Thursday, April 30, 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 proceed with the Order Paper.
Is there any Introduction of Visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Devries: I would like to introduce my daughter, Wendy. She has been here before, but this is the last time she will be here with the name Devries. She is getting married in a few weeks.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Reports of Committees.
Is there any Introductions of Bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 47: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 47, entitled Yukon Advisory Council on Womens Issues Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 47, entitled Yukon Advisory Council on Womens Issues Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 47 agreed to
Bill No. 19: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 19, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 1992, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 19, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 1992, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 19 agreed to
Bill No. 101: Introduction and First Reading
Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 101, entitled An Act to Amend the Yukon Development Corporation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Member for Hootalinqua that Bill No. 101, entitled An Act to Amend the Yukon Development Corporation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 101 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers?
National Consumer Week
Hon. Ms. Joe: I rise to inform Members of this Assembly that April 27 to May 2 is National Consumer Week. This is an opportune time to emphasize the importance of educating and informing Yukon consumers about the marketplace. Our governments policy is to invest in healthy communities, and part of that investment means encouraging a higher level of consumer awareness. In short, the primary purpose of National Consumer Week is to show us that we can all become better consumers. When we purchase an item or a service, we are able to make the most informed choice possible.
We are living in a world where complexities in the marketplace out pace our capacity to understand them. We are bombarded by new goods and services that, introduced as luxuries, soon become necessities. Unfortunately, we do not give much thought as to whether they have really improved our lives, especially products that later prove harmful to the environment.
We must learn to be selective, deciding not only what is good or bad for us but what we need and do not need at a particular time in our lives. That is all part of being a responsible consumer and it is something that should be learned early in life.
We have set up a consumer information booth in the Qwanlin Mall. A consumer affairs official will answer questions and provide information to the shoppers today and all day tomorrow. Consumer tips will also be aired on local radio stations to give Yukoners advice on their rights and responsibilities in the marketplace.
Finally, a colouring contest will be held in the Yukon News for children aged three to 12. As part of the National Consumer Week, the federal government will introduce a voluntary national code of practice for consumer debit card services, such as access to automated banking machines with personal identification numbers. Tomorrow, as part of National Consumer Week, the Yukon and federal governments will issue a joint news release explaining the code in more detail.
National Consumer Week is the time to focus on our rights and responsibilities in the marketplace. As Yukon consumers, we have the right to be protected but we have a responsibility to make informed choices. Both require education and active participation, especially in a world where there is growing emphasis on environment-friendly products. A more informed consumer is a more confident consumer. Businesses that understand this and offer better customer service in turn become more responsive and profitable enterprises.
In short, our government supports National Consumer Week and commends all Yukoners who believe that better consumer awareness results in a better marketplace.
Mr. Phillips: We, on this side, support the efforts of the government and National Consumer Week. We feel it is extremely important to keep consumers aware of the best possible buys and the best ways to spend money. One of the things we are reminded of all the time in the Yukon is that Whitehorse seems to have the first or second highest cost of living in the country. Of course, we do not count our outlying communities; I am sure prices are even higher than in Whitehorse.
It is important that we do inform the consumers. I think we do have a very informed consumer public in the Yukon. Because of the high cost of living in the Yukon, a lot of people are fairly wise shoppers. I think this effort by the federal and territorial governments is a method of better informing the public of their consumer choices. It is a good program.
Ambulance service transfer and training
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I rise today to inform Members that on April 1, 1992, the transfer of the ambulance service to Health and Social Services from the Community and Transportation Services formally took place.
This followed a six-month co-management of the ambulance service by both departments, which ensured a smooth and successful transfer of the service.
As part of this transfer, the Department of Health and Social Services has prepared an interim training schedule for ambulance attendants that will remain in place until revised training standards are implemented in the 1993-94 training year. The department is currently preparing a discussion paper that will solicit comments on the long-term plan for the ambulance service, including training standards and issues relating to both permanent ambulance staff in Whitehorse and the volunteer staff in rural communities.
In beginning this review, it has become apparent that training requirements for ambulance attendants require updating and there are some immediate needs that must be addressed. Addressing these needs will ensure the continuation of quality service to all Yukon residents by skilled attendants.
Rural ambulance attendants are being offered access to a three-day course on basic trauma life support. These attendants in particular can benefit from BTLS as rural stations receive a high proportion of trauma calls. They need the skills to manage trauma situations and BTLS provides that.
To make things more attractive to rural attendants, who are usually volunteers, we will be directly offering the advanced first aid course, in 10 Yukon communities. This means that the rural attendants will not have to take their holiday time to come to Whitehorse to attend the two-week session.
Unfortunately, the accident rate and the number of trauma calls is expected to increase with increased traffic on the Alaska Highway this year, and we want to prepare our ambulance attendants, both in Whitehorse and in the rural communities.
We are also going to recruit an ambulance manager here in Whitehorse in the near future.
It has been an interesting six months while the two departments co-managed the ambulance service, and as we assume lone management, we face a new challenge - a challenge we are rising to meet.
Mr. Brewster: I am very pleased that the ambulance service has now been transferred to the Department of Health and Social Services and removed from the bureaucracy of Community and Transportation Services.
I am particularly pleased that the BTLS is now going to be a three-day course. However, I question the three-day course being in Whitehorse, since the rural members, for whom this course is intended, have to travel to Whitehorse and lose a days work to attend on the weekend. These people are volunteers and it is very, very unfair that they continually have to come into Whitehorse. This course was designed mainly for the people in the rural areas and yet, again, they have to travel into Whitehorse instead of remaining in their community.
However, this is better than nothing, and it is certainly a pleasure to see that, at last, the government has realized that this type of training had to be given to the volunteers.
This training is also very necessary this year with the increase in the number of people who will be travelling on the Alaska Highway. I am very pleased to see that this training is becoming available, and I wish the Minister would reconsider holding the course in Whitehorse, and move it out into the rural communities where the other volunteers can attend, so that they do not all have to travel into Whitehorse.
I am sure if the government moves the course to the communities, they will have more people attending, as these volunteers cannot continue to run into town to attend these courses.
Mrs. Firth: When we were travelling in the communities and knocking on doors, we found that this was a major concern of the volunteers and the people who work in the area of health services - the fact that there were not adequate training courses for them. In fact, the tickets of a lot of the existing volunteer personnel had lapsed and needed to be renewed.
I have spoken to some of those volunteers in the communities. Some time ago, the Minister gave me a letter announcing this, and the volunteers are very pleased about the fact that there is going to be some training provided. We support that, and we also support the transfer of the ambulance services to the Ministers department.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I thank both Members for their comments. I certainly hear what the Member for Kluane is saying about the time and the commitment that volunteers give to this program. I will discuss your suggestion with the department. Again, thank you to both of the Members for their comments.
Mr. Lang: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Point of order to the Leader of the Official Opposition.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Lang: I want to stretch the rules a bit. I never got the opportunity to recognize Ted and Anna Bartsch, who are in the gallery today. I want to take this opportunity, on behalf of all Members, to wish Ted and Anna a good trip to Kamloops, where they are moving. They have been good citizens for the community: Anna in her capacity as Justice of the Peace and Ted as a mayor of the community of Faro. They have served the people in other capacities as well and have made a great contribution to the Yukon.
I am sure our loss is going to be Kamloops gain. All the best in your future endeavours.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: On the same point of order, I, too, would like to extend, on behalf of the community of Faro, a statement of appreciation for the fine service provided by these two citizens, Anna and Ted Bartsch, over the years, in their various capacities, volunteering for numerous services, providing leadership in the community and, fundamentally, providing a sense of stability it required during difficult times.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Access House
Mr. Lang: Over the course of the last number of years, we have been discussing the issue of those of our young people who have, for one reason or another, got themselves into trouble. Some of these young people are now in custody at the young offenders facility or other facilities; others have found themselves homeless.
Last year it was brought to the attention of the Legislature that there was going to be a new program started, referred to as Access House, at 503 Lowe Street. A public tender was issued for a program to be privately run with specialized help. This program would help children who were having behavioral problems.
It has come to my attention that this service has been discontinued and that the contractors contract was not renewed. Can the Minister confirm that and could she please tell us why?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I believe that the Members information is correct. I will check that with the department and will confirm this with him.
He is correct that there was a contract with someone who was running what they called Access House. It was located at 502 Lowe Street.
The Department of Health and Social Services is directing more of its attention toward foster care, with the implementation of the new foster home treatment centre. The department is moving out of as many group homes as possible and this is part of that move.
We are training people to be specialized foster parents and are putting a considerable amount of our energy - and in some instances, dollars - into providing support for communities so that they may keep their young people in their own community. As well, we are in the planning process for the treatment facility here in Whitehorse.
Mr. Lang: According to the legislative return, Access House was located at 503 Lowe Street, unless the Minister has given misinformation to the House.
Has that contract for $360,000 gone out to public tender? If not, I want to know why that contract was not publicly tendered but just given to the present beneficiary of this large contract.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I would have to bring that information back. I have no knowledge one way or the other. I will bring it back to the Member.
Mr. Lang: Obviously the Minister is not up on this; I would have assumed it would have had to be a ministerial decision because the magnitude of the decision is in the range of $360,000. My question to the Minister is: is she the one who made the decision, or who would make the decision not to tender?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I recall signing the contract. As I said, I cannot answer whether it was publicly tendered or not. I am sure the department went through the proper procedure.
Question re: Access House
Mr. Lang: That will be a very interesting revelation when the Minister comes back with the results of what has taken place with respect to this contract.
My next question has to do with the same Minister and the same project. For the purposes of providing the service she told this House was so necessary almost one year ago, some very major renovations were done to 503 Lowe Street. Those renovations were costed out at over $50,000. Can the Minister confirm that that particular residence now will be empty and the detox centre is going to be moving into that temporary accommodation until such time the new accommodations will be built?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The facility on Lowe Street is a very old facility and I am not at all surprised that it required some renovations. If the Member has been by it recently or would like to visit it, I would be quite happy to take him there.
The facility will, indeed, be used for a detox facility, as the old detox centre, which now can only accommodate five people because the basement is no longer useable, will be emptied. We have been juggling people from one facility to another to try to make space to enable this to happen, without disrupting too much the people who know now where to find the detox facility; it is in the same area, so they will not be totally disoriented when they are looking for it.
Mr. Lang: I want to pursue this a little further. There was $50,000 spent on renovations last year for a specific purpose: to upgrade that facility. Now, it has come to my attention, with the facility being temporarily used for detox, further renovations are going to be required. Perhaps they have already been done. Can the Minister confirm that?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: If the Member would like me to bring back specific information about that facility and the various bits and pieces of renovation that are being done to that old building, I would be quite happy to do that.
