Monday, May 27, 1991 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to call the attention of Members to the presence in the gallery of a former commissioner and former mayor of the City of Whitehorse, Ione Christensen. Mrs. Christensen is currently the chair of the Advisory Committee on Waste Management.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have two legislative returns for tabling.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have two documents for tabling. One is entitled Choosing the Special Waste Storage Site and the second is, The Special Waste Facility: Administrative and Cost Structure.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Waste Management Program: Options for a Special Waste Facility
Hon. Mr. Byblow: A few moments ago, I tabled two discussion papers on the Yukon Waste Management Program.
The proposals in these two papers will make the Yukon one of the leaders in special waste management in the country. I would like to commend the chair and all of the members of the Waste Management Program Advisory Committee for the hard work that they have devoted to this project over the past 16 months. The committee worked during that period to develop a comprehensive waste management program for the Yukon. The first two discussion papers that I have tabled previously in this House outlined the planning process for special waste management and the criteria for selecting a special waste storage site.
The papers that I have tabled today outline the options for siting of the special waste storage facility and the infrastructure that will support it.
At first, only potential sites outside of municipal boundaries were investigated, but with the growing confidence that a safe and secure storage site could be found, the committee was invited by the City of Whitehorse and other communities to investigate sites within their municipal boundaries.
One option is the City of Whitehorse landfill site. There is considerable detailed information available for this site because extensive work was completed when the landfill site was built.
This site is suitable for integrated waste management and has received a great deal of support, because people could bring their household garbage and special waste to the site in a single trip. The projected life of the current landfill site is approximately 20 years. This could justify the road upgrading to allow a safer access to the facility.
Another option is the Whitehorse Copper road minesite approximately one kilometre from the Alaska Highway east of Whitehorse. It is close to the MacRae industrial subdivision where potential waste generators may be located and it is in an area considered unsuitable for many other types of activities. It is within the area of the official city plan designated for future heavy industrial zoning. Of course, the City of Whitehorse would have to rezone this site if it was chosen.
Drilling is essential to confirm the geotechnical suitability of this site prior to any final decision.
The third site outside of Whitehorse has also been identified at kilometre 1395 on the Alaska Highway, approximately two kilometres from Jakes Corner. An initial examination shows this site may have the necessary requirements; however, several other factors such as the distance from Whitehorse, the cost effectiveness of an interim storage facility, access to emergency response services and availability of lab services must also be considered.
Special waste no longer can be dumped into the environment. We must now choose a facility and a site that will provide maximum benefit at an affordable price - a safe, efficient and accessible facility that will serve Yukon peoples concerns for a healthier environment.
A proper territorial storage facility is essential to the economical and environmentally safe management of waste material. The problem of collecting small quantities of special waste that have been generated over a large area present unique challenges.
The fourth paper tabled today offers options for special waste facility administrative and cost structures. It addresses environmental and health concerns, it addresses cost effectiveness, it talks about logistics, accountability, revenue generation and incentives for waste reduction, as well as ownership and liability of the facility and wastes.
This paper considers a number of administrative options. The waste management program could be handled through private enterprise, through a crown corporation or by the Department of Community and Transportation Services. A flexible system of regional collection could take advantage of backhaul rates and available transport. The establishment of an administrative board and annual reports could be used to make sure that the public knows what is going on at all times.
The paper also provides options for funding the waste management program. These involve some key decisions. Should the transportation of the special waste from distant locations be subsidized? Should disposal costs be covered by predisposal fees or should they be charged at the time of waste pickup? Should householders pay for disposal of their waste? Should separate funds be established to manage special waste disposal?
The administrative structure that will eventually be adopted for the special waste management system could incorporate other waste management initiatives to produce a cost-effective system for all Yukon communities.
A comprehensive public consultation process has been initiated, with public meetings scheduled over the next few weeks on these last questions. I am confident that with the continued support of the Advisory Committee on Waste Management, the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon public we can achieve the optimum balance between economics and safety for the benefit of all Yukon people.
Mr. Brewster: I would first like to congratulate the chairman of the committee and the committee for many many hours of long, hard work. I am very glad to see at last that we are progressing and will be moving to solve one of the Yukons major problems. I hope, however, when considering this, they will consider the rural Yukon and allowances be made for travelling the long distance they must to bring their product to town. I look forward to reading the discussion papers, which were just tabled, and will watch with interest the meeting that will be held in the next two weeks.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to extend my appreciation for the support of the program that we have initiated. It indeed has been a lot of work over the past two years. With respect to the question of rural Yukon, I would advise all Members that one of the expanded mandates that I have given to the committee, following the selection of the special waste storage site, will be to examine waste management throughout the Yukon, so in fact some of the problems that we are facing in rural Yukon, not just with respect to special waste but with respect to waste in general, will be part of the work of the committee in the months to come.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, contract with Curragh Resources
Mr. Phelps: I have a questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation regarding electrical rates. We recently heard that the corporation had struck a deal with Curragh on the price to be charged for the additional energy requirements of Curragh. I would like to know whether or not a deal has been signed between Yukon Energy Corporation or Yukon Development Corporation and Curragh.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can confirm to the Member that indeed a tentative agreement has been initialed by respective officials of Curragh Resources and the Yukon Energy Corporation. That agreement is currently being reviewed by our justice officials and I will be examining it in detail this week.
Mr. Phelps: Would the Minister be able to give us any idea as to what the price will be? Is it a greater charge per kilowatt hour than the actual cost of producing the electricity?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the Member can appreciate, any cost established for energy is a very complicated process and it would be impossible for me, short of tabling documents, to provide any details respecting the arrangements that have been agreed to. However, it is fair to say to all Members that the cost of actual service above the specified ceiling amount will be paid in full by Curragh Resources.
Mr. Phelps: Would the Minister inform us if that cost is based on hydro, diesel or the current combination of both?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am at a disadvantage in responding about the details of the agreement at this time. I have not been able to review it in any kind of detail. As I indicated, I will be doing so this week.
With respect to the specific question, it is my understanding that the full price for the service that I referred to in my previous answer addresses the cost for the diesel cost of generation, over and above a ceiling set, which would be the maximum previously forecast.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, contract with Curragh
Mr. Phelps: We understand the corporation is going before the Public Utilities Commission soon for a rate increase. When do they intend to file and appear before the commission with regard to the rate hike for all Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the Member can appreciate, one of the factors that has delayed the filing of our general rate application to date has been the issue surrounding the price of energy for Curragh.
If we do have an agreement that will be fully signed off, we will be proceeding immediately with our general rate application. I expect we would be filing it some time within the next month, if we sign this agreement.
Mr. Phelps: Yukoners have already suffered from what is tantamount to a 21 percent increase in their electrical rates, by virtue of the lapsed rebates. How much over and above this 21 percent is it anticipated that the corporation will be asking for?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Leader of the Official Opposition is entirely inaccurate to suggest that something in the magnitude of a 21 percent increase to energy rates has taken place. When one looks at what has occurred in energy rates over the past four years, we are currently paying less than eight percent above what we were paying four years ago. That hardly smacks of 20 percent and higher rates that the Member would suggest.
However, in respect to the Members question, it is not calculable at this time precisely what rate increase will be sought through the general rate application. Now that we have numbers that will spin off from the Curragh deal that has been initialed, we can do the final number crunch in preparation for the GRA. That is being done now.
Mr. Phelps: I do not really know what the Minister is trying to say about the increases to date. The 14-odd percent rebate that was instituted through an order-in-council was taken off on January 1. The seven percent rebate on the goods and services tax was taken off more recently.
Many of my constituents who have budget accounts - they pay so much per month throughout the year - now have their new rates. These rates have gone up by as much as 70 to 80 percent.
I am wondering whether or not that gives us some idea as to the scope of the increases that Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation are intending to take before the board?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Seventy to 80 percent rate increases are preposterous. No utility would put forward such a rate increase.
I have indicated to the Member that we have not finalized our analysis in preparation for the general rate application. That is being done now. We expect it to be concluded within a few weeks. I expect that within a month we should be filing our application.
Question re: Faro strike
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development regarding the ongoing strike at Faro. The strike is now entering its eighth week with no talks scheduled. On May 14, in answer to a question by the Leader of the Official Opposition, the Minister told the House that his government was monitoring the economic impact of this strike.
Can the Minister tell us what serious impacts this strike has had on the Yukon economy to date?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The economic impacts of the strike are now being felt more fully. Immediately after the strike there was the impact of people being laid off who were employed with the trucking firm and people who were employed on a contracting basis at the mine. There was an immediate reduction in available jobs.
Since that time, the economic spinoff is beginning to be felt within the consumer circles. In other words, businesses are beginning to feel the pinch. We are doing regular communications with those businesses. We are developing refined analysis of the impact.
One of the things that is appearing is that the general economy of the Yukon is not as severely impacted by this seven-week strike as would have been the case back in 1982. Clearly, the impact of Curragh on the economy is less as a proportion of the total economy. Nevertheless, the fact is that there are developing employment, financial and supply impacts occurring.
Mr. Phillips: We are not being impacted as much as during the 1982 strike, because we have several hundred million dollars more from the federal government to help soften it.
More and more people are leaving Faro each week. Many jobs are affected in other Yukon communities. I would like to ask the Minister if he is prepared to urge the federal Minister to step in or at least ask the two sides to get back together again at the table and start talking. This strike is costing Yukoners millions of dollars while we sit around and monitor everything.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member knows quite well my position as I have stated it in the House previously with respect to calling on the federal Minister to become involved. The federal Minister has involved himself. He has used the jurisdiction of the labour code. A conciliator has been appointed. He has not been able to resolve the issue. Due process is available to the federal Minister under the labour code. It is not appropriate that anyone interfere in a dispute between an employer and employee. That will have to take its own regular course. Everyone recognizes that third party interference in a labour dispute often causes more difficulty and harm than resolution.
Nevertheless, I am in communication with both sides on a regular basis. I have just met with Curragh officials. I spoke with union officials this morning. I am quite cognizant of the relations in the labour dispute.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister does have a responsibility to all Yukoners that are out of jobs today, whether it is the federal Ministers responsibility or not to get the parties back to work. This Minister has a responsibility to ensure that Yukoners have jobs in the territory.
I would like to ask the Minister if he would publicly urge, as the Chamber of Commerce and others have done, both sides to get back to the table immediately to start discussions to reopen the mine, so that Yukoners can go back to work.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That has already been done. We have, on numerous occasions, encouraged both sides to resume discussions. We have encouraged both sides to leave the lines of communication open, so that discussions would be facilitated at the appropriate time.
In my discussions with the respective sides, I believe that will occur. It is not my position to predict or calculate when, but both sides are aware of the urgency to resume discussions. Both sides are aware of the desire by the government, by the people of the Yukon and other interests for the resumption of negotiations and a settlement. That inevitably will occur.
It might be useful to point out that this government has participated, on an economic front, quite extensively, not just by taking federal dollars, but also using many of our own dollars to diversify the economy. As a result, this has softened the blow of this particular shutdown.
Question re: Archives space in Territorial Administration Building
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Education and Government Services, respecting the old Archives space. In November, in the Legislature, the Minister told us that the space would be renovated and that the renovations were going to cost as high as $825,000, depending on the consultants report regarding the ventilation and mechanical system. In January, the policy and planning branch of the Department of Education moved into that area. Could the Minister give us a report on whether the renovation is going to take place and how long the policy and planning branch will remain there?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In reviewing the need to renovate the old Archives space to provide an addition to the Whitehorse Public Library, the consulting engineers determined that a little extra work would have to be done on the ventilation and mechanical systems in that particular wing, because they do not stand up to the current building code. Consequently, a little extra work will have to be done, beyond the $800,000, which I indicated to the Member as being the original estimate for the simple renovation.
The plan is to have the space renovated. The work should be out for tender soon. There is a desire to space the contracts so that they are not all tendered at the same time, but we would anticipate that the work would be initiated in September so that it could take place over the course of the winter, a time when there would be the least disruption to public library services.
The people who are currently working in policy and planning in the Department of Education, who have been located there, will be moving to the Department of Education building once that renovation is complete - probably in mid-July.
Mrs. Firth: I understand that on July 15 the Department of Education is to move over to the old Yukon College; I believe that is what the Minister is making reference to.
Can the Minister tell us how much the total renovation is going to be costing this government, or what the governments predictions are for the completion of the renovations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is always a joy to be queried by this particular Member because if I ever get any particular detail wrong in my answers, she corrects me immediately, given that she knows the answers before she asks the question.
To answer the Members question, July 15 is the anticipated removal date. My estimate of the - the Member from Whitehorse Riverdale South can correct me if I am wrong - renovation costs for the Whitehorse Library will be approximately $1.1 million dollars. There is $300,000 more for mechanical systems upgrade beyond the renovation costs for the Whitehorse Library and the Archives facility.
Mrs. Firth: I am sorry that the Minister is so sensitive about whether he is right or wrong, but we were told that it was going to cost $825,000 and now it has gone up to over $1 million dollars to renovate that space. Surely, there has to be some other alternative. You could build a whole new library for that cost.
Is the government intending to spend all that money just to renovate that space so the library can be expanded into where the old archives were? That is a lot of money.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member has been out of government for a very long time and clearly, the idea of building a new public library for $1.1 million dollars is something that perhaps they could do someplace else, but certainly they could not do that here.
You cannot build a school for $1.1 million dollars, unless it is a very tiny one. Even when you are moving trailers in, from brutal experience, I know that $1.1 million is insufficient to complete the task.
I would like to point out to the Member that I am only sensitive if I am wrong. I am not sensitive if I am right, and the Member will appreciate I do try to be as accurate as possible.
The significant extra cost is due to, as I indicated, a mechanical system upgrade, because the existing building, including the Whitehorse Library itself, is below code. We are obligated to live-up to the Building Code that we insist that the private sector live by.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Consequently, we must bear these extra costs in order to have a facility that is not only enjoyable to the public, but also one that meets the building code.
Question re: Milepost plaques
Mr. Brewster: My question is to the Minister of Renewable Resources. As the 1992 Centennial Celebration of the Alaska highway is moving along very rapidly and the Minister of Tourism has stated that plaques were to be put on historic milepost sites, can the Minister tell us it the Department of Tourism has started designing these historical milepost plaques?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, I cannot inform the Member at this time if that is the case.
Mr. Brewster: Has the Department of Tourism or the Department of Community and Transportation Services been meeting to firm up plans to put these historic plaques in place before 1992?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, in addition to these two departments, they have been involved with other organizations to ensure that these markers are in place in time for the 1992 celebrations.
Mr. Brewster: When will they start erecting these plaques or are they waiting until 1992 to do it?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is my understanding that these markers are to be put in place this year, but I will confirm that information for the Member and report back.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products, back taxes
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation. I understand that the bids for the assets of Yukon Pacific Forest Products are lower than what it would take to offset the existing town of Watson Lakes property taxes and the outstanding stumpage rates due to DIAND. Is the Ministers department in agreement with the position of the receiver that the potential purchaser must assume some of the existing liabilities to keep the operation intact?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am familiar with the issue the Member raises, but I am not familiar with any appeal that may have been made either to the government or to the purchaser respecting back taxes. That obviously would be a matter that is being dealt with by the receiver, and I could only take notice of the question to provide further details.
