Tuesday, June 2, 1992 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have two documents for filing with the Clerk. One is entitled Mayo Interconnections. This report is about energy. The second document is entitled Mayo-Dawson Interconnection Analysis.
I also have several legislative returns for tabling, as well as a response to a petition concerning a proposed subdivision, filed by the Member for Hootalinqua on May 19.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Yukon is growing at a fairly rapid rate as a result of this governments successful efforts at diversification and strengthening of the economy. An indication of this is the demand for land for housing, particularly in the Whitehorse area - a subject raised by Members opposite on numerous occasions. This government is committed by policy to working together with the municipalities, the business community and workers to continue to make the Yukon a good place to live, work and build a home.
The mandate of the lands branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services is to ensure that the supply of land for housing and other classes of land development remains ahead of demand. As Members are aware, meeting this objective can be a challenging task. As Members are also aware, we have, in recent months, taken extra measures and increased lot development to meet the increased demand for housing land. I am proud of the efforts of the staff in my department and the cooperation among this government, the City of Whitehorse and the business community in bringing these lots onstream.
Recently, 111 lots in Granger phase 3 were released for sale by lottery; 42 of these lots were not purchased in the lottery and are for sale over the counter at the lands branch.
Next, there are 98 mobile home lots scheduled for release later in the summer in the Arkell subdivision, across Hamilton Boulevard from Granger. If the need arises, up to 60 additional single-family lots in the Logan subdivision, adjacent to Arkell, could be released as well.
The development of the Logan subdivision is a good illustration of the speed with which this government can react to the demand for land. Construction of this subdivision was originally scheduled to begin in 1993, but we have moved this up. Construction will begin this year, with lots becoming available one year earlier than previously planned.
This government is also anxious to address the shortage of country-residential land in the Whitehorse area. We are currently engaged in discussions with the city regarding development of a good supply of lots for the foreseeable future. We are looking at possible developments in a number of locations within Whitehorse city limits and hope to see public consultations commence in the near future about the details of substantial country-residential land development for the near future.
We recognize the demand for this type of housing land, and it is the aim of the government to ensure a steady supply of country-residential land, as with other types of land, is available for the foreseeable future in Whitehorse. As with urban-residential lots in Granger, we hope to proceed with development and sale of country-residential lots to the public as soon as possible.
As current land development projects reach completion, I anticipate that municipalities will assume greater responsibility for their own land development projects. The transfer of land to municipal governments is a growing trend that will likely accelerate, as it allows a municipality control over lands and permits development to meet municipal needs. The Association of Yukon Communities has conveyed to the Yukon government the desire of communities to have responsibility for and control over their own land development, and this government is anxious to facilitate this initiative.
A joint Yukon government/AYC working group was formed in the spring of 1991 to review the municipal land transfer study. The working group will submit recommendations to the Yukon government and the Association of Yukon Communities in the near future regarding transfers that should occur, and a process for implementing such transfers.
Transfer of land to communities for their development has already happened in a limited way. Land was provided to Dawson on two occasions so the town could develop and sell country-residential lots on the Dome. In Whitehorse, land was transferred to the city for its development of Pineridge phase I, and discussions are underway between the city and the Yukon government regarding the development of Pineridge phase II. I hope to be able to bring further information on this matter to Members as soon as possible.
Pineridge phase I was a learning experience for both the Yukon and the City of Whitehorse. An outcome of this project was the drafting of the citys new residential land disposal policy that will govern future land developments. Adequate public consultation must now be undertaken by the city and the developer.
This shows that by working together this government is willing and able to meet the demands of Yukon people.
Mr. Phelps: There is not much new in this ministerial statement. It is almost as if the honourable Minister says enough times that everything is fine, it will be fine no matter what the situation is out there.
We certainly do support in principle the concept of giving communities more control over the development of lands in the individual communities and we are pleased to see the sum progress being made on that front, but we have been saying for several years that we were concerned about the acute shortage of residential land - land for housing and land for trailers - and the problem is especially acute in two areas, even today.
First, there is a very severe shortage of country-residential properties on the market. We know that 130 people applied for three lots on the Carcross Road a couple of months ago, and, unfortunately, that area is now tied up by a land use planning exercise that took seven months to get started, after it was agreed that it would start.
North of Whitehorse, we have had, and still have, the ominous land use planning exercise for Hootalinqua North, and although that was supposed to be an 18-month process, it has tied up land for seven years, and there is no end in sight.
With regard to another acute shortage of land, I would refer to the lack of trailer lots available right now. This is unfortunate because there are many people who cannot afford standard housing, but could get started with a trailer on a trailer lot. The Arkell subdivision is finally coming onstream. We are pleased to see that, but let us remember that we voted for it in four budgets in a row; it is finally now materializing, at the end of the vacancies, this year.
We are pleased to see that there was some progress made. We support in principle the devolution of responsibilities to local governments with respect to developing some subdivisions within municipalities. However, the Minister saying that all is well in the world does not really reflect reality out there.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I thank the Member for his comments and observations. I would challenge his suggestion that there is any kind of a land shortage, except in the area of country-residential lots. The Member makes a valid point, and it is one this government has raised with city administration for some time. I am pleased with the recent progress on that class of land development.
There was no interest, desire or will to develop country-residential land by the City of Whitehorse over the past several years. However, this has changed markedly in the last number of months. Our staffs are respectively examining several areas in the Whitehorse region for the purpose of bringing country-residential land onstream. We anticipate that we could have a development as early as this year, but the Member will respect that, in every land development scheme, there is a need for public consultation and sound planning, and this goes a long way in avoiding problems that face the development later on.
The Arkell subdivision for trailer lots should be released for public lottery by August. The contractor currently working on the subdivision installing the water and sewer system is working two 10-hour shifts per day to help us expedite that project.
I am comfortable that we have been able to react quickly to an increase in demand that was demonstrated this spring. I am comfortable that we have an excess number of lots that exceeds the demand, and we are diligently working to bring more different classes of land onstream for housing purposes.
That testifies to a very good working relationship with the local municipality.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Access House
Mr. Lang: I want to raise an issue that I have brought to the attention of all Members a number of times, and that is with respect to the receiving home and 502 Lowe Street and the difficulties being encountered there, both by staff members and the troubled youths who happen to have to make use of those facilities.
Yesterday, I brought to the attention of the House the incidents that took place last week, and I understand that those are not uncommon. Yesterday, I also asked the Minister of Health and Social Services whether or not she was satisfied with the programming that was being provided for the young people in these homes, and I did not received a reply. So, I would like to ask the Minister: is she satisfied with the programs that are being run by the operators in these two facilities and is she also satisfied that the Government of Yukons policies and procedures are being followed?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The question of whether or not I am satisfied with the programming in the group home and receiving home obviously leads to other questions. However, in relation to the contract that was signed with the current operator, I am satisfied that the operator is providing the programming that she was contracted to provide. Do I see a need for other kinds of programs in the territory? I expanded on that yesterday and will continue to do that, if the Member would like me to do so. I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I have forgotten the second half of the question.
Mr. Lang: The Minister should not be surprised that questions of this nature are coming up because I know that representations about these programs have been made to her over the past year and a half by numerous agencies and individuals. I have to say that I am very concerned about the fact that some of the policies and procedures that the government has set down are not being followed. One of those policies is that the receiving home is a transition home for these young people; there is supposed to be a maximum stay of up to three months as we place these-
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: I want to ask the Minister if she is aware that the majority of youths presently in residence at the receiving home have been there longer than three months.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I would have to ask my department before I could confirm or deny that. I do not have that information here.
Mr. Lang: Once again, I have to express my concern about how these young people are being instructed and what is taking place at the receiving home. It has come to my attention that the behaviour modification for at least one youth is being achieved by the use of cigarettes. For an example, the 12-year-old youth who is presently...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: ...who is presently in residence, is being rewarded for good behaviour with cigarettes. Is the Minister aware of this, and does she approve of it?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I am glad to see that the Member is beginning to learn some of the difficulties the department faces with a group home operation. There has, indeed, been a behaviour modification program in place within group homes and youth services. As to the last part of the question, no, I am not aware of that.
Question re: Access House
Mr. Lang: I am very concerned about what is taking place and the information I am being provided with, and I have no reason to doubt the reliability of it, especially in view of the fact that the Minister has verified to this point everything I have raised in the House. One of the concerns is with the staff who are employed there, and the morale of that staff. I want to know if the Minister is aware that many of the workers in these programs have been working overtime over the past year but have been paid straight time and are afraid to go to labour standards to report the infraction, which is against the Employment Standards Act?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: No, I am not aware of that, and it would be something I am sure the department would be interested in, if it is indeed true. The whole area of operating group homes is a very difficult area, as I indicated yesterday, and certainly many of the representations I have received have indicated that people would like to see children, as I said, in individual homes or in small homes in their own communities.
There is no easy answer to a lot of the issues raised by the Member. If there were easy answers, I am sure that the children would not be in group homes.
Mr. Lang: I am very concerned that the taxpayers are paying over $900,000 on a contractual arrangement. It seems to me that not much is being done on behalf of these children and the staff.
I understand the policy of the department to be that if there is any possibility of danger or violence, the workers are to contact the RCMP.
Is the Minister aware that verbal instructions have been given to staff members to contact other staff, as opposed to the RCMP, concerning circumstances such as this?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: For obvious reasons, I do not have all the specific details. It seems that the Member has been interesting himself in this matter, and I am quite happy to give him the information that I have.
As far as I am aware, if there is a violent act, a group home operators staff is expected to call the RCMP, as can any citizen or any of the youths who might feel the need for that kind of support.
I suppose the Member is referring to a directive that went out a long time ago asking group home operators to notify the director of child welfare, who is legally responsible for these children, if they were intending to lay charges. This concern was brought to us by members of the legal profession. They were concerned that children not be given criminal records unnecessarily. The intent is...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: ...to find something that is reasonable for both sides.
Mr. Lang: I was referring to an immediate situation in which an apparent violent situation might arise.
Anyway, I have another direct question for the Minister with regard to a newspaper report last week about the fact that there was a more than $100,000 increase granted in the contract for 502 Lowe Street. The contract went from $305,000 to $434,000. One of the reasons given was that there was a wage increase for staff from $12 to $14 an hour to a mean hourly wage of about $15. Can the Minister confirm that, contrary to this press statement, very few of the workers in these two homes are receiving $15 an hour?
