Wednesday, April 29, 1992 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will now proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Devries: I would like to introduce Peter and Diane Salmond from Watson Lake. They are sitting in the third row down from the top in the gallery.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Reports of Committees.
Introduction of Bills.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 93: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that Bill No. 93, entitled Electoral District Boundaries Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 93, a bill entitled Electoral District Boundaries Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 93 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Yukons participation in the National Contaminated Sites Remediation Program
Hon. Mr. Webster: In April 1989, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment established the national contaminated sites program.
Through agreements between the federal and provincial/territorial governments, funding under the program is provided for identification, assessment and clean-up of orphan high risk contaminated sites across Canada. Sites which have a potential to affect human health or the environment and for which the owner or responsible party cannot be identified are eligible under this program.
The program also provides funding for the development and demonstration of new and innovative clean-up technology. Nine provincial and territorial jurisdictions across Canada have now signed agreements to provide for remediation or technology demonstration.
I am pleased to announce today that the Yukon government entered into an agreement with the federal government to join with other jurisdictions in this program. Up to $125,000 is available on a 50/50 funding arrangement.
In the short term, this will provide for the clean-up of the PCB contaminated soil in the Granger subdivision.
The cost of this clean-up is estimated to be $50,000, of which the Yukons share will be $25,000.
The Granger site was selected in consultation with Environment Canada and the Ministry of Community and Transportation Services. Should we be able to identify the party who created the problem at Granger, steps will be taken to recover the remediation costs. This is in line with the nationally agreed upon polluter-pays principle.
In the longer term, other sites will be investigated for inclusion into this program over the remaining three years of its duration.
The national contaminated sites remediation program is distinct from the funding under the Arctic Environmental Strategy, but is complementary. For example, assessment work under the national contaminated sites program could result in clean-ups under the AES.
Mr. Phillips: I am always pleased to see the government taking action to protect and clean up our environment, but I am a bit puzzled at how this government can be so determined to clean up some areas in the environment and simply stall or ignore other major environmental problems.
The government was silent in the throne speech on the largest pollution problem in the Yukon - the pumping of raw sewage into the Yukon River. Nothing has been said about the devastation taking place in the Aishihik Lake drainage caused by a government Crown corporation. The Yukon Energy Corporation continues to increase its dependency on diesel-generated power, pumping hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.
The same government has stalled on identifying the location of the much-needed hazardous waste facility. It looks like we have the cart before the horse again. When we clean up these PCBs in Granger and other sites, where are we going to put the hazardous waste? If the government is looking at identifying some hazardous waste sites, they need to look no further than the Taga Ku dirt pile and put that high up on their list of priorities. It seems that this government cannot see the forest for the trees - or should I say the pile of dirt.
I support programs such as this and I wish other areas of concern would show up in this governments environmental agenda.
I would like to suggest that the Minister urge the federal government to quickly identify some sites so that work can begin in this summer season. Many helicopter and charter companies are anticipating a few lean years as a result of the cutback in mining explorations. An acceleration of this program would greatly benefit those companies and help them through this season.
Mrs. Firth: In response to the Ministers statement, we would like to know exactly how the short-term project is going to proceed? I do not think that the government has the proper equipment for the removal of this soil. As the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale North mentioned, where will this waste be stored, as the site for the hazardous waste site has not yet been chosen?
Would the Minister please give us a time line on when he expects this project to start? When would the Minister expect this project to be completed? Will the eye-sore - the pile of dirt on Second Avenue - be included in this project as well?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to thank the two Members opposite for their support of this program, although they did mention a few concerns they have; rightfully, they are.
The Member for Riverdale North began by noting the problem of the pumping of raw sewage into the Yukon River. That is the largest environmental problem in the territory. I want to remind him, however, that this government has made the commitment to the people who are partly responsible for cleaning up the situation; that being, the City of Whitehorse. We have agreed to supply them with a substantial amount of funding and other assistance so that they can carry out that particular task.
On the situation at Aishihik Lake, I want to assure the Member that the water levels in that lake this year are high enough to prevent any further damage to the fish habitat and fish stocks. As the Member knows, my Department of Renewable Resources is actively involved in doing some research on the fish populations of that lake and will be making some more recommendations.
I would like to assure the Member that, despite his previous pleas to reduce the levels of water in Aishihik Lake to create a tourist attraction at Otter Falls, we will not be doing that. We want to maintain the levels of that lake at reasonable levels so as not to damage further the fish habitat or fish stocks.
With respect to the hazardous waste site at Taga Ku - a matter that came up yesterday in this House - I want to inform the Member that this particular site will not qualify for this particular program, simply because we know who the proponent is: the developer. I want to assure the Member that the developer has been working with government agencies, both at the federal and territorial levels, through their consultant, Norecol Environmental Consultants Limited, which has agreed to mediate the site to a nationally agreed upon standard.
The question is - and it is well taken - when will that work be done? With respect to the comment posed by the Member for Riverdale South on the specific project in Granger, there will be a tender let early this summer, which will invite the private sector to do the work, and I will provide further details on when that work will be done and the nature of the work.
Seatbelt use in Yukon
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I rise to my feet to report to the House on developments surrounding a previously-announced policy of motor vehicle seatbelt use. Legislation was proclaimed on July 1, 1991 and, since that time, a number of very positive results are worth noting.
As Members will recall, the use of seatbelts in the Yukon was prompted by a public desire to save lives and reduce injuries. The Canadian Safety Council estimates that for every one percent rise in the use of seatbelts, 300 lives would be saved and 900 injuries would be prevented in Canada over a 20-year period. Prior to implementation of seatbelt legislation last spring, Transport Canada conducted the first official seatbelt survey in the Yukon. It showed that only 25 percent of Yukon residents were using seatbelts. Clearly, more than public education was needed to increase seatbelt use and to reduce the severity of traffic injuries.
Three months after implementation of the legislation, a further survey showed that seatbelt use in the Yukon had increased to 75 percent. This 200 percent increase is significant and indicates that seatbelt legislation has been effective. I congratulate all of those involved, particularly those drivers and passengers who wear their belts.
Although our work as legislators has passed, the process of public education and awareness, enforcement and review of the legislation continues. Last fall, we created the Saved-by-the-Seatbelt club to publicize the stories of individuals whose lives were saved by using seatbelts.
In December, I had the opportunity to meet the first members of the Saved-by-the-Seatbelt Club and to present them with certificates. I recall that it was quite an experience to hear, firsthand, about their accidents and how seatbelts had saved their lives. These fortunate individuals are living proof that seatbelts do, indeed, save lives.
Another important part of this process is the selective training enforcement program with the acronym, STEP. It is a Canada-wide program that involves stop-checking vehicles for seatbelt use and other safety requirements. The first STEP program in the Yukon took place in October of 1991 and the RCMP have committed to holding two STEP programs each year.
We are also assisting the RCMP with school workshops. These programs remind people to use seatbelts and they have shown to be very effective in ensuring seatbelt use and that it continues to increase.
The national occupant restraint program is a major traffic safety project involving all provinces and territories across Canada, with the aim of attaining a national seatbelt rate of 95 percent by the year 1995. We have committed ourselves to meeting this goal, and I am sure all Members of the House will support our efforts.
Mrs. Firth: This is a preventive measure for public safety. I believe most Members of the Legislature supported the legislation when the government brought it forward.
My particular interest in what is happening with respect to the seatbelt legislation is to get some idea about statistics. We have heard of the last two stop-checks the RCMP have put on. Sometimes, you hear there have been as many as 40 violations of the seatbelt regulation.
At some time during the sitting, would the Minister be prepared to give us that information with respect to the rural-urban breakdown? I am particularly interested in the offences of children not being safely fastened in their seatbelts. Perhaps we could get some indication of the amount of revenues and fines that have been collected.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: On the basis of the inquiries made by the Member, I will undertake to provide more comprehensive statistics to all Members of the House.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Appointments to boards and committees
Mr. Lang: I raised a question yesterday about a practice becoming more and more evident, and also of significant concern to the public. It is the blatant political patronage that is taking place by the government, especially in the case of the last two appointments to the Yukon Development Corporation.
As you know, the ex-president of the NDP was appointed to the Yukon Development Corporation; likewise, so was the ex-principal secretary of the Government Leader, contrary to the ...
Point of Order
Speaker: Order please. Point of order to the Minister of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I want to make it clear that I do not want to detract from the Members right to raise questions in Question Period, which he has. However, I believe there is a protocol or rule of the House that says that when a matter is before the House in a motion for debate, on that day questions are normally not raised.
Speaker: On the point of order to the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. Lang: On the point of order, first of all I would ask the Chair to extend the time of the Question Period, because I hope that the Minister is not intentionally trying to use Question Period for the purpose of discussing a point of order.
I specifically checked that out this morning and I am not discussing the contents of a motion that is going to be debated after Question Period. I am discussing the past practice of the government and asking for some information.
Therefore, there is no point of order.
Speaker: Order please. On the point of order, there is no point of order, as the Member states that the content of his question is not related to what is on the order paper.
Mr. Lang: I realize that this is a subject that the Minister does not want to discuss, and I would be on my feet if I were he on a point of order. I do have some sympathy for him in defending the Government Leaders appointments in his absence.
I want to get back to the political patronage that has taken place, especially the latest appointments that have been made to the Yukon Development Corporation.
As I said earlier, the appointments that I am referring to are the appointments of the ex-NDP president of the Members party, as well as an ex-principal secretary, weeks after her departure as an employee for the government...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: Yes. I would ask the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation why the ex-president of the NDP was appointed to the Yukon Development Corporation when he is also a member of the Council on the Environment and the Economy and a member of the Curriculum Advisory Committee.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe that I answered that question yesterday. The appointment of Mr. Hardy to the Yukon Development Corporation was made on the basis of his competence, labour expertise and his community-minded tenure in the Yukon. Mr. Hardy has been in the Yukon for some 25 years; he grew up in the Yukon.
In fact, my first recollection of the man, if the Member wishes to know, was in his youth at Takhini School in grade 7. In fact, this individual was a very thoughtful, well-rounded and practical-minded student of mine. The appointment simply serves to build the broad interest requirement of the board, and Mr. Hardy was a qualified candidate.
Mr. Lang: I realize that one of the major criteria was that this individual be an active member of the NDP executive, but I did not realize that he also had to come from the classroom of the Member opposite, in order to meet the criteria for this appointment.
I want to ask the Minister why this particular individual is sitting on three very important boards in this government, when there are so many other people out there who could be sitting on these boards?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me be perfectly clear.
I felt that labours voice had to be heard on the board of the Yukon Development Corporation. Mr. Hardy has a very strong background in labour, as well as in construction. He worked in the industry for some 18 years. His background is extensive. He fulfilled a necessary requirement I felt was needed on the board. The appointment was recommended.
Mr. Lang: The Minister makes it sound like these individuals, through these appointments, are volunteering their time on behalf of the public. I wonder if the Minister can confirm that a member of the board of the Yukon Development Corporation is paid $200 plus expenses a day. If one is appointed to the Council on the Economy and the Environment, one is paid $200 plus expenses a day. If one is appointed to the Curriculum Advisory...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: I want to know if the Minister can confirm that this is what an individual is paid if they are appointed to three boards, as is the ex-president of the Yukon NDP.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not propose to be an expert on board and committee appointments. I do want to tell the Member, however, that his statement yesterday, where he said that members of boards and committees in the Yukon receive up to $300 a day, was inaccurate. The Member is correct today when he suggests that the ceiling on certain boards is $200.
The daily honoraria provided to various boards range from zero - that is, some boards actually do not pay a member - to the highest level of $200. The various categories of boards in between range similarly in the compensation provided.
I cannot confirm precisely whether or not a person who is serving on several boards would receive the respective remuneration for each board, but it does seem quite likely that one would.
Question re: Appointments to boards and committees
Mr. Lang: It says in the NDP bible, the Boards and Committee Handbook, that it is $200 per day for a member and, depending on the chair, they can get as much as $300, and in some cases $450, so it is a fairly lucrative business. We will get into that later.
I want to get back into the question of the appointment of an individual to three boards and councils of this government that are so important to the every day running of the government, as well as to the general public. I do not doubt the qualifications of the ex-president of the NDP party but there is no question the perception of political patronage is there when it is done three times in a row - on strike three I think you should be out.
I know many people involved in the labour movement - in fact, I am an ex-member of a number of unions - and I know a number of the union representatives who have been here many years. They have not been in the classroom of the Member for Faro - I do not think they had that distinction - but they have served in many other capacities within the labour movement.
I want to ask the Minister why no other labour representative was approached to serve on the Yukon Development Corporation.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the Member is aware, we seek nominations for board and committee appointments through a process of solicitations from representative bodies, organizations and individuals, and we have a roster of people who have put their names forward. It should be noted that people who put their names forward to sit on boards and committees do not do it for the purposes of getting rich. They do not do it for the money. These people put their names forward because they have something to contribute. They put their names forward because they have some expertise and because they have some contribution that can provide to the government valuable advice. The suggestion that people go onto boards because they make a lot of money is just not the case. One should emphasize that board members who come forward to sit, if constantly dragged through debate on the floor of this House, will cease to come forward, and I have to...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to question the motive of the Member in pursuing this line of questioning.
Mr. Lang: I do not like asking these questions, but the last two appointments to the Yukon Development Corporation were a blatant slap in the face to the general public. I am sure that, if the Member opposite wanted to find anybody to represent labour, there are other people out there.
The Minister has to take the responsibility for the appointment. If they wanted that type of background for the corporation, why were other people representative of labour not approached?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: If the Member has any suggestions of labour interests who are willing to serve on various boards and committees, I would welcome him to put them forward to this government, privately or publicly, as he prefers.
The Member makes an emphatic point about patronage. Patronage implies that there is a specific benefit to the person being appointed to a position. There is no specific benefit to Mr. Hardys appointment to the Yukon Development Corporation. It takes a lot of time, commitment and effort to peruse the board packages to become familiar with the broad range of issues that that board deals with.
Patronage is really the kind of thing Mr. Mulroney did when he appointed Erik Nielsen to the Transport Board. That is patronage. That is the kind of thing that is really patronage. This is not patronage. This is one of six people appointed to a board for their background, expertise and willingness to come forward and serve in a capacity to provide the territory with some useful service.
Mr. Lang: If my memory serves me correctly, the individual in question was the president of the NDP when he accepted the appointment, similar to the appointment of the ex-principal secretary. If that is not patronage, I do not know what is.
The Minister must have known that any thinking person would say that this is a slap in the face to the general public; it is political patronage. Why did the Minister not go out to the labour movement and ask for other names of people who could sit on that board and serve it well? I can tell you, there are a lot of single mothers out there who would like to earn $200 a day.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: There are many people who could serve on many boards in the territory, and many of them do. There are probably over 400 people who sit on some form of a committee or a board in the Yukon. In our appointments to boards and committees, we have established a balance of interest on those boards that never existed before 1985.
The Member can lift up his book that existed in the early 1980s and he can look at all the Conservatives who were named to boards and served as chair of those boards. We have a balance of all political interests on all boards. That is a fact. We can go through the Boards and Committees Handbook and we can find Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats and many more of whom we do not even know their political...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Before 1985, the only criteria required to become a Member of an influential board in the territory was your knowing the Minister or your knowledge of the party in power. That is a fact.
Question re: Chateau Jomini
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Development Corporation but it is not about boards and committees. This question is about one of the Ministers other favorite subjects. It is about the Yukon Development Corporations involvement in the renovation of some old buildings in his riding.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: I did not use any bad words in this presentation.
The Minister was in his riding on Friday, discussing renovations to these old buildings that the Yukon Development Corporation is going to undertake. According to the corporation, the cost of the renovations is going to be $3.5 million.
Would the Minister tell us what the financial option was with respect to the one-time grant of half a million dollars? I understand this grant was to go from the Yukon government to the Yukon Development Corporation for their college renovations. If this information is not correct, perhaps the Minister could correct it for us.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am quite willing to correct the information of the Member, as I usually have to, because of the bootlegged inaccuracies she is wont to put on the record.
Yes, I spent the weekend in my riding, as I do as often as I am able to. Yes, I did have a meeting with a number of constituents over a six-hour period, during which we discussed many issues, not the least of which was the matter of the Chateau Jomini reconstruction.
Chateau Jomini is a currently dormant facility in the community, which is owned by the government and that the community would like to see reactivated for various needs that they perceive in the community. The Yukon Development Corporation is in consultation with the community - people in the community, interests groups in the community, leaders in the community - and they are revising and finalizing a proposal to activate at least either part of the building, or perhaps the entire building.
The original proposal suggested that it could cost some $3.5 million, but that is no longer the case, from my understanding of the discussions that are taking place. With respect to funding of any part of, or the entire, facility reconstruction, that decision has not been finalized either. The Yukon Development Corporation is in the process now of compiling ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Mr. Speaker, I was attempting to provide accurate and complete information. Perhaps if you will permit the Member a supplementary, I would like to continue.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister is a school teacher; surely he can understand the question. I hope he can. All I asked was about the $500,000 one-time grant. This is information that has been given to me. The Minister has made the charge that it is incorrect; it is inaccurate; I am bootlegging things in here. I am simply asking him to tell us about the $500,000 one-time grant. Could the Minister explain to us what that money is for, or what the whole thing is all about?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will answer the Members question, but it comes to mind that we have been in session now for four or five days. The Member has raised a number of questions with me, but it is peculiarly ironic that all of the questions surround Chateau Jomini, a facility in my riding. I cannot help but speculate that the Member has some special interest in my riding. I would invite her to make that motive known. However, let me deal with the specific question.
During the course of the six-hour discussion with various residents, there was the suggestion put forward that Yukon College could not afford the cost of the renovation, either directly through up-front capital funding, or by paying a higher rental charge than is paid now. In those discussions, it became apparent that the college may require some additional assistance to meet that financial obligation. One of the options put forward was the suggestion that perhaps the government ought to up-front the capital costs for the college portion of that reconstructed facility. The Member will have to remember that the college is currently in a very dilapidated old trailer, which they had been asking to leave some two years ago. They have a strong desire to relocate into this facility.
Mrs. Firth: If it was for the half a million dollars, did the Minister, at that time, make any commitment or promise that he would give them the money or come back and actively lobby the government to provide that money through his corporation to pay for those college renovations?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, now for what appears to be about the fifteenth question, including supplementaries, the Member has asked another question about Chateau Jomini in my riding. If the Member is suggesting that she has some ulterior motive of running in my riding, I would invite her to make that position known.
Nevertheless, to correct the $500,000 figure, I am advised by the Yukon Development Corporation - and this is still preliminary and not final - that the cost of renovating the proposed college portion of the building is more in the order of $200,000. That has cast a new complexion on things. As a result, I will have to await the refined proposal that comes from the Yukon Development Corporation as they conclude the consultation and documentation on this subject.
Question re: Yukon Development Corporation, board appointments
Mr. Phelps: I am going to risk doing irreparable harm to the obviously thin skin of the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation by following up on some questions asked by the Leader of the Official Opposition regarding the appointment of the former president of the NDP as a director to the board. I understand the Minister is defending this appointment partially on the grounds that he is a labour representative.
There is a group of companies known as the Kirkhoff Construction Companies in B.C. that, as many Yukoners will recall, became renowned for breaking the unions and organized labour in British Columbia. They came into prominence during the construction of the Expo site.
