Monday, May 4, 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?
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling the government contracts list for 1991-92, published by the Department of Government Services.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have for tabling the 1990-91 annual report of the Yukon Advisory Council on Womens Issues.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers?
Update on devolution of the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would like to bring the House up to date on our devolution policy that has provided for the Yukon government to assume the responsibility for the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road.
I want to emphasize that it is our policy to ensure that funds negotiated for reconstruction of the Alaska Highway are in fact spent on reconstruction.
In 1992, plans for the Alaska Highway include projected expenditures of over $11 million, the amount established in the transfer agreement. This is in addition to an anticipated $4 million to flow out of the Shakwak deal.
The contract for reconstruction of the section south of Screw Creek to north of Swan Lake has been awarded to Northland Kaska of Whitehorse for $2.892 million.
Tenders for reconstruction from lower Rancheria River to Spencer Creek have been advertised and will close on May 15, 1992.
Tenders for reconstruction of a short section north of Spencer Creek are scheduled to be called later this spring for August-to-September construction.
Contracts for clearing the right-of-way and stockpiling crushed gravel at various locations in preparation for 1993 construction will be tendered later this summer.
In addition, a tender for rebuilding the section from Beaver Creek to north of Snag Creek, (Km. 1937 to Km. 1949) will go out later this month. This contract will be under the terms of the Shakwak agreement.
This governments highway reconstruction demonstrates strong commitment to invest 25 percent of its capital budget in infrastructure to ensure sustainable economic development for all Yukon people.
These improvements will benefit tourism along the highway corridor and throughout the Yukon. They will help our forestry and mining industries and the Yukon communities that rely on these industries for their economic health and prosperity. There will also be employment and business opportunities as a direct result of the increased and sustained pace of reconstruction of the Alaska Highway.
All of these benefits come under the Yukon government assuming responsibility for a federal program. Yukon control of the Alaska Highway means local jobs, more money invested in Yukon construction companies and more say in determining priorities for the highway work.
Our success in negotiating appropriate responsibility transfers from the Canadian federal government to the Yukon government is contributing to the strength and health of our communities. The immediate, much needed, multi-year program of upgrading of the Alaska Highway is good news indeed during the 1992 Alaska Highway 50th Anniversary celebration.
Mr. Phelps: This ministerial statement is rather strange. I am having some difficulty in thinking out the appropriate response.
We fully supported the successful negotiation that lead to the devolution of control over and responsibility for the Alaska Highway. We are particularly pleased with the capital monies that were negotiated and that the federal government has finally agreed to spend - albeit they give it to this government to spend.
We were concerned for a good many years about the fact that the stretch from south of Teslin on toward Watson Lake has been surveyed and most of it cleared.
Then, all of a sudden, meaningful construction was stopped - five or six years ago, now. We have no problem at all in supporting the successful outcome of negotiations, but we find it rather difficult to swallow the last half of the Ministers statement where he seems to be desperately trying to say it is more than that - that this government is spending huge amounts of money, 25 percent of its capital budget, on the highway. Of course this government is; that is what the deal was; they got a bunch of extra money to spend on capital. It seems to me that the extra pat on the back surely is really not necessary at this time. We support the negotiations; we support the devolution; we support the fact that the Government of Canada is putting this money to use by allowing, or really insisting, that this money be spent on the Alaska Highway. I am somewhat puzzled with the latter part of this statement.
Mr. Nordling: I would just like to pick up on the Member for Hootalinquas response and take over where he left off. I also have problems with the latter part of the ministerial statement, but I have problems with the first part, too. The Minister takes the time of this House to make a ministerial statement to tell the Legislature that it is our policy to ensure that funds for reconstruction are spent on reconstruction. Well, we would have hoped that that would have been the case and that it did not have to take a ministerial statement to announce that the government would actually spend the money where it is supposed to. Perhaps the extra pat on the back is needed because this Minister is feeling that he is on pretty shaky ground at the moment and thought that he would get up and give a ministerial statement in order to have something positive to say.
The other issue that I would like to hear from the Minister about is that he says that Yukon control of the Alaska Highway means more local jobs and more money invested in Yukon construction companies. I would like to know if the Minister is saying that there was something the matter with the way the highway was being dealt with in the past, that locals were not getting the jobs and that the money was not being invested in Yukon construction companies.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I should assure Members that things are pretty solid back here. I have no problem rising to their challenges.
The point I should make about the Alaska Highway deal is that for the length of time I have been in this Legislature, Members opposite have made quite a case about its condition. We made the same case to the federal government. There was no more money under the existing programs the federal government had for the Alaska Highway. It was only through devolving the entire responsibility for it that new money was able to be found. That is the exercise that took place over the last couple of years - quite successfully, I might add - and resulted in the release of substantial additional capital funds for an enhanced upgrading program so that we may see the Alaska Highway fully upgraded within 15 years. That is the issue surrounding the devolution policy of the government: to take over federal programs.
With respect to the 25 percent, that reference in the ministerial statement is for the general capital investment by this government in the budgetary programs. An emphasis must be placed on that figure because other jurisdictions do not come close to spending that much of their general budgets on new infrastructure and new construction. Other jurisdictions spend as little as four or five percent, with an average of about six or seven percent. When we spend 25 percent, it is a substantial commitment of our budgeting priorities that will be spent on new infrastructure development.
With respect to the highway itself, it has been suggested that the monies that were negotiated through devolution agreements with the federal government do not go toward what they were negotiated for. It is important that there is a strong statement from this government to Members of the House that the negotiated funds for reconstruction of the highway will be spent on just that reconstruction.
That is an important signal to send out to the industry, and that is an important message to give to all Yukon people.
In response to the latter point made by Members opposite, under the previous tendering process, through Public Works Canada, the advertising for those jobs was made across Canada. It was a much broader competition. In no way does it reflect on local firms but, in the instance now where we will be issuing the tenders and making the awards, they will be favouring local contractors.
Health promotion survey: reporting of behaviours, attitudes and understandings re health
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I rise today to inform Members that we have received a $252,000 contribution from Health and Welfare Canada for work on phase 4 of the health promotion survey, undertaken by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Services.
This is a two-year research project, which began last summer. The objective is to develop a broad reporting of behaviours, attitudes and understandings related to health.
As we begin increasingly to emphasize community involvement in health care delivery, through the Health Act, it is increasingly important to have a profile of the health of Yukon people.
This work will help create that profile and give us the understanding of the health concerns of Yukon residents, which will further help us implement the Health Act and build healthier Yukon communities.
Three of the five phases have already been completed, with the fourth phase, the actual survey, to be undertaken this fall. The first three phases included the literature review, the qualitative review and a stakeholder review that drew together focus groups for discussion.
The fifth phase will follow the actual report writing and will consist of a series of workshops with community representatives. Information we receive will flow both ways, going back to the community, and will involve the communities in helping us develop the directions in which we need to move.
Combined with this, the bureau will have used both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The research program being undertaken by the Bureau of Statistics on our behalf is interesting. This has given us a unique opportunity to involve the communities, professionals and academics in all aspects of research. As a department, we will be able to have informed public policy grounded in good social science research.
We will have, for the first time, an understanding of what Yukon residents think health is, what they perceive to be meaningful ways of measuring good health and what their priorities are when it comes to their own health.
In much the same way that last years Alcohol and Drug Strategy gave us the direction in which to move with our prevention and counselling programs, this health promotion research will help us move toward improved health for all Yukon residents and communities.
Mr. Lang: I want to register some concerns with respect to the announcement made today. First of all, there seems to be a steady stream of surveys taking place this year, just prior to an election, and I think people are becoming very suspicious when some very personal questions are being asked of the general public by telephone surveys and other means of telecommunications. What exactly is that type of information going to be used for?
Another point I want to make is that I think at least two or three studies have been done in the past three years with respect to the health needs of the Dawson City-Mayo area, and specifically Dawson City. Also, over and above that particular survey, I understand there is supposed to be in the neighbourhood of $60,000 spent for a study in the Dawson City area specifically. That makes $252,000, plus the $60,000, plus the amount of the YTG contribution to this particular survey.
I have to register my concern: just how much has to be spent on this type of information-seeking survey? In many cases, we already have the answers, or at least the trends, spoken to through a number of other surveys and studies that have taken place.
When one reads the one sentence in the ministerial statement, and I quote: The first three phases included the literature review, qualitative review, and a stakeholder review that drew together focus groups for discussion. That sounds to me like a social scientists dream and a taxpayers nightmare, because it all sounds very nice but when one tries to evaluate it, one has to ask oneself just exactly who is going to be using this information and what is the final social experiment going to be?
I want to conclude by asking a series of questions directed to the Minister, I hope that she can answer. What is the total amount that this health promotion survey is going to cost - I notice that is a $252,000 contribution; there has already been money spent in a number of other aspects of the information program.
Also, I would like to know how this is going to affect the health transfer to the territory, as well as the new hospital. I hope that in spending this amount of money, it is going to be of some assistance in areas of this kind that are so significant and so directly affecting the health of the territory, as opposed to a survey.
Mr. Nordling: Again, I suppose that we should be thanking the federal government for its largess. I am not sure where the money comes from. I think that it is added to the deficit, so it is not as if we can thank the taxpayers in the south for paying for it.
I suppose that what the Minister is saying is that we have been given $252,000 from Health and Welfare Canada to do a survey and we are going spend $252,000 on a health and welfare promotional survey, whether we need it or not, because that is what we have been given the money to do.
It seems that the Department of Health and Social Services has given its undertaking to evaluate programming and provide reports. This has been going on since the Government Leader was the Minister of Health and Human Resources and could not answer questions with respect to the programs and the budget, because services were being evaluated and reports were being prepared on the services.
I would have thought by now that after the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on this very thing, we would have some information about how we could deliver health care through our new Health Act, without another $252,000, plus the territorial governments involvement, for yet another survey.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The Members who responded may indeed have the wisdom to know exactly what Yukoners believe to be healthy lifestyles. They may know what people in Pelly, Ross River, Dawson City or Whitehorse understand to be health in this territory. If they had that information and that great wisdom, I would have thought that by now they would have shared it with us.
I guess it is the old saying: that a prophet is without honour in their own community. The work that the Department of Health and Social Services and the Bureau of Statistics is doing is on the leading edge of the understanding of health across the country. The $252,000 is what will be spent.
The Member for Porter Creek West talks about the thousands and thousands of dollars. I do not know what he is talking about.
We are at the stage in health programs where we are calling on the expertise of Yukon people, with the resources of various institutions across the country, such as Health and Welfare Canada, Statistics Canada, Carleton University, UBC and various others to put together something that is broader in terms of health than just the freedom from illness. We are slowly beginning to understand in this country that we have to have a broader view of health than just critical care and the freedom from illness. We need to ask our people what that means to them and we need to use the information in a way that is appropriate to the people of the Yukon.
I hope for support from Members to do this. I believe it is important to Yukon people.
We are doing it the best we can with the resources that have been made available to us and with the excited collaboration of people from all across this country.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Young Offenders Secure Custody Facility, escapees
Mr. Lang: I would like to turn the Houses attention over to an issue that took place last week that lead to the apprehension of the two young offenders who escaped from the young offenders facility. We are very pleased to see that the two offenders are back in custody; however, I think there are some concerns in respect to what took place and the chain of events that lead to their apprehension.
It has come to my attention that the two young offenders who escaped, met with a social worker at her house and were provided with a change of clothing and then allowed to leave.
Can the Minister of Health and Social Services confirm that?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: It is my understanding that the young offenders did not meet with any Yukon government social worker.
Mr. Lang: It may not have been a Government of Yukon employee, but is it not true that someone who was employed for a non-profit organization or government met with these two young offenders at her home, provided them with a change of clothing and then allowed them to leave? Is that not correct?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The Member is asking me to confirm something that I do not have specific knowledge about, something that affects, very seriously, both the lives of the young offenders and of the person involved. I can say that I did not see those young offenders receive clothing and did not see them at that social workers residence. We are truly talking about peoples lives here.
Mr. Lang: I am very concerned. We are debating a very serious issue here, and that is the question of aiding and abetting individuals who have escaped from a government institution. I want to ask the Minister if she is condoning the aiding and abetting of young offenders without informing the RCMP, which is a felony under the Criminal Code of Canada, by an individual who is employed by a non-profit organization or by the government.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I am condoning nothing. My concern is for the people involved and I will reiterate again that, when the Member talked about employed by the government, no social worker employed by the government, to my knowledge, aided and abetted these young people. No, I am not condoning any action. I understand that any events that took place and, certainly, any involvement that anyone may have had were entirely in the interests of the welfare of the young people.
Question re: Young Offenders Secure Custody Facility, escapees
Mr. Lang: This is a very serious situation. The RCMP have been called out to do a search because there are a number of young escapees, who may or may not be dangerous, and who have escaped from the secure custody institution up the hill. At the same time, it is my information that the RCMP were never notified. I think we want to know why. I want to ask the Minister this: in view of her involvement in the chain of events that took place when she was contacted by, and subsequently took, these young offenders for lunch at the Talisman and paid for that lunch, did she report that to the RCMP prior to it taking place?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The Member has his facts wrong. I neither took the young people to the Talisman, nor paid for their lunch.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister verify that she met with the young offenders at a public place in Whitehorse? Can she further verify that she did not report it to the police, prior to or during the time the meeting was taking place?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: If the Member had asked me that question in the first place, I would have answered him straightforwardly.
I did indeed meet the young offenders. At the time I was talking to them, I was concerned about them and about their safety, because they appeared to me to be more at risk, personally, than they were a risk to anyone else. I wanted to get them back into the young offenders facility. I wanted them back so something positive could be done for them.
Since that time, there have been two healing circles. Arrangements have been made for at least one of them to be given treatment.
I may have been foolish, but I gave my word and I kept it.
Mr. Lang: I do not doubt the sincerity of the Minister, but I do very much question the propriety of what has taken place. What concerns me is that the RCMP were called out to do a search, because some young people had escaped from the young offenders facility and, as I said, could have been very dangerous.
I want to know why the Minister aided and abetted these young people, as opposed to what she should have done: contact the RCMP to let them know what was taking place so that no one would come to any serious harm or suffer any serious consequences, in view of the situation.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: First of all, these young offenders are children; they are kids 15 and 16 years of age.
I knew that they must get back to the correction centre and I got them back, under the best of possible circumstances. Hindsight is 20/20.
Question re; Young Offenders Secure Custody Facility, escapees
Mr. Lang: This is a very serious situation and no matter what the Minister says, it is a question of what is right and proper and how things are done.
I want to go on to another area, in view of the fact that the Minister has admitted that she aided and abetted the young people in question, which is contrary to the Criminal Code.
I want to know why the Minister broke all the policies and procedure guidelines of the institution of which she is in charge. What I am referring to is the policies and procedures in place to take away privileges from the offenders when they escape from the facility, in order that it will serve as a deterrent for others to escape or to the offenders who have escaped before.
I want to know why the Minister agreed to have these young offenders go back into that facility and issue instructions that they were not to be reprimanded for escaping from the facility.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The circumstances were such that it appeared at the time that justice might best be served by beginning a healing process for all involved. I did not say that they must not be reprimanded. A specific policy was, in this instance, not used. What has happened during the ensuing week is that the community has rallied around the people who are in this facility and the staff and have begun a healing process with healing circles with a well-respected elder who just happened to be here in the territory. Much of the concern expressed at that time and through this week by the community that cares about these young people is that they have an opportunity to go somewhere else in their lives besides up to what they call the big jail.
Those were some of the processes that were discussed and agreed to. Community advocates, resource people - it was agreed that resource people would come into the centre. Some people have given of their volunteer time to begin this process of healing that we have all...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude her answer?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Lang: My information is that the Minister breached every policy and procedure that she and her government have put into place over the last number of years.
