Wednesday, December 16, 1992 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any Introductions of Visitors?
Returns or Documents for Tabling?
Are there any Petitions?
Petition No. 1
Mr. Harding: I have a petition from the people of Faro. There are just under 400 signatures. The petition urges the Yukon government to commence tendering the contracts for the completion of the Chateau Jomini project immediately, so that construction can begin, and housing, office and retail space availability problems will begin to be addressed in Faro.
Petition No. 2
Mrs. Firth: I have a petition from the constituents of Riverdale South who live in the immediate area of the site mentioned in this petition. There are over 270 signatures on this petition. The petition states that the residents of Riverdale South are against the construction of the 32-suite apartment building at the location of the Pentecostal Church and are asking the Yukon Legislative Assembly to provide direction to the Executive Council to take such action as it is able to take, including not funding Yukon Housing Corporation for this project.
Speaker: Are there any Introduction of Bills?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
NOTICE OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mrs. Firth: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the House do issue an order for the return of all contracts entered into between the Government of Yukon and Mr. Dale Drown or between the Government of Yukon and any company that may be supplying the services of Mr. Drown to the Government of Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion?
Statements by Ministers.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I rise today to correct the word that I used on page 10, December 15, in the Blues. I said the wage and hiring freeze is lifted. I should have said that the personnel and hiring freeze is lifted.
Question re: Workers Compensation Board, appointment of interim president
Mr. McDonald: I have a very serious question to put to the Government Leader. Yesterday the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board admitted that the government had knowingly broken the law, a law that stated that the board may select its own president.
Can the Government Leader say why the government would take this position, a position that is contrary to the spirit and letter of the law?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe that the law was broken. The person who was serving as a chair of the Workers Compensation Board had bid on another position; she was moved to that position. There has been an interim president appointed to the Workers Compensation Board. When the competition goes out for the hiring, the board will have full consideration. The ball will be in their court.
Mr. McDonald: The Government Leader essentially has stated that the situation is one where the appointment is only of a temporary nature. I would remind the Minister that the jails are full of people who have temporarily broken the law.
I ask the Government Leader: does the government believe in the independence of the Workers Compensation Board and the sanctity of the Workers Compensation Act, which guides the activities of that board?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We certainly do. For the information of the Member opposite, I have for tabling a document from the board that says it supports the appointment of the interim chair.
Mr. McDonald: Whether or not the board supports, after the fact, the appointment of an interim chair is irrelevant to the very serious questions I am putting about respect for the law. In the last election campaign, the Yukon Party laid great emphasis on a law and order campaign - one that they would wage, if elected. How can Yukon Party Ministers lead such a campaign when they have such little respect for the law themselves?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Minister stated yesterday, the position has been filled on an interim basis. It has been filled from within the system. Nothing has been done to usurp the board and nothing will be done to usurp the board. We will respect the board and when the time comes to replace the person on a permenant basis - which will be very shortly - the board will have full input.
Question re: Workers Compensation Board, appointment of interim president
Mr. McDonald: The Workers Compensation Act is very clear on the point of the independence of the Workers Compensation Board. We debated this at great length in the last sitting of the Legislature. The Minister said that this situation is only of a temporary nature. Do any of the Ministers recall taking an oath of office that said that they could temporarily suspend their commitment to the rule of the law, when it was convenient, expedient or temporary?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know who the question was directed to.
Mr. McDonald: I directed it clearly to the Government Leader. I would ask that the Government Leader answer that question. It is a very important one.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is playing politics in the question. We have appointed a person on an interim basis so that the chair would not be vacant while we are in the process of reorganizing. Once the decision is made to replace the person on a permanent basis, the board with have full input into it.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister is stating that it is okay to break the law temporarily as long as you are promising to uphold the law in the long term. What do we tell school children in this territory about this show of disrespect for the law when we are trying to teach them about the grand and noble traditions of our Legislature, a representative of democracy, and the rule of law?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the Member opposite would have been so concerned about that when they were in power they may have still been here today. They did this time and time again in a far more flagrant manner than what this party has done. The information that we have says that we could appoint this person on an interim basis without usurping the board, and that is exactly what we did.
Mr. McDonald: I am certain that if a Minister on the government side of the House had at any time during the NDP period in office knowingly broken the law, that we would have been held up short on that immediately, as we should have been.
I want to ask, does the Government Leader believe that even though this law is being broken only on a temporary basis - the Workers Compensation Act that we passed in this House - does he believe it is appropriate that the government should continue taking this tack they have taken in directing the board to accept an appointment, or will they give the Workers Compensation Board the right, under the act, to select their own president as is their responsibility.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Very shortly, they will appoint their own president under the act. There is no doubt about that.
Question re: Financial review of government spending
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Government Leader. Yesterday, the Government Leader tabled a ministerial statement and the report by Consulting and Audit Canada dated December 4, 1992, which paints a fairly dreary picture of the government finances. In order for the Opposition to determine the magnitude of the problem and to determine whether we have a cash-flow problem or a long-term structural problem, I think we need considerably more information.
The budget address of November 1991 forecast revenues of approximately $300 million. The report by Consulting and Audit Canada shows actual revenues of $299 million. It shows forecast revenues for the period ending March 31, 1993, of $317 million. This is a substantial increase over the budgeted forecast revenues.
What are the forecast revenues for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1994?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for the question. I do not have that answer in front of me, but I will get it for him.
Mr. Cable: This statement in the report prepared by Consulting and Audit Canada is of course not an audit; it is a forecast. Terms of reference for auditors are clear; the terms of reference for forecasters, of course, are something different.
The terms of reference set out, as I read them in the report, in articles one and two on page ii, set out a number of things that the organization was to do. Are those the complete terms of reference that were given to Consulting and Audit Canada in the preparation of the forecast?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: To the best of my knowledge, yes, those were the complete terms of reference.
Mr. Cable: I have been trying to pore my way through the various documents that have been prepared in relation to the financial statements. The accumulated surplus, as I understand it, at March 31, 1992, was some $50 million, and the budget deficit as prepared by the previous government for the period ending March 31, 1993, was projected to be $19 million. The report prepared by Consulting and Audit Canada shows a deficit projected to be $57 million, if I am reading these documents correctly.
In effect, we are saying that there are major cost overruns, approximating $40 million. This report was prepared and dated December 4, 1992, some six weeks after the election, and presumably a few weeks after the instructions given to these people who prepared the report. Does the Government Leader feel that the financial projections or forecasts, which appear to be cobbled together in an obvious hurry, are reasonable enough to impose freezes, cutbacks and cancellations of projects?
Speaker: Before the Government Leader answers that question, I would like to advise the Member for Riverside that the preamble to a supplementary should be limited to one sentence, if at all possible.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Upon taking office, we were advised by the departments that the financial health of the government was not as good as we figured it would be. That was the reason why the financial review was done. It was not an audit. We had an audit by the auditors department that went up to March 31, 1992. This was to give us a picture of the balance we would have as of March 31, 1993, and projections for the 1994 budget year.
We believe that the figures are accurate. We believe that they coincide with everything that we know. What has taken up most of the surplus is $36 million approved by Management Board after the last election was called, over and above the $19 million deficit.
Question re: Land claims, departing government employees
Mrs. Firth: Since the Government Leader has failed in protecting the Yukon governments land claim position, and now worries about it, what is he going to do to ensure that all other managers, or individuals, with sensitive information, and who are going to be terminating their employment with this government, will not be able to take advantage of that sensitive information?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that we are concerned. At the present time, we are reviewing the previous administrations conflict of interest legislation to see if that will solve the problem. It that does not do it, we will be coming forward with legislation.
Mrs. Firth: Presently, on the books, there is a piece of legislation that deals with conflict of interest, the Public Government Act, which is presently in a state of limbo.
Will the Government Leader be giving some direction to request that this act be proclaimed, so we do give the government some protection?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I told the Member in the first answer, we are reviewing the Public Government Act at this point. We do not believe, in our initial review of it, that it would cover this instance. This is an instance where a deputy minister, a person in high authority, had quit the government and went to work for someone on the other side. I think the Public Government Act pertains more to contracts with government.
We are reviewing it. If it covers it, we will be proclaiming it.
Mrs. Firth: I am convinced that the legislation would cover it. I do not want to wait a long time for this legislation to be proclaimed, as it took a long time to get in the first place.
This individual was given money. The government did have another option of attaching conditions to the pay out that the individual was given. Were there any conditions attached to that, and could the Government Leader be specific about the time for proclaiming this legislation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, the legislation is under review now. I believe it is coming forward to Cabinet either this week or next week. We will be looking at it and acting upon it.
As I said, we are very concerned. The action we did take was to discuss this problem with CYI and we voiced our concerns. We have had assurances from them that he will not be participating in negotiations.
Question re: Land claims implementation funding meeting
Mr. Penikett: In an effort to save money, the Government Leader apparently decided not to send senior negotiators to a critical meeting on land claims implementation funding in Ottawa the week of November 19. Can the Government Leader confirm that, as a direct consequence of missing this important meeting, a bilateral agreement was reached between the Council for Yukon Indians and the federal government and that, as a result, YTG may have lost millions of dollars in federal implementation funding?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The government did send a representative to that meeting. It was a meeting to discuss the funding of the CYIs portion of the implementation agreement and I do not believe that had any effect on the amount of money that will be coming to the territorial government.
Mr. Penikett: The Minister may have sent a representative but did not send a senior negotiator. I would like to ask if he can confirm that this penny-wise, pound-foolish decision may leave YTG with the federal take-it-or-leave-it offer of less than 20 percent of YTGs implementations costs for First Nation final agreements?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite knows full well that there were very serious problems with the federal offer to YTG when he was still in office. The negotiators were in Ottawa last week dealing with this issue and at this time we are waiting for a proposal from the federal government.
Mr. Penikett: Last week the negotiators in Ottawa were playing catch up as a result of the disastrous mistake made by the Member opposite. Could I ask him what is the exact mandate given by him to the officials negotiating the implementation funding? Is it full-cost recovery, or not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member opposite is fully aware of the problems negotiating with the federal government in these tight financial times. Certainly, we are looking at full-cost recovery but we are looking at what we can do to pare those costs back to the barest possible minimum, so that we can proceed with the land claim negotiations and implementation agreements, without them being a direct cost to the citizens of the Yukon.
Question re: Hiring freeze
Ms. Moorcroft: I am greatly relieved to hear that the Minister for the Workers Compensation Board misspoke himself when he spoke twice yesterday about the wage and hiring freeze. I thought that this may have been an additional way the government was contemplating to save money, through a wage freeze.
My question, then, is for Government Leader Ostashek. Will he tell this House how effective his cutting the fat away from government has been by telling us how many public service jobs have been cut - how many people in temporary positions, how many auxiliaries and how many expired term positions have been released from the public service since the Yukon Party took power?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There have been no jobs cut. I will bring the Member the figures that she is asking for; I certainly do not have those figures at my fingertips. As I stated in the House yesterday, jobs are being filled on an as-required basis. We have no intentions of cutting back completely; we realize that services have to be provided to the public and that those positions that are required to be filled, will be filled even during the freeze.
Ms. Moorcroft: The people who are unemployed because of the Government Leaders cuts and hiring freeze and who are facing the holiday season with no income, deserve to know the answer to this question as soon as possible.
Can the Government Leader tell the Members in this House when he will have an answer to my question, and since he is going to prepare and return with an answer, I would like to ask him to specify how many positions have been cut from each government department.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will have an answer delivered to the Member opposite as soon as my officials are able to obtain that information. We will certainly include the additional information that the Member has requested.
Question re: Teslin correctional facility
Ms. Joe: My question is for the Minister of Justice.
First of all I would like to thank the Minister for the invitation to attend the meeting in Teslin last week to discuss the detention facility.
My question to the Minister, since I did not intend the meeting, is in regard to the planning of the facility that was prepared by the previous administration. That plan would include a facility along with rehabilitation through healing circles and other aboriginal culture traditions, including training and a number of things from the village council and the Teslin Tribal Council.
I would like to know whether or not it is the Ministers intention to continue with the original plan that was agreed to by members of that community.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is true that I did extend an invitation to the critic to attend the meeting that we held in Teslin about a week ago.
I can say that there was some concern expressed by the Tlingit Council because they were left up in the air as to what programs were going to be developed and implemented at the new facility.
We had a very successful meeting in Teslin. I can say that the Chief, Dave Keenan, is pleased with the work that is being done in a cooperative fashion with him and the community, vis-a-vis developing appropriate programs. I intend to meet with Chief Keenan and his representatives in order to put the principles down in writing so that there is no misunderstanding with respect to what those programs will be.
Ms. Joe: I am really pleased to hear that the government continues to support something that was established by the previous government. I have been a little concerned about the manner in which they have dealt with Taga Ku.
My supplementary question is in regard to aboriginal justice as a whole. It was my understanding that the Minister does not consider aboriginal justice a priority. I would like to know whether or not that is true, and I think aboriginal people would also like to know that. It is a priority with aboriginal people right across the territory as well as the country. Where on his priority list does this stand?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The critic has been listening to Lord knows who, but the wrong people. I made it absolutely clear to members of the First Nations communities and various rural communities in the territory that developing aboriginal justice is a high priority of mine, personally, and that we intend to follow through with many of the initiatives that were started when the critic was Minister. I, myself, have attended some of the circle courts and held discussions with the judges. I see doing certain things in the communities as a top priority.
Ms. Joe: Aboriginal justice has accomplished a lot of things over the last few years, and I am really pleased to see that the Minister continues with that commitment.
The supplementary question I have is in regard to aboriginal policing. The groups from Watson Lake/Liard were in my office in the past with regard to tripartite funding that they were seeking. There was some commitment from the federal government that if we were to support the funding for native policing in that area, they would also. Has the Minister given any indication to that group as to whether or not funding would be forthcoming from this government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The previous Minister who just spoke did take some initiatives with regard to that area. There is a committee of aboriginal people made up of four chiefs who are commissioned to look into aspects of policing. They are going to be reporting back to me as the current Minister. I have held meetings with them, and I am encouraged by the steps they are taking and the knowledge they are gaining through these efforts.
I can say that I view this work they are doing in a very positive way.
Question re: Curragh Inc., financial assistance
Mr. Harding: I would like to pose a question to the Government Leader. Given that he has had 24 hours since Question Period yesterday to think about what was brought up then, I would like to ask him exactly what he is offering to Curragh Incorporated in terms of financial assistance. Is it loan guarantees, outright loans or breaks on power rates?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thank the Member for the question. Curragh has not requested funding from the territorial government. We have been in discussions with Curragh in terms of how we can support and help them resolve the tight financial position they are in right now.
It has to be remembered that it is not only the Grum stripping but also the global metal prices and the huge stockpiles of zinc sitting on the docks, unable to move, that are causing these serious difficulties. However, we are working very closely with the company to try to save the mine and resolve the issue.
Mr. Harding: I am well aware of the problem with the low metal prices in the world market and the huge inventories on the world market. I am very concerned, as the Member for Faro, that I have received no consultation, discussion, information or responses to any communications I have offered to the Hon. Government Leader. I would like to ask the Hon. Government Leader why he has not seen fit, as an act of good faith, to have some consultation with the Member for Faro?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would be happy to brief the Member opposite at any time. I saw in the press one day where he said he was requesting a meeting with me. I do not believe that request came through. I certainly would have met with the Member opposite.
Mr. Harding: He certainly did not read the article correctly; it was not a meeting. What was stated in the article was that I had sent him a letter, and obviously he does not read his mail. I certainly have not reco -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Well, again the arrogance comes through.
I would like to point out, as I did yesterday to the Hon. Government Leader, that people in Faro are in fear for their jobs. Again I ask: if Curragh has not asked for specific help with regard to financial assistance, is the government considering offering financial assistance to Curragh or are they going to act as simply a lobby group of the Federal Government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is a very hard question for me to answer at this point. As I said, Curragh has not specifically requested funding from the territorial government. Curragh is quite aware of the financial position of the territorial government and we are working with Curragh to try to resolve the problem. We understand how important that mine is to the economy of the Yukon, and we certainly do not want to see it go down. We will continue to work with them to try to resolve this problem.
Question re: Land claims, land selection within Whitehorse
Mr. Penikett: I have a very straightforward question for the Government Leader. Some time ago both the federal and territorial governments agreed in principle to land selections from Kwanlin Dun and Ta-an Dun traditional territories within the City of Whitehorse. The city is apparently now lobbying to deny selections for those First Nations within the city limits. Could I ask what is the new Government of Yukons position. Does it support the city or the First Nations in this matter?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have not been fully briefed on that particular issue. I have been briefed that there are ongoing discussions, and that the City of Whitehorse wants to be a full participant at the table. I will get an answer back for the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Penikett: With respect, this does not require a detailed briefing. It is a very simple question. The First Nations in this area have made land selections within the city. The city is now taking the position, I understand, that all land within the city is in established third-party interest. The question I want to ask the Government Leader is a very simple one. On this matter of policy, a very broad policy, does the new government support the First Nations or the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This party has always said that third-party interests should be protected, but this has to be negotiated. I know that it is a very serious problem; it cannot be near as simple as the Leader of the Opposition is trying to point out - it is not a yes or no answer. My people are in discussions with them and we are trying to resolve this issue.
Mr. Penikett: I am very alarmed by the Government Leaders answer because our government certainly took the view that the Commissioners land was not an established third-party interest; he seems to be changing the governments position.
Let me ask him this question then, to which I am sure he will have an answer. The City of Whitehorse has expressed some concerns about First Nations exercising self-government powers within the city limits. Does this government support the right of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, for example, to govern their own affairs within their community, within the city limits of Whitehorse, according to the provisions of the land claims and self-government agreements negotiated by the territory, the First Nations and the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is no doubt that this governments position is that we do support First Nation self-government, and we will continue to support that.
Question re: Land claims, self-governent within Whitehorse
Mr. Penikett: With respect, I did not want to pursue this matter but the leaders answer has forced me to do it. The Government Leader had said that they support First Nations self-government. I assume, from previous discussions in the House, we all do, but I want to ask him: does he support self-government for the Kwanlin Dun in their village, within the city limits of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Leader of the Official Opposition is asking me for a simplistic answer to a very complicated question. We support self-government for First Nations people, and we will continue to support that, and we will do the same thing at the negotiating table.
Mr. Penikett: With respect, the Government Leader says this is a complex question. It is not complex. The Government Leader either supports the agreements that have been negotiated so far, or he does not. Does the new Government of the Yukon support the right of the Kwanlin Dun Band to govern their affairs within the city limits of Whitehorse according to the agreements that have been reached to date?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We certainly support the agreements that have been reached to date.
Mr. Penikett: Will the Government Leader specifically say now, on the floor of this House, that notwithstanding the objections of the City of Whitehorse, his government will support the Kwanlin Duns right to self-government in McIntyre, within the city limits of Whitehorse, and is he prepared to negotiate on that basis and take a contrary view to the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Well, I am not certain we would have to take a contrary view to the City of Whitehorse. I have emphatically stated that we support the negotiated self-government agreement and we will continue to do so.
Question re: Ombudsperson, establishment of office
Mr. Cable: I have a question for the Minister of Justice.
During the recent election campaign, two of the political parties, the Yukon Party and the Liberal Party, supported the proposition that the office of the ombudsperson should be created.
Does the government intend to bring forward legislation creating the office of the ombudsperson during the governments first year in office?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We certainly support establishing the office of an ombudsman, and we intend to have it established within the mandate of this government.
With respect to whether or not it will occur within the first year of this governments tenure, I am not in a position to say. I do not know if it is a top priority of government or of me as Minister.
Mr. Cable: Does the government have a projected annual cost for the creation of the office of the ombudsperson?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, we do not, but I have had some officials working on that area, and I will be getting some answers, I would think, within the next few months.
Question re: Government employee position review
Mrs. Firth: Yesterday, in his reply regarding the ministerial statement about people who were going to lose their employment with this government, the Government Leader referred to the fact that they would be looking at management levels. I would like to ask the Government Leader just how many managers and senior public servants jobs he is anticipating reviewing and whether or not those jobs are going to include the assistant deputy minister positions.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot give the Member the exact number of positions, but we are reviewing all the upper management positions. That includes the assistant deputy ministers.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Government Leader when he anticipates having that government review completed.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the House knows, we have come through the first exercise of tabling the financial review, and we are now at the stage of reviewing the management levels of government as well as each and every department. We should be working on this shortly after the new year.
Mrs. Firth: In that review, I understand that the salaries will also be reviewed for individuals who are making above the $100,000 range. This was an election promise. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he will provide all Members of the Legislature with a copy of the review as soon as it is done.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know if that will be possible, but, if it is, I will.
Question re: Workers Compensation Board, appointment of interim president
Mr. McDonald: I am going to ask a question of the Minister of Justice. I am not satisfied at all with the answers respecting the Workers Compensation Act and the apparent disrespect for laws passed in this Legislature. The argument that it is only a temporary breach of the law, in my opinion, is outrageous.
Has the Minister of Justice informed his colleagues of the need to obey the law, without temporary lapses and the very serious consequences that could befall Ministers if they do break the law?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No.
