Tuesday, May 28, 1991 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have a number of returns for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have two returns for tabling.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have one return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Petition No. 8
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I have a response to the petition from Watson Lake for an extended care facility.
We acknowledge and respect the interest that the people in Watson Lake and the surrounding area have in ensuring adequate and appropriate responses to the needs of the elderly people in that region, with the option to stay in their region if at all possible.
The department is establishing a new continuing care rehabilitation coordinator position in Watson Lake, with the specific mandate to work with the elderly and disabled and will also develop effective community-based responses to their needs.
One of the objectives of this persons job will be to minimize the use of institutional options and to maximize supports within the community and the home, depending on what is considered to be the most appropriate and most desirable solution.
Since most people prefer to stay out of institutionalized settings as much as possible, this will help to ensure that the desires of the individuals to retain their autonomy and independence as much as possible are respected.
The person selected to work in this position will be in touch with the elderly people in and around Watson Lake to determine and respond to their interests and needs. This person will work closely with the community plan and implement options that best address the needs and interests of the elderly people of the region.
The Yukon government is constructing a new extended care facility in Whitehorse to address the needs of people requiring 24-hour medical supervision on a long-term basis with considerable daily, direct medical attention. This level of medical long-term care will not be duplicated in other facilities in the Yukon because of its specialized nature.
However, other options for less intensive forms of supervised or supported living within the community are not precluded by this fact, if such an option is deigned to be an effective and feasible response to a demonstrated need and interest of local elderly people. We look forward to working with the people in Watson Lake through the new continuing care rehabilitation coordinator to find practical ways to support the needs of elderly people in the least intrusive, most community-based way possible so that they may live with dignity as independently as possible.
Speaker: Introduction of Bills.
Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers.
Notice of Motion.
Statements by Ministers.
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Faro Strike
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development regarding the strike at Faro, which has been going on for something like eight weeks. A lot of businesses are suffering and I understand that some of the truck owners on the ore haul are about to lose their rigs. One story making the rounds in the Yukon right now has it that Curragh Resources is in for the long haul for this strike and may not even attempt to get the talks back on the rails until next year. I am wondering if the Minister can advise us if he knows anything about this or if there is any truth to it as far as he knows.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can agree with the Member that the impact of the strike is, indeed, being felt throughout the Yukon. However, I cannot provide any substantiation to his allegation of an extended duration for the shutdown. As I have indicated in previous question period discussions, I am in contact with both sides on a very regular basis, almost a daily basis, and I have had no indications that we are in for the long haul as suggested by the Member. I have had every indication from both sides that there is a desire to return to the bargaining table. I have indicated to both sides that it is our desire to see them return to the bargaining table, and that it is the wish of the entire Yukon that they return to the bargaining table and reach a settlement.
There have been no indications whatsoever that the strike is intended to be a year long, as suggested by the Member.
Mr. Phelps: Yesterday, remarks attributed to Mr. Frame were made to the effect that the company has made very little in the way of profits and what has been made in profits has mostly been reinvested in the mine at Faro and at Mount Hundere, and that there really is not any fat in the company to be looked to by the union for large increases in the wage package.
Has the Ministers department done an analysis of the economic viability of the mine to ascertain whether or not a profit or loss situation would be likely, given current metal prices?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Department of Economic Development has done an analysis of the known data on the financial health of the company. There is no question that the current metals prices will regulate the financial health of the company. It is inappropriate, premature and impossible for me to determine precisely whether or not the current metals prices would reflect an operating profit or loss for the company. That is a matter of operational judgment for the operators of the company.
The Member is correct that the company has shown substantial profits over the past several years: in the magnitude of $180 million. There is also the fact that they have shown a fourth-quarter loss last year and a first-quarter loss this year. Those are financial facts. To speculate ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: ... on the companys financial health, in terms of the current market price for the metals, is entirely premature.
Mr. Phelps: Would the Minister not agree that one issue is the veracity of company officials in crying poverty at this time? Would he not agree that that is the situation and that an objective analysis done by the Ministers department of data that is available to them might assist in bringing the union around if, in fact, the company is telling the complete truth about its profit picture?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is betraying his allegiances by the suggestion that it is the union that has to be brought around.
The facts of the matter are that my Department of Economic Development is in close communication with officials of the company. We are in constant communication. We are all cognizant of the current fragile state of the metals market. We are also cognizant of the very high profitability of the company over the past several years.
We are also aware that the entire metals industry is one that fluctuates drastically, and we cannot speculate what metals will do in the short term.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The long term health of the metals market is good.
Question re: Faro strike
Mr. Phelps: I do not know why the Minister seeks to politicize the question that was asked. It is fairly simple. On the hypothetical situation, if the veracity of the company officials is at issue, naturally, it would be the union that will have to be convinced otherwise; it would not be the company. It is not a matter of taking sides.
In the case of the Cassiar strike, the parties settled once the company decided to open its books completely to the union. In the picture that was presented, the facts were so grim that the parties then found it fairly simple to reach a settlement. I am wondering if the Minister might suggest this approach to Curragh.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member raises two issues: one borders on interference in a labour dispute by directing the parties to examine data in order to influence the state of those negotiations. I believe that position has been made very clear in the past. We have no intention to interfere. We have every intention to facilitate.
The second issue relates to the facts of the financial matters themselves. The Member can be assured that financial facts and matters have been disclosed, presented and discussed. The Member has to recognize that in any labour dispute, the issue is one of a very sensitive nature. Many exaggerated pronouncements are made, often by both sides.
It is a simple fact that third parties do not interfere in labour negotiations. The jurisdiction for that, in fact, is federal. The federal Minister has exercised his jurisdiction by appointing a conciliation officer. He exercised his further jurisdiction by washing his hands of the dispute by not taking the subsequent step of a conciliation board as he might have done.
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Minister please conclude his answer.
Mr. Phelps: This is the most important strike to hit the Yukon in a long time. It is having a crippling effect on that portion of the economy, however small, that is not entirely reliant on government spending. I am wondering if the Minister, in saying that he simply cannot interfere, is playing politics, is whistling as he passes by the graveyard in the dark because he is scared to death that he will be branded as coming down on one side or the other and lose votes...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: That is my question Mr. Speaker. I want to know if that is what the Minister is doing, simply playing politics by not getting involved because he is afraid that he might lose some votes?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think that it is the Member opposite who is politicizing the issue. This government has made its position quite clear that it is prepared to facilitate settlement and encourage both sides to resume negotiation and get back to the table.
I believe the Member is suggesting that we should take one or both sides into the woodshed and direct how the settlement should occur. The Member wants us to impose a settlement; this government will not do that. The Member is clearly suggesting an interference and perhaps he is even suggesting that we legislate the union back to work. If that is the position of the Member, then he can say so, but I will not interfere in the negotiations.
Question re: Faro strike
Mr. Phelps: It is a quite a distance between the ostrich approach that the Minister is apparently displaying and the other extreme of legislating the matter to bring striking workers at Curragh back to work.
I would like to ask the Minister exactly what he sees as the long-term negative effects of a lasting strike. Are we going to lose jobs permanently? Is the mine going to have to shut down for good? Exactly what are the long-term effects going to be on the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is raising a very speculative matter. He is suggesting that there is indeed going to be a strike of some duration and that the mine may have to shut down permanently. The Member can answer his own question. Should that be the case, there will be devastating consequences in terms of the mine, the community and the Yukon economy.
Let the Member be reminded that there are no more serious consequences felt as a result of the current shut down than in Faro itself and by the people who are living there.
We are not prepared to speculate that the strike will be of an extended duration. Every indication from both sides is that there is a willingness to reach a settlement. We are providing every encouragement to do that.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister could do less. He is not doing anything that we can see so far, but he could do less.
Has the Minister considered taking a long vacation abroad, perhaps coming back in four or five months to see if things have improved?
I guess he has not.
Question re: Industrial dispute policy
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
I wrote the Minister a letter with respect to a new policy that I understand has been developed in her department called, industrial dispute policy and temporary hardship policy that was cited in a memo dated April 9.
As I have not heard a reply from the Minister, and have not heard a reply from a phone inquiry, could she tell us what these two new policies are dealing with and what the policies are?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I apologize to the Member for not getting back to her sooner. I do have some information on it.
The industrial dispute policy was first established in 1980 and was revised early this year as part of an overall review of all policies in Health and Social Services. The original industrial dispute policy dealt with social assistance benefits payable when the usual source of income is suspended by reason of a strike or lockout.
The revised policy maintains this criterion. It has been reworked into plain English and is in fact shorter than the 1980 version.
The temporary hardship policy was developed early this year as an offshoot of the industrial dispute policy. The policy referred to extreme hardship but did not define it, and the new temporary hardship policy is for those people who may not be eligible for regular social assistance but who will experience undue hardship ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Minister please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: ... without some form of assistance.
Mrs. Firth: The essence we have to get at here is the principle of the policy. The policy has been revised and reworked; then it was further extended to include extreme cases. Could the Minister tell everyone, just in plain language - since she said it has been written in plain language - what this means? Does it give government the ability, for example, to pay social assistance to the workers at Faro while they are on strike?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Social assistance programs are in place as a safety net. Social assistance programs are designed to help out when there is demonstrated need. And need is need. It does not matter how or where the need arose. We have an obligation to assist, and I trust the Member is not suggesting that workers who are union members are not eligible for that program.
Mrs. Firth: I did not ask for a lecture on need. I am asking this government to clearly state their policies - their policies that have changed since 1980. The Minister who previously answered questions made a very interesting point about not interfering but, rather, facilitating. It is up to us to see that this government does not ...
Speaker: Order, please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: It is up to us to see that this government is not going beyond facilitating. The last time we asked in this House how many people were on social assistance ...
Speaker: Order, please. I have asked the Member to please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: I will take a new question.
Question re: Faro strike
Mrs. Firth: The last time we raised this issue, we asked the Minister for Health and Social Services how many families in Faro were on social assistance. She told us that, at that time, there were two families on assistance - the Member is indicating four now, but I am positive she said, in the House, two families at that time. Could she tell us now how many families in Faro are on social assistance? Could she also tell us whether they are getting strike pay as well?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: This past week, I heard there were only 15 families requiring social assistance in Faro since the strike that has been going on 57 or 58 days. In further response to the Members question regarding temporary hardship, all people in the territory are eligible for this program and people are required to use all the means possible to sustain themselves. If they have a mortgage, they are asked to negotiate some form of deferral with their bank. If they have snowmobiles, motor cycles or extra vehicles, they are asked to sell them. If all else fails, the temporary hardship policy will kick in to anyone around the territory. The money obtained through the temporary hardship policy...
Speaker: Order please, will the Member please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: ... may be recovered by the government through an agreement to repay the from client.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that it is their policy to pay people who are receiving strike pay or social assistance, which is presently being collected by 15 families in Faro? This is quite an increase since we last asked, when there were two families. The Minister just made another comment about entering into an agreement where they can pay back money. Is the Government also lending these people money? Perhaps she could tell us exactly what the agreements and relationships are between the workers who are on strike at Faro and the Department of Health and Social Services.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I have no intention of lecturing the Member. The policy is available to anyone around the territory. The process for a person to apply is that they must have found themselves in what is assumed to be temporary hardship. In other words, they are people who are earning a living, just as Members of this House are but, for one reason or another, they find themselves in hardship.
We are not going to see families out in the street when we have a social assistance program that is there to meet that need. No, we are not lending extra money to people. This is actually an additional hardship on people who are seeking assistance. They do not just receive it, as regular assistance receivers do. They must agree to repay the amount they receive from the department.
Mrs. Firth: The best thing to do would be to ask for a copy of the policy. I wrote three weeks ago, and my letter was not answered, nor have I ever received a copy of it. Would the Minister give us the commitment that she will have her department bring that down to us this afternoon so we can analyze ourselves what is happening?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I have asked my department for that letter, and I will deliver it to the Member as soon as it is ready.
Question re: Foster parent per diem rate
Mr. Lang: With respect to the review of the maintenance paid to foster parents, a couple of weeks ago there was a fair amount of debate with respect to this issue and the problems that foster parents in the Yukon were faced with, in view of the fact that there have been no changes to that policy since 1986.
At that time, the Minister of Health and Social Services said there was a review process underway, which had actually begun last October. It has come to my attention that the support group for the foster parents met last week and many of them are becoming very disgruntled with the lack of action on behalf of the department. I am sure the Minister is aware of this.
Why is the Minister procrastinating on making a decision on the per diems for the foster parents, as they are presently laid out, especially in view of the difficulty in recruiting new foster parents?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I am not procrastinating and I agree with the Member that there needs to be a review. There is a review happening. It is proceeding as rapidly as I can get it through the system. I can understand the frustration of the foster parents. They are the people who are delivering the service. I am attempting to deal with this as quickly as I can.
Mr. Lang: That is the point. The Minister is always very sympathetic, and, I think, genuinely so. However, the foster parents who have been in touch not only with me, but also with other Members of the House, are becoming very concerned with the lack of action.
It is one thing to express sympathy; it is another to actually do something.
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: I want to ask the Minister when these people, who are, for the most part, volunteer foster parents, will be told definitively of the decision the government will make with respect to the maintenance payments that are presently in effect. When?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Just as quickly as I have that information myself.
Mr. Lang: Perhaps I could tackle the question this way. The foster parents have been told that they may learn in June. They may know in mid-summer or maybe as late as the next budget in the fall. I want to ask the Minister if she will undertake to give the foster parents an answer one way or the other by the end of June?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The Member does like dates. I will, as I said, give the foster parents the information on the program just as soon as I can. I cannot give a specific date at this time.
Question re: Foster parent per diem rate
Mr. Lang: I want to make the point that I am the messenger here, and we have a number of people who are very disgruntled with the lack of action by the government. These people want to know when they will be told, or at least be given some definitive time line, about an increase in rates and I think that they deserve that.
