Tuesday, May 14, 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.
Point of Personal Privilege
Mr. Phillips: I rise on a point of personal privilege in relation to some remarks made by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services in Question Period yesterday. It is important that I correct the statements made by the Minister.
I raised the issue that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is restricting mortgages in the Watson Lake area and is no longer loaning funds for private homes that are related to the mining industry. The Minister said, and I quote, The Member talks about Watson Lake. He has not been around the Yukon to learn that Watson Lake is no longer considered a risk community, and that CMHC will back mortgages for housing in Watson Lake. That is how ill-informed the Member is.
The facts are: Watson Lake is considered a risk community by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation does not have an agreement with anyone to back mortgages in Watson Lake at the present time.
I verified my information this morning by contacting a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation official and by listening to statements made on CBC radio. It is obvious that it is the Minister who should know about this issue. He is not informed. The Minister should take more care in the future to bring more accurate and up-to-date information into this House.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I rise in response to the question raised by the Member. I too want to clarify for the record that no misinformation was provided in my statements yesterday. As a consequence of meetings that were held late last week and over the weekend, a conditional agreement has been proposed that would see Curragh Resources providing a subsidy to its employees that in turn would require that CHMC not designate Watson Lake as a risk community. It is an understanding of the conditional agreement that CHMC is prepared to drop its special designation of Watson Lake as a risk community and it would allow Yukon Housing to provide support through its programs to the residents of Watson Lake, whether they live in the community and work for the mine of not. The conditional agreement at the same time will provide for Yukon Housing to extend their program of ...
Speaker: Order please, I find there is no point of order. It is, in fact, a conflict between two Members. We will proceed to the Order Paper.
Speaker: Are there any Introductions of Visitors?
Tabling of Returns or Documents.
Reports of Committees.
Petition No. 8
Clerk: I have had the honour to review a petition, being petition No. 8, of the second session of the twenty-seventh Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Hon. Member for Watson Lake on May 13, 1991.
This petition meets the requirements as to form of the standing orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 66(1), petition No. 8 is deemed to have been read and received.
Speaker: Introduction of Bills.
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers.
Reinstatement of the seniors foot clinic
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I am pleased to rise today to inform members that the Whitehorse seniors foot clinic has been reinstated, following a meeting at our request with federal and Whitehorse health centre representatives. The next foot clinic will occur, as it would normally have been scheduled, on Tuesday, June 4. The clinic will continue once a month, on the first Tuesday of each month.
The clinic will operate with two people, arranged through the Department of Health and Social Services, three staff people from the Whitehorse Health Clinic, and one staff person from the Mt. McIntyre Native Health Centre. In addition, the clinic will continue to encourage a number of excellent volunteers to provide their valuable support services during the clinics.
About 30 seniors attend the clinic each month. As we all know, they value this service, both because it helps the comfort of their feet, and because it provides a chance to talk with others about general health and social interests.
It is also a useful way for staff to stay in touch with how people are doing and to provide some preventive health information and advice.
This joint initiative of the Whitehorse Health Centre, the Department of Health and Social Services and the Mt. Mcintyre Native Health Centre is a practical demonstration of how three agencies can work together to meet a community need in a way that makes the best use of available resources.
The Department of Health and Social Services has been supplying staff support to the foot clinic since April. I am pleased that an acceptable solution has been found that will allow the foot clinic to continue. I invite all the seniors who use this service to be sure to continue to schedule their regular foot clinic visits.
Mr. Lang: I just want to say that we are pleased to see the foot clinic continuing. It is a service the senior citizens value very much. It is used extensively by senior citizens throughout the community of Whitehorse. I find it hard to understand why this service would ever be threatened with being discontinued.
I am sure the senior citizens will be very pleased to hear the announcement. Many phoned me and came to my office, making it very evident that there was concern about the decisions that had been made by government.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The foot clinic is considered a positive and useful program by seniors and health workers alike and, certainly, by this government. We did not want to see the program closed. We have taken the necessary steps to make sure that it continues to operate in the future.
Resources are limited, but this program shows how various parties can pull together to support a health program that is valued by those who use it and is cost effective.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Faro strike
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for Economic Development, with regard to the strike at Faro, which has been going on for some six weeks now.
We understand that some of the truck owner/drivers affected by the strike are about to lose their rigs. We understand that some of the companies that are heavily reliant upon supplying various goods and services to the mine at Faro are suffering, and a ripple effect is taking place now throughout the Yukon;. Aside from Faro, this is particularly being felt in Whitehorse as the supply centre for the Yukon. I would like to know whether or not the Ministers department has been monitoring the economic impact of this strike?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The short answer is yes. The Department of Economic Development is acutely aware of the economic impact of the strike. We are conscious of the impact in terms of ripple effect elsewhere in different sectors. We are monitoring the situation closely and, as the Member is aware, as a government, we are not prepared to take a direct involvement in matters concerning the strike unless requested by both sides.
Mr. Phelps: Could the Minister tell us whether any programs are being put in place to cushion the impact on the companies and individuals who are affected by the ripple effect of the strike?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is aware that we currently have a number of programs that would serve to be a reasonable response to rippling effects on the economy of people in other sectors affected by the strike, such as the truck drivers the Member mentions. Immediately, our business development program comes to mind. At the same time, the Department of Economic Development is quite prepared to receive any representation, either from the Member or from individuals who feel that some support or assistance may be required to tide them over for this period.
Mr. Phelps: Has the department been in communication with any of the companies involved, or any of the owner/operators of trucks that are affected by the strike?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot confirm that definitively. I can only assume that those communications are occurring by virtue of the monitoring that we are doing. As I indicated to the Member earlier, as the strike develops, we have close to an accurate analysis of the impact on an ongoing basis.
The Member will also recognize that, in the early stages of any strike, the impact is not immediately felt, and is not as severe. As we are now progressing into the fifth and sixth week of the strike, rippling effects are being felt.
Question re: Faro strike
Mr. Phelps: I would like to make it clear that I would like to see the Ministers department open a line of communication with the companies and owner/operators involved to ensure there is an adequate response to some of the personal problems that are being caused by the strike.
Moving on, in answer to an earlier question, the Minister said they were standing by. Are they doing anything to encourage a dialogue between the two parties - the union and the company at Faro - in order to try to get this matter resolved?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member recognizes that matters of labour dispute are sensitive. Over the past number of decades, labour jurisprudence has precisely established the responsibilities and procedures to be followed in matters of a labour dispute.
Nevertheless, in direct response to the Members question, the short answer is yes, this government is encouraging open communication between the two sides. We, as a government - and I, as a Minister and MLA for the area - are maintaining a very close communication with both sides. I regularly speak to the union executive, as well as company officials.
The encouragement for both sides to resume negotiations is supported, but that is a matter between the two sides and they will decide when that is appropriate.
Mr. Phelps: I am concerned about this hands-off attitude that the government is taking. I can clearly remember what occurred in the 1970s, when I at that time acted on behalf of the union during some major strikes at Faro. I can recall the head of the government at that time, who was Commissioner Smith, taking a fairly pro-active role in trying to get the parties to continue dialogue and settle the strikes - not just one strike, but several strikes in a row.
I would like to know what this government is going to do in a pro-active manner to encourage either the unions to come and meet with a Minister or to encourage the parties to get back together. The precedent is very clear in my mind; what was done in the 1970s ought to be followed now.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is of a legal mind and a former lawyer, perhaps a current lawyer. The Member knows that in matters of labour disputes interference by third parties can often create more conflict, confusion and damage to the resolution of the dispute than a hands-off approach.
Now the pro-active approach that we are taking is to maintain open dialogue with both sides, to encourage both sides to maintain open dialogue with each other, which has occurred, and to encourage them to resume negotiations at the appropriate time when they choose do to so.
The Member raises the historical precedent, as he perceives it, in the 1970s. I was in Faro in the 1970s and I was there through 17 strikes. There was no third party interference to resolve them, and where there was third party interference it created more problems than not.
I would like to remind the Leader of the Opposition that in the early 1980s, when United Keno went on strike, there was no interference by the government of the day, for the eight months that it took for the two sides to reach a resolution on their contract.
Mr. Phelps: I was there. In the 1970s, the Commissioner took a pro-active role, but it was not interfering. It was one of encouragement. He acted as a person who would listen to both sides to try to encourage dialogue.
Has this government communicated with the federal labour Minister in order to see what appropriate role this government might take? I ask that because two weeks ago in this House, the Minister said that this government had not been in touch with the labour Minister.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is acutely aware of labour jurisprudence and knows that section 4 of the federal labour code covers matters in relation to labour disputes. It is entirely inappropriate for third-party interference.
Perhaps there is not that much variance between the Members point of view and our point of view if we are talking about encouragement. That is occurring in the pro-active mode of encouraging open dialogue between all parties, but it is not appropriate to interfere.
In respect of the federal labour Minister, labour law lays out procedures quite clearly. It would not be appropriate for this government to ask the federal Minister to do more than he has done, which was to set up the conciliation process that has concluded.
Without the request of both sides to the labour dispute, it would be most inappropriate indeed.
Question re: Faro strike.
Mr. Phelps: I do not want to take up all of Question Period with this matter unless it is entirely necessary. I asked a simple question. It was whether or not the Minister had been in touch with the labour Minister in Ottawa to see if there was an appropriate role this government could play. Could the Minister answer yes or no? Has this government been in communication with the labour Minister in Ottawa regarding this extremely important strike?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As it was two weeks ago, the answer is no.
Question re: Environment Act, witnesses before Committee
Mr. Lang: I would like to ask a question of the Minister of Renewable Resources. It has to do with the Environment Act and the process that will be undertaken for the purposes of scrutinizing the bill that is before the House.
Last evening, the Minister and I had a brief discussion about witnesses appearing before the Committee of the Whole in order that all interested parties could present their observations about the act and, perhaps, what further changes could be made to make it a better piece of legislation.
Could the Minister confirm our agreement that witnesses will be able to begin appearing Wednesday evening to present their views?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, it is my understanding that, tomorrow night, we start to receive witnesses who will be appearing before this legislative body. There was no agreement as to how many witnesses would be permitted to appear before the Legislature and how long that process would take.
Mr. Lang: The inference I got from our discussion was that we would see how many actually wanted to appear and how the Committee of the Whole went.
I want to ask the Minister if he will confirm that all interested parties will have the opportunity to appear as long as they arrange it through the Chair of the Committee, Ms. Kassi.
The reason I ask this question, in part, is because a lot of people are not even aware that they will have the opportunity to appear before the Committee.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I assumed we would follow the standard procedure for witnesses appearing before the legislative body. It is a very standard practice not very often used. I believe the last time was last year when we had four, or perhaps six, witnesses appear during debate on the Childrens Act. The Member keeps referring to all interested parties. I would like to get some sort of indication from the Member opposite who he is referring to as all interested parties. Is he suggesting that anybody who wants to appear before the Legislative Assembly should have the opportunity to do so?
Mr. Lang: The bill we have before us in the House is a very important piece of legislation and one that will have a long-term effect on the territory. I think it should be of concern to all Members that we get the best piece of legislation that we possibly can in the final act. My concern is basically this: there are quite a number of people who have expressed an interest in the legislation through the public process that was put into place back in January. After that, some interest groups were given the opportunity to comment on a draft piece of legislation that no one else saw. Now we have a product...
Speaker: Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: Am I supposed to answer his question? Is this question for him or for me?
To conclude, I would just like to ask the Minister this: I feel that any parties who are interested and have something to contribute to the legislation and are able to recommend constructive changes to the act - and as long as it is arranged properly through the Chair and through the Committee of the Whole - they should have the opportunity to appear.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will not dispute with the Member that this is indeed a very important piece of legislation. I certainly agree with him on that. As far as his call for all interested parties to appear before this Legislative Assembly as witnesses, I gather that the Member is asking for another round of public consultation. Is this what he is searching for? I am only asking these questions for some clarification.
Question re: Environment Act, witnesses before Committee
Mr. Lang: The reality of the situation is that we have quite a different bill before this House than what was put through the public consultation process that numerous people appeared before. The question I want to ask the Minister is this: during the Committee of the Whole is there opportunity to have witnesses appear? There was a common agreement between the Minister and myself that witnesses should be able to appear. Is he limiting the number of witnesses, and if so how is he going to go about doing it, and how is he going to decide who is going to appear and who is not going to appear?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I imagine the system would work the same way it has worked in the past: the side opposite would suggest a number of names of people who could appear as witnesses and we would suggest a number of names, and we would come to some agreement as to who would sit on that panel as witnesses. I do not see a process, though, whereby it is an ongoing one where everyone who wants to express a desire to appear as a witness is provided that opportunity. I think in that situation we could possibly be here for the next three or four weeks, if not longer.
Mr. Lang: As far as I know, the Minister gets paid on a daily basis by the taxpayers of the Yukon Territory and our first responsibility happens to be in this House, whether the Minister likes it or not. If it has to take three weeks or four weeks to get a better piece of legislation then I submit to the Minister that perhaps he should take the time and be prepared to listen to what people have to say. I do not see there being that many people who would want to appear, quite frankly, but there are different points of view as far as the legislation is concerned. It is not a question of a them and an us situation as far as the bill is concerned. Various issues affect different sectors of our society and those sectors want to appear to speak specifically to their areas.
I want to ask the Minister if it is his intention, for a period of time, to allow witnesses to appear?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have proposed nothing out of the ordinary, nor anything that deviates from the standard procedure of this House. In the past, the procedure has been that a number of people appear before the Legislative Assembly as witnesses, to be asked questions, usually in a process of two or four hours, and that is the end of it. The process after that is that we go straight into Committee of the Whole, whereby the Member opposite is free to ask the Minister sponsoring the bill to respond to the questions. That Member, of course, can be approached by members of the public with their concerns and bring them forth at that time.
Mr. Lang: First of all, I want to correct the record. The witnesses appear before the Committee of the Whole; that is the procedure, therefore, the Minister should perhaps review what he has just said.
My concern is that this is not a situation like the Day Care Act where there were those who were for the act in totality and those who were opposed to it in totality. In other words, a panel for the act and a panel against the act. This is an act...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: I have been approached by at least three parties who would like to appear. They do not want to appear as a panel on behalf of one political party or another; neither do they want to appear on behalf of a group. There are different issues at hand, the way they see it, which they would like to address. I am suggesting to the Minister that the procedure to be followed would be for those who wish to appear as representatives of bodies to appear as an organization and put their point of view on the record.
Is the Minister going to permit that?
Hon. Mr. Webster: People have had ample opportunity to put their concerns on the record. I think what the Member opposite is now proposing is another round of public consultation. I have said on the floor of this House, on many occasions, that there comes a time for the consultative process to stop and to proceed with the task at hand.
We have had a very lengthy consultation process, involving two stages. We are at the point now where we have prepared a revised bill, which is before this House, and we want to proceed with debating that bill in the normal procedure. As I have already stated, normal procedure is one where witnesses do appear in Committee of the Whole in this Legislative Assembly and, following that, we continue with the clause-by-clause debate.