Mr. Devries: Would the Ministers position be that the other unsecured creditors, who have been patiently standing on the sidelines waiting for the equal distribution of what is left over of the assets, should be lumped together with the taxes, or would the Minister think we should give priority to the taxes and stumpage rates?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member raises what amounts to a fairly complicated issue. In principle, I believe the Member is suggesting that the outstanding debt on back taxes must be paid as part of any acquisition by a third party or, in the case of a sale, the proceeds of the sale must go toward paying those taxes.
To be quite frank with the Member, I cannot say that I have thought about it enough to formulate a position. The matter has not been raised with respect to the governments involvement. I am only aware of the issue as one of the outstanding liabilities of the sawmill asset.
Mr. Devries: I thank the Member for his answer. Perhaps we could get together and talk about it sometime.
This has been going on and on for quite some time. A few weeks ago, my distinguished colleague, the Leader of the Official Opposition, asked for a status report on the cost of the court case and the receivers fees that the Yukon Development Corporation has incurred to date. Does the Minister have those figures available today? The question was asked about three weeks ago.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Members question is most timely. I believe I reviewed those numbers this morning in the form of a legislative return. I can table it tomorrow. The numbers are no different from the numbers provided to the Public Accounts Committee. It was in the $250,000 range. I will formally table that tomorrow if the Member wishes.
Question re: Jack Hulland School overcrowding
Mr. Lang: I would turn to the Minister of Education. He is a sensitive man. He knows that a very sensitive issue that is affecting the constituents of Porter Creek and the north highway is the overcrowding of Jack Hulland School that is presently being experienced and will be even more so this coming year. All indications point to the school population surpassing 600 students. The school presently has two portables that were to be temporary. Now we are in a situation where there is no further accommodations for additional students.
I attended a meeting on Thursday evening of the Jack Hulland School Council. Various discussions took place about how we can try to find some temporary solution to the situation that exists. I want to ask the Minister today if he can tell me when the department will be in a position to make a decision to provide further classroom space for Jack Hulland School.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have not had a report yet from the department with respect to the September requirements for school space for the Porter Creek schools and, in particular, Jack Hulland School.
I do know that some discussions have taken place about the overcrowded situation at Jack Hulland School. A number of options have been put forward for consideration. Some of these, I know, are not the first or even second choice of the Jack Hulland School Council.
There are a number of possibilities: everything from additional portable space to busing students to other schools in the city that currently have less of a space problem. We will do what we can, in consultation with the Jack Hulland School Council, and in consideration to the commitments we have made to them already respecting space requirements, in order to find a resolution to that situation.
I am not in a position, at this point, to provide more information to the Member until I have had the opportunity to review the requirements for each school in the near future.
Mr. Lang: Time is becoming short to be able to find a solution to the problem. It is not as if we can just cast it aside for two, three or four weeks. A decision has to be made in order that preparations can take place about what accommodations are going to be made available.
Busing was put forward as an alternative and I would say was unanimously turned down by the parents who attended that meeting. Would the Minister confirm that busing is not going to be an alternative that the department is going to be pursuing?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I cannot guarantee anything. As I have indicated, I have not had a chance to discuss the matter with the department. That does not mean that the department has not been working on it. My understanding of the situation is that the department has been working diligently to try to resolve the situation. I have not been physically working side-by-side with them. They have been doing their work and I have been doing mine.
I expect to have a report from them very shortly. We do try to have these matters resolved well before the end of the school year, which is coming up in about four weeks time. This is to ensure that parents know where their children will be attending school in the following September.
The issue is not one that involves busing students from the Porter Creek area to schools outside that attendance area. It involves busing students who are already on buses coming in from the north highway area to other locations. That is one alternative that has been floated publicly in the past with school council. It was my understanding that that alternative appeared to be preferred by the school council at that time. This was preferable to adding more portable space or trying to cram more students into the available existing space.
Mr. Lang: Obviously, the Minister has not been updated on the results of the meeting on Thursday evening, at which it was made very clear that the alternative of busing a classroom of students from Jack Hulland was going to be unacceptable. Could the Minister tell this House when he expects to be able to make a decision on this situation, because it has to be addressed fairly quickly in order that parents can make their plans and also so that those people working within the school can plan accordingly?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member will know that, in my dealing with the public schools and in particular the dealings I have had with him and the schools in Porter Creek, I have attempted to achieve some consensus and solutions that appear to be acceptable to all, given the difficult circumstances under which we are operating. I would expect that in the next couple of weeks the decisions respecting the space problems at Jack Hulland School, as well as the situation respecting the space requirements for the entire education system in the Yukon, will be settled.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Minister responsible for Education and Government Services, again. The Grey Mountain Primary School is made up of three trailer units; they were put there 13 years ago to provide temporary relief for an overcrowded school. Since that time, the government has built a permanent activity room and three years ago the department also said it would look at a replacement of construction in the 1992-93 fiscal year. A year later, they changed their minds and wanted to have planning and design only in 1993-94, with construction to take place in 1994-95.
I would like to ask the Minister why we keep having to delay looking at constructing a permanent facility at the Grey Mountain Primary School?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Ever since I have been in this Legislature, I have been aware of the fact that parents of Grey Mountain pupils have been requesting a permanent facility. For the first three years, I was not in government. As the Member was the Minister then, perhaps she can speak for those three years to explain why the government did not proceed with a permanent facility.
The top priority for the government over the last few years has been for the expansion of classroom space in Whitehorse. The initiative of the government so far has been to respond to the rather overwhelming growth in student population, especially in the City of Whitehorse, and to respond particularly to the requirement for additional elementary school space.
Members will note that there has been, and is currently, an unprecedented building boom ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... in elementary schools. Consequently, that is where we put our resources. Any decision to change the plan would have to take place in the context of budget discussions.
Mrs. Firth: It has been six years since this Minister has been in government making promises to people. That is why I am asking about his track record, and why this school continues to be delayed.
Can we anticipate that plan being changed, instead of the people who are sending their children to Grey Mountain Primary not being able to expect construction until 1994-95? Is there a chance the construction could be boosted up, and they could be looking at having it sooner than that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think it is important to note that I have lived up to the promises I have made with respect to the expansion of elementary school space in the City of Whitehorse. That is my record.
With respect to the need for public school space in the City of Whitehorse, I have indicated that the priority has been the addition of space in the city in order to accommodate increasing numbers. I have been responding to that consistently, budget after budget, for the time I have been in office.
I have attended a school council meeting recently with the Grey Mountain Primary school council. I have taken a tour of the school, once again. I have been there a number of times. They have made their case as forcefully as anyone can for an accelerated construction schedule for a new school. I have expressed sympathy for their position, but I have indicated that any decisions to accelerate the school construction would have to be made in the context of budget discussions, which would take into account a variety of other needs that are also on the table, including the need to develop additional elementary school space in the City of Whitehorse.
I do respect their position; I will be working to determine whether or not we can accelerate school construction. My position will not be known until the fall.
Mrs. Firth: Would it not be more reasonable to look at establishing priorities within the total government context? Providing facilities for children should be the priority, as opposed to office space renovations. We just heard about another $1.1 million that is going to be spent on renovating office space.
Our preference would be that the Minister look at the priority being...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: Yes I will, Mr. Speaker. Our preference would be that the Minister look at providing adequate schooling for the children as a priority, both in the riding of the Member who asked a previous question about his riding and the riding of Whitehorse Riverdale South. I would also like to ask the Minister when a final decision will be made with respect to this and when he will be making an announcement?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think first of all it is important to correct the record as to the $1.1 million dollars being used to renovate the old Yukon Archives space, and to renovate the Whitehorse Public Library space.
This is not a renovation project to build more government offices; this is a renovation project to build library space to house books, so people can read those books in an atmosphere that is conducive to a normal library setting. That is the purpose of the library renovation.
That renovation is not inconsistent with the governments goal with respect to education generally. I think to wrap that up as some sort of ugly construction project, or to characterize it as such, is unfair.
The Member says, Let us get the kids into elementary school. This government has built six schools since I have been Minister, and we are planning to build more schools. The capital budget for Education has been the fastest growing budget in 1985 and 1986, and it has maintained that historic high ever since this government has been in office. Of this $1.5 billion dollars that the Members love to poo-poo as having been wasted money, over the course of the last...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... five years, a couple hundred million dollars has been spent on education facilities alone. This governments priorities are in the right place, believe me.
Question re: Elk
Mr. Brewster: My question is to the Minister of Renewable Resources. In the recent transplant of elk to the Hutshi lake area, I noticed reports that two animals died. The department said they were in poor shape and less able to withstand the stress. If these animals were really in poor shape, why were they shipped into Hutshi Lake instead of being kept in confinement until they were in better physical shape?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think the Member has raised a good question but I cannot provide an answer to that. That course of action seems very reasonable and I will get back to him with an answer.
Mr. Brewster: Were these animals in poor shape when they were loaded onto the trucks in Alberta for transportation to the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Webster: That I do not know, but I will contain that information in the report.
Mr. Brewster: I also noticed that they were released from a corral and that there were wolves in the area. As the majority of these animals were calves and yearlings and were released in a strange area, what assurance does the department have that the wolves would not kill these animals?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Again I do not know what assurances we have. I will have to include that information as well.
Question re: Environment Act
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister responsible for mines in the Yukon. Last week in hearings in our new Environment Act, Mr. McIntyre, the Yukon Chamber of Mines representative, expressed concerns over the lack of uncertainty that the new Environment Act provides the mining community. He described the new act as another potentially negative piece of legislation and he went on to say that this act is beginning to be recognized nationally as negative to the mining committee.
As we are going to need to attract some major investment from large mining companies to maintain mining as an important industry in the Yukon in the future, one of the concerns of the mining community is that the process for environmental review is not laid out in the act and will be drafted later in regulations.
I would like to ask the Minister why he is not standing up for the Yukon mining community and speaking out in support of the industrys position that the processes should be laid out in the bill and not in regulations?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: During the latter part of last week and over the weekend, I had the opportunity to spend considerable time with the mining community during the mines Ministers conference, as well as at the Gold Show in Dawson. It became quite apparent during those discussions that I had with local representatives of the mining industry that a principal area of concern now lies with regulations that are expected to flow under the Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act in preparation for the new waters act that will replace the Northern Inlands Waters Act.
It also became quite apparent that the climate in the Yukon is actually quite healthy for mining, considering the mining programs that are available to the mining community for investment purposes, exploration purposes, for prefeasibility work and for general developmental work in mining.
The evidence was also demonstrated that we have considerable...
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: ...investment currently occuring in the Yukon. The mining community recognized that fact.
Mr. Phillips: Under the new act, the security called for is increased dramatically. This will be a tremendous cost to the industry and could well discourage future investment as well.
I would like to ask the Minister responsible for mines if his department has done any kind of cost analysis and what the implications of these sections of the new act will be on the mining community. If he has done a cost analysis, would he table it in the House?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The issue of a cost analysis for a regulatory regime in mining is hardly possible prior to a full statement of what the specific regulations are.
The mining community is currently, through the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, actually developing a regulatory regime to be applied under the two principal acts that they control, as well as the Northen Inland Waters Act. The point must be made that a cost analysis is part of this regime.
At the same time, under the Implementation Review Committee, which is another body of mining interests, a complete socio-economic analysis is being done of the regulatory regime facing the mining community.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 44: Third Reading
Clerk: Third Reading, Bill No. 44, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Byblow.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I move that Bill No. 44, entitled Highways Act, be now read a third time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 44, entitled Highways Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 44 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 44 has passed this House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee to order.
Bill No. 20 Environment Act
Chair: We will be debating Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to bring it to the attention to the Committee right from the very beginning that we will be proposing a number of amendments. Some of the amendments will deal only with the French translation. The Members will notice that there are some clauses in the bill in English that are different from the French version that are different from the one that was introduced in this House on May 6. I want to inform Members that we will be proceeding in debate based on the Bill No. 20 that was introduced in this House on May 6.
Mr. Lang: Madam Chair, I would like to welcome the chairperson back to Committee, to the House and I hope that you are feeling better.
I would like to begin by making a couple of observations if I could so that other Members are aware. The Minister and I, together with some of our staff, had quite a lengthy meeting on Friday. We went over the bill and reviewed areas we could perhaps mutually agree to change. I want to say that I felt that it was a very constructive meeting. It was done in the spirit of bringing forward the best bill that we possibly could in respect to the environment.
I do not think the objectives concerning the environment differ among the Members of the House. I think that probably it is safe to say there are differences of opinion of how one would put a piece of legislation in place and how to make it work in the best interests of the people of the territory. I think we will find, as we go through clause-by-clause debate, that there are a number of areas where we will disagree, both philosophically and on points of practicality.
The major area of disagreement we had, in part, with the bill tabled, and which has gone through second reading, was, as the Minister knows, the fact that the development assessment process, what it entailed and how it would be implemented was not included in the bill. It was our position - and I noticed during the course of debate that the Leader of the Government also concurred with us - that it was a glaring deficiency in the bill. Perhaps the Government Leader did not say it exactly in that context; I see him shaking and nodding his head, so I am not too sure which direction it is going, but I will rephrase that and say that the Government Leader recognized that perhaps there was a valid point being made by this side. I have since had discussions with the Minister about this and I would like to hear, if possible, what decision they have come to about this particular aspect of the bill.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, we have discussed at great length the provisions in the bill as written at this time for introducing the development assessment process legislation. There was a concern raised, at second reading in particular, and in Question Period today, indirectly, about the role of the elected officials being able to scrutinize a piece of legislation that could have such an effect on the territory. We noted the concern; we appreciate the concern and acknowledge it as a concern. As a consequence, we are proposing that we amend the section dealing with the development assessment process to ensure that that piece of legislation will be a separate piece of legislation and will be brought back to this House for debate at a later time. At this moment we are working on some wording for our amendment to that effect. I hope it will be ready for review by the Opposition after the next break.
Mr. Lang: We look forward to seeing the amendment. We appreciate the position taken by the government. We feel that it is in everybodys best interest that a policy decision of this kind be incorporated in the legislation, as opposed to regulation.
I want to make some general observations on the bill. I still maintain that the time available to scrutinize the actual legislation before us - not only by the general public and interest groups, but also by Members of the House - is relatively short in view of the magnitude of the bill and the implications of it.
As the Minister knows, we in the Opposition have spent a considerable amount of time scrutinizing this bill in conjunction with our other responsibilities in the House. It makes it that much more difficult to devote the time totally to one piece of legislation.
The witnesses that had the good fortune to appear - as we did curtail the number of witnesses - on a whole concurred that they really had not had an opportunity to scrutinize the bill in the manner they would have liked.
I still do not see the rush for the passage of the bill through the House at this time. I am concerned about that and I want to go on record as being concerned. The bill may have some glaring defects even after we have gone through it, in view of the limited amount of time that organizations, individuals, as well as we will have had to scrutinize the bill.
The next time this process is undertaken with a major piece of legislation, I feel that the bill that is going to be tabled in the House should be the one that actually gets the majority of the public scrutiny. If you compare this bill with the one that actually was reviewed by organizations and the general public, there were a lot of differences between the two bills. These differences occurred not only in content but in format.