When she cut the deal with the young offenders in question, how could she agree to send one of them out for treatment when that is the responsibility of the judicial system, in concert with the people responsible for that kind of administration within her department? Why did she take it upon herself to interfere with the judicial process?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I did not interfere in the judicial process. Let this be very clear. In discussions that were held with the staff, the young people said that they wanted to go for treatment. The arrangements would be made and when they were eligible or free to go, they would be sent. There was never, ever any commitment or attempt to circumvent the judicial process.
One of the young men may indeed be free and able to go soon. The other one, I am told, will not. However, that does not mean that the process and investigations could not be completed and be in place for when that person is eligible.
Mr. Lang: To encapsulate what the Minister has told us, the two young offenders escaped from the facility. There were certain commitments made by the Minister to them. There was no reprimand for the offence that had taken place, contrary to the law.
With the precedent the Minister has set through her office, what is she going to do the next time when someone leaves either the correctional centre or the young offenders facility and they want to speak to her to make the necessary arrangements to break those facilities policies?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Previously, I said that hindsight is 20/20. First of all, the procedure that was broken - and let us be very clear what we are talking about - is called an automatic lock down for 24 hours in the facility. We are not talking about anything else.
Long before the escape, plans were well under way for the one young man to be sent outside for assessment. That was told to me and to them. The second person was included in the planning process because of the particular circumstances of that young persons life. No rules around that have been broken.
I do indeed talk to my staff occasionally. That is not unusual.
Question re: Old Crow Community Learning Centre
Mrs. Firth: I, too, have a question about ministerial and political interference, only I will direct my question to another Minister, the Minister responsible for the Department of Education. My question is about the Old Crow Community Learning Centre.
In May, the successful bidder on this project was given a letter saying that they had in fact been the successful bidder and that their firm had been selected to provide the construction management services. In June, that same company received a letter from an official in the Ministers department saying that he was unaware that the initial selection required the approval of the band and the community campus committee and he was apologizing for the work being withdrawn from that contractor.
In the Legislature last week, the Minister said that the only way to take away a contract was by agreement with the successful contractor. Why are there two different stories as to how this political interference occurred?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member wants to characterize it as political interference. As I indicated last week, the community in Old Crow, through the offices of the chief and council, as well as the community campus committee, indicated a wish to manage the Old Crow Community Learning Centre construction project themselves. They expressed that very forcefully to me, on behalf of the government.
Subsequent to that, I discussed the matter with department officials who, in turn, discussed the matter with the successful bidder on the Old Crow Community Learning Centre construction project. Subsequent to that, after hearing there was no objection to the reallocation of the project to the community of Old Crow, that the decision was made to have the community, through the band, particularly, manage the construction project.
Those are the events, as I understand and remember them.
Mrs. Firth: That is not what the letter says. The letter from the official in the department, who was in communication with this person, says, I must apologize for my letter of May 28, advising you of your selection for the work. I was unaware that the initial selection required the approval of the band and the community campus committee.
Instead of saying that, why did the letter not say it was a confirmation of the agreement for the contractor to give up the contract?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I cannot explain why an official may have characterized it that way. I do not have the letter with me, and I do not recall seeing the letter. However, I do understand the circumstances that led to the decision to allocate the project to the Old Crow band. They are exactly as I have stated them.
Mrs. Firth: From the contractor, my understanding is that the discussion took place right there, at the meeting in Old Crow. He was told by the official, when the meeting started, that he was not going to lose the contract. After the meeting was held, the officials came out, apologized to the contractor ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: ... who happened to be in Old Crow, and told him he had lost the contract. That was the first indication the individual had that he had lost the contract.
Is the Minister aware of exactly how that process took place, and that it was at the public meeting that the individual found out he had lost the contract to the Old Crow people?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, that is not my understanding of the situation at all. My understanding - as I have stated on numerous occasions already in the Legislature - is that the decision was not taken at the public meeting. The representation by the community campus committee and the band council was made at the meeting, and I listened as attentively as I could to the representations being made, and subsequently, talked to department officials to see whether or not there was any possibility that the Old Crow communitys wishes could be respected under the circumstances.
Generally speaking, knowing the circumstances that had led to the award of the contract, it was following that point that I asked department officials to review the situation and to seek whether or not the successful bidder would be prepared to allow the community of Old Crow to manage the contract. It was subsequent to those discussions that I was given to understand from department officials that there would be no problem, and that the band could be allocated the project as was their wish.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project, Northwestel space
Mr. Devries: I would like to direct this question to the Minister responsible for communications.
As was mentioned last week, Northwestel has committed $3 million toward the Taga Ku project and it is also committed to lease space upon completion of this project. In light of the events of the past two weeks, is the Minister, in his capacity as being responsible for communications, not concerned that Northwestels actions could have a detrimental effect on future telephone rates?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I should categorically state to the Member that I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how Members opposite associate telephone rates with the Taga Ku project. Perhaps they could somehow associate the price of shoes in Woolworths to the Taga Ku project.
I think the question is preposterous and certainly not one for me to even consider answering.
Mr. Devries: I beg to differ with the Minister. I think that in his capacity as Minister responsible for communications he should be very concerned, because Northwestel stands to lose $3 million somewhere along the line if this project goes wrong and that definitely would have an impact on our telephone rates.
In his ministerial or other capacities, is the Minister aware if the Yukon government in any way was involved in encouraging Northwestel to get into this predicament?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am absolutely amazed at the leap of logic that Members opposite keep demonstrating on this project. The project is one initiated by the private sector. It is one initiated more specifically by the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation and, more recently, has involved the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. Their dealings in relation to the project would have been directly with the other involved participants of the project, namely Northwestel. The proponents of Taga Ku spoke directly to Northwestel and we are not party to those discussions, just as we are not party to discussions of any private enterprise in their dealings in the marketplace.
Question re: Taga Ku convention centre project, funding
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the same Minister, regarding the Taga Ku project. It has come to our attention that the Government of Yukon and the proponents discussed various ways in which this project could be financed in the future. It is our understanding that the Government of Yukon or the Yukon Development Corporation was prepared to accept the phasing-in of the project. This staging would involve the two office towers first, with the hotel and convention centre later. I would like to ask the Minister the following question: did the Minister or his officials support the staging of the project when approached by the Taga Ku proponents recently?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: With respect to the question, I do not think it is fair to characterize specific support or rejection or approval or disapproval of any specific method by which the project could be activated to completion. I think it would be more appropriate to characterize any discussions that took place as an attempt to examine different options that might make it work. The Members opposite know that senior financing collapsed for the proponents; the proponents were very aggressively trying to restructure the entire financing requirements to complete the project, and various options, including the possibility of staging at least the hotel portion of the project, were discussed. It is not a case of approving or disapproving; it is a case of examining whether such an option could help to more easily secure the overall financing.
Mr. Phillips: One of the items discussed at the recent meeting was the phasing, or the staging in, of the project. Is it not true that the Government of Yukon supported the phasing, or the staging in, of that particular project and that the reason it did not go ahead is that the Northwestel group would not agree to the staging of the project? The Government of Yukon gave its blessing to the project, but Northwestel would not accept it. Is that not true?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot answer whether or not it is true that Northwestel insisted on certain terms. What it boils down to, is that the overall project has to go ahead in order for our original terms to be honoured; overall financing has to be in place to meet conditions that have been set. The simple issue of whether one part of the construction occurs simultaneously with another, which would be the interpretation of phasing, was a matter that was discussed. The hotel to be constructed, perhaps a year down the road, was an option that was examined, but that did not detract from having the entire package still in place.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister did not answer my question. My question was: did the proponents approach the Government of Yukon suggesting that staging should be the route to go? The Government of Yukon agreed to that; I am asking the Minister if they did agree to that. I know that the government would support the staging. What I would like to know, is why the Government of Yukon would support staging now when, in fact, it was not one of the terms of the original contract? Is that fair to all of the other proponents who bid on the original contract? Now, two years down the road, we are changing all of the requirements of the bid, and breaking all of the rules, and allowing special treatment because of the nature of the project and the problems surrounding the project.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member cannot assume that the Yukon government agreed to any conditions or terms that were different from those that were originally proposed. The fact remains that, in discussions with the proponents, at a time when they were examining how to reactivate the project - how to help secure $43 million - various matters were discussed, not the least of which was the possibility that the financing might flow easier if the hotel, a major component of the project, were constructed a year down the road, as opposed to being constructed at this time with the office towers and the convention centre.
The original space tender done by this government was contingent on the provision of a convention space - you cannot change that. That is not an option. It has to be put in place. The Member has suggested that we have agreed to it. That is not correct. I was party to discussions on a range of options that might work, which the proponents undertook to examine. It is as simple as that.
Question re: Old Crow Community Learning Centre, contract
Mr. Nordling: I would like to follow up with the Minister of Education with respect to the Old Crow Community Learning Centre.
Is it right for a Minister of the government to get personally involved in the tendering process, to the extent that he chooses essentially who will get a contract?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is not what has happened in the instance that the Member has raised with respect to the Old Crow Community Learning Centre. I have already indicated what the circumstances were.
If the Member is asking me whether it is right for a Minister to try to respond to the community will, without breaking the tendering regulations, then I would say, yes, it is right. Certainly, it is right. The people in Old Crow were making it very clear what they would like to see if they had a choice. They wanted to see the community getting jobs, the community getting training opportunities and the community getting the opportunity to build this project for themselves because this is a project for their community and exclusively for them. Upon my arrival in Old Crow, that was made abundantly clear by all the officials and virtually everybody in that community who had an opportunity to speak on the subject. I tried my best to respond to the very clearly articulated wishes of the community. To my knowledge, I did so without breaking any rules that have been established by this government or by anybody else.
Mr. Nordling: This is interesting because I thought that the Minister had got himself involved in politics just so this sort of thing would not happen.
Did the initial selection require the approval of the band and the community campus committee? If it did not, how would his official get that impression, so much so that he wrote it in a letter to the successful bidder?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Members preamble is mistaken, but let me respond to the second part and the final question.
The band and the community campus requirement that they approve the contract was not part of the original contract issuance. However, the band and community wish very much to take responsibility for this project. It was my position that, if it were possible to do so without breaking our regulations, I would seek an opportunity to do so. My record stands clear on a number of community projects. I do believe in the empowerment of communities to take responsibility for themselves.
If the Member is suggesting that I got into politics to avoid responsibility, then he is wrong. I have always been in favour of communities, community governments and community people taking responsibility for their own lives and making training and economic opportunities for themselves. If we can do that and still respect the tendering regulations, I think that is something we should be exploring.
Mr. Nordling: What I am suggesting is that the Minister bent the rules to such an extreme that if they were not broken, they were certainly cracked.
I would like to know if the successful bidder received any threats or incentives in order for him to give up this contract that he had bid on and won. I would like to know if the successful bidder had any conversations with the Member for Old Crow about this contract?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To my knowledge, there have been no rules bent or broken. There have been no threats directed at any party involved in the situation. There have been no incentives given to anyone to do anything or attempts to manipulate behavior at all, to my knowledge. I am not aware of any conversations the Member for Old Crow may have had with community people in her riding, including the successful bidder. I am not privy to any of those conversations. However, if there were any discussions, they had nothing to do with any of the decisions that led to the attempt to try and put the project in the hands of the community people themselves, for their own benefit.
Question re: Flooding
Mr. Phelps: I have a concern, which is shared with many Yukoners, about the large amounts of unmelted snow still in the mountains and the possibility of floods. We understand that in the Liard River area the snow still in the mountains is some 240 percent of normal.
Is the Minister of Community and Transportation Services aware of this situation? Does his department have emergency plans in place, should we see serious washouts of the Alaska Highway in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe the Members colleague, the Member for Watson Lake, raised the very same issue with me privately. I can answer in the general affirmative. We are aware of a very severe potential of flooding in the Liard area. We have notified our emergency measures branch. Highways crews are also aware and monitoring the progress of the melt. It is a condition that also exists in other parts of the Yukon.
While I cannot provide to the Member a detail of the emergency response, while on my feet, I can provide the existing plans for the eventuality of disaster.
Mr. Phelps: A couple of years ago, we had washouts on the north Alaska Highway, and there were a lot of tourists trapped up there. The reputation of the Yukon as a destination suffered a great deal because of the headline stories in such national newspapers as the Globe and Mail. Does the Minister of Tourism have any plans on how to handle what could prove to be a flood event that could prove disastrous to tourism this year?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to begin by saying to the Member opposite that we are not anticipating the disastrous reoccurrence that happened two or three years ago. In case it does, I am assured that the Department of Community and Transportation Services is better prepared for this situation than it was a couple of years ago.
However, the visitor reception centres along the Alaska Highway, both with our partners in British Columbia and Alaska, are working more closely as a team in alerting tourists on the Alaska Highway to any potential dangers that they may face, and we will be briefing tourists in the event these dangers should arise.
Mr. Phelps: My concern goes beyond that. I am wondering, if there is flooding and once traffic is restored on the highway, and the damage repaired, will the Ministers department take steps to counter all the negative publicity that will ensue?
That was the criticism last time; there were headline stories in the Globe and Mail and other large publications to the south. However, once the highway was restored, there was not an advertising campaign sufficient to offset the negative impact on tourism, so that tourists who were about to come here...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his question.
Mr. Phelps: ...changed their minds.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I can assure the Member opposite that we are prepared to counter any negative news that may come out of such an unfortunate incident. An incident similar to that happened earlier this year. The Member may recall that when the state bureau in Washington, D.C., issued a travelers alert, this government immediately responded by providing potential travelers to the Yukon the real story about the conditions of our highways, the quality of services offered to tourists and the fine quality of our highways.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 47: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 47, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Joe.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 47, the Yukon Advisory Council on Womens Issues Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister responsible for the Womens Directorate that Bill No. 47, entitled Yukon Advisory Council on Womens Issues Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The purpose of this act is twofold: it will provide protection to the Yukon Advisory Council on Womens Issues and define their mandate, membership and operational structure within legislation.
The Yukon Advisory Council on Womens Issues has, for some time, requested that the council be entrenched in legislation. There has been a strong feeling that the council presently lacks permanence, as it is established by an order-in-council rather than having its basis in an act. The concern is one that can well be understood, given past history in the Yukon. The first advisory council on the Status of Women was established in 1980 by the then Minister responsible for the status of women, Meg McCall. The council members were appointed by the Minister and their tenure ended during the last term of that government. Following the 1982 election, the Minister responsible for the Status of Women, Clark Ashley, chose not to reappoint an advisory council. This government announced its intention to re-establish an advisory council on the status of women in the throne speech of October 1985. In February of 1987, a council was appointed by order-in-council with a Cabinet-approved mandate in terms of reference. It should be pointed out that all provinces and territories now have advisory councils on the status of women; most of these councils have been in existence since the 1970s. The councils in Ontario and Saskatchewan were established by orders-in-council, and all other councils exist by statutory authority of a specific act for the council. In the Yukon, virtually all other advisory councils and boards have their basis in a statute. Many have their mandate, membership and operating structures detailed in an act, while others are established in an act with structures set by regulation.
Establishing a Yukon Advisory Council on Womens Issues, including a fixed mandate, membership criteria and operating structures, will provide a permanence for this body. Because of the permanence, care has been taken to ensure that the terms of legislation are appropriate and sufficiently flexible to accommodate possible changes in Yukon womens realities.
Specifics of the bill include enabling the advisory council in its mandate to consult with individuals, groups and the public about matters concerning the status of women. Increased flexibility in membership criteria, ensures that the members include representatives of the regions of the Yukon, Yukon First Nations women and Yukon womens organizations, in a framework that will ensure effective operations of the council while providing accountability. I believe this act will provide an assurance to Yukon women throughout the territory that an advisory council will exist in the future to address issues of concern to them and that this council will have an ability to operate as a real force in the territory.
Mr. Phelps: We certainly have no difficulty in fully supporting this legislation. We feel that the Yukon Advisory Council on Womens Issues has done a great deal of commendable work. Part of its legacy to date is that we need not fear in the future that Ministers ghosts of Christmas past - or Legislatures past - or Ministers who no longer live in the territory, might come and decide not to appoint Members to such a council.
