Monday, June 1, 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.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Kassi: I would like to ask the House to join me in welcoming several First Nations people here today: Judy Gingell, the chair for the Council for Yukon Indians; Albert James; Stanley Njootli; Chief Roger Kaye; people from my nation: Marvin Frost; Victor Mitander, our chief negotiator; Richard Sydney and Dorothy Wabisca. There are so many people in the gallery that I could stand here all day. I would like to welcome all these people today to witness this historic piece of legislation that has finally come down after 20 years.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would also like all Members to make welcome the grade 5 students from Takhini Elementary School.
Recognition of opening of Yukon Arts Centre
Mr. Phillips: On a point of privilege, I would like to extend my congratulations to all the individuals who were involved in the recent opening of the Yukon Arts Centre; in particular, the volunteers, artists and staff of the new facility. I would also like to extend our thanks to the Minister and his staff for the outstanding job they did. I know they put in a lot of extra hours to get the facility open on time.
The show on Friday evening was matched only by the beauty of the facility itself. We can all be very proud of the outstanding talent we have here in the Yukon. I am sure many Yukoners will spend many hours in the facility in the future enjoying some of that talent.
Again, my thanks go out to all the people who were involved in the facility. It was a great show and I know there will be great things to come, as well.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On the same point of personal privilege - I think that is the parliamentary term for it - I would like to join all Members in welcoming all of the visitors to the gallery today, including my own brother, Tamas McDonald, who is visiting from London, England.
I would also like to join the Member in thanking all of the volunteers, the staff of the corporation and all of those people from Arts Canada North days who had a hand in developing the Arts Centre, and the audience for making it such a vibrant place, not only on Friday night, but on Saturday and Sunday nights as well - and probably tonight, and for the weeks, months, years and perhaps even centuries to come. I would like to join the Member in acknowledging such a marvelous event and such a marvelous facility.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am extraordinarily pleased to present for tabling today copies of the umbrella final agreement between the Council for Yukon Indians, the Government of Canada and the Government of the Yukon; copies of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation final agreement between the Vuntut Gwichin, the Government of Canada and the Government of the Yukon; a copy of Appendix B of that agreement; and copies of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation self-government agreement among the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation, the Government of Canada and the Government of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have for tabling from the offices of the Auditor General of Canada, the Report of the Audited Accounts and Financial Statements of the Workers Compensation Fund, dated January 30, 1991.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills.
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 73: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move
THAT Bill No. 73, entitled An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier
THAT Bill No. 73, entitled An Act Approving Yukon Land Claims Final Agreements, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 73 agreed to
Bill No. 92: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move
THAT Bill No. 92, entitled First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier
THAT Bill No. 92, entitled First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 92 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would like to give notice of a motion that would establish an all-party special committee of this Legislature to consider Bill No. 73, An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements, and Bill No. 92, entitled First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, and make recommendations to this Legislature on whether to accept or reject the agreements referenced in these bills.
Speaker: Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Ministerial meeting on the Constitution
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I have done previously, I rise to report to the House on last weeks discussions on the Canadian Constitution.
Last weeks meeting in Toronto dealt with several issues still outstanding from earlier discussions and important agreements were reached toward resolving the constitutional impasse in Canada.
There was a clear agreement to reaffirm the pre-1982 formula for the creation of new provinces, as was discussed in Edmonton several weeks ago. This means that any new provinces established out of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories would not be subject to the consent of seven out of 10 existing provinces with 50 percent of Canadas population. Their creation would, instead, be a matter of negotiation and agreement between the federal government and the territory concerned.
This is a position consistently advocated by this government and, as I have indicated to the House before, we have realized an important objective through our direct participation in the constitutional discussions.
It is recognized that the amending formula would have to change to ensure that no region of the country would be excluded from decisions now subject to the seven-and-50 rule. Although the specifics remain to be finalized, it was agreed that the consent of eight provinces, instead of seven, would be required when there are 12 provinces.
The Yukon has also achieved another important objective through these discussions. It was agreed that a provision would be entrenched in the Constitution requiring the Prime Minister to convene meetings of the First Ministers at least once a year. The Yukon and the Northwest Territories would be invited as territorial governments to participate in these meetings. This right of participation would be set out in a political accord.
Aboriginal representatives would also be invited to participate in discussions of the First Ministers on matters directly affecting them.
Agreement was also reached in Toronto on an aboriginal constitutional process. Conferences on aboriginal concerns involving the First Ministers and aboriginal representatives would be held every two years, beginning no later than 1996. Again, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories would be invited to participate in these conferences.
On economic matters, there is agreement to entrench in the Constitution a commitment to promote regional economic development to reduce economic disparity. This would apply to the federal, provincial and territorial governments.
There is also agreement on provisions of a social and economic union, which would include as stated policy objectives, universal health care, adequate social services and benefits, quality education, a reasonable standard of living and the free movement of goods, services and capital.
It was also agreed that labour market training and culture would be recognized in the Constitution as areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, with the federal government retaining exclusive responsibility for unemployment insurance and a continuing role in national cultural institutions.
The major issue still outstanding in these constitutional discussions is a reformed Senate. Although there is agreement on an elected Senate, the question of whether there should be an equal number of Senators from each province, or more equitable representation, has yet to be resolved.
Although some of the proposals being discussed would increase the number of Senators from the Yukon to two, the larger issue of an equal versus an equitable Senate is of secondary concern to the territories as they will not gain representation equal to the provinces under any of the proposals now on the table.
Agreement on Senate reform is, however, essential if we are to achieve unanimous support for changes to the amending formula. In our view, there is a need for flexibility on the issue of Senate representation. We have made much progress toward a reformed Constitution, and this should not be placed in jeopardy by hard-line positions. I am confident that with flexibility we can achieve a package acceptable to Canadians.
As honourable Members are aware, the Ministers involved in these constitutional talks have agreed to a 10-day break in discussions. When they meet again, I plan to attend to ensure that the Yukon has a voice in discussion, vital to the future well-being of our country.
Mr. Lang: I would like to make a number of observations with respect to the position brought forward by the Government Leader regarding the national constitutional discussions.
I believe that it is vital that the Yukon be in attendance at all constitutional discussions. This side of the House is in full agreement that the national round of constitutional discussions may be our only chance to lay the framework for the future province of Yukon. I refer specifically to the position taken with regard to the amending formula and the establishment of an eleventh and twelfth province. This side fully endorses and supports this position.
We are also very pleased to see active participation by the Government Leader with respect to the question of aboriginal representation and the future course that this issue is going to take involving Yukon and Canada.
I would like to express a very deep disappointment with respect to the position brought forward today by the Government Leader concerning Senate reform.
If we are laying down the framework for a future province of Yukon, it is absolutely vital that Yukoners are assured of equal representation in any elected Upper House. There is a statement in this particular document that is not correct, and I quote: The larger issue of an equal versus an equitable Senate is of secondary concern to the territories, as they will not gain representation equal to the provinces. That should have been further modified to read ...until the province of Yukon has been achieved.
I will have some questions in Question Period with respect to the fact that our government has taken no public position on Senate representation and how it is viewed in the Yukon. I do not think that the people of Yukon are prepared to accept the premise that Senate reform is secondary to the other issues facing Canada today. If that is the case, all this talk about future provincehood for Yukon is for naught, because we will not then have equal representation.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for his observations. I look forward to debating the Senate question with him. Let me affirm again that it is our view, as compared with the questions of the amending formula, changing that formula and changing aboriginal rights, the Senate reform proposals that are being discussed are secondary. Indeed, there is nothing automatic about the Yukon getting equal representation, even at the point when we become a province under the proposals on the table. That is why they are secondary to us.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Senate reform
Mr. Lang: I would like to welcome the Government Leader back to this House. As I stated earlier, I had some direct questions with respect to the position of our government regarding the Senate and what Yukon views as an alternative to the present situation we have in the Upper Chamber in the Parliament of Canada.
The Minister has been away from these Chambers for more than half the sitting in order to represent us, which has been fully endorsed by all Members, yet we have heard no public position being expressed by the government about Senate reform, which is so vital to the present constitutional negotiations taking place. It is my information that the Northwest Territories has come out clearly on the side of the triple-E Senate, because of the principle of equality and looking toward the time that the Northwest Territories would become a province in Canada. I want to ask the Minister: is the Government of Yukon supporting the concept of the triple-E Senate?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, and I will take a sentence or two to explain why. First of all, let me deal with the Members preamble. It is not true that we have not taken a public position on the Senate. That is quite wrong. The position of my party, for almost all of its history, has been that the Senate is an unrepresentative body responsible only to a bunch of dead prime ministers, for the most part, and should be abolished; however, abolition is not on the table. What are on the table are two options of triple-E: one, which is equal for the provinces - in other words, elected, effective and equal for the provinces; and another one is elected, effective and equal for the regions of Canada. In stating its preference for triple-E, the Northwest Territories conceded in its public statement that it did not guarantee equality of representation for the Northwest Territories in the Senate, even after it became a province. There is no proposal on the table that will guarantee that.
There is a serious and appropriate debate about effectiveness and equality still going on at the First Ministers Conference. Many of the proponents of a triple-E Senate have expressed concern that they not have a Senate that is equal and elected, but not effective - in other words, that has no real powers, and is simply a sounding board, simply a talking chamber. However, many jurisdictions, not the least of which are Quebec, Ontario and the federal government, I believe, will not be able to accept a proposal that gives equality to provinces in a reformed Senate and the ability to be, if not a competence chamber, one that can delay the passage of money bills and other important legislation.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will wait for supplementaries.
Mr. Lang: The next question that comes to mind, in view of the fact that the Minister has indicated to the House that the reason that he has not supported the principle of the triple-E Senate is that there is no guarantee when provincial status is reached that we would have the same number of Senators as other provinces.
Has the Minister formerly put forward the proposition to the Province of Alberta, as well as other provinces that are supporting the triple-E Senate, that we would support the triple-E Senate if, when we reached provincial status, we had equal representation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have discussed that possibility with representatives of provinces proposing a triple-E Senate. However, the Member has only spoken to part of our concerns about a triple-E Senate.
We share the concerns of those jurisdictions that suggest that, in a triple-E Senate, if it were a very powerful body, Senators representing only 16 percent of the population of Canada might have a majority in that assembly and might be able to frustrate the will of 84 percent of the population.
We think that there are serious and appropriate concerns about that situation, and those concerns need to be addressed.
We also have serious concerns about the triple-E Senate proponents, in terms of their definition of effectiveness.
One of the proposals that they make is that no Senator should ever be allowed to be involved in a Cabinet in Canada. We think that is a serious flaw, because, given the relations between the executive and the Legislature in this day and age, and given the need in the national government to have representation in Cabinet from a jurisdiction that may not be represented in the government party, the traditional method in Canada of adding Senators to make up that difference is something that ought to still exist, even with an elected Senate.
Mr. Lang: The Minister has not answered my question. I asked him if he put forward the proposition to the Government of Alberta and the other provinces that are supporting the triple-E Senate that if we were guaranteed equal representation once we became a province, the Yukon would support a triple-E Senate. Did the Minister make that proposition to those provinces?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If the Member is asking if I have formally written a letter to the Premier of Alberta offering to negotiate on the precise terms he has, that we would conditionally support a triple-E Senate, the answer is no, because, as I have just indicated to the Member, we have other concerns with the triple-E proposal besides simply the question of equality for the territories in such a Senate.
Question re: Senate reform
Mr. Lang: Once again, this goes down to the very deep concern we have, and that most Yukoners would have, knowing that the government has not taken a position, publicly or otherwise by the sounds of it, in respect of the various options involved with Senate reform. My understanding is that the Province of British Columbia has put forward a proposition for regional representation in the Senate, and has kindly extended the offer to include the Yukon and Northwest Territories as part of the region. Can the Minister tell me if his government is supporting that proposition, as put forward by the Province of British Columbia?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me deal again with the Members preamble. The Member asserts that most Yukoners are disappointed that we are not supporting a triple-E proposal. I have talked to many, many Yukoners about this and I have never heard support for such a proposal. In fact, if anything, I believe more Yukoners would favour abolition than they would triple-E, based on the communications I have received.
Have we formally supported British Columbias position? No, our interest is in getting a constitutional package that is unanimous. In order to change the amending formula, we have to get every single province to agree to the package. Right now, the provincial jurisdictions are split half and half between the equitable proposal of B.C., which would have equality for regions rather than provinces, and the proposal from Alberta and Newfoundland for strict equality among the provinces. We have every interest in seeing a resolution to this question, and we have been in discussions with both of those parties, but I want to say to the Member, and I think he will understand this, that, as these negotiations go on, I suspect both of these proposals will be evolving. We want to be prepared to support a total package that is unanimously approved by all provinces so that we can get the changes we want to the amending formula.