The Minister will say that was a result of many changes. Many changes did take place, and I will use an example. A significant area of concern was the question of the powers of the directors. In the bill before us we do not even see the director mentioned. Lo and behold, there is a section in the bill that just gives the Minister the right to delegate his responsibility.
In the regulations, he will determine the authority of the director, in conjunction with the future director, who is yet to be named. I do not believe that this director is, at this point, nameless. He may even have been an architect of the bill that we are discussing and may be very keen to get his terms of reference clearly and concisely put into the regulations, as opposed to the bill itself.
The Minister is going to argue that it is going to have to go to regulation and that everyone will have input. Everyone will get an opportunity to comment on it, but I would have thought that, as a matter of general policy, the bill could have laid out, at least in part, what the responsibilities of the director are. It is a very powerful position depending upon the terms of reference given to that particular individual.
I would caution the Minister that he does not delegate too many of the major policy decisions or responsibilities to that position as was done in the previous draft. The area we are concerned about here is very important because it is a real balance between the economic needs and the environmental needs of the territory.
I would like to key into one area, and that is the area concerning environmental reviews, reports, audits and various other things that are mentioned throughout the bill. We talked about the environment all by itself. We did not get a chance to talk about this privately, but it has been brought to my attention by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce that, due to the concept of the relationship between the economy and the environment, or, sustainable development - the balance between our environmental responsibility and our economic requirements - would the Minister amend those sections so that these reports have to consider the effects on the economy as well as the environment? At present, it speaks only of one aspect, when the two are so intertwined. I wonder if the Minister would like to comment on this? We did not discuss it in full when we met privately. I think we should explore this area further, perhaps in general debate.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member began with a note of concern about the short amount of time this bill has been tabled in the House and available for scrutiny before coming to debate. In some sense, that is true. It has been three weeks to the day since we tabled this bill in the House. In hearing the presentations from the witnesses last week, many of whom had some detailed responses ready for us - such as the representative for White Pass and Mayor Branigan, representing the City of Whitehorse - I thought most of the witnesses had made use of the two and one-half weeks to do a thorough review of Bill No. 20.
Other organizations, such as the Association of Yukon Communities, also had a very detailed and substantial response to Bill No. 20, and they noted the drastic changes made from the draft act. As a result of the meetings the Leader of the Official Opposition and I had on Friday, I feel the Opposition was well aware of the principles and intent of the act. The principles of the act have been debated for quite some time.
He mentioned one area, the powers of the director, that has changed substantially from the draft act. He is quite correct on that. I want to assure the Member that the Minister will no longer be made an environmental protection officer under Bill No. 20, and the powers of the director have been reduced considerably. The main responsibility, under this act, will be that of the Minister, as it is under other pieces of legislation.
The act does refer to the Ministers right to mandate authority. As the Member for Porter Creek East has quite correctly pointed out, the responsibilities of the director will be made quite clear through regulations, which members of the public will have some input into.
With respect to the concern raised about the number of reports required to be conducted on either an annual or three-year basis studying the environment, thinking that it does not give due recognition to the economy, that is a good point. That is one of the reasons we are having the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, whose responsibility is to promote sustainable development and prepare state of the environment reports. I am quite certain that, given their mandate, they will take a balanced approach.
I am certain that, given their mandate, they will take a balanced approach. They will be looking at the state of the environment, seeing what shape it is in and making recommendations as to how to improve the quality of the environment, yet at the same time keeping in mind the costs to our economy in doing so. I think there is a good balance there. Obviously everyone wants to see the quality of our environment improve, wants recommendations to that effect, and yet at the same time are quite concerned that we will have both the financial capabilities to do it and that it does not, to a large extent, adversely affect the economy in doing so.
Mr. Lang: The Minister did not answer my question. I know when we get into the clause-by-clause reading, we will get into those sections, but would the Minister entertain the requirement that, when these reports are done that they take in the economic side of the things as well as the environmental aspect. All that is being asked for are reports on the state of the environment and various things like that. I am wondering, at the request of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, if the Minister would entertain, at that stage of the debate, those types of amendments? He could bring them forward, or we could bring them forward if he wanted, to reflect the need to intertwine the two in any report.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I see the mandate of the council in conducting these state-of-the-environment reports as being more than a reporting of the state and quality of certain aspects of the environment at a particular time. I see them going further than that in making suggestions and recommendations on where and how we can improve. Along with those recommendations, I would expect that the council would include a cost-benefit analysis of just what the effect will be on both our economy and government coffers to implement those recommendations designed to improve the environment. I am quite satisfied with the interpretation of their role at this time.
Mr. Lang: I just want to impress upon the Minister the importance of that as I think sometimes we, as government, lose sight of the overall responsibilities that we have. They are both so closely related that I do not see how one can be done without the other and an assessment or evaluation has to take that into effect. The Minister already knows the section that I am referring to. I really question the need for four pages, but I think it is four pages of legislation explaining how the reports are going to be made to the Legislature and the Council on the Economy and the Environment and I, as the Minister knows, feel quite strongly that perhaps this section was written with the idea of continuing the industry of consultants.
The interim reports and the three-year evaluations that are going to be the Yukon conservation strategy by law are going to have substantial costs if they are not done by the department. The problems that we have, as far as departmental officials are concerned, is the more that we ask in legislation the more that it is going to be an incentive for them to go beyond the scope of their jobs within the department and find consultants to do this work.
It is one that we can dismiss out of hand and not pay attention to, but the fact is we are talking about thousands of dollars. The community health assessment report is one that comes to mind as the first one that we did, in conjunction with legislation being passed in the House, and that was a $42,000 bill.
That is a substantial amount of money. If we are in a situation where we are required annually and every three years to make these various reports and evaluations, you can rest assured that we are talking probably hundreds of thousands of dollars, not $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000. That is my concern there.
I want to go into another area in general debate. I would like to ask the Minister what projections his department has made about the cost of implementing this bill and what it is going to do to the size of the civil service and the responsibilities that they are going to be asked to assume once the bill comes into effect.
Hon. Mr. Webster: To address the concerns raised in the Members introductory remarks about the costs of the reports, I want to bring it to the Members attention that the Yukon conservation strategy, as required under this act, and also, as already stated, in the strategy itself, will be required every three years. That will to a large degree be done by Department of Renewable Resources personnel, although it will be guaranteeing public input in making some updates to the strategy.
It is important for the public to have a say in that, because it is going to dictate how all departments of government will function in a manner so as to realize the goals of the strategy itself. That is where the audit will come into play, on a regular basis. Again, it will be internal, just to assess how well each department of government is trying to achieve the goals of the conservation strategy. The state of the environment report, required every three years under this act, will be provided with a lot of technical assistance by members of the Department of Renewable Resources and other departments of government, in particular Community and Transportation Services. I do not foresee at this time a great deal of cost borne by this government to pay for consultants to undertake these reports.
I think these reports are very important for a variety of reasons. They obviously put a lot of responsibility on the government to do what it claims it is supposed to do. We heard, particularly in the discussion-paper round of consultations, from every individual that the government has to be more than an example to the public in being responsible for protecting the environment; it has to also lead the way in making assessments from time to time of just how well it is doing. We heard that very strongly, and that is the reason for the inclusion of all types of reports in the final bill.
With respect to the Members questions on the cost to government and the increase to the civil service, at this time we are currently employing three person years from the Department of Renewable Resources, environmental section unit. Their annual budget for operation and maintenance is in the neighbourhood of $300,000. We have approved in principle the addition of two person years to perform the role of environmental protection officers once this act comes into effect. We do have some staff now who, given some special training - such as the conservation officers - will be able to perform at least some of the functions that are required of an environmental protection officer. We will also have the federal government personnel available to assist, and we can certainly enter into agreements or partnerships with the federal government, which of course will still have the greater responsibility for protecting the environment in the Yukon.
With the additional increase of two person years for the environmental protection unit, we are looking at increasing our operation and maintenance annual budget by about $200,000 to $250,000.
Mr. Lang: For clarification, the Minister has told us we voted three person years for this fiscal year on the operation and maintenance side of the budget, and that he is looking at an additional two person years, for a total complement of five person years. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Webster: That is correct. That will be with a total operation and maintenance cost of between $500,000 and $550,000.
Mr. Lang: Is this the projected need for the department for the next three years, or the next five years, barring no transfer of responsibility?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member is quick to note that qualifier, barring no additional responsibilities devolved from the federal government. We expect that of five person years, two would be sufficient for the next five years, until the date when most of the regulations will be put into effect.
Mr. Lang: What about the office space requirement for the increased staff complement? Has this been taken into account with the projected rental of the new hotel space, which is supposed to be started this year?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The cost for the offices and the space for the additional person years have been included in that projected cost. At this time, we are looking at placing those two positions in rural Yukon communities. They would not be located in Whitehorse.
Mr. Lang: When the Minister is talking about placing two of these positions in rural communities, are these the environmental protection officers?
Hon. Mr. Webster: That is correct.
Mr. Lang: An area of concern that was expressed by a number of witnesses, and we heard it mentioned during the public consultation on the draft of the bill, is the authority and training of the environmental protection officers. Could the Minister outline what training he expects the environmental protection officers to undertake? What commitments is he prepared to make to us, as well as to those who are interested, on the extent of training that will be required?
I gather that some of the conservation officers are also going to be seen, in part, as environmental protection officers. Could the Minister explain to the House exactly how this will work and what plans they have put forward, in conjunction with the bill, to meet these concerns from other segments of the population?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As the Member knows, the conservation officers already have a wide degree of skills and are already quite knowledgeable in some of the roles that they have to play under this act already. For example, they are skilled in inspections and enforcement, but will require specific training to deal with new roles that are required under this act such as training in environmental law matters.
Currently, we are in the process of determining what the exact requirements will be to make our conservation officers better prepared to handle some of these responsibilities. This will be done over a period of a couple of years.
Mr. Lang: I may have missed something here. Does the Minister have an exact training program planned out for the conservation officers? I did not quite catch that.
Hon. Mr. Webster: No. We do not have an exact curriculum laid out to upgrade the skills of the conservation officers; however, we are aware that there are programs of this nature in other jurisdictions. We are looking at them to see if they would be suitable for our conditions.
Mr. Lang: Do the cost figures relating to this that the Minister gave us earlier in the House take into account the costs of training the conservation officers?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, it does not. That comes under the responsibility of the wildlife branch.
Mr. Lang: I find it a little difficult to understand. We have been told how the administration of this bill is going to work, yet we do not know how much the training will cost or how extensive the training is going to be for these conservation officers, who are, all of a sudden, going to be saddled with enforcing another piece of legislation.
Why has this not been worked out until now? It seems to me that in the preparation of any bill, we should have some idea of how we are going to implement it, what the costs are going to be in total - not in part - and just as importantly, how we are going to go about training the individuals involved.
Hon. Mr. Webster: It involves a lot of factors to determine how much it is going to cost for all the conservation officers to be well-skilled in all the responsibilities. We have to take a look at the qualifications of some of the existing employees we have. It is obvious that some conservation officers, particularly two recent arrivals, are already well-skilled in the areas of environmental protection and will require less training than others.
It is a variable for each individual. We are not expecting the total cost for this purpose would amount to more than $4,000 or $5,000 for each individual.
Mr. Lang: We will be monitoring that, as we go through the course of the year.
The Yukon Mining Advisory Committees report was released this past week. YTG was a signatory to that particular policy statement. Does the Minister feel the YMAC principles, endorsed by the various players involved in the formulation of that, are consistent with the bill we have before us?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am informed that the individual we had working on the YMAC principles is the same individual we had working on the Environment Act. There was a parallel process at work by the same individual, so those principles would be respected.
Mr. Lang: I want to go on to the question of deposits, and the ability under regulations now that could require deposits, if effected by the Government of the Yukon Territory. I am mainly thinking of the mining industry, and how this is eventually going to affect them.
It is not clear to me, but it seems that the Minister, at one point, said that the mining industry, overall, agreed with the approach he was taking with the legislation for the purpose of the security deposits, and the requirements as it relates to such things as abandonment, and this type of thing.
I understand that, through the process of the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, such organizations as the Klondike Placer Miners Association indicated that they did not see the reason for the security deposits, and there were some mining interests that felt the principle should be reassessed as to whether or not one even wanted to put this principle into effect. Could the Minister explain to us how he sees it affecting the mining industry, and whether or not he has the support of the mining industry in these sections?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes. We have found that when we took the discussion draft out on the road to Yukon communities that this was a point that was raised time and time again: that anyone proposing a major development would post a bond or a security before they began the process, which could be used if needed to address any environmental problems that may be created through the activities of the development.
We have recently seen a big company, Curragh Resources, offer to establish an environmental rehabilitation fund, or something to that effect, that would take care of cleaning up the environment following the closure of the mine. On a national scale, we see a situation such as Algoma Steel Corporation Ltd. in Sault St. Marie, where, over the years they have managed to contaminate a very large site of 850 acres. When they abandon that site, the question has arisen about who will repair the site and restore it to a natural condition.
These major concerns have been raised by most Yukoners as a very real concern. There should be requirements for a company to put up some security - some bond - prior to conducting their activity, in case for one reason or another they go broke. Then, the taxpayer is not left with the responsibility and the price tag of cleaning up the damage to the environment.
When we spoke with the Chamber of Mines, they appreciated the reasons for this clause in the bill. They did have some concerns about who would determine the amount of the security or bond required. We talked about that a great deal. For that reason, we put a subsection in the clause stating that the Minister, sitting down with the affected parties, will determine a security that is appropriate for the situation.
I want to point out to the Member that even the Klondike Placer Miners Association acknowledges that large placer mines, which tend to have a large effect on the environment, should also be required to put up a deposit.
I stress very strongly that for small operations, where you are dealing with family operations, it was not as much of a concern. Again, that brings in the principle whereby the affected parties would sit down to make a determination as to the appropriate amount for deposit.
Mr. Lang: I realize that there are problems with some of the mines when they do go out of production, but I can see some real problems in the future, as far as encouraging mining in the territory.
It is evident even now with the small amount of money that has been designated for the purposes of exploration in the territory. As the Minister knows, the other evening, there was a panel discussion by people who work in the mining industry and who are fairly knowledgeable about it. The concern was clearly expressed about the future of the mining industry in the territory.
I recognize that there are some factors over which the Minister has no control. I will be the first to stand up and say that world metal markets are not the Ministers fault; I will be the first to stand up and admit that the recession in the United States is not the Ministers fault. However, on the other hand, I feel that we should be looking at some innovative ideas on how we can effect security fund requirements from the mining community.
In other words, instead of looking for new and more money, perhaps we should be looking at what we are taking through our corporate tax, as well as the tax as it accrues from the resource itself, with the idea of designating a portion of that, on an annual basis, toward a fund that could be applied toward the abandonment of a mine.
We are going to be looking at larger placer mines with the idea of a security deposit. It sounds so easy, if you are from the media or a Member sitting in this House, to arbitrarily say that we will just ask for whatever 10 percent of the value of the property is. However, the reality of the situation is that the company, or individuals, working and mining that property may well not have the financial ability to put up the security the government requires.