Mr. Lang: When you put $50,000 of renovations into an old building, I would say it is getting pretty close to being a new building.
Could the Minister tell us exactly how much is now going to be spent to rerenovate the old renovated building?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: As the Member very well knows, $50,000 does not go very far on a building these days. He, of all people, knows about buildings.
If there were major renovations to be done on an old building, I am quite happy to bring that back. The Member may have information I do not. I will certainly bring that back to the Member. I have no problem with that.
Question re: Old Crow community learning centre, contract
Mrs. Firth: With respect to the Old Crow community learning centre, that we have found out will cost a grand total of $854,299.19, the contract was tendered and awarded to a company called Northern Project Management - a company the Department of Education had confidence would do a good job. It was awarded according to the contract regulations.
Could the Minister responsible for Government Services and Education tell us why he interfered and revoked this contract to give it to a higher bidder, the Old Crow Construction Management Team, contrary to the departments decision?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member knows why, because I sent the Member all the information she is correctly using right now - so far, at least.
When I was in Old Crow to discuss the construction of the learning centre, I had meetings with the band council and the Old Crow community learning centre campus committee, with members of the public in attendance in Old Crow. At the time, the demand was that they would like to see the people of Old Crow Construction manage this project, and they felt that they could handle it.
They felt that it was a project in their community and they wanted to have the full economic benefit.
I indicated that the project had been awarded to the company the Member cited. It was following that meeting that, through department officials, there was a request made to determine whether or not the person would be prepared to allow the next bidder, the company in Old Crow, to assume the project. There was an agreement. Subsequently, the department directed the project toward the band and the community.
Mrs. Firth: The reason that it was given to the successful bidder before the contract was withdrawn or revoked was that the department official was unaware that the initial selection required the approval of the band and the community campus committee.
Does the Minister support the principle that the board and committee should be able to override a contract that has already been awarded according to the contract regulations of this government? Is this his policy?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member has already used the language that the Minister revoked the contract and that the community is overriding the contract regulations. That is not what happened at all. A request was made to determine whether or not the successful bidder would be prepared to allow the Old Crow community to take management of the project. There had to have been agreement, otherwise it would not have been possible for that to happen.
Mrs. Firth: The concern we have here is that, by this interference, the project costs increased from about $375,000 to more than $850,000. It is speculative to say whether or not the successful bidder was in agreement with that. If someone is awarded a contract, they do not usually just give it up, particularly for this amount of money.
I would like to ask the Minister if this is going to become a policy that will be adhered to with other contracts, where community campuses and bands are going to be able to override contracts that have already been awarded.
We were not just talking about a veto. We are talking about an override of a contract that had already been awarded.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Again, the low bidder would have had to agree, because the community cannot override the contract regulations, and neither can the Minister revoke an awarded contract. In this particular case, the vast majority of the community and its leaders made it very clear that they wished this project to be managed by the community. The message could not have been clearer to anyone, so the effort was made, on my part, to determine whether or not the low bidder would be prepared to allow the community to take management of the project. That was exactly how it happened. I think there are lessons to be learned with respect to the construction of this particular facility because, clearly, cost overruns of such an amount are unacceptable. The Auditor General has reviewed the situation and, certainly, I think there are lessons to be learned for the department, and particularly for the community of Old Crow. I am certain those lessons have been learned.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project, funding
Mr. Phelps: I have a couple of questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, who seems to have somewhat of a split personality. One minute he is busy supporting labour unions - solidarity forever - and the next minute he is busy bringing into the country the avowed enemy of unions in British Columbia, the Kirkhoff group, by financing the Taga Ku project.
A few days ago in this House the Minister undertook to table a certain letter that referred to the ongoing negotiations with regard to financing Taga Ku and the need for loan guarantees. I am wondering when the good Minister is going to live up to his undertaking and table that letter.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to apologize to the Member; it has completely escaped my mind that I gave the undertaking to table the letter. No doubt, I was preoccupied with tabling the corrected version of the letter that the Member filed with the House. I certainly have every intention of tabling that and I will do so, perhaps in filing today or on Monday, as I did promise to table it.
While I am on my feet, I should clarify the information from the Members preamble, that the role of the government through the Yukon Development Corporation has been to provide a loan to the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation, who are project proponents, and it is entirely up to the project proponents to determine their construction choice for the project.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister does become somewhat sanctimonious and concerned about this letter that was tabled.
An old prospector from Carcross once told me that it is really difficult to stake out the high moral ground when you are standing in a swamp.
Returning to Taga Ku, this was a deal that was supposed to be beneficial to Yukoners and it has now become a situation where the proponent...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: ...is 50 percent Yukon and 50 percent Northwest Territories. In view of the fact that the only security, the $3 million mortgage, against the actual property and what has been completed on the surface of the property, is held by the Inuvialuit group, does the Minister think that it is beneficial to Yukon residents that, if this project goes broke, the only people who are going to get money out of it is the Northwest Territories group, and not the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me say at the outset that, from where I am standing at this point in the House, it is very high and dry. I am not sure what conditions prevail in the Members location.
With respect to Taga Ku, the project benefits are quite enormous. Last week, the proponents laid out to the Yukon public the scale of the benefits of that project, should it go ahead - not only benefits in terms of construction dollars, but in the jobs that will be provided by the enterprise, when it is up and running, and the tax revenue.
Most important, that facility will provide a tremendous boost to the tourism industry. If the Member is questioning the benefits, enormous benefits will be realized by the Yukons economy, as well as by the First Nations and the projects proponents.
Mr. Phelps: Spoken like a man who is just about to give some more money to the Kirkhoff group.
Does the Minister feel that it is a real fair deal and good for Yukoners when, apparently, the Inuvialuit group has billed the partnership in the project some $600,000 and apparently, about half of that is for management fees?
That is a good deal for the people of the Yukon, in particular the partner of Champagne/Aishihik.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is not my position to comment on the details of the proponents decision making surrounding the project. As the Member knows, we have been a lender to one of the proponents of the project, and that is the fact of the matter. The Member knows that, of all areas in the country, finding capital investment money is very difficult in the Yukon, especially if that investment has any risks associated with it. The Member knows that the project has some risk associated with it, just as any project undertaken in the Yukon would have similar risks.
So the Development Corporation, in providing their support to the project, acted entirely within the framework not only of their legislated authority and mandate but also in the spirit of providing risk capital to a very potentially strong economic initiative.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project, impact on rates by Northwestel involvement
Mr. Phelps: I am just a barefoot boy from Carcross, but from where I sit it looks like our friends from Champagne/Aishihik are getting squeezed out.
Another area of concern has to do with the $3 million mortgage that has been promised by Northwestel - I am sure the Minister is aware of it. I am wondering if he has any concerns about Northwestel financing this project in that manner because of the potential impact it could have when it reaches the consumers in the territory. I know the Minister realizes he must be an advocate for good telephone rates for consumers in Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not think that the Member should attempt to imply that telephone rates are somehow connected to this project. He knows - and I am sure that he will confirm when he rises to his feet again - that Northwestel has an urgent need to provide accommodation for their employees. They have every intention of constructing the facility with or without Taga Ku. That has been stated publicly by Northwestel and it has provided for some underpinning to this particular project. That is good.
I should also note that the project has been underpinned by Canadian Aboriginal Economic Development Strategy money, as well as a substantial investment by the project proponents themselves.
Mr. Phelps: The problem with the Ministers argument respecting Northwestel is that, on the one hand, they are paying very, very attractive rental rates when they move in. On top of that, there is this $3 million mortgage.
I am also concerned about the electrical consumer. Due to the rather negligent way in which the $2 million was advanced to this project, and particularly if more monies were to be advanced - money that rightfully belongs to the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, which are considered trustees for the electrical consumers of the Yukon - is the Minister concerned at all that this may, in turn, lead to a -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure precisely what the question was but I do know that the Member was attempting to somehow associate electrical rates with this project. Nothing could be more erroneous, just as Members have, for the past couple of weeks - more rightfully, for the past six months - been attempting to associate the Watson Lake sawmill to electrical rates. The fact of the matter is that any investment by the Development Corporation respecting projects around the territory does not have anything to do with electrical rates. Electrical rates are established by the Utilities Board on the basis of the cost of generating the electricity and a number of other factors, none of which have anything to do with the investment by the Development Corporation into strategic projects in the territory.
Here, again, Members are attempting to make an association when, clearly, there is no connection.
Mr. Phelps: I will move on to a different kind of supplementary on the same issue: the possibility of phasing in. Would this government support the project going ahead on the basis of it being phased in with the towers going in together with the retail space first and, possibly later, the hotel and convention centre complex?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am glad to see the Member utilizing accurate information from the corrected version of the letter I tabled.
I do not think it would be appropriate to provide much comfort in the line of the Members question, because I cannot. As the Member knows, the project proponents are currently attempting to restructure the financing package for the development. That package requires the full financing to be irrevocably in place.
The Member knows that has been the position we have advanced as a government, and that I advanced, as Minister, to the project proponents regarding any further financing.
In respect of the phasing-in potential, it must still be tied to the overall project financing. That is the current status I understand the proponents are attempting to develop in their restructuring efforts.
It may well be, and -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It may well be that there may be a form of phasing in of the actual construction. I do not know.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project, funding
Mr. Phelps: Waffle, waffle, waffle. It is really a shame, because the whole tendering process in the Yukon is under scrutiny because of this project. There were certain firm conditions set when the invitations to tender went out, and they have not been adhered to at all. It seems this is a government that will be pushed and manipulated by the proponents, as long as there seems to be a vote in it.
I am concerned about the financing. My understanding is that the complex, if it all goes ahead, is supposed to cost about $43 million.
The financing they have got, which is mostly based on the towers and retail space...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the question.
Mr. Phelps: ...is $35 million. Will the Minister confirm that this loan guarantee has to do with the extra $8 million that is needed, and that the Royal Bank requires guarantees before it will promise that money.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, I cannot confirm what the Member is asking, simply because we have not had any formal approach by the proponents about any further financing. I indicated that quite clearly to the Member previously.
There is, as was reported in the media by the proponents, a greater risk associated with the hotel/convention centre portion of the project than the office towers. That is an accepted economic and business fact.
Banks across the country today are very cautious about the financing of hotel developments. In fact, banks today in North America are the largest owners of hotels. There is a higher risk level associated with the hotel.