Mr. Lang: I have to question why we are going down there to discuss Senate reform if we are not taking a position either way. I recognize that there is compromise in the negotiations. At the same time, we have a duty ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to his supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: ... and a responsibility to take a position on behalf of the people of the territory. I still do not understand what the position of the government is. Is the government supporting the proposition put forward by B.C., as far as regional representation is concerned, or are they supporting the triple-E Senate? People would like to know.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Perhaps I am mumbling, or the Member is not listening to my answers. Let me explain again, and I will try to communicate better.
A Senate reform package can be achieved from these constitutional rounds with agreement of seven provinces with 50 percent of the population.
Right now, there is no proposition on the table that has close to the required seven and 50. Triple-E does not have a hope if Ontario and Quebec do not come on board, as it is now constituted. However, we have a larger and more complex concern. The change we want to the Constitution - the amending formula change - requires 100 percent of the provinces - 10 out of 10. Given our first objective, we have no interest in aggravating or alienating any of the parties at the table if we are going to put at risk the key thing we want, which is a change to the amending formula.
Therefore, we have spoken to the Senate issues. We have spoken to the preference for an elected Senate over an appointed one. We have raised serious concerns with the effectiveness definition, as proposed by Alberta. Since both British Columbias proposal for equality of regions and the Alberta-Newfoundland proposal for equality of provinces would give us the same number of Senators - two in a reformed Senate - ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: ... it is an open question as to which of those two would be the better option for the Yukon.
Mr. Lang: I find it hard to believe that we cannot take a position on this as a separate issue from the amending formula. I notice that the Northwest Territories has, because they realize how important it will be when they become a province.
In the Globe and Mail, it indicates Alberta, Newfoundland, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: ...are supporting the concept of an equal number of Senators for each province. I would ask why the Government Leader is indicating to the House that it is just Alberta and Newfoundland and that the other provinces are not involved, according to the information released Friday of last week?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Reporters, inasmuch as Ministers and Members in Question Period, have to speak in shorthand. The people who are the most passionate and assertive in pushing the triple-E proposal are Alberta and Newfoundland. Even though their all-party committee on the Constitution said that they could accept equitable regions or equal provinces, the Government of Manitoba has chosen to take a strong triple-E position. Nova Scotia and some of the other provinces are much more flexible on the question than the Globe and Mail story would indicate.
I say to the Member right now that there is not seven and 50 for either of the two proposals on the table, so there will have to be bargaining to come up with a compromise position of some kind. This also has to do with another dimension of the issue, which is the amount of powers that such a reformed Senate would have. Right now, the federal government is developing new proposals for that, prior to the meeting that will happen next week.
Question re: Land claims secretariat, organization chart
Mrs. Firth: My question is for the Minister responsible for land claims. It is an information-seeking question with respect to the land claims secretariat. I have been communicating with the Minister in writing, asking him for an organization chart of the land claims secretariat and what the reporting authorities are. In his letter, the Minister mentioned to me that they had reorganized the staff into teams. These discrete teams were going to concentrate on assigned First Nations final agreements.
Could the Minister report to us today how many teams there are and if the structures will be changed at all by the announcements that have been made today?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have had teams dealing with each of the First Nations. These teams are comprised of a chief negotiator, a land negotiator and other parties. With the completion of negotiations with the first four First Nations, we will no doubt be organizing ourselves on the basis of the next group of First Nations who will be coming to the table.
The Member will also understand that, notwithstanding the orientation around the First Nation negotiations in the last few weeks, we have, obviously, had almost everybody involved in trying to complete this package as well.
There may well be a new organization chart evolving as we move into the next stage. I will make a commitment to the Member to provide her, and any other Members who might be interested, with a copy of such a chart, should it change as we move into the next stage.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate that. For the record, I would like to know exactly how many teams there are. From what the Minister has said, I gather there are 14 teams.
The Minister is indicating no. I would like to request that he clarify this for us.
Just recently, I have noticed that there has been a new job advertised for a director of land claims and self-government implementation. Will this kind of position be made available for each of the teams? How many components will there be to each of the land claims negotiating teams?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me deal with the last question first.
There are two main branches in terms of the land claims activity - negotiation and implementation. Over time, implementation, which, for us, is a single group for all First Nations implementing all the agreements, will have more and more resources transferred to that over time.
The number of teams that we have will depend on the number of First Nations we are negotiating with. We have been negotiating with four First Nations. In the next group, we may well be negotiating with five First Nations. We will have to be fully staffed to respond to each of those tables.
Mrs. Firth: The reporting relationships are also unclear. For example, I notice that the head of the secretariat was the former deputy minister of Education, who was moved to the land claims secretariat to be the head of the secretariat. He has signed the land claims agreement as the ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to her supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: ... chief negotiator. Now, we have principal negotiators and directors. Could the Minister clear up the reporting authority. Who is the person everyone reports to?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The head of the land claims secretariat or, for the purpose of these agreements, the chief negotiator, is the person mentioned by the Member opposite. Each of the principal negotiators, for each negotiation, for each First Nations negotiation, reports to the chief negotiator. Land negotiators work with principal negotiators and other associated staff. For administrative purposes, the chief negotiator deals with the deputy minister of the Executive Council Office but, in terms of policy direction, reports to me and, ultimately, to Cabinet.
Question re: Constitutional talks, attendance of Premier
Mr. Phillips: Several important issues were discussed at the constitutional conference in Toronto last week. As we know, the Government Leader felt it was extremely important to be represented at these conferences, as many of these issues could directly affect the Yukon. We have heard some of them discussed today; namely, Senate reform and aboriginal self-government.
We, in this House, agreed that the Minister should attend all these conferences, because it was in the Yukons best interests. These very important talks continued Friday and Saturday, so I was a bit surprised to see the Government Leader at the Arts Centre Friday night, when the talks were in their eleventh hour in Toronto.
Did the Minister feel his presence was more important at the opening of the Arts Centre, or did he have something else he was attending to? I am kind of expecting the governments answer.
I am concerned that, when we are at the eleventh hour in the talks in Toronto, the Government Leader was not there. Why was he not there?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member knows, the meeting in Toronto did not turn out to the be 11th hour, but the 10th hour. The 11th hour will be next week.
I was there until six oclock on Thursday, at which time we had dealt with all of the questions that we, on this side, judge to be most important to the north.
We knew that the Senate question was not going to be resolved, but that there would be further discussions going on Friday and Saturday, as they were. It is still not resolved.
Mr. Byers, who stayed there to represent the Yukon, was well-briefed and represented us very well. The Member asks why I came back to the Yukon - of course, I am sure that the Member would not want to deny me the opportunity to be at the opening of the Arts Centre; it was such a splendid evening - but, the Member may also know that we were at a final, critical stage in another matter, which I presented legislation for today. That legislation required that I make it my number one priority; therefore, I had to be here in the Yukon this weekend.
As the Member will understand, I have been involved in perhaps a half-dozen discussions this weekend about that legislation.
Mr. Phillips: I understand that most of the other first ministers who were at the meeting stayed for the duration. That is the reason that I asked the question. Even though the other Ministers were discussing Senate reform, I am sure that the other Ministers had their input, and that the voice of a first minister is heard much louder than a representative of that First Minister.
Maybe the Minister can tell us, other than Mr. Byers, who else is representing us at those meetings in the tenth hour, as the Minister described it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We have had other legal advice available to us, including the dean of law at Queens University, a recognized constitutional scholar.
Firstly, I will respond to the Members comment about first ministers. By my count, I think that there were probably two first ministers left at the meeting when I departed. It may delight the Member opposite to know that, for long periods in the discussions, Nova Scotia was represented by their opposition leader.
Question re: Youth centre land transfer
Mr. Phelps: I have some follow-up questions for the Minister of Justice with respect to the issue relating to the youth centre and the proposed subdivision of approximately $300,000 worth of land, which was transferred from the youth centre to an individual who has applied for a subdivision out by Lake Laberge. When the issue was last raised in this House, the Minister said her department would be taking appropriate steps to look into the matter, and I would like to know what process has been established to have a look at how this land was taken away from the charitable organization.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member is familiar with the act; the act states that we would have to receive a written complaint. I think that information was transferred to the Member. I am told that a written complaint is forthcoming and, as a result of that, it will be acted upon.
Mr. Phelps: I am concerned, as are many Yukoners, because at present there is certainly, at the very least, a cloud over the existing title, and would be should the lot be subdivided and sold as many lots. As well, they are concerned about the precedent this would set for the future when societies, through lack of interest or whatever, tend to die without any action being taken, and large amounts of money could be stripped from them in a similar manner. Would the Minister at least consider having her department wind up the society through the courts, as provided for in the act? This would resolve the issue of the land once and for all.
Hon. Ms. Joe: The Member has asked me whether or not we would consider winding up the society. Right now, there is a thorough review being done of the whole process and, as I mentioned, we were expecting a written complaint about the manner in which the land was allocated. The request made by the Member will certainly be given serious consideration.
Mr. Phelps: This is a class A society having had assets, at one time, of $300,000 or more. In the event of a winding up, the assets are supposed to be divided among two or more other charitable organizations, which means that there are a lot of people with an interest in the outcome. Would the Minister undertake to keep me informed and let me know when a written complaint has been received?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I can do that, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Haines Junction gas price
Mr. Brewster: Prior to the government going into the gas business, it was the practice of government officials in Haines Junction to check the fuel prices at the local gas stations on a monthly basis. The station having the lowest fuel prices would get the government business for that particular month. Can the Minister of Community and Transportation Services confirm whether or not his department still maintains this policy?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To my knowledge, the policy still exists. Approximately a year ago, there was some updating done on the basis of some complaints about how that survey was done at each months end. To my knowledge, there has been no change to the policy in the last recent while, and it still applies.
Mr. Brewster: Could the Minister explain why departmental vehicles do not gas up at the station in Haines Junction that had the lowest fuel price for the month of June? Is this policy, in fact, being followed?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It would be my expectation that the department not only follows it, but enforces it. Prior to each month end, a price check is done on various stations in a community and area, and that becomes the fuel supplier for the succeeding month. That should be applicable in any month, including June.
Mr. Brewster: Would the Minister please look into this situation and ensure that a wrong is corrected?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: By implication, the Member is suggesting that there seems to be some problem with the policy in Haines Junction. Knowing the man to be a very fair person, who is always bringing matters to my attention that do call for some investigation, I will do so.
Question re: Self-government implementation plans
Mr. Nordling: The Vuntut Gwichin self-government agreement indicates that the parties agree to conclude an implementation plan as soon as practicable. Can the Government Leader tell us what the target date is to complete an implementation plan? Will the implementation plans for all First Nations be similar?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for the question. I believe the implementation plans for self-government will have to be in place before the First Nation can ratify and before the federal government will legislate because, in broad terms, they deal with the costs and the programs that would result from the implementation of the self-government agreement.
The reason for implementation agreements arises from the experience of the James Bay Cree and others where there have been some serious misunderstandings about what the financial obligations of the different parties were following the settlement.
As to the timetable, the Member will have heard news reports some time ago about the Vuntut Gwichin having to meet a certain rigorous test for ratification. There has been a change as a result of recent negotiations on that. Rather than my trying to explain during Question Period, I will attempt to get information to the Member. Ratification will proceed in the near future; therefore, the implementation agreements will have to be in place before that happens.
Implementation negotiations and discussions have been underway for some time and, in fact, may be quite close to completion for the first group of First Nations.
Mr. Nordling: Will there be a separate fund set up for the self-government implementation? I notice that, for the implementation of the umbrella final agreement, there will be $6.5 million in a fund. Will that fund also be used for self-government, or will there be separate monies needed?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have to be careful to make sure that I understand the Members question. If the question is are the settlement funds - the compensation provided under the umbrella final agreement and the self-government funds - separate, yes, indeed they are. The financial arrangements between the federal government and First Nations for self-government agreements are distinct and separate from the compensation package under the UFA.
Mr. Nordling: Bills No. 73 and 92 are very short. They both provide that the Commissioner in Executive Council may make such regulations as are necessary for the purpose of carrying out the agreement or subsequent agreements.
Can the Government Leader tell us when we will have draft regulations, which are really the meat of these acts?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think the meat of the acts are the 800 pages in the agreements that were tabled today. The regulations that the Commissioner would have to pass are relatively insignificant in comparison to the content of these packages.
