Tuesday, May 26, 1992 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have for filing with the Clerk a report entitled Analysis of the Whitehorse Accommodation Sector and Critique of the Convention Market Plan.
I also have a number of legislative returns for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Advertising campaign by government
Mr. Lang: I will take it from here, Mr. Speaker. We are obviously getting along into the session.
Last week, the question of the government using taxpayers dollars to further the political messages of the NDP was raised by a number of Members in this House. One of the revelations that came from that debate was that over $800,000 was being spent for communications, primarily through the public affairs branch.
I want to table for Members information a comparison of the ads that were being run last week and another ad run by the NDP during a previous election.
I am speaking about the NDP political message for the purpose of getting elected, Lets work together and now, by pure coincidence, in this almost full-page ad, it says, Thats what Yukoners can do working together. I am sure that it is pure coincidence that these slogans are so much alike. I am wondering if the Minister responsible, I guess, for the Public Service Commission, or any other Minister who is prepared to attempt to answer this, can tell us when the government formally adopted the NDP political slogan working together for the purpose of conveying government messages.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I cannot answer the question about the exact timing of the adoption of the public policy statement, We wish to work together: government and the public, on public policy issues. Certainly, I do not find it particularly alarming that the government might want to work together with the public to achieve various goals that we have in common. I think that the commitments we have made with respect to the various consultative initiatives that we have have proved that point time after time.
Mr. Lang: I almost feel like asking the Minister the question: could he explain what he just said?
My question has to be put to the Minister since his colleague is away. Could the Minister tell this House why they are taking such drastic steps as to use the public affairs branch for conveying such partisan messages as we are seeing in the newspaper and as we are seeing through the paid ads on the radio. Why, now, is the government becoming so political in its advertising?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have to take issue with the Members allegation that, first of all, it is a drastic step to promise to work together with the public and, second, that this is a partisan political message. I would have assumed it is not only acceptable for the government to work together but also to state that it is willing to work together with the public to achieve common public policy ends.
Just in the time I have been in government, since 1985, there have been various themes in projects the government has promoted, which incorporate the words working and working together. Certainly, the training strategy back in 1986 incorporated the theme Working Together and Work Yukon, and words of that nature, which very well captured the policy objective that we were promoting.
There is nothing partisan about this. It is a statement of a governments position with respect to its relationship with the public.
Mr. Lang: The Minister says that the ads are not partisan. However, I think that all Members on this side of the House - and on the other side of the House as well - are starting to get calls from people who feel that the government is abusing taxpayers dollars by using them in a very partisan way.
If they are non-partisan, can the Minister tell us why CBC has been refusing to run some of these ads, because CBC feels that the ads are of such a partisan nature?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If that is true, I do not know why CBC would be refusing to run the public statements by whatever department the Member is referring to.
This is not an abuse of taxpayers dollars; this is a very serious attempt to communicate with the public about programs that this government has under operation.
Personally, I have received no calls from constituents, nor have I received any communication about this from anybody, other than from Members opposite.
Apart from the fact that they are trying to allege that there is something untoward happening here, I do not believe it and, certainly, the people whom I am frequently with and a large number of the public do not believe it either.
Question re: Advertising campaign by government
Mr. Lang: We are very concerned about the partisan nature of these ads, and about the expenditure abuse on behalf of the taxpayers. We do not believe that it is the taxpayers responsibility to fund a public relations campaign on behalf of the NDP.
Why is some of the information that is included in these very expensive ads so misleading? Not only is the information misleading, but one could almost say that they are not telling the truth. I refer specifically to the Impossible dreams? Maybe not. advertisement, where it speaks about financing a dental lab. The government has run an ad knowing that somebody else is in business and has been in business longer than the individual who has received a loan from this government. Why is the government running this type of ad?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I feel compelled to respond to the Members question because I have, in the last hour, gained some familiarity with the issue he raises. This afternoon, I received a copy of the same letter the Member received concerning the reference to the dental lab in one of the ads. I have not had an opportunity to get to the bottom of the allegations in that communication; however, my initial and preliminary review of the matter with the department is that the ad is not misleading. The information is all correct. The type of service being offered through the program support of the department is different from the service offered by the constituent who wrote the letter.
Until I can determine in more detail what type of dental service is involved, I cannot provide much more information; however, I have been assured that the information is accurate and not misleading.
Mr. Lang: He cannot have it both ways. First of all, the Minister tells us he did not get to the bottom of it, and then he assures the House it is an accurate ad and it is not misleading.
I am very concerned that information is being provided to the public through this political propaganda machine the Minister has set up, and it is adversely affecting other businesses and people. Who proofreads these ads? Who is responsible for these ads? Who goes through them and verifies that the information is accurate?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, I can give all Members every assurance that the information contained in the ad is accurate. The reference to the type of service that was provided through the program support and described in the ad is as described.
I can further tell the Member that, in reference to the criticism that there is now a shorter period of time in which to provide that service, there is no question that the information provided in the ad is accurate.
I am advised that the Department of Economic Development was consulted and did assist in providing the information. Members can rest assured that the department officials who manage the programs have accurate information to provide for any discussion of program delivery.
Mr. Lang: This Minister seems to be better versed than the previous Minister, who made such a feeble attempt at answering my first questions.
Perhaps the Minister who just spoke could tell us whether or not he is aware that CBC has refused to run a number of these ads because they are far too partisan.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not aware of that, nor do I review any of the ads that have information about programs in my department.
Question re: Workplace harassment
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. There are government employees who are writing to their MLAs and also going to the Human Rights Commission, registering concerns about the low morale in the workplace. They are complaining that some managers have abused the freedoms that have been given to them by the government. There are also complaints of harassment in the workplace.
The current collective agreement between YTG and YGEU only has a general harassment policy in place. Two months ago, I wrote to the government requesting a copy of the new harassment policy that is currently before Cabinet. I would like to ask the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission if he could tell me what the status is of that policy and when I can get a copy of it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will certainly provide the Member with a copy once the policy has been passed, but I must take issue with the blanket allegations about the general low morale and malaise existing within the entire public service. I do not believe that to be the case at all. I do not believe that there are any facts that would justify that allegation.
There are employees who, from time to time, have difficulties with their supervisors. There are means of redress for those employees: the harassment policy, the grievance procedure and the Human Rights Commission. Those are all used, I am sure, by employees. They are not intimidating processes at all, should employees feel that their supervisor is abusing power or not acting in a professional way.
It is completely wrong to suggest that there is a general malaise or low morale in the public service. In my view, that is not the case at all.
Mrs. Firth: I have constituents come to me who are off on stress leave, who are requiring medication from their doctors because of it, and who are complaining of low morale. I have documented evidence of that in my office. I am not talking about a general malaise; I am talking about some specific areas of low morale and harassment in the workplace. I would like to ask the Minister if he is going to present us with the harassment policy. Could he bring it and table it in the House tomorrow?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First, I am happy that the Member has reduced her target down to the few employees whom she has had personal contact with, with respect to the concerns that they may express. I would like to assure the Member and those employees that there are mechanisms that will provide redress for the concerns that they have. We not only have a harassment policy, we have a long-term disability policy as well, which was requested by a number of employees and which was also pursued by the Member for Porter Creek East in the Legislature, I believe, last fall. Certainly, I can table the harassment policy tomorrow.
Mrs. Firth: I guess part of the concern also is the fact that this particular Minister, when tabling a legislative return relating to employees being off work with work-related stress, said that there were none. That caused more stress to employees who were off work for this reason. I would like to ask the Minister what his department is doing to see if they can better identify exactly how severe this problem is within government. We cannot deny that it is there because the government has established this wellness program to help deal with it. What is the government doing to identify how wide spread the problem is?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I feel somewhat compelled to correct the record about the legislative return that I tabled having to do with stress leave. The Member for Porter Creek West asked a question about how many persons were currently on stress leave, and I indicated that the Public Service Commission had no knowledge about whether or not people were on stress leave because the doctors do not tell us what the reasons are for a person being on leave. It is very difficult to determine whether or not a person is on sick leave as a result of stress in the workplace. It is not only difficult to diagnose, but it is certainly something that the doctors do not communicate about with the employer, in this case the government. I think that is an important point to make.
With respect to the governments response, at this stage we do have a number of policies, as the Member knows - the wellness policy, the harassment policy, grievance procedures; various mechanisms - that provide full support for those people who feel they, in their personal or professional lives, are facing some difficulty. We have tried to be a model employer in that respect and we will continue to be so.
With respect to being able to determine precisely how many stress-leave cases there may be in actual fact, again it is very difficult. Not only are they difficult to diagnose in terms of their work-related stress - and that was the discussion we had when we were talking about the Workers Compensation Act and the chronic stress provisions that were proposed in that act - but it is also something that...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: ...we have difficulty getting from doctors because there are confidentiality rules to respect.
Mrs. Firth: On a point of order, if I may, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Point of order to the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South.
Mrs. Firth: Thank you. On a point of order, the Minister stood to respond to the supplementary to correct the record. I feel it only fair that I rise on a point of order to correct what the Minister has said.
He said he had no knowledge of people being off work on work-related stress leave. In the legislative tabling the Minister presented to the House, he was very much more specific than that. He said, We do not currently have any employees off work due to identified work-related symptoms.
Speaker: Order please. I find there is no point of order, but a dispute between two Members.
Question re: Advertising campaign by government
Mr. Lang: I would like to go back to the improper use of taxpayers dollars to finance the NDP political propaganda machine. I have some other concerns with these ads and the way that they have been conveyed to the public. Not only has misinformation, as per the letter that I tabled in the House, been distributed and paid for by the taxpayers, but there is certain information being made available about individuals, and I have to question whether or not these individuals want to be the centrepiece of the next NDP election campaign.
I want to ask the Minister if the individuals or businesses are approached to have their names used in these ads, prior to these ads going to print?