The review has been going on since October. I tabled documents in this House that indicated that the initial review took place in October 1990. We are almost into June 1991. I know that the government is slow, but the government is not that slow. I think that the Minister is required to give this House, and those people, at the very least, a definitive time line.
I want to ask the Minister why she will not be in a position to give them a definitive answer no later than the end of June?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I am not sure what the Member wants me to do - sign in blood or what? I have told the Member that as soon as I have the documents processed through the various hoops of government, I will be in touch with the foster parents in the territory. I will let them know what is happening with their program.
The review that is being prepared includes a considerable amount more than an increase in the rates, because they are providing a service that is more than dollars and cents. We feel that there are other supports required for the foster parents. This includes supports that the foster parents have asked for, and we are working to put that all into place and into one package.
Mr. Lang: It is amazing; we can give $65,000 to an ex-judge to go on a years sabbatical; we can make a decision on that in the space of a day. This is a very complicated case. We are dealing with people who cannot really care for themselves and subsequently, volunteers are being asked to deal with per diem costs in 1991 based on 1986 figures. I do not understand this.
I want to ask a different question. It has come to my attention that over the past month there has been an extensive advertising campaign, with a number of open houses trying to encourage people to become foster parents. My information is that very few people have come forward to volunteer.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister confirm that the advertising program thus far has been unsuccessful in the most part?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I do not have that information. I will have to take that as notice.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister give us an undertaking as to when she could come back with an answer?
In view of the lack of success, and in view of the fact that the government is obviously not prepared to act quickly in respect to the real problems facing the foster parents, what other programs is the Minister going to initiate to help support the existing foster parents who are taking children in?
Is the final objective of the Minister to take these children into institutional care? Eventually, we are going to get to the situation where these foster parents are going to quit volunteering to take on this responsibility. This responsibility is a very onerous one.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I quite agree with the Member that it is a very onerous job caring for some foster children. Previously, I indicated some of the programs that we are looking at. These include additional respite care and additional insurance programs. We do have a goal of not using institutions. We do hope that our new program will encourage, support and maintain a foster home program that will be suitable for all parts of our territory. We hope that our program will be acceptable to First Nations communities and will be suitable to non-native foster parents as well. That is our goal. It is not one of setting up institutions, if we can help it.
Question re: Foster parent per diem rates
Mr. Lang: I would submit to the House that this is a very serious question. I do not know if the Minister has received calls from people who are presently foster parents, but I do know that Members on this side of the House have. These people are very disgruntled with the lack of action from the government in this particular area. All they have heard since October and the beginning of this review is that the Minister is very sympathetic. Quite frankly, these people are getting tired of hearing that the Minister is sympathetic and nothing is taking place.
As an end result, we may not have any, or very few, people prepared to take this responsibility on if this continues - looking at the results of the advertising campaign, which I have been told is very unsuccessful.
I ask the Minister again: can she indicate to this House whether, before summer, these people will be told definitively what the new policy is for foster parents - not only for them, but also to try to encourage other people to take on similar responsibilities?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Just as soon as I have the program, the Foster Parents Association and the individual foster parents around the territory will be informed about it.
Mr. Lang: I refer back to the fact that we, as MLAs, are receiving calls from various foster parents. They have been told that they would be informed, some as early as May or June and some as late as the fall budget. I would like to ask the Minister why her department is giving these mixed signals to these very dedicated people, when all they are looking for is a response to a very simple question: when will the government tell them what the new policy is going to be?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I will have to ask the department why they are doing that. I will have to take that as notice.
Mr. Lang: Is the reason the Minister is not telling this House, and indirectly the people who obviously have major outstanding concerns, because she does not know herself when a decision is going to be made on this matter?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I do not know how I can make it any more clear. I will, as soon as all of the processes are met - as the Member well knows because he was in government for many years; he talks about being here for 14 or 16 years, and he knows exactly the processes of government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Perhaps that is the issue, then. As soon as I possibly can, I will have a program for foster parents.
Question re: Teacher transfers
Mr. Nordling: I jumped up a little early. I was trying to ask the second supplementary for the Member for Porter Creek East. I thought the Minister might consider making any rate increase for the foster parents retroactive to April 1, to make up for the delay, but that will be for another day.
I understand this is the time of the year when all the transfers take place for the teachers in the territory. I have a transfer application here that says that teachers with less than three years experience in their current school are not considered a priority. Concern has been expressed by some northern teachers that, to use their words, they are being held prisoners in Bob Smiths gulag: they cannot transfer for three years.
Could the Minister of Education explain why the department has this three year rule?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will have to tell Dr. Smith about the impression the Member is giving that the northern region of the Yukon is his own personal preserve, or gulag. First of all, transfers are not taking place now; decisions about transfers are taking place. The policy is to encourage employees, in all Yukon communities, not simply the northern region, to remain in the communities for as long as possible. However, it is not the policy of the department to force teachers to remain in the community for which they are first hired for any specific period of time.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: You are really being rough on me, Mr. Speaker, because I do not know if I can squeeze it all in within the time frame that is normally given to a Minister.
Nevertheless, I can communicate the policy to the Member later. The policy will demonstrate that there is no gulag in the north region of the Yukon.
Mr. Nordling: Could the Minister continue the answer he was going to give, and tell me whether there was any study or consulting report done, or how was this three-year time period arrived at? It looks to me like you are stuck for three years unless there are some special circumstances.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is not the policy of the Department of Education to force people to remain in the community for three years.
The concern has been expressed by parents in rural communities all over the territory, not simply in the north region, about the ease with which new teachers come into the territory, into their community, and then leave. There is a concern that there be more continuity from year to year. They want the teachers who come in to stay a while, get to know the community and pass on their information in the next year and not simply be one-year wonders.
That is the desire of the vast majority of parents in rural Yukon. That desire has to be tempered by the reality of the lives of various teachers who have difficulty in a particular community and must teach in that community.
I know Mr. Speaker is going to cut me off, so I will be more than happy, in the next question, to continue my answer.
Mr. Nordling: I take it from the Minister that the answer is no. There is no consulting report or study that he can table on this subject.
One of the concerns was that teachers could come from outside the territory, for example, from Atlin to Whitehorse, and take jobs that the teachers from the Yukon could not get because they were refused transfers into Whitehorse. Can the Minister tell us if that can possibly happen under the new policy rule or whatever is in place?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am aware that the superintendent for education in area 3 had done a review, not a study, of the teacher turnover in his district. He determined that there was a fairly high turnover in the last couple of years. That is the direct answer to the Members question.
Let me tell the Member, once again, that it is not the policy of the Department of Education to force teachers to remain in rural communities. The transfer policy currently in effect was worked out between the department and the Yukon Teachers Association to try and find a civilized, amicable arrangement that could apply to all teachers in the territory.
My understanding of the policy is that first priority for available teaching positions in Whitehorse will be for those teachers who wish to...
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ...transfer from rural communities to Whitehorse.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
Motion to extend sitting hours
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Before resolving to move into Committee I would ask, pursuant to an arrangement that has been discussed between the two House leaders and the one independent opposition Member, that the House consider a motion to permit the extension of sitting hours for the purpose of discussing the Environment Act this evening. I would move
THAT the Assembly be empowered to sit from 7:30 p.m. tonight until 10:30 p.m. for the purpose of considering Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, in Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a brief recess.
Deputy Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 20 - Environment Act - continued
Hon. Mr. Webster: Last night at the break I made a commitment to review the argument that had been put forward by Members of the Opposition with respect to clause 11. I have done that and I have prepared a response. I would like to read it into the record.
There does seem to be a great deal of confusion surrounding the nature and purpose of clause 11. I would like Members to take a very close look at the clause. Basically, it says that if the plaintiff proves what they are required to prove, then and only then is it presumed that the defendant caused the impairment complained of.
First of all, the plaintiff has to prove, through a court of law, that the natural environment has been impaired. That is right in the third line. Secondly, they have to prove what caused the impairment. In other words, the nature of the contaminant has to be identified that is responsible for the harm.
Thirdly, they then must prove that the defendant was actually using the contaminant in question. That is in line five.
Finally, the plaintiff has to prove that the contaminant was released at the time in question - when the effect became apparent. In the example used yesterday, it would be when the fish are found dead.
This will require the plaintiff to spend a considerable amount of time and effort, not to mention money, to establish all the evidentiary requirements. Only then does the defendant get to present their case.
Section 9 provides a long list of defences available to the defendant, and we expect that the defendant would raise one of these provisions as a defence if they can. If any of these defences are not available to the defendant, then he will have to introduce evidence to rebut the plaintiffs case that is presented in court.
To be clear, the court will have heard evidence from the plaintiff that clearly establishes that the defendant did, in fact, release a chemical and that there was also evidence, again presented by the plaintiff, that this type of chemical or contaminant is in fact causing impairment or harm to the environment. Of course, evidence of that must be provided as well.
I want to ask the Members opposite: why should the defendant not be required to prove that he did not cause the harm? Is there any reason why the onus should not be on the polluter to prove that he is not causing the harm?
Mrs. Firth: Because he is not a polluter until it has been proven that he is a polluter, that is why.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think that I have already gone through the argument that the proof and evidence is there: that a contaminant has been released at that time, and that the harm was done.
Section 11 does not presume the defendant guilty until proven innocent. It is an evidence presumption. It says that in the face of clear evidence you are the polluter causing the harm, then you must prove that there is some other source of the harm that is complained of.
Section 11 does not take away the other defences available to the defendant. It only comes into operation if the defendant cannot argue a defence under section 9 and the plaintiff has made a strong case against it.
I think that section 11 is consistent with the concept of polluter pay; why should the defendant escape liability merely because others like him are also releasing contaminants that impair the environment - I do not understand the logic of that - but if the defendant can prove that there is some other source of the problem, why should that person not be found liable?
Section 11 is also consistent with part 6 of the act in matters related to public health and safety and environmental protection. The onus is always on the person proposing the activity to establish that his activities will not harm the public or the environment. He may say that all the harm is not his fault, but if he contributes to the problem then he must shoulder responsibility for his actions.
This is quite consistent with the same section in the Ontario Environment Act. It is also consistent with the various principles in Bill No. 20. For that reason, I am arguing very strongly for its inclusion in Bill No. 20.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to raise an issue about what the Minister has said.
Once you have proven the four necessary preconditions and there is impairment to the environment, the reverse onus is such that the defendant has to prove that he, she or it did not cause the impairment. This says the impairment. There is impairment to the environment.
It goes further than merely reverse onus on that issue. There is the issue of the extent of the impairment. If you remove the word the, where there is impairment of the environment, under section 11, it is one thing to find the defendant guilty of the offense of impairing the environment, but when you say it is the impairment you go a step further. In effect, you are putting a reverse onus on the defendant to go further than that to prove that he is innocent. He now has to prove that he is not the sole cause of all the impairment.
That troubles me quite deeply. It seems to me that the way section 11 is worded you are going from a situation of a reverse onus in regard to an offense to a reverse onus with regard to the magnitude of the damages. We have two issues here. One, of course, is the reverse onus itself. Even if the reverse onus were to stand, surely the Minister would consider a very minor amendment that would leave the defendant guilty of impairment but not the sole cause of impairment, which has a great deal to do with damages and the scope of the penalty.
In other words, I might be guilty of impairing the environment through burning my wood or flushing my toilet into a river. If the reverse onus were left in there, one could find me guilty of that offence, but if it were reworded it would not leave me responsible for all the impairment from people flushing their toilets or burning wood smoke.
The question I am asking the Minister to respond to is whether he would consider - if he is going to stand with the reverse onus as he has explained it here - removing the word the in front of impairment in the third line from the bottom and the last line. It is one thing to cause impairment but the means all of it, and I do not think that is fair.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I appreciate the comments from the Leader of the Official Opposition, although I think what we are talking about here are two different things. One is talking about the impairment - the specific nature of the impairment and also referring to the magnitude. On the magnitude part, I would certainly agree with him that there is a possibility of shared liability here. With respect to the nature of the impairment, I think that if we remove the, as suggested, that would eliminate a defence for the defendant, because by saying he caused the impairment, we are specific here. It puts the onus on the plaintiff to define, and have proof of, what the specific impairment is - and the example we have been using is dead fish - as opposed to something general, as you are suggesting, just impairment. The impairment has to be something very specific about which the plaintiff has to demonstrate some proof about being impaired.
Mr. Phelps: That gets around the first proposed amendment the impairment the first time - the material time, a contaminant of the type that caused the impairment. I can understand it remaining there, based on what the Minister has said. Then you get to the reverse onus. The onus should be on the defendant to prove that he, she or it did not cause the impairment. There it seems to me to mean all of it. So it is the last clause: ... the onus shall be in the defendant to prove that he, she or it did not cause the impairment.
There, it seems to imply the totality of the pollution.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I accept the Members argument suggesting that we eliminate the word the prior to impairment as it appears in clause 11 - at the end only.
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps we can stand this aside? I just want to make it clear that I will be prepared to move the amendment as soon as I can write it out. I want to make it clear that this side is, of course, opposed to the reverse onus factor, but this is a different issue so I will move on amendment without in any way admitting defeat on the reverse onus issue.
Clause 11 stood over
On Clause 12
Mr. Lang: I want to raise an issue concerning remedies, and I refer to the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, where they feel that any type of penalty should be related to the degree of environmental harm that is done.
In view of the fact that the Minister said this particular act follows the principles of the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee report that was made public this past week, why is there no instruction to the Supreme Court that, in any decision being made, the degree of penalty should be comparable to the degree of harm done to the environment? That principle should be incorporated in that section.
Hon. Mr. Webster: We cannot provide instructions of that kind to the courts.
Mr. Lang: I disagree with that. Why would the YMAC and his government concur that that principle should be contained in legislation, in order to ensure that the penalty is related to the degree of harm done to the environment? It was a consensus by the individuals involved in YMAC. I thought that principle would have been contained in here for the Supreme Court to consider in any decision or award they make under this section.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have no doubt that the committee raised the matter in its report of fines reflecting the harm done to the environment; however, I would be surprised if they recommended that this should be contained in legislation. It is out of order for a piece of legislation to dictate the nature of fines to the Supreme Court.