Mr. Phelps: These guys from the Northwest Territories, together with their good partners, the union busters from B.C., have muscled into this project. They are saying now that they have control and the first mortgage on the property and their hooks into Yukon taxpayers...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: ...and now they are saying that they will go no further unless they get some loan guarantees in the form of $2 million from the Yukon government. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That is not correct. As I have said to the Member, we have not had a request for further financing from the proponents. As I indicated to the Member previously, we said no to a blanket loan guarantee for $2 million. Those are the facts of the matter.
If the project proponents, in their efforts to restructure their financing, find the backing for their $42 million without this governments help, clearly there will be no call on this government for additional assistance.
Mr. Phelps: How does the Minister square what he has just said with the contents of the letter that has been tabled in this House that asks whether or not the government will provide a loan guarantee if the Government of Canada does?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: No. The Member is totally inaccurate in his allegation. This government has not indicated in any way whatsoever that it subscribes to any kind of conditions the federal government may set.
The facts of the matter are that it is believed that the federal government may support the project and may require the territorial government to endorse that support as well. That has not come to pass. Those are purely hypothetical and speculative suggestions.
Question re: Old Crow Construction Management Team
Mr. Nordling: I have a question for the Minister of Education with respect to the Old Crow learning centre.
From the information provided, it looks to me as if when the Old Crow Construction Management Team, the OCCMT, was formed in February 1990, it was prepared to follow standard tendering procedures and to bid on the contract for the building. Then, when it turned out that their bid was unsuccessful and another bidder was chosen, they asked the Minister to intervene, and the Minister did intervene. Is that what happened?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, that is not what happened. I will state again what happened, for the Members benefit, because he may not have been here when I answered the question just a few moments ago. When I went to Old Crow, I met with the Old Crow band chief and council; present at the meeting were the chief and council and the Old Crow campus committee as well as a number of individuals, although I do not know who they were representing.
The people at that meeting indicated a very strong desire to have the construction management of this project done locally at the community level. I listened to them very carefully and heard very clearly what they had to say; I talked to department officials later to determine whether or not there was any possibility that their wishes might be respected. I was informed that the only way to do that, of course, would be with the agreement of the person who won the bid. That person was approached, agreement was struck and the project was then allocated to the Old Crow Band.
Mr. Nordling: Obviously, the Minister either did not hear the question, did not understand it or chose not to. I did not ask him what happened at the meeting in Old Crow. Let me help him out because he needs it. I hope you will indulge me.
In February 1990, the Old Crow Construction Management Team was formed. In April, there were bids tendered. There were three proposals that were considered; Northern Project Management was chosen; the OCCMTs bid was rejected. Is that what happened? That was in May 1990, prior to the Minister going to Old Crow.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, that is what happened, but that is not what the Member asked me. With the greatest of respect, what the Member asked was whether or not the OCCMT approached me to complain about not getting the contract, and whether or not I then awarded them the contract. That is not what happened, but that is what the Member asked, and that is what I was responding to.
Mr. Nordling: I think it is clear now what happened - their bid was unsuccessful and the Minister intervened afterwards and gave the contract to them. Would the Minister give us an estimate of how much his intervention cost the taxpayer? In looking at the information that was provided, it appears to me to be almost $500,000.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is one particularly lousy way of painting the picture. Another way to paint it is quite simply to say that the Minister went to Old Crow, got a very clear message from the community of Old Crow about what their aspirations were with respect to this project - a very clear, unequivocal position from virtually every person with whom I came into contact, including the community leaders. Their intervention with me was significant enough for me to then approach the low bidder, who was working on another project in the community at the same time, to determine whether or not that bidder, who was awarded the contract, would be willing to allow the Old Crow community to manage the project. Agreement was sought and the decision was changed as a result of that, in order to enable the community of Old Crow to manage the project.
As a result of the project being managed at the community level, cost increases were incurred, including ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ... significant training costs, which were supplementary to the original contract. Yes, that is what happened.
Question re: Predator control/Aishihik caribou herd
Mr. Brewster: I have a question with regard to the decision to overrule the Wildlife Management Advisory Board on predator control for the Aishihik caribou herd. Was the decision to overrule the board made by the Minister, or was it a Cabinet decision?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Cabinet did review the recommendations of the Wildlife Management Advisory Board. I was to instruct my department to immediately begin planning a wolf-reduction program, and we accepted that recommendation as a Cabinet.
Mr. Brewster: Did the Minister recommend to the Cabinet that the decision should be taken to overrule the Wildlife Management Advisory Board?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Again, I want to emphasize that it did not overrule the recommendation of the Wildlife Management Advisory Board. The decision of Cabinet, which I recommended, was that it accept the recommendation, as I stated it. Another recommendation was to provide incentives, such as equipment, to trappers to trap wolves. That was also accepted.
Mr. Brewster: We have seen a bunch more hogwash coming through the line again. Why would the Minister and Cabinet override the Wildlife Management Board, when there are knowledgeable people on that board who had studied this problem for two years before coming to this decision?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member persists in making the same false allegation. I have already answered his question.
Question re: South Campbell tote trail
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister of Highways, with respect to the South Campbell tote trail.
From information that I received, the Department of Highways is planning to rebuild about a six-kilometre section, south of the Sa Dena Hes mine turn-off.
I recently travelled down that road and the whole stretch from the airport to the Sa Dena Hes mine is in terrible condition. I am seeking assurances that the maintenance and upgrading will be expeditiously dealt with, so that the ore trucks and the tourists can travel this road safely during the summer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can tell the Member that I have had similar information about the condition of the South Campbell Highway between Sa Dena Hes and the airport. As the Member knows from previous questions that he has raised during budget debates, we have identified additional funding for the maintenance of that highway.
As the Member knows, we have imposed a road ban on that portion of the highway and, in fact, given the reports that we are receiving surrounding the severe conditions that are occurring on that road, we are contemplating a further ban. That decision is being contemplated now.
Mr. Devries: During the spring session, the Minister also released the engineering study that recommended that improved signage and reduced speed limits be put on this highway beyond, and including, that section. At what stages are those recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: A number of the recommendations are being acted upon in terms of maintenance and upgrading. Again, as I have previously indicated to the Member, we have identified additional funding to be directed to that portion of the highway to straighten out a number of curves and widen a number of highway shoulders where the report identified deficiencies.
With respect to the speed limit, I expect that we will be imposing the reduced speed limits this spring.
Mr. Devries: I hope the Minister is aware there is more than twice the normal snowfall in the Frances River drainage area, which encompasses much of the South Campbell Highway.
Does the Minister have an emergency contingency plan in place, in the event that washouts develop during the peak runoff periods in late May and early June? There are many speculations that some of the culverts are going to be washed out.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is correct in his general assessment that spring runoff is potentially going to be more severe this year, largely because last fall there were more serious rains prior to freeze up and the ground is saturated such that the spring runoff could affect many of our highways. We are fully aware of this and the emergency measures branch of my department is in full communication with the various communities where we anticipate some problems. We have contingencies available to us should we have any problems that we have to deal with expeditiously, later on next month.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day and Government Bills.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 4: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Joe.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 4, entitled Victim Services Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 4, entitled Victim Services Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Victim Services Act will allow victim fine surcharges to be extended to territorial offences as well as Criminal Code offences. Previously, victim fine surcharges were only applied to Criminal Code offences and collected by the fine enforcement officer.
The Victim Services Act allows a 50 percent fine surcharge to be collected on such territorial offences as motor vehicle infractions and Wildlife Act offences. The act also puts in place the necessary statutory framework required to establish a victim services fund for the collection of victim fine surcharges and the regulatory power to administer the fund. The act establishes a victim services committee that will make recommendations regarding the expenditure of the victim services fund. All monies collected from fine surcharges will be contributed to this fund and will be used for the assistance and support of victims.
The act also permits the victim fine surcharges currently collected on Criminal Code offences to be merged with this fund and administered by the committee.
As Members opposite are aware, I have received notification from the federal Justice Minister that the federal government has withdrawn funding support for the compensation for victims of crime program. This program had been funded under a 75/25 percent cost-sharing arrangement. The federal Minister has advised that the territory will be required to fund the compensation for victims of crime program from the victim fine surcharge or any other means of its choice. I have, therefore, included a provision in the Victim Services Act that will allow at least some of the monies collected from the victim fine surcharge to be used to provide financial compensation to victims of crime, to the extent prescribed by the Commissioner in Executive Council.
The Victim Services Act represents this governments continued commitment to promote assistance and support to victims in the Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: We, on this side, will be supporting the bill as put forward by the Minister. I will have a few questions as we go through the bill.
A comment I have is that it must be a trend of the 1990s to provide funds for the victim. I would rather see the money go into prevention of the crime than funds for the victim. If we were more effective at preventing the crimes, we would have lfewer victims. I do have some concern that, rather than dealing with the problem of crime, we are dealing with the fallout from the problem. We should spend more energy in the beginning and deal with preventing the original crime.
Mr. Nordling: We also support the principle and goals of this bill.
Like my friend from Riverdale North, I will have some specific questions as we debate it clause by clause in Committee of the Whole, such as how much this victim fine surcharge is expected to generate for the fund. I will also have some questions on exactly how the fund will be managed.
Speaker: The hon. Member will now close debate if she now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I will be prepared to answer the questions and concerns of some of the Members on the other side.
In response to the comment from the Member for Riverdale North, this fund allows us to do other things with this money. It is not only for victims of crime. We presently have a number of programs in place to educate the public about abuse. Those programs are effective, to a certain extent. They make people aware that there is violence out there and that people are victims of it.
We all recognize that there is much more work that has to be done in order to work toward the elimination of violence in this country. That is a job for everyone.
So, we are expecting this money to be used to provide other areas of education for those victims and not totally to compensate the victims of crime. There will be a body in place to help me decide how that money is going to be spent. It is not a lot of money. Since this amendment was included in the Criminal Code, we have been able to collect something in the area of $40,000 to $45,000; that is over a period of about two or three years, so we will not be expecting a lot of money from it. Now that a surcharge will be added to territorial offences, we will expect the amount to increase. I will be prepared, during Committee of the Whole debate, to provide answers to questions Members may have at that time.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 4 agreed to
Bill No. 75: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 75, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Joe.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 75, entitled An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 75, entitled An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, be now introduced and read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The amended act will amend the 10-year fixed-term appointment for justices of the peace established in 1988 and prescribe a retirement age of 75 for all justices of the peace.
The amended act will repeal an amendment passed in 1988 and will help ensure experienced justices of the peace remain on the bench for a period longer than the 10 years prescribed in 1988.
These amendments recognize that justices of the peace should have the same guarantees of independence as judges and should not, therefore, have fixed terms of office. Removing the fixed term appointment for justices of the peace will also help ensure that experiences justices of the peace are not prematurely or unnecessarily removed from the bench.