Question re: Environment Act, witnesses before Committee
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up with the Minister of Renewable Resources with respect to this same issue. The issue we are concerned about is the process and how open it is.
The Minister keeps referring back to what happened before. I agree with the Child Care Act. We had two panels, but there was never a limitation put on the number of people who could appear. From the Ministers comments, it would seem that we now have a new policy that says it will be one night only, Wednesday night. There will be only six people: you pick three, we pick three. Then, that will be the end of the consultative process.
We, on this side of the House, do not think that is a fair process. I understand there have been a few more people than six who have agreed to ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the question.
Mrs. Firth: ... appear. I think it would be in the best interest to hear what all these people have to say.
Is it consistent with the Ministers policy that there only be six people allowed and that the consultation will only be allowed on one night?
Hon. Mr. Webster: This is a matter for the House Leaders to resolve. I understand there have already been some discussions between the Opposition House Leader and the Government House Leader as to what kind of procedure we will establish for this process.
Mrs. Firth: It is not an issue for House Leaders. It is an issue for the Minister. I want to know what the Minister is prepared to do, and what his policy is with respect to public consultation.
In the sense of fairness surrounding this issue, is the Minister prepared to allow all people who want to come and make a presentation here to the Legislative Assembly to do that? Will he allow all those people, who have submitted a request to the Chair of Committee of the Whole, to come and be a witness?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to repeat, very strongly, that I do not establish the policy as to how we do business in this House. That is a matter for discussion among the House Leaders.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying then - as I first asked - that it is the policy of this government that there will be only six people allowed? You pick three; we pick three. That is what we were told. Is that what the policy is going to be, or may all 10 people appear and make a presentation? We are asking in the issue of fairness. You cannot choose six people out of 10 and tell some people that their opinions are not as important as others. That is all that we are asking.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will answer because the policy of who comes before the Legislative Assembly is not the policy of any individual MLA or Minister. It is a policy that is established firstly, by precedent and secondly, by discussion between the various MLAs through the House Leaders. I have expressed the opinion of our caucus on this matter to the Leader of the Official Opposition, and I have indicated to the Member what our preferences are with respect to this matter, given the fact that there has been extensive public consultation on this bill to date.
I will remind the Member for Riverdale South that, in the past when we did discuss the Child Care Act, there were limitations put on the numbers of persons who could come forward, and there was a limitation put on the time that those people would have to give evidence to the Members in Committee.
The view of our caucus is that there has been extensive public consultation and the time has come for MLAs, now that they have been able to do their homework and have had issues clearly identified to them through the public consultation process and through the contacts that they will have with their constituents, to debate this bill. The bill is on the Order Paper for this afternoon - I would remind you, Mr. Speaker - for second reading debate. We then can take as much time as the Members opposite wish to debate the bill in Committee, clause by clause.
Question re: Environment Act, witnesses before Committee
Mrs. Firth: The issue at hand here is not how long the Members want to debate the bill. We can sit here for the next three months and debate the bill. It is the people out there who want the opportunity to come out and make their representation here in the Legislature, as they have been invited to do.
I understand that there are some 10 people who want to make presentations. The government is saying that only six people will be allowed. We are saying that is not fair. The government is saying to those other people who are being excluded that their opinions are not as important as the six who will be allowed.
I would like to ask the government to reconsider their policy and the rules they have set out - whatever they want to call it - and tell all the individuals who want to come to this Legislature to make a presentation to come. We are not talking about thousands of people here.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The proposal this side of the House has put forward with respect to this matter - given the fact that there has been significant public consultations in virtually every community in the territory and extensive bilateral consultation with various interests - is that we would allow, given the fact that it is time for the MLAs to debate this issue, for a representative group of persons to come forward. The logic escapes me in the idea that if 10, 20 or 100 people come forward, they all must be given, for the sake of fairness, sufficient time to express their views before this Assembly.
I would remind Members that the practice of having the public come before the Committee to give evidence has not been practiced extensively in this Legislature. This government has, in recent years, permitted this more and more because we felt that circumstances did warrant it from time to time. We feel, however, for this particular piece of legislation, there is sufficient justification for allowing a representative group to come before the Committee once, briefly, before the Committee debates this item. This opportunity has been afforded to Members.
There has been extensive public consultation on this act. The time has come for elected Members to do their homework and debate this legislation, given that the issues are very well known to the public. The details of this legislation are also well known. The Members should be able to manage a debate very well on their own.
Mrs. Firth: There has not been large, public consultation on this new act. Some groups may have had some consultation, but not all of the people who want to make presentations have had that opportunity.
All over Canada, Canadians are talking about participation...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: I am talking about participating, along with the decisions that the government is making.
There are not 20, 50 or 100 people who have asked to come forward. There are about 10 people. I would like to ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister of the Environment should talk to the House Leader as well.
There have been approximately 10 people. We do not agree on this side that it should be restricted to only six.
We would like to ask the government if they would be prepared to open up the consultation process and allow all the people who have submitted submissions to come and make their presentation before the Assembly?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated this morning to the Opposition House Leader, there have been 10 people who have expressed a desire to appear. By the end of the day, I cannot guarantee that that number will remain the same.
I recall being lectured by at least one Conservative Minister when I questioned the extent of public consultation on a particular measure. That Member said I was paid to debate this legislation and if I was afraid to be in this Legislature then I should go elsewhere.
Let me tell the Members clearly that this government has set new precedents when it comes to public consultation. We had extensive public meetings in every community in this territory, including Whitehorse.
We have presented draft legislation which was never done by the previous Conservative government. We have introduced draft legislation to the public.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have also gone through extensive working discussions with various interest groups and individuals with respect to it. We have accepted written submissions. We are well aware of the issues. There has already been very extensive public consultation.
Question re: Environment Act, witnesses before Committee
Mr. Lang: The legislation before us has been public since May 6, for approximately one week. It is an entirely different format, and there are a number of different issues, compared to the discussion paper that was released by the Minister in January. Subsequently, there are significant changes between the previous discussion paper and this bill. Some people have not even received the bill, because it has been in the public domain for such a short period of time.
It is a very important piece of legislation. We all agree on that. I have been approached by the Mayor of Whitehorse, who would like to appear on behalf of the municipality of Whitehorse. I have directed him, as agreed upon between me and the Minister, to the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
The president of the Chamber of Mines has also indicated that that body would like to appear before the House. This gentleman does not have the same concerns as the Mayor of Whitehorse.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the question.
Mr. Lang: After Question Period, would the Minister be prepared for the House Leaders to get together and set up a reasonable process for those parties, who are very interested in the legislation, to have the opportunity to come before this House, as opposed to bringing a closure on public consultation into effect?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I want to caution the Member on the use of the word closure. House rules for our Legislature do not permit closure. If Members want to debate the Environment Act until next September, without a break, I am certain we can accommodate them, because we will not be invoking closure in this debate.
It is also important to point out that the House rules permit extensive delay in debate for due consideration of all measures. We are going to go through three readings of this particular piece of legislation. We also will have potentially unlimited time spent in Committee dealing with this particular measure.
The issues that were identified in the draft legislation are issues that are relevant today. The views and expressions of interest the various groups and the public have made with respect to those principles must be known to the Members opposite.
Incidentally, we can add to the list by at least one. I had not seen the Mayor of Whitehorses name on the list this morning. That only goes to show that there will be others.
Mr. Lang: Just so the Member is aware, the Mayor of Whitehorse approached me over the weekend about how he would go about applying to appear before the Committee of the Whole, and I gave him the information yesterday.
In view of the fact that there obviously is not an agreement on this question, we were told through our House Leader what was going to happen. There were no negotiations about who was going to appear and how. I would like to think that the side opposite would be conciliatory enough to meet, as I suggested, with myself as the critic, the Minister responsible for the bill and the two House Leaders, to have a look at the number of organizations and individuals who have applied to appear before the House, and reach an agreement that would permit those people who can contribute toward a better piece of legislation to have the right to appear before the House.
Will the Minister of Renewable Resources undertake to meet with me after Question Period?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member will know that I am one of the most easy-going House Leaders in the history of this Legislature. I do communicate every morning with my dear counterpart, the Member for Riverdale North. I am more than happy to meet with the Member at any time on any subject the Member wishes, as the Member knows. If the Member wishes to discuss this matter further with me, I am certainly going to make myself available.
We have been more than open, including allowing a large portion of Question Period to be dedicated to a matter that is going to be before the Legislature this afternoon; in my view, this is contrary to the rules of the Legislature, but then again I am just being an easy-going guy.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: I am glad we got that sorted out and that there will be a meeting.
My question is to the Minister of Health and Socal Services, a follow-up on questions asked earlier on the Na Dli Youth Centre. I have read over the Ministers answers to my questions and her answers to questions by the Member for Porter Creek East, and what the Minister seems to be saying is that everything is fine, come on a tour. I accept her invitation and I will come on a tour of the facility.
I would like to know now if the Minister will accept my concerns and those of CYI, the parents, young offenders and even some of the staff at Na Dli and order some sort of an enquiry into the near tragedy that took place at that facility and into other questions with respect to the operation of Na Dli in general?
I will not accept the Minister standing up and saying, to quote her, everyone was doing their jobs well.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I am pleased to hear that the Member has accepted the invitation to Na Dli. As I said before, we have nothing to hide. The accusation that staff were not doing their job dismays me. I think that where our concerns should be now is with the kids who are in the facility, not focused so highly on rules, regulations and, specifically, on staff, although they certainly have a great role to play in it.
In response to the Members question about a review process, I certainly have been discussing that with Members. At the present time we are attempting to find a person suitable to all parties to carry out that review.
Mr. Nordling: What we really need is a decision by this government about what it expects of the Na Dli facility. The Minister has said that she wants to turn it into a community facility. What I would like to know is: what does that mean, how will it be done and how will turning it into a community facility prevent a tragedy in the future, which at the rate we are going seems inevitable?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: There is no fear on our part of opening up the facility to have people come to see it. I think that is a first step. That is not the only procedure that will be undertaken or is in process in relation to looking after the kids who are in custody or in care.
There have been escapes from Na Dli, but this does not mean that the facility is a failure. In fact, we as a government support the need for directed programming for young people in trouble. No amount of effort is too much trouble, when we remember that we are dealing with young people who need our help.
These are kids who have multiple problems. The solutions are not easy. Perhaps we will never find the magic formula that will make this into the perfect facility, but we are trying.
Mr. Nordling: I do not know how public tours are going to make it into a community facility. The Minister has not answered my question.
I would like to know if the policy has changed. I asked about the incident that resulted in a young girl almost dying. I got a legislative return from the Minister saying that incident reports are not public information. Then, yesterday, the Minister...
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Nordling: ...gave a fairly detailed incident report on the escape. I wonder if the policy had changed and if I would now be able to get a little more information on the incident involving the young girl?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: In relation to the incident the Member speaks of, there certainly were many more people involved than officials. It was through courtesy to those people, the family and the care givers that more information was not given out.
I would like to correct the premise the Member has made about the young person almost dying. Reports from physicians say that this was not an emergency. Certainly the person was ill and required surgery, but she was not within minutes of dying.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
Notice of Business
Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 14(5), I would request unanimous consent of the House to call Motion No. 52, Motion No. 39, Motion No 53, Motion No. 20,: under Motions Other than Government motions, when that business is called on Wednesday, May 15, 1991. I would also like to request unanimous consent to Motions for the Production of Papers not to be called.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Member: Agreed
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills
Bill No. 20: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 20, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Webster.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Webster: It gives me great pride and pleasure to speak to the Environment Act. As Members know, Yukon people have become increasingly conscious in recent years that our environment and the wilderness that surrounds us can no longer be taken for granted. As long ago as 1986 and 1987, during the Yukon 2000 process that led to the Yukon Economic Strategy, people from all walks of life and from all parts of the Yukon articulated their attachment to this land. They stressed the importance of preserving our ways of life, our unique access to wilderness and the outdoors, and our opportunities for hiking, hunting, fishing and boating, which are important parts of our lives in Yukon.
Just as importantly, people recognized and emphasized the need to protect our resources for economic reasons because we, as will our children, depend on them for our wellbeing. We cannot be a healthy people if our land is sick, and the resources upon which we depend are crippled.
The roots of the Environment Act, the bill that is before us today, lie in this simple recognition. If we respect what we have and use it wisely, our grandchildren will be able to make their homes in the Yukon and enjoy the lifestyles that hold us here. If we protect our environment from abuse - not use, but abuse - will continue to give us what we need for rich and fulfilling lives.
In todays global village we see in the images that flash from our television screens - far to many examples of the consequences of failing to protect the environment.
Unthinking and irresponsible human activity, undertaken without thought to environmental consequences, threatens the life-sustaining capability of planet earth itself.
Through the 1980s, successive international, national and regional studies detailed the consequences of past neglect and current abuse of the environment. A review of these studies was undertaken in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission, the World Commission of Environment and Development. Its report, Our Common Future, proposed a new approach to the problems facing both the environment and development, the human activities required to sustain life.
That report, produced at the same time as people in the Yukon were talking about an appropriate economic strategy for the territory, was studied here with intense interest. It helped to inspire the efforts of the people who made up the public working group, as well as Department of Renewable Resources personnel, who were working on the development of the Yukon Conservation Strategy.
As Members know, the Conservation Strategy is a plan for the wise use of our resources, which compliments the Yukon Economic Strategy. In the course of preparing the strategy, much time was spent analyzing our present resource and environmental management tools. As this work continued, it became increasingly evident that the hodge-podge of federal and territorial legislation, which provides the framework for resource management in the Yukon, was ineffective for achieving desired results.
It also became clear that the Yukons own role with regard to environmental management was likely to change, as the federal government transferred responsibilities to the territory. It would have to change, if we wanted to manage our resources in the best interests of Yukon people.
In some areas, there was no management at all. There was no air pollution standards for the territory; there were no standards for waste management; there was nothing to regulate the use of pesticides. In a number of areas that are currently, and clearly, Government of Canada responsibilities, there were concerns. Federal forestry management practices were widely seen as being deficient. The federal water management process was seen to have shortcomings. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act was seen as being too limited in scope to be of much real use in dealing with Yukon problems.
Not surprisingly, when the Yukon Conservation Strategy was released in its final form about a year ago, a Yukon environment act was identified as a top priority.
The work that went into the strategy was very helpful as we began work on the Environment Act. The analysis of federal and territorial legislation had given us a very clear picture of where gaps existed.
In early 1990, a review of environmental legislation in other jurisdictions was undertaken. It was used to help prepare the Environment Act discussion paper that was released last summer at the first stage of public consultations.
I had the opportunity to be directly involved in those first-stage consultations, and to hear firsthand what Yukon people had to say about the environment. It became very clear, early in the process, that there were recognized environmental problems in most Yukon communities. There were concerns about air pollution at Watson Lake, about ground water pollution at Beaver Creek and about water contamination in Carcross and Whitehorse. Almost every community had waste-management concerns.
In Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay, people spoke about habitat destruction. People also spoke about their own local efforts to deal with environmental problems. In Teslin, I heard about the wetlands sewage treatment. I visited the well-managed dump in Haines Junction, where garbage is carefully segregated so that it can be reused or recycled. Almost everywhere, people wanted measures taken to make it possible for them to do more recycling. People emphasized the need for individuals to take more responsibility for their environmental decisions.
People recognized the need for economic development, but told me that it has to be done more responsibly than some that they had seen. They told me that environmental decisions should keep the economy in mind and that economic decisions should not be made without considering the environment.
They told me that it is important that people have the information they need to make good environmental decisions. They said that they need the facts about the environmental consequences of projects in operation or projects being planned for their areas.
They want more say about developments that will affect them, their lifestyles and their futures. They stressed the importance of environmental education for our children.
Some people who spoke to me were angry. They told me of polluted water, of lands scarred and then left and about wasted resources. They talked about leaking oil drums and of abandoned dump sites. They told me that what we need are tough standards and laws with teeth.
Many of the problems that people spoke about are not within the Yukons jurisdiction right now, but will be eventually, as we assume responsibilities from the Government of Canada.
People told me that we should not wait for devolution; they wanted an environment act as soon as possible.
When the first phase of consultation ended in October of last year, we began detailed work on a draft Yukon environment act with a clear set of directions from people all over the Yukon. The act had to put a lot of emphasis on individual responsibilities and rights, and provide the opportunity for people to get involved in environmental decision making. It had to stress the interdependence of the economy and the environment. The act must be one that will meet the challenges of the future as we must not be the last generation to enjoy the Yukons natural resources. Although it should not overlap federal jurisdiction, it had to allow for eventual Yukon control of matters that are currently in the hands of the Government of Canada. The act also had to allow for the setting of strict standards of environmental behaviour, and provide stiff penalties for those who fail to live up to them.
The discussion draft of the Environment Act that was released in December 1990 was a direct response to the set of instructions we received from the Yukon people last fall. It had, we felt, all the key elements people had demanded.
Admittedly, the discussion draft was not a masterpiece; it had some rough spots, but it covered all the bases. It got peoples ideas down on paper and laid out a fairly detailed proposal for further comment; I am pleased so many people took us up on that opportunity. Over the past several months, the act development process has benefited from those comments. Over a dozen individuals and organizations took the time to review the draft in detail and offer written suggestions for improvement. In meetings with municipal councils, with non-government organizations, the public, business groups and environmental advocates, people have ranted and raved about the draft act and then, for the most part, proceeded to propose specific changes to address their concerns.
The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment sponsored a set of sectorial workshops and provided us with a carefully considered report.
The rolling draft of the act, which we maintained during the second stage of consultations, showed constant improvement. Successive reviews restructured the act, tightened the language, clarified concepts and removed ambiguities.
Following the April 5 deadline for comment on the draft, we met with groups who had provided detailed written submissions. We reviewed our responses to their proposals and were pleased with the support we received. Further refinements were made as a result of this process.
I want to take this opportunity to thank two organizations in particular: the Yukon Chamber of Mines and the Yukon Conservation Society. Each submitted lengthy detailed reports - one was 36 pages and the other 26 pages. They also found the time to sit down with us and meet over a number of hours to discuss their concerns and see how the new, revised act did address their concerns to the satisfaction of both parties.
The bill that we are considering today is a strong piece of legislation, because of the cooperative efforts of people in environmental and economic organizations, people in municipal and territorial governments and individuals from all walks of life.
They recognized the importance of strong legislation to ensure the protection of that which we value about life in the Yukon. Bill No. 20, entitled the Environment Act, offers ample evidence of its origins in the work of the Brundtland Commission and the Yukon Economic and Conservation Strategies. I doubt if there is another environment act in the country that entrenches the concept of sustainable development, or makes as many references to the economy in order to give sustainable development more substance than mere words. We have had to look for tools to keep this and future governments true to the concept.
This act is one of the first in the country to make the environment a public trust. This step is taken to ensure that future governments do not fall into the trap of managing resources as if there is no end to them or treating the environment as if there is no tomorrow. The fact that the environment is stated to be a public trust, means that it must be managed for the benefit of all who live in the Yukon, and not in the interests of only a few. It also means that the environment must be managed for those who will follow us, not only for the present generation.
The adoption of this public trust doctrine is a recognition by this government that we all have a responsibility for what happens to our environment. There is a popular adage that says, If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. This happens to be particularly true in regard to the environment. If you are not properly disposing of your waste crank case oil, you are contributing to future ground water pollution. If you buy products with excessive packaging, you are filling your local waste disposal site sooner than it should be filled.
What we do in the home, or in the workplace, the products that we choose to buy, many of the decisions that we make on a day-to-day basis have environmental dimensions. The government is no exception to this rule. In fact, because of its responsibilities and the broader consequence of its decisions, government must be required to take its environmental responsibilities very seriously.
This legislation puts in place some tools to make government live up to its responsibilities. One of the most important of these complements the idea of the public trust doctrine, at the same time that it helps to enforce it since the public trust establishes the environment as something in which we all have a common interest, and something for which we all should share responsibility, it seems logical to me that we all should share a common right to a safe, clean and healthy environment.
In recognition of this right, this act gives any adult person a right of action on behalf of the environment.
For those of us who are not lawyers, and we make up the majority in this Legislature, the right to act established by this act means that an individual can sue someone in court if he or she believes that this persons actions are impairing the environment.
This right of action will exist with the passage of this bill and regulations, regardless of whether or not the person suing is being directly affected by the person alleged to have impaired the environment. This differs from the common law where a person suing, the plaintiff, usually has to establish that his or her person or property has been negatively affected by the activity of the defendant.
To sum up, the public trust doctrine recognizes the environment as our common property. The right of action gives the individual the right to protect our common property through court action. Since this act establishes the Government of Yukon as a trustee of a public trust, the rights given to individuals to initiate court action have a whole other dimension than simply dealing with environmental problems created by individuals. This is because the government, itself, can be sued for failing to live up to its public trust responsibilities to protect the environment. In order to keep itself out of court, the government will be under constant pressure to ensure that it is a good environmental manager.
This idea that the environment is a public trust and that both government and individuals have rights and responsibilities with regard to the environment is the foundation on which this act is built.
Early in the development of this act, we thought about the logistics of its enforcement. We live in a vast territory. Our population is small. As we have found in the administration of other territorial legislation, this situations presents an enforcement dilemma. Although Members of the side opposite would sometimes have people believe that this government is committed to the creation of an ever-growing bureaucracy, we are, in fact, quite concerned about being able to operate effectively within the resources we have available to us. Even if we wanted to, with our small population and limited government revenues, it would be impossible to adequately look after all the territorys environment if we relied only on environmental protection officers to detect crimes against the environment.
Consequently, this act places a great deal of responsibility on individuals, both those who are regulated by the act, and those whose individual right to act on behalf of the environment are recognized by this act.
Although I have already identified the right of action as one of the foundation stones of this act, there are other individual rights articulated, which, I believe, will help to establish acceptable standards of environmental behaviour. These include the right to request investigations of environmental problems; the right to complain against abuses of authority in the administration of this act and have them followed up by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, and the public right to involvement in the drafting of regulations.
Before I describe each of these, I would like to take a moment to speak about the right of action in a little more detail. Following the release of the discussion draft last December, a number of people expressed the view that the right of action provisions in the act would make any poor, law-abiding home owner prey to prosecution and persecution by his neighbours, if he so much as mowed the lawn.
Although that suggestion stretched the interpretation of the right of action section, it did lead to a much more precise wording in the bill before us. To begin with, this bill makes it clear that the right of action does not apply to any activity until a regulation governing that type of activity comes into force, or until October 1, 1996, whichever comes first.
This provision is very important to the workings of the entire act. Essentially, it starts a clock ticking and sets a deadline for the completion of regulations for the individual who feels his activity may make him or her subject to court action, and for the government that might be sued for its failure to protect the public trust, it serves as an incentive to establish appropriate regulations.
I should also emphasize that the right of action is the right to pursue civil litigation in the Yukon Supreme Court. This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Just to take a case to court, with no certainty of a positive outcome, an individual would be looking at an expenditure of $3,000 to $5,000. To justify this kind of expenditure, people are going to want to be pretty confident that they have a very strong case that the environment has been impaired.
In addition, people contemplating action will want to be sure that the defendant is violating environmental regulations or the terms of an environmental permit. Conformity with the regulations or the permit is a defence to such an action. Confinement of the impairment of the environment to a residential property, owned by the defendant, is also a defence. This range of defences, as well as the basic costs and complications of initiating an action, should ensure that the right of action will not be used frivolously, once it is available to individuals.
Incidentally, since court-awarded damages for a general impairment of the environment are payable to the government, as trustee of the environment, the fear of environmental bounty hunters will not be realized.
The right to request investigations was another provision of the draft act that caused some concern when people first read it. Basically, this feature allows any two people who believe an activity is impairing the environment to request environmental authorities to investigate the matter. Some critics of the act have alleged that this amounts to turning neighbour against neighbour, and smacks of totalitarianism. I am afraid I cannot see the matter in that light. The act simply says that people have the right to report suspected crimes against the environment.
A request for investigation is simply that: a request. It is not a charge laid, or a conviction obtained without trial. It seems to me that what is proposed is not unlike the situation where a person believes he has witnessed his neighbour abusing his spouse, for example. In my view, he has a responsibility and a right to report what he has seen to the police. The investigation may give rise to charges. Some Members may feel that such incidents are no ones business, but that seems to suggest to me that people have the right to beat their spouse, and I cannot accept that suggestion.
Some people also seem to assume that a request for investigation amounts to a stop-work order. This is not the case. It simply means that an investigation would be triggered. If there was real cause for concern, or a danger to public health or safety, the person responsible would be asked to address the problem voluntarily. If this failed to happen, a stop-work order might be issued and charges laid.
I want to point out to Members that there are stiff penalties for people who knowingly make false statements requesting an investigation.
There are other mechanism for an individuals involvement on behalf of the environment. As is the case with most legislation, an individual can institute a private prosecution of an offence under this act.
People also have access to a complaints process under this act. At first glance, this process seems unremarkable, but it is significant. Essentially, anyone who has a complaint about the administration of this act can file that complaint with the Minister. There is nothing unusual about this provision. It usually goes without saying.
However, the procedure under this act requires the Minister to file all complaints received with the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. The council will then play an advisory role in the Ministers consideration of the complaint, and can suggest a variety of options to help resolve it. This, in itself, guarantees nothing, as the Minister can choose to ignore the councils suggestion. However, he or she would do so at his or her peril, as the council can make reports on complaints to the Legislative Assembly. To avoid public controversy, the Minister would be well advised to make an honest effort to resolve complaints.
All the aforementioned is focused on environmental rights that would likely be exercised by individuals or groups in somewhat exceptional circumstances. However, there is one feature of the environmental rights portion of the act that will be used with regularity by a large variety of individuals and groups, commencing soon after the act is passed. The rule-making section of the act makes a legislated commitment to public consultation on the drafting of regulations.
The rule-making provisions have been strengthened considerably, compared with those in the discussion draft. Consequently, the Minister is obliged, by the act, to consult with affected parties before developing, amending or revoking regulations under this act.
Clear provisions for public hearings are also laid out for the Minister, as well as a checklist to help determine when such hearings are appropriate.
In addition to this, the Minister is also obliged to observe a common period on regulatory proposals of not less than 60 days. That is double the time period proposed in the draft act.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this section of the act is the fact that any person, or group of persons, may initiate a proposal to make, amend or revoke regulations, and request a public review. This establishes an open process for regulation development, which will allow the public to establish regulatory priorities. As a result, the areas of the most urgent public concern are likely to be proposed for regulation first providing they are within the Yukons jurisdiction.
The consequental requirements for public review should ensure that no matter what the original regulatory proposal is, the eventual standards adopted will represent the best consensus possible on appropriate standards for the Yukon.
Since the act does establish a democratic standard for rule making, when judges are considering suits brought under the right of action provision of this act, they are going to think very carefully before they propose radical new standards as possible remedies in a court settlement.
In many ways, the features of the act that I have just outlined, are the unique aspects of the act. Although they are not yet common features of Canadian law, some of them have a well-established and effective tradition of environmental protection in other parts of North America. Others are logical developments of the Yukon standard for consultation that this government has set through the Yukon 2000 process, the economic and conservation strategies, the Council of the Economy and the Environment, and through cooperatively developed legislation such as the Education Act and this, the Environment Act.
In the State of Michigan, for example, a right of action under their environmental protection act has existed for more than 15 years. Contrary to those who cried wolf at the time that the legislation was introduced, it did not drive industry out of the state. Ford and General Motors still operate out of Detroit.
What the right of action has done, however, is to put more power in the hands of local people or groups of people. This has given them more say about what kinds of development take place around the communities and how it proceed. When Michigan and local governments have done a good job of screening developments and have respected local standards, the right of action has been little used. When governments have slackened off, people have resorted to the courts to put them back on the right track.
The one of the most distinguishing feature of this act is the combination of the individual right of action with the rule-making requirements. These two features taken together are, I believe, tools that will serve us and our environment well for years and years to come.
When standards are established, they should be rules that we all have to follow. This act binds the Government of Yukon to its provisions, just as it does to municipalities, businesses and individuals. It will become a law of general application in the Yukon, although federal legislation in regard to water management, land use permitting and forestry management will prevail until such time as responsibilities for those resources are transferred to the territorial government.
Unless specific exemptions from aspects of the act are negotiated through land claim agreements or self-government agreements, this act will also apply on settlement lands.
Our legal counsel has carefully screened the act to ensure that we are not stepping on jurisdictional toes. We are confident that we are competent to legislate in the areas we cover in this act. I would like to now turn to some other features of this act.
Since the heart of any environmental protection statute is often its development assessment process, I would like to outline that first.
The development assessment process set out in this act is quite basic in recognition of the unique situation in which we find ourselves right now. First, all major developments in the territory are now subject to federal environmental assessment review and we did not want to duplicate or overlap the existing process.
Second, the actual application of this section, at the present time, will be limited to projects that slip through the federal process and fall clearly within territorial jurisdiction
Third, the development assessment process, which will replace the federal process and be applied to all Yukon lands, is being developed through the land claims process and will become law within two years of a ratified agreement. That process will replace the rudimentary process that is established in the act.
Having said that, I should emphasize that the development assessment process established in this act is consistent with the process that will eventually apply to the whole territory, and one - to which I would like to bring your attention - that will be of equal authority with either federal legislation.
Both are designed to combine all terms for project approvals into one permit, so that potential developers are not bounced from office to office seeking the appropriate licences. Regulations developed under the rule-making provisions of the act will determine what class of activities will require what levels of scrutiny before they are approved.
Readers of this bill will note a major change in organization from the discussion draft. Sections that dealt separately with water, forest, wilderness, and so on, have been combined in one part of this bill, entitled Integrated Resource Planning and Management.