I am wondering how the Minister squares his concern for organized labour in the Yukon with the fact that this government, through its tool, Yukon Development Corporation, has loaned $2 million to a project that is being run by the Kirkhoff group, namely Taga Ku.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think the Member should again reflect total accuracy on things. Far be it for me to suggest he is inaccurate but perhaps complete accuracy may not have been there.
The loan to the Taga Ku project was not directly to the project or to the project contractors, as alluded to by the Member. The loan was made by the Development Corporation, through the approval process of the corporation board of directors, to the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation. That loan was provided to secure their equity in the project.
With respect to who does the project in its entirety - that is, whether it has to do with the architectural side, the construction side or the management side - that is a responsibility of the project proponents. So we are not likely to direct how any of those things should occur. The fact is that we are lenders; the proponents are the people who do the project.
Mr. Phelps: This Minister and his comrades across the road have been cosying up to the proponents of the Taga Ku development and I am curious - as I am sure organized labour in the Yukon is curious as well - as to whether or not the Minister has had meetings, discussions and met with representatives from, agents for, or director or officials of the Kirkhoff group of companies.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: After the grilling I went through in a particular 40 minutes of last week, I am very hesitant to say who may have been at some of the meetings I held.
The short answer is no. Any discussions that had taken place by my office or by me were with the project proponents, principally the chief of the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation; more recently, the joint venture partner of the First Nation, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation people.
Mr. Phelps: As the official front man for the Kirkhoff group of construction companies in the north, could the Minister advise us whether or not he understands one aspect of the appointment of the then-president of the party to the board of directors of the Yukon Development Corporation, as well as the person who had been a political appointment in the Government Leaders office to the board? Does he understand that this really calls into question the arms length of the corporation from the government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is asking whether that has, in some way, eroded the arms-length relationship. I do not know what he means by the question. For all our boards and committees, including the Yukon Development Corporation, we have attempted to place on the board a broad cross-section of Yukon public interest, expertise and competence to help manage the affairs of that corporation. We have just made six appointments. I do not hear Members raising the other five appointments on the floor of this Legislature, nor the two previous appointments who remained on the board for an additional year.
I do not hear Members raising questions about the various chairs of other influential boards and committees in the territory that are headed by prominent Conservatives and Liberals on the floor of this Legislature. I am beginning to take offence at the line of questioning ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Question re: Teslin correctional facility
Mr. Phillips: A few minutes ago, the Minister mentioned that we were chastising all the other board members. Now, he just made the suggestion that we are not attacking them. It is hard to understand what the Minister is really trying to tell us.
I attended a public meeting in Teslin that was hosted by the Minister of Justice. The support in the community for the new correctional facility appeared to be very strong. The main concern was where the facility was actually going to be located. At that meeting, the general feeling was that the people of Teslin preferred that this public building be built on public land.
There is now some concern that the government is making a deal to build the facility on private band land. Has the government negotiated with the band to put the building on band land? Has it reached an agreement of any kind with the band?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The fact is that we have not made any deal or agreement with anyone in regard to that land. There is a lot of preparation work that has to be done prior to that decision being made. We are looking at the areas suggested by the community at the public meeting that night, which was attended by a number of Teslin people.
Soil testing has started or will start very shortly. It will be tested to determine whether or not it is in an area that is suitable for construction. We will also look at what it would cost to put a facility in those areas; for instance, what it costs to have electricity put in or whatever else is needed. These things all have to be determined before we make a decision.
Mr. Phillips: One of the wishes expressed by residents of Teslin is that the Minister conclude the agreement regarding the chosen site prior to commencement of construction. Residents do not want construction to start and then make the deal afterwards.
Would the Minister give us assurances that if they do select some private land for the facility, that negotiations will be concluded and the prices and the actual costs will be known prior to the startup of construction?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I made a commitment that night at the meeting when the Member for Riverdale North was in attendance with regard to consultation. That consultation will take place.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to get another assurance from the Minister. If any agreements are reached, and we are in session, would the Minister table the agreement in the Legislature? If we are not in session, would the Minister mail the agreement or pass the agreement on to the Opposition critics in order that we might have a look at the agreement as soon as possible?
Hon. Ms. Joe: It is my intention to provide information to the Opposition critics in regard to areas of my department that are of interest to them. As mentioned earlier, I previously made such an offer with regard to the RCMP contract. The Member for Riverdale North did not take me up on that offer. That offer is still open.
If we do come to any agreement while we are in session, I will certainly take that question under advisement. I do not know whether it would the proper thing to do, but I will certainly look at that question.
Question re: Forestry, raw log exports
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources concerning raw log exports.
With the forest transfer negotiations in high gear, I would anticipate that the feds are keeping the Minister posted on new developments in this area.
Can the Minister tell me how many raw log export permits are presently applicable to the Yukon and the volume of raw logs that these permits are covering?
Hon. Mr. Webster: There is currently only one timber harvesting agreement, which is being honoured and approved for the export of raw logs in the amount of 50,000 cubic metres per year.
A number of other applications for export of raw logs were submitted this year to the federal government for review; however, they have been held in abeyance until the federal government develops a log export policy.
Mr. Devries: As far as I know, in Watson Lake there are presently logs leaving the territory that are not part of that 50,000 cubic metres that the Minister is referring to.
During the last session, I suggested to the Minister that he propose a moratorium on further permits while waiting for the forestry transfer and proper inventories of the stocks.
Is this moratorium on the issuance of further permits still in effect?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, as I have originally stated, the federal government has implemented a moratorium on the export of raw logs until a review has taken place and a policy developed.
With respect to the Members comment about other logs leaving the Watson Lake area, I want to remind the Member that that is quite possible, but the logs would not be exported internationally. Some of the logs are being exported to British Columbia.
Mr. Devries: We still have 100 people unemployed in Watson Lake, and many of these people are ex-sawmill employees. Every day, these people see these loads of logs pulling out of Watson Lake. I have been told that these logs are going to Skagway to be exported to Japan.
Can the Minister assure me that his government is doing everything possible to encourage the secondary manufacturing of this valuable resource in the Yukon, and not exporting this raw resource to Japan or other markets?
Hon. Mr. Webster: As the Member knows, part of the timber harvesting agreement signed with Kaska Forest Resources only permits export of raw logs until 1994, at which time they must have in place a plan for processing locally cut logs.
Question re: Local hire by government
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister in charge of the Public Service Commission, with respect to government employment.
I understand that recently there were either five or seven geologists hired for the Department of Economic Developments mineral resources program. Can the Minister tell us how many of those geologists hired were local hire?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, I cannot give the Member that information.
Mr. Nordling: Perhaps the Minister of Economic Development could answer that question.
The director of staffing for the Public Service Commission just issued a news release on the local hire rate, so I thought that the Minister might be up to date on this subject.
I would like to ask the Minister if he would agree that the majority of outside hire is within the higher income brackets of the government payroll?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In all fairness, I certainly am aware of the local employment statistics that show that the governments local employment record last year ran in the 98 percent category. I am aware of that news release.
I am not specifically aware of particular competitions that may be run by a particular department at a particular time. I do not keep that close a handle on what is obviously the responsibility of the staffing branches of those departments.
Actually, it is quite common, when reviewing those statistics, that the very few people we do hire from outside of the Yukon are people with very specialized skills. These are skills that are not commonly found in the Yukon and consequently that is the reason for the external hire. Quite often these specialized skills command higher wages and that is the reason for those external hires being sometimes employed in the higher job categories.
Mr. Nordling: Perhaps the Minister should check on these highly specialized jobs, like that of the sheriff, that require us to go outside to find someone.
My second supplementary is that the government has implemented a wellness program for its employees; stress being of the big concerns. I would like to know whether the Minister knows how many government employees are off on stress leave and whether there is a breakdown as to how much of it is work-related stress.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I realize that the Member only gets one shot at Question Period, so he might just as well ask a whole range of questions, all having to do generally with the Public Service Commission, even though they had specifically to do with economic development and another hiring action by that department.
I will try to glean the information from the public records with respect to the numbers of staff who are on stress leave and bring that information back. Of course, I would presume that most of that information is highly confidential, so there will only be the most general of statistics that I would be able to provide.
Question re: Mayo Road cutoff sign
Mr. Brewster: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Kluane National Park Reserve recently made application to the Government of Yukon to erect a sign at the Mayo Road cutoff that would direct visitors to that reserve. This request was turned down because the park is considered to be in the same category as other commercial operations along the highway. How can a national park reserve be considered a commercial operation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to tell the Member that this is my first awareness of this specific issue. I did listen diligently, and I will undertake to review the matter and provide him with a complete answer in writing.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to thank the Minister for the answer. Canadian Parks Service made arrangements to erect one sign with the services and attractions of both Kluane National Park and Dawson City parks on it. I would like to ask the Minister why these two major tourist attractions have to be crowded together on one sign.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not know the technical answer, nor do I have any information at my fingertips about the rules that would ordinarily apply to what can be contained on a sign - in terms of numerals, letters, space and distance for location. Again, I will take notice on the matter he raises. It is a serious-minded question, and I will give it serious research and a response.
Mr. Brewster: I always ask serious questions. One does not get a chance to ask too many because everyone talks so much. Will the Minister look into this bureaucratic snafu and assure us that both areas will be able to advertise on their own private signs?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will undertake to respond to the question he raises in writing.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: We will proceed with Opposition Private Members business.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 2, standing in the name of Mr. Lang.
Motion No. 2
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that a Standing Committee on Appointments should be established to review and make recommendations on appointments proposed by the Executive Council to boards and committees including but not limited to the following:
(a) Yukon Development Corporation Board of Directors
(b) Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors
(c) Workers Compensation Board
(d) Yukon Lottery Commission
(e) Yukon Recreation Advisory Council
(f) Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board
(g) Yukon College Board of Governors
(h) Yukon Electrical Public Utilities Board
(i) Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment; and
THAT this House directs the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges to report to the House, prior to the conclusion of the 1992 spring sitting, any amendments that would be required to the Standing Orders to create a Standing Committee on Appointments.
Mr. Lang: The motion that we have brought forward to the House is one that we view as very serious. It is one that I think can do much to negate the perception of the government with respect to the process and candidates for appointments to the various boards and committees.
I just want to digress for a moment. This House, over the course of the last 10 or 15 years has continuously passed legislation that has delegated the direct responsibility of each and every Member of this House to certain other authorities. This has been for good reason, because some of these particular organizations have to meet on an ongoing basis and deal with day-to-day business and need some direction as a quasi-public body to ensure that the administration of the corporation or other bodies is conducted in a manner that is acceptable to the Legislature and agrees with the legislation that has been passed.
An example that comes to mind is the question of the Workers Compensation Board. There is no question that there is a requirement for that board to have representatives from labour and management to ensure that the fund, that is in the neighbourhood of $76 million, if not more, is managed in a manner that is proper.
The point I am making is that the responsibility that is being passed on to these organizations, as set up by legislative process through this House, is really the direct responsibility of the elected Members of the House. This is similar to the observations made by the Member for Mayo, when he spoke the other day to some degree on the question of amending how the appointments should be made to the Workers Compensation Board.
I have had the opportunity to do some research on the question of political appointments to boards and committees of the government. I was quite amazed to find the number of boards and committees this government and the Legislature have created over the past 10 or 15 years. I think it is safe to say that many Members in this House could not stand up and tell us today how many committees or boards had been appointed by the legislative process.
The YTG, in the Boards and Committees Handbook, presently has 69 boards, councils and committees. The number of appointments to these boards and committees is over 400, if one looks at it from a technical point of view. Four hundred and ten positions are available on these boards, committees and councils.
I should point out that some of them are repetitive; for example, the Yukon Recreation Advisory Council appointees are the same who are on the Yukon Lotteries Commission. In reality, positions of people being appointed to the various boards, committees, councils and corporations of this government are in the neighbourhood of 380.
Boards, committees and councils, and how they operate, are an industry.
The Member for Faro - the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation - stated earlier today that going on these boards, councils and committees was really not that lucrative. I would like to make a couple of points.
If I were the chair of one of the councils or committees, I would findthe remuneration is quite good: $300 per day, plus expenses. It should also be pointed out that there is also preparation time available to the chairpersons of the various councils and committees.
Further to that, it should be pointed out that if I were a member of many of these boards, I would be getting $200 a day, similar to the only member who can actively represent the labour movement in the Yukon, the ex-president of the NDP, who happens to sit on three boards and committees.
Members may dismiss this by saying that $200 a day is not a lot of money. I think it is a fair amount of money and a fair remuneration for what is being asked.
The other point I want to make with respect to the number of committees, boards, councils and corporations that have been established is that these are costing the general taxpayer a great deal of money.
We, as Members, should be aware of that, and I think the general public should be aware as well. Take, for example, the Yukon Health and Social Services Council that was established two years ago. In 1991, the honoraria for the members of that board amounted to $35,952 and the travel expenses were $12,184, for a total of $48,000 - just under $50,000 for one year. That does not bring into account the secretarial help and all the other expenses required behind the scenes to run and assist a council of this kind.
The total for running this council for two years - and I am just using this one as an example because I have just received this information - including the honoraria and the expenses for the members, is $85,464. So all Members have to be concerned about these councils, boards and corporations, how they are run and whether or not they are effectively doing the job they have been asked to perform through the legislative process.
These councils, these boards, these corporations are dealing with multi-millions of dollars. I mentioned earlier, for an example, the Workers Compensation Board. Over $70 million is controlled by that particular organization. The Liquor Corporation board of directors is responsible for multi-millions of dollars, as well as the social policy regarding how the Liquor Corporation should be run, in part.
Take, for another example, the Yukon Development Corporation, which has brought this all to a head. The Yukon Development Corporation has spent millions and millions and millions of dollars on very, very questionable projects, to the detriment of the taxpayers of Yukon and the electrical consumers of Yukon and, unbeknownst to them and unbeknownst to Members of this House, YDC would be funding projects such as the Watson Lake sawmill out of our electrical rates instead of the general consolidated revenue fund.
Yet, those appointments are not reviewed in any way by the general public through this legislative process.
As I said yesterday during Question Period, I recognize that there is a place for politically active people being considered for appointments, in some cases, once an election is completed, but I also retain the right as an elected MLA to ensure that those individuals appointed to the corporations, such as the Yukon Development Corporation and others, are competent, capable and doing a good job.
Look at the Yukon Development Corporation - it is a fiasco, an absolute fiasco. Appointments of that kind should be reviewed and held accountable by the Minister and the government for the responsibilities that they have either misused or chosen to ignore on behalf of the consumers of the Yukon.
I want to go back to the infamous Boards and Committees Handbook; it is thicker than the government telephone book. This is the handbook of March 1991; we have not received the March 1992 issue. In other words, this handbook is a year old.
The side opposite said that there is no political patronage with respect to the boards and commissions of the present government. I want to make a point: the chairperson of the Yukon Development Corporation is an ex-MLA and ex-president of the NDP. Let me continue: the Workers Compensation Board chairperson is an ex-NDP candidate; the person who just resigned as chair of the Yukon Electrical Public Utilities Board is the ex-campaign manager for the man who would be king. The chair of the Yukon Recreation Advisory Council is the ex-campaign manager for the man who would be king.
I will tell the Minister to look at page 87. Maybe this person has retired in the past year, because the Minister does not seem to want to update people with what is happening on these boards, but look at the chairperson.
I want to go further; let us go the chairperson of the Yukon Health and Social Services Council, an ex-executive assistant to a Minister of this government.
Let us look at the Council on the Economy and the Environment and the ex-press secretary to the Government Leader.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Lang: Their defence is so poor.
With regard to the appointment of the chairperson positions on the key boards - the ones that are so important to the government, such as the Yukon Development Corporation, and one that is so significant to the day-to-day pocketbook of the consumer - there has been political patronage and it is well and alive.
The Members opposite seem to feel for some reason that there is nothing wrong with this. I feel that some of the chairpersons that I have outlined here are doing an adequate job. I said that yesterday. What is happening in some of these cases, especially the Yukon Development Corporation, is totally unacceptable. To the general public it is becoming more and more evident that in order to get an appointment to something as important as the Yukon Development Corporation, your political card comes first. Gender balance, the rural/urban balance and ethnic balance all comes into play after that. I think the general public finds that unacceptable.
As I mentioned in Question Period today, I do not particularly like talking about this subject. In fact, we have intentionally stayed away from this subject until this session. We stayed away from this subject until the last two appointments to the Yukon Development Corporation were announced because that put the icing on the cake and demonstrated the politicizing of the appointments of the government. Cabinet must have known what the ramifications would have been in making such appointments and bringing them to the publics attention. In fact, Cabinet was so shy about those particular appointments that they never did publicly announce them. All of a sudden the appointments appeared in the Yukon Gazette.
Why are we in this situation?
Somebody has to bring in a motion that brings it to the publics attention and, I hope, bring an end to the debate of this kind and provide a mechanism whereby all Members can be satisfied that the appointments to these boards are made in a manner that is acceptable to the general public.
Things have really gone a long way. We now have a position in government, specifically created by the Government Leader, called the boards and committees secretariat. We have a person whose only job is to update this book and who is supposed to be looking for people out there to serve on boards and committees.
Yet, I raised today the fact that there is one individual who is so prominent, intelligent and who has so much time that he is sitting on three boards. In this handbook, there are many others who are also sitting on a number of boards. Why is it necessary to have an individual sitting on three boards, unless it is political patronage? Why are we not going out to the general public, looking for a wider representation?
I think of the Yukon Development Corporation. The other day, I asked why no one of the current seven members of that board had a wide, current mining background to bring to the day-to-day deliberations of that board. Why was there nobody with an energy background, technical or otherwise, to bring some thoughts and ideas to the boards deliberations in an area so vital to the day-to-day running of the homes in the Yukon?
I do not have a problem in having a representative of labour on that board. I will accept that. However, I feel that the appointments to this board represent, highlight and symbolize the appointment method of this government.
They are going to stand up and say, we have one so-called Conservative over here, and a so-called Liberal over there, and wave that around. That is not the point. I defend the right for some people with NDP political identification to be on a board or committee. However, I also defend the publics right, when they look at the Yukon Development Corporation, to question the capabilities, background and competency of the appointments.
I submit to all Members that the side opposite has lost sight of the reason for appointments to these boards. They are not the bastion of the NDP. They are not to be the way to pay off the top executives and top political activists of the NDP. They are created to deal with issues in an impartial manner, we hope.
I submit to the House that the Members opposite have missed a whole reservoir of resources who could be used, for example, in appointments to the Yukon Development Corporation. I am talking about the retired and semi-retired citizens of the Yukon.
Why not make use of people who have raised their families here, have committed themselves to the Yukon, have their grandchildren here and, perhaps, have more time than, say, a labour organizer or a political activist?
The side opposite gives lip service to how concerned they are about senior citizens, but go through this book and tell me how many people over the age of 55 or 60 are appointed to boards, committees, councils and corporations. The government is virtually silent, and I am submitting to the Members opposite that there is a reservoir of intelligence out there - the necessary gender balance, the necessary urban/rural balance - of people of this kind of background - and forget their politics. It concerns me that these types of individuals have hardly been considered at all for the purpose of appointments.
Look at the Yukon Development Corporation and the way it has been so mismanaged, including the political interference by the side opposite. It is no wonder that the Yukon Energy Corporation is in such terrible trouble. We are dealing with the Taga Ku project that is taking up all of the Ministers time; we are dealing with a facility in Faro, and the list goes on. When can the time be found to meet the energy requirements of the territory and meet the very real problems that the people in the territory are experiencing with their pocketbook on a day-to-day basis?