Mr. McDonald: Under the circumstances, we have now heard two Ministers agree that the Workers Compensation Act is not an act they intend to obey, although it is an act that was passed in this Legislature. Will the Minister of Justice inform his colleagues of the need to obey the Workers Compensation Act and of the serious consequences that may befall them if they choose to show disrespect for the laws of this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I can recall many afternoons, over the past seven years, when the same hon. Member who posed these questions took umbrage when similar questions were asked of him by the then-hon. Member for Riverdale South. His ears got red.
I wonder whether or not this Member has decided that the questions that were asked of him in those days were really good questions.
In my view, the whole issue is one that I will be interested in reviewing. Upon reviewing it, I will determine whether or not to have consultations or conversations with other Ministers.
Mr. McDonald: I do not recall ever having been charged with wantonly breaking the law. As a Member of this Legislature, I never recall admitting to breaking the law, even temporarily.
Should the Minister do his review of the Workers Compensation Act and the comments made by both the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board and the Government Leader, will he then inform them of the terms of this act, of which they appear to be clearly ignorant, and indicate to them the rules with respect to the appointment of a president of the Workers Compensation Board, as well as remind them that the president of the board is to be appointed exclusively by that board?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will be reviewing the issue and will determine, at that time, whether or not to have discussions with them.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
ADDRESS IN REPLY TO SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Motion No. 14 - adjourned debate
Clerk: Motion for Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, moved by Mr. Millar. Adjourned debate, Mr. Cable.
Mr. Cable: Before getting into the text, I would like to say to the Leader of the Opposition - who is not here - despite being middle-aged and male I have not ever been, and am not now a Philistine. I hope my views are not marginalized in this House because I am male and middle-aged. I share his views that this House could use the attention of more women and aboriginal members. One hopes, in the years to come that will happen.
Let me congratulate all the Members on having been successful in the election. The recent election campaign gave me a quick education on the demands made on politicians, and I gained a greater respect for those who offer themselves for public life.
The riding I represent, Riverside, is one of the most diverse in population: old Yukoners and new arrivals; well-to-do people and people in need of social assistance. There are aboriginal and non-aboriginal persons. There are seniors and young persons on career paths. It will be a challenge for me to represent the diverse interests of all the constituents. It will mean that I will be putting forth questions and advancing positions on a variety of issues.
It will be necessary to deal with the interests of our seniors, many of whom live in the Riverside riding, and I will be asking questions relating to seniors activities.
It will be necessary to deal with the environment, and I will be asking questions about the campaign commitments made by the government in relation to the Whitehorse sewage system.
It will be necessary to deal with the delivery of front-line services and to encourage the government to make those services a focus of its attention.
It will be necessary to deal with the land claim legislation, and to encourage this House to become a catalyst for reducing racial tensions.
If I could wax philosophical for half a moment, when we look around at what is going on in our world, and in our country, it is not difficult to become discouraged. We see political disruption throughout the Eastern bloc countries as old yokes are thrown off. We see fears in the Western democracies, and particularly here in Canada as economies falter, and as consumption economies change to more conservative economies. We see the rise of racial tensions. We see the alienation of citizens from their governments and the anger arising from that alienation.
Here in the Yukon, we see the frustrations arising from the land claims negotiations but if we turn our glasses around and if we look more closely, we can also see the growth of democracy in those countries that are faltering, particularly the Eastern bloc countries, and we can see the benefits to our environment of changes away from the consumption society. We can see the improvements in the relationship between the citizens and their governments.
Here in the Yukon, we can see the aboriginal and non-aboriginal people slowly inching toward one another. What this suggests to me is that, as legislators, we should be careful not to get locked into our own rhetoric, be it right, left or centre. We should be careful that the rhetoric does not triumph over common sense. The decade of the 1990s will be a decade of trepidation but it can also be a decade of opportunity, as we explore what government can do and should do for its citizens.
Let me say that, in my opinion, one of our main functions here, if not our main function, is the provision of hope - hope for the disadvantaged and hope for those on the ropes and hope for those who are not in the winners column in life. If we leave this place after our stay in office having increased hope in the hearts of our constituents, then we will have performed our job. If we become bogged down in serving our egos, if we get locked into our own rhetoric, or if we get locked into propagating the political nostrums of the right or the left or the centre, then we will not have performed our job. One hopes that, in looking back at the end of our term, we will be able to say that we did the former.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Before I get into the main text of my speech, I would like to make a few comments on speeches that were made in the House yesterday.
First of all, I share some of the concerns that were expressed by the Member for Faro, when he talked about the well-being and future of the Faro mine. I think that everyone in this House has similar concerns. We on this side are doing everything we possibly can to ensure that that mine stays operational.
The Member from Faro, while speaking yesterday, spoke about us hiding the $92 million that was in the Auditor Generals report last year. I would like to hear suggestions from that Member on how we could access that $92 million, because in fact, some of it is social housing, some of it is the building that we are in today, some of it is the visitors reception centre. If the Member could find a buyer for the visitors reception centre and we received a reasonable price for it, this government might be interested in selling the centre. Those are assets of the Government of the Yukon and that is what is included in some of those assets. If the Member wants to suggest we do that, then I will take that into consideration.
As well, I would like to comment briefly on the approach that the Opposition Leader took when he spoke in this House.
I was a little dismayed with the Members approach. There are a lot of new Members in this House. I thought there was going to be a new approach, a new attitude, a real positive approach to do some good things for the Yukon. It is obvious that the Government Leader came into the House very hurt and very upset about what had happened. It is unfortunate. I can only suggest to the Opposition Leader that this is the Christmas season, it is the time to be merry and that when we leave this House that the Opposition Leader should take some time off, get a bit of rest, spend some time with his family and possibly, when he comes back in the new year, he will have a much better approach to this job.
I think the personal attacks that were leveled yesterday are totally uncalled for in this House. We should, for the most part, try to stay away from those personal, slanderous types of attacks. I think it is unnecessary.
I have had several opportunities over the past seven years to respond to Speeches from the Throne, but none of those experiences are as pleasant as this occasion today.
On October the 19, the people of the Yukon voted for a change and over 60 percent of Yukoners voted for candidates other than the incumbent government. Times have changed and the electorate is much wiser and they demand that we live up to our commitments as politicians.
This is my first opportunity to publicly express my thanks to all the constituents of Riverdale North for their very strong support in the last election. I should also thank the many workers who spent hundreds of volunteer hours working on my campaign and the campaigns of other candidates who were elected and candidates who were defeated.
It would not be complete if I did not thank my best friend, my son Jason, for putting up with all of my irregular hours, all the fast food and the lack of time spent at home during the campaign. Jason was our election team gopher and he did everything from putting up signs to babysitting. Having family support in this business is absolutely essential and many of us here are fortunate to have that support.
I would now like to turn to some of the areas of my responsibility. The first area that I would like to address is my responsibility as the Minister responsible for the Womens Directorate.
The concern was expressed by some about the fact that we have no women in our caucus, and I understand that concern. We had some outstanding women running in the last election in some very tough races. Unfortunately, they did not get elected. Dale Stokes in Riverdale South was only 92 votes behind a long-time incumbent. Nancy Huston in Riverside, who got into the race with only three weeks left in the campaign, only lost by 26 votes. Both these women would have been extremely important to have in our government.
Our leader has recognized the valuable input of these people and included them and all other defeated candidates in a new extended caucus that we will be taking advice from on a monthly basis. They also have the opportunity of having access to our offices and the Ministers at any time. I will be calling on Dale and Nancy, along with other Yukon women and womens groups, for advice on issues affecting women in the Yukon.
Someone suggested the other day that we had drawn straws in Cabinet to see who would get the Womens Directorate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Shortly after the election, Mr. Ostashek asked me what areas I was interested in. I specifically asked for the Womens Directorate. Despite what some may say, our party does have a social conscience and we do care about womens issues.
One of the key issues that I would like to see our government address is the area of family violence. We can no longer tolerate it, and we have to accept some of the responsibility to resolve this serious problem. Nationally and internationally, governments have agreed that, in order for women to gain equality in all areas of society, the violence against women must be stopped. We will continue to implement the multi-media, multi-year strategy on family violence, developed in 1989 by the previous government.
Just this month, we brought in Linda Popov, an international speaker and facilitator. She held staff development workshops for care givers who, to some degree, worked in the area of family violence. She also conducted workshops for families in promoting the prevention of family violence. Linda also held a three-day workshop for women who have experienced and are healing from family violence.
On December 6, I attended the commemoration service at the Yukon justice centre, and I have to say that I was very moved by the statements made by the women who participated. I feel very strongly that we, as men, can take a lead role in stopping violence against women, and we must. I feel that it is time that our justice system realized that it is not taking crimes against women and children as seriously as it should be. Recently, sentences have given a strong appearance of a double standard. We must address that issue.
The Christmas season seems to bring about a lot of stress to families, and many of the violent acts take place over this season. For that reason, we are starting a public awareness campaign on December 16 that runs through to December 30. This campaign is aimed at helpers, friends, relatives, and co-workers who can do something to assist the victims and the abusers. These ads will run on local radio stations and in the local print media, making people aware of their responsibility.
The Womens Directorate has been active in many other areas of importance to Yukon women. The territory-wide survey of womens issues and further focus testing will allow us to determine the direction Yukon women feel we should be taking. The directorate, in cooperation with the Department of Education, has published a supplementary text for grade 10 students, entitled Our Land, Too - Women in Canada and the Northwest, 1860-1914. Copies of this text will be tabled in the House shortly.
In the area of education, I am quite excited about the challenges I will be facing. First of all, I would like to pay tribute to a colleague and a friend who was a previous Minister of Education. I did not always agree with everything that Mr. McDonald did when he was in that portfolio, but I believe he put in a great deal of effort and accomplished a great deal in improving the Yukons educational system. I thank him for that.
There were several themes in the Speech from the Throne. Among them were accountability, fiscal responsibility and restoring a healthy economy. One of the themes that was most important to me was putting Yukoners first or, to put it another way, allowing Yukoners to maximize their potential. This is a goal that is important to all government departments. I believe, however, that the Department of Education is in a uniquely strong position to have a positive impact in all three of its program divisions on improving the lives of Yukoners.
Let us look at the public school system first. Earlier this summer, we learned that the drop-out rate of Yukon students was extremely high. We must keep the students of the Yukon in school. We will do this by working with the school councils, First Nations, parents and teachers to develop innovative and Imeaningful curricula. We also need to work closely with the business community to ensure that students are developing the skills necessary to live and work right here in the Yukon. We also have a responsibility to provide jobs for our students during summer months and after school. We also have to ensure that students with special needs receive the best education possible.
In the past few years, the planning of new facilities has been sadly lacking. It seems we have to be in a space crunch before we react. I have asked my department to work more closely with Community and Transportation Services and Economic Development so that we may plan better for the future expansion of schools. We cannot afford to have overcrowded classrooms and children attending classes in school hallways.
We also have to look at the type of facilities we are constructing. The days of monuments are over. We will build practical schools with adequate-sized classrooms and proper equipment. I heard an interesting comment on the Granger Elijah Smith school by a parent of a child attending there. She said she thought it was a shame that children were attending the school hungry and in tattered clothes as they entered the multi-million dollar monument. She asked where the governments priorities were and that perhaps it would have been better to have a smaller school that would provide a hot lunch for the children and decent employment programs for their parents so the children could be properly clothed. She has a point.
We will also work with school councils to ensure that the schools we construct will meet the needs of each community. It is imperative that we provide well-trained and highly qualified teachers, and we have to develop programs that will keep teachers in the Yukon. One way to do that is to hire locally whenever possible. Yukon-educated teachers must be given a priority in employment opportunities in our Yukon schools.
To ensure that we maintain a high quality of education for our students, we must give the teachers the tools they need, including good professional development opportunities.
For an effective education system, we must involve the parents. I was disturbed that the previous government somewhat minimized and confused the recent school council elections by calling a territorial election right in the middle of these very important elections. We must also offer the necessary training, so that school council members can provide effective leadership.
In the area of advanced education, we have to ensure that the Yukon College campuses provide programming that meets the needs of that community and train as many of our tradespeople as possible. We also have to ensure that Yukons post-secondary students come back to the Yukon after graduation. We need to diversify the Yukon economy and provide more jobs for these graduates.
This government is committed to providing the financial assistance to meet the needs of Yukon students and provide a climate to encourage them to return home to use their skills to the Yukons advantage. It is obvious that a good, well-rounded education, with basic literacy and cultural awareness at its roots, is fundamental to every Yukoner, maximizing their potential and realizing the goals they may have set for the future.
For the next four years, our objective is simply to improve the chances of any individual Yukoner getting the education he or she needs.
In the area of tourism, my government is looking forward to the many exciting prospects ahead. My government will work closely with the industry to forge strong partnerships and to maximize the benefits of tourism. We feel it is important to work together with First Nations to develop and promote the many opportunities open to us. In our four-year plan, in the area of arts and culture, we propose to work with the First Nations to establish a cultural centre for Yukon Indian people.
We have entered a decade of celebrations in the area of commemorative events. I would like to sincerely congratulate the Anniversaries Commission. They did an outstanding job of promoting the Alaska Highway 50th anniversary and turning 1992 into a very successful tourism year.
The events leading up to the centennial of the gold rush in 1998 promise to be another exciting challenge that we must capitalize on to realize the vast opportunities and benefits that will be open to the Yukon.
In times of restraint the effectiveness of marketing efforts is enhanced by the cooperative initiatives involving federal and territorial governments with private sector partners.
A good example of this is the Holland America Lines-Westours Agreement that I announced yesterday.
For a very minimal investment of $63,000, we will reap the benefit of an estimated $7.9 million in revenue to 35 businesses throughout Yukon, other than Holland America businesses.
Other cooperative marketing programs are being investigated that have the potential of providing the Yukon with far more international exposure than we could ever purchase on our own.
We have much work to do in other areas of the industry. There is great potential in the adventure travel sector, as well as in the sports, arts and culture sectors. These activities hold the potential to encourage our visitors to stay longer, with the accompanying economic benefits.
Our government fully recognizes the importance of the arts in our society. We plan to open discussions with the various art groups to develop ways in which we can offer marketing assistance to fully develop the potential of the vast talent that we have in the Yukon.
We will also seek their input in our commitment to develop an arts policy and an arts impact study to fully clarify the role of arts in our society.
In conclusion, I thank you for the opportunity to reply to the Speech from the Throne, and I would like to extend my best wishes to all Members of the House and all the people of the Yukon, a very Merry Christmas and a very safe and happy holiday season.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to be brief today; however, I do have a few things that I want to say and a few messages that I would like to pass on, both to my constituents and to some Members of the Legislative Assembly.
I want to begin by thanking the people of Riverdale South, first of all, for their continued support and confidence that they have shown in me and particularly this time because, as everyone I am sure is aware, there was a full slate of candidates running in the riding of Riverdale South in the last election representing all parties as well as me as an independent. I feel particularly honoured after this election that the people of Riverdale South chose to again show confidence in me and ask me to come to this Legislative Assembly and represent their point of view.
I am unattached to any party, and I believe that the only other Member of the Legislative Assembly who has been elected as an independent since the establishment of party politics in the Yukon Territory was Don Taylor, who represented the riding of Watson Lake. I am privileged to share that distinction with a fine gentleman such as Don Taylor, former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
Now, having said that, I have a couple of comments about the election campaign. I was interested to hear that our Liberal representative, the Member for Riverside, enjoyed the campaigning so much and found it a great learning experience. I have always enjoyed the thrill of the election campaign, and I have always put my whole heart into campaigning.
I hope that other Members who have been elected to represent constituents in this Legislature found the same experience.
I want to welcome the new Members to the Assembly. It is a big decision to make. I know there are a lot of Members here who have been re-elected who probably did not want to run again, but did. I want first to congratulate the new Members to the House. Having so many new Members and hearing so many new ideas is like a breath of fresh air. I look forward to more interesting debate, more of Question Period and more motions being brought forward.
I want to make particular mention of one of the new Members in the House, not because I think they are any more special than any of the other new Members, but because I watched the individual do something I had done prior to running for office and being elected. I watched that individual sitting in the public gallery every day to watch the performances, the agony and the, sometimes, boredom of listening to the Members in the House. He still decided to pursue this and run for election. That is the Government Leader, the Member who represents the riding of Porter Creek North. We have to acknowledge that this person is dedicated to have come into the Chambers, done his homework and worked hard before he ran in the election campaign; I wish to acknowledge that.
I also have some words for Mr. Speaker. Although I did not jump up and down, and say rah-rah when you advised me of your decision to take the Speakers chair, my concern was with respect to the Independent Alliance and what the possible fate of that will be. I am sure we will find out later today what that fate is going to be. However, I do want to congratulate you. I have confidence that you will do a good job and be fair. I want to congratulate you and hope you enjoy your new job, and we will all be keeping an eye on you, I am sure.
My messages may seem small but they are very important to me and to the people whom I represent. I want the constituents of Riverdale South to get this message: there is going to be some turmoil, controversy and debate later on with respect to the status of the Independent Alliance. I have no delusions that I will win that debate. However, I will still put up a good fight and a good argument.
I do want to assure the constituents of Riverdale South that they will continue to get the same kind of representation through their Member that they have received. It does not matter whether I and the Independent Alliance maintain a party status and I get to sit as a party member or as an independent Member, the voice of the people of Riverdale South will be heard. I do not think that anyone out there doubts that that will happen.
I want to assure people in Riverdale South that I will continue to work hard on their behalf and bring common sense, logic and fairness when I present my arguments in this Legislative Assembly on their behalf.
One thing I can say that I do not think other Members of the Legislature will be able to say honestly - some may be skeptical about whether I will be doing it or not - is that I will be representing the people of Riverdale South, and I will not be representing any party philosophy or any predetermined ideology when I make representations on their behalf.
I have a message for the government Members. I had some questions from the media this morning as to why I voted a certain way yesterday in the Legislature. They asked why I voted with the NDP. When I vote in the Legislature, I do not to vote with anybody. I vote for the people of Riverdale South and I vote with my conscience if I do not have a consensus of how the people of Riverdale South want a position represented.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Firth: The Member for Riverdale North has had his chance. I would appreciate it if he would let me have mine.
I want to make it very clear to the Members opposite that no Member of this House is any more important than another. No one Members voice is any more important than any other. My message to them is not to take me for granted, because someday they may need the constituents of Riverdale South to support a position or policy they may want to bring forward - or a direction they might want to go in the Yukon.
I know some of the Members there do not think that day will ever come. I am here to say that it is very likely that that day may come.
This is a minority government; there is no security in the term that this group of people have been chosen to govern this territory. I do not think that any Member of this Legislative Assembly should be taken for granted.
The opportunity to reply to the throne speech is generally a chance for people to get up and make representations on behalf of their constituents and to bring forward issues that are either outstanding or coming forward in the ridings.
I know that the people of Riverdale South have been severely criticized by some of the media with respect to an ongoing issue in the constituency right now, and that is the discussion that is going on with respect to the development of the 32-suite apartment block.
I agree with the concerns that the constituents have presented and I am going to support their position and do everything I can to see that they are successful with their objective. That is my duty and my responsibility. I do not think that it is fair for anyone to criticize a group of people for wanting to protect their neighbourhood and their community by asking to be consulted about what happens in their neighbourhood and in their community. I have to defend the people of Riverdale South in their position and I will continue to do that.
There are a couple of other issues that are of outstanding concern to people who live in Riverdale South and one is the Grey Mountain Primary School. The previous government had made a commitment, and the plans are underway, for a permanent, new school to be built there. I again will be coming forward with representations on behalf of that constituency that the plans for that school proceed and that the goals and objectives that have been set out be achieved.
I have had another question asked of me with respect to a promise made for the establishment of a 911 number. There is a lot of support for this initiative in the riding that I represent, as well as all over the city and some other areas of the Yukon. I will be making representations to the new government to proceed with the 911 service. As I did in the past, whenever I got the argument about money - and I know we are going to get it because the government is telling us we do not have any money; we are broke - I have always offered my services to sit down with the government and find the money for them - I have lots of ideas and lots of suggestions as to where the money could be found.
Any time the government is going to threaten a project that Riverdale South feels strongly about because they do not have money, I will be on their doorstep, pointing out to them where we can assist them in finding the money for that project.
Those were the three issues that were brought to my attention by the constituency. Some of the issues that were raised during the election campaign - such as traffic congestion and the justice system - are going to be ongoing issues. I found there were very mixed feelings in the riding about whether those issues were critical or severe, or not, or whether they were issues that parties were trying to promote as issues. That remains open for more discussion, and I will be following up with more discussion about that.
I want to close by again saying that I am looking forward to this term in office. I anticipate representing the riding of Riverdale South for whatever the term may be, whether we have another election sooner or later and whether or not I seek re-election. Whether any of the Members here seek re-election remains to be seen. I know there are Members here who said they would not run again, yet they are back here again. I will not point any fingers or even look at them.
I am looking forward to representing the people of Riverdale South again. I again want to thank them for showing their confidence in me by electing me, even if it was only by 80 votes. I expect it is only one vote - or two votes - that counts, but I guess winning is the name of the game. I look forward to working with all the Members of the Legislative Assembly on behalf of all Yukoners, so we can work together to make the quality of life of all Yukoners better.