As we assume responsibilities from the federal government, it will be increasingly possible to look after the environment as a system, as nature does, rather than as component parts. This section will provide a legal framework for land use, resource, water and forest management plans.
This is also the section of the act that formally recognizes wilderness as a resource with intrinsic ecological, as well as economic, value, and allows the establishment of wilderness management plans.
To protect localized environmental features that may be held in private hands, provisions are also made for the establishment of conservation easements.
Since we are in some ways not yet keepers of our own castle - devolution of authority from the Government of Canada is an ongoing process and land claims are not yet complete - this part of the act also allows for the establishment of cooperative resource management agreements with other jurisdictions. This feature complements part 3 of the act, which is dedicated to the establishment of partnerships to help us protect the environment.
Given the mix of jurisdictions that exist in the Yukon, we are all going to have to work together for the environment, and part 3 recognizes that fact. Partnerships with the federal government, First Nations, municipalities and with non-governmental organizations and businesses are all possible.
Throughout this act we have sought to establish mechanisms that encourage cooperation and avoid the traditional polarity between economic and environmental interests. The Yukon Conservation Strategy, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment have already been mentioned several times in my comments today. Both the Yukon Conservation Strategy and the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment are tools adopted by this government over the last several years to help foster sustainable development - the integration of economic and environmental concerns in decision-making.
This act is both the strategy, and the council has a basis in law. In the case of the council its mandate to encourage sustainable development is confirmed and it is given the additional responsibility, as I have already mentioned, of overseeing complaints made under this act.
The council is required to conduct an annual review of the governments performance in implementing the Yukon Conservation Strategy. To help the council in its review of the governments performance and to help the government monitor the effectiveness of its environmental management, this act calls for the preparation of state of the environment reports every three years. The preparation of these reports will be coordinated with regular updates of the Yukon Conservation Strategy. We all have an interest in a healthy environment and these reports will help Yukon people determine if our government is living up to its public trust obligations.
During the course of public consultations, as I mentioned in my introductory remarks, many people expressed concerns about waste management. Two parts of this act will give us the legislative authority to better deal with this problem. These parts deal with waste management and with waste reduction and recycling.
The waste management section has many features in common with standard environment-protection statutes. This allows us to regulate the disposal of both solid and special wastes through regulation.
It also recognizes that because of the small populations of some of the Yukons communities, waste management should in some cases be handled on a regional basis. Regulations governing waste management will be developed according to the rule-making provisions of the act in conjunction with the waste management committee. Within two years of the establishment of these regulations, municipalities - or the territorial government, in the case of areas outside the municipalities - will have to submit waste management plans designed to deal with waste from their jurisdiction in accordance with the regulations.
In response to frequent expressions of concern, this part of the act also established measures for dealing with litter. Definitions in this section have been tightened up and the act now recognizes that one persons litter is sometimes anothers treasure. As the bill reads now, spare car parts in your backyard will not be a littering offence.
An important part of waste management is waste reduction and recycling. Part 8 of the act is designed to give the Yukon the tools it needs to make recycling financially viable. Through cooperatively developed regulations, surcharges can be placed on products to help cover the recycling or disposal costs of the waste that they produce. Funds generated in this way will be paid into a recycling fund dedicated to the reduction, reuse and recycling of wastes.
In recognition that the environmental costs associated with some products and packaging are simply too high to be acceptable, this bill also allows the establishment of regulations to ban such products or packages.
Other parts of the act have established fairly standard procedures for dealing with the release of contaminants, contaminated sites, hazardous substances, pesticides and spills. Hazardous substances and pesticides are dealt with in one part of this bill because of the similar management problems that they pose. The pesticides revisions themselves are carried over from the act that we passed last year.
To avoid any suggestion that we are trying to overlap existing standards for the transportation of hazardous substances, this section is made subject to the Dangerous Goods Transportation Act.
I will leave detailed discussion of these parts for Committee debate. When I began, people in meetings all over the territory told me they wanted an act with teeth, with standards that could and would be enforced.
Later in the consultation process people in the business community suggested that more emphasis should be placed on encouraging voluntary compliance with the provisions of the act. Concerns were expressed about the possibility of over-zealous policing of the act
The enforcement provisions of this act attempt to respect, and respond, to both of these concerns. The part dealing with enforcement begins by making a legislative commitment to make public the policy that will instruct authorities in the enforcement of this act. It will lay out detailed procedures to guide environmental protection officers in the conduct of their duties under this act.
The concept of requesting voluntary compliance as the first stage of enforcement is written in the act, but strict follow-up measures are mandated if a person fails to comply. The powers assigned to environmental protection officers and the Minister for the enforcement of the act are consistent with provisions found in a wide range of environmental protection legislation. They have the right to inspect permitted activities, and to search and seize evidence if an offence has been committed. Environmental protection and hold orders can be issued if an environmental threat exists.
Some restrictions that are placed on officers by this act are not found in other statutes. For example, even in emergency situations, an officer cannot enter a private dwelling without the permission of the owner, unless a warrant has been obtained to allow such entry.
The Minister is also given enforcement powers under this section. Environmental protection orders can be issued, and court orders may be sought to secure compliance with such protection orders, and the Minister may act to mitigate an environmental problem where a person fails to comply with an order. The Minister can recover costs in such instances. Financial assurances can also be required of persons to ensure compliance with environmental protection orders. Procedures for dealing with financial assisurance will be detailed in regulations.
I will conclude my overview of this bill with a brief discussion of offences and penalties. A graduated schedule of offences and penalties is created in this act. Admittedly, all of them are stiff. They all carry the message that crimes against the environment are very serious, as they affect us all. Fines under the act range from a minimum of $1,000 for littering, and up to $3 million and five years in jail for persons who intentionally or recklessly impair the environment or cause risk of death or harm to another person. Employers and corporate officers, who are proven to have directed or authorized environmental infractions, are liable for their actions. Employees who simply do what they are told and violate the act are also liable, but they are protected from retaliation by their employer if they refuse to commit an environmental offence.
In summary, those are the contents of this bill and an exposition of the principles that have led the government, in cooperation with Yukon people, to develop it.
As Members will appreciate from my comments, it is a starting point. It is a framework for the protection of the Yukon environment. The events of the last few weeks - the ban on the consumption of burbot livers in Lake Laberge, the limitation of the consumption of Lake Laberge trout - have reinforced my conviction that this bill is needed now. There is a great deal of support from within the Yukon public for this bill to proceed at this time without delay.
I do not want to foster false hopes that this will do away with all our environmental problems. However, over time, it will give us the tools to stop new environmental disasters before they happen, and to deal adequately with the accidents that will occur from time to time.
As I have said a number of times in the course of my remarks, the first effects of this act will not be felt until regulations are put in place, sector by sector, in consultation and cooperation with affected interests and people who are concerned that we have sound environmental management in the Yukon.
Based on the work already done by the Waste Management Committee, I would expect that waste management regulations will be among the first to be established under this act. Certainly, regulations to assist recycling are important. One year ago, we consulted on pesticide regulations, so those, too, will soon be in place.
The actual order of regulation development will, in large part, be determined by the demands of the public under the rule-making provisions of this bill. We do have a deadline. With the passage of this act, the clock will start the countdown to 1996, when activities that are impairing the environment will be subject to the right of action in this bill. We all have a lot of work to do.
The full impact of this act will not be felt until the Yukon government has assumed responsibility for forestry, water and land management territory-wide. By the time this occurs, I am convinced the Environment Act will have already been confirmed as one of the most effective and cooperative environmental management statutes in the country. I look forward to the support of all Members for this legislation.
Mr. Lang: I rise to comment on the bill before us from a number of points of view. First of all, I want to present the position of myself, as the MLA for Porter Creek East, who has the privilege, responsibility and trust of a constituency within the Yukon Territory. As an elected Member, part of that responsibility is to bring forward positions on legislation and money bills that we feel, individually and collectively, is in the best interest of the constituency that we represent.
My riding has approximately 2,000 to 2,500 people. In good part, it represents civil service employees, as well as many people directly or indirectly working with industry, whether it be tourism or mining. I am speaking, in part, toward those citizens whose jobs are derived from our mining industry in the territory.
The Yukon mining industry is facing a very troubled economic time. If you take a look at the history of the last five years, we have had United Keno Hill, Canamax and Mt. Skukum mines close down and, now, we have the largest private employer in the territory on strike.
Many of my constituents are presently unemployed and will be unable to meet their mortgage payments, if this continues for any length of time.
A very troubling sign for one of our major industries is how much money is projected to be spent for the purposes of exploration in the territory in this forthcoming year. We are going to be experiencing one of the lowest amounts of dollars allocated for exploration.
That means that there are fewer small mining companies out there looking for future mining possibilities, and future mines, for the territory.
The reason I raise this is because we are dealing with an act that is going to affect all sectors of our economy. We have the public trust to find that balance between our environmental responsibilities and our economic requirements. Unfortunately, in a number of areas, the bill before us is delinquent in finding that balance, which will be required in order to meet those two objectives, if we intend to continue to have such a thing as a mining industry in the territory.
I am going to go through the act and point out where we feel there are weaknesses in the bill presented to us. I also want to correct the record. The Minister keeps telling us how much input the general public has had in the bill before us. This bill has been available to all Members of this House for just over seven days. I submit to the Minister that he may play with smoke and mirrors and, with the propaganda machine he has mustered with the $600,000 he has allocated himself for this bill, he may try to convince the public that they have had adequate influence on this bill. However, when it comes right down to it, although the bill is drafted in a much different manner than the previous bill, there are some striking similarities that are going to be dealt with by regulation. I will deal with that in a minute.
My concern with the bill is that I feel it is going to have a long-term effect on investment in the territory. There is no reason why we would have to put forward a bill that would do that. I will point out a number of sections in the bill that will add more expense, become more time-consuming and have an adverse effect on those people who would like to invest in the Yukon.
Another major area of concern I want to touch on is the question of the structure of the bill, and the fact that the legislation before us is remiss in many areas.
What I mean by that is that the bill before us provides very broad, sweeping regulation-making power to the government of the day.
The Minister of Renewable Resources is grimacing as I make this statement. He should read his bill. Of 93 pages, eight pages are dedicated to giving regulation-making power to the Cabinet of the day. I speak as a parliamentarian when I speak in respect to this particular issue. What that does is provide the government the authority to make laws within the secrecy of the Cabinet room. The Minister tells us that this act provides that the public must be given a minimum of 60 days notice if a regulation is going to be changed. We have had experience with how legislation is drawn up. From April 5 to May 6, we witnessed a series of secret meetings with those who were fortunate enough to get the ear of the Minister to sit down and draw up legislation. Who made those decisions or who knew those decisions were being made? No one knew they were being made until it came to the floor of the House. That is exactly what is going to happen regarding the regulations.
The point I make to all Members is the fact that those regulations are not debated in this House. The only way they can be debated is after they have become law and come into effect, and that is only if a Member raises it in this House.
The Minister looks at me aghast that I would raise this question of regulation-making power. I want you to count: page 65, Regulations - regulations concerning Part 3, section 141 (a), (b), (c); and then there is an all-encompassing one that says as follows: respecting any matter which the Commissioner in Executive Council considers necessary to carry the purposes and provisions of Part 3 into effect. In other words, the Commissioner in Executive Council, Mr. Penikett and his cohorts, can do anything they want, when they want and how they want, without really being answerable to the public at large through the legislative process, because they have taken out a great deal of the sections that were controversial in the previous discussion draft and given themselves the authority through the back door to do it by regulation.
I would like to bring to peoples attention the example of the director. This is the fellow who was going to be more powerful than the Government Leader, if we passed the original discussion paper that was released to the public, and was so controversial. Where is the power for the director? How is that curtailed? It is not. There is a section in the act that states that the Minister may delegate his authority in writing. This is one, two, three, four, five, six and seven pages of regulation-making power.
I want to point to another piece of legislation that is very controversial, as far as this Legislature is concerned. That is the Historic Resources Act. Do you know how many pages,out of 43 there are of regulations? There is three-quarters of a page of regulation-making power. That is because the government had an idea of what they wanted to do with the Historic Resources Act and what they intended to do.
The Environment Act tells the public - and they should be aware of this - that there is either one of two things or a combination of both. Firstly, we have a government that does not know what they want to do and, subsequently, they need the Commissioner in Executive Council authority to figure out how they are going to do it, and when. Secondly, we have a government that has a political agenda they are not prepared to debate in the Legislature. The third choice is a combination of both. I think what we have is a combination of those two variables.
As outlined by the Minister, there has been a fair amount of work done on the bill before us. There are areas that the government and those who are either getting paid by the government, or seem to have a vested interest in it, are prepared to comment on at some given time. There are sections in this bill that are what would be termed new and progressive, but there are also elements of this bill that I would suggest be seriously reconsidered.
The first area that I am very concerned about is the question of environmental rights or, in some terminology, it would be called the environmental bill of rights. There is no question that this particular section of the bill encourages neighbours to inform on neighbours. There are specific sections of this bill that are taken out of the Northwest Territories act, which was passed last fall. In fact, they have one section called the Informants Section. At least, they were up-front and put it in the act. Here, in the Yukon, we have a better vocabulary, so we can fool the public and not use terminology of that kind.
The point is that sections we are dealing with, which form a good portion of this bill, are about how you can inform on your neighbour, and how you can lay the charges. It is all very nicely laid out how you do this.
In the Northwest Territories, the act was passed in one day. They had all three readings in one day. Those particular sections are causing major concerns with at least one of the major industries in the Northwest Territories, which is the mining industry, and the effect that it is going to have on that industry.
I have a very major concern with the way this particular aspect of our bill has been structured. It gives any two citizens the right to go and file their complaint and, if necessary, go to court at some given time. I would recommend that we, in the Yukon, look at legislation that has been in effect for some time, and see whether or not we can come up with a credible balance between the right of the individual and the right of those who wish to operate.
What I mean by that is why do we not look at our provincial counterparts and see what they have in effect? The one I would like all Members to refer to is the sections that are in effect in Quebec. There has been a section in effect in Quebec since the 1970s that is there to allow the individual the right to proceed to court to ask for an injunction if they feel certain things are not being met. It is clear and concise and I will be providing the Minister a copy of that and hope that during the Committee of the Whole we will have the opportunity to debate that in its totality. It seems to me that we should have a section that is designed in such a manner that it is very clear, concise and broad in respect to just exactly what an individual can take to court.
My concern is that the bill that is before us, in sections that the Minister so proudly spoke about earlier, can allow an individual or individuals to go to court and question things that may not be a requirement of the permit for the individual who is operating. I feel strongly that we have a responsibility, if we are going to bring in legislation of this kind, to be concise and to identify the areas that can be brought forward in that kind of action.