You do not all have to jump up at once.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not know if they are formally approached. I would expect that they ought to be. I would also suspect that a condition of funding, because it is public money, is permitting information about these individuals and businesses to be released publicly.
Mr. Lang: It is one thing to release information publicly, but it is another thing to be used as a centrepiece of a political ad campaign on behalf of the NDP.
I want to know if these individuals and businesses are made aware that a requirement of getting a loan from this government is that they may show up in one of these very expensively laid-out ads?
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: I am asking the Minister if these people are made aware that their names or their business name may be used in an ad of this kind?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not know the specific answer, in terms of the extent to which clients who use public funds through our programs are requested to allow their businesses to be featured as successful operations under the program. I will take notice of the question, simply because I do not know the extent and detail to which that understanding is clearly achieved.
I will again say to the Member that I would expect that any business, enterprise or entrepreneur who seeks public funds, clearly understands that those funds are a matter of public record and that the recognition of those funds being used has to be acknowledged. That has to be a part of the original loan agreements that are struck with these individuals and businesses.
Mr. Lang: I do not have any problem with it being known publicly which people or businesses receive public money; but, I do resent this type of ad being used and individuals and businesses being portrayed in this manner.
I would like to ask the Minister if he will go back to the new political propaganda machine - the public affairs branch - and ask them to re-look at their policy and discontinue using Yukoners in this partisan nature. There is no question that this is a political partisan campaign.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Let us get something clear and accurate on the record. This is not partisan advertising. I spent a lot of time visiting communities, talking to band councils and municipal councils, talking to the Chamber of Commerce and talking to individuals on the street. I received many representations from people saying that we should be advertising and promoting the programs that we have in place that are available to the public.
This advertising campaign is a response, by government, to a request from the public at large, letting them know that there are programs available to support their particular community, their particular enterprise and their particular business. These are not partisan ads. These are ads, funded by their tax dollar, that tell the public what programs are available to them. There is nothing wrong with telling people what is available to them.
Question re: Faro mine, health and safety committee
Mr. Devries: There has been a concern at the Faro mine regarding the lack of an effective health and safety committee. From past experience, I know that this committee makes on-site inspections and recommendations to management in regard to safety-related matters. They also insist in maintaining ongoing safety programs and policies.
I would like to ask the Minister responsible for health and safety if the matter regarding a functional safety committee at the Faro mine has been resolved?
Hon. Ms. Joe: That health and safety committee in Faro had resigned on February 26. We did not receive notice of it until April. At that time, we requested a copy of the letter they sent to the union. We have since been in contact with the mine management, and asked them to try to get the committee back on track and talk about some of the concerns listed in that letter of notice. We are told that discussions are taking place, and they hope the committee will be back in operation very shortly.
Mr. Devries: I find that very strange. At the mill, when we had a health and safety committee, we had to have regular monthly meetings, and the minutes had to be sent to the health and safety inspector here in Whitehorse. I would assume that, if several of were missing, they should take note of that and resolve the matter.
Is the Minister prepared to resort to using clauses 48 and 49 of the offences and penalties section of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in an effort to get the company to comply with the regulations, if this does not happen shortly?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am not entirely sure what the Member is asking. Is he asking me to use a certain clause to make sure the health and safety committees reactivate themselves, or is he talking about clauses of the act that would require us to lay charges against the mine because of some unsafe occurrence there? I am not exactly sure what the question is.
Mr. Devries: Basically the charges would be laid against the mine, because they are not allowed to operate without a health and safety committee on site. There is also the suggestion that one of the safety concerns is in regard to improper equipment maintenance. Again, this is a serious charge that could lead to accidents, and considerable down-time expenses could be incurred by the mine.
Is the Minister aware if the safety aspect of this allegation has been verified or resolved?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The health and safety branch does inspections on a continuing basis; sometimes once a month, sometimes every six or eight weeks. There have been some problems, as the Member is aware, at the mine. There have been some incidents that have had to be reported. Investigations have been done. There is a possibility of charges being laid for some of those near misses under, I believe, section 49(1), as a result of the inspections. Discussions are going on right now on some of the problems that have been reported to us.
Question re: Yukon Energy Corporation, repairs to Whitehorse dam
Mr. Phelps: I have a couple of questions for the good Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation regarding the Whitehorse dam and the major repairs that were undertaken last year and have been slated for this year. I would like to know the nature of these repairs. I understand they have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: There was a problem at the Whitehorse dam. The problem, essentially, was that a small amount of water was seeping through a porous seam in the bedrock of the dam. We have hired a firm that is sealing the seam within the concrete wall of the dam. It has exceeded our original estimates. In 1992, we will be spending some $250,000 on work to finish the repairs.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us whether they have examined the problem to ensure that there is no cause for concern about the dams structure, and that it is safe?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: We have indeed been monitoring the problem ever since the transfer of the assets of NCPC in 1987. The problem has been with us all that while. We did repair work in 1991, some repair work in 1992 and we expect that there will still be some associated finishing up costs in 1993. The total repair costs are anticipated to be $1.6 million, but we are assured by the professionals dealing with the problem that there is no interference with the operation of the facility, nor does it pose any risks.
Mr. Phelps: Just to be clear, is the Minister saying that, once the work is completed for this year, water will not be seeping through the main structure of the dam and that we will not have to hire some young boy from the Netherlands to stick his finger in the dike, so to speak?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The seam has been leaking in a small way since the asset was purchased from NCPC. In 1991 we undertook repair of it. In 1992 we are continuing the repair and in 1993 we expect the repair to be completed. I may have said earlier that we intended to complete the repair this year. The fact is, in 1993 we intend to spend an additional $600,000; to date we have spent $1 million; the total is $1.6 million; there are no risks; the repair work is expected to stop the leak and there should be no problem following that.
Question re: Alcohol and drug strategy
Mr. Nordling: I have a question, either for the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Health, with respect to an alcohol strategy. Last October, the 14-member Yukon Health and Social Services council met, and the primary item on the agenda was the discussion of an alcohol strategy. Council members agreed to recommend that a task force be struck to work intensively over a period of several months to develop a comprehensive alcohol strategy for all Yukoners, incorporating the plan envisioned in the First Nations proposal. Could either of the Ministers involved with the council give us an update on what is happening with the development of this comprehensive strategy?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: There has been work done on an alcohol and drug strategy. There have been several meetings with people in the community who have interest in providing services to people with alcohol and drug dependencies. The latest was an all-day meeting, held about 10 days to two weeks ago, and the result of that has been some additional work on the drafting of the strategy. I am told that a strategy should be available for the public to look at some time in June, so I would expect that we should have a draft alcohol and drug strategy by the end of June.
Mr. Nordling: Could the Minister tell us if there is an identifiable task force group that has been working intensively on this, and who is part of that task force? I am asking if the recommendation of the Health and Social Services council was followed
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Yes, the stakeholders have been representatives from NNADAP, Crossroads, the detox centre, the alcohol and drug services branch, the Department of Health and Social Services, and a few others. In response to the Members question, the intent of the recommendation has certainly been followed.
Mr. Nordling: My concern is that we have been studying the problem and have been going to develop a strategy for many years. In June, are we going to have a comprehensive strategy set that this government is going to implement - one that we can use the profits from the Yukon Liquor Corporation to implement - or are we going to end up in June with a discussion on the alcohol strategy and be no further ahead than we were five or six years ago?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: In terms of the Yukon Liquor Corporation, the Member would have to ask the question of either the board of that corporation or the Minister responsible. The strategy that has been developed was developed with Health and Social Services as the lead department. As I have said, the stakeholders from the communities have been involved in that.
In response to the Members question about what we will have at that time, there will be an overall strategy. It will be available for discussion by community members, and the Member will have the opportunity to respond at that time.
Question re: Fish hatchery
Mr. Phillips: I gave notice to the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation of this question, so he would not be embarrassed and would have the full and complete answer. I know he has had a rough ride in the House lately and I just wanted him to be prepared for this.
Last Sunday, the Minister attended the opening of the Whitehorse fishway. After that, he took a trip to the Whitehorse hatchery and toured it. The need for the continuous operation of this very successful hatchery comes up each year about this time. Without the help of the Yukon Energy Corporation, the Yukon Fish and Game Association, and the assistance of the Economic Development program, the hatchery would not stay open.
We are currently waiting for approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to declare it a mitigative hatchery. I understand that is now not going to happen. The future of this very worthwhile project is up in the air, and the funding runs out in weeks.
What steps is the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation going to take to ensure - in the very words he used last week - that this very worthwhile project continues?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I thank the Member for providing me notice on the question, because I want to acknowledge the wonderful time that I had last Sunday afternoon assisting the Member, on behalf of the Fish and Game Association, in opening the fish ladder.
The Member will recall that I demonstrated a remarkable capability of walking on water, and I want the Member to know that I have learned that over the past year from the staff at Yukon Development Corporation.
The facility is indeed a very important one in our community. It has an important economic dimension. It has an important tourist potential and it is a very environmentally conscious exercise, located in a situation running hand in hand with a utility facility.
I have told the Member and others that we value the facility as one of extreme importance in the economy and the operation of the dam. We will ensure that funding is made available to continue that operation and even enhance it.
Whether that funding for this year is procured from the Economic Development Agreement, or directly from the Yukon Energy Corporation, remains to be seen. We have sought funding under the Economic Development Agreement for this year and we expect that funding to be approved. That will ensure that the facility will continue for this year. In future years, I will undertake with the Yukon Energy Corporation to ensure that they have funds set aside to operate the facility.
Mr. Phillips: I am very pleased to see that the government is committed to the continuous operation of this facility, and I am sure the words that the Minister spoke today will be of great assurance to the employees who work at that particular facility and have a great deal of concern over the Chinook salmon resource.