Ms. Joe: I would like to congratulate those Members who were elected to this House. I think that each and every one of us, when we enter politics, do so for many reasons and those reasons are to come here and represent those people in their ridings. My colleagues, the Members for McIntyre-Takhini and Whitehorse West have been here for a long time. We have been on this side of the House before; it is not quite the same the second time around, but certainly we are here on behalf of the people in our riding. I would like to say that it is indeed a pleasure to be here again with my colleague from Mayo-Tatchun and to especially welcome my two new colleagues, the Members for Mount Lorne and Faro. It is good to see fresh, young talent here.
I remember the Member for Mayo was the same age as the Member for Faro when he first was a representative in this House. I am seeing a lot of very interesting things.
I would like to thank my supporters in Whitehorse Centre. The Whitehorse Centre riding has been changed. For the last 10 years, I have been the representative of Whitehorse North. There was a very colourful part of the riding that I really enjoyed, and that was the shipyard area. Certainly, during the 10 years I spent a bit of time there. The people there are a lot different from other parts of the riding - although the riding itself is very diverse. I also had the people from the Marwell area in my riding. It was a pleasure to be representing them. There were a lot of new people, who were not familar with me, in the newer part of the riding from Strickland on to Lambert, which includes a diverse group of people.
When I enter an election, I think it is probably one of the better parts of the job. You get out and talk to the people in a riding, you get to meet them, you get to find out what their views are, and certainly the door knocking, meeting people, was very interesting. I would like to thank the people in the riding of Whitehorse Centre for their patience. People were knocking on their doors continuously. I think I had one door slammed in my face, and that is not so bad considering that I knocked on a door more than once.
There were many different issues on the doorstep. Some of the issues in Whitehorse Centre regarded vandalism, and it was mentioned right across the territory. One of the other biggest concerns that I ran into, especially in my riding where there are a lot of people who rent, was the lack of housing. I think that I bring this message to the House. I am not exactly sure who the Minister responsible for housing is at this time. It was one of the biggest concerns, because there were a lot of people who were living in homes they could not afford to live in.
I would like to especially thank two voters in my riding. It is because of those two voters that I am here today. I am doing my Christmas walk, and I am out bringing personal Christmas messages to the people in my riding. I get a lot of stories; people say, Margaret, if it were not for me, you know - I am responsible for those last two votes.
I would like to mention some of the stories in this House. I was talking to a constituent the other night who was a supporter, and was carrying a proxy. She almost missed the plane that day back to Whitehorse. She was carrying two votes. The two senior citizens who had not supported the NDP, but supported me as an individual in this last election, also are responsible for those two votes.
I was talking to a young person, who I believed might have voted for the first time. Her mother dragged her out of bed to vote on election day. I do not even think her mother voted for me, but she insisted that her daughter get out and vote, and told her that every single vote counted, and indeed it does. I recall talking to a grandmother who was babysitting; she said, Margaret, I am sorry I am not going to be able to vote today. I am babysitting my granddaughter, and I am giving her a bath right now, and I just do not have time. So we insisted that she did have time. We sent a babysitter down, and we picked her up and took her to vote. I would like to thank her for getting out to vote.
There was another gentleman who thought that the polls closed at 9:00 p.m. He was in the middle of having a shower at 10 minutes to eight on election day. We made sure he got down to the polls. He got in there almost as the doors were closing. There was a young person who voted for the first time who had moved in from Mayo. He got on the final list five minutes before closing time. I would like to thank that person. The stories go on and on. This is a story where every single vote counted.
The riding of Whitehorse Centre is as diverse as the Member for Riverside indicated his was. We have people from many walks of life: there are people who work for the government, people who work for private enterprise and many businesses because, of course, the full downtown section is in my riding. There are many people who rent and many who own their homes. There are many old homes in my riding, and I have had a good chance to see the manner in which they look after them to preserve them for many years to come.
I now have a large senior citizen population. It is indeed a pleasure to meet with them as often as I do to find out how active they are - the many programs that are available to senior citizens in this territory is just astounding. They keep very busy. If I drop around during the day, I find they are never at home. They are always out doing something. That says a lot for what the Yukon has to offer senior citizens.
When I come to this House and speak, ask questions and bring concerns, it is for those people who live in my riding of Whitehorse Centre who bring these concerns to me. I, in turn, pass them on. If I have questions for Ministers responsible for different departments, it is on behalf of people in my riding. I will continue to bring those concerns to this House.
I would like to briefly talk about some of my former responsibilities - not exactly to talk about them, but just to mention that I believe that, during my term as Minister, there were a lot of outstanding civil servants who helped us do our jobs. I would like to pay tribute to them. There were many people in Justice who helped us bring about the kinds of things that Yukon people wanted, such as better policing and better forms of justice. I worked very closely with aboriginal people, town councils, hamlets and the RCMP and tried to develop a better understanding of the justice system and police services in the Yukon. I think the new Minister is carrying on that responsibility. I am pleased to see that.
One of my biggest concerns when I was the Minister of Justice, if I could speak just a bit about that now, was in regard to family violence. Even though as a government we introduced a lot of new programs with regard to family violence, there was not a lot that we could do in regard to telling the judges how to judge and the sentences that they should hand down. Of course, that would have been an interference and improper for my responsibility as a Minister, and a lot of people never understood that.
There is a lobbying group out there who continue to lobby for better sentencing. The Member for Kluane - I mentioned lobby groups yesterday - is not going to listen to them, because we were just listening to them to get votes. That is not the case, there is a large group of people who lobby out there and they lobby for good changes. Certainly, the women and other people who care about what happens to women in regard to family violence will continue to hound government, no matter what stripe, to try to make things better and to try to eliminate family violence.
When I left the department, one of my biggest concerns was in regard to the direction the department was going with respect to family violence. Very often, local people and local traditions determine the kind of healing and practices that should be carried out in regard to healing and family violence, and the manner in which they want to go. I have found, in many cases, that experts from the south do not necessarily have the kind of expertise to deal with these kinds of things, especially in the far north where there are a lot of cultural traditions that have to be taken into consideration and respected.
I would hope that the new Minister will have better luck with his person in charge of administration in that department, in setting the government agenda, rather than her own. I think that would certainly make things a lot easier for at least aboriginal people to understand, because there was a lot of misunderstanding between those two groups and I speak specifically of Dene Netsedetan, who did a lot of work in regard to healing and in regard to trying to deal with family violence in some way.
I was really pleased to hear the new Minister responsible for the status of women in the Yukon talk about his mission statement, or whatever he wanted to call it, in regard to his commitment to changing things in the government. There was a lot of criticism from different womens groups in the Yukon about the manner in which the Womens Directorate was functioning. I have always believed that womens issues were all-inclusive and that not just one single-interest group had all the answers.
There are thousands of women out there who, in different ways, wanted to make some kinds of changes. I would like to commend the women in the Womens Directorate for the fine job they did in the last few years and also to mention the Liquor Corporation, because we were the first jurisdiction in Canada to put warning labels on liquor bottles to encourage pregnant women not to drink while pregnant. Other jurisdictions across Canada are looking into what we are doing in the Yukon. As a matter of fact, while I was still Minister, Health and Welfare Canada phoned and asked for a bottle with the label on it so that they could see what it said. I hope that this government will continue to make it a nationwide objective to have labels put on liquor bottles before they are sent out.
As I walked around the riding in the last couple of weeks, I got questions from people with regard to a lot of the statements that have been coming from this new government on the financial situation in the Yukon. Some of them get the idea that we left the new government in a horrible financial situation. The Member for Mayo explained very well the manner in which they were trying to convince the electorate that we are broke and had spent money foolishly. That was not the case. There were many things done with that money and we had a surplus.
The problem was in regard to the manner in which the Yukon Party made promises during the election. We all agree that if one promises the electorate that certain things will take place, a lot of people will believe it. They will believe that the government will spend the money they promised to spend if they were to form the government. The promises were anywhere from $100 million to $400 million. When one makes promises to the electorate about things they really care about, of course they are going to be convinced that this is the government they want and the party that should govern them.
I look back to announcements made during the election that were in the papers, the kind of promises that they made and the kind of money that it would cost to bring these things into being. Just briefly, they would promise to establish select committees on land claims - and that is not such a bad thing. They promised one senior and one junior high school in Whitehorse. I understand that now those promises might not be forthcoming. They talked about expansions to the Robert Service school. I think that promise was made by the Member for Dawson. Somehow he has to convince his leader that there has to be money available for that.
We also have the release of new lots for housing and mobile homes, working with communities to increase land available - the estimated cost is $4.5 million. They talked about programs to stop family violence and alcohol abuse, which in itself is very positive. Although, when you make a promise like that, people expect that you are going to keep it.
The list goes on and on. I have become very concerned about those kinds of promises, because we made a lot of promises and we did have the money that came to us every single year. As the former Minister of Finance said, we had to be very careful of the manner in which we spent the money.
If you are sitting on Management Board and responsible for a different department, and if you find there is not enough money available, you have to make some really hard choices. I remember being the Member responsible for different departments with a specific amount of money and I was to make the decision in regard to where that money was going. In fact, the department might have been calling for $10 million and there was only $4 million available. Or, people in the communities might have been asking for much more money than that.
It is not very easy being in government and I think the Government Leader is realizing that right now - realizing that he has made a lot of promises.
When the people in my riding ask about the financial situation, I have to give them a long explanation about the manner in which money is used in this government. I have to explain how we do it, how difficult it is, and I also have to talk about the promises that were made by the Yukon Party during the election and how the promises are not going to be kept, because there is not enough money left.
The money is there, but there is not the $100 million to $400 million available that he promised the electorate.
I have a difficult time, when I have to explain to those people who really were depending on promises being kept, telling them that the new government does not have the money and is trying to blame it on the former administration. I think it has been proven in the last little while that the government will continue to do that as long as it has to say no.
I have a bit of difficulty because of the actions in the last few days. It is very evident that this government did not support a lot of the initiatives and programs that we were promoting when we were in government.
I have a real problem in trying to tell my constituents what is going to happen. The reason why I asked the Minister of Justice today about aboriginal justice is because I wanted to be very sure that our plan for aboriginal justice would continue with this government. However, I really worry because it was something that they did not agree with when they were in the Opposition. As the Government Leader mentioned yesterday, he did not support the Taga Ku when the Yukon Party was in Opposition so, when he became the Government Leader, he decided to do something about that, and he did.
There were a lot of other things that the government has had to deal with in regard to different programs that were very positive and helpful to the electorate. Because they did not agree with those programs when they were in Opposition, do the people in our communities have to worry that they may not follow through on some of those things that had been promised? I really worry about that. I think that we do have a big concern.
I do not intend to stand here for a long time and make my speech, but it certainly gives me the opportunity to talk about some of the concerns that I do have.
I spent a lot of time and a lot of late nights trying to put together an Employment Standards Act that would meet the needs of all Yukoners. Right now, we know that our workers do not have the kind of protection that they deserve.
I spoke yesterday about two specific things, and that was in regard to the person who, for instance, may not have the resources at home to look after a child who might be in day care. I believe day cares normally close at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. I do not know for sure, because I have not had a child in day care for a long time.
If an employer decided that that person should work overtime, that person would have no recourse except to work overtime, despite the fact that she may not have anyone to look after her child after 5:00 p.m. It was for people like her, and other people in the same circumstances, that we wanted to change the Employment Standards Act to allow for notice for overtime. This would not stop anyone from working overtime if there was mutual agreement. I think that is a very serious thing, because we have a lot of single mothers working. We have a lot of people working who have other responsibilities, and who cannot just say yes, they will work the overtime. We do not want them to suffer the consequences of saying no.
Another more serious matter was in regard to someone who might quit. Under the existing act, if someone quits without notice, they can be docked a weeks pay. The same concern that people have in regard to the changes in the Unemployment Insurance Act are also a concern in this situation. We have many people who quit for many reasons. We have aboriginal people, whom I know personally, who have quit because of racism in the workplace. I talked to many women, when I was Minister responsible for status of women, who could not work in a situation where there was sexual harassment. Make no mistake about it, there is sexual harassment in the workplace. For those people to have to take that kind of an action and quit immediately, it may be something that they have no control over at that time. The employer can dock those people a weeks pay.
I only speak about those two situations, because those kinds of things were some of the reason why we looked at the act and had to make those changes. As the former Minister, I also know that, during the period of one year, we had to go to the employer and collect almost $250,000 in pay that the employer chose not to give to the employee. That is not a well-known fact, and those were only the people who complained to Labour Services. There are many people out there who have not taken any kind of action at all.
I believe that the Employment Standards Act was a lot of hard work, but a lot of positive changes were included in it. I was quite surprised at the Minister of Justice who, yesterday, wondered why I was asking those questions at this late date. We spent a lot of time in this House discussing this act and why we wanted to make those changes. I would like to believe that the Minister of Justice was paying attention to what was included in this act when he was sitting on this side of the House. However, I also know that he was not interested in being here, so he might have been writing his memoirs at that time; I do not know. He agrees that he might have been, and here he is back again.
I have known this Member for a long time, and I consider him an honourable person. I would like to believe that he is going to look at that act again and take into consideration every single circumstance that might occur. As a result of my speaking today and letting him know the problems that workers have faced, he might look at that act when they decide to review it - I do not know why they need to review it, as we have already done that in the House - and he will be very honest and look at the concerns of the workers. I would not like to believe that the chambers of commerce across the Yukon are going to set the agenda for the Yukon Party. I do not want to believe that. When I think about the criticism we got from the chambers in regard to the changes to the Employment Standards Act while we were doing it, that could be the case. The Member for Kluane smiles. Perhaps he agrees. However, that is another lobby group, but he does not listen to lobby groups, so I do not know.
I would like to ask that the Minister of Justice, the person who is an independent but sits with his former Yukon Party on the other side of the House, be very convincing when he tells them that the Employment Standards Act that was passed in this House is a very important piece of legislation and will help the workers in Dawson. For a while, I thought there were no workers in Riverdale, because the Member for Riverdale North opposed the legislation. I wondered whether or not he spoke on behalf of any workers there. It appeared at the time that he might not have, and perhaps he still does not speak on behalf of workers in his riding. I would like to believe that he does.
It is a very important piece of legislation. I would like to see it proclaimed. I would like to believe that the person who signs the proclamation is a person who would do it with some credibility. I begin to wonder after his actions.
The Minister responsible for Education has just finished his speech. It was very interesting to hear that he was appalled at some of the slanderous attacks from this side of the House. He has a very short memory. I sat on that side of the House for seven years. I cannot believe that only kind words were spoken. The Member seems to remember things differently from how I remember. It is a time to ask questions. It is a time to be serious. If we see a situation such as what has happened to Taga Ku, we wonder about the integrity of the people who make those decisions, and it is very difficult to sit here and ask questions in a kind way and try to get the right answers. If we ask questions with regard to law being broken by the other side of the House - I like to look at the expressions on peoples faces when discussions are going on. I noticed that when the Member for McIntyre-Takhini was asking questions about laws being broken, there was a lot of snickering on the other side. I wonder if they agree with laws being broken. I wonder if we just make laws in this House, pass them and ignore them. I would like to believe that if a law is made in this House it should have some respect. It appears that some Members on the other side do not.
The Member for Riverdale North talked about school buildings and children in tattered clothes. He asked where our priorities were. I wonder about his friend who talked about these children. There are not a lot of children in tattered clothes in his riding. I suspect that because of the make up of the people in the Elijah Smith school, he might have been referring to an aboriginal child. I hope that is not the case. People sometimes look at aboriginal children differently from how they look at other children. I would hope that the wrong message was not being relayed to him at that time.
I think I have gone on for quite a while, and probably the people on the other side of the House have been very bored. I know Mr. Speaker is not bored, because I know he likes to listen to people speak, and that is why he is there.
However, I would like to, once again, say what an honour it is to be in this House. I have been here now for almost 11 years. I know there is a challenge before the courts and that we could lose; however, we could also win. It is my hope that the people in my riding will not have to go through a by-election. I have been knocking on every door, and the message out there is that they do not want a by-election. I hope that those voters who voted in good faith will have their votes respected. I have not spoken to those three individuals since then, but I want to let the people in Whitehorse Centre know that I will be a full-time MLA. I do not intend to seek other employment. When I was in the Opposition, that was my intention, and it is also my intention today. I will be available to them. I will be taking a short holiday over Christmas, but I will be back and available to them.
As I go door to door, some people are home, and some are not. I would like to wish them Christmas greetings and good things for the new year. If they have not been at home to personally receive that message from me, I would like to send that message out to them at this time. It is a pleasure to be back in this House.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am pleased to enter into this debate at this time. I want to start by congratulating everyone in the House for being here and getting through the election and winning. I want to particularly congratulate the new Members. I listened with great interest to the maiden speeches in the House, and I think we have a very impressive group coming up through the ranks, about to be seasoned in the ways of this place. I look forward to working with each and every one of them over the course of our mandate.
As many of you know, I was elected in a new riding, Ross River-Southern Lakes. I am very proud to have won that election and I am very thankful. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the people in each and every community that riding encompasses.
A lot has been said about the fact that I had not intended to run again and that at one point was true. I was considering memoirs, but another period of time as a politician would sure add greatly to the tales that I might have to tell. Already we have been called outlaws, and while Bill and I are probably proud to be in the company of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, I never did expect to be called an outlaw this early in the session.
I think that it is important, because of some of the attacks that were made in this debate by the Leader of the Official Opposition, to note that each of us are here to represent, to the best of his or her ability, every single individual in his or her riding and every single individual in the Yukon. I would not be standing in this place now if it were not for the fact that I had a lot of support from males and females, support from people from every walk of life, native, non-native and various linguistic backgrounds. I am very proud to have enjoyed that kind of support, and I am sure that each and every Member here is only here because each of them did as well.
I think it is an obvious, logical mistake to start finger pointing and say that because somebody is white that he or she does not understand what is happening in the lives of aboriginal people, or to say that he or she is not sympathetic or sensitive to inequality that many women face in the working world and the world generally, and that he or she is not committed to going about the business, in their own way, of trying to make things better for every Yukoner.
We may not agree - amd often do not agree - on the methods and procedures for trying to achieve a better Yukon, but I do not believe for one moment that anyone here is here solely to lobby for one interest group or another. That is an important and fundamental point to make now. I know that I will be hearing this allegation from time to time again over the course of the next four years. I do not agree with that style of politics, and I know that a lot of Yukoners out there are rather indignant when they are accused of supporting, in a brainless fashion, any person who has made it to this Legislature.
I had a short but enjoyable election campaign. I was, of course, well aware of the issues in Carcross and Tagish. I was more than interested in learning about the issues in Teslin and Ross River during the course of the election.
There were certain themes that I kept hearing over and over again. These themes were the needs in the communities for more jobs for young people. Each of the communities have certain infrastructure that they deem to be a priority; for example, water and sewer in Carcross. Tagishs priority is a fire hall, and Teslins is a correctional facility. Ross Rivers priority is better roads and perhaps more training on heavy machinery, with which road maintenance is done.
Each community is in a mode right now of wanting to heal the people who reside in the community. There is a great deal of concern about the issues we face: family violence, child abuse and alcohol and drug problems.
I am encouraged by the will of the vast majority of people who reside in each of these communities to take responsibility and play a lead role in meeting these problems head on. One of the reasons that I am pleased to have responsibility for two rather large departments - Health and Social Services and Justice - is because I believe that these two departments, more than any other departments, are charged with the responsibility of examining the problems and finding solutions toward at least reducing these problems in the communities.
I personally have had some areas of disagreement with the way in which the previous government went about attempting to solve these problems. I do not mean to be highly critical in saying this, but it is my view that there was too much attention paid to big-time solutions, grandiose policies and monuments, when really the most important thing to the people, particularly in the smaller communities, is a sympathetic approach and constant attempts to improve situations as they exist.
I can say very honestly that, contrary to all the things we hear in this House about consultation, there was a widespread feeling in each of these communities that government had not been paying attention to the day-to-day problems they faced.
What I hope to achieve, as Minister of these departments, over the course of our mandate, is to be able to work closely with people in each community to help design modest solutions and, as we have modest successes, to build on each success, and to resolve at least some of the problems that the people in the Yukon face.
I have had certain chiefs of First Nations come to me. It is interesting to hear what they have to say about the approach that I was articulating during the campaign. There is a great deal of agreement among those people at the grassroots and community level. I guess they have seen too many failures and too many grandiose starts that went nowhere.
I have heard the phrase numerous times from Indian leaders that they do not want to see their people set up for failure. To me, that means that many of the leaders, particularly the new leaders in the Indian movement in the Yukon, are practical, sincere people who do not have the grandiose ideas that we sometimes heard about in the past.
These are people who believe in steady progress when it comes to problem solving, and these are people whom I am sure do not share the concern expressed by the side opposite with respect to the fact that Taga Ku may not go ahead. I have heard a lot of people in the communities express concern about whether or not that was a valid project, and whether that was a project that might be once again setting up their people for failure. One can remember the Tagish Kwan incident, and I must say that we cannot afford too many of those incidents.
I say that as a friend of the Indian people who wants to see success, and as a person who believes that success is not easily achieved. It is not achieved by throwing money at a problem, but it is achieved by hard work and a great degree of sensitivity between officials in the government and people in the community.