Hon. Ms. Hayden: No. I do not have that information.
Question re: Business development fund loan guarantees
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development with respect to some information he gave me about 25 minutes ago. I have been asking for the loans and grants list that has been drafted over the past year and the Minister has provided me with it.
In light of the substantial increase in loan guarantees that the government is undertaking in their business development fund projects - I believe it is in excess of $600,000 of loan guarantees - could the Minister tell us exactly what the policy is for loan guarantees, the terms of payment and so on?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In the Department of Economic Development, there is a program that permits applicants to seek assistance in the form of either interest-bearing loans, non-interest bearing loans or loan guarantees. Those follow a fairly rigid criteria established under the act and flow through an advisory committee that reviews the applications and makes recommendations. I can table those guidelines and criteria again, if the Member wishes.
Mrs. Firth: I am looking for an answer from the Minister about the policy on loan guarantees, because the expenditure has increased substantially over the last year. I will give the Minister an example.
Suppose someone gets a grant for a substantial amount of money. Can they then go to the bank-
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to her supplementary question.
Mrs. Firth: I am right in the middle of it. Suppose a person gets a substantial grant. Can they then go to the bank, based on that grant, get a loan, and then also get a loan guarantee from the government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The procedure that is used by the department under the business development fund is that when a loan guarantee is granted, that becomes the document which the proponent takes to the bank to seek funding. It is not a form of double-dipping, as suggested, I believe, by the Member. The department simply provides the loan guarantee instruments that provide the security for the bank to make the loan.
Mrs. Firth: The department does the double-dipping that I believe the Minister is referring to. The department will give a non-repayable loan, which is a grant, and then also give a loan guarantee. That is why I am asking the Minister what the policy is with respect to the loan guarantees.
We are concerned with how far it can be extended and how fairly people are treated when they request this kind of service. I would like the policy on loan guarantees, if the Minister could tell us that.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not sure what the Member is trying to inquire about. The practice of the department, through the program, is to provide support to small business, entrepreneurs and innovative ventures within the community. The ceiling is $500,000, under the business development fund program. Whether that $500,000 is made up solely of an interest-bearing loan or through an interest bearing loan and a loan guarantee, does not really matter. There is a maximum ceiling of $500,000, so it could be any combination thereof.
Question re: Access House
Mr. Lang: Once again, I want to go back to the question of the receiving home at 502 Lowe Street. This is a situation that I think the government should take a very close look at.
Because of the information that I have provided to the House, I think that it is unfortunate to say that we have a system that is in chaos and we have a staff that is working at the home with very low morale. These people are very unhappy, insecure and afraid for their positions. We have young people in these homes receiving no guidance, no rehabilitation and they have no sense of self-esteem.
Meanwhile, on behalf of the taxpayer, we are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to help these young people, but there appears to be no apparent positive results.
I would like to make the point that I feel the Minister is sincere, but I also feel that she has been given bad advice, and at times partial advice, when one looks at the record. I feel that the Minister is trying to do the-
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the question.
Mr. Lang: I want to ask the Minister if she would consider appointing a well-respected, independent Yukoner to conduct an investigation into the situations in these two homes, and find out what is happening. I hope that we can come up with some positive recommendations of how the situation could be changed on behalf of these young people, as well as society as a whole.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: The Member seems to have become an instant expert on juvenile justice and youth services. I appreciate the Members interest in the programs and his concern. However, I will say that we do not have a system in chaos.
The Member should know that in that particular field of working with teenage people, there are often people who feel disgruntled with what is happening.
As I previously indicated, we have an advisory council on Indian child welfare. This council has been meeting with group home operators; they have met with individuals. I would suppose that they have been carrying out the role that the Member is talking about. The council provides advice to the Minister quite often.
It would seem to me that it would be somewhat foolish to overlap these two roles.
Mr. Lang: I do not share that view. We have had some revelations here that I feel bear some independent investigation: the awarding of the contract, the increase in the contract, the lack of programming on behalf of these children and the question of the staff and what is taking place with the staff members in the receiving home and 502 Lowe Street. We have also had some incidents-
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to his supplementary question.
Mr. Lang: I want to know what the Minister has to fear in setting up an independent investigation by a well-respected Yukoner to examine this particular area, if everything is fine. My point is that I know it is not fine and there are a lot of people out there who also know it is not fine. I want to know why an investigation, by an independent person who is competent to put forward, in a confidential manner, what they see-
Speaker: Order please. I have asked the Member to please get to his supplementary question.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: I am not sure I know what the question was, but as I told the Member and have said numerous times we do have a process of review in place. I find it difficult to understand why the Member would assume that someone coming in in the midst of ongoing evaluations and programs and strategies would be able to contribute anything more. As I indicated previously, the program was awarded quite legally, quite appropriately; the contractor has been in place two months - April and May - and there are two contracts: one for the receiving home and one for the group home. Additional staff have been hired for the group home, and I am satisfied that the process that is going on at the present time to look at the whole area, not just this one specific group home, is a satisfactory one.
Mr. Lang: From all appearances, we have a situation where we have the warehousing of young people for financial gain. As far as I can make out, there are very few, if any, recreational or rehabilitation programs in place, and the Minister says that she is satisfied. How can the Minister stand up and say that she is satisfied with what is going on, in view of the revelations that have been brought up over the course of the last month and a half in this Legislature? Which, incidentally-
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Hon. Ms. Hayden: We are not warehousing children for profit. The Member is using words for effect at the expense of both the children and the people whom he claims to be concerned about. The contracts we have with this operator are not-for-profit contracts, which indicate that the operator receives a management fee. It is not a profit-making operation.
Question re: Totem Oil, loan to by YDC
Mr. Phelps: I have a question or two for the well-known international financier across the way, the Minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation, perhaps in his Yukon government damage-control hat today. It has to do with some follow-up questions about the loan to the American company, Totem Oil, for facilities in Haines, Alaska. I am a little concerned about what is going on with respect to that operation. I am wondering whether or not the Minister is aware of the $500,000 that has been lent to the same company, Totem Oil, in Haines by an outfit by the name of Northern Timber Ltd., of Alaska.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can assure the Member that lawyers and realtors make a lot more money than I do.
The firm that the Member cites is a joint-venture partner of Totem Oil, so if there are some financial relationships between them, that is to be expected.
Mr. Phelps: In view of the Ministers commitment to Yukon jobs, can he tell us whether or not Northern Timber Ltd. is in the business of trucking oil as well as trucking other goods?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: No, I cannot confirm that.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister pledged in this House that this loan would not detract from Yukon trucking jobs. The Minister felt that the jobs would be going to Canadians - Yukoners, in particular.
In view of the Ministers promise, can he advise us what steps he is going to take to ensure that the jobs that result from this international banking guarantee loan will, in effect, facilitate Yukoners jobs and not American jobs with respect to the trucking?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I get the impression that the Member is suggesting that I interfere in the marketplace to ensure certain benefits that are already occurring.
I have already pointed out to Members of the Legislature, and to the public, when Petro-Canada signed up with the terminal facility, they hired five Whitehorse truckers to move their fuel - job prospects that did not exist prior to that. I understand that several people have been hired for the service station that has just recently opened here in Whitehorse; again, local jobs. A benefit has already accrued in that prices have been reduced in the Whitehorse area by at least two cents over the last couple of days. I have advised Members that there are potentially $13 million worth of benefits to be made by this deal. This benefit is going to spin off to a lot of jobs.
Question re: Totem Oil, loan to by YDC
Mr. Phelps: I am always concerned about the Minister when he mentions that he is concerned about interfering in the marketplace. I take it he says that with tongue in cheek. It could not be otherwise.
As Mr. Speaker is well aware, the teamsters union has come out very strongly against this international loan guarantee. They are concerned about the loss of trucking jobs because of the wheelings and dealings of Totem Oil.
I know the Minister is supporting union-busting companies like the Kerkhoff Group and other ventures through Yukon Development Corporation, but I am concerned about trucking jobs. I am wondering what serious steps the Minister is going to take to try and ensure that the trucking jobs go to Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: This is not a government nor a Minister who would support union-busting tactics. The fact is that whatever occurs in terms of the marketplace, there should not be any redistribution of market share. In other words, the volume of fuel consumed by Yukon people will remain the same or will increase marginally, as a natural element of progress.
The movement of fuel into the Yukon has to be done by truckers. The movement of fuel around the Yukon will have to be done by truckers. There will be trucking jobs at all times available to Yukon people. The simple suggestion that jobs will be lost is not accurate. Any commodity that moves through Haines requires trucking. That will create jobs.
Mr. Phelps: Let me get this straight. I do not want to belabour this, but I would like to have some grasp of the good Ministers position. He will give loans to the Taga Ku Corporation, because that is not interfering in the marketplace. He will give international loan guarantees to an outfit in Haines, but that is not interfering in the marketplace. However, he is not prepared to do anything to ensure that the jobs resulting from that loan, particularly the trucking jobs that in the past have been run mostly by Canadians in the Yukon - like Petro-Canada, for example, which got most of their oil and products from the States.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please get to the supplementary question.
Mr. Phelps: The reason the Minister is not going to do anything to try to ensure that Yukoners get the jobs to truck gas and oil from Haines to the Yukon is because he is unwilling to enter into the marketplace.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As the Member knows full well, this deal has opened up the marketplace, which will now permit a more competitive spirit and action in the supply of fuel, something that Judge Heino Lilles identified as problematic for the Yukon and about which someone should do something, and we have.
We have also just seen five new jobs created in trucking as a result of the use of that terminal. They did not displace anybody else, but were added to the workforce and employment statistics of the Yukon. In addition, several more people were employed through the creation of a new facility.
I would challenge the Member to identify job loss before he stands up and alleges that there will be massive job loss. The statistics prove otherwise.
Mr. Phelps: This is a rather ironic exchange. The Minister is standing as a person in support of free trade with the United States, defending it and saying the jobs in the Yukon are not important.
I am simply suggesting that there is concern out there by truckers that they are going to lose their jobs to the Northern Timber Ltd. outfit, which is tied in with loans, joint ventures, and whatever. I do not know all these high-falutin financial things, because I am not in the shoes of the Minister. However, this outfit has financial ties to this project.