We feel that the act is fully supportable on its own merits and on the merits of the work done by the current membership of the council. I want to assure the Member that I know of no ill conceived thoughts to try in the future to take steps to try to dismantle this very important advisory body.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 47 agreed to
Bill No. 19: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 19, standing in the name of Ms. Joe.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 19, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 1992, be now read a second 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 read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act, 1992, is to correct typographical and grammatical errors, as well as other technical defects in existing statute law. A miscellaneous statute law amendment act was last passed in November 1989. Since that time, government departments have reviewed the acts they administer and have identified errors in various pieces of legislation that require correction.
The amendments in this legislation represent routine housekeeping matters and do not contain any policy items. There are six acts being amended by this act, and they are the Fine Option Act, Income Tax Act, Insurance Act, Mental Health Act, Public Service Commission Act and the Summary Convictions Act.
The amendments to the Fine Option Act, Income Tax Act and the Mental Health Act are intended to correct typographical and grammatical errors. The Insurance Act is being amended to allow insurance companies to avoid the expense of printing with red ink by allowing them to use a larger size of print.
The amendment to the Public Service Commission Act corrects an erroneous reference to an earlier section of the act. The Summary Convictions Act is a consequential amendment, due to the enactment of a small claims court in 1986.
In summary, these amendments are necessary to correct inaccuracies in existing legislation.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 19 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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 to order.
We are on Bill No. 6.
Bill No. 6 - Workers Compensation Act - continued
On Clause 79 - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: When we left the act on clause 79, there was a question put to us about what kind of information the Yukon Workers Compensation Board would provide to other governments. There appeared to be no difficulty, of course, with the board providing information to other workers compensation boards. I undertook to ascertain what the Yukon Workers Compensation Board was providing.
I mentioned briefly that the board was providing information to Statistics Canada. That information includes the following items: the number of accepted time-loss injuries by sex, age, nature of injury, type of accident, occupation, source of injury and the total number of illnesses and injuries reported. The WCB also provides certain information to Revenue Canada, which is the kind of information one would expect them to provide. The board reports all compensation paid, as well as wages and honoraria paid to staff and board members.
The board also provides, to all employers including governments, information as to whether or not another employer who they are hiring or doing business with has a current account with them.
The board also provides information to health care systems of other governments, particularly responding to requests from those organizations for information pertaining to the payment of accounts for rehabilitation services rendered to the Workers Compensation Board claimants.
That is the information that the Workers Compensation Board provides to other governments. I personally do not have difficulty with them providing this kind of information to governments. I think it is important that governments, including ours, have access to current, up-to-date statistics. This is the primary reason for the divulgence of the information.
They do not provide information with respect to their knowledge of a particular business operations. I am assured that when they do an audit of a business they do not divulge any such information to anybody. This information is highly confidential.
It appears to me that this kind of information is reasonable, under the circumstances. I would not see any reason to attempt to prevent this kind of information from being provided to these other agencies.
Mr. Brewster: He has not convinced me yet. They can get the information he referred to in the yearly report of the Workers Compensation Board. It is just that some more bureaucrats are getting more information about people.
Mr. Brewster: I move
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 79(2) at page 44 by deleting the words other Governments or.
Chair: It has been moved by the MLA for Kluane that Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 79(2) at page 44 by deleting the words other Governments or.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member has not provided any information to us here that would convince anyone that the examples of information that are being passed to other governments are wrong. There was a remark about bureaucrats or something, but the kind of information that I indicated was routinely being provided to other governments is information that I do not see any problem with providing.
Clearly, I do not think that it offends any individuals privacy, any business privacy, to provide this kind of information, with the exception of Revenue Canada of course, which has to receive information on compensation paid, which is obviously private to some claimant.
Unless the Member makes some convincing arguments that this information should not be provided to other governments, clearly, I cannot support the amendment.
Mr. Brewster: The whole situation is this: every time the government is allowed more leeway, then it advances and goes further. This continually happens; it is happening right here in the Yukon and it is happening everywhere else. Information gets out that should not be getting out and I am simply trying to stop some of these chains from going around peoples necks.
I have no problem with Revenue Canada or income tax; that is a formality that we have to have, and we know that. Nobody in this Legislature can tell me that other departments and police do not get information from these people. I challenge anyone to stand up in this Legislature and tell me that they are not allowed to do this. They are not supposed to get this information, but they do it and it is done all the time.
For instance, I can cite an example: I was at a dinner the other night where a young lady who is close to retirement talked to me about her retirement and she had some questions regarding retirement. I told her that she should write in and find out about it.
She wrote to the government here to find out about her retirement. She did not say she was quitting or anything; she only wanted to know where she stood as she has two years to go. I was at another dinner three nights later when another woman from this town, in another building, told us that this woman was quitting, and that she had written inquiring about her retirement, and that she was going to quit.
That shows you how easy it is to get information. It went from this building to another building downtown. Do not tell me that the same thing does not happen here. All that I am trying to do is prevent other governments from becoming involved.
I have no problem with the Bureau of Statistics, although, quite frankly, I do not think they are necessary. They can get the information that they need from yearly reports.
You have to comply with Revenue Canada, because it is the law, but I am talking about other agencies. If anything else was in there besides government, I probably would have gone along with it, but government leaves it wide open for everyone.
It is too broad. If you want to turn it around some other way and not use my amendment, I would have no problem. This opens it up. Government means everything. It means policy and everything you could think of. It is too broad.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is one clause from the existing act that I am not proposing be changed, because I have been personally satisfied that board policy restricts the information that comes out. Admittedly, they could pass out other information, too.
Personally, I have seen no reason why it should be restricted, based on the experience the board has had. This is no different from the draft document, either. There have been many eyes cast on the draft act, and I have heard no concern from the public. The onus to justify a change to restrict now rests with the Member.
Based on experience, I do not believe there is a reason to restrict, because I have been satisfied that board policy has been satisfactory. The public has not called on us to provide greater restrictions. To my knowledge, I have heard no interventions before the one the Member himself made.
If there is some suggested restriction on this particular power that is currently held by the board, then I suggest he provide us with some more ideas. I am not opposed to some restrictions, but the onus rests with him to provide us with information; more than what has so far been provided in his remarks. What was tabled in the proposed amendment restricts it far too much.
It says that no other government can get any information for any reason. I cannot agree with that. Even the modest information that has been provided to other governments then would not be possible.
Consequently, I am waiting to hear some more.
Mr. Lang: The Minister has to examine the section we are speaking to, which is section 79(2). We are talking about the business of an employer or a claim of a worker - the specific information on a personal case. We are not saying they cannot provide information of a general statistical nature to other governments or individuals such as the Bureau of Statistics. To use a hypothetical situation: if the MLA for Kluane were hurt, this would allow somebody to talk to someone other than Workers Compensation about that particular claim.
Perhaps the interpretation is getting too broad in respect of the restriction that is being asked here. There is no problem discussing a case between one workers compensation board and another workers compensation board; that is not a problem. Obviously, there may be a joint claim or relationship between, say, the Province of Alberta and the Province of British Columbia and possibly the Northwest Territories, where they want to check up on a long-term injury. Why would we want to give the authority - and that is what we are being asked to do - to give information to other government departments or other government officials on something so personal as ones own claim?
To further this argument to the Minister, an example of what could happen here is that information could be provided to other governments, but under certain sections of the bill, the individual themselves cannot have access to it. Yet we are saying, if the president gives the authority to his executive assistant or his administrator, then if someone asks for information about a personal case, he or she is quite free to give it to other workers compensation boards.
I think that is the point we are trying to make. I can see the reasoning being that nobody else raised this through the review process. Maybe they did not pick up on it, but it is a question of why do we want other government officials to be privy to the personal situation of an individual, whether it be an employer or an employee. I just do not understand it. I can understand information being shared from workers compensation board to workers compensation board, but I cannot understand why we would be discussing a case and giving authority to an individual to give that type of confidential information to other government officials and other governments.
Maybe the Minister can respond in that context. Perhaps he can tell us why it is so necessary, conversely, that we allow this information to be provided to other government departments or officials. If they are, the department or official or other governments should be named specifically.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: At the very beginning of the discussion on clause 79, I listed the kind of information that is provided to other governments. I mentioned Statistics Canada, Revenue Canada, governments who act as employers and also health care systems respecting information pertaining to payment of accounts for rehabilitation services that are paid for particular workers compensation claimants. That is very specific and relates to a specific claim. I do not see where there is a problem with that kind of information being divulged.
The argument could be made - and I will give full credit to both sides of this argument - that there is no restriction in the act to providing information to other governments that may be of a private nature and that may harm the interests of the particular claimant. I cannot understand why anybody would do that, but certainly it does not restrict that in this section itself.
I believe we have had a positive experience respecting board policy and that provisions in the existing legislation have been used judiciously and with common sense, bearing due regard for the rights of individuals. To date, I have not received any information that there has been a problem out there. That is probably why the public has not commented on this item either.
If the Members wish to suggest wording that would not restrict the kinds of information that I have indicated is provided to other governments, then I will entertain that. I am not going to be bloody-minded about it, because I have indicated that the objectives that I have stated are simple enough. I want to ensure that what is the current practice - one I believe is a reasonable current practice - be allowed to be maintained. Based on the information that has been provided to this Legislature or to me prior to this, during meetings and sessions I attended respecting this bill and about workers compensation in general, I have had no information to suggest that there has been a breach of ethical standards by the board in applying the rules.
I am open to further discussion if Members have a particular amendment, which does not give a blanket denial to all information to all other governments. Under the circumstances, that is not a reasonable approach.
Mr. Brewster: I am not going to carry this much further, but how would any individual know whether or not there was any harm done from one province to another? How would one know that this was passed between the Workers Compensation Board and a department? One could not know, because it would be done only between them.
We have had enough cases in Canada where government bureaucracies have done these things. There is no way in the world that this person, who was harmed, would ever know. One cannot even get information through the Access to Information Act half the time, unless one pays $5,000, like we did. The average person cannot do that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There may be something that will provide some comfort to the Member. The Member just stated that a person should know if their claim has been accessed by someone else. It may be a worthwhile suggestion to look into whether or not it would be difficult to inform a person who has had their claim or account accessed by somebody other than Revenue Canada, which is a regular occurrence, and other than for the purposes of providing general statistical information. We can probably look into this in the next half an hour or so. Perhaps the person could be informed that their information was being made available to someone else.
I do not know how much bureaucracy that adds to the system, but I will undertake to investigate this and if it is not unreasonable, that might be a reasonable compromise for the Member.
Clause 79 stood over
On Clause 80
On Clause 43 to 47 - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I had an opportunity over the course of the last few days to review the federal legislation governing trust companies that was provided by the Member for Hootalinqua. I also had an opportunity to investigate in which direction the federal government was going in the regulation of trust companies. I discovered some interesting things that I am sure Members will want to hear.
The proposal last time around was that in seeking a solution that would protect the investment fund from unwise or foolish investment policies, the proper approach might be to have the investment policies subject to the restrictions that the federal government applies to trust companies.
After investigating this, I discovered that the federal government, as of now, is in fact proceeding in a different direction to govern trust companies. This information is found in the budget documents that were tabled with the federal budget.
If you will permit me, I would like to briefly quote from the budget document, page 156, which refers to the matters at hand. The government, meaning the federal government, is also proposing a modified regulatory environment faced by pension funds subject to the PBSA, by adopting a prudent portfolio approach to investment selection, as discussed in its 1987 paper, New Directions for the Financial Sector. This change would allow pension funds to choose equity investment from a larger group of Canadian corporations and, thereby, assist the potential increase in equity investment resulting from this tax change.
The prudent portfolio approach has been adopted by the Ontario and Quebec governments in the re-regulation of funds under their jurisdiction. The changes to the PBSA will be made as part of the overall changes to the investment role of governing insurance companies, and trust and loan companies.
That suggests that the federal government is moving away from providing for a list of eligible investments and instituting what they call a prudent portfolio approach, which is the equivalent of the prudent person test under our Trustee Act, which is already being suggested as a test for the fund managers of the workers compensation fund.
The other item I wanted to bring up to provide some more information for this discussion is that, in reviewing the act, I discovered there were a number of things being proposed in the existing Trust Companies Act, soon to be changed, which provide a good deal more flexibility than that that exists in the currently investment policy, which I passed out last week and was approved by the Workers Compensation Board.
I only say that, not because I am personally opposed to the Workers Compensation Board engaging in certain things - for example, the trust companies legislation does not permit for the investment of workers compensation funds in debentures, stocks, bonds or other securities of a municipal or school corporation in Canada, meaning a school board, that are guaranteed by a municipal corporation or government, or are held in real estate.
These are things that are not currently permitted in the investment policy and, while I would not necessarily be opposed to that, I think that it would be desirable, under the circumstances, to have a very clear-headed review as to exactly what that might mean for the workers compensation fund.
Having said that, I think it is important to note and to remind people of what is currently in the draft act for the protection of the investment portfolio of the Workers Compensation Board. It essentially says, firstly, that under the Trustee Act, the prudent person test should be applied to all investments, and that is clearly the direction in which the federal government wishes to see itself go with respect to the regulation of trust companies.
Secondly, the board must initiate and approve any changes to its investment policy. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing because, obviously, one might argue that things have been going along well for some time; the boards funds are in good shape and the investment policies have been - if I may be permitted to say this - conservative enough to keep a healthy fund in place. Thirdly, as a double check on the investment of workers compensation funds, the Cabinet of the Government of Yukon should also be asked to approve any change to the investment policy. This would allow not only for flexibility, but also for checks and balances on any changes to be made.
Upon reflection, I think that what we have proposed here is actually a fairly good compromise. It respects, I believe, the interests of everyone in ensuring that the fund is well-protected. It is not too restrictive on fund managers in the sense that, if there is a need for a change, then changes still can be sought. It does not offend our sensibilities, when one considers our experience with the Workers Compensation Board over the last 20 years and, I think, it meets every objective test with respect to our need to provide for reasonable checks and balances when dealing with and managing very significant and large sums of money on behalf of workers and employers in this territory.
I think that information will be useful to Members opposite. If they want to comment further, we can continue to discuss this matter.
Mr. Phelps: I understand what the Minister is saying with regard to the potential for changes in the federal Insurance Act and the federal Trust Companies Act, with regard to allowable investments. The problem I have with the protection given by reference to the territorial Trustee Act is simply the prudent person test. This seems to me to be vague in the extreme, particularly when applied to the investment policies of a board of directors for something like the workers compensation fund. I know of no case law that really defines what prudent people would invest in.
I want to anticipate that the kind of actions that are feared by some of us in this House might be construed as prudent under the law by judicial interpretation, even though it could lead to investments that we feel would be potentially detrimental to the worker. The worker is the same person we are trying to protect by our intervention at this stage.
I am concerned about the vagueness of the concept embodied in our territorial Trustee Act. With respect to the intentions of the federal government to amend investment sections of either the Insurance Act or the federal Trust Companies Act, it seems to me that the Minister has hit the nail on the head by saying that when one looks at the current policy of the Workers Compensation Board, the legislation I tabled in the House last Thursday would allow more flexibility than the existing policy. That is good.
At least it does allow more flexibility, because the Minister, at that time, as I understood it, was concerned that we were going to make an attempt to unduly tie the hands of the board with regard to its policy and the person whom they have successfully employed, to wisely invest the trust monies under their control - the compensation fund.
Accordingly, it seems to me that it would do no harm to amend the section to refer to the investments allowed by either of the two acts that I tabled here, with the understanding of course that those acts would be amended from time to time, and that this will have a consequential impact on the breadth of the policy.
Certainly, nothing that has been stated by the Minister would lead me to believe that this would be unduly restrictive to board policy. It seems to me that we do have a broad degree of consensus in the House with respect to the wisdom of the policy as it has been followed in the past.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think that the one flaw in the Members reasoning is that the suggestion that we use the federal act, even though we are aware that it may be changed - in fact, we have been given notice that it will change - suggests that we must be prepared to move, fairly shortly, to the prudent person test as being the only test. I do not think that it serves the Members purposes in establishing the kinds of controls that he is seeking.