Mr. Lang: In subsection (2) it is described in great detail what can be done with a permit and how the Supreme Court may order the defendant to do certain rehabilitation work. In order to be consistent with the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, perhaps this should be incorporated in here. I do not accept the Ministers premise that we cannot give some indication to the Supreme Court of what we feel the penalty should be. If that is the case, we should not even have a penalty section.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The purpose of subsection (2) is to indicate to the Supreme Court the options available in making decisions on cases, but it does not specify anywhere what the extent of the fines should be. I do not think that is the proper place for legislation.
Mr. Lang: Where should it be, then?
Perhaps the Minister can tell the House where he feels it should be in the legislation.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Obviously, the judge reviewing the case has to take a look at the nature of the crime and the extent of harm to the environment, based on the evidence produced, and come to his or her own decision as to what the fine should be, what is fitting to the crime.
Again, I want to point out that all we are doing in subsection (2) is offering some options for the Supreme Court to consider.
Mr. Lang: Why is the principle not contained in the legislation if the Minister is correct when he said that this embodies the principles contained in the report of the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, which the Ministers government was a signatory to?
What I am asking is why, either in this section or the offence section, was there not a clear, concise statement made in legislation that the penalty should take into account the degree of the impact of the environmental risk that was created? That is the concern, in large part, within the mining community. We could even go as far as using the word shall in an amendment if we wanted, but I am prepared to accept the premise that each situation is different. Perhaps we could look at adding it between (g) and (h). I do not have an amendment prepared, Mr. Chairman, because I wanted to ask the Minister if perhaps the principle had been embodied somewhere in the legislation and perhaps I had missed it. Maybe we should be looking at standing subsection (2) aside, preparing an amendment between (g) and (h): In addition to, or instead of, any order or award made under subsection (1), the Supreme Court may... take into account clear connections between the environmental impact and whatever the wording would be.
We are writing legislation to try and give some direction to those who are going to be interpreting it and if this is not included in the legislation, obviously the principle is not one that perhaps a judge is necessarily going to see.
We are also writing this legislation from a laymans point of view, so that those who are working under it - I am thinking primarily of the mining industry in this case, because we are in the Yukon - can see that this type of offence is going to be dealt with in the degree of the assessed environmental damage done.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Again, I do not know if the legislation is the proper place to set out the principle that the penalty should be equal to the crime. We do give guidelines to the courts. We do establish fine levels. One example is the $25,000 maximum fine for providing a false statement when making an application for an investigation.
The judges, with their experience, of course, look at other cases and precedents that have been established for the range of fines.
Given the nature of this particular case before the judge, and considering the precedents, guidelines and fine levels, it is proper to leave the judgment to the judges. They can come up with the specific fine amounts.
Mr. Lang: I am going back to the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee report that the government was involved in. The Minister asked me what is says. I will quote from page 20; Committee felt the punishment should be appropriate to the given offence. The scale of punishment should be revised to reflect the following: a clear connection with environmental impact or environmental risk... and then it goes on to refer to water licences, in this case, a clear segregation between A and B type offenses and punishments. Then it states that the construction of the Yukon Waters Act as it applies to offenses and punishments is unduly complex and archaic. These sections should be reconstructed so as to be more easily understood. The same principle here applies to this act, although it does not specifically speak to water.
There should be a principle - and it could be included in the offence section toward the end of the bill, if that is what the Minister is saying - included in our legislation in order to be consistent with what his government has agreed to with the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee so that judges are given a clear direction from the House regarding our intentions.
We do make the laws, and they are supposed to interpret them, but sometimes we assume the court will interpret the way we feel they should be interpreted, without actually saying it in the legislation. Then we are quite surprised later when it has not occurred.
Would the Minister entertain an amendment toward the end of the bill, if he feels it is not appropriate here, when any fines are levied, the judge has to take into account environmental damage - clearly state it in the legislation?
Hon. Mr. Webster: We have accepted the principle that penalties should be appropriate for the offence or the crime committed. I think that is a well-accepted principle of society in general. However, I think the report falls short of actually recommending that a clause to that effect should actually appear in legislation. Having said that, I will accept the Member opposites suggestion to consider it further, perhaps at the end of the act.
Meanwhile, I want to bring section 187 to his attention: sentencing. I will read it into the record: In determining the sentence applicable to an offence under this act or the regulations, the court shall consider the extent to which the offence has led to impairment of the quality of the natural environment.
Realistically, I think that is as far as a piece of legislation can go in providing direction to the courts or to a judge in making a decision on awarding damages, costs and fines.
That is my opinion. Not being a lawyer, I will stand over this clause, as the Member suggests, and come back with advice from legal counsel.
Mr. Lang: I think the Minister has properly pointed out the appropriate section, 187, and with his explanation I think he is probably correct that it does apply to the full act, not just section 12; I will accept that and proceed with the section as written.
On clause 11 - continued
Mr. Phelps: At this point, I have a draft motion ready for this.
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 11 at page 10 by deleting the word the in the last line, after the word cause.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member for coming forward with this amendment. By removing the word the that precedes the final word, impairment, in the last phrase in clause 11, we may be increasing the burden placed on the defendant. That may be a consequence of this amendment.
If, in the mind of the Leader of the Official Opposition, this will not be the case, then I am willing to accept this amendment as proposed.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister has left me somewhat confused. What example could he point to that would lead to the conclusion that with this change the defendant might be found to have caused impairment beyond the impairment specified in the earlier part of the section?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think it goes back to the argument I presented earlier whereby including the word the before impairment, by its nature, is more specific, in that it is pointing to something that has definitely been impaired. The case we used was the dead fish. This is as opposed to the general thing, they did not cause impairment. That may force the defendant to produce more evidence that there has been no harm done to a greater part of the environment, as opposed to something less specific.
Amendment agreed to
Mr. Lang: I want to conclude debate with respect to section 11, which the Minister maintains he needs in order to be able to enforce his Environment Act. We find the section very offensive. It is important that we realize that this is a very unusual section, where reverse onus is being put on the individual, which is contrary to the fundamental principles of our judicial system. I cannot buy the reasoning that the Minister provided earlier to this House.
It is obvious to us that the reason the section is before us is because the government is unable to put a successful case together in certain circumstances. When they cannot put that case together, they can then fall back on this section to try to get a conviction in court, one way or the other.
We feel it is unacceptable. It is unfortunate that more of the public is not aware that sections of this kind are contained in the bill. If one went to the riding of Dawson City and into the placer fields, I think one would find that once they understood what this section meant there would be no placer miner or mine employee supporting it.
I defy the Minister to do that and to come back to the House to say he has even a small minority prepared to accept the arguments he put forward in the House.
It is easy for us, when we are in comfortable surroundings, day to day, to discuss principles of this kind. However, as I said during debate yesterday afternoon, when a section like this comes into effect, and affects you personally, you really wonder what legislators have done on your behalf, as the electorate.
The sad thing about it is that the Minister - who is before us today in the House, and providing this section in conjunction with his departmental staff and advisors, who are very well paid - will never have to face a section like this. Do you know why?
Because people like that will never take the risk or the initiative to become involved in things that could cause a section of this kind to come into effect. It is very easy for us to sit here and cast judgment, but I think it is a sad day when we are referring to Ontario and Michigan for the purposes of drawing up our legislation, saying that we need a section like this just because they were not successful in a number of court cases down south.
I do not think that it justifies this type of section being included in our legislation. I hope the Minister prominently displays it in his next newsletter, so that his constituents can read exactly what he has done on their behalf with the Environment Act. I know he knows that, if he goes to Dawson City, and this section and its implications are clearly explained, he will have no support among his constituents, and that includes his party faithful.
I want to hearken back to the Leader of the Official Oppositions observation yesterday. This section is going to be more of a problem than a benefit, and that was in the closing arguments that we left with the Minister yesterday to consider.
I, for one, am very sad that he, in his ministerial position, has continued to be bamboozled by his staff about the need for this section. He has not proven it beyond a doubt to all Members in the House. For example, if the Member for Faro were free to vote how he feels, beyond the realms of party discipline, as to whether this principle was needed or not, I think he would be questioning the Minister and saying that we should take it up for the long term value of the act.
I am primarily referring to the mining area with these types of sections. It is not one section, but a combination of many, that really contributes to uncertainty. If anybody is looking at investing in the territory, or doing any initiative of a substantive nature, and they see these types of sections in legislation, they will think that there is probably a better place to live and do business than here, if we are becoming a society in which the ultimate end is that I am guilty until I prove myself innocent. That is not the basis of our law.
We will be voting against it.
Hon. Mr. Webster: We had approximately a two hour debate on this clause, in which we reviewed the merits and heard the concerns. I have been unable to convince the Member opposite that such a clause is needed in Bill No. 20.
This clause is consistent with the other sections of the bill. As I pointed out, it is consistent with the clauses in other legislation in other jurisdictions throughout the country.
I want to take issue with the Members remarks about his concern about what legislators are doing by including this clause in this bill. I want to point out that, by including this clause, we are saying someone who has polluted the environment, and it has been proven that they have with concrete evidence, must accept liability and pay the price. This clause will benefit all Yukoners who want the right to enjoy a healthful environment. That is why we live in the Yukon. We like the environment and we want to protect it.
Mr. Lang: We all agree with the principle that the Minister is talking about, but not how we get there. I notice the Minister did not say to this House that he was going to prominently display the consequences of this particular clause when he sends out his newsletter to Dawson City. I know why. He knows and I know that once the implications of such a clause were clear to his constituents, they would not support him, regardless of how much his staff tells him it is necessary.
We will be voting against the clause.
Chair: Does the amendment carry?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: I think the yeas have it. I declare clause 11 carried as amended.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 11 agreed to as amended.
On Clause 12
Mr. Lang: With respect to subsection (6), I want to make an observation. I notice that in every piece of legislation that we have been receiving of any significance - the Health Act comes to mind - there is talk about special funds being setup.
I think that all Members should be aware that, although it is awards that we are talking about, we are giving the government the discretionary ability to make decisions concerning finances.
It all sounds well and good when we are dealing in the narrow focus of an environmental act for an environmental fund, but it will be different with the health fund - and I think there was another piece of legislation not too long ago, where another fund was established as well - historic resources. All of the sudden, in three pieces of legislation in the past year, we have been spending a lot of time setting up committees and funds.
The other concern is that these things do cost time, effort and money to administer as these separate funds are set up as separate sections within budgets and various other things.
I have made that observation, because it is going to be another responsibility, involving time and effort that is going to have to be administered through the auspices of the civil service. For the purposes of the numbers and the amount of money we are dealing with here and what we see being used in the foreseeable future, I wonder if the subsection is required.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I take the Members point in that we have established a number of funds recently. The historic resources fund will be there to receive donations and gifts of money to conduct purchases under that act. In this particular case as well, for Bill No. 20, we are establishing a new account; however, it will not be discretionary. It will be used for the purposes as defined in clause 12(6), the restoration and rehabilitation of any part of the natural environment.
It may indeed increase administrative time to administer this fund, but I think that it is worth it.
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Mr. Lang: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 14(1) at page 12, by adding the word adult before the word persons.
I know that we had a discussion at the onset of the bill in respect to the question of person versus adult person. We do have some concerns here whereby those under the age of majority can request an investigation and at the same time put him or her into a position of committing an offense.
I realize this is a fine line. There has been representation made that a class at F.H. Collins School should be able to do this type of thing, but there is a point where we have to assess where the responsibility lies.
For an example, if a grade seven class at Jeckell School were to proceed under this section and it was found that they were liable to a penalty under the false statements section in the bill, it would seem to me that the parents would carry some responsibility. The parents may not have any knowledge, or very little knowledge, of the so-called environmental law study group that the grade seven class was undertaking.
We should not jeopardize the position of the parents. If there is a question of environmental damage or harm being done, I would expect that young students would go to the parents, and the parents would be taking the appropriate action if they felt that it was something that should be addressed.
That is the purpose of the amendment. Perhaps the Minister could speak to it. Also, if a person under the age of majority goes with this clause as written, how does it apply to clause 18? Do the parents carry liability? Could he provide us with the legal opinion on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member for his amendment, but I must say from the very outset that I disagree with his reasoning for making it necessary for an adult person to request an investigation.
We have heard a great deal of representation by students to include them in signing an application for an investigation. As the Member knows, it does require two people - it is not just one youth coming forward - which would cause people to think twice.
Also, in clause 16(2), it states that The Minister may discontinue an investigation where he or she is satisfied that there is no material impairment of the natural environment. Once the application is made, that would be determined immediately before continuing with the investigation. If the complaint is obviously valid, it may go to court. At this point, it would involve clause 19(2), on private prosecution, that the Member has raised concerns about.
In clause 18, if a person knowingly makes a false statement under the application for an investigation, and thereby causes an investigation to commence, that person is guilty of an offense and is liable to summary conviction. At that point, the investigation has, in its early stages, determined that there is good cause to carry out an investigation. If it is found that the information is false or brought forward for some frivolous or malicious reason, the person would be subject to a maximum $25,000 fine. There would have to be a good deal of evidence produced to carry out an investigation and get to the point that it goes to court.
As to the question about whether or not the parents would be liable for such action, I do not know, to be honest with you.
As I said, we would have to take the investigation far enough along to ensure the situation would not arise whereby the penalty would come into effect.
Mr. Lang: Then, the Minister is saying there is really no reason for that section. The Minister is going to do the investigation. He will be quite satisfied that he will proceed to court. Once we get to court, we may well find out that a lot of the information first compiled is invalid.