The motion before you is here to try to bring an answer and some rationale to a dilemma that all governments face: how can we create a system whereby the allegations of political patronage can be kept to a minimum? We do not have such a system right now. There is no way that we have such a system. As I said earlier today, I did not appreciate having to raise the question of patronage this morning. I find it distasteful, but the fact is that it is evident; it is there; the public has the right to know, and the government has to answer for it.
A lot of thought has gone into this motion for our deliberation today. What I am recommending to the side opposite is that there be an all-party standing committee created, so that representatives from all sides of the House meet to determine a process for how appointments could be reviewed prior to appointments taking place.
I am not recommending that a standing committee of this House divest the governments right to appoint members of the public to boards and committees. I recognize that responsibility and I defend the governments right to do it. However, what I am trying to recommend is a system where a review can be made prior to names going to the Cabinet for consideration. It may not be just one particular recommendation; it may be three or four. For example, for an alternative way to appoint the chairperson of the Workers Compensation Board, I would recommend that the system that I am proposing be held in camera. The idea that I am putting forward for all Members is to avoid setting up a system where people are put into the public arena and their credentials debated, from the positive to the negative.
This would do a number of things for whomever is on the government side at any given time. It perhaps gives all Members the opportunity to put forward names for consideration. It also gives all Members the opportunity, in camera, to state confidentially what they are looking for in the backgrounds of individuals to serve on these councils, boards and committees. In this way, when recommendations by the government of three, four or five persons are made for the chairperson of the Workers Compensation Board, charges of political patronage cannot be levelled. The discussion and debate of this kind would be very limited, if not non-existent, about the service that some people are prepared to render to the public.
No Member in this House can say that it cannot be done because of time and commitment by Members. It would perhaps be a case of representatives of the various political parties - it might be a three-Member standing committee - meeting on a once-monthly basis, and there is no reason that could not be done.
When we talk about political appointments, we talk about the ability of people to serve and for people to have the right to put names forward. I find it ironic that - as a Member who has put his name to the electorate a number of times, and been successful - at the present time, I have less influence on and responsibility for choosing people from the public to serve on these boards that I have delegated responsibilities to than, say, organizations such as labour or the Chamber of Commerce. For example, let us look at the Indian land claims proposal. First Nations will have more authority than Members of this House with respect to the appointment of boards, committees, councils and corporations set up by the Legislature.
I am not advocating that these organizations not have the right to recommend or the right to be consulted, as far as appointments are concerned, but I am saying that I think there is a role to be played by all elected Members of this House. None of these boards, committees, councils or corporations are strictly the responsibility of the Minister. Neither are they of the private domain. I submit to the Members that it is time we reassess where we are with this.
I should point out that there is a process in Ottawa that was set up after the 1985 election, where there is a vetting by Members of Parliament of appointments to various boards, committees, councils and corporations of the government. In my judgment, the vetting that is done through that particular process is done after the horse has left the barn. In fact, it is my understanding that the appointments are made and, then, there is a period of time for this particular legislative council committee to review them.
The thing I see wrong with that is that I do not think people should be approached for the purpose of appointment until it is confirmed that they would be seriously considered. I do not think it is our place to raise the expectations of individuals and then, all of a sudden, say oh, something came up, we cannot do it.
I have no doubt that the side opposite is going to say that, when we were the government, we did this and we did that. I will say that were some people of our political persuasion appointed; some were appointed.
As I pointed out the other day, I was part of a Cabinet that appointed, for example, the Member for Whitehorse South Centre as a Justice of the Peace. I was part of a cabinet that had the opportunity, and made the mistake, of appointing the former Member for Whitehorse North Centre to be the Supreme Court Judge for the territory. The list goes on, if you want to talk about appointments.
I agree that people of a political persuasion of the party that had the responsibility of governing at that time, made appointments of people who were often political activists. This is similar to what I outlined here.
We never, however, had the allegations that have been made here - and substantiated - with respect to such things as the appointment to the Yukon Development Corporation. Never have we seen such incompetency, when you look at the record of the Yukon Development Corporation and the fiasco after fiasco that particular corporation has been involved in since its inception. Nobody in their right mind could say that corporation has been well-run. It starts from the top and proceeds down to the bottom. I will accept the fact that there is ministerial responsibility, but those people who are making $200 or $300 a day also have a responsibility. One does not solve a problem with revolving doors.
The questions that need to be asked are: what kind of people with what kind of backgrounds, job experiences and abilities are required to bring something to the deliberations of a corporation of such importance?
I think one would find me to be fairly broad minded and prepared to accept some of the credentials for which the side opposite has asked for such a committee, but also I - like any Members on this side - would try to do my best to ensure that we are getting the best, most capable people for boards such as this corporation.
I hope that the Members opposite, when they speak to this motion, can stand up and tell me they support it. If they do not, what do they have as an alternative, in view of the very real problems the government faces in their method and choices of appointments?
I want to conclude by saying that I do not have a problem with people who are political activists being considered for appointment.
I demonstrated that when I was part of a government years ago and, as I said earlier, there are people on some of these boards whom I know are politically active with the side opposite and whom I feel are doing a very capable job in the field of their appointment. However, as I have said, there are others whose appointments are very questionable.
I submit to the House that if there was a standing committee set up - held in camera and in confidence - for the most part, we could negate this type of debate in the House. I said it earlier, and I will say it again, that I do not like having to raise the question of the participation of the public on these boards, but I feel it is my duty when I see such an abrogation of responsibility as the appointments we just witnessed to the Yukon Development Corporation.
If we have more participation by all Members of the House on a standing committee that would review appointments, then this type of debate would be unnecessary. With a utilization of time by Members, which can and should be made available, I am sure that this kind of meeting would probably be for a couple of hours a month.
The question of boards, committees and appointments has become an industry. As I have indicated, there are over 380 people in positions, of a total of 410 positions available through the Boards and Committees Handbook, and I see no reason not to try to depoliticize the system by setting up a system within the Legislature where all Members have the opportunity of providing their guidance, their knowledge of the community and people, their backgrounds and capabilities and, perhaps, providing some very reasonable recommendations for individuals to be considered: men and women of the territory, from all parts of the Yukon, who could serve on these various boards, committees and corporations and provide a service to the general public, which is what they are asking for.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Having been warmed up in Question Period, I think that I will go straight to the heart of this motion.
The Member who just spoke says that there was a lot of thought given to this motion. I do not agree. From what we have heard in Question Period, both yesterday and today, I do not think that the Opposition is really interested in contributing to the process of appointments to boards and committees. The position of the Leader of the Official Opposition is quite clear. It is on the record yesterday, today and in times past; the Member thinks that there are too many boards and committees. He thinks that it is all a waste of money. He thinks that people who sit on boards and committees are paid too much. He thinks that we, as a government, are doing too much consultation. Those are his summary points. If the Member has this criteria as his guiding principles for appointments to boards, then why in the world would he want to sit on a selection process to appoint people to boards.
One of the most erroneous allegations the Member made in his remarks just moments ago was that there are these massive numbers of boards and committees that have been created in the last seven years. In 1985, when the Member opposite was in government, their Boards and Committees Handbook listed 64 boards and committees. The Member, in his own words, counted the boards and committees in this handbook. There are now 69 - only five more boards and committees in seven years. Let us put things in proper perspective.
I agree with the Member that this debate ought not to be happening on the floor of this House. This debate is unnecessary. This debate unfairly puts the names and reputation and credibility of people who are willing to come forward and serve on these committees through the mud.
It is not right. We ought to be taking advantage of people who are willing to come forward and serve in an advisory, decision-making capacity, playing a commendable role in providing advice to this government and to this House. We should not be criticizing their willingness to do so.
I do agree with the Member that we ought not to be doing this; however, the motion came from the Opposition, and the real reason behind that motion is to provide for a vehicle to deride a couple of appointments to the Yukon Development Corporation board. That is the fundamental purpose of the motion. It is not to debate whether they want to talk about how we should select members or appointments to boards and committees, or that the House should participate in some particular committee to select those people, or that the side opposite wants some consultation in the selection of those people.
That is not the purpose. The purpose is quite clear. They want to take potshots at a couple of appointments to one particular board, and that is even more degrading, in terms of why the motion has come forward.
I will take a look at the Yukon Development Corporation board and the appointments that were made. Yesterday, and again today, the Leader of the Official Opposition alleged that they are purely political patronage appointments, that they had no qualifications, that the corporation is all messed up and has done nothing right, that there is total incompetence, and we have just added to it by the appointments we made.
That is what the Member is trying to say. He is suggesting we should be appointing people with resource and energy backgrounds.
I do want to talk a bit about the issue of patronage, because I think the Member is misrepresenting precisely what patronage is all about. Today, in Question Period, I noted to the Member that patronage constitutes the occasion when you pay somebody off for their political subservience to you. The Erik Nielsen case is a prime example of patronage: appointed to a national, well-paid agency in return for his 27 years of active political life. Whether we agree with that or not, whether that is right or wrong, that is real patronage.
I indicated to Members in Question Period today that nobody who takes on a committee responsibility or a board appointment, even for $200 a day, is going to get rich. Again, we should be clear about just what board appointees get for a remuneration. We should be clear that some boards get as little as $75 for their services, some I believe get $125, some get $200 and there are also boards for which there is no honorarium. A chair, where they are rightfully engaged in considerable additional preparatory work and activity, are permitted a slight additional amount over whatever their particular stipend is.
I have served on boards and committees and I have never taken the positions to get rich. I do not think anyone does. Serving on a board is often a thankless job. Serving on a board is often an onerous commitment of time and energy. Serving on a board is often a sacrifice of other things one would ordinarily want to do. I know for a fact that reviewing the board package for the Development Corporation meetings can often be a days work in itself, for which there is absolutely no remuneration, and that applies, I am sure, to a majority of boards.
People accept these appointments because they have a commitment to public service. They do it because they have some expertise that they can provide to the business of that board in its capacity to provide advice or suggest decisions for government.
People sit on boards out of a commitment, not to make money. One of the decent things governments can do when they seek the advice of advisory boards, committees, legislative boards or quasi-judicial bodies is to pay them a little for their time and effort. Quite often, people who serve on these committees give a considerable amount of time of their own. This is quite often at the cost of doing other things for themselves.
The Member who just spoke says there is a reservoir of talent out there. I agree. We are a very small community. We have many talented, able, experienced and generous people who are willing to give of their time and knowledge to assist the community. They are willing to give, on behalf of the people they represent or their own particular interest, a valuable service to government. I think it totally unacceptable to suggest that people go on boards only for the purpose of making money.
Nevertheless, as I said earlier, I believe the entire intention behind this motion was not to contribute toward the selection process but to take a shot at the recent appointments to the Yukon Development Corporation board - not at all the appointments, just a couple. Let me deal with them.
The labour representative has been the subject of considerable discussion in Question Period, and even in this afternoons debate. That person is a 25-year resident of the Yukon. He grew up here. His background in construction is very extensive. If one has a board of directors where construction, knowledge of the trades and familiarity with labour matters can be critical to decision making, this person is a most qualified and competent candidate.
This person worked in construction for 18 years and is a qualified carpenter. He began his career in the working world on the Dempster Highway. He has been an equipment operator, painter and labourer. He served his apprenticeship in carpentry. He has an interprovincial red seal ticket. He has been a self-employed person for a number of years in the business world. Yes, he has been active in the carpenters union for over 10 years. Yes, he has been the business representative for that organization for the past couple of years.
I believe that it is important for a voice of labour and a knowledgeable trades person to be on the Yukon Development Corporation board for the kind of activities the corporation is undertaking.
The fact that this individual was president or ex-president of the Yukon New Democrats is purely coincidental. This individual has a strong background in construction and labour and he is very knowledgeable in his contribution to the board. Members can laugh at what contribution he may make, but his advice, role and presence on that board is going to be critical in the decision making facing the Yukon Development Corporation. I value and respect that knowledge on behalf of this government. We need that.
I indicated to Members this afternoon that I first became familiar with the person quite a number of years when the individual was a student in grade 7.
While Members may have concentrated on a single, individual appointment to the Yukon Development Corporation board, I believe that they also raised the name of the Premiers previous principal secretary, and they made similar allegations: incompetence; patronage; should not be done; overpaid.
I want to look at that appointment as well. That person has two university degrees and has worked at the graduate level in environmental studies that deal specifically with political economies and political economics of resource development. Talk about mining backgrounds - what kind of better credentials can you have? This person has worked extensively throughout the north, the Yukon, the Mackenzie Delta and Mackenzie Valley, has worked for governments, private businesses, First Nations and has a very thorough knowledge of rural Yukon. This person has also owned and operated a small business for a number of years. In fact, it was the Whitehorse Racquet Club during the mid-1980s.
That persons resume is some six pages long. While I am not proposing to read the resume into the record entirely, I do want to raise a couple of key credentials.
Members do not seem to like the fact that a couple of people who were included in the appointments to the Yukon Development Corporation, have extensive, practical, academic backgrounds to contribute to their activities on the board. They do not like it because they happen to be associated with New Democrats. The Conservatives do not have a monopoly on intelligence or training or academics. We have made the point emphatically that we rewrote the rules when it comes to establishing balance on boards and committees.
I have much more to say about the appointments they made, but I will come back to that.
In addition to all the credentials I have listed, the person whom they are criticizing as being incompetent and ought not to have been appointed because of an association with New Democrats, also advised on land-use planning and helped draft environmental assessment policy and structures for the Mackenzie Delta Regional Council in Inuvik in the mid-1980s. This person also coordinated the Resource Impact Study, studying the effect of Beaufort hydrocarbon development on Dene land and its people. This was again done in the early 1980s. Let us talk about resource backgrounds and energy understanding or experience.
Similarly, while working in the Mackenzie Delta, this person co-researched a number of environmental and socio-economic issues regarding the effect of hydrocarbon development in the Mackenzie Delta. This was again done on behalf of the Mackenzie Delta Regional Council in the early to mid-1980s.
I am flipping through all six of these pages quickly and I think it remains to note that the two people whom Members opposite have identified as inappropriate appointments have outstanding credentials and will no doubt provide outstanding service to the board they represent.
In his usual way, the Member for Porter Creek East, by raising this issue of qualifications and competence, is insinuating that these people somehow are not qualified or competent, without having the courage to say so directly.
The Yukon Development Corporation, with its subsidiary, the Energy Corporation, is one of the most efficiently run corporations in the territory today and that was confirmed at the last rate application hearing.
The books are in order. There was absolutely no criticism of the way it handled its affairs. The Members opposite have many charges about how it handles its affairs, but the facts state otherwise.
It seems to me that there is no question that these people have the qualifications and have contributions to make to that board. We have not talked at all about the other four appointments, which were made at the same time. Two appointments were nominations by the Council for Yukon Indians, and there were two additional appointments, one of whom was a reappointment and the other of whom was new.
On the issue of board appointments, it should be understood that the power to make appointments to agencies, boards and commissions has to be one of the strongest powers of a democratically-elected government. In making appointments to these boards, through careful selection of candidates, the government is attempting to achieve the many policy objectives that are legitimately and responsibly charged to the government to carry out.
We can also say that the policy goals of government are probably quite different from the policy goals of the Members opposite, or of any Opposition, and there comes a time when some consideration may have to be made for the political aspect of those appointments.
I think the Member, in essence, agreed with the position that, in instances where significant government responsibility has to be carried out, there is a need to be politically sensitive to the people who are carrying out that policy direction of the government. The Member for Porter Creek East agreed that political sensitivity had to be a criterion from time to time, and I do not think anyone disagrees with that, in principle.
Where it becomes something with which anyone can disagree is when there is blatant abuse surrounding that principle, and this government has done anything but abuse that principle. In fact, this government has taken steps in its appointment process and restructuring of boards over the last seven years that have completely changed board and committee structures from what they used to be.
Yes, the Member is correct when he says that some boards are making major decisions and that there are some boards that have considerable influence, either in economic or social policy. The Member is also correct when he says that on some of these boards one has to be politically sensitive about the people who sit on those boards to carry out the broad policy direction of government. I do not disagree with that, but what we have been able to do, without abusing that policy prerogative, is establish a restructuring of boards and committees in the territory that reflects the broad, public interest.
I think that we have talked about that on a number of occasions and I will probably come back to that in terms of the principles that we have attempted to enshrine over the past seven years in the type of appointments that we make. Whether the appointments have to do with gender balance or whether they have to do with ensuring that aboriginal people participate in boards and committees, or whether we talk about rural and urban people forming a healthy balance on boards and committees: we have taken all of those factors into account to ensure that boards are balanced, in addition to the political sensitivity on critical boards with broad policy direction that is required to be carried out by boards.
The Member talked about a motion like this never before coming before the House and he is correct, because during the days that I recall in Opposition, we never did bring forward a motion that challenged the governments appointments. To clarify the matter, we were never allowed to bring such a motion before the House. However, there was an occasion back in 1982, where there was a motion that spoke to the general issue. I believe that it was made by the then Leader of the Opposition, the current Premier.
The motion that was put forward in 1982 read THAT it is the opinion of this House that the government in making appointments to boards or committees should adopt a goal of having the membership of such boards and committees adequately represent all segments of Yukon society.
In the early 1980s, we in the Opposition recognized that there was what appeared to be a rather selective appointments to boards; selective in the sense that they did represent a political persuasion for the most part, that they did not represent a healthy balance of women, that there was clearly an absence of aboriginal people, and we put that motion forward under the name of the then Premier.
The Member for Porter Creek East, at that time, in response to the motion, made it clear in his debate that his government could not support the motion. The motion, after some short debate in comparison with todays debate, went down to defeat.
I suspect that what is occurring here today is something of a contradiction in the position of the Member and perhaps in the position of the entire Opposition, albeit split between two parties, these days.
In that debate, we, in a very decent fashion, presented the case that there should be a broad representation of people on boards and committees - broad in the sense that it should reflect community interests, represent both rural and urban communities and not only business but also labour and consumer interests and views. That motion was defeated because the government felt it could not support the request of the motion, which, I remind you, was simply asking for the boards and committees to represent a better cross-section of Yukon society. Unfortunately, Members did not even see fit to amend it or do anything with the motion to at least demonstrate a healthy respect for the issue.
We have gone to considerable effort, since assuming office, to do what we asked for when in Opposition to ensure that boards and committees represent all segments of society, including our political opponents.
If the Member is looking to research the Hansard, it is 1982, page 166. In that debate in 1982, a rather interesting point is being made by the current Premier and I am compelled to quote from it. If we ever get, said the then Opposition leader, to the point where we say, no, I am sorry, you are not a supporter of the government party, you are not eligible, you do not qualify, you do not fit, we will be making, I submit, a very, very stupid mistake. I say that because I think, as a small community, we have an obligation to make the best use of all the talent and all the ability that we have at our disposal, and that includes many people who do not find themselves in the ranks of the Conservative party.
We have gone out of our way, as government, to ensure that our political opponents are represented on boards. That is a fact, that is the case, and that is clearly the testimony throughout the document flashed by many Members.