None of these things were easy. There are no simple solutions. A lot can be done with very little money. I can think of a recent achievement of the community of Carcross. The people there are becoming more concerned about young people and the fact that there is nothing for them to do. This was an issue that was raised in circle court in Carcross about one month ago.
I was invited to a meeting about three weeks ago where 68 people attended. It was a very large turnout for Carcross. They were all there because they were concerned about the young people. They wanted to do something. Their consensus at the end of the meeting was that they would like to have the old grader station in Carcross leased to the community. If they could get a bit of help for operation and maintenance, they would, themselves, go out and raise money and volunteer to do the work.
We had a meeting on the following Saturday. I attended and told them what I thought should go into a submission to the government. The submission was hand delivered on Monday. By that Friday, I am proud to say that this government agreed in principle to that building being leased. That was an initiative that was supported by virtually everyone in the community. The written support was obtained over that weekend from the First Nation and the community club. It was sponsored by the area planning committee. Since the agreement in principle was in place, the community has raised $15,000 toward renovating the garage to make it a suitable gathering place for the young people of Carcross.
It has not cost us very much. The fact that we see this kind of commitment bodes well for the initiatives, because people are buying into it. That is very important, as I think everyone here will appreciate.
We have a similar situation developing in Teslin. During Question Period, I was asked by my critic, my predecessor in the role of Minister of Justice, as to whether or not I had the requisite commitment to that facility and to what was really wanted by the community of Teslin. I can say that there is broad support within that community for a facility. The object of healing people and the object of not just warehousing criminals but trying to rehabilitate people is one that is fully supported in that community. There are a lot of people who can take credit. I do not propose that politicians can, but I appreciate the work the hon. Member had done before I arrived at this spot. It is essential that the people in the community have that will to address these problems. It is essential that we simply help them follow through. One cannot just send people to a correctional facility and give them some programs and assume that is the end of the problem. The commitment has to be a genuine one and must be followed through by all concerned.
Ross River is a community that has had tremendous problems. That community, perhaps because of its location, feels it has been severely neglected by the rest of us and by the government. There is a community that has suffered greatly from rampant alcohol and drug abuse. There are terrible problems among families involving child abuse and that sort of thing. Again, I sense a very strong will of the people to deal with the problems.
If there are any simple solutions, I will, as their MLA and as the appropriate Minister, work with them on these problems. We have already had meetings with respect to how we can share some of the work in the social assistance and child protection field. Again, we are not looking for huge agreements with bells and whistles, but we are looking at government playing a role by encouraging, facilitating solutions that are rooted in and spring from the community in question.
The initiatives that I am prepared to take do not end in my riding, of course. I have had meetings with people from Pelly. In fact, the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun was in my office just the other day with the chiefs of the First Nations and we discussed getting together and working in ways to improve the Tatlmain Lake facility and help the programming there. I told them that in both departments they have people working with them, and I said that progress might be modest and we will do things a step at a time, but there will be that commitment. One of the chiefs said to me that is what they want; they are not looking for big, splashy appearances. They have got something going there and they want to build on it, block, by block, by block.
I do not want to dwell on just the smaller communities, but I am very hopeful that we can take this approach throughout Yukon, in both the fields of justice and health and social services. I hope that we will make progress. We do not in any way want to suggest that we have all the solutions or that we will achieve perfect success. Indeed, I would be less than forthright if I did not say at this time that there are bound to be mistakes and mis-steps, but there will not be the kind of mistakes that will cause whatever progress has been made to vanish, as we will work on an incremental basis with each of the communities.
I would like to say that we will be carrying on trying to resolve these problems throughout the Yukon. The Member asked me about the Employment Standards Act. I know that has become one of her favorite causes in the Legislature. We do intend to review the act. We do believe there has to be a balance in legislation such as this.
The accusation was made - or the hope expressed - that I would not be kowtowing to business groups unnecessarily, such as the Chamber of Commerce. I can tell the Minister that I do not belong to any such group as an individual. I will be balanced; I will not kowtow to them, the union or any other special interest groups. I might suggest that that will be a welcome change to many in Yukon.
I would be remiss if I did not say that during the election, and watching the results, I was rather interested to observe that the main Opposition party seems to be moving toward its real centre of strength, the NDP being an urban party throughout Canada and having very little strength in rural Canada.
It is interesting to observe, for example, that two of the Ministers in the last government deserted their original ridings and ran in Whitehorse - one unsuccessfully and one somewhat successfully.
I guess too much time in Whitehorse might be somewhat corruptive to some people. As the old saying goes, how are you going to keep them down on the farm after they have seen Paris. I hope that rural Yukoners are not offended by this change of heart and change in values - and I am sure they are not - but I suspect that the trend will continue. The NDP will return to its real constituency, as will those parties that are known to be at least centralist or right of centre.
I want to say that I ran as an independent. I am in a coalition with my friends on this side of the House, of course. I have carefully read the platform that was put forward by the Yukon Party during the election - I had a simple platform, by the way; I said I would do my best and work with people within the communities. It is no secret, of course, that I share many of the values of the people who I am assisting on this side of the House. I am proud to support the initiatives set forward during the campaign.
I discussed my role in some detail with my constituents during the campaign. They understand why I have agreed to support this party and help it form the government. There were no surprises, or at least only a few, out there. I never did understand the argument - which, I guess, was perhaps media based - that somehow or other I was doing less for my constituents by taking the position I am. It seems to me, as I have said publicly a few times, that no one is surprised in the NWT when independent members join the government. The Government Leader is independent and all the Cabinet Members are. All their constituents probably realize that those Members can do a lot more for them and for the territory in a position as a Minister rather than in the Opposition or as a backbencher.
I am very pleased to lend my support to those on this side of the House. I really feel that we have a good team here. The new Government Leader is just starting out, but I know that Yukon people, with their sense of fairness, are willing to give him a chance. I think that he will do a great job for those people. We do not pretend to have all of the answers, but we do intend to remain constant to our roots, to our philosophy, and do the best we can.
Mr. McDonald: Entering late into a debate such as this is quite often a double-edged sword. You have heard most Members speak already, and you are allowed an opportunity to make reference to some of their remarks. Also you hear things that you wanted to have said, and they have said first, and to your dismay have said them better. The other characterization of a debate of this sort is that it often slips into kind of an easy cadence, that lacks the passion that causes the words to spring easily to the lips. I certainly always enjoyed following the past Member for Porter Creek East in virtually any debate, as he always seemed to generate enough passion to get me moving, too. It is not to say that I opposed or that I do not like the opportunity to come after the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. He is a fine orator, and has proven to be so in the past, though he will understand that he was my second choice for the incumbency of that seat. He will understand that I say so affectionately. I would caution the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to not draw generalizations too quickly about parties gravitating to their roots. Certainly, the New Democrats have always had a very strong presence in rural Yukon, and they will continue to have a strong presence in the future. The characterization of Whitehorse being like or akin to Paris may be an allusion that is lost on some of my constituents, but I will explain that to them at some point.
I have been enjoying myself listening to the interesting speeches made by my colleagues on both sides of the Legislature. Clearly, as other Members have said, the chemistry of our Chambers changes with each new injection of fresh faces. Some of the new Members are old friends, and I have to say that even some of the old Members who were once friends are still friends. I think this is an amazing accomplishment, after seven years of joined debate on the floor of the House.
I must say that even though I have been around for a while, I can still work up some passion on some issues. It has been some time since my initial maiden speech, about 10 years ago. I believe it was regarding the pending unemployment situation in rural Yukon and the sick feeling of insecurity that attends people who fear the horrors of unemployment.
I must say, listening to my colleague from Faro, who was issuing some of the same passion that I think I expressed earlier on, I can tell that the Legislature is in for some interesting and challenging debates in the future.
I would indicate to the Member for Riverdale North that he should learn to trust the passion of new Members, as they generally are less practiced at developing a sense of artificial emotion on issues - the kind of emotion that we often heard from our dearest colleague, the ex-Member for Porter Creek East - and they do mirror the true feelings of many constituents who are depending on this Legislature to find answers for some of the pressing problems that this territory faces.
I look forward to working with the Members for Faro and Mount Lorne and I must say, at this point, as I may not get another opportunity, I truly regret that other Members who had sought re-election and failed are not with us in the Legislature for this term of office. I certainly do believe that they were a credit to the Yukon Legislature.
To the new Members on the government side, I believe, having listened to Members speak, I do believe quite sincerely that they will get along well in this Legislature. I know that the maiden speeches that they have presented will do them proud and ultimately they will become practiced and accomplished legislators.
I am hoping too that the good will that they have seemed to express so far, coupled with the Christmas season, will generate a good, fresh start for our little northern Legislature.
I would like to thank the residents of McIntyre-Takhini who had faith in me, not having been that close to them as a constituency MLA prior to the election, but were only able to witness my performance in the Legislature on behalf of the residents of Mayo, from afar.
I thank them for their support. I would also like to thank the worthy opponents I faced in that election, from both the Liberal and Yukon Party, as I feel they did their parties proud as well. They offered clear choices for the residents of the McIntyre-Takhini riding.
I would like to take this opportunity - I did not think I would have it, once again, necessarily - to thank the constituents of the Mayo riding. I would like to thank the residents of the Mayo-Elsa-Keno-Stewart Crossing area for supporting me for 10 years. I know that their support was still there in this election and was transferred to my colleague, the new Member for Mayo-Tatchun. The residents of those communities will be people I will never forget, and I will take the opportunity to look out for their interests from time to time, on the heels of the questions the Member for Mayo-Tatchun may ask, to ensure that they are receiving their due and the proper respect that they deserve from the Government of the Yukon.
The New Democrats in the last couple of terms of office accomplished many good things of which I am particularly proud. Our forays into major consultative exercise, bringing government closer to the people, irrespective of the concerns expressed from time to time by one Member or another in the Opposition benches of the time, were, I think, ground breaking in the annals of government action in this territory. I am proud of the initiatives that we have taken with respect to bringing the average citizen and working person into the decision-making process of the government. I will be making certain that Ministers continue to enhance that tradition through their good works.
I am also particularly proud of the deconcentration of power that has taken place over the course of the last seven years, and even, to a limited extent, prior to that. Our move in this territory from the power of a single commissioner to that of a legislative body and to deconcentrate that power to communities and regional governments, is something that I feel is a thing whose time has come, and will be irresistible in terms of further playing it out in the future.
I am proud of the education reforms that have taken place, irrespective of the comments from the Education critic of the last seven years, who suggested that there was, perhaps, a lack of innovation in education decision making. I know that is not a fair characterization of what has happened, given the fact that the programming has been expanded dramatically to offer Yukoners - both children and adults - new kinds of opportunities.
That is something I feel particularly proud of. I must say, too, that the rights of the partners in education, and also their responsibilities, entrenched now in law, are something that was ground-breaking for this territory, as well as for the country, and I am also proud of that.
I am proud of the deconcentration of education decision making to the people most affected by the services the government provides.
Having been the nominal, or titular, head of the Department of Education, it was largely the result of the good work done by the department, parents, teachers, and students who participated in the education reform, that we have come as far as we have. I would caution, in particular, new Ministers to understand that being a good Minister and politician is not about making executive decisions and dismissing people. It is all about drawing people in and learning when to initiate the consultation and when that consultation is complete.
I am happy that the NDP government showed enormous respect for rural communities in providing services, and in showing the kind of faith in their future that caused the NDP to take some chances to develop the economic base for many communities. I am also proud of the initiatives taken by the government in the promotion of the rights of Indian people and the ground-breaking social contract- that is, the land claims agreement - that will turn a page in history for Yukon Indians and will set them on a course that will ensure the survival of their culture and race, as well as a more fair partnership with other cultures that inhabit the Yukon.
The new government was elected to do a number of things. Some of those things will be the subject of debate in this Legislature. At this time, my own view is that the people who have been elected on the government side appear to be dedicated. For the Yukon peoples sake, I wish the government well.
There are some areas about which I have some doubts, and I have been raising those doubts in Question Period and will continue to do so.
I am worried, as the Member for Riverdale North said, about the commitment of the politicians who were elected to live up to their commitments as politicians.
Certainly, there has been fine rhetoric issued in this Legislature over the last 10 years by many respectable people, and I am going to expect that those persons who treated us to some fine speeches live up to their previous words.
I am somewhat concerned about the seeming disrespect for what might be characterized as lobby or interest groups. Having been a Minister for a considerable period of time, I do know that interest groups and lobby groups can be characterized as anything from school councils to chambers of commerce and the Federation of Labour, all of whom represent a constituent group who come together, like politicians, to be heard in the greater society. Irrespective of the fact that they may seem to have a very limited vision of the world from time to time, they may come to the Ministers with a fairly limited agenda and be seen to be quite blunt and brutal about promoting that agenda, but they still represent Yukoners. Because Yukoners have chosen to support such organizations, it is incumbent upon this Legislature and Ministers to respect those organizations and to listen to them.
I am little bit concerned about what might be characterized as real Yukoners as opposed to residents of the territory - partly because I do not know what the term means, and partly because I have been in the territory for only 17 years. I do not know if that makes me a real Yukoner or not, but I do have constituents in my new riding who have been in the territory for 18 months. They live in trailers, some may be unemployed, some may be working in low-paying jobs and they expect attention and respect from this Legislature, not only from their representative, but from the people who speak on their behalf in this Legislature.
I am trusting that whatever may be referenced by the term real Yukoners will not show disrespect for the human beings who live and work in this territory.
I could go on at some length on a couple of other issues, but I will talk about them very briefly, because I want to give Ministers fair notice that I regard these as being important issues that should be addressed in their deliberations, privately and publicly.
I am exceedingly disturbed about what appears to have been some considerable transgression of the intent of the Workers Compensation Act recently with respect to the appointment of the president of the board. It may have been convenient and an act taken by Ministers without a great deal of thought or care. It may simply have been an oversight, but this is not the kind of oversight that I regard as being one that can be resolved by buffaloing the critics.
The laws this Legislature passes are the laws of the land. Everyone outside this Legislature is expected to abide by them. Some people may even be fined or put in jail if they do not abide by them. It is up to the people in this Legislature and, most importantly, the Ministers responsible for departments who have responsibility for administering legislation, to feel that these laws are inviolate. Until they are changed here, they must be obeyed.
I understand that, from time to time, Members may feel that, because they are participants in the debates that change laws and create new laws, somehow this is an unreal process and the product of our deliberations is not real or as worthy of respect as, say, the federal laws or laws of other jurisdictions. That is not the case.
All Members are sworn to uphold the law, above all others in our society. When we go outside this Legislature, we talk about law and order. We talk about the respect for the rule of law. It is a principle that is obviously under considerable debate around the world, and people come to blows over it. However, in this Legislature, we have come to terms with the concept that elected representatives will pass laws, and everyone, including those representatives, will obey the law.
I am absolutely flabbergasted by the comments made in the Legislature over the last couple of days. I realize that this sitting will be a short one; consequently, there will not be Question Periods into the next month or two months. In all likelihood, the dust will settle on this issue. It is because I have enormous respect for the Minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Board that I have not tried to become even more aggressive on this point. I do believe in that Members basic integrity, and I do believe that that Member would not knowingly break the law. I must say, as one Member of this Legislature, that repeat performances are going to be dealt with very, very severely in this Legislature through debates and through Question Period. I also have a few concerns about the role of the Ministers and boards, particularly the Yukon Development Corporation board. We were treated over the last number of years to choruses of concern about political interference in what was considered to be the responsibility and purview of the board, only to find that within weeks of being elected, the same members of that chorus, appear to be making decisions on behalf of the Yukon Development Corporation without ever having consulted the board. The justification that, during the election campaign, somebody uttered some vague commitment to do something about the board is not justification for acting without consultation.
I recall that, in 1985, we talked about wanting to undertake educational reform. We talked about wanting to develop a new education act. We talked about wanting to give more power to parents. We did not come in with an Education Act four months later, without consultation, to implement those things, even though people clearly understood that by choosing the NDP they would be choosing educational reform. Four and one-half years later, we came into the Legislature with an Education Act, after considerable public discussion and consultation.
Actions that appear to be capricious or arbitrary and are without consultation do not, in my view, constitute good government. I would hope that, in the future, Members will take that to heart.
We have heard some discussion in the past couple of days about government finances. I believe that my comments about this matter are on the record. I am going to be pursuing this matter in great detail, as I am sure other Members will be as well, at the time when a real budget with real numbers is presented and real choices are made. All I can say to the opposite side is that, in every year I have been in government, tough choices had to be made. I do know that if I were simply to tally up the financial requests made by departments alone, any idea that we would have a surplus now would be inconceivable if we were to have agreed to all of the departmental requests.
Government is about tough decision making. The Members opposite say they are going to make those tough decisions; we await their conclusions.
With respect to some of the challenges that the Members face, in the area of education particularly, the field that I know very well, having simply been an acquaintance at a minimum with much of the discussion that has taken place over the seven years about education policies, institutional development, programming and responding to the very many interest groups, I can only wish the new Minister of Education well, because it is a difficult job.
I have been a Minister of many departments in the government - not all departments - but of all the departments for which I have worked I do know that education ranks number one in terms of workload; education ranks number one in terms of potential aggravation; and quite often education ranks number one in the hearts and minds of many people in the public.
As I was just telling the new Minister of Education today, rational people can talk to you about wanting to make compromises about virtually everything, but never about their own children. I know that will be the acid test for any Minister of Educations ability to wade through public controversy.
I do know that the Minister has been handed a department that has a large number of very capable and dedicated people. I am sure they will do the Ministers bidding and they will also do it with enthusiasm.
I also know that there are many dedicated people in the school community - teachers in the schools, the Yukon Teachers Association, school councils, and even the little school committees we have; and everyone, from the Bishop to the Learning Disabilities Association; all people who have a stake in education are practised at debating their interests in education circles. They will expect to be accorded the opportunity to debate any changes or improvements to the education system, and I know the Minister will very much enjoy his new role in mediating these discussions.
There will be tough decisions to make in this field. Even though the funding for education has grown considerably in the last several years for the department and the programs and facilities it serves, there are always greater expectations than there is money available. When the hard decisions are made in this particular area, I am certain the Minister and I will have an opportunity to discuss the choices made.
Having been the Minister for Economic Development for a short time, I also know that the fast talk in this Legislature about economic diversification is a lot tougher to fulfill than it is to talk about. In future years, particularly the old Member for Hootalinqua, now the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, and the Member for Watson Lake, may well regret some of the comments they made about the need to diversify the Yukon economy. We all know it is not as easy as simply providing a transportation system, cheap power and a few loan programs. It is a lot more complicated than that. The maturation of the markets, availability of personnel, availability of markets and the availability of private capital are all factors in determining whether a small rural economy is going to be rejuvenated.
There is nothing easy about this particular sphere of endeavour. While the Members will forgive me for reminding them of some of the things they have said in the past, they will know, at least at this point, that I recognize the complexity and difficulty associated with making gains in this particular area. By the way, we will also have to peruse, perhaps a little more closely than we were allowed during the election campaign, such promises as gas pipelines from the Kotaneelee gas fields into Whitehorse. It has the ring of a proposal we investigated some time ago about a tramway from Whitehorse to Skagway. It has that feel of unreality. Many people in my riding told me, during the election campaign, that, as much as they thought I would be a good Member in the Legislature, they wanted that pipeline because they wanted those jobs. I am telling the new Members on the government side that I will be expecting to see that pipeline and those jobs.
There are some other tough issues that I know the Members are going to be wrestling with. The new Member for Lake Laberge has already talked about land issues that are of interest to the residents in his new riding. I can assure the new Member that the availability of land and affordable housing are at the top of the priority list in parts of my riding. I am sure that he and I and other Members in this Legislature will have useful discussions on the appropriate expectations we might have of government performance and about some of the difficulties and concerns that might be faced.
The issue of land claims and land selections in the City of Whitehorse and the self-government negotiations with the Kwanlin Dun Band will, of course, be of far more interest to me as a constituency MLA. The Kwanlin Dun Band is looking forward to the negotiations. They realize how much energy, enthusiasm and imagination they are going to have to apply to the discussions, but they are absolutely convinced that these must be concluded, and concluded in such a way that is consistent with previous agreements.
Quite sincerely, I tell the Members on the opposite side that I will be taking interest in this particular area and they will understand the perspective from which I enter discussion.
As I indicated at the beginning, I am a person of very few words. I will wrap up by saying that I do know that being in government is tough business. I do know that a slip in Question Period can forever brand a Minister in a way he wishes never happened. I do know that, typically, the government side asks for cooperation from all Members, tells people that there are no simple solutions, to be patient and that the Opposition appears to be confrontational and impatient.
I can tell the Members that from my perspective, I am going to do my best to be patient, to be constructive and cooperative. As long as there is respect for the Legislature and the laws we pass, I will be as reasonable a Member of this Legislature as anyone. But, I will be as tough as I can be in defending the interests of my constituents and in defending the principles that I have espoused in this Legislature for the last 10 years. I am certain that if I am ever inconsistent in my application of these principles, I know that there will be someone in this Legislature who will point it out - and I thank them in advance for that.