Question re: Access House
Mr. Lang: I would like Members to turn their attention to another matter that has been raised a number of times, not only in this session, but during last years as well. This has to go to the Minister of Health and Social Services. It is about the receiving home and Access House on 502 Lowe Street. There were some questions about how tenders had not been let properly, raised by myself and other Members. I know the Minister had to do an in-depth review of these particular areas.
Another area I have concerns about is the programming and what is being provided for young people in these homes. I want to ask the Minister if she is satisfied with the programs at the receiving home and at 502 Lowe Street? Does she feel they are meeting the needs of the young people who are there?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: As I told the Member the other day, I was satisfied that the agreement with the receiving home was in order and quite appropriate for the purpose that it was granted for.
I do not have the specific information about the programming available at my fingertips. I will be quite happy to get that information and bring it back to the Member in the form of a Legislative Return tomorrow, if I can.
Mr. Lang: I have some very deep concerns with regard to the programming and what we are actually providing for these young people. There is over $900,000 being spent by the taxpayer, and I wonder if we are being of assistance to these young people who presently have to make use of these facilities.
Can the Minister confirm that, over the past year and one-half, she has had numerous representations by individuals as well as the RCMP, directly to her office, complaining about the direction of youth services and what is being provided in these particular programs?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I am not quite sure what the Member is inferring and referring to.
I have not had a specific discussion with the RCMP about the programs being offered through Access House or 502 Lowe Street within the past year. I have had discussions on broad issues.
As I have indicated to the Member several times, the department is moving toward providing support and funding for communities to keep their children within their own communities. That is part of what impacts on the decisions about the 502 Lowe Street facility.
Mr. Lang: I know that representation has been made to the Minister over the past year and one-half by staff members and other people directly and indirectly involved in this particular area, raising concerns about the direction of youth services. In view of the representations that have been made to the Minister in the past year, is she satisfied that these programs are meeting the objectives they were to meet?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I have, indeed, had representations, primarily from my advisory council on Indian child welfare, and from a number of people - including chiefs and some of the bands - about youth programming in particular and, as I indicated, we are seriously discussing what options might be available in this area. As the Member indicated, a considerable amount of money is spent in maintaining group homes. The question arises as to whether or not it might be spent to better advantage for the young people involved if it was allocated to their own community in some way.
Question re: Access House
Mr. Lang: The Minister dodged the question. The question was: in her review, was she satisfied with the programs as they were being administered, in view of the representation of many people about the direction of youth services? I am very concerned as I am becoming more and more knowledgeable on this subject. What appears to be taking place is the warehousing, for want of a better description, of young people for financial gain, and very little is being provided for rehabilitation or anything of that nature.
In view of the fact that there seems to be very little control and very little discipline being administered through these programs, is the Minister aware that, in the operation of 502 Lowe Street, the operator was assaulted last week?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Yes.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister aware that last week numerous windows were broken at 502 Lowe Street?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Yes, I am aware that not a particularly good incident happened at 502 Lowe Street, last weekend. I am told by my department that a number of things happened; some property damage certainly occurred. A charge was laid against one of the young people, and, as I understand it, there has been some resolution of that situation at the present time.
Mr. Lang: This is a very serious situation. It is a very serious situation for the youths involved, for the people who are working there and also the public at large.
Can the Minister confirm if it is true that the staff members, at one stage, over the course of these incidents that took place last week, were locked out of the facility?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: Not as far as I am aware. I do not think that is quite accurate, although I am sure many things probably happened.
It has been a most unfortunate incident and I find myself, for once, almost agreeing with the Member.
I think that one of the unfortunate things about this situation is that we bring troubled young people from all around the territory, put them into a house in Whitehorse, and we then say to them, We are going to fix you; be good; we are going to fix you. Obviously, that does not work and we have to find other ways to help the young people learn to fit into our society.
As indicated previously, we are working toward that end, with the help of many of the rural communities and local people.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now lapsed.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a break.
Chair: I will call Committee back to order. We will be discussing Bill No. 82, entitled Public Government Act.
Bill No. 82 - Public Government Act
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Perhaps it would be useful to Members if I briefly recap the debate at second reading, by way of introduction to the general debate on clause 1.
As the preamble states, the bill is about ensuring, as much as we can in a democracy, that government provided to Yukon citizens is open, accountable, fair and responsive to their needs.
The bill is the first of two packages of legislation to entrench these principles and legal commitments and, as I indicated at second reading, we will be bringing forward another legislative package in a future sitting.
As part of the preparations for the second part, we will be examining further proposals such as the one for the Yukon ombudsperson, about which a number of Opposition Members have spoken on a several occasions in this House.
This bill entrenches in legislation principles that this government believes in, including the commitment to public participation, representative boards and committees, and other values that have become widely supported in the Yukon community.
The bill reflects input that the government has received in the last few years about the operations of government together with comments that we have received from citizens on these questions.
The general principles are already in operation, but we will be entrenching them in law.
The conflict-of-interest rules are changed to make them conform with the standards that have evolved in Canada over the past few years. They are fairly comprehensive measures for public officials, governing Cabinet Ministers, MLAs, employees of government departments, corporations and people appointed to boards and committees.
The freedom-of-information provisions are greatly improved. They also provide very specific measures for the protection of personal privacy and guarantees of political rights as well as political-leave provisions for most public servants. This proposed law is a comprehensive one and outlines the commitments we have made to these principles of public government on a number of occasions.
I had anticipated that I would be joined by a pair of officials, but they are hiding around the corner, so that I cannot see them. I would just like to mention that I will be joined on the floor by two eminent public servants, one being Janet Moodie, of the Executive Council Office, and the other being Steven Horn, of the Department of Justice, who have had a large role to play in drafting this legislation.
At this point, I could make some more general comments about each of the parts of the bill or I could save them until we get to each of those sections. I do not know what the Members preference would be. Perhaps by some physical gesture, the Members could indicate whether they would like me to actually provide a broad survey of all of the parts of the bill or to save my comments until we get to each section. One person is nodding yes. I will resume my seat then and reserve my section-by-section comments until we get to that stage.
Mr. Lang: I have just a couple of observations at the outset here. You will recall that during the second reading speeches we expressed our very grave concern with respect to the way that the bill was presented. In his second reading reply, the Government Leader acknowledged that there was some credence to our observation that we are dealing with many principles, which one could argue - logically and legitimately, I think - had no correlation with each other. For example, if you take the referendum question, we have to vote on that, and we have to vote on the question of freedom of information, and then conflict of interest and then, obviously, the broadening of the political rights of public servants.
They are quite diverse, as far as principles are concerned, and it is of concern to us.
The other point I made was that, in the drafting of the bill and under the pretense that we were making it much easier for members of the public to be able to understand what their various responsibilities and duties would be, the argument was also put forward that we were amending various pieces of legislation; for example, the Legislative Assembly Act, the Public Service Commission Act, the Plebiscite Act and numerous other acts - in fact, in the writing of the bill we are also amending the Financial Administration Act. This will make it very difficult for those who are not familiar with the debate in this House, which probably will be the case about five days from now when most people will have forgotten it ever took place. What this will do, in my judgment, is make it confusing to the general public.
The Minister indicated that he was prepared to vote on the sections or the parts of the bill separately, as opposed to the bill in totality. It concerns me, from a parliamentary point of view, that we are put into a position where some aspects of the bill are, in our judgment, satisfactory; the principles have been enunciated correctly, in our view, and we are prepared to support them. But on the other hand, when I take a look at some sections of the bill - such as the Public Service Commission and the furthering of guarantees for job employment for those who seek public office - I find them unacceptable and I do not think it is in the publics best interests, nor is it in the interest of those who are seeking public office.
So, my first question to the Minister is: are we going to be in a position to vote on this bill, part by part, separately? I would also like to know what happens at third reading.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand the Clerk was somewhat horrified at the suggestion I made at the end of second reading debate about severing votes, notwithstanding that the petitions to the Speaker have been quite frequent in the House of Commons. The Speaker has almost never acceded to them.
What I had suggested in a conversation with the Oppositions House Leader earlier today, who made a similar representation to me, was that, given that we have provision for standing votes in Committee, recorded votes and bells to ring, if Members wish to express themselves by way of a recorded vote, standing vote or dissenting vote at any stage of the bill in Committee, that is probably the most expeditious way we could do it. I made the suggestion that the simplest way to do that, since the bill has four parts, would be to vote on each one of the parts.
There may be other issues within those parts on which the Members may wish to take a position. There are two ways of doing that: either section by section and then record ones view - have a vote - or simply express oneself on it. All I would say to the Members is that I, as the Minister responsible for it, am perfectly flexible. I would want the House to be able to do that and if Members wish to vote, section by section or part by part as we go through Committee, that may satisfy the wish for Members to support some principles or sections and not others.
We should be able to do that as we conduct debate. The only thing we would need is for Members to signal the sections for which they want to do that, then both sides could agree to expedite a vote.
Mr. Lang: I realize that, when we go through the bill, if there is a particular clause that is unacceptable, we could vote against it. I am also going to take the Minister up on his offer that we can go part by part, because the one part is unacceptable to us, and we will get into debate on that at the given time. It is the question of guaranteeing employment for the public service within the Government of the Yukon, and there are a number of reasons for our position. We will be speaking to that when we get to that part of the bill.
On Clause 1
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister give us an indication of the total cost of implementing the bill? For example, I notice that positions are available for possibly two commissioners. Various other aspects of the bill have monetary considerations.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me try to speak to that. Firstly, there will be some cost to the public associated with improving the access-to-information provisions, as a result of tightening up and improvements. There will have to be some improvements in public service procedures, because the burden of proof will now be on the government to decide what can and cannot be released.
The offsetting factor of that is the cost to the citizen, whether they are a reporter, a taxpayer, or an MLA trying to access information. In the case of an appeal, the cost will be considerably lower.
I concede that there will be some increased cost to the public and lowering of cost to the private sector. It would be impossible to accurately predict what those will be.
In respect to the two commissioners - the two officers of this House that would result from this bill - the information commissioner and the conflicts commissioner - it is our view that these should both be part-time positions.
These positions would be filled by someone who enjoys wide-spread respect in the Yukon community and by someone who will be supported actively by both sides of the House. That is the reason for the two-thirds-appointment rule.
I believe that the conflicts commissioners first duty would be to review the 16 or 17 disclosure statements of MLAs. I am assuming that the person will either have some skills by way of training in law or accountancy, or experience in the public service, or some other experience that would enable them, in the light of this legislation, to review the disclosure statements fairly quickly and fairly expeditiously. There may be other conflict questions that would be referred to the commissioner as well.
In the case of British Columbia, the conflicts commissioner is either a retired deputy minister or a retired judge - I do not remember exactly. This person has been given access to office space in a building, but this position is clearly understood to be a part-time position. We contemplate that this situation may change over time as the job becomes more and more demanding, 20 or 30 years in the future.
We would like our conflicts commissioner to be able to come before the Members Services Board, which as Members know is a body that deals with the House budget. This board has representation from both sides of the House and is chaired by the Speaker. The conflicts commissioner would be expected to make a pitch based on the best estimate of what they will need to carry out their duties in the coming year. That money would then get recommended by the Members Services Board and then put into the budget by the government. There would be Members on both sides who would make the case about whether they are asking for too much or too little.
We are obviously going to have to anticipate, for the future, a situation where there may be some complaint. In such a case, the commissioner would have to undertake an inquiry. As with such inquiries held in the past, we would have to have a general provision to be able to carry those out. The specific budget might be discussed with the Members Services Board in advance. As we all know, these matters are impossible to predict.
In bringing this legislation forward, I did not want to set up a permanent bureaucracy for any of these offices. We did not say that there shall be a secretary, an accountant and a receptionist and an office.
I did not want to provide this opportunity for a new layer of officialdom, in this sense, but, clearly, I hope that the conflicts commissioner would be a person who would employ whatever secretarial, accounting or whatever other services would be needed to sufficiently complete the job.
In other words, we would not be paying for people to be sitting in the offices all year; rather the conflicts commissioner, whoever it may be, would be able to request those services when needed.
The information commissioner is in an identical situation, but I think that we are going to need some experience before we know what that office will cost. The best-case scenario is that we pass this law, it is proclaimed, and everybody suddenly realizes it is a new day and bureaucratic and political behaviour goes through a sea change. They all say, well, basically, unless there is some good reason why you cannot have this document, you can have this document and the information will be communicated in a ready and accessible fashion to anybody, and the conflicts commissioner will be sitting around waiting for someone to call.