I submit that, before we accept the premise that it be just any two persons, rather than any two adult persons, the side opposite should find out what the legal liability of the parents would be if it happened to be children who are pursuing this under this section. The Minister told us that this section is purposely designed for that. I do not accept the premise that says any two persons is sufficient safeguard against improper complaints.
In sections 14, 15 and 17, I notice there is no requirement for confidentiality. There is an investigation lodged, but what rights or protection does the one who is being complained against have from going through a character assassination on the front page of the local astonisher prior to an investigation being completed? That is a concern. Could the Minister address that aspect of this section?
I should point out that, in section 22(3), I will be recommending an amendment to the House that a complaint shall be kept confidential until charges are laid. This will provide the requirement, at that stage. In looking at the bill, I wonder how it all ties together in a request for the investigation. I am not sure in my mind if those are two separate items. Could the Minister clarify that for me?
If the Minister accepts the amendment for section 22, perhaps that would take care of the question of confidentiality.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think the Members concern about confidentiality of complaints is covered in section 27, where it refers back to sections 23 and 24.
As far as investigations go, I am searching now for the cross-section of the bill that refers to this, and unfortunately I am not having much success. Could we stand over clause 14?
Mr. Lang: In reviewing this, perhaps we are going to have to look to section 27, and possibly include sections 14, 15 and 16 in an amendment for section 27, to take care of the area that I was concerned with. I will not move the amendment that I had for the previous section.
Clause 14 and amendment stood over
On Clause 15
Mr. Lang: I recommend that section 15 should be stood over, as well. It is one or the other of these two sections where an amendment would have to be brought in, if we do not find anything else in the bill that applies to it. Would that also be the Ministers observation?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think we will stand over sections 14 and 15. However, sections 16 and 17 deal with the process for investigations, and we can proceed with them at this time.
Clause 15 stood over
On Clause 16
Mr. Lang: Notwithstanding sections 17 and 22, there is no section that specifically states that, within a very short period of time, the Minister has to determine whether or not the investigation is frivolous. We have where it says the investigation could be 90 days after the application, and that is a three month period. In bringing the bill forward, had the Minister considered a shorter period of time with respect to the request for an investigation in section 14, where it may require the Minister to act very quickly and decide whether an investigation would be instituted within a very short period of time?
I prepared an amendment for section 20(1)(b), but I may have the incorrect numbering. The amendment would reflect that, within two days or even two weeks, the Minister has to determine if there is going to be an investigation. I am primarily thinking of the individual who is being complained against. They should be told within a short period of time whether or not there is something going on. You cannot keep them in Never-Never Land forever, and 90 days is a long time.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Once an application for an investigation is filed, inspections would be done right away to gather evidence to prove that an investigation is either warranted or not.
In the case where an environmental protection officer is doing an investigation and collecting evidence, obviously the person who is alleged to have created the harm through his or her actions will not be informed, in case the evidence might be destroyed. Once the evidence has been compiled, as quickly as possible after the application has been filed, then that person would be informed that there was an investigation in progress.
Mr. Lang: Should we be locking in a period of time in which the Minister has to determine whether there is going to be an investigation taking place? How much time is a reasonable period of time when he gets a complaint lodged with him? Should you not know within 10 days, perhaps, that you are actually going to proceed with the investigation?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It all depends on how accessible the area is and how quickly the investigation to compile the evidence can take place.
Clause 16(2) reads, The Minister may discontinue an investigation where he or she is satisfied that there is no material impairment of the natural environment. We would hope that that would take place as soon as the Minister can determine what the effects of the activities are, based on the evidence collected.
It is very difficult to set a time frame on this, considering the nature of the evidence and the analysis that would have to be done. The intent here is to do things as quickly as possible.
Mr. Lang: Would the Minister entertain an amendment for subsection (2) along the lines that any investigation should be done as quickly as possible, so that a person cannot sit around and then say he has to go to Sweden so he cannot deal with it for three weeks - that his office must proceed with investigations without delay?
Hon. Mr. Webster: This relates back to section 15(1), where the Minister acknowledges receipt of the application and shall investigate all matters he considers necessary. That is where it would be most appropriate for the Members suggestion to be included - shall investigate all matters at the earliest possible time, or something to that effect. Is that what the Member is asking?
As we have already stood over clause 15, I can come up with an amendment that will be appropriate.
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister provide us with the information on section 14 about how the offence section is concerned and how it would relate to liability for those under the age of majority and their parents? We can pass this section as long as there is an undertaking that, as section 14 has been stood over, we will have a response to the House on the record as far as that section is concerned.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I do not have a response at this time regarding clause 14, but it has been stood over. I will bring it to the Member.
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have an amendment proposed for clause 20(1). I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 20(1) at page 14 in the English text by:
substituting the following definition of employer:
employer includes a person who
(a) has control or direction of; or
(b) is responsible, directly or indirectly, for the employment of an employee, and includes a person who was an employer."
This is basically a change in the format. There is no change in the meaning. This amendment just allows this section to flow better.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 20 agreed to as amended
On Clause 21
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Mr. Lang: I have two amendments for clause 22(1). It is more of a clarification than anything else. We on this side think that any complaints should be made in writing. This is fairly significant. We are at the day and age where we have all of the modern technologies, even for those who are unable to write, such as interpreters.
A complaint should be documented when one is going to the authorities to ask that some type of grievance be carried out. If it is a case of having to report back to a person or group, I think that they have a responsibility to put it into writing to the Minister. It is one thing for the Minister to hear a complaint over breakfast at the Eldorado Hotel. The Minister, as an MLA, can carry it as far as he wants. If an individual is serious about lodging a complaint, they should have to put it into writing. I am asking that orally or be removed.
Also in section 22(3), referring to my concern about confidentiality, we are recommending that an additional section be added where a complaint shall be kept confidential until charges are laid. So in other words, I was talking about the concern that I have about being fair to all sides.
Mr. Lang: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 22(2) at page 16 by deleting the words may be made orally or and substituting the following: shall be made.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have a copy of the amendment. I agree with the amendment as proposed and would like to thank the Member for bringing it forward.
Amendment agreed to
Mr. Lang: I have a further amendment. I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 22 at page 16 by adding the following new subsection: 22(3) A complaint shall be kept confidential until charges are laid.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not the Minister responsible, but I am curious about the amendment the Member has just moved and I am concerned about its impact on the remedies available to the Minister provided under section 23(3), particularly the possibility that it may be mediated. There are many forms of mediation, but I know of no form of mediation that could guarantee the confidentiality the Member mentions. I would have to ask him, if we cannot contemplate the cases whereby, notwithstanding the general proviso that it should be made confidential, but if the Minister chooses to seek a resolution by way of mediation process, the mediation process, depending on what form they take may not always be confidential.
Mr. Lang: I think the Member will see the intent of my amendment. It is an attempt to ensure that on anything coming to the attention of the Minister of a frivolous nature that turns out not to be valid, there is some sort of assurance in the act that the government would be taking preliminary steps in a confidential manner. Again, I am concerned about the reputation of individuals or companies, which could be taken in a very bad light with the initial lodging of a complaint when there is later found to be no substance.
The Minister can stand up and say there is an offence section where they can be taken to court for libel and so on, but, let us face it, once the character assassination is done the apology always winds up in the want ads, if it winds up anywhere at all, and subsequently nobody reads it.
That is my concern. I am open to hear from the Minister if he feels there is another way of doing this. I can understand the concern of the previous Member who raised the question about just how far does this go. I think this should be of concern to all of us, and perhaps there is another way of including it in the bill, in another section. Perhaps the Minister has a comment?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member scored a convincing argument for the investigations aspect of this bill. I do not think it is applicable under complaints, where we are referring to complaints about environmental protection officers, or authorities of the department, and how they are going about doing their jobs, exercising decision-making authority.
The complaints section is a bit different than investigations, as we are talking about the possible misconduct of environmental protection officers, or employees of the department, which is being brought to the attention of the Minister by a person, or group of persons and, as the Member has put forward in an amendment, the complaint would be made in writing. It is an ombudsman-type of process, whereby the Minister is obliged to take the complaint, as written, from the group, do the internal investigation, and report back. The requirement to keep the complaint confidential does not really make sense here.
Obviously, a complaint by the public has been lodged, and we are investigating it internally to see if it has merit.
Mr. Lang: I can accept the Ministers statement, as far as the section is concerned. I think I misunderstood it, so I will withdraw the amendment.
Deputy Chair: Is there unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Clause 22 agreed to, as amended
On Clause 23
Mr. Lang: I have the possibility of an amendment here, if it can help in the drafting of the bill. Clause 23(1)(a) states make a record of the complaint and forthwith send a copy of the record to the Council and the complainant. Is it not correct that a record should also be sent to the defendant, or is that meant to be covered in clause 23(1)(b)?
Hon. Mr. Webster: To clarify that matter here, once the Minister has received the complaint, they want to notify the affected party, that is, the official in the department against whom the complaint has been brought. In this sense, we are not talking about a defendant. As worded in clause 23(1)(b), it is the person being investigated.
Mr. Lang: On subsection 23(3), I wonder if the Minister could just outline, after he gets to the council, where it goes. Let us assume it turns out to be a frivolous complaint and there is no merit to it. What happens to it? Does it become public information?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will go through the process. The complaint is received by the Minister. The Minister makes a record of it and sends a copy to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. The investigation is considered and the complaint may turn out to be a frivolous one and be discarded. In that case, the Minister would write to the council saying that he had dealt with the complaint, it was found to not have any merit and the investigation is ended.
This report, then being in the hands of the council, could become part of the report of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment and would become public when tabled in this Legislature.
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Mr. Lang: In a situation where the complaint is frivolous or proves to be unfounded, would it still be required to be in the Ministers report? It talks about complaints being received and disposed of. Would the individuals name be included in such a report if it was found to be frivolous? I think that would be of concern to individuals.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think it could be argued that there would have to be a report filed - obviously a very short one - but it must contain some reason for the investigation being dropped.
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Clause 27 agreed to
On Clause 28
Clause 28 agreed to
On Clause 29
Mr. Lang: I am a little concerned about this clause. It reads, The Minister shall consult with affected interests in the development of a proposal to make, amend or revoke a regulation under this Act or a schedule A enactment. Then we go into clause 30(1), public review, where it says that it is subject to section 34 and has to be referred to the Minister for public review.
Perhaps the Minister could tell us why we have section 29 in view of the requirements detailed in section 30?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The purposes of section 29 is set out very clearly. The Minister shall consult with affected interests in the development of a proposal to make, amend or revoke a regulation under this Act. The process is defined over the next three or four clauses.
To assist all Members of the House in understanding the process as laid out in the four or five clauses in the rule-making section, I would like to make available a flow chart of the process.
Mr. Lang: In section 29, in order to be consistent, and with section 30 as well, perhaps we should be amending this to read, shall consult with the public and affected interests in the development of a proposal to make, amend or revoke... It specifically talks about affected interests. In section 30 we talk about invitation to the public. When we talk about affected interests, it could well be an interest that the government has perhaps overlooked.
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 29 at page 18 by adding after the word with the following: the public and.
I am suggesting that the Minister shall consult with the public and affected interests in the development of a proposal.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I do not have any disagreement with the argument put forward by the Member, in his wanting to ensure that the public does indeed have an opportunity to participate in the drafting, revoking and amending of the regulations. I want to point out to the Member that this is the first step in this rule-making section and I think that once he reviews this flow chart, it will become clear to him - because it is a first step in the draft regulations - that we are going to be involving interested groups. In other words, affected interests, as it says in clause 29, are being asked to come forward, if you will, to review the draft regulations prior to the minimum 60-day review by the public. That is described in section 30(2). Depending upon the nature of the regulation and who will be directly affected by it, they will be the first groups or individuals, as mentioned in clause 29, who will be involved in the process of drafting regulations.
Mr. Lang: I will withdraw my amendment because I now understand what the Minister is speaking of; it is a formulation of the policy, and then at that stage it is made public and then public debate takes place.
Deputy Chair: Is there unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Clause 29 agreed to
On Clause 30
Mr. Lang: I want to make an observation about section 30(1), because it is a section that the government has used as their reasoning for giving it to the general public and that they should not be alarmed about the general principle of the Environment Act because the public review process is going to be put in place, and everybody would have their say about the bill.
I want to say that the public has been lulled to sleep, if you like - and I am not saying this from a partisan point of view - because they feel they are going to have the ability to make the decision. I do not think the public realizes that, even though they have the opportunity to make their point of view heard, the final decision is made in a Cabinet room, when those regulations are made. Neither the public, the Opposition, nor any other interest groups are involved in those decisions and quite frankly, we do not know how those decisions are arrived at. We do not know what overwhelming argument was made on either side to determine the direction of each regulation.
I want to caution the Minister, and he knows that I have taken him to task to some degree in this legislation, regarding wide regulation-making powers of the bill.
We appreciate that the Minister and the government have seen fit to accept some of our arguments - for example, the development assessment process, and the requirement to put that through as an act, as opposed to a regulation.
However, I am concerned that this section should not be a way of circumventing the major general policy issues, which should be addressed in this Legislature when the final decisions are made, as opposed to regulation.
I want to make it very clear that it is not my own vested interests I speak of, but what I feel the Legislature stands for, why we are elected and why we are here to deal with matters of this kind, be it the development assessment process or, for that matter, the environment rights section of the bill, which I would say should be part of the bill.
Those are major policy issues and are ones, both philosophically and policy-wise, that we, as legislators, are elected to deal with. I would caution the Minister that the regulation-making power does not become a way to circumvent coming to the House for this kind of legislation, as well as future pieces of legislation, and using this as a pretense that all six interest groups are involved, so it is not necessary to deal with the policy issues in the House. The ultimate end to that would be that, if we are going to be instructed strictly by those who have vested interests, then the public at large is sometimes not served.