What happens then is that the individuals involved do not start up; they go elsewhere to do their business in a climate they feel can be more conducive to their type of investment. What does that leave us with? We have just lost some people who were prepared to invest in the territory to other investment climates. I think we have to be very careful not to price ourselves out of a very competitive world market through things of this nature in our haste to find a solution to problems we have experienced in the past.
For example, what comes to mind in Yukon reality is the situation down in the Rancheria area where there are a number of silver deposits scattered throughout the area. To date, they have not been conducive to production but we do know that there are reserves there. Whether or not they are financially viable remains to be seen. If this section comes into effect for those hard rock miners, open pit or underground, we may well find that it may be enough to be a disincentive for them to look at going into some sort of production, as small as it might be at the beginning.
I would like to hear the Ministers comments on this. Is it his position that he and his government are looking for new money for the purpose of establishing the basic principle of a financial assurance fund, or are we looking to revenues from within the taxation and the resource levy that is presently in place, with the idea of taking a portion of it, to ensure that the necessary work is done at the conclusion of the development?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to start by assuring the Member that the mining community accepts the principle, in general, of there being a security deposit requirement. The Member says we may be discouraging mining development in the territory, and they may go somewhere else. However, what we are doing here is no different from what is in place in other jurisdictions in this country, and probably in this continent. It is an accepted principle everywhere. Once they know what the rules are, mining companies are willing to proceed with developments. I think the fact that the clause in Bill No. 20 that guarantees that these rules, and the amount of the security deposits, will be developed in consultation with the Minister will provide some comfort to our mining community.
The Member speaks about some innovative ideas of how to take profits as the company operates, which is done in the territory right now with the larger mines, as well as a share of the corporate taxes. This is in use, but that is based on the premise that the mine operation is successful, which is not always the case.
We do have situations where an operation starts up and, for one reason or another, in the first or second year, success does not materialize, and the proponents walk away from the development, leaving the taxpayer with the bill to clean it up. However, where those innovative ideas can be applied, they will be.
I do not think this is any different from the requirements of a bank. You come forward with a business plan, and the bank wants to see it before they lend you money - unless you are Dome Petroleum, with whom the bank becomes partners. They will tell the company that they want to see its business plan, its contingencies and what kind of reserves it has, in case what is claimed does not happen.
I think it is very straightforward, and it is proposed to be done no differently here than elsewhere in the country. We will see mining companies going ahead with their developments, once they see these rules in place.
Mr. Lang: I know we are going to get the opportunity to discuss this further, but I want to say to the Minister that I think our concern is very legitimate and I want to correct the record here: I was not taking about taking the money out of profit; I was speaking of taking it out of the current tax base. There is a difference. What I find so often is that politicians continue to ask for more, as they feel they have to have more to spend in order to meet their conscience. My feeling is that maybe we should be looking at what we take out of these resource-based industries. As long as it is fairly done, a portion of it should be set aside. Over the years, there will be enough money to deal with the question of abandonment.
I have a concern, and I guess it goes to the heart of how our country was built. The Minister says you go to the Toronto Dominion Bank with your business plan and there are no problems, as long as you have the credibility, and you can get the necessary financing to get you through your exploration phase and predevelopment costs up to the stages of going into production, and that that would include this financial assurance.
I want to say to the Minister that those people starting out generally are younger and perhaps do not have the financial clout that is required to get started. For example, there is a big difference between a business plan by Curragh Resources and one proposed by Art Webster, 24 years of age, starting out as a placer miner with very few dollars backing him but a lot of will and enthusiasm, and a backhoe and a few other pieces of equipment to get him started. If Mr. Webster of Dawson City is faced with a further requirement for security, it may well be - and I would submit it would be - a strong disincentive for Mr. Webster, the miner, to get involved in his own private endeavour.
Where my concern comes in is with the smaller, junior companies, whether they be by an individual or individuals, and the effect that can have in our mining industry. The concern we have is that even without this bill we must be doing a few things wrong, primarily at the federal level - not so much at the territorial level - considering the number of dollars that are being allocated for exploration at the present time.
We are substantially down in the territories compared to past years. That has to be a concern to all of us. I think we have to be putting out clear signals to those who are prepared to invest in this. It is a very risky type of investment. We should be putting out the signals that we want their investment and we are prepared to work with them.
For example, a lot of people who have been successful in the past would find it very difficult to begin now if we start bringing in things such as the requirements for financial security and impact studies. That is my concern. The Minister may use the reasoning that it is being done in a lot of other places, but a lot of other places do not have some of the added costs that we incur here. This is in view of our distance from other parts of Canada, primarily in our transportation costs and obviously with the short mining season that we have. All these things have a bearing on our ability to compete. These things have to be evaluated and assessed very closely so that we are not in a situation where we are unintentionally driving away those who would invest here in the territory.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member is quite right. In fact, exploration for mining in the territory is quite low. I want to remind him, though, that it is quite low across the country for a variety of reasons. Obviously, one of the reasons is that the federal government withdrew the flow-through shares as an incentive for mining exploration three years ago. That, incidentally, put an end to the development of a great number of mines and put us into the difficult situation of the public once again having the responsibility for cleaning up some of the activities that had immediately stopped because of the lack of support.
I think that the withdrawal of flow-through shares - the incentive program offered by the federal government - has certainly had a huge effect on exploration, not only here in the Yukon but right across the country, as has the price of commodities. One way that we try to encourage the mining community to develop and explore in Yukon is by providing a number of programs. The Government of Yukon has a wide variety of programs designed to support the industry. For that reason I think that the mining community in Yukon is in a much healthier position than it is in many other places in the country.
Whether we are talking about development of a new mine, whether it is a small family-owned operation, a placer mine or something huge like Curragh is proposing for Mt. Hundere, or developing a piece of agricultural land for a farm, the bottom line is that there has to be a sound management plan in place. This is necessary in order to recognize the potential adverse effects it may have on the environment and to ensure that, in case of unexpected problems, that there are some monies available for the developer. Without those contingency plans and extra securities that are required by banks and governments, the developer will not have a sound business plan that would be supported.
This is a trend that has been happening for the last decade or so. I think it will become an even more stringent a requirement that individuals bring forward a realistic business plan that is well thought out and will anticipate potential problems that may require some kind of security to correct some damage to the environment.
Mr. Lang: I just want to impress upon the Minister how important this act is to the general economy of the territory. One cannot deal with it in isolation. One has to consider the implications of the bill and how it is going to affect the territory as a whole. That is where that fine balance has to be found in order to be able to carry on economies that are primarily based on the private sector.
I do not buy the Ministers argument that we are one of the healthier mining areas in Canada. It is safe to say that, if we are, the rest of Canada is in a lot of trouble, including us.
There is even a more clear message there. We had better take a hard look at what we are doing, both at the federal as well as the provincial/territorial levels to ensure that we are doing what is required.
I have an example of my concern. A friend of mine, and a well-known Yukoner, who has been involved in the mining industry for 20 or 25 years, has just returned from Chile. He was actually actively looking at getting involved in the mining industry in Chile, primarily because he felt that it was more positive and had more aspects that worked to his companys advantage, than to continue investing in the territory.
What was more alarming from that conversation was that he noted that, when he was down with them, he also ran into about 10 other individuals whom he had met over the years, and whom had invested in the territory. They were all down in Chile, looking at the same type of investment in that country. It becomes a concern to all of us when we hear that those types of individuals, who are basically investors, are going outside our country, primarily because they feel they are not wanted and that there are more benefits for them in other places. There are probably other variables involved, but these are real signals to us for the long term of the territory. The effect of these individuals taking their resources to other countries, such as Chile, is not really going to be felt until three or four years down the road.
I will accept the Ministers argument that, more so today than in the past, a sound business plan is required. A bank is not prone to take the ultimate end in risks, whether we like that or not. In some cases, bankers feel it is not even their job to lend money. However, with so many requirements, we will slowly pinch out and cause that much less to happen in the mining industry.
The Minister has stated his position quite clearly on the record, and I am not going to flog it to death, but I feel we should be listening to those directly involved in the business, and looking for ideas of what we can put into effect as incentives, and not disincentives, for further investment in the territory. I see the financial assurance section of the bill as a major deterrent, if it is not implemented properly, that is, primarily through the tax structure, and how we could do it within existing resources, as opposed to asking for more. If we ask for more, I think the Minister would agree that it could mean less and less investment.
I want to turn to another area, and that is on the question of definitions. We are in the process of reviewing them, and we will have some amendments to bring forward. I want to point out that, in some of the amendments, we are going to be looking at the principal adverse effect and see how it can be further incorporated into some of the sections. It seems to us that the definitions in the bill are very broadly written. In some cases, everything in the universe is covered - plus a bit more.
The major concern that we have is to ensure that the Environment Act is primarily here to deal with the consequences, or the possibility of adverse effects, in our environment. What I mean by that is that there are a number of amendments here that relate to the initial definition of adverse effect to some of the other sections would make the bill clearer. I just want to forewarn the Minister that it will be our intention to bring in an amendment on the definition section, after the ensuing break.
There will also be one on person, to make it very clear that a person is someone over the age of majority, plus the Government of the Yukon Territory, so it is clear throughout the bill that it affects everybody equally.
To that effect, I want to give the Minister some warning that we also intend to bring forward an amendment on the question of the word animal. I think it is more of a typo. As the definition pertains to animal, it was not well thought out, or else there was a mistake when it refers to or other invertebrates, where the word other should be removed.
I have no more comments on general debate. I am prepared to take a break to get the necessary amendments together, so that we could come together at a later time, in order to start going over the bil clause by clause.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I just want to make a brief comment on the Members remarks, concerning being careful not to put too many disincentives in the way of mining companies to establish themselves here in the Yukon.
I do not think that environmental legislation securities required to protect the environment do really act as a disincentive for businesses establishing themselves here in the territory.
I go back to the claim that it is part of a good business plan, and cleaning up and reclamation of a mine site is part of a total business plan today, in the 1990s. With that in mind, I think that, if a mining company is conducting its activities responsibly, and I am sure they will be, there will be every likelihood that the bond of security they put up at the start of their operation will not be required.
The real disincentives are those the Member has already mentioned. Some we have no ability to affect, such as metal prices. Some are policies of the federal government, such as taxation. I mentioned the flow-through shares and taxes on gasoline, for example, and federal monetary policies that set the high interest rates we have in this country and contributes to the Canadian dollar being high. The high production costs in general, such as wages, transportation and fuel cannot be compared to the situation in Chile, where the average weekly wage is $120. The average Canadian miner makes that in one day.
With respect to the amendments to the definitions that the Member for Porter Creek East wants to bring forward, I want to thank him for providing us with advanced knowledge of them. I look forward to addressing them fully in clause-by-clause debate.
Chair: We will take a 15 minute break.
Chair: I will now call Committee back to order.
Is there any general debate on Bill No. 20?
Mr. Lang: I just wanted to say that I sent over to the Minister a number of amendments, primarily for the definition section and some other ones that we prepared.
I think from our perspective, unless someone else has comments, we will be prepared to go to clause-by clause reading of the bill.
Chair: If there is no further general debate, we will proceed with clause-by-clause reading of the bill.
On Clause 2
Mr. Lang: Could I speak on the general principles of definitions prior to getting into the specifics of adverse effects? The reason is that we have a couple of amendments here that would follow through the various definitions. We are attempting to concisely define the definition of environment and also to ensure that what we are dealing with here is those that have a potential effect or going to have an adverse effect on the environment. The position here on our side is similar to that of some of the other provincial jurisdictions. One that comes to mind is Alberta. We should try to be more concise in the definitions. As I understand the principle of the Environment Act, we have to deal with the adverse effect on the environment of such things as contaminants.
The amendments we have will help clarify the definitions. I realize the Minister has just received the amendments and I have not had a chance to discuss these with him. If the Minister would like some time, we could stand those aside while he has more time to consider them. I would be more than prepared to do that. We can proceed further into the bill.
As I have indicated to the House, I have sent over copies of some of the amendments so that the Minister at least has the opportunity to read them prior to getting to them.
Perhaps we could proceed from there, unless the Minister has some comments. That way we could go strictly definition by definition and take it from there.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member for providing me with these amendments to some of the definitions. The Member mentioned that he was going to start with adverse effect. I do not have a copy of that amendment.
Mr. Lang: I was looking at adverse effect further down in the definitions, carrying it through.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Perhaps I will just ask the Member to explain. I see the first definition in this act under clause 2 is adverse effect. Is the Member proposing an amendment?
Mr. Lang: No.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would prefer to have some time to review these definitions and to see what kind of effect they will have on the various clauses in the act.
Whereas most of these definitions do not affect the first part of the bill, I wonder if we could stand clause 2 aside and proceed with clause 3?
Mr. Lang: Perhaps we could go through each one. The ones that I have proposed amendments to could perhaps be stood aside. This would also give me the opportunity to speak to the amendments. When he is considering the amendments, he will know our intent. Perhaps that would be better for his deliberations.
The Minister may find that I am so convincing that he will not have to go elsewhere for advice.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would appreciate some explanation by the Member as to his reasons for the proposed amendments by definition.
Mr. Lang: In the definition animal, I would move the following amendment:
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 3 by deleting the phrase or other invertebrates where it appears in the definition of animal and substituting for it the following: or invertebrates.
I think it is probably an oversight by the drafters of the legislation, because the word other should not, in our estimation, be included there - unless they were going to say vertebrates. I am assuming that is what the Minister is looking for as far as the definition is concerned, and perhaps he has some comment?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The reason for including other invertebrates was to include species that are not considered insects, such as spiders; they are still invertebrates. By the catch-all insects or other invertebrates, we thought we would catch all possibilities.
Mr. Lang: The only reason we are suggesting this is that other refers back to amphibians, fish, birds and mammals; our thought is that that, of course, is not the case. Perhaps the Minister has further comment on that?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We will look at it.
Meanwhile, we will stand it over.
Mr. Lang: On the definition of authority, I wonder why the word department is included. The legislation says that authority means a member of the Executive Council, a Minister, department or an employee of the Government of the Yukon. Generally, authority is either delegated to a member of the public service or the Minister or, for that matter, to the Government of Yukon. I am questioning on a technical basis the use of the word department for the purpose of authority.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think the reason for the inclusion of department in the section dealing with reports is we provide authority to the Department of Renewable Resources to provide technical information to the Council on the Economy and the Environment to assist it in conducting its review.
Mr. Lang: I am not going to cause debate on the definitions, but I would like an explanation as to why, all of a sudden, the words conservation easement have appeared in this legislation. If I recall correctly, it was not in the first draft. This is a new concept.
I realize that it has been drafted in a way that will ease the concerns of anyone who is a private landowner that this may be an indirect way of expropriation. There should be more explanation on this. I will be looking for that when we get to that section.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member for the notice. Clause 76 is where conservation easement is dealt with more fully. The reason it appears in the final act is because it was requested by organizations that saw a need for it and referred to other jurisdictions in the country, where conservation easements are in place and are working. We accepted the term conservation easements as described in clause 76.
Mr. Lang: I move the following amendment to the definition contaminant:
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 3 by deleting the word natural where it occurs a second time in the definition of contaminant and by adding after the words human activity the following words: that may cause or contribute to causing an adverse effect.
Chair: Is there debate on the amendment?