There are also some plans in the works for improvements to the facility, and I wonder if the Minister would like to share with us some of the plans that are in the works for improving that particular facility.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Our policy surrounding that hatchery is that it shall remain in public hands and be publicly funded. Along with representatives from the Fish and Game Association and the Department of Renewable Resources, we are currently examining options to upgrade the facility. The Member has some familiarity with the work being done, because he is involved in it. We have some preliminary drawings, plans and numbers. We have not yet made them public, but we are communicating with the interested agencies that would be involved in the facility. We hope that when we refine some of those plans we will be able to make them public.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to go back for a moment to what the Minister said in answer to the first question. He said that whether or not the facility gets funded this year through the EDA, the Government of Yukon will ensure its funding. I know the EDA agreement on that particular facility runs out in early June. I am wondering if the Minister can tell us when he expects to hear back from the EDA on the funding proposal that was submitted this year. There is some uncertainty among the employees there - whether they are going to be kept on and be around when the salmon arrive to take the necessary eggs to ensure the facilitys operation next year.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I cannot speak for the management committee of the Renewable Resources subagreement under the EDA as to when they are going to deal with the application. I have every assurance, from my investigation, that they will be dealing with the application and that it will meet the requirements for continued funding for this year.
The problem of future funding does remain uncertain. The assurance I can give the Member is that we value the facility to the extent that we will approach the Yukon Energy Corporation and the board of directors to ensure that funding is in place for the long term to allow that facility to continue operations.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
Notice of Opposition Private Members Business
Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the order in which the items standing in the name of the Official Opposition are to be called on Wednesday, May 27, 1992. They are Motion No. 23, Motion No. 13, and Bill No. 102, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane.
Mrs. Firth: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify which item, standing in the name of the Independent Alliance, is to be called on Wednesday, May 27, 1992. It is Motion No. 25, standing in the name of the Member for Riverdale South.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a recess.
Chair: I will call Committee back to order.
We are on Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, clause 15.
Bill No. 13 - An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act - continued
On Clause 15 - continued
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Mr. Devries: I have a real problem with this clause. It is asking that someone from a family operation pay their children vacation pay, although there are many of ways around that requirement.
Again, I feel that is an infringement on the familys rights to operate a business as they choose.
Normally, when a family has been working together and goes on vacation, the kids go too. I do not know what the government is trying to accomplish by this clause, unless they are referring to family operations where some of the members of the family are married and you have several parents and grandparents working together.
I still question this, because if you were in Saskatchewan we would say that the government is trying to destroy a family farm; I have a real problem with this clause.
Hon. Ms. Joe: In the existing act, this section did not apply to members of the employers family. We asked to have that section repealed.
One of the things that arose as a result of this proposal is that it could be challenged under the Human Rights Act, in that every employer should be providing, under the act, the same benefits as other employers.
That was one of the things that came up. I am not sure whether or not it will cause a problem. The children are going to get a holiday anyway because they normally go on holidays with their parents, but we are talking about family members and not just young kids, so we proposed that that section be repealed so as to exclude family members.
Mr. Devries: I will accept the fact that it has to go in there because of the human rights thing. Another thought that occurred to me was that it may be because they do not want to have to give their children the two-percent vacation pay. If they are paying them $9 an hour now and are planning to pay them $10 an hour, I think they could just be paying them $9.60 an hour so they would make up the other two percent. Nobody would be really gaining anything. I feel the same way about the six-percent thing. Some day, when an employee is supposed to get a raise, after five years the employer will say, Well, I just gave you two percent. So really, nobody is gaining anything through some of the regulations we are putting in here.
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Mr. Phillips: This section guarantees each and every employee at least two weeks vacation pay. Several employees and employers who have talked to me about this section have a concern that some employees, for one reason or another, do not want to take vacations, but just want to work through the time and collect the vacation pay. To allow for that, I would like to bring forth a friendly amendment to this section. I move
THAT Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be amended in clause 17 at page 7 in 20(1) by adding after the word Part the following: and at the employees request,.
With this amendment, the employee can request the vacation pay without taking the full vacation time; it will be up to the employee to make that request, one way or the other. This is a reasonable request. In some cases, some people want to continue working for the year and take the holiday pay rather than take the time off.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Under section 21 of the existing act, there is provision for that to take place. It states that an employer of an employee who, under this part, has become entitled to a vacation with vacation pay shall grant to the employee the vacation to which he is entitled, which shall begin not later than ten months immediately following the completion of the year of employment for which the employee became entitled to the vacation and shall, at least one day before the beginning of vacation, or at such earlier time as the regulations prescribe, pay to the employee the vacation pay to which he is entitled in respect of that vacation.
Under section 22(1), it states that an employer and employee may enter into a written agreement whereby the employee will not take the annual vacation to which he is entitled under section 20. So, it appears that there is provision for his proposed amendment already under section 21 of the existing act.
Mr. Phillips: That is true, but subsection 20(1) clearly states that. The amendment that I have proposed will only reinforce that.
Hon. Ms. Joe: If it is already in the existing act, I cannot see any reason to include it as an amendment to this act. It is already there and it is very clear that that can be done.
Mr. Devries: This is another example of why it would have been much better for this act to have been written in one act and just have a little line or something to indicate areas that are new and the areas that are changed. Trying to cross reference the two becomes very confusing.
All the Ministers should take notice that if there are any major changes to a piece of legislation, we should have it in a form that is much easier to cross reference.
Hon. Ms. Joe: It is equally as difficult for Members introducing these bills to deal with them. We also have to do the cross references to know exactly what it is that we are doing. I do not know whether things could be done any differently from how they are right now. I would like to make a commitment that we could make things a lot easier for all of us. Whenever we propose amendments, it requires an awful lot of work, and this is part of it.
Chair: It has been moved that Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be amended in clause 17 at page 7 in 20(1) by adding after the word Part the following: and at the employees request,.
Is there further debate on this amendment?
Hon. Ms. Joe: This new amendment to the act increases vacation pay and is a compromise made by all the parties concerned. What we were seeking here was further increases in vacation time to four weeks and we were convinced by the employer that it would be a hardship for them. It was one of the areas where some decisions were made through negotiation.
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have an explanation for this section. Section 19 results in three changes, which remove the old wording of section 30 pertaining to overtime payable for working on a holiday; it does not include wording proposed in the draft amendment, which required all employees, not just those with at least 30 days of service, to be paid for overtime rates for work on a holiday. There was considerable concern about this expressed by groups such as the city and municipalities, and they approached me about it. Some employers, particularly municipal governments, objected to this proposed amendment. In past years, they have hired casual employees just to work on a holiday or as replacements for their regular employees, and this permits the regular employee to have the holiday off. Under the current act, the casual employees would be paid at straight time for their work, saving the employer money. There would have been no advantage to having such casual employees if they had to be paid overtime, so the regular employees could have been paid on holidays under this provision. YCEE recommended this amendment; it just replaces some old wording.
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Mr. Devries: I still feel that both clauses 19 and 20 are going to be used to discourage an employer hiring a casual employee. The way that I read clause 20 is that one has to pay the casual time-and-one-half when they work on a holiday, unless I am reading it wrong. Otherwise, it is not to the employers benefit to allow the regular employee to have the day off.
Now what is going to happen is, if one has to pay the employee time-and-one-half anyway, an employer may as well have his regular employee doing that work. The reason for this is that the regular employee would be more productive, as they know the ropes about their position.
Hon. Ms. Joe: This is one of the controversial sections that we were dealing with. It was our proposal that we delete the 30-days working time and that general holiday time be applied to those individuals.
There was a wording change, and we went along with the representations made by those individuals in regard to that. This is an area where there was no consensus reached by the committee. The committee could not decide whether they wanted to allow general holiday pay to an employee with fewer than 30 days employment, so we left it as it was under the old act, but made some word changes.
Mr. Devries: In clause 20, referring to section 33(c), if an employee are seeking a leave of absence during a time that includes a holiday, it would work against the employee to put this in there. I cannot see why any employer would grant an employee a leave of absence if the holiday fell within that two weeks - give or take two weeks one way or another.
Hon. Ms. Joe: This section is a new addition. If an employee has been on a leave of absence, this does not apply. The employee would not be eligible for general holiday pay.
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Mr. Devries: Did the Council on the Economy and the Environment agree to have this inserted into the act? Was there any disagreement from them?
Hon. Ms. Joe: No. It was acceptable.
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Hon. Ms. Joe: This is the section that includes maternity and parental leave. We are changing the act to allow entitlement to leave for maternity and parental leave to be included; in the past it was not. The changes we are making here comply with the amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act. We have been lobbied quite heavily to make these changes, even by the federal government.
There was some discussion in regard to the qualifying time in this situation. There were individuals asking for a lesser qualifying time than 12 months. In the end, we left it as it was, at 12 months.
Mr. Devries: One of the concerns I have written here is that employers are very concerned about what happens, for example, if employees do not return to work. They feel that there is an advantage to the employee in saying that they are going to come back, whereas if the employee initially said they were quitting, then they would have to wait a certain length of time to receive UIC benefits. My understanding is that if you go on maternity leave, UIC immediately cuts in when one discontinues working. The employer is concerned about this situation occurring: when the 17 weeks of maternity leave are over, the employer has been holding the employees position, and the employee comes along and says, I am not coming back.
Hon. Ms. Joe: There is a requirement in this act for an employee to give notice of when he or she is returning to work. That is provided for in section 26.
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am not sure whether the Members want a long explanation for this. It allows for leave, as allowed under the Unemployment Insurance Act, and that came into effect, I believe, in 1990.
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Hon. Ms. Joe: This is a housekeeping amendment that clarifies that it is the increments to benefits that are served during the leave period. The Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment agreed an employer would be able to move an employees anniversary date for the purpose of receiving benefits to the date the employee returned to work after the leave. It is a housekeeping amendment.
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Hon. Ms. Joe: This is the clause of notice to return to work from maternity/parental leave.
Mr. Phillips: Does this apply to both parental and maternity leave?