I would like the Minister to tell me if I am right, when I say that I understand he is going to do nothing to ensure that these jobs go to Canadians and Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Until the Member can let me know that there is a job loss, I am not going to do anything specific. I have discussed the matter with the Yukon Development Corporation officials who negotiated the deal. We have every reason to believe that no trucking jobs are going to be lost. If there is some displacement, there will be no loss, from the appearance of what is taking place.
If the Member has some specific evidence that he could share with me, I would be quite pleased to address it and look into it specifically. However, up until now, all we have had are rather hollow allegations, with nothing substantive.
The fact still remains that the savings to Yukon people from this deal will help to create many more jobs than the Member can imagine. There will be $13 million worth of consumer purchasing power, money that does not go to-
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: It is of tremendous benefit to any employment scenario.
Question re: White Pass railway
Mr. Nordling: Thirteen million dollars is the hollowest of allegations that I have heard here today.
However, my question is for the Minister of Tourism, with respect to the White Pass railway.
Last year, the White Pass and Yukon railway broke all records by carrying over 100,000 passengers on the train from Skagway to the summit. Since the railway is such an important part of Yukon history, I wonder if the Minister of Tourism, or his department, has taken any steps to re-open dialogue with White Pass to extend service all the way to Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Webster: No, we have not re-opened any talks with White Pass Corporation to discuss the possibility of bringing the train all the way to Whitehorse.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to ask the Minister why he has not re-opened these talks, in that the railway is one of the most authentic and historical attractions in the Yukon. In a few years we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold, and the 100th anniversary of the stampede to the Klondike. The railway coming all of the way to Whitehorse would add tremendously to them. Would the Minister agree that the railway coming to Whitehorse would add to those celebrations?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Certainly, the White Pass and the Yukon Route railway coming all of the way from Skagway to Whitehorse would be an added tourism attraction, and a great benefit for our territory.
However, I want to point out to the Member that when White Pass last did their analysis on possibly bringing the train to Whitehorse, it was seen to not be economically feasible at that time to do so. Of course, recognizing White Pass long-standing position on not requesting any government financial assistance for their operations, they have not come forward to the government with a proposal since that time.
Mr. Nordling: In the interests of tourism and the benefit it would bring to the economy of the Yukon, would the Minister try to set aside his Government Leaders feud with White Pass just long enough to enter into discussions with them about the possibility of the rail service coming back to Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I assure the Member that, if I was approached by White Pass with a proposal to extend the train operations into Whitehorse, I would certainly be willing to sit down and talk to them.
Question re: Teacher education program
Mr. Devries: I would like to direct a question at the Minister of Education. Very shortly, as many as 16 adult students could be graduating from the teacher education program, which the Department of Education began in September of 1991. From a news release dated July 10, 1991, the Ministers department indicated that the department would be able to offer each graduate a teaching position, due to natural turnovers and attrition. Can the Minister assure this House that every effort will be made to offer all the graduates positions in Yukon schools this fall?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is an easy question to answer. Clearly the answer is yes, and, to be consistent with the past information I have provided to the House, offers will be made to every graduate. Every graduate realizes that there are no job guarantees for them; they were given that information at the very beginning, before they joined the teacher education program. However, they will all be receiving an offer and, should they graduate and should they accept the offer the department makes, they will have a job in September.
Mr. Devries: It is my understanding that this course was primarily designed to supply long-term teachers for rural Yukon schools and I believe some teachers were asked to sign a contract, once they got a job in a rural school, and would not have to pay their tuition costs, et cetera, if they signed the contract. How many of these positions will be in the rural Yukon schools, and when will all the graduates know if and where they will get a teaching position?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, I am going to have to correct the record slightly. The assumption the Member made that the teachers would have their tuitions paid should they take a position in rural Yukon is something that was being proposed last year, but was not adopted. It may be considered in the future for programs such as this, but at this time that particular provision of a contract for rural services is not in effect.
In the next three weeks, decisions will be made with respect to the staffing positions for all positions in the territory; the offers will be made to the teacher education program students as well, on the assumption that they will pass. Of course, if they do not pass, the offer will be rescinded. Nevertheless, the decisions will all be made in the next few weeks. The decisions with respect to transfers and all new recruitment will be available for everyone to see at that point.
Mr. Devries: If the graduates decline rural positions, will they be offered positions in Whitehorse before those positions are offered to equally qualified teachers from outside Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, they will be given priority before equally qualified teachers from out of territory will be offered those positions. I must point out, however, that the teaching positions in Whitehorse are the most sought after in the territory, and the top priority, of course, is given to qualified teachers who seek a transfer from some other community. Generally speaking, that uses up all available positions. I have to point out as well that the number of resignations of teaching positions is at an all-time low. Teachers are choosing not to leave the territory in the numbers that they have in the past, and there are fewer available positions as a result of resignations this year than we have ever had.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed.
Notice of Government Private Members Business
Hon. Mr. Webster: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to inform the House that the Government Private Members do not wish to identify any items standing under the heading of Government Private Members Business, to be called on Wednesday, June 3, 1992. The House will therefore proceed directly to government designated business when Orders of the Day are called on Wednesday. That business will be second reading of Bills No. 73 and No. 92, and Motion No. 27.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order and declare a recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We are discussing Bill No. 82, Public Government Act.
Bill No. 82 - Public Government Act - continued
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I had some responses to questions from yesterday. Rather than getting into a new line of questions, I thought that Members might like me to respond to those first.
The first I have is a reply entitled Blues for Mr. Lang. That is not a song, it is just the title of my answer. The reference is to page 522 in the Hansard Blues. Mr. Lang was asking about the time frame for the commissioner making a finding, the information being released and giving notice to both the individual and organizations that ask for it, and the government. The observation made by the Member was that there was no time frame for informing the applicant that the action on the decision has to be taken within 30 days.
If the Member will permit me, I will go into a little bit of detail about the time provisions provided for in this act, because there are a number of sections. First of all, I want to say there is no specific time requirement placed on the government with respect to the commissioners recommendations.
However, section 76(2) of the act gives the commissioner the right to include in his or her recommendation any term or condition that he or she considers appropriate. This would likely include, where the commissioner is recommending disclosure, the time frame by which the government should release the information. In other words, the commissioner can specify the time frame within which the government has to do it.
There is also a requirement for the commissioner to give the person who initiated the appeal, and all parties notified of the appeal, written notice of his or her recommendations - that comes under section 76(3). There is no stated time by which the commissioner should do this but the implication is that this would follow directly from the completion of the commissioners enquiry and his or her recommendation.
Another point here is that there are no time limits for the inquiry to be completed by the information and privacy commissioner. My answer here - and I would ask Members to bear with me on this - has to do with the nature of the job we are asking the person to do. It is our view that the commissioner will, in some cases, require some time to carry out his or her investigation of the matter. As cases will vary in complexity and detail, we thought it was less than practical to limit all investigations to a specific period. Where appropriate, under section 73, the commissioner would have the ability, as I mentioned yesterday, to use mediators to effect a settlement between the parties involved. Again, this is a process that may require some time to bring about a resolution satisfactory to both parties.
There is a final, important point that I want to make. Because the information and privacy commissioner is going to be seen, at least in the near future, as a part-time position, we think that a time limit in this bill could place unreasonable burdens on the commissioner in terms of carrying out his or her job, in some circumstances.
There are - and this is an important point - time limits for the government to respond to access requests. These time limits are 30 days under section 45, and with respect to requests involving third party information, as I mentioned yesterday, under section 58. These time limits ensure that the government responds to access-to-information requests expeditiously.
We feel that there ought not to be the same concern with the information and privacy commissioner, as he or she is independent of government. The commissioner would not be swayed by considerations of the effect of the release of information on the government.
Several other jurisdictions that have recently legislated a period, have also not legislated a maximum period for appeal review. Some jurisdictions, such as New Brunswick and Newfoundland, require the ombudsperson to complete the investigation within 30 days. As noted, this is a tight period time frame, particularly for a part-time commissioner, and may not serve individuals well if the commissioner does not have the opportunity to fully investigate the complaint.
There is another point that I want to make. Although there is no requirement for the commissioner to complete his or her investigation in a specified period, the legislation does place a duty on him or her to act. I am told that under common law a person does have the ability to go to court if, after a passage of time, a person is not fulfilling his or her duty or is not seen to be fulfilling his or her duty.
Let me respond to the question posed by the Member for Hootalinqua. This is entitled Blues for Mr. Phelps, on Pages 521 and 522 of the 1992 edition of Hansard. Mr. Phelps was asking about a situation where the government is appealing the findings of the commissioner where it is clear that the successful applicant of the commissioners finding stage will not be burdened by the costs of the governments action at the supreme court level, if the government proceeds.
I spent some time with our staff yesterday talking about the various combinations and permutations of circumstances; but, in the precise circumstance mentioned by the Member for Hootalinqua, we think that it is not likely that the government would appeal. Under the act, the commissioner is empowered to make recommendations on access requests denied by the government. The commissioner, of course, does not have the power to order disclosure, so the government would not go to court in that case. They would simply say no. But, the key provision of this act is that the commissioner can then go to court.
As I explained yesterday, the commissioners costs would be borne by the public, as will the governments, in defending the case. The commissioner would have to get the consent of the plaintiff. I think it is hard to imagine a situation where they would not have that consent.
The commissioner also has the right to decline to go to court. The commissioner may regard it as a matter not worthy of tying up the courts time. The commissioner - if we are trusting him to make some judgment - may say, Look, this was a marginal call, anyway. I made it one way and the government said no, and frankly, I do not think it is worth going to court over.
The point is that the government can accept the commissioners recommendation or, conceivably, it can choose not to adopt it. With the burden of proof being on the government under this legislation, I think that that is going to be the exceptional case. If the government did choose not to accept the recommendation, the government would have to be reasonably certain that it could defend its reasons not to disclose the information in court, recognizing that the burden of proof is on the government to provide a reason why the information should not be released, as I just mentioned. In making such a decision, I think any government would be cognizant of the fact that the commissioner has carried out a full inquiry into the request and viewed the documents in question.