Mr. Lang: This goes back to what I was referring to earlier on the question of adverse effect. In the definitions, we define adverse effect. At the same time, in our definitions are such things as contaminant and others that do not refer back to the question of adverse effect. When we are concerned about a contaminant having an adverse effect on the environment, that is when the government, through its regulatory process - primarily regulations, in this case - is obviously going to have to deal with it.
It was felt that it would clarify the definition to specifically point out that the only time you are going to be dealing with it is when it appears it will cause an adverse effect. That is the purpose of the definition, to further clarify it.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The definition of contaminant as it stands right now is basically defines what it is. It has no relation to what volume or quantities of such a substance may be used. Of course, we will develop regulations and set out standards that are acceptable to the people of the Yukon in determining what volume of contaminant is released into the air or environment. That is where we will have it defined - when it has a direct adverse effect on the national environment. I am arguing that contaminant be left the way it is merely to define what it consists of. Of course, it will only have an adverse effect on the environment if that contaminant is released in amounts exceeding those that we write into the regulations as being acceptable.
As far as a comment on the natural environment, I would not really want to remove that word. As you can see, there is a difference in the definition of environment and the natural environment". Natural just pertains to the natural environment as defined in this section, as opposed to the environment bill where it means the physical environment of, say, this community.
Mr. Lang: I wish to raise two points before we get into the question of the natural environment. First of all, I should point out that may cause or contribute is the wording of the amendment. Using the example of volumes that the Minister used, it is at that stage that it may cause concern that we have to pass regulations.
That is why we have worded it very carefully: that may cause or contribute to causing an adverse effect. All we are thinking is that it clarifies the section as far as the definition itself is concerned. The point I am making is that I am assuming that it is not the intention of the government to arbitrarily start defining contaminants and regulations unless they feel it is going to have an adverse effect.
On the question of natural as a further definition of natural environment, it is our contention that with the definition of environment requiring further amendment, we feel it is clear enough without having to have a definition of natural environment in the definitions. Environment should be defined with some minor deletions there and would do much better to clearly, concisely outline the legislation. The difficulty we are finding with the bill is that it is very wide open to interpretation and our concern to get a good bill passed through the House is to assure that it is as clear as we can possibly make it, knowing that there are some nebulous principles that we have to sometimes deal with.
At the same time, with the passage of the bill we clearly define what we are going to deal with on the question of the environment. In part, our concern is that, with the definition section, and in conjunction with the balance of the bill, we want to make sure that we do not have a minority of our population - about which I have spoken privately with the Minister, dealing with the extremists, whether they be on the right or left of the spectrum in political context - using this bill with the idea of trying to prevent some development that would go ahead and is generally acceptable to the public, as long as they have gone through the processes and meet the various guidelines.
That is why we are presenting some of the amendments for consideration to the House.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have no argument with the reason the Member has given for bringing forward amendments. On his specific point of contaminant, I would appreciate the opportunity of looking at it more closely. I believe all we are saying here is that contaminant, regardless of the quantities either below or above that established in regulations, has some kind of detrimental effect on the environment.
If it please the Member, I would prefer to stand this over and have more time to look at it.
Mr. Lang: I agree with that.
Mr. Lang: With respect to the definition of development, I would move another amendment
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended at clause 2 on page 3 by deleting all the words after the words or operation, and replacing them with the following: or activity that can have an adverse effect on the environment.
Further to what I earlier stated, in attempting to more clearly define development in respect to what would have an adverse effect on the environment, the Minister may see that as a minor point. However, I think it is then clear from the perspective of the courts, or those looking at the legislation, that development is that which has an adverse effect on the environment, because some developments can be very positive.
For example, one can look at what Ducks Unlimited is going to do with some of the wetlands. That, to me, would be seen as a positive endeavour. We put that amendment forward in the same spirit as the previous one. It further defines development and what should or could be put into the regulations.
Hon. Mr. Webster: All I can say is that development is defined for what it is, regardless of whether it has a positive or negative effect on the environment. Clearly, when we come to the development assessment process, we want this definition to be broad so that we can deal with every possible type of development, including those that the Member properly cited, that may have a beneficial effect on the environment and we can clearly exempt them from the requirement to have a permit.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the amendment?
Mr. Lang: Perhaps the Minister could go a little further as to what he means by direction ... issued under this act or regulation. Does direction mean the basic spirit and intent of the bill, or are we speaking of what an employee can or cannot do. Perhaps the Minister could explain further what he means by the definition of direction and how it applies to the bill.
Hon. Mr. Webster: There could be a variety of these types of direction. Obviously they could come from an environmental protection officer in providing guidelines for someone to, for example, comply voluntarily with an order.
Mr. Lang: On the definition environment, I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 4 by deleting (d), (e) and (f) in the definition of environment and substituting for them the following:
(d) the interrelationship between or among any of the factors in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) and includes the aesthetic values associated with them.
Perhaps I could speak more to the principle of that amendment. Basically, we are trying to be more concise about what the definition of environment is and how it should be defined in the definition section. This is very similar to one that we have taken into consideration from the Province of Alberta. We have a lot of difficulty in accepting that the concept of the Environment Act is going to further define buildings, structures, roads, facilities, works and artifacts. For example, the question of artifacts comes to mind because, as the Minister knows, we are having a fair debate on the question of what an historical object is in the Heritage Act before the House. That type of definition is better placed, we feel, in that particular bill. In some cases, I think the Minister, in his zeal to get an environment act before the House, is including everything but the kitchen sink, as far as the government is concerned and how it applies throughout the government. In the long run, this might turn out to be somewhat complicated for the general public it serves.
For example, buildings and structures are governed under the Building Standards Act and the Electrical Protections Act. Roads are governed under the Highways Act; in fact, we have just had significant amendments before this House in that connection. I find it difficult to see how, for example, the Environment Act and the development assessment process are going to apply to the social and economic conditions affecting community life.
You have various acts of the Legislature that apply to that, such as the Social Assistance Act. We have countless pieces of legislation and programs like the Day Care Act where various other pieces of legislation apply to it.
We are trying to come forward with what we feel is a more concise definition on the concept of the environment, using as comparison other jurisdictions across the country. You will notice at the conclusion of the definition that we have also said, includes the aesthetic values associated with them, when we refer to the air, land, or water, the organic and inorganic matter and the ecosystem and ecological relationships. Such things as the definition of wilderness that the Minister had indicated in the bill would be covered by the amendment that was brought in here.
Perhaps the Minister would like to further comment on our amendment. We feel it is more concise and gives a better general idea of what this particular act should be aimed to do and where the authority is supposed to lie as far the various aspects of the bill are concerned.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think this is a very significant amendment when it is taken in hand with the other proposal to amend the definition of natural environment by deleting it all together.
Clearly, the Member has to accept the fact that buildings, structures, roads and facilities are part of our environment. The City of Whitehorse, this physical environment, is part of the environment. Obviously the city is not part of the natural environment, which is defined as (a), (b) and (c) under environment. I think that the definition as they are established at this time recognises the fact that in addition to the natural environment - the air, land and water, organic and inorganic matter, the ecosystem and ecological relationships - it also constitutes the man-made structures that we find in our communities. They have to be taken into account, which of course subsection (e) considers.
I would prefer to stand over and review more closely the proposed amendments for both environment and natural environment.
Mr. Lang: Under the definition of environmental protection order, I have a concern that once a permit has been issued to a company or an individual - through whatever process is in place, federal or territorial - an environmental protection order could be issued by the officer, which could add further guidelines to the permit. I may be corrected on that. From the way I read the act, there is no due process in the bill for an appeal. That can happen arbitrarily through the civil service once due process has taken place. Perhaps the Minister can comment on that. He may want to debate it further when we get to the clauses.
If I am correct, there should be an avenue of appeal perhaps in the development assessment process. I guess there should be an appeal even to prove whether or not the decision was right, other than perhaps through the courts. Perhaps there could be an appeal board. Secondly, if the issue is substantive, it should have to go through the regulatory process so that everyone is aware that this is being requested and it is given a fair hearing by all sides.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would prefer to deal with it at the time it arises in the bill. I think that would be the most appropriate way to approach this.
Generally speaking, once a permit is issued, in the case where someone may not be complying with the terms of the permit, I would think that an environmental protection officer would direct someone, with this order, to comply voluntarily in such a manner as he or she prescribes.
Mr. Lang: I am not referring to where an individual is given a permit or licence and is in contravention of it.
That is a separate issue. My concern is if the individual has a permit already and additional requirements are added to that permit. That is my concern.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Perhaps we could deal with that at the time it rises in the bill.
Mr. Lang: With respect to the definition on land claims agreement, we have had a debate on this. I want to put our concern on the record that the bill, as we see it, is going to be a minimum standard that applies throughout the territory, whether it be privately-held land or leases, or land allocated under the land claim process. We want assurances from the Minister that it is not the intention of the government, through any other forum, whether it be the land claim process or the final umbrella agreement, that the minimum standards set by this act and regulations can be negotiated to be less on other lands throughout the territory. Could the Minister comment on that?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As the Member knows, the minimum standards will be established by regulation, which will involve public consultation, and will deal with all affected businesses, interest groups and governments. It will be a standard that all parties will be in agreement to.
It will be made very clear in one section of the act that all parties would comply with maintaining the minimum standard established through regulations of this act.
Mr. Lang: In other words, is it the Ministers and governments position that when we talk about minimum standards - the legislation, plus the regulations - it will apply equally to everybody in the territory? Is that what he is telling the House?
Hon. Mr. Webster: What I am saying is that the minimum standards established through the rule-making section developed in the regulations will be one with which all members of our society will have to comply.
Mr. Lang: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act be amended at clause 2 at page 5 by deleting the definition natural environment.
The reason that I am putting forward the amendment is that we feel that with the amendment that we brought forward to more clearly and concisely define environment, we do not need a further definition of natural environment. We feel that the bill is very wordy and the interpretation of the act becomes that much more difficult and will probably have to be brought before the courts. That is why we are putting the amendment forward.
Hon. Mr. Webster: This clause has been included to make the distinction of the natural environment, as opposed to the natural environment plus man-made physical structures that we have established in our communities.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20 be amended in clause 2 at page 5 of the English text by deleting the definition of person responsible.
The main reason for this amendment, which deletes the definition of person responsible, is that it is not used in the act. It is not used; it does not appear.
For clarification, it appeared in the draft act, and when the draft act was amended to Bill 20 in its final form, that phrase was not used.
Mr. Lang: Once again, it hearkens back to my comments in general debate that there was a real scramble to try to get this legislation into the House; in our judgment, these things do happen when one is trying to put a piece of legislation together perhaps too quickly. We are prepared to support the amendment and understand that the Minister can make a few mistakes when he is put into this kind of situation.
Amendment agreed to
Mr. Lang: I have another friendly amendment to the bill. I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 5 by adding after the definition of permit the following new definition:
person means a person who has reached the age of majority and includes the Government of Yukon, a corporation and their heirs, executors, administrators or other legal representatives of a person.
The purpose of this amendment is to deal with some of the shortcomings in the bill before us. First of all, it is not clear to us that the bill applies to the Government of Yukon. In this way, the definition of person includes a corporation or the Government of Yukon. Then, throughout the bill, where it speaks of a person or persons, the Government of Yukon is included.
The other observation I would make is that we have a very major concern that a person should be the age of majority. Throughout the bill, we talk about adult persons, we talk about persons in general, and the way it has been drafted is very confusing. We recognize the Minister would like to see a section where, under the concept of asking or petitioning the Minister for an investigation, persons could be those under the age of majority, but it refers to persons in that section - I believe that is the section, but I do not have it in front of me.
We feel that, in itself, or other residents, could meet the requirements of that section. I do not think the intention of the Minister would be to put children, under the age of majority, in a position where they could well be subject to court action, if they commit an offence under section 18 of the bill. The Minister would find that parents would be rather upset if they knew that if their children were to proceed with a request and petition for an investigation, and were to find that, through the process, their allegations were not valid, and that they knew that, I would submit that it could put those parents into some jeopardy under the offence section.
There are a lot of implications and responsibilities when you deal with the act and how it interrelates. That is why we are putting the amendment forward. I think it will help to clarify the intent of the bill, unless it is the intent of the government to include those under the age of majority - and I would use the word children again - to begin prosecutions under certain sections of the bill.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As the Member says, this amendment may have some significant implications for other sections of the bill. For that reason, I prefer to stand it over until I have more time to review it.
Person, as defined in the Interpretation Act, has been used for Bill No. 20 for specific reasons. In addition, because it is not clear that it does include the Government of the Yukon, we have referred to clause 4, which specifically binds the Government of the Yukon.
I will be taking some time to look at that amendment.
Mr. Lang: In clause 4, I understood from our conversation that the Minister was going to make it very clear that the act binds the Government of the Yukon, and bring in an amendment deleting except where this act provides otherwise. That would further reaffirm going ahead with our proposal for an amendment, in conjunction with the one he is going to be proposing later on. This would really clarify the situation.
When the Minister deliberates on this, he may want to look at the converse way of drafting this. Where he wants those under the age of majority to participate in something, perhaps it should be clearly stated for that section.
This would be as opposed to going through and talking about persons in a general context, which brings in all the other aspects of the Interpretation Act, if that is what you are relying on. Subsequently, terminology such as adult persons is in a couple of sections and, once again, is not defined. For clarification of the bill, and for technical reasons, it would make it flow better in the reading of the bill. I hope the Minister takes the amendment seriously. It is significant and could also clarify some of the concerns that were raised in some of the briefs with respect to the authority of children in the Environment Act.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I thank the Member for his suggestion. It seems, at this time at least, that the suggestion has some merit. Wherever we are referring to a child having a role in this act, for example, when coming forward with a complaint or request for an investigation, it may be appropriate, at that time, to refer to that right in the clause.
Mr. Lang: On the definition of pesticide, I notice in the bill that there is no section for repealing the Pesticides Control Act. Why not, or did I miss it?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is repealed in section 189 of the act.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister explain what the reason for the definition of sell is?
Hon. Mr. Webster: This refers to the pesticide section of the bill and for businesses that are selling pesticides having some knowledge of the effect of the pesticide.
Hon. Mr. Webster: With respect to the definition of special waste, we are proposing an amendment. I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 2 at page 6 in the English text by deleting the definition of special waste and substituting it for the following:
special waste means a waste requiring special handling, storage or destruction and prescribed as special waste by regulation whether or not the waste has any commercial value or is capable of being used for a useful purpose".
If it pleases Members, I would prefer not to go into the amendment for the French text at this time.
Mr. Lang: I think that anyone who has command of the bill the way the Minister has should be required to do all the amendments in both languages. I gather there are numerous amendments to the French translation because of the haste of getting the bill before the House.
Could the Minister tell the House how many amendments in the French translation, in total, he is going to be bringing forward?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have been informed that there are only four amendments coming forward that specifically relate to the French text.
Mr. Lang: The Minister can assure the House that the amendments are strictly that of a typographical nature and not that of a policy amendment?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, I can give my assurance that they are primarily typographical in nature.
Mr. Lang: Under wilderness, the Minister talked about wilderness areas further on in the bill. We have had some discussions and I have raised some concerns regarding the designation of areas. I still maintain that they should be in the Parks Act, but that is a separate issue.