Hon. Ms. Joe: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: What happens if the employee does not come back after the parental or maternity leave, and gives no notice. The clause just says that, if they do not return from the leave of absence, that is deemed to have terminated his or her employment with the employer, but there is no penalty and nothing happens to a person if they do that to a business. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Joe: This is a case where there is no provision for dealing with that kind of a situation. If they do not return to work and do not give notice, they are deemed to be terminated. There is no fine, nor anything one can do to that person. It is an inconvenience. It only happens every once in a while, but it is an inconvenience. We have no provision for dealing with a situation like that in this act.
Mrs. Firth: It is not only an inconvenience. It could also possibly cost the business person more in having to find someone to replace that individual now. There is also a cost involved in the fact that they have kept that position open for that individual. I find it kind of a one-sided argument. No one disputes the concept of maternity leave, but there should be some sort of a check and balance on it so that it is perceived to be a fair system. I do not think this clause gives any indication that it is fair. It is rather open-ended for the individual who is on the parental or maternity leave.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I agree with the Member for Riverdale South that it is much more of an inconvenience, but I cannot speak for those individuals who may have decided, for one reason or another, that they will not be returning to work. It is part of the honour system where one would hope that the employee would be able to give some kind of notice to the employer. It is a concern to me, as it is to the Member.
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Hon. Ms. Joe: This is a very long section, where we have asked that employees be given notice of termination for a certain length of time after so many years of work, and they are all listed: one weeks notice after one year, two weeks notice for up to three years, and so on. The amendment reduces the minimum period of employment before an employer is required to give notice; it used to be six months, but is now three months. The council was unable to reach a consensus regarding the minimum period an employee must work before the notice provisions should come back. This is one of the other sections where no consensus was reached by the committee and where we made concessions as well, because in some cases where there was no consensus, it was left as it was in the existing act. This is a case where our proposal to decrease it to three months was put in. I have not heard any controversy about whether or not they were satisfied with it. We tried to even out the manner in which we dealt with the sections where there was no consensus, so it was the three months we had proposed that is now in this section of the new act; we just lay out the number of weeks of notice that must be given in writing to the employee before termination.
Mr. Phillips: This area of the act was quite controversial for many of the business people. They were concerned about the length of probation time - the three month versus six month time period. Many of them felt that three months was too short a time to really evaluate an employee. In fact, the Government of Yukon itself, in some of the contracts it has negotiated, has set a much longer time; for teachers it is two years and for others it is one year. For some it is six months.
This takes away any flexibility. Three months is not long enough if, for instance, it is a busy season and the employer is too busy to evaluate each and every employee. It can take some employees some time to catch on to the jobs.
The Council on the Economy and the Environment also said that, although they could not reach consensus on that portion of the section, they did agree on the portion covering written notice. That consensus was that whatever was agreed upon, it should be the same for the employer and the employee. I do not believe it is. For the employee of less than one year, it is one weeks notice; for the employer, it is two weeks notice. The official is indicating that I am incorrect, but I was just reading section 48(1)(a), as opposed to section 48(2)(a).
Hon. Ms. Joe: There is nothing preventing an employer giving no notice of termination for just cause and an employee can be terminated without notice if there was some reason to do that. I was trying to follow what the Member was saying in that it was not fair to the employer. Looking at the sections here, the employer is required to give notice to an employee after they have been there for three months.
What section was the Member referring to? Section 48(1)(a)?
I am not sure whether or not the Member has the report from the council. In this section when they talk about notice of termination, it was recommended that in the case of termination the period of notice that was to be given by an employee be calculated at one-half of that required of an employer, increasing in one-week increments to the maximum of four weeks; that was the recommendation in the report that came from the committee.
Mr. Devries: The big concern that some of the employers have is, as the Minister indicated, if a person was fired outright, they possibly have the option of kicking them right off the job site at the time.
At times there are instances when people are getting laid off because they are not productive or have been negligent in their duties, or something of that nature. Obviously, the concern that the employers would have here is that you are going to have a disgruntled employee working for you. There is a good chance that the employee, by talking with other employees, is going to create a disgruntled workforce; they also have an opportunity to destroy some of the employers equipment. The employees no longer have a commitment to the operation.
I would hope that you would have weeded out the employees who want to stay on the job and are being productive, from those who do not want to stay on the job. However, it cuts the other way. Many of the employers I talked to felt that if an employee wants to quit - yes, sometimes it is inconvenience - let him go right away. They do not need to be given a weeks notice if the employee does not like his job or a better job opportunity came along.
I question the thought behind this section.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I guess it just depends on the individual involved, and whether or not that person is a malicious and destructive person. We have to give credit where credit is due. If an employee is not holding up their end of the deal, they can be terminated without notice.
With regard to the circumstances that we are talking about here - businesses closing down or the summer season being over - I am not sure how many mean and nasty people there are out there. Circumstances, such as those the Member described, could very well happen. I hope that it would not often be the case, but we cannot depend on it.
Mr. Devries: I do not think that the Minister is getting my point. Normally, you would require regulations if you had mean and nasty people. On the other hand, if you had good employee/employer relations, I would suspect that the employer would be more accommodating to the employee and would come to some consensus on when the employee is going to leave. If, for example, the employee said that he or she was going to be leaving in two weeks, the employer might ask if he or she could stay another week in order that the employer has more time to look for somebody else. The employee and employer are in a position where they can negotiate.
One of the biggest problem in this legislation is that it puts the employee and the employer on a confrontational footing on everything, rather than trying to work things out. This is my concern, especially when it is the employee who is leaving.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I do understand what the Member is talking about. Each case will be different. Any changes to any act will cause some of those problems, as we cannot depend on how people are going to react to termination. Sometimes, it is not an easy thing to deal with. If, all of a sudden, a person suffering from rejection or stress is given a notice of termination, it becomes very difficult to predict what the reaction will be.
The Member for Watson Lake would not take it the same way as some other member of society would. We are all different individuals and, unfortunately, that is whom we have to deal with, but I do understand what he is saying.
Mr. Devries: My main concern is still the one regarding the three months. I must admit that probably the only labour complaint I have had since I was elected was in regard to someone being dismissed without notice after working for his employer for four months. There are circumstances associated with everything. As much as I sympathize with the person, I also have to look at the situation from the employers perspective. It is very tough to assess a person in three months.
My concern is the probationary period. I am hesitant to reduce that to three months. I would prefer to see it stay at six months.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to follow up on that. In discussions I have had with employers, some have strong concerns about the three-month period being too short. In many cases, especially during a busy summer season, some employees are hired to do several jobs and, in a short three-month period, there is no opportunity to do other than one or two functions of their overall job. They may be stuck in a certain area for three months doing a certain job, and they do not get the chance to do the complete job and be evaluated by their employer. They may be well suited to some of the work and not as well suited for others. In some cases, the employer needs an employee who can do many things, especially in the case of highway lodges or some of the smaller family operations. One has to almost be a Jack or Jill of all trades to do the job. Some people are good at some things and not so good at others.
There was a strong concern expressed to me by the business community that three months is too short a period of time for evaluation. For that reason, I am going to move an amendment to that clause.
Mr. Phillips: I move
THAT Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be amended in clause 27 at page 11 in 48(1) by deleting the phrase three months and substituting for it the following: six months.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I do not think that I have a problem with the proposed amendment to this section. The only thing I would say is that there is another section following it where three months is mentioned as well.
Mr. Phillips: I can quickly add in the amendment that we would also delete the words three months and substitute six months in section 48(2) - deleting the phrase three months in sections 48(1) and 48(2).
Chair: There is an amendment on the floor right now.
Mr. Phillips: Could we treat it as a typo? Is that a possibility?
Chair: When we come to section 48(2), can the Member propose it again?
Mr. Phillips: Yes, Madam Chair, I will do it that way.
Chair: So, we are still on clause 27.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 27 agreed to as amended
On Clause 28
Clause 28 agreed to
On Clause 29
Hon. Ms. Joe: This is the section that was recommended by the Council on the Economy and the Environment to be left in. I am not exactly sure how it was dealt with in the council that was struck prior to that.
I spoke yesterday on many of the reasons why caucus and Cabinet chose to delete it from the existing act. I would like to read something from May 9, 1984 in Hansard. This is in regard to the bill that was dealt with in Committee of the Whole on that day. I want to read it, because I want the House to know that we still believe in what we were talking about at that time.
I am quoting the Member for Mayo. He states: Perhaps, we could deal first with the governments timid adventure into the world of the employment relationship. I say timid adventure, because the surface of this issue is only slightly scratched. The new provision essentially calls on the employer to give notice of layoff to the government. It further requires the employers and employees give notice, one to the other. Should either party decide to terminate the employment relationship, they would be subject to penalty.
The penalty in this case is exactly the same for the employer as it is for the employee. Specifically it amounts to one week of the employees wages. We suspect that this provision would betray a misunderstanding or ignorance of the relative strength and weaknesses between employers and employees in the employment relationship. It assumes that the employee is better able than the employer to absorb the cost of the penalty. The employee is forfeiting a week of his entire personal revenue, while the employer forfeits a small fraction of the business revenue. This is unfair.
The Member for Mayo spoke against that amendment at that time. We realize that we have caused some people on the Council on the Economy and the Environment to be very upset that we chose not to leave this provision in the act, but we believe that when a person works for wages, that person should be paid.
Mr. Phillips: I do not disagree with that, but a businessperson is trying to operate a business. When they get no notice when someone walks out the door, it is not fair to the businessperson, either.
I will also read something into the record - if the Minister can read something in, I can as well. This is from the Council on the Economy and the Environment, and I know that the members of the Council on the Economy and the Environment said that this is one section that was extremely important to be left in the act, because they compromised quite a few other areas to have this retained in the act. I think that the Minister knows that and has been told that by some members on the council, and maybe even the chairperson of the council.
The recommendation that the council made was, Section 50 of the existing act be retained. The council affirms the importance of the balance in this legislation and feels that section 50 balances the penalties imposed upon the employer who dismiss employees without proper notice.
