Monday, May 11, 1992 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Recognition of Westray Coal mine disaster
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 9, a large explosion occurred at Westray Coal mine in Nova Scotia, which is owned and operated by Curragh, Inc. It appears that there are 11 dead miners and there is little hope for the remaining 15 miners who worked the night shift.
Premier Tony Penikett has sent a letter of condolence through the Premier of Nova Scotia to the families of the miners who lost their lives. I am sure that all Members would want to join me in expressing our sympathies to the families of those who died and our hope for those who may still be found alive.
Underground mining can be a dangerous business. We should stand together with those who are closest to these tragedies and help them pull through.
Mr. Devries: We on this side also wish to offer our condolences to the family and friends of the miners at the Westray Coal mine. Words seem inadequate at times like this in view of the tragedy that has taken place. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families in Plymouth, Nova Scotia. May God comfort them during this time of hope and bereavement.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have for tabling three legislative returns.
Mr. Lang: I have for tabling copies of newspaper reports dating back to 1982, covering NDP policy regarding the allocation of the workers compensation fund.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 8: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 8, entitled An Act to Amend the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 8, entitled An Act to Amend the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 8 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Lang: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that benefits in Yukon granted to non-resident, aboriginal claimant groups should not include land or management rights, but should be restricted to monetary compensation and hunting and trapping rights, based on current usage; that any hunting and trapping rights granted to non-resident and aboriginal groups should be apportioned from the Yukon First Nations share of the wildlife harvest in the Yukon by way of agreement between these non-resident and resident aboriginal claimant groups and individual Yukon First Nations; that Yukon First Nations should be granted reciprocal harvesting rights, based on current usage in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories; and that the principles of this policy be incorporated into the comprehensive land claims umbrella final agreement between the Government of Canada, the Council for Yukon Indians and the Government of Yukon.
Mr. Phillips: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should not use taxpayers money to sponsor advertisements of a partisan political nature.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Spring clean-up week
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am pleased to inform the House of how we are encouraging Yukon people to pitch in to help clean up during spring clean-up week, which is May 9 to 15. A clean environment and healthy communities are things we all want. This year, the territorys splendour will also be enjoyed by a record number of visitors expected for the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway. Spring clean-up will ensure that the Yukons beauty is not marred by unsightly and unnecessary waste. Individuals and communities in the Yukon will be working with the Departments of Community and Transportation Services and Renewable Resources, as well as with the Yukon office of Environment Canada in what we hope will be continuing efforts to help keep the territory clean.
A Department of Community and Transportation Services initiative will encourage groups to take part in spring clean-up and help them earn money as well. Each weekend during the month of May, groups of six volunteers who help in cleaning litter from highway right-of-ways can receive $200 for every four hours of work. Groups can make arrangements with the local highway foremen for their community to help them improve the appearance of our highways and to do some fund raising at the same time. Unincorporated communities have already received grants of between $100 and $300 to fund their clean-up activities. Each municipality will be eligible for a matching grant of up to $1,300 for programs within their boundaries. Innovative activities have been planned by these groups and I wish them success.
One week of activities alone cannot solve all our problems, however. Another important component of spring clean-up week is a public awareness campaign prompting people to adapt their lifestyles throughout the year to contribute to a healthier environment. The campaign emphasizes the four Rs of waste management: reduce, recycle, recover and reuse. These are viable options in the Yukon today. With a little thought, all of us can reduce the amount of garbage we produce.
Community efforts and government support, such as the Renewable Resources program that is helping to establish recycling depots in the communities, have made recycling programs available to many people. A waste-oil recycling project has been in operation for several months at the Whitehorse Recycling Centre. Information and advice on composting - recovering usable soil nutrients from organic waste - is available from a local group, the Recycle Organics Together Society, which we are pleased to support.
Spring clean-up week is a time to use the methods we have for waste management and to think about new ways we can put the four Rs to work in the territory. Over the past years, clean-up week has been an annual event and has shown great results. We are confident the efforts of communities, of volunteer groups and individuals this year will again contribute to the health of our environment and the view of the Yukon as a beautiful place to visit and a great place to live.
Mr. Phillips: We, on this side, are pleased to see that the government is putting more effort into cleaning up the territory. However, I am again somewhat disappointed, because I have risen in this House for probably seven years in a row, and probably 70 times, and asked the government for a year-round anti-litter program. I see the government is going a little further this year. We have gotten them to go from a one-week program to a 30-day program.
Could the Minister try to multiply that by 12? I think all Members in this House know, as they drive around the territory, that just saying we are doing it one week a year does not solve the problem. If you look around this town, in particular, it is a real mess. Obviously, all the anti-litter programs the government has conducted that last only one week a year are not working. We have to make more effort to get the town cleaned up, and it has to be a year-round program.
It is just not enough to remind people for one week every year.
Every year about this time, I issue a challenge to all Whitehorse Members to join with me in helping clean up an area of Whitehorse. This year, I would like to challenge the Members to join me this Friday morning, at a time convenient for themselves. I would like to target a specific area this year. I would like the Members to join me at the Taga Ku project, which is an absolute bloody mess that has to be cleaned up.
The Minister talked about the Alaska Highway and how important it is going to be to our tourists. This mess is right across the road from an RV park. It has torn plastic all over the place and garbage all over the road. A lot of that garbage we cannot handle, but there is a lot of garbage there we can pick up.
Perhaps it would encourage the proponents of the project to clean up their act and do their job in cleaning up the territory. As well, there is a lot behind the RV park - the old Cassiar lot. It is absolutely filled with litter. It would show a good example for Members of this Legislature to join with me some time Friday morning for one hour. I will provide all the garbage bags the Members want; we will clean up some of the mess on that corner.
Mrs. Firth: I guess we have to be thankful for every little step the government takes with respect to encouraging people to clean up and be more litter conscious.
I do not know how much good it is going to do for MLAs to go down to the Taga Ku property and try to clean it up. I have had a lot of complaints. I would like my response to be mostly in the context of what is actually going to happen to the Taga Ku development area.
I would like to ask the Minister if there will be any onus put on the Taga Ku Development Corporation to clean up the area prior to visitors arriving in the Yukon. What are they going to do about the dirt pile with the plastic falling off of it, and what are they going to do with all the garbage, paper cups and litter that is contained within the fences of the Taga Ku development? Can the Minister give us some indication of whether or not something is going to be done about that eyesore? I will pass that information on to the people who are asking.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member for Riverdale North raised his concern about a year-round program that ought to be in place. I can assure him that, for all intents and purposes, a year-round program is being undertaken by government. We have directed various departments, both within Whitehorse and in the rural communities, to pay special attention to government yards, compounds and facilities to ensure that they are kept as year-round examples of facilities in order, not just for a week or a month. That has been ongoing for well over the past year.
With respect to the challenge of the Taga Ku property, the Member will be pleased to know that we will accept such a challenge if it is still necessary. I, too, have concerns about the condition of the site. I have raised the matter with the proponents. The proponents, as Members are aware, are currently trying to restructure the financing and have every intention of continuing the project. However, in the meantime, we still have considerable litter on the site and around the area. It may well be that, when Friday morning comes around, the clean-up may have occurred. I will pass the Members view on to the proponents.
It remains to be repeated that the proponents have every intention, at this point, of concluding the project. This would include removal of the pile of dirt.
I understand the intentions are to utilize some of that dirt for foundation and concrete work. The remainder will be removed from the site.
In conclusion, I would agree with Members opposite that the site needs attention and needs attention quickly.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Unemployment statistics
Mr. Lang: I would like to draw the Houses attention to an issue that was raised this past weekend. I had the opportunity to meet with quite a number of Yukoners from across the territory. One particular young Yukoner spoke to me with respect to the question of jobs and the availability of jobs. She is presently unemployed and is seeking seasonal work in order that she might carry on with her university studies. She has noted from her friends down south, as well as from watching the media, that more and more unemployed people are coming to the Yukon vying for any positions that are available. She did not understand why Mr. Penikett and some Cabinet Ministers, when they leave the territory, are speaking on various shows and to the media, nationally, and otherwise, telling everybody how good the economy is here when we have an unemployment rate higher than four or five of the provinces. Our unemployment rate is 11.1. In Ontario, where they are experiencing a recession, the unemployment rate is 10.7.
I would like to ask the Minister of Economic Development if he could tell the House what is behind the strategy of his government, and more specifically, the Government Leader, in going across the country telling everybody how good our economy is when we have such a high unemployment rate and our young people are having trouble finding jobs here themselves without this influx of unemployed workers from the south.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let me say to the Member that I, too, would be concerned about young people who are not able to find summer employment. I can assure the Member that, as a government, we provide every opportunity to employ many of our university students.
I should point out to the Member that there is no strategy to encourage people to migrate to the Yukon. The facts of the matter are that we have already had, over the past half-dozen years, an influx of some 5,000 people more than what we had in 1985 and 1986. We have been able to accommodate those 5,000 people in terms of our services, infrastructure and employment needs, with not too much of a ripple during that period.
There have been some 3,000 new jobs created since 1985, and the facts of the matter are that the economy is relatively healthy in the Yukon, but we are not encouraging a mass migration as the Member would suggest.
Mr. Lang: This is an indirect consequence of the message that has been specifically conveyed by the Government Leader, as well as other Cabinet Ministers in speaking of how good our economy is here. People are believing him when he says there is a lot of employment available in the Yukon.
I want to know why - other than making the Government Leader feel important - the government is conveying that message to other parts of Canada, when we are facing an unemployment rate of over 11 percent - higher than the Province of Ontario.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The current seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is, by comparative standards, considerably better than it was a number of years ago.
Half a dozen years ago, the Yukon had an unemployment rate of 15 to 16 percent; we have improved in that particular area.
I do not think that it is fair to characterize the Premier as a person who goes around telling the country that our employment rates are low, that there are jobs and that the economy in the Yukon is healthy.
The fact is that considerable advertising has gone on that would carry a message of that sort. The Arctic Winter Games were televised nationally and internationally. The anniversary celebrations for the Alaska Highway are also being advertised nationally and internationally.
We are, by virtue of natural development in the activities that go on here, picking up a lot of free advertising. The message in that advertising is, obviously, upbeat, positive and supportive of the conditions in the Yukon, but there is no deliberate effort to encourage mass in-migration to the Yukon.
Mr. Lang: Intentional or not, the fallout from this is that we are getting more and more people coming here searching for jobs, and the jobs are not here.
We have an unemployment rate higher than the Province of Ontario. What steps is the Minister taking, in conjunction with the Government Leader, to convey the message down south that our unemployment rate is as high as other parts of Canada, and specifically that these young people should not be led by false expectations that there are going to be jobs here when they arrive?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would not want to characterize the current 11 percent unemployment rate for the month of April as an acceptable level of unemployment. However, it is 11 percent because of a considerable migration of people to the territory. Our population has increased, year by year, and we are pushing 30,000 now.
For us to be able to retain a 10 and 11 percent unemployment rate while accommodating these people shows reasonable support of programs and activity going on here in order that that kind of increasing number of people coming to the territory can be handled.
We are continuing our efforts to diversify the economy, to support local business, to support new initiatives, to encourage the tourism and mining sectors to expand their activities. Members are very familiar with the programs we offer. We remain supportive of those initiatives to improve our employment picture.
Question re: Social assistance statistics
Mr. Lang: The Minister never answered my question, which is no surprise. He talked about the mining industry. We have a mining industry that is facing exploration estimated to be less than $5 million, which is down from $88 million three years ago. We are dealing with a bill in this House where our major private sector employer has to come to government for a loan, because they cannot get it at the banking institutions.
We are diversifying the economy; there is no question about that. We have a bill before us that has social assistance going from $4.2 million to an additional $2.4 million - we are up to $6.7 million. Can the Minister of Health and Social Services tell us why, in the Speech from the Throne, the people of the Yukon were not notified of this dramatic increase of welfare recipients in the territory? More importantly, why was there no plan laid out in the Speech from the Throne of how to deal with the very serious problem of having a $2.4 million increase in social assistance?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: We have recently been putting together some of the statistics I provided today to the Opposition, so this is the basis of their questions. We are, indeed, looking at higher social assistance rates. As the Members will recall, some of the major increases in social assistance are for people who have been waiting for several months for unemployment insurance. Many of our younger people do not have employment. If the Member will recall, the Minister of Education talked about some of the training programs that are being put in place for some of those younger people. I know this is not directly answering the Members questions, but I can tell him that we are seriously looking at the figures to try to determine some of the impacts and where they come from. I assume that this information will be available to me when we get to the supplementaries.
Mr. Lang: Both Ministers are telling how well their government programs are working but, as noted the other day in the Legislature, we have gone from 600 people on social assistance in 1985 to over 2,000 this past year. My question of the Minister of Health and Social Services is the same I asked of the Minister of Economic Development: what steps is her department or her government taking to inform other parts of Canada that we have an unemployment rate as high, if not higher, that the rest of Canada and that people, especially young people, should not be coming up here thinking there is going to be employment?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Surely the Member remembers that we have portability of our health and social services programs across this country. I remember hearing an almost identical comment in the late 1960s when the so-called hippies were Icoming up the highway and could we somehow not stop them at the border; we did not want them coming into our territory.
The young people of this country are the young people of this country and if they think they are going to find jobs here neither I nor the Member opposite are going to have any way of stopping them from travelling up the highway to look for work, if they believe that they can indeed find work.
We do not, as a policy, encourage people to come to the Yukon to apply for social assistance; I can tell you that.
Mr. Lang: I am not advocating a road block. All I am asking is if the government could take a serious look at the consequences of what has occurred from the public statements, the press the Yukon has received and Mr. Peniketts comments down south that are making people think that our economy is so much better than it is. Our unemployment rate is higher than the province of Ontarios.
I want to know what the government is going to do to inform the public down south about the true situation in the Yukon, so that next year we are not faced with our social assistance costs being perhaps $10 million.
I want to ask the Minister of Health and Social Services if she is prepared, in conjunction with her Cabinet colleagues, to provide a communication strategy so that people outside are made aware of the true facts of the economic situation in the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I said that my department and the Department of Finance are looking very seriously at all of the figures. We are attempting to find out what the reasons are behind the increase in social assistance. I am sure that, as a Cabinet, we are concerned about that.
If the Member is advocating that I spend tremendous advertising dollars to inform people that they should not come to the Yukon, no, I do not have that mandate.
Question re: Unemployment statistics
Mr. Nordling: I would like to thank the Member for Porter Creek East for taking up my cause. The difference is that I have no problem with people coming into the Yukon. I do not think the population has grown that much. My concern is with the performance of this government.
The Minister of Economic Development has tried to convince Yukoners of the success of its economic policies and programs as compared with the rest of Canada. As my colleague, the Member for Porter Creek West, has said, the statistics show that unemployment is up in the Yukon from 10.8 to 11.1 percent. The national figures indicate that unemployment is down from 12.5 to 11.5 percent.
I would like to ask the Minister what the problem is and if it is right that 1,400 people in the Yukon are on unemployment insurance.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, I will point out to the Member that the Yukon economy, compared to other jurisdictions, is relatively stable and relatively healthy. I do not make judgment on whether it is right or wrong that 1,400 people may be on unemployment insurance. It is certainly not a preferred option to have anybody on unemployment insurance. The perfect world would have everybody employed.
We have had moderate success in terms of our programs to create new businesses, to create new activities that employ people, to expand existing operations to encourage more employment, which creates new ones. In the past, we have cited the creation of new activities that create new employment that historically never existed. The Polar Seas example has often been used as an example of new employment and a very rapidly expanding business. Sidrock has been used as an example of a new industry that never existed before. Those are the kind of programs that we have encouraged, along with support to the existing structures of businesses and commercial activities that have supported and created the relative health that we have enjoyed.
Mr. Nordling: We have seen the ads in the newspapers, and we have also seen the figures.