The Member was concerned about how vague the term prudent person test is, in the territorial legislation, and he was concerned that perhaps there was insufficient case law to help define the restrictions that are commanded by that test.
That may well be; I am not certain; I do not know how sufficient the case law is - because I am not a lawyer, so I cannot pass that particular judgment - but I am told that there is a significant body of case law, as well as significant academic writing on this subject.
This obviously would assist the court in determining what is prudent under the circumstances. Whether that is sufficient enough to meet the Members needs, I do not know, but I am informed by lawyers that there is a fair amount of case law in this particular area.
I think the Member has captured the essence of the issue here: the maintenance of some flexibility, balanced with prudence. I believe the proposal we have put forward does, in fact, meet that test - flexibility and prudence. That test is one element of the balance, but it is also necessary to proceed through the processes of ensuring that two boards, presumably acting with common sense, will pass judgment on any changes to the investment policy.
It is important to understand what an investment policy is and does. It does not invest in any particular item; it guides the investment fund managers who do the investments.
I was assured last week that the Members were not suggesting that one element of the check and balance, the approval by Cabinet, was something they were assuming is, in and of itself, inappropriate. If that is, in fact, the case - if they are suggesting that the Cabinet of the government should tacitly admit that they would act without prudence when investing trust funds or when approving a policy that governs the management of trust funds - then there is not much room for further debate on the question. I do not agree with them, absolutely and categorically, if that is what they are saying. I do not want to put words in their mouths, but if that is what they are saying, I cannot and do not and will not agree to any suggestion that that is the case, because there is nothing in the experience of this government or previous governments to warrant such an outrageous claim, in my view. If it is motivated for reasons that are not stated, then I wish they would be stated so I could deal with them.
If the Member was implicitly alluding to investments such as the sawmill in Watson Lake or the MV Anna Maria or any such other outrageous claims, then I wish he would say so, but I would certainly be able to provide a very clear defence on behalf of the government.
These kinds of investments - venture capital investments - are not what is contemplated in the existing policy. They would not be permitted, unless the board agreed, and they would not be satisfactory under a prudent person test.
Consequently, if there is an interest in making intentions very clear, then I am more than prepared to answer and defend the balance struck, but I cannot fight ghosts. I cannot respond to unstated allegations or concerns. If there is a concern, however I may feel about it, I would like to hear about it, and then I can respond.
Mr. Phelps: I will take one more stab at it. It seems to me that what we are proposing here is an additional safeguard. It is a measure that does not impinge upon the flexibility of the policy, by the Ministers own admission, so I do not feel that it is negative, in any way, viewed from that perspective, given the other part of the equation, which is the issue of prudence with respect to how the fund is maintained and allowed to grow. It seems to me to be a fairly simple proposition. If one looks at the history of the success and failure of federal firms that have been governed by the two acts we are speaking of - trust companies and insurance companies - the history is fantastically good. There is no question that there are huge amounts of money being invested on behalf of all these federal institutions all the time.
There is no question in my mind that the very people who are hired by the board as fund managers are entirely conversant with the investment policies and the restrictions on such policies as provided for in these two acts. I see no downside to what we are suggesting. We are saying that these funds are extremely important; they are held in trust for the workers of the territory; and one additional safeguard is to ensure that the safeguards that have been used so well to protect insurance holders and beneficiaries of the trust companies are safeguards that are entirely appropriate to put into place with regard to this very large amount of money.
I think any institutional investor will be conversant with and have no trouble operating within the constraints imposed by either of those two federal acts.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not disagree at all with what the Member said. I think that institutional investors will also become very conversant with a prudent person test, because that is obviously the direction the federal government is signalling that it wants to go. They must also be fairly conversant with the test as it has been applied to Ontario and Quebec, which are still, in some respects, the homes of the major financial institutions of this country. Either test will be well known to all persons who manage funds.
The argument that the success rate of trust companies is something that should be considered is a reasonable proposition; however, I think, to be equally reasonable, we should look at the success or failure of the workers compensation fund itself, which, as a fund - I believe the Members words were - has a fantastically good record overall. That fund has been guided by board policy virtually from the beginning. There should be no impetus for us to be charging into the Legislature seeking a change based on our actual experience. I see nothing that would warrant that.
At the beginning of the discussion on this subject, I pointed out that the flexibility that is permitted under the federal legislation is a good deal more flexible in some areas - not in all - than the existing and past board policies would allow. I would argue that under those circumstances and given our record, it would not hurt to have a double-check should there be a significant interest in seeking investments in land or investments that may be guaranteed by an incorporated municipality in this territory.
I think that will require some thought. In the name of prudence, it would not hurt at all to ensure that a second board review the change to the policy to help us all feel comfortable that prudence does prevail and the fund is protected over the long term.
Mr. Phelps: We are getting back to the same issue; the suggestion does not impose standards that the present policy cannot meet. The standards in either act are no more flexible than the current policy. The Minister is saying that, so I do not see an argument against having this double safeguard in the act for those reasons.
With regard to the issue of safety, the Minister is saying that the record of this board is good. The record of a lot of provincial insurance companies and trust companies has been good, but that is where all the bankruptcies have been taking place, too. The most recent infamous trust company was in Alberta. My point is simply that we have an extremely enviable record when it comes to the prudent side, given the history of federal insurance companies and federal trust companies. It is that kind of safety that I would like to see built into this act, particularly as I cannot see any downside to doing so.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: One downside is that the federal government is going in a different direction. To attach ourselves to the federal act when we are put on notice that we are going to be moving to the equivalent of a prudent person test seems nonsensical to me.
The Member should accept the argument, based on experience, that we have a good record in this territory, as well. That is not to say that the investment portfolio of the Yukon Workers Compensation Board cannot collapse, any more than the investment portfolios of the federally regulated trust companies cannot collapse, but, based on our experience, we have done very well here.
I think that our objective to have flexibility and balance is met through the mechanism that we have established here. Based on our experience and the checks and balances currently in existence in the current act, what is being proposed under the new act is in fact more careful in the assumption of responsibilities for the funds - not less, but more.
Given that the federal government is going in a different direction, I do not see any particular point to following their lead, considering that their lead is going to end up where we are proposing to go right now.
I might be missing something and perhaps the Member will give it another stab.
Mr. Lang: We were hoping that we could come to a compromise and an accommodation here that would give some further comfort to ensure that the broad parameters in the investment policy would be adhered to by the general parameters in our legislation.
I cannot find the logic in the argument that because we have been given notice that in some respects the Government of Canada will be going to what he refers to as a prudent investment test - I think that is the terminology that he used - we cannot refer to the two federal acts that the MLA Kluane called for.
I am very concerned because the act is quite a bit different than what it was previously. I have to be frank: I do have some concerns about the Cabinet having now, mandatorily, to approve and get involved in the changes in the investment policy. The fact and the reality is that, although technically any Cabinet could have become involved, Cabinets have not become involved and there was no requirement for them to become involved.
Now, we have a section under the act that requires certain actions by the Cabinet with respect to the investment. Our concern is that we put a safeguard in there so that we do not have a situation where the worst-case scenario occurs - we are talking about the Watson Lake Sawmill and things of that kind - and it is not enough to say it could not happen; the reality is, it could happen.
And, why would we not want to put in a reference to the federal statutes that the MLAs for Kluane and Hootalinqua referred to? For the life of me, I do not understand why we should not.
If we give a suggestion in the House, it is as though the MLA for Mayo, who purports to be listening to us, stands up and gives us lip service and never accepts any one amendment or any one thought from us. I am viewing the bill here from a non-partisan point of view, not from a partisan point of view. Quite frankly, I am informed that, in the sections he is referring to, neither management nor the labour representatives who helped draft this bill agree with the Cabinet being involved or with the way it is written. Knowing that, it has got to cause some concern to the MLA for Mayo, as a Minister of the Crown, and it causes concern to this side.
Prior to this time, and prior to us enacting this legislation, it was never compulsory that the Cabinet become involved; now it is. The Cabinet shall become involved. Sure, they will consult and such, but the final bottom line is that we know where the hammer is. It leaves a wide latitude for the political arm of government, which should not have the authority to override the trust that the board has been given. Now, the Minister is going to stand up and say that the board has to recommend in order for us to override. That is true, but the Executive Council appoints the board.
The Minister just snickers to himself, but surely he can see the merits of the argument. I am prepared to accept the compromise of the Cabinets approval and the Executive Council Members approval, as long as we clearly understand what the guidelines of the fund are. Right now, we are going in blind. We are saying that this fund that was approved was a great idea. I want to say, and the Minister will have to concur, that Cabinet never approved this particular fund or policy, and there was no requirement for them to.
For the life of me, I do not understand why the Minister is putting up a wall and saying he is right and everybody else is wrong, when the ultimate end is the concern for the workers of the territory - that they are adequately covered 10 years from now.
I said this the other day and I will say it again today: I am not insinuating that the present Minister would become involved in that kind of thing, but we have to protect ourselves from the worst-case scenario if something does happen. That is my concern and that is why we have to look at the legislation. We cannot look at it from the perspective of the personalities on the floor of the House at this time. I would not be worried if the MLA for Kluane or the MLA for Mayo was in charge, but things can change and I am just saying that the law is the law, and we have to look at it from that point of view.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for Porter Creek East very much for coming out of the closet on his concerns with respect to allegations that the Cabinet may want to invest in projects like the Watson Lake sawmill; that really allows us to forget all the other nonsense about being concerned with prudence. This is a political argument and the Member suggests he is not trying to express a partisan point of view. I would suggest just the opposite. I would suggest the Member is trying to express a partisan point of view, exactly. Based on experience, based on the experience of the fund, based on the experience of this Cabinet with respect to its relationship with the Workers Compensation Board, there is nothing in the experience of this government to suggest that there is any cause for concern with this workers compensation fund at any time. The fact that the Watson Lake sawmill is being raised in the context of this debate is, in fact, a very partisan statement under the circumstances, I would submit very humbly.
I do not mind engaging in partisan debates - that is, in part, what we are paid to do - but I cannot accept the Members rationale for wanting to change if that is the core reason for insisting on a change under the circumstances here.
The Member has stated that the political arm of government should not override the good judgment of appointed people. I have a real problem with that whole proposition.
I have a problem with that, because it suggests that appointed people inherently have good judgment and elected people do not; I do not accept that. I absolutely, flatly, outright do not accept that. In the event that an elected person does something that is considered to be based on poor judgment, there is more accountability to the public in this Legislature than there is by any other citizen in this territory. That is the way it should be. To suggest that the political arm should, out of principle as opposed to experience, have nothing to do with something as important as the whole future of the Workers Compensation Board is something I fundamentally, absolutely and totally reject.
The Member says that the Executive Council should not be involved, but it appoints the board members and can fire them. Following this argument, if the Executive Council did not like a board investment policy, presumably it could fire the board and get a board that would agree to its policy. This uses the same logic.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible).
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know if Hansard picked that up, but, on the one hand, the Members are going to use the board as being the fund of all good common sense and that the front bench on the government side will not have any - this is the presumption the Members make and I, of course, reject that. When there is any suggestion at all that the past experience of the board should be brought into the equation, the Members simply suggest that the Cabinet should not involved but perhaps it is right for the board to be involved all by itself. I am saying once again that to follow the lead of the federal government, when it is coming to join us in our approach, does not make sense.
I just read the budget documents for the Members, which explain it exactly. I have the budget document right here, and I have it highlighted as to exactly where the federal government wants to go.
I think that there is some onus on my part to show that we are still covered. On the one hand I think that I could simply state, well, look, practice and experience should be sufficient to make people feel comfortable, because we have gone some considerable distance toward having a very well and prudently managed fund, and an investment policy that proves that.
I am not experienced in comparing policies, but it seems to me that it was a fairly conservative policy. The policy is conservative in the sense that there is an abundance of prudence.
The argument that because the Cabinet has to approve changes to the policy somehow necessitates Cabinets involvement and consequently is going to do some damage to the process is, I think, a spurious argument. There is nothing about that argument that impresses me at all. Cabinet has had the power in the past to decide the policy absolutely and all by itself. If a Cabinet is obligated to review the work, suggestion or the recommendation of the Workers Compensation Board - which is the only body that can initiate changes - I do not see that as being necessarily bad at all. I think that is prudent and wise under the circumstances.
This Legislature is divesting considerable authority to some appointed people. I think that it is only right that when one deals with something as significant as the management of the compensation fund that there should be some check in place on changes made to the investment policy.
I do not see where the government is proposing something that is irresponsible, and I want to assure the Member opposite that I have not dismissed the suggestion that we should be moving toward the federal acts. I have very carefully reviewed these matters and no matter what the Member for Porter Creek East says, I am not rejecting the proposed compromises out of hand. I am not saying that I have heard enough and that no matter what the Members opposite say, I am not going to listen. I am not saying that no matter what they propose, I am not going to advocate that Members on this side of the House agree or disagree, or anything else.
I am saying that, based on the information that I have, based on the investigations that I have undertaken and based on the points that I have made, I think that it is appropriate, and I have stated why I think that it is appropriate, that we go in the direction that we are proposing to go.
I have raised some concerns with respect to the proposed changes that they have made. I have tried to do it in as non-combative a way as possible. I think that any objective person would recognize that the allegations made that this is simply a back-door way of funding the Watson Lake sawmill is absolutely outrageous. It is also quite partisan; let us not pretend that it is not. The chances of that happening under the current system and the chances of that happening based on experience are nil.
Mr. Lang: I want to make a couple of observations. To say that it could not happen is not true. I want to put that on the record. The Minister had better look back in history to the election of 1985 - or maybe it was 1986. His leader was advocating that the workers compensation fund be used for mortgages and for financing various other ventures in the territory.
I am not making this up. This is not a bogeyman I have suddenly resurrected, or a straw man I am trying to knock down. There is $76 million to $80 million in a trust fund. We are asking that the broad guidelines governing investment be incorporated into the legislation.
The Ministers argument is, Trust me; things have been great; things have been wonderful; I am a great guy; do not put me in a tough spot.
I am even prepared to accept the fact that Executive Council Members be involved if there are changes, as long as broad guidelines for the investment policy are incorporated in the bill. Then, there is a parameter for the government and a parameter for the Workers Compensation Board. If they want to go beyond that, they have to come back into the public forum.
The Minister is saying that everything is great and wonderful that they have never done anything wrong. I have to say, from all reports, things look good financially. I am not going to argue that. We will just go on the way we are, and accept the fact that Cabinet shall now be involved. Before, they were never involved. It was discretionary, and they never got involved. Now, however, they will be directly involved.
The Minister of Economic Development says they could have been. I agree. Technically, they could have been; politically it was not the thing to do. Let us be frank about it. Now, they are involved, with the passage of this act. That is what they are asking all Members of this House to approve.
We are suggesting that as a compromise while trying to ensure the necessary guidelines are there to prevent the worst-case scenario - the Watson Lake sawmill, which he says is a spurious argument. However, it did happen, and it happened with electrical ratepayers money. We have another political venture that is underway and has been under debate in this House: the Taga Ku project. That money will not be voted in this House.
It will go through the Yukon Development Corporation and all the risks will be taken by the electrical ratepayers of Yukon. First of all, we object. We have been clearly on the record regarding the Yukon Development Corporation. What we are saying is that the reason we are having the problems over there is because it was not under the Trustee Act. Everything would have been fine if it was under the Trustee Act. Is that what we are saying? Prudent investment?
I ask the House, what is wrong with trying to incorporate into the legislation the broad parameters as recommended by the MLA for Hootalinqua? If the federal government changes their act - sometimes things are said at the federal level that never get done - a reasonable amendment would have to be discussed here. What is wrong with that - three years down the road?
As the MLA for Hootalinqua quite properly says, depending on the amendments put forward, we probably would not even have to amend the act.
I do not understand why the Minister is so much opposed to giving us at least a further degree of comfort in the bill to ensure in our mind that, when we walk away from the passage of the bill, the investment parameters are such, and protected by law, that they cannot be abused. If they are, it will cause a very serious situation because obviously the guidelines had been set in law. There is nothing in here, now; we just talk about investment. There are really no prohibitions of any kind.