Many of the boards and committees contained here reflect representation from all political parties. Some of the most prominent boards are, in fact, chaired by clearly identified members of the Conservative and Liberal Parties. The Assessment Appeal Board comes to mind - membership and chair - and also the Business Development Advisory Board, the Education Appeal Tribunal, the Motor Transport Board, the Yukon Arts Centre Corporation Board, the Yukon College Board of Governors, the Yukon Housing Corporation, the Yukon Liquor Corporation and, lo and behold, the Yukon Municipal Board - with the same chair, I believe, in place, who was appointed by Members opposite - the Yukon Utilities Board; and think about the Yukon Anniversaries Commission. I have only picked a handful of some of the most prominent boards that reflect a chairpersonship as a clearly identified member of one of the Opposition parties.
We honestly believe that all of these people have valuable contributions to make and that is why we appoint them to these boards, regardless of their political affiliation. We have attempted to be fair and the record demonstrates that fairness. I already said that we rewrote the rules for board and committee appointments, where, previous to 1985, I do not believe that there were any rules at all.
The Member for Porter Creek East tried to make reference to some appointments that were made that reflected a broader community interest. Well, I do not think that the facts of the matter support that.
What we have today is the kind of balance on boards that reflects the broad, public interest that exists in the Yukon. We have gender balance, we have rural and urban representation and we have representation from the business and professional community and municipalities. We have nominated aboriginal people, labour people, and people from all of the broad interest areas that exist in the Yukon - that is irrespective of whether it is an arts interest area or social services interest area. We have rewritten rules to ensure that the boards and committees of the Yukon reflect a broad cross-section of Yukon interest, including a political interest.
To be perfectly fair and honest, there are many, many of the 400 or so people on boards and committees about whom no one knows the political persuasion. That is fine and that is as it should be, but when it comes to attacking this government for political patronage, the argument will not hold water when you stack it up against the fair, broad representation that is reflected in the composition of the boards and committees that we have today.
The Member for Porter Creek East has put forward this motion to suggest that they want to see a different process for the appointments to boards and committees. The motion cites a number of bodies to which the special process should apply. We are, as a matter of policy, committed to having people involved in the decisions that affect them, and we have established a process for seeking from the public at large nominations to all of our boards.
Organizations and individuals have a regular opportunity to put their names forward for consideration. They can even put their names forward with the identification of a special interest in a special board or committee that they wish to represent. We do our best to accommodate the interests of the people who come forward. To be perfectly frank, the political persuasion of the person is one of the least considerations. That, of course, was not the case prior to 1985.
In addition to the motion I referred earlier, it comes to mind that the issue of board composition was indeed raised when Members opposite were in power. The MLA for Whitehorse North Centre questioned the then Minister responsible for recreation, who was also the Member for Riverdale South and, I believe, still is today. Nevertheless, I believe that the issue was at the time of the recreation green paper and the Minister was defending the change that was being undertaken about appointments to the Yukon Recreation Advisory Council.
Prior to that time, as Members may recall, individual MLAs would make appointments of someone from their riding who was automatically appointed to the commission. Through the green paper process, there was a new structure suggested and the Minister was defending it. I had to read twice a portion of one of the statements said by the Member for Riverdale South, who was the Minister at the time, and I must quote, I am sure the Member opposite ..., and, I believe, a question was raised by the Member for Whitehorse North Centre, currently the Minister of Justice, ... if she were to be in my position would feel the same way. If you have a committee that is in an advisory capacity to the Minister, I believe, were the Member opposite a Minister, she would want representatives and people on that committee who she had some trust in. The quotation goes on to talk about capability and competence.
I think the point, in relation to some of the debate, that can be made again is that there is some sensitivity, sometimes political, that may be required in the final selection process for an appointment to certain boards and committees. The Member for Porter Creek East admitted that that is the case. Sometimes that is the case. The emphatic point that is necessary to make, however, is this government has taken its responsibility surrounding appointments and its previously stated desire to see better representation on boards and committees and enshrined that into practice and policy today. I think that is fair. I think that is good.
Members made a lot of comments about how things were when they were in office. They were trying to say that they were fair minded in their appointments and politics never played a part. I would not, for a minute, accept that. I have gone through the Boards and Committees Handbook, as they existed in the period between the late 1970s and 1985. The evidence of balanced, broad cross-sectional interests or the kind of principles we have been able to bring about is not there.
Today, we have only five more boards and committees than in 1985. I made that point earlier. We have 400 people on those boards. I realize my number is at variance with the one the Member for Porter Creek East has. I will have to double-check with the statisticians. Just under 20 percent of those people are what are known as non-discretionary appointments. In other words, they are appointments usually required under statute or by requiring a nomination by a representative body; therefore, the government cannot influence approximately 20 percent of those appointments.
Of the remaining 80 percent of the board members - and I am sure that Members opposite have gone through the books themselves - well over 50 percent are women. That compares with well under 40 percent of the membership being women in 1985, so we have a healthy increase in gender balance.
We do not have any statistics in relation to aboriginal people, but at least 30 percent of the people currently on boards and committees are of aboriginal decent. Some 20 percent of the board appointments are currently from the rural communities. I would like to see it a little healthier than that, and I am sure that we will pursue that goal.
What concerns me in this debate is that Members have picked on one particular appointment, and partially on a second. They have suggested that our entire board appointment structure is flawed. Not only is our entire board structure process a very good process and a very fair process, but all of the appointments reflect the principles that we have subscribed to - to ensure that there is a fair and balanced representation on those boards and committees.
The Members have put forward this motion calling for participation in the appointments of a specific number of boards. I am not going to make a final decision on how I will vote. I am not going to subscribe to any particular view about whether or not there should be a greater participation of this House in the appointment of those board and committee members. Rather, I am interested in what others have to say on the subject. I have certainly not been persuaded by the arguments of the Member who just spoke an hour ago. I have not found any compelling or overriding reason that we should change the current practice, which I have attempted to describe in my arguments as being fair, truly representative of the broad public interest in the Yukon, representative of the broad interest groups in the Yukon and truly a cross-section of Yukon people, both in their experiences and credentials to be appointed to boards.
I will now allow other Members to share their views on whether we need anything different from the good system that we have now.
Mr. Phillips: I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the motion before us today. I believe that the approach that this motion suggests is more in line with the wishes of the people of the Yukon. The recent appointments to the many of the committees point out a clear need to change the system. Yukoners expect more from our government. There is already a lack of trust in the governments ability to choose Members for these boards and committees fairly.
I do not want to get into naming or the name calling of board members. I want to talk about the selection procedure for boards that would restore the confidence of the people in the governments ability to appoint competent, non-political individuals to these very important boards and committees.
Examples have been set; we are not re-inventing the wheel. One that we deal with in this House is appointments to the Yukon Territory Water Board. Candidates are recommended to all political parties in this House and we can accept those nominees. I believe that this procedure causes several things to happen.
First of all, the government that makes the recommendations is more sensitive to the publics wish and not the wishes of the party in power. Second, they tend to pick responsible, qualified and well-respected Yukoners. Third, they stay away from the very politically sensitive appointments.
We have a similar process with the Human Rights Commission, where all parties in this House either accept or reject the appointments to this particular board or committee. So you see, we do have examples of how this system would work and take away the accusations of political bias. Members know that this process does not take a lot of time and it still allows the government in power to suggest names to this standing committee.
This is not a debate where Members should try to rip each other limb from limb. It is not a debate where we should get into the endless argument that you were worse than we were. None of us win in that kind of a battle. The public eyes us as politicians very closely and we will be the big losers in that kind of a debate.
What we have to look at here is how the publics interest is best served. This is not the first time that this suggestion has come forward. A very famous, or infamous, politician who once sat in this House - and in fact, still sits in this House, not today, but other times, and for the Members information I will point out the date and the time. It was on November 17, 1982, when this individual rose in the House and was speaking on a very similar matter. He said, I am suggesting that we could all serve our community better if the government party, when seeking to renew the membership or to appoint new members to a board or committee of certain kinds, whether they are boards or committees composed of people who have expertise in any area, that there might be some formal or informal consultation with this side of the House, meaning the Opposition, and with other groups in the community.
He is a very learned individual who spoke those very wise words at that time. This individual just happens to be the current Government Leader, Mr. Penikett. He stood in his place as the Leader of the Official Opposition and spoke those words, at that time.
We need to do the right thing. We need to show the public that we do care about the abilities of these appointees to carry out their jobs and take the focus away from where it now is: on what political card they happen to be carrying. We need to do the right thing for the people of the Yukon. We need to appoint competent, well-respected Yukoners to these boards and committees. I believe that the method suggested in this motion will accomplish that end. I encourage all Members to support the de-politicization of these very important boards and committees.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: After having spent most of my life either sitting on a board or working for a board, it is certainly with mixed feelings that I rise today to join in this debate.
On the one hand, there is parliamentary government. In the Yukon, we have a parliamentary system, where the responsibility and accountability for directing the actions of the government are clearly the responsibility of the party that represents the majority of the electorate. The careful selection and appointment of people to board and committees is one of the strongest measures that a democratically elected government can use to implement its policies and objectives.
Let us not forget that the party that forms the government has received a mandate from the electorate to implement its philosophy and objectives. On the other hand, I am very interested in trying to determine how we could have more constructive input from all Members of this House.
As we have found, actively engaging Yukon people in consultation and dialogue about the things that matter to them results in better legislation and programs. This, however, is a divided House. It is a House where we have sometimes two parties, sometimes three parties and sometimes four parties, depending on whether or not the co-leaders are speaking for themselves or their own group. This is a House that has difficulty coming to a unanimous decision on what order the motions will be discussed, let alone the content of them. This is a House where innuendo is thrown out as fact. This is a House where we cannot seem to get through Question Period without someone using unparliamentary language or referring to someone else in a derogatory way.
This is a House, but certainly it is not a home, and we have never professed it to be a home. Why would I even make such a comparison between a house and a home. It is relatively simple: a house can shelter anything. The occupants do not necessarily have to work together to maintain a house. They simply come and go as they please. The poor-house used to be a jail for people who were poverty stricken. In a carnival we have a house of horrors.
A home, however, is much more. For an individual it can be their safe place, a place where they can be who they are without fear of reprisal or harm, and it is the place where they can feel the most comfortable and stress can melt away. Where two or more people are involved, a home has the same characteristics as it does for an individual but it is also a place where they can work together from shared interests.
When they do these things in a home, they do it because they have respect for each other. They do it because it pleases them that, together, they can achieve something. They do not do it to try and score points. They do not do it to simply win for the sake of winning, regardless of the cost to the other individual.
When I sat back and read this motion in my office, I tried to imagine how it would work; I listened to the Member for Porter Creek East and his description of it and I thought of my experiences in womens groups, non-profit groups and even political groups. I remembered consensus building, round table discussions, and I saw people in my mind of different points of view discussing things until, within themselves, they came to an understanding that was accepted by all.
But those images were regularly being squeezed out by the visions of the American appointment hearings - the ones we see are not very pretty. People have their whole lives trashed simply because some member of the committee wants to make some political points. They seem to normally make them at the expense of somebodys self-esteem; they belittle and berate candidates, and sometimes the candidates families, for simply being who they are. I cannot count the number of careers that seem to have gone down the drain just because at one time in his or her life a candidate went to see a counsellor to deal with depression or some other personal situation. Here are people who have their lives together so much that they can see when they are in trouble and gauge when they need help from someone. But when these candidates are before nominating committees, they are ripped apart by innuendos of them being so unstable that they could not possibly be trusted for such an appointment.
I have only found one good use for those hearings: whenever my grandchildren ask me about McCarthyism - and they are getting old enough to talk about such things - if there is one going on, I turn on an American appointment hearing and tell them to watch and learn, because, to me, that is very much what McCarthyism was about.
If anybody thinks that cannot happen here because we are Yukoners and Canadians and we do not do that, they have not been following what has been happening in this House. Not once was there ever any mention of the skills or knowledge of either of the two board appointees upon whom dispersions have been heaped for the last three or four days. Instead, for some unknown reason, because they have a political philosophy that is different from Members on the opposite side they lose all of their skills and knowledge, which, in one case the person has developed over 20 years of studying, working and raising a family; and the other, because he may have a political philosophy that is different, loses all the skills and knowledge he gained in obtaining certification in the construction field, and becomes no longer competent to advise on curriculum development.
These are not isolated incidents. We have only been in the House for five days and already Mr. Speaker is having to make rulings censuring people for turning innuendos into accusations.
In the four intervening days since the throne speech, we have had a Minister, a former deputy minister and two private citizens figuratively dragged across the floor of this Legislature.
For those of us who see these actions, we see and hear its brutality - I hesitate to use that word, but that is what comes to mind. I long for the day when Hansard can be printed with speech inflections, so that people who are reading these proceedings can really hear the way in which words are used.
As I mentioned at the outset of my remarks, I would very much like to come into this Legislature and have constructive dialogue. However, as I also said, to have a good exchange of information and the building of something positive, you have to have trust. I have no sense of trust in this House.
The Oppositions role is, of course, to oppose and speak out for their beliefs, but I do not believe it has to be destructive.
I am here because I want to be here. I chose to run for office and jump into the fishbowl of politics. That was my choice. If you are asking, by way of this motion, will I trust all the Members in this House to treat private citizens with respect and dignity when interviewing them for appointments, unfortunately, at this point, my answer must be no.
No, I will not be a party to the unrestrained destruction of individuals in the name of political partisanship and, no, I will not stand by and watch Yukon people, who contribute their time and knowledge to sit on boards and who perform many valuable services to the public, be dragged through some of this. I realize that the Member for Porter Creek East talked about a select committee held in-camera. I can see there could be some value in that. I just have little trust left that it would be a positive process.
Through this motion, Members opposite want to share in the authority to appoint people to boards and committees. Authority is a two-edged sword. On the one side, there is the ability to appoint someone, but the other side of the sword is responsibility.
The government has taken the full responsibility of boards and committees. We have appointed more women to boards and committees than have been appointed at any previous time. We have appointed more First Nations people, and this has all been said. More rural people have been appointed to boards and committees, and we have put a more balanced representation of urban and rural people on them.
We have entrenched our practice of seeking nominations for board appointments from groups and associations to ensure that all voices are heard on boards, and not simply a select few who sing the same tune as those who appoint them. I can say that that becomes a difficult process. There is no doubt about it. However, it becomes a fair process. In my attempts to put together a hospital board that is comprised of nominees from all the areas of the territory, and with 50 or more nominees for the two positions I get to appoint, it becomes a very difficult process. At the same time, I believe it is fair.
It seems to me that we should be concentrating our efforts on the positive qualifications and interests of appointees rather than looking for their flaws. Since most of us - even Members of this House - have a few flaws, seeking flawless people for boards and committees is perhaps a fruitless search. Instead, we should be building on the strengths of Yukon people, whomever they may be - even New Democrats or Tories.
A much more effective motion for the good of the territory might have been one that supported training and orientation for new board members as a matter of course. That would, if it was non-partisan training, provide them with the talents and skills required to make sound decisions. We have a responsibility to train and support people we appoint, not to rip them apart piece by piece.
After appearing before a committee of this House and having not heard all of the Members speech prior to writing this one, I add this with the qualifications of his comments. Judging from when we have had people before Committee of the Whole, I wonder if we can believe for one minute that a particular board appointee would feel supported. I think not. Boards meet once or twice a month. Many receive honorariums of $75. Why would anyone subject themselves to that kind of scrutiny and attack for that amount of money. People do not do it for the money. They do it because they like to be part of the territory and part of the community - even for $200 three or four times a year.
Before I would agree to this type of motion - and perhaps this is where the Member and I come closer to agreeing - I would have to be assured that this House was in agreement with principles that would ensure fairness, equity, respect, competence and decency. In my mind, they would touch on such issues as respect for people being asked to serve on boards and committees. They should not be personally attacked just because they may have a different philosophical alignment than a Member of the committee that is seeking to appoint them.
This government believes in the right of people to have a different political philosophy and we put this principle into the Human Rights Act. We have also included this principle in the acts that govern civil servants.
There should be fairness in interviewing people and making any follow-up statements in this House. There is a great degree of difference between interviewing people for positions and holding committee hearings into appointments.
The first is a structured review and analysis of an individual to be able to better form an opinion on the persons abilities to do the job that is requested of them. I trust that is what the Member was looking at.
The latter is normally a partisan approach used to dump on government or Opposition simply to get points. I do not think that type of conduct is fair. What worries me is that without good guidelines people will be abused. As you may recall, that has indeed at times happened in this House.
The third principle is the principle of the representative nature of the appointments; that would have to be included. We have gone a long way to make boards and committees more representative of the will of the real Yukon. Women, First Nations, disabled people from all economic sectors of our society form our boards and committees.
Today, rather than simply having one segment of our society on boards, we have business people, labour, women, First Nations, people on social assistance and many interest groups that participate equally on boards. Their voices are heard and they participate in the decision making. They take ownership of the problem and develop solutions that best meet the needs of all Yukoners, not simply a select few.
I would hope that any motions or any legislation that goes through this House would take those priorities into consideration. As well, responsibility and accountability to direct the affairs of government is very important.
Finally, the government has an obligation and is responsible for carrying out the mandate that it was given by the electorate. The ability to have board representation that will carry out the overall direction and philosophy is one of those mechanisms that the government uses to achieve its objectives.
To conclude, this House of course is not a home. At this present time I cannot believe that we have the ability to set up a committee that would be supportive of people who want to contribute their knowledge, skills and time to the betterment of the Yukon - people who would be subjected to such partisanship as we hear in this House.
The Member for Porter Creek East talks about an in-camera, all-party committee. In theory, this sounds okay; I wonder, in reality, if we could indeed carry it out.
Mr. Nordling: The subject of appointments to boards is of great concern to Yukoners as more and more boards and committees are formed and are given more and more power; it is significant and important who sits on these boards.
Perception is also very important; as the old saying goes, Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done. There is also another old saying that goes, Never trust a man says trust me.
This government often says, Trust me. I simply do not trust this government. The arrogance, the coverups, the manipulation and the vicious personal attacks on Yukoners who dare to question the government are cause for great concern. It has come to a point where the people in the Yukon are afraid to speak out for fear of the bullying tactics of this government and in fact, are in fear of losing their livelihood.
The people who are calling the shots in this government, this NDP government, are not nice people. They are mean and nasty and feed on power. The scariest thing is that they are willing to do almost anything to retain their power.
The ends justify the means. They will use whatever means necessary because they believe that they are the most qualified to run the Yukon and the lives of the people who live here. I do not accept that. Under the circumstances which exist today, I do not think that this motion goes far enough to restore some confidence and respect for Yukoners. I would recommend that an all-party committee in the Legislature with equal representation be set up so that no one group can beat up on the other Members and have their way.
The present system has failed and we need a new one. The present system could have worked, but it is an honour system and therefore subject to abuse, and it has been abused. Sadly, it must now be changed in order to restore the confidence of Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is with pleasure that I enter this debate on this important motion, although I am not all that pleased to follow the person who just spoke. This mean person up here now - I am the one he is talking about - not letting my kid find his Easter eggs. I know he does not really mean it. He just did not have enough time to write a decent speech.
I want to start off by making a response to the comments made by the MLA who introduced this motion, the Member for Porter Creek East. He started off by making some general comments about boards and committees.
He began by saying that, in his view, we have a lot. We have 69 that he quoted, and there is a possibility of 380 people from throughout the Yukon to fill all of these spaces on all of these boards. It may be a suggestion that we do not need some of them, but I would ask the Member if he would come forward with some recommendations as to which boards and committees should be eliminated.
Obviously, boards and committees are created for a specific purpose. The members of boards and committees do valuable work. However, I do agree with the Member - if this is his point - that if they are not accomplishing some worthwhile goals, they should be eliminated. I would like to get some direction from the Member as to any recommendations he may have as to what boards are not really necessary for doing some work on behalf of all Yukon people.