Another area of concern I have as a legislator is that the definition of major development is not defined. The Minister has come before us with an environment act and has said that his definition of a major development is to be defined by regulation. I would think that the side opposite, or any government who is providing legislation to this House, would have a responsibility to clearly define those areas about what they see as major development and how it would go through any process for the purposes of getting authorization to proceed, providing it met the environmental responsibilities that were going to be part of the condition of a licence. I do not see that being done in the legislation before us.
Once again, there are the eight pages of regulation-making power. There are other sections throughout the bill where one has to go to regulations to find out exactly what the government means and intends to do.
Another area of concern I have, which is a very legitimate concern and I will go to some lengths to tell you why, is part 2. It is called Environmental Responsibilities. Upon reading that section, one can only come to the conclusion that the consultants took a great deal of pleasure in writing that section of the bill. With the way that section is written, we have guaranteed that the consultant industry in the Yukon will be growing larger every year. I want to tell you why.
That particular part of the bill requires someone or some company - a consultant or preferably, probably the ones who drafted this section of the bill - to do an audit of the government every three years. It will require a revision to the Yukon Conservation Strategy every three years. It will require an annual review of the performance of the Government of Yukon by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. Another report.
Further to that, there is a report required every three years called the Yukon State of the Environment Report. That is every three years, but, to ensure there is no unemployment for those who are gifted and have the ability to write these reports at exorbitant fees, every 12 months, an interim Yukon State of the Environment Report will be required.
Mr. Speaker, I submit to you, and I submit to the taxpayers of the Yukon Territory, that I do not believe that all these reports are necessary. We have just gone through a real experience with the Health Act, where the previous Minister of Health said that it was a fine piece of legislation and one of the requirements, by law, was to provide a community health status assessment of the Yukon. The consultant in that case, who happened to be politically affiliated with the side opposite - but I am sure that was purely a coincidence - not only helped draft the legislation for $22,000 or $23,000, but also was paid $22,000 to do the community health status of the Yukon six months later. It was a report that has been discredited by everyone in the field.
I submit that there has to be an alternative. I fully agree that there should be a requirement for the government to give a report on an annual basis to the Legislature and to the Council on the Economy and the Environment, as far as what the department of the environment - if you want to call it that - will do. They should provide an outline of the previous 12 months and what has happened as far as the environment is concerned.
This is a section in which I will be proposing amendments. I feel very strongly that it is not the taxpayers responsibility to pay an ongoing fee for all these consultants. If I were paying a Deputy Minister $100,000 to $105,000 per year, he or she, and the people in the top management of that department, would be expected to come forward to tell this House and present, in a very short, concise, departmental brief, exactly what they are doing, how they are doing it, what shortcomings there are out there, and how we should rectify it.
I submit to the Minister opposite that this is a section that I feel very strongly about. It has to be examined very closely and it has to be perused, especially in view of the fact that we have just gone through what an outside consultant can do for the people of the territory in the health area.
An area of concern, one that I believe a lot of people have, is about where the authority of the Environment Act starts and where it ends. I feel very strongly that we are going to need clarification at some point during the debate on how this act is going to affect the Yukon First Nations and the upcoming self-government negotiations. I feel very strongly that this bill, and similar other bills of this magnitude and of this importance, if they are going to be passed by this House, should affect all Yukoners, not just a particular segment of the population.
It troubled me in the Ministers introduction, in second reading, when he talked about exemptions. He specifically referred to the land claim negotiations. That in itself is reason for pause and reason for the general public to say: Whoa, let us have a look at this bill and see if it is necessary to get through this session. Perhaps we should wait until the fall.
Another area of concern that I think the Minister glossed over very quickly - an area about which I hope not only the Mayor of Whitehorse but also some of the other municipalities that are concerned - is to clarify how this act is going to affect the municipalities. I see a number of sections in the bill that are telling the municipalities that they have to do certain things, but at the same time I do not see anywhere in the bill where the government of the Yukon Territory is prepared to finance some of the things they are asking for. If that is not the case, then the property taxpayers of the municipalities - whether it be Dawson City, Whitehorse, Watson Lake or any other community - are going to be required to meet their financial obligations by raises in property taxes, if the government is not prepared to help offset those costs.
There is a very strange section under the administration part of the bill, Part 4: all of a sudden, the day the Minister of the environment is appointed, he or she automatically becomes an environmental protection officer. It also says in the bill that that person has all the authority of an environmental protection officer. I have talked to a number of people involved in drafting legislation here during the last 15 years, and I believe this is the first time I have ever seen this in legislation - when you are appointed Minister you automatically effectively become a peace officer for the purpose of a piece of legislation. It troubles me, because the section is going to give authority to the Minister to meddle in the day-to-day bureaucracy. Secondly, it puts responsibility with the Minister that, quite frankly, I do not think he or she should have. My reason is that these individuals who are, over time, going to be appointed environmental protection officers should have special training in the areas for which they will be responsible for. How Mr. Webster, in all his abilities and all he has to offer the public, because he has passed a law through this House, is automatically going to become an accomplished environmental protection officer is beyond me.
I forewarn the Minister that that is an area of concern, an area that hopefully he will see the light and reflect upon, and make the appropriate changes so that he does not become something that he is not.
I would like to key into the other area of concern I have and that is the question of integrated resource planning and management.
Five different plans are going to be required by this bill. They are going to be required by those in industry, whether it be companies, individuals, private or government investment. All of these industries are going to be required to produce these five plans under the regulations - this was not in the eight pages that I showed you before - but by regulation they would be required to provide them for the government in order to be able to go ahead and begin to contribute something to the general economic well-being of the territory. Those are as follows: a forest management plan, a land use plan, a resource management plan, a water management plan and a wilderness management plan. My concern has to do with those people who have small companies, who are just starting out - it might be a one-person business. It may be people who are trying to become established so they can contribute to the general well-being of the territory. I submit that if all of these aspects are required, what we effectively have cut out is the young entrepreneur becoming a reality in this day and age. The big companies can do it. I refer now specifically to mining again. They have an environmental department and people are paid to make and present these plans, and that is their job. In many cases, the small companies do not have the ability, wherewithal or the financial capabilities. I am speaking specifically of those small companies that are just starting out. I do not think that should be the intent of the bill.
Further to that, how we go about explaining these is by regulation. Once again, we do not know what they want. I will give you an example of the forest management, number 17, and I want to read this into the record: the Commissioner and the Executive Council may make regulations - that is not one of the eight pages that I put in there about the regulation-making powers, incidentally - respecting forest management, where the Government of Yukon has the authority, ownership or control over forest resources.
That section, in itself, permits the government to go ahead and set up a whole forestry act without coming into the House. That section is so broad sweeping, they can do it by regulation.
I do not believe this act should be used as a method of avoiding coming back to the House and facing very real issues in the territory, such as the forestry industry. The area most affected by this is Watson Lake.
Without further explanation or definition in the bill, the requirements of this section are going to cause economic uncertainty for investors. I believe that small businesses, who are basically the backbone of our country and who employ most of the people, will find doing business virtually impossible when this act comes into effect if all these things have to be provided for the government. They just do not have the ability to do it.
The other area of concern in this particular section is the wilderness management plans. One can go about and establish wilderness management areas for the purpose of reserving the wilderness resources in the Yukon. This particular area has no business being in an Environment Act. If there is an objective to create wilderness areas, it should be in the Parks Act. That is where the governments intent should be defined and clearly outlined.
This area is of major concern to us because of what has happened to the territory over the last 20 years. If we are going to create wilderness areas, I believe that the government of the day and the Minister of the day have the responsibility to be up front, bring it forward to the House and define where this will take place. It should not be done, once again, through the back door, through regulations.
Another area of major concern is the development approvals permit area. I feel quite strongly that the bill is delinquent with respect to the fact that it does not clearly outline how the development process is going to work or how you apply for your permit or licence and proceed to the point where you get authorization. I feel quite strongly that that type of process should be clearly defined in legislation. It should not, once again, refer back to regulations where the cabinet can arbitrarily change them within a week or two, depending on how they feel.
The other point I want to make, and I feel it is incumbent upon government, is that in the approval process there should be time lines for the government to respond to applications, so that he or she, in going through the process knows that they have 60 days or 80 days for one part of the process and another 20-25 or 60 days for another part of the process, so that they know there is an end and that a decision will be taken, rather than leaving it wide open. In my opinion, not just here but in Canada, where we are not forcing the government agencies to deal with the issue and to make decisions with the issue is, in part, causing investment in our country to go elsewhere. I feel that we have a responsibility. If somebody is applying through a process, government has a responsibility to give a time line as to when they will respond to it and give some definitive decision to that applicant.
The other area of the bill that is of concern is part 14. I want to just mention this; it is under enforcement. That is under what is referred to as the environmental protection order. I refer specifically to the 161 (2) section that allows an environmental protection officer to add further requirements to a permit that has already been issued. That in itself adds uncertainty to those who wish to invest and operate in the territory.
It would seem to me that, if a person has gone through a process and receives a valid permit, and if the permit is then going to be altered or changed, it should have to go back through the process. This process should be clearly defined in legislation, and there should also be provision for an appeal in cases where an individual feels agrieved, or whatever. This is not provided for in the legislation. I would suggest that is just basic justice, and that particular section of the bill should be very clearly examined.
Another area of the bill is the question of the fines, which are very substantive. The Minister has mentioned that. I feel we should look at them very closely to see whether or not they deserve to be at the amounts set out. I hope the Minister will bring forward cases and comparisons as to how they are reflected in other jurisdictions. I would also like to say that I am pleased to see that the principle of the fine has been graduated or, at least, the principle has been put into legislation that the risk or the effect on the environment, and the amount of such effect, has to be considered in assessing the fine. That, in itself, will be enough for the governing portion of the bill.
As you can see - and this is just a very quick overview because, as you know, we are limited in our time - there are many, many areas where the bill is deficient. I feel that we have had a situation here where the bill before us has been rushed, because of the Minister trying to meet his own political agenda and not considering that of the public.
As I said in my opening comments, there are a number of organizations and people who are very concerned about the long-term effect of the bill. I do not think any of those individuals, collectively or individually, are opposed to an environment act, but they feel that a bill of this kind, passing this House, should have proper public scrutiny and allow for all interested parties to have the opportunity of commenting on how they believe certain sections will affect them.
That is why we raised those questions in Question Period. As was revealed, we were told that we were only going to be permitted six witnesses to appear before this House. At the same time, we know that there are many organizations out there who feel that they have something to contribute to the final draft bill that has been presented to the House.
One of the things that has been requested by quite a number of Yukoners is to look at a delay of passage of the bill - a delay that would allow individuals and organizations the opportunity to make their views known, as far as the bill is concerned.
I would submit that there are a number of reasons why we should have a delay before we get into the final Committee of the Whole discussions. Initially, the bill before us is going to affect roughly one percent of the territory. This is because of the federal authority throughout the territory. For that one percent that we do not have legislation on right now, the federal act now applies.
The impression being left on the general public - perhaps unintentionally by the Minister - is that there is no environmental legislation protecting the people of the territory. I submit to the side opposite that there is.
Over the past two decades, in conjunction with the municipalities, the Government of the Yukon Territory has taken significant steps in meeting a number of their environmental responsibilities, primarily in the area of waste removal. When one takes a look at the communities of Watson Lake, Mayo or any of the other communities, there have been significant dollars allocated to meet those responsibilities. The one responsibility that has not been met is the major environmental problem facing the territory - that is, the question of the treatment plant for the City of Whitehorse. Obviously, that is going to be met without this legislation. If the decisions are going to be taken this year, it will come under the auspices of the federal government.
I want to propose a motion to the House that I feel has merit, and I will explain why.
I believe that the bill before us should be delayed at least until the fall session so that it would permit further public scrutiny. It would give the Minister the opportunity to review areas of concern that are brought forward by the general public.
Mr. Lang: I would like to make the following amendment: I move
THAT the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word that and substituting for them the following:
Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day, six months hence.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Porter Creek East
THAT the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word that and substituting for them the following:
Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day, six months hence.
Mr. Lang: I brought forward an amendment sometimes referred to as the six months hoist. What it does is give the government the opportunity to review some of the actions in a piece of legislation and makes time for a sober second thought, as opposed to rushing forward with legislation that may not be appropriate and which the general public feels was not drafted in the manner it should have been.
I want to go over the process of where we started from and where we are, to give credence to my argument that the government should consider giving the general public an opportunity to present their views to the Minister about the present draft legislation, to see whether or not substantial changes in the bill could be made and presented to the Legislature in the fall.
The Minister spoke in his introduction about travelling through the territory last fall, and the clear message he received from the communities. What he forgot to say was that in many of the communities, he had more of his own entourage at the meetings there than people from the community. There was so little information being provided to the general public as to what the governments intention was on the bill, that they had very little to comment on.
He tells you what a successful program it was. It was successful in that he did get around the territory, and did not get lost. Being the Minister of Tourism that was an accomplishment in itself, in view of what has happened to some of his staff.
I want to go through the logical progression of how we came to this legislation that has been so well thought out. What happened in the fall session, when the Minister was supposed to provide us with draft legislation to this House? We never received the discussion paper until the last week that the House sat. Do you know why? The Minister was not ready. That information was not sent out to the public because it was not printed properly. It had to go back to the Minister of Renewable Resources department to be redrafted and sent out in January. Nobody, but nobody can tell me that is the sign of somebody being prepared.
We then received the discussion paper in January. In February, when organizations and individuals started becoming aware of the draft discussion paper - what was now a discussion paper, it was initially going to be legislation - the implications of it became a concern and it came to the point that in March it really started to become evident to a number of people that if this were to become the law, it would have an adverse effect on both the environment and the economy. Then what happened is that we had a number of public meetings in Whitehorse that were very well attended, and viewpoints were brought forward - I attended a number of these meetings, as well as the Minister - toward the end of the consultation process. We came to the end of March and then the Minister in his conciliatory manner said, Oh, everything is cut-off as of April 5. It was an arbitrary date that was set toward the end. After April 5 we could have no more public meetings, nor be able to make any further comments on the bill, unless of course, you were the chosen few and you had taken the time to write a submission, because those were the people to whom he granted money. Those chosen few were the ones who had the time and money to hire somebody, at $2000 a crack, to come forward to give a written submission.
Now we are to the point where this is such an open process that the Minister attended a number of what I guess would be called secret meetings, but in his words private meetings; we will compromise and call them private, secret meetings.
The Minister attended, and they had a good debate in a closed room about what they saw for the environment act, whether it be with the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Conservation Society or any of the other chosen few the Minister could find time in his busy schedule to meet with. This was the consultation. This was public exposure for the media and the public to absorb.
Now, we get to the point where the public is finally going to watch the unveiling of the famous Environment Act. It is May 6, 1991. The Minister proudly stood up and talked about how much public influence there was in the bill before us, and how much public input there was.
The public has had the opportunity to peruse this bill for one week. The Minister is saying that is fine, that it is enough time, and we will pass it through the House. As I pointed out in my second reading speech, there are substantial changes to the bill that interest groups and individuals may or may not agree with. However, I would like to hear them, as a Member of this House, when we have a bill of this importance and effect on the territory.