Does the Minister have any idea how many areas we are speaking of, any concept or idea of what we are talking about regarding the designation of wilderness areas or plans?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I cannot give an answer to the Member right now as to which areas we are considering, what would be likely candidates or the extent the area would cover.
Clause 2 stood over
On Clause 3
Mr. Lang: With respect to section 3(1), could the Minister tell the House why we are saying subject to the Yukon Act (Canada), this act applies throughout the Yukon.? Is that not understood in all our legislation, that the Yukon Act is our constitution, and anything we pass is conditional upon the Yukon Act? Is there some legal significance to this section?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, there is. The Member is correct, in some sense. In the area of environment, where the Government of the Yukon does not constitutionally have the responsibility for the management of some of the natural resources, this clause says that, subject to the Yukon Act, those responsibilities come with it. Therefore, it applies throughout the Yukon, only in those areas in which the federal government does not already have responsibility.
Mr. Lang: On subclause (2) of clause 3, we have already spoken on this, and I raised the question once in the definition of the legal land claims agreement. The Minister has indicated he is prepared to bring an amendment forward later in the bill on the question of partnerships and to ensure that it is very clear that the Minister cannot negotiate lower terms and standards than are required by the act. In other words, the minimum standards are here.
I want to put on the record a concern that I expressed to the Minister, and I think it should be on the record. When negotiating the Indian land claim, we have to be very careful, for example, in the umbrella agreement and when negotiating the development assessment process that - although the principle may be agreed to and may be entrenched in the Constitution - the actual process that is put into effect stays relatively open for the Legislature to make changes down the road.
My concern in negotiating the self-government agreements and the land claim process is that if we get too specific and make agreements in areas pertaining to today, five years from now they may not be applicable and might need some minor adjustment or changes. We are going to be very sorry if those types of things are in the Constitution of Canada. I think the Minister should, when the time comes for these negotiations, closely scrutinize this type of thing. It is not going to be in the Yukons interest, native or non-native, if we have certain items in the Constitution and they cannot be changed if we are dealing with things that change as time goes on, such as processes and that type of thing.
I want to caution the Minister on this, and I would submit that this principle should apply to negotiations throughout. It should not just apply to this act, but also to other aspects of government. We can get ourselves into a very major problem here where, indirectly, we have put ourselves in a situation through the current negotiations where we may well get less authority than any of the provinces and put ourselves in the situation where we are forever and a day beholden to the federal government, because of the negotiations that have been agreed to by the present government and through the process.
I just want to caution the Minister in this respect. We had a discussion earlier today on this and I think he saw the point that was being put to him. I feel it should be on the public record.
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, be amended in clause 4 at page 7 by deleting clause 4 and substituting for it the following: 4. This Act binds the Government of the Yukon.
Other than the fact that we cannot find anywhere in this act where there would be an exception, this amendment would make it very clear that the act binds the Government of the Yukon, whether or not it is considered a person.
Mr. Lang: We see this as a significant improvement in the bill. Hopefully, in conjunction with our amendment for the definition of persons, the two of them will help alleviate a lot of the concerns brought forward by some of the witnesses who appeared before us, as well as other comments that were made by people interested in the act.
It is our strong belief that what we as government and legislators require of others, we should also require of ourselves. This amendment goes a long way toward that. We will be supporting that amendment.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 4 agreed to, as amended
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Mr. Lang: I have a significant amendment to bring forward. Perhaps I could read it into the record and, subsequently, we could take a break until 7:30 p.m., unless they want to proceed with it. I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 6 at page 8 by deleting section 6 and replacing it with the following:
6(1) The people of the Yukon have the right to a healthy environment and to the protection of the living species inhabiting it, to the extent provided for by this act and the regulations, permits, orders, approvals and authorizations issued under any section of this act.
and by deleting sections 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 in their entirety and replacing them with the following:
6(2) A judge of the Supreme Court may grant an injunction to prohibit any act or operation which interferes or might interfere with the exercise of a right conferred by section 6(1).
6(3) The application for an injunction contemplated in section 6(2) may be made by any person domiciled in Yukon frequenting a place or the immediate vicinity of a place in respect of which contravention is alleged.
It may also be made by the Minister of Justice and by any municipality where the contravention is being or about to be committed.
6(4) Section 6(2) does not apply in the case of a project duly authorized under this act, except with regard to any act contrary to the provisions of the certificate of authorization, permit, or of any applicable regulation.
The purpose of the amendment before us is to deal with what we feel to be a very significant piece of the legislation and that is the question of the environmental right.
Our concern is that, with the way that it is written, it is very broad and we feel that it may well be a section that somebody, who - in some quarters might be referred to as an extremist or a zealot- at any cost, might want to do whatever he, she or they can to stop some particular development in the territory. We feel that the way it is written, it can apply to anything. We feel the amendment before us is clear. Basically, if one feels that an operator is contravening a permit or an authorization, they can go to the courts for an injunction. It is a part of the bill that we find offensive. Although I know the Minister may not agree with us, it is almost encouraging people to inform on their neighbours. No matter how well written that kind of legislation is, the fundamental principle is still there that encourages that type of behaviour. The Minister will say if one is found to be knowingly vexatious and takes someone to court or petitions someone to go to court, then he or she can be required to pay the cost.
You must understand that by this time the individuals or individual in question has put a significant investment into whatever they are doing and will have by that time gone through a very difficult situation. The section before us has been taken from the Quebec Environment Act that has been in place since the late seventies. The Minister will note that there are some changes we have made for our bill, but we feel that these are the principles to follow when one is not adhering to their permit. That is why we are putting forward the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to briefly address this amendment. As the Member said, it is a very substantial one that is not at all consistent with the principles of Bill No. 20, which the Members opposite agreed with. It is very clear that every individual in the Yukon does have the right to a healthful environment, every person should be responsible for their environmental actions and the Government of Yukon is the trustee of the public trust. The government must make available to individuals remedies for them to assure that they can protect the environment that they have a right to.
I disagree with the Member when he says the proposed amendment makes it a lot clearer as to what will be considered an infraction and what measures can be taken. I think the amendment clearly restricts the number of defences that are available to an accused individual as listed under section 9.
There are quite a few defences that are not contained in the Quebec bill. As the Member has already mentioned, it is an offense to make a false statement or for anyone to bring forward a false accusation for vexatious or frivolous reasons. This is a punishable offence under this act, but it is not part of the Quebec bill.
As far as the concern about Bill No. 20 encouraging people to report on their neighbours, I think it is the responsibility of the public and the individual to report possible infractions and crimes committed against the environment. As stated in the principles, we all have a right to enjoy a clean environment. I would go so far as to say to the Member that that is quite prevalent in our society at this time.
As we do not have environmental protection officers on every corner, we have to rely on the public for situations like the turn-in poachers program, where we actually reward people for reporting infractions on wildlife. There are many, many more. This is clearly following that principle. It is not contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
When we return from our break, in two hours time, we will have a great deal of discussion on the amendment put forward by the Member.
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call the Committee back to order.
Mr. Johnston: I would like to introduce a good family friend in the public gallery who is also a good friend of Madam Chair, Ellen Fournier.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Prior to getting into the amendment to clause 6, I wonder if the Member would like to first return to definitions and review them? Some of the words he is proposing amendments to appear in sections 6 to 13.
Mr. Lang: That is fine with me.
On clause 2 - previously stood over
Hon. Mr. Webster: On the definition of animal, I wonder if the Member has had an opportunity over the dinner hour to refer to his dictionary? There is a good reason why we have the words insects or other invertebrates in there, which I found out over the dinner hour when I referred to my handy dictionary.
We all know what the definition of an invertebrate is, but an insect is any of a small group of small invertebrate animals being divided into three parts: the head, the thorax and the abdomen, and having three pairs of legs and usually two pairs of wings. Flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers and beetles are insects. It is a small animal, with its body divided into several parts, having several pairs of legs. Spiders, mites, centipedes and ticks are often called insects. It is insects and other invertebrates.
Mr. Lang: It is not often, after 17 years in this House, I have had to say that I have erred. I bow to my learned colleague. Any time that I am stuck for words, I know that if my learned colleague does not have the words on the tip of his tongue, he will always have his dictionary with him as a backup. I withdraw the amendment.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment to the definition of animal?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: On the word contaminant.
Hon. Mr. Webster: We have no difficulty with this amendment.
Mr. Lang: Chalk up one for me.
Chair: Is the Committee agreed on the amendment to the definition for contaminant?
Amendment agreed to
Chair: On the word development.
Hon. Mr. Webster: On reviewing the proposed amendment more thoroughly for the definition of development, I still reached the same conclusions as I did when it was raised the first time. We need this definition. It is very broad. Obviously, not all developments will have an adverse effect on the environment, but they still have to be considered in any development assessment process.
Mr. Lang: The logic of the Minister seems to be that no matter whether it has a negative or positive effect, depending on the scope of the development, it may well have to go through the process. Is that what the Minister is putting forth to the House?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, whether it has either a positive or negative effect it would have to.
Mr. Lang: I will accept that argument. I will withdraw the amendment.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: On the word environment.
Hon. Mr. Webster: We are on the amendment that deletes 2(d), clause 2(e) and clause 2(f) from the definition of environment. I still believe very strongly that the man-made facilities are part of our environment, and have an affect on our natural environment, obviously. Man-made projects have some socio-economic effect and impact on our society. Therefore I argue very strongly for keeping the definition of environment as it stands now and correspondingly keep the definition for natural environment as it is written.
Mr. Lang: This is where we philosophically part. From a practical point of view, we feel that the definition that the Minister has brought forward is very, very broad, to the point that unbeknownst to himself, this act can perhaps be used in some quarters for some things that it may not have been intended for. I am concerned about the interpretation of the bill when it goes to court.
We are not going to withdraw this amendment. We feel that with the deletion of (d), (e) and (f), and also our inclusion of the aesthetic values associated with the balance that has been left in, it would take into account all the areas of the environment that this particular act should deal with.
With respect to the Ministers argument that buildings and social-economic factors are all conditions that are going to have to be taken into consideration, there are other pieces of legislation that are in place for those: the Building Standards Act, the Electrical Protection Act, as well as an endless supply of legislation and regulations that are presently in place. I feel that the Ministers advisors are in part, trying to use this bill to go into every area of Yukon life, both through the front and back door. This is the case here.
Contrary to what the Minister has said, we are recommending a much more positive proposal. Our proposal is more concise and understandable from a laymans point of view, who wants to find out exactly what the Environment Act covers.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member is quite right that it can only be used in specific instances in the act. This definition of the environment, which includes (d) and (e), is really used only in part 6, where we are referring to the development assessment process. Everywhere else in the act we are talking about the natural environment. Clearly, when we are talking about the necessity for the development assessment process, we are talking about such man-made structures as bridges and roads to determine what their effect they will be on the environment and the socio-economic conditions affecting our community. This definition of environment really only applies to part 6, dealing with the development assessment process.
Mr. Lang: I would submit to the Minister that that is not the case. If one looks at the bill, it is questionable as to whether the natural environment is being referred to, or strictly the environment. That being the case, the Minister is asking for too broad a definition, which would be difficult to interpret. That is why we submitted the amendment.
I should add that the amendment we have before us is largely taken from Albertas act, which does not include buildings, or various other aspects, that this definition does.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I beg to differ with the Member but, in the first few clauses of the bill, we are specifically talking about the natural environment. I do not see how the Member can ignore the fact that man-made structures definitely do have an effect on our environment. They are part of our environment and have an effect on our natural environment. If they did not, there would be no need for a development assessment process.
Mr. Lang: We can use as an example responsibilities of the Members of the Executive Council in section 39(1), where it refers to implications for the environment. It does not talk about the natural environment. Subsection (b) talks about ensuring the consideration of the environment. In section 51(1), using the Ministers argument that it only refers to part 6, then why does it not say natural environment when it says, for the purpose of fostering understanding of and responsibility towards the environment? With what the Minister has put forward as his argument, it should read the natural environment.
I submit the Minister is not correct; his argument is flawed with respect to the basis that the natural environment is always referred to, other than in part 6. That is not correct; read the bill.
Hon. Mr. Webster: When we are talking about a state-of-the-environment report we are, to a large degree, talking about the state of the natural environment. Wherever there could be some confusion between the environment overall and the natural environment, we are referring to the natural environment.
Mr. Lang: I am not going to belabour this, but the fact is that the two sections we are talking about, (d) and (e), are found and taken care of in many other pieces of legislation. Although the Minister cannot agree, I think he can see the soundness of our argument in that I think he is trying to be the end-all and be-all with this piece of legislation. As I said, you have all the other legislation in place. The Minister is relying on part 6, the development assessment process. It is taken into account when it is felt that there is an adverse effect on the air, land and water - the ecosystem and ecological relationship; subsequently, it has to go through the process and, if it happens to be a building at that stage, fine.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member is using the definition of environment in the Alberta act. Our definition of environment is lifted right from the Northwest Territories Environment Protection Act and also the Ontario Environment Act.
Mr. Lang: Where would the Member rather be: in Ontario or Alberta?
To support our argument, I am just pointing out that some other jurisdictions have this. I am not going to go further on this; we can have the vote. What we are trying to do, as I have said privately and publicly, is make every effort to make this as clear and concise a bill as we possibly can, and that is why we are bringing forward the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am of the opinion that these definitions of environment and natural environment are clear and straightforward.
Chair: On the definition of natural environment.
Hon. Mr. Webster: This follows the conversation we had on the previous definition of environment. It is obvious that since environment is defined to be all-inclusive, we need a definition of the natural environment to pertain to that being the air, land and water and so on. The Member for Porter Creek East has already agreed to it.
Mr. Lang: I would be the last to put words in the Ministers mouth; I would hope he would not do that to me. He just said that I agreed with him. We had a discussion about this. Perhaps the Minister has had a mental lapse in the two-hour break. I assure the Minister that I have not withdrawn the amendment for the definition of natural environment. We do not believe it to be appropriate. With the amendment we had previously, we felt that this was not required.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I do not want to give the impression to the Members of the House that I was trying to put words into the mouth of the Member for Porter Creek East. In the very convincing argument he made on the definition of environment, he said quite conclusively that the natural environment does include (a), (b) and (c) here, listed under the all-encompassing definition of environment.
To differentiate between the two, the argument follows that you would need to include this definition of the natural environment.
Chair: There was an amendment to add persons rather than person responsible.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have reviewed the definition of person in the last few hours, and I have come to the conclusion that it is less confusing to leave it the way it is. It is clearly defined in section 4 that this act binds the Government of the Yukon, and we will leave all the other sections in the first part of the bill as they stand, as that would be the least confusing way of putting it.
Mr. Lang: I want to express our disappointment. We feel the definition of person does two things: it more than reinforces the fact that the Government of the Yukon Territory is equal before the eyes of the law with anyone else affected by this legislation and, just as important, there is confusion in reading the bill, as drafted, between an individual who has reached the age of majority, versus an individual who has not.
Although we fundamentally disagree on the way the environment rights section is written, we also realize that we have a responsibility to try to correct what we see as difficult legislation to understand or that leaves room for interpretation.
If the Minister was prepared to accept this particular amendment, we felt it would be the simple redrafting of a number of other sections to clarify those that apply to people under the age of majority with respect to petitioning the Minister for an investigation.