In Canada, we have a failing to believe that, if we can meet what the interest groups want, then we are meeting the publics will in general. That is not necessarily the case. There is a silent majority out there who is expecting government to serve the general public - to deal with those who have a vested interest, but deal with them in a manner that is fair and just to the general public interest, as well.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would like to thank the Member for his comments. He may be correct in his perception of some people out there who, because there is public consultation involved in the drafting of regulations, they think they are going to get exactly what they want in regulation, but that may not be the case. Most people should be aware of that.
I think the process we have laid out here has given a lot of comfort to people who are directly affected by regulation-making - for example, the container deposit legislation. All affected parties would be sitting down together and taking a look at the regulations they are drafting: how they are going to affect the industry, the consumer, the retailer, et cetera.
Through that process, I am quite convinced that they will come up with a draft set of regulations that, in the main, will be acceptable to Cabinet and, to a large degree, also the public. With that in mind, it is still necessary for a public review to get further input. By going through that process, it will ensure, as much as one can possibly guarantee, that a wide range of Yukoners will have some say in these regulations before they finally do go to Cabinet. I want to give the Member the assurance, on his last point, that there is no attempt here, as he can see, in this rule-making process, to circumvent the process we have: the role of legislators and this Assembly. Once the final set of regulations are approved by Cabinet, they will go to the Statutory Instruments Committee, as they do now.
Mr. Lang: Just for the record, I do not think the Statutory Committee has met for three years, although it is a committee of the House. I am sorry, I have just been corrected. It has been five years.
Clause 30 agreed to
Chair: At this time, Committee will take a short recess.
Chair: I will call Committee to order.
On Clause 31
Mr. Lang: With respect to section 31(1), I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended at clause 31(1) at page 19 by deleting the word may and substituting for it the word shall.
The purpose of the amendment is quite clear. If the nature of the proposal warrants it, then the Minister should or shall have to take action. I do not think that it should be left to the Ministers discretion, and I do not think that it is the Ministers intention to leave it that way. It is more of a clarification of the intent of the section.
Hon. Mr. Webster: That amendment is fine.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 31 agreed to as amended
On Clause 32
Clause 32 agreed to
On Clause 33
Clause 33 agreed to
On Clause 34
Mr. Lang: Perhaps the Minister could outline what regulations he envisions coming into effect that are only going to be there for a period of 90 days or less?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It would only be for unusual circumstances that would be considered an emergency situation. For example, a new operation started up that was emitting some kind of emissions that may be harmful to the environment. In the absence of any regulations, some standards could be put in place for the summer while they were operating.
Clause 34 agreed to
On Clause 35
Clause 35 agreed to
On Clause 36
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move,
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 36 at page 21 by deleting the words or Part 6".
Mr. Lang: For clarification purposes, we were very concerned about section 36 where it gave the power to the government fund organizations in interventions. I was pleased in our discussions with the Minister that he felt the same way that we did and that providing that type of funding was not the purpose of the section.
We are very pleased to see the amendment coming forward.
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is a matter of clarification; it does not pertain to part 6 in this particular section. We are just dealing with the rule-making section.
Clause 36 agreed to as amended
On Clause 37
Clause 37 agreed to
On Clause 38
Clause 38 agreed to
On Clause 39
Mr. Lang: The Minister is making a very broad statement in 39(1)(c) where it talks about, incorporated in the purchasing policies and practices of the Government of the Yukon.
Does the Minister have any estimates as to what this is going to cost the Government of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Simply, what this clause says is that it will ensure that environmental considerations are included in any decisions made by the Cabinet, and the one that the Member has focused on is clause (c), again just incorporating into the purchasing policies some consideration for conservation of the environment.
Mr. Lang: The concern I have in this section is that it just says it is subject to an audit with respect to its efficiency and fairness. A number of the witnesses who appeared before us were concerned that if an audit was going to be done that it be done from an independent point of view. My discussions with the Minister last Friday indicated that the internal auditor would be the one who would be requested to do that. I do not have a problem with that; I feel it is a function of the internal auditor, but I do think that it should be clearly stated that it is an independent audit. In other words, the audit is not going to be politically interfered with and it is going be done under the procedure associated with doing an audit.
I would therefore move the following amendment
THAT Bill No. 20, entitledEnvironment Act, be amended in clause 39(3) at page 22 by deleting the phrase An audit and substituting for it the phrase An independent audit.
This is applicable to clause 39(3), but I will pass this to all Members. I do not think I have to have an amendment for clause 39(2), just reading it over again. I think clause 39(3) would be satisfactory, so we could clear clause 39(2) and move on to clause 39(3).
I have the amendment before the House for the Ministers perusal. I want to make sure that the audit is independent. I think the request was from all sides. This gives a direction. If it is an internal auditor, or whoever, who does it, it gives clear direction that there cannot be political involvement. If there is, obviously it is going to be breaking the law.
Mr. Lang: I would just like to hear what the Ministers observations are.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As the audit will be done by an internal auditor, it will be done in an independent manner. I do not think that this clause is necessary, but I would enjoy hearing the comments of other Members of the House on this matter.
Mr. Lang: The point I am making is that it gives some consolation to the auditor, or at least a fall-back position for the internal auditor, that it is going to be independent.
What I am concerned about is that an audit is done and, prior to it being available to the Legislative Assembly, someone else starts revising the audit because they do not like the way it is written. That is why I am asking for an independent audit.
There are no guidelines in law for the internal audit to be independent.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think I understand the political purpose of the Members proposal, but I have some problem with the language of it. It seems to me that, at the level most people would understand this issue, an audit is either independent or it is not an audit. In that sense, the amendment proposed is a tautology.
The process that is carried out by this government with respect to the internal auditors work is, in fact, the same as existed before we came to office. I am sure it will be familiar to the Member.
The auditor is an agent of the government. The audit performs a valuable management tool in giving an objective assessment of certain financial management, personnel and organizational assistance. The auditor gets the mandate from Management Board, Cabinet or legislation. In this case, I think the internal auditor receives some specific mandate through the Financial Administration Act. He also would under this legislation. The work plan is as was the case before we came to office. It is now as approved by the government on an annual basis.
The key point about the independence of the audit is that they, the auditor or auditors, write the report, the content of which is theirs. But in all auditing, whether done by a private chartered accountants firm or by internal auditors - and they are often the same kind of folks professionally - there is usually a dialogue with the client. I am assuming here that, toward the conduct of this audit, that the audit produced as a result of this would be a public document.
If, however, one starts to use words like independent, it could beg certain questions about what assumptions we are now making about the auditor and the auditors role and the way the internal auditors carry out their function. There are, I would assume, some questions that would make things quite difficult for the auditor if the intent of the Members amendment is that the audit function should be carried out in some way other than it has been in the past: that there should not be a dialogue with the client - whether or not it be the government - as a process of the audit, or in other words, they are independent and are to take a detached, dispassionate and disinterested view, just take a look and then report on what they see. It seems to me that would be something like a test audit of the kind that might be done by the income tax department on someones return. It may lead to some confusion about the purpose here.
The audit by the internal auditor is independent in the sense of the content of the report, but it is also a function that is a service to the public in assessing the value and effectiveness of systems that we have in place. I would be concerned that if we wrote in here that we have an independent audit, we might then be specifying that it not be done by the internal auditor or not be done by somebody within the government, but that it would have to be done by someone who is an external auditor, such as the Auditor General or a private chartered accounting firm. That firm would have to be chosen, inevitably, by the Cabinet.
I know it is alleged that there are such things in the legal business and it is alleged that there are such things in the consulting business, but I do not know if there is such a thing as a politically friendly chartered accounting firm. They may be, in that sense, gender neutral or politically colourless, or perhaps not, but it seems to me that the suggestion that we have an independent audit means going to an external auditor. If I were on the other side of the House, I would be more concerned about a proposition by which the government could pick some external C.A. who is politically friendly more than I would be concerned about the kind of audit we would get from the professionals of the internal audit function. I know the Members opposite and on this side share the view that they provide good quality work.
Mr. Lang: I see the logic of the Members argument. I would be prepared to withdraw the amendment on the understanding that the internal audit is going to be tabled. It is clearly understood that it is done by the internal auditor, and I feel that it should be done by the internal auditor. The audit should be tabled before the House without political interference, which was the concern stated by a number of the witnesses who appeared.
Because of my background in government, I realize how the internal audit function works. As long as I have been given that assurance, I will withdraw the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the Members offer, but I do not want to leave any false impressions with this House. The Member should understand that what he is asking for would be like the report of the auditor general that comes before this House as a public document. We all understand that it would resemble that in form, but nobody in this House should be under any illusions about the fact that there is a continuing dialogue between the external auditor, in this case, the Auditor General, and the client departments.
This is not to say that there is political interference, because politicians do not routinely talk to the Auditor General at all, except in the context of the Public Accounts Committee, or an annual meeting that the external auditor may choose to have with a client. It should be known that when, for example, the external auditor comes along and says they think that they have a problem in department X of kind Y, as the Member knows, it may be quite a long dialogue between that department and the auditor, which leads to statements such as we see in the Auditor Generals report, where the Auditor General says something, and it is consolidated with the departments response, often in parallel columns on the page.
I want to make sure that I did not leave any false impression in the House that there is no communication with the auditor, because there is, but it is usually at the level of official to auditor, not the level of politician to auditor, except on formal annual occasions.
Mr. Lang: I want to make it clear that is my understanding, as well. The auditor has to go to the various departments to see what they are doing, evaluate the objectives and the goals, outline his or her concerns, and I would like to think that the department has the opportunity to respond when that particular document is tabled. In fairness to the departments, they should have the chance to put their point of view in the document, so there is a comparison on the question of where we are going.
I will withdraw my amendment.
Deputy Chair: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Clause 39 agreed to
On Clause 40
Mr. Lang: With respect to section 40(3), I have an amendment. I gave a copy to the Minister the other day.
Mr. Lang: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 40(3)(b) at page 22 by deleting the words business or industrial associations and substituting for them the following:
the tourism, mining, small business, forestry and agricultural communities.
This amendment will give a broader understanding within the business community of what we would be looking at. This side understands that there are various aspects of the appointment, and considerations have to be given. However, we can see the possibility where the tourism industry, which is so important to the Yukon, may appoint a woman to the committee. There may be someone appointed from the mining community, who happens to be of native ancestry, and who would meet some of the other criteria set down by the terms of reference being indicated here.
We are saying these areas of interest should be taken into account for the purpose of nomination. We thought it would meet, in part, the concern of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce that the terms of reference regarding business or industrial associations be further defined. We feel this does that.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member for providing us with the amendment he brought forward. I have to disagree with him on his initial point that by introducing this amendment it broadens the interpretation of business and industrial associations. This amendment narrows it to the groups that you see listed in this amendment. There are some very obvious and important exclusions in the business and industrial world of the Yukon, they being transportation and construction. That obviously falls under that category listed in 40(3)(b).
Although I have no argument with the Member that these areas, as suggested in his amendment, should have representation on the Council, the definition should be much broader and include these and other interests.
There are indeed Members on the Council at this time who do represent at least two, and in some cases three, of the following interests. Those are the individuals who are nominated by organizations whom Cabinet looks closely at for appointments to this board. Given their wide range of interest and their broad experience, these are the kind of people we are looking for to serve on a board that really does have to represent a balance of interests, yet at the same time not make the board too large in numbers so it cannot operate efficiently.
I would suggest to the Member that we accept the clause as it is written in Bill No. 20.
Mr. Lang: We felt that we would further define areas of the economy, recognizing that small business could be the catch-all to take into consideration, as the Member explained. In most part, it is small business that is involved in the transportation and construction industry.
We felt that we could meet some of the concerns raised by some of the witnesses who appeared before us. We are not out of line in recognizing these types of sectors within our economy. We are going to be voting for the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am sure if we had a witness appear before the Committee who was a trapper, he would insist that we have some representation from the trapping industry. There are many others in the renewable resource sector of our society, such as commercial fishing, that are not represented as well.
I think that this is too narrow a definition. I prefer to keep representation from business or industrial associations as it is written in Bill No. 20.
Clause 40 agreed to
On Clause 41
Mr. Lang: On subclause (4), could the Minister tell us what the chairman of the council gets paid?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The chair of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is paid a per diem six percent higher than the other members. At this time, I believe the members receive $200 per day. The chair would be entitled to $300.
Mr. Lang: Is there any conflict of guidelines in place for anybody working on the Council? It has come to my attention that the chairperson was involved in some way, directly or indirectly, with the drafting of this legislation yet, at the same time was chairperson of the Council on the Economy and the Environment - the same organization that was asked to do a review of the discussion paper.
It seems to me that some guidelines should be laid down. For example, if the chairperson is getting $300 a day - and I understand they are supposed to be politically independent of government to some degree - I find it difficult to understand how they could be taking on a role such as a consultants role or an advisors role in drafting legislation of this kind. Perhaps the Minister can confirm whether or not that is true.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Chairman of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment is not involved in all the drafting of the act.
The chair, like many members of the council, was involved in hosting meetings with special interest groups and, collectively, the council prepared a report based on the results of those meetings. I want to make it clear that the chair was in no way involved in the drafting of this act.
As for the Members question on conflict of interest guidelines for chairs, on any matters pertaining to the subject area in question - in this case, the economy and the environment - I would think there would be some guidelines in place that would not enable that individual, performing the role of the chair, to take advantage of contracts. However, I can check that for the Member to be certain, and bring it back to the House.
Mr. Lang: Would the Member check with his second in command on his right hand side? My information is that the chair had to excuse himself from a number of the deliberations on the previous discussion paper because he felt he was in a conflict due to having done some work on the actual legislation. Would the Minister give an undertaking to double-check this? That is my information and I have no reason to doubt it.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will come back with some information on that.
Mr. Lang: After the passage of this act, if we are not in this House, could the Minister provide me with the conflict-of-interest guidelines that have to be adhered to? It is a concern, especially when we are getting so many boards in the government. As I said earlier, every time we get a piece of legislation we create another board. Soon we are going to run out of people to serve on these boards.