As I have noted, however, the government would not appeal the commissioners findings if the government chose not to accept the commissioners recommendation; it would simply choose not to release the information as recommended by the commissioner. It would then be the applicant who would have to decide whether or not to take the case to court. As I mentioned just a moment ago, the commissioner could also sponsor that appeal, and we have provided that power in the legislation.
There is one final wrinkle here that I might mention. As section 72 is now worded, it does not preclude a person going to court if the commissioner has recommended non-disclosure. These provisions are standard in jurisdictions with independent officers, whether they are ombudspersons or information or privacy commissioners who have recommendatory powers. In some jurisdictions, though, such as Ontario and Quebec and one other jurisdiction, I understand, commissioners have the power to make orders. The important thing about jurisdictions where commissioners have powers to make orders is that there is no appeal provided to the court. We have gone the other route here, which is the direction of the other jurisdictions.
So, although this bill still requires court action to order the disclosure of government records, it goes a long way toward addressing any concerns, particularly those of the Member for Hootalinqua, and the shortcomings of the current legislation and my own concerns about it by allowing an appeal of government decisions by an officer independent of government, allowing this independent officer the ability to take refusals to disclose a record to court himself or herself and pay the court costs and placing the burden on government to show why a document cannot be released.
Those are the two outstanding questions we were dealing with. Perhaps there were other issues, but those are the questions for which I agreed to come back with some information.
Mr. Phelps: With respect to the latter part of the response to my specific question, that goes a long way to reassure me about the issue of cost. I guess the only potentially weak link in the chain is where the commissioner makes a recommendation that the applicant be given access to certain documents, the government refuses, and the commissioner refuses to taking this matter on behalf of the applicant, with their consent, to court. I cannot imagine any situation where that would be justified, but that is the only weak link. I guess what we are looking at here is the difference between may and shall in clause 78(2). I think I am satisfied, at this point in time, that it would be a very unusual situation.
Mrs. Firth: I want to move back to clause 95(6). We were talking about an employee who is elected as a Member of the House of Commons or the Assembly being granted leave of absence without pay. I would like to make some comments about that with respect to the arguments put forward yesterday by the Minister who is sponsoring the bill.
The Minister kept making reference to the fact that if a public servant, social worker or nurse was elected as an MLA, they would not be able to carry on their job, unlike someone in the private sector. According to the Legislative Assembly Act, my interpretation is that someone would be able to work on a casual basis.
Using myself as an example, as an MLA I could work casually at Macaulay Lodge. There is nothing to prevent a public servant from doing that. I would like to hear a comment from the Government Leader with respect to that, which seemed to be an argument.
There is another point I would like to mention. I have a concern about a perceived contradiction. Perhaps the Minister could clear it up for me. We have a six month cooling-off period. For MLAs, it is a three-month period of not earning wages, because we have a severance package. A public servant can run for office, serve out the four-year term of office and then be required to have a cooling-off period of six months if they were an MLA or a Cabinet Minister. If they can go back to their job after their leave of absence for the term, they do not have a cooling-off period.
Could the Minister clear those two questions up for me?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are actually two questions here. One is the assumption that, because - to use the Members example - I was a nurse or social worker before I entered the Legislature, then returned to my line of work in the public service after the Legislature, that that constitutes a conflict of interest. That is not an argument we accept. The cooling-off provisions are to deal with problems of conflict of dealing with ones former department and of not appearing to have any business transactions with them.
You may have been a teacher, become an MLA, and then gone back to being a teacher. You were not in a conflict when you went from being a teacher to being an MLA, nor do we think you are in conflict when you go back to being a teacher.
There is an issue that was touched on by another Member, and that is the problem of the leave question and the connection with severance pay, which was made yesterday. My colleague, the Minister of Tourism, is actually going to be bringing forward an amendment to sever those two events, so that if one does return from elective office to the public service after leave for serving in the Legislature, one would not be eligible for the severance provision, which is available for the Members. However, that is a separate issue from what the Member was raising.
Chair: I have to get this clear. We had stood over clause 78; was the information the Minister gave previously for clause 78?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Yes. We stood over clause 78, enabling me to answer a question, which I hope I have answered satisfactorily to Members opposite.
Chair: So we need to clear clause 78.
Mr. Lang: Yes, we should clear clause 78 and then proceed with part 4. We are satisfied with the answer the Minister provided to the House.
On Clause 78 - previously stood over
Clause 78 agreed to
On Clause 93 - continued
Mrs. Firth: We are on general debate on the whole clause, then, but last time we sat -
Chair: We are on clause 93 right now. Any general debate occurred prior to that, so we are on the specific clause 93.
Mrs. Firth: But we are on general debate on clause 93. The Public Service Act is a new section.
To follow up on the comment the Minister made about the two concerns I had: perhaps I did not express my concerns clearly enough. The first one was this: yesterday, the Minister said that the reason we had to have a clause allowing the public servants to have the leave of absence and the ability to go back to their job was because someone in the private sector had the ability to be an MLA and carry on their private business, but a public servant could not carry on working in their profession while they were an MLA. I am simply saying that I think they do have that ability because, according to the Legislative Assembly Act, being a Member does not restrict public servants from working on a casual basis as long as they are not in a conflict position by doing that work. I do not see how they could be, in some circumstances.
The second point I made was different from the amendment that is going to come forward. It relates to the length of the term of the leave of absence, and the six month cooling-off period that is required so that a conflict does not arise; this amounts to four years and six months, unless an election is called earlier than the length of the term. There appears to be a contradiction - if an MLA or a Minister has to have a cooling-off time of six months, how do they get their job back after the term of four years?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Obviously, I am explaining this very badly. First of all, I did not respond to the Members question about social workers or teachers when we were using those examples.
Yes, technically, it is correct that during our time in government, or certainly my time in this Legislature, the rules were changed so that it is theoretically possible, for example, for a Member of this Legislature, who is a teacher, to be a supply teacher.
I happen to know one or two people in that situation, and one person that I can think of may have been called as a supply teacher one day or two days during the time that they were in Opposition. I hope that they never get called for that position while they are in their present role. While being a supply teacher or working as a casual, that situation could happen. It may be possible that one could now work as a casual social worker for a non-governmental organization such as a group home.
However, the nature of the teaching profession is that most teaching jobs are full-time or permanent part-time. I am using a teacher as an example, but most public service jobs are full-time or permanent part-time. There are some casual jobs.
I think that, as a purely practical proposition, MLAs owe their first duty to the House; they would not be available for those jobs when they are in the Legislature; nor, to my knowledge, have MLAs been hired or even been considered for hiring for most of the casual jobs, which are offered by this government on a seasonal basis: highway crews, parks and campground staff. I would suppose that if a person were hired on that basis, during their time as an MLA, given the conventions that we have had, there would be a royal ruckus about it, since other people are usually looking for those jobs.
On the question of the leave provisions put forward by the Member, I think that the Member has not made the distinction that we are making between a public servant on leave, returning to their job, which does not require a six month cooling-off period.
An example would be a former Minister, who may be going into business as a consultant, and may wish to offer services to the government. For any former Minister who wants to go into business, there would be a six month cooling-off period.
However, a public employee, upon their defeat, retirement or whatever the situation may be after the four-year period, would be able to return to their previous line of work with the public service. That is the difference.
Mrs. Firth: Is the Minister saying that there is no cooling-off period for a public servant who happens to be an MLA or a Cabinet Minister and that they can go right back to their job?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I explained that in my previous answer. The Member believes that if you are an MLA and you go back to the public service, there is a conflict. We do not believe there is a conflict of interest. The cooling-off period is designed to deal with people who are in a potential conflict situation or have the appearance of being in a conflict.
I am sure that if I am ever defeated, I will not get a government job, so let me try to give a better example.
Let us say that the Member for Mayo is eminently employable and he decides that, when he retires from the Legislature, he wishes to be - for the sake of argument - a policy development consultant. Perhaps, some future Conservative government might want to know how ordinary people think, so they hire my colleague to find that out and give them advice. My colleague would require the six month cooling-off period from the time he had left office before he could take on this employment.
Let us assume, as another example, that one of my colleagues was a highways civil engineer and they left the public service to run for office and was elected to the Legislature. After one term they discovered that they did not like it here - people were rude to each other, not kind and nice and that the Legislature was not a warm and happy place to work and that engineers, on a whole, were more sympathetic human beings than legislators - so they decided that they wanted to go back to their old career; they would finish their term of office and be in a position to go back to their old job. In our assumption of that case, there would be no conflict. The Members question clearly implies that there is.
The cooling-off period is designed to deal with situations of perception of conflict or the potential for conflict of people doing contracts or business with the departments with which they may have been associated as a Minister or senior official.
Mr. Lang: I want to pursue this for a little bit. First of all, it has been established that if an individual happens to be a teacher, there is work available to them in the private sector. The reason I say this is because tutoring is available and can be done on their schedule. If one is a nurse, there is at least one private organization that has nurses on call. An individual could continue their profession in the private sector as opposed to the government. If one is a public servant, for example a truck driver, they could, during the summer season, probably get some temporary employment.
The argument the Minister is putting forward is that an public servant is not employable in other areas of the economy after being an MLA. I do not think this bears scrutiny, when one looks at what is available in the private sector. Therefore, the Ministers argument does not hold water, as far as I can see.
The other observation I would make is on the question of fairness. What is fair? I had the opportunity to discuss this particular section with a number of long-time members of the public service who are not politically motivated. They felt that the sections would only apply to a certain few. Perhaps some people already know whom it applies to. As one individual said, if that is not a golden parachute, they do not know what is.
I do not understand how we can accept making the public service a more preferred place to work than any other area in the economy.
It is ironic that, at some time, this particular piece of legislation was referred to as the good government act, because that is not good government. When you give Paul, who lives down the street, a preferred position over Janet, who also lives down the street, it is not only inequitable and unfair, but I submit that it is wrong. In the Yukon Legislative Assembly Act, we have made provisions for anyone running for office, outlined the rules for anyone running for office, and have been as fair as possible to everyone.
Why are we giving preferred rights to one group of people over another? It is not right.
We have, for example, spoken about the Member for Mayo who, God forbid, may leave public office, and we have all very sanctimoniously said that he should be barred from dealing with the government for six months. In the same piece of legislation, if Joe Blow, a member of the public service with an $80,000 a year job, becomes an MLA and then a Minister, perhaps for the same department, he will be going back to it when his time in office comes to the end. Are we saying that that is not seen as a conflict of interest?