We are deeply disappointed that the Minister has not seen fit to accept this amendment. We feel it is a valid one and would be worthwhile for the act to have a definition of person, in view of the fact that person is used throughout the bill with no definition.
Hon. Mr. Webster: We do have a standard definition of person and, in reviewing it, we determined that we would cover it by making it very clear in section 4 by stating that this act binds the Government of the Yukon.
Clause 2 agreed to as amended
On Clause 6 - continued
Chair: Is there debate on the amendment?
Mr. Lang: This is a very significant amendment, in that we are referring to sections 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 and indicating they should be replaced.
I want to make the observation that we feel the bill is not that well drafted, in that it is very loose. For example, a person has impaired, or is likely to impair. Such words as that leave a lot to the discretion of those who are enforcing the law or are prepared to take action. It leaves a very broad area for interpretation.
We asked that section 11 be taken out. This is a very serious section, as the reverse onus is put on an individual. In other words, you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent before the law. The argument the government is going to put forward is that they have lost cases in Ontario, or Michigan where, because of the technicalities involved in a chemical spill, they could not determine who was guilty, as there were three or four parties involved. If we have a bill like this, we can turn the person around and have them try to prove to the government, or the courts, that they did not spill the pesticide, which the government could not prove belonged to them.
As far as I am concerned there is a fundamental principle involved here in section 11, over and above the environmental rights section, which really is fundamental to our whole system of law. I think it is the effect caused by the fact that in some jurisdictions, unfortunately, the government lost a few cases because perhaps their legal council or investigation was not all that good, so they turned around and said if we cannot prove it one way we will do it the other way, and we will really lay the hammer down on the poor farmer who does not have the resources to be able to fight big government.
I can not see how anybody in this House can support section 11. It really is an offensive section, one that bears scrutiny by us all as parliamentarians. It is, in fact, a separate issue over and above the question of the environmental rights section. We talked about environmental rights. The irony of the section is that it is under environmental rights, and it is a clause that says that a person is guilty until they prove themselves innocent.
I submit to the House and all Members here that that in itself contradicts the whole concept of environmental rights. I find it difficult to believe that any Member of this House would stand up and say that because they had two court cases in Ontario or in the state of Michigan, we are bringing this section in just in case we run across it so we can have a fall-back position.
As I said, in private to the Minister, when I raised the issue on section 11, first of all we are not in Michigan, secondly we are not in Ontario and thirdly I think we have to look at it from the point of view of our own court system. It is very rare in law to see the concept of reversed onus written by parliamentarians who are supposed to be protecting individual rights.
What are we doing under the guise of environmental rights? We have the squealer section. Now we are adding a section that states that if we cannot garner enough evidence between neighbours informing on their neighbours and by stating that if you can only get two or three elements of the evidence, we are going to turn around and say prove yourself innocent - we cannot prove you guilty, so now it is your turn to prove yourself innocent.
I do not think that is right. The Minister should take a hard look at clause 11, which is under the guise of environmental rights. This whole clause is wide open.
The reason we are bringing the amendment forward is because we feel the clauses on page 8, 9 and 10 are written so loosely that those who want to use the court system, as I said in my introductory remarks this afternoon, will be those who would like to do everything they can and use every legal gambit available to try and stop development.
The Minister says that is not correct. First of all, the person who is going to use this section will not be Joe Blow off the street; it will be one or two individuals representing publicly or quasi-publicly funded organizations. I will cite an example from the United States, the Sierra Club.
I am not saying there is no place for those types of positions. It is healthy for our environment to use that check and balance concept of development assessment and hearing from the various interveners so that all viewpoints can be considered. I find it offensive to have sections left so wide open that, effectively, in clause 9(1), we have built-in defenses. The Minister will go through it and say that there are more defenses here than any other piece of legislation. But you have to remember, we are in court by this time.
The Minister should take under serious consideration what is being proposed here. I think we have, in the end, the same objective. It is a question of how we are going to get there.
The Minister is going to say that this section is very well written, but if we are leaving likely to impair in a section that may have to be interpreted by the court, that does leave a broad statement. It certainly is not concise.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member says this section is poorly written and very loose, and that it is going to leave things wide open for people like the Sierra Club to come in and take unsuspecting people to court. Well, that is not the case. It has not been the case in other jurisdictions, such as Michigan, and Oregon, where the same bill of rights section is in place. Yes, the Member opposite is quite right; I am going to cite the defence available to an individual under this act; it gives them a lot of protection. The first one is that if the individual has a permit as required under this act or the regulations and is operating within the standards and conditions laid out in that permit, that is a defence. It does not mean we are going to get to court before the person will find that out. Their legal advisors are going to inform people of what their chances are of being successful in a court case before it ever gets that far.
Another defence is if the activity of the defendant has not caused and is not likely to cause material impairment to the natural environment and that defendant has established that there is no feasible or prudent alternative to the activity, which is quite equal to, in criminal law, due diligence. Another defence is if the activity of the defendant has not impaired or is not likely to impair the natural environment outside residential property.
Also, of course, it goes one step further in subsection (2), saying that actions cannot be commenced 15 years from the date the cause of action arises.
In reviewing other pieces of legislation on the continent, I think the defences under this section go a long way in stopping this wide open prosecution by, as the Member cites, activist organizations.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Nordling: These sections are a philosophical judgment call, based on how we want to live and how we want to do things. I think we are going in the same direction and want to accomplish the same thing. It is just a matter of how we are going to do it.
I am going to support the amendment, because I think it is closer to the way I think it should be done. I am a little bit worried about any reverse onus clauses, because it does make it difficult for an individual. I have a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court of the Yukon to grant injunctions to prohibit any act or operation, which is suggested in the amendment. We really should leave it in the hands of the Supreme Court, rather than write all these things into the act, thereby making interpretation difficult.
We are saying that the defendant has to establish things. It is not clear what the burden of proof is going to be. We might assume that it is a balance of probabilities, or maybe it is beyond a reasonable doubt. How does one establish that there is no alternative to the activity, or that it has not caused or is not likely to cause impairment to the environment.
All these things have to be reinterpreted. If they are going to be done under the common law, then let us just leave it to the common law.
Hon. Mr. Webster: In response to concerns raised by Members opposite with respect to section 11, this section will not be used in very many cases, because it is required where there are multiple sources of contaminants. There was the example we were talking about, where the Member for Porter Creek East and I are two farmers on opposite sides of the river, both applying pesticides. This section is for multiple sources that could have caused an impairment to the environment. The one person would have to argue that the other source is the likely source of contaminant that caused harm, and that other person should, at least, accept some of the liability.
Again, I want to point out that, if the persons using the contaminant - in this case, pesticide that has obviously caused harm downstream to the fish, which are dead - are operating within the conditions of the permit, that is a defence.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister keeps using this permit thing as the be-all and end-all. I will give him a simple example of how permits are not the be-all and end-all, because they do not always state all the requirements and conditions. They cannot, because you would probably have a document a yard long.
I personally have a burning permit. On the permit, it states the time of the year one can burn, but it does not state that, before burning, you have to phone Forestry and tell them you are going to follow through with your burning permit, and ask permission to light the fire.
You get your burning permit, walk out of there, and think you can burn from whatever date is specified on the permit.
It is fine for the Minister to stand up and say that the permit is going to be the be-all and end-all in the defence. However, according to what the Minister is saying, and what this act is going to do, if I legally get my burning permit and light my fire, but have not phoned Forestry to tell them, then I am in violation of my permit. Then, you have the bird-dog flying around and Forestry out there, and you are in big trouble.
It does place a lot of onus on the individual, even with a permit in their hand, to prove they are not guilty of the big offence they are supposed to have committed. I only found out you had to phone before you lit the fire, because I asked about 90 questions, because I did not want to do anything wrong. Most people, however, are not going to do that. They are going to walk out of there with their permit, thinking that they have been given all the instructions, and it is okay to follow through with the terms of the permit.
I would have to prove that I was innocent. The only way I could prove I was innocent of this evil deed was to say that I was not told. Then, you get that story about how ignorance is no defence.
I am being quite reasonable with the example I am bringing forward. We do not even know what permits are going to be required for, let alone what is going to be specified in the permits that are given. This clause is a great concern to Yukon people.
Mr. Nordling: Before the Minister explains that, let me go a little further with the permit question. He tells me that I can use the permit as a defence, but how many permits am I going to get that are going to allow a contaminant to impair the environment? That is when I need to defend myself. It is when my contaminant has impaired the environment. My defence is that I have a permit? Is my permit going to allow that?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The regulation will establish what quantity of the contaminant can be used in a certain situation. That is what the permit will set out in plain language.
Mr. Nordling: How does that save me from the burden of proof?
Hon. Mr. Webster: If an action is brought, under section 8, against a person who is suspected of releasing a contaminant, where there are known harmful effects downstream, such as dead fish, the onus should be on the industry to prove that its activity, or the release of contaminants, is not what has caused the damage.
This is particularly difficult when there is more than one source of the contaminant.
Some Hon. Member: So, you wave your permit and say, I am not responsible.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Possibly. As set out in section 9, the permit is a defence.
Mr. Lang: I think we have to get realistic about the section. We are saying that if, with the governments technology and its access to the taxpayers dollars, the government is unable to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt whether the contaminant that Mr. Webster and Mr. Nordling allowed to be released in the Takhini River was Mr. Websters or someone elses, it is now up to Mr. Webster and Mr. Nordling to prove to us which one released the contaminant. I submit to the Minister that Mr. Nordling or Mr. Webster as private citizens do not have the resources to be able to do the chemical analyses and all the various other aspects that he or she would have to do in order to prove an adequate defence.
Why are we accepting this very offensive principle of reverse onus? It is very seldom used in legislation, at least in our Parliament; I am trying to think of the last time it was used. I can assure the Minister it was a long, long time ago. This section is a very serious section, and quite frankly a very offensive one.
The Minister used the argument that it is fine because there are so few cases to use the principle that one is guilty until proven innocent. I hope that if the Minister votes for this he does get into a situation where contaminants are released and he has the good fortune of going to court to prove himself innocent. If he was put into that position, he would be the first to go to the press and ask who passed a section like that - where he was innocent but had to go to court to prove it. Alternatively, the justice system would lay a charge and prosecute according to the fundamental principles of British justice.
I think the Minister has been taken in by his advisors under the guise or zeal of trying to protect the environment as best he can, and I feel it is a major mistake to do something of this kind. This is the type of section that brings into question the fundamental principles of an act of this kind.
If you are prepared to consciously write this type of principle to legislation then one has to wonder what is going to happen with the regulations. What else is in the bill that we perhaps did not catch? When we get to that section, I would like to think that the Minister would set it aside and give some further thought to it. If you did not have party discipline on the other side there would be Members on that side bounding to their feet saying maybe we had better have a second look at this.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think the Member is forgetting something that is pretty evident in this clause. First of all, it has been established that there is impairment to the environment because of the use of a contaminant - that is stated right in the clause - and that the defendant caused the impairment by releasing this contaminant at the material time. In other words, at the time that we discovered the fish floating on the surface of the water, we know that individual A was using this particular kind of contaminant. A situation could arise where that individual says that so-and-so was using the same contaminant at the same time he was and therefore it is not my fault. We then have a situation where individual A is pointing the finger at individual B saying it is not my fault, it is his fault, and individual B is pointing his finger at individual A saying it is not my fault. That is a defence.
Clearly, the onus should be on one of these two individuals saying, I am operating under the terms of my permit. I am safe. It must be somebody else.
Mr. Phelps: I have a problem with contaminant in the definition section. Let us take the word smoke. Smoke is contamination when you light a fire in your home in Riverdale and the smoke exceeds normal quantities in the natural environment. You have all kinds of people lighting wood fires in Riverdale. You could have a situation where one or more people are charged and possibly sued under this part. Then you look at section 11. There might be 100 homes burning wood. Section 11 says that each of them is responsible for the impairment and that they have caused it, unless they can prove otherwise.
It is my respectful submission that you can have numerous situations, without permits, with people releasing contaminants into the environment, by the very definition of contaminants, whether it be people using septic tanks in Carcross, and finding fecal counts in the river. It is very costly to change - in fact, prohibitive even for government to clean up. Yet, technically, each of these people has to be put to the expense of meeting the reverse onus of cause and effect on the environment.
One can surely see that, potentially, there is an array of problem cases that could be brought on by individuals under the provisions of section 8. It is not a defence, if you do not have a permit. Very many people, by the strict definition of contaminant, are releasing contaminants into the environment in their daily lives. It may be a damaging situation, where each of many people might have had an incremental part to play in the causal relationship to the damage. It seems to me that section 11 makes it very awkward for a guy to clear himself of the damages that flow.
This is really directed at cause and effect. An example was just handed to me by one of my very astute colleagues, and that is letting cars idle at 40 degrees below. I know this is against the principles of the Environment Act, and the government would never needlessly burn hydrocarbons, even in generating electricity; however, here is a situation where you have all these noxious fumes released into the atmosphere. The potential mischief of section 11 is the onus of proving that they are not responsible, because of the cause-effect relationship.
That is a very difficult thing to prove or disprove, especially when you are talking about incrementally reaching levels that suddenly become damaging. In other words, so much smoke does not matter very much, but one large fire changes the situation. In a river, some sewage does not have any impact, but a bit more makes all the difference in the world.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The argument about the woodsmoke and idling cars, when there is a situation of many people burning wood, or many people in the parking lot of a bar, at 50 below, idling their cars, you do get a detrimental effect on the environment. This is to the extent that the City of Whitehorse, with its woodsmoke bylaw, will shut them down. Anyone who continues to burn wood after a certain period of time is subject to a fine; however, that is very clear evidence. We know which vehicles are idling. We know which people are the offenders in the woodsmoke situation. You can tell from the opaqueness of the smoke coming from the chimney.
The situation in section 11, which, admittedly, will be a very rare situation, is one you do not necessarily see. You do not necessarily see people putting contaminants in a river. It could be done in the middle of the night. The other problem with it - and that is why it is referred to most often in cases of water, where there is dilution - is that the effect multiplies.
I agree with the Member about the incremental effects, the accumulative effects of many people releasing a contaminant into the air by woodsmoke or idling vehicles, but this is a different case.
Mr. Phelps: I disagree. This contemplates a situation where you have a release of a contaminant. Number one, that is proven. The contaminant is of a type that caused the impairment. You have to prove that the defendant released the stuff you are talking about into the river. You have to prove that that kind of contaminant caused the impairment. The lawsuit, if it were taken privately, would be asking for remedies under section 12 for the impairment. The court can do several things, among them award damages and costs. All that section 11 says is that the onus is on whoever released the contaminant to prove they did not cause any impairment.
In the case brought up by the Minister, where there are several cars idling or several people burning wood, you can prove quite easily, just as the Minister said, that there is impairment in the air - smoke - by testing, and you can prove who some of the people who released contaminants into the air are. What this clause says is that they have to prove that they did not cause the impairment to the environment, that they were not the straw that broke the camels back.