I can take the worst-case scenario, which is that we passed a law that expresses the will of the House to have a new order to things and the government culture does not change right away. So people who ask for information, because they think that they can have it, become frustrated and go to the commissioner about it. Then the commissioner could be quite busy.
I cannot predict which will occur but I do think the idea is that this position is an officer of the House, that we clearly constitute this office with the understanding that it is a part-time office and that the person operating the office only employs the administrative support that they need to do the job; in other words, they do not have permanent staff.
Now - to word this delicately - my gut sense is that we ought not to give a blank cheque to such an officer, even an officer of the House, and that is why the Members Services Board, I think, should be the body to which that person has to come and make their pitch about their needs. We should look at their request for a budget based on what we anticipate the workload to be, or, in time, what the workload was the year before or the year prior to that year.
Perhaps the Member for Hootalinqua will forgive me for saying this, but the Member will understand that there have been royal commissions, parliamentary commissions and legislative commissions in this country that have been given a broad mandate, but no firm budget.
I do not want to suggest that has ever happened in the Yukon, but there have been occasions when there has been a perception that the commission has hired more staff than was necessary and perhaps been more liberal with public funds than public servants would be, because there is a different kind of chain of accountability. I think these kinds of duties and tasks are important and necessary, but we also have to remind ourselves once in a while that there are only 30,000 people in the territory; we are a Legislature dealing with the same kind of policy framework or policy spectrum as almost every other jurisdiction in the country, yet we are nonetheless a small community, so there are some limits to what we can pay for these things.
I indicated at second reading that if the House felt it was the right person, it may be that the right person could carry out both tasks. I do not know, because I do not have any firm views in my own mind as to who the person would be. I have a sense about the type of person but I do not have any particular individual in mind. There might be some savings, in the early years at least, by doing that. As to financial limits, my sense is that both functions ought to cost us less in a year than a full-time senior public employee, and that should be the case for the two positions combined. If, in the early years we can find the right person who, if the House agrees, could perform both positions, then together that ought to cost us less perhaps than a full-time senior public servant.
Mr. Lang: Due to its newness and the responsibilities that are being attached to the position, we should be able to find one individual in the territory who would be capable of doing both tasks.
It is important that we support the principle that he or she report to the Members Services Board in order that an evaluation can be done, not only of the financial resources that are required, but also in an in-camera meeting, whether or not we feel the job is being done properly. There is a responsibility only at the political level for these two areas of concern.
The other point I would make is that this side has always supported the principle of an ombudsperson, as I indicated in second reading. It is our opinion that an ombudsperson, if ever approved by this House, could take on these types of responsibilities, as well. We recognize the fact that the population of the Yukon numbers 30,000 people and the reality of the situation is that we have to look at it from that perspective. This is not Ontario, where the population is so much greater.
I do think that the conflict-of-interest guidelines that were set down 10 or more years ago for Members have worked fairly well. One would be hard pressed to find a case where people actually believed that an individual has worked in a situation of conflict of interest. It speaks well for the legislation in that we have to try to keep the options open as much as possible to encourage people to seek public office. There are not that many people out there who really want the positions we hold, contrary to public opinion. We have to exercise caution when making changes in this area to ensure that we are not closing the door, intentionally or not, on people who would have been prepared to seek public office and do a good job for the public.
I have a question for the Minister: once the legislation has proceeded through the various stages of the House, when does he intend to bring it into effect?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is asking about a proclamation date. We would have to spend some time in briefing departments, and so forth, in terms of the new order and information processes, and there are some regulations that would follow. My preference would be that the Legislature appoint the first two commissioners - or one commissioner - under this provision. The Member will note that the act provides for an interim appointment by Cabinet, and that is clearly not to deal with the situation now, but to deal with the situation where someone dies, or retires, or something, when the House is not sitting and there is, simultaneously, a legal requirement that we have to file disclosures. You have to be able to file them with someone.
I do not know how long the House will sit in this sitting, but I am assuming that the first occasion we could probably bring motions forward to do that - and there would have to be some discussions on both sides - would be during the fall sitting.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to go back to the question of the cost with respect to the commissioner. The discussion is centred around the budget for the conflicts commissioner and the information commissioner. However, there is no discussion about who would actually set a salary or per diem. Could the Government Leader tell us what he has in mind with respect to that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The proposal I make in this legislation is quite literally that the Members Services Board should do that, in consideration of the experience and qualifications of the incumbent. Let me speculate aloud, without mentioning any names. For the sake of argument, let us say that there was an eminent Yukoner, perhaps a former Commissioner, someone who was widely admired in our community, and supported by both sides of the House - without putting a name or a face to that person. After having had some discussions about that persons expectations, there would probably be some understanding by us, by the time that we nominated someone, about what their expectations were in terms of remuneration and could bring the proposal to the House. That person would develop a budget that would go to the Members Services Board, where it would be discussed.
I can think of one person who, if they were proposed, would probably argue with me - I am speculating about this person - that because they already had a public service pension, they would look for a minimal remuneration for doing this job. I can think of another person with a similar background, who would argue that they do not care whether they are already getting a pension, the job has to be paid what it is worth, and they would ask for a lot more. When we are thinking about nominating someone, Members of both sides should have frank discussions about some of those considerations.
Personally, I would not be in favour of paying something like a full-time salary approaching a deputy ministers salary, no matter how good the person is, because I do not think that the job justifies it. I think we should try to get as good a person as we can - a person who is respected in the territory, even if they are doing both jobs and even if we consider down the road rolling the ombudsperson function into it - and who will still do the job for fairly modest remuneration and not be someone who is sitting in an office filling in time, but who knows and is doing what needs to be done and is able to come to the Members Services Board and defend the budget on the basis of activities, not in terms of I have to be there in case someone comes in.
Let me make the other point. The Opposition Leader mentioned having frank discussions about the way the job is being done. I have no problem with having those kinds of discussions with the Members Services Board, because that is relevant to the question of budgets and so forth, but ultimately, we have to have some public discussion about that, too. This legislation clearly contemplates that there will be reports to this House that can be publicly debated and I think that there can be, and should be, appropriate public debates about whether, let us say, the information commissioner is being too conservative or too liberal on appeals. I think those are appropriate issues to be discussed, but that kind of discussion should happen in public.
Mrs. Firth: I perceive the question of what this person is going to be paid as one that is going to require some thought and some discussion. My preference would be to look at something on a per diem basis at first, because I think it will be very difficult to establish a salary level. Alberta has just set up a conflicts commission - a whole office with a commissioner who used to be a former Member of Parliament or Member of some Legislative Assembly - and a set salary is being paid. It starts getting quite expensive because the individual required is going to be requesting that they be compensated quite substantially for doing this job.
My preference would be that we look at a per diem first and, as time goes on, we can see how much work is involved.
I would also like to express the opinion that I favour more a conflicts commissioner and a separate information officer. I do not think there is much, if any, relationship between the two. The archivist currently does the requests for access to information and they require a special skill and special talents to make those determinations, even though they are guided by a piece of legislation. If we were paying on a per diem basis, it may be more frugal financially to look at having two individuals and paying lesser costs as opposed to looking at a permanent, salaried position. Since it is a new initiative, I would like to make the suggestion that that may be a preferred way to go.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is a useful suggestion. I have no fixed view on it, and I think it is exactly the kind of issue the Members Services Board should deal with, but let me just comment on the alternatives. Say we find a senior retired person in the territory, widely admired and well respected, who says he already has a good pension and is willing to put in whatever time is required, for an honorarium or an indemnity of $5,008 a year. Somebody else, perhaps an equally qualified candidate, says he will do it for $500 a day or $1,000 a day, and thinks the job will take about 20 days a year. Those kinds of factors may cause the committee to choose one candidate over the other. I cannot predict what it will be. As the Member for Riverdale South says, we may want to have two different people and pay them in two different ways, just to see how it works out. I know the economics of paying people on a per diem basis. Some people argue that when that is done with such offices, it sometimes results in more days of work than there would be if a flat rate was being paid. I know that would not be true of everybody, but it could be in some cases.
Mrs. Firth: I want to add something. If I were a member of the Members Services Board, having to make the decisions, I would hope it would not become a situation where you were almost bartering to see which person you could get for the least amount of money. We have to look at the qualifications and then take the other factors into account. If someone is on a pension, yet they are prepared to do this on a per diem basis and are asking for a reasonable rate, I would not object to that person getting the job over someone else who is not on a pension, is asking for less, but may not be as qualified. That is the way I would look at it.
Because it is a new initiative, I want to express that the message is that we have to exercise caution with the dollars. I know it can get out of hand.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have no problem with that point. The only point I was making is that I do not think the money should be the only consideration, but it no doubt will be one, as it will be when a nominee is eventually brought before the House. Even though two-thirds of the Members may support a nominee, there may be dissenting Members who think that the person will cost too much. That is legitimate public debate.
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Mrs. Firth: I have an outstanding request with the Minister for information regarding the amount of money that is spent annually for all boards and committees. Will the Minister be providing that information to me?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: People are working on it now. It turned out to be a fairly large job. Unfortunately, when we are sitting, some of the people who end up getting asked to do that job have been doing other things. The information will be coming. I have committed myself to getting the answer back to the Member. Unfortunately, we have not yet completed the research.
Mrs. Firth: That is fine. I look forward to getting it. I know it is a large undertaking, and it will have a large figure attached to it, as well. This seemed to be an appropriate time to ask for it.
Mr. Lang: We have asked for the same information and a breakdown of the amounts of dollars paid for various boards. I know some Members of the caucus have written letters to the individual Ministers. We received, just the other day, under the Employment Standards Act, the amount that had been paid to members and others.
I am assuming that the request that was put forward by the Member for Riverdale South will cover all boards, committees, councils and corporations of the government. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, I do not remember the precise language of the Members letter, but that is the intent of the inquiry, as I understand it.
Mr. Lang: I want to reinforce the fact that all Members would like that information, not just the Member who has written the letter. We have written letters, as well. Can the Minister assure us that the information will be forthcoming shortly to all of us?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Notwithstanding the other letters, I will take as notice the request from the Leader of the Official Opposition and make sure that all Members get the information when we reply.
Mr. Lang: I just want to make one observation about boards and committees. There has been some debate over the course of this session with respect to the appointment of members to boards, committees and councils. Any issues that we have raised have not been raised lightly, at least from this side. Our position surrounding boards and committees has been ratified through due political process within our political party. We feel a standing committee should be appointed to review, in camera, the proposed appointments by the Executive Council to the boards, councils and corporations of the government. This type of idea will do much to alleviate the situation we have found ourselves in over the course of this past year in particular. I refer specifically to the Yukon Development Corporation and the propriety with which that particular corporation is operating, and the amount of indirect financial commitments that are being made on behalf of the electrical rate payer and, indirectly, the taxpayers of the territory, without any mandate from the House.
I am not going to get into a name-calling argument here, but I think it is important that this opinion be expressed.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I thank the Member for his comment. I am particularly interested in what I regard as an important development in the position of the Official Opposition. This is the suggestion for an in-camera proceeding. I would certainly like to discuss this further with the Leader of the Official Opposition as a committee structure of this House.
I want the Member to know that I do not think that we can talk about such a procedure in this bill. I do not think it is the place for it. Let me explain the concern that I have had and that Members from our side of the House have had. This does not just apply to this House; it applies to all Houses.
The political dynamic in Canada has become such that you hardly ever get any debate, any coverage, any headlines or any parliamentary discussion about nominees to boards and committees that happen to come from opposition parties or come from no parties. Debate only seems to occur when there is a nominee or nominees - or perhaps, in the view of some people, an inappropriate number of nominees - from the government party. I know that parliamentarians who have sat on the government side for any time in any jurisdiction, feel some frustration with what they see as the lack of fairness in the public discussion of these appointments.
I know, for example, of a very prominent Yukoner who was being proposed for a key federal government board. A committee in Ottawa - such as the Member described - was discussing this nomination and a Member of my party mounted a public attack on the integrity of that Yukoner in a way that offended me personally; I do not mind saying so. It was a partisan attack based on the press coverage of a quote that this person had made at some point in the past that seemed, to that MP, to convey a certain attitude that I, knowing the individual involved, knew well did not represent accurately or fairly their views at all.