I would submit to the House that it is probably more of a conflict of interest, if one were to compare it with the right of a Member to contract with the government, as a consultant or in a competitive manner.
I am prevailing on the side opposite to talk about fairness. The rules should be the same for everyone who seeks office. Make them as clear, concise and as practical as we can, and do not put in sections, as appears to be the case here, designed with certain individuals in mind who are running for office and need a section of this kind. That was one allegation that was made to me. I submit it, but I do not know if it is true or not, but it is unacceptable. I prevail upon the Government Leader, just on the basic principle of fairness, and refer to the case I used yesterday about a young lady who is working in a small business, compared to the individual who is working with government in the $80,000 a year job. If she does not have the same rights and the same guarantees, who are we to give those guarantees to someone who, in my judgment, because of their background and because of their academic qualifications, should have no problem once they leave office - whether the electorate decides for them or whether they step down after their first term - to go out and seek work in the employment market like everyone else with the severance package that has been provided for all Members of the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Clearly, we disagree with this, and I profoundly disagree with the Member opposite when he talks about fairness in this question. The Member may prevail in all sorts of arenas, but if he means that he will prevail over what I believe to be the real issue of fairness here, I have doubts.
First of all, let us be reminded about what a leave provision is. The term leave provision means that one has never ceased to be employed; one is just not acting in the position and is not being paid for it, but still has the position - the person is on leave.
The Member sets up what I think is an entirely false dichotomy between the $80,000 per year public servant and the poor person who works as a chambermaid in the private sector. Well, I know something about barriers to access in this territory. I ask you to look around. How many chambermaids do you see in legislatures in Canada, much less this territory? How many low-income women do you see in legislatures? I bet you could go from Vancouver Island to St. Johns; you could go from Windsor to Inuvik; and nowhere in Canada will you find any low-income women in legislatures - why?
There are all sorts of reasons. One of them is that they cannot go back to their jobs if they run for office and lose. Let me tell you why most of the women who run for public office have some background in public service.
They have worked inside government, they have learned something about bureaucracies, they have learned something about public policy making, they see things they do not like, they see who has power in the system - and it sure is not low-paid public servants.
The Member sets up a totally false dichotomy. How many $80,000 per year public servants have you seen running for office in this territory? Who is going to give up an $80,000 per year job, with some security, for the pleasure of coming down to this House? Every single public servant who has sat here beside me during my time as a Minister and listened to the debate in this House has been universally appalled and said that they would never, ever do that - over their dead body - that they could not pay them enough to do that.
The notion out there that there are whole bunch of deputy ministers and ADMs just clamouring to get into this Legislature is a very dangerous illusion. I will tell you who is and always have been in the legislatures of this country: it is business people. It is people from the private sector: people who can pay someone else to run their business. It is people in certain professions, like law, who are easily able to go back to their professions when they are finished. Lawyers dominate most legislative bodies in this country. Those are the two professions, because they can go back to their old professions easily. In some cases, they can continue to earn money while they are legislators.
Why is it that, notwithstanding what the Member says, we have had so few public employees in this Legislature and in most legislatures? Until the recent Supreme Court decision that stated that they have a right as a citizen to be politically active, unless they are a deputy minister, there were all kinds of barriers to participation. In some provinces and some places one could not be a member of a political party. In some places, one could not even stand for nomination without losing ones job.
The question of whether or not one can get leave in a democracy to run for political office is not a question of the public service or the private sector: it is question of whether or not one has a good employer. I know plenty of people who work for private employers who have been given leave to run for public office. Some of them were given leave because their union bargained for it and got it in the collective agreement. Others have been given leave because their employer approved of the party and the policies they stand for and the ideas they represent. In other words, they were perfectly free to run, but only if they stood for certain things.
The Member raised a question of conflict. It is a concern about whether someone, when they leave the public sector as an official or former Minister and go out into the private sector, gets into an industry or business where they may have reason to do business with the government and is still in a position to influence the government. The Member for Riverdale South argued that there should be a one year cooling-off period. We looked seriously at that and said no. It would not be fair to say to someone that they could not earn a living for one year.
There are some occupations - for example, a civil engineering or consulting firm - where most of the work is done with the municipality, the federal government and the territorial government, with the vast majority being done with the territorial government. One could have problems in these cases. We said that, on balance, six months was a better rule.
The Member has made the point that it is more of a conflict for one to be a former teacher or nurse - lower ranking people, because I have never seen a senior ranking public servant in this territory run for public office - leave the public service - they still have their job but are on leave - to serve a term in the Legislature, and then go back to their old profession, in which we may have a big investment in training, and that that is more of a conflict than someone sitting in this House and doing business and having contracts with the government.
Members here must know that there are all sorts of places in North America where, if you are a Member of the Legislature, you cannot do any business with the government at all. Members on the other side, in the past, argued that was unjust. We also said, in this territory, if you are a certain kind of contractor and cannot do business with the territorial government, you will have pretty slim pickings, and that is not fair.
However, I have to tell the Members that, if they know anything about the conflict rules anywhere else - although I have not looked at every single one, it could perhaps apply to most jurisdictions - they will know that, if you are a Member of any legislative body, you cannot do any business with the government that is governed by that legislature. To suggest that someone who is a public employee - a teacher, nurse, social worker or computer programmer - has more of a conflict, just because they, as a citizen, who should have the right to serve in their legislature and should not have to give up their whole career for that sake, should not go back to their chosen profession really offends my sense of fairness.
The Member opposite describes the right to go back to your old job as a golden parachute. He quoted a constituent saying that. What is a golden parachute? It is when corporation executives on Bay Street, getting $2 million a year, decide the company is not doing well, so they get a $5 million retirement allowance, or something. We are talking about an entirely different situation.
A golden parachute is when you are soft-landing, when you no longer have your job, but you get a very gentle landing. We are not talking about that here. That attitude assumes the public servants sit around sleeping all day.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have been talking to a lot of public servants about this in the last few days. They expressed very different attitudes from the Member opposites constituent, and very different attitudes than are being expressed by the Member opposite.
I beg Members, let us not let rhetoric get the better of us. If someone who is a social worker, in Teslin, in Mayo, or in Whitehorse, wishes to stand for public office, serve a term and go back to their job, that situation is not at all akin to the situation of someone who gets a multi-million dollar pay out when they leave their executive suite in Toronto or New York; nor is it akin to the situation of someone who is a former employee or former Minister, who is now going to be engaged in business with the government. That person may have been in a position to influence government decisions, or may have had some influence and some participation in government decisions with the department, which may have some bearing on that persons business, and that is the person for whom we are suggesting a six month cooling-off period.
I agree with the Member opposite, who said that we may disagree on that section, because I think we disagree very profoundly on this, as we did at the time when we made identical provisions for teachers some years ago. I believed then that the decision we made at that time was the right one, and I believe that today.
Mr. Lang: I just want to make a couple of points, which I think bring into question the logic used in the Government Leaders argument to the House today. First of all, he informed the House that, because of the fact that this law is not in place, the only people, in most part, who are representatives in the legislatures happen to be businessmen and lawyers. I have been in this House for 18 years and I can say right now that that is not a truthful statement if one looks at the background of the Members who have been elected since I became a Member of this House in 1974.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is deliberately misrepresenting me. I said in Canada. I talked about legislatures in Canada as a whole. I did not talk about the Yukon Legislative Assembly with respect to that matter.
Mr. Lang: On the same point of order, the inference was made about the Yukon.
Chair: There is no point of order.
Mr. Lang: The Member knows that the logic he presented to the House is flawed; all we have to do is look around the Members of this House, starting with the MLA for Watson Lake. He worked at the Watson Lake sawmill. The Member for Kluane worked on a crusher north of Haines Junction. The Member for Porter Creek East worked as an operator for one of the construction companies in town. The Member for Riverdale North happened to be a nurse at the hospital. The Member for Mayo used to be a miner in Elsa. Look also at the Member for Pelly and the Member for Whitehorse North Centre. Go through the House and look at our backgrounds. We have two people who were actively in business, two people who happened to have legal backgrounds, and the rest are, as the Member would say, common folk.
First of all, the necessity - and one of the basic reasons the Member gave - for the section is not logical. Just look at the make up of the representation we have here.
Secondly, the inference the Member made in his speech was to the rights of the political activity of public servants. Those rights have come in over the last 15 years and, when they have been provided, as long as they have been fair, they have been presented and there has been consensus. But if one is a member of the public service or a member of the private sector, that person should have the ability, without consequences or retribution, to take part in the political process. There is no argument about that - no argument at all.
The Member tells us that he knows of situations in the private sector where people were given leave to run for public office. To my knowledge, in this House, of all the Members I have sat with since 1974, I know of nobody who was given that particular guarantee. That is not to say that a Member cannot go back into his own business if he or she has had one. I do not know of any Member I have sat with on either side of the House who had a guarantee that they would find employment somewhere once they left office - and guaranteed by legislation.
I guess that is the concern. It gives a guarantee, by legislation, to a certain class of people. The constituent I talked about who referred to the golden parachute - the one the Member opposite began to deride and tried to make fun of and be condescending about - was very sincere. His feeling was this: if he runs for office, and is successful, then he should have the same rights as anyone else - not more. The argument that he put forward is the argument that we are presenting; it is a question of fairness. That is all we are putting to the House.
The Government Leaders condescending approach to the House offends me. He is trying to imply that if we do not support this, then we do not like public servants. That is not it at all. The majority of members in my riding are public servants. It offends the question of fairness and the question within yourself. Is it right or wrong that one class of individuals be given more rights to somebody else by law?
We are submitting to the House that this is wrong. I believe that it offends any thinking persons concept of fairness and what is right. This is what we are presenting to the Members opposite.