I think that is a fair assessment of section 50. Not only that, but this cannot be done without the employees permission. In section 50, it states that the employee has to give permission that the wages can be deducted, so if the employee says no, I do not want you to deduct wages, the employer cannot do anything about it.
I think that this was a good, fair and balanced recommendation. I would ask the government to take this section out of the act and retain section 50 of the current act as it now stands.
Hon. Ms. Joe: We understood the consequences of taking this section out of the act and dealing with the recommendations by the committee. We had our reasons for doing so and we did not do this lightly, understanding that some members of the council would be very upset about our going against their recommendations.
We did accept all of the other recommendations that the council made. Certainly, there were changes in some sections that we would not have otherwise agreed to, but we did agree to those changes. I am not about to list all of the sections that we would have preferred as recommended in the first draft, but this is one section that we felt that we could not accept. It is unfortunate, and I know that there is some anger among the committee members and that they would like us to leave this section in, but we have made a decision. We felt in 1984 that it was unfair and we still feel that this section is unfair.
We were able to accept all of the other recommendations, despite the fact that we also disagreed with some of those recommendations.
Mrs. Firth: I want to follow up on this issue, because I also disagree with the direction the government is taking.
The Minister made some reference to a speech the Member for Mayo made in 1984 with respect to this particular clause. At that time, from my understanding, that Member was referring to a rather large company - United Keno Hill Mine. He was talking about a specific miner having the ability to up and quit his job, and the bigger company could absorb the cost of that, which may be so. However, the way the law is now written, this applies to all businesses, including those that may only have one employee. If that one employee up and quits, it can have a tremendous impact on the business.
This clause being open-ended, combined with the clause with respect to the maternity and parental leave being open-ended, removes any onus or responsibility from the employee, or worker, for notifying their employer, with respect to returning from maternity or parental leave. This allows the person to up and quit the job without any penalty.
Is the Minister telling us this is simply a philosophical difference, and that it is this governments philosophical direction, whether it be practical or not, or whether it is going to cost more money, and they are going to take the side of the employee and remove the balance that was requested by all people who were consulted with respect to this legislation?
That is what appears to be happening.
Hon. Ms. Joe: That is not the case at all. We did have consultations and, as I mentioned last night, many people offered their opinions, either through letters or through the questionnaires that were included in a workbook. This section, according to the information we received, was not deeply opposed by a large majority of people. We believe it is not necessary to include this section in here because, although there is an inconvenience to an employer when this happens, there could be many reasons why that employee left. We do not feel that anybody who works for a days wages should not be paid those wages. The Member for Riverdale North talked about the existing act and how the employee has to agree. Many problems could arise from this. A situation may arise where things have to be dealt with by the labour services branch or the Employment Standards Board.
We believe that, if someone works for a days wages, that person should be paid for a days wages. It is as simple as that. We believed it in 1984 and we still believe it today.
Mrs. Firth: Surely the Minister is not suggesting that if an employee up and quits on the employer, the employer can take it to the Employment Standards Board? There is nothing in legislation that prevents that, so there is no point in the employer taking it to the Employment Standards Board, because the Employment Standards Board would dismiss it by saying that, according to the law, it is allowed. That is what is happening here, so the Minister is not giving any comfort to the employers by saying they can take it to the Employment Standards Board.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I did not say that; I just said that I talked about what was required under the existing act and that, although notice should be given, in some cases it is not. However, that should not penalize that individual with the loss of a weeks pay. That is not done in many other jurisdictions. As I said, we have made a lot of concessions on a lot of these sections and, certainly, in many other sections we disagreed with the recommendations that were given to us by the council, but did agree to leave them in. This is the only section where we could not go along with that.
Mr. Phillips: I guess the problem is that this is one of the sections where the council reached a consensus and dealt with it as sort of a trade-off. This was the cornerstone of the trade-off, and now the Minister has cut the feet out from under the council by switching this around. The council had the understanding that most, if not all, of the recommendations would be accepted by the Minister; this one was a very important recommendation, and the council thought it was a fair and balanced recommendation. I think it is fair and balanced. As the Member for Riverdale South said: there are a lot of businesses out there that have one or two employees who are very, very important to the business and if they quit at critical times of the year, it can cost the business all kinds of money while trying to get someone new in and train them to try to pick up where that employee left off.
I hate to ask for any more statistics, but maybe the Minister has some figures on how many times this particular clause was implemented in the last four years, and if it has been a real problem out there with employees who have actually had trouble getting the weeks wages from the employer after the employee has quit.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thought I would participate for a short time in the debate as I have been so liberally quoted by Members on both sides of the House.
I clearly recall the debate that we undertook back in 1984, particularly respecting this clause. At that time, I felt very strongly, and I still feel very strongly, that the clause in the current act is grossly unfair. Nothing is balanced about this particular clause in terms of the employer/employee relationship. If there had been an attempt to ensure that the penalty for not giving notice on either employer or employee was in some way respected - the power of the relationship between the employer and employee, or the relative strength of their financial position - then it may have been something worth considering.
It is not fair to take 100 percent of the employees earned revenues for an entire week just because they failed to give notice to an employer - who may even have only one or two employees - and have the penalty for the employer for failure to give notice to be the same. It just would not be fair.
If a penalty were laid out whereby an employer would have to give up 100 percent of their revenues for an entire week in order to match the employee having to give up 100 percent of their revenues, then that would be ridiculous; but, it does go to show the unfairness of the proposition that an employee - even though they are making less money - should give up 100 percent of what they make.
An employee could be considered to be a mini-business. They have bills to pay, people to feed and things to do with the money they earn - just like a business does. To take 100 percent of that persons income away cannot be considered equivalent to the employer having to pay one weeks wages in lieu of notice. It does not take a wizard to figure out that that is just not fair.
Last week, when the Member for Riverdale North was commenting on the so-called negotiated settlement that Members of the YCEE had developed, he agreed that he did not have any personal problems with removing this particular clause. He did not personally support it.
I have no problem with the Member now saying this is part of a negotiated agreement with the YCEE and, for that reason alone, he feels that it should be retained in law. Now, to reverse his position from last week to simply make a case does not seem to be consistent to me, at all.
This is one area where, in the name of basic justice and fairness, if we were to retain this particular clause in the face of the precedents right across this country and our own basic sense of justice and fairness, it would be a travesty. It would be wrong.
If the Member is seriously talking about doing something that accounts for the relativity of financial prowess between the employer and the employee, that would be something worth listening to. However, simply to state that it is somehow fair because the penalty is the same makes no sense to me.
Sameness does not equate to fairness if the two parties to the equation have different abilities to pay.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to follow up on that, because I think I see where the Member is coming from in his talk about fairness. Let me put something to him.
Essentially, this government is saying that it is all right for an employee to just one day leave a job. They are saying that is okay by removing that clause from the legislation.
The argument of the Minister who just spoke is based on the fact that the unfairness comes in some kind of monetary terms, where we are going to be taking away a weeks salary from the employee, and that it is not fair because the employer is not being required to have the same kind of monetary impact on them in the reverse circumstance.
There is something that has to be taken into account here. Suppose you have a situation where an employee up and leaves. The employer is put in the position where they are now faced without that employee, they have to readvertise and reinterview, and it could be months before they get a replacement for that position. In that time, they are perhaps losing business, clients and money. In many circumstances, it may be impossible to determine exactly how severe the monetary or financial impact is on that employer.
That is also an unfair situation, because I do not think the government is giving proper consideration to exactly how much money an employer could lose if they are put into this situation.
Therefore, we are looking at how we can make this more fair. If that is what the governments concern is - instead of completely removing the penalty and putting the act in favour of the employee - did the government take into consideration any other kind of approach, as opposed to making it to the advantage of the employee and completely disregarding the unfairness that is going to be impacted upon the employer, who may have a lot more than a weeks wages to lose in this circumstance?
Hon. Ms. Joe: The amendments we are proposing in this act are not dealing directly with the concerns of the employee, but of both the business and the employee.
The Member for Mayo spoke on what his belief is. If the Member for Whitehorse West were here, he would want to do the exact same thing. There is a general belief that those individuals who are working for a wage should get paid for it. This may be very fair in the minds of people on the side opposite, but there are many unfair situations that occur in the workforce, and it is for that reason that we are making these changes: to make things more fair to people in the workforce, whether they are the employer or the employee.
I believe that we have done the job quite well. We will never completely satisfy everyone, as I have said before, and it is evident right now that is the case. We will disagree on certain clauses of this act and agree on others, and this is one of the clauses we disagree on.
I could cite many examples of situations that have occurred as a result of unfairness in the workforce, but I am not prepared to do that, because all the information we have is confidential, and I would not feel very good about talking about all those situations here.
Mrs. Firth: I have one final comment on this issue. The Member for Mayo talked about injustices and unfairness. What the government has done is to take a situation that they perceive to be unfair to the employee and make it unfair to the employer. It is no longer a fair situation anymore. If it was not before, it is not now, either.
I was simply asking the Minister if there is not another solution that could be perceived to be more fair. If not, then it is a philosophical difference here and the Minister is taking the side of one over another. This becomes the same as the provision for parental and maternity leave, where there is no penalty for someone who decides not to return to work.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would just like to respond directly to the Members suggestion that by removing the clause the situation is entirely one-sided in favour of the employee and not the employer.
I looked into this some time ago when doing some research on this particular clause, seven or eight years ago. When other jurisdictions have considered this clause, they have taken into account a fundamental rule about how workplaces are organized. Typically, the employer organizes the workplace and decides how people are going to work and what they will do. That is a typical employer prerogative and no one is suggesting that that should be changed. When an employer feels that a person is no longer needed, even if it comes with little notice, the employer can usually make some accommodation. They very seldom pay out an employee. They usually give the employee notice, but they usually have the employee doing other things, other than those things that the employee had been doing. The fact that the employer is organizing the workplace makes a lot of difference.