No doubt many people here - at least one or two Members - have been quoted in a way that did not convey the full flavor of their views. This is not an attack on the press. I am just saying that it happens. I regard that incident and event very unfortunate. This Yukoner was offended. He was not humiliated - that would be overstating it. This Yukoner was abused in public by a member of my party in a way that he did not deserve - all for the dubious privilege of serving on a national committee, which would involve lots of travel and time away from the territory.
I know people who do not have an opportunity to travel, think that it is glamorous to travel, but as someone who does travel, I think that the presumed delights of sitting in seat 6C on a 737 going between various crowded airports and conveying your bags through security, is really not as much fun as travel agents would have you believe.
Frankly, I have some concern about one-sided debate, and I have talked to other people in government about this. All sorts of Opposition people can be appointed to boards and committees. Opposition people are appointed to these boards in an effort to be as fair as possible, but there is never any press coverage about it at all: not a whisper, not a jot, not a whistle, not even a hint of discussion about that appointment.
Of course, government backbenchers are not going to attack nominees of their own government, even if they are from other parties. However, what does happen is that people may be - as was this case that I know about where the person had been, in the past, associated with a government party - subjected to what could only be called a personal attack, and I do not think that any of us here would want to go to the extremes that they have in the United States. I think the Judge Bjorke or the Judge Thomas hearings were just appalling, not only for the individuals involved, whether it be Anita Hill or Judge Bjorke. It probably did not do the public reputation of the legislative body doing the hearings any good either.
I hear what the Member is saying, and I would be happy to have some discussion about that as we go down the road. It is not something that I would recommend embedding in this legislation.
Mr. Lang: I will just recite what I indicated here when we debated a motion some weeks ago. It is not our intention, nor any Members, to abuse any individual publicly although, at times in the House, it comes across that way because of the nature of the debate and the nuances that are sometimes picked up through the media. Once again, this is not an attack on the media, because they also have a job to do.
The point I am making is that our population is very small. We have very few people who are prepared to serve in these capacities. Secondly, there is the question of expertise and competency of many of these individuals in specific areas of concern. The one that comes to mind is the Yukon Development Corporation. I am not going to get into the merits of that corporation, what it does or does not do, because I do not think that is the purpose of the debate here.
We recommended that a standing committee of the House be struck. The Executive Council would send names to that standing committee for its consideration and for confidential input. The government should then have the freedom to act as it wishes. At that stage, the government would know the feelings of Members of the House regarding the nature of the appointment and whether or not the feeling of the committee - which would be representative of the House - is that these individuals would be capable of doing the job they would be asked to do.
That is the point I want to make. At the same time, I recognize the responsibility of the Executive Council, the Cabinet and the government, and I respect the reality of the government having the right to govern, because that is the parliamentary system; however, I think this would do much to negate the present situation facing us. In some cases, if the government looked back, they would say they erred in some of these appointments, and I would also say that about previous governments, in some cases. This type of procedure may well negate that type of error being made on behalf of the individual, or individuals, and the situation that develops as time goes on.
I would be more than happy to discuss it further. It is fairly simple, clear, and very innovative, compared to other governments across the country and the Government of Canada. With respect to the Government of Canada, the way I understand it, appointments are made by the Executive Council, and then there is 60 days for the all-party committee to review the appointment. If they are not that happy with him or her, they report back to the government.
I am proposing this with the idea of not raising expectations of individuals. The government may choose not to approach individuals until such time as they have some understanding of the climate and feeling of the standing committee - or the special committee.
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Mr. Lang: I am wondering about the position of the government regarding the surveys and the public opinion polls, and the fact that quite a number of private companies do this - not necessarily located here. Is there a public tendering procedure for this type of service? We are talking about tens of thousands of dollars in some cases.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As far as I know, nobody in the country tenders this work. It has been done by most governments commissioning on a project-by-project basis, although I understand the national government has a standing contract with Decima and Decimas group of companies, who did the survey for the former government here. Other people use Angus Reid; some people use Viewpoints and there is also a company in B.C. that used to work for the previous government. The Member should know, though, that the largest percentage of the work of this kind done here has actually been done in-house by the statistics bureau.
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Mr. Lang: We agree with this section, obviously, and I think all Members do. The practice of the government has been to table this information within two to three weeks of April 1 of the financial year. Would the Minister entertain a further amendment to this section, basically calling that it be tabled within 21 days of the end of the fiscal year, and made available to Members, so that there would be a requirement for future governments and a clear understanding by Government Services that it has to be made available.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would have a bit of a problem with 21 days. It is not impossible, but the instructions I have given to our people is that we try to get things ready by May 1 in the normal course of a year. If the Member would like, I would be willing to set aside the clause and see if our people could look at committing us to best efforts by May 1. I want to be careful, because I would not want to be sent to jail because a calamity like the main frame breaking down could cause me not to make it. I would be more than happy to commit to aiming for one month after the year-end, if that can be done.
Members will have to understand that this will obviously not be an audited final statement because, of course, the Auditor General takes some time to audit public accounts, and they are usually not available to us until the fall.
Mr. Lang: I think we would go up to 30 days, if that was the amendment provided by the government. I would ask the government if it would bring it forward, and set aside the clause. As I indicated before, we generally have had those documents tabled within three weeks of April 1. I would settle with wording that stated they would be produced as soon as they are prepared, up to 30 days after year-end.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not want to provoke debate, but let me make this point. We are offering to provide much more than we have ever provided in the past. We have always done contracts before. This bill is all payments. The volume of information that would be available in total in the House is considerably in excess of what Members have had in the past.
What we have produced in the past is the contract documents. This is not just contracts, but all payments. It is much more information than has ever before been asked for. What we are putting into law is that all payments by the government that are over $1,000 would be published. The Member knows what proportion of our total expenditures are contracts. Many of them are quite large. This is a legal obligation to give much more than the contracts; it includes all payments over $1,000. That substantially increases the volume.
Mr. Lang: I apologize. I misread the section.
I assumed it was strictly the contracts. I now understand the Ministers hesitation at the initiation of this discussion about the time frame. I would submit that, rather than stipulating 30 days for all payment, there should be an additional amendment referring specifically to the contracts and that they be produced within 30 days. That is what we have been asking for, and I think that it is important that we have that. If other information is made available a couple of months later, I do not have any problem with it - unless someone brings something to my attention. I do see what the Minister has said, and I am not here to add to the bureaucracy in order to provide this information for us. What I am trying to incorporate in the legislation is past practices to ensure that it continues as it pertains to contracts.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not want to create some unnecessary work for us - maybe I will stand aside the clause - but let me say to the Member that having offered here to provide a lot more than just the contracts, I do not want to mess up our work by saying that I have to do two sets of things now: firstly, all of the contracts and then a few days later, every single payment the government has made. When I am offering to give far more information than just the contracts, I do not want to have to do two batches of information and create a legal obligation to do the work twice. I thought the government was being very open and fair in saying that we are not just going to give the contract, but we are going to give everything over $1000.
I would caution the Member that there will be circumstances where we will have a hell of a hard time publishing the information within 30 days of the year end. I am willing to make commitments to try to do it in May - and I will talk about the legislation and best efforts - but I hope Members will understand that we are going measurably more than we have in the past, but if we have to do first the contracts, which involves a lot of work and a lot of checking, and then do the payments for them, I think it would be unnecessary extra work. I am not sure what would be served by doing the contracts first. That is the only point I would make to the Member.
Mr. Lang: I am prepared to accept the clause as it is with the understanding from the Minister that the contracts, which I think are important and should be tabled as soon as possible after the financial year, are made available quickly and that the other information that the Minister is committing to provide be made available as quickly as possible on a best efforts basis. That is my only concern, and if he gives me that verbal assurance I will be satisfied.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate that of the Member. I will undertake to provide the Member with a draft regulation, which I will have vetted by the Opposition parties, about the commitment we will make for the tabling of the annual payments.
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister tell us the reason for this section?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Some years ago - and I am trying to remember if it would have been 1986, 1987 or 1988, it was one of those years - we began to experience some problems with commercial suppliers sometimes complaining about the late payment of bills.
In looking at the situation, we discovered that there was sometimes blame that could be put on a client department, and on other occasions there might be some error imputed to the Finance department.
As a matter of policy, we decided to start paying interest on overdue accounts; in other words, to provide a penalty to the offending department if they were late in making those payments to a business, arguing that a business should not suffer from a late payment from the government.
We have decided to do this at the suggestion of a number of business people, who thought it was a good policy and have said to me, not unreasonably: why do you not put this into law if you are really serious about this and make it a statutory provision? We said: why not? We are doing this now and it works well.
I think that over the last couple of years the Member for Hootalinqua has asked me to provide in the House a record of how much the government has paid in interest and overdue accounts. It was not a huge sum of money, but it was probably significant for the supplier, and this is protection for the small business community.
Mr. Lang: I have no objections to this section, as described by the Minister. However, I have to make the point that this particular section would more reasonably be put in a miscellaneous statute act, or as a direct amendment to the Financial Administration Act, as opposed to within this bill. Once again, if anyone is looking for this kind of information, this is the last place they would look.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have two quick points on that. The Member knows that we do a consolidation of statutes periodically. The next consolidation of statutes on the Financial Administration Act will have this clause in it, so someone will see it.
Even when we try to do bills in plain language, we do not count on citizens reading the actual text of law to find out what is going on. The Department of Finance, in dealing with client departments, will no doubt have a sheet of paper, a leaflet or a handout explaining this provision, as we did when we first brought it in.
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Mr. Lang: With the repeal of the Plebiscite Act, are we then replacing it with what we call a referendum, which gives the latitude of being binding or not? Is that the intent of the government?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There is some confusion. Those of us who have had some experience in municipal politics know that, at the municipal level, a plebiscite is a binding money matter, but a referendum is just a seeking of public opinion.
As the terms have been used at the national and provincial levels, they have often had the reverse meaning. There is a lot of confusion, and I think it might have something to do with the difference between British and American usage; I am not sure.
We are replacing it for two reasons. One is that the resolution we bring before the House should specify whether it is binding or non-binding, but the main reason is that, right now, plebiscites can be commissioned entirely by the Cabinet alone. In this legislation, we want to make sure it is the House that can decide to do that, not the Cabinet. I thought the Member would support that.
Mr. Lang: I do not have any problems supporting it. I just want the intention of the government to be clear on the record.
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Mrs. Firth: I wish to discuss clause 18(2). It says, Subsection (1) does not apply to a gift or personal benefit that is received as an incident of the protocol or social obligations... There is a value put on that gift. Does this mean that this gift has to declared and that they can keep the gift?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Member will remember from her ministerial days, one gets some interesting things in the capacity of a Minister. I have a number of books in my office that I have received from different provincial governments about provincial parks in their area, about the capital cities or about their Legislature.
When one of my colleagues receives such books, he turns them immediately over to the library. I have them on display for people who may wish to look at them. Sometimes it is very difficult to put a value on some of those gifts.
Occasionally, at ministerial conferences, one will receive food stuffs or even - it is alleged - a bottle of wine, or a craft item. These items are difficult to evaluate. When I receive such items, it has been my practice to provide a copy of my thank-you note to the Clerk with my disclosure statement. One of my other colleagues routinely passes on such gifts to some worthy organization, library, hospital or senior citizens home.
We can now do all these things as we now have a gift policy. We have had this policy in place for a few years. The policy deals with limits, like these, and what you can and cannot accept and the disclosure of it. We are proposing to put in law, and to make it clear, that this is a standard rule for everybody and that disclosure statements have to be filed for gifts of this value. If gifts were received that added up the value of $250, a disclosure would have to be filed.
The kind of gift we are talking about, is an incident to protocol or social obligations, as the Member will know, even before my days as a Minister going to CPA conferences as an MLA in this House - certain little gifts would be provided by the host province. The intent of this law states that as long as it is small and incidental, disclosure would not be necessary. If it were a matter of some substance and value, disclosure would be required.
I, in my capacity as First Minister of this government, have received a number of art works over the years. I routinely do the disclosure statement and then turn them over to the collection of the Yukon government.
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Mrs. Firth: I just want to express again that it would have been my preference to have the one-year clause in here. I am not going to propose an amendment. The Minister has indicated to us what the governments position is and that they feel that the six months is a more fair approach. I still feel one year would not cause undue hardship, but I will just agree to disagree with the Minister with respect to this clause.