Mr. Lang: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Point of order to Leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. Lang: I would like to respond to the question that the Member gave me. I am more than prepared to recommend that the Yukon Development Corporation be dismantled if it runs the way it now.
Speaker: Order please. I find there is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Again, I must repeat that the Member is rising on a point of order just to delay debate on this so we do not get through it by 5:30. That is something I object to. I only have 40 minutes.
The second point the Member for Porter Creek alluded to was the honoraria. The Member is incorrect in his assumptions that the people are making a lot of money by serving on these boards and committees. On April 22, the Member said in this House, and I quote, The public is not yet aware, but they will be made aware, of what these people are being paid: $100 a day, $400 a day or $600 a day. That is unacceptable. Well, at least $400 or $600 a day is unacceptable, but I want to remind the Member that the vast majority of people are not making that kind of money serving on these boards and committees.
The honoraria are provided to members of the general public who sit on Yukon government boards as recognition of their public service. Representatives are appointed to a board in their official capacities. Federal, territorial or municipal public servants, incidentally, are not eligible to receive honoraria. There are, however, a variety of categories that have been established on the basis of their decision-making authority, their regulatory or adjudicative roles or the impact of their decisions on the government or the Yukon public.
One category is very simple. Some people do not receive any honoraria at all. There are many boards and committees where members receive $75 a day. At least half of the boards and committees established receive an honoraria of $125 a day. According to my count, there are 15 or 16 boards or committees that are in the last category that offer an honoraria of $200 a day, which is the maximum.
I want to bring it to the Members attention that the independent decision-making authority or adjudicative role of board decisions of this last category, where they make $200 a day, has a very high impact on government and the Yukon public. Obviously, as well, there are some expenses paid to these members of boards and committees to travel to meetings, and also child care expenses are paid to a maximum of $26 per child per day to assist people in attending these meetings.
Generally speaking, these people earn this money. It is not a great deal of money and most of them do not serve on a board or committee for the money.
Considering the amount of time these people put into the meeting and getting prepared for the meeting, they earn every penny of it, especially the chairs of the committees, who do receive 50 percent more as an honorarium by serving in that capacity.
As I said before, they do earn every penny. I serve on a couple of boards in an ex-officio capacity. If you made an estimate of what it would cost the government to do this job - even if the government was in a position to, and it was appropriate to, not that it is - you would see that these boards and committees are doing the job in a most cost-effective manner.
Perhaps I could look to the Member opposite for some kind of suggestions as to what he believes would be an appropriate amount of honoraria to pay members who are sitting on these various categories of boards and committees.
He also spoke about the composition of these boards and committees, in a variety of ways. One point he made at the beginning was the political affiliation of some of the members. He managed to read a list of positions on boards and committees, occupied by what he feels are people who have some kind of allegiance, loyalty, connection or affiliation with the New Democratic Party of the Yukon.
I want to remind the Member that two can play that game. I want to give my list of positions on boards and committees. I will go through the chairs who are somehow affiliated, connected or have allegiance to other political parties. These are the chairs of the Assessment Appeal Board, the Assessment Review Board - South Central Yukon, the Assessment Review Board - Southeast Yukon, the Business Development Advisory Board, the Education Appeal Tribunal, the Motor Transport Board, the Yukon Arts Centre Corporation board, the Yukon College Board of Governors, the Yukon Housing Corporation, the Yukon Liquor Corporation, the chair and vice-chair of the Yukon Municipal Board, and the chair of the Waste Management Advisory Committee.
It is clear that, in a small territory such as ours, where people are active in politics, you are going to get a balance of people from all political parties serving on our boards and committees, who are competent and efficient in doing so.
Another point the Member for Porter Creek East made with respect to the composition of these boards, and which I thought was an excellent comment, was the one dealing with senior citizens. He raised this on April 22, on page 19. I want to quote from what he says here. He stated that, because political patronage had been so rampant in the last number of years, he wants to submit to the side opposite that they have not even considered tapping the resource we have in this territory for people who would be credible, people who would have the time and experience to serve on these boards. He referred to our senior citizens. Why should we not be looking to these kinds of people instead of making sure that they are going to the right convention at the right time of year. I suppose he was referring to the annual convention of their political party.
As I said, I think that is an excellent point and he reiterated it today. He accused our government, however, of being virtually silent in this area. I want to remind the Member that we have made some appointments of people who are senior citizens, who are retired or semi-retired, and are certainly people who have a great deal of credibility, a great deal of experience working in the Yukon over the years, and have a great deal to offer. I refer, for example, to a woman in Dawson City who is a former mayor of that city and who was campaign manager and agent for Clark Ashley who was the MLA for Klondike and served on the Cabinet of the previous conservative government; that individual sits on the Yukon Public Utilities Board. I am also referring to a gentleman who sits as the vice-chair of the Yukon Municipal Board who, at one time, was a minister in the previous conservative government Cabinet. As a matter of fact, he was Minister of Community Services, which I think again shows how competent that individual is.
So, I want to remind the Member that we have looked - I just gave a couple of examples - at people who are retired or semi-retired and who have a great deal to offer, and I am sure we will be seeking to do a lot more to increase the numbers of those people.
This leads into the point about the balance of interests of the people who serve on these boards and committees, which is a very important point to emphasize. I believe this government has shown all along a commitment to having people involved in decisions that affect them. They have approached community organizations of all types and asked for nominations to ensure that their interests are represented. They have certainly consulted with labour, aboriginal people, womens groups, social services. We have approached businesses, the Chambers of Commerce, municipal governments, professional organizations, and we have as well consulted with community clubs in Whitehorse and the rural communities for their suggestions on nominations for particular boards and committees. Another way in which this goal is achieved is by ensuring that there is gender, racial and regional balance on boards so that the views of all Yukon people are represented.
As of May 1991, of the 413 appointments made by Cabinet or Ministers to the 69 permanent Yukon Government boards, 17 percent are non-discretionary. That is, according to legislation, the government must appoint the individuals who are nominated by other levels of government or community groups.
Of the remaining 83 percent of the discretionary, or the government, appointments, 57 percent of those appointments are women, 29 percent are aboriginal people and 36 percent are from rural communities. I think that these statistics speak well to the fact that we are achieving, on our boards and committees, a good balance of gender, racial and regional interests.
I think that it is interesting to point out that of the 17 percent of the non-discretionary appointments - when you take a look at that kind of a breakdown - only 24 percent are women, only 10 percent are aboriginal people and only 20 percent come from rural communities. I think that gives you a good idea that the Government of Yukon is serious about having a true balance of interests on these boards and committees, one that truly reflects Yukon society in general.
In fact, this balance of interest is guaranteed by legislation. We know that a variety of acts, like the Health Act, stipulate what the makeup of these boards and committees should entail.
The Environment Act, which passed this Legislature last year, has a section within the act, section 40, that deals specifically with this matter that we are discussing. We state very clearly in the act that appointments to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment should be based on nominations from organizations representing the following interests: aboriginal people, business or industrial associations, environmental and governmental groups, labour unions, municipal governments, women and such other interests as the Commissioner and the Executive Council may determine.
Further, in section 40 of the Environment Act, in legislation, it states that for the appointment of members to the council, representation of Yukon regions shall be considered.
I think that this government has a very strong commitment in the pieces of legislation introduced over the last several years, to ensure that we have that balance of interests on the boards and committees.
I take a look at the motion and hear some of the Members speeches dealing with competency. Obviously, I think that this is one of the most important criteria for the selection and appointment of members to these boards and committees.
I think that is very well-emphasized when this government appeals to people to apply for work on these boards and committees. If you check closely in the Boards and Committees Handbook, you will see that great effort is made, as described on the application form, to determine what the individuals education and training is, including: the institutions they attended; their work experience, including the job titles they have had and the dates that they have been working in those capacities; their experience as a community volunteer and what positions they have served in sports, arts or community organizations. We also ask in the application form for any special skills that they may have, that may predispose them for work on a particular board or committee. We ask them to include their affiliation or membership with any professional or trade associations. We also ask them, on this application form, of their particular areas of interest. There are many areas of interest listed here. Then, of course, we specifically get down to asking what particular boards and committees they would like to serve on.
The people who express an interest to serve on boards and committees make the effort to fill out this application form. This is a true indication that we are getting people with the necessary qualifications, skills and the experience that will enable them to do a good job while working on these boards and committees and will enable them to make a very valuable contribution. That is something that I believe we are forgetting in this whole equation.
There should be some process involving an assessment of the general effectiveness of the board on an annual basis. Are they accomplishing the task they have been assigned? This certainly should be done when it comes time every year to look at possible reappointments of members whose terms are about to expire.
When I take a look specifically at the purpose or intent of the motion, I really question what the Opposition says about there being an uprising, such as the Member for Riverdale North described, with respect to the allegations of political patronage. I have not heard a great outcry from the public that there is a lot of political patronage in the process of appointing individuals to boards and committees. In fact, over the last week, we have heard the Opposition focus on only two boards and committees, and then specifically at the members with an affiliation with the NDP.
I notice they have not been critical of any other member of a board or committee who does not happen to be a member of the NDP. I really wonder if there is a concern out there expressed by the public, as stated by the Opposition. I do not think it is widespread.
I think the system we have in place right now of soliciting interest and asking for organizations and associations to come forward with nominations, and making appointments, is working well for a variety of reasons I have already explained in my speech. I really do believe that there are only two boards and committees, and only a few people, the Opposition is focussing on, that has brought any question of doubt with respect to the process or the system itself.
Before I would give any support to this particular motion, I would like to hear some further arguments for changing the system. It is a system that is working well, and I see no compelling reason to change it.
Mr. Devries: I am not certain I am going to give the Minister of Renewable Resources a good argument on why it should be changed, but I just do not feel the other side has anything to lose.
If all the people they keep talking about, whom they have appointed to boards, have all these great qualifications, what does the Minister have to fear if it has to be passed before an all-party committee?
More than likely, if these people have these great qualifications and come before an all-party committee, they would end up on the board anyway, if they have what everybody says they do. Also, I do not feel the government would have to be standing up here, daily defending these peoples integrity, because we would all have been involved in the decision to appoint these people.
I must admit that, once, I had a frank discussion with an avid NDP supporter regarding appointments. He gave me a completely different picture from what I have been hearing from the government side. He was referring to two separate Ministers. He felt that, with the one Minister and that Ministers integrity, there was no question that, when looking over the names of possible appointments, political persuasion never came into question. The next Minister he sat down with was completely different. That seemed to be the main focus of the discussion: their political affiliation. So, it does happen at times.
As a rural MLA, the Minister for Health and Social Services asked me to come up with some names for a board. When I talked to people about it, I got diverse responses. Some said, no, these boards and committees are all a waste of time; the government does what it wants to do anyway. Others said, no, the boards are biased. Others said they just could not work with them. Because of the way the boards are appointed, there is the public perception that the members are all NDP.
Again, I must reiterate that, if these boards were appointed by an all-party committee, I feel we would be able to get better qualified people, because people would not be so reluctant to become a member of one of these boards, due to the fact there would not be the public perception that they are all NDP people, or whatever.
There was another question raised about some of the past appointments. For instance, the Yukon Development Corporation board now has someone on it who is a B.C. resident. The question was, could they not find a Yukon resident to be in this position? As an MLA, I am asked to perhaps defend the governments position, or not defend it, depending on how I feel about the situation.
A few years ago, the president of the Yukon College board was not a Canadian citizen. People have often questioned me about that. That has now been resolved, and he is proudly a Canadian citizen. Again, these problems are all things we are faced with.
I just feel that if there was some criticism about a board member, it would be much easier for an MLA to say that the person had been jointly decided upon. Overall, I just think that everything would work better; that we would be working together in a more united way, and there would not be all of this bickering back and forth about the political appointments and such.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The speeches that are being made today with respect to this motion are really quite interesting. I think that we have had a great deal of fun here, listening to some of the comments from the opposite side. They raise a number of issues with respect to why they feel that things should be changed. What I am finding out is that the reasons given by them for wanting to change the system really do not make much sense to me.
I have been chairing the boards and committees secretariat for quite awhile now. We spend a great deal of time going over every single recommendation that comes to us for appointment. A great deal of work goes into it. A few years ago, we decided that lot of people were interested in making a contribution to the running of this territory through boards and committees, and we did not know who they were. When we made a decision on which way we were going to go, we decided that we would change things from what was in existence at that time. What we were looking for was equal representation of both men and women on those committees. I think we have achieved that. It has taken an awfully long time to be able to do that. We have been able to make sure that there were aboriginal people on those committees.
During that whole process, application forms were sent out and made available to anyone who was interested in sitting on a board or a committee. We have a lot of those applications on file. Because of the interest of women to have gender equality on these boards, they developed their own application form, and they now have a talent bank of all of those women who are interested in sitting on the committees. We look at those applications because, included in the application, is their area of interest and where they come from, whether they are rural or urban. Each and every time a position becomes vacant, a great deal of work goes into trying to establish the balance we want to see. I think that we have been very successful. However, I am really disappointed with the attacks and criticisms coming from some Members on the other side of the House that we are only appointing New Democrats.
Why are we appointing New Democrats? The public out there is not stupid. We have over 400 people sitting on boards and committees; those people are not stupid. I think they are insulted that they are being accused of not being competent, not being qualified - and we do have a number of Tories sitting on those boards. If we were to be as blatant as the Members on the other side in calling out names, we would be in the dirt with them.
I do not speak of all Members on the other side; I speak of those individuals who continue to criticize, to make names known, to try to make those intelligent people out there believe that something is true when it is not. That is an insult to those individuals.
The Member talks about one of our supporters being on three boards. There are others who also sit on three boards and for sure they are not all New Democrats. We have Tories on three different boards; he does not mention that, but why should he and why should we? Why should we name names? That is not right.
I had a problem when I was in the Opposition because we looked at those boards and they really were not equal; they were not balanced. We had a problem with that and I remember we had a great deal of fun going through the old Hansard when we were sitting in the Opposition. We came across a lot of stuff that we felt was quite hilarious because of the motion that was put forward by the Member for Porter Creek East. He has read some of it, in regard to page 71, March 30, 1983, where they talk about the composition of the Public Utilities Board. We were asking the same thing; we were asking if they wanted names to fill those positions.
It was the Member for Whitehorse West who asked the Member for Porter Creek East at that time whether or not he would want a list of available citizens who would be interested in an appointment. The Speaker at that time called that question out of order because it was frivolous. I am really pleased that our Speaker, at least in this day and age, does not consider questions like that frivolous, because they certainly are not. In the same question, the Member for Whitehorse West went on to talk about the qualifications and to talk about whether or not the Member for Porter Creek East would be interested in knowing who some of those people are; he said, I probably know as many, if not more, people than he does, meaning Mr. Penikett. So he seemed to have no doubt that he is quite capable of finding the necessary people, thank you very much. Then he said that he had considered a lot of different things and that women were fairly considered. I believe one was a woman, he said. Is that fair? Is one woman fair? I do not think it is. And the list goes on and on.
That was not the only one; there were a number of others. Many times, it was said that one wanted people on those committees one could trust, and I agree with that.
There were also things said like, sure, we will make appointments, but those appointments will, of course, have a government thrust. At that time, this meant that, if you were a Tory, you were more likely to get on that board.
I was a new Member in 1982, and I was appointed the critic for the Womens Bureau. I would like to remind Yukoners again of the Womens Bureau.
The Womens Bureau was on its way out. During that decade for women, there was a lot of importance put on why women should be equally represented in government. The government set up a little program under labour services in Justice called the Womens Bureau, and they hired a person to work there.
I thought that was a great move, because the person who spoke on it at that time was a woman who was promoting the equality of women in government. However, when we came into office, there was a recession, and the government looked at what programs should go first.
After I was elected, a Yukon Advisory Council on the Status of Women was set up. The council was set up with a lot of fanfare, and I believe that the sister of one of the Members at that time was on the board. I have no problem with that, because she was probably a very qualified person. What was so appalling was that the Yukon Advisory Council on the Status of Women was the very, very first committee to go; it was disbanded.
When we took office in 1985, there was no such committee. One of my commitments was to reactivate the Womens Bureau. There was one employee working on a program in that branch, and she was only working two days a week.
When we look at equality for women, and look at the importance of why this government wants to have equality on those boards, it is really important to realize that was not in place when we took office in 1985.
When the Member for Porter Creek East wants to brag about the appointments during his time, he always says, We appointed Margaret Joe. Well, they did appoint Margaret Joe and that is a great accomplishment. You know, Margaret Joe happened to be a woman - big deal - Margaret Joe happened to be an aboriginal person - big deal - and Margaret Joe happened to be a New Democrat. Well, gee whiz, that is really something to be proud of: one person took care of all of those requirements.
At that time, a JP was not supposed to be politically active. During that time, I did give up my activity in that party. What he does not tell everybody is that it took a great deal of time to finally make the decision to appoint me. I do not think that is much to brag about. I think the appointment was a great appointment - I must say that.
I hear stories, and I know for a fact that the Member for Riverdale North would never have recommended my appointment. He did not even know who I was.
The record, as I understand it, is all confidential. The Member for Riverdale North talks about me being his choice. I know differently. We all know differently.
They talk about the honoraria and how people get paid a certain amount of money to do these jobs. I know that a lot of people sitting on these boards and committees make less sitting on those boards, if they have to do a full days work, than they would in their private practice; for instance, if they were a lawyer or doctor. I know that in some cases people have to take a leave of absence without pay from their jobs or work extra hours at night in order to do the kind of job that is expected of them. I have not had one single person come to me and say that, as a lawyer, they could make $800 today or whatever they make. I know they make about $150 an hour or more. Some of them sit on a board for $100 a day. The government greatly appreciates the time that those competent, qualified individuals put into these boards.
I have already mentioned the time we spend in going over the recommendations made to the boards and committees secretariat prior to them going to Cabinet. That is a long, hard process. The Member for Porter Creek East, who made this motion, talks about having a person working full-time to do that job. We have to have a full-time person to ensure we have the kind of balances that we do and in order to go over all the applications we have and that what we are trying to achieve is achieved. As I said before, I get very offended when personal attacks are made. The Member for Faro, in his speech, spoke of the qualifications of the people who were being attacked. I think that is outrageous.
I believe that Yukoners are not being fooled by what the Member for Porter Creek East says because he talks the loudest and says the nastiest things.
I have a lot of faith in Yukoners. I know for a fact - although they feel good when they make them and they read them in the paper - that people, not only in my riding, but throughout the Yukon, are not really pleased with the kind of nonsense that comes out of that persons mouth.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member does not attack me because I am a nice person. Every once in a while I do get a little upset. As the Member for Riverdale North says, I should not worry; I should be happy. Actually, I am happy. I just do not look that way.
I forgot some of my notes, Mr. Speaker. I am just looking to see if I missed anything. I certainly do not want to sit down before I have said everything that I really want to say. I think that most people who have made speeches have probably expressed the same kind of things that I would have liked to have said right now. I do not think that they should be repeated.
To all of those individuals out there who have been appointed to boards and committees and who have taken the time to sit on these boards - New Democrats, Tories, Liberals, Reform Party members, aboriginal people, men and women - I would like to let them know that this government does appreciate the time that they have spent. I believe that they have the kind of experience that we need, because we looked for their kind of experience before we appointed them to those boards. We are very impressed with the calibre and the dedication of those individuals. Some of those individuals are New Democrats; there is no question in my mind. New Democrats have the same intelligence as other people. They have the same capabilities and they have the same dedication as do all those people from other parties who have been appointed to these boards. That is exactly what we are looking for. To those people who ignore the kind of things that the Member for Porter Creek East is saying, I commend them as well, because they know what is going on.