Another reason I feel there is substance to the argument that there should be a pause to reflect on the bill before us, prior to it being passed, came from the Minister himself. I spoke earlier about this, but I want to raise it again in the argument to see a six month delay on the bill. The Minister has stated in this House that there are possible exemptions through the Yukon land claim process on how this bill is going to affect the various areas of the territory.
I, for one, would like to know what exemptions the Minister is talking about. How is he prepared to put an environment act in place, but not have it apply throughout the territory? In its final form and passage it will be what I hope is a consensus of all Members, so why are we considering exempting anyone from the bill? That is not logical. I, as a Member of this House, and the people from Porter Creek East, want to know why the government is prepared to do that.
To give more credence to my argument for the six month delay, we have been told that there are supposed to be self-government agreements come to the public in the course of the next three to four to five months. That would give us the ability to examine exactly what the government intentions were and how it relates to a bill that is so important to all Yukoners.
Another area that would provide a reason for the government to support this motion is that it would give them the opportunity of drafting regulations. It would give Yukoners the opportunity to see, at least in part, the general picture of where this government intends to take us,. I for one, will recognize that if regulations are tabled in this House, draft regulations, they are drafts. They may well, as part of the bill that is to be passed, go out for further public discussion. I think, in fairness to the legislative process and in view of the regulation-making power predominant throughout this bill, the government has a responsibility to bring forward to us a general outline of what they intend to do with the regulation-making power.
There is another area that I feel the government has a responsibility for, and they have not done it, and this would give them the opportunity of doing this as well. It could do an economic assessment of how this bill is going to effect the long-term future of the Yukon Territory. As I said in my opening comments, there has to be a balance between our environmental responsibilities and our economic requirements.
Many organizations and individuals have been asking the Minister to do this. The irony of the situation is that the Minister is sitting here, refusing to do such a general overall view of the legislation, yet at the same time when a person comes to him under development assessment programs, one of the things they have to do is an economic assessment. Of course the government does not have to do one on how it is going to affect the whole territory.
The Minister has a responsibility to do this - I wrote him a letter several months ago, but he has not responded. I wanted to know what effect the proposed legislation was going to have with respect to the administration of the Government of the Yukon Territory. Any time legislation is passed, the necessary tools to enforce the legislation must be provided. I want to know, and I think the public has a right to know - and the taxpayer not only has a right but he is going to have an obligation to pay it - exactly how much enforcement of this bill is going to cost. I feel it is very irresponsible to pass a bill in this House when we have no idea of the obligations being asked of the civil service of the territory. In view of the fact that we have spent over $380,000 developing this legislation as of May 1, surely the Minister could give us a general overlay of the consequences of the bill before us.
The other aspect to Members considering a six-month delay in the final passage of a bill of this nature is that it would give those organizations, who feel they have something constructive to contribute to a bill of this kind, the opportunity to do an in-depth analysis of how it is going to affect their organization or their areas. I will use a very graphic example to explain what I mean: the Association of Yukon Communities. Mr. Yaworsky did a very in-depth review of the previous bill for the City of Whitehorse. It was very well done; it was in laymans terms; it was very easy to read and in reading it and comparing it to the legislation one could see where there were significant pitfalls and weaknesses in the legislation that was previously made available to the public. The Association of Yukon Communities is contracting Mr. Yaworsky to do another review of this current bill before the House.
That, in itself, is not going to be done until Tuesday. The Minister is shaking his head. Perhaps the Association of Yukon Communities were not informing me properly. That is the information I was provided with today. The review will not be completed until this coming Tuesday. I am using this as an illustration of the fact that the bill has been before us a very short time. Organizations other than those in the know have not even received copies. We have a responsibility to the public, with the consequences of a bill of this nature, to have a thorough evaluation done of how it is going to affect the various aspects of Yukon life.
I would conclude by saying to the side opposite that there were 1,640 signatures on the petition presented to this House asking that there be a delay in the final passage of this legislation. Quite unfairly and in quite bad taste, some Members on the other side referred to people who had a point of view and expressed it, as a rent-a-crowd. The petitioners are 1,640 Yukoners who are concerned about laws and how we conduct our business here. They have asked for a delay of one year. I believe, with the bill we have before us, that we can do it in six months. There has been much interest generated and people have acquired a lot of knowledge over the short period of time that we have been dealing with this bill.
I would submit to the House that it would be in everyones best interest to permit those Yukoners the opportunity to review the present bill before us and provide the government with their observations and constructive recommendations for change. Then we could get a good bill for the people of the Yukon that would ensure we have a balance between our environmental responsibilities and our economic requirements.
Hon. Mr. Webster: A proposed amendment for a six-month hoist motion is debatable of course. I want to assure the Members that I will be debating the proposed amendment at this time.
I wish to address my remarks to those that the Member opposite made in speaking to his amendment calling for a six-month hoist.
The Member is asking for a delay of six months for a variety of reasons. He started off saying that one of the reasons he wanted a delay was that the process has been flawed. Last August or September, the discussion draft was put forward to the Yukon public for consideration. The Members main complaint seems to be that there were no contents available at that time for Yukoners to get a grasp of what we were getting into.
The purpose of the discussion draft was not to direct the Yukon public in a certain area. It was to get their honest feelings about what we should have in an environment act. It was also an opportunity for the Yukon public to tell me, at public meetings, face-to-face, what concerns they had in their own communities about the environment - not only in their own communities, but about the Yukon as a whole. That was the first opportunity that they had to speak up about their environment as part of a long process in which their concerns would be considered, culminating in legislation. I thought that was a very successful process.
Just to inform the Member for Porter Creek East, no, I did not lose my way. I am sure I have been around the territory without getting lost many more times than the Member for Porter Creek East has been in the last year or two. I managed to tour every community in the Yukon - with the exception of Old Crow, unfortunately.
As a result of that process and as a result of the people telling us what they wanted to see contained in an environment act, we did put out a draft act. It was tabled in this Legislature in December. I admitted at the time that it needed some corrections and some slight revisions.
It was tabled in this Legislature and, before the end of the year, it was out in the final form available to the public. It was available to the public for the next round of consultation, which we called phase 2. Phase 2 involved a very lengthy, extensive consultation process with the public, whereby we conducted over 100 meetings - some held privately with various business organizations, or special interest organizations. Yes, we did another tour of the Yukon, visiting all the communities again.
We had sector-specific meetings that were conducted and hosted by the Members of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, and yes we established a deadline of April 5th, well in advance but not arbitrarily chosen. That date was selected so that we could meet our obligations to bring this piece of legislation into the House at this time, during the spring session of the Legislature. Everyone was aware of that. People knew well in advance of the April 5th deadline for the receipt of submissions.
However, you know what happens to deadlines; people sometimes miss them. I was approached by a few organizations that were sincere about making a written submission. These organizations wanted to know if I could extend the deadline for a few days so that they would have adequate and sufficient time to finish off their submissions.
Knowing that they were intent and sincere, yes, I extended the deadline arbitrarily. Good grief, major crime. Not only did I extend the deadline by a few days for some of those groups, I also issued the invitation to these organizations that if they could spare the time we would sit down and meet with them. They had taken the time and spent some of their own money to thoroughly review the draft act. I extended that offer to them because I felt that we could benefit more from that exercise. We sat down with those groups that wanted to. We probably sat down with the Chamber of Mines on three or four separate occasions for a total of 20 hours. Those meetings were very productive and very helpful. As a result of those discussions with that particular organization, as well as the Association of Yukon Communities and the Yukon Conservation Society, more changes were made to the rolling draft, as we called it, to the point that up to a few weeks ago the final product was available and we thought that it met the concerns that were raised in the written submissions of all of these associations.
I take exception to the Member opposite who seems to suggest that some chosen few, as he puts it, were provided with $2000 to hire some people to work on this. It was more than a chosen few who had input into this process. I think it was very well reviewed, and I think that most people who are interested in our Environment Act for the Yukon were very well aware of the contents of this act long before it was introduced to this House last Monday.
To hear the Member opposite speak, you would think it dropped out of the blue, no one had seen it and no one had heard of it and no one was aware of the principles of it. These principles have been established over the last four or five years in the economic and conservation strategy. The principles that have been established are the result of public meetings. I know the Member for Porter Creek East did not attend the public meetings in the stage one process. If he had listened, he would have heard very clearly what Yukoners were telling us. Those principles were contained in the draft act.
Another reason the Member gives for calling for a delay in the act is because he wants to determine what exemptions will be made in the act for the First Nations under the land claims agreement. He wants to know what conditions there would be exemptions for. The cooperation we have from the Council For Yukon Indians and the First Nations - there is one exception, I will admit, that was, apparently, a member of the coalition last week though I do not know if that is the case this week - indicates that they are, for the most part, in agreement with this act. They are also assured they have involvement in the drafting of regulations that will establish standards and conditions with which we will protect our environment.
The only possible exception I can think of, at this time, is that a First Nation, on its own settlement land, may want to have a condition or standard that is more stringent than that which will be established as a result of public consultation.
Now that we are on the topic of regulation, I am having difficulty grasping the reason the Member for Porter Creek East has such a hard time with public consultation in the drafting of the regulations. He keeps insisting there are eight pages in this act that give Cabinet sweeping powers to make regulations. Really, if he reads it closely, all it applies to is each section of the act where regulations are required. It sets out possible examples of what should be considered for inclusion in those regulations for each particular section. I do not know why the Member completely ignores the rule-making section and the Bill of Rights section of this act, which clearly spell out, like no other piece of legislation in the country, the clear requirement of government to consult with the public.
They also have the right to petition the Minister to ask for new regulations, or to revoke or amend existing ones. Why he continues to ignore that is not a mystery to me, but it is to most people. I want to tell those people why that is the case. It is because the Member opposite still thinks that making regulations should be the sole responsibility of Cabinet. I heard him speak on this subject on the radio last Tuesday. He still believes, very strongly, that Cabinet, in the secrecy of their Cabinet room, should be drafting all the regulations and then, one day, just introduce them, put them in the Gazette, and there they are. He still thinks that is the way to do things.
I want to tell the Member for Porter Creek East that that is not the way to do things any more, and Yukoners have been telling us this, both in stage one and stage two. They have been telling us this over and over again, mostly because they know that the Member holds the opinion that drafting regulations should be done in the confines of the Cabinet room by the Cabinet.
I want to say to the Member opposite that, if he wants to be the leader of the Yukon First Party, he had better get with it. This is not the 1970s; it is the 1990s, and the public must be involved in drafting regulations. You involve the public in a very extensive review process in putting together a very important piece of legislation like this for the territory; that is what we have done. It goes back four or five years, starting with the Yukon 2000 process and, as recently as last year, it has gone through the first two stages of public consultation.
The Member also mentions that another reason to call for the delay of this bill for another six months is the fact that 1,600 people signed a petition asking for a delay. They did ask for a delay, I will admit that, but it was not because of the process, which is the main reason the Member opposite provides for calling for a delay. I want to make that very clear to the Member.
I will read the petition verbatim. The petition of the undersigned shows that, whereas many individuals and groups support an environment act that will protect the environment, yet support sustainable economic development, therefore the undersigned ask the Leader of the Government to delay the Yukon Environment Act until the spring of 1992, to ensure it is in keeping with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and strikes a proper balance between environmental protection and economic development.
The petition calls on the government to address two major concerns. The two major concerns outlined in this petition have been addressed. One is specifically on the compliance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I can assure the Member that in all cases where this possibility arises it does comply with the Charter.
One example I mentioned in my speech was that of conducting a search. Searches of private dwellings must be conducted with a warrant. Another case is to strike a proper balance between environmental protection and economic development. This has been addressed in many ways in the Environment Act, more so than in any environment act in any other jurisdiction of this country.
It does create in law the Yukon Council on the Economy and Environment. Its main role is to promote sustainable development in the territory. It has expanded responsibilities under this act, and another is looking at complaints on the administration of this act, as I mentioned today.
It also strikes a proper balance between environmental protection and economic development in the drafting of regulations. Businesses will be involved in that process. We will be setting standards and conditions for the protection of our environment in so many areas with the input of business. Yes, we will want to see an analysis of the potential economic effect upon implementing those regulations, with their specific standards and conditions.
That is another reason the Member opposite has provided for delaying implementation or debate on this bill for another six months. He wants to make sure that there will be a proper cost-benefit analysis done for each standard that is developed through public consultation. I suspect the real reason the Member was calling for a delay is that he does not really want to see an environment act at this particular time.
He is calling on the government, first of all, to bring forward regulations to accompany this bill. We all know that a large number of regulations are required under this bill, if you take a look at all the different environmental areas that require protection. We are going to need regulations for waste management, for littering, for recycling, for the use of hazardous materials, and for the handling of special wastes. We are going to require regulations for the use of pesticides, and there will be many more. By our own account, as written in this legislation, we thought it would require four or five years to complete the task of drafting regulations, say until 1996.
The Member opposite is asking that, now that we have spent more than a year putting together this environment act, we should spend the next four or five years putting all the regulations together - with public input. Once we have the standards, we should then do a cost-benefit analysis of each standard condition to see what the effect is on our economy. Then, we should come back to this House, five years from now, with the Yukon Environment Act and with regulations for every area of the environment.
Obviously, my answer is no to that, as it should be for most Yukoners. People in the Yukon have clearly told us, and I heard this strongly in phase one and phase two, that they want an environment act now. They have had a considerable amount of input. Their input has been reflected in the revised act. People have had an opportunity of reviewing the final act, and many have come forward in support of the legislation and in acting on it now.
I want to point out that there are some organizations out there that would like some more time. I do recognize that fact, but I think there are many more organizations that want us to proceed at this time. The tourism industry of the Yukon, TIA, and the Association of Yukon Communities support it. They are not asking for a delay. There is also the Council for Yukon Indians, Yukon Outfitters Association, Yukon Conservation Society, Whitehorse Recycling Group, Yukon Fish and Game Association, Yukon River Commercial Fishermen Association, Yukon Federation of Labour, Downstream Coalition, and even the Yukon Council on the Economy and Environment are not asking for a delay. They want this act debated now and passed through this Legislature.
It is an excellent piece of legislation for the territory. Many people are of the same opinion. They want to proceed at this time. I have heard one Member today bring forward a number of concerns, which I would like to address once we get off this amendment. I would be quite happy to address those concerns, and I am very much looking forward to debating this bill in this House over the next coming days or weeks, if necessary, because I think this is an excellent piece of legislation for the Yukon, as it has had the involvement of the Yukon public. They do have some ownership of it, they do take responsibility for it, and they want it through at this time.
Mr. Devries: I would like to speak in support of this amendment put forward by the Member for Porter Creek East. I would like to make a few comments, one of which is based on the passing of the Education Act last year, of which I was critic.
Saturday, when I picked up my licence plates at the liquor store from the government agent, I asked for a copy of the bill we are now debating. There were none available. To the best of my knowledge, the same thing happened with the Education Act. There was never one made available to the community of Watson Lake for the public to pick up.