Once again, I would like to prevail upon the Minister and ask if he would seriously look at the suggestion of the MLA for Hootalinqua; and then we will accept the system he is advocating.
I think that is fair.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Lots of things are attempted by governments that are not always appropriate. The Workers Compensation Board itself may have been wrapped up a few years ago, which I believe would be contrary to the existing act. It was attempted by the government. One probably could have argued the case in court that this was inappropriate without having come to this Legislature, but circumstances caused other things to happen at that time and the Workers Compensation Board survived as a board.
In defining or outlining the governments experience with this particular board, one can see that the government had the opportunity to design the investment policy and did not. Whether something comes up in the agenda for them to approve the Workers Compensation Board investment policy or not, I do not think it is qualitatively different from the fact that the government had the power to decide the investment policy. I think that the fact that Cabinet has an obligation does not mean a darn thing and it will not mean a darn thing in the future.
The Members concern that the government is going to be investing Workers Compensation funds in the Watson Lake sawmill is a highly partisan statement. I disagree with it 100 percent. I do not think it could happen under the prudent person test, being a venture capital project. I do not believe it would happen. There is nothing in this Cabinets experience that even suggests that there would be such an attempt - never.
I am not going to get involved in debate about the MV Anna Maria, the Watson Lake sawmill or anything else, because I would like to get this act through. If Members want to put forward motions to this effect, I would be more than happy to debate them at any time.
People of this territory deserve this act, and I am going to do my best to see it get through this Legislature.
If the Members want me to take some more time - we are not finished with this act yet - and further review the investment procedures, I would be more than happy to do that. As I mentioned when we were discussing the very last clause we dealt with, I am not going to be bloody-minded about the suggestions but, quite frankly, I am not impressed with them so far.
That is not being bloody-minded. It is simply being truthful. If one wants to turn the tables here, I think it is absolutely arrogant of people to suggest that, simply because they make a suggestion, in all fairness, we have to agree to it. I do not like that approach.
If the Members want to make a proposition for some general parameters for guiding the investment policies - that are not going to be out of date in a year or so - then I would be more than willing to consider that. If Members are simply going to ask that we follow the federal legislation - and we know the federal legislation is going to be changed - then I do not think that is appropriate.
I would like to ask the Members opposite to provide another suggestion, one that does not have such a short, finite life to it.
If they come up with some other suggestion, I would be more than happy to consider it.
Mr. Lang: I will take up the Ministers thought on this. He may well want to get with his officials and maybe we are not talking about the federal insurance parameters - maybe there are others - and maybe he could come back to us with some other suggestions about how we could express, in law, the broad investment parameters governing how the money in the workers compensation fund should be invested. That is all we are asking. If the Minister would undertake to do that, we would be quite content. There is a fair segment of the bill to go through. There is nothing said that, if we do get through the whole bill today, it could not be set aside for another day or two, and then we could come back to it. That is all I am asking.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I did a lot of research into this bill, and I am prepared to defend, and have been defending - adequately, I think - the provisions that I have tabled in this Legislature. The Member suggests that I should go away and that I should do the work to try to anticipate what the Members are thinking, and provide for the restrictions that would satisfy them. I am not going to do that. I am not saying that this should not be done. I am saying that if the Members opposite have a concern and want to provide restrictions, that I am not going to try to bowl this legislation through the House. I am more than happy to consider what they are proposing to meet their own needs. I thought that I had answered many of the concerns already with respect to the last proposal. I am not a mind reader. I cannot give them the level of comfort that they want. They should be proposing the changes to us. We will give their proposals every consideration; I have no problem whatsoever with that.
Based on the fact that I am already proposing sections that I think are obvious improvements to the existing act, and which already build on good experience, I am obviously comfortable with the proposed changes.
If the Members have a suggestion, or wish to make a suggestion, that will raise their comfort level, whatever that is, in whatever areas that they want, then I am more than willing to wait - not forever - for their suggestions and, then, we will discuss them for as long as they like.
Mr. Lang: I would recommend that we set those sections aside. We will be bringing forward some amendments, probably tomorrow.
Clauses 43 to 47 stood over
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If we come to the end of the act today, we will continue discussing investments until the Members opposite bring forward the changes.
Mr. Lang: That is the most asinine thing that I have ever heard. There are other pieces of legislation on the bill; you are the Chair, we have asked that these clauses be set aside; and we will bring forward amendments tomorrow.
I submit to the House that there is a list of business, and we are asking for the time of the House. I would appreciate the courtesy that I would give to the Minister, without setting this aside. We may be through the balance of the bill by early this evening.
Chair: I would ask that you keep your remarks parliamentary in this House sitting.
On Clause 58 - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will try to be as accommodating as I generally have been so far.
The issue in clause 58 was the issue of what constituted a principal. In the context of this act, it refers to any person or organization having work performed for them.
This provision does not apply to principals who are not in an industry because, of course, the act only applies to people who are employers or workers in an industry.
A person who is building a house is not operating an industry, nor is he operating in a business. That is how the Workers Compensation Board has historically interpreted what a principal is all about.
Based on my understanding of what the Members concern is, if that understanding is still not clear to Members, I will be more than happy to consider an amendment that says that where any work is performed by a contractor for any person or organization operating in an industry (the principal), both the principal and the contractor ...
This makes it clear that the principal must be operating in an industry running a business. I am willing to go either way. I am happy with the way the act reads now, because this act only applies to employers and employees, including a principal. If that is not satisfactory, we can consider an amendment that repeats the particular understanding in this clause, based on the proposal I have here.
Mr. Brewster: I would prefer to go with the amendment. I would call to the attention of the Minister that he violently defended the principal until he got a little note from back in the room here, and had to admit that what I was arguing was partially right. Let us just make an amendment.
I do not think that I have defended it violently. What I was doing was trying to understand what the Members were saying.
I only have one signed copy of this, which I will provide to the Chair. I will give Members the other copies.
This is proof positive of my attempts to be accommodating based on information that I am hearing in this Legislature.
Mr. Brewster: I move
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 58 at page 30 by deleting all that portion of subsection (1) immediately preceding paragraph (1) thereof and replacing it with the following:
Where any work is performed by a contractor for any person or organization operating in an industry (theprincipal), both the principal and the contractor
Speaker: Is there any debate on the amendment?
Amendment agreed to
Clause 58 agreed to, as amended
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now take a brief recess.
On Clause 79 - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The amendment that I am about to propose to clause 79(2), I think addresses the issue raised by the Member for Kluane regarding the desirability of having information provided to another government, submitted to the worker or the employer, so that the worker or employer may know when some information has been divulged.
I will move the amendment now and then we can discuss it.
Chair: There is already an amendment on the floor, so we cannot yet move another amendment.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To help things along, we will have to deal with the amendment proposed by the Member for Kluane first and we should do that.
The amendment that I am going to propose is different.
The amendment says that whenever information in respect to a specific claim, other than information that is statistical in nature, is provided to another government under subsection (2), the board shall notify the worker or the employer of the information that has been provided.
The intent of this proposed amendment is to ensure that people are made aware, at any time, of the fact that their claim or individual information has been revealed to another government.
Chair: Mr. Brewster on the amendment?
Mr. Brewster: I will withdraw this amendment.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent to withdraw this amendment?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 79 at page 44 by adding the following subsection immediately after subsection (2) and by renumbering subsection (3) as subsection (4):
(3) Whenever information in respect of a specific claim, other than information that is statistical in nature, is provided to another government under subsection (2), the board shall notify the worker or the employer of the information that has been provided.
Chair: Is there debate on the amendment?
Mr. Brewster: I think that is a good amendment and certainly satisfies my worries and doubts about the other one.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 79(2) agreed to as amended
On Clause 79(3)
Clause 79(3) agreed to
Clause 79 agreed to as amended
On Clause 80
Clause 80 agreed to
On Clause 81
Clause 81 agreed to
On Clause 82
Clause 82 agreed to
On Clause 83
Clause 83 agreed to
On Clause 84
Clause 84 agreed to
On Clause 85
Clause 85 agreed to
On Clause 86
Clause 86 agreed to
On Clause 87
Clause 87 agreed to
On Clause 88
Mrs. Firth: When will the regulations be ready?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As soon as the appointments for the review board are ready to be made. Those are the only regulations I am anticipating passing under this act.
Mrs. Firth: Has the present board been working on any draft regulations, which could be used as a guideline with respect to this piece of legislation, or perhaps the legal people of the department have been working on them?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The only thing I am anticipating doing is appointing a new board. There is no requirement to pass further regulations, to my knowledge. We will have to appoint new board members, of course, and that will be the regulation in the foreseeable future that we will be passing.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister a few questions about the appointments of the new board members. What process is the Minister going to use to solicit recommendations? How will those appointments be made and when?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The procedure to follow would basically be that letters would go out from me to labour and business organizations seeking nominations to the Workers Compensation Board and the Health and Safety Board. I would be seeking nominations from the labour representative from labour organizations and from industry organizations. There would be two from each who would be required. If industry and labour want to renominate people who are currently sitting on a board, that is certainly up to them.
With respect to the chairperson of the board, I would be seeking proposals from anyone who wishes to submit them. When I have a name or some names, I will be contacting the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Federation of Labour to ensure that any name, at a minimum, is not objectionable to them. I would hope to gain the support of both organizations for the chairperson.
Mrs. Firth: I noticed in the Gazette that the present chair of the board has had a short extension to his appointment as chair. Does that mean that he is no longer prepared to sit in his capacity as chair of the board? If his name were submitted as a person to carry on, would that be acceptable?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The chairperson has resigned from his position as chair. He was asked to remain until the passage of the act is complete, which is anticipated to be the end of this month. After that time, Cabinet will appoint a new chair to the board.
I have been seeking advice from various organizations, groups, et cetera, as to who would be a good candidate to fill that position. I have come to no conclusions and am not very far in the selection at this stage, even though there are signals out there that a new chair is required.
Mrs. Firth: I will certainly make some recommendations to the Minister. I will not make them here in the House, but I can do that in private.
I thought that the chair was resigning, but I was not sure about that.
The business representative on the board is a fairly new person to the board, as well as to the Yukon. The labour representative, if it is still the same individual, has been there for some time. We are now going to have five members on the board, and they are essentially all going to be new people, as well as a new chair and a new act. I guess you could look at it both ways. It might be an opportunity for everyone to start off fresh and new. However, I have some concern that there may be no continuity and no one familiar enough with the process. The board may be a bit disadvantaged because of that.
I would like to hear the Ministers comments about this.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The concerns that the Member is expressing are valid ones. Continuity and experience are valuable for any board. Depending on whether or not the existing persons are nominated, there may be an opportunity to consider reappointments. Given that the board is changing the scope of its responsibilities to include occupational health and safety, I have made the commitment that we would only be considering nominations from labour and industry organizations, in the first instance, and it would be essentially up to them as to whether or not they wish to renominate the individuals who are currently sitting as members on the board.
To explain my first point, I have indicated that I will not be appointing anyone who has not been nominated. The question of continuity would be something that both the nominators and the government would have to consider. Continuity and experience are valuable assets, especially given the important responsibilities the board will have.
If that is not available to us, life experience, business experience and working experience will be rated very high as an alternative.
Clause 88 agreed to
On Clause 89
Clause 89 agreed to
On Clause 90
Clause 90 agreed to
On Clause 91
Clause 91 agreed to
On Clause 92
Mr. Lang: This is the area that is of concern. We had a debate last week with respect to the appointments of boards in general within the government, and the need, from an overall perspective, for more scrutiny by Members of the Legislature.
In that debate we made a recommendation, although it has not been voted on, although it has been spoken against by the side opposite. We recommended a standing committee of the House for the appointment of board members and councils. It would be in camera to permit comments, pro and con, to be transmitted to the Executive Council Office for its consideration; the act and the actual appointment itself would be made by the government.
We do not have a standing committee principle agreed to by the House, but we do have a principle that has been approved by the Legislature, and that is the appointment of the Human Rights Commission, whereby the appointments, after approval of Executive Council, have been brought into the House for approval giving the Legislature the opportunity to scrutinize them.
Similarly, I should point out what it was not debated the other day.
The water board appointments come before us, under federal legislation, but have to be approved by the Legislature, which gives it more accountability because we have the ability to make comments if they were deemed to be appropriate.
In order to assist the Members opposite in their current dilemma with respect to the appointments of boards, I would move the following amendment, if I could.
On Clause 92(2)
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 92(2) at page 49, by deleting the phrase Commissioner in Executive Council and substituting for it the word Legislature.
I give notice of motion
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 92(3) at page 49, by deleting the phrase Commissioner in Executive Council and substituting for it the word Legislature.
I give notice of motion
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 92(8), at page 50, by deleting the phrase Commissioner in Executive Council and substituting for it the word Legislature.
I give notice of motion
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 92(9), at page 50, and substituting for it the word Legislature.
I give notice of motion that
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 92(9), at page 50, by deleting the phrase Commissioner in Executive Council and substituting for it the word Legislature.
Perhaps I could distribute these very worthy amendments. I see no reason why there would be any reason not to support them. These amendments could address many of the concerns made by the side opposite.
This does not negate the requirement for the two Members representing the employers or the two Members representing the workers, or the outline of how the procedure would work as put by the Minister. We would still see that as being the case, where they are basically looking for nominations from those two particular elements of our society, to ensure that there is adequate representation.
I think that this would meet the concerns of a lot of Members of the public, especially, in view of the concern that we have regarding the position the government is taking on the investment policy. We on this side of the House feel that we have to do everything that we can to try to ensure the public accountability of that board. Obviously, as stated earlier by the MLA for Kluane and the MLA for Hootalinqua, this board must be accountable in respect to the investment policy because of the long-term consequences that it has for individual workers and the possible benefits they may receive in the event of an accident during their employment.
These can only be termed friendly amendments, and I am looking forward to unanimous support by all Members.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Members opposite have called for question already and, just to be polite and in the interests of openness and fair play, I thought we would mention that we will be objecting to these amendments everywhere they occur.
We do not believe the situation is analogous to the Human Rights Commission at all; we believe there is a point in having a Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board, answerable in this Legislature. We do believe that there is a role for the Executive Council of this government to play in making the appointments.
Of course, the submission the Member is making is, in fact, quite different from the resolution he proposed in the Legislature to establish a standing committee on appointments to make recommendations to the Executive Council, so there is no necessary connection between the two. However, as to the suggestion that the appointments should be made through the Legislative Assembly, I know the Member realizes in his heart that it will not pass this Legislature, nor should it.
I am, however, quite heartened by the change of heart the Member has had since 1984, when there was an attempt by the Yukon government Cabinet to wind up the Workers Compensation Board; now, there is an attempt to completely divest any responsibility at all for the Workers Compensation Board. We seem to be bouncing back and forth from one extreme to the next. I do not think that is reasonable, and I know my colleagues point of view would be that this amendment should not pass.
That will be the position we will take during the vote.
Mr. Phillips: I want to enter the debate for a moment and talk about this particular amendment, because I think it is a worthwhile amendment put forward by the Member for Porter Creek East. I am disappointed to hear that the government side is not going to support it. The government side has put out this great and grand brochure about making government better, and I am sure, if they listened to the people out there, they would find that this is the kind of thing people would want us to do to make government better - take the political interference out of appointing boards. I think that is the kind of thing people want to see.
The Minister responsible for the act made a statement a few minutes ago about the Member for Porter Creek East taking a contrary position a few years ago. I will not dispute that because I have not read that section. However, the other day, I read a section of Hansard from 1982. A very honourable gentleman spoke during a very similar type of debate about having a non-partisan committee of the Legislature looking at this. That gentleman happened to be the present Government Leader. He said we had to put in place a policy such as this. Then he argued throughout the whole debate that that was what we should do. His colleagues supported him in that.