However, I would, to echo the comments of the Minister of Education, at this time of year, like to wish all people Merry Christmas, and irrespective of what may happen in Question Periods in the rest of this sitting, I want to say that I do have the utmost respect for some of the people I have queried so far, but I do have principles that I feel should be defended, and I will do just that.
I would like to thank all Members for putting up with me and I would like to again wish everyone Seasons Greetings.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As the Member opposite said, speaking last is sometimes a double-edged sword. There have been some very broad statements made on this side of the House about policies of the Yukon Party and policies of this government. Some of the things that I wanted to say have been said already.
I appreciate the thoughts that come from the other side of the House. I welcome the new Members into the Legislature as well as myself, and also the Members that were here before. I had the opportunity to sit in the gallery for almost one year and watch the performance down here on the floor of the House. I must say, while I have not had the experience of being involved in the middle of the debate, it certainly was an education for me and I am sure it will help me in my performance in the House.
I would like to thank the people in Porter Creek North for electing me to represent them in the Legislature. I consider it to be a very, very, great honour. I would like to tell all the people from Porter Creek North that I am here to represent each and every one of them regardless if they voted for me or not.
I have been elected for the next four years and I will represent them to the best of my ability. My door is always open to them; they can call me at any time. Despite the workload that I will have as Government Leader, I will put their interests front and centre and deal with them.
I would just like to take this opportunity to congratulate all Members in this House for winning their respective ridings. Not only do we have different philosophical beliefs, I believe each and every person in this House believes in their convictions. If we were all the same, we would not have the interesting debate and we would not have the good laws that this country has. We have to have opposing views to come out with what is best for all Yukoners.
I would like to speak for a few minutes on my reasons for seeking public office at a time when politicians do not warrant or get much respect from the population as a whole.
I came to the Yukon 19 years ago with the intention of making it my home. I sold everything I owned; I had a young family and I went into great debt to move to the Yukon. The Yukon has been very good to me.
Over the years, I was involved in the political system but not on the front rows. I got involved in 1977, during the creation of party politics. I believe, Mr. Speaker, you were also involved at that time. A short time later, the Member for Riverdale South was involved in it. There were some Members from this side of the House involved.
I decided to put my name forward to run for office, for leadership of the party and to seek election because I did not agree with the direction the previous administration was taking the Yukon. I have different philosophical views. I believe they were doing what they thought was good for the Yukon.
While my first priority was not to seek public office, once I decided to, I made it a full commitment, and I will work very hard to do what I think is right in the interest of all Yukoners.
I would like to speak a little bit about the Yukon Party. This is a party that has no political affiliations at the federal level. I believe that gives us the ability to deal with whomever is in power in Ottawa with no preconceived loyalties or animosities, and I think that will bode well in our negotiations on behalf of the Yukon at the federal scene.
The strength of the Yukon Party lies in its constituency organizations. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes spoke of the fact that rural Yukon seems to have moved back to the right-of-centre format. If you look at the makeup of the Yukon Party in this House, they are ordinary Yukoners, and that bodes well for us, as a government, in order to represent middle-of-the-road Yukoners.
Before I get too far into my speech, I would like to speak a little bit about the four-year plan the Yukon Party put forward in the last election. It has been highly criticized by the Members opposite. We did not expect any different from the election campaign. We believe it is a plan that is workable and that we can accomplish over a period of four years.
We said that we wanted to make government more accountable: better fiscal management, better planning, less political intimidation, and true consultation with the public. The people of the Yukon do not believe that they experienced good government during the last seven years or I am sure we would not be on this side of the House today. Over 60 percent of Yukoners voted against the previous administration.
In order to accomplish our four-year plan, and to be able to institute proper management and government, the first exercise we had to do was to find out what resources we were left to work with. It was only a matter of hours from taking office that we were told by departments that the finances were not as good as what we were led to believe. The financial review that we have conducted was not an audit. We accept the Auditor Generals report of March 31, 1992, that identified a $30 million surplus. We wanted to know the present state of finances when we took over government and what the projections would be to March 31, 1993, before we made any major spending initiative. It must be remembered that we are working with a budget that was put forward by the previous administration. The supplementaries that came forward to that budget were by the previous administration.
No matter what rhetoric is said on the opposite side of the House, the fact remains that there was a budget put forward that showed a $19 million deficit. With the monies that were approved by Management Board - an additional $36 million - the $30 million surplus that was projected to be left is gone. It is totally gone, and we may be running a small deficit. We believe that, with the initiatives we undertook upon taking office, we will be able to break even or have a very small surplus.
There were comments made in this House that it was not a concern because there would be another $400 million coming from Ottawa in April. There will, but we have to have money for capital projects to develop an infrastructure, so that private enterprise can survive in the Yukon, we can diversify our economy, and we can get away from federal handouts.
I believe that the previous administration did what they thought was right, but the fact remains that the O&M got out of control. That O&M must be brought back under control if we are to have money for capital projects. It is our intention to do that.
We have been accused by Members opposite that we are performing a political exercise. This is not the case. Anybody who is taking over the management of a large corporation or business wants to know what they have to work with. That is being responsible. I believe that the Leader of the Official Opposition even said in a press comment that he would probably have done the same thing. He saw nothing wrong with it at that point. We are not going to continue blaming the Members opposite for the financial state of the government. The next budget is ours. Our priorities will be in place, but we are still working with the previous administrations budget.
Most of the issues I wanted to speak about have been covered by my colleagues on this side of the House. I am not going to elaborate on them, but there are a few things I want to say, and one is about settling land claims and the implementation of the self-government agreements. When I came to the Yukon some 19 years ago, I purchased an outfitting area. My good friend, Mr. Joe Johnson from Burwash Landing, and I were sitting around a campfire one night, and he said, John, we will be old men before this is resolved.
We are getting there, and it is time this issue was resolved in the interest of all Yukoners.
I think of the elders, especially the elders who have passed on. Some of these people started the land claims process: Elijah Smith, Joe Jacquot and Johnny Johns, who were not able to live to see the fruition of the process, but they put together a document for their children, and I hope that we can bring that to a conclusion and that First Nations people can start to benefit from the land claims and self-government agreements.
Mining and tourism are two of the major industries in the Yukon. They hold the key to our economic future. We must build upon our strengths if we are ever going to attain self-sufficiency and get off the dole from the federal government.
One of our first objectives is to seek assistance in the stripping of the Grum deposit. We have been doing our best to get assistance by proposing a new EDA mining and recovery agreement for operating mines.
I have met with the Minister of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs to discuss the current situation. As well, I have contacted the offices of the Prime Minister and also the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, to arrange a meeting on an urgent basis to see if we cannot come to some solution to the situation we are faced with in Faro.
I would like to say to the Member for Faro at this time that I sympathize with the concerns of the Faro people. I grew up in a coal mining community. I know what it is like for mines to close. I know what it is like to move from one community to the next; I do not want to see it happen in Faro.
In the long term, there are four main challenges in aiming for greater self-sufficiency. The Yukon government is committed to taking the steps to move toward self-sufficiency. We recognize the need for a partnership with the federal government and industry in creating a solid infrastructure to provide a favourable climate for investment in Yukon. We have already taken some of those steps in the four-year plan that we have discussed.
One of the four main challenges that are facing Yukoners in achieving self-sufficiency is facilitating greater investment in the resource sector, particularly in mining, which is a major private sector activity in the territory and which employs a lot of people.
When our party was in Opposition, we took the previous administration to task for not coming out stronger in support of the Windy Craggy project. Projects such as that would have brought many jobs to the Yukon. This morning, I heard that one more hurdle has been put in front of that project, and I am sad to see that, because I believe the Yukon will benefit greatly from a mine in the Windy Craggy area.
Investment and infrastructure are vital to facilitate development of the resource sector. The regulatory environment needs to be re-examined. Regulations affecting development should provide a favourable climate for investors. We cannot have all the hoops in place that investors who want to develop a mine have to jump through before they get the go-ahead to even start working on the property.
Implications of the international trade agreement, such as the free-trade agreement and the North American free-trade agreement and others, on the export of Yukon products, need to be examined in great detail.
There are strategic options available to help the Yukon achieve economic self-sufficiency. The major precondition to stimulate development is the provision of adequate infrastructure, such as transportation systems and power. This is especially true to promote mining, which is already facing problems due to the high transportation and energy costs.
Right now, the Yukon is on the verge of two major developments that would really go hand-in-hand with the Faro operation. That is why we say it is so critical to keep the Faro operation onstream at this time by helping with the stripping of the Grum deposit, if at all possible. We have the Williams Creek copper mine, which may go ahead shortly, and we also have Cassino, which will be a major player, if it goes ahead. Those areas look very promising.
This government is going to have to look at providing cheap energy to those places. We are going to have to look at providing transportation corridors.
Yukoners cannot expect the federal government to continue the high level of funding to the territory forever. We said that time and time again when we were in Opposition, and we want to get away from it.
By diversifying our economy and getting into mining and tourism, we are getting real dollars back into the Yukon that will be here for a long time. We will be getting a mining and tourism base, so that infrastructure and people of the Yukon are not totally dependent upon the government as the major employer.
I know this is a great challenge.
The Members opposite know how big a challenge it was, but we are going to continue to work in that direction. We believe that the economy of the Yukon must be diversified if we are to be a prosperous Yukon. I, for one, and my colleagues here also, would like to see the Yukon become a very prosperous place in which to live.
Mr. Millar: When I originally made my maiden speech in the House, I mentioned that I had a lot to learn. Well, I was informed a couple of minutes ago that I have the right to reply after everyone else has finished. I have 40 minutes in which to do this, but, like the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, I am a man of few words. I will be very brief.
I am standing up here now to do this to help myself become more familiar with the procedures of the House. Also, when I decided to run for MLA, I knew that speaking would be an important part of my duties if I were elected. I take things that I do very seriously, so I am putting myself in this very uncomfortable position right now of standing up and trying to make myself more comfortable.
I am not going to use this opportunity to speak more about placer mining. I will speak more about it in the future.
In closing, I would just like to say that I think I have learned a lot from watching the other Members, and listening to their speeches, which I have enjoyed quite a bit. I look forward to working with everyone who sits in the Legislature on both sides of the House.
Motion No. 14 agreed to
Motion to engross Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be engrossed and be presented to the Commissioner in his capacity as Lieutenant-Governor.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be engrossed and presented to the Commissioner in his capacity as Lieutenant-Governor.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 2: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 2, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 2, entitled An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 2, entitled An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It gives me great pleasure to speak to the land claim and self-government legislation that has been tabled in this House. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Yukon Native Brotherhoods presentation of Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow to the federal government in Ottawa. That action marked the beginning of a long road of land claims and self-government negotiations between the Yukon First Nations, the federal government and the Yukon government.
This road has been well-travelled by Members on both sides of this House. The settlement of land claims is something that I believe is safe to say that all Members in this Legislature support. This government is committed to finalizing and following through on the agreements the hon. Members opposite have negotiated. I would like to commend the Members opposite, and especially the Leader of the Official Opposition, for his diligence in pursuing land claim settlements in the Yukon.
The legislation that is before us is a major milestone in our travels down the road toward settlement of land claims. I wish I could say that the journey is over, but there is a lot more work to be done. This government is strongly committed to continuing to negotiate, in a timely and cooperative fashion, the final agreements and self-government agreements with the remaining Yukon First Nations. We are committed to developing implementation and financial plans that will realistically address the changing demands on the government resources.
Once these subsequent agreements are finalized, they will be tabled in the House to ensure that the Members are informed of the agreements and their content. However, to avoid delay in their implementation and to avoid revisiting substantially similar clauses, these agreements will be given force of law by Order in Council.
As parties to the land claims negotiation, both the federal government and Yukon must pass settlement legislation. This act explicitly states that legislation passed by this Assembly will come into force on the same day as the settlement legislation enacted by the Parliament of Canada. This process of linking the dates of the proclamation will avoid confusion as to when the agreements may be implemented.
The legal obligation to finalize the land claims and self-government settlements date back to the Royal Proclamation of 1763, when the British Crown made a commitment to a fair and just settlement for the First Nations of Canada in return for the expropriation of land. This constitutional obligation was transferred to the Government of Canada in 1870, under the Ruperts Land Transfer.
Although these obligations were made decades, even centuries, ago, the necessity for honouring the commitments of our ancestors has become stronger, not weaker with time.
The legal obligation for completing the land claim settlement is only one motivation for arriving at a fair and just settlement with the Yukons aboriginal people. Negotiating fair deals with the Yukons First Nation people is more than just a legal imperative.
In part, it requires an understanding of the benefits a just settlement will help the aboriginal people of the Yukon. Regaining control over their lands will be an important achievement for the Yukon First Nations.
Through self-government, Yukon First Nations will be able to realize their objective of managing their own affairs, free of the control of the Department of Indian Affairs.
This independence will allow First Nations to develop and live by their own decision-making structures, not one imposed upon them by others. They will be able to develop policies and programs, ones that reflect the cultural traditions specific to their First Nation, to address the very real problems aboriginal people in our society face. Their participation in the management of Yukon affairs will become more substantial and effective.
Recognizing the positive benefits this greater independence will provide to the Yukon as a whole is a further motivation for reaching a fair and just settlement of the land claims and self-government agreements, and increasing certainty over resources and the new partnerships created by these agreements will go hand in hand to develop a stronger and more self-sufficient Yukon economy.
For example, a new cooperative process for land-use planning and the assessment of development projects will give all Yukoners, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, the chance of working together to manage the Yukons resources and economy.
The management of our renewable resources will be enhanced through renewable resource councils that will facilitate the sharing of the knowledge of the area and joint solutions to the management of our wildlife and the habitat.
The finalization of land claim selections will lead to the transfer of control for non-settlement lands from Ottawa to the Yukon. Greater control and self-sufficiency for Yukon First Nations means greater control and self-sufficiency for all Yukoners.
It is imperative that the people of the Yukon understand both the land claim agreements and the self-government agreements and what it means to all of our futures. To that end, later today, I will be presenting a motion to this House to strike an all-party, special committee. This committee will provide an important avenue for the people to learn about and discuss these issues that will affect the future of the Yukon.
The legislation before us represents years of hard work by many committed people. I would like to thank the two Members of this House, the Hon. Member for Whitehorse West, Mr. Penikett, and the Hon. Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, Mr. Phelps, for their commitment and input to the land claims process.
I would like also to extend my thanks to all of the Yukon government, the Council of Yukon Indians and federal government staff who have worked diligently, often into the small hours of the morning, to hammer out agreements that all parties not only can live with but want to live with.
In the true spirit of negotiations, this work has necessitated a lot of give and take on all sides of the table and more of that will have be done in working out our future agreements. This give and take, this hard work and effort, has created legislation that I believe bodes well for the future of the Yukon.
Ms. Joe: The bill presented here today will give legislative approval to these agreements that are based on one final agreement between the government and the Champagne/Aishihik First Nations, which was ratified, I believe, on September 15th. I happened to have the opportunity to be at that historic event because of family ties that I have with that First Nation.
I also remember 20 years ago, when I was with the group called the Yukon Association of Non-Status Indians, when Elijah Smith and 12 chiefs travelled to Ottawa to present this historic document, entitled Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow. The Member for Vuntut Gwichin, in his maiden speech, mentioned that when that happened he was a young man and now he is middle-aged. I believe that many aboriginal people will remember that occasion.
Certainly, this legislation here today is long overdue. I have been in this House for 10 years and one often wondered if we were ever going to get to this point in time where we could deal with this legislation; it is the second time around in this House.
We on this side have appreciated the time that has gone into putting this kind of an agreement together and many people are responsible for that.
I would also like, as the Government Leader did, to thank the Member for Whitehorse West for the work that he did. I know for a fact, from working with him in the last seven years, that a great deal of time and effort went into putting together the settlement and meeting with the community groups, gathering information from aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people alike, in terms of a land claims settlement. Many questions were asked and many stories were told of much anger out there because there was some fear that it was going to interfere with present owners of land, and of course that has never been the case with regard to what the aboriginal people of the Yukon were asking for in terms of a land claims settlement.
We also have to remember here in this House when we are now dealing with this land claims settlement, that it is an aboriginal land claims settlement and we believe that the negotiation has been done in good faith and that it is fair to all Yukoners.
I am concerned about another round of hearings in the communities, although that was a commitment that was made before. My question to the Government Leader would be in regard to where this is going to take us. Are we going to be going out into the communities? Will he be travelling to Old Crow? Will we be listening to all of the people again who might want to be heard by this committee? I would like to believe that when this committee is hearing people, the government is specifically selling this package to those individuals out there.
We have a history here of a government removing themselves from the land claims negotiations for a period of time. After all of this time, I would like to believe that the responsibility is for the good of the settlement, and that they will be heard, and that their commitment is as great as they say it is today.
I look foward to the next few months, and I hope that we will be able to come back to this House with this bill and have it passed in the House. That will be an historic day.
Mr. Penikett: I last spoke in this House about very similar legislation on June 3. Since then, as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes might say, I have suffered an electoral accident and have been fired from my previous job. Nonetheless, I would like, even though I do not have a speech to read, like to contribute a few thoughts to the second reading debate of this bill, which gives legal effect to the Champagne/Aishihik Final Agreement. I would hope, by giving my thoughts at this time, to expedite this profoundly important business before us.
One of the things that I think is not always understood by Yukoners - perhaps not even by all Members of this House - is the extent to which Yukon First Nations, and indeed, the participants in the negotiations in this territory, have led the way for Canada in these discussions.
Negotiations of specific claims, comprehensive claims and other claims in Canada have often been very difficult and painful, but the Yukon, for the best part of a generation, has been number one on the list of comprehensive claims that the federal government recognized and was prepared to negotiate. It is a tribute to the eminent good sense of every single leader of the aboriginal organizations, as well as the people who participated on behalf of the Yukon and federal governments, that we have adopted the model of cooperative negotiations and, in that process, have learned a lot and developed the kind of trust relationships that have made the results we see today possible.
Since the days when the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was the legendary chief negotiator for the Yukon government, we have had the good sense to negotiate, as much as possible, in the communities and in Whitehorse, rather than in the high-rise hotels or office towers of Ottawa. The result of being here in the communities and on the land under discussion, has been highly desirable.
I also think that, in this process, we have achieved a high level of public access to negotiations. Not only has the public attended many of the sessions but, for the last several years, the Yukon government negotiators have been under instructions to provide public briefings to citizens and interest groups throughout our deliberations.
Another special feature of these agreements we have reached is their flexibility. As some parties have tried to do in other areas, we did not impose a cookie-cutter model on each of the First Nations. We did not try to impose one settlement or one framework on every First Nation. There are significant differences in the final agreements reached by the Na-Cho Ny-ak Dun, the Champagne/Aishihik, the Teslin Tlingit and the Vuntut Gwichin that address their particular needs, aspirations and cultural identities.
The way in which the negotiations have gone on, which allowed for public participation at certain critical stages, has also been a good thing. The decision to provide for interim protection on selected land gave the First Nations the security that the land would not be alienated during negotiations, but it allowed non-aboriginal Yukoners an opportunity to comment on the selections and to provide input to our negotiating team.
The fact that the agreement in principle was not legally binding and that there was lots of opportunity for public debate between the agreements in principle and the umbrella final agreements, which, once they are legislated here and in Ottawa, will be final, was also a very appropriate way to involve our citizens. It has given us all time to educate ourselves about these difficult matters and also to develop the kind of understanding that is unique in Canada. I think we had the wisdom long ago to decide that, as much as possible, we should try to provide training in anticipation of the final agreements and, where possible, to pre-implement those agreements to the benefit of First Nations.
I know for a fact that the federal government has been extremely apprehensive about pre-implementation because of fears that they will commit themselves to expenditures before all the parties had signed on the bottom line. We believe that to wait until the ink was dry on the final legal documents before we started training people to take advantage of the settlements or to administer the settlements would have been disastrous and would have led inevitably to a situation similar to that which operated in Alaska, with the major beneficiaries of the land claims there, for at least the first few years, being the tribe - if I can use that word - of Harvard MBAs who flocked into the state immediately following the settlement.
Only now are some of the aboriginal and native corporations there beginning to develop their own indigenous management.
I think as well that, notwithstanding the difficulties that are now being experienced by the government, the decision to try and negotiate implementation agreements, which are contracts between the parties about funding, is a good one. The experience of the James Bay settlement where this was not done was very disappointing. The beneficiaries of that settlement have had to go to court, not once, but several times in an attempt to get the governments of Quebec and Canada to live up to the agreements that they believe were made. To do the hard and necessary work of nailing down implementation agreements that specify the amounts of money that will flow to the parties who have to implement these agreements, I think, is extremely important.
I think that although it took a long time to achieve and it was done only gradually, the battle to have the Yukon government established as a full and separate party to negotiations was one well-worth fighting.
It could have been argued that the kinds of agreements that were contemplated by the federal government in the 1970s, ones involving only land and money, would have justified them being the sole government party at the table.
What became apparent very early on in the Yukon negotiations is that there were literally dozens of issues that involved dimensions of Yukon life, and questions that were in the jurisdiction of the Yukon government under discussion. It was therefore imperative that we become a full party to negotiations. I know it was difficult to achieve that, but I am glad that we did. I think we have better agreements as a result, and I think the Yukon will be the better for our having been at the table.