Mr. Devries: I find this discussion interesting. I do not know if it is politically wise, but I would like to turn the argument around and look at it from the civil servants point of view. Basically, if I were running against a civil servant and they had this kind of guarantee, I would love it because I could use it against them. I could say, This guy has nothing to lose by running. I have everything to lose; I do not have a job to go back to. I feel that by putting this clause in here, the Government Leader is putting the civil servant at a weaker political advantage. I realize that the civil servant has the option not to take his old job back if he does not want it back. I think that would look really great. If I were a civil servant, and it was in legislation where I was guaranteed my job back, I would say to the electorate that, come hell or high water, I do not want my job back. I would look like a martyr and I would probably gain some votes by it. I cannot believe that the Premier actually wants this in here.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It is not so much that I want it here - and I do - but it is because a significant number of public employees over the years have lobbied me, as they have lobbied governments in every jurisdiction in this country. Notwithstanding the remarks of the previous two Members, I still believe it is a question of fairness.
Now, Members may make the argument that we, in legislating one standard for our own employees, are trying to be more fair than some private sector employers.
The Member for Porter Creek East says that he does not know anyone in this Legislature who has ever had leave from a private company. Well, he is wrong about that. I just went through the count of the Members in Legislatures past who were involved in one kind of business or another. I think I could probably make the case that during the time he and I have both been here, the majority of Members have been people who engaged in business. I am not going to get excessively involved in that debate because it clearly will not persuade either side in any way. I would ask the Member for Watson Lake if he can think of any former Members of this Legislature who were former employees of YTG, although it may have been with an Opposition party, and ask whether they were able to get employment again with YTG in their present occupations.
If he thinks about it for a moment, he will realize that there are people who have suffered for a long time just because they have had four years in the Legislature. They could not go back to their former jobs and careers. I do not think that is just or fair.
Mr. Devries: I do not know if I will get back in here. I might have to suffer for a few years. I have children in university. I have to make sure they get an education. I made that choice when I decided to run. I think everyone makes that choice. The Minister has not given me a good argument at all.
I have tried to run a small business. I was not terribly successful, but I made do. I have sold that business and someone else is running it now. I do not have the option of going back to it. I have spent some of my own money to take some electronics upgrading. I am fixing a few TVs and VCRs, so I may be able to make a business out of it after I lose this job or decide not to continue. I will face that decision when the time comes. There are no guarantees and I do not think there should be. There are no guarantees anywhere in life.
Mr. Lang: I want to correct a statement the Minister made. I can think of at least one individual who was working for the government, ran for office and then got government employment afterwards. It does happen, so to make a broad statement that it has not happened here or anywhere else because a person has served three or four years in office is incorrect.
I will not belabour this too much, but we have laws in place now to ensure that one cannot discriminate because of a persons political activity. We have an appeal procedure. Everything is in place to ensure, as much as possible, that fairness can be applied to individuals. That applies to government and the private sector. The argument that one can arbitrarily discriminate is not valid.
I submit that it all goes back to the basic concept of fairness. When I look at the Government Leaders argument and look through the membership of this House, the argument that in legislatures in Canada there are only business people and lawyers is not applicable. It has not been so for some time, here or in a lot of other legislatures, if one looks at the backgrounds of individuals in, for example, the Ontario Legislature, and those who presently form the government. The Ministers arguments are not valid and do not hold water.
Therefore, I am submitting to the House - and I am going to conclude this by saying that we cannot agree to this section - that we think that this section is offensive to those who are supposed to benefit, and it discriminates against other sectors of the population. There are benefits that come with being a Member of the House. These benefits are included in a severance package and there is no reason that that would not apply to anyone, whether they worked for the public service or otherwise. This type of guarantee is not acceptable.
Clause 93 agreed to
On Clause 94
Mr. Lang: I will need unanimous consent to move the following amendments. The following amendments are further to the Public Service Act, that would allow an appeal procedure for confidential and management exclusions.
I think that we are all familiar with the situation where a public civil servant was dismissed, went through the processes that were available to him and was subsequently not heard by a board of adjudication. The reason for this is due to the way in which the present Public Service Act is written.
If one looks back to 1987, when the Act to Amend the Public Service Act was brought forward by the government - inadvertently, the term employees was redefined to exclude management and confidential employees from having the right to appeal.
I am not going to comment on the particular case in question, but I want to comment on the question of fairness and justice, and whether or not it was right for us to not have permitted these employees within the civil service to have the right to appeal? We, on this side of the House, are submitting that an error was made when the law was amended. No one was informed of the consequences of that section, and I feel quite strongly, in view of the fact that the Public Service Act is being discussed in this section, and to be consistent, that we should further amend the applicable sections to allow for an appeal to an adjudicator.
I would like to hear what the Members opposite have to say about this, because I know under the rules I need unanimous consent to move the amendments.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Before the Member formally requests consent, I, too, have received a package in the mail today proposing the same amendments that the Member has proposed. The Member will understand that I am not free to discuss the reasons for the author of the amendments moving the amendments, because it is a matter under litigation and I will not discuss it. I believe the Public Service Commission would argue strenuously that the representation made by the Member is in error with respect to important points of fact. I am not going to argue that matter on the floor of the Legislature.
I think the amendments are out of order even if we admit them. They do not relate to political leave or political rights, which are the subject of this bill. As I understand it, the effect of the two amendments would give managerial and confidential employees the right to adjudication - a whole different section of the Public Service Commission Act - in the following cases where the employee is suspended and the suspension is upheld by the deputy head, or where the employee is suspended or dismissed by a deputy head, or where the employee is suspended or dismissed by the Public Service Commissioner for violating certain restrictions.
The statement the Member made earlier about inadvertent change is wrong. I am advised by the Public Service Commission that managerial and confidential employees never had the right to adjudication in this government. It is the bargaining agent that takes action to the adjudicator. The management employees have no such agent. In cases where an individual believes government has improperly dismissed him or her, the employee has the ability to launch a wrongful dismissal action.
The specific amendment to clause 97.1, purports to give confidential and managerial employees, who have been dismissed by the Public Service Commission, the right of appeal to an adjudicator. As I just said, it is the position of both the Public Service Commission and the Department of Justice that employees in this government never, ever had those rights.
Mr. Lang: As I indicated at the outset, when I put it on the floor, I recognize that I have to have unanimous consent to go into another section of the bill. I forget which section of Beauchesne it is, but I am conversant with it and understand it. That is why, when I move the motion, I will be asking for unanimous consent.
I want to make this point: it is a question of what is right and what is wrong. We feel that no matter where one is in the employ of the Government of the Yukon Territory, one should have the right to appeal. The present situation, in our view, is wrong; it does not give the same rights to the managerial and confidential exclusions that it should give.
The Minister says, Go to court. The government can go to court - they have millions of dollars. In fact, we spent $800,000 on outside lawyers, along with employing approximately 11 lawyers plus staff. To tell an individual he has the right to go right to the Supreme Court of Canada is perfectly correct, but who in this House or who out in the public or what public servant who has been wronged can afford to go to the Supreme Court of Canada? They cannot, and that is the bottom line.
I agree with the Minister in that I am not here to debate a particular case that is ongoing; that is a separate issue as far as I am concerned. In view of the fact that the Public Service Commission Act has been amended through the Public Government Act, which has amended at least five different bills under the auspices of good government, I am submitting that we should be able to deal with this issue.
Mr. Lang: So I would move the following:
THAT Bill No. 82, entitled Public Government Act, be amended in clause 94 at page 64 by adding the following section:
94.1 Subsection 146(2) of the said Act is repealed and the following subsection is substituted for it:
(2) Subsection (1) applies to all employees, including employees, including employees employed in a managerial or confidential capacity."
Chair: I would like to remind Committee that this amendment is out of order, according to Beauchesne, 698(6). An amendment may not amend sections from the original act unless they are specifically being amended in a clause of the bill before the Committee.
Mr. Lang: On a point of order, I submit that Madam Chair is correct in the reading of that particular section. However, I am asking for unanimous consent to deal with the issue. I am not out of order. I just want to correct the Chair. I am asking for unanimous consent to deal with the principle that has been placed before the House.
Chair: We need to do this for the record. We had to put the citation into the record. Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has not been granted.
Unanimous consent denied
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I think it is important to go on the record. It does not matter to me if any other Members of this Legislature indicate that they denied unanimous consent for this particular provision that the Member for Porter Creek East has proposed, but I will go on record as saying that I have opposed this section coming forward.
I think that it is an awful way to make law, by proposing an amendment in this way, at this time, before the Legislature - an amendment that had nothing to do with the principle of the act, and an amendment that may have major repercussions for the whole Public Service Act and the way that the government deals with managerial employees.
There has been no public discussion. There was not even been consultation with the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, let alone the Commission itself. In my opinion, this manner of making law is very much, I think, based on correspondence I received only this afternoon in response to a particular constituents case. I also think that, too, is an awful way to make law.
Therefore, I go on record by saying that, while I have not given the matter itself a great deal of consideration, because it has only been sprung on me now, I go on record as saying that I, as one Member of this House, have denied unanimous consent to carry forward with this provision.
If people want to proceed with more substantive amendments and actually do a bit of public consultation on this point, then I would be more than happy to consider it at a later time, as a Member of this House, but I do not agree with the Members approach at all.
Mr. Lang: I just want to go on the record as saying that this is not an item that is new to the Member. There has been correspondence since 1988 with respect to the issue of whether the managerial and confidential exclusion should have the right for appeal. For the Minister to say that this is bad law-making is offensive.
The Minister talks about consultation. I will give Members an example of consultation: the Member for Kluane had conversations with the Minister of Renewable Resources on the Pounds Act, and had a commitment from him that we would deal with it during this session in Committee of the Whole. We had a private, iron-clad deal.
Hon. Mr. Webster: On a point of order, the deal I had arranged with the House Leader from the side opposite was that if I thought the amendment had merit, I would bring it forward. Having studied the amendment to the Pounds Act, I did not think it was necessary to proceed.
Chair: Order please. There is no point of order.
Mr. Lang: I would like to conclude by saying that, when the side opposite, in their smug, condescending manner, say that they are the only heavy thinkers in the Yukon and the only ones who can provide good laws, as opposed to any other Member who brings forward an idea - perhaps on the request of a constituent, unbelievable as it may seem - I object to that. The principle should be discussed and debated. If the side opposite disagrees with me, I do not have a problem with that, but stand up and give some reasons.
On the question of the Minister of Renewable Resources and the Pounds Act, the facts speak for themselves. We know who directs the traffic in Renewable Resources.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I find the Members comments quite offensive, but that is nothing new. What is new is that this provision, and the other amendments I am assuming the Member is ultimately going to bring forward, proposes to change the relationship between employers and employees for the whole managerial class of employees, without any consideration for the ramifications to other clauses or the whole structure of the relationship. I would submit that this is bad law-making. I do not support the tactics the Member is using.