The Member for Porter Creek East tells me that the Member for Faro and the Member for Mayo voted with their leader at that time and supported this kind of initiative. Now, the permafrost has set in in the brains of Members now that they are on the government side of the House and they forget they are trying to do things for the benefit of the people. They now want to maintain all the control themselves and are not worried about what the people say or want anymore. That seems to be consistent with this governments actions.
I am very disappointed. I am sure, when the Government Leader gets back to town and finds out the Members did not support a motion he put forward in 1982, he will be equally disappointed. He might even haul some of them over the carpet for it. He will be really upset about the way the vote is going to go here today.
That is about all I have to say about this. It is a good, positive motion. If the government is insisting that their appointments are good, well-intentioned and non-political, this is a way to ensure it for the people of the territory. Then they know that there will be an all-party committee that will look at these types of appointments and make reasonable decisions.
I do not have the fear, like the Member for Whitehorse South Centre, of McCarthyism and raking people over the coals. Two or three times, since that Member has been in the House, we have had to deal with water board recommendations and recommendations to the Human Rights Commission. Not once have we, in this House, raked these individuals over the coals.
Why is this all of a sudden a concern to that Member? Is this just a red herring that the Member is throwing out: to say that this is going to happen? I do not think it is at all. I think that it is wrong for the government to say that that is what we will do in this House and that we will take it as an opportunity to publicly discredit somebody.
I think it is absolutely wrong and misleading for that Member to try to make people think that is what we will use the system for.
The purpose of the amendment is clearly to appoint non-partisan, qualified people to boards and committees in the territory. We should be taking this opportunity to do so.
I think that the amendment put forward by the Member for Porter Creek East is a good and positive amendment. It is an amendment that I am sure the Government Leader, the Hon. Mr. Penikett, would support if he were here. He supported it in 1982 and I am sure he would support it now.
I encourage all other Members to do what their boss did in 1982 and support this amendment.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the Member for Riverdale North for his intervention, even though I think we have just entered the twilight zone.
The amendment here has nothing to do with an all-party committee making recommendations to Cabinet at all. It has everything to do with the Legislature debating appointments to the Workers Compensation Board. The Member says that it was the same thing, now he says it is a similar thing. The similarity is in the eye of the beholder, obviously. I think that the Member should spend some time thinking about what he says before he says it.
As I indicated, we believe that there should be a Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board. We believe that Cabinet has a role to play in making the appointments. That is, and always has been, our position. To my knowledge, I have never stated otherwise in this Legislature. I think that this is a realistic balance of responsibilities for the scrutiny of workers compensation activities; consequently, this is an appropriate approach. I have already indicated to all Members how we will be considering the proposed amendments.
Mr. Lang: I just want to make some observations. I am referring back to 1982, when the Member for Whitehorse North Centre, the Member for Mayo and the Member for Faro were all in the House. I just want to refresh their memories.
During the course of that debate, they listened to their leader speak and supported their leaders initiative in trying to bring forward some system, perhaps better than what the Member for Mayo is so avidly defending - that is Cabinet solidarity and the Cabinet is right. I have to admit that, at that time, I felt the same as the Member for Mayo, in many ways. I had good cause, because we never had a situation where we had such incompetence from some of the boards, as has taken place over the course of the last couple of years. Perhaps that is the concern that is being expressed by the public, through us, with respect to saying we had better take a harder look at these boards and what is being delegated as their responsibility.
Each MLA, when they vote for this bill, as with any other bill, is making the conscious decision that we are delegating a great deal of legislative authority to a public by appointed board. I think that, in itself, says that there should be some mechanism for the purpose of Members at least having their advice sought on such appointments.
I would have preferred a standing committee but, obviously, the side opposite is not supporting that. We saw that in the debate last week. What I am recommending here is a fall-back position, or if the Members support the concept of a standing committee, they could bring in an amendment of their own, as the government, for clause 92.
Obviously, they are not. It concerns me a great deal that the Members opposite would take such an arrogant position, in view of their past experience over the last number of years with respect to boards and the way some of them have operated.
I thought they would have welcomed the advice some Members here could provide to the House with respect to the selection of long-time, well-respected, capable Yukoners, native and non-native, male and female, urban and rural. Once again, the Member for Mayo is demonstrating his contempt for this House in respect to ...
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Point of Order.
Chair: Mr. McDonald, on a Point of Order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member has made the allegation that I am showing contempt for the House. The charge is unwarranted, and has not been proven. I have shown nothing but the fullest respect for the proceedings of this Legislature, and I will continue to do so.
The Member is making the charge that a Member of this Legislature is showing contempt for the Legislature. It is unparliamentary language, and I think the Member should withdraw it.
Mr. Lang: On the point of order. I hope the alternative is not that I am going to be beaten up.
I have no problem apologizing if I have offended the Member. I realize he is very thin-skinned and very sensitive. I am prepared to apologize if he has taken the wrong interpretation.
On the same point of order, I feel that he is asking us to give our consent to a bill that arbitrarily gives the authority, once again, to the executive council to appoint what could be construed as friends of the government over and above other eligible individuals. Perception is very important. If the Chair feels that there is a point of order, I am more than prepared to say that I apologize and I withdraw the remark.
Chair: I thank the Member for withdrawing the remark.
The time now being 5:30 p.m., we will deal with this later and now take a break until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are on the amendment to clause 92(2).
Mr. Lang: The friendly amendment we put forward here is basically to meet, at least in part, the very major concerns being expressed by the general public. As I said earlier, it is also to take steps to give some comfort to the real responsibility the Workers Compensation Board has, and that is to the fund itself. I can understand the position the Minister is putting forward - he is the Minister and he has ministerial accountability - but I do not think it would hurt if the appointments had to be ratified by the Legislature. As my good colleague, the Member for Riverdale North, pointed out, it would give the general public the perception of some due consideration being given the appointment, rather than it being strictly partisan. I cannot subscribe to the Ministers comment that it cannot be compared to the process surrounding the Yukon Human Rights Commission. This board is supposed to be a non-partisan board set up to administer funds on behalf of workers, no matter what their political affiliation. It must ensure that the fund is well-invested and kept up in such a manner that there will be the amount of money necessary to ensure the longevity of the fund and the commitments to those workers who unfortunately have to avail themselves of the terms and conditions of the fund.
The Minister obviously has spoken on the amendment without even discussing it with his colleagues. He just said they were all going to vote against it. I would have thought that at least there should have been some discussion instead of all the Members being told what they had to do by the Member for Mayo. I recognize that apparently he wields a lot of weight, but I always thought the other Members could think for themselves and would vote their conscience on behalf of their constituents.
That is not the case. They are lined up like sitting ducks under the instructions of the Member for Mayo. They have been told what to do. I hope none of them makes a mistake. They would lose the vote and then would have to subscribe to the basic principle that the current Government Leader, in conjunction with the Minister of Justice, along with the Member for Mayo and the Member for Faro were advocating a number of years ago when they were the opposition.
I would request that we have a vote.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We will have a vote as soon as the Member allows someone else to respond to his allegations.
I would like all Members to know that I am so in touch with my colleagues that it did not take a great deal of thought or consultation to anticipate that they would be rejecting such a suggestion as the Member has put forward this afternoon and evening.
To respond briefly to the points the Member has made, there is not much that is analogous to the Human Rights Commission, given that it is an arms-length body from the government.
We do not believe that the relationship between the Workers Compensation Board and the government should be as distant from the government as the Human Rights Commission is, and there are some reasons for that.
The primary reason is that the Human Rights Commission passes judgment on the activities of the government, as well as the general public. The situation is different with the Workers Compensation Board, obviously.
There are lots of boards that are charged with the responsibility of undertaking public works, which are appointed by the government and that are, and ought to be, considered non-partisan, in the sense that the Member characterizes it.
I do not want to respond particularly to the Members comments of this evening; I want to respond to his comments of this afternoon, because I thought that those were much more worthy of a rebuttal than the few minor, easily rebutted statements he has made this evening.
What I am concerned about is the Members assertion that the failure of the government side to support this particular amendment amounts to arrogance. I am certainly concerned about this particular assertion, especially as it comes from someone who participated in a government that not only was not advocating this relationship with the government - the one we are proposing now - but was advocating a relationship that would have seen the Workers Compensation Board being no different than any other department in the government.
I draw Members attention back to 1984 when the government was, contrary to law, busily trying to incorporate both the Workers Compensation Board and Yukon Housing Corporation into the Department of Justice and Department of Community and Transportation Services respectively. This was something that was the epitome of arrogance because it was done in the face of legislation that had been passed in this Legislature: the Yukon Housing Corporation Act and the Workers Compensation Act. If you are looking for a definition of arrogance, that is arrogance.
The thing that I found most disturbing was the allegation that the Members opposite, and particularly the Member for Porter Creek East, could sanctimoniously state that the record of the present government with respect to appointments was abysmal, in the sense that it did involve the appointment of a number of New Democrats to boards.
Let me draw Members attention back to 1985 when the Member was actually influential in government and the Boards and Committees Handbook that was in effect during those days - incidently, I was not able to respond in debate last Wednesday; I wish I could have - was two years in production. The concerns expressed by the Member opposite that the recent Boards and Committees Handbook is somewhat out of date is somewhat hypocritical, under the circumstances.
If one were to take a snapshot of what was happening back in 1985 - this is just my own knowledge of the Conservative Party; I am not familiar with the workings of the party, or the membership - I identified two presidents of the Conservative Party on boards, both chairs, one principal secretary from the Conservative Cabinet on a board as a chair, for ex-PC MLAs, two PC campaign chairpersons, a handful of PC candidates, some of whom went on to be PC candidates.
There were no New Democrats chairing any board, to my knowledge; I did not recognize anybody. That can now compare with the situation where we have a minimum of 10 boards - these are territory-wide boards, not community or regional boards or committees - that are currently chaired by prominent Conservatives or Liberals. That includes two crown corporations of this government.
I would like to state categorically that the charges that there is political patronage that is any more severe - and it is certainly a lot less severe - than that that was experienced by the previous government and by Members on the opposite side is nonsense, based on the actual record between the two governments - the actual record.
One could argue that we could not be as bad as the previous government; well we are not as bad as the previous government...
Chair: Order please. We have to get back to the bill at hand.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On that particular point, the Member for Porter Creek East raised the issue...
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ...of political patronage on boards and committees and made that his justification for the Legislature to make appointments rather than the Cabinet, and I am responding to that.
I would argue that this is most certainly appropriate to the subject at hand; there is no doubt about that.
Let me also say, in this particular case, that the balance on boards and committees is in fact quite fair now that a conservative effort has been made by this government to make it fair. Unfortunately, I cannot accept the Members proposition that the situation is worse.
I cannot agree with the concerns the Member mentions that there should be no worry from the opposite benches that they will engage in any character assassination. I think there definitely is a concern, and we should all have a concern, about the way people have been personally identified in this Legislature - people who are not in a position to defend themselves, nor to debate the matter in this Legislature. We should be concerned about those people being personally identified and debated on the floor of this House.
I do not recall doing that myself. If I have ever done that before, and criticized a public servant personally on the floor of this Legislature, I will apologize right now; however, I do not recall ever having done that.
For Members to identify people personally on the floor of this House is something I do worry about and would object to and, consequently, would not like to see happen in debates on appointments in this Legislature.
For all those reasons, I cannot agree with this amendment. I know for a fact that my colleagues do not agree with this amendment. Based on the history of the Members opposite, there is no reason why we should accept this amendment, nor accept the assertions the Members opposite are making.
Mr. Lang: The Member made it very obvious that they still want to hold the power of political patronage and are prepared to exercise it. That is basically the message that is being conveyed. I am not saying everything that was done prior to 1985 was right, but I can say that we have never had the situation that we have had in a number of boards, where there has been incompetence to the point that it has to be raised on the floor of the House.
Our concern is that this government, in view of the Ministers statements surrounding clause 46, is now going to make sure the Cabinet can legally get into the compensation fund, indirectly through appointments to the board and in working in conjunction with the board on the compensation policy, which has never happened before. He is going to exercise that.
Therefore, the friendly amendment we put forward was to try to give some comfort to the workers of the territory. Do I really care about the workers of the territory, the Minister of Economic Development asked me? Here is the man who is funding the Kirkhoff group.
A big solidarity for ever, gentleman. He talks about the worker - give his head a shake.
I want to conclude by saying that, as far as I am concerned, what we are trying to recommend here is no different from what is done for the water board; it is no different from what is done for the Yukon Human Rights Commission, and it is no different from what should be done for the Workers Compensation Board. I think that the process undergone by two different governments concerning appointments of people to the board should be reviewed, and we came forward with what we thought was a constructive alternative for what has happened in the past - not to say that bona fide NDPs might get appointed to the boards, or Conservatives or Liberals, or perhaps people who are not involved in the political process, such as our senior citizens.
I am saying to the side opposite that all we are trying to do is bring forward suggestions for this bill to make it a better bill on behalf of the people of the territory.
I want to say to the Member for Mayo, who is so sanctimonious and considers that any amendment brought forward by this side is of no consequence and that this is just a useless exercise we are going through in the peoples court, because the Minister spent $400,000 wandering around the territory with his little cavalcade saying now I have all the answers and we are just going to bulldoze it through: my good colleague, the MLA for Kluane, has done much work in this particular area - on behalf of the workers of the territory, whom the Minister of Economic Development is so concerned about - and what is the response from the side opposite when we talk about the investment policy and that we want to ensure it by putting in safeguards? They dismiss it, out of hand - dismiss it. They all turn around saying trust me, trust me.
Well, we trusted you with the Yukon Development Corporation and we learned our lesson. The Minister stands up and says in his sanctimonious way to the House, we cannot have another Watson Lake sawmill. Well, tell me where it says we cannot. The Government Leader in his good judgment probably appoints his ex-principal secretary, the one who is there now, and perhaps in a year or two years from now we will be unfortunate enough to have them form the government. Do we think they would not be having coffee together? Do we think they would not be phoning each other? In fact, there will probably be a direct dial into each others office and they would not need secretarial help.
It would be arms length; they just happen to get along and happen to have the same political philosophy and we feel perhaps we could be wiser and make our investments ourselves; that is our concern.
There is a reason for the amendment. It calls for public scrutiny, because it is the only check and balance this type of board and this type of fund can have to ensure that it is well protected on behalf of those workers who are in the unfortunate situation of having to depend on it for a monthly income.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I regret having taught the Member a new word, sanctimonious, because he used it at least four or five times and sometimes not even in the right context.
That is the most hypocritical statement that I have ever heard anyone in this Legislature ever give. This position, which is ostensibly taken in the name of the workers of this territory or employers or whomever, is coming from a person who participated in a decision, contrary to law, as a Minister in this House, recommending that the Workers Compensation Board be completely wound up and shoved in to the Department of Justice where it could report to the assistant deputy minister. The same person who is talking about the rights of workers here was talking about completely ending any kind of arms-length relationship that the Workers Compensation Board was supposed to have had. This is the Member for Porter Creek East saying this. It is completely ridiculous and outrageous.
This is a new-found sentiment; I am prepared to accept the Member as being a late learner, but I think the Member could at least have the decency to acknowledge such an incredible change of heart from only six or seven years back.
The Members opposite had two major opportunities to make amendments to the current bill. The one that I recall most vividly was an absolutely fundamental change to the way compensation was being paid for workers in this territory, moving from a pension system to a wage-loss system. This was a fundamental change.
At that time, did they ever express the position that the Cabinet or the Minister should not be able to make appropriations out of the workers compensation fund? No, they did not. They left the clause in the act allowing the Minister - without ever having come to this Legislature - to make appropriations out of any amount of that $70 or $80 million. They could do so at any time they wished with no public accountability whatsoever. Did they try to make that amendment? No, they did not.
Did they try to make the amendment that the Cabinet should not be empowered to decide the investment policy in order to protect the compensation fund for employers and for workers? No, they did not.
Did they have an opportunity? Yes, they did. They had that opportunity two times in four years. There are some Members opposite - at least one Member - who have had a much greater opportunity than that.
I have an opportunity right now and I am making changes. I am proposing changes that will protect the fund.