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Mr. Lang: The Minister had indicated to me that he was going to put an amendment forward for clause 20.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes, I was engaged in some consultation about the amendment. Unfortunately, I put the stone into the lake and did not see any ripples. I was waiting for some evidence of gravity.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move
THAT Bill No. 82, entitled Public Government Act, be amended by adding after subsection 20(3) on page 12 the following subsections:
(3.1) The conflicts commissioner shall extend the period referred to in subsection (2) where the person occupies the office of Leader of the Opposition on an interim basis and files a declaration with the conflicts commissioner to that effect. The conflicts commissioner may impose on the extension conditions that the conflicts commissioner considers just.
(3.2) The maximum that the conflicts commissioner may extend the period for compliance with subsection (2) pursuant to either subsection (3) or (3.1) is six months."
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could give us an explanation of the purpose of the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let me go back to the purpose of the clause, so as to put it in context. It is argued, based on the fact that the Leader of the Opposition is paid a Cabinet Ministers salary and is in essence a full-time position, that he should have the same kind of limits on outside activities as do Ministers. However, this proposition is in response to the situation whereby someone, by death, defeat or other situation or resignation, fills the position of Opposition Leader on an interim basis - in other words, they are not a permanent fixture, to the extent that any of us are permanent - would not be forced to give up their career, their business and other activities simply for the dubious delights of being Opposition Leader for three or four or five months.
Mrs. Firth: We are talking about a position, and would it not really be up to the individuals involved to make a decision with respect to whether they were prepared to take the position on an interim basis and accept the rules that went with it, or to decline it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That may well be the case, but we are currently dealing with a situation where the proposed rule is coming into effect after someone has found themselves in an interim capacity in the Opposition Leaders job, and we are attempting to deal with that in this law.
Mrs. Firth: My concern is that we should be dealing, not with individuals, but with positions. I believe that when the original salary level of the Leader of the Official Opposition was elevated to that of a Cabinet Minister, it was so that the position would be filled on a full-time basis.
I question why we would need the amendment, since the rules are there and the rules are not restrictive. Individuals who find themselves in those positions have options and choices that they can make.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In this law, we have deliberately tried to create a situation that is not impossibly rigid and strict.
What we have tried to do is create a situation, when unusual circumstances arise, where the matter can be taken before the conflicts commissioner for a ruling and judgment.
It is clearly anticipated here that if someone, for any reason, found themselves in an acting or interim role as Leader of the Official Opposition, they would have an extension by which they could comply with the other subsections in this bill. However, because the proposed clause 3(1) makes it quite clear that the conflicts commissioner - let us say, dealing with a hypothetical situation, the Leader of the Official Opposition is a lawyer, or runs a construction company or they may be involved in real estate - may well say, this is all very well for you to say that you are an interim Opposition Leader, but while you are interim Opposition Leader, my recommendation to you is that you should not engage in any real estate transactions, contracting or the practice of law, and once you are out of the interim position, you have not been forced to do what you would do as a Minister; in other words, put everything into a blind trust.
The conflicts commissioner - I am speculating, I am never likely to become conflicts commissioner - may simply suggest that one suspend ones activities rather than put them into a trust.
Let us say the Member for Riverdale North were to become Opposition Leader, and circumstances may dictate that you should not be carrying on with your business. The interim Opposition Leader may say, Look, a few weeks ago, I just received a contract - this is only a hypothetical situation - to put the blinds in the new federal building; I cannot give up this contract; it is not reasonable. The conflicts commissioner in that circumstance may say, Well, you should finish the current contract and do nothing further than that.
I do not know, but I am assuming that the conflicts commissioner is going to recommend that people make sensible provisions and try to recommend situations where people can remove themselves from a potential conflict as quickly as possible, even if that person is acting in an interim capacity.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to confirm that this courtesy is going to be available to the interim Leader of the Official Opposition, but it will not apply to Cabinet Ministers. For example, in the tragic circumstances the Government Leader spoke about, if someone were to be a Cabinet Minister on an interim basis for just a few months, they would have to divest themselves of their interests. They do not have the same treatment.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is exactly right. For example, in the unlikely event that such a healthy person as my colleague would have to go for open heart surgery, and we were keen to have someone fill in with the Cabinet while my colleague were in the hospital, and the Member for Porter Creek West were to offer himself as a candidate to fill that Cabinet post, we would have to say to the potential Cabinet Minister, You understand you will only be in Cabinet for a couple of months, and the price you will have to pay is that you will have to go through all the severances of your private interests in the public interest.
Mr. Nordling: That is the point I am trying to make. Carrying on with the hypothetical, it is my decision whether I give up my contract to hang blinds in the federal building to be a Cabinet Minister for three months. My position would be that it would be the same choice for the individual who wanted to fill the shoes of the Leader of the Official Opposition on an interim basis for several months. They would decide whether they would set aside that contract, or whether they would take the job as Leader of the Official Opposition.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: My professors always cautioned me about arguing by analogy, which is something I am prone to do. Let me suggest to the Member for Porter Creek West that the example he gave is not exactly analogous. Let me suggest a different one.
There was a time in this country when you could be a Cabinet Minister and carry on all sorts of private businesses. John A. Macdonald was on the board of a couple of insurance companies during his time as Prime Minister. That would be considered a little tricky nowadays.
The point I am trying to make here is that, to use the example of the Member for Porter Creek West, it would be quite reasonable that it would be up to him to make the decision. However, we are talking about a circumstance here where we are changing the rules after the fact.
Let us say he had gone into Cabinet last month with the understanding that he could still dabble in law in his free time and we then brought in a law that said you could not do that any more. You are quite right: you could either resign from Cabinet and be forced to choose, or you might reasonably say that you did not know this was a choice you were going to be faced with at the time you considered elevation, or lateral promotion, to Cabinet.
Mr. Nordling: I think it is now clear on the record that we are dealing with this act to look after a particular circumstance that we find ourselves in right now and not as a general proposition with respect to the act or the law as we would have liked to have seen it.
Mr. Lang: In the situation that I am facing, as the interim Leader of the Official Opposition, it would not apply as far as the law is concerned. The fact has been put up for debate that proclamation of the act will not be until the fall, in any event, so it does not really come into effect until later.
I have had the experience of having been put into this situation for much longer, quite frankly, than I care to have been. However, due to events, that is the way things have come down. Depending on how things come into play, I think that six months is a logical period of time, primarily from the point of view that the government has up to six months if there is the necessity of a by-election. That is important because, in most cases, that would apply, and it probably would have applied in our particular case if the situation with the leadership of our party had been resolved initially, which it was not.
Therefore, I believe that the six months requirement in future years is a call that has some logic to it. We are in a situation where our numbers are very small in the House, and there is not a lot to choose from, as far as individuals are concerned, who are prepared to even consider it. Therefore, I think the proposition for six months is logical and correlates with the option for by-elections.
Mr. Nordling: It is not true, then, that we are in a position whereby this act will affect the situation as presently exists and to which we are trying to adapt. The Government Leader described an analogy whereby I might be appointed to a Cabinet position and be allowed to dabble but then a law came along and said I could not. The rules were changed in midstream; my understanding, from what the Leader of the Official Opposition has said, is that that is not the case and it will not affect him because it will not be proclaimed until the fall. We do not really need this amendment to fix up a situation that exists at the present time.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I fear Members may be speculating about when the next election will be; I cannot join in that speculation, but let me point out to the Member for Porter Creek West that the Clerk has been advising me and tells me that we do not have to have an election until next April or May. It is quite conceivable that every Member of this House could be going through two more sittings before another election. It is not impossible. The Member for Riverdale South says she is looking forward to it, as am I.
I am taking seriously the points made by the Member for Porter Creek East; we can only deal with legislation based on the facts here. I know we are trying to create some general rules and one of the things we anticipated was that we can make general rules, but they clearly will not anticipate every situation that is going to come along. That is one of the reasons why we wanted to have the conflicts commissioner so that we would have some flexibility, some creativity, to be able to deal with individual situations.
Mr. Phelps: Further on this, it seems to me that there is a difference in kind when one looks at conflict between the potential for conflict from a person in power, a Cabinet Minister or a leader of the government, and the potential for conflict from the leader of an opposition party. It seems to me that the potential for mischief is far, far greater. The real rationale for this provision in the act seems to rest mainly, when it comes to the Opposition Leader being lumped in with the Cabinet Ministers, on the scale of pay and the expectation that it would be a full-time job, far more than it seems to rest on the practical consideration of the potential for mischief or conflict. The Cabinet Ministers have, within their power, the use of government funds, unlike the Leader of the Official Opposition. I would also like to point out, just for the record, that the probability of leaders stepping down when they lose elections is far greater than a minister or leaders of government stepping down after elections. Normally, when there is a crisis in an opposition, it is because a leader has stepped down after an election. I can state case after case after case recently in the provinces in Canada.
With respect, I would not want to leave this debate hinging on the current circumstances with the Opposition. I would rather we state very clearly that there are several reasons for these mitigating circumstances, not the least of which is that the potential for mischief, conflict and for using government funds or influence is far less probable or possible when one is talking about, in this government, the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: What the Member for Hootalinqua says is quite correct. It is more common after an election for the Leader of the Official Opposition to step down than it is for the Government Leader to step down; therefore, one often has the situation where there is someone acting until a party convention chooses a new leader. It is quite correct to say we anticipate that situation.
I do not want to get involved in an arcane constitutional debate with the Member for Hootalinqua, but I want to make one point to him that is based on some reading I have done on British constitutional practice. He is quite correct that there is a clear difference in the nature of the Leader of the Official Oppositions job and a Ministers job. Certainly in the British practice, it is understood that the Leader of Her Majestys Official Opposition is a very distinct and important position. That person is always one moment away from assuming the most important position in the Legislature or Parliament; in other words, the Government Leader. It does not even require an election.
There have been many occasions in parliamentary history where a third party has changed its allegiance. The British assumption and practice is that it is not just that the Leader of the Official Opposition should conduct their affairs as if they were a Minister, but that they should organize their affairs in such a way as if they may be the First Minister at any moment.
There are a number of practices, about which I have recently apprised myself, where there are special kinds of consultations between the public service and the Leader of the Official Opposition in that country, on the understanding that the Leader of the Official Opposition has a need to know that is above and beyond that of any private Member in the House.
It is not just that they get a Ministers salary. They are, in essence, the Government Leader in waiting.
Mr. Phelps: I concede the British practices, as the Minister states, but I still maintain that there is a distinction, and I have to agree that the potential for mischief of a person, while acting as interim Leader of the Official Opposition, is far less than the case of any person who is filling in as a Minister, because the Minister is in charge of departments, spending government funds and is in charge - within certain bounds - of hiring and the like. A person who is simply standing in until there is a leadership convention in an opposition party does not have those powers.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 20 agreed to as amended
On Clause 21
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Clause 27 agreed to
On Clause 28
Clause 28 agreed to
On Clause 29
Clause 29 agreed to
On Clause 30
Clause 30 agreed to
On Clause 31
Clause 31 agreed to
On Clause 32
Clause 32 agreed to
On Clause 33
Clause 33 agreed to
On Clause 34
Clause 34 agreed to
On Clause 35
Clause 35 agreed to
On Clause 36
Clause 36 agreed to
On Clause 37
Clause 37 agreed to
On Clause 38
Clause 38 agreed to
On Clause 39
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
Mr. Lang: What does the government have in mind in giving this authority for mediators?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I hope that the Member for Porter Creek West and the Member for Hootalinqua will forgive me, but this is an attempt by the government to have a process by which citizens can avoid the great expense of hiring lawyers. As the Member may know, in the last few years, we have trained a group of mediators in this territory to deal with a number of things, including matrimonial disputes, and other matters. It is quite easy to conceive of a situation, for example, where the Member for Porter Creek East has a constituent who wants certain information, and he wants it on the basis that he wants to know because it is private information about them. However, it happens to be contained in a document that also has private information about another citizen, and he has no right to that information.
The privacy commissioner may well be able to deal with it. However, they may say there is a dispute between the two individuals, or between the department and the individual that is quite complicated, niggling and technical, and perhaps someone other than himself may be able to act as a mediator between the two parties, listen to both sides, and make a recommendation. It may be that, rather than give them the actual document, they may recommend that the department retype all the information about that person that is in the document, show it to the privacy commissioner to guarantee there is nothing left out, then offer, not the original document, but some version of it.
I am probably not giving a very good example, but there may be some cases where mediation works. You do not want to say no to the person, but you cannot say yes to the whole document, so there may be some give and take and discussion. Classically, mediators bring people to compromise positions.
Clause 43 agreed to
On Clause 44
Clause 44 agreed to
On Clause 45
Clause 45 agreed to
On Clause 46
Clause 46 agreed to
On Clause 47
Clause 47 agreed to
On Clause 48
Clause 48 agreed to
On Clause 49
Clause 49 agreed to
On Clause 50
Clause 50 agreed to
On Clause 51
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to move an amendment on clause 51, and I would like to provide copies to Members, if they do not already have the amendment.