We have had some difficulties on the question of transboundary claims, and some good precedents were created there. I think there were some bad ones as well. All Members of this House know that I was personally deeply upset by the decision of the federal government to preclude an agreement behind our backs in respect to the Tetlit Gwichin. It is not to say that we did not respect their claim in the area or their aboriginal rights in the area; we did. We believed that as a full party to the negotiations of Yukon claims, no agreement should have been made without us being at the table. Nonetheless, we were able, I think, to solve the problem or prevent that problem from re-occuring by securing an agreement, initially in the Vuntat Gwichin agreement, which says that the Yukon has to consent to the kinds of provisions that the federal government might contemplate making with transboundary claimants or non-resident claimants in the Yukon.
Another innovation and very important feature of the Yukon settlement - the first time it was achieved anywhere I think in Canada - is that there is in our land claims agreement something which amounts to a constitutionally entrenched obligation to negotiate self-government agreements. No other aboriginal group anywhere in the country had achieved that when it was won here.
Other unique features include the fact that, for the first time ever in this country, First Nations will retain aboriginal title on settlement lands. That has not been achieved in any previous treaty or any modern land claims settlement, and it is extremely important.
For the first time anywhere in the English-speaking world, this modern treaty also enshrines conservation of wildlife as the highest principle of wildlife management. It has never been done before and I think it is a very, very significant event.
Hunting, fishing and trapping issues have been ones about which there were very emotional discussions. That is no secret.
During the later stages of our negotiations, after we had reached the umbrella final agreement, we had the Sparrow decision come down, which recognized the priority rights of aboriginal people. I am extremely pleased that the First Nations in the Yukon with whom we negotiated, while insisting on their aboriginal right in this respect, were also willing to negotiate sharing agreements that would allow for non-native people to have a share of the harvest of fish and game. That was a really significant win-win situation for the territory.
One of the benefits of this agreement - and we are the first place in Canada to have done it - is that we have a unified system of wildlife management as a result. With the advent of local resource councils and the resource council at the territorial level, where aboriginal and non-aboriginal people will work together on wildlife management issues, we do have agreements that will achieve that high objective of conservation, or sustainable development, which is very important.
Among the other innovations of this claim is the wildlife restoration trust, a fund contributed to by all parties, which will be dedicated to wildlife enhancement. As well, we have the provision of special management areas, which can protect unique wildlife habitat, or culturally important or environmentally significant sites.
The concept of sustainable development was embodied in a number of the agreements in development assessments, land-use plans, heritage forest and wildlife trapping, among others. In this agreement, as the Government Leader said, there is a whole range of measures, all of which contribute to the increase in local and public control of matters in Yukon life. There is improved local public responsibility - a responsibility that is assumed by people in the Yukon from the federal government. Again, I have to mention land-use planning, development assessment, questions of heritage and, of course, the most important issue of all, self-government.
Conflict resolution mechanisms in this agreement do not depend - and I say this with no disrespect, Mr. Speaker - on lawyers, but are designed to achieve consensus by all parties, if possible, and by mediation processes that are not court-based or adversarial, unless absolutely necessary.
The agreements about the integrity of settlement land and the protection of that land are very important, especially in light of the Alaskan experience. As well, the question of financial security for future generations of aboriginal people is considered, very wisely, in this agreement.
Perhaps the most significant feature of these agreements is that, for the first time anywhere in Canada, we have a land claims and self-government agreement that establishes, without question, a third order, or aboriginal order, of government.
I do not know whether time will permit, but I may have an opportunity at some later stage in this debate to talk about some of the particulars of the Champagne/Aishihik agreement and self-government. I would like to do that, but I do not want to waste time.
It is extremely important that everybody understand that, for First Nations people, these agreements mean that their colonial status will end. They will no longer be wards of this federal state. They will no longer be controlled by the Indian Act. The Indian Act, when each First Nation reaches agreement, will be replaced by the First Nations constitution, which the First Nations citizens themselves will write.
The self-government powers they enjoy on land will be very similar to those enjoyed by municipalities, or counties, in the territory, but they would also have something that I do not think has been achieved by many aboriginal people elsewhere in this country. They will have the right to provide services to their citizens wherever they live in the territory - quasi-provincial services if you like.
In many ways, the negotiators of these agreements in the Yukon have led the way for the nation. I know that during the discussions that led to the Charlottetown Accord - I do not want to dwell on that unhappy and time-consuming experience for me - time and time again, when the question of aboriginal self-government arose, language came to the table, from the federal government or other provinces, that had first originated in agreements been negotiated in the Yukon. Everybody here in this Legislature, all of the chiefs, the councils and the First Nations in this territory, as well the federal negotiators, really have made some incredible innovations in solving some very old problems.
In closing, I am pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm with which the new government is supporting these agreements, and I want to share the sentiment of the Government Leader that wide public understanding of these agreements is essential.
I look forward to hearing the Government Leader explain this legislation as the chair of the committee, and I hope as well in public meetings around the territory. I know the job I tried to do in that respect is far from done, and there are questions out there that have to be answered; there are fears that need to be addressed.
I hope, for all our sakes, the Government Leader will be able to do a better job and attend more public meetings in every corner of the territory than I was able to do during our time in office.
With those few words, along with my colleague, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, we want to indicate our strong support for this measure.
Mr. Cable: It has been four years since a Liberal sat in this House, and I think it is appropriate that I now affirm the support of the Liberal Party and my support for the principles behind these bills; namely, the principle of accepting the aboriginal land claim and the principle of aboriginal right to self-government.
As the Leader of the Official Opposition has, I would like to express my pleasure to the government for having brought the House together to expedite the passing of these bills. The legislation, and the processes the legislation will set in motion, deserve the priority they have been accorded. This gives the people of the Yukon the clear signal that land claim settlement is an issue of high priority for everybody in this House.
Speaker: If the Hon. Government Leader now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Joe: I want to thank both sides of the House for supporting land claims and self-government.
I like the words the Government Leader used. I do not hear too often many of those words from that side of the House. Working together: these are big words to me. Together we could do many things. We could manage a lot of things: wildlife, animals, fish - by working together. I agree with what is being said here by both sides who support land claims agreement and self-government.
Mr. Abel: I, too, would like to say a few words on land claims, since it has carried on for so long. I am really excited about this bill, since both sides of the House are supporting it. I hope that, within the next four years, all land claim issues will be dealt with and concluded, and all Yukoners can live in harmony with one another.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I see that the Member from Whitehorse Centre is not in the House, but she had some concerns about what the committees role was going to be.
While I cannot say definitely what the committees role will be, I see the committee as a vehicle through which we can explain to the people of the Yukon how the self-government and land claims agreements will work in the various communities.
As the Leader of the Opposition has said, there is still some nervousness in some of the communities and in some areas of Yukon. Fear is generally generated from misunderstanding or lack of understanding of agreements, and I believe that the committee can play a very important role in getting the message out to the communities and get the answers that they require so that they have a good understanding and do not feel threatened by the land claims or self-government agreements.
I believe that once they know what is in the agreements they will feel as we do: it is a benefit to all Yukoners and should be resolved.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 2 agreed to
Bill No. 3: Second Reading
Clerk: Second Reading, Bill No. 3, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move that Bill No. 3, entitled First Nations Yukon Self-Government Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 3, entitled First Nations Yukon Self-Government Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I spoke to Bill No. 2 in fair length, and Bill No. 3 goes in conjunction with the land claims final agreement. I believe I have said all I have to say on it at this point.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 3 agreed to
Bill No. 13: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 13, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Brewster.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I move that Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation that Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is my pleasure to introduce for second reading Bill No. 13, An Act to Amend the Liquor Act. This amendment will allow an activity that has taken place for years, and that is the sale of raffle tickets by charitable organizations in lounges and taverns. If the gambling laws regarding the Liquor Act had been strictly enforced, the sale of raffle tickets should not have taken place in bars, nor should the pool boards, which are used quite often in raffle schemes.
We all recognize that the bars are places where community organizations have been able to sell their tickets. Hotels have also supported and sponsored community events, such as the Rendezvous queen contest. It has been through their licensed premises that the major fund raising has taken place.
This amendment eliminates the necessity for enforcement officials to take action if they become aware of raffle activities in establishments licensed under the Liquor Act.
In summary, the amendment eliminates an unnecessary restriction and will now allow licensed charitable organizations to sell their raffle tickets at licensed premises.
Ms. Joe: I suppose I have participated illegally in this kind of activity over the years when fundraising for a venture. I actually did not know it was illegal, or I would not have done it.
I wonder about the priority of legislation in this House. As I mentioned in my speech, there are a lot of other pieces of legislation I feel have as much importance as selling raffle tickets in liquor establishments. I would have been able to stand here with much support for some of the other things that actually affect individuals personally and in the workforce.
I am not going to oppose this legislation, as I feel it is a good thing, but I question the priorities of this government. Did a lobby group go to the Ministers office and ask him to change the legislation to make the selling of raffle tickets in bars legal? I do not know if there was a lobby in force to give him the ambition to proceed with such an act. However, I do support it. I do think it is a good thing but, in the future, I would like to see legislation here that really affects people, working conditions, and many other things, because I think those are much more important.
Speaker: If the hon. Member now speaks he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am very glad that I am not the only one to break the law in the Yukon. Rest assured that my list will not be as long as those broken by the other side of the House.
No lobby group came to me. Unfortunately the law came. I do not think that is a lobby group. I always obey the law and they instructed us that we should do these things so I went ahead and did this. I think it is very important, due to the fact that if this is not passed, many charitable organizations that sell tickets, such as the Rendezvous, and those in all of the other little communities would not be able to raise money. One of the big chores for our community organizations is where they can raise money. I must also point out that even with this in here, pools and pool boards will not be permitted unless they are conducted by a charitable organization.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 13 agreed to
Speaker: The time now being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 2(2), the House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Bill No. 98: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 98, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phelps.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 98, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (No. 2), 1992, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 98, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (No. 2), 1992, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This is your typical run-of-the-mill miscellaneous statute law amendment act. With the exception of the first item, I had very little to do with the drafting of the bill. There are miscellaneous problems adequately explained in the explanatory note attached to the front of the bill.
There is the repeal of the Bulk Sales Act. This is being done on the advice of the Canadian Bar Association. As the explanatory note explains, the act has never done what it was intended to do.
The Bulk Sales Act was included in the 1986 Revised Statutes by mistake.
With respect to the Condominium Act, the amendment confirms that condominium plans may be approved by an employee in the office of the Surveyor General of Canada, who is authorized to do so by the Surveyor General.
The Court of Appeal Act confirms that supernumerary judges of the Yukon Territory may continue to sit on the Court of Appeal, and of course we passed an act just recently about supernumerary judges.
In the Financial Administration Act, typographical errors are corrected.
Regarding Miscellaneous Statute Amendment Act, 1992, this amendment removes a nullity.
Territorial Court Act contains a very modest amendment.
An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act allows us to put the appropriate regulations in place before implementing all parts of the act.
The Workers Compensation Act is simply something that is obviously required as it confirms that the Workers Compensation Act will no longer have any force and effect when the balance of the Workers Compensation Act, chapter 16, comes into force next month. I am sure that after a very limited debate, the Members opposite will see the wisdom of our policy in putting forward this most important statute for consideration by the hon. Members.
Ms. Joe: I am not sure whether I can stand much more wisdom from the other side of the House in regard to any discussions; however, I do not have any problem. There are certain things here that I was told needed to be done and knew that they were going to happen. I probably will not have any questions in Committee of the Whole, although other people on this side of the House might.
Mrs. Firth: I can recall going through these miscellaneous statute act amendments when I was with the fine Members across the floor.
I just want to check with the Minister: did he go through all of these amendments and make sure that there were no errors, because we would frequently find errors in the miscellaneous statute amendments. So, if I can get some reassurance from the Minister that he has examined every single amendment and is confident that there have been no errors by the draftspeople, then I am certainly not going to have any difficulty with this proposed bill.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he speaks now. Does any other Member wish to be heard on this important piece of legislation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have a great deal of faith in the officials who drafted the bill. I did go through the amendments; however, I will be the first to admit that on occasion the subtleties of fine print can elude me.
Second reading of Bill No. 98 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House now resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Bill No. 13 - An Act to Amend the Liquor Act
Chair: Committee will be dealing with Bills No. 13 and 98. We will begin with Bill No. 13. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not have anything to add to what I have said. I just wanted to ensure that everyone in this House is legal. I would not want the rest to be as illegal as I, so when everyone celebrates Christmas, they will be legal.
Mr. McDonald: I am not sure precisely what the Member meant about being legal, or about him being illegal, or anything else.
I do not care if the Member explains himself, but what I would like to ask the Member is precisely what kinds of games he is referring to that are being legalized. I believe that there will be some question here with respect to the issue that was raised in the newspaper recently about a game that had gone awry when there was no pay out at the end of the game. I wonder if the Member could perhaps discuss that issue as well.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: That is where our trouble started. What this bill means is that any lotteries or any games that are sold in bars have to be registered with the Lottery Commission and have to be sponsored by a social service club, or such. This simply means that the little pools that we carry on during the evening for a hockey game are illegal. That is defined under the Criminal Code of Canad and we have no control over that. The rest of the games must be licensed by the Lottery Commission and the games must be operated by a social service club.
The problem all started with the matter the Member mentioned, where a person went to the RCMP.
Ms. Moorcroft: Are there going to be regulations pursuant to these amendments that specify what is going to happen if the pools are not filled to ensure that that problem is avoided in the future?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There are regulations to start with, but when a society doing it, it is legal because they are licensed by the Lottery Commission. I have no doubt that there are strong regulations provided through the Lottery Commission.
Mr. Harding: I am not sure I understood the answer to the question from the Member opposite. If the situation arises where a pool is being run by a group, whoever that may be, and, for some reason, something goes awry during the awarding of the prize or jackpot at the end of the event being sponsored, would there be any regulation of it? If so, how would they control the distribution of the funds that were taken in?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: These rules and regulations are under the Lottery Commission, which has nothing to do with the Liquor Corporation. One must be licensed by the Lottery Commission to be able to conduct a raffle in any bar or lounge. The Lottery Commission must license them.
Mr. McDonald: When the Member refers to the Lottery Commission, is he referring to the Lottery Commission that is the parallel body to the Yukon Recreational Advisory Committee? Is this the commission that is going to license all these games?
The Member mentioned that one had to be a social service club. Is that in this act?
Could the Minister give us a definition of who the qualifying bodies are? The Minister mentioned it would only be used for non-profit. Is that the case? This kind of game will be exclusively for non-profit?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: To my knowledge, yes.
Mr. McDonald: I am sorry I asked so many questions at once, including a request for a definition.
Could the Minister indicate precisely what he is referring to by social service club, so I might know when explaining this in the future? Could he indicate that this amendment is only to permit social service clubs, as he defines them, to participate in this kind of game?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It would include any non-profit group, such as the Lions. There are lots of them. There are the Lions, the Elks, hockey clubs, community clubs, and it goes on and on. I cannot list them all off the top of my head.
Mr. McDonald: Particularly in the Yukon, there are so many clubs that I would never expect the Member to recite them all. I am wondering if social service clubs is simply referring to registered societies under the Societies Act, because that is a very broad definition.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am entering the debate to try and clear up the misunderstanding.
My understanding of this particular bill is that all the rules and regulations that govern raffle tickets and social clubs come under the Public Lotteries Act. This bill, under the auspices of the Liquor Act, is allowing people to sell raffle tickets that are already governed by the Public Lotteries Act, which provides assurance of the prizes that are offered with the tickets. Evidently, they are quite secure. There are supposed to be prizes provided and the licensee has to provide money upfront to operate a lottery. Again, this is governed by the Public Lotteries Act.
This allows the people who are selling the tickets to go into the bars to sell the tickets. Technically, that was illegal and we just discovered that when the recent pool incident developed. Pools in the bars have never been legal under the Criminal Code. There may be some room now to allow for betting pools.
My understanding is that people can now sell these same tickets to the public in the bars, where most of the money is generated when they sell these various raffle tickets.
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps I could direct a question to the Minister of Justice since it would be a legal matter in nature.
If an activity was prohibited under the Criminal Code, then surely it would be prohibited regardless of what we do here, because we do not have the power to change the Criminal Code in this House.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is correct, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Penikett: In that case, what the Member from Riverdale North just said must be wrong.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, quite the contrary. Certain activities are permitted by the Criminal Code under the Public Lottery Act. Some of those activities are permitted and are carried on - for instance, the case of the Sourdough Rendezvous queen candidate tickets.
Technically, right now they cannot sell the tickets in bars. This allows the candidates to go into the bars and sell tickets, and that is the extent of it.
This simply permits certain activities in bars that are permitted otherwise in other parts of the Yukon. It does not impose a penalty on the owner of the bar in the event that someone is carrying on what would be otherwise considered a legal activity in a licensed premise.
Mr. Harding: Would this apply to all outlets that are selling alcohol? The Minister keeps mentioning bars. Does this apply to restaurants or other facilities that serve alcohol?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yes, it does.
Mr. Penikett: There are one or two drinking places in the Yukon that are covered under the Liquor Act that are not public places in law. There may be Legions or places in peoples homes such as in Faro. There used to be a club on Main Street in Whitehorse. I do not know if they sold alcohol there. Does this legislation cover those places?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I remember a club on Main Street years ago that sold alcohol but was not licensed. Many interesting activities were carried on and many people there would have been considered sissies had they had got involved in this form of gambling. The point is that all this does is remove the prohibition of carrying on a certain type of activity in any licensed liquor outlet. It simply removes a restriction where that activity is allowed under other laws of general application.
Ms. Moorcroft: For example, if Kaushees Place were holding a fund-raising event and had a special occasion licence, could they run a pool there at that time?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As long as they had a licence from the Lottery Commission.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They could, provided it was the kind of pool permissible under the Criminal Code. There are certain kinds of pools that are not legal in any event. Provided they lived up to and met the requirements of the laws of general application, they would not be prohibited from selling raffle tickets during an evening when they had a special liquor licence.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I move that you report Bill 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act, without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 98: - Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (No. 2), 1992
Chair: We will now proceed with the Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (No. 2), 1992.
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Bulk Sales Act
Hon. Mr. Phelps: As I mentioned in my second reading speech, this was requested by the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Bar Association. The act is simply not utilized in its present form, or needed in Yukon, because there is other law that does quite nicely in covering this area of law. It was included in the 1986 revised statutes by mistake and we are simply repealing it to take it off of the books.
Bulk Sales Act agreed to
On Condominium Act
Condominium Act agreed to
On Court of Appeal Act
Court of Appeal Act agreed to
On Financial Administration Act
Financial Administration Act agreed to
On Miscellaneous Statute Amendment Act, 1992
Mr. McDonald: Could the Minister define nullity? I want to know what removing it means.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Generally it means it will not appear the next time you happened to look up this particular act.
Miscellaneous Statute Amendment Act, 1992 agreed to
On Territorial Court Act
Ms. Joe: I have a question in regard to the Supreme Court Judge, and it is in regard to whether or not we are expecting a new Supreme Court Judge to be appointed. I have sought that kind of information prior to the election and was never given any kind of an answer. I wonder if the new Minister has been in contact with the federal Minister in regard to that matter, and if we can expect a Supreme Court Judge to be appointed to the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have been advised by an official in the federal Minister of Justice office that they are expecting an appointment to be made sometime in the middle of next month. The exact date, I am not aware of.
Ms. Joe: I would like to know if he knows who it is.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not, but perhaps we could have a pool, under the Liquor Act.
Territorial Court Act agreed to
On An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act
An Act to Amend the Wildlife Act agreed to
On Workers Compensation Act
Mr. McDonald: I am sure the Members know I could not let this particular act pass without a short comment, particularly as it is putting behind us all the bad old ways of doing business with the Workers Compensation Board and ensuring that there is no mistake in ushering in new ways of dealing with the Workers Compensation Board.
Does the Minister intend to abide by this act, once it is passed and, if there is any doubt about that in the future, will he give us advance warning?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: This Minister would always want to abide by the Workers Compensation Act and fully intends to do so. He has sought various legal opinions under the old act and the new act and can assure you that all his actions are extremely legal.
Workers Compensation Act agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that you report Bill No. 98, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (No. 2), 1992, without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by the Hon. Mr. Phillips that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 13, entitled An Act to Amend the Liquor Act and Bill No. 98, entitled Miscellaneous Statute Law Amendment Act (No. 2), 1992, and directed me to report them without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Clerk: Item No. 5, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phillips.
Motion No. 8
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader
THAT this House does not recognize the Independent Alliance as a third party in this House; and
THAT this House orders that the Independent Alliance should not be accorded privileges as if it were a party in opposition to the government.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We brought this motion forward here today to resolve an issue that was discussed by the previous Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
The previous committee made the following decision, and I quote A majority decision of the committee was to recommend to the House that, until such time as the electorate has an opportunity to express itself, the Independent Alliance should be accorded the privileges as if it were a party in opposition to government.
In 1963, Speaker McNaughton of the House of Commons stated, and I quote: That recognition of a political party is a matter for the House to decide. Mr. Speaker, that is why we are here today assessing this issue.