These amendments are quite timely. Under the previous legislation, 12 senior and experienced justices would have had to retire in June of this year. These amendments will ensure that all existing justices of the peace appointments are guaranteed of renewal until age 75. This provision will ensure that the justices whose terms are due to expire in June 1992 will continue until they reach age 75 or resign, whichever comes first.
The Yukon Judicial Council has been consulted and is of the view that 75 is an appropriate age for judicial officers. There are convincing precedents for this age in other Canadian jurisdictions, including federal legislation governing appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The amended act recognizes the valuable role justices of the peace play in Yukon society. Removing a fixed-term appointment acknowledges this governments long-term commitment to our justices and ensures experienced justices remain on the bench.
Mr. Phillips: We, on this side, support the principle of the bill that is before us. I suppose the bill has come about partly as a result of the Opposition expressing concern, several years ago, when one of Yukons most respected JPs, Bill Thompson, was being forced to retire by this government, because he had reached the ripe, old age of 65. It might be interesting to note that that was about six or seven years ago, and Mr. Thompson is still a very prominent JP in the Yukon judicial system and doing an outstanding job. We are very fortunate to have individuals like Mr. Thompson to do those kinds of jobs.
We are glad to see that the government has finally seen the light and realized that after the age of 65 one can actually function and carry out ones job. We will be supporting this bill.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 75 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole back to order.
We will continue with Bill No. 6.
Bill No. 6 - Workers Compensation Act - continued
On Clause 3 - continued
Mr. Brewster: I have a question on that subclause. I now have the information that the Member said that I had yesterday. It was written on April 23 and it arrived on my desk on April 30. Also, I would like to tell the Minister to not feel too bad about it, because I remember the Minister of Community and Transportation sending me a letter from upstairs giving me 10 days to make a decision and that took 14 days to get to me, so I did not have to make a decision and did not feel too bad about that.
I would like to ask a question on this subclause: if the individual continues to work after 65 and has been drawing the same wages as the other person, are his wages put on that employers assessment roll?
The Minister seems to be puzzled. Does he understand what I am trying to say?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If a person does working past the age of 65, then the employer has to pay assessments based on that persons income, even past the age of 65. That is right, and I believe that is what the Member is asking.
Mr. Brewster: What I would like to know is: if this man is injured after age 65 and goes on an annuity, is this person going to draw the same wage as a younger person?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Initially, one would be entitled to two full years at full compensation. One is allowed a maximum of two years at full compensation. It is only after that period that one is put on an annuity. If, for example, you are 67 years old and you are hurt, in addition to all the medical treatment, rehabilitation and everything else, one is still entitled to two full years of wage loss compensation before one goes on an annuity.
Mr. Brewster: I find it is very unfair to the employer that he is being assessed normally when this man is going to get lower compensation after two years. He might live until he is 80 and be assessed the full time that he works. Therefore, he is getting a reduced compensation relative to his premiums. He is not on the wage-loss program at all; rather, he is on an annuity.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In a sense, that is true. You can look at it this way as well. Some employees maintain healthy lifestyles. For example, if an employee who is 25 years old, young, healthy, capable, does not smoke, does not drink and keeps him or herself in shape, gets hurt when earning $50,000, then the employer will be assessed at $50,000. That same employer might have some slobby looking person, like me, who is out of shape, drinks sometimes, does some foolish things, and is also making $50,000. The point of the matter is that the employer still has to pay an assessment on that $50,000 wage. The assessment is the same regardless, whether one person takes care of himself or one does not. The same is paid even though they are different employees with different strengths and weaknesses. It is a collective liability system. One takes advantage on it based on need.
Mr. Brewster: I would like to have that on record. I do not accept the fact that an employer should be paying the full assessment on $50,000 when, if the person gets hurt, all he gets is an annuity. I am prepared to pass it.
The problem is the statement the Minister made before that. It was probably one of the most truthful statements he has ever made in the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for verifying that.
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Mr. Brewster: On clause 4(b), what is an outworker? I have heard of outhouses, but never outworkers.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is a defined term, meaning it is in the definitions section, but it is basically a person who is a pieceworker. That is a person who takes materials home, does work on them and then brings them back to another business.
I would like to get something on the record that was left over from yesterday. I may have given the House the wrong impression on the issue of whether or not there were any problems with directors who are not covered under the act being involved in a lawsuit with people who are covered under the act. I left the impression that it was not a significant problem. I think I left that impression, anyway.
There were three such cases in the Yukon in the last year. It has proven, in fact, to be a fairly serious problem. That is one of the reasons why there are both employers and employees saying that this loophole had to be covered.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could elaborate a bit and tell us what the problems are that makes it so serious, without revealing any confidentiality or anything about the cases - just the general principles.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In the first case, a director was involved in an air accident and the worker ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Okay, that is one case. Another case involved a director who was involved in a very serious motor vehicle accident and died. An independent operator has expressed an interest in suing the estate. There are complications, but they all surround the fact that one person who has opted out, who has been working, has been involved and, perhaps, is partially responsible for an accident.
There are workers who have their own recourse to the board and there are other people who are working near the person who do not have the right to sue. Basically, the issue is that there are people who are covered under the act and people who are not covered under the act - all involved in the workplace and getting involved in accidents.
Mrs. Firth: Would those people not still have the ability to sue, even if they were covered under workers compensation? If everyone had workers compensation, they could still sue the other person. This does not prevent them from having the ability to do that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If they are both on workers compensation, then they cannot; the rights to sue are not there, unless the Workers Compensation Board makes the decision to sue a third party.
Mr. Lang: I have a question on clause 4. Subsection (2) says the board may, upon the application of a sole proprietor and subject to any conditions that it may establish, deem the applicant to be their own worker. I do not quite understand the implication of that section. What does it mean exactly?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Basically, it means that a sole proprietor can opt for coverage as a worker.
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Mr. Brewster: In clause 7(2), it indicates to me that, if the injured person is not satisfied with a medical doctor, he cannot change doctors unless he gets permission from that doctor, as well as from the Workers Compensation Board. Am I interpreting that right? It is on page 5, in the centre.
Chair: There is no clause 7(2).
Let us start again.
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Mr. Brewster: I am referring to clause 7(c).
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is the matter we were briefly discussing yesterday with respect to the issue of doctor shopping. The whole purpose of this is to ensure that the person has reasonable access to doctors, but does not simply go from doctor to doctor at the expense of the board, waiting for an opinion that is acceptable to that person.
If the medical opinion is incomplete, or if there is a reason for seeking another opinion, then the board would consider providing - and regularly do provide - more medical advice from different practitioners. The whole point of this is to discourage the so-called doctor shopping that can occur.
Mr. Brewster: I do not have too much problem with the board wanting permission, but if he is not satisfied with the doctor, why would that doctor necessarily get rid of the patient? The doctor may not want to pass on the referral to another doctor.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have to understand that the examinations are paid for by the board and the board has to be able to be in a position to manage its own costs and make reasonable decisions.
Now if a doctor suggests that it is really very important that somebody else review the claimants case, then they will put that in the report and the board will have to consider that.
Mrs. Firth: How many second opinions, so to speak, will the board allow and if an individual wants to go and get a separate opinion and pay for that opinion themselves, will the board take that opinion into consideration?
What I want to know is where the cutoff is and how that decision is going to be made. I know that there are cases where people have sometimes had to go to a doctor three or four times, and I think that is their right. I do agree with the principle that we do not want claimants doctor shopping, but sometimes that is almost necessary.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is not uncommon to have a number of different opinions in order to get a very clear picture of what the claimants physical condition is. I think that doctor shopping is something that refers to a person who knowingly goes from one doctor to the next because they are simply not getting the answer that they want.
I think that this is left to the board to decide. The board will decide how many opinions they will get. I do not know if the board decides on a standard number or if the board decides on a case-by-case basis. I understand that there can be substantial differences between cases.
I do know that there have been instances when the board has allowed a number of different medical examiners, because the board has not been able to obtain the information that they think they need.
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Mr. Brewster: Within a reasonable time is rather a loose expression. What is a reasonable time? If the person was injured in Whitehorse, one could say 24 or 48 hours. If they are up in Old Crow, it would take longer to get down here. What do you classify as being reasonable time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The example the Member cited is exactly the reason it is left loose like this. Reasonable time would be in the opinion of the board.
If a set period of time is specified, there are going to be times when there will have to be a breach. If someone is working out in the bush and cannot get in, or the communications are not good, obviously that is not as easy as someone who is injured while working downtown and can go directly to the board.
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Mr. Brewster: In clause 12(b), they have turned around and said the report has to be in within two days. Why would there not be reasonable time in there, too? As I pointed out before, it took seven days for your letter to come downstairs. Two days is a little rough.
I also had a letter from the Workers Compensation Board that was double registered, which took six days to come three blocks through our wonderful postal system. Two days is cutting it close here.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There has been some discussion surrounding this. The clause states that when the doctor has seen the patient, they have two days to send the report off. It does not say that it has to be received by the board within two days, just that the doctor has to get with it and get the medical information in, so that the claim is not unduly delayed.
This seemed to be reasonable, because there are doctors offices around the territory. When the injured patient comes into the office, an initial review is done then. The doctor has two days to fire that review in. It cannot sit in an in-basket. The doctor must fill out the form and send it in to the Workers Compensation Board, so the claim can be managed expeditiously.
It does not say that the claim has to be received by the board; it just says that the claim has to be sent to the board within two days. So if Canada Post gets in the way, nothing can be done about it.
Mr. Brewster: The other point is - and I have had it happen to me twice lately with my disability pension - I go to the doctor to get the forms filled in and they are to be sent to our office. Sometimes it takes a week or two weeks. Perhaps I do not have enough pull with doctors, but it takes that long to get it over to me. Any doctor I ever see is on a dead run from the time he gets up in the morning until he goes to bed at night. Sometimes these things just do not get across.
One came in not too long ago, and I finally had to send the patient back over to get it. The person brought it over to me so that he could get his pension plan. It is just like government; government does not get things out of their basket in two days.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In the first place, I always thought this was a reasonable sort of thing to do, based on what one is asking of a doctor. The doctor is being asked for a preliminary diagnosis as to what is wrong with the person. I understand that doctors have seen this act and I have not heard any complaints about it. I heard complaints about another section, which we changed to accommodate them, but I have not heard any complaints about this from the doctors.
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Mr. Lang: Should the requirement for an independent medical examination not be agreed to between all the parties, as to the practitioner who is going to be appointed as opposed to an arbitrary decision being made by the board?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The board is supposed to be the fair and independent arbiter of these things. What parties is the Member referring to? Who are the parties to the decision the Member wants made?