It is an area of concern that deserves the governments attention.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will make the conflict-of-interest guidelines for Chairs available to the Member.
Clause 41 agreed to
On Clause 42
Mr. Lang: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 42 at page 24 by deleting the period after the word public, replacing it with a comma and adding the following: and the Council shall table a report to the Legislative Assembly at least once per year detailing its activities and expenditures.
The purpose of this amendment is because we all recognize that this particular body is going to play a fairly significant role, both in the environment and the economy. They will have access to dollars for expenditures, with blessings from the Minister, and I think they should have a responsibility to provide to the House a brief report, on an annual basis, on what they are doing, what activities they are undertaking, with an explanation as to how they are spending the dollars.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member for the amendment. The intent of clause 42 was to make reports available to the public, not necessarily on an annual basis, although one would be required on the complaint section, for example.
I have no difficulty with this amendment.
Mr. Lang: I appreciate the Ministers comments. Just so it is clear, there are certain reports that they require - they may be looking at a sector of the economy and have a report that may be made public. This is a report on themselves, and on what they have been doing with the expenditures. So, there would be two types of reports, when we accept this amendment.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 42 agreed to, as amended
On Clause 43
Clause 43 agreed to
On Clause 44
Clause 44 agreed to
On Clause 45
Clause 45 agreed to
On Clause 46
Mr. Lang: I have an amendment prepared but it must still be in my office. I am wondering if perhaps, in view of the hour, we could take a break until 7:30 p.m. and I will see if I can find the amendments that I had prepared for clause 46, clause 47 and clause 48, if that is agreeable to all Members?
Deputy Chair: Are you agreed?
All Hon. Member: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: The Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Lang: I have an amendment to clause 46 that I would like to provide for all Members. I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 46 at page 25 by:
Deleting section 46 in its entirety and substituting for it the following: The Government of the Yukon shall prepare and submit an annual report on the state of the environment to the Legislative Assembly and the Council.
This amendment would take care of the requirement for an annual review, ensuring that it is made available to both the Legislative Assembly and the Council on the Economy and the Environment. Subsequently, we would be doing away with sections 47, 48, 49 and 50.
The reasoning behind this amendment is that we feel that the section that is before us has primarily been written and prepared by consultants and passed over by the Minister. With these reports being a requirement in law, it is going to be a guaranteed annual income for those who want to become consultants and provide written reports for the government.
I know that the Minister would ask me how I could say such a thing, especially with the recent experience we have had with the community health assessment that took place after the new act was put into effect less than six months ago.
I am going on the governments record thus far and their requirement for reports and how these reports are done. I would be the last to accuse any Member on the side opposite of using sections of this kind for the purposes of political reports.
However, we have had a recent experience. I should point out to all Members that the recent report was prepared by a consultant from Quebec who was paid $20,000 to help draft the act. Then, coincidentally, he was hired to do the health assessment that was required under the act. It is like creating your own terms of reference and applying for the job, getting the job and saying it is pure coincidence.
We see this section as being similar to the other one. We do concur with the need for an annual review of the state of the environment. It is our position that it should be done by the department. In my second reading speech, I made it very clear that we felt that if we were paying a Deputy Minister in the neighbourhood of $100,000 a year, surely he or she, in conjunction with their Assistant Deputy Ministers, could find time in their busy schedule to provide the Minister, the Legislature and for the Council on the Economy and the Environment with a thorough overview of what the department has done in the past year. Perhaps the government would even go so far within that report to look ahead to what they hoped to accomplish in the forthcoming year.
I see this as a friendly amendment; I see it as one that is going to help the Minister of Health and Social Services in coming to a conclusion, for example on a question of the per diem rates and how it relates to foster parents. I know that the Minister is having trouble with her colleagues. I have no doubt when she goes to Cabinet with a request for a significant financial increase, that all other Cabinet Ministers look at her with a great deal of horror and ask where she is going to find the money.
Mr. Chairman, I submit to you that I am finding the money for my colleague, my associate, the Minister of Health and Social Services, in the amendment that I have brought forward to the House. I am sure, Mr. Chairman, if you could vote, you would agree with me.
I want to say to the Minister of the Environment, or the Minister - well, I guess you could call him whatever you may. I am sure that if his constituents in the community of Dawson City knew that he was outlining it in the act so that the reporting aspect would be done by his favourite consultants or favourite sons, they would once again - similar to the situation in section 11 - not support him. He may find support in this section among some of the party faithful. In fact, I would go so far as to submit that he probably would find a lot of support.
For Canadian unity, we could go to Quebec.
In all seriousness, I feel that the amendment we are putting forward meets the needs of the Legislature and the council, and, at the same time, takes out of the act the requirement for these various interim reports.
This amendment does not preclude either the government or the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment to target certain areas and do specific reports. That is permissible. I feel the government should be responsible. Here is an opportunity for them if they are concerned about the taxpayers of the territory.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to begin by stating that in our review of the discussion draft of the act and the draft act itself, it became very evident that the public wanted some measures in place to keep government honest, as they put it. That is the reason the bill, in its final form here, does require an annual updating of the Yukon Conservation Strategy and a report done annually by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, independent of government. This is to assess how well government is doing in achieving the goals of the Yukon Conservation Strategy. The public thought this was very important.
People were almost unanimous in their opinion that there should be a state of the environment report done on a regular basis. Most people suggested three years. This will be done by the department, not by outside consultants. Once this state of the environment report has been completed, every three years, it will be reviewed by the council independently, with assistance from department officials supplying technical information, providing government with some direction on where the emphasis should be placed on improving or enhancing the quality of the environment.
People thought it was important that the Council on the Economy and the Environment, being independent of government, do the annual review of the Yukon Conservation Strategy. It would not have required a great deal of work to do this, but people thought it was very important to look at the goals periodically, to review them, keeping in mind that they should be upgraded and that government should be striving to achieve those goals. Whereas, the Environment Act in Manitoba requires a state of the environment report every three years. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act requires a report every five years. People thought that three years would be the appropriate length of time here in the Yukon in which to gather data on all aspects of the environment to assess the state of its health and to take some measurements to record improvements or, in some cases - though hopefully not - some degradation of the environment. That is reflected in Bill No. 20.
I think that the Members amendment strives to combine two reports and tries to achieve two different functions. Putting them all together in one simple amendment is clearly not what the people in the Yukon told us they wanted to see, and I do not think it would be beneficial to this government achieving its goals of protecting the environment.
Mr. Lang: The Minister of Renewable Resources must honestly believe in the tooth fairy if he actually thinks that we believe what he just said. Surely, with all due respect, the Minister could give us a bit more credit than what he has just displayed to us on the floor of the House. First of all, sections covering the Yukon Conservation Strategy, clauses 43, 44, and 45, have been passed by the House, and the various updates, revisions and requirements of that strategy are still in place.
The annual review the Minister is talking about is another review to be done by the Council on how the Government of Yukon is implementing the Conservation Strategy. This is going to be the land of milk and honey if we pass this section the way it has been proposed to the House, for those few learned members of the public who have the ability to be consultants and apply to the government for work.
My honourable colleague, the Leader of the Official Opposition, pointed out that this is another method of the government pointing toward economic diversification. I submit that perhaps it is another way of providing a guaranteed annual income from the taxpayer. I do not understand his thinking. He thinks that the five people he has budgeted for in the proposal he brought forward in general debate are what it is going to cost to implement this act. Two of them are environmental protection officers; they are out in the field. The three other people are going to be working within the administration, and if he thinks that these people are going to do all these reports, then I submit that all they are going to be doing is writing reports. They will not have time to do anything about the environment. We could call it the department of reports.
I submit to the Member that what I am presenting to the House is an amendment to provide a logical and very reasonable request. I think all Members would agree that the department officials should provide an overview once a year and if there are things in there that we, as the checks and balance in the system, do not agree with, then we can raise them on the floor of the House. The Council on the Economy and the Environment have the tools to go into other areas if they feel the department is not doing the job they set out to do. So, there are checks and balances in the system.
The Minister, without even cracking a smile, comes to this House and says there was a common consensus that all these reports were needed. I did not hear one witness here say that they needed all those reports. If the witnesses who appeared before us or at the public meetings were asked if they felt there should be an annual report, they would say yes.
If he had gone through here and pointed out all the reports that were necessary, and said each report was going to cost the taxpayer $100,000 to $150,000, I submit that the people who form the consensus the Minister talks about would take a second look and say there might be another way of doing this.
With the knowledge we have and with the track record of the side opposite on another piece of legislation that was recently passed, I think we should forget the partisanship of the bill, look at it logically and say that we need one state of the environment annual review. In conjunction with that, we will also have a review of the Yukon Conservation Strategy, as per sections 43, 44 and 45. That should suffice. If we need other reports, they can be called for.
The Minister looks puzzled. He should not be puzzled. If the Minister says he is going to be able to run his department for $500,000 and still call for all these reports, he must honestly believe that the Member for Hootalinqua went down the Yukon River in a wheelbarrow. Surely, all one has to do is look at these consultants reports that are tabled in this House on an annual basis to see how money is abused, in our opinion. This is just another way of doing it.
I submit that if we do pass these sections, as outlined earlier in my comments, then we have basically given them a licence to steal, with consultants coming forward and doing work under the pretense of these sections.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have listened very carefully to the Members comments. I think he is suggesting that we bind these four sections with this amendment. In effect, it would require a report to be filed every year on the state of the environment, as well as an annual review of the government following the Yukon Conservation Strategy.
I think the Member opposite is confused. He says that none of the witnesses commented on the reports, but they were not asked to comment on them. Because they did not comment on the reports, I do not think the Member knows how they feel about the necessity for these reports to be undertaken at regular intervals. I submit to the Member that it does not cost $100,000 to $130,000 to prepare one of these reports. Perhaps the Member is aware that the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment already conducts an annual review of the Yukon economic strategy.
All they want to do is, at the same time as they are reviewing the economic strategy - bearing in mind their role to promote sustainable development and balancing the economic and environmental decisions together - is to review both strategies. I am hoping that the Member opposite provides more clarification on exactly what the intent is of the amendment.
Mr. Lang: I am not going to debate this ad nauseum. I just want to point out that we are very concerned. It is starting to slowly become apparent to the public and people are beginning to express their concern as well. The government has basically started a second industry in the territory, which is the contracting of consultants. We see these clauses as another method, through the back door, for this type of thing not only to be asked for, but even be required by law.
I have already indicated to the Minister that if he takes a look at the amendment, we are talking about a state of the environment report every year. It is an annual review. They talk about interim reviews, one every three years, and so on. A report is a report and I do not buy the concept of interim versus general report. It is an annual review that has to be presented to the House, whatever it is called.
I submit that what we are proposing here is reasonable and that we should call question.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Just before we do that, I want to set the record straight. The state of the environment report will be required every three years and will be done by the department. Then it will be referred to the council for its review. That is right in the bill. It states The Minister shall prepare and submit to the Yukon Legislative Assembly the Yukon state of the environment report within three years of this day and three years thereafter.
Also, the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment will do the annual review of the Yukon Conservation Strategy, in conjunction with the Yukon Economic Strategy.
There is some concern here. Some of it is legitimate, as expressed by the Member opposite, about the need for consultants to help the council do some of these reports. That is why I came forward, in discussions with the Member opposite, with an amendment to clause 46, which states that the Minister will provide, wherever possible, technical assistance as necessary for the council to submit these reports.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 46 at page 25 by adding the following subclause: 46(2) The Minister shall provide to the Council such technical assistance as is necessary for the Council to conduct its review.
Mr. Lang: Technical expertise could be provided by consultants or by the department. The section that the Minister is bringing forward is fairly general.
Is the Minister intending to bring forward further amendments for other sections, as far as providing technical expertise is concerned, or is this just going to be in section 46?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Subsection (2) refers to subsection (1) where the council will conduct an annual review.
Mr. Lang: With all due respect, I can see that. My question was further on. For the report that is required under clause 47, for example, will the Ministers department be providing technical assistance? Another example would be the Yukon state of the environment report, in clause 48.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Again, in clauses 47 and 48, the government departments have the responsibility to review. I believe the Member is referring to clause 49, review by council.
Besides the Yukon Conservation Strategy, and its review on an annual basis, clause 49 deals with the councils review of the Yukon state of the environment report, as prepared by the department.
Mr. Lang: I am not going to belabour the sections ahead of us here. We have made our point as far as we are concerned. Although I think it has been met with good intentions as a result of our meeting on Friday, I still do not think that the amendment meets the requirement that it has to be done by the department, because it says, The Minister shall provide to the council such technical assistance... and it can be done in any manner that he or she wishes.
Although the Ministers intentions may be sound and he may feel very strongly that all of this work is going to be done by the department, through these various reports and whatever, I submit that the Minister is incorrect. I think, in time, the taxpayer is going to find out, when they read Hansard, that all the good intentions that the Minister has expressed here will turn out to be for naught, and they are going to be paying a pretty big bill over and above the cost of the departmental staff.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 46 agreed to, as amended
On Clause 47
Clause 47 agreed to
On Clause 48
Clause 48 agreed to
On Clause 49
Clause 49 agreed to
On Clause 50
Clause 50 agreed to
On Clause 51
Clause 51 agreed to
On Clause 52
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have an amendment, which may be interpreted by some as a typo; perhaps others will not interpret it as being one. I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 52 at page 27 in the English text by substituting the word other for the word another.
Amendment agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 52 at page 27 in the English text by adding the following subclause:
52(2) Agreements made under this section may not authorize the doing of anything inconsistent with this act or regulations.
Mr. Lang: We view this amendment very seriously. In our meeting on Friday, the Minister and I had a long discussion with respect to this section. Without the amendment the Minister is bringing forward, it could give the Minister the authority to make agreements with such private organizations, municipalities or First Nations to bring in environmental standards that might be lower than what this act calls for. We wanted to make it very clear that, if we were passing an environment act, it had to apply to everyone equally throughout the territory, including those of the First Nations.