If something is coming up that the employee is faced with, the employee does not have the flexibility to simply reorganize his or her own work situation in order to accommodate it. Again, the situation out there is reality; the situation is different between the employer and the employee when it comes to preparing for a severing of the employment relationship.
Somebody told me once, and I thought it was a useful point to make, that if an employer has a supplier and the supplier supplies that employer with some goods, those goods must be paid for if received. That supplier may come along, without any notice at all, and say he wants to give the employer some more but he does not have them or he has sold them or cannot get them, or whatever, and that is the end of the situation. But the fact remains that if one receives goods, one must pay for them. If a person works an hour, they get paid for the hour.
So I do not agree, personally, that the situation is completely turned in favour of the employee, but I do believe the situation could be fine-tuned if it was possible - but I do not believe it is possible - to take into account the relative strength of the financial position between the employer and employee.
I know for certain that the situation that currently exists with section 50 is not fair and it would not be right to support the continuation of it.
Mr. Phillips: I listened with interest to some of the arguments put forward by the Member for Mayo. Obviously, he has a slight lack of understanding of how some small businesses operate, when he makes the comparison between taking 100 percent of the employees wages and a lot less than that of the employers wealth. Let me give the Member an example. I used to be a painting contractor. Some of my painting contracting jobs were in other communities; for instance, Faro or Mayo. Say I am up in the community of Mayo; I have an absolute deadline to meet for a client - maybe the Member for Mayo is building a new hotel and I have to get it painted in time so that he can open the doors. Suddenly, an employee quits and walks out of the door. That is going to cost me a great deal of money because there are no painters available in Mayo; the closest painter is in Whitehorse. The only person who can hire them is me, so I have to go to Whitehorse, get the painter - if there are any available and, if it is summer, there will be no one available - and that will all cost me a heck of a lot more than one weeks wages for an employee - a heck of a lot more. And I am also going to have somebody on my back refusing to pay me for the contract because I did not complete it on time.
There are many sides to the story and I agree with what the Member for Riverdale South said: we have taken a situation that was not fair on one side and made it just as bad now on the other.
Perhaps there is another solution to this and we could come to an agreement in the middle where some responsibility could be put on the employee. If a person were going to leave my employ, and I let them know that, if they quit like that, I could request permission to deduct a couple of weeks wages from them under the Employment Standards Act and that I need them to stay for a week until I find another painter, 99.9 percent of the time people would agree to that.
However, if they can just walk out the door with no responsibility to the employer at all, it is not just going to cost me the $1,000 or $2,000 for the weeks wages. It is going to cost me a heck of a lot more.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think the Member has proven my point. He has just described a situation where the relative financial position between an employer and employee is probably as close as it comes: one painting contractor with one employee who cannot fulfill a contract on time.
It is as close to being the situation where the loss of revenue for the employee, which is 100 percent, for one week is getting closer to the loss of revenue for the contractor, in this case one person, of 100 percent.
In this particular case, the situation essentially proves a rule that it is the relative situation of the employer/employee we should be considering. However, to have a blanket rule that an employee will forfeit a weeks wages - their entire revenue for the business of running their family - and the employer will suffer the exact same penalty is not fair.
There are other things at stake. I made another point about the issue of who organizes the workplace, and there is a significant difference. If that employee walks out, and the contractor cannot fulfill the project the way they had originally planned, that is not necessarily the end of the world, and the Member will have to admit this. There may be other people around; there may be a way of reorganizing the work. Any number of things can happen that the person can react to. It may not be easy or possible, but the chances of the employer being able to reorganize the work is much better than the employee organizing the employers work around their own personal schedule.
That should be taken into account.
If a painter quits in Old Crow, then you find another painter. There are people in Old Crow who can do it.
Mr. Devries: I would like to enter this discussion. I find it slightly amusing to hear the Minister responsible for Government Services bringing up all these points when I think about the single, little independent contractor. I often think of employees entering into a contract with an employer, because it is very similar. When a contract is awarded by Government Services, many potential employees - some of whom are just one little person who has a hungry, little family - have to put up a performance bond. When the person completes the job, there is a 10 percent holdback, a common review of the project and everything else. Some of them have a pretty tough time.
I can think of a recent case in Watson Lake where one of the bills was laying on someones desk for three or four weeks waiting to be processed, and the person neglected to send it in. This person finally got paid after about a month and, meanwhile, his little children were hungry.
I think another area where this could possibly be resolved is, when a person takes on a job, the conditions of employment should be written up to indicate that this could happen if they walk off the job. Another very good example would be someone who is involved in electronics repair. Some of these circuit boards can be very frustrating. This person may have spent four or five days working on a circuit board, trying to find a problem and, all of a sudden, he just walks off a job, frustrated. The employer has to pay him for those five days, but he has no idea how far along the employee got.
Another example would be a pre-fab welder who is working for you. He has the plans and is welding away and, all of a sudden, something happens and he decides not to come back the following Monday. He still has the plans in his toolbox, but you never see him again - there are expenses that you are going to incur there.
The Minister may come back and say that is poor management. I have had incidents myself at the sawmill where a mechanic went off the job and, when he left, he took a bunch of the companys tools with him. Again, I think the employer should have the option to hold back a weeks wages in order to ensure that the person leaves the premises honestly.
I think that he should keep going, and I think that it is very important that an employer has some flexibility in making sure that an employee finishes the job that he or she is working on.
Another example would be a mechanic working on a motor. Actually, I ran into it myself, when I worked on a job after a mechanic had quit. Maybe I am responsible for not checking a couple of bolts, but I arrived at the conclusion that the mechanic had done certain things. There were two head bolts left loose; all of the other bolts were tight. However, I somehow missed this - you check one, two or three bolts and they all look tight so you think that it is all okay - and a week later someone comes back with a head gasket that has popped.
Again, the employee is the one who walked off the job and left the employer with that kind of expense. There is $500 to $600 gone right there and the employee may have earned only $300 for that weeks wages.
There are all kinds of examples, and I really do not understand where the Minister is coming from. Maybe my example of Government Services is not too good. I still say that there are a lot of small contractors who are just one person or a family operation that often get caught in this situation.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Sorry about this, but I am not rising to answer all of the other points that the Member made. I have risen to talk briefly about Government Services.
First of all, with respect to someone walking off with the companys tools, I would think that you had better consider a charge of theft in that case. If one displays poor workmanship, I think that you had better deal with that in whatever way that you can. However, none of that has relevance to whether or not a person gives notice or not when they leave work.
With respect to Government Services as an employer, the Member said that he was amused that I would taking this position, given that Government Services has many dealings with small contractors.
I can tell you for a fact that Government Services has been very, very good about allowing people to miss deadlines, not perform precisely to specifications, depending on the actual conditions that the person was working under. We have even put up with a little poor workmanship.
I have had to take some of that on the chin as I go around to the communities and I deal with the public, but the people who are in charge of managing those small contracts - tiny ones, minuscule ones, even big ones - are really good about trying to understand where that contractor is coming from and what the contractors needs are, as a person who is trying to do a job of work and recognizing that there are limitations.
Government Services is the last example the Member should draw on as the hard-hearted employer, who is not going to try and accommodate the needs of the little guy. I could list a dozen projects from last summer alone that have come to my attention, where the deadlines have been breached dramatically - work that was supposed to be done in June was not done until the middle of September when school is already in session. The reasons given were that the contractor had some personal problems, supply problems, or whatever. He may have lost an employee or two, but the contractor still got the job done. He was paid in full by the Department of Government Services.
The Member should not be amazed at all that I am speaking from this position. In this particular case, I am speaking from experience.
Mr. Devries: I still think the Minister missed the point. If the contractor is the employee and he walks off the job before he completes the contract, he will not get paid. That is what this clause is saying: if the employee walks off the employers job and does not complete it, the employer has the option of withholding a weeks wages to cover some of the additional expenses that could be incurred. To me, it is a black and white issue. They are both very similar examples.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am afraid the Member has not picked up the point at all. When an employee does a job by the hour, he gets paid for every hour put in. If a contractor, or anyone, is paid by the job and say, promises to do the job by the end of July, and if the contractor does not finish the job by August 14, in most cases Government Services will accept the fact that the job came in late, because there are always mitigating circumstances. There are always circumstances that could compel that situation to occur. That is different from working by the hour. The position is that if an employee works by the hour and puts in an hours work, he should get paid for it.
Mr. Devries: One of the biggest problems with society today is people getting paid by the hour. Everybody works with an attitude that they are being paid by the hour, so they are not always productive employees, trying to produce something in a given amount of hours. To me, this sort of relates to that, as well. In essence, an employee could walk off the job and not complete the required job. If the employee is a cook who leaves the baking powder out and walks off the job, the employer can stick the doughnuts in the oven and nothing is going to happen. The rest has to thrown away, and it is costing the employer money.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not going to argue whether or not being paid by the hour or being paid by the job is better or not. Actually, I would like to debate it, but I will not.
Clause 29 agreed to
On Clause 30
Hon. Ms. Joe: This clause increases sick leave without pay from six days to 12 days per year.
Mr. Phillips: Can the Minister tell us what the average amount of sick leave is in other jurisdictions?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am sorry, but I do not have that information with me. I think that this is pretty well on par with the rest of the country.
In this clause, we are asking that the number of sick leave days be increased from six days to 12 days per year. This allows one day per month paid sick leave. The employer cannot ask the employee for a medical certificate to prove that that individual was sick.
Clause 30 agreed to
On Clause 31
Hon. Ms. Joe: Clause 31 defines what the immediate family is. The old section allowed for it to be determined who the immediate family is; what 58(1) does is expand on that to include, for instance, grandparents, grandchildren and various other family members. It takes in more family members than the old section did.
Mr. Devries: All these other people are relatives, so I cannot see why it does not just read any relative living in the house.