The reason for this amendment is that the language does not conform perfectly with another bill to which it relates.
The clause is in reference to the Wildlife Act. After the word species, we want to add the words type or population. The amendment goes on further to say all plants, animals, and invertebrates, so there is mirror language from one act to the other.
With that explanation, I will move the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move
THAT Bill No. 82, entitled Public Government Act, be amended in clause 51 on page 35 by substituting the following paragraph for paragraph (b):
(b) an endangered, threatened or vulnerable species, type or population of plants, animals, or invertebrates.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 51 agreed to as amended
On Clause 52
Clause 52 agreed to
On Clause 53
Clause 53 agreed to
On Clause 54
Clause 54 agreed to
On Clause 55
Clause 55 agreed to
On Clause 56
Clause 56 agreed to
On Clause 57
Clause 57 agreed to
On Clause 58
Clause 58 agreed to
On Clause 59
Mr. Lang: I am not clear about how this is going to work. We go through the exercise of exemptions and everything else. For example, if it gets to the commissioner, who says you can have that information, but the deputy head says you cannot, what happens at that stage, and who pays?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I understand that clause was actually suggested to us by the Member for Hootalinqua, although he may not take ownership of the language. The clause describes the information that must be set out in a notice of refusal. As the Member for Porter Creek East may know, both the Member for Hootalinqua and I went to court - although I do not recall the judgment in my case - and essentially received blanket refusals, and even the officials refusing documents gave blanket refusals.
This clause would make it more precise in terms of the reasons for refusal. The clause requires the government to not only cite the specific provisions under which the access is denied, as is currently done, but also why the provision relates to the record being sought, which you do not have to do now.
In the case of the commissioner saying you can have it, and the Cabinet or the Minister saying you cannot, we anticipate that, at that stage, the only access is to the supreme court. If you will remember, the burden of proof is on the government. The government has to know that, if it goes to court, it has to have an excellent reason why the citizen in question cannot have this information. Going against them in the court of public opinion will be the fact that the information commissioner said that the document should be made public, and that will be publicly acknowledged.
Therefore, when the commissioner says to let his documents go, but the government says that the sky will fall if this document gets out, then the government has to supply a better reason than simply that the sky will fall. It has to not only provide the reasons for it being denied, but also why this document relates, which they do not have to do now, and then those become the issues at court, if that is where you end up.
Mr. Lang: The question goes back to cost again. The government can take someone to court forever, since the taxpayers seem to have a bottomless pit of money. The individual who has applied for the information and feels strongly about it does not have those financial resources.
Let us go through the scenario: the commissioner agrees that it should be released but the government says no. Is it within the authority of the commissioner to proceed on behalf of the individual at that stage? If there is an appeal from the Commissioner to the courts, does the Commissioner proceed with the act?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It could be the commissioner. The Member must understand that we try to do the inexpensive appeal process. This has been the petition made by the Member for Hootalinqua all along. That is what the commissioner is. As well as all of these things, there is ultimately always an appeal to the court. We have to anticipate the situation that, one day, the commissioner and the government may be on a collision course. Once again, this makes it tougher for the government. They cannot do what they do under the present act, which is simply say that it is denied under clause 9. The judge looks at the act and agrees with the government. Now, we not only have the burden of proof, but we have to specify the reasons. I am not a lawyer, but I assume that becomes extremely relevant in the courts.
Clause 59 agreed to
Chair: We will now take a break.
Chair: I will call Committee back to order.
On Clause 60
Clause 60 agreed to
On Clause 61
Clause 61 agreed to
On Clause 62
Clause 62 agreed to
On Clause 63
Clause 63 agreed to
On Clause 64
Clause 64 agreed to
On Clause 65
Clause 65 agreed to
On Clause 66
Clause 66 agreed to
On Clause 67
Clause 67 agreed to
On Clause 68
Clause 68 agreed to
On Clause 69
Clause 69 agreed to
On Clause 70
Clause 70 agreed to
On Clause 71
Clause 71 agreed to
On Clause 72
Clause 72 agreed to
On Clause 73
Clause 73 agreed to
On Clause 74
Clause 74 agreed to
On Clause 75
Clause 75 agreed to
On Clause 76
Clause 76 agreed to
On Clause 77
Clause 77 agreed to
On Clause 78
Mr. Phelps: This is where the questions just before the break become relevant, concerning the issue of costs going before the supreme court. I thought it was worthwhile discussing it briefly, at least. What would happen in the event that an individual was applying for access is that he could be turned down up to the commissioner stage. At that point, the commissioner could rule against him as well and then that person would have to proceed to the supreme court; if he or she lost that action, if the rules of the court remain in effect, then that person would lose costs of the other persons lawyer. In this case, I presume the other side would be the commissioner, or perhaps the commissioner and the government. I am not really clear on that.
In the event that we got to the commissioner level and the commissioner said all of the information ought to be provided to the applicant in the first instance and if the government then were to appeal that finding to the supreme court, my concern then is who would pay costs. It would be, in effect, an appeal of a tribunal or quasi court in the nature of the commissioner, so the commissioner himself would not, as I understand it, be a party; the person who would bear the burden of the cost of going to the supreme court would be the person applying for the information, who was successful, let us say, in all or in part at the commissioner level.
I wonder whether or not we want to put in to play something that might mitigate the impact of costs, particularly where it is the government who is appealing the finding of the commissioner.
If they are successful, then the original applicant could be burdened by substantial costs ordered by the court.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In the case described by the Member for Hootalinqua, I am advised we anticipate in this legislation that there is the ability for the commissioner to make application to the court with respect to the costs of the plaintiff.
I am not a lawyer, but the one thing that makes me nervous about the idea of the government always to be sharing the costs is that, in some jurisdictions, there are what are referred to as information demons. These individuals make a business of getting the information from the government, going through all the channels and then selling the information to private clients. I would not want a situation to arise here where somebody could put public servants to the expense of going through all the appeal processes - going to court, but not on a reasonable ground - and then our getting stiffed with the cost, even though we won on the point of law. It seems to me that this is the same point that the Member for Hootalinqua has made in the past about civil actions. There are civil actions going on where the government is paying all the costs of all parties, as well as the court costs. Frankly, as Minister of Finance, I have some concerns about that.
Mr. Phelps: My concern is not about the applicant who is unsuccessful all the way up, and finally loses in court. My concern has to do with the applicant who is successful at the level of appeal, where the findings of the commissioner come down, and then the government is unhappy and goes to court. It seems to me that one of the parties has to be the applicant. It should not be the commissioner. I do not see a provision that would say that the commissioner would cover the costs of the appeal. If it is clear in there, fine. I did not find it, so I do not think it is clear.
I would like to see the situation where the government is appealing because it is unhappy with the commissioners findings of the investigation, and the government pay its own costs, not the original applicant.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will have a lawyer look at the text, but my understanding of the situation where the commissioner appeals against the government on behalf of an applicant is that the commissioners costs would be picked up. In other words, they would not fall to the applicant, they would fall to the commissioner in a case such as the one he described.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Okay, but then the government is appealing against the commissioner. The commissioners costs are covered as much as ours are. If there is a finding in favour of the commissioner, presumably the original applicant is not a party. Again, I am on weak ground here because I am not a lawyer. The original applicant is not a party, so they do not get stuck with the costs; it is the commissioner.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to have an understanding of the sections that lead to the conclusion that the applicant would not be responsible for the court costs in the event that the government is appealing the findings of the commissioner. That is what I would like.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Clause 76(2)(a) talks about the commissioner going to court if he has the consent of the person denied access to the copy. The commissioner is appearing before the supreme court on behalf of the person who has applied for review, and then, with leave of the court, appears as a party to any review. I think it is clearly contemplated there that, since this Legislature is going to be bearing of the costs the commissioner, the public is, unfortunately, going to bear the costs of both sides of the suit between the commissioner and the government.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister was referring to section 78(2)(a), (b) and (c). It states that the information and privacy commissioner may apply to the court, appear before the court on behalf of any person who has applied for a review and, with leave of the court, appear as a party to any review. What I am not clear on is, where the government is appealing the finding of the commissioner, where it is clear that the successful applicant at the commissioners finding stage will not be burdened by the costs of the governments action at the supreme court level, if the government proceeds?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Forgive me, but I exhausted my understanding of the issue with my previous explanation. Perhaps I could just take note of the question and get back to the Members technical legal point because he will understand my inability to know how the courts will deal with the situation just described.
Mr. Phelps: It has to be fairly clear in this regard, in that the applicant simply will not bear party costs.
Mr. Lang: I have one other question with respect to timing, unless I have missed it. I do not see the timeframe where the commissioner - after the finding has been made and the information has been released - has to give notice to both the individual or organization who has asked for the information and the government. There is no timeframe informing the applicant that action upon the decision has to be taken within 30 days. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that area for me.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe that the question of timing is dealt with in section 58.
Section 58 states that where the government has reason to believe that the information requested affects the business interests of a third party, or is an unjustified invasion, it has to notify the third party concerned within 30 days to respond to the request for access. When there has been an extension to this 30-day period, within the extended period allowable, the third party then has 20 days to respond.
If the government decides to disclose the record, despite the representations of third parties, and there is no appeal, the government has to disclose the record within the 30-day period from notification.
Could we go on to the next clause. Lawyers are looking for the right clauses. I will get back to Members with them. I am sorry, this is a big enough bill that we do not have it memorized yet.
Clause 78 stood over
On Clause 79
Mr. Phelps: Before we carry on, clause 79 might be the place to clarify the issue of costs at the court level. That is just a comment, really.
Clause 79 agreed to
On Clause 80
Clause 80 agreed to
On Clause 81
Clause 81 agreed to
On Clause 82
Clause 82 agreed to
On Clause 83
Clause 83 agreed to
On Clause 84
Clause 84 agreed to
On Clause 85
Clause 85 agreed to
On Clause 86
Clause 86 agreed to
On Clause 87
Clause 87 agreed to
On Clause 88
Clause 88 agreed to
On Clause 89
Clause 89 agreed to
On Clause 90
Clause 90 agreed to
On Clause 91
Clause 91 agreed to
On Clause 92
Clause 92 agreed to
On Clause 93
Mr. Lang: I want to speak to subsection (4). We have a very sincere opposition to the principle that if one is in the public service and seeks public office and he or she is successful, they are still guaranteed their position when they have served their one term of office. We expressed reservations and voted against the principle when it applied to teachers. At that time, there was some rationale that the only positions available for that type of profession, other than for a few private schools, were through the government.
This brings a whole new light to the area of responsibility of individuals and Members. An example is an individual who has a small business or is an employee in a private business; it is very seldom, if ever, that guarantees of this kind are made.
The other point is that it permits the opportunity for an individual, if elected, to have an effect on the direction of the department they have come from and may return to, even from the Opposition side of the House. That allegation could be made with some foundation.
We view this section as a guarantee for what is known in some circles as the elite. It grants them the security, this safety net, that once they have served in public office, they can return to their old job. There is a severance package in place for all Members of the House. It is adequate. From my perspective, that is the area that should be looked at.
We should not be making further exceptions to the rule. If the Member for Faro worked for Curragh and ran for public office, I am sure he could not be successful in getting a guarantee that he would have a job with Curragh when he returned. If that guarantee was given him, in some circles it would be said that he had a conflict, because he had a vested interest in a job with Curragh; for example, if a debate on some aspects of that corporation came into the House - for example, safety, not just monetary.
It is similar with the Member for Klondike. What security or guarantees does the Member for Klondike have or, for that matter, the Member for Watson Lake or the Member for Porter Creek West? I do not understand why we would be extending this guarantee beyond the teaching profession.
I would like to think it would be a free vote for all Members to vote their conscience on whether or not this type of clause is appropriate. It has gone far beyond what would be deemed fair even in the public service, considering what other people sacrifice or are prepared to do to seek public office. It is a question of fairness.
If you leave a position open within a department - and it might be a management department - the financial implications are clear to the public. If that is the case, the position is filled for three or four years. What then happens to the person who has moved into that position as a career move? That is the real-people side of the issue.