I think it is safe to say that the only copy in town is the one I left there when I was home on the weekend. I am sure people got to review the green paper, and were shocked by the draft copy that was more readily available. Many people looked at the brief outline of the draft copy. Most approved of that.
However, if you read all the fine print in the draft copy, there was more to the act than the government wanted people to believe.
I was disappointed that few people in Watson Lake have said anything about the present version, either positive or negative. It was only when I discovered there were no copies in circulation for them that I realized this was the reason for the lack of response. There is no doubt that the people of Watson Lake do want an environment act. They are concerned about the tremendous waste that is taking place in the forest industry. Others are concerned about the smoke pollution from the burning of waste.
The mill owners are concerned about a possible ban on burning waste, that could put them out of business as they do not have the expensive chipping equipment to manufacture wood chips for further industrial consumption. Many are aware that the environmental legislation in Oregon has put 30 to 40 percent of the forestry industry out of business.
Is this act geared to big business who are the only ones that will be able to afford to meet the rigid standards that could be established by these regulations?
The people in Watson Lake are also concerned about the latest scare regarding the contamination of fish with DDT. There has been a long outstanding problem with the Ace Asphalt Plant near Wye Lake. There was a petition circulated recently, against the draining of Wye Lake One into Wye Lake Two. The Minister may say, Boy, they sure need an act now.
Upon review of this act, I find that it addresses few, if any of the concerns that I have mentioned. Most of the concerns will be dependent upon regulations. Why not leave the act until fall? Are they going to be drawing the regulations up in the next two weeks so the act can fix all of these problems? Why not give the average citizen the opportunity to read this act and discuss the ramifications with friends and perhaps draw to the governments attention something that may have not been dealt with adequately? The act, as it now reads, will have very little effect until regulations have been drafted. Why not wait until the fall sitting and be in a position to table many of the regulations along with the act, so everyone can scrutinize it to see whether or not the act really meets their needs. Only when these two items are tabled together will the Minister be able assure Yukoners that this act really meets their environmental needs.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am speaking against the motion by the Member for Porter Creek East to adjourn this.
I recall several months ago we dealt with a former act in this House. It appears to me that whenever the side opposite wants to ignore a problem, they try to delay it. There are many people out there who have told us over the years, and especially in the last few months, that we have a big problem with regard to the destruction and the waste of our environment, and what has happened in the past.
I think we only have to look around. We have to read the stories, look at the pictures that are provided to us, or go out on a camping trip, to find the destruction that has happened to the Yukon over the last few decades.
They speak of a petition with 1,600 names on it. We do take petitions very seriously in the House. I believe though, that there are hundreds of more people out there who want this act to go ahead.
I understand that people who have signed this petition are changing their minds. They told us that they are changing their minds. I think that we have got the message across to a great many people.
The Member for Porter Creek East talks about the responsibility that he has to his constituents. We all have responsibilities to our constituents. We have a responsibility to speak for them in this House. I know a number of constituents from Porter Creek East who are in favour of this act. They have endorsed it and they want to see it passed in this House. I wonder, who speaks for them?
We keep hearing about the regulations and how they are not provided with the acts that are introduced in this House. Nothing has changed in regard to the way regulations are done. Perhaps they did something differently when they put their regulations together. Perhaps they did it in the sordid way that they are telling the whole territory is going to happen.
It has been mentioned in this House time and time again by the Minister responsible for the Environment Act that when those regulations are drafted there will be consultation. There will be consultation with those people who have concerns in regard to the manner in which we go about protecting our environment.
The commitment he made to the people of the Yukon will be honoured. There is no question in my mind, nor in the mind of anybody on this side of the House.
It is no secret that regulations have never been introduced in the House, along with the act. This has never happened. It was never dreamed of by the Opposition when they were in power. There might have been a commitment made that that would be done, but they do not always go hand in hand.
Sometimes, there is a great need to introduce an act. The regulations take a lot more time, and they are done with a lot of planning. We do not, as the Members would like the public to believe, go into a Cabinet room and put the regulations together. It is not done that way. There is much more to it. The process has not changed since the side opposite was in government.
I suspect that it will go on but, as long as we are the government, there will be consultations in regard to regulations. I did it in 1985 when I was the Minister responsible for Health and Human Resources in regard to regulations for the Child Care Act. The process started in 1985, and we will continue to do that.
There is much support for this act. I think the support for this act is much greater now than it was two months ago. Despite what the side opposite is saying, people understand what we are trying to do. It has been explained very well. People who are concerned about what is in the act have picked up copies, have gone over it and told us they want us to go through with it, and we will. We may have to sit here until the end of the summer, in order to deal with this act, but I am prepared to do that.
Mr. Phelps: I wanted to enter the debate at this early juncture because there were one or two points I wanted to focus on and comment on that are of deep concern to me regarding the act and the process.
The issue of environment and environmental protection is dear to the heart of every Yukoner. I do not really think there is any great issue about whether environmental protection is something that ought to be an objective of government, but I am concerned to some extent about the way in which this whole development of an act and public debate is going because the act is, in fact, in my view, becoming somewhat divisive. That is extremely unfortunate and I would hope it is not intentional because, from a purely crass political point of review, there would be nothing better than for the governing party to be able to say they are on the side of the environment and the other side is against it because they are arguing against it. That would be a brilliant political manoeuvre, but one that ought to be beneath the dignity and ethics of each and every person who holds office in this place.
To try to get at my concern, I want to ask the question: why are we here?
There has been a continuing battle between elected members of assemblies across Canada and administration. There is a continuous complaint that emanates from elected members from every House across Canada that the administration tries to use regulations for things that are less than a proper use of that device.
I am concerned because each of us has a duty in this House. We are here to scrutinize substantive legislation. We must examine it as carefully as we can, criticize it and provide, for the people we serve, the best possible legislation under the circumstances in which we might find ourselves at the time that we pass a bill into an act. I am concerned because, when I look at this act, there is a lot in it that I agree with. Certainly, the platitudes are very nice indeed. However, there are so many substantive issues that are missing from this act that ought to be placed on the table for us to carry out properly in our roles as MLAs.
Let us take an extreme. Why not come into the Legislature and have a bill that states the objectives in the preamble and, then, just pass a bill that says the government shall enact regulations within a certain time frame to best carry out the objectives as set forth in that preamble. What is wrong with that? Particularly, what would be wrong if, accompanying that, there was the sincere promise that each and every interest group would have a kick at the can? No regulations would be passed until some consultation took place: guaranteed.
What would be wrong with that? What we would be doing is giving away this assembly of the people to the administration. In the early days of parliamentary democracy we would be giving back Parliament to the king. That is what is wrong with that.
When I look at this act, as a person with some experience in some of the areas that are touched upon here, and I see what kind of complex, substantive issues are left to regulations I become deeply concerned. It is not because I in any way question the goodwill of the Minister or those who worked under him to prepare this act, nor because I do not feel that those who now support the act are not sincere in their support, but because the function of this place is the issue, and the function of the Legislature is being usurped. It is a serious issue.
Earlier - and I regret that the Government Leader is not here today, I am sure that he will review what I have had to say on this motion - in this sitting, a similar concern was expressed in second reading of a bill that was entitled Yukon Development Loan Guarantee Act and the concern expressed of course, was that the bill wanted us to sign a blank check for $45 million dollars to guarantee what projects the Yukon Development Corporation, in conjunction with the government, felt, in their wisdom they ought to secure financing for.
The entire pitch we made was that this presented a severe problem because we were not having a chance in any way to perform our duties and scrutinize and at least debate the project for which the guarantee was being sought. I was very pleased that the side opposite at that time saw the merit of the argument, recognized the duty of all MLAs with regard to their role in defending the public purse, and amended the act. The government could then come forward with at least a description of the capital project for which the guarantee was being sought, and at least we could debate the merits of that project. I felt that was an extremely sound and statesmanlike gesture on the part of government at that time.
But I look at this act and, although there are a lot of good things in it, so much of the substantive stuff is left to regulations. I can give some examples, but the act is rife with them and it seems to me that one good reason for a delay is simply that the government could then come back and fill in the substantive parts, leaving the administrative detail to regulations and live up to its pledge to involve the interest groups in dealing with the administrative details that regulations are meant to provide for.
Regulations are not meant to usurp the duty of each and every Member of this place. Regulations are not the proper place for government to come in with a comprehensive forestry policy and a forestry act - replace the act with regulations? I have not studied this act in any great detail, I must confess, and I apologize for that, but the way the work is done in this place there is a division of responsibility and I have read the act, parts of it several times, but it is a very large and extremely comprehensive piece of legislation.
I am concerned about in effect building a forestry act in regulations. I am concerned about part 6, as one example of many. We are leaving the process for development approval and review - the process - as just administrative detail that can be dealt with in regulations. I have been involved in negotiating that very issue in land claims: the COPE land claims in 1984 and the agreement in principle negotiations here. It is a complex area; it is extremely substantial. It is not just something that officials do. We are talking about value judgments. We are talking about all kinds of things that is the responsibility of each and every person in this place to look at and consider, not to delegate to the King and his minions.
It is disgraceful in my view that we are begining to undermine democracy. It is disgraceful in my view that the pompous attitude can be adopted that simply by consulting with some people we should not worry that our role is being savaged by those areas in this act that would delegate the authority entrusted to us through centuries of British parliamentary tradition or that we would delegate that responsibility in this way to the administration, simply because there is a promise of consultation.
I am not afraid of seeing a good, sound, effective, practical environmental act in place. I am not afraid of it at all. In fact, I welcome it. We have been asking for this for years.
It is ironic that we have this gamesmanship being played by the very people responsible for some of the biggest polluters in this territory. It is ironic that they are able to sit on both sides of the fence and try to make those of us on this side appear as though we are against the environment when the governments power corporation burn more diesel than anyone else in the Yukon, yet they talk pompously about the effect of global warming.
Government can take responsibility - pick your level - for ruining one or two of the major lakes in the territory. I am referring to Aishihik Lake and Lake Laberge. Yet, that is the group that wants to play politics and somehow or other make this a win-or-lose situation in an act like this.
I am calling out for this government to flesh out this skeleton. There are all kinds of things that ought to, and indeed must, be dealt with by the people who are elected to carry out that job - not by the administration, not by the Cabinet, not by the King and not by the Kings minions.
Part 6 leaves me completely puzzled. There is so much in a few short sections that requires the scrutiny of this House.
There are not even bones that join here. It is like the old song, The shin bones connected to the knee bone, the knee bones connected to the thigh bone. We do not even have a complete skeleton here, let alone any flesh.
It is my view that it is extremely important that these areas of the bill be carefully looked at, and many of the issues that were to be dealt with by regulation be brought into the act and debated here. To simply say, Here are some lovely platitudes and it will all be done under regulation is shameful. I find it, quite frankly, immoral. People can laugh if they want, but if they do not believe in this place, perhaps they should not run for office. That is what we are being asked to do.
The bottom line is that we are being placed in the position where we cannot scrutinize substantive legislation to ensure that the rights of citizens are protected, to ensure there is a proper balance between sustainable development and the impact on the environment. These are issues we were elected to deal with, and I am sorry, but we cannot deal with them properly because of the way in which this act would sweep these issues out of this Chamber in a cloud of dust.
I call upon the side opposite to consider these points carefully, not in a partisan manner, and to ask their consciences about whether or not we have enough here to debate in order to carry out our responsibilities as Members of this place.
I would submit that there are many areas in this bill where regulations are not simply for administrative convenience, but where they usurp and take the place of what is properly in an act before us to debate and pass.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Members for continuing their applause to welcome me into my speech. Thank you to all across the floor.
I join the discussion now, although I do intend to speak again, respecting the matter of the delay in debating this bill for a period of six months. I am rising because I began to be quite moved to speak when the Member for Hootalinqua stood up to plead the argument of respect for the Legislative Chamber. I must admit, I was significantly affected by the argument. It is an argument I have expressed on a number of occasions.
I was less impressed by his simultaneous call for a non-partisan reflection on the issue, after he had followed his remarks by criticizing this government, in particular, for being a major polluter and, in effect, arguing that the government really had no right to stand in the Legislature and argue for environmental legislation of this sort. He was suggesting that, because lakes were polluted, or because the Yukon Energy Corporation burned diesel fuel, the government was in no moral position to stand and support any particular piece of environmental legislation. Besides being manifestly wrong in its particulars, that is a very partisan remark, and unbecoming of someone who insists we look at this in a non-partisan manner, in the name of truth and justice in this Legislature.
Initially, I would like to comment on the role of government and Cabinet, in terms of the making of follow-up regulatory power.
I say this because the Member for Watson Lake brought up the issue of the Education Act, which I believe was unanimously endorsed by Members in the Legislature and the desirability of having the regulation-making power confined to various specific items and the need to see the regulations while acts are being debated.
I think that it is very important to point out, as a matter of pure practice in this Legislature, that the expectation that regulations will be brought forward simultaneously with legislation, is an expectation that has been fostered by actions of this government in the last few years.
I have been in this Legislature for a period longer than the Member for Watson Lake, in the Opposition benches. I never experienced in my entire time in Opposition, a situation where a government Minister brought forward regulations or even a description of regulations along with legislation.
I will comment in a few moments about the childish, petty, remarks being made by the Member for Riverdale North, but I do not want to lose my train of thought here.
The point of the matter with respect to the Education Act is that when the Education Act was brought forward, it did have regulation-making power attached to it and Members were treated with an expose of the kinds of things that would be considered during the regulation-making process. The regulations were not attached to the bill.
Since the Education Act was passed in this Legislature, a long series of regulations have been passed by Cabinet after extensive consultation with the public, and there has been no controversy, to my knowledge, with respect to those regulations. To my knowledge, all public interests are satisfied with the provisions of those regulations.
There are some regulations still to come in that act, pertaining to the financial funding arrangement for school boards. I heard no objection from Members opposite to the fact that those financial arrangements would be passed through regulation. In that particular instance, I would fully expect that regulations governing the financial affairs of our school boards would receive fairly extensive public support.
During all that period, in terms of the public consultation and the subsequent passage of the regulations in Cabinet, not once did I believe, as a Minister of this government, that I was somehow immune to any kind of public discussion on those regulations. There are many vehicles in this Legislature to debate any number of items that the Members may employ to debate any regulation, however administrative, passed by this government. There is the vehicle of introducing bills or motions, of Question Period or budget debate. The debates have always been wide open. I would assume that they will continue to be.
Not once did I ever believe that I was somehow successfully avoiding public scrutiny on any measure that was passed or that I submitted to Cabinet for their consideration.
I am speaking for myself, but I think it is worth discussing the regulation-making power alone in Committee, as well as provisions respecting the public discussions of regulations that may be pursuant to this act, or the regulation-making power that is attached to this act. I have no qualms about doing that, and I am eager to hear more argument, in particular, from the Leader of the Official Opposition.