Mr. Lang: I am talking about the employer and the worker: all of a sudden, there is a dispute in the process, and an independent medical examination is going to be sought. For example, an individual is injured, but there is some dispute over it. He knows of what he deems to be a well-qualified specialist in the area of bone medicine, or something of this kind. If the employer agrees, should he not be able to see that doctor, instead of, say, a doctor in Edmonton?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am having a hard time finding out what the nature of the problem is. If there is a requirement to have a medical person arbitrate a particular case, or give another opinion, because the board does not feel it has enough information to make a determination, it will surely seek the information from someone who is qualified to provide the information.
If that someone is a specialist, the board will be seeking the information from a specialist, not another general practitioner. The board would have a list of people to refer to, depending on the nature of the case. Given that it would be expected to pay for it, it would determine who would be the doctor to see. If there was an objection by somebody saying a doctor was biased or inappropriate, I am certain the board, which is supposed to be a fair balance of interests, would take that into consideration. That would have to be part of its policy, in terms of how it selects medical examiners.
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Mr. Lang: How does this recommended pay out of $80,000 relate to other compensation funds across the country?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I anticipated the question, so I have some information for the Members. It is hard to compare with British Columbia because they still have the pension system; we have moved to the wage-loss system. Alberta, too, has the pension system. Saskatchewan has a maximum of $22,600; Manitoba has a maximum of $91,000; Ontario has a maximum of $50,000, plus or minus, in the same way that we have - over and under age 45; Quebec has a maximum of $68,000 at age 18 and a maximum of $34,000 at age 65; New Brunswick has a maximum of $37,300; Newfoundland has a maximum of $40,500; Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories are on the pension systems.
Mr. Lang: I was wondering how this amount was derived. Was there any rationale, or was $80,000 picked as a happy medium? How was the conclusion reached that this should be $80,000?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I guess it was the result of a lot of discussion. I think some people felt that a lump sum for non-economic loss should be considerably higher than $80,000. They felt that way because normally, in lawsuits, a loss of enjoyment of life is worth considerably more than $80,000.
Other people felt if you were going to apply an increase, you should apply it Ibased on the cost of living from the last time it was raised. Some people felt that it was inappropriate and it was too low to begin with. There was a lot of discussion about this point. Finally, the group zeroed in on $80,000 as being the happy medium.
Personally, I think that $80,000 plus or minus two percent at age 45 is quite reasonable. That is what we are referring to here. I think that it is a reasonable amount of money, given what is taking place here. If you are permanently impaired and you are totally disabled, this is in essence to make up for all non-economic loss of enjoyment of life. One could argue that money will never do that but this will go some distance toward doing that.
When one looks at the costing sheet on the page, it is a very minor sum in terms of the total cost to the compensation fund because it happens so rarely; but, when it does happen, it is pretty cataclysmic in a persons life. That is the reason why it is this size.
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Clause 27 agreed to
On Clause 28
Clause 28 agreed to
On Clause 29
Mr. Phillips: I want to clarify that this is the section that talks about the aboriginal traditional healing methods. I wonder if this is an either/or decision. If someone is injured, can they opt to go through this process or is it necessary to also go to a conventional doctor?
My concern is that if they went through this particular process, and whatever they had was not cured, but actually worsened over a period of time due to neglect, so that it cost a lot more money to heal and caused more problems and complications because it was not initially dealt with, is there a process whereby, when they are recommended for certain treatment, they can opt for either treatment, take both or do they have an alternative?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, one cannot read too much into this particular clause. If one reads the clause, the clause says that the board shall, where appropriate, promote mutual understanding, knowledge and respect between the providers of health services and the health care system and the providers of traditional, aboriginal nutrition and healing.
There is not a lot known by the non-aboriginal community about the healing that is available in the aboriginal community. This is the language that has been taken from the Health Act. The wording basically says that the board is under obligation to investigate and to work with aboriginal health care providers. Where they are satisfied, similar to any other medical treatment, that this is going to be beneficial to the claimant, they can consider it.
However, the board would consider it through policy, as with any other particular medical treatment. There is non-aboriginal treatment, that, over the years has proven to be damaging and so one can assume that this is not necessarily going to be a problem.
Essentially, this clause says to the board that it will work with aboriginal healers to try to develop a better understanding of aboriginal healing, so that if there is a determination that there are satisfactory healing processes in the aboriginal community, they can be used and paid for.
Mrs. Firth: If the board is prepared to do that, is it going to be prepared to give the same consideration to non-traditional forms of medicine? I am specifically referring to acupuncture and hypnosis; these methods of healing become quite controversial because if you accept the non-aboriginal healing methods, then you are going to be asked to accept that principle as being a form of medical treatment to come under the medicare system.
This clause opens this up. If the government allows this then there is no argument to not allow for other forms of non-traditional medical treatment.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As a matter of practice, the board really is held hostage to this medical advice and, if anything, it will generally turn to something it knows and something that is traditional to our community right now - it will go to doctors who are members of the medical association and it will consider its advice and use its advice. It is basically a decision for the board to make through its own policy, which determines how it will respond. As a matter of pure fact, it have always tended to live by the advice it gets from the general practitioners who advise it.
Mrs. Firth: I am not talking so much about the doctors. I am talking about the clients. The doctors I know are mostly traditionalists, as I am myself, but I know there are a lot of clients who may believe in non-traditional forms of medicine. This act could be the acceptance of non-traditional forms of medicine. Although it is traditional to aboriginal people, it is not in the context of the medical community.
I just want some clarification from the Minister - this is really what is being opened up here by putting this clause forward. It is the clients who go forward to the board saying This is my doctor. He has given me acupuncture and he has given me hypnosis; it has been a great deal of help; we think this should be allowed. Then the point is reached of having to either set a precedent or make a policy statement or decision.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In a sense, yes. The thing to remember is, number one, that only the board will decide what kind of medical services it will pay for and, number two, if the claimant refuses to follow the rehabilitation plan specified by the board or to undergo the medical care specified by the board, they may have their compensation cut off, subject to the boards determinations. If some crack pot advised a person to do something that is going to harm recovery, that would make a difference.
I am just saying that based on what the Member has just said. I swear it.
If some crackpot comes along and suggests that one has to strip down and walk through the frozen bush for 10 miles in order to purge their soul and if it does not help them at all, clearly the board can cut the person off. This would be done if they take an action detrimental to their recovery or refuse to take actions that will enhance their recovery.
Mrs. Firth: I am not referring to any extreme cases. I think the potential is there for some really legitimate cases to come forward. There are a lot of people who swear by acupuncture. They feel it is beneficial and that it helps to cure them. I know that the traditional medical practitioner would have some concerns about that kind of non-traditional treatment. If the board is responsible for making the decision as to whether or not the client is to be given that kind of consideration, it is going to be very difficult for them to do. If the board were to allow the client to have acupuncture, hypnosis or whatever, they would be setting a precedent. They would be paying for a treatment that is not currently covered under our medical services. This clause opens up that whole issue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It does open up that issue. There are probably billions of people who believe in acupuncture, if you take into account the East Asian continents. The whole point of this clause, however, suggests that because of the community in which we are living and because there are people who believe very strongly that traditional aboriginal healing really does heal, we, as a Legislature, should not discourage that. We are, in fact, going to encourage that understanding to take place. We would like there to be some room for movement here.
Clause 29 agreed to
On Clause 30
Clause 30 agreed to
On Clause 31
Clause 31 agreed to
On Clause 32
Clause 32 agreed to
On Clause 33
Mr. Brewster: I understand, in most cases, when you are not 19, it is payable to someone else. We have a lot of young people who have been away from home a lot longer than that. I hope this does not mean this would be paid to their family, when they may not have been around them for a number of years. I hope this money would get to them, even though they are not the legal age of 19 yet. It does not say that.
I see the Minister shaking his head, but I would like it in Hansard, so we have it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The presumption here is that the compensation will be paid to the worker; however, where it would be contrary to the best interests of the worker - the worker is not capable or whatever - the board can pay it to somebody else. That is all it says. The presumption in the practice is, in normal circumstances, to pay it to the worker.
Clause 33 agreed to
On Clause 34
Clause 34 agreed to
On Clause 35
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister tell us if this is the section that is also applicable to homosexual couples? Is this the one that permits that to happen? This is where it talks about the spouse? It is clause 36?
Clause 35 agreed to
On Clause 36
Mr. Lang: Did the drafting committee recommend this section for the bill?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know, but I will find out whether or not they recommended it. They would have seen the provision. They transmitted no objections to me. What is wrong with it?
Mr. Lang: It was my understanding that it was never in the bill that the drafting committee was involved in. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not think that is correct. I believe the drafting committee saw it when they last looked at the bill. To my knowledge, this has not been any kind of issue with anybody.
Mr. Lang: My understanding is that the broadening of the number of people who can apply under the act, especially from the point of view of a relationship, was not in the bill perused by the drafting committee. If it was, nobody really understood that the government was intending to do this.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The only information that I received from the drafting committee was the amount of compensation to be paid to the spouses and to dependants. I did not have any knowledge of any concern coming from the drafting committee or anybody else with respect to same-sex spouses. It implies that. It does not specify it, but it just does not preclude it. It does not specify that same-sex spouses will be considered spouses. It just does not say that they cannot be considered spouses.
Mr. Lang: In other words, the area that the debate should centre on is basically in the area of the definitions, as opposed to the section. Is that correct? Which section really ought to apply? I would like to be clear on this. I am assuming that it is the broadening of the definition section, as covered on page 61. I will wait until we get to section 61 to discuss it further.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the Member wants to deal with it in the definition section, that is fine. I would not mind if he tells me his concerns, if he has any, right now, but I would be more than happy to deal with it at any time.
Clause 36 agreed to
On Clause 37
Clause 37 agreed to
On Clause 38
Clause 38 agreed to
On Clause 39
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Apparently, the drafting committee did not deal with the issue of same-sex spouses. They did not deal with it in the sense that they had made recommendations, but they knew that it did deal with same-sex spouses, when they dealt with it.
Mr. Lang: While we are further pursuing this, I am wondering what other workers compensation legislation has that section in it, in other provincial jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will have to find out, because I do not have the information with me. I have what some other jurisdictions are doing with respect to spousal benefits, but not with respect to their treatment of same-sex spouses.
Mr. Lang: I do not think that it is necessary to hold this back, because really I think that the applicable section is under the definitions. Am I not correct? Perhaps the Minister could indicate that to me, because it is a question of how broad the definition is.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Let me put it this way: if the Member wishes to try and restrict the compensation only to heterosexual spouses, then he could try to do that in the definitions section.
