them completely. We just had a representation from the Member for Kluane with regard to legal language, so I am very aware that, when we present anything like this in the House, it may create a problem with those of us who do not understand all the legal terms. That is the information I have.
Mrs. Firth: That is just a legal opinion that the Minister has received. Essentially, it says that it is not practical, according to that legal opinion and the legal opinion is really contrary to what the report recommended. The report recommended that when it came to matching penalties to risk, the concern expressed by employers was that exposure to possible prosecution for any violation requires a response.
Prosecution under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, can be applied to any contravention of the act or regulations. The Occupational Health and Safety Act does not provide any clear guidance on when or under what circumstances the prosecution must or should be initiated. The decision of whether to initiate a prosecution is presently left to the discretion of the Yukon Occupational Health and Safety Branch. The courts then decide whether a contravention has occurred in determining the appropriate penalty.
The report went on further to say that some employers argued that prosecutions should be a prevention option of last resort for the most serious contraventions. While this position is consistent with current occupational health and safety practice, the act does not now specify that protection.
To establish the principle that prosecution should be used as a prevention option of last resort for situations involving the potential for serious injury or serious accident, it is recommended that the act be amended to limit prosecutions to situations involving the potential for serious injury or serious accident as defined in section 34 of the act.
It concerns me because there was supposed to be this balance. We all agreed upon that. We agreed that this report was acceptable and the government accepted this report, and occupational health and safety concurred with Workers Compensation. The business community concurred with labour and so on.
The Minister is now saying that because she received a legal opinion, she is disregarding the recommendation that was made by the report. Perhaps she could tell us why she is doing that.
Hon. Ms. Joe: We have legal people in our department for a reason, and that reason is to provide us with legal advice with regard to all kinds of things we do and, especially, when we put together legislation.
We are not ignoring the recommendation from the risk-reduction program, but we are not saying that what was recommended was not a very important part of what it is we want to do. It will be included in information we give to those individuals who do have a concern.
When we get legal advice in regard to any kind of legislation, we have to take that advice very seriously. In this case, we did. As I said before, and I want to repeat it again, we are not ignoring the recommendation of the risk-reduction report. If we did that, we would not be doing our job in a proper manner.
It is our intention to make sure that all the things included in the list will be a part of any kind of situation that involves a violation. It is very important for that to occur. The Member for Riverdale South has mentioned the list we have here where in some cases, injury and death has occurred. It is not something we are ignoring because it is not in the legislation, but we will be dealing with it.
Mrs. Firth: So, the only reason they are not taking the recommendation is because they opted to take the legal opinion. That is what the Minister is saying. There is no valid reason for not accepting the recommendation of the report and everybody who agreed with the report, other than that the Minister has chosen to accept the legal opinion. If I was the Minister, my preference would be to go with the report, which everyone had agreed to. Labour had been consulted, and business, and Workers Compensation and occupational health and safety.
The report went on to say that to be effective, prosecutions and penalties must be applied in a consistent manner in situations where employers and workers understood the basis for the penalty action, and so as to promote compliance with the act and regulations in a consistent and appropriate manner, it was recommended that written policy guidelines be established by occupational health and safety to ensure that clear procedures for recommending and processing prosecutions under section 48 of the act and of the guidelines be made available to the employers and workers. Could the Minister tell us if that has been done?
Hon. Ms. Joe: That was a process that was already in place; it has come to a bit of a standstill right now, but will be continued. We recognize that we had to meet some of the recommendations here but it is something that we will be doing.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us when they are going to be doing that?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The position of manager in the occupational health and safety branch has been filled by an acting position, so we are short a person or so in that branch. When that position is filled, which will be fairly soon, we will be starting to do a lot of the things that we have not been able to complete.
Mrs. Firth: I guess the concern I want to express is this: first of all, it was recommended that this be done in a balanced way. I do not have a problem with the increase in the fines and the penalties because that was a recommendation of the report. It was also a recommendation that this other exercise should go on in conjunction with the increase in the fines. I think it makes it look very unbalanced.
I appreciate the shortage of staff and everything, but it does make it look like it was more of a priority of the government to rush in there and implement the recommendations about the fines, and by doing so it would be taking one side of the argument as opposed to taking a balanced approach. I guess what I would like to recommend to the Minister is that the policy guidelines be done as soon as possible and I would like her to send me a copy when they are finished.
I would also certainly like to see a copy of the handbook that is going to be produced with respect to the list of specific high-risk violations. I will then have to follow up with the Minister when we sit next time as to whether the legal opinions should be challenged and whether that should not also be included in the legislation in the form of an amendment as the report originally recommended. That would be my preference of direction and I am prepared to follow up with the Minister.