It is my respectful suggestion to all Members here and to their consciences that what this section has the potential for doing mischievously is placing a lot of the people in a situation where they are put to great expense, not to prove that they were not burning wood when they should not have been, but that they should not pay for all the damages caused - not that they did not use their outhouses when outhouses were unlawful but that they should pay for the clean-up for the Carcross basin, and so on and so forth. That is taking it to an extreme, granted, but I am sure there are all sorts of cases that are closer to real life, and all this to try to have an iron clad case someday against some company that might say we released the contaminant and the river is polluted with PCBs, but it was not necessarily we who did the damage.
I think it is using an elephant gun to go mosquito hunting. In my view, the potential mischief to all kinds of people trying to prove they did not cause the damage, although they might be guilty and have to pay a fine, far outweighs any foreseeable case where the issue of collecting damages against a corporation will turn on the cause-effect proven. It may be proved that they released some kind of hazardous waste or special contaminant into the environment at the same time as the impairment to the environment occurred. Perhaps the case of the proponents to the action is that there might be some case some day when that person cannot be made responsible for the impairment.
We, on this side, are saying that there are all kinds of little guys who are constantly releasing contaminants, by their definition, into the environment. Most things we do results in releasing some kind of contaminant by the strict definition in the definition section. Yet, there is the chance that any one of us might have to go to court and try to prove that we did not cause some impairment for which we may be liable. I just think the balance, surely, for the greatest good, rests with the case to not have this pernicious section in the bill.
I cannot imagine what serious problem the government is seeking to address by this reverse onus section. I can see all kinds of potential for abuse.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As I said at the beginning of my remarks, it would be an unusual circumstance to have multiple sources of contaminants released at the same time that contribute to this adverse effect on the environment.
I take it from the argument put forward by the Opposition that the only way we could be successful in a conviction of someone committing a crime against the environment, in these examples, would be for us to collect enough evidence to conclusively prove that it was one particular operator, as opposed to possibly another, or jointly. Is that what the Member is saying?
Mr. Phelps: In effect, I am saying that the defence for a situation of a serious complaint against a business or industry, where the person who released the contaminant, at the same time that the environment was impaired, was able to say that it was not just them, seems very unlikely, particularly if they are doing it without a permit.
I remain convinced that the potential mischief far outweighs the real need for this, unless it is demonstrated as being so.
Mr. Nordling: Let us try another example, so that side knows the philosophical decision they have made in this act. The Fisheries Act has a penalties section. It is an offence to deposit a deleterious substance in a waterway frequented by fish. What has happened is that someone has deposited a deleterious substance in a waterway frequented by fish, and that is sewage into the Yukon River. The Yukon Conservation Society has taken it upon itself to say that there has been an offence committed under the Fisheries Act, and that they want the city charged and penalized under that act.
The question for us to answer now is who should bear the burden of proof as to whether the city is guilty or innocent.
That side is saying that, once the Conservation Society has said the water is contaminated and the city is dumping sewage into it, then the city has to prove that it is innocent. Waving its permit is not going to do it.
The city has to prove itself innocent, rather than the Yukon Conservation Society bringing proof that the city is guilty of that offence. Normally, the roles are reversed, where it is the big guy/small guy. In this case, we may be sympathetic to the Conservation Society, but it is normally the government bringing it against the little guy and then expecting him to pay for it.
In my view, the onus should be on the Conservation Society to prove that the city has deposited that deleterious substance and contravened the act. That sides philosophy is that there should also be a reverse onus clause in the Fisheries Act. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I cannot thank the Member for his very poor example, because we already know that the City of Whitehorse is not meeting the terms of its water licence, issued by the Water Board, under the Fisheries Act.
Mr. Nordling: How do we know that?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We know it has been in contravention of that permit for a number of years. In that particular case, the reverse onus position should be in place, and the City of Whitehorse should have to prove that, somehow, they are operating under the terms of its permit and, therefore, it is a defence. It has not been able to do that.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will take a short recess.
Chair: I will call the Committee back to order. We are still on the amendment to clause 6.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to hear the Ministers comments on the philosophy of where the burden of proof should lie.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am sorry but, because of the noise over here, I could not hear the Members question, although I am trying to concentrate.
I apologize to the Member for Porter Creek West; would he repeat his question, please.
Mr. Nordling: Just before the break, the Minister commented on the guilt of the City of Whitehorse with respect to sewage but avoided the philosophical question and I wanted to hear a comment from him as to who, philosophically, should be bearing the burden of proof in these matters. What is his position on this?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We are not dealing with a philosophical matter. We are talking about evidentiary presumption. I prefer to deal with section 11 when we get there and, instead, at this time refer to the amendment at hand, from the Member for Porter Creek East, dealing with clause 6, subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4).
Mr. Lang: We are prepared to do that. I realize we are dealing with two principles but they are intertwined. A concern that we have with the sections that we have included in the amendment here is to give us a section that is clearly and concisely outlined, as opposed to what we have now. What we have now and what our concern is is basically, and as the Leader of the Official Opposition phrased his concern, is the question of mischief. Utilizing sections like this, for example, they may go through the public regulatory process, and the decision is made by the regulatory process against the position taken by the individual or individuals who went before them for, say, an application for a mine. They subsequently try to use a section like this to try to get their way through the court system after they have lost in another forum. That is our concern.
The Minister says that a defence is whether you are abiding by your permit. In looking at section 9(1), by that time you are in court.
That is our concern, so I submit to all sides that I think what we are providing here ensures that everyone has individual and collective rights about the environment, but it should be very clear that you have to have proof that the individual or the company in question has violated the permit in order to take the necessary steps for an injunction.
I submit that the amendment that we have before us would help clarify the bill and it would go a long way toward negating some of the criticism that the Minister has heard. The Minister should be giving some credence to the concerns expressed by some parties about this section.
A difficulty that one gets into from a political point of view on the question of environmental rights is that as soon as you try to find an alternative or say that there are major areas of concern, all of a sudden the political argument comes forward from the side opposite or from those who are championing this type of principle saying that you are against anyone having political rights. That is not the question at all. The question in this section is: is it too loosely written and is there another way of doing it? I think we have provided it.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I do not accept the premise that an action brought forward under section 8 necessarily means that the case goes to court. I have already explained that.
The Member is requesting something straightforward and clearly written. Section 9 spells out clearly the defenses available to an individual. I have already gone through that.
Under the remedies in section 12, I think Bill No. 20 is far superior to that proposed in the Quebec act. In section 12, under remedies, in addition to granting an injunction, there are other options for a judge to pursue besides awarding damages, awarding costs and grant some other remedy that the Supreme Court considers just. This could provide for a whole host of suggestions, which gives the defendant some opportunities to improve the way in which they operate their activity so that it is in compliance with the permit.
The amendment before us is based on the Quebec act. It merely limits the courts decision to grant injunction, which basically is going to shut down the activity. That is one reason why the Quebec Bill of Rights is so infrequently used. It offers so little option to the courts in dealing with these matters.
Chair: Question has been called. Are you agreed on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: Division has been called. Pursuant to Standing Order 44.1(5), it is my duty to ring the bells for division.
All those in favour, please rise.
All those who disagree with the amendment, please rise.
Chair: The count is 7 yea, 8 nay.
Amendment to clause 6 negatived
Chair: Is there further debate on clause 6?
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Mr. Lang: I have concerns about the wording, has impaired, or is likely to impair, because it is such a broad statement. Under section 8(1), is it the intention that a municipality could take the Government of the Yukon to court? If so, should it not be included in the beginning of that section in order for them to commence such an action?
Hon. Mr. Webster: With respect to the first part of the Members question, yes, it is possible for a municipality to take the Government of the Yukon to court. I did not quite catch the second part of his question.
Mr. Lang: On the question of environmental rights, I notice that we have a corporate person or adult but, in this section, should it not state that a municipality has the right to take the Government of the Yukon Territory to court, if it feel that under the governments mandate it has not fulfilled its obligations? Was that considered in the drafting? If so, why is it not included here?
Hon. Mr. Webster: No. The city is considered a person and, as such, can take the Government of Yukon to court.
Mr. Lang: Perhaps the Minister could go further into the words is likely to impair the natural environment. I was under the impression, from conversations with the Minister and from what he has said thus far in the House, that it was basically a question of taking someone to court when they knowingly committed an impairment to the environment. In other words, they knew they were doing something that was not acceptable and, subsequently, an individual or a group of individuals see it happening and take the action of proceeding against the offender under this section.
Why was this not written in such a manner that one had to be knowingly impairing the environment? I am thinking of a situation where, unbeknownst to somebody, something happens and they are not aware it was going to happen, yet they can be taken to court under this section. I would have thought that intent would be required.
Hon. Mr. Webster: This is not a case where there is good reason to believe that the environment may be impaired if the negligence continues. A person does not want to wait for the inevitable accident to happen. It may be a case, for example, where some contaminants were stored in some rusting barrels and it is obvious to the person that the barrels are about to rust through and the contaminants would flow into water streams and create some real damage. There is a likelihood of some hazardous substances being released and there possibly being, as this clause is written, a likely impairment of the natural environment.
This is continued in clause 9(1) in the defenses. The dependent has established that the activity has not impaired and is not likely to impair. If it did get to court, under remedies in clause 12, there is an option for the Supreme Court to not necessarily fine, but, under clause 12(e), it grants the Supreme Court the option to order some other remedy it considers just or grant a declaration, which is a legal directive to the person to get rid of the rusty barrels and put the hazardous substance in some new barrels to reduce the likelihood of impairment to the environment.
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Mr. Lang: I thought the Minister was going to bring forth an amendment to clause 9(1)(a) in an effort to make it as clear as possible and to include the word permit.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, I do have an amendment, as discussed earlier with the Member for Porter Creek East. As a matter of fact, I have a number of amendments pertaining to section 9. The first deals with a French typo.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in subclause 9(1) at page 9 of the French text by substituting the words alinea 8(1)(a) for the words paragraphe 8(1).
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in paragraph 9(1)(b) at page 9 in the French text by adding the word substantielle immediately after the word atteinte.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in paragraph 9(1)(d)(i) at page 9 in the French text by substituting the words propriete residentielle for the words propriete ou il reside.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in paragraph 9(1)(a) at page 9 by deleting paragraph 9(1)(a) and substituting for it the following paragraph:
9(1)(a) The activity of the defendant that caused or is likely to cause the impairment of the natural environment was in compliance with a permit, licence or other authorization issued or a standard established.
As well, in amended paragraph 9(1)(b), on page 9, we are adding the word the immediately before the word defendant.
Chair: Does the Committee wish to deal with the amendments that are in French?
Some Hon. Member: How can we be asked to pass a bilingual amendment when none of us are bilingual?
We are certainly not bilingual draftspeople.
Chair: Does the Committee agree with the French amendments?
We do not even have a French text.
Some Hon. Member: How can we know whether we agree or disagree?
We have no idea if this is the correct translation and if it means the same as it does in English.
Chair: Can the Minister further assure the Committee that these amendments in French are in order?
Hon. Mr. Webster: If the Committee prefers, I would be willing to table all the French translations following the time when we deal with the bill in English. Would that give the Members the assurance that the French translation is accurate?
Mr. Phillips: The difficulty I am having with this is that I supported the bill that was brought to the House, which approved presenting all our bills in French and English. My difficulty is that I have no idea whether this is the right wording. I have some basic French but it would be very helpful if it was in English as well when we received it so that we knew exactly what we were agreeing to or disagreeing with.
On another note while I am on this: we are dealing with an act that is called the Environment Act. It is an act that is printed on white paper. This might be something we could consider in the future. I do not know if it would violate our agreement that the bill would be passed in the House, but I think it would be very wise in the future if we brought our acts into the House in English so we could understand them, and then translate the act properly afterwards; a few copies in French could be made available to everyone who wants one. There is not a Member in this House who could understand every single aspect of the French side of the legislation. It would be very difficult for any Member of this House to say they could understand every single word in the French translation of the bill. Let us be honest with ourselves.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: On a point of order: that claim may be made of every Member in respect to English, too.
Mr. Phillips: The Government Leader is trying to be funny, but I am not really trying to be funny. I am trying to insert some common sense into what we are doing here. We are talking about an environment act, yet we are producing bills that are twice as thick as they have to be. This bill is 92 pages long; it could be half that amount if it was just in English, and we could be saving a lot of the bleached paper that we use, not just in this act, but in every other act we bring into this House. We have paper recycling baskets all over the government offices, yet we are producing all this paper now in mass amounts that none of us can understand or read. It just does not make any sense.
Let us clean up our act - our environment act, and others.
I think it is a reasonable solution that in the future we look at something like that and still comply with the agreement we have to produce our bills in French. There have to be only a number of bills that are requested in French; maybe a dozen at most. If we produce that many copies in French and the balance of them in English, it makes a lot more sense than bringing a bill in here in French and English. No one can understand it. We do not have a clue about what these amendments mean or even where they fit in.
Hon. Mr. Webster: It will be the decision that we will simply table the amendments in the French language. I want to point out to the Member that, in the case where we are actually amending the French translation, as opposed to just correcting typos, such as 9(1)(a), we do provide a French translation along with the amendment as proposed in English.
Chair: The amendment moved to clause 9(1)(a) is as follows; it has been moved
THAT Bill NO. 20, entitled Environment Act be amended by deleting paragraph 9(1)(a) and substituting for it the following paragraph 9(1)(a): (a) the activity of the defendant that caused or is likely to cause the impairment of the natural environment was in compliance with a permit, licence or other authorization issued or a standard established
Mr. Lang: I just want to point out that I think it does make the section a little more concise, as far as the defence section is concerned. The addition of the permit was the result of some preliminary discussions I had with the Minister, although we still maintain the same principle that the amendment we brought forward for the whole section would have been a much better way to go, as far as the environmental rights section is concerned.
Amendment agreed to
Chair: There is a further amendment
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in paragraph 9(1)(b) at page 9, in the English text by adding the word the immediately before the word defendant.
Amendment agreed to
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister tell us why he has picked 15 years? Is there a specific reason for that?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The reason for selecting 15 years is that we thought that was reasonable if we want to go back in time to go to the courts. It is similar to the Ontario bill.
Clause 9 agreed to as amended
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Mr. Lang: I understood the Minister was going to consider clause 11 further. As a result of the questions from the Member for Porter Creek West, he indicated he was going to have another serious look at section 11 and perhaps remove it or amend it. I would like to hear what he has to say. I think most Members on that side of the floor, after they heard the discussion from this side, would agree it is really a question of whether the benefits of this section outweigh the negatives. I think the Leader of the Official Opposition put it fairly well by saying they were very concerned as to how this could be used from a mischief point of view.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am willing to consider it further but I would also entertain an amendment from the side opposite as to how they would deal with a situation such as this. With that, looking at the time, I move that Madam Chair report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 20, entitled the Environment Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 27, 1991:
Horse owned by the Deputy Minister of Tourism re cost of transporting to Whitehorse from Ottawa (McDonald)
Written Question No. 5
Number of lawsuits for wrongful dismissal filed against government (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, P. 1123
Na Dli Youth Centre re statement of qualifications and staffing criteria for employees (Hayden)
Oral, Hansard, p. 822
The following Sessional Papers were tabled May 27, 1991:
Choosing the Special Waste Storage Site discussion paper, May 1991: Yukon Waste Management Program (Byblow)
Special waste facility: Administrative and Cost Structure discussion paper, May 1991: Yukon Waste Management Program (Byblow)