Clause 31 agreed to
On Clause 32
Clause 32 agreed to
On Clause 33
Hon. Ms. Joe: This includes the members of the First Nation clan being allowed to take leave in the event of potlatches. It was recognized that, in some cases, individuals who are asked to perform functions required of a clan needed some provision in this act to accommodate that. It was one of the sections agreed to by the committee, and they suggested that possibly more education in regard to the First Nations cultural system be made available.
Mr. Devries: Some people seem to have problems with this in that it basically just refers to the First Nations. Some people feel there are other minority groups that may have similar beliefs and practices and that there should be something in the act that would assist them in also meeting those obligations. I am not going to make a big issue of this; I just want to make the Minister aware that perhaps we are discriminating against some other minorities by doing this in this way.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The council did talk about that very thing. It was also discussed by other individuals. The First Nations take up a large portion of the population of the Yukon, and their cultures are specific to the area. This is the only group that did lobby for change. It is becoming increasingly obvious that we are making progressive changes in most of our acts dealing with First Nations.
Clause 33 agreed to
On Clause 34
Hon. Ms. Joe: Family responsibility leave takes into consideration certain situations in a family. I am sure the Member for Watson Lake, and other Members, can relate to this. It enables a person to take leave if there is a family responsibility that requires their presence; for example, a school situation or a sick child.
Mr. Devries: When will we be seeing what the regulations are? There are two references to regulations here. I am concerned that we really do not know what we are voting on here. It is a blank cheque.
Hon. Ms. Joe: As I mentioned, there will be extensive consultation with people in regard to what those family responsibilities are. We could also look at other laws across the country to find out what they include. I am sure we have that kind of information available. The regulations will require consultation, and we will be seeking opinions from people who will be affected by them.
Mr. Devries: Another concern that was brought forward by an employer was that there should be something to indicate whether the person has to give notice. If someone phones in one-half hour after their shift has started saying that they have a family responsibility, that could create a problem in the workplace.
Hon. Ms. Joe: There was a recommendation by the council that that also be included in the regulations.
Clause 34 agreed to
On Clause 35
Clause 35 agreed to
On Clause 36
Mr. Devries: My understanding is that, originally clause 61.1(2) stated an employer shall honour the employees written assignment of or authorization to pay wages, and they decided to change that to may.
The concern is that, in clause 61.1(3), where it now also says may, that that should have remained shall. Having worked in a remote workplace and having a family at home, it is very important that, if I ask the employer to send my paycheque to my wife, he does so.
Mr. Devries: I move
THAT Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be amended in clause 36 at page 16 in 61.1(3) by deleting the word may and substituting for it the following: shall.
Does the Minister have any comments on that? I think that if you are in a remote workplace, it is very important that the employer does it.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I do not have any problems with the proposed amendment.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 36 agreed to as amended
On Clause 37
Mr. Devries: I also have a problem with this section and that would be section 62(1): When the employment of an employee is terminated at any time, the employer shall pay to the employee within seven days from the date of termination all wages other than termination pay under section 49 then owing to the employee.
The concern that some of the employers have is that some of them use payroll services; for instance, at the sawmill we used to get our payroll sent down from Whitehorse and it was deposited in the bank. It was always so much money, right down to the cent, and you did not have a cash flow.
If that was changed to the end of the employees regular pay period, that would accommodate some of the payroll problems that we have with the computerized payroll system; it is very difficult to do anything out of the ordinary.
It is basically a convenience to the employer and I think that it is a very minimal inconvenience, if any, to the employee.
It is a friendly amendment in that respect.
Mr. Devries: I move
THAT Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be amended in clause 37 at page 16, in section 62(2) by deleting the words date of termination and substituting for them the following: end of the employees regular pay period.
Chair: Is there debate on the amendment?
Hon. Ms. Joe: This section was amended to allow more days - from three days to seven days - and I am sure the amendment would convenience the employer, as the Member mentioned, but we are looking at pay periods that could be as long as 16 days if wages are paid twice a month. An individual may have to wait for up to 15 days for her or his pay, and I do not know whether or not that amount of time would be an inconvenience. We felt we had a problem with three days and have raised it to seven days, so we have already allowed more time to the employer. I am not in favour of the possibility of a long wait for an individual to receive his or her pay. We have already been dealing with three days and now we are looking at increasing it to seven.
Mr. Devries: With payroll systems, it is going to be very difficult. It will mean that the employer is going to have to take it out of petty cash. We always ran out of petty cash by trying to accommodate people in giving them advances and taking care of these termination things. It was a real pain. I am not going to make a big issue out of it, but I would certainly like to see it extended to the end of the pay period.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The amendment would extend the period of time up to as many as 16 days. I do not think that is improving the act at all. I am not prepared to support the amendment at this time. We have already extended the time period in this section. In most cases, we found that three days was not enough time and, therefore, extended it to seven days. To increase the time period to the end of a pay period could cause some problems and, therefore, I am not able to support it.
Clause 37 agreed to
Chair: Committee of the Whole will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee back to order.
On Clause 38
Clause 38 agreed to
On Clause 39
Mr. Devries: Some of the business community feels that even six months is too long. Normally, if there is a problem with the pay slip, an employee should notify the employer. In the following pay period, the problem should be rectified. If it is not, the employer would have another two weeks to do so. Basically, it should be taken care of. They feel it would be much better to have a 90-day period. The onus should be on the employee to look at their pay slip. Most employers will accept the fact that they have made a mistake. Employers do not want to have unanticipated liabilities on their payroll for long periods of time.
Mr. Devries: I move
THAT Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be amended in clause 39 at page 17 by deleting the expression six months and substituting for it the following expression: ninety days.
Hon. Ms. Joe: They have already reduced that to one-half the period of time from 12 months to six months, and I think that we have done that with a great deal of thought. In looking at the circumstances that could arise, we felt that by decreasing the time to one-half it was quite a compromise. Decreasing it any more - for instance from 12 months to three months - would be too much of a drastic change. Certainly, I would like to be able to determine, after a period of time, whether or not six months time is sufficient. I cannot, in all fairness, agree to decreasing it by nine months.
Mr. Devries: Normally, people keep the dates and hours worked written on a calendar, and probably keep the dates and hours that they worked laying around for a month or so. However, I cannot see how anyone would come back to an employer over three months later - say in April or May - and say to the employer that an error was made on the pay slip in January.
Basically, that is what the Minister is asking them to do with the six months. If there is a problem regarding the issue of excluding time off in lieu, then we might have to have a subclause in there, because that is the only area where I can see there may be a problem if someone gets time in lieu. I certainly do not see why the onus should not be on an employee to make sure that their time slip is correct, within a couple of months of receiving it.
Hon. Ms. Joe: We receive complaints from people we cannot do anything about, because they have come to us after a period of one year. It is not just with respect to time slips. It has to do with many other things. We have people who come to us for wages not being paid. I think that most people who deal with these situations are very familiar with that being a concern. There are some employers out there - maybe the Member does not know them - who will very often consider that their bills to businesses are much more important than the wages owing to a person.
In light of the fact that we are now decreasing it to one-half, we feel it is sufficient enough right now, knowing that it sometimes takes someone a long time to gather the kind of information needed. Not everyone is familiar with the act and even decreasing it to six months is going far. I really cannot accept the proposed amendment.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the amendment?
Clause 39 agreed to
On Clause 40
Clause 40 agreed to
On Clause 41
Clause 41 agreed to
On Clause 42
Clause 42 agreed to
On Clause 43
Clause 43 agreed to
On Clause 44
Clause 44 agreed to
On Clause 45
Mr. Devries: This clause talks about interest on certificates. Could the Minister tell us what the difference is between interest on post-judgment versus pre-judgment. It is legal terminology, and I believe there are two different interest rates. One business person I talked to felt it should be in the manner as post-judgment interest.
It is a legal question, and I do not know if the Minister has the information.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The explanation for making these changes was that it was recommended by the Employment Standards Board and done as the result of experiences they have had with the things they have had to deal with.
This amendment permits the board to direct that interest on unpaid wages be calculated on certificates and be paid by employers. It is intended to discourage employers from using the appeal procedure and other tactics to delay payment of wages. It will compensate employees for the fact that employers have the use of the employees money while they refuse to pay the wages, and can use that money to lessen their interest charges at the bank.
The Employment Standards Board approved the amendment. The Employment Standards Board meets often to deal with these kinds of situations. As the Member knows, last year alone, we were able to collect almost $200,000 in wages owing, and that is only for the individuals who came in and made the complaint to us.
It is something that was recommended to them, based on their dealings with these situations.
Mr. Devries: What is the going pre-judgment interest rate?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I do not have that figure at all, but it is set in the Supreme Court rules. I can bring that information back to the House.
Clause 45 agreed to
On Clause 46
Mr. Phillips: I have a couple of problems with this clause. First of all, we are increasing the size of the board. It seems to me that there is not a real need for that many members on the board; but, I understand the rationale is that they wanted to make sure they had a quorum or that they had the right number of people to sit on the board.
Secondly, this is going to be a fairly significant board, and I think it is important to be consistent with the motion that we brought into the House earlier. Rather than have the board become a group of political appointees - and we know, in the drafting of this particular act, that the government leaned on certain union officials and had certain letters drafted by certain people who were strong supporters of this act - I think it would be better if this board were depoliticized and that the appointments to the board be made by the Legislature, rather than by the Executive Council Member or by Cabinet. People are concerned about that. This would be consistent with the way we approve people to sit on the Water Board and other boards, and would be consistent with the motion that we brought into the Legislature earlier this session. With that in mind, I would like to propose an amendment.
Mr. Phillips: I move
THAT Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be amended in clause 46 at page 19 in 85(2) by deleting the words Executive Council Member and substituting for them the following: Legislature.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The amendment is made in light of the allegations by the Members from the side opposite about our appointments to boards. The increase in board number was brought forward because of the frequency of the boards meetings. There was a time when they were meeting almost every Wednesday and very often had a great deal of difficulty establishing a quorum for that reason. Also, sometimes there were conflicts; in those cases, of course, the board member is not able to take part in the process.