If I could get some commitment from the Minister to provide me with that information, then we can proceed with line-by-line debate.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have no problem with providing the information that I said we would.
I would like to talk about the branch in itself, and how, as a result of a lot of planning, the branch has been reorganized to make it a little more effective. As the Member knows, we have had to do that through the devolution of the mine safety program. We have had to reorganize in order to be a little bit more organized. We have also had to implement the risk reduction program along with the three employees whom we have had to hire.
The whole occupational health and safety branch has been reorganized to make it more effective to meet the needs of those workers out in the field. A lot of the recommendations that we are working with right now are time consuming. We would like to be able to put everything in place right away but that does take time. It is our intention to follow through on the recommendations that were provided to us.
I will provide the Member with the information as soon as it becomes available. I am assured that those things will be put in place.
Mrs. Firth: Regarding the organization of the department, I have been following the job position advertisements in the paper. The Minister said today that there are two vacant positions still remaining. Could she tell us which ones those are?
Hon. Ms. Joe: There is one vacant position for the manager. That has been advertised, and people have been interviewed. The position should be filled shortly.
Mrs. Firth: Have there been any other initiatives with respect to combining occupational health and safety and the Workers Compensation Board? They seem to work in conjunction with one another, and funds go back and forth. Could the Minister give us some information about that?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I will tell the House that there will be a meeting for an entire day, some time this month, of Workers Compensation Board people and occupational health and safety people to look at the programs and how they tie in together. I do not know what will come out of that meeting. We will know at the end of the day.
Mrs. Firth: I may be presumptuous saying this, but I would guess that occupational health and safety would not be too keen on this type of arrangement. I do not know why they would not, but I can only guess that, for some specific reasons, they may not. Does the Minister anticipate that there will be some initiative or direction taken toward looking at combining them? Are people going to be consulted? Perhaps, it would then become a matter between the Minister responsible for occupational health and safety and the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board, and occupational health and safety would have to be taken out of Justice. Is that under review? How is that sitting with everyone?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board and I have had many discussions with regard to the route we would like to take. A date has already been set for the meeting we are proposing, and a lot of those things will be discussed there. When we come out of that meeting, we will all have a better understanding of what exactly the plan is. I cannot tell you whether or not occupational health and safety would be reluctant to do that. If that were a decision, there are other things to be taken into consideration that would not even fall under the mandate of Workers Compensation. Occupational health and safety takes in a number of things.
Mrs. Firth: Are there going to be minutes kept of that meeting? Could I be provided with either the minutes or, at least, the results of the meeting, so I know whether occupational health and safety is going to remain in Justice or go to Workers Compensation, and the reasons for it doing whatever it is going to do?
I do not think that is technical, high-powered, confidential information. I just want to be informed as to what the concerns are and what the results of the meeting are.
Hon. Ms. Joe: It would be very easy for me to stand here and say, yes, I will provide them, but I cannot make that commitment. The meeting we have will give us all kinds of information that is necessary to make any decision. Any time you make a big decision like that, of course, it has to go through a whole process of planning and, in the end, it would have to be a Cabinet decision, not one we make that very day at the meeting.
Any information we do get out of that meeting would be what we call an internal working document. I am afraid I would not be able to make a commitment to provide the Member with that.
Mrs. Firth: Obviously, the meeting is going to be controversial. Otherwise, the information would be forthcoming, so it is not going to be a smooth road.
Can the Minister tell us again when the meeting is going to be held? I can follow up with a written request for information.
Hon. Ms. Joe: It is scheduled for sometime this month. I do not know the exact day, but it is a day that we propose to be out of session.
Mrs. Firth: I will just put the Minister on notice that I will be following up with a written request asking about the outcome of the meeting and whether any decisions have been arrived at, and I will be expecting to hear from her about it.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Madam Chair report Bill No. 27 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 44, Highways Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Further, the Committee has considered Bill No. 27, An Act to Amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and directed me to report same without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move 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. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:25 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 9, 1991:
Review of respiratory illnesses resulting from workplace environment (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 899
Yukon Housing Corporation, amount spent on interim chief financial officer (Hayden)
Oral, Hansard, p. 852
Service contracts with John Crump re land claims secretariat and acting communications advisor (McDonald for Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 821
Protests in government buildings, procedure (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 900
The following Document was filed May 9, 1991:
Discontinuation of foot clinic for seniors, effective May 1991 (Lang)