Is the Minister telling us and telling Yukoners that he is satisfied with an 11 percent unemployment rate, with 1,400 Yukoners out of work? Is that success, in the opinion of the Minister of Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I already said to the Member for Porter Creek East that I would not support an 11 percent unemployment rate as being satisfactory. A preferred option would be to have no unemployment.
Five or six years ago the unemployment rate was 15, 16 or 17 percent. To be in the 10 percent range is moderate success, considering that there has been an influx of some 5,000 people to the Yukon.
The bottom line is, our programs are working. We have increased the employability of people in the Yukon. Our programs have shown success and we will continue on that course.
Mr. Nordling: We want to see that people get employment, rather than social assistance, in the Yukon. As I have said, and it has been repeated by the Member for Porter Creek East, in the last six years, the number of people receiving social assistance has grown from 600 to over 2000.
Does the Minister of Economic Development see as moderate success that we have over 2000 Yukoners on social assistance?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I immediately profess that I have no expertise in terms of the particular modeling that is used in the calculation of social assistance cases, but I am advised by the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services that the current case load is just over 1800, and not in excess of 2000.
While I am on my feet, I will correct the preamble statement of alleged fact by the Leader of the Opposition, when he suggested that exploration anticipated in the mining industry this year is barely $5 million. From figures provided by the local Chamber of Commerce, we believe that exploration this year will exceed $10 million. This is twice the amount of that suggested by the Member, but yes...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: ... it is marginally down from last years activity.
Question re: Unemployment statistics
Mr. Lang: I want to reinforce what I said earlier, because it has again been misconstrued by the side opposite.
I am not advocating, and no one in this House is advocating, that people should not come to the Yukon. But, I think that people have the right to know what the facts are before arriving in the Yukon.
I am referring to an individual who was being interviewed a couple of days ago through one of the local media. This person quit a job in Ontario, under the impression that there were a lot of jobs in the Yukon; he got here and cannot find a job. This individual feels genuinely misled by the message that is being conveyed by this government and by other parties.
I want to know from the Minister for Economic Development, in view of the fact that we have over $1 million for communications within the government, why the government is not going to provide a program for accurate information to be provided to other parts of Canada, especially regarding the unemployment rate, so that people are fully aware of the situation in the Yukon and do not come here with false expectations.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member may choose to dance around the issue as much as he likes, but the fact is that he is promoting that this side of the House that put out literature information to prevent people from coming to the Yukon. That is the bottom line. We do not feel that our mandate is to restrict entry to the Yukon by other Canadians. We believe in putting forward the facts as they exist. The information surrounding the Yukon is afforded through many different channels. It is provided through the Canada Employment and Immigration Commission. Accurate information is constantly exchanged between jurisdictions. If the Member is suggesting that we step outside the available networks of information gathering and put out literature to restrict people from coming to the Yukon, then we will debate that issue.
Mr. Lang: I am not advocating that we restrict anyone from going anywhere in our country. What I am recommending is that we redirect a portion of the $1 million being spent on these expensive ads declaring what a good job the NDP government is doing to accurately inform people south of our border just exactly what the employment situation is in the Yukon. They can then make the decision if they want to come. That is all I am asking. This is a very important issue -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: I want to ask the Minister what is wrong with putting together a communications strategy for the purpose of accurately informing people across Canada what our employment situation is here, so that they are fully aware of it prior to coming to the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member cannot have his cake and eat it, too, and be contradictory in the process. The fact is that, currently, we provide full economic and employment data across the country through regular channels. Anyone coming to the Yukon, or wanting to move to any other part of the country, has an opportunity to review economic realities and facts and employment statistics.
What the Member is suggesting is that I undertake, for example, an information exchange with other jurisdictions that would, in fact, discourage the kind of tourism promotion that we are asking to have happen. We are currently involved in anniversary celebrations; we are currently involved in a broad marketing program for tourism; we are currently involved in sharing information with other parts of the country, and other countries. We provide the information and facts surrounding the economic and employment realities with those jurisdictions.
Beyond that, the Member should articulate what he wants. I believe he is really saying he would rather select the people who come to the Yukon.
Mr. Lang: That does not even deserve a comment.
In view of the fact that we have such a high increase in our social assistance - from $4.2 million, with a request for an additional $2.4 million, which is more than a 30 percent increase - and in view of the fact that the government is not going to take the necessary steps to inform other -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to his supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: In view of the fact that the government is not going to inform other parts of Canada of our situation, could the Minister of Health and Social Services tell us what assurances she can give this House that we are not going to see another substantial increase in our social assistance next year? What steps is she going to take?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: As well as the Minister of Economic Development, we share our information across the country, and other jurisdictions share with us. If the Member thinks that social assistance is high in this territory, he should check some of the other jurisdictions.
Again, I will reiterate that we are concerned. We are looking at the figures. I have said, and I will say it again, that the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Finance are going over the figures and information, and we are trying to determine what the factors are. We know some of them: unemployment insurance, youth, lack of training. We do not know all of them. There is also some in-migration, but not to the extent the Member is talking about. We had something like over 800 people come in last year, with a net in-migration of just over 130 clients. The others were going out.
This is not something that, on my feet, I can wave a magic wand and fix.
Question re: Wolf reduction program in game zone 5
Mr. Brewster: My question is to the Minister of Renewable Resources. How many members of the Yukon Wildlife Management Board were at the meeting when the Minister informed the board that the government would not proceed with a wolf control program for the Aishihik area?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am sorry, I do not have that information at my fingertips at this time but I can return to the House with the information for the Member.
Mr. Brewster: I struck out again. It is funny that the Member cannot remember how many people were at his meeting. When were the rest of the members of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board informed that the government would not proceed with a wolf control program, and how were they informed?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The members of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board were informed by letter of my decision; a copy is attached to the legislative return I tabled today. I want to emphasize to the Member that I do not walk into special meetings of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board with a list of all the members who are present and who are not present. Again, once I review the minutes of that meeting, I will be able to inform the Member just who was and who was not there at that time.
Mr. Brewster: When and how were the Wildlife Management Board members informed that a new body had been appointed to re-examine wolf control?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Again, I do not know the exact time or the date when the members of the board were informed of that decision, but again, I will get back to the Member on it.
Question re: Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, funding
Mr. Brewster: To the Minister of Renewable Resources: on April 9, 1992, I wrote to the Minister asking for a cost to the taxpayers of the Yukon for the Wildlife Management Board. Is the Minister now prepared to supply the cost?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Yes, I am just in the process of signing a letter that provides that information to the Member, as he requested.
Mr. Brewster: Could the Minister provide this House with the cost of the second wildlife advisory board struck to re-examine the wolf control issue?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The budget of the committee to look at developing a wolf management plan for the territory has not been established yet, but I could provide the Member and this House with some preliminary figures.
Mr. Brewster: Is the second wildlife management advisory board planning to solicit public input or to hold public meetings to allow ordinary Yukoners to again express their opinion on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to make it clear that this is not a second wildlife management advisory board that has been established. It is a committee of people from all walks of life throughout the Yukon with expertise in both the consumptive and non-consumptive use of wildlife that has been brought together with, I must stress, the support of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. This committee will be touring the Yukon and inviting the public to have its say on this very important matter. This, incidentally, was unfortunately not done by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, who had other duties and were busy. This is the reason why the other committee was established.
The amount of public consultation that this committee will undertake over the next three or four months will largely determine the size of the budget of this committee.
Question re: YTG buildings on First Nations land
Mrs. Firth: I have a policy question for the Minister of Education and Government Services. It is regarding YTG buildings built on First Nations land under claim.
We have asked the Government Leader about a policy on this issue. We were told that arrangements would be negotiated on an individual basis. I would like to know if the Minister could tell us what the arrangements are regarding the Old Crow Community Learning Centre, especially with respect to the ownership and title of the building and land.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Being consistent with the Premiers initial response, I have to point out that the arrangements with respect to the land tenure for the land immediately under the Old Crow Community Learning Centre will be negotiated with the band during the final land selections. The land is not held by the band at the present time; it is held by the federal government.
Given that land is at a premium, I am sure that the negotiations will be thorough.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us whether or not the land is under claim?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I understand that the Old Crow Band has expressed an interest in all community lands in Old Crow, and lands in the district, as well.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us who is going to pay for the operation costs of the college and who is going to negotiate with the college, Department of Education or Department of Government Services - which is responsible for government buildings. Could the Minister indicate to us how this process will take place?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Certainly, conditions may change if the land is transferred to the band. At this time, it is our position that the maintenance will be undertaken by the Department of Government Services in the community of Old Crow and the operations cost for utilities will be part of the Department of Educations budget.
Question re: Mount Lorne land use planning
Mr. Phelps: I have a couple of questions for the Minister responsible for land and land use planning in the territory, my good friend across the way, the Minister for Community and Transportation Services.
My question has to do with the land use planning exercise proposed for Mount Lorne. I understand that this was to be underway some time ago.
The Minister met with the hamlet council in October of 1991. Subsequently, a couple of stabs have been made at starting the process; to the best of my knowledge, a steering committee has still not been struck.
Can the Minister tell us exactly where we stand with respect to starting the land use planning process in the area of Mount Lorne?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is correct that there were some difficulties in assembling the steering group to begin the planning exercise for Mount Lorne.
As I recall, I met with the hamlet council late last winter, at which time we agreed to set up a steering committee that would review the entire land use needs and current use for the hamlet area.
I assumed that the steering committee would be struck, as we had agreed on in general principles, and I, too, was surprised that only recently the steering committee had not been organized. In fact, I recall receiving correspondence from the chair of that council recently.
I am advised that the problems that were facing the creation of the steering group are essentially worked out and that the steering group will be called together at some time this month, although I forget precisely when they will be meeting.
Mr. Phelps: The members of the council with whom I have spoken with about this issue are quite upset. They wanted to see land applications not proceed until a plan was in place. As a result of their representations to the Minister in early fall, the department of lands is not receiving new applications until this plan is complete; yet, the steering committee cannot seem to get any action from the government to get the committee set up and under way. After all, the meeting -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. After all, the meeting at which all this was agreed upon, was in October, 1991. It is now seven months later.
When is the Minister going to have this process underway and what kind of deadline is he setting for the completion of the process?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I indicated to the Member that, to the best of my understanding, the problems that were facing the creation of the steering group and its terms of reference have been ironed out. In fact, the steering group is expected to meet this month.
I agree with the Member that this is an undue length of time to get the steering group together, but it had to do with matters of representation on the committee and the boundaries of the planning areas. All of those problems have been dealt with. I am almost positive - and I will provide this to the Member - that I have just confirmed in a letter to the chair of the Mount Lorne Hamlet council that the structure and the procedure to move to active committee work will begin this month.
Mr. Phelps: We recently had 130 people apply for three lots in the area - the last three lots that were late coming onstream. What kind of a deadline has been set for the completion of the planning process?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: During the meeting with the council, at which we established the general framework for the planning exercise last fall, I recollect that we talked in terms of a year-long process. In other words, from the time that we met last fall - I believe the Member suggested it was October; I thought it was more like November or December - we should have that planning exercise concluded within a year. To me, that would still be the objective, albeit some delay would take place prior to their getting underway.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills.
Bill No. 7: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 7, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Webster.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that Bill No. 7, entitled An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 7, entitled An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am pleased today to be able to speak to these limited but significant amendments to the Wildlife Act. Specifically, Bill No. 7 makes improvements to three areas of the act: it elaborates provisions for the protection of wildlife habitat, it updates the mandate of what was once the Wildlife Advisory Committee, now known as the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, and it makes a small but crucial change to the protected wildlife provisions of the act, which will allow us to better manage local populations of wildlife if they stand alone, when not the entire species of the territory are threatened.
Remarks that follow will mainly focus on the habitat amendments proposed by this bill. I would like to speak first about the process that led to the changes, then the substance of the changes themselves. My remarks on the other amendments will be brief.
The need for better wildlife habitat protection in the Yukon has been identified for some time. Barely three years after the passage of the current act in 1982, the federally initiated 1985 task force on northern conservation, on which the Member for Riverdale North served, called for improved habitat protection in the Yukon.
In 1986, the Select Committee on Renewable Resources, on which I had the pleasure of serving with my current Yukon Party critic, the Member for Kluane, made similar recommendations. These reports helped to define government objectives with regard to habitat protection and were reflected in both the Yukon Economic Strategy and the Yukon Conservation Strategy.
Specifically, the strategies call on the government to provide legislative protection for important habitat and to find innovative ways to protect wildlife and other renewable resources, while still allowing mineral activity to occur.
In response to the recommendations of these strategies, the department developed the habitat protection policy, which was adopted by Cabinet in 1989. Since the policy required legislative changes to give it full effect, habitat protection measures formed part of the government proposals to be considered by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board in its review of the Wildlife Act. Subsequently, the board held a series of public Wildlife Act review meetings and, in the spring of 1991, they looked at habitat protection and other proposed changes to the act.
The public clearly indicated that measures to better protect habitat critical to the maintenance of healthy wildlife populations were needed. Incidentally, similar support was expressed for management measures to protect local herds of wildlife.
As a result of its public review, the board indicated its support for the habitat protection provisions, which are now contained in this bill before us.
Since then, these proposals have been outlined to the interest groups involved in reviewing the park system policy and plans. The specifics have also been discussed at meetings of the Yukon Mining Advisory Committee, which, as Members know, has a membership that includes representatives of the federal and territorial governments, the mining industry and conservation groups.
Following introduction of the bill last Thursday, I wrote to a variety of interest groups to indicate my departments willingness to brief anyone who may want to refresh their memory of the proposals or to look at the provisions of the bill in more detail.
As these amendments to the act will better enable our government to ensure conservation in the management of all fish and wildlife resources and their habitat, as called for in chapter 16 of the umbrella final agreement, the Council for Yukon Indians has also indicated its strong and continuing support for these changes. That support also extends to the other amendments proposed in this bill.
In concluding my remarks on the development of the habitat provisions of this bill, I think it is safe to say that what is proposed should not come as a surprise to anyone. The amendments are in line with the views of Yukoners expressed through a number of consultation processes.
This brings me to the substance of the habitat changes proposed in this bill. Before I describe what we propose to add to the Wildlife Act to meet Yukoners expectations for habitat protection, let me first describe what we have in place now.
Section 146 of the Wildlife Act authorizes the Commissioner in Executive Council to designate areas to be protected habitat areas and to have a right of action to recover costs in an amount equal to the cost of rehabilitating willfully destroyed or damaged habitat within protected habitat areas.
Section 35 of the act states that no person shall destroy or damage habitat in an area on Crown lands declared, by regulations under section 179, to be a protected habitat area. In short, because existing legislation does not enable the Government of Yukon to protect habitat on Crown land outside of protected habitat areas, effective wildlife habitat protection under the current law requires the designation of dozens, if not hundreds, of protected habitat areas. The measures proposed in this bill do not do away entirely with the idea of protected habitat areas, but recognize that formalized input into existing review processes will ensure better habitat protection throughout the Yukon without the endless proliferation of protected habitat areas.
The proposed amendments are designed to provide an adequate legislative basis for the Government of Yukon to effectively protect habitat throughout the Yukon. These changes will complement the existing federal land use review process and the development assessment process when it is established. The amendments will also strengthen provisions for managing and protecting the habitat protection areas which are established for absolutely critical key wildlife habitat.
In addition, to enhance protective measures for such areas, they are designed to enable the development and implementation of area-specific management plans. With effective measures in place to ensure the protection of habitat, without the necessity of establishing specific habitat protection areas for all local and important wildlife habitat, this designation can be reserved for the most significant and critical habitat in the territory.
For example, Bear Cave Mountain is identified as a habitat protection area under the special management provisions of the Vuntut Gwichin settlement, as is the McArthur habitat protection area, proposed under the special management area provisions of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun, a Yukon First Nation final agreement. It is estimated that an additional 10 habitat protection areas may be negotiated through the claims process and that the designation will continue to be utilized over time to ensure protection of other unique and sensitive habitat. Future habitat protection areas would, of course, be subject to a full public review process before they were established.