Perhaps the Minister can assure us that we agree on this, but I am assuming his legal counsel has indicated to him that that is the effect of the amendment he is proposing; therefore, there are no loopholes in the law that would permit the Minister, or anyone else on the Executive Council, to make private or public arrangements that would allow lower standards than what other people would have to abide by.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to share with the Member that the intent of this amendment is to ensure that all parties will respect the same minimum standards that are established by regulation.
Clause 52 agreed to as amended
On Clause 53
Clause 53 agreed to
On Clause 54
Clause 54 agreed to
On Clause 55
Mr. Lang: I would like to get the Minister on the record here. We discussed the question of the municipalities to some degree as well, and we were concerned in respect to the various obligations being asked of municipalities and the standards throughout the act as they apply to municipalities.
The Minister made it very clear to me that in areas where the government was requiring various standards to be put into place, he and his department would be prepared to negotiate cost-shared agreements. For example, he mentioned the agreement that he has with the community of Watson Lake that he had just negotiated. Perhaps the Minister would like to further elaborate on that, as I am sure the Association of Yukon Communities and the municipalities would like to see what kind of commitments the Minister is making about the intent of the legislation.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The incentives and assistance will be offered to all potential partners under this section. Clause 57(b) clearly states that the Commissioner in Executive Council will provide for funding or other support for demonstration projects, new technology, and things designed to promote the objectives of the act - a very broad statement. As I mentioned to the Member earlier, we do have some examples of this already in place. Most recently, the Town of Watson Lake received some $15,000 or $18,000 to develop and implement an area waste-management plan. These are the kinds of activities the Minister will be entering into agreements on with these various partners.
Clause 55 agreed to
On Clause 56
Clause 56 agreed to
On Clause 57
Clause 57 agreed to
On Clause 58
Clause 58 agreed to
On Clause 59
Clause 59 agreed to
On Clause 60
Mr. Lang: This is a section that I referred to earlier with respect to delegation of authority where the author - who in my opinion was writing his own terms of reference in the previous draft - got into a fair amount of trouble with the general public when they realized that the position of director was going to be the most powerful position in the Government of the Yukon.
In the new act that was tabled in the House, the authority of the director was not mentioned, nor was the director even mentioned. There was, however, a very innocuous section, 60(1), where the Minister may, in writing, delegate authority.
I want to impress upon the Minister our concern about what authority is being vested in the civil service. It is one that we will be watching very closely.
With some humor, I must note subsection (2). I am so pleased to see that the Minister is not prepared to delegate his responsibility or duty to make regulations. I am so pleased to see that Cabinet is retaining that authority. I find it difficult to understand why it would have to be written into the act. I have never heard of a Cabinet divesting itself of the responsibility or the duty to make regulations.
Once again, it is window-dressing to impress upon the people what authority was going to stay with the Cabinet and what an open forum this was going to be when it came to making regulations.
Although this section as written does not appear to be of any consequence, it is a very important section of the bill and is one that we are going to be watching very closely, especially when we see the new regulations and the policy guidelines, and how the environmental guru of the Yukon creates his own position and exercises it accordingly.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Before the Member gets too carried away, I want to point out that section 60 enables the Minister to delegate authority to other departments of the Government of the Yukon as well as to municipalities - we are not talking about the director here, or the guru, as the Member puts it, of environmental wherewithal. That power does not refer to the ability to make regulations. That is why it is in there very clearly.
Clause 60 agreed to
On Clause 61
Clause 61 agreed to
On Clause 62
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to bring to Members attention a typo in clause 62(1), in the seventh line down. Government of the Canada should obviously be Government of Canada.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Again, in consultation with the Member opposite, I would like to introduce an amendment to clause 62, which adds a subclause. I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 62 at pages 32 and 33 in the English text by adding the following subclause;
62(5) Agreements made under this section are to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly by the Minister forthwith if the Legislative Assembly is sitting or, if the Legislative Assembly is not sitting, within five days after the opening of the next session.
Mr. Lang: We are pleased to see this amendment. I want to express my deep concern for the Legislature. It seems that some of the transfers that are taking place today are strictly administrative responsibilities. One that comes to mind is the example of fisheries. At the same time, we have not seen a fisheries act, because the authority is vested with the Government of Canada, yet we are assuming a lot of the responsibilities - in some cases, financial responsibilities.
That should be a concern to all Members, in that the authority vested with this House should be exercised in cases like this, even if it is from an administrative point of view, where we are bound by some agreements with the Government of Canada on transfers. At least, we should be getting an act in place that gives us the authority to take some of this responsibility.
We find ourselves at a loss sometimes, on this side of the House, and I think the other side does as well, when we talk about these agreements and what is being devolved to the Yukon Territory. Yet, very seldom is there any clear debate on what the financial, political and social implications are of what is being done.
If an act is brought into the House it prompts that kind of debate, similar to what this Environment Act has caused, from the point of view of the public, as well as during second reading.
I want to point this out to the Minister, as he has already recognized our deep concern and is going to be bringing up an amendment to the section on the development assessment process, that the same principle applies.
I should alert the Minister that we intend to speak further on the regulation-making power, as it pertains to forest management. These are areas of significant concern: the fundamental responsibilities of the Legislature versus those of the Executive Council, and the Cabinet decision-making that goes on behind closed doors.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 62 agreed to as amended
On Clause 63
Mr. Lang: I would like to speak to clause 63(1). Once again, we have had conversations, and I want to re-emphasize the concern of witnesses, as well as ourselves, that these environmental protection officers receive the proper training, so they can enforce the laws that we are passing here. I know the Minister has indicated that they do not quite know what the programs are going to be, but I want to say, from this side, that we feel it is paramount, when this act does become law, that those who are enforcing it have a clear understanding of what they are enforcing, why and how to enforce it.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 63 at page 33 by deleting subclause 63(2) and by renumbering subclauses (3) and (4) accordingly.
This is a very sad day. I was attempting to sneak one by the Members opposite, in trying to make myself environmental protection officer, but the Member for Porter Creek East picked up on it.
Mr. Lang: We are very pleased to see that the Minister has seen the light and recognized that he probably would not have time to take the necessary training to become a fully qualified environmental protection officer we spoke of earlier.
We did see 63(2) as a very indirect power-grab by the Minister, with respect to wanting to have this authority to be able to fine people as he went on his trips from Whitehorse to Dawson City. We are pleased to see the amendment. In all seriousness, this section should not be in the act, because it would legally permit the Minister to get into the overall administration and politics of the bureaucracy, and dictate the direction of it. I do not think that anyone in this House wants that responsibility, no matter what side of the House they come from.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 63 agreed to as amended
On Clause 64
Clause 64 agreed to
On Clause 65
Mr. Lang: I would just like to put a couple of observations on the record to express some concern on where the government is going as far as this aspect of the bill is concerned. The government is asking for a lot of authority to be vested in these plans. My concern is that it becomes more and more evident as the years go by that the government is intent on planning the economy. I do not disagree with the fact that the government has a responsibility, but it is almost getting to the point where the government and the planners within the government feel that they will be able to designate the ideal spot for a mine or any major development in the territory.
My concern is that these plans must stay very broad if we are also going to continue with some economic activity. I would further point out that the public process that these plans are going through, and I will use the Kluane management plan as an example as it was finally agreed upon, the public hearing aspect of it I understand was not that well attended. A great number of the public were not heard from in the process and subsequently those who had a vested interest carried a lot of weight in the final report.
I hearken back to my earlier comments. Those who are really interested and perhaps have a vested interest attend some of these meetings to get their way and then that is seen to be what the public will is. Subsequently it is incorporated into a report. At the same time, when it is fully evaluated and an analysis done, it may well be that the public, in good part, had stayed home.
I just caution the Minister that as far as these plans are concerned people are getting tired of going to public meetings. I would submit that that is probably more evident in the smaller communities than in Whitehorse. If he is going to totally depend on the public meetings as the chief aspect for developing the direction of these plans, I think that he had better use that instrument with a little bit of care and attention to ensure that there has been good public turnouts and it does represent a good cross-section of the population. Otherwise, he may well find that in developing these plans with all good intentions, they may well be directed in such a manner that they are strictly there for one, two or three vested interests, and once again the long-term public interest is forgotten in trying to meet the short-term politics of the day.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member for his comments. As we are starting these processes, new to many people - integrated resource management and land use planning exercises - it is quite correct to suggest that a lot of people are not aware of the significance and, as a result, do not take the time to participate in the exercise.
The Kluane regional plan was the first major plan to be done. Being new, and with people not recognizing the importance of it, they did not attend. I know that people in rural communities are very busy, and I know that was the case in my home community of Dawson City, when we had the Klondike Valley district plan, although all affected interest groups were well represented in the formation of that, which took one and one-half years to complete. As a result, interest groups now feel they have ownership in it and are actively following up on any proposed developments for the area to see that they do comply with these plans, in the general sense.
The Member has raised a good point; however, I think he will find in the future that more people will be actively participating in these processes.
Clause 65 agreed to
On Clause 66
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister explain to the House what it means by public review in subsection (4)? I do not think it is adequately defined. Are we talking about a public hearing process? There seems to be no set policy. This could be strictly the Minister running around the territory with that little booklet he started last year.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The public review process envisioned here will not be similar to the review that will be required for the development, amending or revoking of regulations. This will involve discussions with interest groups and businesses affected by that particular resource industry in much the same way as we have done to develop policies for various natural resource sectors of the economy. This public review, in addition to public hearings, will involve discussions specifically with affected business groups. In forestry, for example, discussions would be with logging companies and so on.
Clause 66 agreed to
On Clause 67
Clause 67 agreed to
On Clause 68
Clause 68 agreed to
On Clause 69
Clause 69 agreed to
On Clause 70
Clause 70 agreed to
On Clause 71
Clause 71 agreed to
On Clause 72
Mr. Lang: I would like to propose an amendment. I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 72 at page 37 by:
Deleting all words after the word may and substituting for them the following:
, pursuant to an Act of the Legislative Assembly regarding forest resources, make regulations respecting forest management.
This is to make it clear that the Government of Yukon, when it begins to make regulations for the purpose of forest management, should do it under the auspices of an act passed by the Legislature. Presently, the limited amount of resources that is under the control of the Government of the Yukon Territory is administered under the Area Development Act, and that will continue. We feel very strongly that, when it comes to the authority the Minister is asking us for to make regulations, it should be accompanied by a prerequisite of having an act of the Legislature passed the forestry resource.
On reading this section, it is very broad and allows the Minister to do anything and, effectively, to take over the responsibility for forestry, without ever having to come back to this House and justify, through an act, what his or her intentions are going to be.
That is the purpose of the amendment, and I hope the Minister will see his way clear to accepting it. It is given with good intentions, and I should state again that the present responsibilities for wood-cutting and so on is under the Area Development Act, and can continue on as it has in the past, until such time as we see an act in this House to decide how we are going to administer forestry.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I can understand the concern raised by the Member opposite.
We need the ability to make regulations for forest management on Commissioners land at this time. Without this ability, we would be unable to cut green wood. The regulations concerning fuel-wood permits require amendment to make management plans for this resource and to bring them up to date.
Section 72 provides us with a basis for forest management planning and the introduction of permits on Commissioners lands at this time. This section is required for that purpose.
Mr. Lang: The Minister has a responsibility to bring forward an act. You do not go through the back door with regulations. In essence, the Minister is saying, Just give me a one-liner and let the Commissioner in Executive Council do anything in forest management. We will take care of the green wood. We will take care of the wood permits and we will take care of all the problems that we see on Commissioners land.
It is my understanding that a good part of it - if not all - was taken from the Area Development Act. If that is not the case, and there is a requirement for certain steps to be taken in area forest management, then I think the Minister should be bringing this forward even it is only a one-page act. If the Minister wants responsibility for green timber on Commissioners land and wants the ability to issue permits and give some direction as how to how this particular area of responsibility is going to be administered by the Government of Yukon, then we should have an act. He should not come in through the Environment Act with a one-liner and say, I am going to manage all the forestry in the territory that is on Commissioners land through regulations, and I do not have to answer to this House directly through a one or two or 10-page act. I do not think that is right. If the Minister were on this side and he saw another government bringing this in, he would be on his feet arguing the same point that I am.
The Environment Act is not designed, and should not be designed, to manage forestry; it should not be a backdoor approach.
It has been pointed out that we have a Wildlife Act and that act is in place to manage the wildlife. I submit to the Minister that the section that he has here is basically giving him the full responsibility the government wants for the next five years to develop a whole forestry policy and not have to come back to the House. I think that the Minister would agree with me that it would be irresponsible on our behalf to permit him to carry on with a section of this kind. It is contrary to what Parliament stands for.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I understand what the Member is saying, but I think that we should recognize, as well, that on Commissioners lands right now we are going to put in place a management plan to do a variety of things. One thing that the Member is suggesting is that forestry legislation be required to be in place before any forestry management plans on any lands. I think that to some degree he is talking about two different things. Keep in mind that this section about forest management planning is a part of the overall resource integration, which this section is all about. This is the reason this was included here.
Having said that, I would like to suggest that we stand over this clause for our further consideration.
Clause 72 and amendment stood over
On Clause 73
Mr. Lang: I just want to let the Minister know that we support the concept that the wilderness does have a value. It is good to see this principle written down in the Environment Act, in that it has to be taken into consideration with various aspects of the bill. I think there is unanimous support for that principle in the 1990s.
Clause 73 agreed to
On Clause 74
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 74 at page 37 in the English text by:
inserting a new subclause 74(2) as follows:
74(2) Prior to the establishment of a wilderness management area, the Minister shall prepare and submit to the Commissioner in Executive Council a wilderness management plan containing;
(a) a statement of purpose,
(b) an inventory and detailed description of the natural environment,
(c) a land use designation,
(d) an environmental impact statement,
(e) a management policy, and
(f) a budget estimate."