The Member for Porter Creek East says I should speak to the motion. We are talking about boards and committees and that is exactly what I am doing. He just does not like being attacked, although he has no problem dishing it out.
I have heard no convincing argument to make me want to support this motion. That is something I have tried to determine. I have listened carefully to all that has been said. No one on the other side has convinced me I should support this.
Mrs. Firth: I wish I could claim to be a nice person, like the Minister of Justice does, but I do not want to say that and get hoots from the other side.
I want to enter this debate today in a non-partisan fashion and express some of my opinions on the motion that has been presented.
Generally, I agree with the concept of the motion. I agree with the idea of an all-party group appointing members to boards and committees. A select committee of the Legislature would still give the government Members the majority. It could probably work. I will be supporting the general principle of the motion.
I do want to talk a bit about the past history of boards, committees and so on. I knew that the Members opposite would research what had been said in the past, and I immediately asked the research staff in our office to look back in Hansard. I could vaguely remember some commentary about the YRAC committee that the Member for Faro has made reference to today. I asked the research staff if they could please look back and see if I had said anything stupid in the past that would come back to haunt me today about the appointment of boards and committees.
There was the one qualifying comment about wanting to trust the members of the boards and committees. I noticed several Members who are in the government benches now have substantiated that as a qualification, that they would like to have that confidence, or trust, in the board members. I appreciate that the government Members have now recognized that.
I do not disagree with the criticisms they are bringing forward about the situation that was in place years ago. As a Minister of the government, I can remember that there were not a lot of women on boards. There were very few aboriginal people. There was a motion brought forward in the Assembly at the time by the Member for Porter Creek West, suggesting that we look at a better gender balance, and I wish I had supported that motion back in 1982, or whenever it was. I am sure it was after I was a Member in the Legislature.
I agree with that. The government of the day was not doing a good job of gender parity.
I have to admit that this government, when first in office, began to do a better job, and were doing a good job. I thought that the idea of the talent bank applications was a good idea, and I think I said so at the time the Minister announced that they were going to do this. The idea of having better representation on boards is a good idea. I do not like to see it pushed to the verge of being considered tokenism, and very often that kind of thing happens.
I know that I could find a lot of very competent individuals in the Yukon to sit on boards, and I would probably be more inclined to look for women than I would men - and that is just a gender bias I have myself - so what has happened with respect to a better balance on the boards has been good.
As all good things happen, sometimes good things do come to an end. I think that what has happened here is that the government has become a little sloppy with the way things are perceived publicly with respect to the appointments to the boards and committees. They started out with good intentions. I do not deny that, but something has happened in the last few years - the last couple of years, particularly - that I think is causing the public to question or challenge what is happening. I think that is a symptom of what is wrong with this government and, possibly, what goes wrong with all governments.
I agree with a lot of the comments that other speakers have made this afternoon. Specifically, there was a comment made, I believe, about restoring public confidence in the boards, and I agree that that is what our objectives should be here today. We should be looking at how we can restore the publics confidence. We should also be looking at the individuals and their qualifications, even more so than looking at what gender they are or whether they are aboriginal or not.
I believe qualifications should be the first consideration in choosing someone to be on a board.
The Member for Whitehorse South Centre made some comment with respect to whether or not it would work to have a consensus-style agreement among the Members of this House and be able to sit down and choose members for a board. We have done it in the past. I do not know if we could continue to do it. I think we could if we all made the effort. I know there is a lot of animosity on both sides of the House. I still feel, however, fairly confident that, with all of us focussing our energy on what is in the best interest of Yukoners, we could probably sit down and arrive at a consensus about who would be good appointments to boards.
I am not going to take responsibility for comments from other people, but I will account for my own. I do not want the Minister of Justice to get the impression or the feeling that, in raising this issue or agreeing with this motion, I am in any way criticizing any of the members presently serving on Yukon boards. I do not criticize any of those individuals personally. I may criticize the governments wisdom in appointing people, whether the public perception is going to be positive or whether it is in the best interest of the government to be making those appointments at such a time. Too many negative things happen at once, and then, it is the name of the individual who has been appointed to the board that gets used the most in the public arena. I am referring to the latest appointment of the labour representative to the Yukon Development Corporation board.
The government should just be objective for a moment and look at what the public is seeing. This individual has had a high profile at the conventions of the governing party. He has had a high profile in the media with respect to labour issues and in suggestions and resolutions at the governing partys conventions.
The Yukon Development Corporation has been coming under a lot of attack and criticism in the public lately. Then, all of a sudden, the government makes an announcement that this person was appointed to the board. I do not know if they actually got to make an announcement, because we found out in a rather roundabout way, and then the issue became public. Perhaps all those public relations people this government has hired could have done a better job in advising the government Members as to a more appropriate way of announcing this persons appointment. Perhaps the timing, the high profile of the individual, and the negative attitude and atmosphere toward the Yukon Development Corporation, had something to do with it. It did look like there was some advantage to the government appointing that particular individual, to assist in some controlling sort of way.
As a constructive criticism to the government, if their intentions are so good, then perhaps they should be taking a look at their timing and at how things are being perceived the public. It certainly is not being perceived in a positive way.
I only have to look at chair appointments to some of the major boards, such as the Health and Social Services Council, the Yukon Development Corporation, the Council on the Economy and the Environment, and the college. If all the chairs on those boards have some past association and connection with the governing party, then the government is going to be open to charges of patronage, supporting their friends and putting their friends in high places, and whatever the other allegations are.
I think the concern here is that the public is disillusioned with the way people are appointed to boards and committees. I hear comments like: What do you expect? They are all just as bad. When the Conservatives were there, they were just as bad. Then the NDP stand up and say they were worse. The Member for Faro says they were worse. The other parties stand up and say that the New Democratic Party is bad as a government, and the public just throw their hands up in the air and say everybody is just as bad. That brings me back to the original objective we should all be having here today, which is to try to gain back the confidence of the public with respect to how people are appointed to boards and committees. In order to do that, I agree that there has to be some change to the system. Whatever that change happens to be rests with the government Members who have the majority in this House.
From the presentations that have been made by government Members this afternoon, I do not get the indication that any of them would be prepared to support this initiative, which, in itself, is an interesting fact. I think the public would be quite interested in the government not wanting to support any kind of change to the system, wanting to sort of secure what influences and what systems they have in place now and continue to keep it secure.
I heard quite a few Members commenting with respect to whether there were any benefits to board members, and that they do not make a lot of money being on the boards, and that it is not a big financial gain.
I think there are a lot of benefits to individuals who are asked to sit on boards, committees and councils. I have listed maybe five or six of those benefits that I see personally, and I have had people who have sat on boards and committees tell me that this is what they have gained from it or this is what good or benefit that they felt.
First of all, there is the ability as Members of boards, particularly in the capacity of a chairperson, to gain some profile within the community and to gain some prestige and recognition. It certainly gives that individual an opportunity to become experienced in whatever area or board that they happen to be participating in.
The people appointed to these boards learn how community activities work and how governments operate. These people gain a lot of knowledge about things that they may not have had an opportunity to learn about if they were not participating as a member of a board.
There is financial compensation. Whether it be great or small remains to be seen, and I am sure that it will be further debated.
There is also the benefit of occasionally being able to travel to other parts of the territory. Sometimes boards go out to the communities for meetings and people have an opportunity to go outside of Whitehorse and see what life is like in the communities, and see how visitors are treated by the different communities, and vice versa. People who live in the outlying communities quite often have a chance to come to Whitehorse to participate in board activities and they also get a chance to spend some extra time here in Whitehorse.
The interest that seems to be most important to people who wanted to sit on boards, committees and councils was the ability to have some influence on government policy and perhaps make a change. That is always something people talk about. They say it was a wonderful experience and that they had the opportunity to have some input into the direction the government was taking with respect to this or that policy and that they found that very rewarding.
I do not think we should kid ourselves and say that there are no benefits at all to sitting on boards. There are many benefits. They may not be monetary, but there is a lot of personal experience gained by individuals sitting on boards.
It is also a good training opportunity and good exposure for individuals who may be, at one time or another, interested in running for public office. It gives them an opportunity, like I said, to have some public profile and to gain some additional knowledge. Quite often, people who have had the opportunity to sit on boards, can more easily make the decision about whether or not they want to run one day for a seat in the Legislature, city council or as a Member of Parliament.
Contrary to the Member for Faros suspicions, I have no interest in running in his riding. I am not going to go to Faro to run. I have heard that he might be interested in running in Riverdale South, since that is where he has his Whitehorse home, but I have absolutely no interest in running in Faro. He is safe.
As I was saying, serving on boards and committees is an excellent opportunity for people who want to get some advance experience prior to running for office. I am sure that the Minister of Justice could testify to that, because I am sure that her experience as a Justice of the Peace was a great deal of help to her when she did run for office and became the critic for Justice as an Opposition Member.
What has happened now that the public has gone sour on these appointments to boards and committees? Well, I have only to look at one of the appointments that has been extremely controversial, and that has been the chair of the Public Utilities Board. That individual was chair of that board for quite some time; he did have the qualifications, as the government kept standing up and saying, but, as I said of the whole general attitude of the government, something seemed to happen to that individuals attitude as well. You just cannot have an individual professing to be objective and unbiased and then, at the same time, hosting coffee parties for his MLA, who just happens to be the Government Leader, and advertising it in the paper. It almost gave an attitude that he did not care what people thought, nor did the government care what people thought. That is how it was interpreted.
That made people sour. It made them bitter about the way things sounded. They did not like it, nor feel comfortable with it. Then, he continued to be interviewed in the paper, made some comments that were rather obnoxious, and used some language that was rather obnoxious, and...
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the House will now recess until 7:30 p.m. this evening.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 6, Workers Compensation Act.
Bill No. 6 - Workers Compensation Act - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We left a few things hanging yesterday. I will provide some information for Members consideration now.
Firstly, I have asked the Workers Compensation Board for a copy of the investment policy. We will have that policy first thing tomorrow morning. I will try to have it in to the Member prior to continuing on with Bill No. 6 tomorrow afternoon.
The Member for Riverdale South asked some questions associated with the costs of the building and, specifically, what would happen to the surplus if there had been no additional staff and if there had been no new building. I think the short answer to the Members question is that if there had been no additional staff, the surplus would run about $1,837,000 and if the Workers Compensation Board had not acquired the new building and the extra space, there would have been a further savings of $114,000, which would have been added to the operating reserve or surplus.
Mr. Lang: We are definitely looking forward to seeing the investment policy to see if there is another way for us to find a consensus with respect to the section we feel is so important. The Member obviously feels that is important, too.
I just have one question about the investment policy. Was the principle of the Executive Council Member having the final approval of changes to the investment policy approved by the drafting committee?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not recall whether it was considered by the drafting committee. I can find out.
Mr. Lang: I would appreciate it if he would.
We talked about boards and committees in a general sense earlier today. I would like to ask some specific questions now.
Could the Minister give us a breakdown of the cost of the board for the past year and the amount that was paid to the members?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Kluane asked for that information. I believe I sent that information in the form of a letter; I am pretty certain that I did. In any case, I can bring the information. I remember asking that the information be produced for the past two years for board chair and for the two industry and labour representatives.
If the Member for Kluane does not remember that, perhaps it is in the mail; however, I do recall asking that that information be provided.
Mr. Brewster: Not only do I not remember it but I am quite sure that I did not get it. Here is another item that went into the mail and then got lost.
I see the Minister for Community and Transportation Services is asking me to sit down. It was he who stood all day speaking so that we could not get to the vote on our motion. Now, when I am answering a sensible question, he is asking me to sit down - either that or he is flying like a duck somewhere. I am not sure where he is going.
If they want to fool around in this House then we can fool around all night, but if they want to let us answer sensible questions - if the Minister will ask one - then we will give him a decent answer. But if the Ministers in the back are going to play around then we will play around.
Mr. Lang: I am sure that, in view of the comments of the MLA for Kluane, if it is in the mail or lost in the mail I am sure the Minister will run off a copy of what he has on file and perhaps we can get it hand delivered in view of the fact that we are dealing with the bill.
I have another question: why are we expanding the size of the board? First of all, I want to know if that was supported by the drafting committee. Secondly, I want to know why we are increasing the board and what the added cost is going to be of going from a three to a five-member board? What are the reasons?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The reasons are this: firstly, the Workers Compensation Board is going to be expanding its responsibilities to include occupational health and safety, including mine safety. The whole field of occupational health and safety in this territory will now become the responsibility of the new board, called the Workers Compensation, Health and Safety Board.
It is very difficult to find a cross-representation of people who are interested and have knowledge not only of workers compensation but also occupational health and safety, both in the public and private sectors.
The opportunity to appoint members who do cover a number of interests is increased when the board moves to include five members.
The appeal hearings under the Workers Compensation Act will still be conducted by a three-person panel, so the costs of hearing appeals will not have to increase as a result of the increase in the size of the overall board.
The board, when it is dealing with workers compensation and occupational health and safety policy issues, will total five members now, instead of three.
Yes, I believe that it was supported by the drafting committee. Also, I saw that some of the Members had the Chamber of Commerce pamphlet. The Chamber of Commerce also indicated in their recent newsletter that they supported the increase in size as well.
Mr. Brewster: There was one question that I would like to ask and if the question was asked last night the Minister can say and I will not require another answer.
The Occupational Health and Safety Board was transferred from the territorial government, is this correct? He may shake his head yes or no.
The Minister is shaking his head, yes. When it was transferred from the government to the Workers Compensation Board, was any money allotted for the extra expense or are the employers going to have to foot the bill for something that the government created and then got rid of it by sending it over to the Workers Compensation Board?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We did go all through that last night, but I will reiterate once again that firstly, the Occupational Health and Safety Board, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, would be wound up.
As the Member knows, that board was also the same board as the Employment Standards Board. The membership of the Occupational Health and Safety Board was the same as the Employment Standards Board. The Occupational Health and Safety Board referred to in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, for the purposes of hearing appeals, will now be wound up with the responsibilities of the new Workers Compensation, Health and Safety Board.
The new five-person Workers Compensation, Health and Safety Board will be responsible for hearing appeals under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The board, as well, will superintend the activities of the occupational health and safety unit, meaning that they will oversee the administration of the occupational health and safety in the territory as well.
As the Member knows, the existing Workers Compensation Board pays some funds to the Department of Justice for the purpose of carrying on, primarily, accident-prevention activities. What will happen now is that they will keep that money and the Department of Justice will pay to the Workers Compensation, Health and Safety Board the exact cost of the occupational health and safety unit they are currently responsible for.
Mr. Lang: In reading through the legislation - maybe I missed it - but I am a little concerned about the principle that the assessments must be kept up in order to meet the obligations of the fund. I do not see, in the bill, any obligation for the board to maintain this. What has brought it to my attention is the commitment that the Minister has made with respect to some of the information that he has here. From the way I read it, the assessment or compensation rates will not have to be increased for 10 years. Now, that may be based on the actuarial projections at this time. I am a little concerned with that statement being made, because we could have a very major tragedy of some kind - a worst-case scenario - and all of a sudden, the fund may not be able to cope with the situation. I want to ask the Minister to expand on that a little bit further for me.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the Member were to refer to Objects on page 2 of the act, under 1(c), it does obligate the board to maintain a solvent compensation fund. Solvency refers to the financial solvency of the fund. Let me just say this with respect to the actuarial projections: clearly, the actuary has to determine, on the balance of probabilities, what is likely to happen in the Yukon based on our experience and based on our record. Certainly, there is a possibility for a disaster, and that is the reason why we have various reserves, which basically have money socked away in case there is a disaster. Of course, if there is a major disaster one year, then a lot of that reserve fund will be drawn down, but that is to be expected. What would then happen is that the reserve fund would have to be brought up again. Based on the actuarial projection right now, all of the reserve funds are what are considered to be fully funded. This means that, based on a balance of probabilities, considering all of the accidents and everything that we know about, and the chances of a significant catastrophe taking place, we have sufficient funds right now to be able to handle what would likely happen, based on actuarial principles.
On top of that, we have what they call an operating reserve, which is $17 million. By compensation fund standards, that is considered to be the surplus. That is money that is not earmarked for any particular thing. It is set aside to account for fluctuations in the economy. If the economy goes flat, rather than bumping up assessments to remaining employers, it allows a bit of a cushion to allow the board to maintain the same assessments for a while and recover from any shocks more gradually.
You have the information in the package there. When you look at the operating reserve for the Yukon fund, it is quite substantial for the size of the fund.
You can see that it shows the operating reserve to be $17,240,000. It projects that, even with the costs associated with the increase in the act, no matter what happens, we will still be generating $1 million surplus every year.
At the end of 10 years, you would still have a very substantial operating reserve. You are obviously paying extra money out, because there are some extra increased costs specifically identified in the other document I handed out, but that is offset by the fact that, based on the same actuarial projections, you are still going to be generating $1 million into the reserve fund every year. Therefore, it will be drawn down, but there will also be additions to it. The projection is that there will be well over $10 million at the end of 10 years still in the operating reserve, based on all the actuarial projections we have right now.
I would like to point out that one thing in particular is not taken into account, and that is that the Government of the Yukon will now be paying assessments, which means that the government will be paying more into the fund on average per year than they are right now. Consequently, they will be putting money into the reserve. In the colloquial terms of the general public, the Government of the Yukon has been getting a free ride, because it has been paying only the actual claim costs and actual administration fees.
They are not putting money into the reserve fund. The reserve fund is like other employers, so what we are saying is that, yes, they will. That is not factored into that costing sheet. It is an additional benefit that the compensation fund would receive. We obviously have a very significant operating reserve.
I am not suggesting that the operating reserve be drawn down for any other purpose. I think one of the things that we have done here - we have a very conservative actuary - is to maintain a very healthy fund all these years. This is a great comfort to workers and employers.
The only regret I have is that I would love to have had this information the last time we debated this bill, when we were talking about the Canada Pension Plan offsets, because then we would have felt much more comfortable about what we were doing then. The problem we were having then is that we were not sure what the impact would be with that change to the act.
IWhat I am saying now is that I am very confident that the fund will be as solid at the end of 10 years as it is today.
Mr. Lang: I appreciate the fact that the Minister is relying on the actuarys projections, and I understand that, but I still think it is very difficult to predict 10 years from now what can happen, especially, for example, in the section of the investment fund we are very concerned about. If we do not see any changes there, we can see that with the wrong philosophy and if the wrong decisions are made, it could really be affected.
I am going to go back to the objects when we get to them, so I am not going to belabour it.
I have one final question - a medical question, about medical examinations. Perhaps the Minister could clarify for me how it is going to be changed. I want to go through a scenario I have come across a couple of times; I do not know how valuable the statements are that are made by people who have had to go to the Workers Compensation Board. I have to assume that they are truthful observations.
It sounds to me like an individual can go to a specialist, get an examination done, have a diagnosis made and available, and then it seems to me, from what I have been told, that the medical practitioner who is representing the board can at times look at it and just overrule it.