In bringing these legislative amendments forward, the Yukon government is confident that it does have the jurisdiction to put the measures in place. Section 17 of the Yukon Act allows the government to legislate for the protection of game. The present Wildlife Act is based on this empowerment. In our analysis, the existing habitat protection provisions - sections 35, 146 and 179 - are inadequate to fully implement our land claims obligations and the objectives of the Yukon Conservation Strategy.
It is our intention to extend our responsibility for habitat protection to meet the responsibilities assigned to us through the Wildlife Act, and of course the land claims, by establishing a clear legislative mandate for our involvement in the existing and future review processes.
We are anxious to make our advocacy role on behalf of wildlife, and wildlife habitat, fully complementary to environmental protection measures in federal legislation; in particular, the federal territorial Lands Act, the Yukon Waters Act and the mineral statutes, which the federal government is in the process of revising.
In practical terms, the proposed legislation is intended to place the Yukon in a position to require federal Crown land users to undertake habitat protection measures, as long as such measures do not contradict or prohibit the federally permitted activity.
Operationally, this would mean that habitat protection provisions could be built into federal licences and permits. Existing environmental impact legislation already goes some distance toward requiring that resource users address concerns related to wildlife habitat, but falls short of fully articulating the Yukons expectations and objectives.
The federal government currently recognizes our interest in wildlife habitat. Representatives of the Department of Renewable Resources sit on the Federal Land Advisory Committee for primary land use permitting activities, and the regional environmental review committee for EARP screening of larger projects, with potentially significant environmental affects.
The proposed new habitat provisions would strengthen the role of our representatives in these processes, and ensure that authorizations or permits issued are conditional on the adoption of the reasonable measures required to mitigate impact on sensitive wildlife habitat.
Constitutional jurisdiction problems should not arise in the areas of habitat protection where our permitting system is proposed, as the three orders of government will have agreed on the land use designation and management principles.
The other major changes to the Wildlife Act proposed by this bill are the amendments to the Wildlife Advisory Committee provisions, which reflect the fact that the pre-settlement implementation of chapter 16 of the umbrella final agreement, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, has already occurred.
By entrenching the role and mandate of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board in legislation, we are sending a strong signal to First Nations regarding our commitment to implementation of land claims settlements, as well as meeting the requirements for consultation with First Nations harvesters, as are required by the Sparrow court ruling.
Clarifying the intent of the protected wildlife provisions would be consistent with the wildlife provisions of the Yukon Conservation Strategy, which addresses the need to distinguish between species and individual wildlife populations.
Effective implementation of the habitat protection provisions of this act will necessitate preparation and proclamation of habitat protection regulations. At present, a preliminary working draft of these regulations is under development.
As Members know, even as we debate these amendments to the Yukon Wildlife Act, the federal government is contemplating significant changes to the Northern Inland Waters Act, the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act. These will eventually lead to new or amended statutory mechanisms for land and water use regulations.
The proposed Wildlife Act amendments have been developed with full consideration of contemplated federal changes and have been designed to complement, but not duplicate or overlap, these initiatives.
They are also designed to be consistent with significant new environmental impact legislation, which will soon be in place. Both the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which replaces the EARP guidelines, and the land claims-based Development Assessment Act will allow for detailed assessment and mitigation of the effects of development on wildlife habitat. Permitting systems for land use, being general, and habitat protection areas, being specific, will provide the statutory triggers for these processes.
The habitat protection provisions are designed to provide an adequate legislative basis for habitat protection throughout the Yukon to effect the participation of the existing land use review process and the development assessment process, when established.
The amendments are consistent with the Government of Yukons commitment to find ways to protect wildlife and other renewable resources while still allowing mineral activity to occur, as reflected in the Yukon Economic Strategy.
Moreover, implementation of land claims-negotiated habitat protection areas and clarification of habitat jurisdiction will introduce certainty for the mining industry regarding the availability of resources and associated environmental habitat protection requirements.
Habitat protection provisions will have the greatest effect on persons proposing to use the land within habitat protection areas. Where these uses have no effect on habitat, such as trapping and recreational use, there would be no restraint on the activity. Where uses have direct fiscal impacts, habitat protection provisions will constrain these activities in some measure, but our focus will be on mitigation rather than on prohibition. That is the reason why the amendments are designed to protect habitat by providing for more effective Government of Yukon participation within the existing land-use review process.
I should emphasize that activities that do not require land use permits or environmental assessments, will not be affected at all by the habitat amendments to the Wildlife Act, although I would hope that anyone out on the land, at any time, would not engage in wanton destruction of habitat.
The enactment of the proposed amendments would enhance the Yukons ability to ensure that development proceeds in a manner that is consistent with environmental and conservation values expressed within the Yukon Environment Act and the Yukon Economic and Conservation Strategy.
I believe these changes will create an important and effective new tool in our search for sustainable development in the Yukon. I trust that all Members will be able to support these changes.
Mr. Brewster: The first thing I would say is that any conversation between the Minister and me on our committee while we were travelling - what we agreed to - and what happened when the departmental drafters and bureaucrats got through with it are two completely different things. Sometimes I wondered if he or I really said some of the things that came out in the drafts. However, that is my suspicion of government and civil servants at all times.
I think the bill, and the improvements to it, are needed. On a lot of the sections, what they have really done is to combine them into fewer sections to clean up the act a little bit, which is very good. It cuts down on paperwork and reading, and I think we are all agreed on that.
However, when they do these things, they do the same old thing: stiffen things up. I do not know if the Minister made this decision, but the department did, and it is getting stiffer. It is harder on people, and it is making it more complicated for people to try to live on the land.
I question whether this is necessary; however, when we see the regulations, we will know. The regulations are always the ones that catch the little fellow out in the bush trying to make a living.
I have a grave problem with the section applying to appointments to the new board. When they take a look at this, I wonder if many Yukoners will wonder what is going on. I read this, and I had a couple of other people read it as well; it could mean a great number of persons on the board could be out-of-Yukon residents making decisions for the people of the Yukon. I resent anything like that. I resent that we do not have people in the Yukon who can do this. I have no problem with it being equal between the First Nations and others. I agree with this. However, when we start bringing in people from other areas to tell us how to look after our game, we will have a problem with that.
I look forward to the Minister justifying this and being able to explain to me the reasons for this.
Also, I will be enquiring into the total cost of this because, when we start bringing people in from outside and other areas, our costs will go up and the taxpayers of the Yukon once more have to foot the bill for it.
Besides that, in most other cases, I am completely in agreement with the bill. There will only be a few short questions on it in Committee of the Whole until we get into that section, then we will have a long, long, windy, stormy day for you, Mr. Speaker, to keep peace in the Legislature.
Mrs. Firth: I am not going to be so anxious to agree with these proposed amendments until I get more information from the Minister. I would like to ask the Minister to tell us what further restrictions this legislation will provide for over and above existing legislation, such as the Environment Act and the Parks Act. I am always concerned when I hear the Minister give about a 20-minute speech on a two and one-half page piece of legislation.
I have some concerns about particular clauses that we will be following up on in Committee of the Whole - just to give the Minister some advance warning - specifically, with respect to the Minister having the ability to designate almost whatever they want as habitat land. What happens in the event that the land is privately owned or is land under claims or is settlement land that has been agreed to in land claims? The way I interpret the legislation is that it means that the Minister has the ability to go in and designate the land and then compensate people by buying it, if it is privately owned. I will be looking forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about that.
I found it very open-ended with respect to the regulations, giving the Minister the ability to declare any population, species or type of wildlife to be specifically protected wildlife. The regulations could prescribe prohibitions, restrictions or measures to be observed or implemented for the protection or survival of the population, species or type. It is very, very broad and I would like to ask the Minister if he could perhaps provide us with a copy of the draft regulations he has indicated are being worked, because that is really where we are going to find out exactly what impact this piece of legislation is going to have on Yukoners.
Would the Minister be so good as to respond to some of those questions and provide us with some additional information?
Mr. Nordling: I would just like to go on the record as echoing the concerns expressed by the Member for Riverdale South. When we had what appeared to be a relatively straightforward, harmless piece of legislation, and the Minister stands up with a 20-minute, typed, prepared speech, I become suspicious about what he is attempting to push through here. It reminds me of the old saying: methinks the Minister protests too much. I hope that is not the case and we are not bringing the hammer down, so to speak.
As the Member for Riverdale South said, it would be nice if the Minister could provide us with a draft copy of the regulations before we get into clause-by-clause debate, so we can see exactly what effect this bill will have.
I see the Member for Mayo holding his head. It was not too many years ago that this government was going to attempt to provide draft regulations with all its legislation. Obviously, that has gone out the window, along with Mr. Kimmerly, and they do not feel that they need to be quite so open and upfront about what their legislation is going to do.
I will have questions for the Minister as we go through clause by clause. At that time, perhaps he could explain the effect and impact of each clause on Yukoners.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is no surprise to me that the Member for Mayo is holding his head, having heard that speech. The Member for Porter Creek West said that, because I read a long prepared speech into the record, I must be hiding something or it is really more complicated than it is. Mind you, if I had stood up here for 20 seconds and said this was a wonderful bill and please give it your blessing, they would have said, there must be something in here, there is something suspicious in here, and we are going to grill you for the next two days. You cannot win for trying some of them, and you do not win them all.
I would like to assure Members on the opposite side that I would be only too pleased to provide them with a draft copy of the regulations that are being prepared. They are in the draft stage, but the regulations are at the point where they can be released for your review and to assist you when we are reviewing this bill tomorrow.
I would like to thank the Member for Kluane for his assessment of the bill before us, saying that he thought the improvements were needed and that the bill has been cleaned up. That is, indeed, true. The Member for Kluane did issue a couple of well-founded concerns. One concern that he mentioned was about people living on the land, thinking that perhaps it might make things even more difficult for them. I would like to emphasize to the Member for Kluane - as I did in my well-prepared, long-winded, nicely typed speech - that activities not requiring a permit, such as those done by trappers and outfitters, will not be affected by any provisions of this bill before us. He reiterated his concern to me about the makeup of the board. He first brought this to my attention in a conversation we had last week. He was concerned that the majority of the representatives of the Yukon First Nations and the Government of the Yukon should be Yukon residents. Indeed, they will. I look forward to providing the Member for Kluane with some reasons for inclusion of that phrase as stated, in debate. I hope it will not be as long and as rocky as he states it may be.
The Member for Riverdale South asked what further restrictions are being applied over and above the Environment Act and the Parks Act. I would like to assure the Member that there are none. I went on to say that in some detail during my second reading speech. We are also talking about designating habitat protection areas on Crown land only; it will not involve those owned privately with third-party interests.
The Member also raised a concern about the possibility of the Minister himself having such wide-ranging powers to designate habitat protection areas at will.
I want to bring to her attention that one of the reasons we are establishing regional resource councils, according to provisions of the UFA, section 16, is that we will have people who reside in rural communities and areas who are close to the land making recommendations to the Minister as to what populations of some specific species may be in trouble. I can assure her that such recommendation from the Minister will not come without a thorough review of a situation and a recommendation from the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Tomorrow, I look forward to the Committee of the Whole debate on this bill.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 7 agreed to
Speaker: May I have your further pleasure?
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 now call Committee of the Whole to Order. We will be discussing Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, and dealing with clauses 43 through 47 that were stood over.
Bill No. 6 - Workers Compensation Act - continued
On Clause 43 - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: While I am waiting for the Member for Porter Creek East to produce his amendment - which we will be listening to in a few moments - I promised the Member for Riverdale South information respecting Workers Compensation Act policies that would have to be developed or updated. I will provide a copy of that information to the Member at this time.
Mr. Lang: The specific section that I am going to refer to is clause 47. Perhaps we could deal with the sections clause-by-clause up to section 47 and I will present it then.
Clause 43 agreed to
On Clause 44
Clause 44 agreed to
On Clause 45
Clause 45 agreed to
On Clause 46
Clause 46 agreed to
On Clause 47
Mr. Lang: I have an amendment to put forward, but I want to apologize to the Minister, because I had the amendment prepared first thing this morning and I requested that it be hand delivered to his office. I do not know what happened in the transmittal, but the Minister did not receive the amendment. I want to say that I apologize because I understand that the Minister was approached by one of the media and asked a question with respect to an amendment that he did not have time to review.
I want to say that that was not our intention; my agreement of last Thursday with the Minister was that he would get the amendment first thing this morning and I want to again say that I apologize; it was not intentional that he did not receive the amendment this morning as agreed.
Perhaps while I am reading it, I could have it distributed.
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 47 at page 26 by deleting the clause and substituting for it the following:
47(1) The board shall invest the compensation fund in investments that will ensure a safe return and shall not make investments that pursue government objectives in the Yukon.
(2) Subject to subsection (1) and section 46, the board may invest the compensation fund in any investment permitted by the Trustee Act.
(3) The compensation fund shall be invested pursuant to an investment policy approved by the members of the board and approved by the Commissioner in Executive Council.
(4) Amendments to the compensation fund investment policy may only be made on the recommendation of the members of the board and with the approval of the Commissioner in Executive Council.
(5) Any amendments to the compensation fund investment policy shall be transmitted to all members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly within 10 days of approval.
Chair: Mr. Lang, are you done?
Mr. Lang: Yes, I -
Chair: There may be a procedural problem here with this amendment. We are just going to check on it; we will take a couple of minutes.
Mr. Lang: The reason the amendment is before us here is, I am sure, not news to all Members. It is to try to ensure that the board will be as free as possible from any direct political interference by the government. I have listened very carefully to the Minister in charge of the Workers Compensation Act, who has indicated to me the reasons for the section, and has also stated to the House that he felt there were enough protections, per se, with respect to the clause before us to ensure that we could not get into a situation where, conceivably, a government that was short of revenue could get into the fund, directly or indirectly.
I do not know that the present legislation technically allows the government to become involved in the investment policy of the workers compensation fund, and quite correctly so, as pointed out to the House. The government has not got involved in the workers compensation fund or the investment policy although the authority has always been there. That does not necessarily make it right.
The reality is that the Government of Yukon has inherited millions of dollars from the Government of Canada. There is no financial squeeze confronting the Government of Yukon; therefore, there has been no need to question whether or not the funds in the workers compensation fund should be redirected. That is true for today and probably for the next couple of years in view of the agreement we have with the Government of Canada.
My concern is when we get to the point when financial pressures are put on the government and the resources are not there and the politicians of the day have to look elsewhere for finances. The Minister has indicated to me that he shares that concern but feels that the act presently prevents that situation because the board has to recommend the changes in order for the Commissioner in Executive Council to approve it. The fact is that the board is appointed by the government, although there is a requirement to ask for nominations for appointment. However, the final bottom line is that the government is responsible for the appointments.
This is similar to the Yukon Development Corporation. That organization is so poorly run that it has cost the electrical consumer and Yukon taxpayer millions of dollars due to mismanagement. We passed an act in this House five or six years ago to create the Yukon Development Corporation. It never crossed anyones mind, including Members of the side opposite except for one or two Members, that we would be using our electrical rates as an indirect taxation for such fiascos as the Watson Lake sawmill. It never occurred to me to even ask the question, let alone consider it.
We have had experiences already with one particular Crown corporation, appointed by the government, that has access to millions of dollars. We have seen the results. It is our feeling that we should be doing everything in this section to protect the fund from political interference.
To support my case, I point out that earlier in the proceedings, in the tabling of documents, we tabled a number of press clippings from the 1982 election. One has to remember the atmosphere and serious situation the people of the territory faced at that time.
We were not in a recession; we were in a depression. Everything in the Yukon had shut down the year previous. People were on a nine-day fortnight and the government was in very serious financial trouble. I might add that this was not totally due to its own making. I think the side opposite would agree - those who were here - that it was a fact that revenues were not coming in and we had the closure of all our mines; subsequently, we faced a very serious situation.