Chair: Mr. McDonald, we have already dealt with the amendment. It has been ruled out of order, so we will get on with clause 94 and discuss that.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Madam Chair, you are, of course, quite right, but I will take the matter up with the Member when I have the chance. I have a lot to say about this.
Mr. Phillips: Just to correct the record on something that the Minister of Renewable Resources, the Government House Leader, said earlier -
Chair: There is no point of order. Order -
Mr. Phillips: I am just going to correct the record, Madam Chair.
Chair: Order please. There is no point of order on that matter.
Mr. Phillips: A Member should have the right to correct the record.
Chair: Order please. All right. Let us get back to clause 94.
Clause 94 agreed to
On Clause 95
Mr. Lang: I would like to call division on clause 95.
Chair: Division has been called. Pursuant to Standing Order 44.1(5), it is my duty to ring the bells for division.
All those in favour, please rise.
Chair: All those opposed, please rise.
Chair: The count is eight yea and seven nay.
Clause 95 agreed to
On Clause 96
Clause 96 agreed to
On Clause 97
Clause 97 agreed to
On Clause 98
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would like to propose a friendly amendment to clause 98, dealing with the Legislative Assembly Retirement Allowances Act, which has been brought to my attention by Members from the side opposite. I have accepted their arguments, and I am prepared to put forward an amendment that has some effect on the Legislative Assembly Retirement Allowances Act.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move
THAT Bill No. 82, entitled Public Government Act, be amended by adding the following clause after clause 98 on page 66:
98.1. Section 28 of the Legislative Assembly Retirement Allowances Act, 1991 is repealed and the following substituted therefor:
28.(1) Subject to subsection (3), a severance allowance is payable to a Member when that person ceases to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly.
(2) The amount payable under this section shall be 25 percent of the aggregate of the salary, indemnity, and expense allowances received by the Member during the preceding year under the Legislative Assembly Act.
(3) An employee of the Government of the Yukon who is granted a leave of absence pursuant to subsection 160(6) of the Public Service Act and who serves one term of office as a Member of the Legislative Assembly shall not be paid the severance allowance provided for in subsection (1).
(4) The Legislative Assembly Retirement Allowances Act is repealed.
Chair: The same procedure applies to this amendment, Mr. Webster. We will need unanimous consent to move this amendment; therefore, is there unanimous consent to move this amendment?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Committee has agreed. Now, Mr. Webster, you can move the amendment.
Mr. Lang: I would just make this observation. We disagree strenuously with the principle the Government Leader has endorsed with respect to the guaranteed, as one constituent said, golden parachute or golden handshake, in view of their intent in bringing that forward, and ignoring what I believe to be valid arguments from this side and what is being said by the public about the concept of fairness. We have no choice but to support this particular section.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 98 agreed to as amended, adding clause 98.1
On Clause 99
Clause 99 agreed to
Preamble agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Madam Chair report Bill No. 82, Public Government Act, out of Committee, with amendment.
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 Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Joe: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 82, entitled Public Government Act, and directed me to report same with amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government Bills.
Bill No. 7: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 7, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Webster.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I move that Bill No. 7, entitled An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 7, entitled An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Mr. Brewster: I actually regret having to get up here, Mr. Speaker, to notify you that we will be voting against this bill. We are doing it because of one simple word - majority, and that is in clause 138(2). There is no way, having lived over half of my life in the Yukon, that I will ever accept that any government here could turn around and put someone from outside the Yukon on the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. It is absolutely unfair and an insult to the people of the Yukon that such a thing could happen.
I offered a way out by way of a simple amendment. Once again, as he has done so many times before, since I have been the critic, the Minister smiles, sits back and smugly does what he wants to do. I regret this very much, but I have certain positions in life that I will not give up: one of them is to defend and be loyal to something that is loyal to me, and the Yukon has sure as hell been loyal to me.
I was informed today by the band - that the Minister told me wanted that in - that it is absolutely not true. They did not want it in; this government wanted it in, because they want to bring in someone from outside. That is a disgrace, and I will be voting against this bill.
Mrs. Firth: I, too, have the same concerns as the Member for Kluane with respect to non-Yukoners sitting on boards. However, I will not be disagreeing with the other principles of the bill, but I want to say that the Member for Kluane made an attempt to get it changed; I agreed with the principle of there being just Yukoners on the board; however, we will be supporting the bill in the final reading.
Speaker: The Hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I am distressed to hear the concern the Member for Kluane has about clause 138(2). I have been accused of many things. Today, it was that I was sitting back in my chair rather smugly while debate on this bill carried on. I was accused by the Member for Porter Creek East of being spineless and ramming this clause down his throat, after debating it for three hours, I thought, on some very sound logic; which was supported by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board; which appeared in the umbrella final agreement that had been in the public for over two years; which had been discussed widely in public meetings throughout the Yukon by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and heavily supported by all First Nations of the territory, as represented by their negotiators - the Council for Yukon Indians - together with the federal and Yukon governments. I want to make it clear that when this bill was debated, the membership of the board consisted entirely of Yukon residents. It is my intention to have Yukoners serve on that board in the future. We have no one in mind to be a future member of the board who is currently living outside of the Yukon.
I have debated this clause, in particular, quite thoroughly. All Members have had a fair chance. They have not refuted the arguments I have presented about why this clause appears as it does, which, again, reflects chapter 16, section 7 of the umbrella final agreement.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 7 agreed to
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried and that Bill No. 7 has passed this House.
Bill No. 10: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 10, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1991-92, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1991-92, be now read a third time and do pass.
Mr. Lang: We are going to support the bill, and I want to re-emphasize and express again our very grave concern about the high unemployment rate in the Yukon and the high number of people who, at one time or another, have had to accept social assistance.
I think the side opposite has to re-examine a number of their programs and investment strategies, in order to try and get more Yukoners back to work.
Yesterday afternoon, an individual came into my office. He is a truck driver who has been in the Yukon for at least 30 years, if not longer. He is very well accredited and very well trained in the profession of truck driving, but he has not had a job for over a year. His son, who took a course provided by this government, has also been unemployed for quite some time - up until last week, I think, when he managed to get hired in a seasonal capacity with a small company in town.
Those are just some examples of the hardships and the situation that is directly affecting people with regard to getting employment within the Yukon.
I notice the government has sent out a press release describing 99 percent government hire, and I know how they get those statistics. In many cases, people come here on contract, are seen as local, and then get up the ladder. Those are the ones who are getting the big-paying jobs - the $80,000 and $100,000 a year jobs. There are many Yukoners out there who do not have employment and are having a very difficult time meeting their mortgages.
I know of two miners in my riding who are unemployed as well. I raised questions with respect to the Faro Loan Act and with respect to local hire and what is being done in that case. I hope that there will be some breakthroughs there.
As a government, we are going to have to become much more aggressive with respect to supporting further planned development, such as the mine at Windy Craggy. This mine would probably hire the individuals I speak of and hire many other Yukoners as well. We must become more aggressive in supporting development that meets an environmental standard, such as Windy Craggy; otherwise, we are going to be destined to be in a situation where, for the most part, people will be working for government in preferred positions, in many cases. At the same time, the constituents - the people who actually elect us and put us into office - are going to find that employment opportunities are scarce. It is a very serious situation and it cannot be overlooked.
Speaker: The Hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I want to briefly respond to the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, when any individual is unemployed for a long period of time, it is a tragic situation, and a very unfortunate situation for that person and their family.
We should be grateful that we live in a society where people under such circumstances can have income support, such as that provided by unemployment insurance and the Department of Health and Social Services.
Our government has always been of the view that we want to see as many people working as possible, and we have, over the last few years, created literally hundreds and hundreds of jobs. The unemployment rate in this territory has consistently continued to go down.
When we are talking about 99 percent hire, we are talking about local hire in the public service and not only government hire. The percentage of public sector employment, as a percentage of the total work force, is not increasing.
I want to say that we have created a lot of jobs, and the economy is growing. However, we have to try and do better because there are still people out there who need and want work.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 10 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1992-92, has passed this House.
Bill No. 14: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 14, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 14, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 14, entitled An Act to Amend the Elections Act, be now read a third time.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 14 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 14 has passed this House.
Bill No. 8: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 8, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Joe.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 8, entitled An Act to Amend the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 8, entitled An Act to Amend the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act, be now read a third time.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 8 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 8 has passed this House.
Bill No. 13: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 13, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Joe.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now read a third time.
Mr. Phillips: We will support this bill, but with some strong reservations. The process of developing this legislation was flawed right from the beginning. It was a disaster from the first day. The reason we are seeing some changes here today is because of the intense pressure put on by the business community and the people who are going to be affected by the bill, as well as the opposition we have put forward in the House.
One of the concerns I have is that clause 50 has been taken out of the old bill. That is directly in conflict with the Council on the Economy and the Environment. They said that this bill does not correctly reflect the intent and spirit of the councils recommendations.
The Minister asked the council to do a job. The council was under the impression that its report would be handled in a certain way. Obviously, the government decided to cut and paste in the final drafting of the bill, and that is unfortunate.
There are some good changes that have been made in this bill, but it should have gone a little further. We will be supporting the bill, but with strong reservations.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the point of view of the Member opposite. It has been stressed strenuously and repeatedly throughout the debate. I want to intervene briefly at this stage, as he made reference to clause 50, to say how profoundly I disagree with him on that point. It is true that the Council on the Economy and the Environment reached a consensus on this bill. It is true that the government accepted the councils consensus recommendations with one significant exception, and that was in respect to clause 50.
I believe that no government in this country, in 1992, could support the proposition that someone could work for a business for one week and, because the employer was unpleasant, the work too difficult or any of a number of reasons, and the employee quits, that they should suffer a penalty of not getting paid and losing that weeks wages. In my view, the employer would be taking a weeks wages from someone who had earned it.
It is usually the very low income people who are in situations like this - someone working at a fast food place, a chambermaid or a waitress, and so on. For them to lose a weeks wages is not only devastating to them personally, but it may be profoundly unfair. I have to say, on behalf of this government, notwithstanding the recommendations of the Council on the Economy and the Environment that we accepted in all other respects, this was an injustice that we could not countenance.