On October 19, the electors went to the polls and elected a new government. In order to qualify for party status in that election, a party must run at least eight or more candidates. The Independent Alliance did not. In fact, not one candidate, including the two previous members of that party, ran under the banner of the Independent Alliance. Other independents running in the election in fact distanced themselves from the alliance. Literature and signs from the two previous Independent Alliance members and other individuals who ran as independents did not indicate at all that they were seeking election as the Independent Alliance. All the literature they produced clearly pointed out that they were running strictly as independents. The party name Independent Alliance was also not requested to be on any ballot.
It is our view that the previous committee gave the Independent Alliance the benefit of the doubt in granting it party status until an election was called. It was expected that the Independent Alliance would have to make some positive moves in the upcoming election to prove that they are a real party in all sense of the word. They did not take any action to satisfy those concerns. In fact, they did not even give the electorate a choice because they could not field eight candidates to form a party.
There may be some questions asked about the status of the Liberal Member of this House and whether or not he should receive party status. Our position is that the Liberal Member does represent a legitimate political party. The Liberal Party ran more than eight candidates in the last election. They all ran under the Liberal banner and were listed as Liberals on the ballot.
We have to be fair to all legitimate parties in this House. Including the Independent Alliance as a legitimate political party is really stretching the imagination and, in our view, sets a dangerous precedent. For that reason, we urge all Members to support this motion.
Mr. McDonald: The NDP caucus intends to support the motion at hand. While there may be a legitimate case for sufficient resources being made available to support the operations of independent Members in our Legislature, there is, in our view, insufficient evidence to justify that those resources be accorded on the grounds that an independent is a party.
Prior to the election, concerns were raised about the designation of party status for the Independent Alliance as it had no constitution, platform of policies, concept of membership or leadership.
However, the committee of the Legislature dealing with the question decided that the electorate, in some way, should decide whether they were voting for an Independent Alliance party. During the election, the electorate was not treated to any indication that they were voting for or against the Independent Alliance. One can argue, based on the Member for Riverdale Souths convincing victory in that riding and her own insistence that she did not speak for any party during her campaign, that the people were voting for a true independent. We, therefore, support the motion, but we will, in the future, consider supporting further financial support for independents in the Legislature.
Mr. Cable: I understand that this House, through the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, dealt with this matter last year. Although I was not here for the debate, I do have a general background on what took place. I would like to make a proposition that by comparing the Independent Alliance with the Liberal Party, we can reach a conclusion as to whether the Independant Alliance is a party.
To begin with, the Yukon Liberal Party ran 14 candidates during the past election. These candidates all ran under the Yukon Liberal Party banner and all adhered to a platform that was put forward by the party. Members of the party, members of the executive and, indeed, elected representatives, such as myself, are bound by a written constitution. The party has a membership list and the institution of the Liberal Party existed before I entered this House and probably will exist long after I am gone. This is probably true of both the Yukon and New Democratic Parties. They are institutions that are above or greater than their members. Given this, and by analogy, to say that a Member who ran as an independent and calls herself an independent is a political party is stretching the definition of party; therefore I must support this motion.
Mrs. Firth: I am going to have a little more to say than the previous speakers did. This will be my opportunity to go through this again. I remember the debate last time, all the points that were raised and the same points are being brought forward. I want to start by addressing some of the points that were brought up by the House Leader.
Nowhere in any legislation does it state that one of the qualifications for party status, or any of the qualifications for party status, are the following points that the House Leader mentioned: that the literature contain any reference to the party; that the campaign signs make reference to it.
The only stipulation is that, if you want to run as a party, according to the Elections Act, you have to be able to field a certain number of candidates.
Because the Independent Alliance was unable to do that, they were unable to use Independent Alliance on campaign literature, on the ballot, or on campaign signs. It was not because they did not want to, but because they were not allowed to, according to the Elections Act. I just want to clarify that point. It was not because the Independent Alliance candidates did not want to do that. In fact, two candidates would have done so, had we been able to.
I always find it interesting when Members talk about a real party, in all the sense of the word. To all the traditional parties and institutions, as the Liberal Member has referred to them, all the definitions of what a real party is, according to those established parties, is different from what the Independent Alliance wants to represent and believe in.
Therefore, I can understand the resistance of traditional parties to accept new ideas. However, that does not make us not a party - just because the traditional parties do not want to accept our beliefs. I want to make that point.
I find the comparison that the Liberal Member for Riverside makes quite interesting. Again, he talks in traditional, institutionalized context about constitutions, membership lists and party platforms. Without getting into a big explanation about the Independent Alliance - we went all through that during the last sitting - our platform was different and our ideas were different.
The House Leader is nodding his head. There are new, emerging political parties. The Reform Party is a good example of that.
I think that as elected Members we should be encouraging democratic principles; we should be encouraging new parties to form. If everyone had had a closed mind about the creation of new political parties and new political entities, where would the NDP be now? It began with the CCF. Where would the Reform Party be?
There is a demand out there among the public for new ideas and new concepts and there is definitely a disenchantment and a skepticism about the traditional parties in the traditional sense.
I recognize I am not going to win the argument but there are some points I would like to make and I would like to ask the Members to perhaps open up their minds a little bit about democratic principles.
The House Leader made a comment about it not being fair to the legitimate parties that the Independent Alliance achieved party status. What exactly does that mean - that it is not fair to the established political parties - because as I see it, and as a lot of other people who are disenchanted with the party system see it, the system is very unfairly stacked in favour of political parties - already established, traditional, institutionalized political parties. The system very much discriminates against new, emerging political parties with different concepts and different ideologies.
There has just been a case before the courts in which the Reform Party of Canada said the Elections Act was unconstitutional because it discriminated against them with respect to equal time for advertising on CBC, and so on. The ruling that was presented by the Hon. V.P. Moshansky was that they did have a case.
I took the liberty of getting the ruling of Justice Moshansky. In his ruling he said that there was an appropriate case to delay, for a reasonable period of time, the advertising allotment and formula. He said that he had given a number of alternatives that Parliament may consider when drafting formulas, which may lessen the discriminatory effect that the present formula has upon new and emerging political parties.
I think that just indicates that the traditional, structured party politics that we have are coming under close scrutiny by the public, by the justice system, and that there are circumstances of discriminatory and unfair action - unfair to new ideas, new concepts and particularly unfair to independents, and yes, we call ourselves independents. We have the ability, as a group of independents, to form an independent alliance and call ourselves a party and have whatever kind of philosophy, platform or beliefs we wish to have.
I do not think the Members of this Legislature, who all belong to traditional parties, can scoff at that idea just because it does not conform to their way of understanding what a political party is, or to their way of being involved in a political party system.
I have had people ask me what I have to lose if I do not have the party status. Personally, I have nothing to lose. It will not hurt me at all. My concern is for the people I represent and for all Yukoners, because I represent not only the people of Riverdale South, but all Yukoners. By being denied the party status in this Legislature, I will not be invited to the House Leaders meeting. I will be dependent on either the House Leader informing me of the agenda - not because he has to, but because he may want to - or going to the other Opposition Members to find out what the agenda is.
What good does it serve this Assembly to have a Member not informed about what the agenda and order of business for the day is? How does that help me serve my constituents by being well-informed as to the proceedings that are going on in the House? It does not.
Also, I do not have the opportunity to respond to ministerial statements. All the other parties in the House do, but this one does not. My constituents voices, with respect to certain government policies and initiatives, will not be able to be represented in this Legislature. I know I can call a press conference and talk to the media about it, but it is not recorded in Hansard, which is the historical record. I think that is a loss to my constituents.
We are going to spend the rest of the evening debating representation on boards and committees. The people of Riverdale South, who have a Member who is quite capable of giving them some representation on some of the boards and committees, will not be able to do that, because the Independent Alliance will not have party status.
If we had a surplus of Members who could participate on boards and committees, I would say it is not a big problem. However, we do not. We have a small number of Members and a large number of boards and committees. I think we need to be using the talents and services of all the Members of the House that we can. Yet, we will not be doing that.
Because I am not being allowed to be a member of the party, I cannot give my constituents that representation on boards and committees.
When it comes to debating motions, I can put all the motions on the Order Paper that I want, but I think that it would be fair to say that it would be very unlikely that a motion that I have presented to this Legislature will ever come up for debate. I would be eighth; my motion would come eighth on the Order Paper. I can present motions on behalf of my constituents; I can go to the media and say that these are the motions that I brought forward and these are the arguments that I wanted to present. Again, the people of Riverdale South are not going to be able to have motions debated in the Legislature that have been sponsored by their representative. That is denying the people of Riverdale South their rights in giving them treatment that is not equal to all the other constituents who are represented by Members of this Legislature who are insistent that political parties have to abide by certain traditions, standards and institutionalized behaviour.
I think it is obvious from the last day or two that I will be allowed a question during Question Period; however, I will now have to wait until all the other Opposition Members have had a question, then I will be given an opportunity to ask a question on behalf of my constituents.
Those are all areas where I think not having party status is denying the rights of the people I represent. This motion is not denying rights to me personally, but to the people I represent. I think that is a discriminatory action; it is discriminating against the people of Riverdale South not to allow the party status.
There has been an argument made that there was not a full slate of candidates fielded; the last Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges said that it would let the electorate decide. The electorate decided. They voted for two independent candidates who were the co-founders of the Independent Alliance. I believe that both of those candidates received healthy endorsements from their constituents.
The confidence of the people is what counts in the democratic process, and I think that the people in Porter Creek South and in Riverdale South demonstrated confidence in their Members who were the co-founders of the Independent Alliance.
Now, those people are not going to be able to have the representatives they elected speak on their behalf in the Legislative Assembly - one by choice, and another because the other Members of the Legislative Assembly do not want to grant those privileges to that Member.
Talking about democracy, new ideas and democratic principles, it all sounds kind of nice and motherhoody, and the rest of it. I want to ask Members of the House why they would want to pursue a direction that would, in a way, make it harder for an MLA in this House to bring forward concerns on behalf of their constituents, as opposed to making it easier? In a democracy, why would we not want to be making it easier for people and give them more opportunities to stand up and represent the people who voted for them? Why would we want to take those opportunities away? Why would we want to diminish those opportunities?
I cannot understand why, and maybe it is just my different way of thinking. I do not know why Members would want to do that, other than the self-serving, self-protecting attitude of the traditional parties in wanting to maintain and protect the party political system.
There are two pieces of legislation in the territory that will continue to recognize the Independent Alliance as a party. The Elections Act, under which the Independent Alliance continues to be registered as a political party, still recognizes the Independent Alliance as a political party. We have made an amendment to that political party registration, changing co-leaders to one leader. In the event another election is called, if the Independent Alliance can field eight candidates or more, it will be able to run Independent Alliance candidates on the ballot. That cannot be changed by the House, unless they amend the legislation. So, we are still recognized under the Elections Act.
The Legislative Assembly Act also recognizes the Independent Alliance as a political party, because the requirements under that piece of legislation are that you are a registered political party, which the Independent Alliance is, and that you have one member elected to the Legislative Assembly, which it does. In fact, it has two members elected to the Legislative Assembly: the Speaker and the Member for Riverdale South.
The only group that will not recognize the Independent Alliance and grant it party status are the other elected Members. I think that is going to raise a few eyebrows in the public, but so be it.
I have had people say that we will lose money and support staff. We are presently having some discussions with respect to that, but that is not the main concern here. That is not my main concern, other than it is easier to make representation on behalf of other Yukoners if you have access to the resources. If I have to visit other communities as a member of a party, that kind of assistance is provided. That is a loss to a group, or a person who wants to represent a political party.
I found it interesting when the Member for Riverside compared the Independent Alliance to the Liberal party, because I also have a comparison. I have mentioned this to a couple of Members of the Legislature I have been talking to - the House Leader and the Opposition House Leader. I am still firmly convinced that this would be the case.
In the last election, suppose the Liberals had not been able to field the required eight candidates, and the sitting Liberal Member had run as an independent Liberal and been elected to this House. I am absolutely convinced that that individual would very quickly drop the independent Liberal and be here as a representative of the Liberal Party. I am totally convinced that no one would have raised an eyebrow about it, and that the role would have been taken over very smoothly. People would have said that they were not able to field the candidates, but this individual is a Liberal and is with the Liberal Party and represents it, so he is the Liberal Member in the Legislature. I do not think anyone would have asked any questions or caused any disagreement about that.
That is the comparison I prefer to make. In this circumstance, the Independent Alliance has two Members elected. The Liberal Party has one Member elected. I think the Independent Alliance could make a good argument to be the third party because it has more Members. I know I would never win that argument so I am not going to waste the time of the House or the Members Services Board, or whoever.
What is going to happen with respect to this? There has been a decision by the previous government to allow the Independent Alliance party status. A lot of people are saying that there was a precedent set there. This Legislature now wants to revoke that party status on the basis that they were to go to the electorate and let the electorate choose. The electorate chose two Independent Alliance people. There were no specifications in the ruling from the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges that there were a certain number of individuals who had to be elected as Independent Alliance members. There was nothing that specified that, any more than it specified that there had to be one Liberal who was elected to achieve party status.
When the House makes its decision tonight, it is going to set another precedent. That precedent will be that even though two pieces of legislation recognized the Independent Alliance as a party and that the House previously recognized it as a party, now the House is going to say that it does not recognize the Independent Alliance as a party. The only justification that the House has to substantiate that is not a legitimate or legal requirement; it is simply a requirement made by the House.
I fully recognize that the House has control over the proceedings of the House and has the ability to do that. The government party keeps standing up and saying what percentage of people voted for anyone other than the NDP - but there were a lot of people who also voted for independents. They were not all Independent Alliance members, but they received votes. I do not think the House should just disregard that voice and that expression from the public in support of that new idea.
It is interesting that there is an independent sitting in the Speakers chair.
The independent sitting over there is a Cabinet Minister. There is an independent here who just wants to have party status so she can represent her constituents fully, but that is not good enough. Independents are good enough to be in the Speakers Chair and good enough to be Cabinet Ministers, but they are not good enough to have their own party status. That is just not fair.
The House Leader wants to talk about fairness, that is not fair. It is not fair to new, emerging parties to have the rules so stacked against them that new parties, like the Reform Party, have to constitutionally challenge the present system that is in place.
I think that we have to listen very closely to what the electorate is saying, because there is an expression out there of people who are very dissatisfied with the traditional party ways, and those people are looking for an alternative. We all have to be aware of that, and I think that we have to respect that voice that we are hearing.
Speaker: If the hon. Member speaks now he will close debate. Does anyone else wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thank all the Members for their comments here tonight.
The Member for Riverdale South has made a valiant attempt to try and convince us in this House that she alone represents a legitimate political party.
However, she left out a couple of things in the equation, and that is that common sense and logic should have some bearing on our decision here on what really does constitute a legitimate political party.
In the beginning of the Members speech tonight, she talked about the Elections Act. She said that the act states that you must nominate eight or more candidates to be a political party. She did not do that under the guidelines of the Elections Act.
If you were going to produce a most refined definition of a party, you could come up with one that might say people coming together to promote a common cause. In this case, the Independent Alliance fails because, in the last general election, the Independent Alliance could not find eight people in the whole territory who would come together for a common cause. The Independent Alliance could not gather enough people together to form a party.
The member for Riverdale South stated today in this House, two or three hours ago, that she was very proud to be an independent - not a member of any party, but an independent. In fact, she stated that she was probably the second independent who ever sat in the House, Don Taylor being the first. I cannot recall Don Taylor ever stating that he was a political party.
She talked about the Reform Party and likening the Independent Alliance to the new party, the Reform Party. If I recall, the Reform Party has a constitution, the Reform Party has members, and the Reform Party elects its leader. All three things the Independent Alliance does not have.
She talked about her voice being limited in this House, because she no longer has party status. I think we have to take a good look around, and look at the size of the House we have here in the Yukon Legislative Assembly. We have 17 Members. I cannot recall a time in this House where any Member was limited or prevented from speaking on an issue. In fact I would suggest, we get more time than any other Legislature in the country to represent the views of our constituents in this House. I could not accept that argument.
She also has some concerns, as well, about being informed of the agenda of the House. I can assure the Member that I will be in constant communication with her in communicating the House business on a regular basis. I feel that is my responsibility, and that is something I take very seriously. I will be communicating with that member on all house business, and keeping her aware of what is happening.
I talked earlier about the Independent Alliance name not being on the literature. It was not only not on the literature, but in one piece that was released during the last election campaign, the Member who just spoke said, and I quote, As an independent, Bea represents you, not party politics. She is telling everyone that she is not a party member. She has risen in the House many times and said that she does not speak for the people of the Yukon, but she speaks for the people of Riverdale South and represents the people of Riverdale South. She said that many times in the campaign and many times in the House.
One can see that the Member is making a rather valiant attempt to twist the rules as far as she possibly can to obtain party status. I think what we are doing here tonight it a legitimate and proper move. The Member for Riverdale South will not be limited in her activities in the House. I am sure we will hear a lot more from the Member for Riverdale South in the upcoming four years.
Motion agreed to
Motion No. 9
Clerk: Item No. 6, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phillips.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader
THAT the Honourable Speaker, Hon. John Ostashek, Tony Penikett and Hon. Doug Phillips be appointed to the Members Services Board;
THAT the Speaker be the Chair of the said board; and
THAT the said board, on matters of Assembly organization, consider:
(1) budget forecasts for the Legislative Assembly vote, and
(2) policy questions concerning matters such as
(a) Assembly research services
(b) space allocation
(c) expansion or reduction of staffing
(d) caucus funding
(e) Press Gallery House rules
(f) seating in the Assembly
(h) administration of retirement allowances.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I would like to propose an amendment to the motion. I move
THAT Motion No. 9 be amended by deleting the first paragraph and substituting for it the following:
THAT the Hon. Speaker, Hon. John Ostashek and Tony Penikett be appointed to the Members Services Board;.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice
THAT Motion No. 9 be amended by deleting the first paragraph and substituting for it the following:
THAT the Hon. Speaker, Hon. John Ostashek and Tony Penikett be appointed to the Members Services Board;.
Amendment to Motion No.9 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Motion No. 9 agreed to as amended
Clerk: Item No. 7, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phillips.
Motion No. 10
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader
THAT the Honourable Members Willard Phelps, John Ostashek, Tony Penikett, Jack Cable, Mickey Fisher, Lois Moorcroft and David Millar be appointed to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges;
THAT the said Committee have the power to call for persons, papers and records and to sit during intersessional periods; and
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the Committee.
Motion No. 10 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 8, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Phillips.
Motion No. 11
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader
THAT the Honourable Members Piers McDonald, Bill Brewster, Doug Phillips, Jack Cable, Mickey Fisher, Trevor Harding and David Millar be appointed to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts;
THAT the said Committee have the power to call for persons, papers and records and to sit during intersessional periods; and
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the Committee.
Motion No. 11 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 9, standing the name of the Honourable Mr. Phillips.
Motion No. 12
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader
THAT the Honourable Members David Millar, Margaret Joe and Johnny Abel be appointed to the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments;
THAT the said Committee be empowered to sit during intersessional periods;
THAT the said Committee review all new regulations as they are published;
THAT the said Committee review such other existing or proposed regulations as are referred to it by the Assembly; and
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the Committee.
Motion No. 12 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 2, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Motion No. 5
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader
THAT it is the recommendation of this Assembly that the Honourable Members John Ostashek, Bill Brewster and Willard Phelps be appointed to the Advisory Committee on Finance and that the Honourable Members Doug Phillips, John Devries and Mickey Fisher be appointed as alternate members of the same committee.
Motion No. 5 agreed to
Speaker: Item No. 4, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr.Ostashek.
Motion No. 7
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader
THAT a Special Committee on Land Claims and Self-Government be established;
THAT the Committee be comprised of seven members of the Legislative Assembly;
THAT Hon. John Ostashek be the Chair of the Committee;
THAT the remaining six members of the Committee are as follows: three members appointed by the Government Leader, two members appointed by the Leader of the Official Opposition and the honourable Member for Riverside;
THAT Bill No. 2, entitled An Act Approving Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements, and Bill No. 3, entitled First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, be referred to the Committee;
THAT individual Yukon Land Claim Final Agreements and Yukon First Nation Self-Government Agreements be transmitted to the Committee, subsequent to First Nations ratification by the Government Leader tabling such agreements in the Legislative Assembly or, if the Legislative Assembly is not then sitting, by the Government Leader delivering such agreements to the Speaker who shall forward copies to all Members of the Legislative Assembly;
THAT the Committee report to the Legislative Assembly no later than the fifth day of the next regular sitting of the Legislative Assembly:
a) its recommendation as to whether the Agreement referenced in Bill No. 2 and considered by the Committee should be accepted or rejected,
b) its recommendation as to whether the Self-Government Agreement referenced in Bill No. 3, and considered by the Committee should be accepted or rejected,
c) its findings, if any, relating to the subject matter of Bill No. 2 and Bill No. 3, and
d) its recommendations, if any, for amendments to the clauses of Bill No. 2 and Bill No. 3;
THAT, in the event the Legislative Assembly is not sitting at the time that the Committee is prepared to report, the Chair of the Committee forward copies of the report to all Members of the Legislative Assembly, thereafter make the report public, and subsequently present the report to the Legislative Assembly at the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly;
THAT, at such time as the Committee has reported to the Legislative Assembly, Bill No. 2, Bill No. 3, any agreements considered by the Committee and the report of the Committee stand automatically referred to the Committee of the Whole;
THAT, during its review of Bill No. 2 and Bill No. 3, the Committee be empowered:
a) to send for officials from the Land Claims Secretariat of the Government of the Yukon to appear as witnesses on technical matters,
b) to invite such other persons as it deems necessary to appear as witnesses on technical matters,
c) to hold public hearings,
d) to create a sub-committee or sub-committees that can question witnesses, receive oral submissions and conduct public hearings but, which cannot make decisions on behalf of the Committee, and
e) to print such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it; and
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is an honour for me to lead off the debate on this most important motion. As hon. Members are aware, it will establish a committee of this House, review the land claims self-government agreement reached by the Yukon and Federal government, and the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation. It is my intention to serve as the chair of this committee, because I am personally committed to the land claims process.