In 1982, the NDP brought forward proposals for the workers compensation fund and what they would do with it if they were elected. They were not elected and they did not form the government. I would like to quote a number of statements made by the Government Leader, who was at that time in Opposition, about what he would do with the workers compensation fund if he was in charge of it. I commend the good gentleman. He was right up front. He said to everybody in the Yukon what he would do with the workers compensation fund. We, at that time, opposed it and we still oppose the principles that he espoused at that time. What he was saying to the public is that we do not have any money but there is the workers compensation fund and we will get access to that fund and we will put that money into the general economy, forgetting that that money was being set aside on behalf of the workers of the territory, to provide those unfortunately put into a position - widows, disabled - where they would require assistance from an insurance fund and so they could get the compensation that is due them through the act.
I would like to read this into the record. The New Democrats have expanded their plan to use Workers Compensation Board investments to promote small businesses in the Yukon, NDP leader Tony Penikett said today. Citing an example, the fishing industry, Penikett points out that many Yukoners earn much of their income from fishing but that Yukon salmon are in jeopardy. Alaskans are overfishing, he said, and negotiations with Americans to restrict the Alaskan salmon take remain unsolved. We have the opportunity to establish a commercial salmon fishery, said Penikett, pointing out that plans for a fishery are already underway in Dawson. Potential exists in other communities, Mr. Penikett adds. Such ventures require government backing - in dollars. We need a Yukon government that stands up for the protection of the local fishermen or we could be buried by powerful Atlantic Canada and B.C. interests, Penikett said.
The Yukon also has the potential to compete economically with imported lumber, Penikett said. People could also be employed upgrading forests to encourage regeneration. To do this requires a YTG prepared to press Ottawa for such programs. Funds from the workers compensation fund could be used for low-interest business mortgages, which would help put forest, fishery and tourist operations on a sound footing, Penikett said. He added that he felt such safe, insured mortgage investments could give the fund a better rate of return and make the board more secure.
It goes on: The following day, the Yukon New Democrat Party announced plans to establish a mortgage fund for small business. NDP leader Tony Penikett said today that the Conservative government has mismanaged Workers Compensation Board funds by failing to invest them in the Yukon. If elected, Penikett said, the NDP plans to set up a small business mortgage fund to keep the money, which the Conservatives invested in savings bonds and companies like Bell Canada and Hydro Quebec, inside the territory. Yukon workers and businesses have put $15 million into the compensation fund and nothing to show for it. I would point out that that fund is not $76 million. Penikett said $4.2 million of this money is available for investment in 1983. At the moment it earns an average interest rate of about 10 percent. Penikett said this does not even keep up with inflation and thus costs Yukoners money. We could offer 15 percent mortgages to small business, he said - that is about five percent less than they are being offered by the bank.
It goes on: NDP plans to encourage small business. If elected, the NDP would set up a small business mortgage fund, which would utilize a portion of the Yukon Workers Compensation Board funds to encourage Yukon business initiatives in growth potential. Yukon needs a government that believes in the capacity of people in our small communities to set up their own companies and co-ops to produce and market their products, Yukon NDP leader Tony Penikett explained. The small business mortgage funds could be used to stimulate such industries as forestry, fisheries and tourism. Penikett said, on April 19, 1983, that the Government Leader agreed in the Legislature that Workers Compensation funds could be a sort of investment fund for Yukon. The NDP says, do it now, Penikett explained.
Yukoners want to ensure the survival of our small communities programs, like the small business mortgage fund, which would be of real assistance to small business.
I do not want to read the whole thing, but it goes on to say, Penikett also noted the potential development in the forestry sector, particularly the Pelly Valley and Watson Lake areas. He said people in communities surrounded by forest deserve assistance, both to launch related businesses and to develop local markets for their products. In times of low market prices for wood, Penikett outlined and continued, people can be employed upgrading forests to enhance regeneration and improve future growth. To do this requires YTG preparation to press Ottawa for such programs.
I want to make it very clear that we have a significant concern about the way the present clause is written. We want to make sure that, to the best of our ability as legislators, the investments are wisely, prudently and soundly invested. Our concern is that, if we do not put parameters in the legislation, it leaves the door open for any government - not necessarily this government - in conjunction with the appointed members on the board, to make some significant shifts in investment policy which, in the long term, can lead to some major problems with the fund, which could put it in jeopardy. I think we have a responsibility to try to put into place enough protections to ensure that does not happen.
The Minister talks about how important it is to have the Executive Council involved in the fund and, at the same time, be able to answer to the House. To some degree, we are prepared to accept that argument, as long as we have a clause clearly outlining the direction the fund can go in, in general parameters.
If you take a look at the amendment before you, we are saying that the board shall invest the compensation fund in investments that will ensure a safe return and shall not make investments to pursue government objectives in the Yukon. In other words, this clause gives some comfort to the board members in case you have a government that is saying, you shall invest X millions of dollars directly into the forestry businesses in the Yukon.
In other words they would say, Madam Chair, unless it is a safe return, under the law we cannot do that. We cannot put ourselves and the workers of the territory in that kind of jeopardy.
This section does not negate the ability of the Workers Compensation Board, through their investment policy, to invest in companies that are involved in the Yukon. The companies would have to have certain ratings and certain standings in the banking community to ensure that they meet the broad parameters of what we are speaking to in section 47(1).
The other point that I want to make is that we are asking in this amendment to ensure that, if an amendment is proposed to the compensation fund investment, all Members of the Legislature receive a copy of that amendment.
During the course of this debate, we have received a copy of the investment policy or procedures of the present Workers Compensation Board. What we are asking is that in the future if there is a change ratified both by the board and by the Executive Council, that information be disseminated to all Members of the Legislature so that the Members are aware of it in 10 days, not six months, not a year and not two years down the road, when the effects of the change may well be felt.
What I am saying as a Member of the House, and to all Members of the House - since it is a creature of the House - is that since it is a delegation, to some degree, of our authority, any Member, no matter whether they be on the government side or the Opposition side, has the right to be informed if changes have been made to something as critical as the investment policy for the workers compensation fund.
That procedure - and I am sure the Minister would agree with this - would add another check in the system to ensure that if there are changes, those changes be made public. I am not insinuating that anybody is hiding anything, but this makes it a mandatory requirement for the Minister and the president to disseminate that information so that people in the territory know that there have been some changes to the overall investment policy of the fund.
I heard the Minister saying on the radio on the 12:30 news that he was not all that happy with the amendment. We feel that what we are presenting here is logical. It gives further comfort to all Members of the House in that it ensures that if there are major shifts in investment policy that we are aware of them.
I am hoping that if the Member is not in a position to support this amendment, he perhaps has some other ideas about how he can meet our concerns if this is not satisfactory. I hope, as has been mentioned by a number of Members, that he does not take this amendment as a personal slight. That is not intended. We are creating and drafting legislation that is going to endure far beyond the life of this Legislature. We have a responsibility to be non-partisan and think about how Members can contribute and generate ideas. This is what we are doing here. We are developing alternatives to see if we can strengthen the legislation to meet the objectives that all Members have expressed and upon which we are all basically in agreement.
I hope that the side opposite can see its way to supporting the amendment. I can honestly say that a lot of time and effort has gone into trying to come up with something that is simple and yet, at the same time, meets the objectives that we have discussed at length over the course of the debate on this bill.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: From the onset, I would like to reassure the Member that I do not take any amendments that they propose as personal slights. I just wish that the day had never happened that Rodney accused me of having rice paper thin skin.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There are certain things you just will not pay for, including a Conservative party membership, just to hear Rodney - as witty as he may be.
I do not regard this as being a personal slight. I am dealing with the issues at hand and I have been listening and waiting for the new information that I was promised would be entered onto the record this afternoon. I have been waiting a whole week and I have been really disappointed.
I would like to point out for any of those who may be swayed by the rhetoric, that this is very much a partisan debate. It has been from the beginning and will be when this act is finally passed through the Legislature. The only reason I am not - and I have indicated this to the Member opposite both privately and otherwise - in the best position to anticipate or provide assistance to the Members in terms of resolving their concerns is that, quite frankly, I am not sure what their concerns are.
They have stated on a number of occasions that they do not want to see Cabinet involved at all. On other occasions, they have stated that they wish the board, by itself, to have sole and exclusive responsibility for the investment policy. On another occasion they have said it is perfectly okay to invest in investments that are government secured. All of these run contrary to the proposed amendment that showed up in my office this morning.
I do not want the Member to feel too badly about the slight mixup this morning. I did not take that personally either. These mixups, quite unintentionally, do happen from time to time. I am prepared to accept that.
The essence of this matter is: what constitutes an appropriate provision in this legislation that will ensure the future prosperity of the boards compensation fund, and what constitutes an appropriate level of security by the Legislature to ensure that investment decisions are made prudently? That is the essence of what we are talking about.
I would like to point out to the Member that the proposed amendment today does a number of things. Besides what the Member has stated, it effectively disallows the Workers Compensation Board from investing in any project in the Yukon that may, even coincidentally, support, or be consistent with, government objectives. I realize that there are not a lot of Yukon investments from which we can draw comparisons, but it effectively would eliminate the mortgage-back securities that had been invested in Closeleigh Manor. That was a government-sponsored project; it was consistent with government objectives; it was a good investment by the Workers Compensation Board; it was a good project for the community; yet, according to the language proposed in this particular amendment, it would have been disallowed because it was somehow, even coincidentally, consistent with the objectives of the government. In this particular case, I was entirely unaware of any communication that would have gone on between the political government of the time - because I was the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation at the time - and the Workers Compensation Board at the time with respect to the investment potential that Closeleigh Manor offered. Until this debate, I was unaware that the Workers Compensation Board had even invested in Closeleigh Manor through mortgage-back securities.
I would have regarded that as being quite a reasonable investment. Certainly, it met all the criteria and was a well-respected project in this community.
It would be inappropriate and wrong to state, in legislation, that this kind of investment would now be unavailable to the Workers Compensation Board.
The Member does go on to say that we should be encouraging investments that will ensure a safe return. Having discussed this matter for some time now with the people from the board and with Finance officials - some of their wisdom has rubbed off on me - they have made me realize that there is no such thing as a safe return on an investment. There is the safest possible return on investments, but there is no such thing as a safe return.
If we were to pursue the safest possible return on investments, which is a modification of what the Member is suggesting, we would be faced with a situation where we would, in all likelihood, be looking at very low rates of return. When we are considering that the income to the board, which is literally half due to investment income, this has a tremendous impact on the boards income. Consequently, in order to make up the shortfall in revenue, they would have to consider raising the rates to employers.
This is something I would presume we would want to avoid. There has to be a balance between an attractive rate of return and a desire for as secure and safe an investment as possible.
One might consider that to be a technical flaw in the proposed amendment, but I think it is important to consider, especially as we discussed this matter in the Legislature last week.
Last week, we had a number of propositions presented to us. It was suggested that it was the Cabinets involvement alone that was the problem. We had the suggestion that the board, exclusively, should have responsibility for the investment policy. We were treated to the concept that we should be listing a set of investments that would be the only ones considered appropriate, to ensure the investments were secure and sound. That included government-backed investments, and the list included municipally backed investments, and even school boards could back the investments.
Now, we are suggesting that government-backed investments, in particular, are completely inappropriate because, presumably, government-backed investments would constitute the pursuit of a government objective.
I have some trouble with that, and I hope the Member opposite will forgive me for being somewhat confused.
We have a situation - and the Member brings forward a history lesson for our very legitimate purposes - that simply says that, 10 years ago, the New Democrats advocated a plan to promote the use of Workers Compensation Board funds for the support of small business in the Yukon. As much as I am a booster of small business in the Yukon, I would agree that, without being secured or insured, these investments would not be sound ones for the Workers Compensation Board.
I notice from the news articles, inasmuch as I respect our friends in the media, there are times when we cannot take them absolutely verbatim but, nevertheless, a couple of the news articles do include the words insured mortgages, which the Member did read, but choked on slightly, when he was reciting the news article itself.
Even at that, I would be a little concerned about insured mortgages. I would like to know, even at that point, what they might mean and who was insuring them, so I cannot claim to be perfectly in sync with what appears to be the position the New Democrats expressed 10 years ago.
I think we have to continue the history lesson. The Member rightly pointed out that the New Democrats were not elected into government in 1982; they were elected into Opposition and I joined the New Democrats at that time in the ranks of the Opposition in this Legislature.
The time clicks on from the period 1982 through to 1984. In 1984, the government and the party that was so bound and determined to pursue the independence of the board, and presumably the sanctity of the compensation fund, proceeded to try to do away with both the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Workers Compensation Board. The Yukon Housing Corporation was co-opted into something called the Department of Lands and Housing, which I inherited in 1985, as the new minister of Community and Transportation Services.
The Workers Compensation Board was drawn into a branch of the Department of Justice, effectively reducing the board to a body that was to hear appeals on claims only, and was not to have any policy freedom.
As we go through this history lesson, I think that we have to ask where all of the rhetoric about the independence of the board comes from. When the Members opposite were actually in government, whatever they said during the election campaign, was not something they actually played out in actual practice, only two short years later.
I am certain at the time - and I remember a lot of the scuttlebutt around the reason for this reorganization, and certainly the Member for Riverdale South would be aware of some of that - that what was being done was contrary not only to the legislation - particularly in Yukon Housings case, which I investigated thoroughly at the time - it was contrary to law; it was breaking the law. It was inappropriate for it to have happened, but nevertheless, there was an attempt for it to take place, and in all due respect to the history buffs, I think that we have to put the total picture on the record.
What we then have is a situation in which the Member for Porter Creek East alleges is a promise by the New Democrats in 1982, to use Workers Compensation Board funds for the support of small business activity in the territory and the reporters - at least two of the three reporters the Member quoted - used the words insured mortgage investments.
The government then went on to basically do away with the Workers Compensation Board as a policy body, two years later.
I am only saying this because I think that while we are debating the history of the Workers Compensation Fund and presumably determining whether or not there is a reasonable chance, and a reasonable expression of concern by people who feel that the record today is inadequate or incomplete, we should be looking for rather strict and stringent measures to protect the future investment of the fund.
One has to understand that history provides a different tale than the one cited by the Member for Porter Creek East.
We should then try to determine what happened from 1985 to the present. What is it about the actions of the government between 1985 and 1992 that would cause a reasonable person to believe that there was a problem to be addressed and that this was the time to address the problem?
In 1986, there was an amendment to the Workers Compensation Act that changed the structure of the board to ensure that the chairperson of the board was no longer an appointed public servant of the Government of Yukon. The Member will recall that the late Mr. Booth was the chair of the board for some considerable time. He was obviously beholden to his job as a government appointee. At the same time, the presidential functions, which were the CEO functions, were also, of course, laid out by the government. The person was, at the time, chair and president of the Workers Compensation Board. That was changed to ensure that an independent person, not a public servant, was made the chair of the Workers Compensation Board. That was the first move that I recall.
During that period, and, admittedly, before 1985 and as far back as people remember, this government made no moves on the investment policy. It made no attempts to amend or change the investment policy even though they clearly had the power to do so. There is, as the Member pointed out in his opening remarks, a clause in the current act that is more than something that technically allows the Cabinet to override the boards investment policy: it does allow it. There is no question about that.
At the same time, the government considered a number of changes to the Workers Compensation Board, some of which required there to be some costing. I remember the Member for Kluane put forward what turned out to be a very reasonable amendment respecting CPP offsets for pensioners, which the government initially resisted because they felt the costing had not been done.
That suggests, by itself, that there was a legitimate concern about the health of the fund. Clearly, the Member for Kluane persisted, the costing was done, the change was made in the act and the people ultimately benefitted. Actions were taken by the government that I regarded as being fairly responsible and I supported the change once I knew what the costing was all about.
Last year, the government indicated that it wanted to undertake extensive public consultation on the act because it wanted to do a thorough review and then come back to the Legislature, a year later - today - to present those changes to the public.