I am wondering how the changes to the act affect this particular concern that has been raised with me in a number of cases and I think also with the MLA for Kluane. What changes are being effected here to ensure proper medical diagnosis is made? In fact, allegations are made that the practitioner who is contracted by the Workers Compensation Board sometimes does not even see the patient, yet makes recommendations.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The boards medical consultant cannot overrule, in an adjudicative sense, the opinion of any other doctor. What the boards medical doctor will do is to pass judgment on the medical information that is being presented to the citizen board, and it will be the board that will determine whether or not any doctors opinion is valid for the purpose of approving or rejecting a claim.
What happens, naturally enough, however, is that the board has a relationship with the medical practitioner with whom they contract - presumably a trusting relationship - and they learn to trust certain elements of that doctors opinion. Being non-medical people themselves, they have to rely on experts so if there is a situation where a doctor of a claimant is saying one thing that is contradicted by the boards doctor, then the board itself is going to have to make a judgment in the end. If it goes to final adjudication, the board itself will have to decide how valid the information is; they basically have to either trust or not trust the advice they get from their own doctor and from what they see from the doctors reports the claimant produces. It will be up to the board to decide; the boards doctor does not decide the final claim. The claim is decided by the board.
Mr. Brewster: It has been my experience, and of course I cannot bring in any of the confidential information I have, but let us take a hypothetical case: say three specialists rule on a person and their rulings are about the same; then, all of a sudden, the general practitioner - who is all that the Workers Compensation Board has - rules against them and the board accepts the general practitioner against the other three. A comment I once heard from a lawyer was: by what right does this general practitioner have to think that he is smarter than three specialists?
In that particular instance, the board could accept the advice of the general practitioner against that of the three specialists. Let us assume that you injure your arm and that three bone specialists say that there is something definitely wrong, yet the general practitioner says that there is not. What right does that general practitioner have to say that three specialists are wrong when all three specialists are saying almost the same thing?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would suspect, given the scenario the Member mentions, that the general practitioner would obviously be treading on shaky ground if he or she were pretending that he or she had knowledge that was superior to the knowledge of the specialists in a particular field. That general practitioner, or the boards designated doctor, does not have the power to make that decision. The power to make the decision in the end is going to be the boards, no matter what. If there is contradictory information in medical reports - and I presume that happens - it could be any number of things. It could be a doctor doing a more thorough analysis than another doctor; it may be simply a disagreement between doctors; it may even be a doctor being - heaven forbid - a little cheeky when it comes to expressing his own professional opinion, when he is obviously going beyond the bounds of his own knowledge. In any case, that will have to be interpreted by the board members at the final hearing and they will make the decision. If they see that the three specialists have done a much more thorough analysis than the general practitioner, then the board itself, as reasonable, commonsense people, would have to rule in these circumstances with the three specialists because they appear to know more about it than the general practitioner.
Mr. Brewster: This is one of the problems we have. Quite frankly, there is too close a working relationship between the doctor and the Compensation Board; therefore, the Board is going to defend the doctor and not defend the client.
When I travelled with the board I suggested that there should be a set of three doctors - two specialists and a doctor - appointed by the Compensation Board. This group of doctors should be able to make a decision to hand to the board, because the board is no more qualified than I am to determine if a bone is broken permanently or if it was broken before. The board members are not doctors either.
I have suggested twice that the doctors form a board consisting of one general practitioner and two specialists. One of the specialists would act as the chairman. He would not necessarily be a bone specialist, but in the event of a tie vote between the second specialist and the general practitioner, he would cast the deciding ballot.
The problem with the doctor appointed by the Workers Compensation Board is that he does not do the thorough checks that the specialists do. I am not knocking the doctor. I do not know what his terms are or anything else.
People are continually coming to me and I continually see reports that the doctors disagree with each other. This is a mans life; therefore, there should have been more in this bill.
I continue to recommend the formation of a board of doctors. The doctors are far more qualified to make decisions than the board is. I was also told that it would not cost a great deal of money to do this.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Having represented a number of claimants myself who took issue with doctors reports, I have some sympathy with the sentiments that the Member is expressing.
There is nothing preventing the Workers Compensation Board from asking other doctors to review a case. In fact, there are provisions in the act that allow the Compensation Board to send the claimant to other doctors. The board can send the case to one doctor or they can send the case to three doctors. There is nothing that prevents the Workers Compensation Board from doing that, and I am certain that if circumstances permit, or the circumstances are justified, then they should and they could do that.
I would be very hesitant to consider something that is mandatory in the act where there is a board of doctors for every case. I do not think that is justified, and I think we have to leave it up to the good sense of the board members to determine when they feel they have received enough medical information to be able to decide a case.
Sometimes it may be that they have two or three doctors in the Yukon who will see a person, but the board decides that they are going to send the person out to even yet another doctor, because they still do not think that they have sufficient information. There still may be some contradictory remarks in the medical reports, so if it is a knee problem they could send the person out to a sports medicine specialist, or whomever it happens to be who can perhaps provide a more informed diagnosis of this particular kind of complaint.
I do not think that, in the end, I would not want to see a situation where the final decision for determining what is appropriate under the circumstances be removed from the citizen board and put to professionals. The professionals are paid by people who buy their services; they do not make the decisions; it is the citizens who make the decisions.
Like the Member, they presumably have common sense. This board, and ones I have come up against in private life, are very concerned about giving or getting the facts. Admittedly, I do not know anyone who has been on the board that has been a doctor. There may have been a doctor on the board, but it may be counter productive to have one person on the board who is a doctor when the others are not.
The point of the matter is that they do care very much, and they want to find out exactly what the situation is. I think that it would be fair to say - if you look at the record of this board - that they would rule in favour of the worker, 9 times out of 10, if there is a doubt. I believe that from my understanding and my experience.
Mr. Brewster: I think that the Minister is quite correct, and I am not criticizing the board, but there is always that individual who falls through the cracks. These individuals are the ones who need the help and they do not get the help.
Firstly, these people do not understand how to go about getting the help and then they get frustrated, causing other problems. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you these things because they are confidential.
These people have fallen through the cracks and continually, from the letters that I have read, the board accepts the boards doctors opinion over that of the specialist.
I admit, it is very rare case. However, one case has as much right to have a fair hearing as another, and he should be brought back out of that crack and put where he is satisfied. I am not suggesting that you have two specialists and another doctor sitting in on all cases. They would probably only have to sit in on one case out of 100, because that is the one case that is disputed.
In my experience, and I certainly seem to get a lot of them, for the number the board settles, there are very few who come to us. I am very pleased with that. I really do not want this extra work. However, the cases that come are those that have gone through the cracks, and they cannot get a hearing.
Again, this is not the board, but the administration that will not even listen to them. I will be the first to admit that, when some of these people go over there, they are not very nice. They are a little worse than I am, and I am not very nice at times. I will be appearing on some of them in the future. I have their word that they will not open their mouths and start some of the things they have done, because I do not believe in that. I have made it plain that I will walk out. I think even the board may disagree with that, but it does not have to be abused. I think that is stupidity.
These are the kind that fall through the cracks. Some way, they must get a decent hearing, so they are satisfied. They are not satisfied with the one general practitioner issuing all the orders.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I certainly sympathize with much of what the Member has said. It is important to point out that many workers who are hurt are not office workers; many of them do not know Whitehorse and do not know the workers compensation system. Many do not know workers compensation policies. When they finally find themselves at the front desk of the Workers Compensation Board to complain, it is very intimidating. Some of them cannot read and write, and they are pained because they have been hurt - broken bones, bad back, or whatever it happens to be. Therefore, it is one of the most frustrating experiences one can imagine. I understand that entirely.
I have seen a lot of that. Those are typically the clientele of the Workers Compensation Board. That was one of the things we wanted to try to reduce, through the construction of this act - the frustration and humiliation they may feel going to the front desk and asking for what is, essentially, their right.
They come upon people who are hardworking themselves, who are also workers, but who may have a major caseload. Not all of us are the nicest people all the time and, sometimes, we meet up with somebody on the street, and we are not very friendly.
The Member opposite does not know that; he is always friendly and cheerful, but there are chances that a person may feel he has been dealt with peremptorily and insensitively. Obviously, we have to try to make this as sensitive as we can for the people who are hurt, because they are the primary clientele for this whole operation.
We do not give the Workers Compensation Board the power to tax just for the sake of tax. The whole purpose of this thing is to serve that wounded person.
Firstly, what we tried to do with this act is word it so that an average person can read it. If one tries to read the other act, about two clauses in, the eyes would start twirling and it would get put down again.
Secondly, this is not part of the act itself, but the workers advisor that was mentioned in the opening speech is a person who would help guide some of these people through this process, especially for problem claims. As much as I would like to see the staff and board be as sensitive as possible, it is not always that easy. There has to be field work done as well, and that cannot be done from behind a desk.
Thirdly, there are little things in this act that will make this act more accessible. An example is the requirement that all notices be in writing. It is an easy thing for all of us to dictate, but if a person cannot read or write, that requirement must be waived in certain cases. There is a provision here that says it can be waived. There are things, therefore, that make this whole system more accessible.
Other things that make the system more accessible do not show up in the act. There are things like the new thrusts in client services, meaning rehabilitation and caring for the person who is hurt.
When I was approaching the Workers Compensation Board, more than one decade ago, none of that stuff even existed. Now it is part of the scheme and is making the system more accessible, less bureaucratic and less intimidating to the average person. I am more than prepared to say, however, that, even with these reforms, there may still be situations where there are problems. Under the act, if the person wants another doctors opinion, they can ask the board for a second opinion, to be paid for by the board, particularly if there is contradictory information. This will allow the board to make a better judgment.
The board wants to be as certain as it can that they have the situation correct. They want the illness and injury well-defined so it can assess it as a percentage of disability, lay out a rehabilitation schedule, have the compensation well-defined for the person in terms of the wages lost and, it is hoped, the person will walk away happy. I know they like to be precise, from my association with board members. They do not like to see people walk away feeling incomplete and not having received their due.
Mr. Brewster: I agree with most of what the Minister says and I certainly am not criticizing the board. Most of the people who have this problem cannot read or write. I am not looking for a job, do not get that idea, but there has to be someone who is not part of that office, because the minute they go into that office, these people are ready to fight because they do not understand a lot of things; therefore, they feel that the government is out to beat them. They probably do not even realize that this is not really the government; this is a separate branch.
I find out a lot by simply sitting down and talking with them, sometimes for two or three hours a day. It takes a special person to do this. Some people say that you should have an ombudsman, but an ombudsman, in most cases, has to be a lawyer so that he is able to understand all of the things. They do not trust lawyers any more than they trust politicians. You have to have someone who can talk with people. Here I am advocating that we hire someone else, which I am not supposed to do, but this person would save his wages by helping people who can trust him to do his best for them in clearing up the thing.
You are right; the staff there is overworked because of the case-loads and then they get cranky, and that is understandable. I think even the Minister of Community and Transportation Services - he sent a little note - thinks I am cranky once in awhile, but that is my nature. I do not have a problem with it. These people, however, do have a problem with it, because they go in and then they start to fight. Most of them have been fighting all of their lives, because they do not have an education and they have had to fight to get up in the world - especially in cases where people have back problems. I have been told by doctors that even though their back will not really be that bad, it gets to them mentally. Often these people do not even have a family in the area. A lot of them are over in Europe or somewhere, and they are here alone. If their back goes, what are they going to do?
You have to have someone who can sit down and talk sensibly with these people, and in their language, not some of this language that is learned in university. They need someone who can sit down, have a cup of coffee with them, and talk to them and understand them. This, alone, will cut out a lot of this misery that goes on.
I am very, very concerned about the relationship between the general practitioner and the board. They naturally would take on most of these recommendations if he was working for them. I do not think they even saw some cases. They just looked at the reports and said, No, it is all just in his head. All of these things are not just in their head; part of it is, I agree, but it is because of two reasons: one is their injury and the other is because they are frustrated with that board.
In some way, this has to be alleviated. It is causing a lot of problems. I see the Minister smiling - that is probably one of the longest speeches I have made around here, but it is a sincere speech. I have seen enough of them to know, and it is heartbreaking to see. These people do not even know each other, but they come and tell me the same stories of what happened when they went over there, so there has to be some truth to it. It is denied. Quite often, it is denied.
The Minister probably does not remember, but I wrote him a letter on one complaint that the Compensation Board - the administration board back then - said something was not true. I think it was a week later that they ran around with a letter apologizing to both the client and myself. We were right, and he was right, so they do make mistakes. Be prepared to own up to them - do not turn around and try to cover them up.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I want to make the point that the only reason I was smiling was because I was thinking, for the first time, that they might compensate for bureaucratic stress, on top of the initial claim.
I agree with the Member: part of the problem here is that the administration of the board has to be able to adjudicate many things, and part of their orientation is that they see people who scam the system and are not always seen by the Member opposite. There are some people out there who do. Therefore, they are always on their guard to prevent it from happening, because they do not want to be seen as a free ride for anybody. However, at the same time, they want to be a legitimate response to people who are actually really hurt.
So, we have this double orientation. Sometimes you have just been through a system where you think you have been taken, then you deal with somebody else who comes in with the same symptoms and the same approach - and I myself know some of the claimants who come in. These guys want action right now, and they are not going to put up with anybody telling them otherwise.
People react. The workers behind the desk react like anybody else would react to that kind of attitude. It is something in the human chemistry between the time the person is hurt and the time they respond to the bureaucracy of the board. Sometimes, it goes astray there; something happens that does not quite fit, and that is the reason why I think there is the need for this workers advisor - the person who helps people through the claim. It has nothing to do with helping a person fill out their form, or telling them exactly when they can appeal a decision, or who is going to do the appeal, because all that is done right now. It has everything to do with being human and understanding what this person is going through, and being able to take the time to sit down with them.
I have done it myself - sat down and talked with the person. I will give the Member an example: there is a young fellow in Elsa who was blasted in the face while drilling overburden. He is a young guy; he grew up in a very traditional family; he was, in his terms, I guess, but it may not be acceptable in some circles, the head of his household. He had a spouse, a wife, who was at least financially dependent on him, and he had the world at his feet. He was a cocky young guy who could do no wrong - strong, healthy, and he had his whole life ahead of him.
However, one incident, that could not have lasted more than two seconds, left this guy sitting at his kitchen table; he was making half of what his spouse was making at that point, as a result of this accident. He was wearing Coke-bottle glasses and could not read, both because of his glasses and because he had not finished school. So, his whole future, which was going to be based on some sort of manual labour, was shot. It was no good. On his first approach to the board, people told him to go back to school and get upgraded, but you cannot take a person who has not done well in junior school and tell them to go back to school and get upgraded.
It does not work that way. It is insensitive. All it takes is somebody to sit down and say: let us talk about the problems; let us try to resolve this, what do you need to do to feel good about your future? That is what I am talking about when I talk about a workers advisor. I am not talking about somebody who is going to sit behind a phone in Whitehorse and simply respond to calls, punch their number up on a computer, and tell people where their claim is in the system. I am talking a person who will sit down with these people and talk to them, the way the Member talks to them, and the way I used to talk to them. I agree; that is what they need.
Mr. Brewster: I think the Minister and I are pretty well on line. The only other suggestion I would make is that, whomever this person is, they take all the regulations and throw them in the waste-paper basket, so they use this act to work with these people, not what the regulations say. This is where some of the problems come in. They know there is something wrong with a person, but the regulation says you have to do this and do that.
Mr. Lang: I am a little concerned about this position, what this individual is going to do and where this position is to be located. With no disrespect to the Workers Compensation Board, because there are some very caring people there, but there are these isolated situations that suddenly appear on the MLA for Kluanes desk, or mine, or of other Members of the House, and which we have to deal with.
If it becomes a civil service position, per se, then I can see it becoming entrenched within the bureaucracy and, eventually, becoming a position of Workers Compensation Board administration and a protector of the system. I see this kind of position, if it is going to be made available, as that of an advocate. I would go a little further, not only to the situation where they are sitting down with an individual and being able to understand the plight he or she is enduring but, also, to be able to fully understand the steps within the system and, if necessary, present, on the persons behalf, or in conjunction with him or her, a reasonable position to the board.
The other side of this coin is where we have a case such as the MLA for Kluane is working on where an individual has spent $3,000 for legal fees to get before the board. In this particular case, the gentleman is fairly well educated, but he did not understand the system, got frustrated and went to a lawyer. In the terminology, this is now his agent.
Perhaps I am wrong and the Minister will go a little further on this, but I see this particular individual being an advocate, not only in the situation where he is dealing with an individual who feels he does not understand the system and feels it has shut him out but, also, to set the wheels in motion so that he or she gets that appeal or hearing that was missed out on.
Perhaps the Minister could clarify this a little further. I would like to see this position as a contract position, perhaps even within Justice, outside Workers Compensation, as opposed to being within its administration. With all due respect and the good intentions of both the MLA for Kluane and the MLA for Mayo, over a period of time that will just become another permanent position in the administration.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I remember going through a lot of this discussion during the development of this act. Obviously, it is not in the act, but it was certainly part of the spirit of the act in terms of making the system more accessible. There has been some suggestion of having it paid for by the board and located in some other department. The board is not a department.
The compromise we came to in the end - and, of course, this will all be up to the board as it is not specified in the act - is that this person would be classically considered an advocate for the claimant who is going through the system. The basic orientation would be sympathy for the workers complaint.
It is really unfortunate and it really bugs me sometimes when people go to a lawyer and the lawyer charges them quite a bit just to get them through the system. I do not think that is necessary at all. The system is a lot more friendly than that, even as it stands right now. I do not think you need to be a lawyer to go through the system. Nevertheless, I know some people do that, but at least now they will be able to read the act for themselves. It is laid out pretty clearly exactly what is going to happen. There will also be a user-guide to this act produced, as well, right after we pass it. That will basically lay things out in steps. When you open up the front page, it will tell you the right steps and what to do, complete with phone numbers. It will be there for those people who can read, at least. This will be everywhere where there is a work site.
The compromise in the end was that this person should not be confrontational with board staff. Basically, they would be frozen out like anyone else, such as a union representative or lawyer or anyone else; they will be on the outside. The person has to be just the right kind of person so that they can be an advocate for the claimant and make the system work for them. How can we do this? In the end, the decision was made that this person would report directly to the president. The president guides all the directors and everything else. Instead of having the workers advocate report to a claims officer and then the director of claims and up the ladder, this person would report directly to the president and the board would have the opportunity, from time to time, to get regular reports from this person. The board has to have an appreciation of what this job is all about. It has to be very clearly laid out. It is a real balancing act, basically.
Obviously, I am really interested in this thing working. If it does not work, perhaps we will have to look at striking some other arrangement. The more I hear from the Member for Kluane, the more the memories flood back about all the cases I was involved in, back in the middle 1970s. I would like to see the board become more responsive.
There are a lot of other things in this bill that make it more responsive. Back in the mid-1970s, the board would not give you the policies. You would not even know how the board would judge the claim, because they would not make the policies public.
The board would not make the policies public because they were changing so often that if they gave you a policy you might think later that that was the policy in effect, and you would be operating under the illusion that you are dealing with something real. In order to handle that particular situation, or that particular instance, the board did not give you anything at all, and you never knew what was going on.
If you wanted to see your claim file they would say that maybe you could see part of your claim file. It was a hopeless kind of system.
I should be careful here, but it was a lot better than it was prior to that time. It has been evolving and reforming itself during this period. I do not think that there is any malicious intent to any of this but I think that there was a sense of bureaucratic convenience, that this is the way it should be because it makes things run smoothly. But, they do not necessarily run smoothly for the guy that is hurt, and that is why, even now, I think that we are reforming the board much more.