These agreements, which are the first to be ratified by the Yukon First Nations, represent a culmination of nearly two decades of work to settle the Yukon Indian land claims. They represent the efforts of many people, not the least of whom is the leadership of the Champagne/Aishihik First Nations and the Council for Yukon Indians.
These agreements are of tremendous importance to our territory. Through these agreements the Champagne/Aishihik First Nation, and other First Nations as they ratify land claims and self-government agreements, will become partners in building a stronger and more vibrant economy. They will have a significant role in managing the territorys wildlife resources, which are so important to the well-being of aboriginal Yukoners. They will have the ability to design and deliver social, and other programs for their citizens.
Agreements of this importance deserve full attention from the Members of this House. The committee, which this motion seeks to establish, will give Members representing all the parties in this Assembly a chance to study these agreements in detail. It will allow hon. Members to examine in depth the legislation that will form the basis for the Yukons ratification of these and other First Nation agreements in this territory. The committee will also have the ability to recommend changes to the legislation if it finds it would be desirable to fully act upon commitments government has made in land claim negotiations.
There is no doubt the agreements and the legislation that will be subject to the committees vote are of great significance to this territory and its people. Accordingly, we believe that the Yukon residents should have an opportunity to make presentations to the committee and to gain a greater understanding of the land claims and self-government legislation. The committee has the ability to hold public hearings in communities of its choosing. It can ensure Members have the information they need to carry out their work. The committee will have the opportunity to call witnesses on technical matters. These witnesses can include representatives of the Land Claims Secretariat, which has been a principal branch of this government involved in negotiation of these agreements.
Although the Champagne/Aishihik First Nations agreement will be the focus of the committees study, other agreements ratified by Yukon First Nations during the life of the committee can be referred to it. We expect the committee to carry out its work in the next few months. The House will then be recalled to consider its recommendations and to complete the work of approving this very important legislation.
Given the nature of this legislation, we on this side of the House look forward to todays debate on establishing this committee. We equally look forward to the committees constructive consideration of the land claims agreements and the legislation.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Government Leader for presenting the motion.
I want to ask a number of questions in my remarks, which I do not expect the government to answer one by one. I would appreciate the Government Leader responding to them if he can in the closing comments in this debate.
I am no longer my partys spokesperson on aboriginal rights, land claims and self-government. As a Member of this Legislature, however, I continue to take an interest in this subject. I am aware that the legislation given second reading today refers to the Champagne/Aishihik final agreements and self-government agreements. As this is the legislation that I had the pleasure of presenting to the House on June 1, I referred to the agreements signed by the Vuntat Gwichin and that there is textual consistency between the two bills, the only difference being that one refers to one First Nation and the other to another.
This motion to create the committee differs in one major respect in that we, as the very flexible, amenable people we perhaps mistakenly were, agreed to holding off dealing with this legislation until we had two final agreements at the urging and eloquence of the present Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. This committee is to deal with the one final agreement although, consistent with the previous recommendation, I guess it could examine or look at the other final agreements, of which there are now four. The fourth was achieved the day before our government left office.
However, unlike the bills themselves, which are very similar in wording - it is almost identical wording, save and except that they refer to different First Nations - there is some significant wording changes between this motion and the one that we presented to the House, other than the matter of whether we would be dealing with one First Nations final agreement or two; therefore, I want to ask a number of questions about the governments intentions with respect to this committee, and I hope that the Government Leader will be able to give us some of the information in his windup remarks.
As I read the motion, it is still the intention of the sponsor of the legislation that this committee shall, in the end, have two options: one to vote to support the legislation to give effect to the Champagne/Aishihik land claim and self-government agreements, or to reject it.
However, there is a clause that caused some confusion the last time that we were debating this matter in the House in June, and that is subclause (d) of the section dealing with the committee report, which talks about recommendations, if any, for amendments to clauses of Bills No. 2 and No. 3.
At the time, some people were concerned that might suggest that there could be changes to the agreements themselves. I was very firm in my view that this committee was not empowered to renegotiate the land claims agreements. However, I believe the Government Leader himself, in his previous incarnation, has on more than one occasion indicated that, if there were expressions of public opinion that indicated to him that changes were in order or clauses should be renegotiated, he would be open to considering such pressure.
If he can, I would like the Government Leader to be very clear on this point today. Is it, or is it not, his intention to entertain what, in effect, could be changes to the land claims agreements themselves as a result of these committee hearings?
The second broad question I have for the Government Leader concerns the operations of the committee. I have been around this House long enough to know that the way a committee operates has a lot to do with the particular collection of personalities that may be on the committee.
I also know that the style of a committee can very much be dictated by the chair, for better and for worse. Having chaired committees in this House for many years, I know that I have one way of doing things, and I would quite expect and respect that other Members have other ways of doing things and, of course, they do. The Government Leader will not mind my saying that long-term Members of this House are fairly familiar with my way of doing things from my years of chairing the Public Accounts Committee. As a new Member, most of us are not yet acquainted, or have no knowledge, about the way in which he would wish to lead a committee.
I would like to hear him on that subject, because there are very many different ways of proceeding in the parliamentary system. To briefly illustrate the point, you can either run an American-style congressional committee, which gives almost all power and all staffing resources to the chair and becomes very much a one-person show. I do not suggest it is exactly that, but it gives the impression of that. Or you could run a more egalitarian operation where there is a very conscious sharing of the responsibility for the committee, which is the way we used to operate in Public Accounts during the days when I chaired the committee. I do not suggest that is the right way, but I am interested, because we are dealing with matters in this committee that are of fundamental importance to First Nations and they are also of extraordinary interest to everyone in the territory.
This House operates on the British parliamentary traditions. There is a kind of cultural bias in the way we operate. It is not always comfortable or easy for First Nations people to function in this way. If at some point there are hearings contemplated in communities or First Nation witnesses who may appear before the committee, I would be concerned that we are not excessively rigid in our manner of proceeding, nor too tight in our timetables, nor closed minded about suggestions for different ways of operating, especially if the committee happens to be meeting with First Nations such as the Champagne/Aishihik people on their traditional territory or in their own communities.
The question of the operation of the committee does not just have to do with the chair style; it also has to do with the role of the chair. I ask this in all seriousness to the Government Leader: due to the fact that we have, in this committees mandate, the ability to call witnesses from the land claims secretariat or, I assume officials either from this government, the federal government or First Nation governments, on technical matters and given that there is no longer in the governments employ a chief negotiator who has had anything to do with putting these agreements together, and given that nobody in the present administration was involved in the negotiations, I am concerned about the question of who is going to answer policy questions.
It is quite possible for the Government Leader, who is also the Minister responsible for land claims, to leave the chair and appear as a witness before the committee, but it seems to me that that is a bit of a schizophrenic role. It would be very difficult to be the horse and the cart in this procedure. Someone is going to have to appear before the committee at some point to answer some very substantial policy questions.
I would like to know from the Government Leader who he expects that to be. If this is a role he is going to assign to someone like the Minister of Justice, who will have a continuing responsibility for interpreting this law, and who it so happens has some experience in these matters, that is fine, but I would like to know who is going to answer the policy questions that may be asked of members of the committee.
There are two other questions I would like to ask the Government Leader to answer. The first has to do with the venue of the hearings. Obviously I expect that the committee would begin its work in Whitehorse. Whether it chooses to meet on the floor of the Assembly as the Public Accounts Committee has done or whether it chooses to meet in a committee room here is of no interest to me. I would assume in any case that there will be some general discussion at the beginning, that there will be some technical witnesses, and then the agenda for the committee would be defined by the members of the committee as to what issues they would hear. I would like to know beyond that, since the wording on the question of hearings has been changed, where the government would like to take the committee after that. Is it contemplated that since we are dealing with the Champagne/Aishihik final agreement that it would almost certainly go to Haines Junction, for example, for public hearings?
Since the other final agreements would also be before the committee, or at least available to the committee, is it also contemplating going to the traditional territory of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun? Is there a possibility, since the Vuntat Gwichin agreements have already been presented to the House that it may want to go to Old Crow? Is it interested in planning, or contemplating going to Teslin where there was also a final agreement. For information or educational purposes, is the Government Leader considering suggesting to the committee that it might go to other communities where negotiations are now beginning, such as Pelly Crossing, Carmacks, Dawson City or Whitehorse?
The final question I would like to put to the Government Leader concerns the committees timetable. When does he intend to call the first meeting? How soon would he want to have organizational meetings of the committee? How soon after that would he contemplate beginning hearings? Finally, what kind of timetable does he think the committee would need to complete its work. I am not asking the Government Leader to make firm and final commitments in response to these questions of timing, because I understand that committee hearings can get a life of their own, but I would like to hear some indication from him of what kind of time frame he thinks it would take the committee to complete its work. Beyond that, I have no other comments about the committee. I understand fairly well the project that is involved, but I have the questions that I have stated for the record on my mind, and I would appreciate any information in response to these questions that the government can provide us this evening.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That was quite a list of questions put forward by the Leader of the Official Opposition. In listening to them, I understand that there are solid reasons behind asking such questions. In my observation, and certainly in my discussions with the Government Leader, he would not want to impose too many pre-conditions on the operation of the committee.
Some or most of these issues would be addressed at the first meetings that the committee would have in Whitehorse. I am sure that the style of the meetings could be one that would be amenable to the culture and style of communities and First Nations. I really feel, certainly from my perspective, that it would be desirable that the hearings be as informal at the community level as possible.
The Leader of the Official Opposition, in raising the questions, also has concerns with respect to certain policy questions. I understand that that is due to the lack of continuity, I suppose at the ministerial level. Certainly among the officials, there are varying degrees of experience in negotiating land claims. The current chief negotiator, on behalf of this government, previously fulfilled that role and seems to have a very good command of what went on when he was not in that position and he is quite capable of handling those negotiations.
In my view, my recommendations and the way I feel is that there should be a certain amount of leeway granted to the committee so that they can set certain parameters with respect to each of these questions and agree, hopefully on a consensus basis, on how to proceed from there.
The second question asked had to do with the issue of whether this committee could make recommendations that might lead to amendments to the agreements. My observation would be that that would be a very unusual situation. Then again, it would be unsatisfactory to most Yukoners to have the door completely closed. There is always the possibility that something might come up that all three parties to the agreement might see as a desirable amendment. I certainly agree that this is one of these situations where, on balance, it is very important that First Nations be reassured that there is no intention to make amendments or undergo that type of critique. It is a matter of attempting to fully understand the agreements as they have been negotiated already and an attempt to ensure that the policy of the current government, with respect to implementation, is satisfactory.
Quite often, at this stage of a negotiated settlement, implementation suddenly becomes very important, because it speaks to certain types of interpretation with regard to the intent of the document.
I am not attempting to answer questions on behalf of the Government Leader, but I have an interest, as does the speaker before me, in the satisfactory resolution of any issues surrounding the land claims issues.
I ran this time, partly because I was committed to, and remained committed to, assisting in the implementation of the final package, particularly with respect to the First Nations within my constituency. I am putting forward my comments and my advice to the Government Leader on those issues.
Speaker: If the hon. Member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I would like to assure the Leader of the Official Opposition that I would hope that the committee would come to a consensus as to how they are going to operate. As chair of a committee, I do not believe in operating with a heavy hand. My belief is that the main purpose of the committee is to explain to Yukoners how the land claims and self-government agreements will work with the system that we have in the Yukon now, what role they would play and what will be expected of people.
As I stated earlier in the debate today, I believe that fear is generated by not knowing what is in store for people. I believe the first priority of the committee would be to see that it is explained to the people who have questions.
I have worked and appeared at hearings in small communities, as the Member opposite is aware. I have lived in small communities for a good portion of the time that I have been in the Yukon. I have watched committees of various sorts operate in communities. I do not believe in structured committees and rigid timetables. Those are all road blocks that are put in the way of people who do not feel comfortable appearing in that sort of a format, so I think the role of the committee is to hear the concerns of all Yukoners and try to address those concerns.
With respect to the communities that the committee would be visiting, I believe that the committee will also be making those decisions. I can see the committee appearing in Whitehorse and Haines Junction for sure and possibly Mayo and Teslin. The committee would have the authority to decide what hearings they want to hold and where they would be held.
As for the timetable, I would hope that the committee would have its first meeting shortly after the new year, and I believe that we would like to have this process completed by the end of February at the very latest, if at all possible. Again, we would have to leave some discretion to the committee if they in fact felt they had to hold more hearings.
We hope to have this through and the committees report back in so that we can finalize the land claims legislation so that it can proceed to the federal level.
Motion No. 7 agreed to
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Ostashek.
Motion No. 4
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government Leader
THAT Standing Order 45 be amended by:
(a) adding the following new provision:
(4) At the commencement of the first session of each Legislature a Standing Committee on Appointments shall be appointed to review and report on appointments proposed by the Executive Council to those boards, commissions, councils and committees identified in the motion appointing the Committee.,
(b) renumbering the remainder of the Standing Order accordingly;
THAT the Honourable Members Doug Phillips, Margaret Joe, John Devries, Jack Cable, Mickey Fisher, Trevor Harding and David Millar be appointed to the Standing Committee on Appointments; and
THAT the terms of reference of the Committee be as follows:
(1) The Committee may review appointments proposed by the Executive Council to:
(a) Yukon Development Corporation Board of Directors,
(b) Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors,
(c) Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board,
(d) Yukon Lottery Commission,
(e) Yukon Recreation Advisory Council,
(f) Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board,
(g) Yukon College Board of Governors,
(h) Yukon Electrical Public Utilities Board, and
(i) Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
(2) The Committee may also review such other appointments proposed by the Executive Council as are referred to it by the Executive Council or as are referred to it by separate motion of the Legislative Assembly.
(3) The Committee shall prepare a report within 45 days of receipt of a proposed appointment and such report shall contain:
(a) the decision of the Committee as to whether it would review the proposed appointment,
(b) where the Committee has decided to review the proposed appointment,
(i) the recommendation of the Committee as to whether the proposed appointment should be made, or
(ii) a statement that the Committee has chosen not to make a recommendation, and
(c) any reasoning the Committee chooses to include respecting its decisions or recommendations.
(4) The right of the Committee to report on a proposed appointment continues in those cases where the Commissioner in Executive Council or, if applicable, a Minister has found it necessary, due to legal requirements or operational needs to make an appointment prior to the expiration of the 45 day period.
(5) The Chair of the Committee shall present all reports of the Committee to the Legislative Assembly. If the Legislative Assembly is not sitting at the time a report has been prepared, the Chair shall forward the report to all Members of the Legislative Assembly and then release the report to the media and the public.
(6) The Committee shall hold its meetings in camera and is empowered to call proposed appointees as witnesses. The Committee may also invite Ministers to appear as witnesses.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am extremely pleased to be able to stand in the House tonight and speak in favour of this motion. Many times prior to the election, Members of the Yukon Party raised the issue of the appointments process that the previous government appeared to follow.
We felt the appointments process was flawed and was open to patronage and favouritism. During the election, we promised to establish an all-party committee of the Legislature to conduct in camera reviews of appointments to major government advisory boards and committees. The committee we are proposing will fulfill that commitment.
It is our view that the Yukoners will welcome this change in the process of appointments. During the election, I was pleased to see that the Liberal Party, represented in the House now by the Hon. Member for Riverside, also suggested that changes were needed to the whole process of board and committee appointments.
Earlier this evening the Hon. Member for Riverdale South suggested that it was time for new ideas. This is an example of a new idea. It is a whole new approach, at least here in the Yukon, to the process of appointments. I am proud that our party was able to fulfill a commitment that we made to Yukoners during this election. It will lead to a change that is long overdue in the Yukon. What we are proposing is fair, and I believe is a very responsible approach to board and committee appointments. I hope all Members of the House support this motion.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Government Leader for his remarks. I have noted his observation that what he calls the previous appointment process was flawed and open to patronage and favouritism. I hope he will not mind my observing that that was exactly our view about the way the government operated, which existed prior to May 1985. Indeed, I believe that our party in government made a number of very substantial improvements in the way boards and committees were appointed.
It is a matter of fact that I think, of all the hundreds and hundreds of people who were appointed by the former Conservative government to boards and committees, in the run up to the 1985 election - we went through the boards and committees handbook - we could only find two board members who were not members of the government party at the time. Those two appointees were statutory - the government was obliged by statute to appoint nominees from third party organizations, in that case the labour movement. There were two people who were appointed, and perhaps not surprisingly, not conservative voters.
The central point that I want to make in my response to this proposal is not that we are opposed to new ideas or to reforms in this area, but to suggest to the party opposite that what they have proposed here is in fact not a step forward into a brave, new world, but rather a step backward from legislation that has already passed this House, and could become law if the government cared to proclaim it.
I refer, of course, to the Public Government Act, which I personally believe is actually a pretty good piece of legislation. The Government Leader is still trying to make up his mind about that, but I do believe that the longer he is in government, the less inclined he will be to like this legislation. However, I hope that while he is still in a reform-minded mood, he might consider that the access-to-information provisions of that bill are about the best in the country, that the requirement to report publicly annually all expenditures of over $1,000 is one of the highest tests of public accountability and disclosure anywhere in the country. We were prepared to impose that rule on ourselves. I would only hope that, while he is in a reform-minded mood, he would consider this.
After he has been in power for a year or two, he certainly will not want to do this. By then, the growlies that surround one when you are in government will be trying to discourage him from providing any information to the House, even that which good common sense tells him he ought to.
That legislation I described also provides very good conflict-of-interest rules - and I refer to a comment he made in Question Period today - including to deputy ministers. If I may tell him a little secret, the law was specifically written with deputy ministers and former deputy ministers in mind.
If he wants to have the question settled for him as to whether it was intended to refer to people like Jack Cable or not, I should make it very clear for him, and for all Members of the House, that it was written that way. If he gets the right lawyer - I know that if you ask two lawyers you get two different opinions - to look at it, perhaps the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who voted for the bill, by the way, and may have said one or two kind things about it - unusual - he may find that it is an excellent piece of legislation, in that it dealt in a very open, honest and commendable way with questions of access to information, to public accountability, public disclosure and conflict of interest.
That bill also dealt with the question of public participation in boards and committees. The tone and the intent of the bill was very much to facilitate public participation. It had language in it that asked the government to use plain and inclusive language in its publications and other written communication. There is an obligation in the bill for the government, as much as possible, to provide Yukon residents with opportunities to participate in developing policy and legislative initiatives. It says in the bill that the Cabinet should make the best efforts to make appointments to boards, commission, foundations, corporations and similar agencies established as agents of the Government of Yukon and that it be representative of the population as a whole, including men and women, aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, individuals from all regions and, of course, all political persuasions.
That law passed this House. There was some debate on some clauses, but every Member of this House voted for that law. The legislation also stated that any resident of the Yukon Territory had the right to nominate any other resident of the Yukon Territory to a board, commission, foundation, corporation or similar agency established by the Government of Yukon.
In other words, the unilateral, exclusive power of the Cabinet to nominate people to boards and committees - the power which exists in not only every provincial government in this country and every federal government, but a power which is common throughout the Commonwealth - was, under this legislation passed in this House, to be dispersed among all citizens of the territory.
The right to nominate was to be turned over to all of the citizenry, and that each citizen would have the right to nominate to any board and committee, by communicating with the secretary of Cabinet, a public servant, someone who is not appointed as an officer of any party or is not elected on any platform.
The law also went on to provide that Crown corporations should have to have public annual general meetings, so that rather than the poor old Member for Whitehorse West having to take the blame for all the decisions that the poor old Member for Riverside had made in his previous incarnation, perhaps as the director of the Yukon Development Corporation, there would have been annual public meetings so that Mr. Phelps, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, instead of hectoring me in the House, could have gone to an annual public meeting and asked the directors directly what they were doing.
I am being slightly facetious, but the intent was clearly to provide much more direct input from citizens and much more direct access to citizens by not just the Cabinet but, also, by officers and directors of Crown corporations.
I fear my time is running out, and I still have several more things to say. Perhaps I could move that debate on this motion be adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition that debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Penikett: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Leader of the Official Opposition that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Document was filed December 16, 1992:
Filed Document No. 1
Letter dated December 15, 1992, to the Minister from the Chair of the Yukon Workers Compensation Health and Safety Board regarding the appointment of an interim president of the Board (Ostashek)