In 1982, I remember changes being proposed to the Workers Compensation Act. I remember that I had asked the Federation of Labour and businesses in my own constituency, because I was the workers compensation critic, if they had had any knowledge of this review. They indicated to me, no. They had heard through the boards labour representative that the government was consulting the board on some changes and then would be bringing forward some proposed amendments. Obviously, standards for consultation have changed substantially since then, because if the government today had brought forward changes to the act without public consultation - which in this case, only amount to changes in various sections, but no changes in principle - we would have been roasted alive, and for good reason.
In 1982, there was consultation with the board with respect to this act being undertaken by the government. The government brought in the most dramatic changes in Workers Compensation history since the mid-1950s. I was a critic for the Workers Compensation Board and I recall responding to it, because I remember the changes involved moving from a pension scheme to a wage-loss system, which was brand new to Saskatchewan and would change the workers compensation fund and the Workers Compensation Board policies dramatically. I remember that I resisted some of those changes. I resisted some of those changes because I did not think they were healthy for injured workers.
I had in mind that I would right some of those what I considered to be wrongs in this particular round of consultation, but the public did not see a need to make those changes. Consequently, the changes I would have liked to have seen happen in 1982 do not show up in this act.
The Member for Porter Creek East says I was wrong. I believe the change to the wage-loss system has some good elements, and I believe the pension system has some very good elements, too, because it put more money into injured workers pockets than the wage-loss system would. However, the point is that the consultation was different. In 1982, consultation with the public was non-existent. In 1992, consultation was substantial.
That is a healthy change. I will not entirely fault the previous government, but one of the things this government is responsible for is the change for the better to the standards for consultation.
The reason I am bringing up this subject is because I want to demonstrate clearly that the government has acted very responsibly in the past seven years with respect to its actions on the Workers Compensation Board and its care and attention to the workers compensation fund. In this round of consultation, every significant suggestion that was made by an individual or group with respect to proposed changes to the Workers Compensation Act was costed. It ended up costing quite a bit of money to cost all the suggestions, because some of them were not adopted in the end, yet we had to understand exactly how much things might end up costing the fund.
In establishing this new piece of legislation, we decided that one of the things we had to do was to make the fund and the board more independent than it currently was. It was my view that, even though I felt that the system could work adequately well with good people in the right positions, both at the board and in the government and the Legislature, there would always be a danger we would face the situation where the ambiguity between the Public Service Commission Act and the Workers Compensation Act might be a cause for problems in the future.
We took some effort to ensure that that ambiguity was clarified in the end. When it came to things like the reporting relationship of the president to the board, and the reporting relationship between the board and the Minister, these things were absolutely clarified.
Under the proposed act, Cabinet does not decide who is going to be president of the Workers Compensation Board; it is the board that decides that. That is crystal clear. If there is such an attempt in the future, as occurred in 1984, legal action by either the business or labour communities is definitely a possibility.
We did want to remove the power of the president to appropriate money. In 1982, this particular provision was not removed from the act when they made rather substantial amendments to the Workers Compensation Act to move from the pension system to the wage-loss system. The power of the Minister to simply spend Workers Compensation Board funds was retained. The same people now are saying that if you really care about the Workers Compensation Board, it is absolutely essential to remove this kind of provision.
The same holds true with respect to the provision respecting the investment policy. As the Member correctly pointed out, the government has the power right now to override any board determination with respect to the investment policy. If the Cabinet does not like the investment policy, then they can simply institute their own. If the Cabinet feels that anything that the board is doing is irresponsible, then the Cabinet has the power to do their own thing.
That system has been changed substantially in this new act. What is being proposed here, is that if there are any concerns about the prudent use of the compensation fund through investments or the responsible expenditure of funds through investments, that there is a two-stage approach to approving changes. First of all, the board initiates any proposed changes to the fund. It is the board - not the Minister or the Cabinet - which is made up of representatives of industry and labour and the now independent chair. There are some accountability provisions in the act to ensure that these people are more accountable to industry and labour than they previously were. We have already discussed those provisions.
The elected and accountable people, meaning people who sit in this Legislature, also have a role to play. They may approve or reject, but they may not amend, policy being proposed by the Workers Compensation Board.
One could quite clearly ask why we would choose the investment policy alone to ensure that there is some check and balance in the system. The reason for that is quite simply this: a board, at any particular time, making policy decisions or making expenditures under the administration of the act, can do any number of things. It can make decisions that may end up costing a lot of money, but the point of the matter is that there will always be another day. If appointments are revoked, there will always be another day. A new board can be appointed and act in a responsible way and all is not lost.
But if a decision is made with respect to the investment policy that is a mistake, then it mortgages and jeopardizes the future of the entire compensation fund, which may be difficult to recover from. That is the reason why there is a focus on the check and balance associated with the investment policy alone.
I do not want to give the impression that I think all of the elements of the Members amendment are wrong. I do not think that is the case; in fact, I would think that there are a couple of things that I would like to point out that we feel that we are quite amenable to.
One of things is the issue with respect to another - I cannot remember how the Member phrased it - check and balance, item number 47(5) in his proposed amendment. This amendment ensures that changes to the investment policy be transmitted to all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly within 10 days of approval. I think there is nothing unreasonable about that amount at all. In terms of accountability, it ensures that there is accountability in plenty of time for all Members to give due consideration to any changes, and perhaps to express concerns if they feel the change was inappropriate.
When we tabled the investment policy a couple of weeks ago, I made the argument that the government, and certainly I, personally, think that there is nothing wrong with that investment policy. I think it is prudent; it has been a proven success and, consequently, there is no reason to believe that there should be any further review of the existing investment policy.
So, even though the Member is not recommending this, I would be amenable, under the section that refers to the investment policy being approved by the members of the board and approved by the Commissioner and Executive Council, to simply remove the words and approved by the Commissioner and Executive Council. I will advocate, in concurrence with the Member for Porter Creek East, that we retain the double check in his clause 4, but I must say, just to get back to the original point with respect to clause 1, that I find it incongruous to propose a provision that would limit investments that may happen to be consistent with government objectives. A lot goes on in this territory that is consistent with government objectives.
To disallow the board - or, more appropriately, we should call it the boards investment fund manager - to invest in anything that might be consistent with government objectives makes no sense to me. It certainly makes no sense, in particular, when one considers the conversations we had last week about what was reasonable or what was considered to be responsible when talking about the list of investments that might be permissible.
I am not advocating that all is lost. I do not feel that way at all. I do feel that there are some things the Member has proposed that are worth supporting, and I would be more than happy to do that and to advocate that on this side of the House. But section 47(1), which deals with safe returns on investments, which essentially do not exist, and, further, that nothing could be supported as an investment if it happens to correspond with a government objective, does not make any sense. I have real difficulty agreeing to that.
If the Member would like to respond to some of the things I have had to say, we can continue on.
Mr. Lang: There are a couple of things I would like to respond to, especially concerning the history lesson the Minister felt it was necessary to give to the House. I should point out that, although I was on the sidelines, I recall that some administrative changes were being proposed for the Workers Compensation Board, but the board was never dissolved. The inference that the board was eventually to be done away with was not the case.
We feel very strongly that the section is wide open for interpretation; one could drive a truck through it. That is our major concern. All good intentions and platitudes aside, the fact is that, presently, if one gets the right people on the board and the Executive Council and there is a government that is financially strapped, that $76 million could become very attractive. I agree with the Minister that that is not the case right now, but in a worst-case scenario, we need the right legislation to prevent any possibility of the fund being misused. My concern is on behalf of the workers of the Yukon. It is possible and it has happened over the years in some other jurisdictions.
It has happened here with the Yukon Development Corporation. I could go on for hours about the Yukon Development Corporation and the litany of problems and mismanagement that has gone on there. The Minister says there is accountability. I would like him to tell me where the Yukon Development Corporations accountability was, has been or is going to be? It is a power unto itself.
It has been a political tool used by the government without the approbation of the voters of the territory through this Legislature. That is a fact. In this section, we are trying to prevent the similarities that took place with the Yukon Development Corporation. It is not our intention to write the amendment in such a manner that it is going to negate the possibility of, for example, Closeleigh Manor. That is secured, I would assume, by the Government of Canada. I may stand corrected, but I would assume that there are some guarantees and it is a very safe investment.
We would be more than amenable - in view of the Ministers very legitimate concerns raised on clause 47 - if he would be prepared to go along with making it very clear in principle in subsection (1), where it would state the following: the board shall invest the compensation fund in low-risk investments. It would not talk about safe investments or anything like that. It would just be called low risk, because that is what he and I both concur is the intent of that investment. I understand that would be left to some interpretation, but the investment policy would have to follow that particular principle. I cannot see anything wrong with that.
Perhaps, prior to getting into the other subsections, the Minister could give me his observations on that. Maybe he would like a little time to think about it, but that would give us some comfort. It would be very clear that the board members would have the ability and would recognize their direction in law, along with the Executive Council Member, and it would at least give us some comfort that we would not have the situation as I described earlier. I do not want to leave this House thinking that we have left the gate open. I am thinking years down the road. I want to make it very clear to the Minister that I do not see him abusing this section, even as it is written now. I do not think that anyone would consciously abuse it. I am just trying to safeguard.
I think the Minister would agree, there are certain sections in the Financial Administration Act that clearly outline the parameters of how excess money from the Yukon consolidated revenue fund can be invested. We do not issue a carte blanche to the deputy minister and say, Invest it the way you want. There are some principles included in the legislation. That is all we are asking here, recognizing we are not the managers; we are just giving the general parameters.
Will the Minister give the assurance that we will invest the compensation fund in low-risk investments? Then, we can go on to the next subsection. What is his thought on that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We may be coming closer to an accommodation. I would like to point out to all Members, as we are all joining in to become history buffs today, that if I had tried to make the president of the Workers Compensation Board report to an ADM in Justice, limit their policy approval, leaving the board to only consider claims adjudication, and tried to characterize that as an administrative change, the Member for Porter Creek East would probably be the first to cry foul. We should be clear about that.
The whole democratic system depends on the right people being on the board and in the Legislature, and that everybody is awake. That is how good decisions are made. That is what democracy is all about.
Those people who try to skirt that for all time by designing constitutional principles that will avoid trouble are barking up the wrong tree. It is the process that protects our society. It is not the constitution of the Workers Compensation Board, or anything else.
The Member has presented another option respecting the opportunity to consider a clause that says that the compensation fund shall be invested in low-risk investments. I am not sure what that actually means. To capture what the Member is talking about, it might be more appropriate to say that the board shall not invest in high-risk investments. Low-risk investments might suggest that we get the low rate of return and are obligated to do that. I think the Member is saying that he does not want to see something happen where the compensation fund is invested in high-risk investments. I have been stating that from the word go.
I had assumed that is how we had perceived this clause and perceived an appropriate course of action for the board to take.
The issue of the Yukon Development Corporation is a red herring to be sure. It is clearly a different board, has a different structure and a different legislative arrangement. It is not meant to be anything other than an instrument of government policy, and that is clear in the act. The Workers Compensation Board is substantially different, and that is clear in this act. However, I will ignore that for the time being.
Nevertheless, what I would propose is that we have a short break - it is about time anyway - and I will take the opportunity to consider something that might be useful and consistent with the Members latest proposal. It certainly might be acceptable, and at this point I do not have a great deal of difficulty with it.
It has certainly been consistent with the rhetoric that has been freely traded in this House over the last couple of weeks. In my own view, it would probably not harm the fund as long as the rate of return on the investments is appropriate, which is also a significant consideration. I will think about it over the break and there may be an opportunity for an amendment.
I would also like to indicate that whomever proposed the amendment that we would incorporate the proposed section number five that the Member has proposed, which talks about the transmittal of the policy to Members of the Legislature. I think that is a reasonable thing to do and I think that, at the same time, in order to accommodate the concern of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, which has sent a letter asking that we reconsider the section with respect to the initial policy approval being done by the Commissioner in Executive Council, we can accommodate that, as I do not think that it has a tremendous impact anyway. I think it is obvious that virtually everybody thinks that the existing investment policy of the board is a reasonable one.
Mr. Lang: I am pleased to see that we have caught the Minister in a good mood. His disposition can be highly commended and I am looking forward to the amendment that he will bring forward.
Chair: I will declare a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee to order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Having gone through the discussions of the last hour or two, I have another amendment that may capture all the elements of the discussion. The Member for Porter Creek East, who introduced the amendment, asked that amendments to the compensation fund policy be transmitted to all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly within 10 days of approval; I have incorporated that element into my amendment. I believe that, under the proposed amendment, which I will move in a moment, section 47(3) captures what the Member was talking about with respect to not investing funds that create a high-risk portfolio. I have also removed the reference to Commissioner in Executive Council in section 47(2) in the amendment I proposed, as I think, upon reflection, it is redundant and unnecessary.
In order to move the amendment, though, I would like to ask the Member if he is prepared to let his amendment stand aside.
Mr. Lang: I have to say that what the Minister has presented for the most part meets our concerns, so I would withdraw our amendment in order that he can formally put his amendment on the floor.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Member: Agreed.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act be amended in clause 47 at page 26 by deleting all of clause 47 and replacing it with the following:
47(1) Subject to section 46, the board may invest the compensation fund in any investment permitted by the Trustee Act.
47(2) The compensation fund shall be invested pursuant to an investment policy approved by the members of the board.
47(3) Investments acquired pursuant to the investment policy shall not create a high risk portfolio.
47(4) Amendments to the compensation fund investment policy may only be made on the recommendation of the members of the board and with the approval of the Commissioner in Executive Council.
47(5) Any amendments to the compensation fund investment policy shall be transmitted to all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly within ten (10) days of approval.
Chair: Is there debate on the amendment?
Amendment agreed to
Clause 47 agreed to as amended
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have to beg Members indulgence for one moment, as a slight problem has come to my attention. There is no reason to have to do this because I thought that the act was perfect.
I will draw Members attention to section 92(6) before I request unanimous consent, so that they can make a decision as to whether or not they would like to go back to it.
On Clause 92
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know what the procedural arrangements are. I was proposing that I would explain what I wanted to do and seek unanimous consent so that Members would know why I was requesting it. If they did not want to give it, that would be their decision. However, it is hard to request unanimous consent if one has not explained what it is one wants to see happen.
The issue is simply this: in the section that deals with the appointments to the board, it has been brought to my attention that the section restricting membership of a board to everyone but public servants has, in its net, captured approximately 2,000 Yukoners. The intent of restricting the appointment of public servants from the Workers Compensation Board was to reassure people who felt that there would otherwise be a temptation by the government to appoint deputy ministers or senior management to the board. It was felt that that could be seen to be an attempt to manipulate the board for political ends. The provision was put in to the act to relieve any concern that the government might try, in the future, to appoint public servants over whom they may have extra influence.
It has been brought to my attention that there are hundreds of public servants who are not in a management category, but are nevertheless workers and are covered under this act. The complaint was that if they were not allowed to even be considered for appointment as worker representatives, it would essentially disenfranchise these workers and make it difficult to allow them to be in a position in which they could represent their interests as workers under this act. They have asked that this particular section be reconsidered, and have suggested an appropriate alternative.
Clause 92(6) says,"At no time may a person who is a voting member of the board be at the same time an employee of the Government of the Yukon." We propose that that be replaced by saying, At no time may a person who is a voting member of the board, and appointed under paragraph 92(2)(a), be at the same time an employee of the Government of the Yukon. Section 92(2)(a) refers to the employers representative. This basically allows the public service workers to nominate and have considered for appointment, members to the board who represent workers interests.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Right. I will be seeking that as an amendment. Before I move the amendment, I would like to hear any thoughts Members might have about this section.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move
THAT Bill No. 6, entitled Workers Compensation Act, be amended in clause 92(6) at page 50 by deleting all of subsection (6) and replacing it with the following:
(6) At no time may a person who is a voting member of the board and appointed under paragraph 92(2)(a), be at the same time an employee of the Government of the Yukon.
Chair: Is there any debate on the amendment?
Mr. Brewster: I have a little problem. The government is paying the fees, and they are now putting their employees back on the board. This is not the way, and I think most people in the government would probably not vote that way. It appears the government is controlling that seat. They put him on, and they are appointing the others, and now there is a government employee on the board.