Mr. Lang: I can understand the logic put forward by the Minister. It would be my strong recommendation that it not be a permanent person year within Workers Compensation, but that it be a contractual arrangement with whomever they deem to be a credible individual to do this kind of job, reporting to the president, and try it for a year or two years, firstly, to see how much work is required and secondly, how it works.
That would be my recommendation for leaving it flexible, as opposed to adding more positions to the civil service and then finding out a year or two down the road that the position is really not applicable.
On the other hand, I will accept the premise that the position report to the president. I can understand and appreciate that; I think that might be the compromise in the discussion here.
I want to go further, and that is the question of the general practitioner and the medical reports and going back to the statement put forward by the MLA for Kluane.
What concerns me is the cases that I have been involved in, and I do not pretend to be involved in as many as the MLA for Kluane. From the allegations and statements that have been made to me in a number of cases, the general practitioner for the board does not even see the patient, or in some cases, even examine the patient.
I may be wrong, but that is my understanding and I do know how you can pass a medical judgment on somebody, just because you have some written reports.
Can the Minister assure us that a thorough and serious examination be conducted by the general practitioner who is under contract?
The other thing that concerns me is that there is no requirement under the law that a copy be sent to the individual who is being examined. If you are hurt and go in for a medical, the medical report is sent to the board. You have access to this report on your file, if you want to go to your file, but would it not be logical to have the report sent to the claimant? I am certain that the claimant would like to know what the doctor said about him, too. The public board knows what was said but the claimant does not.
At what stage would the claimant be aware of what the general practitioners report says? The claimant would be aware of what the three specialists have indicated but not that of the general practitioner. When would the claimant get to see that report? In the event of a difference of opinion, the claimant himself, or by way of agent or advocate to the board, should have the opportunity to argue the case.
I realize that I have raised a couple of issues here for the Minister. I hope that he has kept track of them.
Perhaps the Minister has some comments on the contracting of the position as opposed to going to a permanent person year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board, my orientation ought to be that I should defend the actions and practices of the board. I can tell the Member that I think it is quite unacceptable for a consultant to simply draw judgment on the basis of a medical report. I have seen this a couple of times before in my own experience where a medical report will come in and the consultant will draw a judgment that is contrary to the medical report without ever having seen the patient. Believe me, that has made me very angry in the past and I think that is inappropriate.
These instances, if they are real, have to be brought to the boards attention. If one is going to contradict a medical report, one ought to be seeing the patient.
If I were to talk to the people on the board, they would say that happens most of the time, if not all of the time. I remember an instance back in the late 1970s where a claimant had not seen this doctor, but, looking at the file, the doctor was saying that things were not as severe as what was laid out in the claimants own doctors report. Personally, I do not find that kind of commentary acceptable.
I am really hesitant to do that, as much as I believe in this. We have to make the board aware that there are problems. There are a lot of little administrative problems from time to time. Perhaps the doctor sees the X-rays, they show a break, and there is a break. Perhaps the X-ray shows that it is a mild fracture; sometimes it may show it is a complex fracture. The doctor can draw a certain kind of judgment from that X-ray. It may be that, based on just that information alone, the general practitioner has misinterpreted the X-ray.
In that particular instance, it may not be necessary for the doctor to actually see the patient in order to get a different impression of what the X-ray says.
The board has to be sensitive to this problem. It is up to us to tell them to be sensitive to this problem. The right to the claims files in this act so absolute that, if you have anything in your claim file at all, you, as the claimant, can see it. The board cannot have any other information outside that claim file. That is your claim file; that is all they can use to judge.
There is concern among some medical professionals - and I know this has been the case in the past - where they would like to have certain documents kept confidential, even from the claimant. They say they are perhaps not going to be entirely forthright. There may be instances where a claimant comes in - and doctors are always saying they act as advocate for their patients - and says he has a bad back. The doctor examines the back, finds some minor problems, but says he thinks they are psychosomatic. However, he does not want to tell that to the patient, because the patient may not react favourably. He puts it in the file, anyway, so the board can see there may be some psychosomatic element to this particular persons complaint.
That situation may be true. However, we have clearly decided to err on the side of full disclosure to the claimant, out of fairness to the claimant. If you are not prepared to put what you know to be the case in that file, it is not considered in the adjudication. In the end, I think that was the right approach to take.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will take a short recess.
Mr. Brewster: I just have a few comments to make. One thing I would like to bring up is if we get an advocate for the injured person, and we want to be fair about this, what about the employer?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The act itself refers to making sure that the board understands that its role is to respond to both constituencies. As we go through the act, I will be in a good position to point out sections where it demonstrates what the boards responsibility is to report to its constituencies, to make the system more accessible and understandable to workers organizations and employers organizations.
There are essentially three groups: the general workers advocates, such as organized labour and people who are interested in the workers rights under this act; the employers organizations, which are responsible for advocating the employers basic interest; and the claimant.
What the workers advocate is expected to do - actually advocate is not the right word, the person would be more of a counsellor - is to make the claimants journey through the system more humane.
That does not mean that there is no responsibility to make the boards operations more accessible to employer organizations and labour organizations. It must do that as well. It must make its policies known to those organizations. It must have its annual general meeting to respond to those organizations, et cetera. Employers have not asked that there be any additional persons to go around to explain the assessment procedure. Those positions already exist on the board. If there is something more than that, then maybe the Member can express what it is he is referring to. I was referring to a counselling position for the injured worker to make the system more humane for that worker. The board still has to respond to the general constituencies - employer and employee organizations - as well.
Mr. Brewster: The one thing that I would like to compliment him on is making the government start paying their share of compensation.
As I said, something that I learned about this is like something I learned about judges - if one is guilty of something, you want to make sure which judge one is going in front of because one judge may lock one up, while the other may turn you loose. Now, this may seem funny, but this is a fact of life and the way one lives in this world.
I found this to be true of doctors, and I want to relate a case. A person was fighting Workers Compensation before I came into politics, which was 10 years ago. He was repeatedly turned down, and then I took the case - when we were in government, as a matter of fact. Doctors convinced me that the person was wrong. I could show you a file containing every name under the sun that I have been called for the last 10 years. Then they changed doctors, for some reason, and the next thing one knew, the person was receiving his compensation. I guess I have learned that maybe I should write over to find out, before I get in front of the board, which doctor is going to represent them.
They are paying it and I think that this verifies what we have been saying all along, that the specialists, doctors and general practitioners are very different.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Let the record show that when the Member was showing how thick the file of names that he has been called was, he showed a file that was at least a foot and one-half thick.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Perhaps the Member could spare us that pleasure. Obviously, that raises the issue of doctor shopping. The whole purpose of the appeal procedure and the medical advice is to get the truth and to try and accurately determine how much of an impairment or disability there is.
Clearly, I think that the Member is right; you could keep on going to doctors until you find one who agrees with you and then take that advice into the board. Obviously, the board is going to have to use some common sense in terms of assessing all of this and try to keep costs at a reasonable amount when it comes to paying for doctors opinions.
Certainly, the doctors would not object to having lots of opinions, but I think that what we have to do here is - the Member is a champion of this himself - just show common sense and be fair at the same time.
Mr. Brewster: In closing, I should not have let some of my secrets out because I see the chair of the board sitting here, and I may have a problem the next time I have to go over to their offices.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
Mr. Lang: I want to go back to clause one. I know that Madam Chair is not trying to rush the bill through and that she will give it ample time.
On Clause 1
Mr. Lang: I respect the Chairs position that she is not prepared to go back to general debate, but I would request a moment to discuss the objects here if I might.
I am a little concerned about the requirement to have a solvent compensation fund being in the objects of the act, as opposed to being in the various sections of the bill. The objects are fine and it states intent; however, in my reading of it - and I may be wrong - it would seem to me that it would be better if it were a statement of fact with a requirement that there shall be a solvent compensation fund adequate at all times, based on the assessments and liabilities. The assessments should have the ability to pay the liabilities.
I know that the Minister does not like to refer to this report that was commissioned by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business - and I would like to make it very clear that I do not agree with everything that is in its observation of the act - but they do make the point in a kind of roundabout way about the principle requiring that there be a compensation fund adequate to meet the demands falling under the objects section. From my understanding of legislation, we would be much better off to have it in some other part of the bill where it says, It shall be a requirement for the board, at all times, to ensure that the assessment rates are adequate to meet the requirements of the fund.
I would like to hear the Ministers comments on this. I realize that he feels he has to defend the bill to the hilt, but on the other hand, all I am trying to do is ensure that that principle is very clearly delineated in the bill so that somewhere down the road, the board could not say, It was the object and we tried to meet the object. I guess what I am trying to say is that the terms of reference need to be very clearly spelled out.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The objects section of the act is not just simply window dressing. One might argue that the preamble is window dressing. I asked that the preamble be put in simply because I wanted to have some statement of our general intent when we were putting forward the bill.
The objects of the act are part of the bill. Ultimately, the question is: what counts as being adequately funded? We have an actuary right now who is a member of the Actuaries Association of Canada, who has been - and I will say this in the nicest possible way - very conservative in his estimates for the fund. He has been quite successful in ensuring that the assumptions being made about what the liabilities are are significant enough that the board has always felt an obligation to put a lot of money into the bank.
At the same time, the actuary has done a good job of encouraging the board to be very cautious in its investments, policies and expenditures. It is very difficult to put that into law. There are other boards in this country that feel they are adequately funded, but have nowhere near the kinds of reserves we have here, on a per capita basis.
Let us look at a comparison across the country. Those boards are proud of themselves but their funds are clearly not as well off as ours. It is all a matter of attitude that has been applied to the operations of this board over the past 20 years that has set up the situation we enjoy today.
It is impossible to legislate that attitude. However, what we can do is make it clear that it is important and essential to us that we have a solvent compensation fund.
Solvent means many different things. We have had a lot of discussions that revolved around this point. My own view is that this is as good as we can do. We must depend upon the wisdom of the fund managers. We have to depend upon the wisdom and common sense of the board and, ultimately, if that situation continues, then we will have the same healthy fund 10 years from now that we have today.
Mr. Lang: I appreciate the comments of the Minister, but I do not think he really answered my question. More than anything else, it is a legal question. With this being written in under the objects section, does it have the same weight as if it were a section in some other part, for example, under the terms of reference for the board that they shall do this?
I have no problem with the object, but what would be a more solid legal case? Would it be better under the object section, or in a section covering the terms of reference of the board? I think it would be better suited under the terms of reference of the board, but I may be wrong.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: My understanding is that the objects section is a significant part of the act. It is not like a preamble. I would argue that the objects are extremely important and right up front. No matter where you put it, the definition of solvent compensation fund will always be something that the board is going to have to wrestle with. You cannot get around it, just like you cannot bypass democracy. It will always be there, and it is a good thing.
You will always have to be depending upon the common sense of the board, and that is a good thing.
I would strongly argue that, when you open up the bill, the first thing you look at is what is important. You should have it right up front. That is why the objects section is very important. It is very clear that it applies to the whole act, not just the assessment section of the board, nor the claims section, nor any particular operation. It applies to the whole act.
I do not think it is window dressing. It is important. I would expect that sections (a) through (g) be followed by the board. If the board did not follow the objects of this act, then there would be grounds for removal.
It was put here because it is an important section. It is important that we regard it as being sort of the first consideration, but clearly they depend upon someones judgment. What is an appeal procedure? It is simple, fair and accessible with minimal delays.
What is that? To provide disabled workers with rehabilitation to assist them to overcome the effects of work-related disability as much as possible.
Who decides that? Because one cannot put everything into the act - and in this particular case defining a solvent compensation fund would be virtually impossible - one depends upon the common sense of the board members. That is what we are depending upon here. To be perfectly frank, I am not afraid of that prospect because we have been depending on the common sense of board members for the last 20 years and we have not suffered.
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Mr. Lang: I have a question to clarify my interpretation here. Can a person who has his or her own business - who is an employer, a small businessperson - now be covered by the act? My previous understanding was that if one was the employer, one was not necessarily covered by the act. Is it mandatory?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To roll it all up into one principle, the general principle here is that everybody is automatically covered. A person can apply to the board to not be covered if he or she is not subject to the hazards of the industry - if there is no hazard and if they are not working with anybody else - but if one is working with somebody else, they are automatically covered, no matter what, whether they are an employer or a director. The whole purpose of this act is to cover every single person, and one cannot opt out. There is no way for a director to opt out or for anyone to opt out who is working with anybody who is covered under this act.
Mr. Lang: My understanding of the present act is that, if I am the employer, running my own business as a one-person small business, such as a carpenter doing contractual work for renovations, I am not covered under the present act. Is that correct? I am my own boss.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Is the Member asking whether or not a person working for himself is an employer?
The board has the power to deem anyone an employer. This discretion has to be exercised where there is difficulty in determining who an employer is or where a working relationship has been structured to get around the intent of the act.
The definition of employer provides the board with the power to deem a self-employed person, who has no workers in his service - a sole proprietor - to be an employer. The board can do that. They could exempt themselves.
One can always opt for coverage by buying in.
Mr. Lang: I thought that a person who had their own business, working for themselves, could not get compensation under the present act.
If I am working for myself, as I described, as a one-person contractor, do I have to apply to the board or am I automatically required to pay workers compensation? How does it work?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am having difficulty understanding what the Member is asking, and that may be my fault.
Mrs. Firth: You could opt in before but, now, you have to have it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Right.
Mr. Phillips: Is that the catch-all clause for the boards and directors of corporations and that type of situation? There was some controversy over including corporations in the act. If it is, how do you assess corporate board members? You assess everyone else based on salary or projected salary, but how do you assess board members of corporations?
For instance, there are a lot of small corporations - I myself own a very small corporation. Sometimes, you take a draw and, sometimes, you do not make any money out of the corporation or small business, especially in highway lodges, or that type of business.
How do you assess those individuals in those types of smaller businesses and smaller corporations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The board would have to make a determination as to what the directors fees would be, based on what evidence they could glean.
I did ask this question once before, and I will try to provide the Member with a more precise answer. I think that is the case, that they would have to deem an amount to be your income for the purpose of both a claim that you may make or for the purpose of assessments.
Self-employed persons are not covered under the old act. That was one question that was asked by someone.
Mr. Phillips: The reason I asked that question is because there are a lot of small corporations. They are small corporations, probably because, tax-wise, it is the best way for these small businesses to exist.
This may be a bit of a burden on the overhead of a small business. Some of the businesses want to opt out, and some of them do not want to be in the compensation fund. They have some of their employees in the fund, but they themselves do not wish to pay into the fund. These businesses wish to take care of their own well-being, if something happens.
Why was that choice taken away, and why are small businesses and small corporations not allowed to make that choice?
In some small businesses, this can be very expensive. For instance, a carpenter or a small construction company, corporate executives, president or vice-president, and in some cases, family members, may want to opt out of the act. Why are they may now included? It is going to be an added cost to these businesses, and they do not really want, nor are they asking for, the benefits. They want to reduce the costs of operating the business, and this has now become an added cost in the operation of a business.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is, but I would suggest to the Member to talk to a tax consultant. It is my understanding that a claim can be made against the directors for the assessments payable. It is not as expensive as the Member may initially fear.
The whole purpose of incorporating everybody is to ensure that everybody who works in an industry is covered. If you have a situation where a director is working side by side with a worker who is covered under the act, the worker has subrogated their right to sue anybody who may cause them to have an accident. Their only recourse is to the Compensation Board for compensation.
If you are a director who is not covered under this act and you are working side by side with that person when an accident takes place, then you can sue that worker, but that worker can only go to the board.
The purpose is to level the playing field. Everybody works under the same conditions and circumstances. They are all entitled to compensation; they all must pay assessments. Their rights to sue each other are all given up.
I would point out that many people in the private sector, on the employer side, felt this was actually essential, because they were working side by side with people, some of whom were covered, and some of whom were not. You think you have a compensation system that avoids the whole possibility of lawsuits, and you never know when you might be dealing with somebody who is working with you, side by side, but is not covered.
That is a wild card. There were a lot of people, during the consultation process, who said everyone should be covered, unless one is not subject to the hazards of an industry. That would mean one is not working side-by-side with people who are covered.
Mr. Phillips: I understand what the Minister is getting at. I heard arguments from business people on both sides of the coin on this one. Have we ever had a record of people actually suing? Has this ever been a problem in the Yukon? Do we have any statistics to show this is a problem and a loophole we have to plug, or is it just something that happens in other jurisdictions and we are trying to prevent it from happening here?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Probably more the latter than the former. It is much like any other insurance one might carry. I have had accidents. Some people have never had an accident before, but they still want to get the insurance. They do not like the opportunity for someone, under some circumstances, to sue them when they are assuming that the costs of compensation for accidents will be taken care of through this system.
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Mr. Brewster: Why is the cut-off for compensation age 65? There are a lot of people working well past the age of 65 these days. Are they not covered after age 65, if they are still working?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If a person happens to be working past the age of 65, say at 70 years of age, and gets hurt, he or she is entitled to compensation for two years. During that period of two years, the Compensation Board will set aside the amount of that persons compensation and put it toward an annuity for him or her. That is the scheme.
Mr. Brewster: I do not know where my head was but, there again, I do not always read what things say, but it certainly does not say that in subclause (2). It says compensation will not be paid after 65.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would cast the Members eyes down to subclause (3), which says that despite subsection (2), where a worker is at least 63 years of age or over - it could be over 65, it could be over 70 - then a worker is guaranteed at least two years of compensation. The whole purpose of the two years is that that is the amount of time it takes for someone to qualify to earn an annuity under this act. If a worker is 63 and has an accident and he collects for two years at full compensation, he gets the annuity to replace it. The annuity is not as much as full compensation but there had to be a bit of a saw-off here because the existing act cuts people off at 65; acts right across this country cut people off at 65, and the situation would be, clearly, that if we were to make the decision to cover people for life for wage loss then we would have to consider our benefit levels and our assessment rates. It would be a major cost to compensation. The annuity is established to cover off people beyond age 65, in retirement.
Mr. Brewster: I understand that, and I suppose it is all right, but I still think that it is rather touchy because an awful lot of people work past the age of 65 nowadays. There are lots of them, and they are being punished. We talk about our nice language, and I thought this was easy language. Then, right off the bat, we picked this one up. It says or over. Why does it not say or over 65", if you wanted to make it so that the average person could read it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This language could get really complicated, if you wanted to throw in a number of other considerations. I think it is clear enough for what we want to do here. We realize that it would be nice to pay people beyond the age of 65. This is a tough problem because, on the one hand you have a situation where a guy says, I am going to work until the day I die. I will never retire. I understand that. There are lots of those people. A lot of other people would naturally retire. Some people are trying to retire earlier than 65 - or 60. Some are insisting that they retire even earlier - 55. If one were to say, Look, we will carry the wage loss right through to death, who is going to admit that they were going to retire at 55? Nobody. They will want to proceed to collect wage loss right through to death, of course. So, it is a difficult problem to face. Because we have gone to a wage-loss pension scheme, this is a conundrum. This is a standard provision across the country. It is essentially in our existing act - the cut-off age is 65 right now. We have been living with it for awhile now. If there were no cost to it at all, I would definitely recommend that we pay through to well past 65 - to death.
We only have one minute left, so I will let the Member stew on that one overnight.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that you report progress on Bill No. 6.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: 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 a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 6, Workers Compensation Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Webster: 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 stand adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.