I am also eager to hear from the Leader of the Official Opposition about what his views are on this act. He made mention of the fact that without the regulations there is no flesh. Without the bones, there is no skeleton. He made reference to the fact that there are bones missing in this legislation. He did not mention which bones are missing, or by what he even meant by that comment.
I think he owes us some explanation. We are dealing with an important piece of legislation that has been in the public domain for some considerable time. Certainly the principles have been in the public domain for a very considerable length of time.
I would be interested in hearing what he means by that particular comment, because I think it is important to be able to better understand the character of the support that Members opposite are showing for environmental regulation and environmental legislation.
The Member for Hootalinqua implored upon us not to do something that he said would be beneath the dignity of Members, and that would be to characterize the Progressive Conservatives as being anti-environment and the New Democrats as being pro-environment, simply on the basis of how they voted on this bill. I think it is incumbent upon us to know exactly what they mean when they say that the bill has substantial flaws, without identifying what the flaws are, as did the Member for Hootalinqua.
For the sake of balance, it would be appropriate for the Member to identify what he finds to be good about the act. The Member has made a point of repeating that there are elements about the act that he likes.
I listened to the Member for Porter Creek East, who is the critic for this particular field, suggest that in many respects, the Yukon already had environmental regulations, and what is the point of this bill. This was after he had completely savaged just about every principle contained in the bill.
One is drawn to make the conclusion, and I trust the Member will not think I am stooping low to make this suggestion, that perhaps there is not the enthusiasm for passing environmental regulations from the Conservative side that he would have us believe.
The Member for Porter Creek East stood up and began by saying - and I take these points seriously because when a person begins his speech they provide certain emphasis to various points that they feel to be the most significant, this is the first speaker, the critic for the bill speaking on behalf of this party in this Legislature, talking about the Environment Act and making the first point emphatically - that the mining industry is facing troubles and basically that we should not do anything that might jeopardize in any way mining activity in this territory. And what does the Member cite - and I am speaking as a person who has make a living from of the mining industry - he cites as concerns the mining troubles faced by four large mines in the territory: United Keno, Canamax, Skukum and Curragh. I will debate this as long as the Member wants, but I can tell the Member that none of those mines closed because of environmental regulations. Not one. I think a $3.98 silver price has a whole lot to do with United Keno Hills closure. I think the lack of an adequate ore body has a whole lot to do with Canamaxs and Skukums closure, and I think the reason that Curragh is on strike has everything to do with labour disputes and the features of the relationship between the employees and the employer in Faro.
The Member then went on to discuss the availability of dollars for exploration and made the connection that if we pass environmental legislation - not making reference to regulation or the uncertainty in respect of regulation the Member for Hootalinqua explained - and cited a number of principal features of it, this will hurt the mining industry inexorably and, consequently, we should have another look at the whole need for this bill. Forgive me, Mr. Speaker, but that is what I am hearing. I have an open mind on this question, but I am listening to this debate. The Member for Hootalinqua is saying that it would be inappropriate for me to suggest that the Progressive Conservative side of the House is anti-environment. Just for good measure, in case I might be inclined to say that, the Member took a number of partisan shots at the government, to which I think I must respond.
The Member talked about pollution in the lakes and suggested that this government perhaps is the polluter; he suggested that the fact that Whitehorse is discharging sewage effluent into the Yukon River is something that has put this government on a very shaky moral footing in presenting this legislation to the House. I am afraid the Member is going to have to accept the fact that if partisan comments are going to be made, then an appropriate exchange of partisan comment will be returned.
I would like to draw reference particularly to the process by which the act was developed, more than to the content because, as I mentioned, I do have every intention to return to the substance of the bill. I would like to discuss the process because I think it is important that we understand some of the reasons why it may not be desirable or necessary, prudent or wise to delay passage of this act until the fall.
I say this with some irony as the House Leader for having being criticized for trying to load too much legislation into the fall sitting, which is also a budget session. I would think that it goes without saying that the debate on the Environment Act in the fall, along with the budget, would be a very heavy schedule.
That used to be a major issue for the media in the territory, but then any time we respond it never seems to be picked up by the media. This is a real sob story; it makes me so sad.
The Member for Porter Creek East is commiserating with me; I remember him, with all of the artificial passion that he could muster, standing in his place with tears in his eyes saying that the government was loading far too much responsibility on the poor, underpaid MLAs, that we could not keep our heads together and do a budget session and a legislative session all in one sitting.
The Member laughs about it now, but I remember the Member making a very major point of it and I remember - how can I put it? - the more gullible of those who were reporting the event, felt that it was an important feature of the discussion or that it was an important consideration. Only a few months later, here we are, the Member for Porter Creek East is moving a motion that we just load up that fall session with budgets, and environment acts and everything else. There is no sense that there is any inconsistency. There is no feeling of any kind of special concern about the burden on MLAs; that was last years issue.
I only remark upon that because I find it ironic and I do not get excited about those things anymore. I used to get upset, but I do not get excited about those things anymore because I realize that is a fact of life in this Legislature.
In any case, let me just say that the history of consultation by this government is substantial and is unlike the actions of its predecessor governments, in that there has been a practice that allows for a thorough airing of general issues and specific issues, prior to coming into this Legislature.
I know Members will forgive me, as I am getting old enough to look back on my past life on a regular basis, but I remember sitting in the sunlight where the Member for Porter Creek West sits now, and asking the Member for Porter Creek East about consultation. The Member for Porter Creek East said, Listen, we consult once every four year at the polls. What do we need to consult between elections for? You are paid to come into this House. You are paid to deal with the order of business in this Legislature. That was a line then. I realize that was an argument of convenience, because he was on this side and we were on that side.
When we have brought legislation into this House, we have had extensive public discussions long before the legislation ever hit this House. If there is ever a chance to air the principles of any particular legislation, or permit any member of the public, or even Members of the Legislature, to become acquainted with the issues they made, there are lots of opportunities for MLAs to discuss the issues with their constituents. There are lots of opportunities for members of the public to make representation to their MLAs and to the responsible Ministers, who come forward to the Legislature with legislation after having numerous public meetings and focused discussions with various interest groups.
The point is that the consultation has taken place. The Member for Porter Creek East indicated that the initial round of public consultations was so unfocused that they were useless. If the responsible Minister had brought forward a position paper that had a stated set of principles the government was supporting, and asked the public to simply comment on them, I am certain that the argument of convenience would be that the Minister had railroaded the public into accepting the principles he was pursuing.
I understand that is what a lot of the debate in the Legislature is about. It just happens to be a matter of convenience to put forward a particular argument at a particular time. When I respond to the Member for Porter Creek East, I must understand that that is the essence of the submission that he has made.
With respect to the Environment Act, it is no surprise that this act is being debated in the spring of 1991. Commitments have been made for this Environment Act, not only before the last election, but during the last election, when people were making a decision as to whom they wanted to see in government. Commitments were made after the election in speeches from the Throne and through all the formal mechanisms of this House, with all due respect and deference to this Legislature. The commitments were made by the Minister, in the many public opportunities that he chose during the public discussions last summer and fall, that we were going to be dealing with legislation now.
Following the tabling of the draft act, which is, in every essence, a discussion paper, and was billed as a detailed discussion paper, there were further extensive public consultations respecting this legislation, which brought up a multitude of issues. These issues were largely addressed in the legislation before us. Ultimately, there will be as much of an opportunity as the Members of this Legislature want to debate this legislation and its particulars.
Should there be concerns with respect to the public review of regulations; or with respect to the environmental responsibilities section; or with respect to exemptions from land claims; or with respect to costs to municipalities, they ought to be raised in this Legislature during Committee in a thorough manner.
These are not concerns that are new to Members, nor are they concerns that are new to the public. There is nothing being sprung on the public or this Legislature. These are issues that have been developed over time, that have been addressed in legislation, that have been modified to accommodate public opinion and, now we have come forward with a package of proposals that we feel has sufficient impact to provide for the protection of the environment and sustainable development, which are two important principles.
One of the reasons I wanted to express myself, in terms of support for the general underpinning of this act, is in response to a long-held view that there is currently a plethora of regulations and acts between three levels of government that are so complicated that only Alexander the Great cutting through the Gordian knot could make any sense of anything and survive.
That is a fact, but it is not necessarily a good point.
There was a desire to bring forward legislation that would provide one window on development regulation - a vehicle that would allow us, ultimately, to manage development, to consider environmental controls through a single permitting system, through a single framework, which was thematically consistent, which was easily understood - largely because the existing situation is, in many respects, untenable. There is a situation now where the approval of one permit, for example, through the Water Board does not guarantee certainty at all, because there is a Fisheries Act that may supersede the authority inherent in the water use licence.
The situation now is essentially that there are many different agencies, different levels of government, all coming at the developers from different directions, with no sense or respect for the needs of the developer. There is no respect for consistency between the various regulatory powers.
The one thing that I thought was elegant simplicity itself was that the legislation allowed itself to become a framework, to not only manage what limited responsibilities currently exist - that are currently held by the territorial Legislature - but also draw in those responsibilities that may be devolved by federal authorities in the future, so that there is one process consistent with the land claims agreement that could provide ultimately for the certainty and for the consistency that I think must be the order of the day with respect to legislation that we sponsor.
Now I realize that is a difficult task. That is a difficult task, because we do not hold responsibilities in very significant resource management areas.
It is incumbent upon us, through the land claims negotiating process, as well as through legislation passed in this Legislature, to anticipate the future, as we did with the Education Act, and to anticipate the need to draw in other pieces of legislation and other resource management responsibilities systematically and consistently, so that, ultimately, when devolution matures, we can have one piece of legislation respecting all resource management issues.
That is a difficult thing to accommodate. The key feature of this bill, which I wholeheartedly endorse, is the fact that this provides for that one-window approach.
There are other elements of this act that I think are worth supporting. Perhaps I am preaching common cause with the Member for Hootalinqua. We will not know that until the Member speaks again. It was a little too cryptic for me the first time. The Member tried to be simple, but his dem bones analogy was not simple enough or, perhaps, it was too simple minded.
Nevertheless, I will appreciate hearing more from the Member with respect to not only his argument with respect to the regulatory capacity inherent in the act but also the other features he claims to like.
To wrap up, I believe we have undertaken extensive consultation on this particular amendment. I believe the issues are or ought to be manifestly obvious to all Members of this Legislature. I believe that every Member has had an opportunity to understand and to come to terms with the basic principles that are the underpinning of this act. I believe that Members have had the opportunity to scrutinize this act, and I believe there is tremendous opportunity to now - now that we are all here and ready to go - discuss the individual features of this act through Committee debate. There is no question there will be fruitful discussion; there is no question that the discussion may be spirited but the issues are well known and Members will have the opportunity to school themselves on all the implications of the act.
I think it is not necessary to delay the act at this point, so consequently I do not find myself in a position where I can support the amendment, but I am interested in listening to some of the arguments that some of the Members have made. The government has been very professional, very open to trying to understand the arguments the Members make for themselves on that score on a difficult occasion.
Our goal is to pass good legislation; our goal, in this particular instance, is to protect the environment; our goal is to have a balanced act. And, with the good offices of all Members, we will achieve that task. I am confident that in the days and weeks to come we will be able to come forward with legislation in the end that Members will be proud of.
Mrs. Firth: I rise today to support the amendment that has been presented by the Member for Porter Creek East, asking that the debate on the Environment Act be delayed. I do not want to get into a lot of the details of the comments I want to make, because of the time; however, I do want to tell the Members opposite that I am going to give a non-partisan speech - non-partisan; no low blows; no shots at the government - I think I can do that; as a matter of fact, I am quite convinced I can do that. The Minister of Education says he will be watching; I do not want him just to watch, I want him to listen also and to extend to me the courtesy of the comments he made, when he was finishing his speech, of being open and professional and how the governments goal and intention was to pass good legislation.
I think the recommendations that are coming forward from this side are also directed toward the goal and objective of having good legislation.
We can all get up and talk about the constituents we represent, our functions in the Legislature, our mandate as legislators and the mandate of the administrative services of the government, but I think we all have to be open minded, as law makers and legislators and give consideration to the motion that has been presented, without reflecting our personal objectives or personal commitments that have been made to the public prior to this motion for delayed debate.
If we are going to be totally honest with ourselves as legislators, we must look at the issues being presented by the Opposition and consider them.
In order for it to be a non-partisan debate, the government Members are going to have to look at the concerns and points we bring forward without a predetermined decision that they want to just push this legislation through with no participation or input from the Members on this side of the House.
I am sure that is not the governments intent. I hope it is not, anyway. It is certainly not our intention to be obstructionists. Our goals are the same: we want to have good legislation.
The Members on this side of the House have not said they were against having good, solid environmental legislation.
I make that representation on behalf of my constituents, whom I know want solid environmental legislation. It is unfair to just assume that people want this environment act and everything that is in it or that is not included in it. I think that we have to have some good public debate about what is in the act.
I do not think that I am being unreasonable, or that we on this side of the House are being unreasonable, in the publics point of view, and certainly we should not appear to be unreasonable according to the governments point of view, when the Member for Porter Creek East says that we have only had this legislation for one week, or that it is unreasonable that we would ask for more time to have the public review the legislation and also have us as Members review the fine points of the legislation so that we come forward with some good, solid recommendations to make it better so that as 16 members of the Legislative Assembly we are representing all Yukoners.
We are all moving toward the same goal of having good legislation and making good laws for the citizens of the Yukon to live by as opposed to partisan laws. I do not see where the main issue, which is asking for some delay, can be perceived to be an unreasonable request. I have not had any of the Members from the government benches tell me as an MLA - and I am sure that I will have a lot of questions on it from constituents - any good solid reason why we cannot do this.
There have been concerns raised about heavy legislative agendas, and whether we should be postponing this to bring it back when we have the budget. I think we can handle it. I think that it is important enough that we would consider bringing this bill back and debating it when we have the budgets. I do not see that as a problem.
If the government was to provide a whole legislative agenda, as well as the operating and maintenance budget in the fall, I would agree with what the Member from Porter Creek East was saying, that that could be cumbersome for Members of the Legislative Assembly. That has not been the case, though. We will have plenty of time to review the legislation prior to it coming back in the fall. Perhaps, we will even be fortunate enough to get some draft regulations.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., debate on the amendment is adjourned.
Mr. Phillips: On a point of order.
That was a mighty sweet speech from the Member for Riverdale South. I enjoyed that.
I have been a Member of this House for six years and, unfortunately, today I have to admit that I made my first mistake.
I rise to correct an error I made earlier today with regard to calling private Members business on Wednesday, May 15, 1991. Unfortunately, I cited the incorrect motion numbers and, in the best spirit of cooperation, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to revise my earlier request.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Mr. Phillips: I am somewhat indebted to all Members of the House for that unanimous consent.
Notice of Business
Mr. Phillips: I would request that the following motions be called on Wednesday, May 15, 1991: Motion No. 57, Motion No. 49, Motion No. 8, Motion No. 51.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted and the motions shall appear on the Order Paper for May 15 in the order just identified by the Opposition House Leader.
The time being 5:30, the House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:32 p.m.