I realize we are disenfranchising some people, but it appears to me, and it is going to appear to the public, that that person is going to answer to the government. The government is an employer paying into compensation. I have a real problem with that. How does the Minister justify this?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think that the issue here should be characterized slightly differently. The government, in not being able to consider public servants as employer representatives, is essentially allowing them to be considered for employee representatives.
The point is, if the 2,000 or so employees who are either permanent or auxiliaries are not going to be allowed, by law, to express their opinions with respect to workers compensation matters, then I regard that as being a bit of a problem.
What we are saying to these workers who are now fully covered under this act, - and the government is now bound by this act - is that in all the significant respects, the workers should be considered for a position on the board, whether these workers are appointed or not.
The issue in franchising people to allow them to at least participate in something that is going to govern them is something that I do not think we should, by law, preclude.
What are we saying to those 2,000 people who live in every one of our communities? It might be a heavy equipment operator, it might be a nursing assistant, it might be any number of people. What are we going to say to these people when it comes time to consider their potential role as policy makers on this board? It would be really stretching the situation to suggest that, because a heavy equipment operator in Destruction Bay happens to be a Government of Yukon employee, he or she is going to feel they have to march locked-step with the political government on matters of workers compensation. Generally, people at that level do what they want, unless it has to do directly with their job as a heavy equipment operator, or as anything else, and that is the way it should be.
I am not saying that these people would be appointed; I am saying it would be reasonable to tell these people that they have a chance. Because this law is going to affect them just as much as it is going to affect every other worker in the territory, we are not precluding them from taking a position. We are not saying we are going to appoint them, but we are not saying we will not.
Mr. Brewster: I could accept the appointment of a heavy-duty equipment operator, but how am I assured that you would not appoint someone who is directly under the control of in this government? On top of that, two members representing employers are appointed. The government is now an employer which means they could get on the board, too. The government could have two representatives, if the right person from this building were appointed and the government got on as an employer. I do not think that is going to happen, but it could.
What do you mean that there will be two members representing employers? The government is an employer and they pay compensation just like any other employer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The point of the amendment is to make it clear that the person who is going to represent the employers interest cannot be an employee of the government - any employee at all, teacher, you name it. Only people from the private sector will be considered as employer representatives.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In the amendment.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the amendment?
Amendment agreed to
Clause 92 agreed to as amended
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that you report Bill No. 6 out of Committee, with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We have the rest of these bills to deal with: Bill No. 93, Bill No. 44 and Bill No. 7.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Given the late hour, I move we recess until 7:30.
Motion agreed to
Chair: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 93 - Electoral District Boundaries Act
Hon. Mr. Webster: Before we begin debate in Committee of the Whole on Bill No. 93, entitled Electoral District Boundaries Act, I would like to remind Members that we did pass a motion requesting the chief electoral officer to come forward with recommendations with regard to technical changes to boundary descriptions as found in the Electoral District Boundaries Commission Report. I am pleased to invite to the House the chief electoral officer, Patrick Michael, along with Jo-Ann Waugh. Please join us in welcoming them to the Yukon Legislative Chambers.
With that, perhaps we can begin general debate.
Chair: We will be discussing Bill No. 93, entitled Electoral District Boundaries Act.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Now that we are all settled, I wonder if we can call upon the chief electoral officer to review the report that he made for the benefit of the House Leaders, for our March 31, 1992, meeting, to which he is offering some recommendations for these changes.
Mr. Michael: My remarks will be rather brief. I thought I might begin by clarifying what it is that is before you. About the middle of March, the Government House Leader approached me and told me that he had submitted a draft bill on electoral district boundaries to the House Leaders. This draft bill, which was prepared by the Department of Justice, was based on the recommendations found in the Lysyk report. The Government House Leader informed me that the House Leaders had met to discuss this draft bill and decided to ask that my office prepare a redraft of the electoral district boundary descriptions found in it. This redraft was to be based on the contents of the draft bill in all significant respects.
I was told that, as well as suggesting alterations to the way the boundaries were described in the draft bill, I could suggest technical changes - and I would have you imagine quotation marks around the word technical. The report prepared by the elections office in response to this request was delivered to the House Leaders on March 24, 1992. The House Leaders subsequently met on March 31, 1992, to consider this report.
The contents of the report, which was submitted to the House Leaders, was provided to all Members of the Legislature on Friday, May 8, 1992.
As can be seen, a good number of the changes recommended had to do with making the wording of the boundary descriptions conform with the style in which boundaries had been described in the past. As an example: Where possible, the descriptions begin in the lower left hand corner of the electoral district. In three cases, that was not possible. Another example is: All unnecessary references to the boundaries of the Northwest Territories and British Columbia have been removed. A third one is: The symbols for degrees and minutes are replaced by the words degrees and minutes. Certain grammatical changes, such as substituting western for west, have been made, and some unnecessary details in some of the descriptions have been removed.
There were other changes suggested that fall under the category of technical changes, as I have described. I believe the House Leaders could probably best explain what came out of that meeting. My sense of it was that the House Leaders were reluctant to see any changes made, and that the bill that was brought forward to the House should reflect almost exactly the descriptions which were found in the Lysyk report.
I am not sure where to go from here, whether Members want to go over the boundaries one by one or if there are any questions at this point.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I thought perhaps we could read through the report supplied to the House from the March 31 meeting, riding by riding, and just review some of the recommendations made by the chief electoral officer for our consideration. Perhaps we can ask questions as we go, riding by riding.
Mr. Lang: I am not opposed to that type of approach, but I do have one question after looking at some of the changes.
I am concerned that there is a significant shift in population from one riding to another. In the review by your office, was the question of voter parity and how it would be affected taken into consideration? I am referring specifically to Porter Creek South and Porter Creek North, specifically Tamarack Drive. The boundary was recommended to go between Juniper Drive and Tamarack Drive, and then straight through. Now it goes up the middle of a street. That is a fair number of homes - about 20 or 30 homes, or about 80 voters.
I was wondering how that was brought into context with what you saw in the shifting of some of these boundaries.
Mr. Michael: With reference to the dividing line between Porter Creek North and Porter Creek South that has been mentioned, the dividing line suggested in the Lysyk report is the dividing line found in Bill No. 93. The change suggested for consideration to the House Leaders was not accepted. The reason for the suggestion was that the dividing line suggested by the Lysyk report appears quite confusing as it goes right between two houses - one of which is on the corner of Juniper Drive and Tamarack Drive. The line tends to go right through the back yard. The line was extended down the street a bit, to what I call the end of Tamarack Drive, where there is quite an obvious dividing space with a play park, at one spot, and it would be quite clear to election officers and to the electorate as to where the dividing line between those two electoral districts was to be.
The estimate we came up with was that probably about 24 electors would be added to Porter Creek North and, obviously, taken away from Porter Creek South. In coming up with these suggestions, we did not pay a great deal of attention to the exact numbers. That would be a matter for the House to consider.
Mr. Lang: In the example I raised, the witnesses said yes, they took into account the number of homes. I would think we are talking about 12 to 14 homes from the 24 electors he referred to.
In relation to any of the recommended changes here, whether in Porter Creek, Riverdale or another area, the witness is saying he feels they are not adversely affecting the principle of parity, as far as voter equality is concerned. Is that correct?
Mr. Michael: I have to get used to the rule of waiting for the Chair to recognize the witness.
I did not pay a great deal of heed to the numbers. I perhaps do not have the same confidence Judge Lysyk had in the kind of numbers he came up with. Experience has shown that taking numbers of electors from one election and carrying on to the next election could be quite wrong. I was thinking about the by-election in Porter Creek West, which occurred in 1986. We used the same list of electors for the by-election that had come out of the general election and, in the space of eight months, we saw a 20-percent change in that list.
In the current case, we are seeing the situation where Judge Lysyk is relying on lists of electors that are two years old. My feeling was that, if we were looking at 24 electors, it was a bit of a toss-up as to whether it really had an effect.
Mr. Nordling: Before we get too far into this, I know that we asked that the Clerk and his able assistant be here tonight.
I would like to know from the Government House Leader and perhaps the Opposition House Leader, if they envision us voting on each recommendation that the Clerk has made to change the boundaries, as outlined by Judge Lysyk. Are we about to set new boundaries in the Legislature tonight?
I will ask the witness to confirm that quite a number of these changes involve moving voters from one riding to another. For example, comparing the district of Klondike to the Mayo/Tatchun riding, the Clerk has recommended, it looks to me, that hundreds of square miles be moved from one riding to the other.
Is that what we are going to do here tonight? Are we going to preempt the Lysyk report by voting our own boundaries?
Chair: I would like to remind Members to refer to Mr. Michael as the chief electoral officer instead of the Clerk.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The motion that the Members of the House voted on was to review the report as provided by the chief electoral officer during the March 31 meeting of the House Leaders, and to review some possible changes to the boundaries suggested in the Lysyk report for purposes of correcting some deficiencies and making some improvements on technical matters.
To answer the question posed by the Member for Porter Creek West, that is what we are dealing with tonight, and that is why the chief electoral officer is here as a witness to answer any questions pertaining to the recommended changes.
Mr. Nordling: Perhaps I could ask the chief electoral officer if an election could be run with the bill as it is now tabled, or as the Lysyk report indicates the boundaries should be?
Mr. Michael: In almost all cases, the chief electoral officer could conduct an election under whatever boundaries the Assembly felt moved to provide. The only matter that would be of supreme difficulty with the Lysyk report was that the description of Mayo-Tatchun, in the Lysyk report itself, contained a mistake, in that it included not only what was intended for the riding of Mayo-Tatchun, but it also included the area that comprises the Electoral District of Faro. That may be an agreeable notion to some Members but that was not what was intended by the report. That particular description would have had to be changed.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to correct a misapprehension that is out in the public. It was reported by the CBC that there were problems with the Lysyk report, in that there were boundaries that ran right through peoples houses. I think that should be corrected. That mistaken impression arose when Mr. Lang and Mr. Penikett were discussing 15 years in the past. Can the chief electoral officer confirm that is not the case with the Lysyk report?
Mr. Michael: As far as I can tell, that is not the case. I have never said that it was my impression that the boundaries suggested by Judge Lysyk ran through anyones home.
Mr. Nordling: My understanding was that this report was presented at a meeting of the House Leaders, where it was agreed, essentially, that the chief electoral officer could rewrite the descriptions but not change the boundaries. Is that the sense of what happened?
Mr. Michael: Yes.
Mr. Nordling: That brings me to my question to the Government House Leader. What are we doing with the chief electoral officer here tonight? Can we not vote on the bill as it is, or have we decided that there are possible amendments that will be presented - I should say, substantive amendments that would move people from one riding to another and move hundreds of square miles from one riding to another.
Mr. Lang: I recognize that the Member for Porter Creek West is loathe to consider any changes to the bill before us. I defend his right to take that position. However, I also think it is important to note that in this bill, which the electoral officer went through for us, there were a number of areas where it was felt that the constituency boundaries could be improved, for a number of reasons. Whether or not there are to be any changes, will be decided by the majority of this House.
As the Government House Leader had indicated, I would like to go through the various recommendations that were put forward - the work that was done - hear why those recommendations were made, and then I would recommend that we go through the changes. At that stage, we can then decide, as a collective body, where the majority will prevail, and whether or not we want to deal with changes individually if we wish to make changes or if we are not going to make changes at all.
The object of this exercise is to try to put the chief electoral officer in some sort of position of defending or not defending the changes to the bill before us. I want to look at each one objectively and say, if there is a real problem with this report, which includes - if we were to accept the boundaries - Faro in the Mayo-Tatchun area. That would be an oversight, from our understanding of the principles of the report.
In fairness to the Government House Leader - who is trying to be as fair as he can in trying to present the bill, and showing us some other technical changes that could be made in the bill, which may or may not improve it - I feel we should go through the changes clause by clause, hear what the chief electoral officer has to say and, then, at the end, excuse the witnesses and deal with the bill.
Mr. Nordling: I am prepared to sit here for three weeks and go through every word of the report, if the Member for Porter Creek East wishes to do that. My understanding was that his House Leader had attended a meeting and discussed technical changes to correct minor adjustments, and considered the full recommendations made by the chief electoral officer, which the Member has before him. There is certainly a lot of difference between correcting an oversight or making descriptions clearer for Yukoners and making substantial changes to the electoral boundaries.
My impression was that we commissioned Mr. Justice Lysyk to bring us back a report, and he did that. To me, it seems that we are in the House considering a boundaries commission report done by the chief electoral officer, which is patterned on the Lysyk report and straightens it up, changes the boundaries, moves a few people, and moves streets around for it to make more sense.
My impression is that, by going through this exercise, we are really deciding whether or not to approve the boundaries commission report of the chief electoral officer, and not that of Mr. Justice Lysyk. If that is the wish of the House, I will sit here and watch with great interest, as this House draws its own boundary lines.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I rise to ask the Member where he was during debate of this bill on May 5 and 6, when we went all through this argument as to why we are calling the witness here: the good chief electoral officer.
We are not changing the major principles found in the Lysyk report. There are still 17 ridings. We are just considering some possible changes to correct some deficiencies or technical arrangements. All right?
Yes, we are changing the boundaries. Some of them make sense, as we stated in debate on May 5 and 6.
I would ask that we permit the chief electoral officer to proceed through his recommendations for consideration, riding by riding.
Chair: That appears to be agreeable.
Mr. Michael: I am assuming that what is required is to go through electoral district by electoral district with a description of what had been said.
May I say that the changes suggested to the House Leaders were put before them for their consideration, and if it was their feeling that they were too broad, I did not wish to be viewed in the role of a proponent. I was simply putting before them some ideas for their consideration. I did not want to be seen as a champion of some alternate arrangement to that which they might prefer to adopt.
If you wish, I could go through electoral district by electoral district. The information I have provided to all Members, which had been given to the House Leaders, has been revised so that it is in the same order by electoral district as it appears in the bill itself.
The first one would be Faro. There were no changes suggested, other than substituting the word degrees and minutes for the symbols.
Mr. Lang: Just so that the chief electoral officer can clarify this for us: if that is the case, is that what is incorporated in the piece of legislation before us - so that we know what we are comparing?
Mr. Michael: I am sorry - with three separate descriptions before Members, I recognize it can be confusing. What I should say is that the boundaries suggested in the Lysyk report are, in fact, the same ones as are in Bill No. 93 and they are the same as the ones I had outlined for the House Leaders. There is no difference in those boundaries at any of those stages.
Under the Electoral District of Klondike, a change was suggested but not adopted, and it is one the Member for Porter Creek West was referring to. I am not sure how many square miles were involved, but the change suggested was to have the eastern limit of Klondike drop directly along longitude 136 degrees west down to latitude 64 degrees north rather than jogging back to longitude 137 degrees at latitude 66 degrees. The purpose of the suggested change was to provide a simpler map. No voters should have been affected. Rather than have a stepladder effect on the map, this would give a simpler map for the public to understand.
When the House Leaders decided to follow the Lysyk report and wanted to see Judge Lysyks recommendations brought to the House, it meant that that suggested change did not find its way into Bill No. 93. Bill No. 93 reflects the recommendation found in the Lysyk report.
The next boundary change would deal with the Electoral District of Kluane.
Mr. Nordling: Perhaps I am out of line by interrupting to ask a question, but I thought that if we had any questions as we went along, we could ask Mr. Michael about that electoral district, rather than wait until the end and go back.
With respect to the drawing of the lines and the moving of these lines from 136 degrees to 137 degrees west, these lines of longitude and latitude are really not carved anywhere across the Yukon.
Does the chief electoral officer know how difficult or easy it is to find these lines when one is out in the bush looking for the boundary of their constituency?
Mr. Michael: As I have travelled through the Yukon, they have never been readily apparent to me.