Mrs. Firth: I am rising at third reading to disagree with the bill. There may be one or two good things in it, but the number of principles I disagree with far outnumber the good initiatives. Therefore, I am going to disagree with it.
With respect to the last point the Government Leader just mentioned concerning clause 50 being removed, there is no reason for an employee or a worker to lose a weeks wages if they, in turn, treat the employer fairly and give proper notice. I made all my points in previous debates with respect to this particular clause, and I just want to put on the record that I will not be supporting these amendments.
Mr. Devries: I would like to speak about the economic aspect of this act. It is obvious that this is definitely going to cost the employers a little more. The Council on the Economy and the Environment has indicated that there is a concern that the north is a harsh and expensive environment in which to do business. We have to consider that in all our legislation. I question whether we should use standards. Quite often, the Minister referred to standards being used in the south. I question whether they should be used here in the north, as conditions are quite different. I think the impact of this type of legislation could well be exacerbated considerably under northern conditions.
The Minister indicated the acts amendments were complaint driven. I feel that she presented a very weak case. I question whether her efforts to raise the standards of the workplace are going to meet her objective. It is my feeling that this act could very well create a situation where the affected employee could find it more difficult to obtain employment, rather than being able to use the act to bring forward some concerns. If there is not employment in the first place, we certainly are not going to be needing the act.
Some employers may decide that it is too expensive to abide by the increased costs and hassle that these amendments could cause. They may decide to have seasonal shutdowns and to keep fewer employees on during the shoulder season.
As much as I recognize that we need something to protect the employee, it is my feeling that this is a fine balancing act. These amendments could very well upset this intricate balance. That is why, both in the interest of the employer and the employee, I am very reluctant to agree with this act.
Speaker: The Honourable Member will close debate if she now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I did not think that I was going to get a chance to speak on this act again, but I rise with pleasure to do exactly that.
We spent a lot of time talking to people over the last few years trying to find out from them what they wanted to see in an amended Employment Standards Act.
The process was long and hard for all of those individuals involved. It was hard for those people who wanted to make representations, but I think that we went from the workbook with many, many suggestions in there, not necessarily the suggestions that we were supporting, but something for those individuals to look at to find out whether or not they would support certain things.
The response was very good and we received comments from hundreds of people, and more people responded to the draft act that we prepared. We brought the legislation in right down the middle, considering the responses we received to the workbook.
There has been much debate in this House about this act and about how it was going to cause businesses to go bankrupt. However, from what I have observed as I have defended this bill is that on the other side of the House not one single person over there supports the worker, and I think that every single person in their ridings should know that.
It is unfortunate that there are one or two parties, a combination of one party over there, that completely opposes any further, good working conditions for the worker.
I cannot believe it. I can only thank God that we have someone over here who does have some concern for the worker and, at the same time, considers the interests of the business people in the community.
We dealt with this bill in many different ways. There has been criticism from the Member for Riverdale North regarding cutting and pasting. We did not cut and paste. We included some sections that we did not even consider ourselves, because they had recommended that we do that. There were certain things that they had not reached consensus on, and there were decisions we had to make with respect to that. Some of the changes that were recommended were left the way they were. There was a motion in the House to amend, and we amended it to leave it as it was prior to going to the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
The only thing we did do was to delete clause 50, and the Premier has spoken on the reasons for that. There is no way that we, as social democrats, could support that kind of a clause in the act. That was the only clause we did not agree with of all the recommendations that came from the committee. Therefore, I think they did a good job. We felt that we could live with the recommendations that came from them.
We have a bill that a lot of people will not be satisfied with: some of the workers will not be satisfied; the business friends of the side opposite will not like any of it; and the Member for Riverdale South disagrees with the whole bill, except for one or two good things. However, she has many workers in her riding and it is unfortunate that she does not speak for them.
They will find out. It has been said often enough, and she is going to be disagreeing with the bill.
The Member for Watson Lake talked about many different things, and I suggest that he has a lot to learn with regard to standards for workers and business people. I shudder every time he makes a comment about workers in the field, and I wonder sometimes about the people in his riding. If they knew he was saying these kinds of things, would they believe it? I suspect some of them might, but most of them would not.
I am very pleased with this bill, and I think it will improve the working conditions of those individuals out there. Certainly, there are many business people in the community who do support it. I have spoken to them, and they are willing to allow better working conditions for the people they employ. They have talked about different ways of doing it, and we have given information on what it is going to cost those individuals. However, I do not think there will be even one business in this community that is going to go bankrupt as a result of the changes in the Employment Standards Act.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 13 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 13 has passed this House.
Bill No. 52: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 52, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Penikett.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 52, entitled Faro Mine Loan Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 52, entitled Faro Mine Loan Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Mr. Lang: I rise to make a couple of points. We will be supporting the legislation, but I have to express some reservations in view of the situation facing the company at the present time and the obvious financial difficulties that are going to arise out of the unfortunate incident at the Westray mine.
I want to say that I think it is important that if any further commitments are made to the company and if a decision must be made, it should be made by the Legislature, with full public debate. It is important that people understand our short-term and long-term financial commitments and the risk to the taxpayer a decision of this kind brings.
I am satisfied, in view of the information provided to the House - although obviously I have to take it at face value - that the $5 million is very secure, with the concentrate being put up as collateral.
I am very concerned, however, that there seems to be different policies within the government between the Yukon Development Corporation, the Department of Finance and other departments, with respect to loans and how they are administered by the government.
I find it ironic that a government represented by the New Democratic Party, specifically, would be giving a preferred loan to an American company, at a preferred interest rate, over and above what we are prepared to give to a Canadian company - prime plus one-half percent, whereas I understand that the loan to the American company is basically lent at prime.
It seems to me that there has to be some continuity and some understanding within government. I cannot accept the premise that the Government Leader gave in defence when I raised this issue last time we sat, and that is that the Department of Finance is totally different from the Yukon Development Corporation, especially in view of the fact - I will point out for the record again - that the deputy minister who was here to advise him on the Curragh loan is also on the board of directors of the Yukon Development Corporation.
To try to tell the public that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing, is just not on. I am sure that any thinking person will not accept that.
I want to conclude by saying that we hope that we are successful and that the mine is successful in its efforts to obtain the necessary financing. I realize how important it is to the territory, specifically to the community of Faro.
All that we can do with that particular mine is to try and encourage the investment, for the long term. We will be watching it with a great deal of interest.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will be very brief. As I said before, there is a difference between the Financial Administration Act and the Yukon Development Act. This measure is done under the provisions of the Financial Administration Act. The other transaction referred to by the Member for Porter Creek East was in connection with the Yukon Development Act. They are two separate pieces of legislation, and they have two separate provisions.
In many ways, this side shares the reservations of the Members opposite. We know that there is a very serious situation facing this company, especially following the tragedy at Westray mine. We also know, better than anyone, how important this mine is to the territory. We certainly discovered that in the months of hard work this government did upon coming into office in order to reopen the mine at Faro. We are not prepared to let the largest, single, private sector employer in the territory close without a fight.
Given the large operating losses of the company over the last few months, the low world metal prices and the high Canadian dollar, we believe that this loan is necessary. The particular provisions contained in the loan agreement are prudent ones taken to protect the public interest.
We sincerely hope that this will be sufficient to get the stripping program well underway and that market forces improve in base metal prices, as is happening now, the softening of the Canadian dollar, other international forces and perhaps a recovery from the current recession will enable the company to find private sector solutions to its current problems.
We wish the workers at the mine and the operators of the company well in the next few months, and hope we will see this company and this mine operating in the territory for a good many years to come.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 52 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 52 has passed this House.
Bill No. 24: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 24, standing in the name of the Hon. Ms. Joe.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 24, International Sale of Goods Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 24, entitled International Sale of Goods Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 24 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 24 has passed this House.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I would request the unanimous consent of the House to waive Standing Order 59(2), in order to give third reading to Bill No. 82, entitled Public Government Act.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Bill No. 82: Third Reading
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I move that Bill No. 82, entitled Public Government Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Premier that Bill No. 82, entitled Public Government Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Mr. Lang: I want to again go on the record in opposition to the unfair provisions that have been put in with respect to the job guarantee that has been made available to elitist, or selected, public servants who are going to be seeking office in the next election. I am sure Members are probably aware of who they are.
I want to point out that there are clauses, overall, within the bill that we are in agreement with. We hope that the freedom for information section will be of much benefit to the public. We think that there has been significant improvements, and only time will tell us if it is going to accomplish what I hope all Members wish it to.
I do not think that there is any overall disagreement by any Members of the House with respect to the question of conflict of interest and the provisions in that particular section of the bill.
With that qualifier, I want to indicate that we will vote for the bill with the understanding that there is one specific clause that we do have significant disagreement with.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 82 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 82 has passed this House.
Speaker: I would like to inform the House that we are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, acting in his capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to grant assent to certain bills that have passed this House.
Commission enters the Chamber announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
Assent to Bills
Commissioner: Please be seated.
Speaker: The Assembly has, at it present session, passed certain bills, to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Clerk: An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act; Third Appropriation Act, 1991-92; An Act to Amend the Elections Act; An Act to Amend the Compensation for Victims of Crime Act; An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act; Faro Mine Loan Act; International Sale of Goods Act; Public Government Act.
Commissioner: Thank you very much, Mr. Clerk. Mr. Speaker, I hereby assent to the bills as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
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 stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:22 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled Tuesday, June 2, 1992:
Response to Petition #1, received by the House on May 19. 1992, regarding proposed development in the Deep Creek and Lake Laberge area (Byblow)
The following Legislative Returns were tabled Tuesday, June 2, 1992:
Mayo/Dawson Transmission Line Analysis: reasons that the project has become uneconomic (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 212-213
Signs advertising Kluane National Park and Dawson City Park at Mayo cutoff (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 116
Sa Dena Hes Mine: Fire Marshalls Report on explosion at mine on December 22, 1991 (Byblow)
Oral, Hansard, p. 501
The following Documents were filed Tuesday, June 2, 1992:
Mayo Interconnections Report by the Yukon Electrical Company Limited - April, 1990 (Byblow)
Mayo Dawson Interconnection Analysis - March 20, 1992 (Byblow)