I would like to hear what other Members have to say. I hope this clause is a free vote for all Members. I do not see it as a party vote, but it is a question of fairness. Unless we are prepared to legislate that any person who has a position in the private sector or the government, who runs for office and is successful, has a guaranteed job to go back to four years down the road, why are we picking out specialized areas?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is quite right in saying that this is a repeat of the debate we had in the Education Act; he is correct that this section is designed to be consistent with the political leave and political rights section of the Education Act. The Member began his remarks by setting up the contrast between the situation of the small business person or the person working in the private sector, and the public servant.
Let me try and make the case to him that the situations are not alike at all. If a public employee gets elected to the Legislature, that person ceases to be a public employee and becomes a Member of the Legislature; they cannot continue to carry on their job. If that person is a private sector worker, he may continue to work in that business - unless, of course, he becomes a Minister or an Opposition Leader.
The Member for Porter Creek East and I both know people, and MLAs, who have been in this House and continue to work at their businesses as a small business person or as an employee. Of course, that person has to work out some leave provisions with their employer if they are going to be sitting in this House for several months every year, but there are certainly people who continue to carry on businesses.
So, the situations are not analogous.
The Member suggests this is a kind of elitist situation, but I do not see that at all. The social worker or the nurse, just as much as the teacher, in this country have few employment opportunities outside the public sector. Ninety percent or more of social workers or nurses, to use those two examples, are employed by the public sector, by provincial or territorial governments; under the health transfer, that would be even more true. I do not think they are in an elite situation in terms of running for public office; in fact, quite the opposite. It can be reasonably argued that they have fewer advantages than someone working in the private sector or owning a small business, who may continue to operate the small business all the time they are an MLA and until such time as they became a Minister.
Unless you are a nurse or a social worker who gets elected to the Legislature - let us say it was a nurse working for Macaulay Lodge, or a social worker working for the Department of Health and Social Services - employment ends when they become elected to this House.
Let us say they only serve one term, because frankly, they do not like this type of work compared to what they were doing before. Or, for instance, the person does not feel that they are helping people as much in their new position as they would be in their former position, and they decide to return to their former position. Or, say, they are defeated in an election. Are we saying to them now that if they happened to be an MLA with an opposition party, does the person then have to leave the territory to find work? Let us say the Minister, the deputy minister or the assistant deputy minister do not want to hire that person back because they were an opposition MLA and they asked all kinds of bad questions about the department. Does that person then have to go without a job for a long, long period of time?
As I have said in the past to the Member for Porter Creek East, I know people in this country who have had the dubious privilege of serving one term in Parliament or a provincial Legislature and they did not work, literally, for years afterwards. What an awful and terrible sin they committed. They got elected and offered themselves for public service for one or two terms. After they completed their term they were banned, or got a black spot on their hand, because they were once an MLA, but never again will they be allowed to work or they cannot get back into the public service.
When the Member raised the question about management, I do not think that it is so onerous. As I understand the Education Act provisions, if you were a principal of a school and you stood for public office and became an MLA, you are not guaranteed that you get to be principal of that school again. All that you are guaranteed is that you will be hired again as a teacher.
As I understand under the provisions of the Education Act, the person does not go back to exactly the same job. That job may be filled. The person is only guaranteed a job in the system. In my view, that is a reasonable position. We are not saying that if the person was the principal in school X that that person would get to go back to that identical post. It seems to me that is not unreasonable. This would make it very unlikely that many people who have been public employees would stand for public office.
We have talked about trying to attract good people. A lot of good people in this territory work for governments of one kind or another - municipal, federal or territorial. A lot of people who are active and contribute to this community work for governments. I do not think that they should be out of luck when it comes to employment in their chosen career or profession just because they were once an MLA or once stood for public office. I do not think that is fair.
Mrs. Firth: I disagree with this inclusion in the legislation. I appreciate the Ministers arguments, but, I do not agree with what he is saying. That is something that might have happened a long, long time ago. In the past, there were provisions in our laws. Today, in order to address those situations, we have a Human Rights Commission. People cannot be discriminated against based on some of the reasons that the Minister has cited.
I would like some clarification about a comment the Minister made with respect to the leave of absence without pay, meaning that the person will not go back into the same job that they held before.
When I read that someone is going to be granted a leave of absence without pay, I interpret that to mean that they are going to go back to that same job when their leave is finished. Perhaps, this is an interpretive difference. I do not see where it states clearly that they are not guaranteed that they are going to go back to that job. Most people interpreting the wording here would interpret it in the context that they were guaranteed to go back to that same job.
There was another point I wanted to make. The Minister kept talking about nurses not having the ability to do any job other than nursing, teaching, social work, and so on. When someone decides to run for office, I think they have some tough decisions to make. One of those decisions has to do with what happens if they are elected for a while. What do they do then? Do they go back to a chosen profession, or do they go on to something else? I think that is all part of the decision to run for office.
This clause gives an advantage to some people who happen to be public servants, because that is who the law is being written for. It gives them an advantage and, in their decision on whether or not to run for public office, it relieves them of having to take into account whether or not they will have a job to go back to after one term. I disagree with it, just based simply on the fact that I do not think it is fair and that it does seem to give some added security to people who are working for the public service. It does not matter whether it is the same job they can go back to. It just gives them added security and relief when making the decision with respect to running for public office.
I look forward to some comments by the Minister about the interpretation of the leave of absence. I guess this is another one of those clauses upon which we will have to agree to disagree.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will briefly respond to the Member. I am assured that it is quite clear that the person is guaranteed a job, but not the one they left. If the person is a social worker, nurse or a principal, they are not guaranteed the same job. What the person is guaranteed is employment. For example, if a person was a principal in a school and someone else was currently occupying that position, the former principal would get another job in the system, not the same one.
When I took leave from a private employer, I did not go back to the same job. I had a new position. In fact, it was a promotion, but that is another subject. It was recognized that I had leave.
The Member talks about her own professional experience. I respect the choices she has made in her life. I have also heard very strongly in the last few years from people who believe that there are all sorts of barriers to access parliamentary political careers, particularly for women. Not so long ago, I spoke to a single parent who would have liked to have pursued a legislative career. However, as her training was almost entirely for occupations that would involve high public sector employment, she felt, with young children and no other income in the family, that she could not put her family at the risk of her having no employment at the end of a brief and perhaps not very glorious political career.
I have not worked in the public sector, except in my current capacity, but I know that if one is a certain rank in the private sector, there are all sorts of large companies that would encourage one to take leave. I know that if one operates a small business, there are some kinds that one can continue to operate while serving as an elected person.
One cannot continue to practice ones profession in any of the healing professions or many of the caring professions in the public sector. There is a whole range of professions in the public sector for which there are literally no jobs in the Yukon in the private sector; I think the consequences of someone holding office for one term and then finding themselves defeated may be exactly that - that they would have to leave the territory in order to find employment.
Mr. Phillips: I am having some difficulty understanding the logic of the Government Leader. He talks about a single parent not being able to take the opportunity to run for office because of her circumstances. I am a single parent and I have one child in university and another child in high school; I have a mortgage and all the other things that go along with life, but I do not have any guarantee of a job when this is over. I knew that when I entered public office. As the Member for Riverdale South said, that is part of making the decision when one decides to run for public office. I know the Member for Mayo and I have had some personal conversations about what he may do when he is finished in public office and what I may do. He used to be a miner and nobody has guaranteed him a job in the mines when this is over with, or the ability to go back to the same job he had. The Member says the mine is not there any more, but just the same, if it was there he was not given the guarantee that he would get a job with the mine when this is over.
I cannot, for the life of me, understand how the decision could be any different for anyone else. As the Member for Porter Creek East says, we are talking about fairness and treating everybody the same. It is a major decision in ones life when they decide to seek public office, but I am not asking for any guarantees from the government so that I can have a guaranteed job when it is over. There is a section in our act that provides some time for us to readjust and I have no problem with that for anybody. It may be necessary in some cases, because we are not always the ones who make the ultimate decisions. Sometimes the voters make the decision, whether we like it or not.
What we are talking about here is a sense of fairness for everyone. I see us setting up a special group of people who have a guaranteed job when it is all over, and that is unfair to someone who is working for Finning Tractor who decides they want to run for public office or for someone who is working for a radio station in Whitehorse or someone who is working for any other private sector employer, whether they be a business person or not. They do not have those guarantees. No one gives them those guarantees.
Small business people who seek public office - if they have a ma and pa type operation - find that their operations usually wind down to nothing. There is no guarantee afterward when the person is no longer involved in politics.
I can remember when I became involved in this business I had eight employees in the painting and decorating business. In fact, the Member for Faro worked for me at one time when I was in Faro. I had eight employees working for me when I wound down my business. I have no employees working for me anymore and I have not done a painting contract for seven years.
I do not know what I will do when I finish politics. I will have to make an adjustment and come to some decision, but that was a choice I made when I first became involved in politics and I am prepared to accept that. I am not asking the government to pick up the tab, find me a new job and provide everything for me like it was before I became involved in politics.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will not attempt to persuade the Member that I am logical, but I will respond to his comments about fairness.
When someone works in the private sector, or as a small business, under our laws, they can continue to operate their business, including receiving contracts with the government, receiving public funds during their tenure as an MLA, can continue to provide services to the government, getting money from the government, but a public sector employee cannot do that. They cannot maintain their profession and their occupation.
They stop earning money as a public employee when they are an MLA. If the Member has spent years training to get a masters degree in social work, the Member is suggesting that they do something else. They may not want to do something else; they are perfectly entitled to practice their profession. Why should they have to give up their profession for their whole life, just for the dubious privilege of being an MLA? The Member opposite said he had to do something else for a profession; he did not. He continued to be a contractor, even during the time he was an MLA and getting money from the government.
I am not objecting to that. If you are talking about fairness, that fairness rule allowed the Member to continue to do that while he was an MLA, and while he was already getting a salary from the people. Now, you may well argue that the Member had less time to be doing the contracting and perhaps fewer employees. I recognize that. We are not disputing that. What we are saying is that a person who has been in the public service should be able to go back to public service after they have lost an election or decided not to run again. The Members opposite think they should not be allowed to go back, or they should not have the right to go back. We disagree.
Mr. Lang: It is a question of fairness. We just passed a section of this bill where, if a Member is a Member of the Executive Council, they cannot take a contract for six months from the Executive Council after they have been defeated or after they have stepped down, or whatever - or if the government changes.
We have all agreed that is fair. Yet, we are being asked to agree to a clause that is going to be viewed as an elitist clause, built for certain individuals to run for office with certain guarantees. This is exactly the way this is going to be seen by many sectors of the public and within the public service.
An individual could conceivably be a Minister of the department with which he or she is guaranteed a job four years down the road, without having a six-month absence after he or she has left public office.
I would submit that is a conflict.
Can you imagine the individuals in that department, working for that individual, and knowing that individual is guaranteed a job to come back to? It would be a very difficult situation for everybody.
No one in this House is saying that no one here can apply for a job within the public service. As the Member for Riverdale South has indicated, we have legislation on the books that states that you cannot discriminate because of political activity, and that legislation is very clear. We have government and all Members on this side of the House advocating local hire.
If we are talking about someone with professional qualifications, they have every right, and will be given every consideration, for any job within the public service, if that is what they wish to do.
The other point that I want to make is that the Minister says a person loses his or her job when they run for public office and it is not a valid argument. In part, that is correct, but if they are an MLA and wish to practice some other vocation, there is nothing stopping that person from doing that.
That same right applies to them as well as anyone else. If an MLA wants to go and run a loader in the middle of the summer, they have every right to do so. This is a question of fairness. Why should the young lady from Finning be put into a position of not having the same guarantees as a young lady within the public service? That is not equal; it is unequal. This particular section is going to be seen for what it is: a crass political guarantee for a very preferred elite - and it can only be referred to as an elite - public service who want to say, Look, I will run for office and you guarantee me a job. I think that is unacceptable. I do not think the public service feels that is appropriate.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As the Minister responsible for the bill, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 82.
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 considered Bill No. 82, entitled Public Government 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 5:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled Monday, June 1, 1992:
Umbrella Final Agreement between the Government of Canada, the Council for Yukon Indians and the Government of the Yukon - May 30, 1992 (Penikett)
Vuntut Gwichin First Nation Final Agreement between the Government of Canada, the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation and the Government of the Yukon - May 31, 1992 (Penikett)
Vuntut Gwichin First Nation Self-Government Agreement among the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation and the Government of Canada and the Government of the Yukon - May 31, 1992 (Penikett)
Maps comprising Appendix B of Vuntut Gwichin First Nation Final Agreement (Penikett)
Compensation Fund (Yukon): Auditor Generals Report on the audit of the accounts and financial statements as at December 31, 1991 (McDonald)