Mr. Nordling: The Member for Porter Creek East says, Take along a compass. I would like to see him out in the bush with a compass trying to find the latitude and longitude. This illustrates my point. These lines are very difficult to find. They look good on a map because they follow these lines, but they are imaginary lines on the earth and, in my submission, it would be just as easy to find the straight line than it would be to find a jog. I cannot see where it is going to simplify anything for anyone by moving it from 137 degrees back to 136 degrees longitude. We do not know what Mr. Justice Lysyks reasons were for that jog. When we send our surveyors out to tell people in what riding they live, I am certain it is just as easy for them to find 137 degrees as it is for them to find 136 degrees.
Mr. Lang: What was the question?
Mr. Nordling: The poor Member for Porter Creek East. The question was regarding the difficulty of finding these lines of longitude to decide where a person is and in what constituency they live, dividing them by lines of longitude and latitude rather than natural divisions like rivers or the natural lay of the land. My point was that it is just as difficult to find one line of longitude as it is to find another one.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I really do not understand the point of the Members argument.
Mr. Nordling: The point is that the change does not make sense.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Nevertheless, I think that there is something at stake here.
I would agree that finding the precise longitudinal or latitudinal line on the map would obviously be difficult. This is something for the elections office to consider if there were people living in the bush - and in fact there are people living in the bush in this particular area - clearly, that would be a complication no matter where the line was set.
The point of the matter is that there are probably a good tens of miles involved here, and there are certainly people who would be incorporated into the riding, should the line be drawn down the 137th degree. These people would be incorporated into the Klondike riding, who now currently reside in the Mayo riding. These people do vote in Mayo and they have a post office box in Mayo; they have always lived in the Mayo district and consider themselves to be Mayo residents. These people live in the area that is referred to as the Potato Hills, which is indentifed in that jog. These people are placer miners and it is important and appropriate, in my view - given the fact that they have, historically, in some of these cases, lived in this area for two or three generations - to have a jog. I do not think that the jog is irrelevant.
If there is an argument to be made as to where the precise line might be, I think it would be better made someplace else. Certainly, there are people affected here, and I think that we should be respecting their rights to continue. In this particular instance, I would agree with the Lysyk report, which contains the jog, as I understand it, and I would disagree that this should be simplified with a straight line up and down the 136th degree.
Mr. Nordling: That was my concern; when Justice Lysyk drew this jog, he may have had a very good reason to do it. Our very good reason and the reason of the chief electoral officer was to make the map look easier to read, or look better on paper. I do not think that is our function. Mr. Justice Lysyk spent hours and hours and days and days, drawing these lines and now we in the Legislature are going to take it upon ourselves to make a few little technical amendments that move people from one riding to another, who, as the Member for Mayo has said, traditionally live and vote and are familar with that area. I do not think that we should be fooling with these boundaries.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not want to seem to be necessarily in line with the Member for Porter Creek West; that would be an embarrassment. However, in this particular respect, I think we should bring our knowledge to this Chamber about the ridings and the issues that are being presented by the chief electoral officer; it is a valuable process.
I have not been elected by my constituents to rubber stamp anything in this Legislature. While I respect the argument the Member initially made in second reading with respect to the desirability of following the Lysyk report verbatim, I did take issue, as one Member of this Legislature, with the proposition that the good judge was infallible. At that time, I did indicate that it may be appropriate, in the public forum, such as this, on the record, in front of all the public of the territory, to consider any necessary changes that may be desirable.
In this particular case, I have indicated that I think that the chief electoral officer would have inadvertently made an error had the recommendation been approved. However, it would be inappropriate to suggest that that, by itself, is proof positive that the process to review the recommendations is wrong and, as a consequence, all the other considerations that the chief electoral officer may be bringing to this debate are useless. I would not agree with that at all.
Mr. Michael: I would be the first to admit that inadvertent mistakes could have crept in on any number of matterns. On the Klondike riding, it had been my impression that the Potato Hills area referred to was south of the boundary line. I would defer to anyone with greater knowledge of the area, and I understand that it could have infringed on that. That was one of the purposes of placing this before the House Leaders, to be able to gain some input on matters such as that.
The next boundary was the one for the Electoral District of Kluane. There were a number of points in the Lysyk report where there was reference made to the point of intersection of Judas Creek and the Alaska Highway. That particular reference point was used to help describe three electoral district boundaries. Rather than use that as a reference, we suggested instead that it be referred to as latitude 60 degrees, 25 minutes north. That is essentially no change from that spot; it is just a different way of describing it.
A change suggested, but not adopted, was to continue the boundary along latitude 60 degrees, 25 minutes north from longitude 135 degrees to longitude 136 degrees. The Lysyk report recommended that this line drop to 60 degrees, 20 minutes at longitude 135 degrees, 30 minutes. It is a lot of numbers to throw out there, but you can see on the map provided to you what the effect would have been.
Again, pursuant to the House Leaders direction, the boundary suggested by Judge Lysyk was accepted, and that is the boundary that is found in Bill No. 93.
Mr. Phelps: Before I make my comments, I want to make it clear that I remain convinced that the appropriate way to be dealing with the entire commission is to have the commission repeated. The Lysyk report is a draft that goes back to old hearings. There are very substantial and substantive complaints by numerous people, who have taken the time to write about their concerns about some of the ridings that we are dealing with tonight.
With respect to my comments on the report and the suggested change to the bottom corner of Kluane, my concern is that Mr. Lysyk, in his description of what he was attempting to accomplish regarding Mount Lorne, stated that he wanted to include the Hamlet of Mount Lorne in that riding. The boundaries, as they are defined and drawn in the commission report, exclude a substantial portion of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne, placing a lot of people at the far end of the Annie Lake Road in the Ross River-Southern Lakes riding. This particular change will do nothing to alleviate the problem.
I would like to table a map in the Legislature that shows the actual Hamlet of Mount Lorne. It extends a good deal south of latitude 60 degrees, 25 minutes north.
In summary, my concern is simply that this cosmetic change does nothing to alleviate the very real concerns that a large number of people have who are in the Mount Lorne hamlet and are at the far end of the road down toward, and past, Annie Lake, and would have even less in common with Ross River and other parts of the riding than we in Carcross do.
Was the chief electoral officer in any way trying to alleviate the concerns of the residents in Mount Lorne, who will not be in the same electoral district if the boundaries change, as recommended by the chief electoral officer in this report?
Mr. Michael: One of the difficulties with the request received from the House Leaders was how far we could go in making recommendations for changes. This was one where we did not make any recommendations, perhaps on the basis of it being a little more substantive. I am not sure that we knew how far down the Annie Lake Road there were residents; again, that would have been an area where we would have looked to the House to deal with the matter.
Mr. Phelps: This is a very clear example of how this exercise is not going to do very much to alleviate the very real concerns of residents who, by mistake or whatever, are totally isolated - such as the residents who live in the Mount Lorne hamlet but who would have to be in the same voting district as Ross River. It seems to me that we have to come to grips with this sort of problem in a much more substantive way.
Mr. Lang: If we were to accept the recommendations put forward in the chief electoral officers review, does he have any idea of how many electors would be involved?
Hon. Mr. Webster: For purposes of clarifying that, we are dealing with the Electoral District of Kluane.
Mr. Lang: I know.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Member for Porter Creek Easts question relates to that recommendation regarding the Electoral District of Kluane. The question was: how many voters would be affected by this proposed change?
I do not see how it relates to the concern raised by the Member for Hootalinqua. Are you just advancing that concern when dealing with the Electoral District of Mount Lorne?
Mr. Phelps: The boundary of Kluane is a common boundary with Mount Lorne. That particular corner of this map is crucial to the democratic rights of a handful of families who live on the Annie Lake Road.
When I first looked at the map, I assumed that perhaps this change was being put forward as meeting the concerns of those who are actually in the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. They are rather isolated from Ross River and Southern Lakes. I want to make it very clear because this is the main place in the report that the change to the boundary is dealt with. It does not do any justice at all to the people who are concerned about being in Mount Lorne.
Mr. Lang: I was wondering if the chief electoral officer could now answer my questions.
With the recommended changes that you have put forward here, are we affecting a number of electors, and if we are, does he have any indication of how many?
Mr. Michael: No, I do not know exactly how many. We believed it not to be any at the point when the recommendation was made. Subsequently, there has been some indication that it may be six electors.
I should clarify this. Is the Member referring to the change that was placed before the House Leaders, or is the Member referring to changes that the Member for Hootalinqua would be recommending?
Mr. Lang: I am on the Electoral District of Kluane. I am looking at the clearly identified boundary of Kluane, as I understand it to be from the report. If I am not mistaken, I believe that where it says 60 degrees, 25 minutes, is where it is recommended to take the jog out of the boundary. Is that not correct? If it is correct, all I would like to know is if any electors were affected.
Mr. Michael: Sorry, I am confusing the issue myself. No, the jog we were describing would not have affected electors.
Mr. Phelps: That seems to satisfy the Member for Porter Creek East. I am trying to make it very clear that it does not satisfy me. I think that the boundary of Kluane ought to be altered in that vicinity, and the boundary of Ross River-Southern Lakes ought to be altered in that very vicinity. They ought to be altered in such a way as to ensure that all of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne is included in the Mount Lorne riding. It requires those boundaries to be changed. Since this piece of patchwork is described here and described later on in the Ross River-Southern Lakes section, but not in the Mount Lorne section, it seemed altogether appropriate for me to raise it here.
Mr. Nordling: Perhaps I can just ask the chief electoral officer if he has any idea why Mr. Justice Lysyk in his report would have put in that jog, and to confirm with the chief electoral officer that he has recommended that change simply to make the map look simpler.
Mr. Michael: The answer to the second question is yes. The answer to the first question would be that I think you would have to talk to Judge Lysyk. I do not feel that I can speak for him.
Am I to understand that we could proceed to Lake Laberge? There is no substantive change to what was recommended in the Lysyk report, and his recommendation finds its way into Bill No. 93. There are no changes in those boundaries.
Mr. Nordling: In reviewing the Electoral District of Lake Laberge, did the chief electoral officer consider moving a boundary to make Alder and Birch Streets, which are definitely in downtown Porter Creek, part of either Porter Creek North or South, and make the boundary between those two streets and the Mackenzie Trailer Park, which would be quite an easy boundary to find, and quite natural, leaving those two streets as part of Porter Creek, where they have traditionally been?
Mr. Michael: No.
Mr. Nordling: Is it because it did not improve the look of the map or the ease of locating the ridings that those considerations were not made?
Mr. Michael: In looking at the maps, the principle we were looking for was: did they describe boundaries that were clearly delineated and understandable? We saw no problem in understanding the boundaries suggested in the report. I would not want to say whether they actually meet peoples expectations or desires in all ways. However, as to being able to divine where they are, that is possible, and that is why no suggestions were made for changes.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to confirm that the chief electoral officers mandate was to draw clearly delineated boundaries. It was not to correct or fix irregularities or inequities with respect to where voters were located and which constituency they were in.
Mr. Michael: Was the purpose to make sure that the lines were clearly delineated? Yes, as opposed to worrying about shifting population or something of that nature. Again, our purpose in looking at the lines was to make sure that the boundaries were clear. Those were the only suggestions that we were making.
Chair: The Electoral District of McIntyre.
Mr. Michael: The only real change to outline here is one that was not adopted. The suggestion that was made, but not adopted, was to move the boundary line from the centre line of Ray Street to the centre line of Ogilvie Street, in the area between Second and Fourth avenues. This was based on the fact that most people would not be aware of Ray Street since it is not open to traffic and should not have been significantly changed as no voters live in the area between Ogilvie and Ray Streets. Again, the description of the boundary of McIntyre-Takhini, which is found in Bill No. 93, reflects exactly that which was recommended in the Lysyk report.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Did we purposely skip Mayo-Tatchun, or is my book different from others? My book is different; thank you.
Mr. Lang: I am not quite clear on this. Is the centre line of Ogilvie Street the one that was recommended in the Lysyk report?
Mr. Lang: Therefore, you are going along in the legislation with Ray Street?
Mr. Michael: The change to the Electoral District of Mayo-Tatchun is the same change as was identified - I should speak more clearly here. The wording of the description provided in the Lysyk report included the Electoral District of Faro within the boundaries of Mayo-Tatchun. This mistake was rectified in the drafting of Bill No. 93. A change suggested, but not adopted, is the one that had been previously discussed under the Electoral District of Klondike. I believe information has been provided to us on that particular situation by the current Member for Mayo.
Mr. Nordling: I believe the Member for Whitehorse South Centre was asking about Mayo-Tatchun; perhaps she should ask that question now.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: In my book, Mayo-Tatchun came before McIntyre, and I wondered if we were skipping Mayo-Tatchun. That is all. I did not have a question.
Mr. Michael: In the Electoral District of Mount Lorne, there is a change in the reference to the point of intersection of Judas Creek and the Alaska Highway. That has been changed to read, latitude 60 degrees, 25 minutes north. This is the same spot. I referred to this change earlier.
There is a reference in the Lysyk report, to quote, the stream that crosses the Alaska Highway between Mile 909 and Mile 908.5. This stream is described as a stream between MacRae and Wolf Creek." There has been a change made where that is referred to as, latitude 60 degrees, 37 minutes north, instead of using that unnamed stream as a reference point. The boundary lines for Mount Lorne are exactly as Judge Lysyk has recommended.
Mr. Phelps: I take it then that the chief electoral officer did not concern himself in these recommendations with taking steps to try and ensure that the descriptions and recommendations in the Lysyk report were carried through into the boundary description. By that I refer to the commission report on page 70, recommendations pertaining to Mount Lorne, where it says, The commission recommends that the country-residential communities within Whitehorse (Wolf Creek, Mary Lake and Pine Ridge) be combined with similar communities south and east of the city limits (Mount Lorne hamlet, Golden Horn, Marsh Lake and Constabulary subdivisions) to create a new electoral district.
My concern is that Mount Lorne hamlet is not completely encapsulized in the legal description that Mr. Lysyk has included for this riding. The changes recommended by the chief electoral officer do not seem to do anything to correct this discrepancy either.
Mr. Michael: One point I should clarify here is that for ease of reference I have been talking about the descriptions found in the Lysyk report. In fact, what was referred to me by the Government House Leader was a draft bill that had been prepared by the Department of Justice, based on what was found in the Lysyk report. It was really that draft bill that I was being asked to comment on, rather than the Lysyk report itself. At least, I do not believe that the expectation was that I would look behind the draft bill to the Lysyk report. I have been referring to it tonight and perhaps creating a little confusion, but I thought that might make it easier for reference.
The answer for the Member for Hootalinqua would be no, I did not sit down and try and determine where the boundaries of Mount Lorne were and then make suggestions that would change that boundary description to encompass the full hamlet.
Mr. Phelps: Would it not be relatively simple to change the boundary of the Mount Lorne electoral district so as to ensure that it includes all of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne?
Mr. Michael: I am not certain whether or not it would be. One would suspect so, but I have personally never run across a full map of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne.
Mr. Phelps: I did table a copy of the map. It would be interesting to have the chief electoral officers comment on it, perhaps after the break, once he has had a chance to look at it. I certainly intend to put forward a motion at the appropriate time.
I have been asked by the Member for Mayo how many people are involved. I would say at least five or six families.
Chair: Committee will now take a break.
Chair: Does anyone wish to make any comments on the Electoral District of Mount Lorne?
Mr. Phelps: I have had some discussions during the break with the Government House Leader and my understanding is that it would at least be possible to easily make changes and amendments to the proposed boundary of Mount Lorne that would include all of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne in the Electoral District of Mount Lorne.
Chair: Does anyone wish to make any comments on the Electoral District of the Vuntut Gwichin, Old Crow.
As there is no discussion on this district, we will move to the Electoral District of Porter Creek North.
Mr. Lang: From what I understand, the proposed boundary line between Porter Creek North and Porter Creek South goes along the lot line which divides Tamarack Drive and Juniper Drive. Is that correct for the legal description?
Mr. Michael: Yes, it comes to the corner of Juniper Drive, where it joins up with Tamarack Drive; I think the house is number 1, Juniper Drive; it goes around the back side of it. Then, there is a house on Tamarack Drive, right next to it, and it goes along the lot line.