The Members allegations about protecting the fund and about Cabinet wanting to get into the compensation fund are absolutely outrageous and ridiculous. They are absolutely completely outrageous and ridiculous.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am always caught for words whenever I hear something as brilliant as what I just heard from the Member for Porter Creek East.
Members opposite are proposing that the Legislature make the appointments. I have already indicated that I do not think that is appropriate. I believe there is an arms-length relationship with government, but it is not as distant a relationship as Members opposite are proposing. I believe that there is a Minister who should be responsible to this Legislature for Workers Compensation, and I believe that a distance between the government and the Workers Compensation Board is well established and well laid out in this act. It will provide for reasonable accountability to this Legislature for the actions of the Workers Compensation Board. It will ensure that there is reasonable accountability in this Legislature, on an ongoing basis, between the government and the Workers Compensation Board. I believe that the balance struck is appropriate.
All the claptrap about political patronage is just outrageous, especially when it comes from the Member for Porter Creek East and the record of the government that he represented.
Mr. Lang: I would just like to point out to the Member, who talks about accountability, that I have seen this Member stand up in this House, day in and day out, argue that black is white and white is black if he has to, and he talks about accountability to the general public. We bring changes forward; this is the Minister who listens - but said, Well, we are going to bulldoze it through tonight and you are not going to have any choice. We are going to talk investments right up until 9:30 p.m. if we have to, because I know that I have enough support on this side that I can just push it through.
I am just going to say to the Member opposite that what I think we have provided here is a new way of approaching the serious appointments to boards of this kind. As I said earlier, I do not think that it is that much different or any less important than those of the Yukon Human Rights Commission or the water board. I do not think that it would hurt, unless the side opposite have something to hide or something that they are going to do of which we have no knowledge. For example, the new chairperson of the Workers Compensation Board is going to have to be appointed prior to the end of May. I realize that it might be an effort on the part of the side opposite to bring a motion forward about the appointment of an individual to such a board. I just want to submit to the side opposite, once again, that we view it as a friendly amendment and as another measure of accountability of the government, no matter who is on what side of the House. I do not see why the side opposite continues to resist, what I deem to be, a reasonable amendment.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not proposing to bulldoze anything through this Legislature. As a matter of fact, I am prepared to stay in this Legislature until hell freezes over to get this act through; I do not have any problem with that. That is what we are paid to do and I am having a good time. In fact, I am having a very good time. I am prepared to discuss this, because I think that the workers in the territory ought to have a fair hearing of the issues.
I would like to point out to Members opposite, in case they are actually tempted to believe something the Member for Porter Creek East says, that I have already accepted amendments to this act, even though I do not believe that they are absolutely essential.
I have accepted amendments that I have gone to the trouble of having prepared myself, and that is only because I am concerned that the level of comfort for the Member for Kluane is sufficient to meet his needs. If there is any chance that there can be accommodation, I will try to accommodate.
But, on the basis of what I have heard so far from the Member for Porter Creek East, I do not think there is any reason to accept this latest amendment.
I have already indicated to Members what I think the workable arrangement ought to be between the Cabinet, the Minister and the Workers Compensation Board and the Legislature.
I think that the appointment process that the Member suggests for the Workers Compensation Board, especially if the Workers Compensation Board is going to adopt responsibility for occupational health and safety, is not a reasonable one and consequently, it is not appropriate that the appointments and revocations take place through this Legislature, for the two, three or four months that we sit in this Legislature.
Clearly, I do not think that the Member has made his case, and I do not think that it would be reasonable to support the amendment.
Mr. Lang: I submit to the side opposite that we have made our case well. We have had justification and reason to put forward the amendment you see before you. I should point out that we are not asking for the authority to revoke anyones appointment. It is the question of the appointment, recognizing, once again, the authority of the Executive Council.
Therefore, we are not going beyond the bounds of any other piece of legislation I spoke of before. If the side opposite has something they want to hide, that is fine. We will have to continue raising it in the House, as we have done in the past. A lot of that could be negated. It is a shame the side opposite has taken the position they have.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As the Member has added nothing to the debate, I think we have expressed our positions adequately.
Mr. Lang: We have submitted our case, and we are prepared to vote.
Chair: Question is called on the amendment. Are you agreed?
Amendment to Clause 92(2) negatived
Mr. Lang: Point of order. I was positive the Agreeds had it the first time around.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On the same point of order, the Member for Porter Creek East very clearly indicated Disagreed on the first vote. While I thought they had a change of heart and mind, I realized that he was just so used to disagreeing with everything the government does, he was assuming he was in that frame of mind at the time.
It is fairly obvious that the nays, in the end, have it, even without the Member for Porter Creek Easts vote.
Mr. Lang: On the same point of order, I want to put on the record that I noticed, the first time around, my good friend, the Member for Mayo, the Minister responsible for the bill, agreed with the amendment. I was more than prepared to let him carry it, but I did not want to embarrass him.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is one thing I will concede about clause 92(2) and that is that if one looks at clause 92(2)(c), the comma at the end of chair should read a period.
Mr. Lang: Where is your amendment?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would refer to it as a typo.
Chair: Committee agrees that it is a typo?
Mr. Lang: I move
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 92(3) on page 49 by deleting the phrase Commissioner in Executive Council and substituting for it the word Legislature.
Chair: Is there debate on the amendment?
Mr. Lang: I suspect that the side opposite will probably vote against it because they obviously feel that the Legislature is irrelevant in any event.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Even though I expect the Member to disagree, first of all, with this amendment and then agree with it, if our experience is any judge, I must say that to be consistent with the good arguments that have been made by the government side on this particular question, it would be only appropriate and consistent to disagree with the amendment.
Amendment to clause 92(3) negatived
Clause 92(3) agreed to
Mr. Lang: I want to move another amendment. I realize that it is probably irrelevant, in view of the way these people view the Legislature.
On Clause 92(8)
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended at clause 92(8), page 50, by deleting the phrase Commissioner in Executive Council and substituting the word Legislature.
Amendment to Clause 92(8) negatived
Clause 92(8) agreed to
On Clause 92(9)
Mr. Lang: I would probably think the side opposite will have trouble supporting this, but I am not surprised as they see their time in here as a waste of time.
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended at clause 92(9), at page 50, by deleting the phrase Commissioner in Executive Council and substituting the word Legislature.
Amendment to Clause 92(9) negatived
Clause 92(9) agreed to
On Clause 92(10)
Clause 92(10) agreed to
On Clause 92(11)
Mrs. Firth: This clause allows the Minister to fill a vacancy for two months. Does he have to consult with anyone? With the board? Or can he make the appointment on his own?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is not precise on that point. This was brought up in the drafting committee, and with the Workers Compensation Board itself. There was the view that should there be a vacancy, the vacancy should be filled very quickly.
It was felt that the normal consultation for an appointment would probably take about two months after a monthly meeting of the significant labour and business organizations in the territory.
The view was that because the Workers Compensation Board does deal with very important matters, and because it is essential that both industry and labour are equally represented, there should be some mechanism to ensure that there is every opportunity for there to be a balance on the board, meaning that there should be industry and labour representatives acting at all times. They felt that there should be some stop-gap measure that is available, in case there is a vacancy and it was suggested that this might be the way to do it.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister indicated we would be dealing with regulations appointing the board. I wonder if something could not be included in them to give some comfort to the other board members and to people who had raised concerns. The concern is that, with five members on the board now, it increases the chance of one member being absent and that reinforces some of the concerns that have been raised by some of the Opposition Members where, although the Minister may not make the decisions himself, it is reached in a roundabout way by appointing people to boards at a time when someone may be absent and some major decisions have to be made.
Perhaps it could be more specifically designated in the regulations that the Minister has to consult with the existing sitting members of the board and get their agreement? My colleague in the front bench said, With the president of the NDP, but I will let the Minister respond to that some other time.
It might be something the Minister might want to take a look at, just to make it a further arms length from the board and from the decision-making power.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have no difficulty making that commitment. I think it is important that there be some consultation. The test of consultation for permanent full-time members of the board was expected to be rather significant. There would be lots of notice, in writing, and there would be monthly meetings permitted, et cetera. Some consultation is essential. I do not think anyone would dream of making an appointment without some kind of consultation, but I will undertake to make the commitment to the Member that, in the regulations established to appoint the person to fill a temporary vacancy, some form of consultation does take place with the industry or labour groups that are expected to be represented.
Clause 92(11) agreed to
On Clause 92(12)
Mr. Lang: I am wondering about the requirement to put into law that it shall meet at least once a month. Is there a requirement that they must meet once a month? Are we putting a stipulation in here that does not necessarily have to be there? I am assuming they will meet as often as they have to for the purpose of conducting their business, but I have to question if there is no requirement for a meeting but, under the law, they have to meet. Therefore, they have to come together for a meeting.
There are a number of points here, one of which has not been raised, which is the fact that we are increasing the size of the board from three to five, which is another cost to the fund. Why is the Minister saying that, under all circumstances, they have to meet once a month? I would have enough confidence in the board that they would meet whenever they have to, when called upon.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The reason for this particular provision in the act is to ensure that the board deals, in a timely way, with the claim adjudications that come before it. That is the primary reason. With this particular board, it is not much of a problem to devise a sufficient amount of business to justify a meeting. Especially now that it has occupational health and safety, this board will have rather substantial responsibilities. I am certain they will be meeting at least once a month.
The purpose of this particular clause was to ensure that the claims were dealt with on an expeditious basis, and not at the convenience of the board. Suppose the board only has a couple of claims to review, and there is no point getting together, so they want to skip the meeting this month. This would not permit that. The priority is to deal with the appeal claims of injured workers expeditiously, whether people think a particular claim appeal is sufficient to conduct a meeting or not.
We are stating here that, if there is one claim out there that needs to be reviewed, we want the board to review it on a timely basis.
That was the reason this provision was put in there. I am somewhat persuaded by the argument that that is the way it should be. If the Member has good arguments that suggest why it should not, then I would like to hear them.
Clause 92(12) agreed to
Clause 92 agreed to
On Clause 93
Clause 93 agreed to
On Clause 94
Clause 94 agreed to
On Clause 95
Mr. Lang: I was under the impression that there were conflict-of-interest guidelines being introduced in by the government over this session. Why does it say, govern disclosure of conflicts of interest? Does the legislation that has been prepared not cover that? I would assume that the good government bill, which has been so sadly lacking in this government, would contain that.
Chair: Which clause are you talking about?
Mr. Lang: I am discussing clause 93(b)(ii).
Chair: We cleared that one.
Mr. Lang: No we did not.
On Clause 93 - continued
Chair: We will move back to clause 93.
Mr. Lang: I am just wondering why is it in there?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The public government act that the Premier is intending to introduce does deal with conflict of interest. In the absence of conflict-of-interest guidelines, there have to be some rules in the event that the proposed act does not pass the House. We cannot presume the public government act will pass the House. In the absence of that bill, which would obviously take precedence over all other bills for this particular purpose, there is something in this bill to handle that circumstance.
Mr. Lang: Is that section in the bill that will create in law the Advisory Council on Womens Issues? Is that particular section in that act? I do not recall seeing it in other legislation.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am having a little difficulty understanding from which direction the Member is coming. Is he suggesting that the board should not be deciding conflict-of-interest rules?
Mr. Lang: I thought there was a general bill.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We are not debating a bill that is not yet even on the floor of the Legislature. In the event that there is a bill on the floor of the Legislature that has been committed by the Premier, there is no guarantee yet that it will pass or that provisions will pass as they are being proposed. I understand that this is the situation now. I will check the old act.
Chair: For Hansards sake, we have gone back to clause 93(c).
Mr. Lang: It is not in the old act.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will have to look through this. Perhaps the Member could suggest to me what position he is advocating. Is he saying that it is a procedural point whether or not this provision should be in the act or is the Member suggesting that it should not be in the powers of the board to decide? Is he suggesting that the power of deciding conflict-of-interest rules should be decided in other legislation or that the Cabinet should decide through regulation? Perhaps the Member could let us know what he talking about.
Mr. Lang: I was under the impression that it was going to be an all-encompassing piece of legislation. I do not recall seeing this section in any other piece of legislation. It jumped out at me and I thought I would ask the question. I thought I was supposed to ask questions and the Minister was supposed to answer them.
I was wondering why it was in the legislation when I have not seen it before in respect to any of the boards or councils.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I can answer most questions, but I cannot answer a question that is on the Members own mind. That is the reason why I was asking the question.
I can usually guess what is on the Members mind, but that is only because we have been in this Legislature together for so long.
As I am not the Minister responsible for the public government act, I am in a poor position to indicate exactly what the provision will be with respect to conflict of interest. I do understand, however, that the issue will be raised.
In the absence of any provision, it was proposed here in this bill that the board shall be commanded to define rules respecting conflict of interest. If there is a bill that comes forward that does deal with this, it would apply to the Workers Compensation Board. Consequently, that would be the mechanism under which this matter would be dealt with.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is nothing on the Order Paper, as yet. At this time, we are not seized with any other legislation that deals with this. In the absence of any other command with respect to conflict of interest, it was proposed that the board, as a minimum, should define rules respecting conflict of interest.
Mr. Lang: This is rather confusing, and I think it is confusing for the public. Could the Minister tell us if the good government act - which he has referred to several times in his response - has been drafted and passed by Cabinet? Is it ready to table in the House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not the person to be asking that question of. There is a Minister responsible for the public government act who will be in the Legislature tomorrow. I am certain that the Member will be in a position to ask him questions and seek answers, but I do not want to be answering questions with respect to the public government act, because that is for another Minister to respond to.
Mr. Lang: The Cabinet has to approve the legislation, so it is obvious that it has not been drafted. That is all I wanted to know.
Clause 93 agreed to
On Clause 95 - continued
Clause 95 agreed to
On Clause 96
Clause 96 agreed to
On Clause 97
Clause 97 agreed to
On Clause 98
Clause 98 agreed to
On Clause 99
Mr. Brewster: Could the Minister explain that to me? To me, it indicates that the Minister can pretty well order the Workers Compensation Board to do an investigation. That is not too close to arms length, when something like that goes on. Perhaps I am interpreting that the wrong way.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Unlike the current act, the Minister does not have the power to make appropriations, or to do anything. As a minimum requirement, however, in order for the Minister to be able to respond adequately, according to his or her responsibilities in this Legislature, the Minister must be in a position to be able to ask the board for information and get it, or to investigate something and receive a report. That would be the minimum requirement, I believe, to ensure there is adequate accountability on workers compensation and occupational health and safety matters.
This is not the power to tell the board to change a policy, or to do anything, but it is a power that allows a Minister to be able to ascertain what exactly is going on. If the Minister does not have this minimum power, the Minister would be in a poor position to be able to respond to the public, or to anyone else, as the elected person, on matters of compensation or occupational health and safety, which is now also under the boards responsibility.
Clause 99 agreed to
On Clause 100
Clause 100 agreed to
On Clause 101
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what post-traumatic stress is, in the definition of disability?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is the stress that arises from an injury itself. When a person gets hurt and there is a physical impairment, it is serious and causes stress in a persons life - that is what post-traumatic stress is. It is to be differentiated from chronic stress, which is something that is not easily diagnosed but develops over time from the life and work circumstances of an individual.
Mrs. Firth: How long could a person with some kind of disability claim for post-traumatic stress? For example, say someone is injured and is covered by workers compensation. Is this something that has to be settled right away, like pain and suffering, that clause that lawyers like so much, or is it something that they can come back on in five years and say they are suffering from post-traumatic stress? Will the Workers Compensation Board then cover it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, in terms of financial compensation, the Workers Compensation Board provides wage loss. If post-traumatic stress does not cause wage loss, then there is no financial cost to the board.
What is typically involved however, is counselling of various sorts to try to reduce the effect of the stress. It may involve ongoing medical treatment of some sort, which may incorporate a cost, but I would suspect it would probably vary from situation to situation.