Clause 39 agreed to
On Clause 40
Clause 40 agreed to
On Clause 41
Clause 41 agreed to
On Clause 42
Mr. Brewster: Under clause 42(3)(b), how does a court determine the amount of money to be paid for pain and suffering? This is something that has puzzled me for a long time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It has sometimes puzzled me, too. What I suspect the court does is use precedents to determine what has been given in prior cases and in like circumstances in the past. I understand that judges try to be consistent with other judgments in similar circumstances. It is an arbitrary amount, determined by a judge.
Clause 42 agreed to
On Clause 43
Mr. Brewster: This is one of the sections where I had asked the Minister to look at the Trustee Act to see if it is not too loose or to have the money in the compensation fund put into the Trustee Act due to the fact that it states a number of things. For example, it states that they can invest in real estate, which means they can invest in this hotel down here that is falling down - real estate is real estate - and that is what the Trustee Act says in the book.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the Member would notice that the boards investment policy does not include real estate, and that is done for some obvious reasons, I guess. That has been done, as I understand it, all along. The Trustee Act is meant to ensure that persons who are making management decisions - who are managing the investment funds - are doing so in a prudent way. That is the test, I guess. It is also a test that is identified in the Financial Administration Act itself, for the management of our own funds in trust accounts. This would be no different, I guess.
Mr. Brewster: This famous document, which the Minister does not like, suggests that it should be out of the Yukon consolidated revenue fund. The Minister said it goes into the Trustee Act. I talked to several people who are more knowledgeable than I, and they say that is very loose, so we may have another piece of paper saying they cannot do those things. But the law is the law and the Trustee Act says they can do these things. That is why we prefer to have it under the Financial Administration Act.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will try and make this clear. First of all, the compensation fund is part of the Yukon consolidated revenue fund, but it is protected under law, just like it always has been. The fact that it is part of the consolidated revenue fund does not mean that the government has any line on the fund or any ability to tap it in any way whatsoever.
With respect to the Trustee Act, it only provides a test for the decision makers who are making investment decisions. The Financial Administration Act itself contains the same tests for long-term trust accounts. The existing Workers Compensation Act uses the same test as under the Trustee Act for its own expenditures. Certainly, a person could be prudent and invest in real estate, but the boards investment policy does not permit investment in real estate. It turns those decisions over to a professional manager, whom they hire and have control over, and they define specifically what can be invested in under the policy.
There are a number of different tests; there are a number of different checks and balances in the act. It is not simply one. It is very difficult to provide one. There is a greater check and balance now than there was before but, even considering what has happened before, by itself, one should not have any great cause for concern because our experience, from 1973 until today, has been very good with respect to the investments that have been made under the act.
Mr. Brewster: When it is down in policy, a policy can be changed by any government that comes in. A policy is a policy, and it can be changed. Yes, it can. They can even change the compensation policy if they want to; governments do it all the time. On top of that, they keep saying it has been good for all these years. We all admit that; we all admit that a good group has been on the board for years looking after things, but that does not mean that we cannot have a failure. Look at the big finance companies who have much more ability than any of us and some of them have folded up. So it does not mean it cannot happen. We just ask that the Minister look at the trustee aspect and consider whether it should not have gone back into the Financial Administration Act.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Financial Administration Act does refer to the Trustee Act for the purposes of investing trust funds. That is all I am saying. There is no question about it - a government can come along and change the Workers Compensation Act; I do not doubt that for one second.
If they change the act and did something silly with the investment fund, it would be put in jeopardy.
The investment policy is the responsibility of the board. A board can come along and change the investment policy. Policies can be changed. What we are saying here is that it is a two-step process. The board has to initiate the change and Cabinet must approve it. There are, then, two boards involved in changing the investment policy.
The investment policy, we have to admit, is a very conservative one. It is likely to produce reasonable results. There can be a major failure in any particular investment. Since there is a mix of investments, however, which is traditionally what fund managers do, the chance for failure is lower.
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps we should put a further restriction on the board, similar to the investment restrictions placed on insurance companies through the federal Insurance Act, or look at the restrictions placed on trustee companies under the federal Trustees Act.
I understand the argument that the investment section in the Financial Administration Act in section 39 is too restrictive. In the past, where wills have set out that kind of restriction, generally the federal act governing trust companies is used.
The kinds of investments a trust company or insurance company may make are quite broad. There are pages and pages of stuff that is pretty hard reading. However, it would be another safeguard. Insurance companies are charged with earning money for insurance claimants and life insurance funds, on the one hand, and the trust companies have the important role of acting on behalf of the estates in most cases.
It seems to me that that is one further restriction that could be added here without really restricting the scope of the investment policy of the corporation in any serious way.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not going to pretend to be familiar with provisions of the federal legislation. I would make the commitment that if the provisions are as flexible as now exist within the boards investment policy, I cannot see any reason why those restrictions would not be possible. However, if they are more restrictive, I would have to take exception to it because, after all, we have a situation right now where we have had 20 years of success. There is no reason to believe we will not have another 20 years of success, based on our experience and the kind of investment policy the board has and the way it has exercised its judgment in the past.
I do not necessarily see a significant problem. If the Member will provide some information, then I will ask the financial people in both the Workers Compensation Board and the Department of Finance to look at it. If there is the same flexibility they have had in the past, I would be in favour of it. If there is not, then I do not see why we would put a straitjacket on a fund that is already in good condition.
Mr. Phelps: I agree with what the Minister is saying: it would be appropriate to have the experts look at the legislation. I can provide it.
It is fairly detailed and lengthy. It seemed to me that it would apply to, and allow, all these kinds of investments. It is something that might be stood over until they have had a chance to look at it and see if it is appropriate to put something like that in, in addition to the duty of care that is expressed in the authorized investment section of our own Trustee Act.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the Member would not mind passing the information over to me, I will take it from there. We can then stand over clause 47 and give it consideration. In any case, I am sure we are not going to finish with the act today.
Mr. Lang: I do not know what the Member for Kluane wants, whether he wants us to take section 43 inclusive to section 47 to make sure that we have captured the whole area of the fund, and how it can be invested.
Is that what the Member for Kluane wants? Is that agreeable to the Minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, that would be agreeable to me.
Mr. Lang: While the Minister is looking at this, I would submit for consideration that the basic, major concern that we have - and I think that the Member shares this - is that we want to make sure that the fund is run properly, and we want to avoid any appearance of political involvement in the administration of the fund.
The Minister was correct the other day when he stated that under the old act, the Cabinet or the Executive Council Member, indirectly, by regulation, could conceivably implement an investment policy.
Obviously, that was never done due to the political implications of interfering with the fund. This would be the subject of much debate on the floor of the House and in other forums. I understand that the drafting committee was adamant with respect to ensuring that the political arm of government was not going to be able to somehow get into the fund.
The point made is this: if we amend the sections that would clearly outline the broad parameters for the investment fund, then the approval by the Executive Council Member for the investment fund would not be necessary, because the parameters would have been set collectively by us in this House. It would be up to the Workers Compensation Board to do a mix and match of the investments, within the parameters as outlined on page 8 - perhaps, as another option for the investment policy statement that specifically states what categories the fund can be invested in.
The offensive section for me, and I think for most Members - I think that the Member would share this - is the implication or perception that the Executive Council Member may be involved in the investment policy.
I know the argument that the Minister has put on the floor and I have been told on a number of occasions that the reason the Executive Council Member is involved there is in case the board gets out of hand and becomes a little carried away with investments.
If we set the categories and the broad parameters of the investment policy, which has been so successful, into legislation and, secondly, make sure that the Executive Council Member cannot have the chance of being involved, which is in the new legislation, similar to the old legislation, then we will have accomplished what I think all Members want to see for the purpose of legislative protection for the fund.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will try not to take too much offence by this suggestion, because it would be extraordinarily easy to do so.
When the Member refers to most Members finding it offensive, most Members in this House do not find it offensive. Most Members of the House sit on this side of the House, and we are the ones proposing this legislation. Most elected people in this Legislature do not necessarily find it offensive. I have not seen anything, yet, which, in and of itself, is a rationale for it being offensive.
The automatic presumption that elected people are somehow irresponsible is not one I share. I understand there may be people out there who just do not like politicians, but it is not a presumption I share. I do not automatically regard Mr. Devries from Watson Lake, because he is a politician, as having a greater chance of being irresponsible than anybody else. I cannot and do not accept that.
The system that is being proposed under this act is a two-stage process. There is an appointed board that is at arms length from the government. This board will make decisions on behalf of industry and labour and is responsible to somebody in this House, who is elected. I really believe in that system. There are all kinds of good reasons why people are appointed and are doing things at arms length, but I do not believe in cutting the ties altogether. I do not believe in that at all.
I think that a lot of the discussion around this issue has been bootlegged. It has nothing to do with the experience of the board; or the experience of the fund, because the fund is healthy and is one of the healthiest around; or the experience of Cabinet Members in terms of their own decision-making process, or anything else. It has everything to do with an issue that has absolutely no relation to the workers compensation program in this territory, and that is the Watson Lake sawmill and Taga Ku. It is something completely different - different programs, different mechanisms and altogether a different decision-making process.
I fail to see, based on the experience of the current and the previous governments, my own actions in this Legislature as Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board, or anything else, a justification for the assumption that, somehow being an elected person is going to endanger this fund. I cannot accept that.
Mr. Lang: The Member takes things so personally sometimes. I would like to point out to the Member across the floor that his tenure here is limited. He will not be there forever. He may think that he is invincible. He may think he has the god-given right to be the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board for the next 20 years. I am here to tell you that, in the world of political reality, he will not be sitting there. I hope he does not find that offensive. In time, change takes place. This applies to all of us, not just the Member for Mayo, whose riding is disappearing.
First of all, if I thought the Minister was going to be in charge of the compensation fund for the next 20 years, I would not have a problem. I will put that on the record, because I think he understands compensation probably better than anyone else in this House. He knows the importance of it, is committed to it and would be a good guardian of the fund. He has more than demonstrated this by bringing in this new act.
I am not trying to be offensive to the present Minister. I am concerned, however, about our legislating an act where the political arm of government can get into this fund. It is stated here much more clearly than in the old act that government would have access to the investment policy of the fund.
In the past, the Minister has been correct that the government has never interceded in the investment policy of the fund, no matter who was there, whether the previous or present government. Perhaps the Minister can tell me if I am wrong on that.
How can the Minister justify his point of view that the broad criteria for the investment policy is not to be expressed in the legislation we have before us, yet, at the same time, we refer specifically to section 39 of the Financial Administration Act and exempt ourselves from it? That section is there to tell the Minister who is responsible for Finance and the civil service how they can invest the surplus dollars of this government in a broad way, not how to do their job or how to invest on any given day. That is the job of the experts.