Mr. Nordling: In the division between Porter Creek South and the Lake Laberge riding, it would be quite a simple boundary and easy to define if the boundary simply went down the centre line of Wann Road to the west, right across the Alaska Highway; that would place Alder and Birch Streets in Porter Creek South, rather than Lake Laberge. I would like to know whether the chief electoral officer would have his election officials change that boundary to rectify what I would describe as a community of interest?
Mr. Michael: I am afraid I would have to defer to the House on that particular matter. To have that particular area located in Lake Laberge does not create an administrative problem nor, were it to be included in Porter Creek South would it create an administrative problem. I think the debate has to take place elsewhere than with me about changing boundaries for the purpose of having communities of interest put together.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to clarify if it would be an administrative problem or not. My understanding is that the chief electoral officers mandate is to deal with administrative problems rather than substantive problems as to communities of interest and where voters are located.
Mr. Michael: In the Electoral District of Riverdale North, a change, which was suggested for consideration by the House Leaders, but which was not adopted, was to move the boundary from a lane between Donjek Road and Tutshi Road to the center ine of Tutshi Road. That would have taken away an estimated 30 electors from Riverdale North. In reflection, using the lane way would not have been a problem.
A further change, which was not adopted, was to move the boundary recommended in the Lysyk report, as found in the draft bill that we were looking at. That boundary followed the right-of-way between four sets of houses on Alsek Road, Tay Street, and Pelly Road. The suggestion made to the House Leaders was to have a boundary that would follow the center line of streets. Those would have included Hyland Crescent, Tay Street and Pelly Road. We had calculated that if a change like that had been made, there would have been no change in the number of electors in either Riverdale North or Riverdale South. The reason it was suggested was that, in general, it is best to keep from having electoral districts divided by drawing lines between houses. It is a little better to try and follow center lines of streets. That way it is absolutely clear to the electorate, election officials and candidates where the boundary is.
Mr. Michael: The suggestion that was made again, and not adopted, was the one respecting the right of way between the four sets of houses previously mentioned.
Under Riverdale North, I had mentioned that the suggestion that was made and not adopted was to move the boundary from the lane way between Donjek Road and Tutshi Road to the center line of Tutshi Road. That same change would have, of course, affected Riverside.
For Ross River-Southern Lakes, there is a small change, in that the title was changed by substituting a hyphen for the oblique sign between Ross River and Southern Lakes. This is another electoral district, in which there was a reference to the intersection of Judas Creek and the Alaska Highway. Again, that reference was changed to read latitude 60 degrees, 25 minutes north. Under Ross River-Southern Lakes was also the change we had discussed earlier under Kluane, which the Member for Hootalinqua raised earlier, as well.
Mr. Phelps: Just before we get by this electoral district, I wonder if the chief electoral officer can confirm that he has received numerous letters of complaint with respect to this proposed electoral district. I have received some 18 or more copies of letters addressed to him complaining about this riding. Is that correct?
Mr. Michael: I believe that most of the letters that I received were copies of letters that had been addressed to the Premier.
Mr. Phelps: Without exception, the general tone of these letters was not one of approval of the proposed electoral district. Is that correct?
Mr. Michael: That would be a fair assessment of the content of those letters.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I would like to make an observation with regard to Whitehorse North Centre, specifically down by the riverside, including the Shipyard and Sleepy Hollow areas that were, or still are, a part of my riding. These areas will now be part of the McIntyre riding. I bring this up because of the objection from some of the individuals from that area who feel they are a part of downtown and have been as long as they have lived there. They let me know that they do object to this change because it takes them away from the downtown area that they are so familiar with.
I am not sure whether or not they are going to be making any formal representations about that. If you do hear from anyone down there, I would like to know, because they have made those objections known to me.
Mr. Nordling: Just to confirm that again, it was not the chief electoral officers mandate nor function to listen to complaints about the location of borders.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Like the Member for Porter Creek West, I was making observations.
Mr. Michael: For the Electoral District of Granger, there was a change mentioned earlier to an unnamed stream that crossed the Alaska Highway. In an earlier description, that had been changed to read latitude 60 degrees, 37 minutes north. The same change would affect what is called in Bill No. 93 the Electoral District of Whitehorse West.
Mr. Nordling: Was it the chief electoral officers recommendation that the Electoral District of Granger name be changed to the Electoral District of Whitehorse West?
Mr. Michael: No, it was not.
Mr. Lang: While we are on the topic, from the chief electoral officers knowledge of parliamentary tradition and precedent, if a sitting Member wishes to change the name of a riding back to the name it previously had, is this normally accepted if it is recommended? If the chief electoral officer has no knowledge of this, that is fine.
Mr. Michael: What knowledge I do have is that there have been occasions on which the names of electoral districts have been changed, I believe, by private Members bill in the House of Commons. I do not know what process led to those changes. I do not know what is normal in those cases, neither do I know, in the case where a full electoral district boundaries act is before a legislature, or the House of Commons, whether it is common to see name changes suggested and accepted.
Mrs. Firth: Could the chief electoral officer tell us what process led to this change?
Mr. Michael: I am not aware of what led to the title of that boundary in Bill No. 93.
Mrs. Firth: The Justice department would have drafted the legislation. Is that the understanding of the chief electoral officer?
Mr. Michael: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: I guess that it is fair to assume that the direction for the change came not from the chief electoral officer, but from the government benches.
Mr. Michael: All that I can say is that it is entirely fair to assume that it did not come from the chief electoral officer. From where it did come, I am not so certain.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps one of the Members, either the Minister of Justice, who is responsible for the legislation, or the House Leader, can answer the question. I think that it is only fair that we know where the direction came from and what the process was.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I gather from that question that is the end of the questions that we have for the witness. The question posed can be simply answered when we get into Committee of the Whole debate on clause 1 when we review each electoral district.
If that is the case I would like to thank the witness, the chief electoral officer, Mr. Patrick Michael, and his assistant, Jo-Ann Waugh, for providing expert testimony tonight before Committee of the Whole. Thank you for coming.
Hon. Mr. Webster: At this time, I recommend that we proceed with Clause 1 of the bill for debate, riding by riding.
If the Member for Riverdale South would prefer to have a response to her question now, rather than wait until we get to the Electoral District of Whitehorse West, yes, the recommendation was put forward by the Minister who was originally sponsoring this bill, the Hon. Tony Penikett. That was one of the changes he preferred to make and directed the Department of Justice to do so, rather than waiting until the floor of the House and debating it in Committee of the Whole.
Mrs. Firth: So, it was the sponsoring Minister, the Government Leader, who gave the directions specifically to the Department of Justice to draft the legislation that way?
Hon. Mr. Webster: That is correct.
Mrs. Firth: Was this a decision shared by Cabinet, or was it a decision made solely by the sponsoring Minister?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Certainly, it was reviewed by the Cabinet committee on legislation as the riding of Whitehorse West.
Mrs. Firth: So, then, the Cabinet legislative committee had to have made a decision in agreement with it for the change to go ahead, which implicates all the Members as agreeing with that change?
Hon. Mr. Webster: True.
On Clause 1
Chair: Is there general debate on clause 1.
Mr. Lang: I am a little concerned. As you can see, I questioned the chief electoral officer to find out what the precedence in the parliamentary system was with respect to changes. I recall a debate involving the Government Leader when he last attended the session. He made and emphasized the point that it is a normal precedent in parliamentary procedure that if you are a sitting Member and you want the name to stay the way it was, then just out of courtesy other Members agree. I was quite surprised in my questioning to the chief electoral officer that he referred to a couple of private Members bills, but other than that, he really had no knowledge of just what the precedent was.
I find it a little difficult to accept the fact that one Member says, I am going to keep my ridings name the way it is and everybody else can change. It is more the principle of the thing than anything else.
In talking to the bill in the way it was presented, I do not think that there should be any substantive changes to the bill vis-a-vis the Lysyk report. I appreciate the work that the chief electoral officer and his staff put in.
Other than the observations made by the Member for Hootalinqua, which involved a few electors in a geographical area, I do not see the necessity of going down the streets and changing street areas and whatever. I think it takes away from the principle of parity in the different areas.
I have to voice my opinion over one concern that I do have. Just because one Member feels that the name of his constituency should stay the way it is, and because of their position in government, it is presented that way, I think it deviated from the Lysyk report. It is more the principle than anything else. I do not think that it is necessary. That is my observation on that particular issue.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to remind the Member that there are not that many existing districts where you have seen a name changed. Certainly, there have been amalgamations - Mayo and Tatchun separately into the Mayo-Tatchun riding. There is still Kluane; there is still Watson Lake; there is still Faro, and there is still Klondike. I think that the reasons provided in the second reading speech for making the changes to electoral boundaries, which differ from those recommended by Judge Lysyk, were based on valid reasons. They were sound reasons. Basically, the one from McIntyre to McIntyre-Takhini was to incorporate the two major communities in that particular new riding.
Some Hon. Member: What about Northland?
Hon. Mr. Webster: The other one deals with having Whitehorse West remain the same in order to reflect the history of that particular district. I do not think that calling it Granger, as proposed by Lysyk, truly and accurately describes all of the communities in that particular district. I remind Members that at this particular time, as we go through this bill clause by clause and review each electoral district, certainly any Member is free to oppose an amendment which will change the name, and we will have to listen to the reasons, be they valid and reasonable, and they will be considered by this House.
Mr. Lang: I would like to make this point: the Member specifically referred to McIntyre-Takhini and the fact that Takhini has been added on to the name. What about Northland and Kopper King? If you want to get technical, they have a separate community interest. Let us look at Porter Creek North. What about the Baranov mobile home park? That has its own separate community of interest. It is the principle of the thing that I am speaking to. I just do not understand why, if we were going to accept the report pretty much in its entirety - and I think we will probably end up doing that ...
We will see what the Member for Hootalinqua is going to present. The area that I feel sympathy for is Wheaton Valley. Other than that, it seems to me to be a pretty reasonable report overall, and meets all of the objectives that we asked Mr. Justice Lysyk to meet. I just make that point regarding the names. I do not totally buy it. I think, once again, someone is going to show how much influence they have and they are going to push it through. I just do not understand that.
Hon. Mr. Webster: The Members point is well taken. There are a few electoral ridings of the 17 proposed throughout the territory where you have a collection of neighbourhoods. I will concede that McIntyre-Takhini could be expanded upon to be called the Electoral District of McIntyre-Takhini North and Kopper King, but I think that there are limits to that. Again, the reason was given to add the two major communities in that proposed name change from McIntrye, to illustrate to people that it is just not solely dealing with McIntrye, but it is a much larger district.
Mr. Phelps: I guess since we are talking about names and name changes, I want to go on record as being not only totally dissatisfied with aspects of the report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission, but with the name Ross River-Southern Lakes. This name makes it sound as though the southern lakes were added on with the main proponent being Ross River. Of course, by far the greatest portion of the population lives on the southern lakes, when you take into account Teslin, Tagish and Carcross.
I do not know if that name was something that was intended to simply lull the people of Ross River into a false feeling of security, or what the exact purpose of it was. But, I find the name to be entirely distasteful.
Chair: Does anyone wish to discuss the Electoral District of Faro? Does anyone wish to discuss the Electoral District of Kluane?
Hon. Mr. Webster: To deal with the one discrepancy in the Lysyk report that was brought to our attention by the Member for Hootalinqua, that being the text of the Lysyk report, clearly indicated that the Hamlet of Mount Lorne is to be included in the Electoral District of Mount Lorne. In dealing with the Member for Hootalinquas suggestion tonight, to rectify that error, I would propose a number of amendments to incorporate the entire Hamlet of Mount Lorne into the Electoral District of Mount Lorne.
Since this riding is adjacent to the Electoral District of Kluane, I am proposing an amendment.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 93, entitled Electoral District Boundaries Act, be amended in clause 1, at page 2, under the title Electoral District of Kluane by deleting the words latitude 60 degrees 25 minutes north and substituting for them the following: latitude 60 degrees 23.5 minutes north.
Chair: For Hansard, we are on the Electoral District of Kluane.
Is there debate on the amendment?
Mr. Brewster: I just have one thing to say. It is very nice that the House Leaders agreed on this and then a couple of people go into a back room and change it. They never bothered with the Member for Kluane. He and the people of Kluane do not count. I frankly think it stinks.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I just spoke with the Member for Kluane at the break to inform him of what we intended to do, which was to make a very minor amendment to the boundary of the Kluane riding to accommodate the change for the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. I can assure him that it does not affect any voters in his riding whatsoever.
Mr. Brewster: Yes, they spoke to me when I walked through the door. It was already cooked up and the deal made.
I do not have a problem with the change. However, we were not supposed to make any changes. The House Leaders agreed on it and that was that. Now we are fooling around with it. I think it stinks that they could not at least have asked the Member for Kluane for his opinion on it. That type of politics is B.S.
Mr. Lang: I want to ask the Government House Leader about the legal description here. Has he double-checked it to make sure that it does what we are saying it will do? It is a very technical amendment.
My understanding is that we would be moving the one boundary for the purposes of including all that is incorporated in the Mount Lorne hamlet, which subsequently would take up the Annie Lake Road, I believe. Is that not correct, and can he assure the House it is accurate?
Hon. Mr. Webster: What the Member for Porter Creek East has to say about the amendment is true, but I want to remind him that it will require amendments to the adjacent boundaries to Mount Lorne, so we will be dealing with three.
As to the accuracy of the amendment, it has been checked. As far as I know and until told differently by the chief electoral officer, I assume it is correct.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to put it on the record that I agree with the Member for Kluane that this type of manipulation and political maneuvering stinks. I agree with the Member for Hootalinqua that the proper way to have done this was to call Mr. Justice Lysyk back, to treat this report as a draft, and for him to make the amendments that we all agree make more sense with respect to communities of interest. There are other communities of interest, for example, the people in the Shipyards area and the people on Alder and Birch streets, that would also like a bit of a say or some representation in this.
I cannot support the process that we are going through in the House tonight, and I cannot support the bill the way that it is or the way that it is going to be amended.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I want to reiterate and emphasize, yet again, that the reason that this amendment is coming forward is that it is the only real discrepancy in the Lysyk report. In the text of his report, it is very clear, on page 70, his intent to have all of the Hamlet of Mount Lorne included in the Electoral District of Mount Lorne; however, when the person responsible for drawing up the boundaries and legal description of that boundary did his or her work, there was obviously a conflict. That is the reason that this amendment is taking place at this time. I stress that this is the only one of this nature.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to confirm with the Minister that this amendment we are bringing forward today was not brought before the House Leaders and was not discussed previously.
Hon. Mr. Webster: At the House Leaders meeting on March 31, I did raise this particular point, saying there was a discrepancy here, having realized it was not recognized by the chief electoral officer at that time. I made it very clear that there was a problem here, however, the final decision was that no changes would be considered. As a result of that, there has been nothing further done on this matter.
Mr. Lang: With respect to what the Government House Leader has made the House aware of, this is being requested to meet the Lysyk report. In other words, there was a technical error. I do not see that as a reason to use it as an excuse to not support the bill.
It is insulting the intelligence of everybody here that, because there was a technical error brought to our attention, we should not correct it to meet the objectives of the Lysyk report. That would bring into question our roles and responsibilities here.
This minor amendment would have been incorporated in the first bill if the description had been initially done accurately, and we would not be making any changes.
I move that we report progress on Bill No. 93.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 6, Workers Compensation Act, and directed me to report it out of Committee, with amendment. Further, the Committee has considered Bill No. 93, Electoral District Boundaries Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled Monday, May 11, 1992:
Newspaper reports (1982) detailing NDP policy on investment of Workers Compensation funds (Lang)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled Monday, May 11, 1992:
Wolf trapping training contract: cost of (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 194
Aishihik caribou study: A summary report and survey work planned for 1992 (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 194
Fish and Wildlife Management Board: recommendations regarding recovery of caribou populations in Game Management Zone 5 (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 194