And that 72(2) and 72(3) shall be renumbered accordingly.
Mr. Lang: The amendment we see is a result of our discussion where we tried to come up with areas of common ground. I should point out that it was our position, and still is, that the best approach to this would have been to define a wilderness area in the Parks Act. We feel that the Minister is trying to do too many things in this bill. We just finished talking about the forestry regulations and the authority being requested in that section.
The Minister indicated his reasons why he felt it should be in here. We came to the conclusion that we should be asking for some of the terms of references of the designation of a wilderness area similar to that being requested in the Parks Act. It clearly defines what the Minister has to do in order to establish such a designation. It is going to improve this clause to some degree.
I would like to say, in conclusion, that I feel that the clause in question here, the Wilderness Management Area, actually should be in the Parks Act.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 74 agreed to, as amended
On Clause 75
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 75 at page 37 by adding the following subclause:
75(2) Agreements made under this section are to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly by the Minister forthwith if the Legislative Assembly is sitting or, if the Legislative Assembly is not sitting, within five days after the opening of the next session.
Mr. Lang: We appreciate this amendment as well. Again, it was part of the discussion on the importance of the House being taken into consideration when these agreements are entered into. I think there is a requirement by law that they be made available to Members and put on public record in the Legislature.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 75 agreed to as amended
On Clause 76
Mr. Lang: I know we have had some discussions on this question of conservation, and I realize that those who have private land are clearly protected in that they have to have their consent. As the Minister knows, we had some question about where this particular area appeared from all of a sudden. It was not in the previous draft. The Minister has indicated that it was as a result of some representation that was made to him. Perhaps he could make a couple of comments regarding what he sees as the principles behind this particular section.
Hon. Mr. Webster: This section enables owners of land in fee simple to transfer interest in their property to a holder and to transfer the right to enforce that interest to a third party. Conservation easements have been put in place in other parts of this country, particularly in the Province of Prince Edward Island, and of course in many places in the United States as well as in British Columbia.
The section provides a new tool to help answer concerns regarding protection of special habitat, put it that way. Concerns were raised by the Yukon Trappers Association and in the forestry sector meetings. The wording was suggested in the Yarowsky report by the Association of Yukon Communities and is similar to the practices in other jurisdictions of the country.
Clause 76 agreed to
On Clause 77
Clause 77 agreed to
On Clause 78
Clause 78 agreed to
On Clause 79
Clause 79 agreed to
On Clause 80
Clause 80 agreed to
On Clause 81
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 81 on page 39 in the English text by deleting the definition of development assessment process and substituting for it the following definition:
development assessment process means any or all of the procedures carried out under this Part in conducting an assessment of a major development or activity.
Mr. Lang: I want to make sure this is on the record. My understanding is that the purpose of the amendment is to make it very clear that we are not giving regulation-making power to the government for the purpose of implementing a development assessment process. This definition will complement the amendment the Minister will be bringing in for section 93, so that it is very clear that an act has to be passed in this House prior to any development assessment process being put into place. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, the definition of this proposed amendment is related to the amendment we will bring in later to the effect the Member was stating.
Amendment agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 81 on page 39 by deleting the words in the definition of existing assessment or approval process.
Could we stand this definition over until I have this amendment written up in its proper form?
Clause 81 stood over
On Clause 82
Clause 82 agreed to
On Clause 83
Clause 83 agreed to
On Clause 84
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would bring Members attention to a typo in clause 84(j). The word the should appear before applicants plans.
Mr. Lang: What exactly does decommissioning mean?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is a term used in the industry and basically means shutting down.
Clause 84 agreed to
On Clause 85
Clause 85 agreed to
On Clause 86
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 86(2) at page 42 in the English text by deleting the words as defined in the regulations, and by deleting the words or activity.
The deletion of or activity is obviously redundant, as it speaks to the development assessment process as defined in the regulations. The reason for moving that is in accordance with the amendment that will follow.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 86 agreed to as amended
On Clause 87
Clause 87 agreed to
On Clause 88
Clause 88 agreed to
On Clause 89
Clause 89 agreed to
On Clause 90
Clause 90 agreed to
On Clause 91
Clause 91 agreed to
On Clause 92
Clause 92 agreed to
On Clause 93
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move,
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 93 at page 44 by: deleting clause 93 and substituting for it the following clause: 93. Where the Minister receives an application under section 84 respecting a major development, the Minister shall ensure that the major development,
(a) is screened and reviewed using an existing assessment or approval process that involves interested departments of the Government of the Yukon and includes public consultation, or
(b) complies with a development assessment process which replaces the existing assessment or approval process and is established under an enactment
before issuing a permit under this Part."
Mr. Lang: I want to put a legal question to the Minister. In subsection 93(2), is the wording is established under an enactment the legal wording that makes sure that there has to be an act passed by this House? Can it not be interpreted as an enactment by regulation?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The enactment refers to an act and not regulations.
Mr. Lang: As I indicated in second reading, with much of the opposition that we had put forward toward the bill, we want to say that we feel this is a very significant step forward by the government in respect to making the bill much more palatable then it was in the past. It is very important that, if a development assessment process is going to be brought into effect in the territory, the government has a responsibility to bring it through the Legislature, and not through the back door by regulation.
We will be supporting the amendment that has been brought forward.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 93 agreed to as amended
On Clause 94
Clause 94 agreed to
On Clause 95
Clause 95 agreed to
On Clause 96
Mr. Lang: I would like to know what the projected costs are for these various management plans, to either the territory or the municipalities, or both, in view of the fact that they are now mandatory.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As can be seen from clause 96(1), there will be a requirement, as the Member correctly said, for a municipality to have a waste management plan in place two years after the regulations come into effect. The City of Whitehorse, being a major municipality, already has a plan in place; the mayor, last week, when appearing as a witness, assured me that their plan was adequate and I have no reason to doubt it is anything but adequate. So I do not think it costs a great deal of money to upgrade that particular plan to meet the standards of any regulations to which the City of Whitehorse may be a party.
As for the other communities and the towns, such as Dawson City - and now Watson Lake is developing one; I am not sure about the Town of Faro - over the next two years, well before this requirement for a management plan, I would imagine that those plans would be in place and it would simply be a matter of upgrading them to meet the standards that they would help establish in the public-review process.
Clause 96 agreed to
On Clause 97
Mr. Lang: This may be a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. What plans do we have on the territorys roads for providing waste removal areas for tourists in RVs? The Member for Hootalinqua has raised the issue on many occasions about how this is affecting the environment in some areas of the territory, where the tourists go to gravel pits and other areas and empty their holding tanks. This creates quite a mess.
I am just wondering what plans, in this clause or elsewhere, the Minister has for the next two years to provide some type of services for these travelers who are coming up the highway.
I was wondering if the Minister of Tourism and Minister of Community and Transportation Services could put their positions forward. Then we will call on the Minister of Government Services to see if he has capital money to help the other two Ministers out in their plans to solve this problem.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I will speak first of all on behalf of the Departments of Renewable Resources and Tourism. As you know, it is not the plan of either department to put these facilities in our campgrounds. We have been encouraging the private sector to provide this service, most of whom seem quite willing, even though in some cases they charge very little to do so because it brings the travelling recreational vehicle public in to patronize their businesses. The Members for Watson Lake and Kluane can correct me if I am wrong, but there was an indication from a recent survey that we did that there are adequate facilities for waste disposal operated by private businesses along the Alaska highway. For that reason, and because of the extra costs, the Department of Renewable Resources has left the provision of waste disposal at campgrounds in the hands of the private sector.
Mr. Brewster: It is quite correct that we do have them, but the problem is they do no use them. It is easier to go into the gravel pits, so we have not solved the problem by having private businesses put them in. They do not use them because they have to pay, so they use the gravel pits.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member is quite correct, there seem to be adequate facilities. The task is to encourage people to use them. In our tourism information brochures, we are encouraging that; that message is quite prominent. I think with the new Environment Act it will be even more prominent.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that Bill No.20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in subclause 97(4) at page 47 by deleting the words Subject to the regulations and subsection (8) and substituting for them the words Subject to the regulations and subsection (7).
Chair: Amendment agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: I further move,
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act be amended in clause 97 at page 47 and 48 by deleting subclauses (5) and (6) and replacing them with the following subclause (5):
(5) Subject to subsection (6), a special waste management plan approved by the Commissioner in Executive Council under this section authorizes a person to dispose of special waste in accordance with the provisions of the plan and the terms and conditions imposed by the Commissioner in executive Council.
and by renumbering subclauses (7), (8) and (9) accordingly.
In speaking to this amendment this is simply a housekeeping matter to keep this section consistent with the language used in the solid waste area.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 97 agreed to as amended
On Clause 98
Clause 98 agreed to
On Clause 99
Hon. Mr. Webster: I wish to introduce an amendment here deleting subclause (2). Unfortunately, I have the same problem that the Member for Porter Creek East had prior to the break for dinner. I have misplaced the amendment, so could we please stand over clause 99?
Clause 99 stood over
On Clause 100
Clause 100 agreed to
On Clause 101
Clause 101 agreed to
On Clause 102
Mr. Phillips: I do not want let this section go by without making a couple of comments. It is something that I have been concerned about for some time, and I am finally pleased to see that we have a piece of legislation that has some rules and regulations about litter and the problem of littering in the territory.
I would imagine that once this bill comes into effect next spring, we will not see any garbage laying around in the territory. It is going to please me immensely when that problem is immediately solved.
I look forward to the anti-litter education programs in our schools, in our communities, the year-round litter program that can now go ahead because we have an act in place and because of the motion we passed in this House, which we all supported wholeheartedly. I will be looking forward to that being implemented in the near future.
I am very pleased to see that this section is finally here. I firmly believe that we did not have to wait for an Environment Act to do this. We could have done this six years ago, but I am just as pleased to see it here today and I will be even more pleased when we see the results of proper anti-litter legislation in the territory, so that we at least get a better handle on the problem we have. This way, we will be better able to educate people on the problems associated with littering.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the Member opposite for his strong endorsement of the clauses in this bill pertaining to litter. I certainly do agree with him that much more can be done, needs to be done and will be done about educating Yukoners on the importance of not littering.
Clause 102 agreed to
On Clause 103
Clause 103 agreed to
On Clause 104
Clause 104 agreed to
On Clause 105
Mr. Lang: I think this section is fairly well drafted and meets the objectives we want to see in the area of recycling and waste reduction. Those volunteers, and others who are involved in this, have done a good job. The support we can give them from this House gives them some encouragement to continue.
The programs we are putting in place should be designed with the objective that they are cost-recoverable. In other words, if we are going into a can recycling type of program, as per our discussion when the witnesses were here, there should be a surcharge large enough to cover the cost of doing the program and expanding it. That is the principle we have to look at.
Those who are actually using the product should pay for the recycling of that same product.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I thank the Member for his comments. I agree with him that there are many people in the territory who are making a valuable contribution by taking on the litter problem. I suspect, with the enthusiasm they have, and some of the programs already in place, they are most willing and eager to help develop regulations as soon as possible to further curb this problem.
Clause 105 agreed to
On Clause 106
Clause 106 agreed to
On Clause 107
Clause 107 agreed to
On Clause 108
Clause 108 agreed to
On Clause 109
Clause 109 agreed to
On Clause 110
Mr. Lang: I have an amendment for clause 110(1). It reads
THAT Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, be amended in clause 110(1)(b) at page 52 by deleting all the words after the words use of a package and substituting therefor the following: for up to 120 days; or (c) establish a schedule for compliance to cease the sale of the product or the use of the package.
I thought this might assist in giving further options to the Minister to curtail a definite product that has been brought to the Ministers attention. This clause talks about banning the use of a product or banning the use of a package for up to 120 days; he may well want the authority to make the decision to establish a schedule.
This would give the indivual who is providing the product a year or even a year and one-half to rid themselves of the product and substitute something else that would meet what modern technology says that we can provide and be less harmful to the environment. This is a section that would give more options to the government when it is in a position of having to make a decision in respect to this kind of thing.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would like some time to review this amendment. I have difficulty reading the amendment. I would like clarification from the Member sponsoring this amendment.
Mr. Lang: It is very simple. It is 110(1)(b) that is being amended. It is not the body of the main text of subsection (1).
We are saying ban the use of a package for up to 120 days; or
(c) establish a schedule for compliance to cease the sale of the product or the use of the package."
This is going to give the government one other option where it may be necessary to provide six months or a year prior to having a business provide a different product than what they were using.
Hon. Mr. Webster: As we are nearing the end of the day, I would like to ask the Member proposing the amendment to stand it over for tomorrow.
Mr. Phillips: Before we leave this area, I would just like to make a comment about it. Recycling is a new thing in the Yukon Territory. I give the government credit for supporting the Recycling Centre, although some of that support came a little slowly.
Before we leave this section, I know that this is going to do a great deal to help recycling in the territory. We should give full credit and full marks to the people in the Recycling Centre. They have done an absolutely outstanding job in establishing the centre as they have, to date. Many of the people in the Recycling Centre worked over and above the call of duty, and put many volunteer hours in, to get the centre up and running. It is a credit to them that recycling in the territory is up and running in the territory and will work. I am glad to see that there is some support in this bill that will assist with recycling in the future.
Clause 110 stood over
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 20.
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?
Mr. Joe: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 20, entitled Environment Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 28, 1991:
Yukon Development Corporation: Legal fees and receiver fees incurred with respect to Yukon Pacific Forest Products (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 850
Child restraint violations statistics since 1987 (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 846
Saving Energy Action Loan fund (SEAL program) statistical information (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 891
Decentralization: Estimated increase in operation and maintenance costs in 1991-92 (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1121, 1122
Decentralization: Number of positions staffed when policy announced (Penikett)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1121
Cost of legal services related to lawsuit launched by former Deputy Minister of Health and Human Resources (M. Joe)
Oral, Hansard, p. 851