To follow the logic in the Financial Administration Act and this one, I am saying, as an elected Member who knows that this legislation will probably not be looked at for a long time - one hopes, because I think it is fairly well-written - we should make sure the fund is as secure as we possibly can make it.
If we make sure that the fund is as secure as we can make it and create broad parameters as to where the investment policy should lie, I think we will have accomplished everything.
I want to conclude by saying that it is almost the impression that is being given to this side - and I think the Minister should heed my words - that if any of the Members on this side bring up a suggestion, it is stupid, out of order and nonsensical. On a piece of legislation such as this, it should not be seen as partisan. If the intimation is that we are going to stand here and have them tell us that this side is opposed to workers compensation, we probably have the best advocate of all the elected Members here, on behalf of individual cases, in the MLA for Kluane.
The Member for Hootalinqua, the Member for Kluane and I have concerns about the way the act is written. I am not asking for the Minister to make a decision today. I am asking the Minister to consider what we are presenting to the House, take some time, see if our point of view is valid, and how they can modify, to some degree, the present bill to meet the objectives we both say we have.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It must be the tone of my voice that has put the Member off, but let me put it this way: I have not accused the Members opposite of being anti-workers compensation; I have not accused the Members of being out of order or being stupid or anything else; I have not said that no matter what the Members opposite say I will disagree. I have just spent half my time agreeing with the Member for Kluane on concerns he has raised.
One of the things the Member says is that we have intentionally ensured that the Financial Administration Act will not apply in section 39, partly because we want to ensure that the boards investment policy can hold force and effect. That is the reason why we do it.
Look at section (9) of the power to invest; it says with respect to trust funds...
Mr. Lang: What is the Minister referring to?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Part 4, section 39 of the Financial Administration Act, Power to Invest, subsection (9), dealing with trust funds.
Some Hon. Member: Is that the bill? Okay, got it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Dealing with trust funds, it says the Executive Council Member may invest the money in any investment permitted by the Trustee Act. That is the test - the prudent person test.
It is in the Financial Administration Act. The reason for exempting ourselves from the power-to-invest clause is that we do not want the Executive Council Member investing the workers compensation funds pursuant to the Trustee Act. We want the boards investment policy to apply.
The reason I am taking the position I have taken so far is not because I feel - contrary to the words of the great Ken Bolton - that I have rice-skin paper -
Some Hon. Member: Rice-paper skin.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. Okay, let us not get off on a tangent here. It is only because elected people are accountable to the public and accountable to this Legislature. When something happens, there is an opportunity to regularly come in here and tackle the person who is responsible for the decision. Right now, it happens every day.
Mr. Lang: With good cause.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With questionable cause in most instances. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity for it to happen every day. This is the forum that where it all happens. This is the most accountable forum. Having the Minister be responsible is the most accountable that you can be in a democratic society.
I do not think that we, as politicians, can simply slip into this perspective that, because some people object to politicians or think that politicians are, as a group, unmerited, we should feel that we should agree with them.
Presumably, we respect this institution. I respect this institution very much. I have only been here for 10 years, and that may be all of the time that I am here. There may be somebody else who comes in but, no matter what happens, somebody is going to be democratically accountable, through the Legislature.
This desire to be non-political is a desire for non-accountability, and I do not agree with that.
Besides that, Members could not have been reading this act, because what the act says is that, in order to change the policy, the board must initiate the change and the Cabinet can only consider the change.
The Member will appreciate the Employment Standards Act. You will recall that, when the Members opposite were in government, we had a debate about the Employment Standards Act and the issue of setting the minimum wage rate and the fair wage schedule. The position of the government of the day was that only the Employment Standards Board could initiate the change. The Cabinet could not one day come in and say that it is now going to be $6.49 per hour or $7.00 per hour. They had to get some solid recommendation from the Employment Standards Board first and, then, they could either agree to it or not.
That is exactly what is being proposed here. It is a check in the checks and balances. It is not an initiator of a change, and it is not money-grubbing politicians trying to get their hands on the money. I really find that whole designation offensive, because I do not regard politicians in that light. I say this generically, and not only myself. I mean everybody, including the Members opposite.
I think that we all feel that we have a higher purpose in this Legislature, and we should feel proud of that.
All I am saying is that, as a second check, if the board initiates a change that would affect the range of investments that could be invested in by the fund manager, the Cabinet could either approve or reject the changes. That is what is being proposed. I hope Members understand, because it is no more than that.
Mr. Lang: Perhaps the Minister knows some of his colleagues who used to be in charge of Workers Compensation. Has the Minister had any active discussions, at any time, with any members of the Workers Compensation Board, direct or indirect, about investing in various investments or projects in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I had a conversation last night with a Workers Compensation Board member about what they have invested in and what their investment policy is.
Is the Member asking if the Cabinet of this government, or I, has ever gone to the Workers Compensation Board and said it should invest in such-and-such a project?
Mr. Lang: No, just in general discussion.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Does the Member ask if I have ever said the board should invest in Watson Lake Forest Products, or anything else? I have never suggested it should invest in anything.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister verify that the policy has been that the government has to guarantee the boards requests for investments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The subject of government guarantees and investments came up in the conversation last night when we were talking about the investment policy, and what the investment policy meant. The subject of government guarantees was part of the discussion. But, the government, to my knowledge, has never offered to guarantee, and I am unaware of the government or any other Minister ever asking the Compensation Board to invest in anything in particular.
I think that the Premier, on the record and in public, has stated that he thinks that the Workers Compensation Board should invest in the Yukon. I have already checked with one, but I have never known any Minister who has asked the Workers Compensation Board to invest in any particular item.
I think that it is important to point out that the investment manager makes the investments, not the board.
Mr. Lang: The investment manager does it under whatever the policy of the board is. The board has to follow those broad parameters.
I would like to get back to the principle that I am speaking to. I would like the legislation to say - in broad parameters - what the investment policy will be and to allow the latitude. At that stage, I am submitting to the Minister that he or she does not have to approve the investment policy; the Legislature has approved the investment policy. If there are going to be recommended changes to the investment policy, they should not go just to the Executive Council or the Cabinet. Changes that will affect the fund should have to be made by regulation that would then have to come back to the House.
I do not think what is being asked is exceptional. If we take a look at all the legislation that we have, the broad policy parameters are set out in the bills and the government of the day has to work within those parameters; for example, the Financial Administration Act. We give certain authorities and certain parameters. It is there and it is written down. That is all that we are asking for this section.
I see that the Chair is indicating that it is time for a break.
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will take a break.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Phelps: Pursuant to discussions just before the break about the investments that federal trust companies are limited to and the type of investments that insurance companies are limited to under the Insurance Act of Canada, I have given a copy of what I believe to be the relevant sections of those two acts to the Minister. I will simply table a copy of each.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We agree that will stand over clauses 43 to 47.
Clauses 43 to 47 stood over
On Clause 48
Clause 48 agreed to
On Clause 49
Clause 49 agreed to
On Clause 50
Clause 50 agreed to
On Clause 51
Mr. Brewster: When calculating assessments, they keep asking people to remit their assessments one year in advance. This is particularly difficult for lodges and similar businesses.
I would like to make a suggestion that they go on the payroll assessment of the year that has been turned in and then make an adjustment at the end of the year.
I will point out the reasoning for this. If there is a washout on the highway - and there is no way that these businesses can predict this - it could be closed for three weeks. It would become necessary for the lodges to lay off half of their staff, resulting in a higher assessment than what they actually have.
Whereas, if the assessment was calculated on the payroll of the previous year, then it is quite simple for them to include this when they fill out their income tax, which is done at the same time, at the end of the year.
In this way they are not guessing and possibly paying a lot of money on the assessment.
If the highway is blocked, the highway lodges are completely shut down, and that means that most of the highway lodges find it necessary to lay off their staff. They cannot afford to keep staff for two or three weeks when they are not working.
If the assessments are based on the previous years payroll figures - now I am only making a suggestion here - the government can look at it or do whatever they want with it - but, this would make it much easier for businesses of this nature.
In my travels, this is one of the complaints that the highway lodges told me about. They have to make assessments on something that they are uncertain about, but they cannot guarantee anybody work, because if the highway goes out, if there are forest fires closing the road for two or three weeks, their entire payroll is completely changed.
Most of these businesses payrolls are assessed on the previous summers work and that is when these washouts and fires occur. The fires block the highway or floods make the roads impassable, then it becomes necessary for these lodges to lay off these people. It is very hard for them to estimate their payroll in these circumstances.
They can make an estimate and get a refund. I do not have a problem with that. Also, the Workers Compensation has a bunch of their money, which they could use quite handily to buy stock. If their assessment was on their previous payroll, then at the end of the year, or halfway through the year, they could make an adjustment if their payroll was now higher. This is simply a suggestion; I would like to hear what the Minister thinks about it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Not being responsible for assessments for the Workers Compensation Board, I could probably agree to just about anything.
Clearly, I think there is an expectation that assessments are paid in advance, as a general proposition, simply because you want to be assured that you are going to have the revenue coming in. You do not want a situation where someone decides at the end of the year that, now that they have taken full advantage of their compensation, they will not pay their assessments and will walk. Obviously, we do not want a situation like that; that is not what the Member is suggesting. As a general proposition, you want to guard against that kind of thing happening.
In section 51(b), where it refers to providing assessments by installments, there is some flexibility.
Apparently, just for Members information, the board requires the estimate once a year but it can be adjusted any time up to the end of the year, so if there is an overpayment money can be returned, or it can be paid by instalments. There is some flexibility in the way the assessments are paid but they do expect some kind of estimate at the beginning of the year; of course, if the highway lodge, as in this particular case, is out, it can be readjusted and the highway lodge in that instance will pay less in assessments by the year-end.
Mr. Brewster: I am not clear on this. There is no assessment. There is a whole payroll for the year before and their payroll will not vary by that much; they might vary for a year like this year, by about 10 or 15 percent. So they do have an assessment they have to pay on: the payroll of the previous year, and they are really only talking at the most about 10 or 15 percent.
They are paying on the payroll for the year before. If they have washouts and floods, it might even be too much and there might have to be a refund.
If their payroll goes up, they pay the difference; if the payroll goes down, then Workers Compensation pays them back. It is an even ball field.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not disagree.
Mr. Brewster: I see that the Minister is shaking his head. I am not sure what it meant, but that is what it is.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I was not shaking my head as in I do not believe anything he is saying. I was nodding or moving my head, indicating that I agree with the problem that the Member identifies and I believe that there is some flexibility in the board to be able to respond to that. They can do it through their own policy.