Mrs. Firth: Are we talking about a psychological illness?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In some respects, yes. I personally have known of a number of cases where a person who is badly injured goes through a very stressful period. It is seldom that the person can, in one particular case, have their back broken and be in a cast for a very long period of time, for example, for 14 months, and not have that accident affect them psychologically.
It does require some psychological assessment and help. Obviously, that comes at some cost, but it has to be addressed by the Workers Compensation Board as part of their response to an injured person. There are very few serious accidents I am aware of, in my own personal experience, where there is not psychological stress that really knocks a person out. I do not know all of the terms, and I am probably using the terminology incorrectly, but this is from a laymans perspective.
It takes a lot of time, attention and sensitivity to have them come back to a feeling of self-worth and self-confidence.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want the Minister to think that by raising this issue that I do not feel for people who go through this; that is not the case. However, I do want to raise a concern about it because I think it is a very difficult entity to measure. For example, if an incident were to occur, a claimant could come back and have the right to be compensated financially, rather than being given counselling or guidance. I just raise this as a concern. It is going to be a very difficult decision for board members to make. I think it would be difficult to find two medical practitioners who would agree on exactly what this is, how severe it is and how it should be compensated.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not disagree with the Member at all. In fact, I agree entirely with the Member that it is difficult to measure. It is not difficult to see but it is difficult to measure. Certainly, it has been because it is compensable now. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting that the Member is suggesting for one second that this should not be of concern to the Workers Compensation Board. There is no question in my mind that this is a concern; however, in my view, it certainly is the case that major accidents quite often carry considerable psychological stress along with them and they have to be identified in some way. One of the concerns that Workers Compensation Boards always have is to try to rehabilitate a person as quickly as possible. The longer a person, as a result of stress or physical impairment, is out of work the less likely they are, statistically, to go back to work. This is something that compensation boards have been wrestling with for a very long time. They have to use their best judgment to determine whether and how to respond to post-traumatic stress.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to use the example of a constituent of mine. This person is unable to continue his job as a carpenter because of a disability he received in a work-related accident. He is now in the process of trying to investigate retraining and getting back into the workforce. He is receiving workers compensation.
The psychological trauma he is going through, with respect to his self-worth, and whether he is able to earn a living again and support his family, and his own feelings about himself, feeling he is no good anymore because he cannot do his job, may be something that comes under this definition of post-traumatic stress. It would be extremely difficult to analyze that situation and say yes, or no, it is not.
In an event like that, as opposed to saying no, the board would be more inclined to say yes, just because we are going to have compassionate individuals on the board, who are going to have to make these decisions with respect to peoples lives.
We will have to watch it and, in the wisdom of the board members, see how they deal with the issue, when the first few cases present themselves.
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. Brewster: The Minister is always saying that the assessments are not going up, when actually the assessments are going to go up. The amount of money is not going up, but it is going to be on $50,000 instead of $40,000, so that they are going to be paying more assessment. Is this not right?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, that is right. The rate will not go up, but if you employ people who are paid more than $40,000 and less than $43,000, then you will be insuring them on a higher wage rate than before. That is the difference.
Mr. Brewster: For the record, that means that every employer in the Yukon is actually going to be paying more workers compensation.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, not every employer, because obviously not every employer has employees who are being paid more than $40,000. However, for those employers that do pay wages higher than $40,000 and are going to be insuring their employees for more than $40,000, they are going to have to pay for a higher amount; in the first year, $43,000.
Mr. Devries: Under the definition members of the family, this act is supposed to be written in very, plain English, and I question using a phrase like loco parentis. I know what it means now, but I had to get an interpretation of what it meant. I think it would have been much easier to indicate what it actually meant, rather than going to loco parentis.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I happen to agree with the Member in this area. People swore to me that people knew what in loco parentis meant, and come to think of it, they were probably all lawyers, or lawyer clones, but it has come up in the Legislature often enough that I am somewhat familiar with the term.
I do not know what more I can add. I just hope that it does not mean that anybody thinks that a person has to be a crazy parent in order to be counted by this section.
Mr. Lang: I have to rise and tell the House that I cannot vote for this definition of spouse. I will give my reasons. I understand it is primarily there to indirectly cover the situation of the homosexual couple. I find it difficult to understand why we should be doing this in our legislation for workers compensation.
What people do privately is their business, but I do have difficulty with sections of this kind coming into this House and taking legislative steps to change the values of our society as a whole. I recognize the question of minority rights, to some degree, but I also recognize what the eventual outcome of this means. I do not think this is necessary.
In my judgment, the workers compensation fund is not only there for the individual who is hurt and needs assistance, but it is also there to assist those who are directly dependent on them - spouses and other dependants. I think this goes well beyond it.
Further, my understanding is that this section was not discussed by the drafting committee the Minister has referred to on numerous occasions. I am not going to be supporting this section.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I understand the Members position on this matter, and I have listened in this Legislature to debates somewhat similar to the Members position as now stated. I would argue that the provision of this act does not pass moral judgment on what is preferable with respect to a persons sexual preference but does recognize that a dependency relationship can occur between people who are of the same sex. That dependency relationship can mean that the spouse should be compensated in the event of a workers death.
This clause is not primarily there for homosexuals; it is primarily there to deal with spouses - persons who have made an emotional commitment, in effect, to the deceased worker.
The act, in any case, is governed by the Yukon Human Rights Act, which does deal with this situation. As the Member will recall, all legislation is bound by the Human Rights Act; consequently, it is necessary that we act in concert or consistently with the Human Rights Act. So, I would say that this is a reasonable provision under the circumstances. I am not proposing that we pass judgment on what is preferable with respect to sexual orientation. I am proposing that we do respond to the needs of the dependent spouses.
Mrs. Firth: With respect to the definition pertaining to spouse, I would like to ask a question about subclause (a), to whom the worker is legally married. Does that rule out common-law relationships? Is there a definition for that?
Mrs. Firth: Yes, but subclause (b) says just 12 months immediately before the death of a worker. I do not believe a common-law relationship is considered to be a legal marriage. Is there another definition of what legally married means? As a lay person, when I read that subclause, I interpret it to mean that they have to be legally married and that they have to have a marriage certificate and so on. Common-law relationships do not have marriage certificates so they would be ruled out, except if they had lived with each other for the preceding 12 months.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is my understanding - and if I am wrong on this then I hope that Members will correct me - that subclause (b) is consistent with other legislation where that legislation is trying to capture common-law relationships. Twelve months is a reasonable limitation in determining what a common-law relationship is.
Mr. Devries: I would also like to go on record that I cannot support the definition of spouse, due to the implications of it possibly referring to a same-sex couple, on moral grounds.
If one of my children came home and indicated to me that they thought they had homosexual tendencies, I could still love them and put my arm around them, but I certainly could not condone any actions that took place from that point on.
Mrs. Firth: On the definition of work-related, is there going to be a list, or definition of this, in any form of regulation, or is it simply up to the board to determine what is included?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It will be for the board to determine, through board policy. They have a fairly extensive list of policies. Any ambiguities here, or judgment calls, will have to be determined by the board.
Mrs. Firth: Because it is a change from the previous definition, is the board going to develop a new set of definitions? The term has been substantially broadened, in my humble opinion. If the board is going to develop new policies with a list of definitions, I would be most interested in having a copy of it when it is done.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The board will be developing new policies, attached to the act. Consequently, there will be an opportunity to provide a copy to Members once the policy is developed.
I have a list of policies that have to be worked on, and I will provide a copy to the Member. It does include the definition of such terms as work-related.
Mr. Brewster: With respect to the definition of worker, I find that the definition is not too clear. There are a lot of people in the Yukon who are directors in two or three little mining companies and they do not actually work in the mining company at all.
You explained before that if they did not work right in the company that they could be exempted, but this does not say that they can be exempted. Some of them are simply directors within a company because they have the knowledge, but they are not directly involved in the actual labour.
Yet, according to this definition they have to pay compensation. They might be directors for two or three small mines and this certainly would discourage people from ever being directors if they have to pay compensation all of the time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If a director is receiving compensation, certainly there will be some compensation to cover. No person, of course, can be assessed for compensation greater than that of the maximum assessable earnings, but the provision here should not discourage people from becoming directors of corporations. What we are trying to do is to ensure that all persons are covered under the act. We are not trying to provide double coverage for people.
Mrs. Firth: I want to ask the Minister about the subsection regarding a member of the Legislative Assembly, subparagraph (e). What happens now that MLAs are covered under Workers Compensation? Who is going to pay for that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We will pay for that. Under the Legislative Assembly Act, right now Members are covered and this clause only reiterates that provision and makes it clear, because we want to make it clear that MLAs are covered under this act.
We did not feel that it was appropriate to leave it simply in the Legislative Assembly Act. We wanted to demonstrate that everyone is covered, even including workers like us.
I believe there is another small typo, and I apologize for it. In the definition for worker, there are subsections (2) and (3). There should be a (1) before clause (a) at the very beginning of the definition. It should read: worker means (1)(a) through (h), then (2) and, then, (3).
Clause 101 agreed to
On Clause 102
Clause 102 agreed to
On Clause 103
Clause 103 agreed to
Chair: We have some unfinished clauses to go back to.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Once again, we have put aside the clauses respecting the investment policy, clauses 43 to 47, as the Members opposite have requested time to work on some suggested amendment that would satisfy both their and governments objectives. If they are prepared to bring this forward tomorrow, I am certain we can deal with it first thing tomorrow afternoon.
The procedure is nothing more complicated than asking that you report progress. Madam Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 6.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will now turn to Bill No. 4, entitled Victims Services Act.
Bill No. 4 - Victims Services Act
Hon. Ms. Joe: An official may still be in my office. If she is, I hope she comes down and has my reading glasses with her.
The critic for Justice is not here right now. I do not know whether or not he will be responding to any of the comments I have to make with regard to this act.
As I mentioned in the second reading, this act will allow us to do the same thing as was done when the Criminal Code was amended: to include a surcharge to fines from the court. It would include all territorial offences and would exclude municipal acts. The fine surcharge would not be added to any municipal offences.
The act will also allow us to establish a fund. During that process, we will be looking at a Victim Services Committee that will be appointed by the Cabinet. I suspect that the recommendations and criteria for this committee are being proposed right now and will be coming back to me for approval.
Let us see. What else have I got here? Basically, it will allow us to add a surcharge to fines and to set up a fund and a committee to deal with this fund.
Mr. Nordling: If we are on general debate on this bill, I would like to ask the Minister if she can give us some idea of the costs associated with the bill, i.e. the cost of administration of the act and the estimate of how much this surcharge on territorial offences will generate.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I cannot give him those exact figures or even an estimate right now. If we were looking back at the amount of money that we have collected in the past, and at the statistics we have gathered, then I would be able to provide him with that information, but at this time I cannot do that. We do have a person on staff right now who is dealing with the compensation for victims of crime and the victim impact statements. I suspect that that person is already overloaded with work because of the complaints that we are getting.
Mr. Nordling: When we decided, in effect, to extend the victim fine surcharges to territorial offences, the department - or someone - must have had a look at the number of territorial offences that would qualify and have done an estimate of what sort of revenue this would generate.
My impression is that, under the Criminal Code, a lot of the money from the victim fine surcharge is generated from 900 $1,000 fines for impaired driving and driving while over 0.08. There are not nearly that level of fines in territorial offences.
I am trying to get a feel for whether this is worthwhile, at all. We may be spending more money administering the act than we will generate in revenue.
Hon. Ms. Joe: On the last page of the information I have here - and it has just been pointed out to me by the official - the territorial offences for 1991 totalled $412,000. We have not been able to collect all the fines, but we hope we will now that we have the fine enforcement program in place. Right now, we are looking at something in the area of over $60,000, if a surcharge was added to the fines that have been imposed in the last fiscal year.
Mr. Nordling: It is my understanding that the Ministers calculation is 15 percent of $400,000, generating approximately $60,000 in revenue. Even if we hire one person on a full-time basis, I do not think there is going to be much left over from that $60,000, especially if we have to provide some sort of office space.
How many person years does the department envision hiring to administer this act?
Hon. Ms. Joe: There is already a fund in existence. It is our intention that the proposed surcharge be added to the Criminal Code offenses. The amount of money collected from the Criminal Code offenses is already in a trust fund. We are looking at something in excess of an estimated cost of $61,000 plus the surcharge that will be added to the territorial offenses.
We are establishing a committee to deal with the plans of this fund. This fund is not only going to be provided as a compensation for victims of crime, but it could be used for education for those individuals who are victims of crime.
It is our hope that we will not have to hire an additional person year to administer this fund. Rather, it will be a combination of some of the other work that is being done.
As I mentioned before, we have someone on staff whom we have had to hire to deal with victim impact statements and compensation for victims of crime. One of the sorry things about that is that person is already overworked because of the amount of work that is imposed on her.
Whether or not we will have to hire an additional person to help her carry her load to be more effective in that position, I do not know. It is my understanding right now that we will not be hiring an additional person year specifically to administer this fund.
Mr. Nordling: What role will that person play in the administration of the fund and the allocation of monies from it?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am not exactly sure what person the Member is talking about. Is he talking about the person right now who is administering the victim impact statement and compensation for victims of crime?
I have already stated that this individuals workload is already much more than she is able to handle because of the high impact on that position.
I am not entirely sure whether or not this fund, which is already in existence, will require a person to administer it. We are looking at a committee of people to advise us on how we should be spending that money. There is already a structure within the court services that provides a number of programs, including the victim/witness program and a number of other things and it is our hope that whatever is required to administer this fund would fit somehow into some of the other programs because we are not looking at this specific amount just for the compensation for victims of crime, but for other things as well.
Mr. Nordling: Who will the Victim Services Committee consist of, when will it be formed, and how much will it cost us?
Hon. Ms. Joe: As I mentioned in my opening remarks, we are putting together the kind of information we will need in order to strike this committee. We are putting together a policy mandate and terms of reference, and that, in turn, will help guide us in regard to how we would wish this program to go. There have been contacts with individuals on an unofficial basis, and we intend to use the expertise of those individuals out there who deal with this kind of issue every day.
Mr. Nordling: In the Ministers figures - the $412,000 in fines that were levied - does she know how much of that is outstanding and how much was collected?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The fines that were imposed amounted to $412,549; the amount we have been able to collect is $291,761; therefore, we have an outstanding amount as of the end of March of almost $121,000.
Mr. Nordling: If those people who actually paid their fines paid the 15 percent victim fine surcharge, we are talking about $45,000 that would be available to administer the fund and to be available for distribution under the fund.
I would like to ask the Minister if there is going to be default time for non-payment of the surcharge on territorial offenses?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The fine enforcement program requires the individuals to be notified of money owing to this government. If that money is not paid there is a process by which civil action has to be taken. The program would also possibly have them appear before the court to state why the fine has not been paid. Jail time could be imposed on that individual. That is what we are doing now with the fine enforcement program.
This act states on page 4 that a person who is liable to pay a fine surcharge is also liable for imprisonment for failure to pay that surcharge. I already commented on the fine enforcement program and the manner in which they are given a chance to do community work or something to pay off the fine. In some cases, if that is done, we will not be getting the fine paid, because they would have worked it off.
Mr. Nordling: Another one of my questions was with respect to the fine option program and whether the person would be able to work off their victim fine surcharge or whether they were expected to pay cash into the fund. I think that the official is nodding her head yes to that question, so perhaps I will go on to ask about the default time. Can I ask the Minister if, when the judge imposes, for example, a victim fine surcharge under this act, will the judge impose a default time when they are sentencing that person? I would also like to know if the Minister has any figures or calculations for that, because my concern is that we may end up spending more than $45,000 to keep people in the correctional centre because they have not paid their victim fine surcharge. We will end up with a negative balance at the end of the day. Perhaps we should leave that so the Minister can bring back some figures and calculations tomorrow.
I would move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
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, entitled Workers Compensation Act, and Bill No. 4, entitled Victim Services 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.
The time now being 9:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled Monday, May 4, 1992:
Government Contracts 1991/92 by Type (MacDoanld)
Yukon Advisory Council on Womens Issues 1990/91 Annual Report (M. Joe)