I do not believe this board has ever been criticized for being political. They work very hard and I think some of the members on that board would be absolutely astounded if they felt they were being appointed because they supported this party. I do not think this board should have to be appointed by this Legislature, for many reasons. It does a service to the community, it does a service to all those individuals who have to deal with the act, and as far as I know we have never had a complaint about the board.
Information we have provided to the House and to the general public is that the boards we have appointed have a great mixture of political parties on them and I think there was some mention - although I do not have the figures in front of me - that we also had members from other parties chairing some of our boards.
I am not prepared to support this amendment. It is something that the side opposite has been criticizing since we have been in session and probably prior to that. We do seek recommendations from the employers. There are always an equal number of employers and employees on this board. That will continue.
If an employer is a member of another political party, I am not going to ask that person about it. I really believe that this is one of the committees that has worked very hard. They have had to give up a lot of their time, sometimes sitting once a week, sometimes more. They can continue to work in that manner. I do not think it is necessary that those appointments be approved by this Legislature.
Mr. Lang: I want to make it clear, on behalf of myself and the Member for Riverdale North, that we are not saying that this board is partisan. We contend that there are appointments to other boards that the government cannot defend in a similar way, such as the Yukon Development Corporation. I am not going to argue about the fact that the board has worked hard and has not been in the political realm.
Before I get into the question of whether or not the appointments should be ratified by the Legislature, I would like to ask the Minister a question. She argues that the size of the board was increased from five to seven because it was difficult to get a quorum, but the same principle would apply. In a board of five members, a quorum of three is needed. In a board of seven, a quorum of four is needed.
My point is that I am becoming very concerned about the ever increasing size of these boards, which is becoming quite a financial responsibility of the government.
We have seen information released in this House where the Health and Social Services council has cost the taxpayers, between honorariums and expenses, over $85,000 in less than two years.
Information was released in the House the other day that the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, over the course of two years, spent over $181,000. Since that time, another board has been struck to deal with one of the more controversial issues, with a price tag of $75,000.
We sit in this House and discuss issues about people who are underprivileged and people who have very significant problems. We are told that we cannot spend any money on these problems, because there is no money to assist these people. For example, in the area of audiology, we are told that finances are short, yet, at the same time, we are going from a five-member to a seven-member board.
I could understand if the problem is having representation at all of these meetings, but maybe there should be a provision for alternates. If an individual cannot attend a meeting, there could be an alternate appointed who could stand in the board members place. That is not unheard of, and it is similar to the legal composition of the committee on finance as struck in the Yukon Act. There are alternates to the members in case one or more cannot attend.
My first question is: how much money was spent in the last two years on honoraria and expenses for this board. Secondly, would the Minister consider, if she has not already done so, amendments so that there could be five members with two alternates appointed, so that we can meet the concern she has, which I would submit is probably legitimate, to ensure that there is a quorum. I would like to know how much money has been spent on honoraria and expenses over the last two years for this board and I would like a breakdown including what the chairperson has received, relative to the other members. Secondly, I would like to know if the question about alternate members had been entertained by the Minister.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I cannot bring the information back right now with respect to the total amount spent for honoraria, but I can commit to having that information in the House by tomorrow.
The reason for asking for two additional members for this board, as I stated, was that sometimes it was very difficult to have a quorum. In many cases, they have had to step aside because of conflicts. For that reason, we felt that an increase in the board would allow them to do their business. I do not have any objections to alternates, but my concern would be whether or not that would meet the need. We are not asking for the board to sit every night. It is just that, in some cases, they meet so often that it takes away from their time in other areas. I think that the suggestion that there be two alternates would probably meet the need, but I cannot say for sure. If we can agree to a change such as that, I would want to be very sure that the need would be met.
Mr. Lang: I am not expecting the Minister to make a decision on her feet. I think she should take some time to think about it, and perhaps we could stand this section aside.
For Members of the House, I would point out that we should look at the running of the Legislature - for example, Public Accounts, or any other subcommittee set up by this Legislature. If an individual cannot make a meeting, we have the ability to have an alternate appear in their place to ensure that there is a quorum and that the business of the committee can continue. I submit that we should be looking at the appointment of five members with two alternates.
Another thing to consider is, instead of having an expanded board, with the added cost, it would meet the need to ensure that there is a quorum. Down the road, as individuals who are permanent Members want to resign and do something else, it would provide for those individuals who had been serving in an alternate capacity and attended a number of board meetings - and were aware of what the meetings involved - to seriously entertain taking on a permanent position as and when one came open. To some degree, it would also be a training ground with respect to the general public and the boards.
In view of what I am asking the Minister to consider, I would ask her to stand this aside, give it some consideration and talk to her colleagues about it. I think it is something that will have to be seriously considered for this board in the, as well as others. The time is coming when we have to look at what these boards are costing the taxpayers.
Would the Minister seriously consider my representations, stand this clause aside, and we could debate it further tomorrow?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have no problem with standing this clause aside. I want to say again that I could give serious consideration to the two additional appointments being alternates. However, I cannot agree to the amendment the Member has presented in regard to deleting Executive Council Member and substituting for it Legislature. That is something I will not be supporting. However, I will seriously consider his representation and find out whether or not two alternates would be appropriate. I see no reason why they would not.
Amendment stood over
Mr. Phillips: We are standing clause 46 aside. Could the Minister also bring back an answer to a question of mine? In 46(b), it states an equal number of members representative of employers and employees. Does that mean, when they hear a case - and we go with what the Minister has in the act - and if the quorum is four, there could be three employers and one labour representative, or vice versa? Is it equal on the whole board, or just equal at each meeting?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am told that it is up to the board chair to decide who will be on a panel. I cannot say whether or not there is equal representation from employers and employees. I suspect that because we would have a very fair chair, that would be the case.
Mr. Phillips: Would that not be the most logical thing to do? The reason for having this in here is so that when a case was heard, there would be one person from the employees side and one from the employers side. The Minister is now saying that the chair can select two people from the employees side or two from the employers side. I do not think that is the intent of clause 46(b). The intent is that, on each and every case, there will be equal representation from both sides. That is the intent of the business community for wanting to have that in there.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member talks about a possible situation that could occur, but the opposite could also occur. There could be two employers. If the Member feels that there may be somebody who would not be as fair as the chair we have now, the make up of the committee could be unequal. I feel the same way that he does. I still believe that there should be equal representation on all of the hearings and in all of the things that they have to deal with. I would have no problem with making sure that was part of the act.
Clause 46 stood over
On Clause 47
Clause 47 agreed to
On Clause 48
Mrs. Firth: I would just like to ask the Minister a question about clause 48, which deals with the fair wage schedule. I would like to ask the Minister if the government is contemplating any fair wage legislation, similar to what Ontario has been working on. I think it is called labour legislation and not fair wage legislation.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I am not exactly sure what labour legislation would have to do with the fair wage schedule. Perhaps we are talking about a labour code, or whatever. That has been discussed in the past. I think it was included in the workbook, was it not? Anyway, I know that I have had previous discussions with different groups with respect to a labour code, and it was decided a long time ago that we were not ready to do that here in the Yukon, and we do not intend to do that. We use the Canadian Labour Code, and there has not been any great lobbying for it to be done here in the Yukon.
Clause 48 agreed to
On Clause 49
Clause 49 agreed to
On Clause 50
Clause 50 agreed to
On Clause 51
Mr. Devries: The Council on the Economy and the Environment indicated that they would like to have to exempt any person or class of persons reviewed. I want to seek some assurances from the Minister that, for instance, outfitters would be exempted from this. There is no way that an outfitter could ever begin to think about working under the rules of this act. I am referring specifically to clause 51(2). There is no way they could work with that.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The recommendation by the council will be followed up on. If they have asked that we review these exemptions, then that is exactly what will happen. This section was changed because of some punctuation, or whatever, that was in error, but that recommendation will be followed up.
Mr. Devries: I am assuming that in that recommendation any new industry that could be affected would be consulted.
Clause 51 agreed to
On Clause 52
Clause 52 agreed to
On Clause 53
Clause 53 agreed to
Hon. Ms. Joe: We stood over a clause 8 yesterday.
Chair: Does Committee of the Whole want to deal with that now?
Hon. Ms. Joe: We almost voted on it yesterday. It was the one for 24-hours notice on overtime-
On Clause 8 - previously stood over
Chair: Is there any discussion on clause 8, on page 3?
Hon. Ms. Joe: We did go back and look at the information provided to us from the workbook. In regard to the clause on notice of overtime, there were 544 responses - 294 agreed the clause should be in, 204 disagreed, and 50 were undecided.
As I said, there will be consultation on defining what an emergency is. I would like to again make it very clear that any change in the act will not prevent employees from working overtime on request, if it is a mutual agreement.
Clause 8 agreed to
Hon. Ms. Joe: Madam Chair, I move that you report progress.
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. 13, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the house do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled Tuesday, May 26, 1992:
Arts Centre: Transfer Agreement and Operations and Maintenance Agreement April, 1992 (McDonald)
Oral, Hansard, p. 377
Yukon Energy Corporation Fuel Contracts (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 424, 425
Phase II of the Frances Avenue Development re: land transfer problems (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 369
Totem Oil - Terminal Facility Independent Appraisal (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 374
Taga Ku Hotel/Convention Centre Feasibility Studies: need identified for hotel space and convention centre (Byblow)
The following Documents were filed Tuesday, May 26, 1992:
Analysis of the Whitehorse Accommodation Sector and Critique of the Convention Marketing Plan: Phase One Report (December, 1988) (Byblow)
Election Advertisement by the Yukon New Democratic Party (1989) and Yukon Government Community and Business Development Funds advertisement (May, 1992) (Lang)