Mr. Brewster: At least I got him back up to say something and not to shake his head at me.
Clause 51 agreed to
On Clause 52
Clause 52 agreed to
On Clause 53
Clause 53 agreed to
On Clause 54
Clause 54 agreed to
On Clause 55
Clause 55 agreed to
On Clause 56
Clause 56 agreed to
On Clause 57
Clause 57 agreed to
On Clause 58
Mr. Brewster: Am I correct in understanding what is being said here? Let us say, for example, that you hired a contractor to build your house and then you went to Hawaii, and that you did not pay the compensation. When you come back from Hawaii, are you saying that they could collect that money from you? Is that what we are talking about or am I misreading this?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The employer is liable for assessments. In the case of a contract, the subcontractor is liable with the contractor for the Workers Compensation assessments.
The principal may withhold monies to ensure the workers compensation is paid. This is something to ensure that people do pay these assessments.
Mr. Brewster: The Minister is making an ordinary citizen collect money for the Workers Compensation Board, because he wants a house built, or something like that. That is up to the contractor, not the person for whom the house is being built. He has nothing to do with this. He contracted out to build a house; he is not an employer.
The Minister is making every citizen on the street collect money for the Workers Compensation Board. I will disagree and vote against that section.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member has been living with that particular clause since the last time this act had a substantial amendment. It is in the current act.
It is not a provision that is new to the Yukon. There are provisions in other acts in other jurisdictions that are virtually the same.
I do not know what more I can add. Just to ease the Members anxiety, based on the information I have just received, the home owner is not considered an industry or an employer. Consequently, they would not be held liable for the compensation. The general contractor, who would be considered the principal, would be held responsible for the compensation owed by his subcontractors.
Mr. Brewster: I was beginning to think that, after 20 years, it could have been in there. We are here to improve legislation.
Why are the general contractor and subcontractor not in there? This legislation is supposed to be easy to read. It is just through questioning the Minister that I realize home owners have been spared from being involved in this. We now have this recorded in Hansard. It is certainly not in the legislation.
I am going to vote against this, unless the meaning of the word principal is made clear. It is just not clear.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is sufficiently clear to me. I will vote in favour of it.
Mr. Phelps: It seems to me that the Minister is confusing policy with law. With respect, if one reads clause 58, it says, Where any work is performed by a contractor for any person or organization, say a homeowner, (the principal)" - to me, principal means the person contracting, not the contractee. With the greatest respect, I think the hon. Member for Kluane is quite correct.
If it is the intention of the Minister, on advice from his board, to try to make it very clear that this does not apply in the situation the Member for Kluane has given as an example, surely now is the time to make sure it is clear. When I read clause 58(1), the owner of the house or the person having his house fixed or built would be the principal.
I agree with the policy the Minister enunciated. Let us make sure it is law.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We will stand the clause over, and I will come back with some more information respecting the clause. I do not have the same problem as the Members have. I will ask for further clarification, because I would like to put Members minds at rest. We will stand it over and come back to it later.
Mr. Brewster: My colleague from Watson Lake tells me that the definition of principal is not even listed in the definitions. That might be an easy way to make it clear what exactly principal means.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have already made the suggestion that we stand over clause 58, and I would suggest that we move to clause 59.
Clause 58 stood over
On Clause 59
Clause 59 agreed to
On Clause 60
Clause 60 agreed to
On Clause 61
Clause 61 agreed to
On Clause 62
Clause 62 agreed to
On Clause 63
Clause 63 agreed to
On Clause 64
Clause 64 agreed to
On Clause 65
Clause 65 agreed to
On Clause 66
Clause 66 agreed to
On Clause 67
Mr. Brewster: On clause 67(7), we have principal in here again. I hope that will also be looked at.
Clause 67 agreed to
On Clause 68
Clause 68 agreed to
On Clause 69
Clause 69 agreed to
On Clause 70
Clause 70 agreed to
On Clause 71
Clause 71 agreed to
On Clause 72
Clause 72 agreed to
On Clause 73
Clause 73 agreed to
On Clause 74
Clause 74 agreed to
On Clause 75
Clause 75 agreed to
On Clause 76
Clause 76 agreed to
On Clause 77
Clause 77 agreed to
On Clause 78
Clause 78 agreed to
On Clause 79
Mr. Brewster: On clause 79, subsection 2, why should the Compensation Board be able to give information that is provided to them to other government departments?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Workers Compensation Boards typically share information with each other. They have interjurisdictional agreements to ensure that all workers, all businesses and all parts of the country are covered. They share information with each other about claim files and also about employer information as well. That is the purpose of this clause.
They also have agreements between boards and governments.
Mr. Brewster: It does not say that. I have no problem with information being given from one compensation board to another. I do have a problem with the Workers Compensation Board giving information to governments. That could mean anybody, does it not? It could be giving information to governments for other things. Why does it not say from one workers compensation board to another? I do not have a problem with that, but giving it to governments leaves it wide open to giving information to welfare or to anybody else.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I know this argument does not impress the Member at all but I will say it anyway. There is no change in this provision from the current act. The Member has been living with us for some time.
It probably would impress the Member for Porter Creek East, who continually says, If it aint broken, do not fix it. I will find more information for the Member as to exactly what kind of information that may be provided to another government. I think that it is perfectly reasonable that information be provided to other boards.
Mr. Brewster: I agree 100 percent that they may provide information to another board. I do not agree with the clause, which says information may be provided to other governments. I am also getting a little sick of hearing that it is in the existing legislation. We are here to make better legislation. It appears that the old legislation goofed and we are here to correct it. Let us correct it and not just say that it is in the old legislation and that is good enough. That is not good enough for me.
Does this not mean that if the Department of Welfare in Quebec asked for information from the Compensation Board, they could get it, since it is a government? Can you tell me this is not true?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First, the board would have to agree to give the information. The board is the protector of the workers and employers rights. Quite typically, the board has agreements with other boards, and it will also provide statistical information to Statistics Canada. That is another government.
I do not see any particular problem with that. The only reason I raised the issue of whether or not it is in the current act - I do not agree with a lot of what is in the current act, and that is why we are changing this - is because there is a lot in this bill that is in the current act, largely because there have been no problems with it. If no one has identified it as a problem, why change it?
There is a lot in this act that has not been changed. It is reasonable that the board might provide statistical information to Statistics Canada for their purposes. Why not?
Mr. Brewster: I still have a problem, and I know this happens. I can give you an example. We went through a census here, which is supposed to be just for the census. Between my wife and I, we have had two other government departments phone us, because they got information from the census and they wanted more from us.
I do not trust governments being on there. It should be Workers Compensation Boards.
As far as giving stats to the Bureau of Statistics, you have to do that, because that is the law. You do not give any private information.
That says governments, and there is nothing saying the Workers Compensation Board cannot give private information to another government. There is nothing in the law saying they cannot do that. We have to trust them. I think we all know that people are fed up with trusting government. They are fed up with the whole bunch of us, and things like that do not help.
I might say that he has said that nobody has made any complaints. This legislation has not been reviewed for many years. I do not think he thinks we read through this every day, trying to pick out spots in old legislation. We are here today to correct this legislation. Let us do it properly.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In this particular area, I do not agree with the Member. If I go into a lodge in my own riding, and somebody mentions this as being a problem, then I would identify it as a problem. If people care about it and identify it as a problem, then it is a problem.
I have not heard of this being a problem until this moment. The only person I have ever heard it from is the Member for Kluane.
If the solidarity works the other people will stand up and say that they believe in the Member for Kluane. I have not heard any concern about this from the public. It has gone through 10 months of consultation and I have not heard the concern.
The issue is whether or not we trust the board to provide the right kind of information. The Member is saying that the board is basically another government and that he does not trust it. Here we are saying that we should trust it absolutely with the investment policy and elected people should not have any say at all, yet it is not to be trusted this way. Are they good commonsense people or not?
For statistical purposes, I do not see why the board cannot give that information. Should we have some sort of a knee-jerk reaction because we hate governments and boards? I think the Member will have to provide a little more information.
Mr. Brewster: It does not even say it will supply the information to the Bureau of Statistics. It just says it will supply information to governments.
Let us grow up and look at this thing. The Member says that this was never mentioned at any of the hearings. There was probably no one at the hearings who had ever read this. They count on the people they elect to this House to read these things.
As far as hearings are concerned, I had more hearings in my area and I do not think we averaged 55 people.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Frankly, I do not understand what that was all about, but the point that has been made is that there have been provisions made within the act and I have not heard any complaints until now.
The Member is imagining that there is a problem out there. I know of no problem and if the Member can identify and show me a problem, where the board has shown bad judgment, and between all of us we agree that this is the case and we should prevent the board from ever doing that again, then I will put enough little bureaucratic rules in this act to prevent them from doing anything.
But, if the Member is saying no for the sake of saying no, then I would expect some more information from the Member. I think that is a reasonable request.
Mr. Brewster: In the first place we would never know if the board exercised bad judgment, because that is inter-departmental information that goes back and forth between them on a teletype machine. You and I would never know it, unless we happened to see a particular case.
I think that we should all grow up and realize that this is going on all of the time in all of the departments. All governments, including the RCMP, are receiving confidential information that they should not be receiving.
All I am asking is why they did not have one Workers Compensation Board to another, instead of Workers Compensation Board to another government.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member has just demonstrated his experience in the world by identifying the latest technology as being the teletype machine.
The point I am making is that I am saying I trust the common sense of the people on the board. They have the power to make these rules, set policies, et cetera. I personally do not see any problems with providing information to Statistics Canada. In fact, I think Stats Canada does its job, and for people who do statistical surveys and get us the kind of information we need in order to make good decisions and know more about our community, I think they should have the information in a general statistical way. I see no reason why not.
Mrs. Firth: Is the information personal?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: For Statistics Canada purposes, I presume it would be the number of claims and other basic kinds of information. We are getting to the end of the day anyway; I will ask the Workers Compensation Board for exactly what kinds of information it may trade with governments in particular, because we are agreed on Workers Compensation Board - we can leave that alone - and I will get back to the Member first thing on Monday with this information. We can trade a few comments about it then and see if we cannot come to some agreement about this particular clause.
Mr. Brewster: He said he would enquire about that of the board. It does not say the board, it says the official, so it is the administrative staff doing this.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am afraid that the members of the board are the people who set the policies of the board. They will direct the staff of the organization. They are accountable; they make the decisions. If they do not decide, the board staff can decide in their absence, but the board is in the drivers seat.
Madam Chair, 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 stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday next.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Filed Documents were tabled April 30, 1992:
Federal Trust Companies Act (Phelps)
Federal Insurance Companies, Canadian and British Act (Phelps)